18 Feb 2019 - NPWJ News Digest on Middle East and North Africa Democracy


Mohammed bin Salman ‘orders immediate release of 2,100 Pakistani prisoners’ from Saudi jails during visit to Pakistan
Independent, 18 Feb 2019

Saudi Arabia’s embattled leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has reportedly announced the release of 2,100 Pakistanis from the kingdom’s prisons during a visit to Pakistan.
Pakistan is the first stop on an international tour which is widely regarded as being part of an attempt to rebuild his reputation after the murder of the Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s information minister, said on Twitter the Crown Prince had “ordered the immediate release of 2,107 Pakistani prisoners”, after a request by Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan

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Trump: EU must take back 800 Isis fighters captured in Syria
The Guardian, 17 Feb 2019

Donald Trump has told the EU it must take back its 800 Isis fighters captured in Syria by US-backed forces and put them on trial. The president’s call came as he prepared to claim the end of the caliphate in north-west Syria with the fall of the final Isis-held town.
Some EU countries, notably France, have said they are preparing to take back their former jihadists, but the UK has been more resistant: it says the fighters held by the west’s Syrian Kurd allies can only return if they seek consular help in Turkey. The UK government says it faces a dilemma, especially concerning the wives or children of British fighters, and a major challenge either to prosecute the fighters or prevent them from undertaking terrorist acts in their homeland.

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The collapse of Isis will inflame the regional power struggle
The Guardian, 17 Feb 2019

The collapse of the Isis caliphate’s last stronghold in Syria is sending shockwaves across the region, changing the calculations of the major powers as they jockey for advantage. Triumphalism in Washington, Moscow and Damascus risks obscuring the human cost of a “victory” that may quickly prove transitory.
Of immediate concern is the fate of civilians, mainly women and children, displaced from formerly Isis-controlled areas where many were held against their will. The independent International Rescue Committee says up to 4,000 people are fleeing towards the al-Hawl refugee camp in north-east Syria.

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Britain's weapons sales to Saudi Arabia unlawful: UK report
AlJazeera, 16 Feb 2019

The British government's arms sales to Saudi Arabia are unlawful, the United Kingdom's all-party committee of the House of Lords has concluded in a report.
The document, published on Saturday by the international relations select committee, also found that by sanctioning weapons exports to Riyadh, the British government has found itself on "the wrong side of the law" on the war in Yemen.
It said that these weapons are likely to be the cause of civilian casualties in the war-torn country, where Saudi Arabia, along with its allies, has been carrying out air raids against the Houthi rebels since March 2015.

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The Middle East still needs democracy
The Washington Post, 15 Feb 2019

Many Americans remain wary, if not hostile, to the idea of democracy promotion in the Middle East. The Iraq War, which wasn’t launched to bring people power to Mesopotamia, is seen by most critics as the great catastrophe of Americans who wanted to export representative government. The failure of the “Arab Spring” to produce anything but bloodshed and continuing autocracy beyond Tunisia, where the region-wide revolt started in 2010 and democracy has held, has further reinforced the view that the United States really shouldn’t back a rootless, convulsive cause. The American right sees Muslims as a bad Enlightenment bet; the left is more critical of Middle Eastern tyrannies (except in Iran and the Palestinian territories) but is extremely averse to “nation-building” in Islamic lands.

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