The Arab Political Crisis: It Isn’t a Matter of Civilization and It Isn’t Unique | truthdig

Hisham Melhem has a piece on what he calls the collapse of Arab civilization.

The piece is riddled with contradictions and fuzzy thinking and with all due respect to Milhem, who is a knowledgeable and experienced correspondent, I am going to disagree with it vehemently.  I think he is arguing that Arabs bear a moral burden for the atrocities being committed in the region, and that they cannot duck it by blaming regional problems on European colonialism or the US invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Let’s take the 22 Arab League members (which include for political reasons non-Arabic-speaking countries like Somalia and Djibouti).  There is nothing wrong with their civilization.

In the past 50 years, Arabic-speakers have gone from being perhaps 80% rural to being 80% urban.  (There are still some significantly rural Arab countries like Egypt and Syria but even there the urban-dwellers are a majority).  Even Saudi Arabia, which a century ago had a lot of pastoral nomads, is now as urban as the United States.  They have gone from being largely illiterate to being, especially at the level of 15-30 year-olds largely literate.  The proportion with high school and college educations has skyrocketed.  They have access to world news through satellite television.  Civilizationally, the average Arab today is way ahead of her parents and grandparents. [Read more]

Syrian wars of proxy | Al Akhbar

The Syrian war is not only a proxy war. There is a strong internal dimension to the war in Syria but it has been obscured by various layers and dimensions of outside intervention and agendas. The Syrian regime wants to stay in power at any cost while there was certainly a civil popular opposition in Syria when the uprising first began. There are thousands of reasons for the Syrian people to protest against a family dictatorship that has controlled much of their lives since 1970 but the civil protest movement did not erupt by itself, the Western media narrative notwithstanding. Concurrent with the protest movement that erupted in 2011, Turkey and Gulf regimes had already set up armed rebel groups to help bring down a regime. The internal dimension of the war in Syria, however, is now probably marginal to the global and regional war raging in the country today. There are several proxy wars in Syria today and they can be summarized as follows: [Read more]

The truth about Turkey and Islamic State oil | Al Monitor

The Sept. 20 release of 49 Turks held by the Islamic State (IS) for 101 days came as a great relief for Turkey. They were the diplomats and other consulate personnel (along with their families, including two infants) taken hostage in June when IS captured Mosul. Since then, the Turkish government had argued, reasonably enough, that its hands were tied in not joining the US-led coalition against IS. Now, however, with the end of the hostage crisis, Ankara might begin to think more actively about the threat just across its southern border.

Where exactly does Turkey stand on IS? This has become a matter of controversy in the country and in the West. The Turkish government has been criticized on three main points: that it has not done enough to close its borders to the flow of foreign fighters joining IS; that it has not done enough to curb radical groups at home that recruit for IS; and that IS makes money by selling oil via Turkey. [Read more]

US Gives Indirect Military Aid to Hezbollah | Jerusalem Online

The United States has reportedly sent indirect military aid to Hezbollah, according to a report in the Jewish Press.  The assistance, which came in the form of new weapons, was channeled via the Lebanese Army, who Mohammed Atif, the new head of public relations for Hezbollah, claims closely coordinates with the terror organization.   Lebanese sources also allege that US intelligence reached Hezbollah as well. [Read more]

Obama Will Fight ISIS With George W. Bush’s Legal Theories | BuzzFeed

Later today President Obama will unveil his plan to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, through an expanded military campaign in Iraq and likely Syria. But by ordering the military into action without explicit congressional authorization, Obama is falling back, at least in part, on the same controversial legal theories of executive power that he once rejected.

Not everyone is surprised by the presidential about-face. John Yoo, a former Bush administration lawyer and one of the primary architects of the “strong executive” theory of presidential power, told BuzzFeed News, “Obama has adopted the same view of war powers as the Bush administration.” [Read more]

After U.S. airstrikes in Syria: If the Arab Spring wasn’t dead already, it is now | Washington Post

For well over a year now, the Arab Spring has struggled on life support, doomed to die with barely a whimper. Instead, it ended definitively with the bang of U.S. airstrikes in Syria, coordinated with five of the Arab world’s most authoritarian states. The long winter of a protracted war with the Islamic State and affiliated jihadists now seems here to stay.

There was a time when the White House genuinely had hope that people power and pro-democracy uprisings could reshape the Middle East. In a famous speech in May 2011, President Obama likened the dramatic self-immolation of a fruit seller in Tunisia, which triggered protests that toppled a long-ruling autocrat, to the defiance of Rosa Parks and the agitators of the Boston Tea Party. [Read more]

What Is Khorasan and Why Did the US Just Bomb It? | Mother Jones

On Monday night, a US-led coalition launched air strikes in Syria against members of ISIS, the extremist Islamic group occupying territory in Iraq and Syria. As a “last-minute add-on,” NBC reports, the US also targeted a different terrorist group: A little-known outfit called Khorasan. This al-Qaeda affiliate gained some public attention earlier this month after US officials reported that the extremists were plotting to sneak bombs on to US airplanes. Last week, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper noted that the group “perhaps” posed as great a threat to the United States as ISIS. On Tuesday morning, Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby maintained that strikes on ISIS and Khorasan were “very successful.” The US targeted Khorasan’s “training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communications building and command and control facilities,” the Pentagon told the Washington Post.

News of these air strikes raised an obvious question: who and what is Khorasan? The group is led by Muhsin al-Fadhli, a 33-year-old senior Al Qaeda operative who was privy to Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 plans prior to the attacks, according to the New York Times. US officials have tracked Fadhli for years, and the State Department refers to him as a “senior facilitator and financier” for Al Qaeda. In 2012, the State Department was offering up to $7 million for information about his whereabouts. Born in Kuwait, he has operated in Chechnya, fighting Russian soldiers, according to the United Nations, and has been wanted in connection to Al Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia. [Read more]


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