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Experts caution reality check on joint Arab force

March 31st, 2015 Comments off

Smoke and flames rise from an alleged weapons storage depot at a Shiite Huthi rebel camp after an airstrike by the Saudi-led alliance on March 30, 2015 in the Yemeni capital SanaaDespite an agreement at a weekend Arab summit to establish a joint military force, serious doubts remain that it will become a reality on the ground, experts say. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced the accord on Sunday at the end of the summit he hosted in the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, setting a four-month timeframe for the 22-member Arab League to decide on the composition and rules of engagement of the joint force. "The notion of a truly joint Arab military force still remains an aspiration rather than a reality," said Frederic Wehrey, an expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "Despite the statements of unity, there are vast differences between the Arab states and that was evident with the situation in Yemen," he said.

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Tunisians Respond with Humor to Silly Claim ISIS is in Tataouine

March 31st, 2015 Comments off

One of Tunisia’s niche tourist attractions is the fact that the first Star Wars film was filmed in and around the southern Tunisian town of Tataouine, which also gave its name to Luke Skywalker’s home planet. After some Western media reported (wrongly) that  pro-ISIS forces had taken control of the area, Tunisian social media started having fun with the idea, which isn’t true. See the link but here are three of the best samples:

“Tataouine: the niqab is already obligatory”



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Dozens dead near Yemen refugee camp

March 30th, 2015 Comments off

At least 40 people have died in a blast near a refugee camp in western Yemen, aid workers say, but officials deny Saudi air strikes were the cause.
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PM Modi seeks Saudi help to rescue Indians from Yemen

March 30th, 2015 Comments off

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pictured here in New Delhi on February 16, 2015, asked Saudi Arabia's new king for his support in efforts to evacuate some 4,000 stranded Indians from war-torn YemenPrime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday asked Saudi Arabia's new king for his support in efforts to evacuate some 4,000 stranded Indians from war-torn Yemen. Modi expressed his "deep concern about the safety and welfare of the approximately 4,000 Indian citizens in Yemen" when Saudi King Salman telephoned him late evening, the Indian foreign ministry said. "Prime minister briefed his majesty King Salman on India's evacuation plan and requested his majesty's support and cooperation," a ministry statement said, adding that the king assured Modi of "all possible assistance". India has moved to airlift its citizens from the Middle East country, which has been plunged into chaos by a Huthi Shiite rebellion that has triggered Saudi-backed air strikes on the capital Sanaa.

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Many Voices on the Region’s Newest War

March 30th, 2015 Comments off

Unsurprisingly, just about everybody is weighing in on he region’s newest war. More durprisingly is the divide in opinion isn’t always on purely predictable lines. Herewith a broad selection:

And finally, from The New Republic, an article by the late, great, Patrick Seale originally published  January 26, 1963, to remind us we’ve been here before:


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    Erdogan says Iran visit still on despite ‘domination’ row

    March 30th, 2015 Comments off

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 30, 2015 in LjubljanaPresident Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday insisted he was still planning to visit Iran next week, despite a war-of-words with the Islamic republic triggered by the Yemen crisis and his accusations Tehran was seeking domination of the region. Majority Sunni Muslim Turkey has said it supports the Saudi-led operation against Iran-allied Huthi Shiite rebels in Yemen to restore order in the country. Meanwhile Iran announced Monday it had "invited" the Turkish envoy to the foreign ministry for an explanation after Erdogan said last week that Tehran's bid for domination of the region could no longer be tolerated.

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    NATO chief seeks closer cooperation with the European Union

    March 30th, 2015 Comments off

    BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO’S secretary-general wants more joint action with the European Union to face the security challenges coming from Russia and the violent Islamic extremism plaguing some countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
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    Nuclear deal would reward Iran for Yemen ‘aggression’: Israel

    March 30th, 2015 Comments off

    "The agreement being formulated in Lausanne sends a message that there is no price for aggression and on the contrary -- that Iran's aggression is to be rewarded," Netanyahu said, referring to Iranian support for Shiite Huthi rebels in YemenIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned world powers on Monday that any nuclear deal they strike with Iran would be seen as a reward for Tehran's alleged "aggression" in Yemen. "The agreement being formulated in Lausanne sends a message that there is no price for aggression and on the contrary — that Iran's aggression is to be rewarded," he said, referring to Iranian support for Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen. "The moderate and responsible countries in the region, especially Israel and also many other countries, will be the first to be hurt by this agreement," said Netanyahu, who has waged a campaign against a nuclear deal with Tehran.

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    Iran nuclear talks race towards key deadline

    March 30th, 2015 Comments off

    (R-L) Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and EU Political Director Helga Schmid with foreign ministers before the start of the P5+1 meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne on March 30, 2015Foreign ministers from major powers pressed their Iranian counterpart on Monday as they sought to slot into place the final but also the trickiest pieces of a deal curtailing Tehran's nuclear programme as Tuesday's deadline loomed. Britain's Philip Hammond said as he became the last of the foreign ministers to arrive in a rainy Switzerland that they "believe a deal can be done". "But it has to be a deal which puts the bomb beyond Iran's reach," he said. With time of the essence, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Hammond and the top diplomats of Russia, China, France and Germany are meeting for the first time since November.

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    Iran nuclear talks near key deadline

    March 30th, 2015 Comments off

    Last hours of intensive diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear programme take place in Switzerland ahead of Tuesday’s deadline for a long-awaited deal.
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