Five people die from SARS-like virus in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry reported five more people have died from a new SARS-like virus and two others are undergoing treatment in an intensive care unit. The virus, know as novel coronavirus, or hCOV-EMC, is in the same family of viruses that include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which saw an outbreak in east Asia ...

AFP/Getty Images/PHILIPPE LOPEZ
AFP/Getty Images/PHILIPPE LOPEZ
AFP/Getty Images/PHILIPPE LOPEZ

Saudi Arabia's health ministry reported five more people have died from a new SARS-like virus and two others are undergoing treatment in an intensive care unit. The virus, know as novel coronavirus, or hCOV-EMC, is in the same family of viruses that include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which saw an outbreak in east Asia about 10 years ago, as well as those that cause common colds. But unlike SARS, it causes rapid kidney failure. The World Health Organization is not sure how the new virus is transmitted or how widespread it is. All of the deaths reportedly occurred in the oil-rich eastern Ahsa province. The health ministry said it was taking "all precautionary measures for persons who have been in contact with the infected people." Overall, 17 people have died from the virus of the 23 cases that have been detected in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Germany, and Britain.

Syria

Syrian forces have advanced in Homs a day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a rare public appearance. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, pro-government forces took control large parts of the strategic Wadi Sayeh district of central Homs Thursday. Opposition forces have controlled parts of Homs for over a year, and fighting in Syria's third largest city has been severe. If regime forces were to regain control of Homs, it would be a major blow to the opposition. Additionally, clashes were reported in the port of Baniyas, on the Mediterranean cost, for the first time since government forces entered the southern areas of the city in May 2011. Meanwhile, Assad visited the Umayyad Electrical Station marking May Day, the international Labor Day. In efforts to project confidence, Assad said, "They want us to be afraid," adding, "Well, we won't be afraid." At the same time, a new set of blasts hit near a shopping area as well a police headquarters in Damascus's central neighborhood of Bab Mesalla. According to Syria's state news agency, SANA, two people were killed and 28 others wounded in the attacks.

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry reported five more people have died from a new SARS-like virus and two others are undergoing treatment in an intensive care unit. The virus, know as novel coronavirus, or hCOV-EMC, is in the same family of viruses that include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which saw an outbreak in east Asia about 10 years ago, as well as those that cause common colds. But unlike SARS, it causes rapid kidney failure. The World Health Organization is not sure how the new virus is transmitted or how widespread it is. All of the deaths reportedly occurred in the oil-rich eastern Ahsa province. The health ministry said it was taking "all precautionary measures for persons who have been in contact with the infected people." Overall, 17 people have died from the virus of the 23 cases that have been detected in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Germany, and Britain.

Syria

Syrian forces have advanced in Homs a day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a rare public appearance. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, pro-government forces took control large parts of the strategic Wadi Sayeh district of central Homs Thursday. Opposition forces have controlled parts of Homs for over a year, and fighting in Syria’s third largest city has been severe. If regime forces were to regain control of Homs, it would be a major blow to the opposition. Additionally, clashes were reported in the port of Baniyas, on the Mediterranean cost, for the first time since government forces entered the southern areas of the city in May 2011. Meanwhile, Assad visited the Umayyad Electrical Station marking May Day, the international Labor Day. In efforts to project confidence, Assad said, "They want us to be afraid," adding, "Well, we won’t be afraid." At the same time, a new set of blasts hit near a shopping area as well a police headquarters in Damascus’s central neighborhood of Bab Mesalla. According to Syria’s state news agency, SANA, two people were killed and 28 others wounded in the attacks.

Headlines

  • Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi appeared for the second time in court on Thursday in Zintan facing charges of harming state security, but his trial was postponed until September 19.
  • Militants killed at least 14 members of the anti-al Qaeda Sunni militia, the Awakening Council, in two attacks near Fallujah while the United Nations reported April was the deadliest month in Iraq since 2008.
  • Flash floods in Saudi Arabia have killed 13 people and left four others missing in the heaviest rain experienced by the kingdom in over 25 years.
  • The F.B.I. released photos on Wednesday seeking to find three men present at the scene of the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012.

Arguments and Analysis

A warning from Erdogan’s Turkey (Alp Altinörs, Ahram Online)

"In the Arab world, especially in Tunisia and Egypt, the so-called "Turkish model" has become one of the main propaganda slogans of reactionary forces.

The Nahda government in Tunisia and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt seem to believe that the success of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey can give them the hope of success and the popularity that they themselves are losing.

The economic realities hidden behind this glossy image of Turkey give a different image, however. It is true that the Turkish economy experienced a certain economic growth under the government of Erdogan-GDP grew between 2002 to 2012 by annual average of 4.9 percent (with the exception of 2009, in which GDP fell by 4.8 percent). In 2012, however, the growth rate dropped to 2.2 percent.

An Open Debate on Palestinian Representation (Al Shabaka: The Palestine Policy Network)

"Many Palestinians seek more effective and democratic representation, and to this end advocate reform of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). However, Osamah Khalil warned last month, in "Who are You?": The PLO and the Limits of Representation, that attempts at reform would end up saving a leadership that had lost its legitimacy and argued that a new representative body is needed to achieve Palestinian rights.

In this Al-Shabaka roundtable, policy advisors and members debate this perspective. Rana Barakat suggests that Palestinians are asking the wrong questions: The discussion should not be over whether to salvage or abandon the PLO, but how to imagine and execute liberation in political, social, cultural, and economic terms, a framing that puts the value of the PLO in context. Mouin Rabbani notes that the PLO was at its most representative when it was least democratic in conventional terms; he questions whether elections make sense in the Palestinian context, and calls for consensus on the national project as the first priority.

Dina Omar evokes Ghassan Kanafi’s writing on "blind language" and its obstruction of strategic analysis and, after reviewing recent attempts to revive the PLO, concludes that it may be better to start from scratch. Fajr Harb argues strongly for reforming the PLO beginning with an overhaul of the Charter to represent Palestinians everywhere; otherwise, he warns, Palestinians risk acquiring yet another semi-functional body and becoming more divided than ever. Hani Al-Masri contends that calling for an end to the PLO without a clear alternative in sight could result in a much worse situation of fragmentation into disparate local, tribal, or sectarian groups and the complete dissolution of the Palestinian cause.

As’ad Ghanem points to the common causes at the heart of the Palestinian and Arab conditions and calls for rebuilding the Palestinian national entity after the PLO has "expired" based on seven fundamental principles. Yassmine Hamayel believes Palestinians need to dig into the early part of PLO history and the First Intifada to rediscover ways of working together to build a national identity and resistance, a time when being Palestinian was more than belonging to a polit
ical party. Aziza Khalidi calls for accelerating the transformation of an existing Palestinian global cultural space into a more cohesive "global cultural community" that would provide opportunities to create a more effective governance structure."

–By Jennifer T. Parker and Mary Casey

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.