The Middle East Channel

Maliki’s State of Law Bloc Wins Iraq’s Parliamentary Elections

Preliminary results announced Monday from Iraq's elections indicate that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's alliance has won the largest number of parliamentary seats. The results from the April 30 elections are still subject to challenges, however initial results show Maliki's State of Law bloc taking 92 seats in Iraq's 328-seat parliament, far more than his main Shiite rivals: the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which won 29 seats; and the movement of Moktada al-Sadr, which won 28 seats. An estimated 62 percent of eligible voters participated in the elections, which were considered credible, though there were some reports of violations. Maliki will likely secure a third term as prime minister and be asked to form a new coalition government, a process that could take months.

Syria

Fifty-eight countries have backed a proposal calling on the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria. Switzerland sent an appeal to the U.N. Security Council to adopt a draft resolution, however it is likely to be opposed by China and Russia. According to opposition activists, an air strike on the rebel-held northern town of Marea killed at least 23 people late Monday night, including a family with eight children. Meanwhile, senior U.S. intelligence officials have said they estimate over a hundred Americans have traveled to fight in Syria, with between six and 12 having returned to the United States.

Headlines

  • Libya's government has proposed a parliamentary recess and the Benghazi-based special forces declared support for former General Heftar amid concerns of further conflict.
  • Gunmen killed three Egyptian soldiers who were trying to disperse a protest near Cairo's Al-Azhar University as Sisi secured a victory in overseas results ahead of the presidential election.
  • Soma's main labor union has called for thousands of workers to suspend activities until mines are inspected meanwhile Turkish authorities arrested eight suspects in connection with last week's explosion.

Arguments and Analysis

'Short-Term Stability in Sinai Will Exacerbate Tensions for Egypt's Next President' (Zack Gold, Atlantic Council)

"In the short term, repressive tactics can work to quiet the Sinai and halt Salafi-jihadists from using Sinai to launch attacks west of the Suez Canal. It has been almost four months since Sinai's Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack outside the peninsula, following ‘unprecedented' military raids that begin in late January.

Even if one ignores the human rights and rule of law issues involved, however, such a crackdown is certain to result in blowback in the medium- to long-term. After all, this is what happened during the 2011 uprising: before the revolution provided the opportunity for vengeance, crackdowns in response to the bombings of tourist resorts from 2004-2006 produced five years of relative quiet in Sinai. While capturing violent actors is necessary for stabilizing Sinai, harsh treatment of the broader Sinai population will exacerbate support for such anti-state violence, and that support will simmer below the surface as long as the peninsula's legitimate political and developmental grievances go unmet."

'How will Lebanon's Christians deal with presidential vacancy?' (Jean Aziz, Al-Monitor)

"The Christians are trying to apply pressure so that the presidential vacuum doesn't last long and to speed up the election of a new president. More importantly, they are trying to impose an equation whereby the system cannot continue to work normally when the presidency is vacant so that the idea that the presidency is not really needed doesn't become consecrated.

However, two matters counter that kind of thinking. First, what if the resulting complete disruption of the system and its institutions results in a situation that imposes a comprehensive review of the constitution? In such a situation and in light of the current power balance, could the Christians guarantee that such an operation would not take place at their expense and that it doesn't result in their losing even more constitutional powers in the system, as happened every time before?

Second, there are pressing government duties related to the economy, people's livelihoods and workers' demands that are before the government and parliament, such as the demand for higher wages by state employees and teachers. What if Christian politicians were to be seen as responsible for obstructing the country's economy and the demands of the needy?"

-- Mary Casey

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

The Middle East Channel

Libyan Authorities Claim Control After Attack on Parliament

The Libyan capital of Tripoli remained tense Monday after clashes and an attack on the parliament over the weekend, but Libya's interim government insists it retains control of the country. On Sunday, militia forces led by former Libyan army General Khalifa Heftar attacked the General National Congress complex in Tripoli. Spokesman for Khalifa, military police commander Mokhtar Farnana, read a televised statement saying the group had granted power to the 60-member assembly drafting a new constitution. He insisted Sunday's attack was not a coup, but fighting by "the people's choice." The move followed an attack on Friday by Heftar's forces against Islamist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi, which killed an estimated 70 people. Libya's interim government condemned the assault on the parliament and largely ignored Farnana's statement. Fighting had died down by Monday morning, and authorities worked to convey a message of "business as usual."

Syria

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Monday that at least 162,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict began in March 2011, and thousands more remain missing. The pro-opposition group said it estimated 62,800 deaths among pro-government forces, 42,700 deaths among opposition fighters, and at least 54,000 civilian deaths. The head of Syria's air defenses, Lt. Gen. Hussein Ayoub Ishaq, died Saturday from injuries sustained in clashes at an air base in the district of Mleha, near the capital of Damascus. Ishaq is one of the highest-ranking Syrian officers killed in the conflict. Opposition sources reported Monday that Syrian opposition Defense Minister Asaad Mustafa resigned following reports of disagreements with Syrian National Coalition head Ahmed Jarba, allegedly over a lack of funding for fighters. Meanwhile, during the summer of 2013 a private group led by former U.S. Department of Defense official Joseph Schmitz planned to supply arms to the Free Syrian Army to be paid for by a Saudi Arabian prince until the project was stopped by the CIA.

Headlines

  • Five officials from the Soma Coal Mining Company have been arrested in part of an inquiry into Turkey's worst ever industrial accident, which suggested sensors showed high gas levels prior to the explosion.
  • Construction workers, many migrant laborers, who built NYU's large new campus in Abu Dhabi faced harsh working conditions despite NYU's 2009 "statement of labor values."
  • The EU announced it will monitor Egypt's presidential election after a statement Sunday that it would downgrade to an "assessment team" after customs confiscated its communications and security equipment.
  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with Israeli Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni Thursday in London for the first time since peace talks broke down in April.

Arguments and Analysis

'Dynamic Stalemate: Surveying Syria's Military Landscape' (Charles Lister, Brookings Doha Center)

"Two and a half years ago it might have been possible for Western governments to help bring about an accelerated and successful end to the revolution through the formation of a representative opposition structure that both incorporated and helped unify the armed opposition. Over time, the involvement of ever-more actors and interests has resulted in escalating brutality, spiraling casualty rates, immense population displacement, and the emergence of what may prove to be unparalleled opportunities for jihadi militancy. This initial failure to act, combined with Assad's proven adaptability and ruthless pursuit of power, now requires Western states to overcome previous miscalculations and current policy stagnation in order to help secure a resolution that best ensures regional stability and international security."

'The Transformation of Arab Activism: New Contexts, Domestic Institutions, and Regional Rivalries' (Lina Khatib and Ellen Lust, POMED)

"The three years since 2011 have witnessed enormous changes in activism across the Arab world. Heady days of demonstrations have given way to frustration, as activists from Morocco to Yemen struggle to define a way forward in complex, difficult, and often violent contexts. Our new book, Taking to the Streets: The Transformation of Arab Activism, explores many of the challenges that activists face today. Our analysis aims not only to provide a better understanding of past events, but also to help establish expectations that better prepare activists, policymakers, and observers to anticipate and engage in the future.

The Arab world continues to reflect the varied, constantly changing nature of activism we explore in Taking to the Streets. Consider countries that saw the fall of long-standingregimes. In Tunisia, emerging political parties and civil society groups are shaping the country's political future. In Egypt, political parties have multiplied as well, but political contestation remains more firmly situated in movements-Tamarrod and its allies on the one hand, and the Muslim Brotherhood's supporters on the other. Finally, in Libya, nascent civil society organizations and political parties are emerging, but they are dwarfed by militias and locally oriented political contenders."

-- Mary Casey

AFP/Getty Images