Middle East Round-Up April 4-6
Assad Bans Soccer; More Protests Coming
Syrian activists called for a new wave of demonstrations on Tuesday to honor more than 80 people killed in a crackdown on anti-government protests that erupted nearly three weeks ago. President Bashar Al Assad has made a series of gestures toward reform in response to the growing cries for change, including sacking his cabinet and promising to set up committees to look into reform. But protesters say the moves do not satisfy their demands for real change. Also on Tuesday, Assad suspended all football matches in an apparent bid to discourage gatherings that could potentially turn into rallying points for anti-government protests.
Gulf States Tense Over Iran; Gates Makes 3rd Visit In 1 Month
A senior Saudi defence official has described statements against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states by Iranian lawmakers on Wednesday as "threatening." Meanwhile, a Kuwaiti lawmaker has called upon the foreign ministry to expel the Iranian Charge d'Affaires and sever diplomatic ties with Iran. Both Bahrain and Kuwait last month recalled their ambassadors to Iran for consultations. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates also arrived in the Saudi Wednesday for talks with King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz on coping with the political upheaval sweeping the Arab world, blunting Iranian efforts to exploit the unrest, and upgrading the kingdom's defenses against Iranian missiles. It is his third visit to Saudi Arabia in a span of one month.
Jordan Economy Up; Elections Law In the Works
The World Bank on Tuesday commended Jordan’s fiscal consolidation programme, expecting the Kingdom’s economy to grow between 3 per cent and 4 per cent this year as Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit on Tuesday said that the envisaged elections law will change the face of Jordan over the coming decades. The protests that erupted in Jordan last week have calmed for the moment.
Kuwaiti Emir Asks For New Government
Kuwait's Emir has asked the outgoing prime minister, Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammad Al Sabah, to form a new cabinet today. Earlier, Kuwait's Speaker Jassem Al Khorafi on Tuesday suspended the weekly parliament session and said that the MPs would convene only after the new government is announced. The Kuwaiti government resigned on March 31 after MPs filed requests to depose three senior ministers, including the foreign minister
Oman Government-Protesters Can't Agree if There Are Protests
Dozens were arrested following bloody protests in Oman, which the government says are at an end. Salaleh protesters insist they aren't done as three government vehicles are torched in the capital and security forces arrest a group carrying arms and fuel in Sohar.
More Bloody Yemeni Protests; US Dollars Flow
Yemeni security forces shot dead at least 17 protesters yesterday as Gulf states offered their mediation and Washington reportedly pulled the plug on embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Pentagon officials, however, announced they will not cut aid to Yemen citing fears Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula would be strengthened by such a move. Saudi officials announced their desire to mediate the Yemeni dispute
UAE Defends Death Penalty Under Sharia Law (For Murder)
A senior judge in the United Arab Emirates has hit back at Amnesty International over its criticism of death sentences imposed under Shariah law, a newspaper reported yesterday. “The death penalty for murder is the original sentence, a judge cannot ignore it,” a judge at the UAE’s federal supreme court who declined to be named said.
US Departs; Libyan Rebels Pushed Back
As the US discontinues involvement in the NATO-led no-fly zone operations over Libya estimates say as much as 30% of the Qaddafi regimes military hardware has been destroyed by coalition planes. Despite these losses rebel fighters have been pushed back from the key oil port of Brega, which has been the center of intense, chaotic fighting for several days. At the same time, Libya's government said it would consider reforms insofar as dictator Moammar Qaddafi is not forced out.