Sunday, December 09, 2012

Asia Times Online :: Syrian coalition faces testing time

Those who doubt Lakhdar Brahimi's assessment of the crisis in Syria ought to rethink their position. The United Nations envoy's ostensibly naive initiative for a ceasefire over the Eid holidays might have been a brilliant maneuver that ended the existence of the Syrian National Council, the previously prominent face of the Syrian opposition. 

Before proposing an ambitious plan like his predecessor, Brahimi

  

wanted to make sure that there are reliable representatives of both sides who can exert influence and control over their subordinates. After visiting Russia and China, he proposed from Tehran that both the opposition forces and the government stop fighting for four days. 

Asia Times Online :: Syrian coalition faces testing time

Why Do Arab Rulers Want A Ceasefire In Gaza But Not In Syria? - OpEd Eurasia Review


On average, over one hundred people, many of whom are civilians, have died every day in Syria for the past 20 months. The Syrian government says that it is fighting terrorists financed by Arab rulers and the Turkish Islamist government.
The rebels say they are fighting a non-democratic regime. Nearly twenty other Arab rulers govern without a public mandate. The rulers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar insist that Bashar Assad step down or be removed by force because the Syrian people want him gone. Yet, they ignore the fact that the Arab peoples want them all gone, not just Assad.
For just five days now, Israel and Gaza armed groups have exchanged fire that has resulted in 70 people dead (67 Palestinians and 3 Israelis), over 600 hundred Palestinians wounded, and hundreds of homes and buildings destroyed.


Why Do Arab Rulers Want A Ceasefire In Gaza But Not In Syria? - OpEd Eurasia Review

Middle East Run By Islamists: Should Western Powers Freak Out? - Analysis Eurasia Review

In 39 days, three Arab countries held critical elections, Tunisia (October 23), Morocco (November 25), and Egypt (November 28-9). Although the elections in these countries have different contexts and implications, the three events have several things in common. First, the elections were made possible directly or indirectly by the Arab Awakening of early 2011. Second, before the Awakening, Western powers had labeled these three countries as “moderate,” a euphemism for undemocratic regimes run by a westernized elite. Last, these elections brought to power Islamist parties and groups that the west has labeled “extremists.” So should western governments now freak out?

Middle East Run By Islamists: Should Western Powers Freak Out? - Analysis Eurasia Review

Islamists bring religion down to earth: the end of religious idealism | openDemocracy


For decades, Tunisian Islamists, like their brethren in the rest of the Arab world, have preached an economic, social, and educational policy rooted in religious ethics. They taught that adhering to the ideals of Islam would ensure economic and social prosperity. For them, giving up on religious values for economic gains is the foremost cause of Muslims’ backwardness. They reasoned that embracing political expediency over religious righteousness is a betrayal of Muslims’ faith in God’s providence.
As a banned political party, Ennahda (and its predecessor Islamic Trend) ideologues had argued for the existence of an indigenous Islamic worldview that people must follow in order to succeed today and in the hereafter. In their mind, the two worlds were linked. They opposed the regimes of Bourguiba and Ben Ali based on these principles. They promised that an Islamist government would not sacrifice religious ideals for economic gains, but it would accomplish progress through and because of Islamic ideals. In other words, Islamists looked to the heavens to solve problems on earth. Some leaders of this Islamist movement and many of its supporters were imprisoned, tortured, and exiled for their views. The movement was in disarray until the historical revolution offered it a second life—a revolution that they did not plan and certainly did not start.

Islamists bring religion down to earth: the end of religious idealism | openDemocracy

Proxy wars: could the US end up supporting al-Qaeda-like groups in Syria? | openDemocracy


For the second time in several months, Russia and China have vetoed a UNSC resolution concerning Syria. The double veto last Saturday especially irritated the US and European leaders because they thought that the Arab League’s proposal had been revised several times to meet Russia’s demands. Russia argued that the western states had rushed the vote, despite its request to wait until after its diplomatic envoys visit Damascus on Tuesday. Both the west and Russia have reasons to maintain this bizarre diplomatic faceoff, but the true reasons are not necessarily the stated ones.
Russia’s hardline position must be understood in the context of its internal and regional politics. The same can be said about the Arab League’s proposal, which called on Assad to step down. Recent history, too, plays a major role in this clash between Russia and the US, a replay of Cold War era rhetoric.


Proxy wars: could the US end up supporting al-Qaeda-like groups in Syria? | openDemocracy

Who are the 40%? | openDemocracy


Two days before the anniversary of the Egyptian revolution that forced Hosni Mubarak out on February 11, 2011, the newly elected members of the Egyptian parliament (Majlis al-sha`b) convened for the first time and endorsed a member of the Muslim Brethren as speaker. Saad al-Katatni was elected on Monday receiving 399 votes out of 498 cast (80%).
The 59 year old botany professor was elected to the current parliament as the representative from the province of Minya (south of Cairo). However, he is not new to politics. Katatni is a seasoned legislator who served as the leader of the Muslim Brethren parliamentary bloc between 2005 and 2010, when they ran as independents because, then, the Islamist movement was not allowed to field candidates directly.

Who are the 40%? | openDemocracy

Some politicians in the first democratic government of Tunisia | openDemocracy

Exactly two months after Tunisia’s October 23 elections, a peaceful transfer of power took place—a rarity in the Arab world. The outgoing prime minister, Beji Caid el Sebsi, handed the reins to Hamadi Jebali, one of the founding leaders of al-Nahda movement and a former political prisoner. The latter introduced his cabinet to the constituency assembly, which voted largely along political party lines to approve it. Forming a coalition government was understandably a struggle for a group of novices, many of whom had spent more time in prison than in government. But in the end, the parties put forth a respectable coalition of 30 ministers and 11 secretaries of state. Three political parties (Nahda, Mu’tamar, and Takattul) and some independents are represented in this coalition government. Several appointments in particular stand out. 

Some politicians in the first democratic government of Tunisia | openDemocracy


Holding on to the status quo, Gulf States seek political unity | openDemocracy

Holding on to the status quo, Gulf States seek political unity | openDemocracy

The Arab world is fundamentally changing, and many Arab leaders are racing to adapt. Showing increased signs of nervousness, the leaders of the Gulf States have adopted the Saudi King’s recommendation to move the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) towards “unity.” The meeting of the rulers of the GCC member states that concluded on Tuesday December 20, 2011 also issued an unusually portentous declaration. The rulers expressed their fears of “attempts by foreign entities trying to export their internal crises through the effects of discord and division, and inciting sectarianism.” Therefore, they outlined a strategy “to fortify the home front” to counter these attempts through their “determination to achieve the highest degree of economic integration and development of defense cooperation and security.” Let’s attempt to decipher these seemingly cryptic sentences.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Hitched to Qatar's rising star, Al Jazeera takes a bumpy ride skyward


Al Jazeera's relationship with Qatar's emir, who founded the channel in 1996, has drawn more criticism as Qatar takes an increasingly prominent role in the region.

To some viewers, the coincidence of Qatari policy and Al Jazeera’s aggressive reporting on Libya and Syria seemed too close for comfort, particularly when other revolutions – those that hit closer to home for Qatar and its Gulf allies – got less attention.
As daily reports streamed in from the Libyan capital of Tripoli and the Syrian border, Al Jazeera “forgot there was a country called Bahrain for three or four months,” recalls Mehran Kamrava, director of the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Qatar.

Others are more measured in their criticism. Ahmed Souaiaia, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Iowa who has written extensively about Al Jazeera in the Arab Spring, says he believes the Qatari-friendly glaze was evident mostly on the Arabic channel, which is geared toward a regional audience.

Anstey and Khanfar have defended their Bahrain coverage, noting that the station was trying to cover five revolutions in a limited amount of time. “We did not give the same weight to the Bahrain story,” Khanfar admitted in the forum at MIT, explaining that he believed Bahrain was not a revolution but a sectarian conflict. “[Bahrain] did not end with a majority – and overwhelming majority of people – who could revolt against the regime.”

That explanation will hardly allay criticism, however, since the government's campaign of sectarian repression also played a key role in tamping down protests, which were predominately Shiite – reflecting the country's large Shiite majority, who have long felt sidelined by the country's Sunni leaders.

Arabs 'very adept in flipping channels to find truth'
For the moment, Al Jazeera appears to be going nowhere but up. It plans to open a Balkan channel and a Swahili channel soon, the first language channels since English was introduced in 2006. Other languages, such as Spanish, may follow.

Anstey knows it’s the audience who will ultimately decide the broadcaster’s fate. “Yes we are headquartered here, [but] we are wholly independent from the state of Qatar,” he maintains. “Our coverage absolutely demonstrates to our viewers that we are impartial.”

Mohamed Nanabhay, head of online at Al Jazeera English, told the February panel at MIT that the channel has already proven itself able to ask hard questions of Doha; the channel broadcast several reports questioning Qatar’s readiness to host the 2022 World Cup.

If viewers perceive a bias, real or imagined, Al Jazeera and its critics alike know the stakes.

“The Arab peoples are used to state-controlled media and it will not be a shock for them to see Al Jazeera sliding back into that category,” says Prof. Souaiaia. “They are very adept in flipping through the channels to find the truth.”

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

Essays of the Week