Nir Rosen on The End of the New ME

Key quote:

According to Amal Saad Ghorayeb, an expert on Shiite movements and on Lebanon, until recently attached to the Carnegie Center for International Peace Middle East Center: “US policy in Lebanon is underpinned by an overarching US Middle East strategy of reconfiguring the political map of the Middle East as we know it, aka, the “New Middle East” plan, formerly the “Greater Middle East Initiative” officially unveiled by Condi Rice at the start of the July War. The tactics change but the strategy remains the same: both in its earlier (promoting democracies) and most recent (supporting autocracies) incarnations. US strategy seeks political,military and economic domination of the region, while ensuring the security of Israel. Its chosen instrument for implementing this strategy is the “moderate”US-friendly client Arab regime. Given its dissatisfaction with the results of democratic elections in the region, the Bush administration continues to support autocratic regimes in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, while de-democratizing existing democracies in Lebanon and Palestine. In the latter case, it is cultivating the latest breed of democracy, “the democratic regime,”a new form of government which is popularly challenged, constitutionally disputed and derives its legitimacy from outside powers. The formation and preservation of regimes such as Siniora’s (the Lebanese Prime Minister) has necessitated a US policy of promoting instability and national disunity, in short, a policy of”constructive instability.”

Published in: on May 9, 2008 at 7:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jeffrey Goldberg

Excellent piece in The Atlantic on the future of the Middle East, the problems with neoconservatives (Bush II Term 1) and realists (Bush II Term 2), the possibility of dissolution and creation of states in the Middle East.

Goldberg is very pro-Kurdish independence (and takes some unnecessary shots, seems to me, at Turkey). He also makes a passing reference to the state of Islam/Islamic theology and movements, which is very superficial. The key is the look into the tribal and ethnic realities versus the atrocious concoctions of the European mapmakers (Britain and France, including Winston Churchill) in the wake of WWI.

What becomes clear from the piece is that no one in Washington is thinking strategically about the Middle East. Particularly in the current administration. Hedgehogs on Iraq they are.

The Middle East will be as the Middle East will be. What should become clear-er from a piece like this (and the ham-handed occupation in Iraq, the bellicosity with Iran, and the flawed queen-maker maneuver with the now-deceased Bhutto) is that the US can not and should not base its policy on what it thinks it can impose on the region.

This part is the wisest:

But the U.S. would do well not to abandon the long-term hope that democracy, exported carefully, and slowly, can change reality. This would be not a five-year project, but a 50-year one. It would focus on aiding Middle Eastern journalists and democracy activists, on building strong universities and independent judiciaries—and on being discerning enough not to aid Muslim democracy activists when American help would undermine their credibility. If Arab moderates and democrats “begin this work now, in 10 or 15 years we will have a horse in this race,” said Omran Salman, the head of an Arab reform organization called Aafaq.

The key contra the realists (who have focused on support for Arab dictators for oil) and neocons (who think democracy alone is the answer) is the building of civil society. Rule of law, free-r press, inquiry, technology (like cell phones to YouTube) to create non-governmentals, human rights activists, and moral persuasion.

(h/t A. Sullivan)

Published in: on January 18, 2008 at 12:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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tariq ali on middle east

Came across this acerbic, anti-imperial radical left piece on the New Left Review by Tarqi Ali, editor of the Review.  (His wiki here).   Ali is a Trotsky-ite, so I’m not linking to this to endorse wholesale his view of the world.  (Which I don’t share, particularly his love of Hugo Chavez, who is a thug).

But if you can get past the ideological rant aspect (which is not easy I’ll grant) he actually makes an interesting point or two–itself then lost in more ideological nonsense sadly.  Namely that the growing trend in the Middle East is power from the street.

The conclusion in particular (my italics):

The crisis in the Middle East that began in 2001 is not in sight of any dénouement. At best, we are perhaps only at mid-point in the unfolding drama. New forces and faces are emerging that have something in common. Muqtada, Haniya, Nasrallah, Ahmadinejad: each has risen by organizing the urban poor in their localities—Baghdad and Basra, Gaza and Jenin, Beirut and Sidon, Tehran and Shiraz. It is in the slums that Hamas, Hizbollah, the Sadr brigades and the Basij have their roots. The contrast with the Hariris, Chalabis, Karzais, Allawis, on whom the West relies—overseas millionaires, crooked bankers, cia bagmen—could not be starker. A radical wind is blowing from the alleys and shacks of the latter-day wretched of the earth, surrounded by the fabulous wealth of petroleum…

Meanwhile, the emplacements of the hegemon have scarcely budged. The current turmoil is still confined to those areas of the Middle East where for twenty years or more American power never really penetrated: the West Bank, Ba’athist Iraq, Khomeinist Iran. The real US anchorage in the region lies elsewhere: in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Jordan. There its traditional clients have held the line, and are on hand to help out with regional problems. Beyond them, Europe and Japan stand shoulder to shoulder with America on Iran and Palestine, while Russia, China and India make no difficulties. It is too soon to count on imperial defeat.

The last point is particularly revealing and one I had not ever heard prior to reading it in this article.  It suggests a serious re-think in light of the urban slum poor is in order.  But I don’t see it in the coming from any US presidential candidate of either party.

Published in: on January 2, 2008 at 11:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What the Hell….

is going on? First Syria, now this.

clipped from

Lebanese troops opened fire Thursday on Israeli warplanes flying low over southern Lebanon, but no hits were reported, Lebanese officials said.

Israeli warplanes frequently fly over Lebanese airspace in what Israel says are reconnaissance missions, but this was the first time the Lebanese army has fired on the aircraft since an Aug. 14, 2006, cease-fire ended a monthlong war between Israeli and Hezbollah guerrillas.

  blog it
Published in: on October 25, 2007 at 9:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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