Middle East News – July 24th

Hesham Qandil, the newly appointed prime minister of Egypt tasked with forming a new coalition government

– Assad’s forces have launched a counterattack in the important city of Aleppo, large areas of which were recently seized by rebel forces – BBC

– Egyptian president Morsi has named former irrigation minister Hesham Qandil as the new Prime Minister and tasked him with forming a new government – Al-Jazeera

– Yesterday was the deadliest day of 2012 in Iraq as 103 people were killed around the country in a series of clashes – CNN

– The trial of Iraq’s ex-vice president Tariq al-Hashemi, accused of running death squads under Saddam Hussein, has been delayed after the prosecutions attempts to call the reigning president of Iraq to the stand was denied – Al-Jazeera

– Bulgarian officials have announced that the bomber implicated in last week’s Burgas bombing was part of ‘a group’ – BBC

– Libyan diver Soyan al Gadi is hoping to be the first Libyan olympian to earn a medal in the upcoming 2012 Olympics – Al-Bawaba

– Iraqi officials have announced that Al-Qaeda members are again fomenting civil unrest in Iraq – CNN

– Another Syrian diplomat (this one to Cyprus) has defected from the Assad regime, becoming the third diplomat to defect in the last month – Al-Jazeera

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Middle East News – July 23rd

Syria’s recent admission of having chemical weapons stockpiles has prompted stern international consternation.

– Members of the Arab League have offered Syrian president Assad a ‘safe haven’ if he hands over power to a new government in the coming days – Al-Bawaba

– Syria has announced that it will not use its chemical weapons stores against its own civilians, but only against foreign powers should they choose to intervene in the countries’ civil war – BBC – CNN

– Saudi parents have begun asking for sex education classes in schools, another sign that the conservative leanings of the state are slowly beginning to unravel – Al-Bawaba

– In addition to the devastating civilian losses Damascus residents are mourning the loss of the symbolic cactus forests on the outskirts of town that were seen as one of the last vestiges of normalcy in the war torn capital – BBC

– Many Muslims who are otherwise not devoutly religious grow more spiritual and filled with faith as the holy month of Ramadan descends on the Muslim world – Al-Bawaba

– A wave of bombings in Iraq have killed 107 in the past couple days, further signs that the Iraqi regime is not yet stable or wholly in control of the country – BBC

– Hundreds of Egyptian farmers are bringing the reigning agricultural minister to court over lands that were seized from them in the 90’s.  The farmers say they were never compensated for this illegally taken land while the agricultural minister says they were compensated long ago – Al-Jazeera

– A disabled Israeli veteran is in critical condition after lighting himself on fire in an act of self-immolation yesterday in Tel-Aviv.  The soldier was protesting the mal-distribution of wealth in present-day Israel and the lack of reforms as promised by current prime minister Netanyahu – BBC

– In an unprecedented move Egypt has announced the lessening of restrictions on Palestinians hoping to travel from the Gaza Strip into Egypt – Al-Jazeera

Middle East News – June 7th

Abid Hamid Mahmud, shown during his time in Saddam Hussein’s administration, was executed today by the Iraqi government

– Who are the ‘shabiha,’ the name given to state sponsored militia groups that have been blamed for much of the Syrian violence? – BBC

– Ten years after his capture, Abid Hamid Mahmud, Saddam Hussein’s top security aide, has been executed by the Iraqi government – BBC

– So, what’s the difference between the two remaining Egyptian presidential candidates, and who are their supporters? – BBC

– As reports surface of another mass murder by Assad’s Syrian army UN observers were directly blocked from investigating by soldiers at select checkpoints – This is the first time that Syria has directly stopped the investigative efforts of UN observers and shows a complete failure of the UN mission – Al-Jazeera

– Algeria, long one of the smallest players in OPEC, has announced that it is stepping up oil and natural gas production in order to raise its stock in OPEC – Al-Jazeera

– Amid the chaos in Syria, a similar humanitarian crisis in the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan is occurring – Humanitarian groups say that foreign intervention is needed to save thousands of civilians from the daily aerial strikes that are occurring on the border between these two feuding nations – Al-Jazeera

– Should the Middle East be WMD free? – Al-Jazeera

– Taliban soldiers have been arrested in connection to the poisoning of well water at a school in Afghanistan in the first arrest of its kind in Afghanistan – Al-Jazeeera

– Amid the growing violence in Yemen there is talk of dividing the country into two nations, or rather a return to the North and South Yemen divide that existed until 1980 – Al-Jazeera

– In prison Mubarak has continued to suffer from ‘acute depression’ and ‘hypertension,’ though his condition is likely to garner little sympathy from thousands of Egyptian protesting his perceived light jail sentence – Al-bawaba

– The Saudi Arabian government has issued a call to its female students to ‘try harder’ and to tighten up their lax uniforms in the next week or they will face legal measures – Al-Bawaba

This week in Middle Eastern History – May 29th – June 4th

Rashid Karami, longtime Prime Minister of Lebanon

Events –

Cyprus Convention (1878) – The United Kingdom and the Ottoman Empire signed a secret treaty that allowed for the United Kingdom to take de facto control over the island while the Ottomans would retain legal control.  This ended over three hundred years of Ottoman occupation and ushered in the modern age of Cyprus

Ali Khamenei is elected Ayatollah of Iran (1981) – He served as the Supreme Leader of Iran in the religious (and often political) sectors and was named the 26th most influential man in the world in 2010.  He has been instrumental in the Islamization of Iran and continues to support an anti-western stance for Iran’s government.   During the 2009 Presidential elections he came under intense criticism and had a falling out with President Ahmadinejad over reforms.

Farhud (1942) – A violent pogrom against the Jewish population in Baghdad erupted in the interim between the fall of Iraq’s pro-Nazi regime and the arrival of British troops.  The violence was the beginning of the end for Iraq’s Jewish population that had existed for over three thousand years and has been called the ‘forgotten event of the Holocaust.’

– Attempted assassination of Shlomo Argov (1982)- Shlomo, Israel’s ambassador to the United Kingdom was paralyzed in an attempted assassination while in London.  This attack, and the reaction to it, was a leading cause of the civil war that erupted in Lebanon soon after.

Births – Hassan Fathy (1900) – Pioneering Egyptian architect who brought back the traditional use of adobe bricks to replace the Western models of architecture that had come to predominate Egypt

Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa (1933) – the former emir of Bahrain who oversaw the development of Bahrain into one of the wealthiest countries in the world

Khawar Rizvi (1938) –  One of the most prominent Urdu poets of the 20th century who campaigned tirelessly for a progressive agenda based on freedom and liberalism.

Deaths – Nazim Hikmet (1963) – famous Turkish poet renowned for his anti-authoritarian stances that often led him to be thrown in jail

Rashid Karami (1987) – Prime Minister of Lebanon for over thirty years, most prominently during the Lebanon Civil War of the 1980’s.  He was instrumental in giving power to the recent Muslim majority in deference to the Christian population of the country.

Middle East News – May 17th

Gaza, where Israel has recently begun military exercises again

-Iran has begun to covertly ship weapons to the Syrian government, in violation of a UN ban – CNN

– A new Al Qaeda video in the organization’s new stronghold of Yemen reveals underlying regional suspicion that the Yemeni government is merely a United States puppet – CNN

– Israel has begun military operations near the Gaza Strip, leading some to believe hostilities may reignite in the area – CNN

– Iraq’s version of Guantanamo Bay (roughly) is still open over a year after the government said it had shut down,  human rights groups say – CNN

– Tensions between Turkey and Israel have increased again after an Israeli jet flew into Turkish air space – BBC