Report

Egyptian Court Stops Controversial Transfer of Islands to Saudi Arabia

An Egyptian court has ruled that President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi cannot cede two Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia. Sisi’s arrangement to transfer the islands to Saudi Arabia was announced during a visit by King Salman in April, but sparked protests from many Egyptians who said that the islands were Egyptian territory ...

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An Egyptian court has ruled that President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi cannot cede two Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia. Sisi’s arrangement to transfer the islands to Saudi Arabia was announced during a visit by King Salman in April, but sparked protests from many Egyptians who said that the islands were Egyptian territory and that gifting them to Saudi Arabia was unconstitutional. At least 200 people were arrested in ensuing protests and Sisi appealed to the public to move on from the issue in a televised speech. The court ruling prevents the deal to cede the islands to Saudi Arabia from going through, but can be appealed by the Sisi administration in a higher court. If an appellate court rules in favor of the transfer of the islands, the arrangement will still face parliamentary approval.

Bahrain Strips Senior Shia Cleric of Citizenship

The government of Bahrain stripped the most prominent Shia cleric in the country of his citizenship on Monday, continuing a escalating crackdown on political dissent and the country’s Shia majority. The Bahraini Interior Ministry accused Sheikh Isa Qassim of promoting “sectarianism and violence” and being beholden to foreign powers. Qassim is not believed to hold any other nationality; he is presently stateless and could face expulsion from the country. A U.S. official said that the United States is alarmed by the move and was not aware of “any credible evidence” to support the measure.

Headlines

  • The Islamic State counterattacked against an Assad regime offensive in Raqqa province, killing 40 pro-Assad troops and forcing them out of the province and away from the strategic Taqba dam and airfield.

 

  • An Egyptian court sentenced six people accused of spying for Qatar to death, including three journalists tried in absentia.

 

  • A car bomb killed six Jordanian border guards at the Rakban border crossing on the Jordan-Syria border, the only point on the border still open to refugees; no group has claimed credit for the attack yet.

 

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved an $18 million “assistance plan” for settlements in the West Bank in addition to the $88 million already allocated by the state to settlements in order to “strengthen security, assist small businesses and encourage tourism.”

 

  • Saudi airstrikes along the border of Lahj and Taiz provinces in Yemen killed eight civilians and wounded nine others amid clashes as Houthi rebels seized a mountain position overlooking a military base controlled by pro-government forces.

Arguments and Analysis

The Case for a More Robust U.S. Intervention in Syria” (Thanassis Cambanis, The Century Foundation)

“American intervention cannot aim at establishing a new regional order. In keeping with the wiser and more modest approach to power projection of the Obama era, an effective intervention will have clear aims and be executed with an eye toward influence allies and rivals. That means warning Russia carefully before, for example, shooting down Syrian helicopters or airplanes over a specific area. The United States cannot expect to intervene on one side of the conflict and at the same time play the role of honest broker. That is currently part of the disconnect: Washington has invested considerable support on the side of the anti-Assad rebels, and yet at the same has tried to play the role of neutral broker. Since the Russian intervention last summer, that internal inconsistency has been somewhat resolved; with the United States and Russia working together at the apex of a diplomatic process, the superpower sponsorship makes more sense — there is no neutral arbiter, but something of a more balanced umbrella with one anti-Assad and one pro-Assad government overseeing the negotiating process.”

 

Qatar: The Shape of Tomorrow” (Jonathan Guyer, Blouin Art Info)

“Some have found ways to work within the limits while pushing the envelope. So says Sophia Al-Maria, a Qatari-American filmmaker and writer with a solo show opening at the Whitney in the fall, speaking alongside Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah. They were members of an Art for Tomorrow panel discussing Doha as a ‘creative city,’ the sole session that actively addressed the local scene, focusing more on its museums than its artists. Raised in both Washington State and Qatar, Al-Maria first gained prominence for coining the term Gulf Futurism to capture the sci-fi vision of the present that has taken shape in Doha and Dubai, and across the mushrooming cities of the Arabian Desert. ‘I think censorship is, in an odd way, sometimes an advantage for an artist,’ she said in response to an audience question, ‘because it forces one to be creative, frankly.’ She smiled and continued, ‘You don’t write a poem and fill the whole page. You have to use the tools you have to craft something which fits the meter.’

‘I’m surprised with what we got away with, to be honest with you,’ added Al-Qassemi, ostensibly referring to exhibitions at his Emirates-based art space. ‘I’m not going to talk about it too much,
 so that nobody notices.’ The audience laughed.”

-J. Dana Stuster

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

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