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Newsblog: 18–24 June

24/06/2011

The Middle East & more 

While no stories this week have proved to be as significant as other recent events there were many other events developments around the world that tied in directly to the biggest stories of the year – the Arab uprising and Afghanistan.

Obama has announced a pullout of 30,000, or approximately one-third, of total US troops by 2012 stating that the US had “largely achieved” its main goals inAfghanistan. The US plans to hand over full responsibility of security to the Afghan authorities by 2014. It was suggested that the US will instead begin to focus more on “clandestine counterterrorist operations” such as the one responsible for the death of Osama Bin Laden and listed both Pakistan and Yemen as potential target areas.

The Syrian army has moved closer to Turkey as they swept through the village of Khirbet al-Jouz, only 500m from the border this week. The violent crackdown on protestors continued after President Assad addressed the nation earlier this week, stating that Syria was the target of “foreign conspiracies” and that Syrian refugees who have fled to Turkey in the past weeks should return to Syria. In a move this Friday, the EU has placed economic sanctions against more companies and individuals who are said to be funding Assad’s regime. According to human rights groups the total death count in Syria is now up to 1,300.

Sources in Hezbollah stated that they were readying themselves for an attack on Israel in order to relieve Western pressure on President Assad in Syria. Sources in the group announced that the West was trying to capitalise upon the protests in Syria in order to install a Western-Israeli friendly ruler who would be hostile towards the group and that they aimed to prevent this. As Syria is considered Hezbollah’s “guardian ally” and a regime change could greatly affect Hezbollah’s position in the region.

Yemeni president Ali-Abdullah Saleh, who is still in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment after an attack on his palace earlier this month, will not be returning to Yemen anytime soon announced a senior US diplomat in the region. There has been a push to transfer full power to the vice-president, who is currently acting President, and end the unrest that has driven the country to the brink of civil war. Another blow was the escape of 40 al Qaeda fighters a prison in the port city of Mukalla on Wednesday.

The former youth wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has separated to create an independent party – The Egyptian Current Party. They are expected to take a softer line than the Brotherhood, with expected policies to embrace the separation of religion and politics, the protection of individual freedoms and a promotion of Islamic values without enforcing Islamic religious law.

The nature of radicalisation in US prisons is quickly changing, according to one article this week. It focused on the difficulties faced by immigrants trying to integrate into their communities, an increase of pro-violence support in US mosques and British policy used to reduce the threat of radicalisation on campuses. The article also analysed the different ways in which the US is tackling these growing issues and the effects this problem will have on Israel.

Yale University has created controversy this week over the announcement of a new institute which will study antisemitism, only three weeks after it closed a similar institute which was accused of acting as a platform for “hate-mongering.” The accusations arose out of conference held last August entitled, “Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity” which featured numerous speakers who appeared to be anti-Islamic and anti-Arab.

The UK 

In a visit to Pakistan, British Foreign Secretary William Hague met with Pakistani Minister for Interior Rehman Malik on a visit to the Police Line Headquarters in Islamabad to commemorate policemen who have given their lives while fighting terrorism. Hague reiterated Britain’s interest in combating terrorism and the importance of working together with Pakistan in the interest of international security.

The President of the Muslim Association of Britain, Dr. Omer El Hamdoon, stated in an interview this week that the new UK Prevent strategy is flawed and subjective and instead increases hostility against Muslims in Britain. Hamdoon states his association is trying to raise awareness amongst Muslims in the UK about the importance of their role in British society and good citizenship, but that only “Muslims themselves determine whether to integrate or not.”