Robert M. Danin

Middle East Matters

Danin analyzes critical developments and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

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While Everyone Else Was Looking at Syria

by Robert M. Danin
September 13, 2013

Riot police guard the site of an explosion near the house of Egypt's interior minister at Cairo's Nasr City district September 5, 2013 (Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters)/



Interim president Adly Mansour extended the month-long state of emergency for two more months yesterday. A presidential spokesman explained the extension was due to recent “terrorist activities.” Two car bombs hit an Egyptian military intelligence building in Rafah, Sinai on Wednesday, killing at least eleven people, including six soldiers. The attack came four days after the Egyptian military launched a major offensive against Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula. Officials describe the operation as the largest sweep of the region in years and report that at least twenty-seven militants have been killed in past six days.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian government banned over fifty thousand imams from giving Friday sermons on Monday because they do not have possess the properly accredited preaching licenses. The new restrictions require imams to have licenses from Al Azhar University and are viewed by many as the government’s attempt to rein in imams who support deposed president Mohamed Morsi. A public relations manager for Al Azhar University said that, “If all preachers are Azharis then any radicalism or extremism will be eliminated from mosques and Islamic thought in Egypt will be unified.”

Israel-Palestine. U.S. secretary of state John Kerry is set to travel to Jerusalem on Sunday to meet with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Earlier this week, U.S. officials denied the existence of a signed paper guaranteeing peace talks with Israel would start from the 1967 borders; Palestinian official Nabil Shaath told reporters on Monday that Kerry had given such a document to the Palestinian leadership. Kerry met with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday to discuss the talks. Over the weekend, Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho reportedly complained to U.S. envoy Martin Indyk accusing the Palestinians of breaching an agreement not to discuss the content or dates of meetings with the media.

Tunisia. Tunisia’s transitional parliament partially resumed activities on Wednesday after a month-long suspension. Mustafa Ben Jafar, president of the parliament, said that full meetings to finish drafting the new constitution will be held next week. The suspension of parliament followed the assassination of Mohamed Brahmi, an opposition member of parliament, in August.

Libya. A car bomb exploded outside of a Libyan foreign ministry building in Benghazi Wednesday morning—the one-year anniversary of a deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in the city. No deaths or serious injuries were reported. Referring to the anniversary of the attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Libyan prime minister Ali Zidan said, “We can’t ignore the date and timing. We can’t forget.” No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Turkey. Protestors clashed with Turkish security forces in several cities, including Ankara and Istanbul, for the fourth straight day today over the death of twenty-two year-old demonstrator Ahmet Atakan. Atakan died on Monday after he was allegedly hit on the head by a tear gas canister; the Turkish government has denied responsibility and claimed that he fell off a roof.

Bahrain. Justice Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa announced on Wednesday the full details of a new law requiring political groups to receive official approval before meeting with foreign governments, diplomats, and international organizations. The law requires groups to contact the Bahraini foreign ministry three days in advance of any such meeting.


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