Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

23
May

The women behind Sykes-Picot

Written on May 23, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Culture & Society, Middle East

women

 

British diplomat Mark Sykes and French diplomat Francois Georges-Picot garnered most of the attention in the retrospective commentaries published around May 16, the 100-year anniversary of the Sykes-Picot Treaty.

Other pieces referred to their contemporaries, such as the British agent T E Lawrence, who led the Arab Revolt during World War I, or the influential oil broker Calouste Gulbenkian.

These Europeans sought to shape the Middle East, yet for every discussion of a European man who engaged in this endeavour, there is also a story of a European woman who both made this region, and was made by the region.

Jane Digby, Gertrude Bell, or Freya Stark, just to name a few women, led lives as illustrious as their male counterparts in the Middle East.

In terms of popular historical memory, we remember European men in the Middle East, such as archaeologists, spies, and diplomats concocting surreptitious treaties, but have forgotten the women who also engaged in such activities. Read more…
By Ibragim Al-Marashi, former professor at IE School of International Relations and currently  assistant professor at the Department of History, California State University, San Marcos. He is the co-author of “Iraq’s Armed Forces: An Analytical History.”
29
Apr

If, in 2011, the West’s view of the Arab world was grounded in optimism and exhilaration, it’s an entirely different story in 2016. Five years ago, there was still the sense that something was afoot, that the region could change into something better. There was the promise of a region based more on respect for fundamental rights, better governance and freedom – rather than one where these elements were constantly sacrificed to nepotism, autocracy and the cynical exploitation of concerns around security.

Five years on, the situation looks very different.

Now it is far more about security than ever before. It used to be that different Arab leaders would privately and publicly argue that they were better than the alternative of Islamism and that would be enough to get any concerns around fundamental rights of the table for discussion. Today, the equation is the same but different: many simply argue that the alternative to their rule is chaos. And, of course, no one wants chaos – and so the cycle continues.

But the region is not simply a place where one makes short-term exchanges between security concerns and everything else. It is a catastrophic mistake to look at the region in those terms alone.

The region is in a state of flux and the outside world needs to be more, not less, engaged with it, as it goes through an incredibly critical part of its modern history. Read more…

 

Published on April 28, 2016  in the national.ae

4
Apr

We have reached the one-year mark since Iran and the P5+1 agreed on a set of a parameters that became the basis for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). While the history books will likely point to July 14, 2015 as the date both parties signed on the dotted line, those who look closer will point to April 2, 2015—the day the Lausanne framework [1] enshrined the key elements of the deal—as the watershed moment when a nuclear deal went from mere possibility to near-foregone conclusion.

 

So as Lausanne turns one, where are we? The last year has seen numerous successes. After Lausanne, the parties were able to finalize a historic agreement that survived a U.S. Congressional review with surprising levels of support. Iran has implemented key elements of the agreement with unexpected speed, and in February the more pragmatic political elements in Iran, buttressed by the promised sanctions relief of the nuclear deal, made inroads in the country’s parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections.

 

On the other side of the ledger, the last year has also been rife with accusations that the United States was prepared to allow Iran a free pass on its aggressive non-nuclear-related behaviors in exchange for preserving the nuclear deal. Pundits speculated—and partners feared—that U.S. determination to have the JCPOA succeed would result in concessions that would encourage Iran’s most threatening regional behaviors to advance unchecked, now underwritten by new sanctions relief.

 

And Iran has often appeared eager to promote that impression in ways both big and small: live military exercises and drone flights conducted near and over U.S. and allied naval vessels; repeated illegal testing of long-range ballistic missiles in contravention of still-active UN Security Council Resolution provisions; U.S. sailors taken into Iranian custody (later released); and continued regional belligerence in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

 

It is worth looking at whether and what the United States has really conceded in the last year, and whether the U.S. response has actually been appropriate and responsible. More importantly, at this one-year mark, it is worth reviewing what opportunities are on the horizon for the United States to demonstrate that it is not turning a blind eye to Iran’s provocations, and that its response will be strong, appropriate, and consistent with its interests in the region. America has a balance to strike—maintaining a firm posture where necessary, but also keeping the positive momentum of the nuclear deal intact. Read more…

 

April 2, 2016; http://nationalinterest.org/

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1
Mar

What has really changed in Iran?

Written on March 1, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Middle East, Op Ed

I REMEMBER vividly the first time I ever voted in an Iranian election. It was a balmy summer day in June 2001, in the election that won the reformist president Mohammad Khatami a second term. The blue stamp was the first on the voting page of my identification card, and I felt a sharp, exhilarating pride.

That election is much on my mind now, as I watch the results of Friday’s voting with my family, disagreeing on what it might mean for the future.

Back in 2001, Iran was heading down an irrevocable path toward internal reform, a process untainted by any Western intrusion, with citizens and progressive-minded leaders showing the way. Those leaders seemed, at the time, as exciting as Vaclav Havel and the revolutionary cleric Musa al-Sadr rolled into one. Elections felt — unlike the vote this past weekend — full of consequence, a genuine chance to recast political power rather than an exercise in slightly recalibrating it.
Tehran then was a naïve young intellectual’s paradise. There were Islamist reformers and secular reformers, women’s rights campaigners who went door to door in villages, and urban activists working to save everything from the Iranian cheetah to the rapidly evaporating Lake Urmia. You could sit at the feet of an ayatollah in the morning and hear a Koran-backed strategy for gender equality; by afternoon, you could be with the radical student opposition in a decaying house in the center of the city, still strewn with shredded documents removed from the United States embassy during the 1979 hostage-taking. There were literary readings almost every night, and subversive theater that lampooned the system, using metaphors from baseball to Moliere. Read more…

 

Published on March 1, in www.nyt.com

Azadeh Moaveni is a lecturer in journalism at Kingston University and the author, most recently, of “Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran.”

23
Feb

The humanitarian crisis in Syria has gone on so long and is so devastating in its social impact — with a huge migration, some direct and some coming from people in the existing camps in the countries surrounding Syria — that we can lose sight of the military dangers that are now threatening the Middle East.

It has long been feared in NATO that the Syrian crisis would spill over into a wider war, but that moment is closer now than it has ever been before. Any serious analysis of the start of the First and Second World Wars reveals that a lack of clarity of intention is extremely dangerous.

At least there is an ongoing dialogue between Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. And, of course, it is possible that words have been spoken between these two and/or between President Obama and President Putin that has made the position of the respective parties clearer than might appear. The time has come, however, given that cease-fire after cease-fire has been broken, for a very clear statement from NATO’s secretary general regarding its position and not left any longer to just bilateral exchanges between the U.S. and Russia. We can all hope that the latest cease-fire, which goes into effect on Saturday, holds. But more clarity is needed. Read more…

Published on 22/02 by Lord David Owen, Former British foreign secretary in www.huffingtonpost.com

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