M!ddleEasterners Newsblog: 1-7 September
The outcome of next week’s vote on military intervention in Syria looks tenuous at best for US President Barack Obama. While high-level Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Eric Cantor, and John Boehner have already expressed support for intervention, many junior congressmen and woman remain undecided or at least uncommitted. Rand Paul, junior senator from the state of Kentucky, is one of a number of Republicans who are turning against the party’s leadership in favour of the opinions of their constituents who are skeptical of intervention.
Meanwhile at the G20 Summit in St Petersburg, President Obama has been appealing to US lawmakers to vote in favour of limited strikes. The Washington Post reported that the President has made time during his trip to phone key members of Congress in order to get them on board for the vote. Despite current numbers, administration officials have said they are yet concerned about the numbers.
Last week, UK Prime Minister David Cameron put forward a motion to the House of Commons calling for military action against Syria that failed to gain the necessary votes, losing narrowly 285-272. Despite losing the vote, Prime Minister Cameron has remained a strong proponent of intervention, using his time at the G20 summit to holding early-morning talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Reuters reports the United States has intercepted orders from Iranian officials instructing militants in Iraq to attack United States interests in Baghdad if the Obama administration launches a military strike on Syria. According to Reuters, the likely target of any attack would have been the US Embassy in Baghdad. Information about a potential attacks comes as the United States pulls key staff from its embassy in Lebanon.
Egypt’s Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim survived an assassination attempt when a bomb detonated as his convoy drove through the Nasr City district of Cairo. Citing security officials, Haaretz reports that 10 people were wounded and at least two killed in the attack – Ibrahim was unharmed. Following the attempt, Mr Ibrahim appeared on Egyptian state TV, calling the attack a ‘cowardly assassination bid,’ and claiming it was ‘not the end but the beginning’ of a ‘new wave of terrorism’. The attack follows a period of intense repression against supporters of Mohammed Morsi, the recently-deposed President of Egypt who was forced from office during a coup initiated by the country’s armed forces.
Embassy Staff Told to Leave
The US State Department has ordered all non-essential Embassy staff to leave Lebanon due to ‘current safety and security concerns.’ The order from the State Department comes as Congress debates military intervention in Syria.
Joint Missile Test
On Tuesday, the United States and Israel conducted a joint missile test in the Mediterranean for the purposes of testing an Israeli air-defence system. The test reportedly involved a ‘Sparrow’ guided missile released from an Israeli fighter jet, which was then tracked by the Arrow Ballistic Missile Defense system. The test was first reported by Russian RIA Novosti state news agency, which stated Russian tracking systems had detected two ballistic rockets over the Mediterranean before landing in water.
Backing for Strikes
The New York Times reports Israel is backing limited military strikes against Syria. According to the Times, Israeli officials see enforcing President Obama’s “red line” as ‘essential to halting the nuclear ambitions of…Iran.’ Support for military intervention from Israel follows four strikes this year, similar to the “limited” kind being proposed by the US President. The Times also reports that Israeli officials believe the best outcome for the country’s national interests would be a strategic stalemate in which neither Assad’s forces nor the rebels win or gain the upper hand. The Times quotes former Israeli Consul General Alon Pinkas who suggests ‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win – we’ll settle for a tie.’