The Syrian army has regained control of Deir ez-Zor Airport after succeeding in thwarting an attack by the Islamic State (IS) on the military airport a few days ago. Although clashes are still ongoing in the areas surrounding the airport, they have lessened to a large degree.
Moreover, differences between Jaysh al-Islam and Jabhat al-Nusra emerged, revealing the existence of a huge tunnel linking the Barzeh and Harasta neighborhoods [of Damascus] in order to transfer supplies to the fighters in Ghouta [an area of northeast Damascus], at a time when the power of IS is growing in Rif Dimashq [east of Damascus]. Meanwhile, in the countryside around Aleppo, clashes between Jabhat al-Nusra and other armed factions have been intensifying.
Nidaa Tunis and the Ennahda movement agreed yesterday [Dec. 4] on a parliamentary combination under which they will share the new parliament’s speakership, with the election of Nidaa Tunis’ Mohammed Nasser, 83, as speaker, Abdelfattah Mourou, 66, as first deputy speaker and Free Patriotic Union MP Fawziya Ben Fedda as second deputy speaker.
Nidaa Tunis, which has a plurality in parliament (86 seats), held [Dec. 3] parliamentary consultations with the four founding political forces of the new parliamentary scene, mainly Ennahda, which placed second (with 69 seats), the Free Patriotic Union, which placed third (with 16 seats), the Popular Front (fourth with 15 seats) and Afek Tounes (fifth with eight seats).
Jordan's media sector has been recently receiving consecutive slaps in the face from the government, and it seems that they won’t stop any time soon. These slaps make no distinction between authors, journalists or editors. They attack both printed and electronic papers, and they do not take into consideration any political orientation. The media are under the menace of the controller.
Veteran journalists still tell stories about arrests, violations and security interventions that took place under martial law and in the mid-1990s. They recall these stories in the context of the change that occurred at the level of press and media freedoms. However, this restriction and those violations have not disappeared; they moved from basements and cellars where pressure is secretly placed, to an era where the law and the legislation openly restrict press freedoms.
Using laws to control and tame the media began when the Jordanian government blocked 300 websites in mid-2013, in line with the provisions of the press and publications law, which compels electronic sites to have a license and an editor-in-chief who is a member of the journalists' union.
Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may have gone to Syria with some of his associates to oversee an alternative plan to confront expected developments, in light of talk that the battle of Mosul is near. Meanwhile, IS movements in the Damascus countryside are raising questions about Baghdadi’s next target.
Tensions in Bir al-Qasab in the Damascus countryside have peaked, especially after IS announced two days ago that it is sending more military support to the area, a matter that raised the anxiety and stress levels among the armed factions’ leaders amid speculation that IS’ next goal is to enter Daraa. Or could that be preceded by fabricating events in east Ghouta, which these days is experiencing many assassinations, illustrating the danger awaiting the area?
“Ruling Yemen is like dancing on snake heads,” former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said, according to British researcher Victoria Clark. Poet Ibrahim al-Hadrani wrote, “The saddest and grouchiest people in the world are the ones who ride lions and rule Yemen.” This is an honest description of the relationship between the elites who compete to rule Yemen, but it is not an accurate characterization of the relationship between the Yemeni people and their rulers. The Yemeni people often say they are "Arta people," Arta being a plant that is eaten without chewing, making it easy to eat even for those who do not have any teeth.
According to those who use this expression, the Yemeni people are submissive and easy to control, defeat and oppress. If it were not for these characteristics, the former president would not have been able to rule the country for 34 straight years. On the other hand, there is still a raging power struggle between several parties, most notably and most seriously the conflict between the current president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and Saleh, who heads the General People's Congress (GPC).
With the declaration of the State of Greater Lebanon under the French Mandate era, the borders between Syria and the land of the cedars began to form. They sometimes divide adjacent villages as they extend from the occupied Golan Heights to the seashore, and pass through the Qalamoun and Anti-Lebanon mountains. Eventually, the borders themselves became a battleground in the Syrian conflict, which reverberates in neighboring states.
There are four Syrian provinces along the Syrian-Lebanese border. They include Quneitra, Rif Dimashq, which has the largest share of the border with Lebanon, Homs, and Tartus. While Tartus enjoys total calm and the situation in Homs is comparable, the situation in the Golan and Rif Dimashq is different: Armed groups have deployed along the border strip and work to secure transportation routes for fighters, ammunition and weapons from the Lebanese side of the border. This raises questions today, given the prevalence of the idea of “safe zones” and the opposition Syrian National Coalition’s focus on the Qalamoun area near the Lebanese border. These issues necessitate detailed research on the borderlands between the two countries.
During an interview with As-Safir, the adviser of Iran's parliament speaker on international affairs, Hossein Sheikholeslam, cautiously described the regional situation as optimistic, notably regarding his country’s role as the most important element in the axis of defiance. He talked about this in reference to the achievements of the nuclear negotiation “war” with the United States, as he put it.
Sheikholeslam’s optimism comes from the reality imposed by his country during the negotiations, by forcing the US administration to recognize his country’s right to the enrichment of uranium. “We do not negotiate with the Americans in Vienna, but we actually negotiate with Israelis, since the Americans run every single detail by the Israelis in order to get their approval of the relevant issues. They then transfer to us the Israeli fears of our peaceful nuclear program turning into a military program, even though we have constantly emphasized that we can’t possibly do that,” he said.
Jabhat al-Nusra leaders expressed their concerns regarding the intentions of the Islamic State (IS) to enter Daraa. The news was reiterated in the command rooms of many armed factions, with information indicating that MOC Operations Center drew a red line to forbid IS from entering the city, which is especially fragile. It asserted that anybody who considers playing with fire there will not be cut slack, as Daraa has a strategic location overlooking the Jordanian border on one side, and the Israeli border on the other.
Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces party, sighed with relief as the Constitutional Council rejected parliament’s extension challenge. This decision seemed to be a bulletproof vest, at a time when Mehrab [Geagea's stronghold] has come under political fire by Rabieh [the residency of MP Michel Aoun], as a result of the Christian endorsement — by the Lebanese Forces — of the parliamentary extension.
As for the presidential elections, Geagea continues to act as a candidate who is ready to contest against Aoun in parliament, especially after he managed to block his latest decision or attempt [to challenge parliament’s decision]. This is especially true although many, including Geagea's allies, are convinced that his candidacy is not the right thing to do at this moment, and withdrawing it is only a matter of time.
The preliminary data of the results of the first round of Tunisia’s presidential elections pointed to a conflict between two opposing groups on the political scene. The first is represented by Nidaa Tunis, led by Beji Caid Essebsi, and the second is supported by President Moncef Marzouki. The presidential election was not significantly different from the legislative elections held on Oct. 26, 2014, where the results reflected the emergence of two opposing camps in parliament: Nidaa Tunis, with 86 seats, followed by the Islamist party Ennahda, with 69 seats. These two parties alone won more than two thirds of parliamentary seats, to the detriment of the other prestigious political parties, including democratic and forceful political figures who were completely wiped from the electoral scene.
In this context, political analyst Salaheddine al-Jourchi believes that the political scene in Tunisia is moving rapidly toward bipolarity, between a group represented by Ennahda and a second that represents the leftist forces and modern elites.
“This dichotomy does not resemble ancient democracies because Tunisia is still finding its way towards its place as an emerging democracy. It is a product of political practices characterized by poor relationships between political elites and a division between the components of some of the lines of thought,” said Jourchi. “This usually leads to conflict, due to the lack of consensus culture, and always entails the intervention of a third party to resolve the crisis, similar to the way civil society organizations oversee the national dialogue.”
Islamists in Tunisia chose to stay out of direct competition in the presidential election and participate in the political game from afar, by guiding events and trajectories in a way that serves their new political positioning.
This is what seemed clear yesterday [Nov. 30], as Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi played a pivotal role in extinguishing the controversy that almost dealt a blow to the electoral track in Tunisia in a meeting with the outgoing president of the republic and presidential candidate Moncef Marzouki. This meeting led Marzouki to stop his escalatory tone and agree to abide by the national consensus.
Islamists and the presidency
Ennahda did not nominate any of its leaders [for president], and it settled for second place in the new political and parliamentary landscape after it won 69 seats in the newly elected parliament, while Nidaa Tunis ranked first with a parliamentary majority that amounted to 86 seats.
To maintain a political truce with Nidaa Tunis, Ennahda did not openly support any of the participants in the first round of the presidential elections. However, the results of the first session showed that Ennahda had an extensive role in the presidential campaign as it had its followers support Marzouki, the historical and most loyal ally to the cause of political Islam.
The Gulf agreement which resulted from the Riyadh summit last Sunday [Nov. 16], in addition to the Egyptian openness regarding Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz’s invitation to settle the conflict between Cairo and Doha, raised questions concerning the future of the Muslim Brotherhood.
It is well-known that Qatar has been the first and strongest supporter of the Brotherhood, whether through financial and political support — which it provided Mohammed Morsi — or through the stance which followed the collapse of the Islamist regime after the June 30 Revolution. Back then, Doha rejected the ouster of Morsi and considered the events of July 3, 2013, as a military coup. Doha then opened its doors to receive the wanted Brotherhood leaders and provided them a media podium. In addition, Qatar withdrew the economic support it had provided Egypt before the Brotherhood’s regime collapsed.
All of this resulted in a major deterioration in Egyptian-Qatari relations, which was not limited to mere media campaigns, but also led to the withdrawal of the Egyptian ambassador from Qatar.
The importance of Qatari support for the Brotherhood is not about its magnitude, as Qatar is considered the only Arab country to support the prohibited group. Consequently, in the event that the group loses this support due to the rapprochement between Cairo and Doha, the Brotherhood’s isolation and suppression would deepen.
The National Reconciliation Committee of the People’s Council of Syria seeks to expand its powers through legislation that would turn it into a body comprising legislative and executive branches. This comes as the term "national reconciliation" captured media headlines, and talks addressed "freezing the fighting in Aleppo," a phrase used by UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura.
De Mistura’s initiative has been “officially welcomed,” with an official’s “readiness to consider it,” an official source said. This is while opposition factions, which are represented by several parties inside and outside Aleppo, have rejected the idea, arguing that it “helps the regime survive,” while others have imposed “impossible conditions” to its implementation, including that “[Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad step down,” a source told As-Safir.
Nevertheless, efforts were made a month prior to de Mistura’s work, and they are ripening today.
On Nov. 4, 2014, Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi sent the committee, which consists of 30 MPs in 14 governorates, a memorandum asking for “[the adoption of] a framework at the national level,” for the committee and the expansion of its influence and ability.