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Tag Archives: Middle East

War, riots, torture: The luxury hotels that shaped the Middle East

The management of Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton would probably like the hotel to be known for its “lavishly landscaped gardens, spacious and sumptuous accommodations, fine-dining restaurants,” and, of course, its gentlemen-only spa.

Yet today, and almost certainly for some time to come, these luxury trimmings are unlikely to be the first thing to come to mind for any passers-by on the Mecca Road near the establishment.

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/saudi-purge-ritz-carlton-riyadh-luxury-hotels-which-shaped-history-middle-east-919019560

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Posted by on December 31, 2017 in Middle East

 

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The new great game in the Middle East

Something is happening in the Middle East, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, but we don’t know what it is. Perhaps this is because in a region where we expect properly plotted political explosions – civil wars, assassinations, stolen elections and coups – the variety of incidents, their timing and their mysterious linkages are blowing our epistemological circuits.

In September, there was the referendum in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region. The outcome was an overwhelming victory for those who wanted independence. The after­math was a disaster for the Kurds and has thrown them back on the mercy of their enemies – and their friends. The Iraqi security forces, supported by the Iranian-backed Shia militias of the Hashd al-Shaabi, pushed into many of the areas that the Kurds had held since beating back the Islamic State assaults of 2014, and sometimes beyond. The Kurds’ peshmerga military forces were simply expelled. There was more fighting than many admitted at the time. But without any unified political leadership, the Kurds could not withstand the military assault.

https://www.newstatesman.com/world/middle-east/2017/11/new-great-game-middle-east

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2017 in Middle East

 

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President Trump’s Jerusalem decision risks uniting the entire Arab world against the US

President Trump and the Israeli government will have foreseen and discounted a Palestinian “day of rage” and protests among Muslims everywhere in the wake of the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and plans to move its embassy there. They assume that this will all blow over because US allies such as the rulers of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt will be satisfied with pro-forma protests, and the Palestinians are too weak to do anything except demonstrate ineffectively.

The US and Israel could be miscalculating: when I lived in Jerusalem I came to believe that many dramatic events in Israel, such as shootings and bombings, often had less effect than the outside world expected. But anything involving Jerusalem itself, and above all its Muslim holy sites, had a much bigger impact than anybody had imagined.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/donald-trump-israel-jerusalem-iran-turkey-sunni-shia-palestine-uprising-a8099801.html

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2017 in Middle East, North America

 

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What the Russian Revolution can teach us about the Middle East today

These days, uprisings should be studied with a cold eye and there’s a fine little exhibition on in Paris about the 1917 Russian revolution which casts a dark reflection on the Arab “awakening” we’ve all been observing in the Middle East. It’s an extraordinary display from the “revolution which changed the world”, including posters, photographs and – amazingly – some documents which show just how much the Mencheviks (and the Russian Provisional Government) and then the Bolsheviks tried to enlist the Muslim world – and the Armenians – in their destruction of the Romanov dynasty.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/russian-revolution-syria-egypt-what-it-can-a8090406.html

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2017 in Europe, Middle East

 

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US foreign policy in the Middle East doesn’t exist anymore

Time was when a mere statement from a secretary of state – let alone a US president – would have the phones jangling across the Middle East. The Reagans, Clintons, Bushes or Obamas of this world actually did have an effect on the region, albeit often malign, US leaders being poorly briefed and always in awe of Israel (not to mention its power to destroy political lives in Washington). But today, who is calling the shots across the old Ottoman Empire?

Well, just take a look at Putin and Assad and Erdogan and Sissi and Macron and Rouhani. These are the men who are currently holding the headlines, either declaring Isis dead or beaten or Syria “saved” or the Kurds “terrorists” or rescuing Prime Minister Saad Hariri from his hostage home in Saudi Arabia – although now we’ve all got to believe that he wasn’t detained and didn’t really intend to resign or did resign but doesn’t want to resign any more. And rather oddly, Mohamed bin Salman looks less and less influential, a Gulf Crown Prince whose attempts to destroy Yemen, Assad’s Syria, Qatar and Al Jazeera and even poor Lebanon look more and more like a child in a tantrum, throwing his toys around in an attempt to frighten the neighbours – including the one neighbour he will not fight, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/us-foreign-policy-middle-east-russia-syria-doesnt-exist-anymore-a8072056.html

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2017 in Europe, Middle East, North America

 

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Vladimir Putin is positioning himself as the main player in the Middle East

After Israel’s victory in the 1973 Middle East war, Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko went on 22 October to see President Brezhnev at his dacha at Zavidovo just outside Moscow. The Israelis were not much interested in accepting a ceasefire set to begin the previous day, and, according to Anatoly Chernyaev, a Soviet official present at the talks, Brezhnev wanted to encourage the Israelis to keep the truce by offering a Soviet guarantee of Israel’s borders. Gromyko replied that the Arabs would take offence – but Brezhnev burst out that “we have been offering them (the Arabs) a sensible course of action for so many years. They wanted war and they are welcome to it … To hell with them.”

It was a view long shared by Soviet military officers. I recall the remaining anger of a former Soviet instructor in Yemen during the 1962-70 civil war, who, showing me Red Square one cold afternoon, made a remark almost as contemptuous as Brezhnev’s. “We helped to train the Arabs [against the monarchists] and they were useless and I think they should be on their own. Let someone else save them. Why should it be us all over again?”

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/putin-middle-east-syria-raqqa-isis-qatar-saudi-arabia-control-soviet-a8008461.html

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2017 in Europe, Middle East

 

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La nuova geopolitica del Medio Oriente

Le dinamiche politiche del Medio Oriente sono state completamente capovolte. Per cercare di capire cosa sta succedendo oggi nella regione bisogna prima osservare la situazione in Russia, ad Ankara, a Teheran, a Tel Aviv e nel sobborgo di Dahieh, a sud di Beirut, per poi concentrarsi su Abu Dhabi, Riyadh e il Cairo, con qualche sguardo fugace a Washington e Bruxelles.

Le questioni che un tempo calamitavano la nostra attenzione sembrano meno urgenti. Chiedersi come si evolverà la situazione nelle regioni curde dell’Iraq e della Siria, cosa faranno le decine di migliaia di jihadisti in tutta la regione dopo la distruzione del gruppo Stato islamico (Is) e quale sia il destino di Yemen, Libia e Palestina è ancora affascinante, ma forse meno preoccupante rispetto a pochi anni fa. La questione più importante della settimana è ancora il destino di qualche piccolo centro abitato lungo il confine turco-siriano? O è meglio chiedersi chi avrà il controllo della regione del basso Eufrate tra Siria e Iraq? Fino a quando sauditi ed Emirati Arabi Uniti proseguiranno le due campagne fallimentari, quella militare in Yemen e l’assedio del Qatar?

https://www.internazionale.it/opinione/rami-khouri/2017/10/20/nuova-geopolitica-medio-oriente

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Isis is facing near total defeat in Iraq and Syria – but it has been beaten and come back before

Isis has fought desperately and skilfully to hold the Syrian city of Raqqa, under siege by Kurdish-led forces for more than four months, but will soon lose it in the latest defeat for the Islamic fundamentalist movement. Little is left today of the Caliphate declared in 2014, which once ruled most of western Iraq and eastern Syria.

Isis battled far longer than anybody expected for Mosul and Raqqa, but had to fight on multiple fronts against its many enemies and, above all, against the immense firepower of the US, Russian and allied air forces as well as conventional artillery. It was only by pounding large parts of both cities into rubble that the Iraqi security forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been able to prevail.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2017 in Middle East

 

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The New Silk Road Will Go Through Syria

Amid the proverbial doom and gloom pervading all things Syria, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune sometimes yield, well, good fortune.

Take what happened this past Sunday in Beijing. The China-Arab Exchange Association and the Syrian Embassy organized a Syria Day Expo crammed with hundreds of Chinese specialists in infrastructure investment. It was a sort of mini-gathering of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), billed as “The First Project Matchmaking Fair for Syria Reconstruction”.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/07/14/the-new-silk-road-will-go-through-syria/

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2017 in Asia, Middle East

 

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Two Impulsive Leaders Fan the Global Flames 

The Middle East.  Could there be a more perilous place on Earth, including North Korea?  Not likely.  The planet’s two leading nuclear armed powers backing battling proxies amply supplied with conventional weapons; terror groups splitting and spreading; religious-sectarian wars threatening amid a plethora of ongoing armed hostilities stretching from Syria to Iraq to Yemen. And that was before Donald Trump and his team arrived on this chaotic scene. If there is one region where a single spark might start the fire that could engulf the globe, then welcome to the Middle East.



As for sparks, they are now in ample supply. At this moment, President Trump’s foreign policy agenda is a package of contradictions threatening to reach a boiling point in the region. He has allied himself firmly with Saudi Arabia even when his secretaries of state and defense seem equivocal on the subject. In the process, he’s come to view a region he clearly knows little about through the Saudi royal family’s paranoid eyes, believing staunchly that Shia Iran is hell-bent on controlling an Islamic world that is 85% Sunni.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176303/

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in Middle East

 

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