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Arab Pipelineistan's high stakes
Gas supplies from Egypt to Israel and Jordan were shut off this week when an "unknown armed gang" bombed the Arab Gas Pipeline. This is not the first time the star of Arab Pipelineistan has been disrupted, causing acute concern in capitals across the region. The discovery of massive natural gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean, however, has the potential to end any energy war. Or does it?
- Pepe Escobar (Apr 29, '11)

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

Palestinian move sends shock waves
Fatah-Hamas rapprochement signals that Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has chosen a specific path to Palestinian independence, forsaking Washington for its betrayals on settlement freezes. The risks of the gambit are great, with isolation threatened as Israel is pushed closer to the US. But Abbas perhaps has other patrons in mind, and the deal has potentially momentous consequences for Middle East politics.
- Victor Kotsev (Apr 29, '11)

When Montgomery comes to Nabi Saleh

United States President Barack Obama compares the Arab Spring to the US civil rights movement, but seems blind to Palestinian resistance in many villages evolving to use non-violent rather than shock tactics. Villagers are linking arms and walking bravely into a storm of teargas, rubber bullets and injustice, and America's lack of support blights the legacy of heroes like Rosa Parks.
- Mark Perry (Apr 29, '11)

US Hueys over Yemen
Washington has been arming and training Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh's security forces in the midst of a democracy struggle - see those new Huey choppers flying over protesters - as part of an ongoing Pentagon program to supply and train government forces. Yemenis - more than two-thirds under the age of 24 - are likely to remember for a very long time which side the United States took in their freedom struggle.
- Nick Turse (Apr 29, '11)

Summer war in the Middle East?
Military campaigns in the Middle East have historically happened during or around the summer. This year, the game inventory is extraordinarily rich: a great Arab revolution and counter-revolution, a growing crisis in the Persian Gulf within the context of worsening Sunni-Shi'ite relations, a Palestinian declaration of independence looming, and a speculative "war in or with Israel". - Victor Kotsev (Apr 27, '11)

The Syrian chessboard
Syria matters on all fronts - from Iran to Iraq, from Turkey to Lebanon, from Palestine to Israel. But what the House of Saud intervention in Syria is inciting, above all, is tremendously destructive; a bloodthirsty sectarian epidemic spreading all across the Middle East (it started in Bahrain).
- Pepe Escobar (Apr 27, '11)

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

Why US fed detainees to torture system
When United States and European forces in Afghanistan began handing over suspects to Afghan security forces in late 2005 - despite their well-known reputation for torture - it was for very different reasons. While the British and Dutch were avoiding a US detainee policy tainted by accounts of prisoner abuse, the Americans saw the Afghans as better at extracting intelligence.
- Gareth Porter (Apr 27, '11)

The great Afghan carve-up
With the United States seeking a negotiated settlement with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the jockeying for influence by regional players is well underway. Pakistan, China, Iran and Turkey have considerable interests, dexterity and much to gain, though pitfalls are clear to anyone not blinded by the glittering appeal of economic and geopolitical boons.
- Brian M Downing (Apr 26, '11)

AfPak comes to Africa
Why haven't they thought about this before; an army of drones (only five for the moment, based in southern Italy) instead of boots on the ground? Pentagon chief Robert Gates claims the drones will strike Libya for "humanitarian reasons". The "cubicle warriors" will certainly raise some hell by dragging a mouse, but there is only one way this is headed - stalemate (and "collateral damage") as in AfPak. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 26, '11)

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

Syrian military strikes at rebels' heartland
Bodies were left lying in the streets of Syria's southern town of Deraa as troops and tanks pushed in to quell a rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad's rule, with forces also deployed in Damascus. The sweeping assault signals a deadly shift in security force tactics that's likely to draw more international condemnation as the United States mulls sanctions. (Apr 26, '11)

Assad deceives his people
As the bloodshed mounts, the Syrian street increasingly sees Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's reforms as an attempt to buy time and avoid international retribution. While Assad has lifted the outdated "emergency law", he made no mention of freeing political detainees, dismantling the security apparatus or revising the constitution - omissions that resonate with people who know the regime's methods well.
- Walid Phares (Apr 21, '11)

New spy links to Mumbai carnage
Court documents that have surfaced ahead of a trial in Chicago next month reveal that the two men accused of being the brains behind the Mumbai massacre in 2008 could admit they were working for Pakistani spies. Indian investigating agencies were sure Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had a hand in the carnage and the confession will strain already wobbly ties. - Gautaman Bhaskaran (Apr 21, '11)

Fear and loathing in the House of Saud
That the United States has condoned Saudi Arabia's counter-revolution against the Great 2011 Arab Revolt and incendiary manipulation of sectarianism shatters America's "credibility on democracy and reform". For all its bluster, the House of Saud's actions are essentially moved by fear and may lead to a total radicalization of the Sunni-Shi'ite divide across the Arab world. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 20, '11)

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US denies trying to undermine Assad
The United States claims it is not trying to undermine the embattled Syrian government, despite having supplied millions of dollars to opposition groups since 2006. As doubts grow that President Bashar al-Assad's decision to lift a 48-year-old emergency law will satisfy protesters, such fence-sitting may exacerbate civil strife.
- Samer Araabi and Jim Lobe (Apr 20, '11)

Imran Khan in Taliban peace spotlight
Imran Khan, the former Pakistan cricket captain turned politician, could be in the ascendancy as Pakistan's military looks for potent and credible leadership for reconciliation with the Taliban. A fervent critic of his government's alliance with America and US drone attacks, Khan is leading a sit-in against military convoys that could act as a curtain-raiser to his involvement in the AfPak arena.
- Syed Saleem Shahzad (Apr 19, '11)

Mission regime change
By jointly announcing the bombs will fall until Muammar Gaddafi is gone for good, Washington, London and Paris have torn up the original UN mandate on Libya. There will be Western boots on the ground - sooner rather than later - and what comes next is even more messy: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as the weaponized arm of the UN, roaming Africa for conquest and plunder.
- Pepe Escobar (Apr 19, '11)

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

Libya: calculated risk or recklessness
Rather than humanitarian or strategic goals, Western military intervention in Libya is likely aimed at avoiding wider inter-state conflict of the kind historically sparked by revolution. The West must also be wary of Egypt emulating post-revolutionary Iran's regional emergence, and be conscious it may have dangerously underestimated Islamic militants in the rebels' ranks. - Mahan Abedin (Apr 19, '11)

Saudi money wins Obama's mind
Speeches from the Barack Obama administration suggest Saudi Arabia's hint it may extend the largest purchase of American arms in history has worked. In no time at all US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has twisted from urging reform in Gulf states to bowing to Riyadh's role in suppressing revolt and sharing its view that Iran is meddling in the Arab spring. - M K Bhadrakumar (Apr 18, '11)

Staying human: Vittorio Arrigoni's legacy
The murder of an Italian activist in Gaza by a Palestinian fundamentalist group - supposedly in retaliation for a Hamas crackdown on its members - has led some pro-Israel supporters to cite a pattern of killings of "groupies and apologists" in Palestine. This ignores international activists who faced kidnap, harassment and worse at the hands of Israeli troops. - Ramzy Baroud (Apr 18, '11)

Afghanistan might pull off a miracle
Negative prognoses in Western media as the poorly equipped Afghan army takes over from where a decade of international intervention has failed do not mean it is impossible that Afghans can secure their future. Afghanistan's tumultuous history over the past couple of centuries offers plenty of evidence that its people are capable of securing their homeland.
- Mohammad Amin Mudaqiq (Apr 18, '11)

Drones shatter US-Pakistani trust
Pakistani demands for the United States to curb drone strikes and reduce the number of its spies were a response to programs that have stirred public outrage and gone well beyond agreements made in past years. The military leadership no longer trusts American judgment, while the US may have put more agents in because it was getting little help on Afghanistan. - Gareth Porter (Apr 14, '11)

Fatal Tomahawk attraction
Libyan ''rebels'', by allowing Britain and France to hijack their revolt, have lost their credibility. By imploring the Pentagon to unleash the "ground strike capability" of its tankbusters and gunships to bomb their country to kingdom come, they have also lost their moral authority. To top it off, they have allowed Western and Gulf capitals to pose as carriers of the white man's burden. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 14, '11)

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

Doha group agrees to fund rebels
The international contact group on Libya agreed in a one-day summit in Qatar to set up a "trust fund" for the opposition in Benghazi, with donations possibly from assets frozen from Muammar Gaddafi. Members of the group called for more pressure against the Gaddafi regime, but disagreed on whether to arm the rebels seeking to eject him. (Apr 14, '11)

Libya all about oil, or central banking?
Justifications for the involvement of the United States and its allies in the Libyan rebellion range from human rights concerns to ensuring oil supplies. One remarkably early action of the rebels - the establishment of their own central bank - may indicate a better reason for backing the overthrow of a rich government that offers its people free education and health services. - Ellen Brown (Apr 13, '11)

Ceasefire or bust
London and Paris want a mad bombing spree in Libya. While the North Atlantic Treaty Organization at least acknowledges it can't shock and awe the enemy without provoking genocide, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is not fool enough to stop fighting while NATO may keep on bombing. It is the African nations that have come up with a plausible ceasefire plan.
- Pepe Escobar (Apr 13, '11)

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

Presidential folly persists in Obama
Whatever the motives of United States President Barack Obama, by conforming to a pre-existing American penchant for using force in the Middle East, he has chosen the wrong tool. In believing that whatever the problem, military might holds the key, Obama condemns himself and the US to persisting in the folly of his predecessors.
- Andrew J Bacevich (Apr 13, '11)

The blame game is on
As the military campaign against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi rapidly turns into a dead end, European allies in the coalition have self-interestedly begun squabbling among themselves, and Germany reportedly has gone it alone to negotiate a ceasefire. With assassination the only credible threat to Gaddafi's one-man show, the colonel appears to be anointing a successor.
- Victor Kotsev (Apr 13, '11)

I want to occupy you forever
The riposte to Pentagon head Robert Gates' entreaties for the Iraqi government to allow the US to stay on beyond the end of the year came swift and sharp from nationalist politician Muqtada al-Sadr: Leave as agreed or face Mahdi Army guerrilla tactics. The bottom line is that most Iraqis share the Shi'ite cleric's desire to end the Iraq chapter of the US empire of military bases.
- Pepe Escobar (Apr 12, '11)

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

Al-Qaeda sees opportunity in peace
Al-Qaeda will be closely watching next month's talks on peace talks with the Taliban in Turkey. As a high-level al-Qaeda-linked strategist puts it, "Any breakthrough in Afghanistan will pave the way for al-Qaeda to reorganize its cadre and march to its ultimate war theater - the Middle East." - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Apr 12, '11)

Israel the winner
in the Arab revolts

While President Bashar al-Assad may cling to power, Syria has disappeared as a prospective player in peace negotiations and the unrest will undermine its support of resistance movements in the Arab world, especially in Palestine and Lebanon. More by accident than design, United States and Israeli dominance of the region - imperiled by the changes in Egypt - will be restored. (Apr 11, '11)

Hamas gets truce to lick its wounds
Israel and several Gaza militant factions reached a truce late on Sunday after a weekend of intense violence. It is doubtful the ceasefire will last long as new Gaza armed factions challenged it by firing mortars into Israel. Hamas has been pushed into a corner amid Palestinian rifts and it is likely it sees the calm only as an opportunity "to rearm and regroup". - Victor Kotsev (Apr 11, '11)

Taliban try soft power
Afghans living under Taliban control say education is now encouraged, men are no longer harassed for trimming their beards and extortion is less frequent. As reconciliation with the Kabul government draws closer, it seems a newly "flexible" Taliban is presenting itself as a viable political alternative. - Khan Mohammad Danishju (Apr 11, '11)

China under pressure over Saudi rise
As the Arab revolts stagger toward denouement, China is doing its utmost to avoid the contagion. It cannot however sidestep the fallout from rising tensions between its biggest energy suppliers, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Since China gets twice as much crude oil from Saudi Arabia than Iran, Beijing may have to comply should Riyadh demand it help isolate Tehran. - Peter Lee (Apr 8, '11)

Let me bomb you in peace
After learning the lesson of having his tanks bombed at will by the "coalition of the willing", Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is fighting light-armor guerrilla style against the "rebels" and the air war is now useless. If the "rebels" had their way and their own cities were carpet-bombed, collateral damage would be horrific. The last hope for sanity in all this mess is Turkey.
- Pepe Escobar (Apr 8, '11)

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

Israel and Hamas in a dangerous game
Israel responded to an attack on a school bus with over a dozen air and artillery strikes in Gaza that killed at least five people. As Israeli analysts have repeatedly cautioned, it is only a matter of time before a full-scale military campaign takes place in Gaza, even as the main players don't seem to want an escalation.
- Victor Kotsev (Apr 8, '11)

Peace gets a new chance in Afghanistan
Major anti-insurgency operations have been suspended in the Taliban's heartland in southwestern Afghanistan and several senior Taliban have been released by Pakistan. The moves are part of a new international reconciliation process that could begin with talks in Turkey next month. For the first time, all the major stakeholders, including India, are on board. Al-Qaeda's response will be crucial. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Apr 7, '11)

The sweet smell of counter-revolution
The House of Saud pulled its partner in the counter-revolution double act over from the right side to the wrong side of history. As United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates meets Saudi King Abdullah to discuss the intricacies of "US outreach" and "regime alteration", the current juncture spells out that Washington/House of Saud winning, hands down, against the great 2011 Arab revolt.
- Pepe Escobar (Apr 7, '11)

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Ahmadinejad hits back at Obama
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad predicted Barack Obama's future would be "more shameful" than his White House predecessor, hitting back at Obama's recent outreach to disgruntled Iranian youths. But while the rhetoric ups the ante on strained relations, the surface appearance of a zero-sum, win-lose, competition hides a deep pool of shared interests in the Middle East. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Apr 7, '11)

Maliki's doubts threaten US troop plan
Iraqi Premier Nuri al-Maliki is backing away from an official request for United States combat troops to stay past 2011, a request the Barack Obama administration was banking on to shore up its legacy in Iraq. As well as facing pressure from the Iran-backed cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to end the occupation, Maliki has been forced closer to Iran by Saudi Arabia's aggression in Bahrain.
- Gareth Porter (Apr 7, '11)

Turkey: The sultan of swing
While Turkey's "strategic depth" envisions an informal empire ranging from the Eastern Mediterranean to Western China, from the Balkans to the Middle East, Anatolia is the ultimate Pipelineistan crossroads for the export of Russian, Caspian-Central Asian, Iraqi and Iranian oil and gas to Europe. Much to Washington's dismay, the Arab revolt is opening a sublime portal to a new "global, political, economic and cultural order." - Pepe Escobar (Apr 6, '11)

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

Dangerous change rattles Bahrain
Bahrainis may be trickling back into gaudy malls guarded by Saudi tanks, but they are afraid to carry coins depicting the Pearl Monument. The coins, bearing the now-demolished landmark that is synonymous with protesters' demands for political freedom, have been withdrawn from circulation in one of the kingdom's many poorly calculated moves to erase the recent uprising from memory. - Derek Henry Flood (Apr 6, '11)

Islamists prepare for new role
Many Islamists have been set free from jails in Egypt following the fall of the Hosni Mubarak regime in February. Rather than take up arms as they have done in the past, there is a groundswell of support for them - and even al-Qaeda - to join the political process. One key proponent is Yassar al-Sirri, an Egyptian dissident based in London who himself is preparing to return to his homeland to help kick-start this nascent process. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Apr 6, '11)

Thai peace talks come to light
After six years of secret contacts, high-level peace talks aimed at addressing the roots of Thailand's bitter Malay-Muslim insurgency are moving into a more open and substantive phase. The challenge now will be to give real administrative, linguistic and symbolic shape to the conflict-ridden southern provinces' distinctive identity on the one hand, while on the other allaying the ingrained skepticism of both sides' hardliners. - Anthony Davis (Apr 5, '11)

Billion-dollar Obama rocks Yemen
Protesters are being killed, a dictator refuses to step down, al-Qaeda is thriving, the CIA is on the ground, and civil war looms. Welcome to the curious case of Yemen, undeserving of Libyan-style humanitarian imperialism, yet where President Ali Abdullah Saleh has just been dropped from Washington's roster of "our bastards" as Barack Obama launches a US$1 billion re-election bid. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 5, '11)

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

Libyan waiting game favors Gaddafi
The standoff on the ground in Libya is quickly turning into a game of waiting for whose camp will fall apart first. In an environment where it is impossible to tell truth from lies, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, a master of double-talk and disinformation, may do more than just thrive. In contrast, it seems only a matter of time before the diverse alliance of rebels splits at the seams. - Victor Kotsev (Apr 5, '11)

Goldstone now praising Israel
Jewish and pro-Palestinian communities around the world trashed the Goldstone report on the 2008 Gaza war for being too harsh on both. Richard Goldstone, who chaired the United Nations fact-finding mission on war crimes, now praises Israel for bringing wrongdoers to justice. His personal reflection adds to the chorus of opinion that the report was flawed and misleading.
- Sami Moubayed (Apr 5, '11)

Pastor Jones and a dreaded ghost
Special United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura quickly blamed the Taliban for the killing in Mazar-i-Sharif of five Nepalese guards and three UN employees following American pastor Terry Jones overseeing the burning of a holy Koran in the US. De Mistura has missed the plot. The incident is a wake-up call that if pushed too far, non-Pashtuns will take up arms to counter the return of the Taliban to Afghan political structures, and especially in the case of the notorious Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, likely to be freed from Guantanamo Bay.
- M K Bhadrakumar (Apr 4, '11)

Arab revolts hand it to Hezbollah
Hezbollah is poised to gain from the groundswell of unrest spreading across the Middle East. The weakening of the US-led alliance and rise of more representative governments will continue to play to its advantage as a transnational Shi'ite Islamist movement, while Hezbollah's penchant for inspiring opposition to autocracies frightens the ruling regimes that habitually cite it as a threat.
- Chris Zambelis (Apr 4, '11)

Exposed: The US-Saudi Libya deal
In the beginning, there was the great 2011 Arab revolt. Then, inexorably, came the United States-Saudi counter-revolution in a deal where the US gave the green light to Saudi Arabia's invasion of Bahrain in return for Arab League support for the Libyan no-fly zone. Revealed is the Barack Obama administration's hypocrisy, selling a crass geopolitical coup as a humanitarian operation.
- Pepe Escobar (Apr 1, '11)

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

Pakistan ready for Middle East role
Pakistan has placed two army divisions on standby to help Saudi Arabia should trouble break out there, and is also helping with the recruitment of ex-Pakistani military personnel for Bahrain's National Guard. These are the first steps in Pakistan's decision to play a proactive role on the side of Saudi Arabia to retain the supremacy of Sunni Islam in the Arab world.
- Syed Saleem Shahzad (Apr 1, '11)

Neo-Ottomans discover new Middle East
Turkey is convinced it stands as a shining example of democracy for Muslim nations, but it is far from becoming a shepherd for a new Middle East where historical divides are being accentuated as America's influence wanes. Sunni Arab co-religionists resent the Ottoman era, and Tehran is unlikely to welcome the diplomats from Ankara now wading into Shi'ite Iran's backyard.
- M K Bhadrakumar (Apr 1, '11)

Egypt moved by deep waters
Egypt faces formidable challenges as it moves beyond the Hosni Mubarak era. With elements of the old regime deeply entrenched in all aspects of life, a genuine transition to democracy would require transparency and consensus-building that is not currently happening. It is struggling to find a place amid a torrid regional sphere, made more so by a looming water war to the south.
- Victor Kotsev (Apr 1, '11)

 Feb, Mar 2011

ATol Specials

Syed Saleem Shahzad reports on the Afghan war from the Taliban side
(Dec '06)

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

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

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

  Nir Rosen goes inside the Iraqi resistance

Nir Rosen rides with the 3rd armored cavalry in western Iraq

Islamism, fascism and terrorism

by Marc Erikson

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