Skip to main content

Home/ Groups/ International Politics of the Middle East
Ed Webb

Armenians in Syria and Lebanon: Displaced again | The Economist - 0 views

  • Hagop looked bewildered when asked if he had heard of such a massacre. He says no one was killed—a statement repeated by Anjar’s mayor, Sarkis Pamboukian.

    The Armenians accuse an old foe for their woes. Scenes of mass panic on the day the town fell were sparked largely by rumours of a Turkish invasion, reopening wounds in the collective memory of the Armenians, victims of what is widely recognised as a genocide at the Turks’ hands in 1915. “I heard explosions, so I called friends, who said there was an attack from the Turkish border,” says Hagop.

    No Turkish invasion materialised, but Anjar’s residents are adamant their historic adversaries were the masterminds behind the attack. “This is a continuation of Turkey’s project to take Kassab,” says Mr Pamboukian. “The rebels couldn’t have entered without their [Turkey’s] permission,” says Hagop, repeating claims made by non-Armenians too. Turkey’s foreign ministry says the accusations are “entirely baseless”.

    There are around 100,000 Armenians in Syria, which has been a safe haven for minorities and displaced people including thousands of Palestinians, who are now finding themselves uprooted once more. Partly for this reason, Syrian Armenians and their Lebanese brethren in Anjar share quiet support for Syria’s Assad regime. 

Ed Webb

Petro-aggression: How Russia's oil makes war more likely - 0 views

  • A Russian natural gas embargo is a trick that can probably only be pulled once (not unlike the 1973 oil embargo).  So in a sense, European dependence on Russian energy does not imply short-term vulnerability – except that European policymakers’ perceptions of vulnerability can become its own reality.
  • Russia’s resource curse.  Russia’s energy revenues (from both oil and gas) have ensconced Vladimir Putin as an autocrat and given him a free hand in foreign policy.  Russia is so heavily dependent on its energy revenues that it is a classic petrostate, making it more susceptible to corruption, autocracy and violent conflict.
  • Russia’s incursion into Crimea can be seen as a close cousin of petro-aggression.  A state is more likely to instigate international conflict when it has a combination of (a) oil income and (b) a leader with aggressive preferences.  A lot more likely: 250 percent more military conflict than a typical non-petrostate, on average.  Oil income means more military spending, increasing the state’s scope for potential conflicts.  Even more importantly, it distorts the domestic politics of the state, reducing the leader’s domestic political risk from military adventurism and aggressive foreign policy.
  • ...2 more annotations...
  • Here lies the real risk of Europe’s energy situation: So long as it continues to buy Russian oil and gas, it is sending massive amounts of cash to a neighboring dictator.  By keeping the taps on, Putin consolidates his power as Russian dictator.
  • Diversifying away from fossil fuels would bring security benefits (in addition to some obvious environmental ones), in part by reducing the money sent to petrostates like Russia.
Ed Webb

US-Russia confrontation could drift to Mideast - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 1 views

  • The Middle East offers many opportunities for Putin to combine business with pleasure in challenging the United States. Consider its tumultuous strategic environment: a civil war in Syria, a potential civil war in Libya, ongoing political instability in Egypt and Iraq, simmering violence in Yemen, and political uncertainty almost everywhere else. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are deeply engaged in Syria’s war, as are Iran and Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia and Egypt (among others) are frustrated with the United States — the former over Syria and the latter over America’s intervention in its complex politics, where Washington seems to have been on almost every side at one point or another and has consequently alienated almost all sides. Uncertainty about Iran’s intentions further complicates all of this, as does a weakened relationship between the United States and Israel (where Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman appears to be one of Putin’s closer personal contacts among foreign officials). Meanwhile, China has surpassed the United States as the largest buyer of Middle East oil even as broader China-Middle East trade soars. Expanded Russian arms sales — or new Russian nuclear power plants — may only further destabilize the region.
  • Saudi Arabia and Syria are Russia’s principal security concerns in the Middle East; Moscow’s pre-eminent security interest is in minimizing its own domestic terrorism problem, which means supporting a strong Syrian government that can crack down on extremists and discouraging Saudi and other financial support, whether official or otherwise, for al-Qaeda-connected opposition groups in Syria and extremists in the former Soviet Union. Russia has long viewed Saudi Arabia and Qatar as key sources of support for Chechen militia groups and two Russian operatives were convicted in Qatar in 2004 for assassinating former Chechen leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiev to cut short his fund-raising activity there.
  • The Kremlin’s position as a veto-wielding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and its resulting place at the table in the P5+1 process, have been an enduring source of international visibility and influence only recently surpassed by Russia’s Syria role. Moscow also appreciates Iran’s restraint in the former Soviet region and, as a result, sees it as a valuable partner in managing Saudi Arabia. Fundamentally, however, some Russian officials have a conflicted attitude toward Iran, in that they welcome diplomacy as an alternative to US-led war or regime change, but are not especially eager for a US-Iran rapprochement that could undermine Tehran’s interest in their relationship.
Ed Webb

Peace talks could benefit from implementing previous agreements - Al-Monitor: the Pulse... - 0 views

  • Ahmed Qurei does not make do with twiddling his thumbs while waiting for the American rabbit to appear, all the while praying that the hat holds up until the longed-for day arrives. He suggests using the time to rebuild trust between the parties. Such trust should inject optimism into the heart of the Palestinian public by letting people know that the end of the occupation is near.

    To do that, there is no need for any negotiations or even the formulation of new agreements. Kerry will be able to free himself to deal with the crisis in Ukraine, the negotiations with Iran and maybe even a concerted effort to end the bloodshed in Syria. All that is needed is to go to the archives and pull out two or three documents bearing the signatures of various Israeli prime ministers, including the present one, dust them off and implement them. Fulfilling the existing agreements could completely change the skeptical and even gloomy mood hanging over the diplomatic negotiations. The United States, which was an active partner in formulating these documents and which provided them with its imprimatur, cannot absolve itself from them.

  • Today, Areas A and B cover less than 40% of the West Bank.
  • Instead of pouring money into isolated settlements whose very existence under Israeli sovereignty contradicts the two-state solution, the government should pass an evacuation-compensation law, which will allow tens of thousands of those settlers to return to Israeli territory.
  • ...1 more annotation...
  • A new survey conducted in late 2013 by the Macro Center for Political Economics in cooperation with the organization Blue and White Future discovered that 28.8% of the approximately 100,000 residents of isolated settlements east of the separation wall — or about 30,000 people — have expressed an interest in being evacuated in exchange for compensation, even before a diplomatic agreement is reached. The survey also found that the region whose residents show the greatest willingness (43.1%) to be evacuated before a diplomatic agreement is reached is the Jordan Valley and the northern shores of the Dead Sea, the very area that the Israeli right wants to annex.
Ed Webb

Iran and World Powers Resume Nuclear Talks as Tensions Rise Over Ukraine Crisis - 0 views

  • Iran and six world powers are meeting in Vienna Tuesday resuming talks over Tehran's disputed nuclear program aiming to reach a comprehensive agreement by mid-July. However, tension between western countries and Russia over events in Ukraine and Crimea's succession vote on Sunday, which overwhelmingly approved reunification with Russia, may threaten the second round of talks.
  • disagreements between the permanent U.N. Security Council member states may reduce pressure on Iran to make a deal
Ed Webb

Iran 'thwarts nuclear sabotage attempts' - Middle East - Al Jazeera English - 0 views

  • "Several cases of industrial sabotage have been neutralized in the past few months before achieving the intended damage, including sabotage at a part of the IR-40 facility at Arak."
Ed Webb

Former Obama officials propose talking with Iran on Syria aid | The Back Channel - 0 views

  • Amid deepening US-Russia strains over Ukraine, two former Obama administration officials say it may be time for the US to explore trying to develop a channel with Iran to discuss Syria, beginning with humanitarian relief.
  • “My bottom line sense with the Iranians is there’s hope for a US-Iran conversation [on Syria humanitarian aid] that is a serious and potentially productive one,” Frederic Hof, a former senior US diplomat advising the Obama administration on Syria and the Levant, told Al-Monitor.in an interview last week.

    In track 2 conversations with Iranians that Hof has been involved in, “the people I talk to are blunt:  they are not interested in talking about a [Syria] political transition,” Hof, now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said. “They need Assad and regime support to Hezbollah in Lebanon as Iran’s first line of defense against Israel and the possibility of an Israeli air assault on their nuclear facilities.”

  • Those “in charge of the US role in the P5+1 will absolutely oppose any kind of cross -pollination or discussion about Syria. So it takes a decision almost at the highest level,” to try to pursue a Syria channel with Iran.
  • ...1 more annotation...
  • Hof said he raised with Iranian interlocutors in track 2 talks the prospect of a scenario in which a “Srebrenica-style moment” occurred in Syria, as the Iran and the P5+1 were advancing a nuclear deal. A scenario in which “your client does something so outrageous, that it inspires POTUS to do what he declined to do in August or September,” Hof said. “To the extent you guys are serious on the nuclear front, what does that do to that progress?” Hof asked his Iranian interlocutors. “And they looked at one another and shrugged, because their attitude is, Assad is not the most reliable guy in the world.”
Ed Webb

Syrian women refugees humiliated, exploited in Turkey - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Mi... - 0 views

  • Women refugees from Syria are being sexually harassed by employers, landlords and even aid distributors in Lebanon, reported Human Rights Watch Nov. 27, 2013. The organization “interviewed a dozen women who described being groped, harassed and pressured to have sex.”

    According to Dima, young Syrian women are facing the same difficulties in Turkey, including early marriages, abuse and even prostitution. She personally knows of many Syrian girls who were forced to marry older Turkish men for money. This mainly happens in families where there is no father or older brother to support them financially. Young Syrian women, therefore, are becoming the most vulnerable citizens, many of them having lost everything during the war and struggling to survive.

    Although Turkey is arguably one of the best countries to be a Syrian refugee, gender-related problems are on the rise, a female employee of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Turkey, who wished to remain anonymous, told Al-Monitor.

    “Especially in the camps and in villages, women are suffering. A lot of 15- or 16-year-olds are forced to marry because it provides financial stability and protection," she said. “Parents think that this is the best option, but in fact it causes a lot more problems, because they don’t know the future husband that well."

    She also mentioned that because of the lack of room inside refugees' houses and tents, domestic violence, including sexual violence, is rising as well. She has heard about several recent cases of men abusing their wives and older brothers sexually harassing their sisters.

  • Early and forced marriages are happening in all the neighboring countries where Syrian refugees are seeking safety. However, it is also part of their traditions to marry early, the United Nations reported. A study concluded that 44% of Syrian refugees identified the normal age of marriage for girls between 15 and 17 years. For example, in camps like Za’atari, in Jordan, girls as young as 14 are being married off, fearing attacks in the world’s second-largest refugee camp.
  • Most of the young Syrian refugees marry out of a sense of duty to their parents. The parents are struggling to cope financially with immense hardships caused by the war, and the daughter sacrifices herself by agreeing to marry. 

    “In Syria, I would have never allowed it. But here … Well, it is really hard to be a Syrian woman over here," Zeina said.

    The sense of humiliation for Syrian families struggling to survive is inescapable.

    “Please don’t judge us," Zeina pleaded.

Ed Webb

New Ethiopian dam flares tensions over water access | Mada Masr - 0 views

  • Ethiopian media said that the country's government finished plans to establish a second main dam on the Nile, irrespective of the rising tensions with Egyptian authorities.

    “Members of the left-wing of Ethiopia's ruling party are accusing the US of disturbing the balance in the region by supplying Egypt with F16 jets, as well as millions of dollars in military aid, which gave Egypt the courage to pressure the rest of the Nile Basin countries,” the Somalian Sun reported according to Al-Masry Al-Youm.

    “There’s no need to acquire Egypt’s approval for establishing any dams in Ethiopia since Egypt previously established the High Dam without Ethiopia’s approval,” the newspaper added.

  • The 6,000-megawatt Renaissance Dam, which heads a 63-billion cubic meter reservoir, is expected to generate three times the electricity generated by the Aswan High Dam and hold twice the amount of water held in Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest lake.
1 - 20 of 1761 Next › Last »
Showing 20 items per page