Posts Tagged ‘arab governments’


April 23rd, 2012 Comments off
The Obama administration has been subdued regarding the repression of protesters in Bahrain, home to the Navy’s Fifth Fleet that patrols the Persian Gulf. The administration’s approach has not gone unnoticed by rights activists or the authorities in Iran, which has portrayed the gentle American treatment of the Khalifa monarchy as part of a broader effort to align with other Sunni Arab governments, particularly Saudi Arabia.

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"Moscow & Beijing must be subject to a relentless campaign of shaming!"

February 12th, 2012 Comments off

“…. Moscow and Beijing must be subject to a relentless campaign of shaming, not only from Western governments and media, but from Pretoria, Delhi, Islamabad, Brasilia and other capitals that have come out on the side of principle. Amnesty International and other organizations will maintain an intense barrage of letters, emails, press releases and tweets from people all over the world who stand with the Syrians and against Assad’s violence. Other Arab governments should talk about how they gradually concluded that closing ranks behind violent dictators wasn’t the best strategy to keep protesters back home at bay, and about what steps they may take next to address the demands of freedom-seekers. Further efforts at the Human Rights Council, General Assembly and Security Council should be mounted to underscore Chinese and Russian isolation.
Russia and China’s readiness to stand alone last weekend smacks of fear…”

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"Seizing a Moment, Al Jazeera Galvanizes Arab Frustration"

January 29th, 2011 Comments off

The protests rocking the Arab world this week have one thread uniting them: Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite channel whose aggressive coverage has helped propel insurgent emotions from one capital to the next. Al Jazeera has been widely hailed for helping enable the revolt in Tunisia with its galvanizing early reports, even as Western-aligned political factions in Lebanon and the West Bank attacked and burned the channel’s offices and vans this week, accusing it of incitement against them.
In many ways, it is Al Jazeera’s moment — not only because of the role it has played, but also because the channel has helped to shape a narrative of popular rage against oppressive American-backed Arab governments (and against Israel) ….
“The notion that there is a common struggle across the Arab world is something Al Jazeera helped create,” said Marc Lynch, a professor of Middle East Studies at George Washington University who has written extensively on the Arab news media. “They did not cause these events, but it’s almost impossible to imagine all this happening without Al Jazeera.”
Yet Al Jazeera’s opaque loyalties and motives are as closely scrutinized as its reporting. It is accused of tailoring its coverage to support Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza against their Lebanese and Palestinian rivals….
Not since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when American officials accused it of sympathy for Saddam Hussein and the insurgency that arose after his downfall, has Al Jazeera been such a lightning rod. This time, its antagonists as well as its supporters are spread all over the Arab world.
This week, Mahmoud Abbas, accused Al Jazeera of distorting his positions, inciting violence and trying to destroy him politically. The station had broadcast a special report based on leaked documents that appeared to show Mr. Abbas and his allies offering Israel far-reaching concessions on Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees. The reporting set off angry demonstrations against the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, and in response, Abbas loyalists attacked Al Jazeera’s office in Ramallah.
In Lebanon, supporters of the ousted prime minister, Saad Hariri, set fire to an Al Jazeera van and menaced a crew in the northern city of Tripoli, accusing the channel of sympathizing with their Shiite opponents….
Many Egyptians felt betrayed, and Facebook and Twitter were full of rumors about a deal between Qatar — the Persian Gulf emirate whose emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, founded Al Jazeera in 1996 — and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who visited the emir in Doha last month. Within a day, Al Jazeera was reporting from the streets in Cairo in its usual manic style.
Al Jazeera’s freewheeling broadcasts have long made it the bête noire of Arab governments, and in some earlier instances they have succeeded in reining it in…..
Yet for all its flaws, Al Jazeera still operates with less constraint than almost any other Arab outlet, and remains the most popular channel in the region….”

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Tunisia riots offer warning to Arab governments (Reuters)

January 14th, 2011 Comments off

Reuters – Nervous Arab leaders watching young Tunisian demonstrators force an aging strongman to step aside are wondering if their own old established formula of political repression will have to change too.
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Arab governments talk to US officials like a (sleazy and pushy) man talk to a woman he is pursuing: this is Qatar

December 3rd, 2010 Comments off

“ASD Vershbow raised Qatar’s ties with Hamas, and told the COS that Hamas needs to be encouraged to rejoin the Palestinian Authority and the Peace Process. He added that there should be “no blank checks, no checks at all,” for Hamas. ASD suggested that Qatar was in a position to influence Hamas; if Qatar helped bring about a change in Hamas’s behavior, it could enhance the U.S.-Qatar strategic relationship. COS undertook to relay that message to the Amir and Crown Prince. While the COS underscored that Qatar wants a good relationship with the U.S., he noted there were times when USG decisions sent a different signal, such as the USG’s decision on LAIRCM. COS al-Attiyah rhetorically asked, “Are we friends or not?” ” (thanks Olivia)

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The Arabs and Iran

September 23rd, 2010 Comments off

“Regardless of Arab public opinion, governments in the Arab world remain largely authoritarian, with a demonstrated capacity to go against their public sentiment on critical issues, such as war. ….. the Iran issue, including the prospects of an American or an Israeli attack on Iran?
The first thing to note is that there is no unified Arab government position. Although, with the exception of Syria, most are suspicious of Iran and worry about rising Iranian power and influence, the degree of concern varies, and the sources of concern vary even more. Even in the case of Syria, where Iran is seen for the foreseeable future as a strategic partner, the Syrian government, a secular Arab nationalist government, is not naturally comfortable with the Islamic regime in Tehran. This much is clear (and is the basis of the prevailing conventional wisdom in Washington): most Arab governments would like Iranian power trimmed, with some supporting a potential attack on its nuclear facilities by either Israel or the United States.
But Arab governments’ calculations cover a broad spectrum and are based on assessments on several issues: the impact of an attack on their own security (and longevity) particularly in the short to intermediate term; the impact on the regional balance of power, which includes the impact on Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict; the impact on domestic politics (and in some places this also means the Sunni-Shiite divide); the impact on broader Arab regional and global influence; and the impact on Iraq’s future. The weight of each issue varies across the Arab world, partly as a function of proximity to Iran or to the Arab-Israeli arena, partly as a function of internal demographics, and partly as a function of size and aspirations…..
Their publics may see the United States as a bigger threat than Iran, but governments of Iran’s small Arab neighbors see the United States as protecting them from Iran, particularly after the decline of Iraq. Even Qatar, which has maintained good relations with Iran, at the end of the day is an American ally; it hosts a large American base—not Iranian troops. The differences are all about available options and the prospects of their success. And this is central in calculations of the possible use of force by either Israel or the United States to attack Iran’s nuclear program.
If the assessment is that there would be a limited war that does not expand to their countries and disrupt their comfortable lives, and that the war would end by destroying Iran’s nuclear weapons potential, weakening Iran’s influence, and better yet, lead to regime change in Iran—supporting war would be a no-brainer for most of them. If on the other hand, there is a high risk that the war would not be short, that Iran would still be able to develop a nuclear-weapons capability and also acquire an interest in disrupting their lives (particularly if American forces operate from within their borders), the calculations will be different….
There is a big strategic picture that matters to Arab elites, especially those with a strong Arab identity and in states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia where there is an expectation of regional leadership and of an enhanced global role. There is no escaping the current sentiment that overall Arab influence has diminished and that all non-Arab states in the region—Iran, Israel, and Turkey—have grown in power—particularly since the Iraq war. While governments in the region are first and foremost driven by what’s good for them, they also face a public, including elites, that places more emphasis on transnational identity, whether Muslim or Arab, than on state identity. This means nuclear power not only has strategic value but also symbolic weight. And Arab governments would have to deal with the sense that Arabs are falling further behind….
This perspective also gives a different view of a possible Israeli (sans America) attack on Iran. An Israeli success would be a mixed blessing: Iran would be weakened, but Israel would emerge even stronger. On the other hand, Israel would then be engaged in a real conflict with Iran bound to last for the long term, regardless of the government in power. Whereas, at the moment, the conflict between Israel and Iran remains primarily ideological; war would create a deeper divide. The negative turn in Turkish-Israeli relations, particularly since the Gaza war in 2008, has oddly left Israel dependent particularly on its relations with Egypt, for creating some regional balance. To be sure, Israel continues to rely primarily on the backing of the United States and on its own military capacities, but it has always been mindful of maintaining regional friends. A war with Iran would jeopardize that leverage in the long term.
Taken to an extreme, a protracted Israeli-Iranian conflict (that did not draw in other Arab states) would be seen by many in the region in the same way that the protracted Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s was seen by Israel: two powerful and feared countries weakening each other—in this case, with strategic benefits for the Arab states.
The trouble is that it is hard to envision a war scenario that does not impact Arabs in the region, directly or indirectly—just as it is hard to envision an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities that does not draw in the United States. For states like Egypt, Jordan, or Morocco, the Iranian threat is not a direct military threat. What they fear most is Iranian influence, in the region, broadly, and in their own internal politics. In particular, they worry about the success and popularity of the militant narrative that Iran sells, and its support for groups they oppose, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, far more than they worry about the number of Iranian troops, or the number of Iranian weapons. And it is for this reason that these states see a connection between the Arab-Israeli conflict and the degree of Iranian influence: diplomatic failure sells militancy, and conflicts like the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war and the Gaza war in 2008 make Hezbollah and Hamas more popular in Arab countries. That is why they emphasize Arab-Israeli peace diplomacy as a way of curbing Iranian influence…………. assuming that Iran lacked the immediate capabilities (or the political will) to retaliate against Arab targets in the Gulf, its will to support Hezbollah, Hamas, and any other militant group in the region will only expand, thus expanding the main threat that states like Jordan and Egypt fear.
There is another way in which the calculations of Iran’s energy-rich neighbors differ from other Arab states: the economic consequences of war. Even the energy producers have to worry about production-interruptions that affect them at least in the short to intermediate term. But they also may benefit from spikes in energy prices down the road. For the majority of Arab governments whose economies are not energy-based, they stand to pay a price, with little silver lining.
This complex picture—from Arab governments that may favor an American or Israeli attack on Iran to those who fear the consequence of such an attack—is not captured by the current debate about Arab support or opposition for an American or an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. These calculations vary depending on proximity to Iran or to Israel, on the internal demographic mix of Arab states, and the level of aspiration for Arab and regional leadership. Above all, they depend on an assessment of the probability of “success” which is defined both in terms of the military outcome, and in terms of the subsequent Iranian capabilities and will to influence politics in the Arab world. For most Arab governments that are not neighboring Iran, the latter fear dominates.”

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The Flotilla Murders

May 31st, 2010 Comments off

As I write this it is still not clear how many people have died as a result of the Israeli commando raid on the Free Gaza flotilla carrying aid supplies for blockaded Palestine. AP is still not going beyond four, Haaretz mentions 10, and al-Jazeera International says 15 or 16. Whatever the final number — which may still rise further as some of the wounded are in critical situation — it’s pretty clear Israel decided to implement the naval equivalent of the Dahiya Doctrine on a group of largely unarmed activists carrying aid to a people who have suffered through three years of sanctions that have been endorsed by the international community.

There will be a lot of Hasbara over the coming few days, as there has been in the run-up to to this crisis. An important part in making the flotilla effort mean something will be to render it ineffective and bring back attention to the cold-blooded murders that took place in the international waters of the Eastern Mediterranean in the morning of 31 May 2010.

Hopefully we will see democratic governments, like Turkey, take swift and decisive diplomatic action to counter what amounts to an attack on Turkish citizens. The European Parliament can be mobilized over the attack putting its MPs at risk, although I don’t expect much from the supine and cowardly European Commission. There is an opportunity here to bring pressure onto Arab governments, especially Egypt for its collaboration with Israel in enforcing a blockade. Out of this morning’s tragedy good things might come to reinforce Israel’s isolation and drive home the larger point that it has literally been getting away with murder for far too long. 

From Deir Yassin in 1948 to Khan Yunis in 1956 all the way to Qana in 1996, Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2009, there has been effort for accountability against all odds. The flotilla murders are an occasion to bring attention to other even greater crimes, starting by making sure the international investigation by the Goldstone Commission actually goes somewhere.

Update: The Al Jazeera English video I had posted earlier has been “removed by user” so I am replacing with another from Justicentric (a great place to follow developments on this issue via twitter):

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Censoring the internet

August 14th, 2009 Comments off

Arab governments are stepping up their efforts to control internet use
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Women face ‘imminent execution’ in Iraq

August 3rd, 2009 Comments off

Group appeals to Arab governments for help
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