Posted by Albert Gersh - August 20, 2013
- Egyptian army moves against top Muslim Brotherhood figures, gets backing from U.S. Gulf allies, domestic media, investors
- Top Iranian adviser: Supreme Leader sets nuclear policy, will ensure that new president follows "same trend strategically as former government"
- Gulf states slam Hezbollah chief after he commits to doubling troops in Syria
- Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees flood into Iraq, reigniting fears of sectarian violence
What we’re watching today:
- The Washington Post describes moves being made by traditional American allies in the Gulf designed to bolster the Egyptian military as it moves to quell unrest in the country. Over 1,000 Egyptians have in recent days been killed in clashes between the army and supporters of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, as well as in attacks by Islamists on Christians and security officials. Riyadh yesterday pledged to replace any aid that Egypt might lose if Western governments restrict assistance to Cairo in the wake of the army's actions against the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists. The Daily Beast yesterday passed on statements from the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy to the effect that the Obama administration had already secretly suspended military aid to Egypt, a characterization that the administration today denied. Today Egyptian forces arrested Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Leader Mohamed Badie on charges of inciting murder, after violence on July 8 resulted in the deaths of at least 55 people outside Cairo’s Republican Guard headquarters. Egyptian media hailed the arrest, with several television network presenters congratulating Egyptians on the development, and one calling the arrest “joyful news.” Cairo’s main stock index responded to the arrest by jumping 1.1 percent. Morsi's one-year tenure was marked by systematic economic mismanagement, which brought the country's economy to the brink of collapse and which was so severe that Morsi may face criminal charges over his policies.
- A top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared this week that Iran would never suspend its nuclear activities, but explained to the Associated Press - per Voice Of America - that Tehran would at least 'tone down its rhetoric.' Ali Akbar Velayati, who advises Khamenei on nuclear issues, also emphasized in his interview that Iran's posture on nuclear issues was set by the supreme leader, and that guiding "principles" set by Khamenei would ensure that the administration of newly inaugurated President Hassan Rouhani would follow "the same trend strategically as the former government." Velayati’s comments about Iranian nuclear activity come alongside recent revelations that Iran is making sustained advances in developing ballistic missiles. A recently published Pentagon report assessed that Tehran may develop missiles capable of striking the United States by 2015. Satellite imagery published earlier this month by Jane’s Defense Weekly indicated that Iran has built a new rocket launch site “most likely used for testing ballistic missiles.” The Iranian regime is widely suspected – including by the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog group – of having used its Parchin facility to conduct research into developing nuclear warheads.
- The Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Tuesday slammed Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah for making "irresponsible" and "contradictory" statements, after Nasrallah gave a fiery speech last week promising to double the number of troops that the Iran-backed terror group has fighting in Syria. The GCC earlier this summer committed to imposing financial sanctions against Hezbollah over its regional and global activities. Gulf countries blame Hezbollah for fomenting unrest within their borders, and for playing a critical role in recent advances by the Syrian army against largely Sunni opposition groups. GCC officials have made a point of emphasizing that their targeting of Hezbollah is "more comprehensive" than a recent E.U. decision to designate the group, inasmuch as the Europeans only blacklisted Hezbollah's so-called "military wing" while the Gulf nations' actions apply to all of Hezbollah. Hezbollah officials have repeatedly denied that the E.U.'s distinction is a tenable or accurate description of the organization's structure.
- Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees have poured into northern Iraq this week, after the Kurdish Regional Government that controls the area opened up a temporary bridge. A U.N. agency charged with helping to care for the refugees described the flood of refugees as "among the largest we have so far seen during the conflict." In Jordan, where over half a million Syrian refugees are estimated to have fled, the economic and demographic effects of the crisis have strained the government's ability to cope. In Iraq, the risks of instability are compounded by sectarian dynamics. Sunni extremists in Iraq and Syria are known to cooperate with each other. On the Shiite side concerns have been raised that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is turning a blind eye to Iranian weapons shipments, and Iran-backed militias have for several years been described by U.S. military officials as the single gravest threat to Iraqi stability.
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