Showing posts with label Souaiaia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Souaiaia. Show all posts

February 8, 2014

How different are the new constitutions of Tunisia and Egypt?

    Saturday, February 08, 2014   No comments


How different are the new constitutions of Tunisia and Egypt?

The two countries transformed first by the Arab Spring now have new constitutions. The two countries are similar in many ways. Yet, the processes of producing their respective constitutions and the substance of each document point to the forces that made these legal documents similar in some areas and different in others. In both cases, it took more than two years to reach this point, underscoring the difficulty the drafters of the two documents have faced.

Notably, the Tunisian constitution was drafted by an elected body (Constitutional Assembly), whereas the current version of the Egyptian constitution was “edited” by an appointed committee after the deposition of the post-revolution (elected) president Mohamed Morsi. The Egyptian constitution, however, was endorsed by Egyptian voters, while the Tunisian constitution was adopted once it was endorsed by the majority of the members of the Constitutional Assembly.

January 14, 2014

Tunisia’s Ennahda movement, perhaps learning from the crises of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and AKP in Turkey, compromises to remain relevant

    Tuesday, January 14, 2014   No comments





On January 14, Tunisians will celebrate their revolution, which ignited a wave of protest that swept most of the Arab world. For this third anniversary, the Salvation Front, representing key leaders from political parties and civil society, gave the Tunisian people and the Arab masses a set of rare gifts: another peaceful transfer of power, a new constitution that protects the life and dignity of all Tunisians, and roadmap to a stable future.

January 9, 2014

Syria’s rebels’ premature harvest and the moral crisis of militarism

    Thursday, January 09, 2014   No comments


ISIS fighters executing a civilian

On November 14, 2013, Abd al-Kader al-Saleh, commander of the powerful Tawhid Brigades, died. He was injured in an earlier airstrike that killed several of his group’s top leaders. In a matter of days, al-Tawhid Brigades—one of the armed wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria—descended into chaos. Its surviving leaders claimed that the Syrian army could not have carried out the deadly strike without inside help. They promised to avenge their leaders and purge the rebels of anti-revolution elements. At that moment, the seed of dissent among Islamist groups sprouted. 

December 12, 2013

The disintegration of Syria’s so-called “moderate” opposition forces and the prospects of a divided Syria

    Thursday, December 12, 2013   No comments


Future of Syria: not bringing this crisis under control now
could divide Syria along ethnic and sectarian fault lines.
Since 2012, many observers and scholars familiar with the Syrian crisis have advised against arming Syrian rebels and warned about the risks of turning that country into a powder keg, endangering peace in that volatile region. Those early predictions are now a reality. Reacting to recent developments, U.S. and British officials announced that they are suspending delivery of aid to Syrian rebels when the Free Syrian Army’s depots were overrun by al-Qaeda affiliates. Video footage shows that the Free Syrian Army had actually received more than “non-lethal aid.” Rebels fighters claims that they found anti-aircraft weapons, sophisticated guns, and munitions. 

November 4, 2013

Why are the rulers of Saudi Arabia losing their cool?

    Monday, November 04, 2013   No comments


The Umayyad Syndrome



For more than seventy years, Saudi Arabia has cultivated the image of a state run by level-headed, moderate, wise, deliberate, and cool-headed leaders. Publicly, its diplomats gave the impression that the Kingdom would chose dialogue over confrontation, moderation over extremism, and reconciliation over antagonism. Wikileaks unveiled the true nature of the regime when it revealed that the rulers of Saudi Arabia were in fact leading two lives: one public and another private.

September 8, 2013

Deficiencies in the arguments for a U.S. war on Syria and the perils of military intervention in Syria without UNSC authorization

    Sunday, September 08, 2013   No comments


by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
UNSC
Answering a reporter’s question if bombing Syria is needed in order to preserve his credibility since he was the one who set a red line, President Obama replied: “First of all, I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world's population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war. Congress set a red line when it ratified that treaty..."


It is true that international law and treaties have prohibited the use of certain weapons nearly a century ago. But UN Charter, the backbone of international law, also had established the proper response to any breach of these treaties. Outside the doctrine of self-defense from an imminent threat, no nation should attack another UN member state without authorization of the UN Security Council (UNSC). If nations were to act unilaterally, would U.S. leaders ratify a treaty that would allow, say the Soviet Union or China, to bomb the U.S. for actually using illegal weapons in Vietnam and other places?

August 25, 2013

A fragile alliance: how the crisis in Egypt caused a rift within the anti-Syrian government block

    Sunday, August 25, 2013   No comments

 A fragile alliance: how the crisis in Egypt caused a rift within the anti-Syrian government block
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirate (UAE), Turkey, and the West condemned in unison the Syrian government for its harsh treatment of Syrians from the first day of the uprising in that country. Many observers were skeptical of the stated reasons for this sudden interest in human rights issues given that the Gulf States are in fact models of repressive governance. As the reaction to the Egyptian crisis revealed, the opposition to the Syrian government was not motivated by the stated goals (support for democracy and condemnation for authoritarianism). It was dictated by narrow political, ideological, and sectarian interests.


July 6, 2013

Arab Spring 2.0: Why did Morsi lose the presidency and how did the Muslim Brotherhood lose a revolution?

    Saturday, July 06, 2013   No comments


by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Gruesome killings of Egyptian Shi`as contributed to Morsi's fall
Many Arabs, thirsty for real change, look at the events of the Arab Spring positively. Liberal, secular, conservative, and ultraconservative groups and individuals in the countries transformed by the Arab Spring who supported the overthrow of the old guard agree that these revolutions were necessary. They disagree on the post-revolution arrangement. The Arab Spring 2.0 that took place in Egypt on June 30th is a good example of the disagreement between former rebels about the future of the new Arab World. Analysts and observers of Middle East affairs are trying to make sense out of something that does not operate according to common sense. All that can be done is a sound analysis of the events and an objective account of the facts. I have received several inquiries for comments about the events in Egypt. A summary of these comments might provide some legal and historical context.

June 30, 2013

Narratives of War in Islamic Societies

    Sunday, June 30, 2013   No comments


Whose side is God on?
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
Abstract: The so-called Arab Spring ushered in a new era of conflict that is transforming Islamic societies in unprecedented ways. In the past two years, peaceful protests ousted some of the most ruthless dictators of the Arab world. Then, violent rebellions destroyed communities in Libya and Syria, stifled the non-violent movement, and amplified sectarian tensions by interjecting God into some of the most gruesome conflicts. By looking at the Syrian crisis as a case study, in this article I explore the function of narratives in managing war and the nature and evolution of Islamism in Islamic societies.

________________
Those who think that the Syrian war could be ended by simply sending either side more weapons and more fighters are mistaken. Weapons are only tools of the battlefield. Now, as is has been throughout the history of war, the more important key to winning a war is developing a compelling narrative.
Over the past two years, each of the parties involved in the Syrian conflict has promulgated a different narrative to justify the war. 
 

June 26, 2013

Why did the ruler of Qatar cede power now?

    Wednesday, June 26, 2013   No comments


by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*


Not all observers of Middle East affairs should be surprised by the handover of “Emirship” in Qatar. Although it is refreshing to see an Arab ruler step aside without an act of God (death), a coup, or a Spring. According to Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the transfer is a natural step: “The time has come to open a new page in the journey of our nation that would have a new generation carry the responsibilities ... with their innovative ideas." If the 61-year old Emir were interested in democracy (which the Emir wished for the rest of the Arab world, but not his own country), he could have found a more skilled and experienced leader other than his 33-year young son. Therefore, other compelling reasons must have forced this shrewd politician and ambitious operator to step aside now. 

June 17, 2013

Masters of War and the destruction of peace

    Monday, June 17, 2013   No comments


by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

After convening his national security team to discuss the crisis in Syria, President Obama decided to officially authorize the transfer of weapons to the Syrian rebels. The decision is a gamble with U.S. credibility. Moreover, the release of information, via anonymous sources, shows the fragility of the U.S. administration’s position and suggests the existence of a troubling disagreement among top administration officials. That is hardly the tone needed before committing the country to a military conflict that has thus far killed 93,000 people in Syria. The half-hearted commitment to solving the crisis in Syria by providing more tools of murder and destruction can only be saved by a clear and demonstrable success. Anything short of forcing Assad to leave office through political or military means cannot be considered success. This mission is more complicated than the 2003 war in Iraq, for many reasons.

May 16, 2013

Spinning the tragic Syria crisis won’t help stop it

    Thursday, May 16, 2013   No comments
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Syrian rebels executing Alawites
Yesterday, responding to a Qatar-sponsored resolution, the U.N. General Assembly “condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces and praised the opposition.” A day before that, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that “at least 94,000 people have been killed during Syria's two-year conflict, but the death toll is likely to be as high as 120,000.” The group, known for its opposition to the Syrian regime, added that “at least 41,000 of those confirmed killed were Alawites, the sect of President Bashar al-Assad.” During several weeks leading to the vote, a gruesome video was circulating on the Internet. In the video, a leader of the Syrian opposition, whose identity was confirmed by human rights organizations and news media, was shown cutting the body of a Syrian soldier open and chewing on his internal organs while threatening the Alawite minority with the same fate. 

May 13, 2013

Turkey’s eroding reputation

    Monday, May 13, 2013   No comments
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Syrian rebel killing Syrian soldiers
It took law enforcement agencies of the United States nearly three days to identify the perpetrators of the recent terrorist bombing. It helped that the attack was in a modern city (Boston) and during a marathon event. Security cameras, spectators, and TV and media reporters on the scene helped gather evidence. Still, it took that much to identify the attackers.

In contrast, it took Turkish authorities just hours (if not minutes) to identify the perpetrators of the recent terrorist attack in Reyhanlı. Reyhanli is a remote town in the Hatay province, which borders Syria. The town did not have any security cameras and it is virtually on the edge of a war zone. The province is home to tens of thousands of refugees and thousands of Syrian rebels, many of whom are known terrorists and they have killed many Syrian civilians and bragged about it. Moreover, the attack occurred days after the announced start of PKK fighters’ withdrawal after nearly 25 years of insurgency. Despite all these circumstances, Turkish leaders immediately identified the attackers with precision:

May 9, 2013

To compete globally, BRICS nations need reputation, not imitation

    Thursday, May 09, 2013   No comments


by Ahmed E. Souaiaia* 

BRICS nations
The economic, political, and social rise of the Western block of nations was founded on the single most enduring currency: reputation. Reputation, the source of credibility and trust, is the real asset that allows the U.S. to project its stature around the world. BRICS nations cannot rise to prominence by mimicking developed countries. They must build their reputation first. Wealth is only a byproduct of this more precious commodity, and countries who have it can squander it just as emerging economies can acquire it. For either of those results to happen in any country, circumstantial conditions and principled actions must converge.

April 15, 2013

On the need to balance endowments and academic integrity

    Monday, April 15, 2013   No comments


by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

The article in The Atlantic, The Emir of NYU (MAR 13, 2013), touched on a very important issue: academic integrity. It came on the heels of the no-confidence vote NYU’s faculty in the College of Arts and Science delivered against the president, John Sexton. Sexton is renowned for creating satellite research and teaching centers around the world through a strategy he called The Global Network University. Specifically, the article pointed to the full degree-granting campus in Abu Dhabi and to faculty’s concerns “about academic freedom, diluting NYU's brand, human rights violations in Abu Dhabi, and discrimination against gay and Israeli students.”

The article did not address the critically important issue of striking a balance between the need for funding higher education and preserving academic and scientific integrity. This problem is not new. Research scholars and institutions in some STEM (exact/hard) sciences faced similar ethical and legal issues since they first took money from pharmaceuticals, agricultural companies involved in GMOs, defense industries, and government security and intelligence agencies.

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.

March 24, 2013

MESA protests UAE "Blacklisting" of Dr. Kristian Coates Ulrichsen

    Sunday, March 24, 2013   No comments

*His Excellency Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Minister of Foreign Affairs

United Arab Emirates
via fax +971 02 444 7766
Your Excellency,

I write to you on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) to register shock and deep dismay at the denial of entry into the United Arab Emirates of Dr. Kristian Coates Ulrichsen. Dr. Coates Ulrichsen is Co-Director of the Kuwait Research Programme at the London School of Economics (LSE) and an internationally recognized scholar of Gulf Arab politics. On February 22, he was on his way to a scholarly conference at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) that was jointly organized with the Middle East Centre at the LSE. The theme of the meeting was “The New Middle East: Transition in the Arab World.” His paper was entitled “Bahrain’s Uprising: Domestic Implications and Regional International Perspectives.” Immigration officials at the Dubai Airport detained him for forty-five minutes while they scrutinized his passport in detail. He was then informed that he was “blacklisted.” A representative of Emirates Air told him that he was denied entry and being sent back to London.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

On February 25, the official news agency of the UAE confirmed that Dr. Coates Ulrichsen had been denied entry because of views he has espoused in the course of his scholarly and educational work. An official statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quoted which acknowledged that Dr. Coates Ulrichsen was denied entry because he had “consistently propagated views de-legitimizing the Bahraini monarchy.” Further, the Ministry explained, “The UAE took the view that at this extremely sensitive juncture in Bahrain’s national dialogue it would be unhelpful to allow non-constructive views on the situation in Bahrain to be expressed from within another GCC state.”

Subsequently, on February 26, the police chief of Dubai, Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, told the al-Riyadh newspaper: “Kristian is not welcome here. We blocked him from entering the country to protect its security and stability from his evil ideas.” With comments such as these, the United Arab Emirates is on record as condoning the flagrant violation of basic principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression.

The provost of the AUS informed the LSE on February 21 that he had received orders from the ruler’s office that no discussion of Bahrain was permissible at the upcoming meeting. The LSE issued a statement on February 22 that announced it was calling off its participation in the meeting that it helped to organize due to “restrictions imposed on the intellectual content of the event that threatened academic freedom.” Many of the participants, including Dr. Coates Ulrichsen, were already in transit as the academic conference collapsed.

The implications of this incident are serious and far-reaching. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated, “This decision [to bar the scholar’s entry] in no way reflects the strong ties with both the AUS and LSE and their academic excellence.” Academic freedom is integral to—indeed, inseparable from—academic excellence. State intervention to silence scholarly interchange is anathema to academic freedom and, in the long run, corrosive of the overall environment for education at universities.

We ask that Dr. Coates Ulrichsen be removed from the “black list” and for assurances that he will be able to travel to the UAE free from restrictions based on the content of his scholarship. We request that you disavow the incendiary remarks of the Dubai police chief as well as the defamatory comments that are being repeated in numerous state-run outlets. We further call upon you to allow all academic conferences to proceed unhindered, whatever their topic or theme. Finally, we encourage you to pledge that no further state interference in scholarly discussion and debate will be tolerated at any university in the United Arab Emirates. These steps are necessary to quell the growing doubts in the international scholarly community about the integrity of the UAE’s numerous partnerships with foreign academic institutions to promote higher education in the Gulf.

Sincerely,

Peter Sluglett

MESA President
Visiting Research Professor, Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore

November 25, 2012

Analysis: Recognizing the new Syrian National Coalition alone will not end the war in Syria

    Sunday, November 25, 2012   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Those who doubt Lakhdar Brahimi’s assessment of the crisis in Syria ought to rethink their position. His ostensibly naïve initiative for a ceasefire over the Eid holidays might have been a brilliant maneuver that ended the existence of the Syrian National Council, the previously prominent face of the Syrian opposition. Before proposing an ambitious plan of six or one hundred points like his predecessor, Brahimi wanted to make sure that there are reliable representatives of both sides who can exert influence and control over their subordinates. After visiting Russia and China, he proposed, from Tehran, that both the opposition forces and the government stop fighting for four days.

Apparently, he wanted to test the influence of the Syrian regime backers and the political leaders of the opposition (Syrian National Council, or SNC) who accepted the ceasefire. Even the military leaders of the FSA accepted the Eid ceasefire. He was aware that for the ceasefire to hold, the opposition groups must stop fighting. It is one thing to claim control over armed groups by simply supporting their actions, but it is a different level of credible control to actually order these groups to stop fighting and see compliance on the ground. Brahimi wanted actual proof of command and control over armed groups in the form of four days of quiet.

The result was embarrassing for the so-called opposition leaders. During the four-day holidays, more car bombs exploded in crowded cities and more attacks on military checkpoints. Worse, some of the FSA groups used the quiet time to attack Kurdish neighborhoods in Aleppo and other Kurdish majority areas to bring more territory under their control. Deadly fights erupted between FSA fighters and Kurdish neighborhood protection militias, forcing the FSA groups to retreat.

November 18, 2012

Why do Arab rulers want a ceasefire in Gaza but not in Syria?

    Sunday, November 18, 2012   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Deconstructing cruelty in Arab societies
On average, over one hundred people, many of whom are civilians, have died every day in Syria for the past 20 months. The Syrian government says that it is fighting terrorists financed by Arab rulers and the Turkish Islamist government. The rebels say they are fighting a non-democratic regime. Nearly twenty other Arab rulers govern without a public mandate. The rulers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar insist that Bashar Assad step down or be removed by force because the Syrian people want him gone. Yet, they ignore the fact that the Arab peoples want them all gone, not just Assad.

For just five days now, Israel and Gaza armed groups have exchanged fire that has resulted in 70 people dead (67 Palestinians and 3 Israelis), over 600 hundred Palestinians wounded, and hundreds of homes and buildings destroyed. Since the firing of the first missile, the Arab rulers have pressed Egypt and Turkey to mediate a ceasefire and called on world leaders and international organizations to act “to stop Israeli aggression.”  The Qatari ruler, the main supplier of deadly weapons to Syrian militias, headed to Egypt to press President Morsi to help end the violence in Gaza. So what gives? Are Arab rulers finally giving up on violence and embracing peace?

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.

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