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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bad craziness in Egypt and other chaos elsewhere

Too much happened this past weekend for me to really cover it effectively, and much of my time was spent just keeping track of everything.

Syrian protests kept moving forward with substantial protests in every major Syrian city. The Syrian government deployed troops and tanks everywhere, and responded with violence, killing several but stopped short of outright massacre. I think Assad has realized that his use of lethal force against the protesters has brought him dangerously close to the point where his military will turn on itself, and there have been many reports of that very thing happening. That being said, Turkey (one of the only countries that has any notable leverage with Syria) has finally been taking steps to try and rein Assad in. America’s response to this has been lackluster, but we don’t really have much in the way of options. The withdrawal of our ambassador is really the last measure available to us, and that would severely limit our view into the actual situation on the ground and limit our avenues of communication with elements within the government and elsewhere. I’ll try to write more on that later. In the meantime, here’s an interesting piece on the dynamics of the political situation describing Bashir Assad as a “George W Bush surrounded by Dick Cheneys”

Israel’s fuel supply was tainted this past weekend, causing a few hours of paralysis at Ben Gurion airport. In a country where air travel is the primary means of leaving and entering the country an airline shutdown has disastrous implications. More on that here. Other things are afoot in Israel. The strategic balance seems to have shifted, most notably where Iran is concerned. Iran has been continuously touted as an existential threat to Israel for the past two decades, but most recently former Intel Chief Dagan came out and said what many of us have been insisting on for years – Iran just isn’t that big of a threat to Israel. Certainly their support for Hezbollah (and Hamas to a lesser extent) has caused tremendous strife and the shedding of no small amount of Israeli, Palestinian, and Lebanese blood, but the spectre of Iranian-caused nuclear destruction is absurd (and the idea that Israel could successfully destroy the Iranian nuclear program with airstrikes is rather far-fetched as well). Regardless, Israel has much more pressing issues to address right now. May 15 is Naqba day, the Palestinian counterpoint to Israeli independence day, and no one quite knows what to expect, but there will be a big march from Egypt to Gaza (some of the marching will be done in buses, apparently).

Iran’s weird leadership soap opera continues as well, and although Ahmadinejad has not yet tendered his resignation it seems pretty clear that the supreme leader feels that the president has outlived his usefulness. Outstanding analysis of the situation here,

I don’t really have time to cover it in any substantial form at this point because of the events elsewhere, specifically Egypt. Bad craziness. At least a dozen people dead, and two Coptic churches burned down by angry crowds. The whole mess was the result of a circulating rumor about a young woman who had converted to islam, but was being held captive in one of the churches. The most important piece written on this issue can be found over at the blog “rantings of a sandmonkey” who not only explains why the situation occurred, but points to a way forward for Egyptian muslims and Christians. This is, hands down, one of the best single blogs I’ve ever read on any topic ever. It’s long, but reading it will give you more insight into modern Egyptian culture and poilitics than any nagazine or newspaper article ever could – heartfelt, direct, and simultaneously heartbreaking and inspiring. READ IT.

More coming soon...

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