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Tunisian president vows no mercy
Shortly after attackers killed at least 19 people, including 17 foreign tourists, in an attack on a museum in Tunisia's capital, newly elected President Beji Caid Essebsi told the nation that the country was "in a war with terrorism" and that those responsible for the attack would be "fought without mercy". (Mar 19, '15)

Israel's 'referendum'
on 'two-state solution'

Why did so many Israeli voters switch their allegiance to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just before this week's election? The answer is simple and obvious: most of those small-party voters oppose a Palestinian state, and a day before the election Netanyahu ruled out a Palestinian state on his watch. (Mar 19, '15)

Netanyahu sweeps to victory
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hopes to form a new government within weeks after defying the polls to secure a clear election win for his Likud party. His victory was thanks to a last-minute dash for votes that ironically came at the cost of lost seats for his long-time political allies, including Yisrael Beitenu of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. (Mar 18, '15)

Tehran's success, Riyadh's failure
The global consensus on behalf of Iranian hegemony is now coming into focus. The unifying factor among different players' diverse motivations is that America's competitors are constrained to upgrade their relations with Iran in order to compete with Washington as the Obama administration shows its determination to achieve rapprochement with Tehran at any cost. (Mar 17, '15)

Pakistan snubs Riyadh's anti-Iran alliance
Saudi Arabia's campaign to build a Sunni alliance to contain Iran has apparently suffered a setback from Pakistan. which has decided to avoid becoming caught up in tensions between Riyadh and Tehran, Specifically, Riyadh wanted a Pakistani military contingent to help defend the kingdom's vulnerable southwest border with Zaydi Houthi-controlled north Yemen. (Mar 16, '15)

Strategic risks in Saudi Arabia
The largely unremarkable transition process that ensued following King Abdullah's death put its principal benefactor in Washington and global oil consumers and energy analysts at ease. However, the scale of Saudi Arabia’s domestic problems requires tangible and genuine reforms, not the preservation of a flawed status quo. - Chris Zambelis (Mar 16, '15)

The West's criminal culpability in Syria
The horror that is Syria today is beyond description, but start with some numbers: 7,000 - the estimated death count for the Syrian unrest after the Assad government had shattered the domestic uprising in 2012; then 193,000, the death toll since the US and its fellow enablers began pumping resources to the various paramilitaries in the country. - Peter Lee (Mar 13, '15)

Libya, ISIS and the 'luxury' of hindsight
Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was ridiculed when he described those seeking to overthrow him as extremists and foreign agents influenced by al-Qaeda ideology and Bin Laden’s school of thought. The bloody joke is now on all of us, as every day Libya and the wider Arab world seesaws between machete beheadings and hellfire missile incinerations. - Ahmad Barqawi (Mar 12, '15)

Time to respect Iran's independence
Personalization of different approaches to Iran's nuclear program as a battle between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could not be more ridiculous. These talks are about recognizing Iran's standing in the region - and the need for the US and its allies to save face against their own populations, for so long subjugated to their leaders' fear-mongering. - Massoud Hedeshi (Mar 11, '15)

Iran's Soleimani storms home front
The power of Iran's Shi'ite clergy is in decline, a process likely to intensify once Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei departs the arena. It is in this domestic context that the emerging cult around Quds force commander Major General Qasem Soleimani should be viewed as he leads with great publicity Iran's counter-insurgency efforts in Iraq and Syria. - Mahan Abedin (Mar 10, '15)

Give diplomacy with Iran a shot
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's exhortations to the US Congress to forget about a "bad deal" with Iran avoids one problem. Absent a deal, who believes Iran will scale down its nuclear program? Is Iran likely to give up on the whole idea just because the US heeds the warnings of the leader of a country that Iran periodically vows to annihilate? - Donald Kirk (Mar 10, '15)

IS sets sights on Saudi Arabia
The Islamic State's increasingly strident discourse and threats illustrate its rising ambitions; in addition to confronting the incumbent regimes in Iraq and Syria and rival militants and insurgents, the Islamic State's set of goals include challenging Saudi Arabia and overthrowing its monarchy. - Chris Zambelis (Mar 9, '15)

Secret history of Hamas' co-founder
The pictures of Hamad al-Hasanat, lying dead in a mosque surrounded by other slain figures, an assault rifle resting on top of his body as worshippers offered a final prayer before his burial, are not of the man I remember. Rather, I recall him as my geography teacher, his popularity then stemming largely from the fact that he didn't give too much homework and that he didn't hit, as other teachers habitually did. - Ramzy Baroud (Mar 9, '15)

Netanyahu adds injury to insult
Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu has legitimate cause to sound the alarm about the threat Iran poses. His US Congress speech, however, will do little to improve the substance of any agreement. More injurious is his insinuation that President Obama will accede to a “bad deal" to Israel's detriment. That is simplistic and suggests little understanding of the reality in the context of how a deal can be struck. - Alon Ben-Meir (Mar 6, '15)

A crisis of trust in Iraq
We will never know what painful thoughts went through the mind of General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, when he testified before US senators on Tuesday, but it certainly wouldn’t have been easy for him to compliment Iran’s "most overt conduct … in the form of artillery and other things" in the military operation to retake Tikrit from the control of the Islamic State. - M K Bhadrakumar (Mar 5, '15)

Obama's nuclear squeeze
Netanyahu's address to the US Congress will have no effect on the future modalities of US-Iran nuclear negotiations. But if he can nudge Congress not to relax sanctions on Iran, even after a nuclear deal, then Tehran might retaliate by reversing some agreed upon issues of those intricate negotiations. - Ehsan Ahrari (Mar 4, '15)

Tackling Tehran: Netanyahu vs Obama
As negotiations over Iran's nuclear program continued in Europe, Israeli Premier Netanyahu told US Congress he feared the White House was close to striking a "very bad" deal. The absence of dozens of Democrats and the cheers that greeted his warnings of a "nuclear tinderbox" demonstrated the divisive nature of the issue in Washington. - James Reinl (Mar 4, '15)

World bows to Iran's hegemony
The problem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to the US Congress was not the risk of offending Washington but Washington's receding relevance. World powers, including China, have elected to legitimize Iran's dominant position, hoping to delay but not deter its eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons. But war cannot be avoided; it is inevitable. (Mar 4, '15)

Iran squashes IS, US seeks cover
An operation by Iraqi government forces to recapture Tikrit, north of Baghdad, from Islamic State militants, has resulted in fierce fighting around the town, seen as the spiritual heartland of Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime. This hugely important development has three dimensions. - M K Bhadrakumar (Mar 4, '15)

The Arab intellectual is resting, not dead
This is a strange period in the history of Arab culture and politics. It is strange because popular revolutions are propelled by the articulation and insight of intellectuals, yet there seems to be no equivalent of yesteryear's intellectual in today's Arab landscape - the closest would be propagators of "moderate Islam". But this is temporary. It has to be. - Ramzy Baroud (Mar 3, '15)

Israeli ex-generals condemn Netanyahu
In an unprecedented move, 200 veterans of the Israeli security services have accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of being a “danger” to Israel, their protest coming on the even of his visit to address a joint meeting of the US Congress against the wishes of the White House. - Jonathan Cook (Mar 2, '15)

The Middle East and perpetual war
There is a popular idea in Washington, DC, that the United States ought to be doing more to quash the Islamic State: if we don't, they will send terrorists to plague our lives. Previously, the canard was that we had to intervene in the Middle East to protect the flow of oil to the West. So why in fact are we there? The only answer is: "Israel". - Leon Anderson (Mar 2, '15)

The great Holy
Land oil game

The presence of large quantities of natural gas below the eastern Mediterranean - including off the coast of Gaza - combined with Israel's desperate need for energy supplies independent of hostile neighbors, means that the present Middle East crisis is nothing but prelude. - Michael Schwartz (Feb 27, '15)

The bidding war for Iran
The world now anticipates that the US will reach a strategic agreement with Iran. Russia and China are responding by offering their own deals to Tehran. A possible game-changer is Russia's offer of the Antey-2500 air defense system to Iran. Such an intervention might make Iran effectively impregnable from attack by Israel. (Feb 26, '15)

'Terror' trial's tale of woe
In February 2014, former Guantanamo inmate Moazzam Begg was arrested in Birmingham, England, for "terrorism". Denied bail, he had his assets frozen and was classified as a Category A high-risk prisoner. After huge effort by the police and prosecutors, and a cost to taxpayers of more than 1 million pounds, the case collapsed, apparently because of a meeting Begg had had with MI5. (Feb 25, '15)

Devastation of Syria’s 'barrel bombs'
Barrel bombs are unguided high explosive weapons that are cheaply and locally made from large oil drums, gas cylinders, and water tanks, filled with high explosives and scrap metal to enhance fragmentation, and then dropped from helicopters. Their widespread use in Syria is causing human devastation. - Thalif Deen (Feb 25, '15)

Israeli Arabs must use poll opportunity
If the Israeli Arabs want equal distribution of resources to improve their socio-economic conditions, fully integrate into Israeli society, and contribute constructively to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, they must now fully exercise their right to vote in the March 17 elections and not squander this historic opportunity. - Alon Ben-Meir (Feb 25, '15)

Petty criminals, favorite spies
Islamist criminal and terrorist networks overlap for a simple reason: both involve the same sort of individuals doing the same sort of things. Turning petty criminals into political informants is the oldest police procedure in the world, and such criminals are the eyes and ears of European counter-terror agencies. (Feb 23, '15)

Obama's admission not enough
US President Barack Obama's recent call to address the root causes of violence, including that of the "Islamic State" and al-Qaeda, was a step in the right direction, but he was still miles away from taking the least responsibility for the mayhem that has afflicted the Middle East since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. - Ramzy Baroud (Feb 23, '15)

Syria lambasts Turkish incursion
The Syrian government has lashed out at a cross-border incursion by Turkish forces, including ground troops, tanks and air cover, that retrieved the remains of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of Ottoman Empire founder Osman I, and relieved troops guarding his tomb. Damascus said the move was an act of "flagrant aggression". (Feb 23, '15)

Hadi seeks to resume power
Yemen's former president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is seeking to resume his duties as head of state, holding his first public engagement with state officials since he fled to the sanctuary of Aden from house arrest in Sanaa by the Houthi group that dominates the northern half of the country. (Feb 23, '15)

BBC misses the mystic in 'libertine' Hafez
The BBC recently took it upon itself to educate the English-speaking public on the 14th century Iranian poet commonly known as Hafez. The many misconceptions and falsehoods in its effort reflect the mainstream Western media's tendency to speak out on certain issues without having the most basic knowledge on these issues. - Issa Ardakani (Feb 18, '15)

Palestinian children feel security lash
More than 150 Palestinian children are being held in Israeli detention for "security offenses" in the Occupied Territories and within Israel, and almost half of them in conditions that are in contravention of the Geneva Convention. In some cases, the criminal law applying to Palestinian minors is stricter and even more severe than the one applied to Israeli adults. - Mel Frykberg (Feb 16, '15)

Parking space terrorism in the US
The murder of three American Muslims last week was no ordinary murder but, along with official and media responses, was testimony to everything that has gone wrong since the US unleashed it’s “war on terror”. It is time for Muslims to call the US government and hate-filled media to account. These outrageous double standards must end, before more innocent lives are taken. - Ramzy Baroud (Feb 16, '15)

Bennett: Demagogue on the loose
Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home party, declares that, since the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is stuck, Israel should focus on "upgrading Palestinian autonomy" in certain areas. His agenda is nothing but a cover for a plan to deprive Palestinians of a state of their own, and little does he realize that it will bring Israel ever closer to self-destruction. - Alon Ben-Meir (Feb 13, '15)

Assad 'nuclear factory' claim a hoax
A recent Der Spiegel article argues that, in a "development of incalculable geopolitical consequences", Syria's President Bashar al-Assad's atomic weapon program has continued in a secret, underground location. Yet the "evidence" is easily dismissed, and even Der Spiegel's authority cannot overcome the fact that this article is not even intelligent speculation. It is just a big, fat hoax. - Hans Ruhle (Feb 13, '15)

Yemen: Much ado about proxies
The resignation of Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and strengthening of the role of the country's Houthis has prompted a renewed determination to see this as part of the region's Shi'a-Sunni / Iran-Saudi rivalry. This dilutes the non-sectarian and local features of such crises that demand and require local solutions for their resolution. - Kevin Schwartz (Feb 12, '15)

Hamas returns to the start
Despite its success in repelling Israeli military advances in Gaza, Hamas's regional political maneuvers of recent years are not bearing fruit. Confronted with difficult choices, it seems to be choosing a cautious return to its old camp of Iran and Hezbollah. The maneuver this time is particularly risky. - Ramzy Baroud (Feb 11, '15)

The tragic tear In US-Israel relations
There is no doubt that Prime Minister Netanyahu's acceptance of House Speaker John Boehner's invitation to address a joint session of the US Congress on Iran is extraordinarily damaging to Israel-US relations. The damage, however, transcends the bilateral relations as it reverberates and impacts adversely on Israel's relations with scores of other countries. - Alon Ben-Meir (Feb 6, '15)

The ‘Great War' of Sinai
The Sinai Peninsula has moved from the margins of the Egyptian body politic to the uncontested center, as President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi finds himself greatly undercut by a rising insurgency. The question is: how long will it be before Cairo understands that violence cannot resolve what are fundamentality political and socio-economic problems? - Ramzy Baroud (Feb 6, '15)

Khomeini and Russian Orthodox revival
In 1989, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Seyyed Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini, sent a message to Mikhail Gorbachev rumored to concern an arms deal. In reality, it concerned Soviet state atheism. The later full-fledged revival of the Russian Orthodox Church is not unrelated. - Issa Ardakani (Feb 6, '15)

Turkey - the ultimate crossroads
Casanova wrote that as Constantine arrived in Istanbul by the sea, seduced by the sight of Byzantium, he instantly proclaimed: “This is the seat of the empire of the world." More recently,Turkey under the AKP party and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been busy positioning itself as the ultimate crossroads between East and West, between Eurasia and NATOstan - on Erdogan's own terms. - Pepe Escobar (Feb 2, '15)

Netanyahu betrays what's best for Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must understand that the eventual normalization of relations between the United States and Iran is the best way by which to eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat. Therefore, if there is any chance, however small, that such an agreement will stand the test of time, it must be explored. - Alon Ben-Meir (Feb 2, '15)

Dear Syria: From one refugee to another
Nine million Syrian refugees are now duplicating the Palestinian tragedy of 1948. Watching the destitution of the Syrian refugees is like rewinding the past, in all of its awful details. And watching Arab states clamor to aid the refugees with ample words and little action feels as if we are living Arab betrayal all over again. Here is a survival guide. - Ramzy Baroud (Jan 30, '15)

STDs and strategy in Iran
In the 5th Century BC, the "Persian disease" noted by Hippocrates probably was bubonic plague; in 8th-century Japan, it meant the measles. Today it well might mean chlamydia. Standout levels of infertility among Iranian couples, a major cause of the country's falling birth rate, coincide with epidemic levels of sexually transmitted disease. Both reflect deep-seated social pathologies. (Jan 30, '15)

Saudi Arabia's culpability for extremism
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a hothouse of extremism that nurtures distorted dogma. Its acceptance, endorsement and external preaching of perverted ideology is an international disgrace. It has an absurd, outdated and hypocritical monarchic regime that has the unearned distinction of being located at the geographical center of a great religion that has been perverted by self-centered bigots. - Brian Cloughley (Jan 30, '15)

How US policy blunders hurt Israel
It has long been obvious that Russian foreign policy involves a trade-off between Ukraine and Iran, responding to Western efforts to bring Ukraine (and Crimea) into an alliance by subverting US interests elsewhere. Vladimir Putin must be frustrated to encounter a White House so eager to deal with Iran that it fails to notice where its interests have been impaired. The Israelis, however, do notice. (Jan 28, '15)

Blair turned deaf ear to warnings
Tony Blair had a cough. He looked sick, pale and exhausted. “Don’t tell me it is going to be bad,” he said to the six men he had summoned to see him in Downing Street as war loomed. “Tell me how bad it will be.” This was a meeting that could have changed the course of history - if only the British prime minister had listened. - Cole Moreton (Jan 26, '15)

The Saudi palace coup
Saudi King Abdullah’s writ lasted all of 12 hours after his death. Within that period the Sudairis, a rich and politically powerful clan within the House of Saud, which had been weakened by the late king, burst back into prominence. It was a palace coup in all but name, all before Abdullah was even buried. - David Hearst (Jan 26, '15)
For Pepe Escobar's take on the Saudi succession, written just before King Abdullah's death, see here.

Obama insists he's on course in Yemen
President Barack Obama during his visit to India has rebuffed right-wing criticism in Washington that his "appeasement" policy of Iran has muddled US Middle East policies and brought about the latest crisis in Yemen, now close to civil war conditions. Notably, he refrained from mentioning Iran and from making any criticism of Yemen's Sh'ite Houthis, whose actions have helped to precipitate the crisis. - M K Bhadrakumar (Jan 26, '15)

Hollande fails to learn from Bush
France's President Francois Hollande has succeeded at launching wars, but has failed at managing their consequences - as the latest attacks in Paris have demonstrated. In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo killings, he seems intent on repeating the failed policies of the George W Bush administration and reversing the principled and sound choices of former French presidents, like Jacques Chirac. - Ramzy Baroud (Jan 21, '15)

Lebensraum in Palestine
Olives were originally cultivated in Syria, Palestine and Crete and some existing trees are 2,000 years old - but none of these now exist in Palestine. Indeed, there are few left there of any age. It is ironic that an ancient symbol of peace is used by the Israelis as a modern means of persecution. Uprooting and hacking down olive trees symbolizes all that Israel stands for as regards the Palestinian people. - Brian Cloughley (Jan 20, '15)

UN helpless over Badawi flogging
Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was publicly flogged 50 times last Friday, is due to be flogged again today and every Friday - 19 more times - until his full sentence of 1,000 lashes has been fully carried out. He will then face 10 years in jail. The rest of the world, including the United Nations, is too impotent to stop his punishment. - Thalif Deen (Jan 16, '15)

Saudis face rethink on Iran rivalry
The terrorist strike last week on the Saudi border post facing the Iraqi province of Anbar - known to be the Islamic State's first assault on the kingdom - could be the proverbial straw on the camel's back, forcing Riyadh into a profound rethink of its regional strategies imbued with the rivalries involving Iran - M K Bhadrakumar (Jan 16, '15)

Don't mourn - neutralize
The murder of journalists and cartoonists at French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo is the latest indication that the cancer of terror has spread so far that any cure will be almost as painful as the disease. Nonetheless, it must be cured if civilization is to prevail over barbarism. As American trade unionist Joe Hill told his friends before he was executed: "Don't mourn - organize." (Jan 9, '15)

British Empire's symbolic return
Britain claims its decision to build a "permanent Royal Navy base" in Bahrain marks a "commitment" to what in times of empire was dubbed "East of Suez". In reality, the construction of what will in effect be a jetty supporting a by-now almost non-existent British Navy is an exercise in futility tied to support of a regime widely decried for its dismal human rights record. - Brian Cloughley (Jan 9, '15)

The Xinjiang/Chechnya correlation
The Chinese government is trying to sort out its troubled Xinjiang province with money and smarter policies while recognizing the risk of failing catastrophically because of growing local Uyghur dissatisfaction with what is essentially colonial occupation harshly implemented by mediocre cadres. The explanation for its Xinjiang policy can boil down to one word: Chechnya. - Peter Lee (Jan 9, '15)

Who profits from killing Charlie?
Who gains from killing Stephane Charbonnier and his colleagues at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo? Only those whose agenda is to demonize Islam. Not even a bunch of brainwashed fanatics would pull off the Charlie carnage to show people who accuse them of being barbarians that they are, in fact, barbarians. French intel at least has concluded that this is no underwear bomber stunt. This is a pro job. - Pepe Escobar (Jan 8, '15)

Turkey and the Middle East quagmire
Pressure on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to present an image of strength could tempt him to intervene more deeply in the chaos in the Middle East. However, before engaging itself completely in the region's mayhem, Turkey might learn from other Muslim nations now suffering from terrorism because of misguided policies in the past. - Qaisar Abbas (Dec 23, '14)

2014 a game-changer in Palestine
In terms of losses in human lives, 2014 has been a horrific year for Palestinians. Some aspects of the conflict have revolved around a corrupt, ineffectual Palestinian Authority and the criminality of Israeli wars and occupation. Yet in other ways, the year was also a game-changer, in which the collective resistance of the Palestinian people proved too strong to break. - Ramzy Baroud (Dec 23, '14)

Iran's window of opportunity
History tells us that if dominant commodity producers can support high prices with other people's money then they will, yet nothing matches the crude oil market manipulation over the past decade. The present price slump offers a chance for Iran, amongst others, to move towards a stable energy economy of abundance from the current unsustainable and unstable dollar economy of scarcity. - Chris Cook (Dec 22, '14)

Netanyahu shatters Israel's image
The collapse of Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government makes it time for Israelis to take stock of the damage he caused to the image of the country, to its moral standing, to its place among the nations, to its future as a Jewish state, to its friends (especially the United States), and to its prospect of living in peace and real security. - Alon Ben-Meir (Dec 19, '14)

Israel lends al-Nusra a hand in Syria
Israeli air force and artillery have intervened several times to protect al-Nusra Front "safe havens" against fire power from the Syrian government, which is still committed to its ceasefire agreement of 1974 with Israel. Such attacks not only violate Syrian sovereignty and further al-Nusra's position, they also violate also the UN-sponsored ceasefire agreement over the Syrian Golan Heights. - Nicola Nasser (Dec 19, '14)

US sees a torturer in the mirror
The reactions of some elements of the United States' ruling class and media to the CIA report on torture are perhaps as disturbing as its revelations on torture dungeons, rectal feeding and rape. The mindset of denial, from "this is not who we are", to "the United States of America is awesome" - fuels the misplaced sense of exceptionalism that has rung through the years. - Ramzy Baroud (Dec 17, '14)

The view from Tehran
The extension to the timetable for Iranian nuclear talks at least buys time for both sides to better understand the other. Yet with Sunni militancy on the march and neoconservatism poised to reassert itself in US foreign policy, Tehran sees itself again in danger. Its nuclear program will remain based on its security assessments, not on the pressures of the international community. - Brian M Downing (Dec 15, '14)

Iran poised on a slippery slope
The Iranian government's portrayal of the extension of nuclear talks - which are set to resume on Wednesday - as a diplomatic victory is a deception to the Iranian people. Rather than put Iran on a firmer footing, President Hassan Rouhani and his negotiators have exposed the country to years of continued sanctions and tactics by the United States and its allies to avoid honoring their promises. - Ismael Hossein-zadeh (Dec 15, '14)

A deal is within grasp
The US-Iranian negotiations for a nuclear deal are slated to resume amid growing optimism that this could be the end of the year-long endgame, and an accord is in sight, finally. US Secretary of State John Kerry recently said that the effort will be to reach an accord even before the extended deadline of end-June. - M K Bhadrakumar (Dec 15, '14)

Kurdistan stays its hand, for now
Kurdistan, after being on the brink of full independence a few months ago, now looks like it will stay within the Iraqi political framework. The threat posed by the Islamic State required cooperation, and plummeting energy prices have helped force an oil-revenue sharing deal with Baghdad that gives Kurds a stake in the south's exports. Still, rising Kurdish assertiveness brings the intriguing prospect of a "greater Kurdistan". - Brian M Downing (Dec 11, '14)

Libya: Be careful what you wish for
The United States-led NATO blitz of aircraft and missile strikes against Muammar Gaddafi's government has been described as a "model intervention" that ushered in an era of unprecedented freedom for Libyans. What actually transpired was the unintended creation of a regional new epicenter for terror, where daily assassinations, kidnappings and militia conflict are ruining the lives of millions of people who had lived securely under Gaddafi. - Brian Cloughley (Dec 11, '14)

Iran versus the Islamic State
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps leader General Qasim Soleimani has been much photographed on the battlefields where Shi'ite coalitions, helped by Western airpower, have blunted the Islamic State offensive in Iraq. Ramifications of the increased and more open Iranian presence in Iraq will be felt in the region, in Iran's testy relationship with the rest of the world, and in the emergence of the general as a potential hero in Tehran's political scene. - Brian M Downing (Dec 4, '14)

The Hunger Games are real in Gaza
The latest movie from The Hunger Games franchise draws distressing parallels with the reality of systematic oppression in the Gaza Strip, where the deliberate Israeli policy of bringing its people to near-starvation is a matter of record. Gazans will remain attuned to calls of resistance, just like the rebels of District 13 followed the Mockingjay as a symbol of hope. They have no other option. - Ramzy Baroud (Dec 4, '14)

Ground troops in Iraq, yet again?
If put into Iraq again, US troops will face conventional forces against which they are well trained. Badly outnumbered, overstretched and vulnerable to airpower, Islamic State may quickly conclude that military operations there must be abandoned. However, a reintroduction of troops will also underscore prevalent opinions in the region - particularly the notion that the United States is trying to humiliate and subjugate the Islamic world. - Brian M Downing (Nov 26, '14)

Hawks circle over Iran talks extension
Pro-Israel and Republican hawks are calling for Washington to ramp up economic pressure on Tehran even while talks over Iran's nuclear program continue, and to give Congress a veto on any final accord. New sanctions legislation will likely sabotage the talks, which Iran and international powers agreed to extend until July 1 after failing this week to seal a comprehensive agreement in Vienna. - Jim Lobe (Nov 25, '14)

The rise and fall of Palestine's socialists
When news reports alleged that the two cousins behind the Jerusalem synagogue attack on November 18 were affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a level of confusion reigned. Why the PFLP? Why now? - Ramzy Baroud (Nov 24, '14)

Iran takes center stage in East-West struggle
The Atlanticist camp is only now realizing Iran’s economic and geostrategic worth as momentum shifts towards the emerging Eurasian juggernaut. Tehran may covet the massive US energy market, but the decades when the West tried to Balkanize the country won’t be forgotten overnight. - Ramin Davoodi (Nov 21, '14)

Western bloodlust and a third intifada
Musings by US media on the nature of Palestinian uprisings, or intifadas, ignore that these are driven neither by a clear political agenda nor defined goals. Until intifadas are understood more aptly as the awakening of a divided society - rather than a call for violence targeting Israelis - outsiders will continue to misinterpret them. - Ramzy Baroud (Nov 21, '14)

Obama, Iraq, and the Gulf region
Surging US public support for air strikes in Iraq may silence opportunistic conservatives who argued that Barack Obama's withdrawal of troops allowed Islamic State to thrive there. The myth of a need for global American might is re-emerging, even though the US president and the American people are not prepared for the real implications of climbing back into the saddle. - Brian M Downing (Nov 19, '14)

India opts out of admonishing Israel
India's pursuit of deeper trade, political and military relations with Israel contrasts with the distance other allies have sought following the brutal assault on Gaza this summer. The Indian approach to relations, which seemingly equates the Palestinian struggle with cross-border terrorism, will not only damage India's global image - it could also lead to flawed internal policy decisions. - Ninan Koshy (Nov 19, '14)

Permanent bases
for permanent war

The United States is fighting Iraq War 3.0 using a staggering network of bases built-up all over the Middle East in the past 35 years. This huge infrastructure is a formula for disaster. It makes it easy for the Barack Obama administration, or anyone in the Oval Office, to launch military strikes - such as the latest against the Islamic State - that seem guaranteed to set off new cycles of violent reaction and yet more war. - David Vine (Nov 14, '14)

Arab media withers to mockery
Arab media that until recently were maturing into centers for critical discourse on the Middle East's sectarian and ethnic tensions have regressed in places like Egypt to mere state mouthpieces, with inadvertently comedic levels of misinformation and vilification. It seems that to save themselves, some Arab regimes chose to sacrifice the intellect of their societies. - Ramzy Baroud (Nov 12, '14)

The price of oil and the future of Syria
Experienced in manipulating oil prices for its global advantage, Saudi Arabia is currently keeping these low to undermine the Middle East policy objectives of Iran and Russia. By weakening Moscow and Tehran's support for Damascus, Riyadh hopes to force the Assad administration into accepting a Sunni "solution" that creates a state beholden to the House of Saud. - Brian M Downing (Nov 10, '14)

Political prophecies: Sealing al-Aqsa's fate
Because the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock have more than a religious role in Palestinian society - both serve as a unifying national force - it should come as no surprise that Israel regularly targets them for raids. However, provocative acts such as shutting the mosque also support Jewish extremists' hopes to build a "third temple" on one of Islam's holiest sites. - Ramzy Baroud (Nov 7, '14)

Afghanistan's future is not Iraq's present
Concerns over the fate of the Afghan National Army following the Western coalition's withdrawal intensified following the collapse of Western-trained Iraqi forces in the face of the Islamic State offensive. But while the armies of Afghanistan and Iraq share uncomfortable similarities, Taliban fighters have neither the tactical adroitness nor the adaptability of IS. Nor its determination. - Brian M Downing (Nov 4, '14)

What stays the coalition's hand in Kobani
The US-led coalition's purported fight against Islamic State in Kobani is akin to a parent trying to discipline a disruptive child. No matter how harsh the punishment, it will not include killing. Islamic State is simply too useful to the nefarious interests of coalition members to be eliminated. - Ismael Hossein-Zadeh (Oct 31, '14)

The Caliph fit to join OPEC
Caliph Ibrahim's Islamic State is now for all practical purposes an oil major worthy of OPEC membership, with US$2 million in profits a day from juicy energy deals and prices to die for. All its gains would not even be remotely possible without US/Western overt/covert complicity, proving once and for all that The Caliph is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving in the Global War On Terror. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 31, '14)

Nuclear compromise fuels hopes of deal
Progress in talks involving the number of Iranian centrifuges and the transfer of low-enriched uranium to Russia are adding to hopes that a compromise approach between Iranian and US negotiators will succeed in resolving the main obstacle to a comprehensive agreement on Tehran's nuclear program. - Gareth Porter (Oct 29, '14)

Fighting for survival in the Sinai
Following well-coordinated attacks that killed scores of security personnel in northeast Sinai on Friday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi accused a mysterious "foreign hand" of orchestrating the strike. More likely culprits for the violence emanating from the lawless region are decades of financial neglect by Cairo, and Sisi's own use of Sinai's impoverished villages as a proving ground for his military. - Ramzy Baroud (Oct 28, '14)

The Islamic State and Sunni autonomy
The Islamic State offensive in Iraq has been blunted, but forming an effective counteroffensive has proved elusive. Yet an orderly devolution of power to a Sunni Iraq would present less instability than a likely protracted war with the militants followed by a war of Sunni independence. - Brian M Downing (Oct 27, '14)

The Kobani riddle
The barbarians, in the form of Islamic State goons, are at the gates of Kobani, the bombed-out city in northern Syria which is also the epicenter of a non-violent experiment in local democracy. But don't expect the US, Turkey and the administration of Iraqi Kurdistan to save Kobani: the city is now an easy-to-lose pawn in a pitiless game because it embodies a people-power challenge to the hegemony of the nation-state. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 24, '14)

Blackwater contractors convicted
The conviction of a former Blackwater contractor of murder and three of his colleagues of voluntary manslaughter in the shootings of 14 civilians killed in Baghdad's Nisour Square seven years ago has been welcomed as an "affirmation" of US commitment to the rule of law "even in times of war". Yet the US government continues to award Blackwater's successors millions of dollars each year in contracts, "essentially rewarding war crimes". - Jim Lobe (Oct 23, '14)

What could
possibly go wrong?

You know the joke? You describe something obviously heading for disaster - a friend crossing Death Valley with next to no gas in his car - and then add, "What could possibly go wrong?" Such is the Middle East today, with the US again at war there. Here, then, are seven worst-case scenarios in a part of the world where the worst case has regularly been the best that's on offer. - Peter Van Buren (Oct 21, '14)

Rouhani's 'economic package' is empty
The belief of Iran's Hassan Rouhani administration that the establishment of better relations with the US would serve as a panacea to the country's economic woes has effectively linked any chance of financial revival with an uncertain negotiation process. Perceptions that an unrestrained integration into global capitalism and wholesale privatization will end the West's imperialist policy on Iran are equally naive. - Ismael Hossein-Zadeh (Oct 21, '14)

Britain's phantoms of the past in Palestine
The overwhelming vote in Britain's parliament in favor of a Palestinian state underlines how the British public and political establishment have grown disenchanted with Israel's occupation. However, London still pursues an openly pro-Israel foreign policy - and arms the country's soldiers - so there's no real threat of the Balfour vision being replaced as Britain's most definitive intervention over Palestine. - Ramzy Baroud (Oct 20, '14)

Iran's Baloch insurgency and the IS
Separatist sentiment in Iran's restive Sistan-e-Balochistan province and the Salafist core of the insurgency there suggest the region could easily become fertile ground for Islamic State sympathizers - or more. While al-Qaeda has never launched any attacks on Iran or its interests, the IS has repeatedly stated the desire to strike the Islamic Republic. - Daniele Grassi (Oct 20, '14)

Iran's energy market: a modest proposal
Iran can turn tumbling oil prices into an opportunity, by raising domestic energy prices and making use - at home and abroad - of energy credits, or Petro-Swaps, benefiting its citizens while weaning the country away from foreign price manipulators. - Chris Cook (Oct 20, '14)

The missing context for IS's rise
While the Americans didn't create sectarianism in Iraq, Sunni militancy was alien to the Middle East before the 2003 invasion and its messy aftermath. To destroy the sectarian divisions now pervasive in the Middle East, fledgling democracies must be permitted to operate in safe environments, with national identities reanimated to meet the common priorities of Arab peoples. - Ramzy Baroud (Oct 17, '14)

Notes on the IS air war
As the Islamist State seemingly sidesteps Western strikes in Iraq and Syria only to re-emerge and launch devastating assaults, critics are dismissing the air campaign as a failure. The prospect of a protracted war may seem to benefit IS, but forces reliant on zeal and knowing nothing but conquest may not respond well to months of stagnation. - Brian M Downing (Oct 15, '14)

A Caliph in a wilderness of mirrors
Islamic State goons are taking over the whole, notorious Baghdad belt - the previous "triangle of death" in those hardcore days of US occupation circa 2004. Yes, Donald Rumsfeld's "remnants" are back, razing Ramadi and Fallujah to an accumulation of bombed-out schools, hospitals, homes, mosques and bridges. How could the Pentagon's spectacular Full Spectrum Dominance possibly not see any of this happening? - Pepe Escobar (Oct 15, '14)

The token Palestinian, inconvenient truths
Following Israel's brutal war on Gaza, solidarity conferences have been organized across the globe. A few Palestinians are paraded to describe the violence, and then an all-knowing Westerner takes charge of shaping the discourse. The Palestinian cause has been hijacked by student socialists for years, but in this day and age Palestinians shouldn't be excluded from their own narrative. - Ramzy Baroud (Oct 10, '14)

Anything that flies on anything that moves
In transmitting President Richard Nixon's orders for a "massive" bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, "Anything that flies on everything that moves". One is almost nostalgic for Kissinger's murderous honesty as Barack Obama ignites his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Like the Khmer Rouge, the Islamic State is a product of a US-made apocalypse. - John Pilger (Oct 9, '14)

Pure War in Tehran
Paul Virilio's 1983 classic Pure War turned out to be the perfect companion during a frantic week in Tehran revisiting the symbiotic twists that entwine the military-industrial complex and large-scale terrorism, in a city where Virilio's assertion that "peace" merely extends war by other means rings particularly true. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 8, '14)

Sunni monarchies aligned with the West
Thanks to the threat from Islamic State, the Gulf's Sunni monarchies have reversed their recent moves away from the West and are now realigned more closely with the US, Britain, and France. Though the duration of this move is uncertain, persistent military problems in the region suggest it will last longer than the present crisis. - Brian M Downing (Oct 6, '14)

Iran and Israel vie in Kurdistan
Kurdistan's oil resources, militias, and increasing autonomy from Baghdad will make it an important actor in regional politics, especially to Iran and Israel. The mullahs and the Likud, however, may all be too guided by recent enmity and doctrinaire foreign policy to realize the role Kurdistan could play in defeating the Islamic State. - Brian M Downing (Sep 30, '14)

What if 'Islamic State' didn't exist?
Western and Arab motives in the war against Islamic State might differ, but both sides have keen interest in fighting in the war and an even keener interest in obfuscating the real reasons behind IS's meteoric rise. While the West refuses to admit the obvious link between IS and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, Arab leaders need the bogeyman of "Islamist" terror legitimize their power. - Ramzy Baroud (Sep 30, '14)

Gaza and the end of 'Arab gallantry'
The lack of reaction on Arab streets and among the region's governments as Israel savaged Gaza civilians raises doubts over notions of gallantry that define Arab identity. There is a similar lack of gallantry within the ruling Palestinian classes, however, with the war's aftermath seeing the Ramallah political class attack the former Hamas government, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas fret over his position. - Ramzy Baroud (Sep 26, '14)

Terrorism as a cover for intervention
Persuading the Gulf monarchies to enact democracy end theoir support for Jihadi terror groups all over the Islamic world would take the presence of just and upright international arbiters really interested in enforcing justice rather than pandering to corporate greed. Instead, Western powers chose to use terrorism as a pretext for interventions targeted more at keeping the oil flowing than supporting democratic reform. - Nauman Sadiq (Sep 26, '14)

One door closes, another opens for IS
A vast Sunni tribal confederation threatens to turn on Islamic State in Iraq, Western airpower is taking its toll, and entering Baghdad seems a distant prospect. But it is not all bad news for IS. The fanfare attending the Western coalition will likely increase hostility toward the West, a development which could unwittingly increase IS recruitment and undermine the legitimacy of Arab partners. - Brian M Downing (Sep 25, '14)

Apocalypse Now, Iraq edition
In 1967, Martin Luther King called for "the madness" of war in Vietnam to cease. Still the madness lingers - and it goes beyond the money poured into the US national security state post-9/11. Weeks into a new military operation in Iraq that could last years, the semantic twists of "targeted action" cannot hide the mind-boggling strangeness of Washington going to war all over again. - Peter Van Buren (Sep 24, '14)

Operation Tomahawk The Caliph
So the Tomahawks are finally flying again, targeting the self-declared leader of Islamic State and even greater bad-asses in the mysterious Khorasan group. As the militants dissolve Maoist-style, The Pentagon will soon be bombing vast tracts of desert for nothing - if that's not the case already, while the people who are really capable of defeating The Caliph's goons don't tomahawk. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 24, '14)

Western jihadists and risks brought home
Islamic State's high-profile gains in the Middle East will boost recruitment efforts while their foothold in the Levant provides foreign jihadists a base to improve their terrorist skills. However, Western intelligence agencies agree that IS currently lacks the ability to orchestrate a large-scale spectacular, with the most likely threat in lower-level attacks such as assassinations and kidnappings. - Weimeng Yeo (Sep 24, '14)

Erdogan's flying carpet unravels
Belief among Turkish voters that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the best-placed politician to deliver growth and jobs has helped him win one election after another, but this ignores the currency depreciation, rising interest rates and declining economic activity that is rapidly becoming a vicious cycle. Unfortunately for the "mystery investors" helping the opaque economy fly, the dream is looking ragged. (Sep 23, '14)

How Syrian jihad spawned Islamic State
While the fight against Islamic State has created a parallel reality where war appears as "humanitarian intervention" and hardcore jihadis are innocuous-sounding "Syrian rebels", it is futile to deny the fact that in its eagerness to defeat the Syrian regime, the international community created Islamic State, even as the group itself is an brittle alliance of militants. - Nauman Sadiq (Sep 22, '14)

IS and the blowback brewing
The stresses and fault lines the Middle East today could easily lead to implosions tomorrow, and America's past failure could see it be blamed, rightly or wrongly, for any ensuing mayhem. The critical questions the George W Bush administration ignored when it invaded Iraq remain applicable today for Barack Obama. - Emile Nakhleh (Sep 19, '14)

The Middle East and its armies
The military successes of the Islamic State - at first apparently just a tatterdemalion bunch of ill-equipped jihadists before they became more clearly in focus as a force to be reckoned with - underlines the question of why regular armies across the Middle East and beyond have frequently proven to be ineffective under fire. - Brian M Downing (Sep 19, '14)

Obama's 'stupid stuff' turned upside down
First US President Barack Obama promised there would be no ground troops to fight The Caliph - as in a re-invasion of Iraq. Then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey argues that if Obama's self-defined "Don't So Stupid Stuff" foreign policy doctrine does not work he'll go for ground troops. "Don't Do Stupid Stuff" changes its tune like surfing on iTunes. And the tune now is the "Syraq" offensive remixed. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 18, '14)

Palestinian reconciliation at crossroads
President Mahmoud Abbas has unleashed a media campaign against Hamas and the Palestinian resistance which makes it appear that he has prioritized "peace with Israel" over national reconciliation. If public pressure fails to stop the divisions, Abbas may achieve politically what Israel failed to achieve militarily. - Nicola Nasser (Sep 17, '14)

IS gives US its 'Suez Crisis' moment
The US action against Islamic State suggests it views intervention in Syria as a Trojan Horse opportunity to advance anti-Assad forces. Syria's Assad, Russia, and IS are not going to stand by as this plan is implemented. Nor, if IS activity expands in the region, will China wait, US "limit of empire" style, for disaster to pound at the door before thinking about doing something. It will respond pre-emptively and fiercely. - Peter Lee (Sep 17, '14)

From Hamas royalty to Israel's spy
Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of one of the founders of the biggest Palestinian militant group, spent a decade working undercover with the Israeli security service, thwarting dozens of Palestinian attacks. His story sounds like the makings of a Hollywood big budget spy thriller, but is the plot of a documentary, The Green Prince, that sheds limited light on the relationship between a spy and his handler. - Mitchell Plitnick (Sep 16, '14)

A convenient Middle East genocide
The Yazidis, a sect until recently barely heard of outside the Middle East, suddenly became a rallying point for the West to stage yet another intervention in Iraq to stave off another imminent "genocide". Experience has taught that not all "acts of genocide" are created equal, and for the US the only real genocide is one that serves its own interests. - Ramzy Baroud (Sep 15, '14)

Gaza and the threat of world war
The siege of Gaza is a siege of all of us. The denial of justice to Palestinians is a symptom of much of humanity under siege and a warning that the threat of a new world war is growing by the day as immunity for mass murder is sponsored by a godfather in Washington that has answered the cries of children in Gaza with more ammunition to kill them. (Sep 12, '14)

Iranians' fractured hope for US deal
Despite sanctions imposed on Iran by the US Congress, including new measures last month, there is hope across Iranian society for a final nuclear deal with Washington, without considering how it would take place. But a core question remains as to whether, in the event of a comprehensive deal, US leaders would adhere to their obligations. - Reza Ekhtiari Amiri (Sep 12, '14)

Show IS no mercy, for you'll receive none
For the first time in 30 years, the United States is involved in a war that's neither morally ambiguous nor grounded on shaky evidence or faked connections, yet President Barack Obama refuses to commit his country to the fight against Islamic State. Such hesitation is viewed in the Arab extremist world as weakness, and spurring IS to take its brutality right to America's shores. - Tiffany Kendal Koogler (Sep 11, '14)

Politics and the long war in Iraq
The Kurdish peshmerga, Sunni militia and Shi'ite forces are all capable of countering Islamic States's offensive in Iraq, but political bargaining with the new Baghdad government will come first. While from a military perspective coordination would be preferable, no party wants to force significant IS retreats until it becomes clear who will dominate the political outcome of the conflict. - Brian M Downing (Sep 11, '14)

Ceasefires where violations never cease
Ceasefires between Israel and Palestine follow an unbroken trend of breaking when escalations of Israeli violence elicit a Hamas response. It’s an ugly pattern in which civilized life for Palestinians is reduced in a major way yet the urge to fight on and the desire for revenge increases. And it's been going on for a remarkably long time. - Noam Chomsky (Sep 11, '14)

Netanyahu loses plot to new Gaza reality
War for Israel is an important tool to project regional strength and distract from political trouble at home, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's offensives in Gaza had in recent years furthered those goals. But this year's brutal Operation Protective Edge has united Palestinians behind Hamas and other resistance groups, suggesting long-term consequences that will outweigh any political benefits. - Ramzy Baroud (Sep 10, '14)

US pivots at the gates of hell
Typical hyperbole sees the United States pledging to pursue Islamic State militants "to the gates of hell". With international unity and resolve in short supply, the main tools in the demonic chase appear to be cupidity and cowardly opportunism. Even with US air, missile, and drone strikes, that's not a sure recipe for success. - Peter Lee (Sep 9, '14)

Islamic State and the Western response
Islamic State's brutal treatment of enemies aims to stoke enough fear to achieve victory without a battle, with its uncompromising outlook part of plans to paint this as a "civilizational" conflict. Proof of this strategy's effectiveness lies in IS's state-building achievements. To alleviate the regional morass fuelling IS's rise, the West must swallow its pride and reverse flawed policy. - Tafhim Kiani (Sep 8, '14)

Caliphate bid threatens Arabs most
Arab society under the yoke of extremist Islamism must be addressed from within the region, not by airstrikes or military aid. The Islamic State, like other terrorists before it, is a violent symptom of this tug of war between intolerant traditionalists and forward-looking reformists. The West should stay out of the debate. - Emile Nakhleh (Sep 8, '14)

US treads on Islamic State minefield
The United States is fully aware that its strategy to counter Islamic State's terror aspirations in the Middle East lacks a cohesive coalition. Arab countries are unwilling to commit ground troops as sacrificial lambs and both Iran and Russia are unwilling to pay the price of weakening their own geopolitical ambitions. If the emerging anti-IS formula is proving hard to make, it will be even harder to implement. - Ehsan Ahrari (Sep 8, '14)

Will NATO liberate Jihadistan?
Even as North Atlantic Treaty Organization heads of state gather for a confab in the United Kingdom, Islamic State leader Caliph Ibrahim broadcasts his disdain of Western military power with the beheading of another American journalist - then declares that Russia's Vladimir Putin is next - which would kind of place him as a NATO contractor. And in return? The Pentagon couldn't care less. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 5, '14)

Cohesion and disintegration in Iraq's armies
Vastly different structures have become evident in the armed groups fighting in Iraq, with the government army suffering a lack of cohesion due to its sectarian underpinnings and the Islamic State benefiting from an archaic sense of warrior fraternity. While the open struggle belies the Kurdish peshmerga's guerrilla roots, the Sunnis could yet re-emerge from a downtrodden role thanks to popular support. - Brian M Downing (Sep 4, '14)

Grand victors, false defeats in Gaza
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's assertions that Israel "won" its brutal 51-day offensive on Gaza are undermined by his increasingly isolated political position and growing national divisions over the conflict. Hamas "celebrations" are perhaps equally misunderstood outside Gaza. For the enclave, this war's end is no cause for celebration, but rather a chance to mark a sad but significant victory over Israel's military dominance. - Ramzy Baroud (Sep 3, '14)

NATO attacks!
The Ukraine battleground at least has the merit of exposing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as naked, even as the alliance's summit this week will showcase outgoing secretary-general Anders "Fogh of War" Rasmussen baring his teeth and straining one last time to cross multiple battlelines as if trying to remake Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! - Pepe Escobar (Sep 3, '14)

How Washington made Islamic State
The Islamic State militants intent on provoking a massive military response to fuel their Caliphate ambitions would be horrified to think they are the spawn of Washington's 13-year folly of regional war, occupation and intervention that played a major role in clearing the ground for them. They may be America's worst nightmare, but they are also its legacy. - Tom Engelhardt (Sep 3, '14)

Gaza: Now the guns have been silenced
The ceasefire calm after the latest round of hostilities in Gaza has ironically produced a positive effect. Both Israel and Hamas have come to the realization that neither can defeat the other politically and militarily with impunity, and now the guns have been silenced other options must now be explored to end a vicious cycle of violence. - Alon Ben-Meir (Aug 29, '14)

A new golden
age for journalism

Injustice is the gift that just keeps giving for investigative journalism. With so much of the business in flux, fine reporters are finding ways to shine much needed light into the parts of our global lives that the powerful would rather keep in the dark. If you’re a reader with access to the Internet, this is a new golden age. - Anya Schiffrin (Aug 28, '14)

Why Gaza was betrayed
The war on Gaza and the dubious role played by Egypt in ceasefire talks between Hamas and Israel are testaments to the Arab betrayal of the Palestinian cause. Talk of solidarity is a show of words and masks that some Arab countries wish to see Israel crush any semblance of Palestinian resistance, in Gaza or elsewhere. - Ramzy Baroud (Aug 27, '14)

US looks for help against IS in Syria
The United States sees Syria as the prime battleground for defeating Islamic State's ambitions, yet the question of which forces to ally with is vexing, since the US could become enmeshed in the civil war and further inflame the anti-Western cause. The leadership seat vacated by the death of Osama bin Laden is still unoccupied, and US action could give a leg up to Islamic militants looking to fill it. - Brian M Downing (Aug 27, '14)

'Shock and awe' with a short blade
The brutal decapitation of American reporter James Foley by a lone masked jihadi with a short blade on a forlorn patch of desert in Iraq was in some respects a more proportionally efficient act of "shock and awe" warfare than the hi-tech rain of ordnance in the last Gulf War. It has left Western countries struggling to come up with an effective response. - Michael Vatikiotis (Aug 26, '14)

ISIS: Caliphate or pretenders?
The historic basis of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, now Islamic State, is highly questionable. ISIS is also not only far short of attaining the capability of a secure state, its actions and deeds are curiously in line with overarching American objectives for the region. - Muhammad Asim (Aug 22, '14)

Why Washington's war on terror failed
The conflicting US policy in Iraq and Syria in dealing with jihadists there means Islamic State will be the beneficiary if the US succeeds in their common goal of deposing Bashar al-Assad. A deeper reason for the failure of Washington's war on terror is that it has failed to target Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the two countries that fostered jihadism as a creed and a movement. - Patrick Cockburn (Aug 22, '14)

The killer on the
(Saudi) king's highway

The murder of American photojournalist James Foley marks a new beginning in the never-ending Global War on Terror, as Islamic State fighters wax strong on the back of start-up funds and equipment supplied by - who else? - the US and Saudi Arabia. Their final destination? Mecca, Riyadh, and the head the House of Saud. And those killers shall also speak with a British accent.
- Pepe Escobar (Aug 21, '14)

A Sunni Awakening in
Iraq and the future of IS

The Baghdad government desperately needs help against the the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), and the Sunnis have the forces and organization to turn the tide against extreme jihadist group. Their tribes have shown before they have the strength and cohesion when they want to. They can do so again. - Brian M Downing (Aug 20, '14)

Uphill task for Israel's apologists after Gaza
The level of brutality seen in Israel's latest offensive on Gaza leaves the spin doctors typically deployed to absolve the country of blame with a harder task than in past years. Instead of throwing the focus on any of Hamas's crimes, the civilian casualty level puts a spotlight on the creeping militarization of Israeli society. - Ramzy Baroud (Aug 18, '14)

From baby boom to shortage in Iran
Iran's family planning policy has gyrated so radically - from encouraging too many babies to producing too few - that the Islamic Republic faces existential economic dangers. The origin of the problem dates to the 1979 revolution. - Garrett Nada (Aug 15, '14)

The West's dirty war in Iraq
As the specter of disintegration looms for Iraq, the main victor in this scramble for power is none other than Israel. It is succeeding today, with the help of its Western allies, in realizing the goals that it has been silently and carefully planning for the past few years - a base for any future attack on Iran, Syria, Iraq and even Turkey. - Moufid Jaber (Aug 15, '14)

No victors or vanquished in Gaza conflict
As the dust settles after the devastating conflict in Gaza, the UN reports more children were killed in the month-long battle than in the previous two crises in the territory combined. Israel missed its target to annihilate Hamas, instead killing mostly civilians in acts that may be investigated as war crimes, while the militant group's campaign against Israeli ground forces inflicted at least five times as many casualties as before. - Thalif Deen (Aug 14, '14)

Sherman's 300,000 and
the Caliphate's 3 million

The new Thirty Years War in the Middle East, with its origins in a demographic peak and an economic trough, will only be won by the feeding of enough young men to the meat-grinder until there are insufficient recruits to fill the fighting ranks. That was precisely how General Sherman fought the American Civil War - though add another zero to his estimate of casualties to calibrate the likely extent of deaths in the Levant today. (Aug 12, '14)

Obama hails 'promising step' in Iraq
United States President Barack Obama says the nomination of Haider al-Abadi as Iraq's prime minister-designate is a "promising step forward". Incumbent prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has been accused of fueling sectarian violence and refuses to step down, describes Abadi's nomination as a "violation of the constitution". (Aug 12, '14)

The end of Israel's historical immunity
Israel's leaders have attempted to immunize the country against criticism of its conduct in Palestine by referencing the genocide of Jews in Europe as the precipitating factor for the establishment of a "safe haven". This method of immunization is collapsing now that an increasing number of Jewish critics of Israel are joining the chorus of international condemnation. - Michael Marder (Aug 6, '14)

Gaza's resistance paradigm
Now Israel's latest war on Gaza has surpassed previous offensives in terms of duration, destruction and civilian casualties, the question of why a pacifist figure like Gandhi hasn't risen for the Palestinian cause seems more mute than ever. The West may preach that Palestinians should abandon violence, but Israeli violence is a result of a decided political agenda and is not tailored around the nature of Palestinian resistance. - Ramzy Baroud (Aug 6, '14)

The 'non-state' solution for Gaza
US Secretary of State John Kerry and his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, stick to their firm belief that a two-state solution is the only way to end the Israel-Palestine conflict. The fatal flaw in this mistaken view is the neglect of the necessary condition for creating a stable state: ensuring there is only one army in the newly created state. (Aug 4, '14)

Palestine seen through a South African lens
Crimes, Victims and Witnesses - Apartheid in Palestine by Mats Svensson
A sad, reflective work on the how physical and legal barriers in Palestine resemble apartheid-era South Africa, this book uses compelling photography and cryptic anecdotes to illustrate the destruction of the land and its culture. Written by a Swedish United Nations staffer who worked on the Israel-Palestine morass, it acknowledges is that diplomats are simply playing a game, unable to truly help. - Jim Miles (Aug 4, '14)

Arab countries in land-grab
strategy to secure food

Arab countries, which appear to have started losing confidence in normal food supply chains and are concerned about rising food prices, are turning to acquisitions of farmland around the world. - Mona Alami (Jul 31, '14)

Putin edges toward a personal Waterloo
Russian President Vladimir Putin's chief weapons are his revanchist ideology and his hope to earn billions of dollars from selling gas to China and Europe. While he is determined to avoid bankruptcy through international sanctions, his wrong-headed pursuit of reviving his country to superpower status may give the United States the upper hand and set course for Napoleonic self-destruction. - Ehsan M Ahrari (Jul 31, '14)

Crime (Israel) and punishment (Russia)
Not even Hollywood could come up with such a plot: Israel gets away with unlawful premeditated mass murder of civilians while Russia gets framed for a (smaller-scale) airborne mass murder of civilians that has all the makings of being set up by the Kiev vassals of Russia's Western "partners". Sanctions and economic war are about to convulse Europe and pit Europe against Russia. Exactly what the Empire of Chaos is praying - and working - for. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 30, '14)

The al-Sisi his allies can't see
The US and Middle Eastern allies see Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as a compliant figure who'll re-fill the role of regional puppet vacated by Hosni Mubarak. Sisi's impulsive, paranoid style of rule and intense focus on building up the military suggest he'll more likely become a Saddam Hussein - complete with the penchant for invasions. - Monte Palmer (Jul 30, '14)

Gaza's resistance will not be crushed
The destruction in Gaza is overwhelming as the loss of life has climbed during nearly three weeks of battle. Historical inevitability makes it unlikely that the people of the strip will surrender. With even a quick scan of decades of war, it can be said with conviction that Israel cannot possibly subdue Gaza. - Ramzy Baroud (Jul 28, '14)

Why no Arab state cries for Gaza
No Arab State has had the guts to denounce Israel's use of "made-in-the-USA" death machines to rain hellfire on the civilian population of Gaza. Arab autocrats, viewing the world through their concern over how they can continue to cling to power, are too scared for the survival of their regimes to proffer any daring proposals to resolve the Palestinian conflict. - Ehsan Ahrari (Jul 28, '14)

How US policies
sealed Iraq's fate

Strikingly devoid of comprehension of the forces at play in Iraq and the region, post-invasion US policy in Iraq followed a simplistic dichotomy of "good guys" versus "bad guys". Distressingly aware of what was happening to their country, Iraqis have long dreaded that the destabilization and sectarian disintegration would lead to the mass bloodletting that's now been unleashed. - Dahr Jamail (Jul 22, '14)

Hardliners maneuver
over Iran talks extension

Hardline Iranian factions are maintaining pressure on the government over potential concessions in any nuclear deal reached with world powers, following an amicable extension arrangement reached last week. By exaggerating the level of opposition in the establishment towards a long-term agreement, the conservative establishment hopes to prevent normalization of ties with the US. - Mahan Abedin (Jul 22, '14)

Zarif and Kerry signal nuclear momentum
With the July 20 deadline fast approaching, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif signaled this week that talks have produced momentum toward agreement on the two most crucial issues for a nuclear pact: Iran's enrichment capability and the duration of the agreement. - Gareth Porter (Jul 18, '14)

Iran balks at Kurdish statehood threats
The prospect of Iraqi Kurdistan capitalizing on Iraq's turmoil to become an independent state is worrying Iran, with the Islamic Republic suspecting the new country would become a permanent base for American and Israeli influence on its doorstep. Even worse, independence would inevitably embolden irredentist Kurdish elements in Iran. - Mahan Abedi (Jul 18, '14)

Ravaging Gaza: The war Israel cannot win
The targeting of Hamas in Gaza is an Israeli attempt to challenge a narrative that is no longer about the strip and its siege anymore, but the entirety of Palestine, no matter what side of the Israeli "separation wall" Palestinians live. While the hurdles to unity currently look insurmountable, if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sparks another massive revolt, that will be the kind of war he cannot win. - Ramzy Baroud (Jul 16, '14)

How Israel turned tragedy into opportunity
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu portrayed the disappearance of three Israeli teens as a "kidnapping" case despite clear evidence they'd been quickly executed. Manipulating hopes in this way boosted Israel's flagging international image while creating political cover for the military to move against Hamas members and political dissidents in the West Bank. - Justin Schwegel (Jul 8, '14)

Iran, Saudis give battle on proxy stage
Iranian and Saudi Arabian maneuvers in West Asia and the Levant increasingly focus on using sectarian advantages to promote strategic dominance. Although a relative newcomer in the realm of global power-plays, Riyadh is already convinced that victories for its allies in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts will see it gain a regional edge over Tehran. - Ehsan Ahrari (Jul 3, '14)

Why was Blackwater in China?
Reports that Blackwater was once hired to protect North Korean asylum-seekers in China suggest the West wants Beijing to follow "non-refoulement" principles to guarantee refuge. An acid test of this would be if Beijing started reviewing asylum dossiers, forcing the US and South Korea to live up to human-rights rhetoric and accept an influx of thousands of brutalized North Korean refugees. - Peter Lee (Jul 3, '14)

Arab Spring, Jihad Summer
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was an average Sunni Iraqi cleric with a degree in pedagogy before he metamorphosed into a de facto serial killer, blowing up Shi'ite kids at ice-cream shops. Now declared the Caliph of Islamic State, a catchier militant moniker than formerly used by the Men in Black, al-Baghdadi is the new Osama bin Laden, leading a group with sights set on conquering lands that include large swathes of Asia. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 2, '14)

Iraqi tsunami hits South Asia
The Sunni militant's lightning advance in Iraq is set to test new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's diplomatic skills, with dozens of Indian workers kidnapped and some of India's 50 million Shi'ites considering travelling there to defend shrines. Neighboring Pakistan will also likely suffer financial and sectarian repercussions, putting further pressure on its precarious security situation. - Daniele Grassi (Jul 2, '14)

US ploy seen in Iran centrifuge demand
With the July 20 deadline approaching for an international agreement, the US is warning Iran that it must accept deep cuts in the number of its centrifuges to demonstrate its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. The evidence points to a negotiating ploy in which the US would give up the demand in return for Iranian concessions at a later stage. - Gareth Porter (Jul 2, '14)

Fear and loathing at Hotel Babylon
Hardcore Sunnistan is going to descend into a noughties-style militia hell again as Men In Black of different persuasions slug it out in and beyond the Iraqi battlefield. While the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham and their coalition of the willing won't take Baghdad just yet, the Empire of Chaos would cheer a final sectarian push towards a Great Kurdistan and across a balkanized Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Yemen. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 27, '14)

The beginnings of the angry Muslim
The West has culpability in the state of hopelessness and humiliation felt by a generation of Muslim youth, but Washington's wars were mostly a catalyst for the violence underway in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. The real roots of the "angry Muslim" lie in the dissolution of authentic and organic moral values which had allowed the Islamic community to persist as empires failed. - Ramzy Baroud (Jun 27, '14)

It's the oil, stupid!
No one in power ever mentions the oil when reasoning for the invasion of Iraq or weighing up the US response to the current disintegration of the country. Yet Iraq sits on one of the great, easily accessible fossil-fuel reserves on the planet and the oppressive regime of Nouri al-Maliki is racked with insurgency because it has refused to share vast oil revenues with his Sunni constituents. - Michael Schwartz (Jun 26, '14)

How to avoid mission creep
The 300 "special ops" forces now advising Baghdad on quashing the militant threat in Iraq are at the spearhead of a mission that is in danger of expanding out of control. This is where multilateral approach built on international and regional consensus, including with Iran, becomes a useful mechanism for US President Barack Obama to help ward off mission creep. - M K Bhadrakumar (Jun 25, '14)

US condemns Egyptian verdicts
The United States joined international human rights groups around the world in "strongly condemning" Monday's conviction and sentencing by an Egyptian court of three Al Jazeera journalists and 15 others for their alleged association with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. - Jim Lobe (Jun 24, '14)

Iraq and the emerging regional disorder
The Obama administration's approach to the Syrian crisis - where it turned a blind eye to US allies financing an extremist rebellion in Syria - has spilled over into letting its Shia and Alawite rivals sink in an expanding Iraqi quagmire. This sends a clear message to Asia's rising powers: America is unable to promote a stable regional order or to share power and responsibility in West Asia. - Zorawar Daulet Singh (Jun 24, '14)

US-Iran rapprochement: Are they there yet?
Despite the yawning chasm between the US and Iran since 1979, Washington may have little choice in forging rapprochement if "boots on the ground" emerge as the only option in Iraq. The fates of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are sticking points, but then everyone is lowering strategic expectations in the messy post-Arab Spring Middle East. - Ehsan Ahrari (Jun 24, '14)

Neo-cons, hawks fail to gain Iraq traction
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the Middle East just as Sunni insurgents in Iraq extended their reach and captured a key border post with Syria. Back home, the hawks who propelled the US into war in Iraq 11 years ago are falling short in their efforts to persuade the public and Congress that the troops need to return. (Click here for the latest news developments on Iraq.) - Jim Lobe (Jun 23, '14)

A doomed US-Iran dynamic in Iraq
Iranian strategists likely see in the latest crisis an opportunity to wrest Iraq away from American military influence. That is a risky strategy. While the United States crafts its policy in the Middle East and elsewhere on the exclusive premise of national interest, Iran's strategy is much more complex as it reflects the country's profile as a revolutionary and ideological power. - Mahan Abedin (Jun 23, '14)

The impact of ISIS to spread
The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham's rapid growth results from interventions in regional leadership by Iran and Saudi Arabia, and ISIS's impact will spread beyond Iraq and Syria to new theaters in Lebanon, Yemen and post-US withdrawal Afghanistan. Most importantly for global stability, the creation of a caliphate would confirm the US's decline. - Daniele Grassi (Jun 20, '14)

Who won Iraq?
With the United States visibly tired of its wars in this century, questions over "who lost Iraq?" are unlikely ever to resonate as much as similar debates around who "lost" China and Vietnam. The geopolitical dreams of the George W Bush era are buried somewhere deep in the rubble of Iraq, while the present White House has neither visionaries nor global dreams. - Tom Engelhardt (Jun 20, '14)

Australia joins Israeli word games
By stating that it will not describe East Jerusalem as "occupied" and threatening similar linguistic changes on how it terms the West Bank, Australia lays itself open to criticism over the application of international humanitarian law. Palestinians are also viewing the Australian government's "terminological clarification" in the context of what they see as pro-Israel changes in policy. - Nicola Nasser (Jun 20, '14)

Burn, Men in Black, burn
Divide and Rule has run amok in the Levant, courtesy of the Men in Black of Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, the US-trained jihadis and bastard children of Saudi spy chief Bandar Bush. While the CIA could never have conceived it, the ISIS is the perfect ski-mask-clad tool to keep the Global War on Terror in Enduring Freedom Forever mode. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 20, '14)

Iraq pays price of US sectarian meddling
The US oppressed Iraq's Sunni Muslims, empowered the Shi'ites, and fed the flame of sectarianism all in the name of a failed democratic adventure. While this was a major factor in the formation and extreme violence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, the real story of ISIS is yet to be told. - Ramzy Baroud (Jun 18, '14)

Iraq's night is long
The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria is the leading force in the latest convulsions to sweep northern Iraq, but it is far from being alone. What unites al-Qaeda extremists, Ba'athists and decamped Iraqi military personnel is despair at Iraqi Premier Nouri al-Maliki's sectarianism and the failures of the Iraqi state to draw in the largely Sunni towns that run up the River Tigris from Baghdad. - Vijay Prashad (Jun 18, '14)

Iraqi quagmire calls the US back
As US President Barack Obama mulls the extent of America's next intervention in Iraq, he must also decide if its purpose will be to continue Nuri al-Maliki's brutal sectarian rule. If Obama decides that a breakup of Iraq won't hurt vital US interests, the Iraqi prime minister's paranoid visions may become reality. - Ehsan Ahrari (Jun 17, '14)

Battle-ready in Baghdad
Iraqi tribesmen hold weapons in Baghdad to show their readiness to join Iraqi security forces in the fight against jihadist militants in the north. As the militant offensive threatens to sweep south toward the Iraqi capital, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced that the Iraqi government would arm volunteers. Meanwhile, Barack Obama is sending 275 troops protect the US embassy in Baghdad. Click here for full story. (Jun 17, '14)

America wants the impossible
The United States gets unwanted results - most recently in Iraq - because it projects its values system onto incompatible societies and conflicts. Americans simply don't want to think about the world as it actually is, and by default this may lead the rest of the world towards players with a sense of reality. Unburdened by a social-engineering approach and affirmative-action mentality, China is the leading likeliest candidate. (Jun 16, '14)

Obama broods over an Iraqi odyssey
US President Barack Obama has invoked a cardinal principle of the so-called Obama Doctrine as he mulls over a role for a coalition of the willing in response to dramatic developments in northern Iraq and the fall of Mosul. While singling out the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant as the enemy, Obama will be aware of the other forces at work, and it will be the mother of all ironies if he invites the powerful foreign backers now stirring the revolt to be part of the solution. - M K Bhadrakumar (Jun 16, '14)

Oil history permeates Iran nuclear deal
The clock is ticking on the July 20 deadline for the agreement that will wipe out Iran's estimated US$40 billion investment in its nuclear program as a result of a hasty deal between the clerics and the West. The clerics' compromise carries shades of the oil nationalization in early 1950s, when they helped bring down an elected prime minister intent on defending Iran's right to nationalize oil. - Akbar E Torbat (Jun 16, '14)

Volunteers bound for Mosul fight
An Iraqi civilian in the southern port city of Basra kisses a Koran as he queues with volunteers to board a bus bound for Mosul. Islamic militants who overran cities and towns in northern Iraq last week have posted graphic photos appearing to show their gunmen massacring captured Iraqi soldiers, while the prime minister pledged on Sunday to "liberate every inch" of territory now under militant control. (Jun 16, '14)

Jihadis in Iraq blindside US spies
United States intelligence agencies were caught by surprise when jihadi fighters seized major Iraqi cities this week. That failure harks back to another intelligence miscue, in February, when US spy agencies failed to predict the Russian invasion of Crimea. Both raise questions about whether the billions of dollars the US spends every year on monitoring the world's hot spots is paying off - and what else its spies might be missing. (Jun 13, '14)

US stuck between dispensability and decline
Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat by Vali Nasr
While offering a harsh critique of the President Barack Obama's policies in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and across the Arab World, the author argues that the United States is not declining. This ignores that while the United States became an "indispensable nation" by implementing its stimulating post-World War II vision, it has failed since to develop a comparable vision for the future that is both realistic and doable. - Ehsan M Ahrari (Jun 13, '14)

Kurdish oil and a value vacuum
The "surprise" announcement that crude oil from Kurdistan had been shipped to Europe after being piped through Turkey raises important questions, not least of which concerns how, and in what currency, if any, this and later shipments will be paid for. - Chris Cook (Jun 11, '14)

Rouhani making progress, one year on
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's signal achievement after a year in office is simply to put government back into the hands of adults, people with experience and common sense. Much of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's crippling legacy has yet to be dealt with, but the effects of a return to sensible policies are already discernible, not least in the form of serious negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. - Shaul Bakhash (Jun 11, '14)

Decision time for US on Iran
As nuclear talks between Iranian and US delegations got underway in Geneva this week, Abbas Araqchi, a senior Iranian nuclear negotiator, emphasized that for them to reach a solid result, the Western side would have to make difficult decisions. Negotiations will get nowhere if the United States merely seeks excuses to mount further pressure on Iran.- Gholamali Khoshroo (Jun 11, '14)

Iraq 'emergency' call as Mosul falls
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki wants a state of emergency declared after Al-Qaeda-linked militants seized control of Mosul, one of Iraq's largest cities, as part of attacks that reportedly have led to the takeover of the entire Nineveh province. Thousands of people have fled the city, with others fleeing attacks in Anbar province to the south, adding to the near half-million who have fled their homes amid recent fighting there. (Jun 11, '14)

US hypocrisy and Middle East democracy
US officials dismissed Syria's presidential election as illegitimate because of the war conditions and excluded sections of the population, though US-backed votes in Iraq and Afghanistan faced similar circumstances. The willful cognitive dissonance is symptomatic of Western governments' failure to present a credible alternative even as they criticize the governments and governmental processes of countries they do not like. - Ahmed E Souaiaia (Jun 10, '14)

Egypt turns its back on Uncle Sam
Since September 11, 2001, Washington's policies in the Middle East have proven to be a grim imperial comedy of errors and are increasingly a spectacle of how a superpower can be sidelined. In this drama, Egypt, a key ally of Uncle Sam in the Arab world, has, like Saudi Arabia, largely turned its back on the Obama administration. It is a move barely noticed by the American media. - Dilip Hiro (Jun 10, '14)

A struggle against Israeli soft power
The Battle for Justice in Palestine
by Ali Abunimah
The author believes the Palestinian struggle will benefit from a growing awareness of Israeli actions brought about by a "boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement" similar to that which increased international isolation of apartheid-era South Africa. One of the more interesting parts of the work is its exploration of how neoliberal economic patterns have been imposed on Palestine. - Jim Miles (Jun 6, '14)

Arab street written out of uprisings
The Arab Spring brought the "people" factor back to a Middle Eastern political equation long dominated by dictators and foreign powers. But instead of embracing coverage of the impoverished and oppressed who sparked the revolts, Western media crafted a narrative based on the self-serving views of political elites, aid organizations and English-speaking social media buffs. - Ramzy Baroud (Jun 5, '14)

Iran, North Korea as proliferation epicenters
If North Korea continues to retain and build more nuclear weapons, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and others will inevitably seek their own devices, just as Middle Eastern countries will follow if Iran builds its own. Regional nuclear arms races increase the prospect of materials falling into the hands of non-state actors and a real threat the whole world. That is why it is imperative nuclear talks succeed. - Joseph R DeTrani (Jun 3, '14)

Low turnout blots Sisi's victory in Egypt
Estimates of the number of voters who bothered to cast their votes in Egypt's fait accompli presidential election vary from as little as 15% of the electorate to the incumbent government's 40% count, even as voters were cajoled to go to the polls. A heat wave took some of the blame, but disenchanted youths declared former army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's success - he endorsed 90% of ballots cast - as a hollow victory. - Annabell Van den Berghe (May 30, '14)

Pope applies universal
salve to Middle East

Pope Francis' visit to the Holy Land, and his invitation to Israeli and Palestinian leaders who do not pray to do so in the Vatican, was a rather pointless intervention into Middle East politics. His sudden passion for a Palestinian state was political theater, with nothing more at stake than his ambition for the renewal of a Church that saves fewer individuals than ever but hopes nevertheless to save everybody. (May 29, '14)

Ankara may regret shipping Kurdish oil
The Kurdistan Regional Government's decision to go ahead with its first shipment of crude oil to Europe out of the port of Ceyhan in southern Turkey may be seen by the Turkish government as a blessing. But it may prove a political curse in Ankara's already troubled relations with Baghdad. - Jacques N Couvas (May 27, '14)

Egypt between the hammer and the anvil
Egyptians voting in this week's election face a choice between Abdul-Fattah Al-Sisi, a strongman candidate representing a military whose iron rule in the past 60 years has failed to spur economic success, and Hamdeen Sabbahi, a left-wing nationalist candidate who wants a military state blanketed in a civilian attire. Neither appears to have the attributes needed to steer Egypt towards a viable democratic path. - Muhamed Arabi (May 27, '14)

Re-imagining the caliphate
The Inevitable Caliphate? A History of the Struggle for Global Islamic Union, 1924 to the Present by Reza Pankhurst
A forceful and authoritative attempt at elevating debate over the Islamic caliphate beyond Western elitist perceptions of extremism and radicalization, this book offers a clear-sighted analysis of the movements that have placed the caliphate at center of their revivalist discourse. The book's biggest flaw is arguably the author's reductionist approach toward the potential constituency of the caliphate. - Mahan Abedin (May 23, '14)

Conflict deepens Middle East water crisis
Conflict, population growth and economic expansion are placing unsustainable pressure on the Middle East's water resources. While this has prompted gloomy predictions of shortages leading to mass migrations, crop failures and even more wars, wealthy countries such as Saudi Arabia have proved that supply, management and consumer education offer a possible answer. - Thomas W Lippman (May 21, '14)

The Nakba and the land of oranges
Jaffa is a potent symbol for this year's commemorations of the Nakba, or catastrophe, when Palestinians were exiled by the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Previously a center of Arab culture, it was defeated in the culmination of a violent campaign by Israeli militias. It is losing its Palestinian-Arab identity as a conquered city, but refugees still view Jaffa as a symbol of hope. - Ramzy Baroud (May 21, '14)

Tehran treads social liberties tightrope
Iranian youths are more interested in Western culture than revolutionary values or religion and politics, with exposure to satellite television and social media leading many of the urban middle class towards a lifestyle that's far from the Islamic ideal envisioned by the regime. While loosening freedoms could unleash an existential challenge, keeping a tight grip could fuel equally dangerous levels of resentment. - Amin Shahriar (May 19, '14)

A tale of many Yemens
Simplistic portrayals of Yemen as just the latest front line in the US drone war ignore the population's deep political consciousness and the country's seemingly endless divisions. Until Western nations actually admit to the real reasons behind the instability, the promises of support to end the civil war will likely remain just that. - Ramzy Baroud (May 16, '14)

US demand may derail nuclear talks
US officials are poised to demand a drastic cut in Iran's uranium enrichment capabilities that is widely expected to deadlock moves for a final deal on the country's nuclear program. Iran is almost certain to reject the concept that it should reduce the number of its centrifuges, and the gambit to reduce the "breakout" time for Iran to amass enough uranium to make an atomic weapon could escalate tensions between Washington and Tehran. - Gareth Porter (May 16, '14)

Dark outlook for post-sanctions Iran
Graft and institutional inefficiency will inhibit any move to domestic prosperity should a nuclear deal end sanctions on Iran. Nor is the Rouhani administration, any more than its predecessors, likely to challenge elite economic interests. - Hossein Askari (May 14, '14)

Iran nuclear deal hits hardest phase
As Iran and world powers today resume negotiating a final deal on Tehran's nuclear program, experts warn the hardest work is about to begin. The confidence-building phase of the talks targeted the "low-hanging fruit", leaving thorny issues such as the number of years Iran will have to comply with the terms of the deal yet to be resolved. - Jasmin Ramsey (May 13, '14)

Chronicle of death foretold for Palestine
The failure of the United States to broker an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority comes as little surprise, in spite of Secretary of State John Kerry's strenuous efforts. Even cursory examination of the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sufficient to conclude that the process leading to a Palestinian State living side by side with Israel was doomed to failure more than a century ago. - Baher Kamal (May 12, '14)

Israel acts to undermine Arabs in Asia
Once a reservoir of support for Arabs in their conflict with Israel over Palestine, Asian countries are drawn closer to Tel Aviv by the promise of modern weaponry. If the economic and military ties that Israel is developing with emerging Asian powers evolve into deeper political links, then Tel Aviv could use these to influence those countries' sympathies in the Arab-Israeli conflict. - Nicola Nasser (May 12, '14)

Drone war:
Remote and personal

Unexpected support of a small but growing group of former drone pilots who have carried out strikes on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq and in CIA covert assassinations in Pakistan and Yemen may give new life to a US campaign against "targeted killings". Evidence that other operators and analysts are beginning to crack under the pressure of the true horrors of their remote-controlled missions adds to the sense that the drone war has failed. - Pratap Chatterjee (May 12, '14)

Rouhani floats on shrinking political base
Iranian President Hasan Rouhani stands accused by reformists of betraying alliances that helped him gain power and also faces opprobrium over his economic policy and apparent concessions he's made in nuclear talks with Western powers. With an economic austerity program due to be implemented, the sense of isolation around Rouhani seems set to grow. - Akbar E Torbat (May 9, '14)

US flies false flag for Syrian rebels
New gestures of support for Syrian opposition forces belie the Obama administration's determination to restrain US involvement in the country's three-year-old civil war. A substantial increase in military assistance to the fractious rebel forces is off the policy menu, despite pressure from hawks in Washington and Saudi Arabia. - Jim Lobe (May 8, '14)

Syria polarizes a Middle East generation
Supporters of Bashar al-Assad forward him as a last line of defense against American imperialism, while his intellectual opposition twist every incident to implicate the Syrian president's forces. Assad is neither a deity nor a Che Guevara, and the extremist rebel factions hardly offer an antidote to Syria's many ills. One of the few certainties left is the people's suffering. - Ramzy Baroud (May 8, '14)

UN probe chief doubts Syrian sarin claims
The head of the United Nations team that investigated the August 2013 sarin attack in Damascus has suggested that many people who claimed to have been seriously affected by sarin imagined they had suffered exposure to the chemical. Underlying Ake Sellstrom's doubts is data that show those put forward by the Syria opposition as among the most affected didn't have serious exposure to nerve gas. - Gareth Porter (May 7, '14)

Four dimensions to nuclear chess game
Iran and six international powers start a week of talks in New York aimed at reaching a permanent agreement to limit Iran's nuclear program and to cool Western concerns over its potential to produce nuclear weapons. With a host of influential views to consider, reaching agreement is a complex process and for US negotiators is akin to conducting four sets of talks at the same time. - Gary Sick (May 5, '14)

Shaking the pillars of Israel's history
The Idea of Israel - A History of Power and Knowledge by Ilan Pappe Reviewed
by Jim Miles
This exploration of how Israel shaped a historic narrative to create a sense of nationhood and political direction recounts the attacks on historians in the 1990s who challenged the traditional Zionist discourse. The takeaway from this complex book is that issues surrounding the manipulation of victimhood have the potential to erode the foundations that the modern state is built on. - Jim Miles (May 2, '14)

Iraq PM predicts victory as votes counted
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki says he is "certain" of winning a third term in office after 60% of the country's voters cast ballots on April 30, defying militants who vowed to disrupt the first parliamentary elections since US forces withdrew from the country three years ago. (May 2, '14)

Unity is timely for Palestine factions
The unity deal achieved last week between the top Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, reflects growing desperation rather than a desire to heal a long-running rift. While Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas realizes that he lacks any legacy achievements amid flagging peace talks, Hamas is being squeezed by Israel and Egypt. - Ramzy Baroud (Apr 30, '14)

The road from Abu Ghraib
Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison where the George W Bush administration gave Saddam Hussein a run for his money in terms of ill-treatment of prisoners, has been closed down, prompted by the Iraqi government's fears that it could be overrun by Sunni insurgents, and just ahead of the April 28 10th anniversary of the moment that the horrors of abuse by the US military at the prison were revealed to the American public. It is a torture story without a hero or an ending. - Karen J Greenberg (Apr 28, '14)

Israel-Palestine peace talks hit the wall
The US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have come screeching to a halt, with the US all but admitting that the blame lies with Israel, aggrieved that Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas has chosen to reconcile with Hamas. With that decision carrying ramifications for the US approach, the question is whether the stalled talks herald the end of the two-state solution. - Richard Silverstein (Apr 28, '14)

Moscow's shady Ukraine denials shed light
Moscow's denials of military involvement in eastern Ukraine bear a resemblance to the official line on Crimea until President Vladimir Putin recently confirmed otherwise. Certain aspects of these official denials may shed some light on Russia's wider strategy to stop the crisis from escalating. - Roger Mcdermott (Apr 25, '14)
Click here for the latest news from Ukraine.

US choppers carry mixed message on Egypt
US Secretary of State Chuck Hagel this week told Egypt that he doubts whether the country is taking steps to support a democratic transition. At the same time, he confirmed the delivery of Apache attack helicopters to support military chief and presidential shoo-in Abdel Fatah al-Sisi's counter-terror operations. The arms delivery, according to rights groups, destroys the credibility and impact of US condemnation of Egypt's crackdown on legitimate dissent. - Jasmin Ramsey (Apr 24, '14)

US hands Palestine a loaded deck
The pro-Israel past of prominent figures on the US side of the flagging Middle East peace process undermines Washington's honest-broker status while highlighting why the US has come to accept sometimes extreme Israeli demands as mainstream discourse. Far from pursuing the process to reach a meaningful solution, the latest initiative seems designed to give the US a useful regional platform. - Ramzy Baroud (Apr 23, '14)

No hegemonic peace in Cyprus
Occupying powers have quit places such as Iraq and East Timor, yet the West allows Turkey to garrison northern Cyprus in perpetuity through "international treaties". Amid the discovery of hydrocarbons off the island, plans are afoot for a new regional security system, but Ankara's record for aggression could undermine any such body's international legitimacy. - Marios L Evriviades (Apr 17, '14)

Assad's staying power on show
As Syrian President President Bashar al-Assad's forces take the upper hand and the rebellion against him is dominated by extremists, countries that hoped to sponsor Assad's demise can only step up support of the "increasingly rare" moderate factions. A defeat of Assad was to become a victory for political Islam - but as hopes of this fade enemies are more concerned about blowback. - Nicola Nasser (Apr 11, '14)

Dust storms cloud Iran’s future
Dust storms are normal in the more arid regions of the world, but what Iran is now experiencing verges on catastrophe, with Tehran obscured for 117 days of the past year. Solving the problem will require better water and land-management practices, and, above all, cooperation with Iran’s neighbors, which face the same wind-borne disaster. - David Michel (Apr 11, '14)

Palestinians draw line at criminal court
When Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas defied the United States and Israel over stalled peace negotiations, he formally indicated to the United Nations last week that Palestine will join 15 international conventions relating mostly to the protection of human rights and treaties governing conflicts and prisoners of war. The International Criminal Court is not on the list - for the time being. - Thalif Deen (Apr 8, '14)

Obama's moral compass changes on Iraq
President Barack Obama last month defended the 2003 invasion of Iraq following unfavorable comparisons between it and Russia's annexation of Crimea, insisting the United Staters "worked within the international system" and never planned to "grab resources". Both assertions are shaky, but Obama's failure to mention the devastation of the country and its population is more troubling. - Adil E Shamoo (Apr 7, '14)

New US reality: Empire beyond salvation
After eight months of wrangling to push talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority forward, US Secretary of State John Kerry has acknowledged the latest setback to be a "reality check" for the Palestinian peace process. But for the Americans, the last few years have been less a "reality check" around the globe, more the new reality itself. - Ramzy Baroud (Apr 7, '14)

US 'peace process' charade plays on
The United States is scrambling to rescue a framework agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, but Washington likely knows its efforts are doomed by the right-wing majority in Israel's ruling coalition. By pursuing talks that achieve little but advance Israeli military objectives, the Obama administration continues a pattern repeated since its launch by Henry Kissinger. - Ramzy Baroud (Apr 2, '14)

US rejects 'Iran confession' demand
The Barack Obama administration may have refused to bow to Israeli pressure in its nuclear negotiations with Iran by apparently rejecting a deal-breaking demand that as a condition for completing a comprehensive nuclear agreement the US obtain an Iranian confession to having had a covert nuclear weapons program. - Gareth Porter (Apr 1, '14)

The phantom menace in Palestine
The Israeli Solution by Caroline Glick
The "problem" of Palestinian refugees has some rare distinctions. They have remained in refugee camps for seven decades, while comparable large refugee groups have long been assimilated into other populations; and their actual numbers are below the official figures bandied about by various authorities. Ms Glick draws a bold conclusion: Israel should annex Judea and Samaria - the West Bank - just as it did Jerusalem. (Mar 31, '14)

Palestinian showdown turns ugly
Bad blood between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and exiled Fatah rival Mohammed Dahlan has soured further amid increased leadership tensions in the struggle against Israel's occupation. While Abbas is facing potential political oblivion against the background of a flagging US-brokered peace process, Dahlan is using strong friends around the region to plot his own political comeback. - Ramzy Baroud (Mar 28, '14)

Egypt becomes battleground for Arab world
When the Saudi monarchy realized that the Muslim Brotherhood was using its rule in Egypt to spread a seductive vision of pragmatic progressive Islam, Riyadh knew it had to support a counter-revolution in Cairo and fund a military regime that would crush the movement. If the Saudi plan succeeds, the Arab world will likely descend into another era of tyrants. - Monte Palmer (Mar 24, '14)

Executions rising in Iran
Iran executed more prisoners in 2013 than it had done for 15 years, with 687 inmates killed. According to UN figures, the country lags only China in the number of executions, and leads the world on a per-capita basis. What also alarms anti-death penalty campaigners is the overwhelming number of ethnic minority Kurds, Baloch and Baha'is sent to the gallows. - Isolda Agazzi (Mar 21, '14)

Riyadh takes wrong road to stability
Saudi Arabia has lavished billions of dollars on buying weapons and funding insurgencies to counter Iran's rise as a power, all in the name of securing regional stability. Instead of wasting so much blood and treasure, it could have simply found a way to support peace in its neighborhood. - Nicola Nasser (Mar 21, '14)

EU draws hope from Ashton's Iran visit
Conservative elements within the Iranian government and press gave caustic appraisals of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton's visit this month to the country, particularly following her meeting with women activists. In contrast, European countries cautiously praised her trip as a showcase of Iran's progressive new leadership, with Brussels already envisioning a future where nuclear sanctions are no more. - Edward Wastnidge (Mar 20, '14)

Gulf an 'Eldorado' for arms sales
Gulf countries are rapidly climbing charts of the world's top arms importers, with concern over domestic terrorism, political instability and regional competition leading the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to spend vast oil revenues on modern, mostly US-supplied weaponry. While ostensibly the ordnance is aimed at countering perceived threats from Iran, its actual strategic value is negligible. - Thalif Deen (Mar 19, '14)

Iran's dervishes are hungry for equality
A hunger strike by Iran's dervishes sparked by the denial of medical treatment to a jailed member of the minority

has spread out of the prisons and across the country. The group is disillusioned that the election of purportedly reformist President Hassan Rouhani hasn't improved their lot and wants constitutional rules implemented which guarantee all Iranian citizens are treated equally. - Golnaz Esfandiari (Mar 13, '14)

Israel stokes holy row over mosque
The Palestinian ministry for religious affairs says Israeli forces last month carried out 30 attacks in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, revered as the third-holiest Muslim shrine in the world. Demands by far-right Israeli politicians that the government fulfill a Jewish prophecy and enforce its "sovereignty" over the site are further heightening tensions. - Ramzy Baroud (Mar 12, '14)

'Yesterday Stalin, today Putin'
A woman holds a sign reading "Yesterday Stalin, Today Putin" as descendants of Crimean Tartars deported by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1944 protest in Istanbul against Russian actions in Crimea. Demonstrators argue that Turkey should use its influence to ensure that the Black Sea peninsula remains a part of Ukraine and is not annexed by Russia. - Glenn Kates (Mar 10, '14)

Turkey walking a tightrope over Crimea
As Russia's intervention in Crimea plays out, pressure is growing on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to act to protect Crimean Tatars, a pro-Ukrainian ethnic minority group with strong cultural links to Turkey. Domestic critics will pounce on any hint that Erdogan is not supporting the Tartars, but taking a more confrontational position with Moscow could cause a major disruption in trade. - Dorian Jones (Mar 10, '14)

The real enemies of Islam
Muslims around the world have been deceived into believing that the West and Westerners are the enemies of Islam. Islam's real enemies are oppressive and corrupt Muslim rulers who misrepresent its teachings and hijack its mantle for their own gain. (Mar 10, '14)

Oppressive rulers fuel
misconceptions of Islam

The perception of Islam as a religion that has bred oppressive rule, intolerance, underdevelopment, corruption and opulence alongside poverty, could apply to most Muslim countries. For that, we must thank not Islamic teachings but the rulers who refuse to comply with them. - Hossein Askari (Mar 7, '14)

Raid boosts 'trigger happy' Israel claims
Hours after Amnesty International accused Israel of disproportionate force and unlawful killings in the West Bank, a deadly raid by infantry, military bulldozers and security officers on a terrorism suspect threatened to vindicate the claims. Military spokespeople say 24-year-old Muatazz Abdul-Rahim Washaha resisted arrest, but the grisly results of a "pressure cooker" assault on his apartment suggest otherwise. - Nicola Nasser (Mar 7, '14)

Syria's liberators face Palestine legacy
Arab media and politicians champion the rights of Syria's suffering civilians with the same fervor that they back the Palestinian cause, but none mention the rape and revulsion Syrian refugees face in their countries. The region's muted reaction to the siege of Palestinian refugees in Syria's Yarmouk camp is further testament to the fragile state of "Arab solidarity". - Ramzy Baroud (Mar 4, '14)

US keeps Middle East enemies too close
The Barack Obama administration's Middle East strategy has included siding with the Muslim Brotherhood to build influence with Arab Sunni countries, and drawing closer to the Iran regime to define future relations with the Shi'ite sphere. By courting radicals rather than engaging pro-democracy forces, the US has sidelined a disillusioned opposition in Iran and undermined its own status across the region. - Walid Phares (Mar 3, '14)

Nuclear deal hits history hurdles
US officials have suggested that as a condition of signing an historic agreement Iran must resolve allegations from the International Atomic Energy Agency that it has had in the past a covert nuclear weapons program. The negotiations record shows that while Tehran has been ready for the past two years to provide detailed answers, the problem has been the agency's refusal to share with Iran the documents on which those allegations have been based. - Gareth Porter (Mar 3, '14)

Morality should matter in US' Gulf policy
The United States wants Middle East stability to ensure for itself short-term economic gains. The dangers with this approach - involving support of dictators and all their associated evils - increase by the day as dissenting pressure grows within oppressed populations. Without an injection of morality into its policies, the US is sure to find itself on the wrong side of history. - Hossein Askari (Feb 28, '14)

Unrealistic ethics shape foreign policy
From critical decisions on US American intervention in Syria to debate over preventing genocide in Rwanda, policy approaches in Washington by both liberals or realists typically rely on beautifully coherent concepts rather than a hard-edged appraisal of facts on the ground. The self-interest of government agencies, budget battles and political rivalries only bolster this intellectual distortion. - Gary Wasserman (Feb 28, '14)

Sisi evokes Soviet ghosts with the US
Egyptian army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is cozying up with Russia to signal discontent with US aid conditions hampering his plans for military modernization. While Washington is loathe to repeat its mistakes of the 1950s, when its refusal to address similar military and development aspirations pushed Cairo into the Soviet Union's arms, Sisi lacks the legitimacy to rock the Middle Eastern order. - Nicola Nasser (Feb 25, '14)

Checkpoints between worlds in Gaza
While Gazans are forced to endure hours of delays every day at security checkpoints, regardless of their age or state of health, Israelis breeze past in special "fast lanes". The imbalance is an apt example of the parallel worlds the two seemingly co-inhabit, with one enjoying subsidized housing, healthcare and transport and the other suffering a life of low-income subsistence. - Ramzy Baroud (Feb 25, '14)

US adopts Israeli demand on Iran's missiles
The United States is insisting that Iran discuss its ballistic missile program in talks for a comprehensive nuclear agreement, even as history suggests it knows Iran will not accept the stance and that it is not necessary to guarantee that Tehran's atomic program is not used for a weapon. The demand, however, brings Washington into line with a pro-Israeli position aimed at torpedoing the negotiations. - Gareth Porter (Feb 24, '14)

Gulf's collaborative colonialism here to stay
Today's oil-producing Middle East countries are, in reality, little changed from a century ago, with colonialism merely morphing into collaboration between their fabulously wealthy rulers and former colonial masters. The result is a dearth of legitimate institutions and economies that are unsustainable and unstable. - Hossein Askari (Feb 21, '14)

Warning: Saudi-driven mayhem ahead
When Britain's Prince Charles danced to Riyadh's tune this week, it was as a warm-up act to an extremely juicy deal for Europe's leading arms supplier. The House of Saud is stockpiling weapons, and its storm-stirrer-in-chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, remains on the loose. Every which way one looks at it, major Saudi-provoked mayhem lies ahead. - Pepe Escobar (Feb 21, '14)

The scandal of Syria
Neo-conservatives and liberal interventionists were discredited long ago, but the United States still has an obligation to help solve the scandal of the Syrian crisis. Not because it is a superpower or has all (or any) of the answers, but because Americans have responsibilities as global citizens. - John Feffer (Feb 21, '14)

A sectarian cloak for Middle East wars
A perpetual religious conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran is forwarded as the Middle East's greatest source of instability. However, the clash is not driven primarily by a Sunni-Shi'ite divide or even Arab-Persian ethnic differences. The conflict is informed by two radically different models of government - each laying claim to Islamic legitimacy - and two very different visions of regional order. - Frederic Wehrey (Feb 21, '14)

Egypt back to her old ways in song
With dissenting against the junta at present ruling Egypt liable to have you put behind bars on trumped up charges, now is hardly the time to release a song about the state of the emperor's new clothes. Yet Yasser Elmanawahly is staying true to his ideals with a catchy new tune that carries chilling references to a country he sees as stepping back to pre-revolution days. - Mamoon Alabbasi (Feb 20, '14)

Colorful past behind Libyan 'coup maker'
Libyan officials derided as "ridiculous" and a "lie" last week's call by Libyan army chief Major General Khalifa Hifter for a military takeover involving a suspension parliament, and they insisted the government is stable. Tripoli has little reason to fear overthrow by the disorganized and weak army, but Hifter's historic links with the Central Intelligence Agency could be a concern. - Ramzy Baroud (Feb 18, '14)

Iran's real 'nuclear' revolution
The nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 are back this week in Vienna. The stakes couldn't be higher, and folk with hidden, and not so hidden, agendas on both sides badly want the talks to fail - and will spare no effort towards that goal, with those in the West backed already by decades of disinformation - Pepe Escobar (Feb 18, '14)

Islam outside an imperial lens
Re-Emerging Islamic Civilization by Eric Walberg
This alternative history of Islam - full title From Postmodernism to Postsecularism - Re-Emerging Islamic Civilization explores how its modern destiny was twisted by oil, money, imperialism and despotism, as well as by political prejudices conjured up by European empires. Arguing that today's global capitalism is inimical to Islamic notions of human dignity and social justice, the author recasts the religion as "a treasure to be rediscovered by the West". - Jim Miles (Feb 14, '14)

Baghdad plays familiar al-Qaeda card
The West has blindly accepted accusations by Iraq's Nuri al-Maliki administration that it is "al-Qaeda-linked" militants who have taken over Fallujah following fighting there. A closer look suggests organizations operating there are more likely extensions of growing Sunni opposition to Maliki's increasingly authoritarian government and the perilous political and security situation. - Nicola Nasser (Feb 14, '14)

Iran looks to private sector
Iran's parliament is instructing the oil ministry in Tehran to engage with and support the country's private sector both in domestic and international energy co-operation initiatives. European business executives understand what that means. Washington's bureaucrats do not. - Chris Cook (Feb 11, '14)

Revolution can't upstage Iranian cinema
Three-and-a-half decades after the Islamic Revolution, Iran remains one of the most repressive places a filmmaker can work. But movies such as the Oscar-winning A Separation offer proof of vibrant creativity. How did Iranian cinema become so critically acclaimed? - Charles Recknagel (Feb 11, '14)

Six steps to a done deal on nuclear Iran
Iran and the world's six major powers get around the table next week to seek a final resolution of the nuclear impasse. Six issues are crucial to an accord and need to be agreed by all parties. If the negotiators succeed, they will make history. Their failure could open the path to a nuclear-armed Iran or a new war in the Middle East - or both. - Joe Cirincione (Feb 11, '14)

Iraqi women endure Abu Ghraib legacy
Reports of the torture, rape and detention without charge of thousands of women in Iraqi prisons haven't produced the same Western outrage at similar human-rights abuses other Muslim countries. - Ramzy Baroud (Feb 11, '14)

Israel in backlash on settlement goods
The longstanding Israeli practice of labeling settlement products "Made in Israel" is leading to mounting opposition to the occupation and growing threats of boycotts by consumers around the world. - Pierre Klochendler (Feb 10, '14)

Implosion fears grow for Iraq
Iraq's strongest factions are feeling comforted by the fact that weeks of fighting between Sunni-al Qaeda groups and Iraqi forces, in Anbar province, have unfolded outside the richest oil fields. But they shouldn't discount just how quickly civil wars can spiral out of control, and this time the US has little military leverage over Iraq to control events from afar. - Ramzy Baroud (Feb 7, '14)

Cornering a Palestinian man of peace
As Israel and the US pile pressure on Mahmoud Abbas to accept a peace deal criticized as "heavily pro-Israel", Palestinians are accusing their president of giving away far too much in negotiations. Abbas has committed to demilitarizing Palestine and has crossed other "red lines". Israel, by refusing to reciprocate, risks sparking the third Intifada that Abbas hopes to prevent. - Nicola Nasser (Feb 7, '14)

Flawed Iran nuclear claims won't die
Intercepted telexes from an Iranian university to foreign firms in the early 1990s formed the basis for Western intelligence agencies to believe they saw the first signs of military involvement in Iran's nuclear program. The interpretation was fundamentally flawed, and while the international watchdog acknowledged that as much as six years ago, the error has taken on a life of its own as assessments of Iran's nuclear capabilities continue to peddle a discredited line. - Gareth Porter (Feb 6, '14)

Turkish financial crisis adds to region's chaos
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's prestige, founded on Turkey's supposed economic miracle, has collapsed along with the lira. Western planners once believed the country could be a pillar of stability in an otherwise chaotic region. Under Erdogan, it has become a spoiler allied to the region's most destructive and anti-Western forces. (Feb 5, '14)

Time is ripe for US to embrace Iran
Within 100 days of his tenure, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reversed 34 years of mutual hostility with the United States. Full rapprochement with Iran will calm the Middle East. It is time for the US to turn over a new leaf and start a period of true collaboration. - Farhang Jahanpour (Jan 30, '14)

Palestine divisions worsen Yarmouk siege
Palestinian refugees living in the opposition occupied Yarmouk Camp in south Damascus are dying of starvation and thirst as Islamist groups refuse to leave their strategic "prize" and government forces maintain their siege on the camp. Yet instead of acting to end the tragedy, Palestinian factions and their regional patrons are using the camp for political point scoring. - Ahmad Barqawi (Jan 30, '14)

Principles to guide the young activist
Young activists planning to fight for causes such as Palestine's must internalize such struggles as part of their character before carrying a banner and standing in front of a crowd with a microphone. If activists cannot present arguments with engaging narratives of real people and their real stories, then sympathy for that cause - big or small - will quickly fade. - Ramzy Baroud (Jan 28, '14)

Iran and a new energy settlement
President Hassan Rouhani spoke in Davos last week of creating a body tasked with stabilizing global energy supplies and of putting some of Iran's oil and gas reserves at its disposal. The time is now ripe for the concept of an International Energy Clearing Union to bear fruit. - Chris Cook (Jan 27, '14)

West's businesses turning towards Iran
The easing of sanctions on Iran is sending Westerners rushing to seek new business opportunities in Tehran, from French energy and automotive executives to British lawmakers. Business delegations are also arriving from Italy, Austria, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and elsewhere. - Charles Recknagel (Jan 24, '14)

Rouhani and the 1914 remix
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has emerged as a Davos darling by wooing the in-crowd with an "open for business" sign. But the Masters of the Universe were less enamored by what he had to say on geopolitics, since rather than face the real sources of "rising tensions", they prefer an old centennial world war view: that 2014 is 1914 all over again. - Pepe Escobar (Jan 24, '14)

Sharon and the art of self-deception
The American media response to the death of former Israeli leader Ariel Sharon exposes the flawed narrative of US leadership, allowing the occupiers of the White House, Capitol Hill, and the Pentagon to fool themselves that their vision of themselves as champions of democracy is shared by all right-thinking people, rather than face up to the sordid realities of their imperial policies. - Jason Hirthler (Jan 23, '14)

US-Israel alliance strange but stable
The rules by which US-Israeli relations are governed are perhaps the most bewildering of all foreign policies of any two countries. Israeli near dominance over US foreign policy in the Middle East is entrenched, if not complete, and Israel's role in shaping the outlook of US foreign policy cannot be ignored in the diplomatic dance around peace. - Ramzy Baroud (Jan 22, '14)

The real US legacy in Iraq
As Fallujah, the city once again "lost" to jihadists, brings back to the United States the specter of the terrible loss of life among its troops in past battles in Iraq, the unspoken truth is that the indiscriminate targeting of the general population by US efforts to "liberate" Fallujah's residents entailed numerous violations of the Geneva Convention. - Nick Alexandrov (Jan 21, '14)

Egyptians 'say yes' to new constitution
An early count suggests Egyptians have overwhelmingly voted in favor of a new army-drafted constitution. Yet as official media hail the outcome as "unprecedented", Cairo, the country's most populous governorate, has not been counted. Official results from a two-day referendum are expected over the weekend.
(Jan 17, '14)

Iran nears oil barter deal with Moscow
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is in Moscow this week, where he will reportedly discuss an unprecedented deal to barter Iranian oil for Russian goods, with an agreement close to being finalized. - Pavel Felgenhauer (Jan 17, '14)

Israel lobby thwarted in Iran sanctions bid
President Barack Obama has overcome a bid by the Israel lobby and its most powerful constituent, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, to pass a new sanctions bill to block rapprochement with Iran. The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 has stalled in the Senate, with Democrats backing Obama after Sunday's successful conclusion of an implementation agreement following November's historic international deal in Geneva. - Jim Lobe (Jan 16, '14)

Erdogan risks US ties with provocations
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the US of interference and said there's "a foreign plot" to discredit his government following claims it stifled a corruption probe that implicated his officials and allies. Erdogan may feel moved to project strength amid domestic turmoil, but by lashing out he risks undermining US foreign policy achievements in Syria and Iran. - Jayson Browder (Jan 13, '14)

Turkish politics and the death of conspiracy
Turkey's elites have contended for about a decade that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his populist AK Party are trying to impose an Islamic theocracy by stealth, but the political turmoil since a corruption scandal broke last month has brought the Great Islamic Conspiracy crashing down. The ruling party has no radical program, not even a secret one. - Adam B McConnel (Jan 13, '14)

The whitewashing of Ariel Sharon
Former Israeli leader Ariel Sharon, who has died after eight years in a coma, was no hero. It is time for the eulogizing US media to wake up from its own moral coma, and confront the reality of his blood-soaked history of illegal colonization of Palestinian lands. - Ramzy Baroud (Jan 13, '14)

Politics behind Turkey graft probe
The bitter conflict between Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party and the Gulen movement brings to the fore the deeply questionable goals of the latter. It also brings up the question of why has such a powerful movement as Fethullah Gulen's attempted something akin to political suicide - and has also risked the same fate for the concept of civil society in this part of the world. - Omer Aslan (Jan 9, '14)

Fall of Fallujah refocuses US on Iraq
The takeover of Fallujah by the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has refocused Washington's attention on the center of Sunni insurgency. But as Iraqi troops reportedly surround the city with the support of rushed-in US Hellfire missiles and military supplies, critics of the US and Iraqi governments are urging both to show greater flexibility to the Sunni minority's demands. - Jim Lobe (Jan 9, '14)

Middle East theater of conflicts
The Arab Awakening was supposed to herald the dawn of new democracies but turned into a blood-soaked nightmare. The most violent region in the world is the product of deep-seated internecine conflict stemming from the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1922, while regional and global powers and al-Qaeda operatives have made the oil-rich region a theater of conflict. - Deedar Hussain Samejo (Jan 6, '14)

Syria's Palestinians on the run - again
The numerous refugees fleeing Syria are not all Syrians. Over the past year, more than 50,000 Palestinian refugees have fled to Lebanon. Many belong to families of Palestinians who had originally been uprooted from their homeland in 1948, or during the six-day war in 1967. New war has exacted its toll and around half of their communities in Syria have fled once again.
(Jan 6, '14)
ATol Specials

How Hezbollah defeated Israel
Mark Perry and
Alastair Crooke
(Oct '06)

Mark Perry and
Alastair Crooke
talk to the 'terrorists'
(Mar '06 - ongoing)

The evidence for and against Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program

Nir Rosen goes inside the Iraqi resistance

Nir Rosen rides with the US 3rd Armored Cavalry in western Iraq

Islamism, fascism and terrorism

by Marc Erikson


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