Middle East

Waves of heroic protests have spread rapidly to towns and cities throughout Iran over the past two weeks. This was a spontaneous eruption of rage by the lower-middle-class and working-class youth against poverty, rising prices and destitution, as well as against the wealth and corruption of the Iranian elite – particularly the clerical establishment. It is estimated that 21 people have been killed in the protests so far and over 1,700 arrested. Immediately, Western leaders from Washington to London raised a chorus defending the human rights of the Iranian people.

Ayer continuaron por quinto día consecutivo las protestas en todo Irán. Mientras tanto, las fuerzas de seguridad han adoptado una postura más dura. El quinto día las protestas parecieron haber disminuido ligeramente en tamaño, en parte debido a la creciente represión y en parte debido a la falta de un punto focal tangible para el movimiento. El régimen también ha reducido en gran medida el acceso a Internet y las comunicaciones, y también está claro que no se está informando de muchas protestas, en particular de ciudades y suburbios más pequeños.

Yesterday protests carried on for the fifth straight day throughout Iran. Meanwhile, security forces have adopted a harder stance. On the fifth day the protests seemed to have decreased slightly in size, partially due to the increasing crackdown and partially due to the lack of a tangible focal point for the movement. The regime has also heavily reduced access to internet and communication, and it is also clear that many protests are not being reported, in particular from smaller towns and suburbs.

For the past four days Iran has seen the most widespread protests since the 1979 Revolution. While it is still smaller in size than the 2009 Green movement, it has spread far beyond the mainly urban areas of the big cities to which that movement was mainly confined. This is a sea-change and it has shaken the regime to its foundations.

Two statements were made on the same day, 21 November. Both declared the end of the war on Islamic State in Syria. The first was made by Vladimir Putin, in a meeting with Bashar al-Assad in Sochi, the second was released by Qassem Suleimani: the Iranian general at the head of the Quds Force (the Islamic Revolutionary Guards). Both, almost simultaneously, stated that “terrorism was defeated” in the country.

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump declared that he would officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This reveals the real nature of the so-called peace talks. In a speech delivered at the White House, Trump said, “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

"While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering. My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”

On 24 November, around 30 Islamic State militants from the Sinai Province arrived in large, all-terrain vehicles outside the el-Rawda mosque in Bir el-Abed, Northern Sinai, during Friday prayers. They detonated two bombs inside and then sprayed the fleeing crowds with machine-gun fire. The attack left over 300 people dead and 130 wounded: the largest death toll recorded for such an event in Egypt’s modern history.

On 12 November, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake occurred on the Iran-Iraq border, affecting an area stretching from the Kermanshah Province in northwestern Iran, to Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan. The whole of the political establishment made statements in support of the victims and the Kurdish areas, with dozens of national papers publishing their front pages in Kurdish. This is supposedly to show their solidarity with the Kurdish masses. Yet the events on the ground paint a clearer picture of the real attitude of the Iranian ruling class.

“The lot of young Arabs is worsening: it has become harder to find a job and easier to end up in a cell. Their options are typically poverty, emigration or, for a minority, jihad. Astonishingly, in Egypt’s broken system university graduates are more likely to be jobless than the country’s near-illiterate.” (The Economist, August 2016)

These words are now a year old and the situation for young Arabs in general – and young Egyptians in particular – has only gotten worse. In its lead article of an issue entitled ‘The Ruining of Egypt’, The Economistshowed a graph placing Egypt’s youth employment rate consistently between 40% and 46% over the previous six years. The

...

Millions of Iraqi Kurds last Monday voted in a referendum on secession from Iraq and to set up an independent state. According to the official organisers, 92.73 percent of voters supported Kurdish independence while the participation rate stood at 72.16 percent. A huge majority of the Iraqi Kurdish people have made it clear that they feel no attachment to the quasi-sectarian Iraqi central government.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has ratified a deal to sell off the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia. The two islands – particularly Tiran Island – had historically played a pivotal role in conflicts between Egypt and Israel. Tiran was occupied by Israel between 1967 and 1982, at which point it was returned to Egypt and has since hosted military bases of the Egyptian army and the Multinational Forces and Observers tasked with monitoring the adjacent sea passage.

There were violent scenes on Al-Warraq Island in the suburbs of Cairo last Sunday as police attempts to evict residents inevitably resulted in brutal clashes. At least one local man was killed and fifty-six injured. The move to force the island's inhabitants onto the streets comes after President Sisi said in a June speech, “There are islands in the Nile... according to the law no one should be present on these islands.” This statement bears no regard for the thirty years that this community had inhabited the island or for the failure of any government during that period to provide them with an alternative.

For the last month the Gulf state of Qatar has been blockaded by its neighbours Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, who along with Egypt have severed all diplomatic ties with the country. These events have opened up a crisis situation in the Gulf region, which is being viewed with trepidation by the major powers on the world stage.

Israeli tanks advancing on the Golan Heights. June 1967

On 5th June 1967 the Israeli Air Force launched a surprise attack on Egyptian air bases in the Sinai province, beginning what came to be known as the Six-Day War and ending with Israel occupying the West Bank, Gaza, the whole Sinai Peninsula and shortly afterwards also the Golan Heights. To this day the Palestinians have had to live with the consequences.