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Ed Webb

Saudi king's visit to Russia heralds shift in global power structures | World news | Th... - 1 views

  • Saudi Arabia’s King Salman opened his historic four-day visit to Moscow by signalling a new era of cooperation with Russia, but demanding that Iran, an ally of the Kremlin, end its “interference” in Middle East politics.
  • The Saudis have traditionally seen the US as its chief – if not exclusive – foreign policy partner, but changes inside the Saudi regime, as well as Saudi fears about US reliability, have left the kingdom looking to diversify into wider set of alliances.
  • The visit to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, on Thursday is the first by a ruling Saudi monarch to Moscow and is widely seen as a potential turning point in Middle East politics, and even the conduct of world oil markets.

    More than 15 cooperation agreements worth billions of pounds were signed, ranging from oil, military and space exploration, leading the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to claim the visit marked the moment when Saudi-Russian relations “reached a new qualitative level”. In one of the most remarkable deals, the Saudis said they would purchase the Russian S-400 defence system.

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  • Russia has pulled out all the diplomatic stops to welcome the Saudi king, although there was glitch when the golden escalator due to take the ageing king down the steps at Moscow airport failed to function.
Ed Webb

The myth of the 'lone wolf' terrorist | News | The Guardian - 0 views

  • The modern concept of lone-wolf terrorism was developed by rightwing extremists in the US. In 1983, at a time when far-right organisations were coming under immense pressure from the FBI, a white nationalist named Louis Beam published a manifesto that called for “leaderless resistance” to the US government. Beam, who was a member of both the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations group, was not the first extremist to elaborate the strategy, but he is one of the best known. He told his followers that only a movement based on “very small or even one-man cells of resistance … could combat the most powerful government on earth”.
  • the New York Times published a long article on the new threat headlined “New Face of Terror Crimes: ‘Lone Wolf’ Weaned on Hate”. This seems to have been the moment when the idea of terrorist “lone wolves” began to migrate from rightwing extremist circles, and the law enforcement officials monitoring them, to the mainstream. In court on charges of hate crimes in 2000, Curtis was described by prosecutors as an advocate of lone-wolf terrorism.
  • Although 9/11 was far from a typical terrorist attack, it quickly came to dominate thinking about the threat from Islamic militants. Security services built up organograms of terrorist groups. Analysts focused on individual terrorists only insofar as they were connected to bigger entities. Personal relations – particularly friendships based on shared ambitions and battlefield experiences, as well as tribal or familial links – were mistaken for institutional ones, formally connecting individuals to organisations and placing them under a chain of command.
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  • For prosecutors, who were working with outdated legislation, proving membership of a terrorist group was often the only way to secure convictions of individuals planning violence. For a number of governments around the world – Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Egypt – linking attacks on their soil to “al-Qaida” became a way to shift attention away from their own brutality, corruption and incompetence, and to gain diplomatic or material benefits from Washington. For some officials in Washington, linking terrorist attacks to “state-sponsored” groups became a convenient way to justify policies, such as the continuing isolation of Iran, or military interventions such as the invasion of Iraq. For many analysts and policymakers, who were heavily influenced by the conventional wisdom on terrorism inherited from the cold war, thinking in terms of hierarchical groups and state sponsors was comfortably familiar.
  • the threat from Islamic militancy was evolving into something different, something closer to the “leaderless resistance” promoted by white supremacists two decades earlier
  • Having identified this new threat, security officials, journalists and policymakers needed a new vocabulary to describe it. The rise of the term lone wolf wasn’t wholly unprecedented. In the aftermath of 9/11, the US had passed anti-terror legislation that included a so-called “lone wolf provision”. This made it possible to pursue terrorists who were members of groups based abroad but who were acting alone in the US. Yet this provision conformed to the prevailing idea that all terrorists belonged to bigger groups and acted on orders from their superiors. The stereotype of the lone wolf terrorist that dominates today’s media landscape was not yet fully formed.
  • Before the rise of the lone wolf, security officials used phrases – all equally flawed – such as “homegrowns”, “cleanskins”, “freelancers” or simply “unaffiliated”.
  • Lone wolves are now apparently everywhere, stalking our streets, schools and airports. Yet, as with the tendency to attribute all terrorist attacks to al-Qaida a decade earlier, this is a dangerous simplification.
  • many of the attacks that have been confidently identified as lone-wolf operations have turned out to be nothing of the sort. Very often, terrorists who are initially labelled lone wolves, have active links to established groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaida
  • we may be more likely to find lone wolves among far-right extremists than among their jihadi counterparts
  • Very often, what appear to be the clearest lone-wolf cases are revealed to be more complex. Even the strange case of the man who killed 86 people with a truck in Nice in July 2016 – with his background of alcohol abuse, casual sex and lack of apparent interest in religion or radical ideologies – may not be a true lone wolf. Eight of his friends and associates have been arrested and police are investigating his potential links to a broader network.
  • murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox, days before the EU referendum, by a 52-year-old called Thomas Mair, was the culmination of a steady intensification of rightwing extremist violence in the UK that had been largely ignored by the media and policymakers. According to police, on several occasions attackers came close to causing more casualties in a single operation than jihadis had ever inflicted. The closest call came in 2013 when Pavlo Lapshyn, a Ukrainian PhD student in the UK, planted a bomb outside a mosque in Tipton, West Midlands. Fortunately, Lapshyn had got his timings wrong and the congregation had yet to gather when the device exploded. Embedded in the trunks of trees surrounding the building, police found some of the 100 nails Lapshyn had added to the bomb to make it more lethal.
  • Thomas Mair, who was also widely described as a lone wolf, does appear to have been an authentic loner, yet his involvement in rightwing extremism goes back decades. In May 1999, the National Alliance, a white-supremacist organisation in West Virginia, sent Mair manuals that explained how to construct bombs and assemble homemade pistols. Seventeen years later, when police raided his home after the murder, they found stacks of far-right literature, Nazi memorabilia and cuttings on Anders Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who murdered 77 people in 2011.
  • Even Breivik himself, who has been called “the deadliest lone-wolf attacker in [Europe’s] history”, was not a true lone wolf. Prior to his arrest, Breivik had long been in contact with far-right organisations. A member of the English Defence League told the Telegraph that Breivik had been in regular contact with its members via Facebook, and had a “hypnotic” effect on them.
  • very few violent extremists act without letting others know what they may be planning
  • Any terrorist, however socially or physically isolated, is still part of a broader movement
  • the idea that terrorists operate alone allows us to break the link between an act of violence and its ideological hinterland. It implies that the responsibility for an individual’s violent extremism lies solely with the individual themselves
  • Terrorism is not something you do by yourself, it is highly social. People become interested in ideas, ideologies and activities, even appalling ones, because other people are interested in them
Ed Webb

The city fit for no-one - BBC News - 0 views

  • Tales of an “indiscriminate” bombing campaign, flattened buildings and hundreds of alleged civilian deaths rattled the local population.

    In June, Raqqa’s siege was completed and the US campaign was in full swing. Civilians were trapped inside with IS fighters.

    “America is a superpower. It was supposed to use laser-guided bombs and precision munitions. What did we get instead? Massive bombs, mortar rounds and countless artillery strikes. Is that how you liberate Raqqa? You’re murdering civilians instead,” Hatem says, his voice now quivering with a mix of anger and despair.

    Airwars, a group monitoring civilian deaths in Russian and US-led coalition air strikes Iraq and Syria, says that US-led forces dropped 5,775 bombs, shells and missiles in Raqqa in August alone, resulting in at least 433 likely civilian casualties.

  • the Islamic State group was quick to use civilian deaths to its own advantage and pumped one propaganda video after the other showing burnt corpses and maimed civilians.
  • “We know that for IS, the blood of civilians is very cheap. But is it the same for Americans? There was no-one operating the mortar that day. There were no IS fighters nearby even. It was there for nearly a month and their drones were flying night and day. Why bomb us? Why?”
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  • “There were 20, 30 civilians being killed every day. People were getting buried under the rubble of their own homes,” he says.

    Islamic State fighters, he says, we getting aggressive with the locals. At one point, they stopped sending bulldozers and trucks to move the rubble and rescue civilians.

    “They’d ask, ‘You want me to sacrifice the life of a brother for a corpse?’ How can you argue with animals like that?”

  • The SDF has its own sniper unit. Four foreigners, from Germany, Spain, the US and the UK.
  • IS fighters have mined the buildings and the roads, so few have been cleared.

    They’ve left motion sensors in some buildings so that when SDF forces enter, or open a cupboard door, a bomb detonates.

    Every home and workplace has been damaged. Even a captured IS weapons store has been left untouched for fear of booby traps.

  • Civilians in Raqqa, there may be as many as 20,000 in IS territory, are used as bait as well as human shields.
  • Time and time again, entire buildings are taken to kill a single fighter.

    It’s unsurprising so little of Raqqa is left. The SDF lacks the manpower to clear buildings themselves, so coalition bombs do the work.

  • IS had promised to grow a new empire from these streets. Instead, the bodies of its fighters clog the gutters.

    Every few hundred metres, there is another one. Some cut in half, some still with their weapons.

    Two men were hiding in a building doorway, but they were spotted.

    They lie dead where they stood, one, his legs sliced from his body.

    The fins of the missile that killed them stick out of the concrete pavement. There are scorch marks on at the building's entrance.

    An Arab fighter, with a skull and crossbones patch on his uniform, steps over the bodies, he has to check the building for booby traps.

  • They think it is mostly foreign fighters left inside Raqqa now. When I ask how many, most seem to agree: 400, no more.
Ed Webb

Preserving Stability Amidst Regional Conflagration: US-Jordan 2011-2016 | United States... - 1 views

  • protests in Jordan—of which there were more than eight thousand in 2011 to 2013—prompted Jordan’s king to repeatedly replace the prime minister, promise progress on political reforms, and seek international assistance to mitigate Jordanians’ discontent with economic and fiscal policies
  • Authorities amplified border security, security force training, and intelligence to mitigate external and internal threats, and Jordan joined the fight against ISIS launched by the United States after ISIS captured territory in Iraq. Despite a handful of terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016 and copious external and internal challenges, Jordan has remained largely stable, due in part to US support.
  • To help Jordan respond to new challenges required increased US assistance: the number of personnel at US Embassy Amman grew by nearly 75 percent between 2010 and 2016. The United States provided substantial economic and military support to Jordan, and all 3Ds mobilized assistance to refugees and host communities in northern Jordan. The US Department of Defense (DOD) and State Department (State) helped Jordanian forces reinforce border security and manage refugee inflows, and bulked up military training and equipment transfers to Jordanian counterparts. The 3Ds also worked closely together and with the Jordanian government to move assistance across the Syrian border, sparing many Syrians from having to flee to Jordan to meet basic needs.
Ed Webb

Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart - The New York Times - 0 views

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    An excellent account of the MENA region's torments since 9/11. Highly recommended
Ed Webb

They can't sail for Europe - so what's happening to migrants trapped in Libya? | Middle... - 0 views

  • the group were first taken to an official centre in Zawiya. “There were 1,200 of us, stacked in hundreds in each room,” she says. “We were so tight that we could not lie down, we had to take turns to sleep."
  • “Once we were inside the detention centre, they started to blackmail us. They used the phones they had taken away to contact our friends in Libya and ask for money in exchange for our release or else directly called our relatives, threatening to kill us if they did not find a way to send money."
  • Libya has become the preferred destination for migrants and refugees heading for Europe. In the first half of 2017, at least 2,030 people died or went missing while crossing the Mediterranean for southern Europe. The greatest number set off from Libya.
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  • armed Libyan groups are receiving payoffs to stop boats leaving Libya, in exchange for aid, aircraft hangars and money
  • Laura Thompson of the International Organisation for Migration told AFP on Wednesday that there “are somewhere around 31 or 32 detention centres, and around half are controlled by, or are in the areas controlled by, the government”. She said that nobody knew how many people were being kept in the facilities, where conditions were "extremely bad”.
  • illegal facilities, directly run by armed militias involved in human trafficking and fuel smuggling, often with the complicity of members of the coastguard service
  • Male captives are frequently beaten until they can somehow get relatives to send more money to Libya, or else set to work in factories or oil refineries. Women may end up being trafficked sexually.
  • a UNICEF report released in February, "detention centres run by militias are nothing but forced labour camps, armed robbery prisons. For thousands of migrant women and children, prison is a hell of rape, violence, sexual exploitation, hunger, and repeated abuses."
  • "Europeans think the problem in Libya is politics,” he says, “but we cannot build a government of national unity without a national army."
  • “When the centres are overflowing, migrants are taken out, there is no money to feed them all,” Ibrahim says. “Some guards are good people, but some of them are corrupt.”

    He hints at the tangled relationship which exists between centre personnel, smugglers, militia and human traffickers, which pass desperate migrants between themselves like a resaleable human commodity.

    The guards at detention centres may take money from the traffickers, then hand the migrants over.

    Or smugglers tip off the coastguard when their migrants are due to sail to Europe so that they will be captured and passed to militias.

    Or militias will seize migrants in the streets on the grounds that they do not carry the necessary documentation, a requirement in Libya. “They pretend to arrest illegal migrants and then keep them in their centres without food and water, take their money, exploit them, abuse women,” Ibrahim says.

  • The coastguard has repeatedly denied that its members are involved in the people-trafficking trade.

    But a UN report has found that:

    "Abuses against migrants were widely reported, including executions, torture and deprivation of food, water and access to sanitation. The International Organisation for Migration also reported enslavement of sub-Saharan migrants. Smugglers, as well as the Department to Counter Illegal Migration and the coastguard, are directly involved in such grave human rights violations."

  • Happiness and Bright's mother - I am never told her name - took all the money that their families could spare, then crossed the Sahara, reached the Libyan coast and paid smugglers to take them to Europe. It was then they were captured and brought to Surman.

    Happiness says that her friend became ill after Bright was born but received no medical aid. “Now her body is in the nearby hospital. It can’t be sent back to her family. She lost her documents at sea, and her family does not have the money to send the corpse.”

  • “They use us as slaves, and when we are no longer needed, they throw us away,” he says. "Humanitarian organisations do not come here. Sometimes some locals come to us with soap and bread. But no international."
  • She too crossed the Sahara, this time to escape Boko Haram. She was determined that her children would not grow up afraid, fearing every day that they would die.

    "I do not care if they [the coastguards] have stopped me, I will try again," she says, looking at her newborn children. "I know it's dangerous. Nigeria is also dangerous. If war does not kill you, hunger will kill you, and here we are prisoners, the same hell. It's worth trying to cross the sea again.”

    Princess has yet to learn: she will be lucky to escape Libya.

Ed Webb

Making a Killing - OCCRP - 0 views

  • Since the outbreak of war in Syria, weapons from Central and Eastern Europe have flooded the conflict zone through two distinct pipelines – one sponsored by Saudi Arabia and coordinated by the CIA, and the other funded and directed by the Pentagon.

    A series of investigations by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) have brought to light these multi-billion-dollar weapons deliveries -- exposing the misleading and potentially illegal documents on which they rely, the shady dealers at its heart of the trade, and the governments that have profited from the war.

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    Detailed reports on arms pipelines into Syria
Ed Webb

IRIN | What can save Mali? - 0 views

  • Koufa fought in northern Mali with Ansar Dine and allied jihadist groups in 2012, rapidly overrunning the region’s main towns. He then led his men south. That advance, threatening Bamako, triggered a French and African Union intervention that scattered his forces.

    Koufa re-emerged in 2015 as the head of the newly-founded Macina Liberation Front (FLM), a movement that seeks the revival of the 19th century Macina Empire, a Fulani-led Islamic state based in the central Mopti and Segou regions of present-day Mali.

  • community tensions, especially between Fulani pastoralists and Bambara farmers over land and access to pasture. The Bambara have turned to government-backed Dozo self-defence militia
  • Central Mali has taken over from the north as the country’s most lethal region.
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  • Abuses fuel FLM recruitment. It has adopted AQIM’s playbook of taking advantage of a weak state by embedding within the local community, listening to their problems, and fashioning its message accordingly.

    "Hamadoun Koufa came [to Mopti] preaching about the government. He said he would help, not the government," explained Amadou Thiam, a Fulani opposition politician.

    “In many villages, the jihadists appear to be replacing the state actors responsible for addressing banditry; for responding to common crime, marital and family disputes; and for ensuring community reconciliation,” said Corinne Dufka, HRW’s West Africa director.

  • successive southern-based Malian governments have failed to stamp their authority in the north, where the population is relatively small and conditions extremely harsh.
  • the only visitors to Timbuktu these days are UN soldiers and a smattering of aid workers and government officials. In the vast northern desert beyond the city, jihadist groups hold sway
  • The West’s concern is the transnational threat of jihadism. Some Malian groups have links with Boko Haram in Nigeria, and AQIM last year launched attacks on Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire. Neighbouring Senegal is concerned it could be next.

  • The north is now splintered as competing groups emerge – some narrowly ethnic, others backing the jihadists. The government has fallen back on an old model of corrupt payoffs and the use of local proxies to manage the conflict
  • Timbuktu was held by the Tuareg-dominated Ansar Dine for several months in 2012. They imposed a stringent, alien version of Islamic law in what is a traditionally moderate country. Centuries-old Sufi shrines and Islamic manuscripts, cultural treasures on which Timbuktu’s fame is based, were destroyed
  • Northern Mali has been a stronghold for jihadists since 2003, when Algeria’s Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, fleeing a government clampdown, escaped across the border. Key to the militants’ survival was a tacit agreement with the Malian military and state officials that largely left them alone.

    In 2012 they made common cause with the Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad. The rebellion relaunched longstanding separatist demands for the secession of the neglected north.

    But soon after the independence of “Azawad” was proclaimed, the MNLA was under attack by Ansar Dine and a coalition of jihadist fighters, determined to impose an extreme version of shariah law in the north.

  • The scruffy Malian soldiers tasked with jointly securing the city with the UN peacekeeping force, MINUSMA, seem marooned, vulnerable and disconnected from any notion of nation-building. They don’t always show up for the nightly joint patrols they are supposed to undertake.
  • is a 13,817-strong, $933 million operation.

    Among its contributors are European countries that have brought a level of sophistication – including drones, special forces, and intelligence cells – few other UN missions possess.

    But it is also the UN’s most dangerous mission, with 118 peacekeepers killed since 2013.

  • the West’s strategic interests clearly go beyond countering extremism to include policing the migration routes from sub-Saharan Africa to the Mediterranean
  • corruption has eroded popular support for successive administrations, and added to the resilience of Mali’s overlapping conflicts
  • In March, the extremists created their own coalition, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wa al-Muslimin (the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims, or JNIM). It fuses AQIM, Ansar Dine, and FLM, and is led by Ag Ghali. It excludes a small faction that has sided with the so-called Islamic State.
Ed Webb

U.S. military apologizes for 'highly offensive' leaflets it distributed in Afghanistan ... - 0 views

  • The image shows a lion chasing a white dog that is meant to represent the flag of Taliban insurgents, which is white with the Shahada printed at the center. The Times obtained a copy of the leaflet from an Afghan official in Parwan.

    The Shahada, the most common recitation of faith for Muslims, states, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.”

    Local officials in Parwan complained Tuesday night to the provincial governor, prompting a phone call to U.S. military officials in Kabul and at Bagram air base in Parwan.

    “It’s an insult to Islam,” said Waheeda Shakhar, spokeswoman for the Parwan governor. “It’s very sensitive that the Shahada is written on a dog, so it must be investigated.”

  • U.S. forces have been at war in Afghanistan for nearly 16 years, yet still find themselves tripping over cultural sensitivities
  • “The foreign forces don’t have any idea of what are the values of the Afghan people,” Shaheer said. “They’ve hired some interpreters and advisors who only know how to speak English, make money and gain trust, but really are strangers to the real values of the local people.”
Ed Webb

This bombast from Trumpland was a gift to the Iranian government | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • Rouhani has maintained one of the most diverse political coalitions in the history of the Islamic Republic – over the duration of two election campaigns and four years in office. Now the hostile deceit from Haley and her fellow Trump administration foreign policy hawks is incentivising Iran’s disparate political factions to further strengthen ties around the shared goal of resisting and surviving American aggression
  • Haley’s screed is yet another example of bombast from Trumpland that Iranian officials can use to deflect domestic political pressure by shifting the onus of US-Iran conflict onto Washington. To that end, the growing unity amongst political elites on the issue of American aggression is also matched by increasing cohesion between state and society.
  • If Washington kills the deal, Iranians will not blame their leaders because they can correctly accuse the Trump administration for reigniting a nuclear conflict that was resolved two years ago.
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  • Political unity intact, state-society relations improved, blame shifted to the United States, rally-around-the-flag nationalism on the rise – and the Iranian government did not have to lift a finger to produce this favourable outcome. Decision-makers in Tehran may not be strategic masters, but they are masterful at taking advantage of America’s self-inflicted wounds.
  • America killing the deal will likely reduce nuclear, financial and geopolitical constraints on Iran at little cost to its political elite. If Trump’s team wants to allow Tehran to have its cake and eat it too, Iranian officials will gladly oblige.
Ed Webb

A Funeral of 2 Friends: C.I.A. Deaths Rise in Secret Afghan War - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • there are at least 18 stars on that wall representing the number of C.I.A. personnel killed in Afghanistan — a tally that has not been previously reported, and one that rivals the number of C.I.A. operatives killed in the wars in Vietnam and Laos nearly a half century ago
  • Since 2001, as thousands of C.I.A. officers and contractors have cycled in and out of Afghanistan targeting terrorists and running sources, operatives from the Special Activities Division have been part of some of the most dangerous missions. Overall, the division numbers in the low hundreds and also operates in Somalia, Iraq, the Philippines and other areas of conflict.

    C.I.A. paramilitary officers from the division were the first Americans in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, and they later spirited Hamid Karzai, the future president, into the country. Greg Vogle, an agency operative who took Mr. Karzai into Afghanistan, went on to run the paramilitary division and became the top spy at the C.I.A.

    The first American killed in the country, Johnny Micheal Spann, was a C.I.A. officer assigned to the Special Activities Division. He died in November 2001 during a prison uprising.

  • the C.I.A. helped build the Afghan intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security, which has long faced accusations of torturing suspected militants.
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  • paramilitary officers from the Special Activities Division have trained and advised a small army of Afghan militias known as counterterrorism pursuit teams. The militias took on greater importance under President Barack Obama, who embraced covert operations because of their small footprint and deniability.
  • The C.I.A. also spent more than a decade financing a slush fund for Mr. Karzai. Every month, agency officers would drop off cash in suitcases, backpacks and even plastic shopping bags. Mr. Karzai’s aides would use the cash to run a vast patronage network, paying off warlords, lawmakers and others they wanted to keep on their side.

    The slush fund, which was exposed in 2013, was seen by many American diplomats and other officials and experts as fueling the rampant corruption that has undermined the American effort to build a functioning democracy in Afghanistan.

  • The ranks of C.I.A. operatives aren’t easily replaced, said Mr. Stiles, the former counterterrorism analyst.

    “That’s going to be one of the challenges for the government,’’ he said. “How do we maintain the level of experience and expertise in a war that is going to last for another 20 or 30 years or longer?”

Ed Webb

Two New Books Spotlight the History and Consequences of the Suez Crisis - The New York ... - 0 views

  • The Eisenhower administration relied on the advice of officials who admired Nasser as a nationalist and anti-Communist: a secular modernizer, the long hoped-for “Arab Ataturk.” The most important and forceful of the Nasser admirers was Kermit Roosevelt, the C.I.A. officer who had done so much in 1953 to restore to power in Iran that other secular modernizer, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
  • To befriend Nasser, the Eisenhower administration suggested a big increase in economic and military aid; pressed Israel to surrender much of the Negev to Egypt and Jordan; supported Nasser’s demand that the British military vacate the canal zone; and clandestinely provided Nasser with much of the equipment — and many of the technical experts — who built his radio station Voice of the Arabs into the most influential propaganda network in the Arab-speaking world.
  • Offers of aid were leveraged by Nasser to extract better terms from the Soviet Union, his preferred military partner. Pressure on Israel did not impress Nasser, who wanted a permanent crisis he could exploit to mobilize Arab opinion behind him. Forcing Britain out of the canal zone in the mid-50s enabled Nasser to grab the canal itself in 1956. Rather than use his radio network to warn Arabs against Communism, Nasser employed it to inflame Arab opinion against the West’s most reliable regional allies, the Hashemite monarchies, helping to topple Iraq’s regime in 1958 and very nearly finishing off Jordan’s.
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  • Eisenhower’s humiliation of Britain and France in the Suez crisis of November 1956 weakened two allies — without gaining an iota of good will from Arab nationalists. Rather than cooperate with the United States against the Soviet Union, the Arab world’s new nationalist strongmen were transfixed by their rivalries with one another
  • the deepest drivers of the Arab and Muslim states, namely their rivalries with each other for power and authority
  • “The Middle East is in the throes of an historical crisis, a prolonged period of instability. American policy can exacerbate or ameliorate the major conflicts, but . . . in the Middle East, it is prudent to assume that the solution to every problem will inevitably generate new problems. Like Sisyphus, the United States has no choice but to push the boulder up a hill whose pinnacle remains forever out of reach.”
  • The grand conspiracy was doomed to fail. The canal was blocked for months, causing a crippling oil shortage in Europe. The Arab-Israeli conflict worsened, and the Muslim world was inflamed against its old overlords in the West with lasting consequences. The botched invasion occurred just as the Soviet Union was crushing a rebellion in Hungary, its Eastern bloc satellite. When the Kremlin, seeing the opportunity to divert international attention from its own outrages, issued a letter widely interpreted as a threat to attack London and Paris with nuclear weapons, the great powers seemed for an instant to be lurching toward World War III.

    The turmoil and danger created by the Suez crisis and the Hungarian rebellion have largely faded from popular memory.

  • he was not well. “His flashes of temper and fragile nerves led some to wonder about his genetic inheritance,” von Tunzelmann writes. “His baronet father had been such an extreme eccentric — complete with episodes of ‘uncontrolled rages,’ falling to the floor, biting carpets and hurling flowerpots through plate-glass windows — that even the Wodehousian society of early-20th-century upper-class England had noticed something was up.”

    As prime minister, Sir Anthony took to calling ministers in the middle of the night to ask if they had read a particular newspaper article. “My nerves are already at breaking point,” he told his civil servants. In October 1956, he collapsed physically for a few days. According to one of his closest aides, he used amphetamines as well as heavy painkillers, and a Whitehall official said he was “practically living on Benzedrine.”

  • About two-thirds of Europe’s oil was transported through the canal; Nasser had his “thumb on our windpipe,” Eden fumed. Eden made Nasser “a scapegoat for all his problems: the sinking empire, the sluggish economy, the collapse of his reputation within his party and his dwindling popularity in the country at large,”
  • Eisenhower was not always well served by the rhetoric of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles or the machinations of his brother, Allen Dulles, the director of central intelligence. And Eisenhower had a temper. “Bombs, by God,” he shouted when the British began striking Egyptian air fields. “What does Anthony think he’s doing? Why is he doing this to me?” But Eisenhower was shrewd and he could be coldly calculating. Understanding that the British would need to buy American oil, he quietly put Britain into a financial squeeze, forcing Eden to back off the invasion.
  • the take-away from von Tunzelmann’s book is obvious: When it comes to national leadership in chaotic times, temperament matters.
Ed Webb

Kushner's Middle East trip could help boost Arab cover for Israeli-Palestinia... - 0 views

  • Jared Kushner's first solo trip to the Middle East ended with no clear progress in the US pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace, although the widening gap between the two parties could be overcome by an intensified push for regional support, according to a former Washington intermediary. 
  • “If the Trump administration can show how it will counter or contain the Iranians in very practical terms,” he said, that “can be used to draw the Arabs into a more active role in  peacemaking”.

    He noted that Arab countries would still require “a move from the Israelis toward the Palestinians that they could point to as a way of justifying any outreach to Israel.”

  • “simply resuming negotiations without no understandings will produce nothing but talks that go nowhere. Given the level of disbelief and cynicism, that is the last thing that is needed.”
Ed Webb

Omani foreign minister meets Tillerson as Washington seeks channel to Tehran ... - 0 views

  • “The Trump administration, just like the Obama administration before it, may have come to recognise Oman's pragmatic relationship with Iran as a policy asset,” said Sigurd Neubauer, a non-resident fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

    “Oman is able to have a pragmatic relationship with Iran because of its historic relationship with the US,” he noted, being a “strategic ally for nearly two centuries, and one of two GCC countries (along with Bahrain) to enjoy a free-trade agreement with the United States.”

Ed Webb

The Lights Are Going Out in the Middle East | The New Yorker - 0 views

  • The Middle East, though energy-rich, no longer has enough electricity. From Beirut to Baghdad, tens of millions of people now suffer daily outages, with a crippling impact on businesses, schools, health care, and other basic services, including running water and sewerage
  • With the exception of the Gulf states, infrastructure is old or inadequate in many of the twenty-three Arab countries. The region’s disparate wars, past and present, have damaged or destroyed electrical grids. Some governments, even in Iraq, can’t afford the cost of fuelling plants around the clock. Epic corruption has compounded physical challenges. Politicians have delayed or prevented solutions if their cronies don’t get contracts to fuel, maintain, or build power plants
  • movement of refugees has further strained equipment. Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt, already struggling, have each taken in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees since 2011. The frazzled governor of Erbil, Nawzad Hadi Mawlood, told me that Iraq’s northern Kurdistan—home to four million Kurds—has taken in almost two million displaced Iraqis who fled the Islamic State since 2014, as well as more than a hundred thousand refugees fleeing the war in neighboring Syria since 2011. Kurdistan no longer has the facilities, fuel, or funds to provide power. It averages between nine and ten hours a day, a senior technician in Kurdistan’s power company told me, although it’s worse in other parts of Iraq.

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  • In Lebanon, Moustafa Baalbaki, a young software engineer, tried to help people cope with outages by developing the cell-phone app Beirut Electricity, which does what the government doesn’t: it forecasts power cuts in the capital—and sends alerts ten minutes before the power goes out.

Ed Webb

The Siege of Doha « LobeLog - 0 views

  • Despite all the onerous sanctions that the US has imposed against Iran over the years, which verge on economic warfare, there has never been a formal restriction on sales of food or medicine, including by US companies. The Saudi-UAE boycott, however, closed off food and medicine shipments to Qatar wherever possible, in the middle of Ramadan. I don’t know if this technically constitutes a breach of international humanitarian law, but it is certainly drastic by modern standards of political conflict.
  • it is striking that the attacks on dissident forces in Yemen have employed the same tactics. Access to food and medicine have been denied routinely in the name of military expediency, reducing the population to near starvation and subject to outbreaks of cholera and other epidemics
  • In political and social terms, these demands are more stringent than the documents of surrender that the United States and its coalition allies imposed against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq at Safwan in 1991 after one of the greatest defeats in military history. There was no attempt to dictate to the Iraqis what they could say, or what they could believe, or who they could have as friends. This appears to be the equivalent of regime change, even if that is not the stated intention.
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  • in light of the background and history of the ultra-wealthy Arab Gulf kingdoms, it is very difficult to accept at face value this newfound determination to defeat terrorism by humiliating a smaller neighbor whose differences consist primarily of alternative choices of distasteful proxies
  • the Saudi-UAE siege appears to be a reckless act of coercion by two of the largest and wealthiest states in the region against a smaller, but also vastly wealthy state that chose an alternative political path. It has split the Gulf Cooperation Council down the center and seems to be signaling that membership in this club implies not cooperation so much as unswerving obedience to the Saudi metropole. That goes beyond a mere dynastic spat between rival domains and raises serious questions about the future of the institution itself
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