The latest escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict came in the form of an all-out Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip. Exploiting the killing of three settlers in the West Bank’s Hebron region, the Israelis have set forth to realize a number of political aims through their latest attack, including an attack on the Hamas movement in the West Bank; the redundancy of the Palestinian Unity Cabinet; the abandonment of its international political obligations toward the Palestinian National Authority; and the ability to cloak heightened settlement construction and obduracy in the negotiations underneath the smoke of a “war on terror”. Notably, even though no Palestinian political faction has accepted responsibility for the killing of the three settlers, Israel has blamed Hamas for the operation and taken the conflict to the Gaza Strip. Utilizing regional realities, particularly the case of a pliant government in Egypt, the Israelis launched an attack on the Gaza Strip: the strength of Hamas’s response, however, surprised and embarrassed both the Israeli and Egyptian governments.
The gilt-edged skills on display for nearly a month in Brazil are no ‘match’ for the blood-curdling war ‘games’ surgically executed by US-made Israeli planes that have been ‘slicing’ into human flesh in Gaza since early July this year.
It has been interesting to observe how often the sportsmen who played ‘to the death’, seeking victory in the mythical Estadio Maracanã and other football stadiums dotted around Brazil during the World Cup, invoked metaphors that reflect the kinds of brinkmanship demonstrated by Palestinians and Israelis as they launch missiles and bombs across their disputed terrains – Gaza and Israel.
Turkey is preparing for the first round of its historic presidential election scheduled for 10 August. The election will be the first time to elect the country’s president through a popular vote rather than by parliament, as has been the case since a legislative amendment in 2007. Previously a single seven-year term of office, the next president’s term will be five years, followed by a possible second term.
In his recent speech at the conference of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, emphasised that Palestinian Authority's (PA) willingness to maintain a strong security partnership with Israel. Abbas defended security coordination with Israel under any and all circumstances, claiming that it was a 'Palestinian national interest'. He had previously characterised it as 'sacred'. Such repeated statements by the PA president and other officials have sparked widespread condemnation and outrage among Palestinians, and also provoked renewed questioning of the increasingly suspicious role of the PA security sector.
On 12 June 2014, three teenage boys were reported missing from Gush Etzion, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank near Hebron. The Israeli government quickly accused Hamas of kidnapping the boys and announced ‘Operation Brother’s Keeper’ – the most extensive military deployment on the West Bank since the second intifada. Israeli officials said the operation had two objectives: to find the missing settlers; and to crack down on Hamas. Thus, the operation must be understood in the context of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s failed peace initiative, and the decision by Fatah and Hamas to form a unity government. The operation has substantially targeted Hamas: 500 abductions/arrests have already occurred; 269 of these are Hamas members and twelve are parliamentarians who could have served in a unity government.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged intense support to Baghdad in the fight against militants. Kerry made a surprise visit to Iraq as Sunni Insurgents led by the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), seized a strategic town in the Northern part of the country. The insurgents also captured the country's biggest oil refinery in Beji, which had been under siege for ten days, Joining us in studio Omar Shaukat is a researcher at the Afro-Middle East Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa to give analysis on the situation.
The United States has condemned a "horrifying" massacre by Islamic militants said to have killed hundreds of Iraqi soldiers as they advanced on Baghdad after seizing vast swathes of northern Iraq. The country experienced similar attacks over the last few weeks with the USA and Australia withdrawing their troops. For more analyses on the story we joined by Naeem Jenah who is the director for the Afro-Middle East Centre.
Indicating a shift in Israel’s foreign policy, foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, accompanied by a large delegation, will visit five African countries – Kenya, Angola, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Ghana – early next month. The visit underscores
the significance Israel has placed on strengthening ties with African countries, and follows the recent establishment by the Israeli parliament of a lobby to advance Israel-Africa relations, the ‘Knesset Lobby for Strengthening the Relations Between Israel and African Countries’. The lobby’s first meeting was on 19 May, where Lieberman espoused Africa’s political and economic importance for Israel, and announced that he planned to use his visit to lobby for Israel’s bid for observer status at the African Union.
There is a strong likelihood that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister and head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), will run for the country’s presidency. Legally, Turkey must elect a new president before the end of August 2014; that is, before the end of the term of the incumbent president, Abdullah Gul. Following a constitutional amendment passed in 2010, the president will this year be, for the first time in the history of the Turkish republic, elected by the direct vote of the people, rather than by a majority of parliamentarians.
During the past decade, three national elections in Iraq have aimed at building a democracy out of the ruins of the former Ba’athist system. The first, on 30 January 2005, was to form a 275-seat transitional assembly mandated to write a constitution, which was approved by a referendum on 15 October 2005. The second, on 15 December 2005 was to instate a permanent parliament. On 7 March 2010, the most recent parliamentary poll was held under American occupation.
As Algerians vote for in the third presidential election since incumbent president Abdelaziz Bouteflika was elected 1999, questions abound about the consequences of the poll for the country’s military-civil relations. Its outcome could significantly shape the short- and medium-term futures of Africa’s largest natural gas producer and second largest oil exporter.
A few days ago, many people around the world believed there was some hope for a halt to the loss of Palestinian lives in Gaza when Egypt announced a plan for a ceasefire. Many were then surprised that Hamas and other resistance groups in Gaza ‘rejected’ the ceasefire and chose, instead to continue fighting. The Palestinian groups believe they have good reason for doing so. Yesterday began with more talk of a ceasefire, but ended, last night in an Israeli ground invasion into Gaza.
Israel says it's hit more than one-hundred-and-twenty targets overnight, as the violent confrontation with Palestinian militants intensifies. Several Palastinian rockets landed in Jerusalem and two targeting Tel Aviv were shot down by the Iraelis. For more on this we are joined by Na'eem Jenah, Director at Afro-middle East Centre.
Prior to the 2011 uprisings, the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was influential in Jordan’s politics and society. The Brotherhood participated in elections, ran social institutions, and was one of very few organisations that was able to straddle the Jordanian–Palestinian identity divide. The uprisings initially augmented its powers, and in 2011 and 2012 the Brotherhood widened its appeal, organising large protests. However the nature of the Jordanian political system, the stance of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the Brotherhood’s decision not to participate in Jordan’s elections have since severely diminished its influence. The Brotherhood is now undergoing a process of introspection and, in the light of the GCC decision to declare it a terrorist organisation, it is reasserting its support for the monarch in an attempt to remain viable relevant.
ISIS the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Levant), has burst dramatically onto the Iraqi scene in recent weeks, as it has captured one town after another. It has brought a substantial part of the north of Iraq under its control and come to within 100km of the capital, Baghdad.
But these developments should not have been surprising. Iraq — and Isis — have been heading in this direction for a while.
Isis is a transnational, militant Sunni group which wants to mobilise Islamic ideals for the creation of what it deems an Islamic state, or caliphate, within the Middle East. It developed out of an earlier entity, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), but is at odds with the leadership of Al-Qaeda since it rejects the authority represented by Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Almost three years after the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, the country is suffering the dramatic rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS), a militant group that has succeeded in dividing Iraq, and has the potential to unravel the states that make up the modern Levant – Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, northern Turkey and Cyprus. Some argue that ISIS has already created a new ‘state’, having carved a ‘country’ from the adjoining regions of eastern Syria and western Iraq. Its latest and most stunning victories have been the capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and the most important Sunni-majority city, on 10 June, followed by the seizure of Tikrit, less than 150 kilometres north of Baghdad, just one day later.
Syria concluded its first multi-candidate presidential election in about fifty years on 3 June, with its result a foregone conclusion – the incumbent, Bashar al-Assad, secured another seven-year term as president. However, the significance of the election is not in its result, nor in the supposedly democratic era that Assad supporters claim it heralds. The election simply confirms the regime’s confidence in its future and its strategy for confronting insurgency, and reveals the disdain with which the regime views demands for Assad’s departure.
The abduction of 276 schoolgirls from a high school in Chibok, northern Nigeria, and the Nigerian government’s responses, provides insight into the possibilities for resolving the instability currently engulfing Africa’s most populous country.
Following a brief hiatus in the flow of information and delays in attempts to rescue the girls, the two recently-released Boko Haram videos – in which the group claimed responsibility and provided proof of the girls’ capture – have reinvigorated rescue efforts. The government is adopting a two-pronged approach: negotiations with Boko Haram, and a military effort supported by foreign security forces.
Last Wednesday Fatah and Hamas announced a national unity deal to end seven years of division (actually, twenty-five years, since Hamas’s founding) between the largest Palestinian parties. In terms of the agreement, a unity government will formed within five weeks, and presidential and parliamentary elections will take place within six months. The Israeli government responded by ‘withdrawing’ from peace talks, ending the nine-month Kerry initiative. Palestinians responded cautiously; after all, this is not the first such agreement. It follows unfulfilled agreements from 2012 (in Cairo and Doha), 2011 (in Cairo), 2007 (in Makkah), and, before that, 2005. A few commentators decried the current deal as ‘stillborn’, but there is hope, even if minimal, that it might yield positive results.
An Egyptian court has sentenced thirty additional people to more than three years in prison for violent protests.
They were found guilty on Monday of supporting deposed Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. The military-installed authorities have engaged in a sweeping crackdown against Morsi's supporters and his Muslim Brotherhood since his ouster in July. The crackdown has left more than 1 400 people dead, and thousands have been jailed. More than 1-thousand Morsi supporters have been convicted in mass trials, including 5-hundred-and-29 sentenced to death last month. For more on this story we are joined in the studio by Afro Middle East Centre Director Na'eem Jeenah.
After months of waiting, Egypt’s Presidential Election Committee has finally declared the dates for the country’s first post-Morsi presidential election: 26 and 27 May. The election forms part of the military’s ‘roadmap’, which will supposedly return Egypt to democracy following Morsi’s ouster on 3 July 2013. However, the long-awaited announcement that Field Marshall Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the defence minister who overthrew Morsi, was to be a candidate in the election has raised questions about the military’s motives, and confirmed that a full-scale counter-revolution is under way. This article assesses the possibility of a free and fair election, considering the atmosphere surrounding the recent constitutional referendum on 14 and 15 January, and the cult-like status Sisi has gained. It also elaborates on the role and motives of state institutions and the role of the ‘deep state’, and how these impact on the electoral process. It argues that the current atmosphere in the country – which has witnessed extreme suppression of dissent – suggests that the election result is a foregone conclusion. However, in the event that Sisi wins, his rein will be fraught with a myriad challenges, many of which are intractable and are similar to challenges Morsi had faced. Key amongst these are the state of the country’s economy and Sisi’s inability to fully suppress dissent.