The Middle East Channel

Gunmen attack Russian Embassy in Libya

Gunmen attack Russian Embassy in Libya

Unidentified gunmen in Libya attacked the Russian Embassy in the capital of Tripoli Wednesday. About 60 protesters reportedly stormed the compound and some climbed walls attempting to force entry. Gunmen shot at the embassy. One of the attackers was reportedly killed by random gunfire and four others were wounded. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry the compound was secured by guards and none of the embassy’s staff was injured. The attack came after reports that a Russian woman had killed a Libyan Air Force pilot and then sought refuge in the Russian Embassy. Libyan officials say they believe the attack was in response, and that the crowd was looking for the woman. Libyan authorities have detained the Russian woman, claiming she killed the pilot.

Syria

A team of chemical weapons inspectors has begun its second day of work leaving from a hotel in central Damascus toward an undisclosed location. The inspectors aim to end the Syrian regime’s ability to manufacture chemical weapons by November 1, and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal by mid-2014. Syrian government forces have surrounded the town of Moadhamiya, one of the Damascus suburbs hit by a chemical weapons attack in August, seemingly to block travel and cut off access to food for about 12,000 people, mostly civilians, but including some rebel fighters. In a statement Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council expressed alarm over the "rapid deterioration" of the humanitarian conditions in Syria and demanded access to the nearly six million people displaced and trapped by the "unacceptable and escalating level of violence." Meanwhile, Six rebel groups released a statement late Wednesday calling for a cease-fire between two major rebel factions in the northern town of Azaz, near the border with Turkey. The statement urged for the al Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and the Free Syrian Army’s Northern Storm Brigade to settle their differences in an Islamic court.

Headlines

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States hopes to engage with Iran, but is not taking anything at face value as Tehran must take actions to prove it is willing to negotiate on its nuclear development program.
  • EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton is meeting with Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt in part of a three-day visit pushing for reconciliation and an end to the political crisis.
  • In a meeting this week, FIFA’s executive committee is slated to debate a contentious proposal to move the Qatar 2022 World Cup to avoid extreme heat, but will not likely come to a final decision.
  • According to a rights group, prominent Saudi activist and lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair has been arrested after holding political meetings and discussion forums on Saudi affairs.
  • Egypt’s cabinet approved a draft law Wednesday that would make insulting the flag and refusing to stand for the national anthem illegal offenses.

Arguments and Analysis

What Happened to Egypt’s Liberals after the Coup?‘ (Sharif Abdel Kouddous, The Nation)

"Opposition to Morsi grew throughout his time in office, eventually stretching across nearly every sector of Egyptian society. It also had grassroots support, manifested in more than 9,000 protests and strikes during his year-long rule that culminated in calls for early presidential elections and the unprecedented June 30 mobilization.

His opponents included a broad swath of political and social movements, often characterized by conflicting ideologies and grievances. It included revolutionary activists, labor unions, human rights advocates, the Coptic Church, intransigent state institutions, former Mubarak regime members and sidelined business elites as well as the formal opposition — the flock of non-Islamist political parties and figures routinely lumped together as ‘liberals,’ despite the fact that many of them have rejected any notion of political pluralism, a defining characteristic of liberalism.

The result has been a confusing, and increasingly atomized, political landscape. Of the disparate groups opposed to Morsi, some actively sought military intervention, fewer opposed any military role, while others — like Dawoud — stood by the military as it ousted the president, but eventually broke away in the face of mounting state violence and mass arrests of Islamists under the guise of a ‘war on terror.’ "

Netanyahu’s Iran Obsession a Diversion from Palestine‘ (Daoud Kuttab, Al-Monitor)

"On the surface, Israeli apologists might argue that the heightened emphasis on Iran is an existential issue due to the fear that Iran is on the verge of developing a nuclear bomb, an assertion the Iranians flatly reject. The new Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarifmocked Netanyahu, noting that Israelis have been claiming for 22 years that Iran is six months away from developing nuclear military capabilities.

A more logical explanation is that the obsession of Israeli leaders with Iran is a clever attempt at diverting attention from the Palestinian issue, where negotiations are not moving and where his right-wing government is reluctant to make any serious concessions.

Despite Netanyahu’s claim that all six prime ministers since the Oslo Accords as well as himself are willing to make ‘painful concessions,’ the reality on the ground is quite different. The fact that the number of settlers has doubled since the Oslo Accords were signed is the most obvious sign that Israeli leaders actions speak much louder than their own words."

–Mary Casey & Joshua Haber