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Syria in Revolt

The people’s intifada in Syria, against the military regime and police state of the Assad family, took me by surprise. I was fearful at first that the regime would crush it almost instantly, given its legendary ferocity and repressiveness. Like other Syrian intellectuals, I felt total impotence before this devouring monster, which precluded any thought of an imminent, or even possible, collective “no.”

I was surprised by the revolution, but I should not have been. Daily experiences and recurrent observations foretold a crisis that many Syrians tried hard to deny. And deny we did. Let me explain.

After the violent suppression of the Damascus Spring in 2001–2002 and again after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in Beirut in 2005, which led to the humiliating withdrawal of Assad’s troops from Lebanon, angst spread throughout Syria. I was working in Damascus, where the trepidation was especially pronounced. The country, it seemed, was teetering on the edge of an abyss.

via Syria in Revolt — www.bostonreview.net.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2014 in Middle East

 

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A Night in Ferguson: Rubber Bullets, Tear Gas, and a Jail Cell

Late Monday evening, after many of the major media outlets covering the protests in Ferguson, Mo., had left the streets to broadcast from their set-ups near the police command center, heavily armed officers raced through suburban streets in armored vehicles, chasing demonstrators, launching tear gas on otherwise quiet residential lanes, and shooting at journalists.

Their efforts resulted in one of the largest nightly arrest totals since protests began 10 days ago over the killing of unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. At approximately 2 a.m. local time, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson announced at a press conference that 31 people had been arrested over the course of the night (NBC News later reported that, according to jail records, the actual total was more than double that). I was unable to attend or report on Johnson’s press conference because I was one of those people.

Here’s what happened.

via A Night in Ferguson: Rubber Bullets, Tear Gas, and a Jail Cell – The Intercept — firstlook.org.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2014 in North America

 

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Arabs face a deep crisis of statehood

The dramatic expansion of the territory controlled by the “Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq in the last few months has generated a historic moment of reckoning in several arenas in those two countries, which mirror similar trends across the entire region.

These relate to statehood and nationhood, governance, and foreign military involvement in Arab lands, and in all three arenas we still dwell in ambiguous territory for the most part.

via Arabs face a deep crisis of statehood — www.dailystar.com.lb.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2014 in Middle East

 

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On the UN and War in Gaza

When Ban Ki-moon called for an “end to the violence” in Gaza last month, his call fell on deaf ears. When he urged an “end to the madness”, Israel yawned. It wasn’t until the UN Security Council issued a mild presidential statement urging an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” that the Israeli government snapped.Even though the statement fell short of Palestinian and Arab demands, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called UN chief Ban Ki-moon to protest the statement’s partiality towards Hamas. He lectured him about the rights and wrongs of its wordings, even though the statement never mentioned Israel or Hamas by name, and, besides, Ban Ki-moon is not responsible for UN Security Council Statements.President Mahmoud Abbas made no such call to the secretary general, but a group of distinguished scholars and NGOs told him in an open letter that he should either stand for law and justice or resign.

via On the UN and War in Gaza — zcomm.org.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2014 in Middle East

 

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Hollowing out the state in the Middle East

The Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria; radical settlers in Israel; Hezbollah in Lebanon. Non-state actors, armed with guns and ideology, are prevailing over the state in the Middle East. Each has a different patron and even opposing ends, but they have a common source of strength.States and governments in the Middle East are often corrupt, serving more as space for private interest and the harvest of greed than the allocation of resources and mediation of differences in society. They have also created and used non-state actors, who are sometimes proxies to achieve their political ends, gaining the advantage of deniability and flexibility in their political ambitions.

via Hollowing out the state in the Middle East — www.aljazeera.com.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Middle East

 

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A Moral Foundation for Foreign Policy

Turmoil in Greater Arabia has made the clocks move faster. Every second counts — an Israeli bomb has dropped in this neighbourhood in Gaza, an Egyptian blogger has been arrested here, a town in northern Iraq has fallen to the Islamic State. The fast pace of news makes it difficult to digest the region’s rhythms of history. What is at stake here? Is this a grand battle between various Islamic sects, or do those surface fights hide greater geopolitical challenges? Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey seem stable. But have they exported their tensions to create instability in Egypt, Iraq, Libya and Syria? Or even more diabolical, have old Cold War animosities (between Russia and the West) revived — spilling blood in an anachronistic proxy war? So much seems at stake and yet so little of Greater Arabia and its politics is understood. It is far easier to reduce everything to a cliché, to religious and social backwardness. It is exactly the least useful way to understand the region.

via ZCommunications » A Moral Foundation for Foreign Policy — zcomm.org.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2014 in Asia, Middle East

 

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The tightrope of foreign intervention in Iraq

The expansion and barbarity of the Islamic State group leaves no doubt that it must be stopped without delay. On August 12 Amnesty International released a statement accusing the group of “ethnic cleansing” in northern Iraq. The next day, the UN said “all possible measures must be taken urgently to avoid a mass atrocity and potential genocide.” It has since declared its highest level of emergency in Iraq.

As such, it would be difficult for those with the ability to intervene not to do so. However, they must ensure that they do not end up doing more harm than good – that is no easy feat. Taking on the Islamic State group carries great risks, despite the necessity of doing so.

via The tightrope of foreign intervention in Iraq — www.aljazeera.com.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2014 in Middle East

 

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EU’s Russia foreign policy: From Venus to Mars?

Six months after Viktor Yanoukovych fled Kiev under popular pressure from the Maidan, the situation in Ukraine has turned into a muddy never-ending civil conflict in the Eastern provinces of the country, made even harder by the geopolitical standoff between Russia on one side and the United States and Europe on the other.On the ground, the fighting between the Ukrainian army and the local separatists has led to more than 1,000 deaths, mostly civilians, including the passengers of the Malaysian MH17 plane. At the geopolitical level, however, cooperation between the European Union and Russia is the most obvious victim of the conflict.

via EU’s Russia foreign policy: From Venus to Mars? — www.aljazeera.com.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2014 in Europe, European Union

 

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Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis, who now refer to themselves the Islamic State) is the new uniting factor for states in the Middle East and beyond who normally hate each other. The sudden emergence of Isis’s still expanding caliphate, with its terrifying blend of brutality, bigotry and military effectiveness, provides a common enemy for the US, Iran, EU states, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and, in Iraq, Shia, Kurds and anti-Isis Sunni.

via Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last — www.independent.co.uk.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2014 in Middle East

 

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Iraq crisis: The ultimate power struggle – why Nouri al-Maliki had to go

After eight years as Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, deserted by his allies, has finally stood down and will be replaced by Haider al-Abadi. Applause for the new Iraqi leader, not always a front runner for the succession, has come from individuals, parties and countries which normally detest each other, such as Iran, the US, Kurds, Sunni politicians and Shia militia leaders. As a commentator on Iraq caustically remarked: “Somebody is going to be disappointed.”

via Iraq crisis: The ultimate power struggle – why Nouri al-Maliki had to go — www.independent.co.uk.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2014 in Middle East

 

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