MENA Week in Review - May 30, 2014

Middle East

This post examines providing training and support to elements of the Syrian opposition, President Obama's recent foreign policy speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the deteriorating security situation in Libya and several other top security stories from the region.

  • The Obama Administration is closer to authorizing training for Syrian rebels to combat both the Assad regime and al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria.
  • President Obama gave the Commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he outlined his foreign policy vision for the rest of his tenure in office.  In his address, President Obama announced plans for a $5 billion Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund, part of which would go towards supporting Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey to “confront terrorists working across Syria’s borders.” The fund would also alleviate the growing refugee crisis, which now accounts for more than 2.5 million refugees across the region. In addition, the president stated the fund would support “those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal dictators.”
  • Commenting on the debate to arm Syrian rebels, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) criticized the Obama Administration’s plan to increase aid to the rebels and suggested that arming the Syrian opposition would be like “pouring gas on a fire.”
  • It is believed that an American citizen, working with the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front, carried out a suicide bombing on Sunday. According to American officials, this is the first time an American has been involved in such an attack in Syria.
  • As the security situation deteriorates in Libya, 1,000 U.S. Marines have been dispatched to the Mediterranean to “address unrest in the region.”  The move came on the heels of this week’s State Department warning that U.S. citizens should leave Libya immediately due to increasing terror threats and instability.
  • During a visit to Bahrain a delegation of U.S. Senate staff met with the Commander-in-Chief of the Bahrain Defense Force, Field Marshal Shaikh Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Khalifa to discuss military cooperation and bilateral relations between the two countries.
  • Lebanon has entered a “presidential vacuum” as President Michel Suleiman completed his term in office without a successor to take his place. Secretary of State John Kerry phoned President Suleiman and urged for a speedy election to replace the outgoing president.
  • Saudi Arabia sentenced to death two Shia activists involved in the 2011 anti-government protests. The sentences are the heaviest punishments handed down to those involved in the protests.
  • At least 54 people were killed in a number of bombings in Iraq on Wednesday.  The bombings continued a surge in violence since Iraq’s parliamentary elections in April.