Why Turkey Doesn't Want Sweden and Finland To Join NATO
Plus: Elections in Lebanon, protests in Iran, Israel won't conduct a criminal probe into Al Jazeera reporter's death, and much more.
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Why Turkey doesn't want Sweden and Finland to join NATO
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday, May 19, that Turkey planned to reject Sweden and Finland's bids to NATO after having accused them earlier of being "like guesthouses for terror organizations."
Erdogan accused the two countries of harboring members of the separatist militant Kurdistan's Workers Party, also known as PKK. The PKK, which seeks an independent state in Turkey, has been in an armed struggle with that country for decades and has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union.
According to state media, Ankara also says that the two nations haven't responded to extradition requests. The wanted individuals are accused of having links to the PKK and FETO, the group led by US-based cleric Fetullah Gulen whom Turkey believes was behind the 2016 failed coup attempt (an allegation Gulen denies).
Furthermore, Ankara has demanded that Sweden and Finland drop an arms embargo slapped on Turkey in 2019 following its military offensive in northeastern Syria.
Finland and Sweden formally applied to join NATO on Wednesday, May 18, at Allied headquarters in Brussels, driven by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Accession of new states, however, requires consensus among existing members, and that's where Ankara comes in.
Lebanon's 2022 general elections
Lebanese were called to vote on Sunday, May 15, for the first general elections since a multidimensional economic crisis started in October 2019.
Shia parties Hezbollah, Amal, and its allies didn't reach the majority of the parliament (65 seats).
The Saudi-backed Christian party Lebanese Forces gained four more seats than in the last elections.
Christian-Maronite party Free Patriotic Movement founded by the current Lebanese President Michel Aoun and led by his son-in-law Gebran Bassil performed poorly, losing seven seats.
The withdrawal of the Sunni party Future Movement's leader Saad Hariri from the political scene fragmented the Sunni vote.
Opposition groups that campaigned on the legacy of the 2019 anti-establishment protest movement (aka Thawra) won 13 seats in Lebanon's new parliament.
In-country final voter turnout in Lebanese parliamentary elections held on Sunday was 49%.
After final results were announced on Tuesday, May 17, election observers said that thousands of corruption, violence and vote-rigging cases at polling stations had been recorded.
Why protestors are taking the streets in Iran
Iranians took to the streets last week after a cut in food subsidies caused prices to soar by 300% for some flour-based staples. The protests quickly turned political, with crowds calling for an end to the Islamic Republic, echoing unrest in 2019, which began over fuel prices hike.
Social media footage showed at least six people killed and dozens injured in the past few days. There has been no official comment on any death toll.
According to witnesses and social media posts, protesters have expanded their demands, calling for more political freedom, an end to the Islamic Republic, and the downfall of its leaders.
Israeli military won't conduct a criminal probe into the Al Jazeera reporter's death
The Israeli army's Military Police Criminal Investigation Division does not plan to investigate the fatal shooting of Shireen Abu Akleh.
The Palestinian-American journalist for Al Jazeera was killed during clashes between Israel Defense Forces soldiers and Palestinian gunmen in Jenin on May 11.
Israeli officials, including the prime minister and the military chief of staff, expressed regret over her death.
The Biden administration also criticized Israel and demanded explanations.
The Palestinian Authority accused Israel of killing Abu Akleh.
The IDF said its interim investigation could not determine whether she was killed by Israeli or Palestinian gunfire.
The latest sandstorm in Iraq caused thousands of people hospitalized
Another sandstorm that descended Monday, May 16, on climate-stressed Iraq sent at least 4,000 people to hospitals with breathing problems and led to the closure of airports, schools, and public offices across the country.
It is the eighth dust storm since mid-April to hit Iraq, which has been battered by soil degradation, intense droughts, and low rainfall linked to climate change.
The last one earlier this month led to the death of one person, while more than 5,000 others had to be hospitalized for respiratory problems.
Jordan's King restricts Prince Hamza's communications, residency, movements
Jordan's King Abdullah said on Thursday, May 20, that he was restricting the movements of his estranged half-brother Prince Hamza and curtailing his contacts with the outside world to ensure he does not act against his country's interests.
Hamza, a former heir to Jordan's throne who was placed under house arrest last year, was accused in April 2021 of trying to destabilize the monarchy in a foreign-inspired plot but was spared punishment after pledging allegiance to the King.
Thousands in Tunisia protest against the president, demanding a democratic return
Thousands of Tunisians protested on Sunday, May 15, against President Kais Saied, demanding a return to the regular democratic order and rejecting his replacement of the independent electoral commission with one he named himself.
Saied has entrenched his one-man rule since seizing executive power last summer, dismissing parliament, moving to rule by decree, and saying he will replace the democratic constitution through a referendum.
Amnesty says FIFA should pay $440 million to 'abused' migrant workers in Qatar
Rights group Amnesty International on Thursday, May 19, urged football's governing body FIFA to pay compensation equal to the total 2022 World Cup prize money for migrant workers "abused" in host nation Qatar.
The call, backed by other rights organizations and fan groups, follows allegations that FIFA was slow to safeguard against the exploitation of workers who flooded into the tiny Gulf state to build infrastructure in the years leading up to the tournament that starts November 21.
Syria: 10 killed, 9 wounded in a rocket attack on bus
According to the state media SANA, a rocket attack on a military bus killed on May 13 10 soldiers and wounded nine more in northwest Syria.
The death toll is the heaviest reported in pro-government ranks from a rebel attack since a truce agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey in March 2020.
The bus was attacked in the west of Aleppo province. Attackers hit the bus with an anti-tank missile. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which was near the frontier with rebel-held territory close to the Turkish border.
Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham posted a video on its Telegram channel on Friday showing a rocket hitting a bus, with a caption declaring that the footage showed the moment a military bus belonging to pro-Assad militias was destroyed west of Aleppo.
Sheikh Mohammed elected as the new UAE president
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan became the new president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Saturday, May 14, after his half-brother President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, 73, died on May 14.
In an apparent show of unity, the quick decision was welcomed by the leader of the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who said in a statement: "We congratulate him, and we pledge allegiance to him, and our people pledge allegiance to him."
Saudi Arabia posts a $15.3 billion budget surplus in Q1 as oil prices surge
Saudi Arabia posted a budget surplus of 57.49 billion riyals ($15.33 billion) in the first three months of 2022, bolstered by a 58 percent jump in oil revenue as prices surged.
Despite the boost from oil revenue, Saudi Arabian state spending remained modest, up 4 percent from a year earlier to 220.47 billion riyals in the first quarter.
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading Inshallah. Share this article and subscribe to be up to date about news from the Middle East every week. It's free.
My name is Dario Sabaghi, a freelance journalist. I am interested in human rights and international news focusing on the MENA region.
Check out my work at dariosabaghi.com.
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Cover photo: Reuters