Events of note this week in the Middle East:
Iraq. Baghdad will host the Arab League summit, the first major diplomatic event to be held in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew. Security challenges surrounding the summit are real, with attacks just last week in four Iraqi cities killing twenty-seven and injuring 161, but extensive preparations have been made—from cement barriers and checkpoints to the redeployment of thousands of guards—to ensure the events proceed without incident. Central to the summit’s agenda will be the crisis in Syria. Palestine, Somalia, and Yemen will likely also be discussed. Syria, suspended from the Arab League, will not be present at the talks.
Syria. Discussions over aid to the Syrian opposition will be the focus of a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Istanbul next Sunday. The coalition of Western and Arab powers supporting efforts to remove Assad is expected to consider ways to increase humanitarian, “non-lethal” aid. Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition is working to develop a more “unified vision” in advance of the meeting to help convince the “Friends” to take more dramatic action. In other Syria news, UN special envoy Kofi Annan will visit China to discuss its stance on Syria.
Egypt. The committee that will draft Egypt’s new constitution will meet for the first time on Wednesday amid opposition from liberals and other political minorities over the committee’s makeup. Committee membership was announced Sunday after a marathon thirteen-hour vote count, with members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafi Nour Party making up approximately 65 percent of the list. The dearth of women and Copts (only six from each group will participate) as well as academics and constitutional experts also has many concerned. Parliamentarians including Amr Hamzawy, Ziad Bahaa El-Din, and Ahmed Harara have withdrawn from the committee in protest.