The Middle East Channel

Libya’s Prime Minister Dismissed After Tanker Escapes

Libya’s parliament held a vote of confidence Tuesday to dismiss Prime Minister Ali Zeidan over the failure to prevent an oil tanker from exporting oil from the rebel-controlled Sidra port. Defense Minister Abdullah al-Thinni has been named as Libya’s interim prime minister. Despite a travel ban against Zeidan, Malta’s prime minister reported that Zeidan had ...

MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images
MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images

Libya’s parliament held a vote of confidence Tuesday to dismiss Prime Minister Ali Zeidan over the failure to prevent an oil tanker from exporting oil from the rebel-controlled Sidra port. Defense Minister Abdullah al-Thinni has been named as Libya’s interim prime minister. Despite a travel ban against Zeidan, Malta’s prime minister reported that Zeidan had arrived in Malta Tuesday en route to a European country. Libyan authorities seized a North Korea-flagged tanker Monday after it attempted to leave Sidra port, however the tanker escaped the naval blockade overnight. The tanker — the first vessel to have loaded oil from a rebel-held port since the separatist revolt erupted in July 2013 — is estimated to have taken on at least 234,000 barrels of crude oil from the rebels. On Monday the parliament ordered an operation to liberate all rebel-held oil terminals. Special forces are expected to deploy within one week. In related news, the U.N. Security Council’s Libya sanctions committee reported this week that Libya had become "a primary source of illicit weapons," and that trafficking from Libya was fueling conflict and instability on several continents.

Syria

In a rare public appearance, President Bashar al-Assad visited internally displaced Syrians in the city of Adra Wednesday. Adra, located 12 miles north of Damascus, has been a battleground between rebels and government forces. Syrian state media reported that Assad was "listening to their needs" and that he told them the state would continue to provide for those needs. Meanwhile, Syrian authorities passed a law Wednesday requiring all foreign visitors to obtain a visa prior to travel. Citizens of most Arab states were not required to have a visa prior to this law, and Syria has repeatedly complained of "terrorists" entering the country illegally. Also on Wednesday, an E.U. court upheld sanctions against Assad’s sister Bushra al-Assad. Separately, a spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency has denied reports that a widely distributed photo of the Yarmouk refugee camp is a fake. The photo, published in newspapers around the world, shows overcrowded lines of Palestinians awaiting food aid in the Syrian camp. 

Headlines

  • The Israeli Knesset has passed a controversial law that will draft ultra-Orthodox men into the army, ending a 65-year exemption from national service. The vote passed despite opposition boycott and protest from the ultra-Orthodox community.
  • Egyptian Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has arrived on his first official visit to the United Arab Emirates to attend joint military exercises. On Sunday Sisi signed a memoranda of understanding with the UAE-based construction firm Arabtec, which has committed to building one million homes across Egypt worth a combined $40 billion.
  • British Prime Minister David Cameron will arrive in Israel Wednesday for his first visit to the country. Cameron, accompanied by two-dozen trade delegates, is expected to make U.K.-Israel trade announcements, in addition to discussing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative in meetings with the Knesset and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
  • Following her recent two-day visit to Tehran, E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is receiving criticism from political conservatives in Iran over her meetings with human rights defenders, including the mother of the blogger Sattar Behesthi who died in policy custody in 2012. Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that Rouhani had failed to fulfill campaign promises to promote and protect freedoms of expression and opinion.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has issued a statement expressing Israel’s regret over the death of a Jordanian judge of Palestinian origin who was shot by Israeli border guards Monday. The shooting incident has stirred diplomatic tension and protests in Jordan calling for the removal of Israel’s ambassador.

Arguments and Analysis

Saudi action puts Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait on spot‘ (Elizabeth Dickinson, Al-Monitor)

"After three years of escalating animosity, Saudi Arabia made its own view clear over the weekend, adding the Muslim Brotherhood to its official list of terrorist organizations and laying out strict prohibitions against participation and support. The moves followed a decision, together with the UAE and Bahrain, to withdraw ambassadors from Qatar March 6 over anger at Doha’s support for political Islam.

But Riyadh’s new rules don’t just mark the end of the organization’s legal presence in the kingdom. They also raise questions about the future of the Brotherhood in smaller Gulf states such as Kuwait and Bahrain, where offshoots operate openly as registered political and social groups." 

‘He Knew That Death Was Coming’: Survivors Mourn After A Massacre By Syrian Rebels‘ (Joshua Hersh, Huffington Post)

"But reporting on the killing of Alawites and other pro-government civilians by rebel forces is nevertheless an uncommon experience. With so much of the conflict covered from TurkeyLebanon and Jordan — places where the stories of victims predominantly reflect the brutality inflicted by government-affiliated forces — a tour of Syria’s internal strongholds offers a refresher course in the suffering that has befallen citizens on all sides.

A breakdown of deaths on each side is hard to come by, although most accounts indicate that regime forces have caused the majority of civilian deaths in the war. But large numbers have been harmed on all sides; last summer, one monitoring group estimated that as many as 40,000 of those killed have been Alawites, including civilians and members of the security forces.

Even if the raw numbers of dead don’t balance out neatly, the feelings of fear, misery and anger among survivors and family members on the government side are just as deep — as is their gratitude for the army that saved them. The emotions are all the same. The two sides could hardly be further apart."

— Cortni Kerr

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