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Thread: The Middle East (general catch all)

  1. #101
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The Middle East is complicated: nine graphics

    Congratulations to WaPo for '9 attempts to explain the crazy complexity of the Middle East' with a variety of graphics:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/...-middle-east/?

    The last graphic from The Economist is possibly the clearest and focusses on ISIS:
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  2. #102
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    David,

    I saw these graphics the other day and I think they're well done. But I'm curious - (1) is the Middle East any more complex than other regions of the world and (2) what explains the West's generalization of the complexity of non-Western regions?

    I suspect this perception, and the subsequent 'surprise' in U.S. media about the 'complexity' of the Middle East, is less about the region's actual complexity and more about the Western narrative and access to information.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

  3. #103
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    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    David,

    I saw these graphics the other day and I think they're well done. But I'm curious - (1) is the Middle East any more complex than other regions of the world and (2) what explains the West's generalization of the complexity of non-Western regions?

    I suspect this perception, and the subsequent 'surprise' in U.S. media about the 'complexity' of the Middle East, is less about the region's actual complexity and more about the Western narrative and access to information.
    No, the Middle East is no more complex than Africa or Europe, even the USA, if you are watching from another place. The graphics try to reduce complexity to diagrams, we are the visual generation, no longer the written generation and reflects the amount of time those who wish to learn have. The number involved is variable and often unpredictable in the West.

    (More later time for dinner)
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  4. #104
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    The vast majority of the public in the USA simply do not watch matters overseas beyond very limited sooundbites and short film clips. So when a crisis or a newsworthy item appears - go simple folks.

    I expect in Western Europe each country watches different parts of the world more closely and public policy themes too. The French public may watch North Africa for example.

    Another factor I think is that with a few exceptions the MENA diaspora has little impact politically - reverse kith & kin. So few can ask someone from MENA themselves. Clearly there are a good number of expats working across MENA, although I'd venture the numbers have declined in the last twentty years - except in the Gulf (200k Brits work there).
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  5. #105
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    Default Reflections on the Arab uprisings

    A thoughtful, reflective commentary by Professor Marc Lynch, in WaPo 'Reflections on the Arab uprisings' and self-critical of how analysts handled events: too many optimistic assumptions for one:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/...rab-uprisings/
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  6. #106
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    Default Moderator's Note

    I have merged four threads into this, each covers the Arab World generally and there are many threads on individual nations, only a few on transnational and regional factors. The thread was accordingly renamed.
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    Default 1964 Film The Middle East

    This 1964 Defense Department film is a history of the Middle East, with an emphasis on the Israel-Egypt conflict, Arab nationalism, Cold War issues, and the plight of Palestinian refugees.
    http://www.c-span.org/video/?323588-...lm-middle-east

    A 1964 DOD documentary that we would now call a "strategic appreciation" documentary. Although this was made 50 years ago, I think you'll be surprised how much of this remains relevant today. I also wonder why we don't produce films like this anymore?

    If you like history, this film will be 18 minutes well invested.

  8. #108
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    Default Obama’s Pivot to Iran

    A controversial FP article 'Obama's pivot to Iran' and sub-titled 'Forget the Asia rebalancing. The president’s big legacy is likely to be seen as empowering Tehran':https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/01/29...pivot-to-iran/

    I have read elsewhere, maybe here long ago, that Iran has consistently outplayed its many opponents diplomatically for years.

    Here is a taster:
    It is quite possible that, by the time Obama leaves office, no other country on Earth will have gained quite so much as Iran. Not all of this will be the doing of the United States, of course, and in fact some of it may prove to be the undoing of our interests in the long run.
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  9. #109
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    Default Obama's Secret Iran Strategy

    From Mosaic, a hithero unknown source, which announces its Jewish character and this long historical analysis is by:
    Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the National Security Council.
    The sub-title:
    The president has long been criticized for his lack of strategic vision. But what if a strategy, centered on Iran, has been in place from the start and consistently followed to this day?
    Link:http://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2015...iran-strategy/
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  10. #110
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    Default A war without a strategy seems, at best, irresponsible.

    Abdel Bari Atwan, is a Arab newspaper editor based in London, has a short article and is pungent in his criticism:https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-a...%80%99t-get-it

    Here is an early sample:
    It is obvious to me that IS is a very different—and infinitely more dangerous—creature than any of its predecessors, al-Qaeda included.....IS has not sprung from nowhere. It is the latest evolutionary step in the Salafi-jihadi movement, specifically the global jihadi, anti-American tendency introduced by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in 1996.
    He is very pessimistic:
    The best hope lies in the most powerful jihadi entities—al-Qaeda, the Taliban and IS—fighting and destroying each other.
    Alas there is little sign that this will happen:
    Failing violent implosion, only a long term, carefully thought out, and region-wide strategy could work. A concerted effort by the region’s policy-makers and influencers to introduce and nurture values of tolerance, unity, mutual co-operation and peace would have a good chance of ousting IS... because hatred, anger and resentment are the oxygen it needs to flourish.
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  11. #111
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    Abdel Bari Atwan's article reads like a real Arab nationalist. And he seems to have good reasons for pessimism.

    Entering any contest without a guiding purpose is an indulgence, diletantism or whatever almost anyone bothers to call it. Going early is a tactic but at least it is a concept of operation with some prospect of success. Going strong demonstrates real sense of purpose and sometimes a form of evangelism. Possessing an order of battle without exercising it is exhibitionism. Holding back massive resources can be a problem because once committed momentum becomes a form of inertia.

    US strategies as expressed in its OOB are generally well understood but its current concept of operation seems to be maintaining the OOB because the US has forgotten – or perhaps has never understood - how to exercise a graduated response. One concept for special forces in FID and FMA is base camp warfare and identifying civilians from protagonists with limited support from main force units. The parallel concept in FMA and FMA-plus is that main force units – most of whose financial and social interaction should be kept well away from foreign civilians – are committed to continuous and intensive harrying of the opponent with little recuperation time spent off-line or behind some wire.

    FMA-plus is when an opponent competing by proxy provides a convenient sanctuary that is then subjected to rigorous blockade if not destruction. Modern warfare is when an opponent has not managed to employ a foreign proxy and has not managed to stir up much dissent in your home.

    The Middle East cannot make up its collective mind. NATO and the UN are something else again. So who else can the Arabs turn to ? And there the US will eventually go again because at least it can agree on one thing. Going is almost always worth doing even if the US always manages to make some basic mistakes such as disbanding the defeated Iraqi army in already conquered Iraq.

  12. #112
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    Default a possible strategy

    This is a second effort. But have looked up the US Department of State and been told by Wiki that the term metonym preceded State’s move to Foggy Bottom. So this partial recap of lessons experienced by various parties might be of some use there.

    The current disruption in the Middle East is in part due to the poorly planned, inadequately pursued and now discontinued voluntary ground work of the US particularly in 2001, 1990/91 and to lesser extent 1956. And before those ineptitudes the sloppy work of the British and French in their organization of what was called the Middle-East. It is unsurprising that a variety of ratbags and malcontents have finally managed to concatenate all those and their own stupidities together into a troublesome mess.

    It is past time for show and tell and now time to iron things out before more countries contract what can only be described as a form of rabies. Several out-of-area countries have already contributed small military forces to demonstrate belief that things have become serious. And many do not want to send more because colonials are always called on to send troops when the sophists give up in disgust or incompetence. But if/when the current bunch of crazies start digging up war dead, then affairs in the Middle East will further accelerate and the next crusade will make the last look like the proverbial picnic in a park. Even in our part of the world the mullahs and the fence sitters are working to ensure there will not be a need to pack lunch.

    Realistically the prompt commitment of a co-opted but forceful coalition is a job for the leviathan US, the stolid Brits and Turks and the energized French who have recently been doing more and better in Africa than anyone else. In the arranging one thing should be kept central because in some cultures the principal function of the army is in-country policing with civilian police doing window dressing. So it is essential to select current army generals to become the new political leaders. Just make sure this time that such are industrious rather than venal and if fortunate get several halfway as sensible as Ataturk.

    Also and as more than window dressing have as coalition force and deputy force commanders two generals from outside those four main countries and from outside the region. For example Scandinavia could be suitable as one source and particularly Norway because it is most distant and has its own offshore oil. And one reminder, if either commander is American we lose.

    Many inhabitants of that sweeping region which includes South Central Europe through into Western Asia, Arabia and along two coasts of Africa might agree with much of the above. But do not expect them to say so because few including sophisticates seem prepared to be secular or humanist.

  13. #113
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    Default strategies: evangelical, maniacal and rational

    The reason the US is a popular study is that it is large enough and tolerant enough to permit many forms of useful and also eccentric behaviour. So the world can look on and learn and choose bits and pieces to try. Of course not all good things were developed in the US. The Brits apparently developed canned laughter and an Aussie developed the flight data recorder. The US just boosted the use of both. However a lot of its home-developed behavioural stuff is hyper specialised and some would say crazed. The US possibly has a higher per capita rate of uniformed and armed security personnel than any other nation. It has as a favouredl sport a concessional game in which only one person is permitted to think before short start-stop intervals and only one specialist kicks the ball. If any social activity is declared a belief then the rest leave it do whatever it wants. Outside the US few inhabitants of modern societies would consider concealed carry, American football or Jonesville eligible for any kind of support. But the US fought a civil war in part for human right to free choice and a future predicated upon something more than a charter that maintained in part the ‘birthright of kings and their ignoble courtiers’.

    What is often unadmitted is that the US employs its concept of human rights as a strategy in international afairs and also as a lever in pseudo-revolutionary warfare. What happened to an elected government in western Ukraine and how was it that its quickly endorsed successor permitted civilian flights to continue over eastern Ukraine ? Is there any difference except ourselves and them between an action-packed US Navy cruiser shooting down an Iranian airliner over international waters in the Persian Gulf and an action-packed separatist or Russian missile post shooting down a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine ?

    Every amateur psychologist and sociologist knows what the Greeks said simply and long before they went off to treat themselves on other people’s money. It is possible to believe Voltaire was using more words to say much the same. Even then he left out two groups of predictable words at the end, such as ‘and mine also’ followed by ‘provided I do not forget’. It is allowable and useful to have many but hopefully small groups of enthusiasts and crazies provided society also has forensic psychiatrists able to distinguish eccentrics from psychopaths and sociopaths. Society also needs to provide those psychiatrists with every form of legal support and sanction. And there are two aspects to US exceptionalism which are highly dangerous. Many have possibly heard it being described as “The US believes in its own exceptional omnipotence and that belief is shared by others.”

    The Bali bombings and the Twin Towers made it increasingly apparent that world affairs was extending to stages worse than serious. Dire was the appropriate word then and it is more-so today. The inability of the US State Department to get most current WMD powers on side in regard to any proliferation into Iran and North Korea is almost unbelievable but world affairs does attract strange competitors. So the US goes on as lead protagonist in its accustomed way. Many neurotics and others may view that as analagous to a book thumper or a groper from a psychedelic top-less bar often expounding and sometimes trying to impose views on a hapless onlooker. And on the other side is an assorted group of noisy neurotics and psychopaths offended by tolerances and unwanted initiatives they do not understand, plus sociopaths who want to become major vandals. And behind them are cliques of far more dangerous psychopaths and sociopaths. The latter are more clever than those out front and even more determined to build one absolutely conformal and misguided commune. The one thing that unites them all is that they really believe the US is trying to impose things such as classical ballet, nude statues, rock bands, Tammany Hall politicians and everything else when they themselves already have the use of possibly more hectoring speakers, hash, belly dancers and of course young boys and girls than are similarly available in the more populous and sometimes thoughtful US.

    Everything about the US offends the psychopaths. The clever ones use simple messages such as the ‘great Satan’ and ‘smaller Satans’ which every primitive believer can readily understand and then use to both arouse and intimidate the bovines who would otherwise be content to just wander around. Frequent use of the word great shows their fear otherwise they would use a descriptor such as gross or monstrous. However many of the secular are intimidated and just leave and move on to distant societies different from wherever they came from. But when away from danger many of the alleged would-be integrees turn out to be fencesitters because they still want to support the less horrific bits of what they left behind. And that in effect makes them fifth columnists although of course they deny the nature of that and pretend it is just an eccentricity.

    One way or another the psychopaths and sociopaths in the Middle East are currently managing to have enough supporters to keep their excesses going. A wealthy society can possibly afford to catch and keep its psychopaths and sociopaths for indefinite study by forensic psychiatrists. That luxury does not apply in international affairs however much anyone might hope so. Hence the use of drones which seems justifiable to keep numbers down in both ways. The problem is that drones cannot catch any for analysis and in current circumstances result in much collateral damage. One way to make psychopaths and sociopaths and their unwitting cronies stop and think might be – just might be - to demonstrate that more of the world is opposed to their views than seems possible. So the US with many resources has to be involved again but in a somewhat different way.

    That is in effect being pro-American. It is to force the realisation in the Middle East and elsewhere that what is happening now is no longer between two forms of evangelism but rather rational versus maniacal.

    It leads naturally to a forceful military ground campaign commanded by parties other than the ‘great Satan’. And a good reason to go hard now is that the psychopaths might become even crazier and the sociopaths might be unwilling or unable to restrain them. The US role should be entirely overhead especially supply of munitions for use by others, and next to nothing on the ground. On the ground should be as many others as practicable and hitting as hard as is reasonably permissable. So a ground force with out-of-area cool, calm and implacable leadership.

    Going back to the beginning the main good thing that can be said about the US is that despite everything it is tolerant to an exceptional and admirable degree. What does not kill us makes us strong. And either or both ‘us’ can be alternatively written in capitals. However, many who admire the US prefer to live elsewhere to avoid the tumult and excess. Unreserved US evangelism and belief in exceptional permissiveness can be just as maniacal as the behaviour in some other places. But believe it or not most people are probably on the US side. Just give them something more than bulldust evangelism. Being more focused on underlying purpose and above all using adaptive strategy would be a good way to go on.

  14. #114
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The West has no decent alternative plan - so the locals choose

    Ahmed Rashid had a wide ranging, pessimistic and provocative article in The Spectator last week:http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/...derate-option/

    The Arab world, which has been anxiously watching all of this for years now, is coming to some hard conclusions. Assad is finished — this much is clear. So who’s next? If the answer is not the five-dozen moderates trained by the Pentagon, it will be one of the two extremist militias who control the most territory in Syria: Isis and al-Qa’eda (called by its local name Jabhat al-Nusra). A horrible choice, you might argue, but for many it’s the only choice. The Arab Gulf states and Turkey have already made up their mind. They are heavily arming, funding and talking to al-Qa’eda, regarding it as a safer bet than Isis. It might once have seemed unimaginable but Isis has surpassed even al-Qa’eda in the brutal horrors it inflicts on its victims.
    So could al-Qa’eda, once considered the most deadly terrorist organisation in the world, end up with their own state; as masters of the caliphate, with the support of their neighbours? And if so, how on earth did we reach such a surreal and sorry state of affairs?


    (Later)So, on the battlefields of Syria and Yemen, the Arab states are not only opposing American attacks on al-Qa’eda but actively offering support to its leader, al-Zawahiri. So two quite separate super-wars are now being fought. The first is the war waged by the US and its western allies in an attempt to defeat al-Qa’eda and Isis in Syria and Yemen. Significantly the Arab states are taking no part in this war and providing the Americans with no intelligence.
    The second war is being fought by all the regional Arab states and Turkey — against Assad and other Iranian-backed forces in the region, as well as Isis. In this war, the Arab states openly avoid bombing or attacking al-Qa’eda in Syria and AQAP — and, indeed, provide both with logistical support. This is because both al-Qa’eda offshoots have now declared aims which are shared by the Arab states: they want to topple the Assad regime and oppose Iran.
    There are a lot of assumptions here, for example the US & UK could have removed Bashir Assad four years ago. IMHO he is correct the impact on Western public opinion could be harsh; "So now our allies support AQ and you want us to do too".
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    Default

    I only read your excerpt, but the potential outcomes for Syria surely involve more than the al-Nusra, ISIL, or U.S. trained surrogates (moderates) leading Syria in the future. It seems a couple of other potential options are:

    1. Syria as a we know it no longer exists, it breaks down into a number of real or pseudo-states.

    2. Assad is replaced, but the Assyrian regime remains in power.

    3. The Syrian military conducts a coup, and with help from Iran establishes a harsh military dictatorship (not a major deviation from where they're at now, but Assad would be gone).

    I suspect there are other possible outcomes, to include Assad staying in power, because it is the lesser of the evils.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    I only read your excerpt, but the potential outcomes for Syria surely involve more than the al-Nusra, ISIL, or U.S. trained surrogates (moderates) leading Syria in the future. It seems a couple of other potential options are:

    1. Syria as a we know it no longer exists, it breaks down into a number of real or pseudo-states.

    2. Assad is replaced, but the Assyrian regime remains in power.

    3. The Syrian military conducts a coup, and with help from Iran establishes a harsh military dictatorship (not a major deviation from where they're at now, but Assad would be gone).

    I suspect there are other possible outcomes, to include Assad staying in power, because it is the lesser of the evils.
    Now I will provoke as always--there is then the Obama version not mentioned here--of "we need Russia to get a solution approach".

    My pushback is we get nothing from Russia--Russian GRU intel troops are on the ground there, Russia has naval port presence and Russia has been the single largest weapons suppliers to Syria thus in fact pushing the war along in order to sell more weapons and without Russian aircraft and technical support Assad would have not had the abilities to constantly bomb his own civilians AND Russia has blocked in the UNSC countless UN humanitarian moves.

    So my question is why does this Administration "claim to need Russian diplomatic support" when they are part and parcel of the problem AND here is the kicker--regardless of what Obama does and or does not do the anti Assad forces regardless of political flavor are actually "winning" which was not the case one year ago. Russia also sees the handwriting on the wall as they are attempting to get some kind of non Assad solution before the ground reality kicks in and blocks them as well.

    Another key question we miss in US media is "who in the heck has trained a large number of TOW hunter killer teams and WHO is supplying them to the so called Moderates???? I have seen in their TOW battle videos attacks and hits on targets that even a well trained US Army could not pull off. They are firing roughly 20-30 TOWs a week now all hits and are part and parcel of every major attack.

    The TOW is winning the ground fight much as the stingers did in AFG --so who is behind them??--there is your answer for what the future will look like.

    As the TOW has been successful we are seeing a more coordinated attack campaign forming among the top 10 groups of all political flavors ---so who is driving that unification?? Because surprise surprise it is working.

    So if it is the CIA then why does Obama "claim" to need the Russians when the CIA is "winning" now on the ground?? --if KSA/Jordan and the UAE then after Obama's Iranian deal he has a serious credibility problem with them.

    MAYBE that is the sudden interest by Obama to get a "Syrian solution" before facts on the ground tell him he has absolutely no influence.

    That "influence" lies with the suppliers of the TOW.

    JMO----
    Last edited by OUTLAW 09; 07-26-2015 at 08:45 AM.

  17. #117
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default TOW: so who is behind them?

    Cited in part:
    Quote Originally Posted by OUTLAW 09 View Post
    Another key question we miss in US media is "who in the heck has trained a large number of TOW hunter killer teams and WHO is supplying them to the so called Moderates???? I have seen in their TOW battle videos attacks and hits on targets that even a well trained US Army could not pull off. They are firing roughly 20-30 TOWs a week now all hits and are part and parcel of every major attack.

    The TOW is winning the ground fight much as the stingers did in AFG --so who is behind them??--there is your answer for what the future will look like.

    As the TOW has been successful we are seeing a more coordinated attack campaign forming among the top 10 groups of all political flavors ---so who is driving that unification?? Because surprise surprise it is working.

    So if it is the CIA then why does Obama "claim" to need the Russians when the CIA is "winning" now on the ground?? --if KSA/Jordan and the UAE then after Obama's Iranian deal he has a serious credibility problem with them.

    MAYBE that is the sudden interest by Obama to get a "Syrian solution" before facts on the ground tell him he has absolutely no influence.

    That "influence" lies with the suppliers of the TOW.
    Well this article by a blogger assembles open source info, mainly from photos and points the finger at Iran. Note it is not the Iraqi military who have them, rather the PMU:http://aerohisto.blogspot.fr/2015/07...w-atgm-in.html

    Backed up by the anonymous posting of a 2009 video of an Iranian TOW production line:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2G5eBx_8aJ4
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  18. #118
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    Default 25 Years In Iraq, With No End In Sight

    So on the 25th anniversary of that first Iraq conflict, how is it possible that the U.S. is still entangled in a messy, complicated war with no end on the horizon? Aside from an intermission from December 2011 until August 2014, the U.S. military has been rumbling through the sweltering sands or soaring over the desert skies for this entire quarter-century, a military engagement unparalleled in U.S. history.
    Before the first Iraq battle, the U.S. had never fought a large-scale war in the Middle East. Yet freeing a tiny Gulf emirate from Saddam's clutches has morphed into a seemingly permanent state of war, metastasizing to so many countries it's tough to put a precise number on it.
    Link:http://www.npr.org/sections/parallel...-end-in-sight?


    An interesting reminder how long Iraq has been in the centre of attention.
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  19. #119
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    Default The Islamist Zero Hour

    A wide-ranging article in The New Statesman by Sir John Jenkins, a recently retired British diplomat and Arabist. He sets himself an immense task:
    The unique threat posed by Isis has been analysed in depth. But how should the West respond in practice?
    Link:http://www.newstatesman.com/world/mi...mist-zero-hour

    His explanation for writing this (in part):
    Just reading about all of this is bad enough. I do a lot of it for professional reasons. And I sometimes want to scream. It’s not because the quality of the commentary is low. Quite the contrary. There is an impressive debate out there....Yet none of this flood of commentary, it seems to me, has had any impact on real-world policy responses....
    His potted biography:
    John Jenkins is a former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq, Syria and Burma. He also served as consul general in Jerusalem, as director for the Middle East and North Africa at the Foreign Office in London and with British diplomatic missions in Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Malaysia. He is now executive director (Middle East) for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and is based in Bahrain.
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  20. #120
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    Default The Two Futures of the Arab World

    Thanks to a "lurker" for the pointer to this article which sets out to:
    Five years since the Arab uprisings, a political, cultural and social battle is still raging across the Middle East. Tarek Osman, the author of Islamism, explores‎ the challenges facing the Arab world, and reflects on the conflicting factors that will shape its future.
    Link:http://yalebooksblog.co.uk/2016/01/1...y-tarek-osman/

    He starts with:
    The Arab world is undergoing its most transformative change for a century. There are factors in this transformation that could plunge the Arab world into more disintegration, violence and chaos than what we have been seeing in the last five years. Yet, also within this transformation, there are changes that could salvage the Arab world, and usher it on a new trajectory of regeneration. Aside from the uprisings, regime-change, and civil wars, the key development that the Arab world has witnessed in the last few years has been the fall of the Arab state system of the past seven decades
    There is no unified thread on the Arab Spring, although a number of threads refer to the Spring, either for individual nations or the region. One likely home is:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=17692
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-01-2016 at 12:11 PM.
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