🌍 Inside The Middle East — October 28
Northern Cyprus Election Update, Another New Lebanese PM, Russian Airstrikes in Syria, Israel Sudan Normalize Relations, Iraqi Media Under Attack, Islamic World Turns on France
Happy Wednesday and welcome to Inside The Middle East, where we dissect the most important news from the world’s most important region. Today we travel to Northern Cyprus who finally has a result in its presidential election; to Lebanon who has a new prime minister for the fourth time in less than a year; to Syria where Russian airstrikes threaten a new war with Turkey; to Israel who secured its third diplomatic deal of the year with an Arab nation; to Iraq whose journalists are under serious attack; and to the Islamic World who has ratcheted up its rhetoric against France after Emmanuel Macron’s inflammatory comments on Islam.
We launched Inside The Middle East earlier this month and we’re so glad it’s been well received, especially from Iris who gave us some serious love on Twitter… 🙏🤘
Daniel Levitt @DanielLevitt32🌍🚨 NEW: This week's Inside The Middle East is up! Join us as we dissect: -Saudi Arabia's human rights bid -Saeb Erekat in critical condition -Iran arms embargo expires -Yemen's prisoner swap -Egyptian blogger released from prison -Covid economic update https://t.co/s8W4V6UsBl
Be sure to check out this week’s podcast with Binyamin Appelbaum, who last year joined the New York Times editorial board and is one of the world’s most distinguished economic journalists. Binya took us inside what it was like to interview the Democratic presidential candidates last year, his views on news reporting vs opinion journalism, and what policies are needed to solve the harshest income inequalities highlighted by Covid-19…👇
Next week we’ll talk to the amazing Dalal Mawad, senior producer and correspondent for the Associated Press, who’s based in Beirut and experienced August’s explosion first hand. You won’t want to miss our conversation as she took us inside what it was like in the immediate aftermath of the blast, and how she composed herself to capture the damage done to her city. Okay, over to you Aina…
Another 191 postings added to the job board taking our total up to 866! New jobs include at New York Magazine, the Financial Times, The Information and the Press Association. Help out and spread the word! 🙏
Journalist Attacks — Database of attacks on the press, from the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Russian Airstrikes — Database of all airstrikes in Syria, from Syrian Archive.
Northern Cyprus Election Update
We start this week in Northern Cyprus where we finally have a final result from the presidential election that moved to a runoff this past weekend, after no candidate won more than 50 percent from the first round. The runoff saw right-wing nationalist Ersin Tatar surprise many by winning 52 percent of the vote, meaning the prospect of the island’s unification have now been dashed for the foreseeable future. Tatar has close ties with Turkey, who invaded the northern part of the island in 1974 and has since held the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The result also means renewed efforts to be internationally recognized as an independent state, something only Turkey does so currently.
Hariri Returns as New Lebanon PM
Stopping off in Lebanon next where Saad Hariri has become Prime Minister for the third time, and the second time in less than 10 months. Yep you guessed it, it’s time for a quick history lesson. Buckle up: Hariri first served as PM between 2009 and 2011, but his unity government resigned behind his back while he publicly met Barack Obama. Hariri then returned as prime minister in 2016, but tendered his resignation exactly a year later over fear of being assassinated, only to rescind it a month later. Still with me? Hariri resigned for real late last year after mass protests over political and economic uncertainty proved too much. Now almost a year later to the day, Hariri is back yet again, and now faces the near-impossible task of forming a government, and has started without the support of the main Christian party.
Saad Hariri 👇
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Russian Airstrike Kills Dozens in Syria
Moving across the border to Northern Syria next where Russian airstrikes have killed more than 50 Turkish-backed militia and wounded many others. The attack included a hit on a training base for an Islamist group called Faylaq al-Sham, one of Turkey’s main allies in the country, and now threatens the Russia-Turkey-brokered ceasefire in Idlib. Idlib is especially important because it’s the last stronghold for the rebel groups that have been trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2011. Meanwhile hundreds of people are mourning the death of the Sunni Muslim mufti of Syria’s capital, Damascas, who was killed in a car bomb.
Israel Sudan Normalize Relations
Sudan has established official relations with Israel, joining the U.A.E. and Bahrain to do so this year. The U.S. will remove Sudan from its state sponsors of terrorism list after 27 years, when Osama Bin Laden lived there as a government guest in 1993. Sudan will be required to pay $335m (£259m) in compensation. However, protests have ensued in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum, as the country’s opposition parties have said they’ll reject the deal.
For Israel, the deal marks another milestone in its growing influence in the region, and takes the number of Arab nations it has official relationships with to six, joining Turkey, Egypt and Jordan who have all been at peace with Israel for multiple decades. Several reports suggest Oman will be next, piling further pressure on Saudi Arabia to follow suit, who could climb aboard after next week’s U.S. general election.
Last Time on Inside The Middle East…
Iraqi Media Under Attack
Human Rights Watch has heavily criticized the Iraqi government for failing to protect the country’s journalists after a series of attacks and prosecutions. In July, HRW released a report on how Iraqi authorities were suppressing freedom of speech of journalists, activists and other dissenting voices. Just a month later, protestors set fire to the office of Dijlah TV in Baghdad.
HRW senior researcher Belkis Wille told Al Jazeera: “Journalists who want to cover events and political developments in an even-handed manner have less and less space to do so,” she said. “And those that try are getting to a point where threats are becoming so acute that they have to either drop their profession or leave the country, or both.”
Elsewhere in the country Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, one of Saddam Hussein’s closest aides, has died after years of being on the run. The U.S. had a $10 million (£7.5 million) bounty on al-Douri.
Dijlah TV station 👇 | Credit: Human Rights Watch
Islamic World Turns on France
We end today with the developing news of France facing the ire of the Islamic World after President Emmanuel Macron publicly backed the use of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Macron’s remarks came at a tribute to school teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded after leaving school last week after he used cartoons of Muhammad in a lesson on free speech. Below is a growing list of countries that have spoken out against Macron and France:
Turkey: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged a boycott of French goods.
Lebanon: Hezbollah condemned the “deliberate insult” to the Prophet.
Jordan: Islamic Affairs Minister Mohammed al-Khalayleh said that insulting prophets was “not an issue of personal freedom but a crime that encourages violence”.
Palestine: Protestors have burned portraits of Macron, calling his comments “an attack and an insult against Islam”.
Egypt: A major supermarket chain has removed French goods from its shelves.
Iraq: Rabaa Allah, a pro-Iran faction in Iraq, said its men were “ready to respond when and where they want”.
Iran: Accused Macron of fuelling extremism.
Saudi Arabia: Condemned the “offensive cartoons of the Prophet”.
Kuwait: Shops have pulled French products from shelves.
Qatar: Supermarkets have boycotted French products.
Morocco: Called Macron’s comments an “act of provocation”.
Libya: Mass protests have ensued calling for the boycott of French goods.
Pakistan: Prime Minister Imran Khan accused Macron of encouraging hate speech and radicalisation among Muslims.
That’s it for today! Join us tomorrow for an Election Dissection from Chile and Guinea, and Friday for Picks of the Week! 👋