The details are emerging of a new secret and quite stupid Saudi-US deal on Syria and the so-called IS. It involves oil and gas control of the entire region and the weakening of Russia and Iran by Saudi Arabian flooding the world market with cheap oil. Details were concluded in the September meeting by US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Saudi King. The unintended consequence will be to push Russia even faster to turn east to China and Eurasia.
Islamic State leader Caliph Ibrahim – aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – never ceases to amaze us – and most of all his powerful petrodollar-stuffed backers. The Caliph is for all practical purposes now an oil major worth of membership of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). His takfiri/mercenary goons – in theory – have for some time been extracting, refining, shipping and/or smuggling and clinching juicy deals involving vast quantities of oil, reaping profits of roughly US$2 million a day.
A SMALL village in the upper elevations of the borderlands between Syria and Lebanon awaits the slow drop in temperature. Jabhat al Nusra fighters who had been stuck in these upper redoubts fear the winter. They are already cut off from their supply lines and hemmed in by the Syrian and Lebanese armies, as well as by Hizbollah’s fierce determination to prevent their further movement into Lebanon. It is mid-October and alongside the road, just outside the village, sit six al Nusra fighters. They are all young, in their early twenties. Each has long hair and a beard—a Jesus look that does not match the various guns that are near at hand. One of them, Mohammed, with a Kalashnikov in his lap, is Lebanese. He has a college degree and has been with al Nusra for at least a year.
Over the summer Isis – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – defeated the Iraqi army, the Syrian army, the Syrian rebels and the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga; it established a state stretching from Baghdad to Aleppo and from Syria’s northern border to the deserts of Iraq in the south. Ethnic and religious groups of which the world had barely heard – including the Yazidis of Sinjar and the Chaldean Christians of Mosul – became victims of Isis cruelty and sectarian bigotry. In September, Isis turned its attention to the two and a half million Syrian Kurds who had gained de facto autonomy in three cantons just south of the Turkish border. One of these cantons, centred on the town of Kobani, became the target of a determined assault. By 6 October, Isis fighters had fought their way into the centre of the town. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan predicted that its fall was imminent; John Kerry spoke of the ‘tragedy’ of Kobani, but claimed – implausibly – that its capture wouldn’t be of great significance. A well-known Kurdish fighter, Arin Mirkan, blew herself up as the Isis fighters advanced: it looked like a sign of despair and impending defeat.
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US – and his country’s awkward relationship with their allies-by-default
Phones were ringing through the army headquarters in central Damascus and a veteran of Syria’s 1982 war with Israel in Lebanon was explaining how all wars involved victories and defeats – that Syria’s forces also suffered setbacks in their war against “terrorism” – when the news arrived at his own desk. A flurry of calls established that Jabhat al-Nusra rebels had stormed into the centre of Idlib, the surrounded but still government-held city west of Aleppo; that they had captured the governor’s office and were beheading senior Syrian officers. Our interview was not intended to have gone quite like this. It was a good day to see the general. Which means it was a bad day.
Abu Omar al-Shishani has a fierce, gorgeous Chechen bride. He learned intelligence operations from the U.S. And his older brother may be the real genius of ISIS.
PANKISI GORGE, Georgia—The mother of martyrs, a woman in her fifties, is delicately beautiful and visibly in pain. She covers her hazel eyes and sobs over a photo album as the call to prayer echoes throughout the Georgian village of Jokolo, just south of the Chechen border.
The mother’s story involves one of the most notorious jihadists in the world, a man who served in intelligence units trained by Americans and the British, a man who is the face of the ISIS conquests, and a man who took her late son’s wife for his own bride.
The mother, Leila Achishvili, tries hard to maintain her poise, even as she discusses the death of both of her boys, Hamzat and Khalid Borchashvili. She is halfway through a box of tissues. Her story has just begun.
The global palm oil industry’s trend of deep-cutting into forests for agricultural development has breached natural barriers to the evolution and spread of specific pathogens.
The growing Ebola virus outbreak not only highlights the tragedy enveloping the areas most affected but also offers a commentary on they way in which the political ecology in West Africa has allowed this disease to become established.
The narrative goes that the virus appeared spontaneously in the forest villages of Guinea in December 2013. But this is debatable given that there is evidence of antibodies the Ebola virus in human blood from Sierra Leone up to five years before.
The report by John Cantlie, the British journalist held captive by Isis, from the besieged Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani on the Turkish border, is revealing about the Islamic militants’ plans.
Fears that the historic vote on Sunday in Tunisia might be marred by violence committed by the country’s tiny lunatic fringe were not borne out. The interim government of Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa deployed 80,000 police and troops to protect polling stations.
Contrary to the breathless reporting one hears in the mass media, however, Tunisia hasn’t seen very much political violence since its revolution in 2011. Of Tunisia’s 11 million people (it is a little more populous than Michigan), only about 5,000 are estimated to belong to the far right fundamentalist Salafi tendency, and those who commit political violence are vanishingly small. The tiny Ansar al-Shariah terrorist organization has mounted a handful of attacks in the rural areas of the country, in remote and rugged regions. In 2013 two horrific assassinations were committed by the same group, of far-left politicians from the small Popular Front. The political fall-out from those killings was enormous, as I detailed in my recent book, The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East . But as for people being killed or seriously injured in political violence in all of the past 12 months, the number would be very small.
I suspect that the Tunisian parliamentary elections Sunday were the most significant domestic and national political development in the modern history of the Arab world. Here is why I say this, and also what I believe we learn from the elections.
Never in ancient or modern Arab history has a citizenry of a country debated, written, validated and then put into action a constitution that reflects national values and also defines the organization of political life, the exercise of public authority, and the rights of citizens. Tunisians experienced some serious bumps in their transition to a constitutional democracy since they overthrew the tyranny of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in early 2011.