Sunday, April 13, 2014

Is Ukraine becoming for the West what Syria has been for Russia?



by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*



Riding the wave of protests known as the Arab Spring, many Syrians rallied to demand more political and civil rights. Without the hesitancy that characterized their initial reaction to the protest movements in Tunisia and Egypt, Western administrations and some of the Persian Gulf regimes immediately threw their support behind the protesters. Assad’s regime belonged to the so-called non-moderate Arab governments and the protesters offered the West and its allies an opportunity to overthrow it. They formed the “Friends of Syria” group, now consisting of only eleven nations, to provide the opposition with all needed support, including deadly arms, to achieve that goal. After three years of brutal war, Syria’s economy and society are severely damaged and its allies, mainly Russia, China, and Iran have invested a huge political, economic, and military capital to help the Syrian government survive. The Friends of Syria claimed that Assad became illegitimate because he killed Syrians. Assad claimed that he was fighting armed terrorists and thugs.

Now fast-forward to 2013. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Obama in Saudi Arabia to talk security and terrorism; the Saudis seem prepared, but are they really?




The new Saudi anti-terrorism law is anti-dissent, anti-civil rights draconian law?
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
For weeks even before President Obama’s arrival in Saudi Arabia, the rulers of Saudi Arabia have worked hard to make the summit successful. They knew that extremism, regional stability, and the Middle East peace process are high on the U.S. administration’s agenda. The Saudi rulers wanted to show that they are trustworthy, that they are fighting terrorism, and that they are a reliable and stable ally. Specifically, they will be showing President Obama two things: a new law that is supposedly aimed at fighting extremism and an unprecedented designation of an heir to the heir to the throne (Prince Muqrin—half-brother of the King).

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Karzai and the Bilateral Security Agreement

by Jacob Havel 
Afghanistan
Sitting Afghani President Hamid Karzai remains defiant towards U.S. demands that he sign the Bilateral Security Agreement. If signed, the agreement would allow for continued military cooperation between Afghanistan and the U.S.+NATO including troop presence, monetary aid, and continued training of Afghani security forces. 

While many see Western aid as vital, Karzai’s dissonance is a result of unmet requests that the U.S. would actively pursue peace talks with Taliban leaders. While the U.S. outwardly seeks to continue counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan, neither they nor the Taliban have shown interest in pursuing such negotiations. On the contrary, the Taliban have vowed to increase violence in the weeks leading up to the April presidential elections. Indeed, recent attacks on a police station in Jalalabad and a hotel in Kabul have shown that the Taliban will seek to perpetuate a state of disorder and terror even with the election of new leadership. 

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Worried for their own security, the rulers of Saudi Arabia expand their own list of “terror organizations” and criminalize dissent





8 years in prison for tweeting
in support of a demonstration
Days after recalling its top diplomats from Qatar, Saudi Arabia published a list of organizations and activities that are deemed criminal and prohibited Saudi citizens and residents from joining or supporting such organizations. The two events might appear to be unrelated. In reality, the latter decision provides the proper context for understanding the former. Moreover, the list and the logic that produced it are intriguing. Here is a summary of the key points of this document followed by a short analysis.
 

Saturday, March 01, 2014

The Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi, Sisi, and the future of Egypt

A. F. al-Sisi
by Jared Ethan Krauss 
IN a move that surprised everyone not in Sisi’s circle, the cabinet has resigned.
The move comes as, in recent weeks, criticism and protests of the interim government have grown.  Egypt has seen no economic improvements since the revolution, and violence has only increased since the ouster of Morsi. While the fervor whipped up by Sisi just after the coup—where he was seemingly given permission by Egyptians to ‘fight terrorism’—was enough to sustain popular support the first few weeks or months, it was not enough to do away with the harsh realities of life for many Egyptians.  
  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lack of real representation of Syrians doomed the Geneva meetings




by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
 
Two rounds of indirect talks between representatives of the Syrian government and some representatives of the Syrian Coalition have failed to launch a political dialogue to end the deadly crisis in Syria, now entering its fourth year. The failure was expected. Members of the opposition forces did not represent even the Coalition, many of whose members resigned before the meetings. Other opposition groups were excluded due to Western insistence that all opposition negotiators must come to the meeting under the leadership of the Coalition. That rendered the meetings meaningless. Moreover, the Coalition’s exertion of a veto over Iran’s participation while inviting Saudi Arabia--the main backer of the armed groups--killed all hope for ending the bloody conflict.

The so-called “Friends of Syria” are united in their dislike to the Syrian government and their desire to overthrow Assad. They are not united by their care for the Syrian people. That reality is evident from their financial and military support for armed groups when compared to their reluctance to admit Syrian refugees. The most ardent supporters of the armed factions in Syria have provided no significant support for refugees and admitted none. When they met early this year (January 14) in Kuwait, Western and Arab countries pledged only $2.4 billion to help Syrian refugees, by February 20, only 12% of that money actually came through. Countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who spent nearly $8 billion on arming and supporting the rebels, pledged just $60 million in humanitarian aid and they took in no refugees.
 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What President Obama should tell the Saudi rulers?



 
President Obama
On the same day when Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree criminalizing Saudi citizens’ participation in the war in Syria (or joining Jihadi groups), the White House confirmed that President Obama will be visiting the Kingdom in March. It seems a reasonable assumption that during this v­isit, Obama will attempt to synchronize U.S. and Saudi diplomacy over two key issues: the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1, and the crisis in Syria. 

The agenda of the meeting in Riyadh could in fact be reduced to a single conversation about Iran, since Iran is also a key ally of the Syrian government. Rather than focusing on these issues, however, the President should focus on convincing the Saudi rulers to abandon their reliance on violent sectarian warriors to exert influence in the region and around the world, especially their support of religious zealots attempting to overthrow governments the Saudis don’t like. 

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