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When President Donald Trump won the US presidential election late last year, Egyptian media coverage praising his stunning rise to power suggested that Egypt was embarking on a new era of much improved relations with its long-time ally. Trump and his Egypt counterpart Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi exchanged words of praise on many occasions, and the media in the North African country, which heavily relies on support from the United States, prematurely rejoiced at what it deemed the end of the Democrats’ “antagonistic policy” towards Egypt under President Barack Obama. But Egypt was stung earlier in August when the US decided to deny it almost $100 million in aid and withhold another $195 million pending improvement in the country’s human rights record.

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August is usually a quiet month in the DC Beltway. Of course, that has not been the case at all this year, with President Donald Trump’s comments over Charlottesville and the aftermath; the crisis with North Korea; Pakistan and Afghanistan; and yet others. On Tuesday, another issue was thrown into the mix, though far less crucial in the grander scheme of American democracy and international relations. Reuters released a story that indicated the United States has decided to deny 95.7 million dollars in aid, and delay a further 195 million. Within twenty-four hours, the story had the makings of a full blown diplomatic crisis between Cairo and DC. The Egyptian foreign ministry issued a stern statement insisting that Egypt’s economic and security challenges were not being taken seriously enough—and it is still only Wednesday.

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The United States does not have a Turkey policy. The current US approach to its NATO ally is subordinate to the needs of the war against the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh), and the need for an effective local ground force to partner with US special operations forces. The result: the United States military has partnered with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is an insurgent group active in southeastern Turkey for close to four decades. The PYD’s militia, the YPG, is the main component of the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Ankara, too, has no US policy. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has vacillated between two extremes: effusive praise for the Trump administration, while also blaming the United States for being part of the failed July 15, 2016 coup attempt.

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On July 29, forty-three members among a sixty-member Constituent Assembly in Libya, voted in support of the Libyan constitution draft. This voting has concluded a long and complicated process of debate that has been continued for more than three years to write a constitution that has the support of a two-thirds plus one majority among the member of the Constituent Assembly which was elected on February 20, 2014. Following this approval, the parliament should call for a popular referendum on this draft. According to the existing constitutional declaration, two-thirds of the voters should approve the draft and ultimately, enforced as a new constitution for the country.     

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On May 25, a Libyan coastguard unit opened fire on Europe-bound boats full of refugees while rescue attempts were under way. Two Libyan coastguards were also accused of looting the boats, taking phones, money, and other belongings from the passengers. The incident raised serious concern over the basic rights of migrants and refugees and the role of foreign partners responsible for building Libyan state capacity. Since then, the European Union (EU) held its Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on July 17, but efforts focused on stemming the tide of migrants and targeting human smugglers rather than addressing the causes of migrant mistreatment, adherent to international law regarding refugees, or holding Libyan coastguard units accountable for their conduct.

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In a major development in Libya’s ongoing conflict, head of the internationally recognized Libyan government Fayez al-Serraj and strongman Khalifa Haftar met in Paris this week, hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron, to discuss a way out of the country’s current crisis. The meeting between Serraj and Haftar is the second in three months and follows talks in Abu Dhabi in May. Similar to the meeting hosted by the Emiratis, the points discussed in Paris are unlikely to produce much progress on the ground towards a peaceful transition. While Serraj and Haftar both formally agreed to a joint declaration aimed at reaching a political solution in Libya, the meeting left many questions unanswered regarding a political path out of the ongoing conflict. While the United States has indicated that it does not want to take up the mantle of leadership in Libya, it should not cede such a role to France or any other actor with proxy interests in Libya. Such a decision would embolden spoilers and further imperil the prospects for ending the conflict.

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The speed at which poor relations between Qatar and several Gulf Co-operation Council states escalated was astonishing. It was only a few weeks ago that the Qatari Emir had been invited to Riyadh as part of the grand “Arab-Islamic-American Summit.” But in the space of a few days, the GCC has faced the largest set of challenges in its existence, with Saudi Arabia leading the charge to seemingly bring Qatar in line with what it sees as acceptable parameters for a GCC state to operate within, particularly in terms of the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran and support for different militant groups. The rift, though, is revealing some interesting fault lines within the GCC. They’re not Sunni-Shia divides, but rather intra-Sunni divides. The irony is that Saudi and Qatar are actually far more on the same side in that divide than they are with anyone else in the GCC.

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Staggering and confused from the heat and the rapid capitulation of the Egyptian army during the short lived Six Day War, Ibrahim El Sayed was dumbfounded when the Israeli soldier who was to capture him as a prisoner of war spoke to him flawlessly in an Egyptian Arabic accent.

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One of the more overlooked effects of the souring of relations between Qatar and many of its neighbors is the potential for the diminishing of America’s military prowess in the region, and the hindrance of its fight against the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh). This is magnified due to the presence of the al-Udeid airbase in Qatar, from which many reconnaissance and munitions flights against ISIS in Syria and Iraq are done. Further complicating matters for American military activities in the region, and weakening America’s position is the disconnect between President Trump, the State Department, and US Congress, over how to proceed in regards to this crisis that has shaken up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

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As the Yemen conflict shows no signs of abating, will former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s recent attempts to reach out to Saudi Arabia be taken seriously? A number of key events suggest that Saleh’s attempts to reach out to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members reveal a change in tactics for the long-standing politician.

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