Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bahrain teargas stockpile plan faces international opposition: Government insists weapon is legal after activists condemn tender for vast quantities of gas and grenades

    Wednesday, October 30, 2013   No comments
Bahrain's government is striking back at an international campaign to prevent it from buying huge amounts of teargas to repress protests in the Gulf island state.

Officials and pro-government media in Manama insist that the use of teargas is within international legal norms.

Activists and human rights watchdogs, however, say the gas is used indiscriminately and lethally against demonstrators.

Pressure to prevent deliveries has been growing since the publication of a leaked document showing that Bahrain is seeking to purchase more teargas canisters than its entire population, of 1.2m.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Islam belongs in people's lives, not in politics, says Karima Bennoune: Author of Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here says the politicised version of Islam peddled by fundamentalists is dangerous and misrepresentative

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013   No comments
Writing a book about Muslim fundamentalism, the subject of Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, felt like dancing in a minefield, admits Karima Bennoune. The law professor, who describes herself as a secular person of Muslim heritage, set out to capture the voices of those battling fundamentalism on the front lines of countries such as Algeria, Afghanistan, Niger, Russia and Pakistan.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Saudi women filmed defying driving ban in October 26 protest

    Saturday, October 26, 2013   No comments
Activists have begun posting videos of women in Saudi Arabia driving cars, as their one-day campaign to defy a ban on female drivers in the conservative kingdom gets under way.



Thursday, October 24, 2013

What money cannot buy long term: Saudi Arabia’s Image Falters among Middle East Neighbors

    Thursday, October 24, 2013   No comments
Each year, the world is reminded of Saudi Arabia’s influential status as the birthplace of Islam, as hundreds of thousands of Muslims from across the globe make the Hajj, or pilgrimage, to the city of Mecca. Perhaps owing to its pivotal role within the Islamic faith, Saudi Arabia tends to be viewed favorably in countries that are home to large or majority-Muslim populations.

However, a Pew Research Center survey reveals that Saudi Arabia’s standing has slipped substantially among key Middle Eastern publics, including in Lebanon

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why Did Saudi Arabia Refuse to Join the UN Security Council? The nation seems to be refusing the opportunity to vote on the very issues it’s concerned about

    Wednesday, October 23, 2013   No comments
In an unprecedented move last Friday, Saudi Arabia turned down an offer by the United Nations to sit on the Security Council for two years as a non-permanent member. No country has ever been offered this opportunity and refused to accept.

Why did Saudi Arabia turn down the seat on the Security Council?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Foreign jihadists surpass Afghan-Soviet war, storm Syria in record numbers

    Monday, October 21, 2013   No comments
Foreigners fueled by Islamic fury are rushing to Syria to fight President Bashar Assad at a faster rate than the flow of rebels into Afghanistan in the war against a Soviet-backed regime in the 1980s, analysts say.

An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 foreign fighters have come to Syria since the outbreak of the uprising in March 2011.

“This is probably one of the biggest foreign-fighter mobilizations since it became a phenomenon in the 1980s with the Afghan jihad against the Soviets,” said Aaron Y. Zelin, a Washington Institute researcher who studies al Qaeda and Syria.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Sinai Peninsula is both a vacation paradise and a haven for jihadists and gangs of thugs. The military and the police are trying to regain control over the region. But a new class of haughty warlords and a resentful public mean the state's chances are remote

    Sunday, October 20, 2013   No comments

On the day of his departure, warehouse manager Hussein Gilbana packed his five best shirts and pairs of pants into a black suitcase, together with books and photos. He embraced his wife and kissed his five-year-old son, Omar, and his little boy, Assar.

He told the children that he would return soon, and that he would come to get them and take them to a new home as soon as possible. Then he got into his old Fiat and drove away. He was leaving his home in al-Arish, on the Sinai Peninsula, which he had grown to hate.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The forgotten story of Iran Air Flight 655

    Thursday, October 17, 2013   No comments
If you walked into any high school classroom in the United States and asked the students to describe their country's relationship with Iran, you'd probably hear words like "enemy" and "threat," maybe "distrust" and "nuclear." But ask them what the number 655 has to do with it, and you'd be met with silence.

Try the same thing in an Iranian classroom, asking about the United States, and you'd probably hear some of the same words. Mention the number 655, though, it's a safe bet that at least a few of the students would immediately know what you were talking about.

What to Make of Saudi Hand-Wringing: Troubling and uncertain times for Saudi diplomacy

    Thursday, October 17, 2013   No comments
These are troubling and uncertain times for Saudi diplomacy. A string of regional upsets and friction with the United States has cast the kingdom into rocky, uncharted waters. Washington’s support of the Islamist government in Egypt and its response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria elicited outrage and accusations of U.S. unreliability and even betrayal from Riyadh. Then came the slight warming in U.S.-Iranian relations—highlighted by the unprecedented phone call between U.S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. That mild rapprochement brought to the fore an old specter: an U.S.-Iranian breakthrough that marginalizes the Gulf states and erodes their long-standing position as beneficiaries of U.S.-Iranian hostility.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

US President Barack Obama reportedly confronted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a "difficult meeting" in May about what Washington saw as indiscriminate support for fighters seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

    Thursday, October 10, 2013   No comments
US President Barack Obama reportedly confronted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a "difficult meeting" in May about what Washington saw as indiscriminate support for fighters seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a sign of disagreement between the two NATO allies over how to respond to the crisis in Syria.
Erdoğan met with Obama during a visit to Washington in May, and the two had talks focusing primarily on Syria. The two leaders projected a united front after the talks despite disagreement over how much the US should intervene to end the Syrian crisis. Turkey has pressed the US for a more aggressive stance to bring down the Assad regime while the Obama administration, partly out of concern over radical Islamist groups within the opposition, has refrained from military action or more active support for the opposition.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In a SPIEGEL interview, Syrian President Bashar Assad discusses his fight for power, his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and the special expectations he has for Germany

    Wednesday, October 09, 2013   No comments
Editor's note: The following is the version of the interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad that ran in the Monday edition of SPIEGEL. Earlier on Monday, the Syrian state news agency Sana published its own version of the interview. There are minor differences that reflect changes made by our fact-checkers.



Monday, October 7, 2013

Turkish Shias in fear of life on the edge: Sectarian hatred is moving from Syria into the mainstream of Turkey’s political life

    Monday, October 07, 2013   No comments
The poison of sectarian hatred is spreading to Turkey from Syria as a result of the Turkish government giving full support to militant Sunni Muslims in the Syrian civil war.

The Alevi, a long-persecuted Shia sect to which 10-20 million Turks belong, say they feel menaced by the government’s pro-Sunni stance in the Shia-Sunni struggle that is taking place across the Muslim world.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

In an interview with SPIEGEL, Syrian President Assad: "West Is More Confident in Al-Qaida than Me"

    Sunday, October 06, 2013   No comments
In an interview to be published in the Monday issue of SPIEGEL, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks out about inspections of his country's chemical weapons, possible new elections and the role of Germany, the United States and Russia in his country's crisis. He also continues to vehemently deny any role in chemical weapons attacks on civilians and the armed opposition.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

CIA ramping up covert training program for moderate Syrian rebels

    Saturday, October 05, 2013   No comments
By Greg Miller

The CIA is expanding a clandestine effort to train opposition fighters in Syria amid concern that moderate, U.S.-backed militias are rapidly losing ground in the country’s civil war, U.S. officials said.

But the CIA program is so minuscule that it is expected to produce only a few hundred trained fighters each month even after it is enlarged, a level that officials said will do little to bolster rebel forces that are being eclipsed by radical Islamists in the fight against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Iran Opens Its Fist

    Friday, October 04, 2013   No comments
He came to New York. He saw almost everyone. Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s new president, may not have conquered, but at least he seems to have persuaded John Kerry and Barack Obama that his proposals for negotiating an end to the US-Iran conflict deserve to be taken seriously. When President Obama picked up his phone in the Oval Office on Friday to bid farewell to President Rouhani with the Persian phrase Khodahafez (“God be with you”), there was the sense that a tectonic shift between Washington and Tehran was taking place.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Syria: massacre reports emerge: Villagers from president's Shia sect are fleeing their homes, recounting gruesome tales of executions and other atrocities

    Wednesday, October 02, 2013   No comments
For more than two years, as fighting has escalated throughout Syria, a group of villages peopled by government supporters in the mountains above this coastal city has been spared any attacks.

In spite of their proximity to the Turkish border, across which rebel fighters are armed and financed, farmers continued their lives as normal, even though as Alawites who come from the Shia sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs they could have been obvious targets.

At dawn on 4 August their peace was shattered. Armed rebels,

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How Turkey blew its chance to lead this troubled region: The country could have enhanced its influence and saved a lot of lives. It did the exact opposite

    Tuesday, October 01, 2013   No comments
Erdogan's blunders in the sectarian political swamp that stretches between Iran and the Mediterranean remind me of Tony Blair's misadventures in the Middle East. Blair, like Erdogan, was a consummate politician on his home turf with sure political instincts and, again like the Turkish Prime Minister, won three elections in a row. He was accustomed also to dealing with US and EU leaders. But when it came to Iraq and Lebanon, his judgement deserted him and hubris misled him.

The picture Blair presents in his autobiogaphy of Iraq post-invasion shows astonishingly little understanding of what was happening. Al-Qa'ida and Iran appear out of nowhere like aliens from a neighbouring planet, as agents of disruption. Erdogan, likewise, seems baffled about why his venture into the Middle East has gone so very wrong

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