Your Middle East staff
Last updated: 24 August, 2012

This Week’s Newsbrief: 24 August

The week began with provoking comments by Iranian officials, saying that Syria is now a struggle between Iran and the US for influence in the Middle East. Despite recent outbursts, the Iranians appeared willing to reach an agreement at the upcoming nuclear talks with the IAEA, saying that there was hope to bridge the gap.

A Syrian envoy gave some surprising comments during a meeting in Moscow, when proclaiming that the country is ready to discuss the departure of President Bashar al-Assad as part of a negotiated settlement. However, the statement was widely questioned and several experts said that it is simply another delaying tactic. Other developments in Syria included threats from Western powers regarding the potential use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime against the rebels. 

In Egypt, attacks and turmoil in the Sinai continued to dominate the news flow. The military has now sent in tanks and police to the lawless peninsula in search for 120 wanted militants. It is believed that around 1,600 extremists hide out in the area. Concerns regarding press freedom were raised once again as the editor of the Al-Dustour newspaper, Islam Afifi, faced charges of inciting disorder.

A report in The New York Times said that Iraq was helping Iran skirt sanctions by smuggling oil and allowing Tehran to secretly move large amounts of cash through bank auctions. However, the Iraqis responded by stating: “We are dealing with Iran in a public and transparent fashion, we have not done any secret deals.”

Libya was relatively calm during the past week, except for a bomb that went off under the car of an Egyptian diplomat in Benghazi.

A car bomb also hit Turkey, killing nine people, including four children. Kurdish rebels were accused of the attack, but the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) denied any involvement.