Congress remains in recess. The Senate will reconvene on Monday, April 24. The House of Representatives will reconvene on Tuesday, April 25. This latest in our series of weekly reports explores what returning Congressional representatives expect to face, and how this might affect the Middle East.
Former Moroccan Foreign Minister, and member of the Justice and Development Party (PJD), Saad Eddine El Othmani succeeded in creating a new cabinet in three short weeks. This follows a prolonged impasse after his predecessor and fellow PJD member Abdelilah Benkirane failed to secure a parliamentary mandate for a government following the October, 2016 elections in which their party won a plurality of parliamentary seats. El Othmani will be able present his cabinet to King Mohammed VI, ultimately, because he accepted the Socialist Union within the ranks of the coalition. Previously, Benkirane, as head of the PJD party with no outright majority, firmly refused to allow the Socialist Union to take part. This Report explores the main features of Morocco’s new government and its prospects for continued success.
On April 16, 2017, 51.4% of Turkish voters approved a series of constitutional amendments proposed by the country’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). With official results expected before the end of the month, the proposed changes will effectively turn the present parliamentary system of government in Turkey into a presidential system. Despite apparent success, the AKP, together with the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) which backed Erdogan during this referendum, would have been disappointed by the slim margin, especially considering the massive voter turnout. Notably, the two parties combined garnered more than 60% of votes cast in Turkey’s last legislative elections, in November, 2015. Debates precipitated by the referendum in Turkish political, legal and media circles extended beyond the country’s borders. Building on existing schisms, they have even transcended the constitutional amendments to question the legitimacy of the election results, and even the future of the ruling AKP. This report examines the outcome of the poll.
This a replication of the Arab Center, Washington DC's weekly coverage of the US Congress. The weekly bulletin focuses on legislative and other matters of interest to the Middle East. The Report for the week ending April 14, 2017, a period during which Congress was in recess (until 24 April). This report features pre-recess legislative updates with a focus on Syria and Yemen, as well as a roundup of events related to the Middle East in Washington, DC think tanks.
A series of coordinated terrorist attacks struck Coptic Orthodox churches across Egypt on April 9, celebrated as Palm Sunday. The first bombing, at the Mar Jirjis (“St. George”) Church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, accounted for the majority of victims. In Alexandria, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church Tawadoros II survived a suicide bombing that targeted St. Mark’s Cathedral where the Patriarch was leading a special mass, though 50 were killed and 150 wounded. Egyptian security services also indicate that a car bomb was defused in the vicinity of St. Mark’s before it could be detonated. A blast would have significantly increased the impact of the attack. A group calling itself the ‘Egyptian Islamic State,’ an affiliate of ISIL, claimed through its media channel to have carried out the attacks, promising to deliver even further blows to Egypt’s already embattled Coptic Christian community. ‘Egyptian Islamic State’ had previously acknowledged an attack on the St. Mark’s Cathedral of Cairo in December 2016, which had killed 25 parishioners.
On April 7, the United States retaliated to a Syrian regime Sarin attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, in the Governorate of Idlib, by launching a salvo of 59 cruise missiles against the Shayrat airbase from where the bomber which targeted Khan Shaikhoun had departed. The US retaliation was unprecedented throughout the Syrian conflict, constituting the first time that American forces directly attacked the Assad regime. Previously, Washington was happy to stand idly by as the Syrian conflict—which has already claimed an estimated half a million lives—dragged on, focusing instead on destroying ISIL. This paper asks whether the cruise missile strike was a turning point, signaling a strategic shift in US policy towards Syria.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi held a meeting with US President Donald Trump during a visit to Washington on March 20. Abadi’s visit, aimed partially at securing economic assistance for his country, coincided with a multilateral meeting convened by the US State Department, bringing together 68 countries and intergovernmental organizations to intensify the coalition efforts against ISIL. The meeting of foreign ministers from the “Global Coalition” ended on March 22. Abadi’s visit also coincided with the fourteenth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq which toppled Saddam Hussein, during which invasion Trump vacillated in his own support for American action that installed a new regime in Iraq.
This a replication of the Arab Center, Washington DC's weekly coverage of the US Congress. The weekly bulletin focuses on legislative and other matters of interest to the Middle East. The Report for the week ending April 7, 2017 carried information on the visit by the Egyptian president; the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action; and post-conflict reconstruction in Syria.
This a replication of the Arab Center, Washington DC's weekly coverage of the US Congress. The weekly bulletin focuses on legislative and other matters of interest to the Middle East. The Report for the week ending March 31, 2017 carried information on relations with Bahrain; AIPAC at the US capital; JASTA, legislation which seeks to victimize Saudi Arabia and other states; and other affairs relevant to US-Arab relations.
This a replication of the Arab Center, Washington DC's weekly coverage of the US Congress. The weekly bulletin focuses on legislative and other matters of interest to the Middle East. The Report for the week ending March 24, 2017 carried information on relations with Iran and Syria; on the confirmation hearing of David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel; and on global humanitarian affairs.