Tag Archive: Turkey

Meet the Christian soldiers fighting for their lives against ISIS | Haaretz

Commander Johan Cosar stands on the rooftop of an abandoned home in the Syriac Christian village of Gharduka, about 60 kilometers southwest of Malikiya in Syria’s northeastern corner. He points toward a vast field: “That’s where Islamic State is, one and half kilometers from here,” he says, referring to the organization that is also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The rundown building serves as a military base for the Syriac Military Council (also known as MFS), the Syrian-based military branch of the Mesopotamian National Council, an international organization founded to aid Syriac communities around the world. The soldiers, members of the oldest Christian community in the world, are fighting a battle to keep their identity alive and their homeland from falling into the hands of what they call foreign invaders. They work hand-in-hand with the community’s security force, Sutoro. [Read more]

Turkey’s Religious Schools Rise as Erdogan Exerts Sway | New York Times

When Semra dropped off her 13-year-old daughter for the first day of high school, she had to fight back tears as she entered the dimly lit basement classroom, brightened by the red of the girls’ head scarves and the walls emblazoned with Quranic verses written in Arabic script.

Semra had spent years working overtime at her cleaning job, saving enough to pay for extra courses that she hoped would secure a place for her daughter at an academically rigorous secular school. But after taking the admissions test under Turkey’s system for allocating slots in public schools, her daughter was one of nearly 40,000 students assigned to the state-run religious schools. [Read more]

Turkey’s ultras at the forefront of resistance | Al Jazeera

Being a Besiktas suporter, a member of the renowned Carsi ultras, is not just about being a football fan. Founded by a group of school friends in 1982, the Carsi ultras have been struggling against despotism and tyranny for more than thirty years now. The famous Turkish writer Esber Yagmurdereli once said: “I am not in opposition because I’m a Besiktas fan, I’m a Besiktas fan so I am in opposition.”

For 35 Carsi ultras this idea is all too real. Today they are facing trial in Turkey for their participation in the Gezi protests last year. The have been charged with plotting to overthrow the government and are facing lengthy prison sentences. They are also accused of being part of an “armed group” and “possessing unlicensed weapons”. [Read more]

Middle East ‘most dangerous’ for journalists in 2014 | Al Arabiya

As 2014 comes to an end, international media watchdogs highlight another gloomy year for journalists in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Armed conflicts and the fast military expansion and savagery of ISIS militants witnessed this year have guaranteed that the MENA region is once again ranked amongst the world’s most dangerous regions for journalists to report from, with Syria leading the “world’s deadliest countries for journalists” list for a third year in a row, according to Reporters Without Border’s (RWB) annual roundup report released on Tuesday. [Read more]

The Statue of Liberty Betrays Syrians | Syria Untold

In the collective memory of Syrians, the United States has been long associated with vicious conspiracies, to the point where its name became synonymous with the word evil. This was partly because of US policy, and specifically its support for Israel and Arab tyrants. However, it was also influenced by the nationalist agenda of the Ba’ath party, which had Syrians convinced that there is no time for internal reform, while America is at the door.

In the wake of the uprising, Syrian people found solace in the speeches of president Obama that periodically emphasized that “Assad’s days are numbered”; and observing the firm stance of the US against Assad, they were willing to offer America a clean slate. [Read more]

Libya’s Tawerghans stuck in limbo | Al Jazeera

Tawergha remains a desecrated ghost town more than three years after the Libyan revolution, when armed groups from Misrata, nearly 40km to the west, drove their neighbours from their homes.

A desolate silence hangs over Tawergha’s empty residential flats, schools and shops, which have been looted and smashed by mortar and bullet shells. Graffiti covers the charred concrete walls, including tributes to revolutionary fighters and caustic insults about the town’s former residents. [Read more]


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Why is there such an explosion of violence across the Middle East? Here’s an alternative view… | The Independent

What on earth has descended upon the Middle East?

Why such an epic explosion of violence? It feels strange to ask these questions of Dr Bouthaina Shaaban, one of President Bashar al-Assad’s close advisers and former translator to his father, Hafez. Her office is spotless, flowers on the table, her female secretary preparing a morning round-up of the world’s press on the Middle East, the coffee hot and sweet. At one point, when she spoke of the destruction in Syria and the mass attacks on the region’s Arab armies, it was difficult to believe that this was Damascus and that a few hundred miles to the east Isis have been cutting the throats of their hostages. Indeed, Shaaban finds it difficult even to define what Isis really is. [Read more]

Back to the future in Turkish politics? | War on the rocks

As Turkey celebrates its 91st anniversary as an independent state since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk forged a modern republic from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, much of today’s tumult in its region is eerily reminiscent. Having once ruled from Istanbul through Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem to Tripoli, no country has more at stake than Turkey; and no leader has more to prove than its first popularly elected president: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has always sought to overturn the effects of early Republican Kemalism. Claiming that his domestic win was a victory for all these regional capitals he even stated that, “The only loser is the status quo.” Having set 2023, Turkey’s centennial, as the deadline for his ambitious slate of reforms, Erdoğan will be celebrating this Republic Day as the first president outside of Ataturk’s shadow as he plans for the next decade ahead.

In the last decade, under Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) rule, momentous strides in development, together with an increase in Ankara’s political activism abroad, have undoubtedly positioned Turkey as an emerging power.  The weakening of the traditional centers of Arab influence, namely Iraq, Egypt and Syria, has also heightened Turkey’s role in regional and global affairs.  Unfortunately, the future risks looking a lot like the past.  Two recurrent themes—the over-concentration of executive power and destabilizing dynamics of exclusionary nationalism—have remained perennial features of Turkish politics and could again hinder Turkey’s ability to lead. Therefore as modern Turkish leaders look towards its centennial as a moment of global arrival, learning from the past and not repeating certain mistakes will be critical for reaching the full potential of this “new Turkey.” [Read more]

Obama’s Quagmire | Slate

America’s war against ISIS is quickly turning into a quagmire.

A few signs of progress have sprung up in recent days. U.S. airstrikes have slowed down the Islamist group’s onslaught against the Kurdish town of Kobani in northern Syria. A much-cheered caravan of Kurdish peshmerga fighters is making its way from Iraq to join the battle. [Read more]

Flying Blind in Iraq and Syria | New York Times

THE Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, has accompanied its brutal takeover of large swaths of Iraq and Syria with the kidnapping and beheading of journalists. Any Western journalists who would dare to venture into ISIS territory today would be risking their lives every second. So the United States is now involved in the first prolonged war in the modern Middle East that American reporters and photographers can’t cover firsthand on a daily basis, with the freedom to observe and write what they please and with the sustained presence to offer perspective on how the story is evolving. That is not good.

But it gets worse. The Times reported last week that ISIS had one of its British hostages act as a combat reporter in a propaganda video from the Syrian town of Kobani, “forecasting that the town is about to fall to militants despite waves of American airstrikes,” and suggesting that ISIS was getting even more savvy in promoting its cause by adopting the techniques of a 24-hour news channel. “ ‘Hello, I’m John Cantlie,’ the hostage says in the video, dressed in black, ‘and today we are in the city of Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border. That is, in fact, Turkey right behind me.’ ” [Read more]

Egypt court sends eight men to prison for ‘inciting debauchery’ | LA Times

In Egypt, it isn’t a crime to be homosexual – at least in theory. But a high-profile court case, resulting in three-year prison terms handed down to Saturday to eight defendants for “inciting debauchery,” pointed up the increasingly hostile climate toward gays in a country where repression of all stripes is on the rise. [Read more]

Obama’s ISIS Strategy: Doomed for Failure | National Interest

In the spring of 1956, the prominent U.S. columnist Joseph Alsop, who enjoyed wide access to world leaders around the globe, traveled through the Middle East on an extended reporting trip. He got numerous interviews with Egypt’s leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser. He visited Saudi Arabia and dined at King Saud’s Jeddah palace. He visited Kuwait, which struck him as “little more than a vast oil well with a small town on top of it.” He fulfilled extensive reporting missions in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel.

After ten weeks, he returned to Washington and produced a series of columns on what he had seen in the region and how it had struck him. “The picture there is ominous,” he wrote. “Unless present trends can somehow be reversed the free world must eventually expect a Middle Eastern disaster on the approximate scale of the disastrous loss of China to the communists.” [Read more]

Iraqi peshmerga fighters prepare for Syria battle | AP

Iraqi peshmerga fighters prepared Saturday to battle Islamic State group militants in the Syrian border town of Kobani, just hours after they arrived in a town that’s become a focal point in the battle against the extremists.

The force brought in badly needed heavy weapons including artillery, heavy machine guns and anti-tank missiles, material that could tip the balance of power in favor of the embattled Kurds fighting there. [Read more]

Analysis: In Syria, no good options for West | Daily Herald

With the U.S.-led assault on the Islamic State group, the world community is acting in Syria, but not in the Syrian civil war. When it comes to the issue that has undermined the region — the survival or fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad — there is still no plan.

And that means the West’s goal to defeat the militants of IS may also be doomed to fail. [Read more]

When Saudi Arabia Ruled the World | The Daily Beast

Monumental sandstone statues, tools more than a million years old, a gold funerary mask from the tomb of a young girl, and gilded silver doors from Mecca’s most holy site, the Ka’ba, are some of the more than 200 pieces in Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a show at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum through January 18.

For most people, Saudi Arabia means camels, oil, and Islam, says Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a member of the royal family, which rules in a theocratic monarchy, who was in San Francisco for the opening.  Prince Sultan, says he hopes Roads of Arabia, the first comprehensive international exhibit of Arabian historical artifacts, will open a larger window on the country for people in the United States and beyond. [Read more]

The West needs to re-engage with democracy in Libya | Libya Herald

Three years ago, the mantra that backed NATO’s six-month air operation which saw the fall of the Qaddafi regime was democracy. Today, Libya’s fledging democracy seems on the brink of vanishing from western agendas. Political speeches and recent analyses all call for dialogue – but dialogue between whom, exactly?

Libya has managed, against some fairly challenging odds – not least a dearth of political experience and know-how, an incalculable proliferation of arms and strong tribal allegiances that underpin much of the country’s daily existence – to proceed, albeit stumbling, down a democratic path. There is now an urgent need for the alliance countries to re-engage in Libya, not militarily but politically, to stave off disaster and support the democratic processes the West claimed should replace Qaddafi’s dictatorship. [Read more]


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Sykes-Picot drew lines in the Middle East’s sand that blood is washing away | Reuters

Last week British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said the struggle against Islamic State was “effectively Iraq’s last chance as nation state.”

That somber assessment followed his visit to Iraq a few days earlier, where he had used the expression “last chance saloon” to describe Iraq’s dire predicament.

Iraq, like Syria, was a consequence of World War One and of the infamous, in Arab eyes, agreement between Sir Mark Sykes and Francois-Georges Picot which led to the division of the former Ottoman Turkish domains by the two leading European powers, Britain and France. That agreement, now almost a century old, appears in tatters, as both countries are broken, exhausted by years of war and sectarian division for which there is no easy repair. [Read more]

The Middle East problem: Boots on the ground or peace in their hearts? | Canberra Times

There are two stories, both compelling narratives, competing for attention here in the Middle East. The first is tactical and simple. It revolves around the dominance of airpower and the slowing of the advance of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

So far, the 1999 air campaign against Slobodan Milosevic remains the only conflict that was resolved by bombing alone. Not even the most slavish adherent of airpower doctrine believes the current demonstration of international resolve over Iraq is enough to defeat IS – alone. Achieving this will eventually require “boots on the ground”. The feet don’t necessarily need to belong to coalition soldiers, although that would probably help. But what’s far more critical is the presence of some ground/air controllers providing accurate and timely targeting for the aircraft circling above. [Read more]

Why Humanitarians Talk to ISIS | The Daily Beast

In early October, Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, delivered a keynote address at an annual State Department gathering of international humanitarian aid officials in Washington, D.C.

Egeland, a Norwegian politician and former top humanitarian affairs official at the United Nations, is known for his directness, and he used the platform to lambaste his colleagues for their collective failure to do more to help needy Syrians still suffering after more than three years of war—a concern that many of them shared. [Read more]

The Kobani riddle | OpEdNews

The brave women of Kobani — where Syrian Kurds are desperately fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh — are about to be betrayed by the “international community.” These women warriors, apart from Caliph Ibrahim’s goons, are also fighting treacherous agendas by the US, Turkey and the administration of Iraqi Kurdistan. So what’s the real deal in Kobani?

Let’s start by talking about Rojava. The full meaning of Rojava — the three mostly Kurdish provinces of northern Syria — is conveyed in this editorial (in Turkish) published by jailed activist Kenan Kirkaya. He argues that Rojava is the home of a “revolutionary model” that no less than challenges “the hegemony of the capitalist, nation-state system” — way beyond its regional “meaning for Kurds, or for Syrians or Kurdistan.” [Read more]

How We Lost Touch With Our Friends in Iraq | War on the Rocks

In December 2009, the infantry company I commanded took over an area of western Baghdad Province that stretched from just west of Baghdad International Airport to the eastern outskirts of Fallujah. The United States was in the midst of drawing down in Iraq, so as units departed, those remaining inherited successively larger areas of operation. The region, referred to as Zaidon, was a traditional smuggling route before the 2003 invasion and became particularly dangerous during the height of the war. Although the region is often most closely associated with Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), its real legacy was the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade.

The 1920s Revolutionary Brigade was created by the Zobai tribe and Zaidon was the heart of Zobai territory. The groups name is derived from the 1920s revolt against British rule; a popular myth is that the son of the paramount sheikh of the Zobai tribe ignited the rebellion by assassinating a British official, Lieutenant Colonel Gerard Leachman. While there were other 1920s rebel groups in places like Baquba, the group’s leadership came from an area just north of Zaidon called Khan Dhari. Though the Sunni Awakening was in full swing in 2007, the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade, a largely nationalist insurgent group, fought a series of knock-down-drag-out battles with AQI in Zaidon, independent of the Awakening. At least that is how we saw it. In reality, the battles were fought between two tribal houses vying for control of the tribe. [Read more]

Iraqi army months away from major offensive: US officials | Middle East Eye

The Iraqi army is still months away from staging a major offensive to retake ground lost to the Islamist State group and is regrouping after suffering battlefield defeats this year, US military officials said Thursday.

Iraqi security forces were now able to stage small-scale attacks against the Islamic State group but needed time to plan and train for a larger operation, even with the aid of US-led air strikes, one military official told reporters. [Read more]

Peshmerga, YPG and ISIS in Kobane as Turkey maintains stance | Al Arabiya

Not a day passes in my ever-tumultuous Middle East without “breaking news.” First it was announced that President Obama called President Erdogan concerning Kobane. Then we heard that the United States airlifted weapons and medical supplies to the YPG. Following this, we received news that Turkey had allowed the Peshmerga into the Syrian town of Kobane through a corridor.

We heard right, Turkey allowed the Peshmerga to pass into Kobane through its borders. However, while writing these sentences, the Peshmerga were still reluctant to cross over. Let’s remember the recent history of the Peshmerga reaction to Kobane. [Read more]

West waging a ‘CNN war’ in Syria as Isil makes gains in Iraq | The Telegraph

On the barren wastes of Mount Sinjar, the Yazidis are once more surrounded and fighting for their lives.

“We saw Isil, there are daily clashes with Isil. Today and yesterday there was heavy fighting,” said one stranded Yazidi man, Dre’i Shamo, last week. “The situation is very tragic and critical.”

Further south, the advance of the jihadists of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on Baghdad continues, slower than before but still with no sign of a reversal of fortune. Another district fell last week, after a major military base the week before, while scores more innocent civilians have died in a rise in bombings in the city itself. [Read more]

Israel-US ties have reached ‘crisis’ point, Lapid says | Jerusalem Post

Israel and the United States are in the midst of a “diplomatic crisis,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid told a town hall meeting in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

“We need to approach [US-Israel ties] as if it were a crisis situation and to deal with it,” Lapid said. “Our relations with the US are vital and important for the State of Israel, which is why it should do everything in its power to extricate itself from this crisis and restore good ties.” [Read more]

Acid attacks in Iran: A message for Rouhani? | Al Jazeera

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has instructed the ministries of interior, justice and intelligence to step up efforts to find the culprits behind a gruesome chain of acid attacks on women in the historic city of Isfahan. He condemned what he termed “inhuman acts” and called for bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Thousands attended demonstrations on Wednesday in front of the parliament in Tehran, and by the Justice Department in Isfahan demanding investigation. The attacks, which began over two weeks ago, appear to be by hard-line Islamist zealots trying to enforce the dress code. One banner read “down with Iranian ISIL”. [Read more]

Does ISIS Have a Cash Flow Problem? | Slate

David Cohen, the top counterterrorism official at the U.S. Treasury Department, argues that the U.S. military campaign against ISIS is beginning to cut into the group’s revenues.

Discussions of how the group funds itself necessarily rely on speculation and guesswork, but researchers are starting to get a better idea about the terror group’s finances. Eckart Woertz, a fellow at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, provides a useful summary of what’s known about the Islamic State’s financial lifelines. The groups revenues are likely somewhere between $1 million to $5 million per day. A U.S. intelligence official told the Guardian earlier this year that the groups assets swelled from around $875 million to over $2 billion after the fall of Mosul. [Read more]

Women on front lines in Syria, Iraq against IS | AP

Just over a year ago, Afshin Kobani was a teacher. Now, the Kurdish Syrian woman has traded the classroom for the front lines in the battle for Kobani, a town besieged by fighters from the Islamic State extremist group.

The 28-year-old Kurdish fighter, who uses a nom de guerre, said she decided to join the fight in her hometown when she saw IS advances in Syria.

“I lost many friends to this, and I decided there was a need to join up,” said Kobani, who declined to reveal her birth name. “This is our land — our own — and if we don’t do it, who else will?” [Read more]


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Ongoing Disaster in Iraq | OpEdNews

The American public is now wringing it collective hands over the ISIS threat in Iraq and Syria. But a more important concern for the nation might be in coming to grips with how ISIS actually came to be; and to do that it is first necessary to understand what was behind W’s 2003 war in Iraq. Most Americans who have an opinion believe that the outcome of the 2003 Iraq war resulted from a combination of bad planning and incompetent execution — a lack of a coherent strategy and tactics which operated at almost constant cross purposes. Some who are more inclined to excuse the Bush administration insist that all would have been well if Obama had just left the troops in place. But the Obama administration negotiated furiously to keep the troops in Iraq and only reluctantly agreed to remove the troops when the Iraqis refused to enter into a status of forces agreement which would give U.S. forces carte blanche freedom from Iraqi law. So it is difficult to see just how Obama’s policies differed markedly from those of Bush. [Read more]

What does Kobane mean for the international community? | openDemocracy

For local groups of Kurdish fighters keeping IS at bay, the numbers of IS fighters flooding into the town has created a significant drain on resources. Whilst accepting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees escaping the Syrian civil war, thousands of Arab refugees fleeing IS clashes in Iraq, and thousands of Yezidi Kurds fleeing IS capture, Iraqi Kurdistan now faces the prospect of accepting refugees from Kobani. Despite maintaining a stronghold within Northern Iraq and steadily progressing against IS’ attempts to take Mosul, so far the only international support given to the Iraqi Kurds has been a series of airstrikes. Kurdish Pershmerga fighters are insistent that without the aid of better arms to help them to combat forces armed with advanced equipment which originated from the US military, strategic cities such as Rabia may be captured by IS. [Read more]

Ghoncheh Ghavami: The Shifting Goal Posts of Iran’s Hardliners | Human Rights Watch

“[The trial] lasted an hour and a half… The judge in the case is supposed to issue his ruling next week. I hope that next week, by this time, my nightmare will be over and my daughter will be in my arms. Pray for me.”

These were the words posted on Susan Moshtaghian’s Facebook page on October 14, after a revolutionary court in Tehran tried her daughter, Ghoncheh Ghavami, on national security charges. Authorities arrested Ghavami, a dual Iranian-British national, along with around 20 others who held a peaceful protest in June against the official ban that prevented them from attending an international volleyball match in Tehran’s Azadi Sports Complex. [Read more]

Dealing with Iran | Jerusalem Post

Expert-level talks between Iran and the six world powers (the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) are scheduled to resume today.

Unfortunately, as the November 24 deadline approaches, pessimism has grown regarding the chances that the negotiations will bring about their express goal: preventing the Islamic Republic from developing a nuclear weapon and assuring Iran’s program is exclusively peaceful. [Read more]

Libya After Qaddafi: The Unstable Terrorist Haven That America Has Mostly Forgotten | thinkprogress

Three years ago, rebel fighters killed Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi — an event that captured the world’s attention and was billed as a new day for the North African nation.

“This marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya,” President Barack Obama said from the White House Rose Garden on the day of Qaddafi’s death. “[They] now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya.”

But charting that new, democratic destiny after the death of an erratic dictator – in addition to more than 30,000 Libyan people who were killed in what became a six-month long civil war has not been easy. In fact, it’s left Libya teetering on the brink of war against Islamist militants – one that neither the country’s government or Western nations seem inclined to fight. Not doing so might leave the oil-rich nation to the designs of increasingly powerful – and ambitious – militants. A fate that may even prove worse than the brutal, 42-year long regime Libyans fought so hard to themselves of. [Read more]

What do Kobani airdrops mean for regional politics? | Al Monitor

On Oct. 19, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced that it had conducted multiple airdrops near the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, which has remained under siege by Islamic State (IS) fighters for more than a month. CENTCOM said US C-13 cargo planes had made multiple drops of arms, ammunition, and medical supplies provided by Kurdish authorities in Iraq. The move is set to have a profound effect on regional balances between Turkey, the Kurds and the United States that will likely reverberate in Tehran and in Damascus as well.

For several weeks now, the US and its allies have been bombing IS positions around Kobani. But the delivery of weapons takes the de facto alliance between the Syrian Kurds and the United States to a new level. [Read more]

Libya is grasping for a helping hand | Al Arabiya

Somalia and Syria combined. That’s what Libya could easily be heading towards if the region and the international community aren’t not careful. But rather than focus on the very real threat of that reality, far too many are prioritising rogue generals. Quite. The reorientation of policy towards this exceedingly strategic North African country is not a luxury the international community should consider – but a necessity that it has no choice but to pursue.

One ought to be clear about what the crisis in Libya is not about. It is not, for example, about a “war on terror.” That sort of approach is not remotely helpful to pushing forward on the overcoming of terrorist groups like Ansar al-Sharia – the “war on terror” dynamic simply blurs the lines between disparate groups, and ensures that other types of dissent that do not pass into illegal activity are criminalised. The “you are with us or against us” rhetoric, worldwide, has been tried and it fails to bring about the expected results every time. [Read more]


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Libya: The war nobody can win | Al Jazeera

While the world’s attention has been fixed on the appalling developments in Syria and Iraq, Libya has quietly mirrored the Levant’s transformation into a proxy battlefield. A tug-of-war has emerged between the country’s two rival governments for control of key institutions, military supremacy, and ultimately legitimacy.

Most countries recognise the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) as Libya’s legitimate legislature, yet the HoR is haemorrhaging support. It is becoming increasingly marginalised as it hunkers down in its safe house a thousand miles from the capital while domestic support shifts towards Operation Dawn, a Misrata alliance that controls Tripoli and has been able to administer it semi-competently. [Read more]

From Jimmy Carter, a Rebuke to Egypt | New York Times

Over three decades, the Carter Center in Atlanta, led by former President Jimmy Carter, has established itself as a respected advocate for human rights and democracy. It has sent observers to 97 elections in 38 countries, worked to persuade governments to respect freedoms and human rights, and supported citizens who defend those principles. But it has thrown in the towel on Egypt.

In a statement last week, the center announced that it would close its Cairo office after nearly three years and would not send experts to monitor parliamentary elections later this year. “The current environment in Egypt is not conducive to genuine democratic elections and civic participation,” Mr. Carter said as part of the statement, which warned that political campaigning in an already polarized situation “could be extremely difficult, and possibly dangerous, for critics of the regime.” [Read more]

On the student protest movement in Egyptian universities since the military coup | Middle East Monitor

As the new academic year starts in Egyptian universities, a new wave of student demonstrations and activities condemning the military coup and demanding the release of detained students has begun. This is an effort to continue the work started by the students last year after the deposition of the democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi.

The following figures are the latest statistics charting the number of students killed, wounded, and detained since the military coup on July 3rd 2013 until October 14th 2014. [Read more]

Turkish forces crackdown on Kurdish Kobane protests | Middle East Eye

Fires blaze, as the heavy black smoke of burnt tyres combined with thick white clouds of tear gas in the district of Beyoglu, a neighbourhood here with a large Kurdish population. At the entrances to Kurdish-majority streets, heavily armoured police tanks and water cannon trucks hover, seemingly ever-present – a warning against the inevitable.

Protesters gather on the streets around dusk screaming for the Syrian town of Kobane, a Kurdish district on the Syrian-Turkey border, currently under Islamic State attack. They throw rocks at Turkish police and are met with high-powered streams of water and quick-release tear gas canisters. [Read More]

The children, the pain and the piano | Times of Israel

Late last night I wrote a Facebook post about a beautiful concert by the amazing pianist Liz Magnes at her home in Jaffa, where the goal was to raise money for the children of Gaza.

This morning at eight o’clock my friend Michel called and urged me to remove it as it had, in his words, offended many people, and might start a new wave of hatred against me. He claimed there were those who felt it was wrong to support the children of Gaza without at the same time supporting the children of Sderot or other cities in Israel which had been hurt by the war, and that I was “crazy” for waking up the dragon. He was worried about me. [Read more]

Kuwait: Government Critics Stripped of Citizenship | Human Rights Watch

Kuwaiti authorities have announced the third batch of citizenship revocations this year, during a general crackdown on dissent, Human Rights Watch said today. The group of 18 revocations announced on September 29, 2014, which the authorities said was based on a cabinet decision, included one that appeared politically motivated. A total of 33 people have lost their citizenship during 2014, of which three are thought to be for political reasons.

Kuwaiti authorities should immediately stop stripping nationals of their citizenship because they exercise free speech or other legitimate human rights, and reinstate the citizenship of people whose citizenship has been withdrawn on those grounds, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should also amend the law concerning revocation of citizenship to ensure that the grounds are narrowly defined, the decision to revoke will be proportionate, and that those affected have the right to an independent review. [Read more]

A Train Ride Through Time: From Iraq’s Checkered Past Into an Uncertain Future | New York Times

Saad al-Tammimi is in his fourth decade working for Iraq’s railroads, a career that has taken him all around his country, and around the Middle East. Nowadays, though, he can go only from Baghdad to Basra, across the relatively calm Shiite-dominated south of this war-torn country.

“If we have a problem and have to stop, it’s safe,” he said on a recent evening as he drove his regular route. “Even the Sunnis feel comfortable going to Basra.”

With so much violence, neglect and political dysfunction here, it has been years since passenger trains leaving Baghdad went anywhere other than Basra. In recent years, however, grand ambitions to link the country by railroad had begun taking shape. Freight trains shuttled goods around Iraq, and a few years ago there were test runs of a new train service between Mosul and Turkey. But as the militants of the Islamic State have advanced around the country, those efforts have halted. [Read more]

Could Iraq’s tribes provide the glue that keeps the country from falling apart? | Christian Science Monitor

In recent weeks, the self-styled Islamic State has inched toward Baghdad, putting Iraq’s army and government under increasing pressure and challenging their ability to preserve any semblance of a cohesive Iraqi state.

Backed by Western airpower, the Shiite-dominated security forces and the Kurdish peshmerga are fighting back against the Sunni jihadists.

But when it comes to reversing the dramatic IS victories in Sunni areas, some leaders of Iraq’s influential tribes say they could prove a vital counterforce, at least until a proposed Iraqi national guard becomes a reality. [Read more]

When Journalism Isn’t Quite Enough | Global Voices

This headline must be one of the worst things a journalist could write, and this topic must be one of the least written-about, but for the subject I’m writing about I felt it necessary to abandon everything I’ve been taught and write primitively.

This article was going to be about the arrest of Zainab Alkhawaja, a prominent activist in Bahrain. I was going to start with the background, which is that she was arrested for a speech tweeted by her sister Maryam: [Read more]

Nine Days in the Caliphate: A Yazidi Woman’s Ordeal as an Islamic State Captive | Spon

During the ninth night of her captivity, Nadia seized an unexpected opportunity to flee.

Back on the first day, the men who kidnapped Nadia and the other young women as hostages and sex slaves had away taken their shoes. Escaping barefoot was out of the question. As the women could see from the windows, the surrounding terrain was rough and rocky, and they would end up with bleeding cuts and gashes all over their feet.

The house in which they were held captive had many rooms and the young women were frequently moved from one to another. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason for the frequent moves; they were apparently dependent on the whims of their captors. But in one room stood a wardrobe, inside of which Nadia found a pair of pink tennis shoes under some rags. Though they were a few sizes too small for her, they might just do. [Read more]


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The Kurdish refugees circled around me in Turkey on the edge of the so-called Islamic State, where part of Syria used to be. They were shouting with a mixture of fury and desperation about their families in Kobani, under siege just across the line. The border guards stopped their relatives from bringing in cars or sheep and left them in a no-man’s land. U.S. warplanes roaring overhead unleashed missiles and precision-guided bombs, but they could do nothing to solve this problem. Small-arms fire crackled close by and sounded as if it were getting closer.

Suddenly we heard the plopping sounds of tear gas canisters being fired, and we stumbled away in different directions, trying to escape the blue-gray choking fumes. Turkish gendarmes ran past me, shouting at the refugees to clear off, firing more canisters for good measure. [Read more]

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A Mysterious Iran-Nuke Document | Consortium News

Western diplomats have reportedly faulted Iran in recent weeks for failing to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency with information on experiments on high explosives intended to produce a nuclear weapon, according to an intelligence document the IAEA is investigating. But the document not only remains unverified but can only be linked to Iran by a far-fetched official account marked by a series of coincidences related to a foreign scientist that that are highly suspicious.

The original appearance of the document in early 2008, moreover, was not only conveniently timed to support Israel’s attack on a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran in December 2007 that was damaging to Israeli interests, but was leaked to the news media with a message that coincided with the current Israeli argument. The IAEA has long touted the document, which came from an unidentified member state, as key evidence justifying suspicion that Iran has covered up past nuclear weapons work. [Read more]

Islamic State: No One Wants to Talk to Terrorists, but We Always Do – and Sometimes It Works | truthout

The Islamic State (IS) now occupies significant swaths of Iraq and Syria, has pushed as far as the border with Turkey, and has succeeded in dragging “the West” into two civil wars in the Middle East. The West’s offensive, spearheaded by the US and supported by the UK and others, is to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS.

But in the face of IS’s state-building efforts, that strategy will only work if it manages to degrade the group’s legitimacy as a governing enterprise. [Read more]

There’s Only One Way to Beat ISIS: Work with Assad and Iran | The Daily Beast

Earlier this week, outside Washington, the Obama team hosted senior military leaders from nations pledged to help fight the so-called Islamic State, in a mission the Pentagon is now calling “Operation Inherent Resolve.” Representatives from 21 of the 60-odd countries appeared. Everyone, of course, was too polite to inquire about the embarrassing number of absentees. Nor did they comment on how little these partners have contributed to the war effort thus far, or on the fact that no new serious help has been promised.  Least surprising of all was the absence of the only two nations that could help fight the jihadis now and in a tangible form.

In the short term the only way to check ISIS, as the self-declared caliphate is widely known, is for the United States to work with Bashar Assad’s Syria, and with Iran. It is a tricky and perilous path, but there are no realistic alternatives. [Read more]

Lebanon pulled into war with Islamic State group | AP

With all eyes on the Islamic State group’s onslaught in Iraq and Syria, a less conspicuous but potentially just as explosive front line with the extremists is emerging in Lebanon, where Lebanese soldiers and Shiite Hezbollah guerrillas are increasingly pulled into deadly fighting with the Sunni militants along the country’s border with Syria.

The U.S. has been speeding up delivery of small ammunition to shore up Lebanon’s army, but recent cross-border attacks and beheading of Lebanese soldiers by Islamic State fighters — and the defection of four others to the extremists — has sent shockwaves across this Mediterranean country, eliciting fear of a potential slide into the kind of militant, sectarian violence afflicting both Syria and Iraq, and increasingly prompting minorities to take up arms. [Read more]

Living in Israel, traveling to Beirut, singing for Palestine | Times of Israel

Their goal is to win Arab Idol, the Arab world’s premiere television song competition.

But the journey Manal Mousa, 25, and Haitham Khalaily, 24, have taken from their villages in Israel to the competition in Lebanon could comprise a television drama of its own — featuring travel to an enemy country, Israeli security interrogations, and the complicated identity crisis of Israel’s Arabs. [Read more]

Tough, but bowing | The Economist

FROM the presidential palace on a hill above Damascus, the outlook seems rosier of late, despite the vista of flattened suburbs and the rumbling of bombs and mortars below. Defections from the army have stopped. American and European calls for Mr Assad to step down have grown quieter since August 2013, when America shrank from its threat to bomb the regime for using chemical weapons. Now America is leading a coalition to bomb Mr Assad’s foes, the jihadists calling themselves Islamic State (IS). It is vindication, reckons Mr Assad, of his long-held claim to be fighting dangerous terrorists rather than his own citizens demanding change.

What’s more, American strikes may be inadvertently allowing Mr Assad to concentrate on crushing mainstream rebels. The Syrian Observatory, a British-based monitoring group, reckons the regime carried out 40 air strikes (from both jets and helicopters dropping barrel-bombs) in the provinces of Hama and Idleb on October 13th, double the usual daily number of 13-20 attacks (see map). [Read more]

Christians in Iraq Face Uncertain Future | aleteia

Humanitarian aid organizations, local governments and NGOs are doing what they can to keep internally displaced persons warm, healthy and well-fed, but the task is huge, and some people on the ground say a humanitarian crisis looms.

“It’s very dire. It’s not going to improve very soon. Conditions are deteriorating. People are in desperate need for help, and the government of Iraq has not helped in any way,” said Joseph T. Kassab, founder and president of the US-based Iraqi Christians Advocacy and Empowerment Institute. “Winter is really fierce in Iraq. Lot of people living in shelters or in the open.” [Read more]

Libya truce ‘unforeseeable’ without dialogue as UN urges ceasefire | Middle East Eye

The United Nations has urged rival militias in western Libya to observe a truce for at least four days from Saturday to facilitate humanitarian aid for civilians trapped by the fighting.

“The United Nations Support Mission in Libya is proposing a cessation of military operations in the areas of Kekla and Kalaa in western Libya for at least four days,” UNSMIL said.

That would help “to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance”, a statement said, adding that UNSMIL could send an aircraft to evacuate the wounded “once the initiative is implemented”. [Read more]

The Gaza aid conference was kind of a charade. Here’s why | Los Angeles Daily News

At the five-star JW Marriott hotel on the sandy outskirts of Cairo, where rooms cost between $210 and $600 per night, the lobby was packed. Young staffers in neutral-toned suits rushed busily past Egyptian security officers, and occasionally a person might find themselves nose to nose with Tony Blair or Ban Ki-moon.

Some of the most powerful people in the world turned out for the Gaza reconstruction conference over the weekend. [Read more]

Gaza ‘geeks’ find new future in tech startups | Al Monitor

Away from the Gaza reconstruction conference and the donor fatigue that dominated its politics, Nalan al-Sarraj presented the work of Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG) to a community of Cairo startups and entrepreneurs.

The Gaza-based startup accelerator drew support as Sarraj asked for financing pledges ahead of a crowdfunding campaign that has yet to kick off. The $350,000 target was dwarfed by the $5.4 billion pledged to Gaza by governments a day before Sarraj took the stage in central Cairo. [Read more]


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How not to understand ISIS | openDemocracy

The group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant or simply the Islamic State (ISIL, ISIS, or IS) has attracted much attention in the past few months with its dramatic military gains in Syria and Iraq and with the recent U.S. decision to wage war against it.

As analysts are called to explain ISIS’ ambitions, its appeal, and its brutality, they often turn to an examination of what they consider to be its religious worldview—a combination of cosmological doctrines, eschatological beliefs, and civilizational notions—usually thought to be rooted in Salafi Islam.

The Salafi tradition is a modern reformist movement critical of what it considers to be misguided accretions to Islam—such as grave visitations, saint veneration, and dreaming practices. It calls for abolishing these and returning to the ways of the original followers of Prophet Muhammad, the “salaf” or predecessors. Critics of Salafism accuse its followers of “literalism,” “puritanism,” or of practicing a “harsh” or “rigid” form of Islam, but none of these terms is particularly accurate, especially given the diverse range of Salafi views and the different ways in which people adhere to them. [Read more]

It Doesn’t Add Up: Why Is the US Bombing Grain Silos in Syria? | AlterNet

The U.S. is conducting a curious humanitarian war against ISIS in Syria.While Kobani, the largely Kurdish district that straddles the border with Turkey is being attacked by ISIS forces and facing the very real possibility of mass civilian killings if it falls,  U.S. military spokespersonsclaimed that they are watching the situation in Kobani and have conducted occasional bombing missions but that they are concentrating their anti-ISIS efforts in other parts of Syria. Those other efforts appear to consist of  bombing empty buildings, schools, small oil pumping facilities, an occasional vehicle and  grain silos where food is stored to feed the Syrian people. Turkey also seems to be watching as the Kurds of Kobani fight to the death against ISIS. [Read more]

Diplomacy, immunity and justice | Al Jazeera

The British courts have long been considered a forum of independent and impartial justice. One of the principal components of this system of justice is the application of universal jurisdiction; a process which allows victims of torture committed outside its borders to bring claims before the British courts. The application of this process has recently been called into question in the case of F F, a Bahraini national, allegedly tortured during the Bahrain uprising in 2011.

In 2012, lawyers acting for F F sought the arrest and prosecution of Prince Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the son of the King of Bahrain, when he visited the UK during the London Olympics. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) declined to prosecute on the basis that Prince Nasser was entitled to rely on diplomatic immunity. Prince Nasser was allowed to return to Bahrain. This decision was challenged in the High Court and a ruling was handed down on October 7 following consent being reached by the parties that the 2012 decision had been incorrectly decided and that immunity should not be a bar to prosecution. [Read more]

ISIS heralds the dawn of a dark age in the Arab world | Al Arabiya

In almost all the videos posted from Syria, most rebel fighters are bearded, shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) every time they kill a regime soldier or target a military base. Female international reporters would appear veiled when reporting from rebel-held areas. The international community still views them as moderates.

When Aleppo was controlled by rebels in 2013, the Washington Post reported that they cooperated with al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra to operate a sharia council and impose Islamic law on one of the most diverse cities in Syria. Similar cooperation took place in rebel-held areas along the Euphrates river, and in Raqqah and Deir al-Zour. This makes it very difficult to distinguish moderate rebels from extremists. [Read more]

Think About It: A nostalgic visit to Haifa | Jerusalem Post

I was born in Haifa, but since I moved my elderly mother to Jerusalem in 1997, I have rarely visited there and when I have, it has usually been to Haifa University on Mount Carmel.

On the eve of Succot I drove to Haifa to visit a friend, who recently moved back there from Jerusalem, after convincing the government ministry that employs her to let her do her work from its downtown office in the city.

I was born in Haifa, but since I moved my elderly mother to Jerusalem in 1997, I have rarely visited there and when I have, it has usually been to Haifa University on Mount Carmel. [Read more]

Turkish President Declares Lawrence of Arabia a Bigger Enemy than ISIS | The Daily Beast

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took on the iconic Lawrence of Arabia Monday in a furious anti-Western diatribe.  The Turkish president compared the outside meddling in the region now to the role the renowned British army officer played during the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans during World War I. And Western diplomats here say the tirade bears a rather striking resemblance to some of the propaganda that has come out of the so-called Islamic State, widely known by the acronym ISIS or ISIL.

Last week, stung by Western criticism of Turkey’s conspicuous absence from the U.S.-led air combat against the terror organization, and the refusal of the Turkish government to rescue the besieged town of Kobani, just across the Syrian border, Erdoğan insisted he had no sympathy for the jihadists. [Read more]

Stability in Egypt? | Council on Foreign Relations

Egypt’s President Sisi visited New York to speak at the United Nations General Assembly a few weeks ago, and just this weekend was the host for the donors’ conference on rebuilding Gaza. Much of the world, including the United States government, seems content to believe that all is well in Egypt.

But yesterday police stormed university campuses in Cairo. Here’s the story: [Read more]


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Turkey’s act of abandonment may mark an ‘irrevocable breach’ with Kurds across the region | The Independent

Kurds vented their fury at the Turkish government for standing by as Isis fighters looked poised to take the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani in view of the Turkish border and the watching Turkish army.

At least 12 people died and dozens of people were wounded in demonstrations across Turkey. Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who burnt cars and tyres as they took to the streets mainly in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish eastern and southeastern provinces, although clashes erupted in the nation’s biggest city, Istanbul, and the capital Ankara as well. [Read more]

No Wonder Iraq’s Army Has Trouble Fighting. Too Many “Astronauts”! | The Daily Beast

The Iraqi army is suffering badly from what locals describe as the “astronaut phenomenon.” That is, soldiers who pay money to superior officers so they can leave the world of the military and stay out of danger, far from the battlefield. This means that sometimes when a general sends a battalion to fight, only half the soldiers are there. And recently, with attacks by extremists, this phenomenon has been getting worse.

On September 27, Iraq’s Parliamentary committee on security and defense hosted a confidential meeting. One of the guests was Rasheed Flaih, the Lieutenant General who is in charge of the Iraqi army’s operations in the province of Anbar.  Military men and politicians discussed the ever-increasing absence of soldiers from their units in the province. [Read more]

The Last Days of Kobani Loom as IS Closes In on Syrian Kurds With Murder on Its Mind | truthdig

ISIL fighters have advanced into the Kurdish Syrian city of Kobane (`Ayn al-`Arab), with fighting in the streets as Kurds resist, according to the pan-Arab daily, al-Hayat [Life].  Kobane, a city ordinarily of about 50,000, is the third biggest town in the Kurdish part of Syria (the far northeast).  ISIL has taken dozens of nearby Kurdish villages, provoking an exodus of perhaps 300,000 refugees, with about 180,000 going to Turkey.  Turkey now has over a million Syrian refugees.

Iran is complaining about the West hanging the Kurds out to dry.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan warned a Kurdish audience that Kobane could soon fall. [Read more]

Iranians Join Protests in Support of Syria-Turkey Border Town Kobane, Beseiged by ISIS | Global Voices

Protesters in Iran and elsewhere around the world have taken to streets to publicly support the people of Kobane, the prominently Kurdish Syrian city near the Turkish border, as they desperately try to fend off ISIS.

The city of Kobane has been under attack since mid-September by ISIS, the Al Qaeda offshoot that has come to control large parts of Iraq and Syria using brutal and violent tactics, leading nearly 200,000 inhabitants to flee to nearby Turkey. Though ISIS forces have encountered resistance from Kurdish forces, since this post was last updated, ISIS was encroaching upon the city center of Kobane. [Read more]

Betraying Syrian Kurds-ISIL Slaughter Looming at Kobane as Turks Watch | OpEdNews

Turkish President Recep Erdogan, an outright criminal*, outlined three requirements before nearby Turkish troops intervene to stop ISIL’s takeover of Kobane, Syria. Absent Turkish intervention, it is generally agreed that ISIL will conquer the Kurdish city and begin massacring civilians. The tragedy of Erdogan’s three demands are that there is no way they can be met in the next few days, the estimated widow for Kobane’s survival.

The United States is bombing ISIL fighters surrounding Kobane to little effect. There are no plans for U.S. troops to intervene. [Read more]

For Turkey, it’s all about regime change in Syria | Al Jazeera

After severing ties with Bashar al-Assad in August 2011, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has actively worked to hasten the dictator’s downfall. Turkey’s Syria policy unfolded over many months and eventually came to be defined by the government’s absolute insistence that Assad be forced from power via the use of military force.

The AKP had spent much of its time in office lauding the improvement in Turkish-Syrian relations. The geopolitically minded AKP argued that closer relations with Damascus would help advance Turkish economic interests because it was an ideal transit route for Turkish trucks headed to the oil-rich Gulf states. Thus, as the Arab revolts spread to Syria, Ankara’s first instinct was to broker a political compromise, whereby Assad would step down as president and become prime minister. The plan lacked any real political meaning, owing to the fact that Assad would have a say over his successor and maintain his control of Syria’s armed forces and intelligence services. [Read more]

Because of Hezbollah, ISIS will reach Jounieh | Al Arabiya

The word “If” is Hezbollah’s propaganda weapon to justify its involvement in Syria and its implication of Lebanon’s Shiites and the entire of Lebanon in the Syrian war. It says: “If Hezbollah hadn’t supported the Assad regime, Shiite religious shrines would’ve fallen,” “If Hezbollah hadn’t gone to Syria, takfiris would’ve made it to Dahiyeh” and “If Hezbollah hadn’t protected Lebanon’s borders, ISIS would’ve seized it from south to north.”

And now another of these “if” statements is being attributed to Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai. According to media reports, a source close to Hezbollah claims that before heading to Rome, Rai said to an inner circle that “if Christians in Lebanon were asked their opinion on the ongoing developments, they would all give the same reply that if it weren’t for Hezbollah, ISIS would have been in Jounieh.” [Read more]

Obama’s Darkest Hour | Times of Israel

The US coalition against ISIL has already started to unravel. Less than one month into the military campaign, the key regional player in any anti-ISIL endeavor, Turkey, has placed serious conditions on its involvement. Ankara is demanding a no-fly zone over all of northern Syria in conjunction with a humanitarian corridor connecting Turkey with a massive liberated area free of all pro-Assad forces. From a strictly Syrian political and military perspective, this makes complete sense. However, President Obama does not see the wisdom of the Turkish demands. In fact, the American president and his NATO ally, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are miles apart in their respective views as to the priorities of the US-led war on ISIL.

If Turkey is to provide the coalition’s “boots on the ground”, it must have a foolproof understanding from Washington that the enemy will be not only ISIL, but the Assad regime as well. This places the Obama administration in the same fix that originally stymied American action back when Assad was clearly losing to the Free Syrian Army in 2012. To say yes to Erdogan now, Obama must say no to Putin. He passed on that deal two years ago. But now the stakes are clearly much higher. Obama has entered the war in Syria, and whether he likes it or not, the die has been cast. Either he confronts the Russians on their support for Assad or he risks open fissures within his fragile Middle East coalition. [Read more]

15,000-plus for Fighting: The Return of the Foreign Fighters | War on the Rocks

After years of being treated as a niche topic, the rise of the “Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq has moved the issue of foreign fighters from academic journals and wonky conferences to the front pages of major newspapers. But this has long been a topic of both personal and professional interest to me, beginning when I served alongside an Iraqi infantry battalion in western Ninevah province in 2006-2007. During my deployment in Ninevah, al Qaeda in Iraq exploited the numerous wadis (or dry riverbeds) across the Iraqi-Syrian border as their “ratlines” to move in and out of Iraq and to carry out horrendous acts of sectarian violence and terror. I returned to the United States to run a number of conferences and panels on foreign fighters at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

The scale of the current rush of foreign fighters going to fight in Syria and Iraq, however, is unprecedented, their numbers dwarf those of their predecessors in 1980s Afghanistan and in Iraq of the noughties. An estimated 15,000 men and women from 80 or more countries have gone to fight there. The foreign fighters involved in the Soviet-Afghan and the Iraq War (2003-2011) are greatly celebrated in the jihadist martyrdom canon, but they only reached a small fraction of what the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has attracted. But those conflicts unleashed what Clint Watts has described as the first and second foreign fighter gluts, respectively. The veterans of those conflicts seeded the jihadist movement in places such as Algeria, Egypt, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chechnya, and Dagestan, spawning the al Qaeda network and other jihadist organizations. The ongoing civil wars in Iraq and Syria will unleash a third foreign fighter glut that will likely create further regional and global security concerns, and exacerbate existing ones. [Read more]


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The Case Against Qatar | Foreign Policy

Behind a glittering mall near Doha’s city center sits the quiet restaurant where Hossam used to run his Syrian rebel brigade. At the battalion’s peak in 2012 and 2013, he had 13,000 men under his control near the eastern city of Deir Ezzor. “Part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), they are loyal to me,” he said over sweet tea and sugary pastries this spring. “I had a good team to fight.”

Hossam, a middle-aged Syrian expat, owns several restaurants throughout Doha, Qatar, catering mostly to the country’s upper crust. The food is excellent, and at night the tables are packed with well-dressed Qataris, Westerners, and Arabs. Some of his revenue still goes toward supporting brigades and civilians with humanitarian goods — blankets, food, even cigarettes. [Read more]

Did We Really Create ISIS? | truthout

It has been alleged in many online circles that Western powers and their allies created the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which, along with the Khorasan Group (an al-Qaeda cell), a US-led coalition is now reportedly battling in Syria. How accurate is this claim? I seek to determine whether a reasonable case can be made for this theory on the basis of Western mainstream reporting – not because it’s more objective (it often isn’t), but simply because it’s where one normally sees such claims dismissed as mere “conspiracy theories.” [Read more]

After Feigning Love for Egyptian Democracy, U.S. Back To Openly Supporting Tyranny | The Intercept

It is, of course, very difficult to choose the single most extreme episode of misleading American media propaganda, but if forced to do so, coverage of the February, 2011 Tahrir Square demonstrations in Egypt would be an excellent candidate. For weeks, U.S. media outlets openly positioned themselves on the side of the demonstrators, depicting the upheaval as a Manichean battle between the evil despot Hosni Mubarak’s “three decades of iron rule” and the hordes of ordinary, oppressed Egyptians inspirationally yearning for American-style freedom and democracy.

Almost completely missing from this feel-good morality play was the terribly unpleasant fact that Mubarak was one of the U.S. Government’s longest and closest allies and that his ”three decades of iron rule” — featuring murder, torture and indefinite detention for dissidents — were enabled in multiple ways by American support. [Read more]

The Spectacle of ISIS: Resisting Mainstream Workstations of Fear | truthdig

The use of new digital technologies and social media by ISIS has drawn a great deal of attention by the dominant media not only because the extremists have used them as a form of visual terrorism to graphically portray the beheadings of captured American and British civilians, but also because of its alleged sophistication as a marketing tool. Examining ISIS’s propaganda machine within a neoliberal frame of reference that responds to the latter in the language of the market does more than depoliticize the use of the media as a spectacle of terrorism; it also suggests that the new media’s most important role lies in creating a brand, establishing a presence on Twitter, and producing a buzz among those individuals sympathetic to its violent, ideological vision. For instance, Dinah Alobeid, a spokesperson for social analytics company Brandwatch, told VICE News: [Read more]

Israel’s false peace | Middle East Monitor

What is it about proclamations of “peace” that allows injustice to continue unhindered?

It’s a question applicable to governments, security institutions, media columnists and pro-Israel lobbies who regularly espouse a passion for “peace in the Holy Land”.

While on the surface it appears to be a perfectly normal and laudable aspiration, in the experience of Palestine it is unfortunately riddled with inconsistencies making it alarmingly dishonest. [Read more]

After the war: Jewish-Arab relations in Israel | openDemocracy

“Jewish Israelis usually don’t confront me with their opinions. But now it all comes out,” said Yazid, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, as we sat in a Tel Aviv coffee shop. A few seconds later sirens went off and the waiters hectically guided everyone into a nearby building for shelter. An explosion was heard from above, people waited for another minute and then they returned to business as usual.

It was mid-July and the fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip had just begun, and with it a difficult balancing act for Israel’s 1.3m-strong Arab minority. While most Palestinian citizens of Israel stood in solidarity with their brethren in Gaza and their hearts were beating for the victims of Israeli bombardments, the Jewish citizens around them mourned the very soldiers they disdained. [Read more]

Hundreds of US lawmakers warn Kerry over Iranian stonewalling | Times of Israel

A large majority of US House of Representatives members wrote Secretary of State John Kerry expressing their concern Thursday over Iran’s “refusal” to work with the United Nations nuclear watchdog.

With a November deadline fast approaching for Tehran and world powers to reach a deal on the Islamic republic’s nuclear program, 354 of the House’s 435 members warned that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been frustrated in its efforts to glean more information about the “potential military dimensions” of Iran’s atomic efforts. [Read more]

Is another Intifada in the works? | Al Jazeera

For the past year, Palestinian, Israeli, US, and UN officials have been warning of the possibility of another Intifada. Perhaps a sign that this is unlikely is that the 14th anniversary of the last uprising – which has literally and figuratively changed the landscape ever since – went by largely unnoticed a few days ago.

That is not to say the warnings are unfounded. There is a very real and growing sense of Palestinian exasperation with their continuously deteriorating situation. They endure daily colonisation, dispossession, apartheid, violence, blockade, and occupation – the longest in modern history. [Read more]


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