Levant & Mesopotamia

Jalal Talaban

Who Rules Kurdistan Region in Iraq?

The Kurds of Iraq had been systemically oppressed by different Iraqi regimes since the creation of modern Iraqi state in 1921. Consequently, many Kurdish movements appeared and fought against the Iraqi state. The chief amongst are the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Mustafa Barzani, established the former in 1946, while Jalal Talabani had founded PUK in 1975 when he split from Barzani’s KDP. Both parties have fought against Iraq till 1992. Since then, The Kurdistan Region of Iraq emerged as a quasi-state thanks to the establishment of the no-fly zone in northern Iraq by…
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Squaring the Two-State Circle

Squaring the Two-State Circle – Op-Ed

The year 2017 will witness a double anniversary in the convoluted history of the Middle East, one of 50 years, the other a centenary. June 6 is the date in 1967 which marked the outbreak of the Six Day War; “November 2nd, 1917” is the date that appears below the words “Foreign Office” on the single sheet of paper that contains the Balfour Declaration. Both continue to influence every aspect of Arab-Israeli relations and the interminable Israel-Palestine dispute.

Hamas-Fatah

Hamas-Fatah reconciliation Op-Ed

The Islamist world is fierce, bloody and fratricidal. Many of the extremist groupings are in bitter conflict with one another, not always along the traditional Sunni-Shia divide. Sometimes intra-Islamist conflicts are essentially political in nature. One long-running political feud is the continuing struggle between Hamas and Fatah. The Hamas-Fatah conflict does not concern itself with religious doctrine, nor even with basic political objectives.  Both organisations are Sunni Muslim; both are pledged to restore to Islamic rule the whole of Mandate Palestine, including the area currently occupied by the state of Israel.  Their fundamental disagreement is over the strategy for achieving their common…
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The state of Lebanon

The state of Lebanon

Uniquely among the 50 Muslim-majority nations of the world, Lebanon has a Christian president. The inauguration of Michel Aoun on 1 November 2016 ended a 29-month power vacuum and a political stalemate that had frozen the country’s constitutional processes.    “Not before time” would be a natural reaction, considering the length of the presidential inter-regnum. The truth, however, is that the absence of a largely figurehead president over that period, while politically inconvenient and somewhat of an embarrassment, made little difference to Lebanon as it ambled along under the guidance of prime minister Tammam Salam.

France’s Damp Squib - MPC Journal - PM Netanyahu (R) and France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius deliver statements in Jerusalem, June 21, 2015. Photo by Thomas Coex / Reuters

France’s Damp Squib

November the 5th – for anyone unfamiliar with British customs – is the day each year when children across the UK gather around a bonfire, burn an effigy of a 17th century villain called Guy Fawkes, and let off fireworks. Guy Fawkes’s villainy consisted in packing the basement of the House of Lords with barrels of gunpowder, hoping to blow up the whole place when King James I was present, thus despatching the monarch and the entire aristocracy to kingdom come. Details of the plot leaked, and it turned – as any firework does if not kept completely dry –…
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Israel resolution_

Unpicking UN Resolution 2334

Resolution 2334, approved 14-nil by the UN Security Council on 23 December 2016 with only the United States abstaining, has generated a tsunami of media comment.  A major subject of debate has turned on the fact that, for the first time in his eight years in office, President Obama decided not to veto a demonstrably anti-Israel resolution.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks on Middle East peace at the Department of State in Washington. Photo: Reuters

Flaws at the Heart of Kerry’s Blueprint

On 28 December 2016, in the dying days of the Obama presidency, Secretary of State John Kerry summoned the media to the Dean Acheson Auditorium in the State Department building in Washington, where he promised to “deliver remarks on Middle East peace”. In a speech lasting more than an hour, Kerry provided a detailed apologia for the Obama administration’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, including an impassioned rationale for the US’s abstention on the Security Council vote on December 23 demanding an end to further Israeli settlement construction in territories captured in the 1967 Six Day War.

Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stand inside the Umayyad mosque CREDIT: REUTERS

Aleppo: Symbol of Action and Inaction

SYRIA – Assad army, backed by Russian and Iranian allies, has recaptured the city of Aleppo, which might be a major victory for President Assad in Syria’s six-year-long civil war. It is not the same city the rebels and the regime were first fighting for. It has dramatically changed. Much of it has become in ruins. Much of it has been lost. Most of its people have been traumatised as thousands have died and many more have been detained or displaced. . Aleppo, as it was before the civil war, has become a memory. Thousands have died and many more…
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Here’s How Syrian Regime Built ISIS

Here’s How Syrian Regime Built ISIS

In his first interview after winning the presidency, Donald Trump hinted that he will shift policy in the Syria conflict from one of support for the moderate opposition to collaboration with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. “Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS,” Trump said. As for the rebels that the U.S. has backed fitfully for the past three years, he said: “We have no idea who these people are.” But the president-elect appears to be ill-informed about Assad’s key role in the rise of the so-called Islamic State. This three-part series documents the Syrian dictator’s sinister contributions to this…
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What to Be Improved in the Arab World? Image ©: Wayne Owens Chair Tanner Humanities Center The University Of Utah

What to Be Improved in the Arab World?

The short answer to the question: Where does one start? If things in the Middle East and North Africa were not complicated enough, answering the question has been made even more difficult by the rise of Donald Trump, and the fact that no one, maybe not even he, has an idea about what his policy towards the various crises in the Middle East and North Africa will be, or what his attitude might be towards individual countries in the region.

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