The Sisi Doctrine | Foreign Policy

Once again, Israeli and Palestinian diplomats are in Cairo. This time, though, the two sides won’t even talk to each other. Instead, Egyptians shuttle back and forth between individual meetings, playing a high-stakes game of telephone. A short-term cease-fire is secured, for now. The pursuit of a longer-term truce continues.

The Egyptians should be seen as an unreliable mediator. Even before the latest war in Gaza started, the current government in Cairo had made its antipathy toward Hamas abundantly clear. But in this recurring cycle of cease-fires and violence, Egypt remains the only realistic choice for mediation. The question is whether the Arab world’s most populous country can turn the immutable realities of geography — Egypt borders both Israel and Gaza — into a durable diplomatic success. It won’t be easy. The Egyptians will have to reach beyond coercion — their favorite tactic. [Read more]

Iran’s Drinking Problem | The Daily Beast

Islam forbids the drinking of alcohol and the Islamic Republic of Iran has very tough laws against buying, selling and consuming it. Very tough. According to Article 265 of the new Islamic Penal Code adopted in 2013, drinking alcohol is punishable by 80 lashes, regardless of whether the offender is a man or a woman.  Yet the threat of such cruel penalties has not managed to reduce the popularity of drinking alcohol, particularly among young people, or its dramatic abuse by a stunning number of alcoholics.

Indeed, Iran has one of the most serious alcohol problems in the world. Although it ranks number 166 in alcohol consumption per capita, if you look at the World Health Organization estimates for people who drink 35 liters or more alcohol over the course of a year, the country comes in at 19th in the world. In other words, the number of alcoholics per capita puts Iran ahead of Russia (ranked 30), Germany (83), Britain (95), the United States (104) and Saudi Arabia (184). [Read more]

ISIS becomes a catalyst for reviving Sunni moderation | Al Arabiya

The events in Iraq this week may represent the beginning of a new approach in Saudi-Iranian ties, with the removal of the obstacle represented by Nouri al-Maliki, and the deal to appoint Haidar Abadi as prime minister to form a consensus, non-exclusionary government in Iraq. This is an important step that opens up the possibility of Iraq serving as a gateway to broader agreements not only within the country, but also to regional agreements, specifically regards Saudi-Iranian relations. But this is one step rather than a comprehensive strategy to transform this bilateral relationship. The path to that is long, and mutual trust will not be borne suddenly out of the Iraqi womb as soon as the Maliki obstacle is removed or an agreement is reached to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its terrorism. It is also hoped that events in Iraq over the past few weeks, from ISIS’s onslaught to Maliki’s theatrics, are not part of a tactical ploy by a certain party or a group of parties. Tactics do not amount to a strategy after all, and are sometimes deliberately deceptive, using temporary surprises while continuing preparations to revive the original strategy. [Read more]

Think ISIS Is on the Ropes? Don’t Count on it. | Slate

About two weeks ago, with their advance into more heavily Shiite areas of southern Iraq seeming to slow, ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, shocked the world by launching its first major offensive against areas controlled by Kurdish forces, capturing several towns as well as the critical Mosul Dam and advancing toward the Kurdish capital, Erbil.

Judging by the events of the past few days, that appears to have been a serious miscalculation. What appeared to be an impending massacre of stranded Yazidi civilians combined with a direct threat to American interests in Kurdistan finally prompted the direct military intervention that the Obama administration had seemingly been doing everything possible to avoid. Kurdish and Iraqi forces now appear to have recaptured the dam—or nearly recaptured it—thanks in large part to U.S. airstrikes, and newly confident commanders are talking about an effort to recapture the city of Mosul next. [Read more]

Like South Africa’s Apartheid, Israeli Occupation Will End—It Is Only a Matter of Time | truthdig

The temporary end to the bombing of Gaza has enabled Palestinian residents to slowly return to normal. But “normal” is defined by a seven-year-long blockade, endlessly frustrating checkpoints, the threat of beatings and arrest by Israeli police, and of course recovering from the loss of nearly 2,000 people and thousands of homes. Today 8-year-olds in Gaza have survived four brutal military operations and know only what it is like to live under siege.

Many have drawn comparisons between Israeli occupation and South African apartheid. Such comparisons are instructive, not only as a moral gauge but in terms of offering solutions to the current crisis. [Read more]

It’s not too late to help Libya | Gulf News

President Barack Obama said this month that perhaps his biggest foreign policy regret was providing insufficient support to Libya’s fledgling political institutions after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. Obama said that he underestimated the need for the United States and its European allies to come in “full force” after the military intervention, given Libya’s lack of “civic traditions” after 42 years of dictatorship.

The failure of Libya’s political institutions has had dire consequences. The violent character of the Libyan revolution, in contrast to the other 2011 Arab Spring uprisings — including, at the time, in Syria — did not help. The militias that rose against Gaddafi sought to set terms and win power by force. The interim government was too weak to consolidate the militias, which are now waging a makeshift war in Tripoli and Benghazi along ideological lines. The swathes of Libya that remain outside the government’s control have become ideal recruiting grounds for international jihadist organisations, and unmanaged stores of weapons pass through porous borders to Tunisia, Algeria and Mali. [Read more]

Turkey summons German ambassador over BND spying allegations | The Guardian

Turkey has summoned the German ambassador to demand a “formal and satisfactory explanation” following reports that the country was spied on by Germany’s intelligence agency (BND).

German media reported at the weekend that the BND had not only “accidentally” listened in on phone calls made by the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and his predecessor Hillary Clinton in 2012 and 2013, but that it also – less accidentally – monitored the activities of Turkish politicians. According to news magazine Der Spiegel, the Nato member has been listed as a target for BND surveillance since 2009. [Read more]

Syria: No strings | Al Jazeera

Over the past three years, many of the small towns on the Turkish side of Syrias’s northern border have been inundated with refugees fleeing the conflict. Kilis is one of these towns, in 2013 it was estimated to be home to 40,000 Syrian refugees, and this figure is steadily rising.

Most of the Syrian refugees are children – many of them have been exposed to severe trauma, all have faced agonising hardships. [Read more]

Fight against Al-Qaeda continues as Houthis call for protests | Asharq Al-Awsat

Clashes continued between the military and Al-Qaeda insurgents in Yemen’s southern Hadhramaut governorate over the weekend, as Houthi rebels called for public demonstrations against the government.

The Yemeni security forces have launched a campaign to regain control of the province in recent weeks, after it became clear that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had been able to take control of large swaths of the area. [Read more]


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