The Middle East Channel

Niger Extradites Qaddafi’s Son to Face Charges in Tripoli

Niger has extradited Muammar al-Qaddafi's son Saadi Qaddafi. The Libyan government had been seeking the extradition since 2011 when Saadi was granted entry to Niger on humanitarian grounds following the Qaddafi government's topple. Niger had previously denied the Libyan government's requests for extradition. Saadi, who arrived in Tripoli on Thursday, is not wanted by the International Criminal Court -- unlike Qaddafi's other son Saif al-Islam. Meanwhile, foreign ministers from the West and Gulf states gathered Thursday in Italy to discuss stabilizing the Libyan government, which has been plagued by disagreements among Libya's diverse tribal, religious, and ethnic populations. In 2013, Libya's government lost control of three oil ports to armed protestors threatening to sell oil independently. On Wednesday a North Korean-flagged oil tanker arrived at one of the seized ports despite warnings from Libya's state-owned National Oil Corporation.

Syria

On Wednesday independent human rights investigators issued the latest U.N. commission of inquiry report criticizing "all sides in Syria's civil war" for taking up tactics to punish and starve civilians. The commission called out world powers -- including the U.N. Security Council -- for allowing violations of the rules of war to persist with "total impunity." In the report, the opposition-controlled city of Aleppo, which has witnessed a marked increase of aerial bombardment, is described as "prosecuted with shocking ferocity." The report, which covers July 2013 through January 2014, asserts that the chemical weapons used in two attacks in 2013 appear to have originated from Syrian military stockpiles. Separately on Wednesday, Sigrid Kaag, special coordinator for a joint mission by the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said that March is a critical month for the dismantling Syria's chemical weapons. Kaag expects that Syria will have dismantled 40 to 41 percent within the next few days. Also on Wednesday, the U.S. State Department issued an order restricting the movements of Syria's U.N. ambassador Bashar Jaafari to remain within a 25-mile travel radius of New York City. Similar restrictions apply to envoys from Iran and North Korea.

Headlines

  • A presidential decree has repealed the state of emergency in Tunisia that has been in place since 2011.
  • Iran is set to receive a second installment worth $450 million of $4.2 billion in previously frozen oil assets. Meanwhile, South Korea is expected to transfer $550 million to Iran in a back oil payment under the interim nuclear deal.
  • The ship seized by Israeli navy Wednesday is set to arrive in Eliat, Israel Saturday. The United States revealed Wednesday that it helped Israel identify the ship, which is said to have been carrying dozens of M302 rockets, "that would have meant millions of Israelis under threat," according to Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, a spokesman of the Israel Defense Forces.
  • Two children were injured Thursday while handling a bomb in Bahrain's Daih, the same village that saw three killed in a bomb explosion Monday. Bahrain's foreign minister accused Iran of supporting the violence at a Thursday meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Arguments and Analysis

'Fragmenting Under Pressure: Egypt's Islamists Since Morsi's Ouster' (Hardin Lang, Mokhtar Awad, and Brian Katulis, Center for American Progress)

"The resulting political landscape is bereft of institutions or actors positioned to help the parties find a way out of the conflict. As a leading Da‘wa sheikh put it, 'This zero-sum problem has only grown worse and now is in the direction of destroying society.' Supporters of Morsi's overthrow exhibit overconfidence and downplay the risks of the current course. For them, June 30, 2013, was the 'State's revolution.' In the words of one the country's most senior officials, 'Political Islam is dead ... we will not allow it to come back.' Others, including a former National Democratic Party official speaking about the Muslim Brotherhood, say that 'it will take another 10 to 15 years before the [Muslim Brotherhood] is able to recover from June 30 ... Egypt has set in motion the undoing of the Muslim Brotherhood.'

The security crackdown has not been limited to the Brotherhood. Other Islamists who had reluctantly accepted the political roadmap but were poised to vote down the new constitution found their activists in jail on the eve of the referendum. The scope of the repression widened to include non-Islamists opposed to the government and the new powers afforded to the military, including revolutionary organizations such as the April 6 Youth Movement. A few restrained voices close to the regime's governing circle question the efficacy of this heavy-handed approach. One such observer cited the dangers inherent in the application of widespread repression, underscoring the importance of 'distinguishing between the different types of demonstrations or at least participants in the demonstrations.' His advice was to deal with the non-Islamist opposition through means other than a crackdown. Instead, since last summer, the regime has taken steps to try to close what little political space existed."

'Brutality, torture, rape: Egypt's crisis will continue until military rule is dismantled' (Emad El-Din Shahin, The Guardian)

"But a Sisi presidency will have little chance of bringing stability, as the deterioration in security is continuing unabated, the economy is spiralling out of control, and the country's infrastructure is falling apart. Energy shortages, electricity outages and soaring food prices have been the worst for years despite generous handouts from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.

Sisi doesn't seem to realise the deep rifts and political polarisation his policies have created. Neither a cabinet reshuffle nor a new dictator can heal these divisions. The real crisis in Egypt is that no one has a clear vision or a concrete strategy to take on the challenges.

No improvement in security or economic stability can take hold before the political crisis is resolved. Since the 2011 revolt, a substantial number of Egyptians will no longer accept the return of military rule. Clearly, the hardline tactics employed by the regime to bring its opponents to heel have not worked."

-- Cortni Kerr

 

MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images

The Middle East Channel

Israel Fires on Militants on Syrian Border Meanwhile Seizes Iranian Arms Vessel

The Israeli military said its forces shot two militants as they were attempting to plant a bomb near the fence between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Syrian territory on Wednesday. According to an army spokeswoman, Israeli intelligence had identified the men as members of Hezbollah. Lebanese military sources said the suspected Hezbollah fighters were wounded, and that they believe there could be clashes between Hezbollah and Israel in the coming days. Last week, Hezbollah accused Israel of carrying out an air strike hitting one of its bases along the Syrian-Lebanese border, and threatened to retaliate. Israel, however, did not confirm the attack. Meanwhile, Israeli naval forces said they intercepted a ship carrying Iranian arms manufactured in Syria. According to the army, the ship was sailing to Sudan, and the weapons were to be moved overland through Egypt to Gaza. The vessel was reportedly carrying dozens of M-302 rockets, which have a range of up to 100 miles.

Syria

Syrian government helicopters reportedly launched three air raids on Lebanese territory close to the border town of Arsal. According to Lebanon's National News Agency, the strikes hit Khirbet Yunin and Wadi Ajram, however it was unclear if there were any casualties. Meanwhile, U.N. human rights investigators released a report Wednesday saying that all parties in Syria's war are using shelling and siege tactics to punish civilians, and that world powers are responsible for failing to prevent war crimes. Additionally, investigators confirmed that sarin gas was used in three chemical weapons attacks in March, April, and August 2013 and that the agents likely came from the chemical weapons stockpile of the Syrian military.  

Headlines

  • Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain have pulled their ambassadors from Qatar accusing the country of failing to comply with a 2013 security agreement following a GCC meeting.
  • The trial of 20 journalists, including Al Jazeera staff, has resumed in Egypt a day after the trade and investment minister, Mounir Fakhyr Abdel Nour, said their detainment was a mistake.
  • Western countries are pushing Iran to clear up suspicions it had worked on designing an atomic bomb with the United States saying this "will be critical" to ensure sanctions relief.
  • Nine bombings targeting mainly Shiite areas of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad killed at least 12 people Wednesday.

Arguments and Analysis

'Gulf trio pull Qatar ambassadors -- why now?' (Theodore Karasik,  Al Arabiya)

"The real question is what comes next. As of today, all the movement to create a GCC Union and to rally the monarchies around each other in defense and preservation of the old order of the Gulf region seems to be crumbling. What we could see next is a return to the days of the early 1990s when the Saudi-Qatari border was the site of occasional shoot-outs and road blockages in order let imported food rot by the side of the road. Qatar may also choose to use tribal disputes across the Gulf region, particularly the al-Murrah who have been pawns before between Riyadh and Doha.

We may see Qatar pull its Ambassadors from the GCC states which will further isolate Qatar, forcing Doha to move closer to Iran and Turkey. On the commercial front, there may be a closure of air space which would have a tremendous impact on Qatar Airlines plus the shutting down of trade of goods to Doha by both land and sea as noted above. Finally, we may also witness the restriction of gas flow via the Dolphin Project. In other words, all types of unofficial sanctions are plausible if Qatar does not make real, immediate, meaningful changes."

'The Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union' (Aron Lund, Carnegie Syria in Crisis)

"But the rise of such hardline, Gulf-funded Salafism within the Damascus insurgency is not the whole story. Other brands of Islamic thought have also thrived among the rebels, and more moderate religious movements indigenous to the Damascus area have in fact contributed greatly to the rebellion there. In addition, Alloush's dominance in Douma didn't sit well with some other local groups, and his announcement of the Islam Army in September 2013 was immediately followed by intrigues and protests among the rebels in Douma.

In early November 2013, a large number of Islamist rebel groups in the wider Damascus region announced a new collaborative structure called the "Greater Damascus Operations Room." This structure excluded the most radical jihadis, such as al-Qaeda's Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant -- but it also excluded the Islam Army."

--Mary Casey & Cortni Kerr

JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images