Military intervention in Syria “would benefit the US the most”. This is the conclusion drawn by two respected authors, Michael Doran and Max Boot, about the current situation in Syria and the way the US and the West should respond to it.
Professor Saad Jawad is no stranger to the hardships Iraq’s academic community has endured. So when, after having taught for thirty years at the University of Baghdad, he says that Saddam Hussein’s collapse destroyed intellectual free speech in Iraq, it pays to listen. Since the 2003 invasion, Iraq’s intelligentsia have been targeted by sectarian killing squads. Amongst the violence after the invasion, these killings still stand out for their selectivity. Iraq’s intellectuals have been sidelined amidst the fog of war, and their absence is felt throughout Iraq’s political system today. To overcome the incredible challenges facing the current Iraqi government, Baghdad needs to welcome and protect this community.
The political landscape of the Arab world has been fundamentally transformed by the events of 2011. After decades of sterile politics and engrained authoritarianism Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria have embarked on a courageous journey aimed at fostering inclusive societies based on the rule of law and accountable governance. While we are only at the beginnings of what will be a long and arduous process, it is hard to believe that things will ever go back to the way they were. To imagine a return to the political apathy that characterised many countries in the region before December 2010 would be to ignore the groundbreaking social implications of the "Arab Spring" and the spectacular return of people power to the region.
The two recent explosions within the Iranian nuclear establishment are the latest escalation in the war that is being fought between Israel and the US against Iran. The war is aimed at delaying and if possible preventing Iran from successfully completing its Shahab3 ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme. The tools being used by the anti-Iranian forces are targeted assassinations, sabotage and cyber weapons. However, it is unlikely that the war will stop the Iranian intent to develop its nuclear and ballistic weapons. At best it will significantly delay and interrupt their development.
In the decade since 9/11, much has been written about the alleged changes in the nature of insurgent and revolutionary movements. Many of these studies in fact base their arguments on an interpretation of the functioning of the global Jihadist movement. They boil down to a technical analysis of principles of insurgency and counterinsurgency, devoid of politics and ideology. The presently successful Arab Spring movements, which have eclipsed the Jihadist appeal in most of the Middle East, indeed do display some of these trends. Nevertheless, they also bear witness to the continued importance of politics and ideology. Their success is ultimately based on the mobilisation of widespread popular support through an appealing cause that taps into widespread grievances.
Dictatorships have generally withstood the test of time as a result of a series of myths perpetuated amongst the populations of their countries. These myths revolve around the unchallengeable power of the dictator and the futility of resistance. However, the Arab Spring is playing a key role in falsifying these beliefs, creating a watershed moment in history which will be remembered as the beginning of the end of dictatorship.
On 31 October, a clear majority of UNESCO members voted to welcome Palestine as a full member in the UN body. As a result both UNESCO and the Palestinians are punished hard by the US and Israel. Why this anger? And what next for Palestine’s UN membership bid? The vote was held in Paris where the headquarters of the UNESCO is located. Only 173 out of the 194 member states of the UN body came to the vote. Of these, a clear majority of 107 voted in favor – amongst them France, Spain and heavyweights Brazil, Russia, China, and India – 14 voted against (Israel, US and Germany) and 52 abstained. This was a clear victory for the Palestinian Authority (PA) which was thus granted the majority needed to become a full member of the UN organization.