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07 June 2014


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FB Ali

"The Saudi state appears to have come to its senses and seeks allies for an anti-jihadi front."

The strongest anti-jihadis in the ME are Iran and its allies, including Assad, Iraq and Hizbullah. It will be interesting to see how Sisi and the Saudis deal with Iran. Already there are some signs of a thawing in relations between Iran and the Saudis.

I presume Sisi and the Saudis will soon agree on the policy to be followed with respect to Iran. Perhaps the first signs of these future relations will become apparent in Lebanon.

The beaver


From the former UN Envoy:

" SPIEGEL: If the international community had only supported the Free Syrian Army with the right weaponry in the early stages, Assad could have been ousted and a peaceful transition could have prevailed. Do you share this assessment?

Brahimi: No, because I think they did help the Free Syria Army. But the thing is they thought that the regime was going to fall easily -- complete misconception. Syria has a state, it has an army, and it was assumed that it was going to fall just like Libya did."



I don't think the genie is going to fit back into the bottle. The ME is full of politically engaged young men and women with lots of time on their hands. This includes both Islamists and secularists.

Iran has at least the illusion of a popular mandate, Syria has an exhausted population yearning for stability. This gives support to those regimes.

How long will it take for Egyptians to tire of Sisi, given the tough economic times ahead? Can the Saudi's buy off *both* the Egyptian and Saudi populations?


In a related ME issue,a group called Breaking the Silence has spent 10 years collecting accounts from Israeli soldiers who served in the Palestinian territories. To mark the milestone, 10 hours' worth of testimony was read to an audience in Tel Aviv. The Guardian posted some extracts...




Embedded in your hope that the genie will not go back in the bottle is belief in the progress of human societies ever onward and "upward." Excelsior! IMO that is a false premise generally in human affairs but specifically in the MENA area. Egypt in the 30s and 40s was a better place than the state the generals ruled after that. Iraq was a better place under the Hashemites than it has ever been since they were murdered. On the other hand, nothing lasts forever so eventually Sissi will depart and some other general will take his place. pl

Babak Makkinejad

I think Austro-Hungarian Empire was also a much better place than anything that replaced it; up to this moment in time.



I was not thinking of progress. I was thinking about demographics. Egypt is becoming a more urban society. Also, they are (or at least were) doing a fair job of increasing literacy.

Egypt does not grow enough to feed itself these days. They are big importers of wheat. I would expect a (mostly) young, (fairly) urban, (largely) literate and politically aware population to be restive should they start going hungry.



We always look longing at the past. Things were simply better then. The Greeks thought that certainly. Still, I think there's a certain truth to your point. The collapse of Empire was a tragedy for Europe - it unleashed an orgy of violence, and the destruction of a way of life.

There's a very real sadness there.

Have you read PLF's A Time of Gifts by chance?


In 1933 Patrick Leigh Fermor was expelled from Kings, dropped out of Sandhurst, and began a walk the length of Europe. He was just 18. He later wrote a trilogy of books retelling that trip, they are equal parts travelogue and social commentary. He has an astonishing command of history, language, and culture. Each paragraph dotted with unexpected anecdotes about a Medieval adventurer, a relevant poem, or an architectural aside. Fermor provides a wonderful sense of continuity, and you have the sense that the past is never very far away. Vlad the Impaler is a very real figure, as is the Pasha he fought to a standstill. These figures color and influence every step of his trip. Midst the joy and excitement, the late nights at gypsy camps and the formal balls in Vienna there's an inescapable sense of sadness. This is a world on the edge of a precipice.

"The dog-eared pages had fallen open at a passage. Marked with a skeleton leaf where the faded black-letter spelled out a prayer of intercession for 'unser wohlbeliebter Kaiser Franz-Josef'. But there was no mention of Elizabeth, his beautiful Queen-Empress. She must already have been assassinated at the landing-stage in Geneva; and no mention of their son, Crown Prince Rudolph who, after shooting all those bears in the mountains which we could see through the diamond-panes, had kept the last round for himself at Mayerling."

A sense of doom hangs over the series, he writes with full knowledge - the wonderful world that Fermor experiences, the strange and exotic customs of old Europe, the high born and noble peoples, the peasants who embrace him, all would be extinguished in the war. Their culture, their way of life, all of it would disappear. In its place came the secret police, the prisons, land reform, gray concrete apartment blocks, and a virulent Bolshevik hatred of the old - of all that came before.


I agree.

robt willmann

No change appears to be coming in the U.S. Syria policy, which is to overthrow the Syrian government headed by Bashar al-Assad by force and violence and to have regime change there. President Obama said so in his speech on 28 May at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point--

"As President, I made a decision that we should not put American troops into the middle of this increasingly sectarian war, and I believe that is the right decision. But that does not mean we shouldn’t help the Syrian people stand up against a dictator who bombs and starves his own people. And in helping those who fight for the right of all Syrians [except those who support Assad!] to choose their own future, we are also pushing back against the growing number of extremists who find safe haven in the chaos.

So with the additional resources I’m announcing today, we will step up our efforts to support Syria’s neighbors -- Jordan and Lebanon; Turkey and Iraq -- as they contend with refugees and confront terrorists working across Syria’s borders. I will work with Congress to ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal dictators. "


He says he will "work with Congress to ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition ...." That is not a change in policy, that is expanding the policy of violence to effect regime change.

Did you notice where Obama said he was not going to "work with" Congress? "As President, I made a decision that we should not put American troops into the middle of this increasingly sectarian war, and I believe that is the right decision."

Pardon me, Mr. president, but Congress makes the decision to put American troops "in the middle of this increasingly sectarian war", not the executive branch. See, Article I, section 8 of the constitution, if you can find your notes from law school.

Similarly, no change in Syria policy will be suggested from the Hillary Clinton camp. Mass media continues to prove it is a propaganda outlet as its attempt to make Hillary the Democratic party's candidate for president without opposition in the primary is also "ramping up". First, the frilly and silly People magazine puts a flattering photo on its cover with the line, "Hillary & the White House"--


Then, ABC television "news" is going to broadcast an "exclusive" interview with H. Clinton tonight, 9 June, done by Diane Sawyer--


And tomorrow, "her" book about being secretary of state is going to be released, entitled "Hard Choices". But wait, is there a whiff of plagiarism about that title in the air?


Former secretary of state Cyrus Vance called his book "Hard Choices". Back in 1983.

Who will remember that? As the late Gore Vidal said, people in the United States unfortunately cannot remember anything past last Tuesday.


Robert Willman

Hillary is increasingly revealed as a neocon, neo-Wilsonian whatsis. She will be vulnerable to attack as an interventionist. She regrets her decision to vote for the AUMF? So what, she still did it, and IMO that had a lot to do with the political opportunism that so characterizes the Clintons. She was ,after all, a US senator from New York. Obama? He is a feckless woman dependent man who is an incompetent manager. He has built a wall around himself made up of people who think just like him. SWMBO says that his great mistake was in running for a second term, but I suppose Michelle decided that. pl

Babak Makkinejad

Thanks, I will look him up.

Babak Makkinejad

I think there the US statement of seeking a political solution in Syria is new; I cannot tell if it is serious though.

Also the statement seeking/requesting/advising cooperation from Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria was new.

Potentially, if followed by actions by US, it could change the situation in the Levant.

Time would tell.

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