Israel and the Middle East

Click on a country below to learn more about its leadership and government structure. You will also be able to review the latest news and information about the country.

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10.12.11

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Egypt
  • Population:

    82,079,636

  • Government Type:

    Republic

  • Head of Government:

    Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzuri

  • Chief of State:

    Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces Mohamed Hussein Tantawi

Below is a summary of the major news stories developing today, Thursday, October 10, 2013, concerning the United States, Israel and the Middle East.

Click the embedded links to read more from the sources reporting on today’s news.

The Obama administration announced a temporary freeze on military assistance to Egypt. Funding for counterterrorism operations in Sinai will continue, but several military vehicles and missiles will not be delivered as scheduled.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said Iran has extra enriched uranium and would be willing to discuss the surplus during next week’s nuclear talks. However, Iran’s parliament released a statement saying Larijani was misquoted.

In the Golan Heights, mortar fire from a Syrian cannon wounded two Israeli soldiers. The Israeli Defense Force said the mortar was a stray coming from a Syrian civil war battle in the area.

The destruction of chemical weapons in Syria will depend on cooperation and a cease fire from both sides, said the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. He also said help from the Syrians is necessary to reach the timeline outlined by the United States and Russia.

HSBC estimated that the Arab Spring will cost affected countries at least $800 billion by the end of the year. The assumption is that the gross domestic product in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Bahrain will be 35 percent lower.

Click here to learn more about the issues affecting the United States and Israel.

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Gaza Strip
  • Population:

    1,657,155

  • Government Type:

    Governed by Hamas since a 2007 military coup

  • Head of Government:

    Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah

  • Chief of State:

    Khaled Mashaal

In the initial hours of peace talks resuming between Israelis and Palestinians in Washington, a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, near the coastal city of Ashkelon, Ha’aretz reported. No damage or casualties were reported.

The rocket fire is the third such incident since U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement of renewed negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

According to Israeli security sources, the three rockets were fired by Islamic extremists in the Gaza Strip. Israel is concerned that the situation on its border with Gaza could escalate, after eight months of relative quiet since the ceasefire that formally ended Operation Pillar of Defense last November.

Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas and other terrorist groups have fired more than 11,000 rockets into Israel.

To learn more about rockets from Gaza, click here.

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Iran
  • Population:

    77,891,220

  • Government Type:

    Islamic Republic

  • Head of Government:

    Supreme Leader Ali Hoseini-Khamenei

  • Chief of State:

    President Hassan Rouhani

Key congressional leaders from both parties are continuing to scrutinize the recent interim agreement signed with Iran. A senior bipartisan group of senators is arguing the importance of confronting Iran with prospective additional sanctions if it violates the agreement or continues its nuclear weapons quest. Former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz have echoed these sentiments, insisting that any deal with Iran be "something other than a tactical pause on Iran’s march toward a military nuclear capability."

Top lawmakers voiced concern that the as yet unimplemented interim deal will ease sanctions while allowing Tehran to continue enriching uranium.

Senate
  • "We basically have the Iranians running in place. … Their centrifuges are spinning. Basically we are going to roll back some of our sanctions, but they are rolling back nothing." "[Prospective sanctions create] the flexibility for diplomacy [and] also sends a message to Iran … that there is a consequence if you don’t strike a successful deal ..."
    Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee 

  • "I will continue working with my colleagues to craft bipartisan legislation that will impose tough new economic sanctions if Iran undermines this interim accord or if the dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is not underway by the end of this six-month period."
    – Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs

  • "I think all of us want to see a diplomatic solution here. I think it’s now time for Congress to weigh in because I think people are very concerned that the interim deal becomes the norm ..."
    – Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

  • "Unless the agreement requires dismantling of the Iranian centrifuges, we really haven’t gained anything."
    – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

  • "… I remain deeply concerned about … the interim agreement’s lack of a requirement that Iran comes into compliance with mandatory U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding a suspension of all enrichment activities."
    – Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
House
  • "Loosening sanctions and recognizing Iran’s enrichment program is a mistake, and will not stop Iran’s march toward nuclear capability."
    – Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), House Majority Leader

  • "[T]he deal … has a significant flaw, namely that it allows Iran to continue to enrich uranium up to a level of 3.5-5 percent, as long as it converts this from gas to uranium oxide metal."
    – Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade

  • "I am deeply concerned that this is a time-out rather than a roll-back of the nuclear program, and that it is not the kind of robust verification that is necessary with Iran."
    – Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), Chairman, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

Leading House and Senate members are calling for additional sanctions to increase prospects for the success of negotiations.

Senate
  • "[The deal] falls short of what is necessary for security and stability in the region. The Senate should be prepared to move forward with additional sanctions."
    – Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Chairman, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security
     
  • "By allowing the Iranian regime to retain a sizable nuclear infrastructure, this agreement makes a nuclear Iran more likely. There is now an even more urgent need for Congress to increase sanctions until Iran completely abandons its enrichment and reprocessing capabilities."
    – Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

  • "Sanctions brought the Iranians to the table. Strengthening sanctions and enforcement of them is vital to create incentives and increase pressure if this interim step is unsuccessful."
    – Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Member, Senate Armed Services Committee
House
  • "… Prospectively looking for sanctions that are invoked six months from the date of enactment … creates the flexibility for diplomacy [and] also sends a message to Iran, as it has throughout this process, that there is a consequence if you don’t strike a successful deal …"
    – Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee

  • "… The threat of sanctions could strengthen our negotiators’ hand. … If there’s one thing that brought Iran to the negotiating table, it’s the sanctions. I don’t trust the Iranians and I have great doubts about this."
    –Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee

  • "The lingering question … is whether the negotiating partners will work equally hard to preserve the strong international sanctions regime until that goal is achieved. Otherwise, we will look back on the interim deal as a remarkably clever Iranian move to dismantle the international sanctions regime while maintaining its infrastructure and material to pursue a break-out nuclear capability."
    – Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), Speaker of the House

  • "I believe the Senate should move forward with the sanctions bill the House recently passed—and include a provision enabling the President to delay their implementation while Iran’s compliance with yesterday’s agreement proceeds and is verified."
    – Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Democratic Whip

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Iraq
  • Population:

    30,399,572

  • Government Type:

    Parliamentary Democracy

  • Head of Government:

    Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki

  • Chief of State:

    President Jalal Talabani

The civil war in Syria is testing Iraq’s fragile society and fledgling democracy, worsening sectarian tensions, pushing Iraq closer to Iran and highlighting security shortcomings just nine months after American forces ended their long and costly occupation here, The New York Times reported Tuesday, September 25. Despite nearly nine years of American military engagement, an effort that continues today with a $19 billion weapons sales program, Iraq’s security is uncertain and its alliance with the theocratic government in Tehran is growing. In response, the United States has tried to secure its interests in Iraq. It has unsuccessfully pressed Iraq to halt flights from Iran that traverse Iraqi airspace to ferry weapons and fighters to the Assad government, and is trying to speed up weapons sales to Iraq to secure it as an ally.

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Israel
  • Population:

    7,473,052

  • Government Type:

    Parliamentary Democracy

  • Head of Government:

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

  • Chief of State:

    President Shimon Peres

Under a plan approved this week by the Israeli Supreme Court, the Jewish state will be able to export up to 40 percent of its natural gas reserves, a move designed to strengthen Israel’s own economy and allow it to take advantage of new geopolitical opportunities as well.

This development can also help further develop the strategic partnership between the United States and Israel. But we need to ensure the countries work together to take full advantage of this opportunity.

AIPAC is supporting a bill introduced by Senators Mary Landrieu, Ron Wyden and Lisa Murkowski that will foster enhanced energy collaboration between the U.S. and Israel by strengthening the countries’ academic, business and governmental relationships on this key issue.

CLICK HERE to read more about Israel's quest for energy independence and its partnership with the United States.

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Jordan
  • Population:

    6,508,271

  • Government Type:

    Constitutional Monarchy

  • Head of Government:

    Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh

  • Chief of State:

    King Abdullah II

Jordan has taken precautions along its border against the possibility that Syrian authorities may use chemical weapons in their fight against rebel groups, Jordan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, January 16. “Of course we have to be worried,” Ensour said in an interview. “We cannot take for granted the assertions that Syrian officials are making,” he said, referring to Syrian pledges not to use such weapons to crush the insurgency against President Bashar Assad. Asked whether the U.S., an ally and financial supporter of Jordan, had helped with the preparations, Ensour said that America and other “friendly governments” carried out a training exercise a few months ago. Jordan is one of the main destinations for refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war that began in March 2011. Ensour said there are 293,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, including 63,000 staying in camps.

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Lebanon
  • Population:

    4,143,101

  • Government Type:

    Republic

  • Head of Government:

    Prime Minister Najib Miqati

  • Chief of State:

    President Michel Sulaiman

Dozens of Holocaust survivors came very close to being struck by one of the four Katyeusha rockets fired at Israel from southern Lebanon on Thursday, according to The Times of Israel.

The survivors were unable to evacuate the area with the many Israeli residents who rushed to nearby bomb shelters, after air-raid sirens wailed throughout northern cities of Nahariya, Acre and Kiryat Shmona.

One of two rockets that landed in residential areas fell a short distance from the survivors’ living facility and caused damaged to a reported four or five homes. Fragments from the second rocket damaged property in Kibbutz Gesher Haziv.

Another one of the four Ketyeushas was intercepted by an Iron Dome anti-missile battery—the first interception of an incoming missile to Israel’s north. Four rocket launchers were reportedly found near a Palestinian refugee camp in the Tyre area of southern Lebanon. No party has thus far claimed responsibility for the attack.

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Saudi Arabia
  • Population:

    26,131,703

  • Government Type:

    Monarchy

  • Head of Government:

    King Abdullah

  • Chief of State:

    King Abdullah

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have opened new pipelines bypassing the Strait of Hormuz, the shipping lane that Iran has repeatedly threatened to close, in a move that will reduce Tehran’s power over oil markets, The Financial Times reported Sunday, July 15. The quiet opening of the pipelines comes amid heightened diplomatic tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program. Iran’s oil production has fallen to its lowest in more than 20 years due to the impact of U.S. and European sanctions, prompting Tehran to repeat its threats to shut down the strait, the conduit for a third of the world’s seaborne oil trade. The new links will more than double the total pipeline capacity bypassing the strait to 6.5 million barrels per day (bpd), or about 40 percent of the 17 million bpd that transits Hormuz.

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Syria
  • Population:

    22,517,750

  • Government Type:

    Republic Under an Authoritarian Regime

  • Head of Government:

    Prime Minister Adil Safr

  • Chief of State:

    President Bashar Assad

Below is a summary of the major news stories developing today, Thursday, October 3, 2013, concerning the United States, Israel and the Middle East.

Click the embedded links to read more from the sources reporting on today’s news.

According to a new report issued by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Iran could develop a nuclear weapons capability in less than a year. The report comes in the wake of American and Israeli leaders cautioning the international community about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions at the U.N. General Assembly.

Hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rallied against Iran’s nuclear program at the world body, U.N. member states elected Iran to be the new report for the Disarmament and International Security Committee. The Anti-Defamation League expressed astonishment over the appointment.

The head of Iran’s cyber warfare program was found dead in Iran Wednesday, in an apparent drive-by shooting. Mojtaba Ahmadi had previously served as the commander of Iran’s Cyber War Headquarters.

Experts tasked with implementing the UN resolution ordering the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal began their work on Thursday, as officials at the United Nations issued demands for access to civilians trapped within the war-torn country.

Al-Qaeda-linked militants fought rival Syrian rebels near the border with Turkey on Wednesday, illustrating the persistent severity of the civil war that continues to engulf the country.

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Turkey
  • Population:

    78,785,548

  • Government Type:

    Republican Parliamentary Democracy

  • Head of Government:

    Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

  • Chief of State:

    President Abdullah Gul

Israeli and Turkish officials reached a draft agreement to mend the three-year diplomatic crisis between the two countries following a day-long meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on Monday night.

“The two sides expect to come to an agreement in the near future. The meeting was conducted in a good and positive manner. The delegations reached an agreed draft, but further clarifications are required on certain subjects,” said a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office.

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West Bank
  • Population:

    2,568,555

  • Government Type:

    Governed by the Palestinian Authority under the 1993 Oslo Agreement

  • Head of Government:

    Prime Minister Salam Fayaad

  • Chief of State:

    President Mahmoud Abbas

Below is a summary of the major news stories developing today, Monday, October 7, 2013, concerning the United States, Israel and the Middle East.

Click the embedded links to read more from the sources reporting on today’s news.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Martin Indyk in Ramallah over the weekend to discuss efforts to continue with successful peace talks.

Indyk said he was convinced these talks would be more successful than previous rounds.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated Sunday that peace would not be possible without Palestinian recognition of the Jewish right to a homeland in Israel. Netanyahu also said that he would consider taking a call from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday urged Iran to develop new proposals on its nuclear program, suggesting that the ball remains in Tehran’s court to halt its uranium enrichment activities. “What we need are a set of proposals from Iran that will fully disclose how they will show the world that their program is peaceful,” Kerry said.

Kerry’s comments come after Iran’s top leader, Ali Khomenei, hinted that he disapproved of President Barack Obama’s phone call with President Rouhani, which took place during Rouhani’s trip to New York last month. Iran has yet to give any specifics on what it would offer in exchange for lifting Western sanctions on its uranium enrichment program.

Iranian authorities arrested four people suspected of planning to sabotage one of the country’s illicit nuclear sites.

In Egypt, at least 51 people were killed in clashes between supporters and opponents of the Egyptian government. More than 200 people were injured during a commemoration of Egypt’s attack against Israel in the Yom Kippur War, in hours of violence that underscored the country’s persistent political divisions. Meanwhile, gunmen in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia killed five Egyptian soldiers on Monday in the latest attack involving militants in the Sinai Peninsula—a region marred with insecurity in recent months.

A team of international monitors began the process of dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons on Sunday, kick-starting the effort to destroy one of the world’s largest arsenals of non-conventional weapons.

An accused al-Qaeda operative captured by U.S. commandos in Libya over the weekend is in custody on a Navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea. He is expected to eventually be sent to New York for criminal prosecution.

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