Showing posts with label Ideas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ideas. Show all posts

October 19, 2016

What qualifies financial services or products to be sharia-compliant?

    Wednesday, October 19, 2016   No comments
Economists specializing in the study of Islamic finance and economics have reduced Islamic laws governing financial and economic transactions to two: proscription on receiving or paying “interest” and mandating that investors and developers (lenders and borrowers) share the gains and losses of the enterprise in which they are more or less partners. This theory is widespread but it is based on a very basic, and perhaps outdated, understanding of the primary sources of classical Islamic law. Moreover, most of the works and publications advancing this perspective are built on secondary sources and rarely engage primary materials. This essay challenges the ideas and approaches behind this perspective and proposes a model that takes into consideration the need to protect the poor and the desire to make profit, which is the motivating force behind a thriving economy.

While Islamic scriptures clearly prohibit profiting from the poor, supposedly sharī'ah-compliant Islamic financial and exchange laws circumvent prohibitions and limitations on ribā, monopolism, debt, and risk while failing to address the fundamental purpose behind the prohibitions—mitigating poverty. This study provides a historical survey of the principles that shape Islamic finance and exchange laws, reviews classical and modern interpretations and practices in the banking and exchange sectors, and suggests a normative model rooted in the interpretation of Islamic sources of law reconstructed from paradigmatic cases. Financial systems that overlook the nexus between poverty and usury harm both the economy and poor and middle class consumers and investors rather than addressing the causal relationship between interest-charging models and poverty. This study shows how Islamic Financial Institutions (IFIs) have failed to meet the social requirements they were intended to address and also presents a theoretical framework for Islamic finance and exchange laws that proscribes usurious transactions involving people caught in the cycle of poverty and need.

November 16, 2015

The Genealogy, Ideology, and Future of ISIL and its Derivatives

    Monday, November 16, 2015   No comments

Abstract: The organization known today simply as the “Islamic State,” or by its Arabic acronym, Daesh (English, ISIL), has historical and ideological roots that go beyond the territories it now controls. These deep roots give Daesh confidence that it will succeed in dominating the world, but give others reasons to believe that it will fail in controlling even a single nation. Mixing puritan religious and political discourses, ISIL managed to dominate all other armed opposition groups in conflict zones (Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya) and has inspired individuals in many other countries (Egypt, Pakistan, France, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia) to carry out brutal attacks in its name.

Dogmatic Origins: Traditionism

September 17, 2014

ISIL cannot be defeated militarily without addressing the roots of its genocidal creed and confronting its sectarian backers

    Wednesday, September 17, 2014   No comments

Less than a year after the start of the crisis in Syria, I warned that militarizing the Syrian uprising is a dangerous step. Picking sides and arming them would amount to  launching a new proxy-war similar to the one that took place in Afghanistan in the 1970's and 1980's. The danger, I reasoned, comes from the necessary outcome of using non-state actors as tools to destabilize other nations and adopting violence to escalate the confrontation with international political adversaries. Such escalation, generally, produces groups that cannot be kept under control as happened with al-Qaeda. Today, it has become evident that Syria is indeed a proxy-war zone that produced ISIL, an upgraded version of al-Qaeda, which was the byproduct of the proxy-war in Afghanistan. Such a new proxy-war will not be limited to Syria's border. Indeed, all countries involved in such a war, especially the ones sharing borders with Syria like Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan, will face serious political and security challenges.

April 4, 2013

The origins and evolution of the Grinch that derailed the Arab Spring

    Thursday, April 04, 2013   No comments
The Pakistanization  of Turkey and the Afghanization of Syria in the new proxy-war

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Witnessing the first democratic elections in Tunisia in 2011, I stood at the edge of the city listening to residents explaining the role of “neighborhood watch committees” in keeping peace and protecting personal and public property. I listened as my interlocutors told me stories of new connections emerging to create tighter relations between neighbors to face unprecedented violence and loss of security. On a rotating basis, residents, carrying wooden sticks, stood guard at the main intersection separating one neighborhood from another. To them, safety developed a new meaning. Without thinking of the American context (gun control debate) for my question, I asked if they would have felt safer if they had guns instead of sticks and brooms while guarding their families and properties. Without hesitation, one of the people accompanying me stated that he is alive because people did not have guns.  

On February 26 (2013), the Tunisian government announced that three suspects in the  murder of Chokri Belaid had been arrested and that authorities were searching for the person who shot the victim. Ali Laraydh, the current prime minister, stated that “extremist Islamists [islamiyyun mutashddidun] code name for takfiri fighters, were behind the murder. This formal accusation confirms what many Tunisians had said even before the assassination:  Takfiris are behind the violence and unless they are restrained they will continue to use violence to intimidate and eliminate those who criticize them and oppose their interpretation of Islam.

December 27, 2012

Top News Story of 2012

    Thursday, December 27, 2012   No comments

The year 2012, like 2011, was dominated by news from the Arab world. With the profound changes that were produced by the Arab Awakening, the entire world continued to watch political and military developments emerging from that region. Without doubt, for the Arab world, the Syrian crisis, the Second Gaza War, and the vote on the Palestinian observer status were the most critical events of the year. But the UNGA vote, that came days after the Second Gaza War and the continued militarization of the Syrian crisis, is the most telling event. It exposed the interplay between politics, economic interests, and international justice. Most importantly, it exposed the lack of principle in the US foreign policy and weakened it in its claim as a promoter of just causes and human rights. The event also signaled a shift in international politics and international relations.

For these reasons, ISR’s News Story of the Year selection goes to the UNGA vote on the Observer Status for Palestine which went down as follows:

Countries that voted for the resolution:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kirghistan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts and Nevis St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, UAE, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Countries that abstained:

Albania, Andorra, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Croatia, Dem. Rep. of Congo, Estonia, Fiji, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malawi, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Poland, Korea, Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Togo, Tonga, United Kingdom, and Vanuatu.

Countries that voted against the resolution:

Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Panama, and the United States. 


November 13, 2012

The Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces (SNCORF)

    Tuesday, November 13, 2012   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

On October 31, I wrote, Who is the Syrian Opposition?. Less than two weeks later, a new coalition of opposition figures was born in Qatar, underscoring the erratic composition of the groups fighting to oust Bashar Assad from power.

Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, Riad Seif, Suhair al-Atassi, 
and Mustafa al-Sbbagh

The Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces (SNCORF; also conveniently abbreviated as SCARF) is not entirely a new opposition group. Rather it is a new umbrella organization intended to replace the Syrian National Council (SNC) criticized last week by Secretary Clinton for not being inclusive enough. The U.S. administration does not seem interested in representative groups as much as it is interested in political organizations that are actually capable of exerting control over armed groups. Understandably, the U.S. administration is concerned about sophisticated weapons falling in the hands of terrorist groups threatening U.S. security and interests. These concerns were heightened in September when some rebel group in Libya attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and killed the Ambassador and members of his security detail.

Members of the SNC resisted the unification plan and was said to agree only when Qatar and other Gulf States threatened to withdraw financial and political support. In the end, instead of a birth of a more representative opposition, the old body was re-created with a new name.

October 24, 2012

U.S. Middle East foreign policy needs upgrade

    Wednesday, October 24, 2012   No comments
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Map: Syria and Iran
The third presidential debate in the United States’ race focused on foreign policy. In reality, there was no real debate. It was an argument between two candidates about which one of them would apply policies that are already in place better than the other. Granted that a sitting president would not want to challenge his own policy, it was Mitt Romney’s responsibility to offer a fresh paradigm.

However, Governor Romney was clearly out of his comfort zone when talking about foreign policy. Considering that two-thirds of the entire debate was devoted to the Middle East and the Islamic world, I expected an exciting and informative debate. However, I lost hope in hearing a substantive discussion of the Middle East policy when I heard Governor Romney say that, “Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world. It's their route to the sea.” Even after years of teaching courses about the Middle East to young men and women who had just graduated high school, I cannot recall seeing so many errors in so short of a statement.

May 19, 2012

Will American voters re-elect President Obama?

    Saturday, May 19, 2012   No comments
Or can Mitt Romney offer them a viable alternative? But an alternative to what and why?

As it is generally the case, extraordinary circumstances must be present for an incumbent president to lose re-elections. The last time this happened, President Bush (41st) was fired because of the economy. Bill Clinton rode the spiffy slogan, “It is the economy stupid,” to underscore the need for change.

This election cycle, and by selecting Mitt Romney as their candidate, Republicans seem to use the Clinton strategy against Obama. But how good or bad is the economy in comparison to early 1990's?

The answer may not be relevant or important because Obama could rightly remind Americans that the poor economic conditions did not start under his watch. Also, he could point out that, unlike George W. H. Bush, he did not start the wars that taxed the economy either. His son, a Republican, did. But all these issues could be mooted if the economy were to improve between now and November. In which case, the Republican candidate could fall back on social causes, foreign policy, and defense issues.

While social causes that touch on civil rights and religion are motivating forces for conservative voters Mitt Romney is not seen as a stronger defender of those values. Foreign and defense issues too cannot be used to attack Obama this time for a number of reasons.

First, Romney, in comparison to Obama, does not have the experience or the record that will allow him to challenge Obama’s. Romney’s policy is merely a concept when compared to Obama’s practical steps taken since taking over in 2008.

Second, Obama, despite his promises to end Bush’s policies and practices, he actually continued on the same path. He failed to close Guantanamo, he pursued Bush’s road map for Iraq, he escalated in Afghanistan, he killed the top terrorist, he authorized more drone assassinations than his predecessor, and he took part in the Libya war without putting troops on the ground or committing American resources. This record is a problem for the left but it is hardly "attack-able" by the right given the policies and practices of the previous administration.

In terms of foreign policy, Republicans might attack Obama’s Middle East record. But even that can be easily undermined by simply qualifying it. For instance, Republicans are using the slick slogan “Stand with Israel” to suggest that Obama is not. That slogan too can be taken apart given Obama’s stance in support of Israel even when other western and European countries were prepared to abandon it. For example, Obama defeated Abbas’ efforts to secure UN recognition. He pressured Turkey and Egypt to keep peace with Israel despite the extraordinary changes taking place there. And he aborted or vetoed UNSC resolutions condemning Israeli for issues related to illegal settlements and Gaza War. Republicans could be more accurate and change their slogan into “Stand with Natanyahu.” But that is like asking a liberal politician to love a conservative one, neither party does it and it will be disingenuous to ask Obama to be the first. Natanyahu is simply too conservative, not only for Obama, but for many Israelis and American Jews too.

So comes November, voters will have the option of firing a president whose, economic,  defense, and foreign policies were center-left if not outright conservative practices masked by his liberal credentials or hire Romney who would fire everyone and attempt to turn around an economy that is already turning around. Romney, as fiscal conservative,  would privatize social security and healthcare, outsource the postal service to UPS and FedEx, and bid out  natural resources and infrastructure. 


March 27, 2012

Burdening the victims: impact of US sanctions on human rights at home and abroad

    Tuesday, March 27, 2012   No comments
The case for peoples' diplomacy

On the occasion of the start of the Persian New Year (Nowrūz), President Obama delivered a recorded video message to the Iranian people. In it, he highlighted the many ways the Iranian government denies its citizens access to information, including censoring media outlets and filtering the Internet. He declared that his administration is committed to communicating with the Iranian people despite the objections of their government “by making it easier for Iranian citizens to get the software and services they need to connect with the rest of the world through modern communications methods.”

As a candidate, Obama insisted—despite harsh criticism from other presidential candidates— that he would reach out to the Iranian leaders and talk to them in order to end the 30 year cold war. During his first year in office, President Obama offered to start a conversation with the Iranian leadership based on mutual respect. He then sent a letter, whose content was not disclosed, to the leader of the revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei. As his first term in office ends, having failed to start any significant dialogue with the Iranian regime, the President outlined a new strategy designed to bypass the Iranian government and religious leaders and talk to the Iranian people directly. Will this strategy succeed? Unlikely; and here are several compelling reasons.

March 7, 2012

U.S. army official: Mideast peace stalemate endangers American interests in region

    Wednesday, March 07, 2012   No comments

Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, says non-resolution of Israel-Palestine conflict exacts "steep price" on U.S. security matters.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on 3/1/11, Gen. James Mattis, Commander, US Central Command (CENTCOM) spoke at length about the Middle East (view Video of the hearing).  He noted that among a host of external influences on the CENTCOM area of operations, the "most significant" include issues related to Middle East Peace. 

Key statements in General Mattis' testimony:

Lack of progress in achieving comprehensive Middle East peace affects U.S. and CENTCOM security interests in the region. It is one of many issues that is exploited by our adversaries in the region and is used as a recruiting tool for extremist groups. 
The lack of progress also creates friction with regional partners and creates political challenges for advancing our interests by marginalizing moderate voices in the region.

February 10, 2012

Proxy Wars: Could the U.S. end up supporting al-Qaeda-like groups in Syria?

    Friday, February 10, 2012   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
For the second time in several months, Russia and China have vetoed a UNSC resolution concerning Syria. The double veto last Saturday especially irritated U.S. and European leaders because they thought that the Arab League’s proposal was revised several times to meet Russia’s demands. Russia argued that Western states rushed the vote, despite its request to wait until after its diplomatic envoys had visited Damascus on Tuesday. Both Western governments and Russian have reasons to maintain this bizarre diplomatic face-off, but the true reasons are not necessarily the stated ones.

Russia’s position must be understood in the context of its internal and regional geopolitics. The same can be said about the Arab League’s proposal, which called on Assad to step down. Recent history, too, plays a major role in this clash between Russia and the U.S., the Cold War Era rhetoric.
Importantly, the Russian leadership may face unrest this March if the scheduled elections returned Putin to the presidency and if the opposition forces find evidence of fraud that would force them to reject the results. The U.S. has already gone on record supporting Russian protesters. Russia does not want the Arab Spring replayed in its streets, and they believe that saving the Syrian government will be a test of their ability to manage similar crises at home and abroad.

The uprising in Syria is significant for Saudi Arabia, a country eager to weaken Iran. For this reason, Saudi Arabia, as well as Qatar, two key countries that are now controlling the Arab League, took leading roles in shaping the political and military aspects of this crisis. Saudi and Qatari media's coverage of the Syrian crisis has failed to refer to violent armed groups infiltrating the n0n-armed protester. Russia, on the other hand, continues to insist that armed groups should take the blame for the increased violence. Syria's state-controlled media blame most of the deaths on armed groups (which it calls terrorists). Independent journalists, most recently a crew from a Lebanese news outlet—al-Akhbar, described several border towns as militarized “forward bases.” The Syrian uprising, initially peaceful, has now been hijacked by armed militants who are financed and armed by Saudi Arabia via Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. 

The Saudi involvement, however, did more than sponsor armed rebel factions. It awakened Russia’s dormant--but not forgotten--memory of the Saudi-American alliance that created the Mujahidin networks in Afghanistan, which exhausted the Soviet Union and contributed to its collapse. The Saudi rulers' role in the Syrian crisis is eerily similar to the one they played in Afghanistan. Russia, the heir of the Soviet Union, does not want to repeat history and lose its long alliance with Syrian government--its most reliable ally in a critical region. Russia has decided it must challenge the replication of the war of attrition of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan scenario. Russia has insisted on four demands before it would support any UNSC resolution:

1: No UNSC resolution authorizing a regime change in Syria.
2. No UNSC resolution authorizing military intervention in Syria.
3. No UNSC resolution banning arms sale to Syria.
4. No UNSC resolution condemning the Syrian regime’s violence without condemning the violence perpetrated by the armed groups.

These are Russia’s red lines. Kremlin leaders are convinced that Saudi Arabia is arming Salafi groups and funneling money and weapons into Syria through its borders with Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Some observers have concluded that Russia has already signaled to Assad that he should use military force to clear the towns. On Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the head of the Russian foreign intelligence visited Assad to show their support. They insisted that armed groups should be held responsible for the violence against civilians and government security forces.

The U.S. on the other hand, is mulling the idea of arming opposition groups. On Tuesday, John McCain, ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee said that "we should start considering all options, including arming the opposition." The Obama administration is “not considering that step right now," according to White House spokesman Jay Carney. Instead, the administration is "exploring the possibility of providing humanitarian aid to Syrians." Although the White House played down the suggestion, its lack of a comprehensive strategy for Syria leaves the initiative in the hands of regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar–which are thought to be arming their favorite groups--members of Salafist and Brotherhood groups, respectively.

Clearly, the Syrian crisis is now turning into a regional and international turf war. The Saudis are eager to use Syria to punish Iran and deprive that emerging regional power from its most reliable Arab ally. The United States is determined to see Iran further isolated to weaken its position ahead of the crucial nuclear talks. Russia refuses to lose its historical ally, Syria, the same way the Soviet Union lost the government of Afghanistan in the 1970sThe Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups are becoming political opportunists. And the Syrian people are suffering as their government commences what it calls “decisive military action.” 
Should this conflict become more significantly militarized, and we have reasons to believe that it will be, the Syrian people’s hope for representative governance will evaporate in the heat of a bloody proxy war. 

The United States government in particular ought to be careful pursuing a clandestine military partnership with the Saudi rulers. The last time it did so, that partnership produced al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the group that attacked the U.S. homeland. This time, it will either bring al-Qaeda to Syria or create a beast far more dangerous than al-Qaeda that will be able to attach many homelands at once.

§ Photos of Syrian armed groups are courtesy of al-Akhbar.
* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. He is the author of the book, Contesting Justice. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

February 8, 2012

Israel will not bomb Iran this year

    Wednesday, February 08, 2012   1 comment

I recognize that it is injudicious to make emphatic predictions like this one and it is especially impolitic to do so without access to all information. In this case however, all critical information is publicly available. The only important piece of information that we don’t know is whether or not Iran has or is close to having a nuclear bomb. But all those who are supposed to know don’t really know. The most recent estimate suggests that Iran could have the capacity, the knowledge, and the material to produce several crude nuclear bombs within one year. Similar claims were made at least five other times in the past 25 years.

Increasingly, talking about Iran as a nuclear threat is becoming an exclusive hobby for politicians. Although some of the Arab regimes feel equally threatened by a nuclear Iran, only Israel seems to emerge as the subject of this threat. Israeli leaders have made it clear that a nuclear Iran is an existential threat and that they will do whatever is necessary to eliminate that threat, including a preemptive military attack. Unexpectedly, some U.S. officials, including Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, went as far as setting a time for such an Israeli military strike: this spring. Nonetheless, here are several reasons why, in my opinion, Israel will not attack Iran this year.

January 17, 2012

Impact of an embargo on Iranian oil

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012   No comments

Strait of Hormuz

International news has been dominated by the Iranian issue these days. Not only the nuclear dispute is present front and center, but military confrontation was moved from the threat level to active planning level. In return, Iran put its cards on the table. Any attack on its nuclear facility will force it to attack all parties involved and all military bases in the region. Then, Iran announced that even in the absence of war, and if an oil embargo is imposed, it will close the Strait of Hormuz because it sees such sanctions as a declaration of war. A recent study, published by Chatham House, an influential think tank based in London, discussed the possible outcomes of an EU embargo on oil exports from Iran. The author made five key conclusions:
  • The initial impact is that the EU countries will have to find alternative supplies to replace their imports of heavy, sour crude from Iran.
  • The hunt for alternative supplies will create transitional friction for oil prices. Thus prices for heavy source crude in the Atlantic basin markets would increase and in Asia-Pacific they would decrease as Iran tried to find alternative outlets for the crude originally destined for European markets. 
  • So far the analysis has assumed that Iran simply accepts the EU embargo without retaliation. This is extremely unlikely.
  • There has been much speculation that Iran's response would be to inhibit the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. This is unlikely. First, any closure would equally damage Iran's ability to export the oil on which its economy is so dependent. Second, serious and credible attempts to close the Strait are in effect Iran's 'big guns' on the issue of whether or not the United States (or Israel) would launch a military attack on      Iran. 
  • A more effective means of putting pressure on Iran would be for the United States to persuade the EU to extend sanctions to financial transactions. An oil embargo alone cannot succeed.

The study remains speculative and overlooks many other critical variables. Importantly, while the author gave ample space to western adaptation to the fallout of an oil embargo, it did not factor in Iran’s ability to adapt as well. The threat of closing the Strait alone increased the prices of oil. An actual instance of violence will devastate the world economy.

The author also estimated that Iran would not close the Strait because doing so would affect its own oil export. That may be true, but that neglects the fact that the closure of the Strait would impact other Gulf States more than Iran. Without the Strait being sealed, Iran’s export would be already impacted by the sanctions.  With the Strait sealed, other Gulf States will be effectively under an embargo as well. Specifically. Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar will not be able to export any oil for the duration of any violence in the Persian Gulf. In other words, 40% of world supply will be impacted; but 100% of the oil export of those three countries will be shut down.

Lastly, Iran’s revenues from oil export are about 60%, relatively high. But the Gulf States dependency on oil export is even higher.

In conclusion, western powers ought to revisit their math and assess the likelihood of imposing more sanctions on Iran would bring about change that would outweigh further damage to the global economy and bring about the desired outcome in terms of Iran's behavior.


January 15, 2012

What is on the mind of Arab media

    Sunday, January 15, 2012   No comments

Tunisia’ new leaders wanted to celebrate the revolution that deposed the old regime and ushered in representative governance. So they invited other Arab heads of state, but only several showed up. Of course, this is not a normal gathering. It is one that reminded the Arab rulers that they will all go unless they reform. Reportedly, the new Tunisian leaders sent invitations but only the leaders of Algeria, Libya, Qatar, and Mauritanian showed up. The rest of the countries sent low level representatives just to be polite. Tunisian media noticed this awkward party moment.

Although Tunisia and Egypt have more or less moved to representative governance with bloodless revolutions that removed the strong regimes of Ben Ali and Mubarak, the Libyan uprising was bloody and cruel. Nearly 50,000 people are said to have lost their lives and there are daily reports of gun battles between competing rebel factions. The instability in Libya did not go unnoticed in other Arab countries. Consequently, enthusiasm for revolutions is brought under check especially in places like Yemen and Syria. Arab media took notice of the change in attitude. 

Here are some of the other themes discussed in several influential Arab news outlets recently.

Russia moves to limit its losses, editorialized the pan-Arab newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi:
"If you want to know the odds of a war taking place in the Middle East, just keep track of the statements out of Moscow and Washington and the movements of their respective vessels and aircraft carriers - especially now that Russia is waking up from a period of hibernation and is coming back strongly in the region to protect its interests."
The newspaper argued that Russia will not lose another Arab ally to the West. "Having taken stock of such a major loss, Russia is now determined to counter forcefully any US attempts to topple the Syrian and Iranian regimes," the newspaper concluded.

The newspaper pointed to the Russian ship loaded with weapons reportedly sent to Syria as evidence of this shift in policy adding that the "Russian aircraft carrier and other warships arrived in Syria's Tartous port" are a show of force aimed at reassuring Asad that military intervention will be met with military resistance:
"By dispatching an aircraft carrier and shiploads of weapons and other hazardous materials, Russia wants to send out a strong and unequivocal message to Arab governments and the United States, that it will not let down its Syrian and Iranian allies, after it has already lost Qaddafi's Libya and Saddam's Iraq."
To make matters very clear, Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian envoy to Nato since 2008, who was appointed in December as his country's vice premier for defense industries, said last week that "any military intervention having to do with Iran's nuclear program will be considered a threat to Russia's national security."

U.S. image in the Arab world: “soldiers abusing Muslims is a pattern” 

Another issue that was picked by the Arab media is the US soldiers' scandal. Sharjah-based newspaper al-Khaleej editorialized that U.S. soldiers violating their own laws, like urinating on dead bodies, are not isolated cases; they are patterns of behavior. The paper referred to the humiliating treatment of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison several years ago and said that that “showed how US soldiers were having fun dehumanizing prisoners in unimaginable ways.” The paper contended that other cases, such as “al-Nisour Square incident in Baghdad in 2007, when US soldiers killed more than a dozen Iraqi civilians for no reason.”  Guantanamo Bay, the newspaper argued "is yet another flagrant example of the violation of basic human rights." The latest incident in Afghanistan is not "isolated or individual", the newspaper said. "It is a function of the usual method adopted by the US forces in Afghanistan and previously in Iraq."

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