Sunday, June 12, 2011

News and such.

As I’ve mentioned before, it was not my intention to just use this blog to collect links and news updates on the Middle East. My hope was to use my anthropological background and general familiarity with Middle East politics to provide a little context and insight into the various situations unfolding in the Middle East. As a part-time blogger with a job and a life it hasn’t been easy for me to put out as much of the kind of material that I’d prefer to – updates and links make up the greater part of this blog’s content.

I’m in the process of adjusting the format a little bit, I’ll be adding some interviews, podcasts, and maybe a few book/movie/music reviews as well. In the meantime, I’ll still be posting links and news update (which I also do on my twitter feed) and trying to add a constructive and useful perspective to the whole mess.

So, what’s up?

Morocco, which I left in the “relatively safe” column for the past several months, has lately been slipping towards the “unstable” category. In particular, a young engineer was beaten to death by the police a little over a week ago, catalyzing a new round of more focused protests.

The government has, so far, been walking a fine line between allowing public protests while still keeping their hand firmly on the situation.

That being said, there may be genuine constitutional reform in the works – an early draft of the new constitution has been making the rounds - and although it continues to grant the King special dispensation (albeit slightly diminished), it does enact some separation of powers, it makes the Amazigh (Berber) Language an official language of Morocco, and says some nice things about human rights.

Will this be enough to forestall further disruption? It depends on

1. How reasonable the final version of the constitution looks to the protesters (and if it gets implemented).
2. How reasonable the protesters’ reaction looks to the wider population.

Regardless, an excellent resource for those looking to follow the Moroccan protests more closely can be found at


I’ve been openly skeptical of yemen’s ability to make it through its current political instability without major internal conflict. Civil War isn’t a sure thing, but it’s still pretty likely. AJ has a good piece on power profiles in the new Yemen, and some possible outcomes.


The state of emergency was revoked a few days ago, but repression has continued. A few notable things have happened since then.

Formula 1 racing decided that the Grand Prix, delayed in Feb. due to protests, could still be held in Bahrain. This caused a wave of outcry around the world, culminating with 11 of the twelve teams announcing that they wouldn’t participate in the race in Bahrain because of the government’s suppression of dissent. This is a MAJOR EMBARRASSMENT to a government that deserves much worse.

President Obama met with Bahraini crown prince on Friday, but only for a few minutes. Prince Al Kalifa is generally considered to be a reformer, relative to the rest of the Bahraini royal family, and the meeting may earn him a little cachet, but the big story was on the streets yesterday, with more than 10,000 marching peacefully in the streets of Manama calling for reform. The opposition successfully showed that they aren’t going anywhere.

A silent protest was held in Tehran to commemorate the second anniversary of the stolen 2009 Iranian election, and was predictably greeted with violence.

There's a more detailed account of yesterday's protests here

Imprisoned Iranian activist and journalist Hoda Saber died today. Ten days into a hunger strike he suffered a heart attack, but was denied medical attention for six hours afterwards.


The Libyan freedom fighters continue to make progress one town at a time, and the NTC was most recently recognized by Spain, Australia and the UAE.

Sec State Clinton will be addressing members of the African Union on Tuesday – I’m interested to hear what she has to say…


National elections in turkey today that could have major regional impact. Prime Minister Erdogan won easily, as did his political party AKP, securing the 50% that ensures a mandate to lead, but not the supermajority that would have allowed them to revise the constitution. The Turkish Kurds made major gains in this election as well.

Turkey isn’t my strongest suit, but I’ll try to link to some good analysis of the election outcomes in the next few days.


There’s a good bit of back and forth over whether or not Assad has any chance of holding on to power.
Here’s one that says yes:

Here's one that says no:

Personally, based on the scope and scale of the protests around the country, I don’t think he has a snowball’s chance in hell. I think the breaking point will come from within the army – the rank and file soldiers are already acting under duress, and the continually escalating atrocities are taking a terrible toll, as more and more reports of punitive military executions creep out.

There’s a worthwhile piece on Syria, the Syrian military, and the uprising here (and it uses the word rubicon in the title, so I pretty much have to link to it, right?)


Although most of the recent media attention surrounding Israel/palestine has focused on the incidents in the Golan, the heart of the Arab spring in Palestine is taking place much farther south in Nabi Saleh, where a string of protests and clashes between the IDF and residents have been taking place regularly for the past several weeks.

Those of you who are hip to the twitter can follow Israeli journalist Joseph Dana, who has been doing regular reporting on the Nabi Saleh protests.

The terrorism and violence of the second intifada is generally regarded by most Palestinians to have been a long-term failure. Now the Palestinian nonviolence movement, long-ignored by international media, suppressed by the Israeli government, and derided by more aggressive Palestinian factions as ineffectual or even traitorous, has been moving steadily to the forefront.

On a lighter note...

How to make Bedouin Style Chicken

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