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Posts Tagged ‘arab neighbors’

Western love affair with Saudi repression

July 27th, 2012 Comments off
Still, by sending these two women to London under the guise of progress, Saudi Arabia will indeed be taking a trophy home for once again proving that among its Arab neighbors, when it comes to blatant backwardness, hypocrisy and systemic gender discrimination, it takes home the gold, and then some..Saudi Arabia continues to be the only country in the world to prevent girls from taking part in sport in government schools. Qatar on the other hand is also building a high performance training center aimed to involve women in sport and has boasted a Women’s Sport Committee for over a decade. Saudi Arabia still segregates and oppresses women in society, which includes preventing them from playing sports, not providing any state sports infrastructure for women and marginalizing them from participating in public life..””

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'Get to the Damn Table' for Peace Talks

December 4th, 2011 Comments off

The top U.S. defense official is warning Israel it cannot afford to further isolate itself from Arab neighbors in the Middle East.
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Iran boycott mars rare Middle East nuclear talks (Reuters)

November 21st, 2011 Comments off

Reuters – Israel and its Arab neighbors sat in the same room on Monday for rare discussions on banning nuclear weapons in the Middle East, although the meeting was marred by the absence of boycotting Iran.
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This is hilarious: even Israeli media don’t claim that Arab countries attacked Israel in 1967

May 22nd, 2011 Comments off
In the service of Israeli war crimes, everything is possible in the US media:  “First off, he said Israel is not returning to the borders in place before the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel was attacked by its Arab neighbors but emerged from the war having garnered significant new territory.” (thanks Khelil)

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Links on Syria That Shed Light on its Complexity

April 28th, 2011 Comments off

Qifa Nabki offers a collection of interesting and thought-provoking links on Syria. Of course anyone with more than a casual interest in Syria should be following Josh Landis’ Syria Comment on a daily basis, and Marc Lynch, who doesn’t post as much as he used to but always has something to say, has checked in on Syria. 

Syria, which used to claim to be the “beating heart of Arabism” (qalb al-‘uruba al-nabid, a phrase once used by Nasser about it), but today it is the primary Arab ally of non-Arab Iran, and has uncomfortable relations with most of its Arab neighbors. There’s a clear sectarian undercurrent in the uprising, with Syria’s Christian population tending to side with the ‘Alawite minority that runs the regime and the army, fearing the alternative is Sunni Islamists. I was always a skeptic about the Egyptian regime’s effort to use an Islamist bete noire to maintain its power, but Syria’s more complex confessional (Sunni/‘Alawite/Christian Druze) and ethnic (Arab/Kurd) mosaic complicates the issue. See also my earlier links collection on this.


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Iraq’s Maliki says Bahrain may ignite sectarian war (Reuters)

March 25th, 2011 Comments off

Reuters – Iraq’s Shi’ite prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, said on Friday military intervention by Sunni Arab neighbors in Bahrain could spark a sectarian war in the region and must end.
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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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"..Iran’s influence is a reflection of the regional environment & the unimaginative, tentative, & self-defeating approach of the Arabs.."

February 24th, 2010 Comments off

The King's "Ardha", 2 by Ammar Abd Rabbo.
“…. In many ways, Turkey’s rise as a major diplomatic player on the Iraqi stage serves as a counterpoint to Iran’s magnified role, with both pro-actively promoting their interests by attempting to reintegrate Iraq into the region on their own terms. That stands in stark contrast to Iraq’s Arab neighbors, who have utterly failed to seriously prepare for the United States’ impending withdrawal………Turkey’s strategy toward Iraq’s Kurds has largely been predicated on a policy of golden handcuffs to temper nationalist inclinations: Annual trade with the region now totals over $5 billion, and the KRG’s reliance on Turkey as its primary outlet to the outside world has created a degree of effectively coercive economic dependence.
Turkey’s involvement in Iraq mirrors, if on a smaller scale, that of Iran, the natural beneficiary in grand strategic terms of the fall of Saddam Hussein. Iran’s magnified role in post-war Iraq is in many ways driven by geography, history, commerce and religious ties, as well as by Tehran’s support to many of the Iraqi political organizations while in exile. But Iran’s influence is also a reflection of the broader regional environment and the unimaginative, tentative, and self-defeating approach of the Arab world.
To be fair, the Arab world faced a difficult dilemma in Iraq, complicated by bitter recent history and the divisive U.S. invasion. Baghdad’s nascent Shiite-led government has been wary of engaging with the broader region, due to still-fresh memories of Arab acquiescence and silence in the face of Saddam Hussein‘s brutal repression. The descent into sectarian civil war in 2005-2007 particularly fanned tensions with the Sunni Arab world, while the historical legacy of Iraq’s crushing debt burden from the Iran-Iraq War complicated Baghdad’s relations with the Gulf Arab states and continues to be a source of friction…….
For the Arab states, their initial coolness toward Iraq was driven by the overwhelming unpopularity of the U.S. invasion in the region and a fear of being associated with the U.S. project in Iraq. The perception of an overbearing Iranian role in Baghdad further fueled the new “Arab Cold War”……..
Yet despite these formidable hurdles, Turkey’s example should be instructive. Ankara shifted toward a pragmatic strategy of engagement to frame its bilateral affairs and magnify its influence. While Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and other Arab states have re-established diplomatic relations, their efforts to deepen relations with Iraq have not extended far beyond the bare minimum of diplomatic protocol.
For the United States, the reintegration of Iraq into the Arab world should be a key plank of any post-withdrawal regional strategy seeking to establish the basis for long-term stability ….But regional reintegration will be lopsided without active Arab participation. While U.S. influence within Iraq has decreased, its ability to prod its Arab allies and its willingness to prioritize Arab outreach to Iraq within its bilateral relations with these countries remains an important tool to secure Iraqi goodwill and shape regional security dynamics. With the impending drawdown of U.S. troops, the Arab states’ worst fears regarding an expanding Iranian sphere of influence will only be exacerbated by their own lethargy. Without a perceptible shift in approach, the Arab world will be party to a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

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