The Middle East Channel

Retired Libyan General Calls for Emergency Cabinet

Retired Libyan General Khalifa Heftar, who has launched attacks on Islamist militias in Benghazi and on the Libyan government, has called on the judiciary to appoint an emergency cabinet and oversee parliamentary elections. Heftar called the country a "terrorist hub" and claimed the government had "fostered terrorism" and failed Libyans. Heftar's campaign, named "Libya's dignity" by supporters, got a boost when the country's top air defense commander, Juma al-Abani, and Culture Minister Habib Amin declared their support. The government said the operation was an attempted coup and Libya's new prime minister, Ahmed Maitiq, called for negotiations to end the political crisis.

Syria

Pro-government troops, backed by the air force, have entered the grounds of Aleppo's central prison, breaking a year-long rebel siege, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and two pro-Syrian regime Lebanese television stations. Opposition fighters have launched repeated attacks in efforts to free the estimated 4,000 inmates held there. Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported it has been able to deliver food to more than 60,000 displaced persons in Aleppo province who had not received humanitarian aid in nine months. The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on a resolution that would refer the Syrian crisis to the International Criminal Court for an investigation into alleged war crimes. Dozens of countries have signed on to the measure, however Russia vowed to veto the resolution with U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin calling it a "publicity stunt."

Headlines

  • A man has been wounded in clashes between Turkish police and protesters in Istanbul Thursday meanwhile opposition lawmakers are accusing the government of permitting lax safety standards after the Soma mine disaster.
  • Tunisian police have arrested eight people suspected of plotting terrorist attacks who were trained in explosives and weapons in Libya.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, has named five Democrats to serve on a panel investigating the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
  • Lebanese parliamentarians again failed to hold a vote Thursday to elect a new president two days ahead of the expiration of President Michel Suleiman's term.

Arguments and Analysis

'Why Are the Irish Increasingly Siding With Palestine Over Israel?' (Jason Walsh, New Republic)

"Palestine activism is extremely visible on the Irish left, often managing to marshall more people than domestic campaigns. Left-wing activism of all kinds has become increasingly shrill since the 2008 economic meltdown, the main legacy of which seems to have been not the much predicted rebirth of Marxism but an intensification of identity politics. Beyond that, though, even relatively unpolitical Irish people seem to view Israel with deep suspicion, at the very least.

Israel's history of fighting Britain for independence could have made the Irish more sympathetic to the country, but Israel's treatment of Palestinians has sown a dark seed in the Irish anti-colonial mindset. More important, as Israel has become more successful, potential Irish support for it has waned. In the Irish psyche, Israel functions as a surrogate for Britain: imperial and imperious and, above all, modern."

'Syria's Upcoming Elections...And the President Laughed' (Peter Hill, Muftah)

"This is the essential point to grasp about the upcoming Syrian election: it is not designed as a response to the recent uprisings and civil war. Rather, it is a pointed non-response. It is taking place because Assad has come to the end of his latest presidential term, and the constitutional niceties must be observed."

'Simmering discontent' (Pomegranate, The Economist)

"The anniversary of Yemeni unity on May 22nd usually passes quietly in Sana'a, the capital. But this year the government Abd Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi, the president, is keen to build on patriotic sentiment fired up by a recent military campaign against al-Qaeda. Fairy lights adorn the central bank and roads are lined with bunting in the red, black and white of the Yemeni flag. The celebrations are due to culminate in a fireworks display.

The sentiment is not shared across Yemen. A day earlier, on May 21st, thousands of people took to the streets in Aden, a port town that was once the capital of the separate southern state, to demand independence. 'Twenty years of repression and resistance,' they chanted."

* An incorrect photo was included with the 5.21.14 Middle East Daily Brief. Please see the revised brief here.

-- Mary Casey

ABDULLAH DOMA/AFP/Getty Images

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