Showing posts with label Middle East. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Middle East. Show all posts

September 15, 2015

Proposition for ending the crisis in Syria: concurrent devolution of power regionally and military action against genocidal fighters nationally

    Tuesday, September 15, 2015   No comments


 
Syrians as refugees because of this level of destruction of their cities
Politics is the art of compromise. Successful politicians rarely give ultimatums because doing so would limit their ability to navigate complex issues. In 2012, President Obama underestimated the complexity of the crisis in Syria. He drew a “red line” for President Assad: the use of chemical weapons would have “enormous consequences” and would “change [his] calculus” on American military intervention in Syria’s civil war. A year later, someone used weaponized chemicals, killing hundreds of civilians. Although no investigation was conducted to identify the perpetrator at that time, the U.S., encouraged by its regional allies like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey, accused the government of Bashar al-Assad. Just days before world leaders were to meet in New York, U.S. bombing of Syria was all but certain. Then two key events changed the course of history. First, Prime Minister David Cameron, initially supportive of military intervention, was restrained by the British parliament. As of September 7, 2013, the U.S. Congress was also set to not authorize the use of force in Syria, especially if it was not authorized by the UNSC. Second, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, made a “silly mistake”, to borrow the words of some observers.
 

February 6, 2015

Slaying, Slaughtering, and Burning: ISIL, the Cinematic Caliphate

    Friday, February 06, 2015   No comments
By Islam Sakka*
Watching the latest videos posted by the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS, IS), it is easy to see the changes in cinematic technique and the group’s choice of English as the main language. Their latest video, showing Jordanian pilot Moaz Kasasbeh being burned alive, sets a new precedent for brutality, ruthlessness, and high quality propaganda.

Ramallah — Before ISIL, most jihadist videos only documented various kinds of combat operations. The camera was always present to record the battles, to be incorporated in a single tape as part of a detailed report, which was released periodically as part of the counter-propaganda through which the group was trying to compete with the global media.

November 16, 2014

Iran’s emerging institutional power and its effect on negotiations with the United States

    Sunday, November 16, 2014   No comments



On the eve of the Republicans’ takeover of the U.S. Senate and increased control of the House, the Wall Street Journal revealed, on the authority of anonymous sources, that President Obama had sent “secret letter” to the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran took its time confirming it had received such a letter. The official confirmation ultimately came from the secretary general of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Ali Shamkhani.

September 11, 2014

Combating ISIL should not be America’s business, it is Saudi Arabia's

    Thursday, September 11, 2014   No comments




ISIL is a global threat but it is a bigger threat to the Middle East than to U.S. homeland. It is a bigger threat to Muslims than to Americans because, until now, the absolute majority of victims are Muslims. The U.S. could be part of a coalition that should combat ISIL but it should not take the lead. Saudi Arabia should take the lead in fighting ISIL because Saudi Arabia helped create it in the first place. The ideology and practices of ISIL are derived from the brand of a religious tradition called Salafi Wahhabism that was founded in Saudi Arabia and promoted by Saudi preachers under the patronage of the Saudi ruling family. Therefore, the fight against ISIL is Saudi Arabia’s and the rulers of Saudi Arabia must be forced to take the lead in this war.

August 10, 2014

I know why I’m obsessed with Jews, but why are you?

    Sunday, August 10, 2014   No comments
by David Palumbo-Liu*

Knowing how public I’ve been in support of the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against the state of Israel, a Jewish colleague came up to me on campus one day to talk. “I know why Im obsessed with Jews,” he said, “But why are you?”  I could hear both puzzlement and pain in his voice. 

It was clear at that moment that there were two kinds of “obsession” at work in his imagination.  For him, a Jew should properly - perhaps obsessively - care about their fellow Jews.  But my friend couldn’t help but wonder why I, as a non-Jew, would also “obsess so much” about his people, especially from a critical perspective. 

My reply was pretty automatic: “I’m not obsessed with Jews,” I said, “I’m concerned about the Palestinians.”

I know and like this person a lot. In essence I don’t think his political position is much different to mine, except in terms of tactics. I think he trusts me too.  But his statement revealed an important and discouraging assumption:  one is naturally drawn to care about one’s own people, and it is unexpected - even odd - that someone from outside one’s group should care as much. 

May 14, 2014

Jabhat al-Nusra losing support among rebels, tribes in south Syria

    Wednesday, May 14, 2014   No comments
by Tarek Al-Abed 
On May 7, Syria’s Daraa province witnessed three events. First, battles broke out in the western countryside and militants started advancing toward the province. Second, a march was staged in support of the regime, near the location where armed confrontations were underway. Third, tension between Jabhat al-Nusra and other armed groups escalated in the south, against the backdrop of the arrest of Ahmed Nehme, leader of Jabhat al-Nusra’s military council.

April 28, 2014

To preview Syria’s future, consider Algeria today

    Monday, April 28, 2014   No comments




Algeria was destined to become an African powerhouse. The largest country in the continent, it is populated by only 39 million people but endowed with huge natural resources: 159 trillion cubic feet (tcf) and 12.2 billion barrels of proven natural gas and oil reserves, respectively, and vast expanses of land, desert, and mountains. A country rich with such resources should not have a problem building a sustainable economy. However, corruption and a brutal civil war similar to the one going on in Syria transformed Algeria into Africa’s most disappointing state. How and why did such a promising country sink so low?

February 19, 2014

What President Obama should tell the Saudi rulers?

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014   No comments


 
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. 

February 15, 2014

Breaking the Cycle: Could Iranian and U.S. officials overcome their mutual distrust?

    Saturday, February 15, 2014   No comments


Breaking the Cycle: Could Iranian and U.S. officials overcome their mutual distrust?


Rafsanjani and Khatami
After inking an interim agreement at the end of 2013, Iran and the P5+1 must now finalize a final nuclear agreement within six months. If they fail, U.S. and Iran will relive the cycle of mutual hostility in which the two countries have been entangled for more than three decades. Both parties seem eager to break that vicious cycle this time around. Iran has its own reasons: no actual interest in building nuclear weapons and strong interest in finding new markets and opportunities for its emerging economy. Western powers claim that the devastating effects of the harsh economic sanctions and the election of moderate Iranian president, Hasan Rouhani, are the main reasons for optimism. Let’s examine both reasons in the context of historical facts.

March 27, 2013

Turkey's lost and future opportunities in Syria

    Wednesday, March 27, 2013   No comments

by Foti Benlisoy and Annalena Di Giovanni

Turkey
A few months ago, in January 2013, an accident in a steel factory of Gaziantep, a bordering town in southwest Turkey, claimed the lives of seven workers. Under normal circumstances such news would have passed unobserved and eventually forgotten; Turkey is after all a country in which workplace accidents in factories are a daily, albeit silent, occurrence. But this time two among the seven workers were Syrians. And like most Syrians, they were unregistered, insecure, and deprived of any protective measures while on duty.

Syrian refugees, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, are the new source of manpower in southern factories. Employed outside any state regulation, they are desperate enough to accept work for any pay and condition. In a word, they are cheaper than local labour and Kurdish seasonal workers. Another very telling episode is that of a factory in Adıyaman where employees on strike are voicing concerns that they face the sack and replacement by cheaper and more submissive Syrian refugees. In a war of poor against poorer, local workers already uneasy with aid and facilities provided by the government to the refugee camps are now afraid to lose their jobs, while traders and merchants lament their plummeting revenues from exports and tourism in Syria. For the population of southern Turkey, the struggle against Bashar Al-Assad is simply a catastrophe. And for this catastrophe they are blaming the Erdoğan government, and his support to the Syrian opposition. 

February 28, 2013

Will the Arab Spring Spread to Iran?

    Thursday, February 28, 2013   No comments

 by Jacob Havel

The advent of the so called “Arab Spring” in the Middle East and North Africa has come about with incredible velocity and intensity. The world has seen dictators, who had been in power for decades, fall in the blink of an eye in both Tunisia and Egypt.  Consequently, the possibility of revolution in the region has become a topic of discussion. Vital factors that contribute to the onset of these revolutions are widespread and unique to each country, Several factors, however, including a frustrated youth, economic hardship, poverty, and governmental structure, including Western relations, can be seen as a common thread in both Egypt and Tunisia. Does a regional power such as Iran possess these factors in the same way? The possibility of revolution in Iran can be based on a breakdown of these so called “revolutionary ingredients” as they were present in Egypt and Tunisia and how they compare to the Iranian situation.

It is important to explain why the youth, economic hardship, and governmental makeup are the most important factors in these revolutions. The youth are a driving force simply because of the fact that they are young. They are not as jaded to the issues of their country as older generations, many of whom have endured the regimes for their entire lives. Youth in today’s world are connected, through technology, with the rest of the planet, which recognizes them as a medium to move global information and support into these countries. The youth, however, are not only active, they are frustrated. The causes of these frustrations are largely related to economic hardship in the countries. Economic disparity and poverty strip people of their dignity, which is a vital ingredient if they are to overcome the fear of their current regimes. Finally, the structure of the regimes themselves is important. As it will be discussed later, the leaders in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt have long held power. They act as a clear enemy and allow the efforts of the youth and all who feel oppressed to focus their efforts on the simple act of ousting these governments. These three factors are the most basic pieces and also the most important to the occurrence of the modern day revolutions.

With the emerging governments in Tunisia and Egypt and the distraction of bureaucracy, it is easy to forget how these revolutions began. It was primarily through the action of the frustrated youth.

February 24, 2013

What does Iran want from the P5+1?

    Sunday, February 24, 2013   No comments

And what do the P5+1 want from Iran?

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
Iran and the P5+1 group (United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany) are to resume negotiations in Almaty, Kazakhstan on February 26. Their last meeting was eight-month ago in Moscow. That meeting did not produce a breakthrough and that was expected because, in part, the U.S. was not prepared to offer anything of significance at a time when the president was facing re-election. With Obama re-elected and a new national security team being put in place, both sides must feel that they can make some progress. Otherwise there would be no reason to try again. That much was signaled by the new Secretary of State John Kerry who encouraged Iran two days ago (on Friday) to make a serious offer and promised that “the international community is ready to respond”. So what can Iran offer? Or more importantly, what can’t Iran offer?

January 5, 2013

News Analysis: A political solution of the Syrian crisis might be in the making

    Saturday, January 05, 2013   No comments
Syria

Since the last disappointing meeting of the so-called Friends of Syria in Morocco, which was not attended by Secretary Clinton, diplomats have been active trying to find common ground for solving the Syrian crisis. Most notably, there has been a change of tone in the statements by the supporters of the opposition forces represented in the National Coalition, also known as the Doha group.

On Sunday, the Saudi foreign minister agreed with his Egyptian counterpart that a “peaceful” transition in Syria is needed to end the bloodshed. Both ministers agreed that the inclusion or exclusion of Assad in any political solution ought to be left to the Syrian people.

Last month, Turkey softened its criticism of Assad and proposed that Assad remains in power for three months, before resigning and be replaced by a government led by a figure from the National Coalition. Reacting to the proposal, Russia announced that it will never support a proposal that would oust Assad from power. Russian diplomats emphasized that Assad’s political future can only be determined by the Syrian people. 

Assad, too, refused to meet with the UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, until the latter clarified what he meant by a “transitional government.” He insisted that the sovereignty of the state with all its current institutions, including the military and security forces, is not up for negotiations.  Assad then sent his deputy foreign minister to Russia and Iran to emphasize this point.

In the light of the stalemate on the military front and the unwavering support of Assad from Russia and China in the UN, some countries started to take Brahimi’s warnings seriously. The sponsors of the Doha opposition groups are now looking for other options.

Turkey for instance, is sending a senior diplomat, Feridun Sinirlioğlu, to Moscow to hold talks with Russian officials. Turkish officials hinted that the diplomat will carry “new proposals for solving the Syrian crisis.” Sinirlioğlu, the Foreign Ministry undersecretary, will visit the Kremlin, where he will meet with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

This development comes after the Turkish president Abdullah Gül acknowledged that sidestepping Russia was a mistake and that Russia and Iran must be included in formulating a solution for the Syrian crisis. Speaking to journalists recently, Gül declared:

"From the very onset of the crisis, we have always opted for a controlled and orderly change in Syria. As a result of the escalation of events, we made it clear to everyone that Turkey, in unity with the free world, will support the Syrian people in their demands. But from the very beginning, I have argued that both Russia and Iran should be invited to engage with the transition in Syria to prevent further bloodshed. I believe that Russia in particular should be treated properly."

Iran, too, is taking a more active role. Today, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mikdad arrived in Tehran to hold talks with Iranian officials. Mikdad is scheduled to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.

Salehi, who is on his way to tour Africa, will make a stop in Egypt before returning home. He is scheduled to meet Egyptian officials including the president and the foreign minister as well as Brahimi.

All these developments suggest that the world community is now determined to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis before the second anniversary of the Syrian uprising that turned violent three months later. This is a crucial year since Assad’s term in office will end up in 2014. If no solution is found now, the country may continue to live in a perpetual state of civil war.

Tomorrow, Assad will deliver a speech. He might provide a clear vision for the way forward. All indications show that he is open to the formation of a transitional government that would include figures from the internal and external oppositions, though he is opposed to having members of the Muslim Brotherhood included. Given the mishap by the president of the National Coalition, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, who demanded an apology from Russia, it is more likely that Haytham Manna will play a big role in any transitional government.

The complexity of the Syrian problem and the miscalculations by regional and international players will cause transition to peace to be slow. Nonetheless, an end to the cycle of violence will not be possible without an agreement between the major regional and world powers. Specifically, the United States, Russia, Iran, and Turkey must find common ground. The other countries, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, will eventually follow the lead of the U.S. But the U.S. is unlikely to make a commitment before the confirmation of a new secretary of state.

 If John Kerry is confirmed, and there is no reason to believe he won’t be, he is likely to change the direction of U.S. foreign policy on Syria. He met with Assad at least five times in the two years before the start of the protests in Syria. He understands Assad better than any other U.S. diplomat and his foreign affairs expertise derived from chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee could serve him well.

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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.

June 5, 2012

What is behind Saudi Arabia’s uncharacteristic aggressiveness?

    Tuesday, June 05, 2012   No comments

Until before Cablegate, when in February 2010 WikiLeaks began releasing classified U.S. cables, Saudi Arabia was known for its quiet diplomacy. Then its secret dealings were revealed and exposed its actual dealings. Regionally, released documents exposed Saudi Arabia as an enthusiastic proponent of military intervention in Iran. Privately, the Saudi rulers told U.S. officials that Iran is the biggest threat. Publicly, they emphasized Saudi Arabia’s commitment to a diplomatic, peaceful solution to the Iranian problem. In other words, the Saudi rulers conducted a two-tract, contradictory policy. The leaks deprived them of the cover of diplomatic secrecy. 

Together, WikiLeaks and the Arab Awakening highlighted Saudi Arabia’s reliance on authoritarian rulers and extremist Salafis to exert influence around the world. The Arab Spring threatened authoritarian rulers and extremist Salafis. Access to information and public participation in selecting leaders became a threat to Saudi religious and political paradigms and for those reasons they are now fully prepared to pursue an aggressive foreign policy publicly. In other words, Saudi aggressive meddling in the affairs of its neighbors is not new, it is simply overt nowadays.

In the short run, the Saudis will be able to exert limited influence in the region, mainly through their ability to create instability using violent, fanatic elements. In the long run, the Saudi money that is supporting Salafi political parties in Tunisia and Egypt and their open military support of Salafi armed groups in Syria will not succeed in preserving their governing paradigm. First, because it is ideologically flawed and socially unjust. Second, if the Salafis become willing and successful participating members in the democratic processes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and other Awakened Arab countries, they would want to have the same rights in Saudi Arabia itself. Thirdly, the Saudis’ enthusiastic support of the uprising in Syria cannot and will not absolve them of the long record of supporting authoritarians such as Mubarak and Ben Ali, who is still living under their protection. In the end, only genuine political and religious reform can save the kingdom from radical, and perhaps violent changes.

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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. 

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April 26, 2012

Why are Turkey's ruling party leaders struggling in developing a consistent, enduring Middle East policy?

    Thursday, April 26, 2012   No comments

Ahmet Davutoğlu
On Thursday, the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu responded to opposition parties’ members of parliament who accused the government of war mongering on Syria. 

“A new Middle East is emerging and we will continue to lead this. Turkey will pioneer this order of peace. … The Turkish people of 74 million are with the Syrian people and will continue to be so… Those who side with dictatorial regimes instead of the people of the Middle East cannot understand our policies. … We stand by people, not minority dictatorships,” Davutoğlu responded.

“What should be said first on Syria is that the Syrian administration is responsible for the current situation in Syria. The culprit is the Baath regime, which orders shooting at people who took to the streets with demands for freedom. … We support the valid demands of the Syrian people, regardless of their religion, sect and ethnicity,” Davutoğlu said.

Analysis

The engineer of the zero conflict with Turkey’s neighbor policy is now promoting direct involvement in the conflicts of the region after struggling to find a comfortable position when the Arab Spring first started. 

For instance, Turkey’s government refused to support Europe and NATO in their campaign to remove Qaddafi from power in Libya. Turkish leaders also struggled to articulate a clear position regarding the Egyptian revolution when it first started. In order to make up for those delayed reactions, Turkey’s ruling leaders are now overreacting. They did not study the various actors involved in the Syrian crisis and they ended up siding with two of the least democratic regimes of the Arab world: Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Such a company Turkish leaders are keeping highlights the contradictions in Turkey’s Middle East policy. 

On the one hand, the ruling party claims that they are supporting popular revolutions regardless of sect and ethnicity of the revolting people. But they remain silent about the demands for change in Bahrain—where the uprising preceded the Syrian one until it was crushed by the Saudi military that came to the aid of the minority-run government there. That casts doubt about their sectarian neutrality.  Turkey’s ongoing conflict with the Kurds also challenges their claim to ethnic neutrality.

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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.




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."

December 20, 2011

The dissipating prestige of the Egyptian military

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011   No comments
Despite evidence to the contrary, the Egyptian military continues to deny using violence against protesters and continue to argue that it is the legitimate power broker. On Tuesday, Gen. Adel Emara, spokesperson for the ruling military junta contended that the military had never used violence against protesters:
“The armed forces and the police pledged not to use violence against protesters actively or even verbally.”
When a journalist tried to display a newspaper image of a woman brutally beaten by military police he interrupted:
“Before you open the newspaper, fold it. I know what I’m talking about. Yes, this scene took place and we’re investigating it. But let’s look at the whole picture and see the circumstances the picture was taken in and we will announce the complete truth. Don’t take only this shot, you or any other, and cite it to prove that violence was used.”
Another Egyptian general said that the protesters are "delinquents who deserve to be thrown into Hitler's ovens." Gen. Abdel Moneim Kato, who serves as an adviser to the military's public relations department, made the remarks in an interview with the Egyptian newspaper al-Shuruq on Monday.
The military rulers think that they are the legitimate authorities despite the existence of the newly elected body. In fact, the military junta wanted to circumvent the work of the newly elected members of the assembly when it appointed a “civilian advisory council,” which in turn suspended its activities until the military stopped the violence and apologized. One-third of its roughly 30 members have quit already.
Egypt and the military are both better served by recognizing the fact that the junta’s ascent to power was ordered by an ousted dictator and that only an elected authority can claim legitimacy. The military rulers should transfer power to the newly elected body, which should adopt the Tunisian model and establish an interim constitution and an interim government until a permanent constitution is adopted and general elections are held.


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