The Middle East Channel

WHO confirms 10 polio cases in Syria

WHO confirms 10 polio cases in Syria

The United Nation’s World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed 10 cases of polio in Syria, the country’s first outbreak in 14 years. According to the WHO, the suspected outbreak has been focused in the eastern Deir al-Zour province. There are still 12 other possible cases under investigation. WHO spokesman Oliver Rosenbauer said the majority of the victims have been children under the age of two. The United Nations estimates that 500,000 children have remained unvaccinated since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011. With the large population movements caused by fighting, there is concern the highly communicable disease could spread across the region. Syria’s Health Ministry has begun an immunization drive, and immunization campaigns have begun in refugee camps in neighboring countries. Meanwhile, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said inspectors have visited 21 of the 23 sites initially listed by the Syrian government. However, they are concerned they will not be able to reach the final two sites due to security concerns. The next stage of the U.S. and Russian plan is for the destruction of weapons at the facilities, which could nonetheless move ahead at the sites in which inspectors have already gained access.


  • An Egyptian court has withdrawn from the trial of three Muslim Brotherhood leaders with a presiding judge saying the court "feels unease."
  • After meeting with IAEA experts in Vienna, Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Reza Najafi said Iran’s proposal on its nuclear program "is practical and intended to solve the issue."
  • Egyptian kung fu champion Mohamed Youssef has been stripped of his gold medal and banned from representing the country after showing support for ousted President Morsi, though Egyptian authorities deny the allegations.
  • Gunmen in the Libyan city of Sirte have attacked a van carrying currency for the central bank stealing $54 million

Arguments and Analysis

U.S. must restructure aid to Egypt‘ (Stephen McInerney and Cole Bockenfeld, Washington Post)

"The United States’ recent decision to suspend military aid to Egypt has drawn criticism. It has reinforced the suspicions of many Egyptians that U.S. policy is hypocritical and unprincipled. In Washington, the move has been attacked as unlikely to affect the actions of Egypt’s military, instead reducing U.S. influence and leverage in Egypt. If this decision turns out to be a halfhearted measure before returning to business as usual in a few months, then those criticisms will have been justified. On the other hand, if the current suspension is instead the first step toward overhauling a badly outdated and damaged relationship, it could be pivotal in restoring the U.S. position in Egypt and in the region more broadly.

Egypt’s assistance package, in both structure and content, is simply a relic from the past — an outdated construct that served U.S. and Egyptian interests in 1979, but today is almost entirely divorced from reality. In many respects, the same could be said of the broader bilateral relationship. While Egypt has gone from the rule of Mubarak to military rule to Morsi and back to the military, the U.S. government has failed to adapt, clinging to the old policy of backing the narrow set of actors ruling Egypt at the moment while seeking to influence events only through polite entreaties."

Special Report: As Egypt’s Brotherhood retreats, risk of extremism rises‘ (Michael Georgy and Tom Perry, Reuters)

"The usra was devised by Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, to indoctrinate and mobilize followers. Usras typically used to meet once a week for at least three hours, usually at the home of a member. The usra leader could be so pivotal that members sought their permission to travel to Cairo.

During past crackdowns, the usra survived by adapting. Its size was reduced to three members when restrictions were tightened. Those small units avoided arrest by speaking while walking down streets or meeting in tea houses, not homes. In prison, the usra became the number of men in each cell.

After Mursi fell, the Brotherhood had hoped to mobilize millions of protesters; but the army reacted forcefully, bulldozing a protest camp at Rabaa al-Adawiya in eastern Cairo on August 14, killing hundreds of Mursi’s supporters. Security forces have arrested many top Brotherhood leaders, including Mursi, on charges of inciting or perpetrating violence.

Before the leaders were detained, they sent messages to Brotherhood officials urging them to ensure that usras continued, according to the head of an usra and other Brotherhood members. But members are struggling."

–Mary Casey & Joshua Haber