A Tel Aviv Court has sentenced former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to six years in prison on corruption charges. Olmert was convicted on March 31 for taking a $145,000 bribe, while he served as mayor of Jerusalem, from developers of the controversial Holyland apartment complex as well as an additional bribe from a separate project. In his opening statements, Judge David Rozen said, "A public servant who accepts bribes is akin to a traitor." Olmert was prime minister from 2006 to 2009. A centrist, he was credited internationally for his efforts attempting to negotiate a peace deal with the Palestinians. He would be the first Israeli head of government to be imprisoned, with his jail sentence set to begin September 1. However, his lawyers, who said Olmert did not take a bribe, are expected to file an appeal with the Supreme Court.
Representatives of the 11 leading countries supporting the Syrian opposition, known as the London 11, are meeting Thursday. The meeting comes after a top U.N. humanitarian official said the "situation is getting worse" for the over 9 million Syrians displaced by conflict, and as aid workers become increasingly concerned about the effectiveness of aid deliveries into Syria. The meeting will also follow the evacuation deal that saw over 1,200 rebel fighters abandon the city of Homs. A European official said, "It doesn't mean we're giving up in any way." A U.S. official mentioned the meeting will be a "sort of reset." Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch released a report Tuesday citing strong evidence that the Syrian government used chlorine gas in barrel bomb attacks on three towns in April.
- The IAEA has reported that Iran is making slow progress in clarifying possible military dimensions of Tehran's nuclear program ahead of resumed talks with world powers in Vienna.
- Jordanian Ambassador to Libya Fawaz al-Itan has been freed, after being abducted in April in Tripoli, in exchange for the release of a fighter held since 2007 by Jordan.
- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday for the first time since peace talks collapsed to discuss resuming negotiations with Israel.
- A series of car bombings in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad targeting Shiite celebrations Tuesday killed an estimated 23 people.
Arguments and Analysis
'The random Muslim scare story generator: separating fact from fiction' (Nesrine Malik, The Guardian)
"Underpinning it is a common theme: that there is an ever more muscular and intimidating Muslim minority demanding special rights from a cowed and pandering, lily-livered body politic muzzled by ‘multicultural Britain' - rather than simply attempting to adapt and integrate, as immigrants of all religions have been doing in the UK for centuries. It's not hard to see how this constant blurring of facts generates the mood music of anti-immigration rightwingers and establishes common misconceptions about Muslims.
But the threat of a creeping sharia never seems to materialise. It seems to be more of a crawling sharia, so slowly has the Islamist takeover of Britain been, in contrast to the constant media warnings of its imminent arrival.
The focus far outstrips the size and political activity of the minority, which number 2.7 million (less than 5% of the population), not all of whom are practising Muslims. The Islamic scare story plays to a nexus of easy media sensationalism, a portion of the public primed and ready to believe the worst, and an interested rightwing element for whom it is a convenient vehicle for their anti-immigration views, xenophobia, or just Islamophobia."
'The U.S., Asia and the Middle East: A convergence of interests' (Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Houston Chronicle)
"Crucially, the recipient states with some of the highest dependencies on Gulf energy are those that are commonly projected as forming the focus of any U.S. "pivot." The U.S. has a powerful set of overlapping interests with Asian partners when engaging with the Middle East. With Asian economies all looking to the Gulf as a stable and long-term supplier of oil and gas, a nexus of shared U.S.-Middle East-Asian interest is coalescing around the security of supply through international sea lanes and regional chokepoints in addition to the maintenance of regional stability more generally. These are substantive ties that can bind U.S., Middle Eastern and Asian interests and soothe the surface tensions that recently have marred U.S.-Gulf relations, particularly with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates."
'Syrian Refugees and Turkey's Challenges: Beyond the Limits of Hospitality' (Kemal Kiri?ci, The Brookings Institution)
"The persistence of the conflict and the ever growing number of urban refugees is creating a set of tough challenges for Turkey. Firstly, it is becoming increasingly clear that refugees are not about to return home anytime soon. This brings up a range of very difficult policy issues for the government. They range from whether the government should start to think in terms of offering refugees the possibility to remain and integrate in Turkey to addressing urgent education, employment, health, shelter and other needs of Syrian refugees. Secondly, the refugee population outside camps has grown significantly and is expected to surpass one million by the end of the year. The government is trying to register them but the process is far from complete, particularly as increasing number of refugees are living outside of camps where assistance is always more difficult and complex. Working with refugees who are dispersed in the host community involves different governmental agencies and it is harder to identify who the target population is, harder to figure out how to assist host communities, especially in the absence of a comprehensive systematic need assessment exercise. Thirdly, the presence of growing numbers of Syrians in Turkey is deeply impacting on host communities economically, socially as well as politically. Last but not least, there is also the continued deterioration of the humanitarian and political situation inside Syria. How should Turkey be addressing these challenges?"
-- Mary Casey
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