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Archive for December, 2012

Dubai New Year’s Fireworks Display, 2013

December 31st, 2012 Comments off

Fireworks at the iconic Burj Khalifa in Dubai for 2013:

Dubai is back. Its economy grew 3.2 percent in 2012, owing in part to good economic growth among its two major trade partners, China and India, and in part to the United Arab Emirates federal government having stepped in to use government stimulus to achieve a classic Keynesian growth effect. (Rajoy in Spain and the US tea party are just wrong and need to take economics 101).

So a little good cheer for us all from a bright spot in the Middle East.

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Al-Qaida in Yemen Offers Bounty for US Ambassador

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” The Yemen-based branch of al-Qaida has offered a bounty for anyone who kills the U.S. ambassador to Yemen or an American soldier in the impoverished Arab state, a group that monitors Islamist …
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Protester shot in Cairo may have been targeted

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An Egyptian woman holds a poster with Arabic that reads, "my Christian siblings.. happy new year.." in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)CAIRO (AP) — Gunmen drove into Cairo's Tahrir Square before dawn Monday and fired at an anti-government sit-in, seriously wounding a protester who had been jailed and tortured by former military rulers after he witnessed the killing of another activist. Two lawyers involved in the case suggested it was a targeted attack.

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Egypt’s pound slips further against dollar

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Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil talks during a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. Kandil says his country will resume talks in January with the International Monetary Fund over a $4.8 billion loan, after they were suspended during this month's political turmoil over the now-adopted constitution. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)CAIRO (AP) — The Egyptian pound slipped further against the dollar on Monday, a downward plunge on the first two days of trading under a new system, as the president tried to assure a worried public that the crisis atmosphere will end soon.

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Saudi Arabia draws up plan for gas exploration

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Saudi Arabia will explore more gas wells in the Red Sea, the official media reported Monday. The announcement comes after the recent discovery of gas wells in Tabuk province near the Red Sea, Xinhua …
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The PA’s Ministry of Health

December 31st, 2012 Comments off
Sammy responded to the reply by Muhammad from yesterday:

Professor AngryArab,

I saw Mohamed’s response to my message you posted on your blog. He challenged me to “document a single case” of Palestinians dying due to simple illnesses due to the lack of qualified doctors and adequate medical equipment in the West Bank. Well, check it out below (these are just a few, italics are mine).

You and your readers know very well the whole Palestinian Authority is a sham. Mohamed sounds more like a propagandists rather than a doctor working in the West Bank. He blames my beef with Ramallah Governor Leila Ghanam due to ‘tribal dispute’. It’s ironic how the current Ramallah governor relishes any opportunity to criticize the Israeli occupation when her previous profession was a senior security official who’s primary job (as we all know) is to protect Israel and its settlers by quelling any Palestinian resistance.

Here is “WHO’s classification on the Palestinian Medical Service”:

“At least 57% of deaths in the West Bank were preventable. “ (WHO, May 12, 2012)

“This study in 2 Palestinian hospitals aimed to assess physicians’ knowledge about the risks associated with the use of radiological examinations. A questionnaire answered by 163 physicians revealed many gaps in knowledge. Only one-third of physicians had received a radiation protection course during their undergraduate study or in the workplace. Few physicians were able to answer correctly many scientific, knowledge-based questions. For example, only 6.1% of the respondents were able to identify the ALARA principle and 98.2% did not know that there is no safe dose limit according to international recommendations.” ( WHO June 2011, p. 875)

Preventable injuries from traffic accidents, burns and poisoning are prominent causes of childhood mortality and account for more than one fourth of the deaths in children between the ages of one and five. Preventable accidents and injuries are also responsible for almost one third of all deaths among the 5–39 year age group.” (WHO 2000)

“Experts from Birzeit University say death rates among children and expectant mothers have failed to decline in recent years.” (BBC 2009)

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liberators don’t have to pay

December 31st, 2012 Comments off
” “They stayed six years and only paid rent for one year,” said Haji Najibullah Khan, who grew up in the Pashengar house that became a US base. He said the departing US commander warned him off pushing for rent money when they met a few weeks before the soldiers drove away in the night.”" (thanks Amir)

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The Syrian conflict: behadings and dogs

December 31st, 2012 Comments off
““They beheaded him, cut him into pieces and fed him to the dogs,” said Agnès-Mariam de la Croix, mother superior of the Monastery of St James the Mutilated between Damascus and Homs.
Forget the familiar Arab spring narrative about down-trodden masses taking on the forces of evil: the Syrian conflict appears to have entered a darker phase in which the rebels are committing atrocities against innocent civilians. It does not bode well for peace.
The people who chopped up Arbashe did not seem to need much of a motive: his brother had apparently been overheard complaining about the rebels behaving like bandits.
Sister Agnès-Mariam, who has been keeping a macabre scorecard of such atrocities, believes that his fault, in the eyes of his killers, was his Christian faith.
“The uprising has been hijacked by Islamist mercenaries who are more interested in fighting a holy war than in changing the government,” she told The Sunday Times on a recent visit to Paris. “It’s turned into a sectarian conflict,” she added. “One in which Christians are paying a high price.”” (thanks Samer)

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Israel eases ban on building materials for Gaza

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Palestinian workers rebuild a house in Gaza City, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. Israel has started allowing long-banned building materials into the Gaza Strip, its first key concession to the territory's Hamas rulers under a cease-fire that ended eight days of intense fighting last month, the military said Monday. A Hamas official described the quantity sent so far as "cosmetic" and Gaza economists said it would take years of round-the-clock shipments to even make a dent in the gap left by the five years of blockade. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has started allowing long-banned building materials into the Gaza Strip, its first key concession to the territory's Hamas rulers under a cease-fire that ended eight days of intense fighting last month, the military said Monday.

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The Middle East Channel’s Greatest Hits (2012)

December 31st, 2012 Comments off

2012 has been a difficult year in the
Middle East in many, painfully familiar ways: descent into civil war in Syria, political polarization and frustration in Egypt, unrepentant repression in Bahrain, war in Gaza, the U.S. Ambassador’s death in Libya, stalemate and backsliding in many other countries in the region.  But it’s been a great year for the Middle East Channel!   [[BREAK]]

Over the last twelve months, we have published
more than 250 essays by an impressive range of scholars, journalists and
analysts, and introduced or expanded a number of new initiatives.   Subscriptions to our outstanding Daily Brief
have almost doubled in the last year.  I
am delighted with the continuing evolution of the Middle East Channel’s role as
a premiere source of informed, high-quality analysis of the region’s turbulent
politics.

We aim for both breadth and depth on the
Middle East Channel.  The top two topics
on the Channel this year, unsurprisingly, were Egypt (20% of all posts) and
Syria (15%). We ran more than ten articles each on Bahrain, Jordan, Libya,
Tunisia, Yemen, and the Arab monarchies of the Gulf, along with extensive
commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran.  We also published outstanding essays on
countries which don’t often get attention, such as the fate
of activists in Oman
, the ongoing
mobilization
in Saudi
Arabia’s Eastern Province
, the battle
over a Turkish soap opera
, and "Morocco’s
Resilient Protest Movement
."

We also aimed to dive deeper into particular
issues this year by commissioning multiple articles on a similar theme and then
collecting them in the free PDF "POMEPS Briefing" collections. We released a
dozen of these collections in 2012, including "Breaking Bahrain", "Kuwait’s Moment of Truth", "The New Salafi Politics", "Morsi’s Egypt",
"Jordan, Forever on the Brink", and "The
Arab Monarchy Debate
."  We also published
an eBook, Islamists in a Changing Middle East.

We also moved into multimedia by introducing
a new series of (mostly) weekly "POMEPS Conversations" with leading Middle East scholars to the video box on the top of the
Channel’s home page.   Those fifteen
minute chats have been enormously interesting (to me, anyway), with some
focusing tightly on a single political current issue and others ranging widely
across themes, regional trends, or academic debates.  The scholars who have joined me for these
conversations recently include Nathan
Brown
, Greg
Gause
, Wendy
Pearlman
, Curt
Ryan
, Jillian
Schwedler
, Michael
Willis
and many others.  Subscribe to
the podcast
here and don’t miss a convo!

And now, since tradition demands it, a
list.  Here are the top posts on the
Middle East Channel this year, based on a highly scientific formula combining
traffic and personal taste.  It’s hard to
choose, since of course all the pieces we published were my favorite, so when
in doubt I let pageviews and Facebook likes break the ties. Keep in mind that
these articles are drawn only from articles published on the Middle East
Channel, not from the huge variety of great content on the region published
directly by Foreign Policy or on other channels. 

 The Israeli
Debate on Attacking Iran is Over
, by
Shai Feldman (August 20).   Foreign
Policy and the Channel ran a lot of articles about the challenges surrounding
the Iranian nuclear program this year.  
Feldman intervened at the height of the Iran war fever with this sober
and important analysis of Israel’s internal debate, explaining why the Israelis
would not take advantage of the American electoral calendar to strike.   Fortunately, he turned out to be right.

Islamism and the Syrian Uprising, by Nir Rosen (March 8).  Well before anxieties over the rise of Jubhat
al-Nusra permeated Western discourse on Syria, Nir Rosen wrote this powerful
dispatch about the emerging Islamist role in the uprising.  Rosen provided important reporting at a time
when few journalists were able to get access on the ground, pointing to
uncomfortable trends which cut against then-prevailing narratives.  The Middle East Channel ran a lot of really
great analysis of the Syrian crisis this year, but Rosen’s reported piece stood
out.

Jordan
is not about to collapse
, by Nick Seeley (November 14).  Jordanian politics have been moving backward
for years, with the Palace stubbornly refusing to make significant political
concessions to a rapidly growing protest movement. (When protestors took to
downtown Amman in response to fuel price hikes, with some chanting for the
overthrow of the regime,  a flurry of
commentary suddenly saw the monarchy on the brink of collapse.  Seeley, former editor of JO Magazine and a
long-time Amman-based journalist, thought this was a bit much and explained
exactly why the monarchy was unlikely to rapidly collapse even as it failed to
address its grinding and growing problems. 
For now, he was right.

Jordan’s
New Politics of Tribal Dissent
",  by
Sean Yom and Wael al-Khatib (August 7) and "Identity
and Corruption in Jordan’s Politics
," by Curt Ryan (February 9). It was difficult to decide which of the many other
fantastic articles on Jordan to include, but these two stood out by identifying
vital developments beneath the headlines which have been reshaping the contours
of Jordan’s politics. They avoided the sensationalism of impending collapse in
favor of digging deep into the real changes in Jordan’s political scene.  Richly detailed and analytically
pathbreaking, these articles should be required reading for students of
Jordanian politics this year.

Yes, the Gulf monarchs are in trouble, by Christopher Davidson (November 13).  Based on his recently published book After
the Sheikhs, Davidson’s article anchored our "The
Arab Monarchy Debate
" collection.  As
a group, those articles underscored the limitations of monarchy as an
explanation for the patterns of protest and regime survival of the last two
years.  Whether or not his predictions
pan out, Davidson has been at the leading edge of identifying the converging
problems facing the Gulf monarchies.

Why the U.S. won’t cut military aid to Egypt, by Shana Marshall (February 29). At a time when many policy analysts were
calling on the Obama administration to use its military aid to Egypt as
leverage over its military leaders,
Marshall pointed out exactly why it wouldn’t likely happen:  most of the money involved went not to
Egyptian generals but to American corporations.   This detailed explanation of the unglamorous
realities of such aid programs should have put into sharp perspective the easy
talk of leveraging aid.

The Libyan Rorschach, by Sean Kane; "Militia
politics in Libya’s elections
" by Jacob Mundy; and "Libya’s
volunteer peacekeepers
" by William Lawrence. 

After the horrible death of Ambassador
Christopher Stevens, "Benghazi" became the most important place and issue in
the entire Middle East for certain American political trends.   But what happened on that dreadful day only
revealed a small part of the story of post-Qaddafi Libya.  A country being rebuilt from a virtual tabula rasa, full of contradicitons and aspirations, deserves far more careful attention than the politicized glances which it usually receives.  The Middle East Channel has remained committed to offering ongoing coverage of the new Libya, and these three articles struck us as among the best surveys published this year. 

The
Egyptian Republic of Retired Generals
, by Zeinab Abul Magd (May 8).   The real interests and intentions of the
leaders of Egypt’s military dominated Egyptian political debate for over a
year.   Abu Magd’s post offered a full,
rich account of the economic interests and social place of Egyptian officers
and how they might conceive of their place in a post-SCAF Egypt.  Her essay nicely complements two outstanding
essays by Robert Springborg also published this year:  "Egypt’s
Cobra and Mongoose
" and"Egypt’s
cobra and mongoose become lion and lamb
".

Rethinking
the Muslim Brotherhood
and Old
Habits Die Hard
, by Khalil el-Anani. 
The intentions and the nature of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood have become
an all-consuming question for many Egyptians and analysts over the last
year.  Anani, who has been studying the
Brotherhood intensely for over a decade, offers some of the best perspective on
the internal battles and ideological debates inside Egypt’s Muslim
Brotherhood. 

Monopolizing
power in Egypt
and Morsi’s
Majoritarian Mindset
by Michael Wahid Hanna.  These two essays struck me and our readers as
particularly incisive accounts of the deeper problems with Egypt’s transition,
laying bare some of the significant problems with the Muslim Brotherhood’s
majoritarian approach to democratic rule. 
Among the many other superb essays on Egypt (more than 20% of the total,
remember), I would also recommend  "Contesting
Egypt’s Future
" by Elijah Zarwan; "Cairo’s
Judicial Coup
" and "Egypt’s
State Constitutes Itself
" by Nathan Brown; "Can
Egypt Unite
?" by Daniel Brumberg;  "The
battle for al-Azhar
" and "A
better Egyptian constitution
" by H.A. Hellyer.

Building
a Yemeni State at the Loss of a Nation
by Silvana Toska (October 28).  Of the many articles published by the Middle
East Channel on Yemen this year, Toska’s stood out for its panoramic view of
the emerging Yemeni state and nation.   I
also quite liked Madeleine Wells "Yemen’s
Houthi Movement and the Revolution
" for its in-depth, on the ground look at
a little understood part of that emerging political landscape.  

Calvinball
in Cairo
by Marc Lynch.   I didn’t plan on including any of my own
articles in this list — and might have preferred this one on the fizzling of Muslim protests against the YouTube video – , but if rules are going to be broken then Calvinball is
the time and place for it!   Calvinball
was by far the most read article on the Channel in 2012, I’m happy to say, and remained
relevant all the way up to the end of the year
.  The absence of fixed rules plagued Egypt’s
political transition, driving uncertainty and fear while too often rendering Cairo’s
political game absurd.   

Why Won’t Saudi Arabia Write Down its Laws? By Nathan Brown (January 23).  I have no idea why this seemingly obscure
topic proved so irresistable, but Brown’s essay on the Saudi legal system remained among the highest pageviews of any article over the course of the entire
year.  Go figure. 

Thanks to everyone – authors, readers,
tweeters and retweeters, FP editors, Kanye West and all the rest – for contributing to
another great year for the Middle East Channel. 
We’re looking forward to another great year in 2013!


Marc Lynch and Mary Casey

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