Author: Gordon Platt



By Gordon Platt


It was a costly affair. The first Arab League annual summit to be held in Iraq since before Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, it cost the country $500 million in road and hotel improvements and security measures.


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Only 10 heads of state—out of 22 member countries—and UN chief Ban Ki-moon showed up at the summit, the first to be held in a country with a Shiite leader.

Iraq is eager to attract more investment from the Arab Gulf, but Kuwait’s emir, sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, was the only head of state from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to attend the summit on March 29. Iraq and Kuwait reached a settlement a week earlier over compensation from Baghdad for aircraft and parts taken during the Iraqi occupation.

The absence of most GCC leaders dashed Iraq’s hopes of demonstrating that it has rejoined the Arab fold following the withdrawal of US troops at the end of 2011. Instead, the poor showing underlined the heightened tensions between Sunni- and Shia-led governments in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Libya reopened its stock market on March 15 for the first time since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. The bourse was shut down on February 17, 2011. “This opening sends a sign to the world that Libya is now a stable country where the economy is kicking off again,” says Ahmed Karoud, general manager of the Libyan Stock Exchange. The exchange had been scheduled to open a month earlier, but a lack of reliable electricity supply forced a delay.

Amnesty International recorded 558 executions in the Middle East and North Africa last year, a 50% increase from 2010. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq carried out the bulk of the executions. Amnesty International says a further 274 executions in Iran were not officially recorded. The number of executions in Syria last year was not obtainable.