The Middle East Channel

Egyptian Court Sentences Ousted President Mubarak to Three Years in Prison

An Egyptian court has sentenced ousted President Hosni Mubarak to three years in prison on corruption charges. Mubarak's sons, Alaa and Gamal, were additionally convicted and issued four-year jail terms. They were found guilty of embezzling $17.6 million in public funds that were designated for the maintenance of presidential palaces and using the money to renovate their private residences. They were additionally ordered to reimburse the funds they were accused of stealing. Mubarak faces a separate corruption case as well as a trial for involvement in the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising. Activists are criticizing the imbalance in prison terms with the harsh sentences recently handed to Islamist and secular protesters.

Syria

Amnesty International released a report Wednesday saying that Syrian refugees in Lebanon lack adequate access to medical care. Over one million Syrians have fled to Lebanon since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011. Amnesty International claimed there is a massive shortage of international funding for medical care for Syrian refugees. According to the report, hospital treatment and specialized care in Lebanon is "woefully insufficient." Some refugees have been turned away from hospitals and in some cases resorted to returning to Syria for treatment. Meanwhile, Russia has vowed to veto a draft U.N. resolution to refer the Syrian conflict to the International Criminal Court. The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote on the resolution on Thursday. In a statement on Tuesday, a Pentagon official said Syria is beginning to transport the remainder of its chemical weapons stockpile. Syria has delayed transferring the final 7.2 percent of its reported chemical arsenal citing security concerns.

Headlines

  • The United States and a U.N. official have called for an investigation into the deaths of two Palestinian teenagers shot by Israeli forces after a video was released indicating they posed no threat.
  • Explosions and heavy fighting were reported near two military camps in the capital of Tripoli Wednesday morning after Libyan lawmakers met secretly and the election commission called for parliamentary elections on June 25.
  • Iran has arrested three men and three women suspected of posting a video online of a version of the song "Happy" which police called "vulgar" and "obnoxious."
  • Clashes between Houthi rebels, Sunni tribesmen, and military troops killed an estimated 27 people in Yemen's northwestern Amran province.

Arguments and Analysis

'Is this the end of Sykes-Picot?' (F. Gregory Gause, III, The Washington Post)

"The intensity of the civil war in Syria, combined with the continued upheavals in Iraq and the endemic instability of Lebanese politics, has naturally led to speculation that the famously 'artificial' borders in the eastern Arab world, drawn by Britain and France in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, are on their last legs. Are the state entities created by European colonialism in the 1920s about to collapse? Are we about to see a grand redrawing of the borders in the Middle East? The short answer to this question is no. While none of these three states will be able to claim effective governance within their borders anytime soon, the borders themselves are not going to change. They are devolving into what the political scientist Robert Jackson perceptively referred to as 'quasi-states,' internationally recognized de jure as sovereign even though they cannot implement de facto the functional requisites that sovereignty assumes - control of territory and borders. Real governance in the eastern Arab world is certainly up for grabs, but the borders themselves will be the last things to change, because almost none of the actors, either regionally or internationally, really want them to change."

'Unruly Erdogan will preside over a divided Turkey' (David Gardner, Financial Times)

"There would appear to be a paradox here: Mr Erdogan has a preternatural rapport with Turkish voters and a political tin ear. From where he stands, however, there is no contradiction. He addresses himself not to Turkey but what he calls 'my nation': the piously conservative Anatolian heartland to which his neo-Islamist party has given identity and a stake in the country's wealth. His instinct is to polarise and, after eight victories at the polls since 2002, no one can prove to him it does not work."

-- Mary Casey

AFP/Getty Images

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