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US hands Palestine a loaded deck
The pro-Israel past of prominent figures on the US side of the flagging Middle East peace process undermines Washington's honest-broker status while highlighting why the US has come to accept sometimes extreme Israeli demands as mainstream discourse. Far from pursuing the process to reach a meaningful solution, the latest initiative seems designed to give the US a useful regional platform. - Ramzy Baroud (Apr 23, '14)

No hegemonic peace in Cyprus
Occupying powers have quit places such as Iraq and East Timor, yet the West allows Turkey to garrison northern Cyprus in perpetuity through "international treaties". Amid the discovery of hydrocarbons off the island, plans are afoot for a new regional security system, but Ankara's record for aggression could undermine any such body's international legitimacy. - Marios L Evriviades (Apr 17, '14)

Assad's staying power on show
As Syrian President President Bashar al-Assad's forces take the upper hand and the rebellion against him is dominated by extremists, countries that hoped to sponsor Assad's demise can only step up support of the "increasingly rare" moderate factions. A defeat of Assad was to become a victory for political Islam - but as hopes of this fade enemies are more concerned about blowback. - Nicola Nasser (Apr 11, '14)

Dust storms cloud Iranís future
Dust storms are normal in the more arid regions of the world, but what Iran is now experiencing verges on catastrophe, with Tehran obscured for 117 days of the past year. Solving the problem will require better water and land-management practices, and, above all, cooperation with Iranís neighbors, which face the same wind-borne disaster. - David Michel (Apr 11, '14)

Palestinians draw line at criminal court
When Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas defied the United States and Israel over stalled peace negotiations, he formally indicated to the United Nations last week that Palestine will join 15 international conventions relating mostly to the protection of human rights and treaties governing conflicts and prisoners of war. The International Criminal Court is not on the list - for the time being. - Thalif Deen (Apr 8, '14)

Obama's moral compass changes on Iraq
President Barack Obama last month defended the 2003 invasion of Iraq following unfavorable comparisons between it and Russia's annexation of Crimea, insisting the United Staters "worked within the international system" and never planned to "grab resources". Both assertions are shaky, but Obama's failure to mention the devastation of the country and its population is more troubling. - Adil E Shamoo (Apr 7, '14)

New US reality: Empire beyond salvation
After eight months of wrangling to push talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority forward, US Secretary of State John Kerry has acknowledged the latest setback to be a "reality check" for the Palestinian peace process. But for the Americans, the last few years have been less a "reality check" around the globe, more the new reality itself. - Ramzy Baroud (Apr 7, '14)

US 'peace process' charade plays on
The United States is scrambling to rescue a framework agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, but Washington likely knows its efforts are doomed by the right-wing majority in Israel's ruling coalition. By pursuing talks that achieve little but advance Israeli military objectives, the Obama administration continues a pattern repeated since its launch by Henry Kissinger. - Ramzy Baroud (Apr 2, '14)

US rejects 'Iran confession' demand
The Barack Obama administration may have refused to bow to Israeli pressure in its nuclear negotiations with Iran by apparently rejecting a deal-breaking demand that as a condition for completing a comprehensive nuclear agreement the US obtain an Iranian confession to having had a covert nuclear weapons program. - Gareth Porter (Apr 1, '14)

The phantom menace in Palestine
The Israeli Solution by Caroline Glick
The "problem" of Palestinian refugees has some rare distinctions. They have remained in refugee camps for seven decades, while comparable large refugee groups have long been assimilated into other populations; and their actual numbers are below the official figures bandied about by various authorities. Ms Glick draws a bold conclusion: Israel should annex Judea and Samaria - the West Bank - just as it did Jerusalem. (Mar 31, '14)

Palestinian showdown turns ugly
Bad blood between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and exiled Fatah rival Mohammed Dahlan has soured further amid increased leadership tensions in the struggle against Israel's occupation. While Abbas is facing potential political oblivion against the background of a flagging US-brokered peace process, Dahlan is using strong friends around the region to plot his own political comeback. - Ramzy Baroud (Mar 28, '14)

Egypt becomes battleground for Arab world
When the Saudi monarchy realized that the Muslim Brotherhood was using its rule in Egypt to spread a seductive vision of pragmatic progressive Islam, Riyadh knew it had to support a counter-revolution in Cairo and fund a military regime that would crush the movement. If the Saudi plan succeeds, the Arab world will likely descend into another era of tyrants. - Monte Palmer (Mar 24, '14)

Executions rising in Iran
Iran executed more prisoners in 2013 than it had done for 15 years, with 687 inmates killed. According to UN figures, the country lags only China in the number of executions, and leads the world on a per-capita basis. What also alarms anti-death penalty campaigners is the overwhelming number of ethnic minority Kurds, Baloch and Baha'is sent to the gallows. - Isolda Agazzi (Mar 21, '14)

Riyadh takes wrong road to stability
Saudi Arabia has lavished billions of dollars on buying weapons and funding insurgencies to counter Iran's rise as a power, all in the name of securing regional stability. Instead of wasting so much blood and treasure, it could have simply found a way to support peace in its neighborhood. - Nicola Nasser (Mar 21, '14)

EU draws hope from Ashton's Iran visit
Conservative elements within the Iranian government and press gave caustic appraisals of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton's visit this month to the country, particularly following her meeting with women activists. In contrast, European countries cautiously praised her trip as a showcase of Iran's progressive new leadership, with Brussels already envisioning a future where nuclear sanctions are no more. - Edward Wastnidge (Mar 20, '14)

Gulf an 'Eldorado' for arms sales
Gulf countries are rapidly climbing charts of the world's top arms importers, with concern over domestic terrorism, political instability and regional competition leading the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to spend vast oil revenues on modern, mostly US-supplied weaponry. While ostensibly the ordnance is aimed at countering perceived threats from Iran, its actual strategic value is negligible. - Thalif Deen (Mar 19, '14)

Iran's dervishes are hungry for equality
A hunger strike by Iran's dervishes sparked by the denial of medical treatment to a jailed member of the minority

has spread out of the prisons and across the country. The group is disillusioned that the election of purportedly reformist President Hassan Rouhani hasn't improved their lot and wants constitutional rules implemented which guarantee all Iranian citizens are treated equally. - Golnaz Esfandiari (Mar 13, '14)

Israel stokes holy row over mosque
The Palestinian ministry for religious affairs says Israeli forces last month carried out 30 attacks in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, revered as the third-holiest Muslim shrine in the world. Demands by far-right Israeli politicians that the government fulfill a Jewish prophecy and enforce its "sovereignty" over the site are further heightening tensions. - Ramzy Baroud (Mar 12, '14)

'Yesterday Stalin, today Putin'
A woman holds a sign reading "Yesterday Stalin, Today Putin" as descendants of Crimean Tartars deported by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1944 protest in Istanbul against Russian actions in Crimea. Demonstrators argue that Turkey should use its influence to ensure that the Black Sea peninsula remains a part of Ukraine and is not annexed by Russia. - Glenn Kates (Mar 10, '14)

Turkey walking a tightrope over Crimea
As Russia's intervention in Crimea plays out, pressure is growing on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to act to protect Crimean Tatars, a pro-Ukrainian ethnic minority group with strong cultural links to Turkey. Domestic critics will pounce on any hint that Erdogan is not supporting the Tartars, but taking a more confrontational position with Moscow could cause a major disruption in trade. - Dorian Jones (Mar 10, '14)

The real enemies of Islam
Muslims around the world have been deceived into believing that the West and Westerners are the enemies of Islam. Islam's real enemies are oppressive and corrupt Muslim rulers who misrepresent its teachings and hijack its mantle for their own gain. (Mar 10, '14)

Oppressive rulers fuel
misconceptions of Islam

The perception of Islam as a religion that has bred oppressive rule, intolerance, underdevelopment, corruption and opulence alongside poverty, could apply to most Muslim countries. For that, we must thank not Islamic teachings but the rulers who refuse to comply with them. - Hossein Askari (Mar 7, '14)

Raid boosts 'trigger happy' Israel claims
Hours after Amnesty International accused Israel of disproportionate force and unlawful killings in the West Bank, a deadly raid by infantry, military bulldozers and security officers on a terrorism suspect threatened to vindicate the claims. Military spokespeople say 24-year-old Muatazz Abdul-Rahim Washaha resisted arrest, but the grisly results of a "pressure cooker" assault on his apartment suggest otherwise. - Nicola Nasser (Mar 7, '14)

Syria's liberators face Palestine legacy
Arab media and politicians champion the rights of Syria's suffering civilians with the same fervor that they back the Palestinian cause, but none mention the rape and revulsion Syrian refugees face in their countries. The region's muted reaction to the siege of Palestinian refugees in Syria's Yarmouk camp is further testament to the fragile state of "Arab solidarity". - Ramzy Baroud (Mar 4, '14)

US keeps Middle East enemies too close
The Barack Obama administration's Middle East strategy has included siding with the Muslim Brotherhood to build influence with Arab Sunni countries, and drawing closer to the Iran regime to define future relations with the Shi'ite sphere. By courting radicals rather than engaging pro-democracy forces, the US has sidelined a disillusioned opposition in Iran and undermined its own status across the region. - Walid Phares (Mar 3, '14)

Nuclear deal hits history hurdles
US officials have suggested that as a condition of signing an historic agreement Iran must resolve allegations from the International Atomic Energy Agency that it has had in the past a covert nuclear weapons program. The negotiations record shows that while Tehran has been ready for the past two years to provide detailed answers, the problem has been the agency's refusal to share with Iran the documents on which those allegations have been based. - Gareth Porter (Mar 3, '14)

Morality should matter in US' Gulf policy
The United States wants Middle East stability to ensure for itself short-term economic gains. The dangers with this approach - involving support of dictators and all their associated evils - increase by the day as dissenting pressure grows within oppressed populations. Without an injection of morality into its policies, the US is sure to find itself on the wrong side of history. - Hossein Askari (Feb 28, '14)

Unrealistic ethics shape foreign policy
From critical decisions on US American intervention in Syria to debate over preventing genocide in Rwanda, policy approaches in Washington by both liberals or realists typically rely on beautifully coherent concepts rather than a hard-edged appraisal of facts on the ground. The self-interest of government agencies, budget battles and political rivalries only bolster this intellectual distortion. - Gary Wasserman (Feb 28, '14)

Sisi evokes Soviet ghosts with the US
Egyptian army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is cozying up with Russia to signal discontent with US aid conditions hampering his plans for military modernization. While Washington is loathe to repeat its mistakes of the 1950s, when its refusal to address similar military and development aspirations pushed Cairo into the Soviet Union's arms, Sisi lacks the legitimacy to rock the Middle Eastern order. - Nicola Nasser (Feb 25, '14)

Checkpoints between worlds in Gaza
While Gazans are forced to endure hours of delays every day at security checkpoints, regardless of their age or state of health, Israelis breeze past in special "fast lanes". The imbalance is an apt example of the parallel worlds the two seemingly co-inhabit, with one enjoying subsidized housing, healthcare and transport and the other suffering a life of low-income subsistence. - Ramzy Baroud (Feb 25, '14)

US adopts Israeli demand on Iran's missiles
The United States is insisting that Iran discuss its ballistic missile program in talks for a comprehensive nuclear agreement, even as history suggests it knows Iran will not accept the stance and that it is not necessary to guarantee that Tehran's atomic program is not used for a weapon. The demand, however, brings Washington into line with a pro-Israeli position aimed at torpedoing the negotiations. - Gareth Porter (Feb 24, '14)

Gulf's collaborative colonialism here to stay
Today's oil-producing Middle East countries are, in reality, little changed from a century ago, with colonialism merely morphing into collaboration between their fabulously wealthy rulers and former colonial masters. The result is a dearth of legitimate institutions and economies that are unsustainable and unstable. - Hossein Askari (Feb 21, '14)

Warning: Saudi-driven mayhem ahead
When Britain's Prince Charles danced to Riyadh's tune this week, it was as a warm-up act to an extremely juicy deal for Europe's leading arms supplier. The House of Saud is stockpiling weapons, and its storm-stirrer-in-chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, remains on the loose. Every which way one looks at it, major Saudi-provoked mayhem lies ahead. - Pepe Escobar (Feb 21, '14)

The scandal of Syria
Neo-conservatives and liberal interventionists were discredited long ago, but the United States still has an obligation to help solve the scandal of the Syrian crisis. Not because it is a superpower or has all (or any) of the answers, but because Americans have responsibilities as global citizens. - John Feffer (Feb 21, '14)

A sectarian cloak for Middle East wars
A perpetual religious conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran is forwarded as the Middle East's greatest source of instability. However, the clash is not driven primarily by a Sunni-Shi'ite divide or even Arab-Persian ethnic differences. The conflict is informed by two radically different models of government - each laying claim to Islamic legitimacy - and two very different visions of regional order. - Frederic Wehrey (Feb 21, '14)

Egypt back to her old ways in song
With dissenting against the junta at present ruling Egypt liable to have you put behind bars on trumped up charges, now is hardly the time to release a song about the state of the emperor's new clothes. Yet Yasser Elmanawahly is staying true to his ideals with a catchy new tune that carries chilling references to a country he sees as stepping back to pre-revolution days. - Mamoon Alabbasi (Feb 20, '14)

Colorful past behind Libyan 'coup maker'
Libyan officials derided as "ridiculous" and a "lie" last week's call by Libyan army chief Major General Khalifa Hifter for a military takeover involving a suspension parliament, and they insisted the government is stable. Tripoli has little reason to fear overthrow by the disorganized and weak army, but Hifter's historic links with the Central Intelligence Agency could be a concern. - Ramzy Baroud (Feb 18, '14)

Iran's real 'nuclear' revolution
The nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 are back this week in Vienna. The stakes couldn't be higher, and folk with hidden, and not so hidden, agendas on both sides badly want the talks to fail - and will spare no effort towards that goal, with those in the West backed already by decades of disinformation - Pepe Escobar (Feb 18, '14)

Islam outside an imperial lens
Re-Emerging Islamic Civilization by Eric Walberg
This alternative history of Islam - full title From Postmodernism to Postsecularism - Re-Emerging Islamic Civilization explores how its modern destiny was twisted by oil, money, imperialism and despotism, as well as by political prejudices conjured up by European empires. Arguing that today's global capitalism is inimical to Islamic notions of human dignity and social justice, the author recasts the religion as "a treasure to be rediscovered by the West". - Jim Miles (Feb 14, '14)

Baghdad plays familiar al-Qaeda card
The West has blindly accepted accusations by Iraq's Nuri al-Maliki administration that it is "al-Qaeda-linked" militants who have taken over Fallujah following fighting there. A closer look suggests organizations operating there are more likely extensions of growing Sunni opposition to Maliki's increasingly authoritarian government and the perilous political and security situation. - Nicola Nasser (Feb 14, '14)

Iran looks to private sector
Iran's parliament is instructing the oil ministry in Tehran to engage with and support the country's private sector both in domestic and international energy co-operation initiatives. European business executives understand what that means. Washington's bureaucrats do not. - Chris Cook (Feb 11, '14)

Revolution can't upstage Iranian cinema
Three-and-a-half decades after the Islamic Revolution, Iran remains one of the most repressive places a filmmaker can work. But movies such as the Oscar-winning A Separation offer proof of vibrant creativity. How did Iranian cinema become so critically acclaimed? - Charles Recknagel (Feb 11, '14)

Six steps to a done deal on nuclear Iran
Iran and the world's six major powers get around the table next week to seek a final resolution of the nuclear impasse. Six issues are crucial to an accord and need to be agreed by all parties. If the negotiators succeed, they will make history. Their failure could open the path to a nuclear-armed Iran or a new war in the Middle East - or both. - Joe Cirincione (Feb 11, '14)

Iraqi women endure Abu Ghraib legacy
Reports of the torture, rape and detention without charge of thousands of women in Iraqi prisons haven't produced the same Western outrage at similar human-rights abuses other Muslim countries. - Ramzy Baroud (Feb 11, '14)

Israel in backlash on settlement goods
The longstanding Israeli practice of labeling settlement products "Made in Israel" is leading to mounting opposition to the occupation and growing threats of boycotts by consumers around the world. - Pierre Klochendler (Feb 10, '14)

Implosion fears grow for Iraq
Iraq's strongest factions are feeling comforted by the fact that weeks of fighting between Sunni-al Qaeda groups and Iraqi forces, in Anbar province, have unfolded outside the richest oil fields. But they shouldn't discount just how quickly civil wars can spiral out of control, and this time the US has little military leverage over Iraq to control events from afar. - Ramzy Baroud (Feb 7, '14)

Cornering a Palestinian man of peace
As Israel and the US pile pressure on Mahmoud Abbas to accept a peace deal criticized as "heavily pro-Israel", Palestinians are accusing their president of giving away far too much in negotiations. Abbas has committed to demilitarizing Palestine and has crossed other "red lines". Israel, by refusing to reciprocate, risks sparking the third Intifada that Abbas hopes to prevent. - Nicola Nasser (Feb 7, '14)

Flawed Iran nuclear claims won't die
Intercepted telexes from an Iranian university to foreign firms in the early 1990s formed the basis for Western intelligence agencies to believe they saw the first signs of military involvement in Iran's nuclear program. The interpretation was fundamentally flawed, and while the international watchdog acknowledged that as much as six years ago, the error has taken on a life of its own as assessments of Iran's nuclear capabilities continue to peddle a discredited line. - Gareth Porter (Feb 6, '14)

Turkish financial crisis adds to region's chaos
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's prestige, founded on Turkey's supposed economic miracle, has collapsed along with the lira. Western planners once believed the country could be a pillar of stability in an otherwise chaotic region. Under Erdogan, it has become a spoiler allied to the region's most destructive and anti-Western forces. (Feb 5, '14)

Time is ripe for US to embrace Iran
Within 100 days of his tenure, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reversed 34 years of mutual hostility with the United States. Full rapprochement with Iran will calm the Middle East. It is time for the US to turn over a new leaf and start a period of true collaboration. - Farhang Jahanpour (Jan 30, '14)

Palestine divisions worsen Yarmouk siege
Palestinian refugees living in the opposition occupied Yarmouk Camp in south Damascus are dying of starvation and thirst as Islamist groups refuse to leave their strategic "prize" and government forces maintain their siege on the camp. Yet instead of acting to end the tragedy, Palestinian factions and their regional patrons are using the camp for political point scoring. - Ahmad Barqawi (Jan 30, '14)

Principles to guide the young activist
Young activists planning to fight for causes such as Palestine's must internalize such struggles as part of their character before carrying a banner and standing in front of a crowd with a microphone. If activists cannot present arguments with engaging narratives of real people and their real stories, then sympathy for that cause - big or small - will quickly fade. - Ramzy Baroud (Jan 28, '14)

Iran and a new energy settlement
President Hassan Rouhani spoke in Davos last week of creating a body tasked with stabilizing global energy supplies and of putting some of Iran's oil and gas reserves at its disposal. The time is now ripe for the concept of an International Energy Clearing Union to bear fruit. - Chris Cook (Jan 27, '14)

West's businesses turning towards Iran
The easing of sanctions on Iran is sending Westerners rushing to seek new business opportunities in Tehran, from French energy and automotive executives to British lawmakers. Business delegations are also arriving from Italy, Austria, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and elsewhere. - Charles Recknagel (Jan 24, '14)

Rouhani and the 1914 remix
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has emerged as a Davos darling by wooing the in-crowd with an "open for business" sign. But the Masters of the Universe were less enamored by what he had to say on geopolitics, since rather than face the real sources of "rising tensions", they prefer an old centennial world war view: that 2014 is 1914 all over again. - Pepe Escobar (Jan 24, '14)

Sharon and the art of self-deception
The American media response to the death of former Israeli leader Ariel Sharon exposes the flawed narrative of US leadership, allowing the occupiers of the White House, Capitol Hill, and the Pentagon to fool themselves that their vision of themselves as champions of democracy is shared by all right-thinking people, rather than face up to the sordid realities of their imperial policies. - Jason Hirthler (Jan 23, '14)

US-Israel alliance strange but stable
The rules by which US-Israeli relations are governed are perhaps the most bewildering of all foreign policies of any two countries. Israeli near dominance over US foreign policy in the Middle East is entrenched, if not complete, and Israel's role in shaping the outlook of US foreign policy cannot be ignored in the diplomatic dance around peace. - Ramzy Baroud (Jan 22, '14)

The real US legacy in Iraq
As Fallujah, the city once again "lost" to jihadists, brings back to the United States the specter of the terrible loss of life among its troops in past battles in Iraq, the unspoken truth is that the indiscriminate targeting of the general population by US efforts to "liberate" Fallujah's residents entailed numerous violations of the Geneva Convention. - Nick Alexandrov (Jan 21, '14)

Egyptians 'say yes' to new constitution
An early count suggests Egyptians have overwhelmingly voted in favor of a new army-drafted constitution. Yet as official media hail the outcome as "unprecedented", Cairo, the country's most populous governorate, has not been counted. Official results from a two-day referendum are expected over the weekend.
(Jan 17, '14)

Iran nears oil barter deal with Moscow
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is in Moscow this week, where he will reportedly discuss an unprecedented deal to barter Iranian oil for Russian goods, with an agreement close to being finalized. - Pavel Felgenhauer (Jan 17, '14)

Israel lobby thwarted in Iran sanctions bid
President Barack Obama has overcome a bid by the Israel lobby and its most powerful constituent, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, to pass a new sanctions bill to block rapprochement with Iran. The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 has stalled in the Senate, with Democrats backing Obama after Sunday's successful conclusion of an implementation agreement following November's historic international deal in Geneva. - Jim Lobe (Jan 16, '14)

Erdogan risks US ties with provocations
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the US of interference and said there's "a foreign plot" to discredit his government following claims it stifled a corruption probe that implicated his officials and allies. Erdogan may feel moved to project strength amid domestic turmoil, but by lashing out he risks undermining US foreign policy achievements in Syria and Iran. - Jayson Browder (Jan 13, '14)

Turkish politics and the death of conspiracy
Turkey's elites have contended for about a decade that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his populist AK Party are trying to impose an Islamic theocracy by stealth, but the political turmoil since a corruption scandal broke last month has brought the Great Islamic Conspiracy crashing down. The ruling party has no radical program, not even a secret one. - Adam B McConnel (Jan 13, '14)

The whitewashing of Ariel Sharon
Former Israeli leader Ariel Sharon, who has died after eight years in a coma, was no hero. It is time for the eulogizing US media to wake up from its own moral coma, and confront the reality of his blood-soaked history of illegal colonization of Palestinian lands. - Ramzy Baroud (Jan 13, '14)

Politics behind Turkey graft probe
The bitter conflict between Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party and the Gulen movement brings to the fore the deeply questionable goals of the latter. It also brings up the question of why has such a powerful movement as Fethullah Gulen's attempted something akin to political suicide - and has also risked the same fate for the concept of civil society in this part of the world. - Omer Aslan (Jan 9, '14)

Fall of Fallujah refocuses US on Iraq
The takeover of Fallujah by the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has refocused Washington's attention on the center of Sunni insurgency. But as Iraqi troops reportedly surround the city with the support of rushed-in US Hellfire missiles and military supplies, critics of the US and Iraqi governments are urging both to show greater flexibility to the Sunni minority's demands. - Jim Lobe (Jan 9, '14)

Middle East theater of conflicts
The Arab Awakening was supposed to herald the dawn of new democracies but turned into a blood-soaked nightmare. The most violent region in the world is the product of deep-seated internecine conflict stemming from the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1922, while regional and global powers and al-Qaeda operatives have made the oil-rich region a theater of conflict. - Deedar Hussain Samejo (Jan 6, '14)

Syria's Palestinians on the run - again
The numerous refugees fleeing Syria are not all Syrians. Over the past year, more than 50,000 Palestinian refugees have fled to Lebanon. Many belong to families of Palestinians who had originally been uprooted from their homeland in 1948, or during the six-day war in 1967. New war has exacted its toll and around half of their communities in Syria have fled once again.
(Jan 6, '14)

Washington's 'Fashoda' moment
The US reversal of alliances:
Comparative historical perspectives

It is rare that a great power, after decades of hostility with another country, suddenly seeks to embrace that country as a friend, if not an ally. Yet this is what the recent United States demarche towards Iran represents. Historical analogies are imperfect, but the "Fashoda compromise" is still too close, and its consequences too horrific, to ignore.
- Robert M Cutler (Dec 23, '13)

The nuclear deal and the future of Iran
The Obama administration may appear to have scored a great diplomatic victory through its deal with Iran, but it will be at the long-term expense of the Iranian people and US-Muslim relations. In time, cooperation with the mullahs will be seen for what it is - US support for yet another dictatorship, alongside its support for other Arab kleptocracies. - Hossein Askari (Dec 23, '13)

All in play in the New Great Game
The big story of 2014 will be Iran - albeit as part of the bigger US-China jigsaw - as the adults in the room seek a comprehensive nuclear program accord in the face of confrontational lobbies on either side. The benefits of a pact are all too evident across the region, though such a tectonic shift will bring casualties, and the re-emergence of an old power. - Pepe Escobar (Dec 23, '13)

All rocky roads lead to Palestine peace
Refuseniks on both sides of the Israel-Palestine divide are on the defensive, daunting obstacles (such as stalled peace talks) remain; but the positive signs are unmistakable. There is a chance that domestic and international circumstances will finally align to settle a conflict that has in many ways and for decades defined the political map of the entire Middle East.
- Victor Kotsev (Dec 23, '13)

Iran: Pay it forward
Given the entrenched views of the US legislature, Iran is likely to remain excluded from the global financial system and conventional trade payments will remain impossible for Iran. "Energy prepay", no matter how apparently improbable, therefore offers a solution of which Sherlock Holmes would approve.
- Chris Cook (Dec 23, '13)

Iran-US enmity to continue despite deal
The Iran-US nuclear deal has raised the prospect of a rapprochement between the two countries, but as President Hassan Rouhani has no mandate or ambition to change Iran's most powerful institutions it will continue striving to displace the US as the region's dominant power - and the cry of "death to America" will continue to resonate across the streets of Tehran. - Mahan Abedin (Dec 19, '13)

Iran-Afghanistan ties enter new era
Iran is expected to deepen already significant investments in Afghanistan's infrastructure, education and cultural institutions when international troops leave in 2014 - capitalizing on their exit to extend Tehran's influence further into the country. However, tensions over issues such as water rights, narcotics enforcement and refugees also threaten to cloud any new dawn in relations. - Ellen Laipson (Dec 18, '13)
This is the third article in a four-part series
Part 1: Iran and Pakistan's balancing act
Part 2: India readjusts ties with Iran

Iran's silent fertility crisis
For every working Iranian in the not-so-distant future there will be seven mouths to feed, unless the government can come up with a workable solution to the country's low birth rate and "graying" society. Yet it seems that the new administration is sticking to the outdated family planning slogan of "fewer children, better life". - Faezeh Samanian (Dec 17, '13)

Boycott momentum rattles Israel
The global campaign to end Israeli occupation in Palestine is gaining momentum with a wave of announcements from the West halting economic and social exchanges. Israel appears increasingly concerned about the "South Africa-style" boycott program, as shown by its reaction to comments by former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters - Ramzy Baroud (Dec 17, '13)

New influx a blow to early refugees
Six years ago, the lives of Palestinian refugees in Nahr el Barad camp, north of Tripoli in Lebanon, were shattered by clashes between the Lebanese army and the Fatah al Islam militant group. The hope of seeing their homes and lives rebuilt, already distant, is now fading further as refugees flood into the area from Syria. - Rebecca Murray (Dec 16, '13)

Turkey a battleground for Asia arms exports
As the Asian century in weapons production and global sales gets into full swing, Turkey is emerging as prime target for the best-of-breed battle tank Japan will be pushing out once it drops its pacifist ban on exports. Turkey also provides a prime example of the Western response to China's growing presence in the international arms market. - Peter Lee (Dec 13, '13)

India readjusts ties with Iran
New Delhi has recalibrated relations as Iran became the litmus test for India's ties with Washington. So while the Indian government would have preferred to pursue unimpeded diplomatic, trade and energy ties with Tehran, it has opted to diminish its dealings with the Islamic Republic. - Sunil Dasgupta (Dec 12, '13)
This is the second part of a four-part series.
Part 1: Iran and Pakistan's balancing act

Arabic thoughts in the Alps
A train ride in Switzerland on a European tour to talk about Gaza brings home some very personal reflections. Sorrow for the Gaza Strip (under a siege made more suffocating by Egypt), and for Palestine and its denied freedom are now part of a much larger blend of heartbreaks over Arab peoples as they struggle for self-definition, equality, rights and freedom. Ramzy Baroud nevertheless insists on staying hopeful. (Dec 12, '13)

Azerbaijan oil cash lost in the shadows
Millions of dollars have disappeared from Azerbaijan's oil industry into the hands of obscurely owned private companies with the apparent cooperation of the government-controlled state oil company, according to a report. - Charles Recknagel (Dec 12, '13)

Why the Jews left their Arab lands
Legal and religious persecution exacted upon ancient Jewish communities in Arab countries in recent centuries left them with little choice but to emigrate to Israel almost immediately following its creation. Had it not been for the anti-Israeli frenzy and discriminatory measures, it is highly likely that some would have decided to stay. - David Bensoussan (Dec 12, '13)

Why the Jews left their Arab lands
Legal and religious persecution exacted upon ancient Jewish communities in Arab countries in recent centuries left them with little choice but to emigrate to Israel almost immediately following its creation. Had it not been for the anti-Israeli frenzy and discriminatory measures, it is highly likely that some would have decided to stay. - David Bensoussan (Dec 11, '13)

Reflections on the Iran nuclear deal
While the Iranian economy and its people are already gravely suffering from the ravages of economic sanctions, the interim nuclear deal signed with the West in November was generous to the point of threatening national sovereignty. Iran has survived decades of US "regime change" efforts, and now regional achievements are being endangered by an ambitious capitalist class desperate to trade with the West. - Ismael Hossein-zadeh (Dec 11, '13)

Iran and Pakistan's balancing act
Two new leaders were elected in Iran and Pakistan, opening a new chapter in the two country's efforts to both cooperate and compete with each other. Both men seem committed to improving bilateral relations, but Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in particular faces a delicate balancing act. (Dec 10, '13)
This is the first article of a four-part series

India and security in the Gulf
India's long-standing ties with the Gulf and its reputation as a benign power could prove useful in convincing rivals such as Saudi Arabia and Iran of the importance of launching a regional security dialogue. Battling terrorism and securing oil shipping lanes are in all Gulf countries' interests, but New Delhi is likely the best-placed interlocutor to remind them. - Rajeev Agarwal (Dec 10, '13)

Syria sarin report blows holes in US claims
A report by journalist Seymour Hersh into the deadly sarin attack in Syria in August blows holes in the White House narrative that blamed the Damascus regime and claimed no evidence existed of rebel groups having chemical weapons. While portions of the report have been published elsewhere, it strongly suggests more important revelations are in the wings. - Victor Kotsev (Dec 10, '13)

Iran's treasures start to be counted
The movement towards a US-Iran deal means Iran is opening for business, and Washington realizes the scale of the opportunities for all parties that lie ahead. That includes Saudi Arabia, if it wakes to the fact. - Chris Cook (Dec 9, '13)

Syrian effect pushes Iran domino
A common narrative of the thaw in US-Iranian relations attributes the cause to the contrast between the belligerence of former president Mahmud Ahmadinejad and the realism of his successor. But it could be that the big change that made the breakthrough possible originated in the US and a Syrian "domino effect" reaches to a power struggle deep in Washington. (Dec 9, '13)

How Syria's movement was hijacked
The early militarization of civilian protests in Syria destroyed their power to produce long-overdue peaceful change. As well as turning a national conflict between haves and have-nots into a regional and international struggle, militarization opened the door to al-Qaeda-linked extremists who are now operating well out of the control of the powers who supported their initial infiltration. - Nicola Nasser (Dec 9, '13)

Ankara uses Tehran to show prowess
Moves by Turkey towards engaging Iran have highlighted a dire need for collaboration between them on issues destabilizing the region. Deeper cooperation only holds promise of a solution to the escalating sectarian violence in Syria; it could also ease negotiations on Tehran's nuclear ambitions and create the region's most important energy and trade relationship. - Jayson Browder (Dec 9, '13)

Iran yields to the West's demands
Opposition groups in Iran see President Hassan Rouhani as a stooge for the West who is trying to abandon Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the West's support for the survival of the clerical regime in Tehran. The West has its lethal weapon of last resort; hopes for the annulment of the shameful Geneva deal rest in the hands of the Iranian parliament. - Akbar E Torbat (Dec 6, '13)

Empty coffers are Rouhani's next test
President Hassan Rouhani has so far maintained a wide base of political support in Iran as he pursues engagement with the West on nuclear issues. Next, he has to walk the economic tightrope. - Kevan Harris (Dec 5, '13)

Yemeni unity threatened by stalled dialogue
The collective sense of revolutionary hope Yemenis felt as president Ali Abdullah Saleh was overthrown has faded as elements of his regime push back and as the separatist-leaning south rejects national dialogue. In 2011, calls for an end to corrupt, clan-based politics united the youth, now the revolt's failure to deliver change threatens war and secession. - Ramzy Baroud (Dec 5, '13)

Iran deal safe from US attacks, for now
The deal over Iran's nuclear program appears safe from any serious attack by the pro-Israel United States Congress, at least for the rest of this year. Sanctions threats have receded as the Washington foreign policy elite reach consensus that the Geneva accord is good, while public polls show growing backing that crosses party lines. - Jim Lobe (Dec 5, '13)

Fierce battles cast hopeful shadow in Syria
Some of the fiercest battles in the Syrian conflict have broken out since the January 22 start date for the Geneva II peace talks was announced last week. The shadow to the good news could, however, be a hopeful sign; redoubled efforts of government and rebel forces to consolidate and expand gains indicate that all the main players are taking the prospect of talks seriously. - Victor Kotsev (Dec 4, '13)

Syrian refugee relief effort Islamicized
According to the United Nations' refugee agency, there is a huge shortfall between donations needed to help the more than 2 million Syrians who have fled the country's conflict and what has been received. That is of little consequence to many refugees; Islamic-inspired assistance means that traditional Western relief structures have taken a back-seat to funding from the Gulf states. - Alexander Casella (Dec 4, '13)

Egyptian military's grand illusion fades
Egypt's military rulers succeeded in polarizing the country through media manipulation, presenting their overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government as a necessary step supported by the people's will. However, as it gradually becomes clear to the people that the coup simply put Hosni Mubarak's corrupt and incompetent generals back in power, the illusion of legitimacy will fade. - Monte Palmer (Dec 2, '13)

Gaza flooded with sewage and conspiracy
The latest punishment for Gaza - raw sewage flooding many neighborhoods across the strip - may seem like another familiar humiliation for an impoverished region now more vulnerable than ever. But something far more sinister is brewing to speed up the collapse of the Hamas government. - Ramzy Baroud (Nov 27, '13)

The dead's envy for the living
Many commentators draw a parallel between the appeasement of Hitler in 1938 and the appeasement of Iran at Geneva. There is a more chilling parallel: Iran's motive for proposing to annihilate the Jewish State is the same as Hitler's, and the world's indifference to the prospect of another Holocaust is no different now than then. It is the dead's envy for the living (Nov 27, '13)

Tehran accord designed to fail?
Some media coverage of the "first-step" agreement between the US and Iran have referred to the possibility that the negotiations on a final settlement could stall, and the status quo might continue. Remarks by senior US officials suggest the Barack Obama administration may be hoping for precisely such an outcome. - Gareth Porter (Nov 26, '13)

Challenges ahead for a final nuclear deal
Hooman Majd, a New York-based commentator on Iran, senses good prospects for a deal to finally end the nuclear impasse, given that the ice between Washington and Iran has been broken and the eagerness displayed in Geneva. It will be harder from now on to find a way to satisfy both sides that the end agreement is a "win-win" for all sides, he says in conversation with Kaveh L Afrasiabi about the challenges ahead. (Nov 26, '13)

Iran deal gains traction
Despite strenuous objections by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican lawmakers in Washington, the new accord between the Iran and the United States and other major powers on Tehran's nuclear program appears to be gaining support. Even Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional arch-rival, has cautiously welcomed the deal. - Jim Lobe (Nov 26, '13)

US-Iran: The ever-spinning deal
The deal carved out in Geneva at the weekend between international powers and Iran is far from definitive, but gets the ball rolling for the "real deal" to end the oil and banking blockade of Iran. That's if the brigades of assorted hysterics don't manage to succeed in pushing the ball back uphill. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 25, '13)

Turkey pushes
crossroads politics

The opening of a rail link under the Bosphorus exemplifies Turkey's goal of being a crossroads for everything, especially energy. This requires an energetic foreign policy that includes Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's strong support for an improved US-Iran relationship, even if that means testy relations with Saudi Arabia - but then everything of consequence happening in the region nowadays involves Iran. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 22, '13)

Reverse radicalization in Syria
Just as terrorists and extremists helped create the modern state of Israel, so too the idealistic young Muslims running off to fight in Syria may become more enamored with nation building than violence. To assume that every Muslim traveling from Europe to Syria will become an al-Qaeda recruit is to ignore the lessons of history. - John Feffer (Nov 22, '13)

North Korea and Iran, a spiritual alliance
A closer look at ties between North Korea and Iran reveals something deeper than an alliance of convenience born out of mutual opposition to the United States. At their core, Iran and the North have an eerily similar historical path and worldview. This is rooted in ideological-cultural factors, such as the shared belief that revolutions, while transformative, must also preserve links to tradition. - Issa Ardakani (Nov 21, '13)

The Wahhabi-Likudnik war of terror
The double suicide bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut is a deadly illustration of the Likudnik House of Saud in action, essentially enabled from Riyadh by spy chief Bandar bin Sultan's goons. The false flags are flying, but taking terror to the innocents on Lebanon's streets fits both Saudi Arabia and Israel's agendas. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 20, '13)

Negativity can't derail Geneva 3
After a near deal that failed to materialize at the previous round of negotiations in Geneva less than two weeks ago, this week's reunion of Iran and the world powers will probably produce an interim accord over Tehran's nuclear program, despite a chorus of negativity emanating from Israel. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Nov 20, '13)

B-H Levy and the destruction of Libya
The tattered legacy of eminent French thinker Bernard-Henri Levy's crusade to ensure Western intervention in Libya was laid bare by shootings last week that left 43 peaceful anti-militia demonstrators dead. While Levy said he was moved by an epiphany that foresaw "rivers of blood", the dire implications becoming evident for the Muslim country suggest he was actually following a political agenda. - Ramzy Baroud (Nov 20, '13)

Scowcroft, Brzezinski urge Iran accord
Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, two pillars of the US foreign policy establishment, are urging lawmakers to hold back from enacting new sanctions against Iran, saying an interim agreement with Tehran - the focus of international nuclear talks in Geneva beginning on Wednesday - would advance the national security of the US, Israel, and Washington's Middle East partners. - Jim Lobe (Nov 19, '13)

France clueless on Iran
Gallic posturing knocked the international deal over Iran's nuclear program off the tracks over an issue that diplomats on all sides knew to be a red herring. With goodwill the name of the game as the negotiations saga restarts on Wednesday, everybody knows the clueless French cock cannot be allowed to crow twice. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 15, '13)

Scuppered Iran deal faces US scrutiny
The anticipated agreement over Iran's controversial nuclear program that slipped away in Geneva last week is being hotly debated on Capitol Hill. As Secretary of State John Kerry appeals for the United States Congress to hold back on adding to the sanctions, hawkish Senator John McCain thanked France for opposing a deal. - Jasmin Ramsey (Nov 14, '13)

Palestinians lose way in own maze
Factionalism in Palestine and among Palestinians in the diaspora is destroying the very idea of having a common narrative through which they can tell one cohesive story, untainted by the tribal political mentality which is devouring Palestinian identity the same way Israeli bulldozers are devouring whatever remains of their land. - Ramzy Baroud (Nov 14, '13)

Blinded by principles on Syria's war
A comfortable idealism among liberal commentators has seen them dismiss the historical, social, and political complexities of Syria's conflict, such as the religious and ethnic tensions created when such countries are carved out of colonial empires. Like his father, Bashar al-Assad likely acted not just to save his regime. He also knew Syria's fragile, 67-year-old existence was threatened. - Derek Dougdale (Nov 14, '13)

The limits of nuclear diplomacy
A diplomatic thaw between the US and Iran over Tehran's pursuit of nuclear technology may be bearable to US "allies" who for years have pressurized Washington to act in their narrows interests in the Middle East. What Saudi Arabia cannot tolerate is a lifting of sanctions that could restore Iran's political and economic clout in the region. - Ahmed Ilahi (Nov 13, '13)

Why France is playing 'stupid' on Iran
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, by pecking at "weak points" to kill the nascent international deal on Iran's nuclear program, looked "blind" and stupid" in the eyes of the United States. Cool calculation was behind the Gallic rooster's display: he was foolishly doing the bidding for Israel and the House of Saud. The axis of fear and loathing may play spoilers, but Washington and Tehran will inevitably strike a deal. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 12, '13)

Rouhani's reform pledges hit cultural wall
As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani marks 100 days in office, critics complain that campaign promises to battle censorship have been forgotten. As long as film scripts are subject to strict controls and social media are blocked, doubts will remain over pledges to lead a government that "isn't afraid of a free media". - Hanif Kashani and Robin Wright (Nov 12, '13)

Glow of talks flattens nuclear reality
As the glow of optimism emanates from nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers in Geneva, the political discussion flattens a complex science of uranium enrichment into simple steps anchored in legal steps and moral arguments. The good news is that there is still time on the clock to resolve one of the thorniest issues in the Middle East. - Victor Kotsev (Nov 8, '13)

30-year war for the Syrian economy
A "silent war on human and economic development" has been visited in almost three-years of Syrian civil, according to a UN report released this week. It will take 10 times as long for the country's economy to recover to the 5% growth rate of 2010. - Ramy Srour (Nov 8, '13)

Hell on the home front
They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars: The Untold Story by Ann Jones
Piercing the patriotic silence of US soldiers returning from Afghanistan, this unwaveringly human narrative reveals how physical and mental wounds mercilessly torment combatants and their families. No screed against US foreign policy, the book instead uses brutal examples of destroyed lives to highlight war's inhumanity. - Prashanth Kamalakanthan (Nov 8, '13)

Syrian refugees as combatants
The Zaatari camp, located just over the Syrian border in Jordan, is home to nearly 123,000 refugees who have fled the civil war. But, according to a recent report, the United Nations-run facility is also a safe haven for rebel forces fighting the Syrian regime, in contravention of international law. - John Rosenthal (Nov 8, '13)

US, Iran try to narrow gaps on nuclear deal
As talks over Iran's nuclear program reconvene in Geneva, Washington and Tehran are working to narrow the gaps to a deal. Yet Iranians won't abandon certain principles, including the right they consider is theirs to enrich uranium, while the Americans insist that the core sanctions cannot be shifted. - Kitty Stapp (Nov 7, '13)

Darkness rising in Syrian opposition
The hardening of the Syrian opposition is seen in the changing language of online petitions posted by rebel forces. As jihadi "activists" from other countries dilute the movement, what were once hopeful entreaties to help the opposition "fracture the regime" have become bleak indictments of Bashar al-Assad's "terror machine". - Samir Nazareth (Nov 7, '13)

A field guide to alienating the Middle East
Twelve years after the US invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban and a decade after the invasion of Iraq - both designed to expand America's regional clout by removing adversaries - Washington's standing in country after country in the Middle East has never been weaker. It is as if the Obama administration is following a a field guide to losing friends, influencing no one, and alienating the whole region. - Bob Dreyfuss (Nov 6, '13)

Spring in the steps of Arab revolt
Asking if the Arab revolutions have failed is asking the wrong question. Arab revolts have "failed" only according to our hyped expectations and erroneous understanding of history. While it is still too early to call "success", the Arab Spring has introduced factors that challenge the way countries are ruled. - Ramzy Baroud (Nov 6, '13)

America's forked tongue on Iran
Wendy Sherman, the top US negotiator in talks with Iran, has fostered the impression that the White House is play-acting its seriousness on ending the impasse over Tehran's nuclear program by appearing on a similar wavelength to lawmakers seeking to toughen sanctions. Such American "double-speak" has to end if international talks in Geneva are to succeed. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Nov 5, '13)

Why Riyadh must manage its paranoia
Saudi Arabia has succeeded in projecting an international image characterized by level-headed, moderate rule despite its sectarian repressions, abusive treatment of women and foreign workers, and undemocratic governance. However, if the ruling family continues to feed its religious paranoia by sending weapons and fighters into Syria, their country will become a pariah. - Ahmed E Souaiaia (Nov 5, '13)

US-Iran seek change on crisis anniversary
Demonstrators on Monday marked the anniversary of the Tehran embassy hostage crisis with ritual chants outside the long-abandoned building of "Death to America!". Other signals from the Iranian capital and elsewhere point to reasons for optimism at the forthcoming talks on Iran's nuclear program. - Jim Lobe (Nov 5, '13)

US-Israeli spat echoes in Syria and Gaza
Israeli operations in Syria and the Gaza strip last week were more than responses to events on the ground. They sought to market Israel to Arab enemies as the responsible adult in the Middle East. The military strikes demonstrate how fraught Israel's relationship with the United States has become and point to the dangers that lie ahead. - Victor Kotsev (Nov 4, '13)

Congress versus Obama on Iran
Influential politicians in Washington, including prominent congressional Democrats, are hard at work attempting to scuttle a nuclear deal between the United States and Iran. Some Senate hardliners insist that sanctions must remain in place even if the nuclear issues are resolved. - Stephen Zunes (Nov 1, '13)

The Islamic litmus test
The prevalence of social and economic justice is the unquestionable litmus test for a society that professes adherence to Islam and its teachings. That is difficult to find in Muslim countries, though Malaysia and Turkey may score best. Governance is mostly oppressive, with the Middle East leading the way. - Hossein Askari (Nov 1, '13)

Egypt's dark tunnel of violence
Events since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi have been ominous for Egypt, for democracy and for the rest of the Arab world. In the military regime's fevered charge against the elected Muslim Brotherhood, violence is on the increase. - Adil E Shamoo (Oct 31, '13)

New green movement needed in Iran
Water scarcity, desertification and pollution could become more threatening to Iran's long-term future than US sanctions and Israeli plots if current environmental mismanagement continues. Unless radical green reforms reverse decades of decline in agriculture, water supplies and air quality, scientists say the country will be little more than "a ghost town". - David Michel (Oct 31, '13)

United States eyes a Shi'ite-led West Asia
The United States foresees the inevitable collapse of the decades-long status quo in the Middle East and is working to create a new Shi'ite-based regional leadership. In a critical transition as Washington turns away from Sunni allies like Saudi Arabia, new alliances are emerging - with Iran to the fore. - Mohammad Pervez Bilgrami (Oct 30, '13)

The Saudi Arabian conundrum
Saudi Arabia used its rejection of a United Nations Security Council seat to loftily highlight UN "double standards and failings", but US media claims it was a veiled swipe at Washington's diplomatic trysts with Russia and Iran. A more interesting debate is how, given its monopoly on religious leadership, would Saudi Arabia have stood if asked to approve crippling sanctions on fellow Muslim states? - Mervyn Hosein (Oct 30, '13)

Syrians under siege in Egypt
Despair echoes in the voices of Syrian refugees in Egypt, who now number about 300,000, after the military regime tightened the screws on their ability to fend for themselves, accusing Syrians of being in collusion with Islamist groups and working against the state. Many have resorted to begging to survive. - Hisham Allam (Oct 29, '13)

Lebanon haunted by ghosts of civil war
As an influx of some 75,000 Syrian refugees a month disturbs Lebanon's demographic balance, the country's fractious sectarian politics are again threatening to erupt into civil conflict. Syria's brutal fight has already crossed the border in the form of car bombs, mortars and street fighting, and the deepening involvement of Lebanese fighters in their neighbor's war will likely accelerate the process. - Ramzy Baroud (Oct 29, '13)

Iran deal-breaker report gives Israel hope
An Institute for Science and International Security report claiming that Iran is only a month away from acquiring a nuclear bomb serves the sole purpose of derailing the delicate negotiation process taking place in Geneva. That is manna from heaven for Israel, but, should it succeed, relief over a potential deal will evaporate. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Oct 28, '13)

A Pax Sinica in the Middle East?
China's interest in a peaceful Middle East is large and growing, notably in its energy purchases but extending well beyond those, just as US energy needs there are waning. Without attributing any geopolitical intention to Beijing, the visible facts make clear that China has the capacity to exercise strategic influence in the region. What China might choose to do in that regard, Washington will learn after the fact. (Oct 28, '13)

Will the House of Saud pivot to China?
The House of Saud's anger with the Obama administration begs the question of whether Riyadh dreams of pivoting to China. Cash-rich and oil-thirsty, the aspiring superpower would make a welcome hands-off partner. So far, King Abdullah offers no evidence of escaping the US "special relationship". But when the petrodollar system crashes and burns, the pivot begins. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 25, '13)

Rebels offer Assad a comeback
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad looks relatively comfortable in his grip on power for the first time since the uprising began as moderates in the rebel opposition lose power to jihadis and Russia prepares to increase its presence. Starving civilians in devastated rebel-held areas who survive the coming winter could even end up voting for him. - Victor Kotsev (Oct 25, '13)

US sanctions bleed Iran's health system
Complaints that sanctions targeted at Iran's nuclear program are instead ravaging healthcare provision have prompted denials from Washington that it is to blame. All it would take to help patients suffering for want of simple equipment is a US plan to allow medical transactions but this, it seems, is a step too far from coercive diplomacy. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Oct 25, '13)

Bandar Bush's mad, mad world
Saudi spy chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan is threatening a "major shift" in relations with the United States over Washington's perceived inaction on Syria and detente with Iran. Sure, with the entire Saudi plan to defeat the Shi'ite in the Middle East in flames, there are reasons to be angry, but plenty of others to suggest that Bandar has gone completely nuts. (Oct 25, '13)

Sectarian battle lines in the Middle East
The brazenly sectarian narrative the US imposed in its political reshaping of post-invasion Iraq war - that of a Shi'ite majority oppressed by a Sunni minority - sowed the seeds of a wider conflict that now threatens to engulf the region. While not all countries are at war, most are either arming, funding or leading media campaigns for one side or the other. - Ramzy Baroud (Oct 24, '13)

Saudi Arabia: The real terror tyrant
Responsibility for the rise of religious extremism and in the Muslim world rests with Saudi Arabia. Its hold over the holy places of Islam, its petrodollars fueling the flames of sectarian division in Wahhabi-Salafi madrassas, and its masquerading of religiosity to cover economic and political aims are the culprits - and the marque of an illegitimate tyrant. - Nauman Sadiq (Oct 23, '13)

Strains tear US ties with Middle east allies
Unexpected strains with Saudi Arabia - which sent a defiant message to Washington by renouncing a coveted UN Security Council seat - and Turkey underline the difficult challenges the Obama administration faces in navigating the Middle East's increasingly treacherous waters. - Jim Lobe (Oct 23, '13)

The self-beheading
House of Saud

A Saudi Arabian decision to dump the offer of seat at UN Security Council's horseshoe table after a long campaign came straight from the leading camel's mouth. But the self-beheading will not change the way the geopolitical winds are blowing as the king's son, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, prepares to take the foreign policy reins. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 22, '13)

All roads lead to Tehran
Conflict in the Middle East has a singular cause, traceable to a specific date and to specific political players: the West's ousting in 1953 of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. Tehran holds the key to a new start in the region helped by Asia countries, whose influence there is growing, and a new place for political Islam in the global order. - Jan Krikke (Oct 22, '13)

Iran nuclear team faces hurdles at home
Israeli opposition in Washington this week to ending the impasse over Iran's nuclear program is not the only obstacle to a comprehensive international agreement. As they prepare for further talks, Iranian negotiators face formidable negativity to a nuclear deal at home. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Oct 21, '13)

Foreigners look to Iran oil bonanza
To win skeptics over to the idea that crippling economic sanctions targeting Iran should be dropped, Tehran is floating a huge incentive - the prospect of giving Western investors access to the country's vast oil and gas reserves. Hard-liners, however, are likely to keep tight control of how that happens. - Frud Bezhan (Oct 18, '13)

'Our' weaponized Wahhabi bastards
Weaponizing "our" Wahhabi bastards, as the United States is doing with the latest transfer of heavy metal to Saudi Arabia, provides a never-ending bonanza for the industrial-military complex. Yet there is a glitch to the cozy relationship: the House of Saudi has just won a two-year, rotating UN Security Council seat from which to launch heavily weaponized Arab princes at the rest of the world. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 18, '13)

Yemen teeters between hope and division
The collective triumph that ended the stranglehold of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his family in Yemen has never truly translated to a clear political victory. Recent demands in the south of the republic for secession from the north show that basic divisions have never healed and the hope of national unity remains an abstract idea. - Ramzy Baroud (Oct 18, '13)

Iran pushes ball into Western laps
There is no denying that the Geneva talks showcased a new level of Iranian commitment to untie the blind knot of nuclear standoff that has brought sanctions on Iran. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has succeeded in putting the diplomatic ball in Western laps, and much now depends on the White House's ability to deliver sanctions relief. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Oct 17, '13)

Geneva talks light spark for Iran deal
Reports of candid conversation in just-ended talks in Geneva have generated optimism for an end to the long-running impasse over Iran's nuclear program. Tehran's openness to giving international inspectors complete access to all parts of its nuclear fuel cycle sparks hope for a deal, though the lifting of sanctions remains a sticking point. - Kitty Stapp (Oct 17, '13)

Iran-US detente gives Israel,
Gulf states jitters

As hopeful statements about the nuclear talks in Geneva were issued from the Swiss city, foes of detente between Iran and the US were working overtime to persuade the White House not to ease sanctions until their maximalist demands have been met. Israel and the Gulf states are showing their concerns that a nuclear deal will help Iran re-emerge as a major power at their expense. - Jim Lobe (Oct 17, '13)

Turkey counters US's Middle East strategy
While Turkey appears to have isolated itself in the Middle East by protesting so vehemently against the US-Russian plan to destroy Syria's chemical weapons and over Egypt's bloody coup, Ankara's efforts to form a Turkish-Kurdish alliance could create a force that directly challenges US influence in the region. - Mohammad Pervez Bilgrami (Oct 16, '13)

Fear and loathing in House of Saud
An end to mistrust between the United States and Iran would slash energy prices and create huge trade opportunities. Benefits would show in combating Salafi-jihadis and on Afghanistan, and Washington could even pivot to Asia for real. No wonder Israel will fight an US-Iran agreement like the plague. As for the House of Saud and its shadow master Bandar bin Sultan, rapprochement would be nothing short of Apocalypse Now.- Pepe Escobar (Oct 11, '13)

A federal path to Middle East peace
Only an entirely new approach can overcome the intractable demographic and theocentric obstacles to peace between Israel and Palestine. The creation of a federal state would reconcile the opposing philosophical positions of the contestants. One new boundary could be drawn that sees Jewish nationalists meet their longstanding goal of realizing Eretz Israel; another could would encompass historical Palestine. - Wong Syuh-jeun (Oct 11, '13)

Iran official slams censorship policy
Iran's new culture minister has condemned the censorship policy of former prime minister Mahmud Ahmadinejad as arbitrary and ill-informed, following calls from some 200 writers, poets, and translators for him to the lift "draconian" rules. However, Ali Jannati, has said book censorship will continue because "problematic books can poison society". - Golnaz Esfandiari (Oct 11, '13)

Egypt's Sisi unruffled by US aid cut
US officials stress that freezing aid to Egypt's military for toppling elected president Mohammed Morsi is neither "punitive" nor intended to be diminish Cairo's status as strong security partner. Dismissed as "too little, too late", the cuts won't stop the regime from turning US "counter-terrorism" weapons against the opposition - and Gulf countries have anyway pledged to more than redress the balance.- Jim Lobe (Oct 11, '13)

America as a sidelined force
Russia's use of the United Nations to force the United States into accepting a diplomatic semi-solution over Syria's chemicals weapons underlines that a new era is underway in which America no longer controls the course of history. From the end of 1940s to the 1990s, Washington made the agenda for international relations. Now it finds itself on the sidelines. - Riccardo Dugulin (Oct 10, '13)

Syrians struggle with a life of sorts
Syrians in rebel-held areas are being forced to live a day-to-day existence that focus on avoiding sniper hotspots and dodging government shells, with fuel, Internet access and other aspects of normality running increasingly short. While Gulf countries are sending medical aid and there are defiant signs of commerce, the decline in healthcare and lack of bread will eventually take their toll. - Shelly Kittleson (Oct 10, '13)

Sarin a credible terrorism risk
Concerns over the consequences should Syria's chemical weapons fall into the hands of terrorists seem plausible given the very real efforts of al-Qaeda and its affiliates to build a toxic arsenal. However, jihadist organizations are weak technically in terms of weaponizing raw materials, and it's unlikely that any state - no matter how rogue - would risk the blowback from supplying them. - Weimeng Yeo (Oct 10, '13)

Military ties bind Israel and Kenya
The speed with which Israeli military advisers flew into Kenya to advise in negotiations during Al-Shabab's Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi underlines how economic ties the Jewish state nurtured with East African nations since the 1950s have evolved into strategic links. While African countries are happy to gain cutting-edge weaponry, an increasingly isolated Israel badly needs friends outside the Middle East. - Alvite Singh Ningthoujam (Oct 9, '13)

US neo-cons despair over Iran diplomacy
While some neo-conservatives are taking a harder line than others in urging Israel to follow through on its latest threats to attack Iran's nuclear facilities with or without US approval, they share despair that the Jewish state will be the big loser if hopes for detente between Washington and Tehran gather steam after next week's international meeting in Geneva over Iran's nuclear program. - Jim Lobe (Oct 9, '13)

Little hope for nuclear sparkle in Geneva
The aura of detente will sparkle when international powers and Iran get down to nuclear talks in Geneva next week. Yet despite recent confidence-building measures at the UN, the difference between the rhetoric and the sanctions relief that the West will actually bring to the table does not hold much promise for a pleasant nuclear surprise. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Oct 9, '13)

Moscow seeks full-spectrum US engagement
An element of the tectonic shift in Syria sees Free Syrian Army "moderates" engage Damascus in jaw, not war, as President Bashar al-Assad emerges as the only figure capable of rolling back the al-Qaeda. The growing strength of groups linked to al-Qaeda puts the US and Russia (and also Iran) on the same page, and presents an opportunity for the Kremlin to build on "common achievements" and focus White House eyes on fronts beyond Syria's civil war. - M K Bhadrakumar (Oct 4, '13)

After Syria, what's next for Obama?
US President Barack Obama - the stealth militarist who was about to wage war in Syria - must now fall from his high horse and become a man of peace. If his "hands off Syria" position slides into a morally vacuous position that more resembles "let them kill each other", it may become the purest expression of Islamophobia yet.- John Feffer (Oct 4, '13)

Pragmatic Rouhani senses limited options
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's measured interaction with the West, his respectable performance at the United Nations and his tweeted well-wishes to the Iranian Jewish minority have sustained expectations for change in his country, even as his actual scope to make changes is limited. Being more a pragmatist than a reformist, he is well aware of that, and of the need to keep the Supreme Leader on his side. - Shahram Akbarzadeh (Oct 3, '13)

Lost Cruise fears save Obama on Syria
US President Barack Obama's unexpected reversal on bombing Syria may have followed a Pentagon appraisal that the regime had obtained - through Russian sources - enough satellite jamming devices to divert "smart" missiles. This would have quickly turned a US strike into a humiliating display of weakness, leaving Obama with no option but to send precious fighter-bombers into Damascus's well-equipped air defense system. - Gregory Sinaisky (Oct 3, '13)

Iraq denies crackdown after jailbreak
Prisoners claim torture and murder are commonplace in two Iraqi jails following mass breakouts in July and allege that authorities are punishing prisoners "as if they were part of the conspiracy". While a crackdown could reflect government anger at how the escapes gave the opposition political mileage, officials deny meting out reprisals and say claims of inhuman treatment are exaggerated. - Rawa Haidar (Oct 3, '13)

Netanyahu pours scorn on Rouhani
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his turn at the UN General Assembly to dampen euphoria surrounding hopes for detente following Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's reception at the same podium last week. Netanyahu described Rouhani as a "wolf in sheep's clothing" and urged the US to keep up the sanctions pressure to "knock out Iran's nuclear weapons program". - Jim Lobe (Oct 2, '13)

Sisi can't break Egypt-Gaza bonds
The new Egyptian ruler's orders to destroy tunnels to Gaza and close the Rafah border are particularly painful for Palestinians who have long seen Egypt as the "mother" of Arab nations. Despite what modern regimes in Cairo such as General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi's do to please Washington and Tel Aviv, Palestinians and Egyptians share a historic bond that politics can't break. - Ramzy Baroud (Oct 2, '13)

Breaking American exceptionalism
What if the US government actually shut down to mourn the passing of Breaking Bad, arguably the most astonishing show in the history of television? It would be nothing short of poetic justice - as Breaking Bad is infinitely more pertinent for the American psyche than predictable cheap shots at Capitol Hill. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 1, '13)

Interrogating an Assad militiaman
Pro-government militamen or shabiha captured by rebel forces in Syria often admit to multiple killings and rapes, while claiming that poverty and violence coercion forced them to join the Assad regime's forces. Though shabiha are eager to make such confessions, telling all is unlikely to help them escape the rebels' brutal and rudimentary justice system. - Shelly Kittleson (Oct 1, '13)

A tectonic shift in the Middle East
As Israel and Gulf countries mull the implications a US nuclear deal with Iran, Tehran's allies are considering significance of the bonhomie for Iran's "axis of resistance". While it was domestic factors that eventually brought President Hassan Rouhani and President Barack Obama together, it is in the international arena that the dramatic shift will have its biggest impact. - Pervez Bilgrami (Oct 1, '13)

Obama moves on Iran, Putin keeps Syria
Russian triumphalism over the UN resolution on Syria's chemical weapons contrasts with US President Barack Obama's inaudible sigh of relief at the weekend that he can avoid military action - for the present at least - and focus on the feelgood Iran file. Yet amid celebrations that Washington and Moscow actually agree on something, a dark foreboding is simmering away. - M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 30, '13)

How the US is enabling Syriastan
The big news from Syria is how demented jihadis of Jabhat al-Nusra and other nasties have ditched US-supported "moderates" to pledge allegiance to a Syria with Sharia law. Follow the money, not Washington's fairytale belief in its ability to control disparate hardcore jihadi gangs, to shatter the myth that a "democratic" Syria is still in the making. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 27, '13)

The US-Iran wrestling match
Current negotiations between Iran and the United States may be best described from Tehran's perspective as a wrestling match. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is willing to show "flexibility" in order to win the overall competition, but has also laid out clear red lines for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to show no weakness or humility to the United States. - Alireza Nader (Sep 27, '13)

Iran's liberalism shifts with oil price
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's decision to allow moderates in Iran to participate and ultimately win an election reflects a sober realization of the economic situation on the ground, but also mirrors past liberal stints in Iran when diminished oil revenues provoked a jolt towards democracy. Disheartening for diplomacy, removing sanctions could simply reawaken cocksure, oppressive governance. - Amin Shahriar (Sep 26, '13)

Rouhani surfs the new WAVE
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came to the United Nations, listened "carefully" to US President Barack Obama officially recognize the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's fatwa against nuclear weapons - and then called for a global coalition for peace to replace coalitions for war - in effect a call for a World Against Violence and Extremism. Now for the heavy lifting ... - Pepe Escobar (Sep 25, '13)

US, Iran trade cautious overtures at UN
US President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani both put diplomatic cards on the table at the United Nations. The real action begins on Thursday in the nuclear arena, when US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meet for the highest-level formal encounter of the two countries since 1979. - Kitty Stapp (Sep 25, '13)

Why Obama needs a pen pal in Tehran
US media say Iranian President Hassan Rouhani offers a chance to break a cycle of successive US administrations trying their best to pull obstinate Iranian leaders towards democracy. The reality is that past approaches from Tehran were blocked because the Middle East balance of power was skewed in Washington's favor. Deft Russian diplomatic maneuvers have brought an end to that. - Ramzy Baroud (Sep 25, '13)

Optimists to fore before Iran-US encounter
Behind the historical brush between two presidents being lined up as an "accidental" encounter at the UN are deliberate signs of detente between the United States and Iran. Against a background of grumblings of appeasement, old hands are remarkably optimistic that some breakthrough in relations is possible after 34 years of hostility. - Jim Lobe (Sep 24, '13)

Zarif turbocharges Iran's diplomacy
New Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has a diplomatic marathon to run in New York this week, where the eyes of the world are on his country at the UN General Assembly. Zarif brings turbocharged energy to a portfolio that includes nuclear negotiations and the belief that it is time to tell the US that "the free lunch is over" on sanctions. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Sep 23, '13)

World reacts to Rouhani's no nuclear pledge
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's comments that his government would never develop nuclear weapons were welcomed by US Secretary of State John Kerry with the caveat that "everything needs to be put to the test", and lauded by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. To Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the pledge was an attempt to deceive the world. (Sep 20, '13)

Syria diplomacy helps shuffle global order
The United States has lost the respect and the belief of the international community as power gradually diffuses on a global scale. That is one lesson to be learned from US President Barack Obama's failure to gain followers to attack Syria. Another is the striking influence of grassroots opinion on international policy, not seen since the Vietnam War. - George Gao (Sep 20, '13)

Obama-Rouhani: lights, camera, action
Though a meeting with Barack Obama at the UN next Tuesday is by no means certain, it's well-established that the stage is set for President Hassan Rouhani's administration to talk directly to Washington about Tehran's nuclear program. The question is whether Obama will have the "heroic flexibility" to face 34 years of history and stare down the spoilers. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 19, '13)

Israel, eying Iran, comes off Syria fence
A statement by Israel's ambassador to the US, Michael Oran, makes clear Tel Aviv's preference for the "bad guys" fighting Bashar al-Assad (rather than the "bad guys" who now run Syria). The timing of the pronouncement of support for US-backed forces signals further twists in the Syrian civil war, and focuses minds on the possibility of a grand bargain between Washington and Tehran. - Victor Kotsev (Sep 18, '13)

Arab society fails to grasp its destiny
Oil wealth has blinded Arab populations to how Western nations have manipulated them into decades of subservience to authoritarian rule. As obsolete rulers are overthrown by their own people, the dismantling of social, economic and institutional infrastructure will open the path to a complete take-over by foreign masters. - Mahboob A Khawaja (Sep 18, '13)

Collaborators open door to the devil
The willingness of lackeys to pander to the West has undermined the global South from colonial until present times, with ministers from Iraq to Libya turning to "the winning side" only to usher in chaos and oppression. Syria is the latest stage for collaborationists who have such contempt for their own people that they cannot imagine local solutions to local problems. - Hafsa Kara-Mustapha (Sep 18, '13)

UN confirms Syria gas attack, not culpability
UN arms inspectors have reached a predictable conclusion about the military attack on civilians in Syria last month: the deadly strike had all the trappings of the widespread use of chemical weapons. While Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups point the finger at each other and the West and Russia squabble, the UN remit was not to apportion blame. - Thalif Deen (Sep 17, '13)

The Middle East and its elemental descent
While America's military complex dreams of ethnic bio-weapons, a larger evil looming for the Middle East is the shepherding and tactical withholding of water as a weapon of mass destruction. As game-changing, elemental realities take over, the rationals of statehood, religion and politics will quickly succumb to more natural inclinations. - Norman Ball (Sep 17, '13)

Putin does Americans a Middle East favor
Many Americans were enraged when Vladimir Putin blamed US exceptionalism and interventionism for the US's long-term decline. Yet by helping to avert another costly strike in the Middle East that would only ensure Israel's military and political supremacy, the Russian president has likely done the American people a huge favor. - Ramzy Baroud (Sep 17, '13)

Obama invites Rouhani to join great game
Direct US-Iranian talks are on after a three-decade freeze, with US President Barack Obama's disclosure of personal contact with Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, to bring Tehran into the matrix on Syria. Obama sees a major role for Iran in peace talks, while pushing Russia to the periphery on all but the destruction of its Damascus ally's chemical weapons cache. - M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 16, '13)

Politics worsen Turkey's faultlines
Instead of responding with compromise to the national divisions made clear by a summer of anti-government protests, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party continues to excuse all by pointing to its strong electoral mandate. Such a strategy will likely alienate all but pro-government supporters, yet the opposition can seemingly reply only with belligerent rhetoric. - Ozan Serdaroglu (Sep 16, '13)

Syria's looming economic disaster
Syria's civil war has devastated the country's economy, wrecked its infrastructure and sent the local currency into freefall. No matter the war's outcome, absent funds, professionals and political will to do what is necessary for recovery, the outlook is bleak. - Artem Perminov (Sep 16, '13)

Bitter memories stir Tehran
Iran's bitter experience with chemical weapons in the 1980s highlights a common concern with Western powers over their alleged deployment by the Assad regime. Tehran likely views the Assad government - its closest ally in the regional "resistance front" against Israel - as a liability. Ultimately, neither it nor Washington want to see Sunni extremists grasp power. - Alireza Nader (Sep 16, '13)

China stitches up (SCO) Silk Rd
Oh, to eavesrop at the weekend meeting of presidents Xi, Putin, and Rouhani as they craft a new multipolar international order. Before the private meeting at Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, China's Xi Jinping's lyrical praise has highlighted the strategic importance to the new order of Central Asian silk roads. Beneath the shine, Beijing is busy building a multifaceted network that is the stuff of threadbare American dreams. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 13, '13)

Paving the way for the Road to Damascus
What Syria is really about involves water rights, pipelines, nation-state reconfigurations, militarized economies ... and on, and on. Somewhere well down the list are chemical weapons (perhaps), but these suit war-waging, propaganda-propounding elites. In the face of their criminal and deadly simplifications, it's high time we restored fear-mongering in America to its rightful place as a privilege that must be earned. - Norman Ball (Sep 13, '13)

Putin eyes Obama's Iran file
As even Fox News says Vladimir Putin deserves a Nobel prize for the "deft diplomatic maneuvers" that handed his struggling American counterpart a Kremlin-embossed way out of the Syrian crisis, the Russian president has set his sights on a move that would up the ante for a gong: taking another dog-eared file out of Barack Obama's hands and turning it into a Moscow-backed peace plan for Iran. - M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 13, '13)

How oil poisoned Gulf governance
Collaborative Colonialism: The Political Economy of Oil in the Persian Gulf by Hossein Askari
Given the "collaborative colonialism" relationship between Western powers and Arab countries, with callous, often corrupt, regimes backed militarily in return for secure oil supplies, Askari sees little motivation for Gulf countries to improve governance despite increasingly restive populations. His suggestion of intergenerational oil funds as an alternative reflects a compassion for the region that runs throughout the book - Robert E Looney (Sep 13, '13)

Ramallah and Gaza drift further apart
The cultural and economic distance between the geographically close Palestinian cities of Gaza and Ramallah underlines a fragmentation of national identity that has deepened since the Oslo accords. While the same issues affect Palestinians today as they did 20 years ago - from illegal settlements to US backing of Israel - unity around the cause is absent. - Ramzy Baroud (Sep 13, '13)

Enemy whose name we dare not speak
Regardless of diplomatic attempts to delay an attack on Syria, the United States' objective has nothing to do with chemical weapons and everything to do with wiping out the last independent states in the Middle East. Barack Obama accepted the war crimes of the Pentagon of his predecessor, George W Bush, and militarism camouflaged as democracy. (Sep 12, '13)

Cheers and jeers greet Obama's bear hug
President Barack Obama's decision to embrace a Russian proposal to place Damascus' chemical-weapons arsenal under international control and delay a congressional vote on the use of military force against Syria has brought praise and condemnation from across the political spectrum. - Jim Lobe (Sep 12, '13)

Al-Qaeda's air force still on stand-by
It was 12 years ago today that, according to the official narrative, Arabs with minimal flying skills turned jets into missiles to attack the US homeland in the name of al-Qaeda. 9/11 elevated them to Ultimate Evil status. Twelve years on, the President of the United States wriggles on a Syrian hook, and the amorphous "al-CIAeda" eagerly awaits the US Air Force to clear the road to Damascus. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 11, '13)

Putin lures Obama towards engagement
Barack Obama has put the Syrian ball in the Russian court as Moscow fleshes out its detailed plan to neutralize Syria's chemical weapons. The shift from a war-footing offers the prospect of new cooperation extending to issues including Iran, and confirmation of Russian President Vladimir Putin's shrewd handling of the crisis. More immediately, the United States president can expect the hawks to pick him apart. - M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 11, '13)

Syria attack stuck in fog-shrouded limbo
The fog of war over Syria is so dense that even now it is not clear whether President Barack Obama is truly serious about directly joining the conflict there or serious about staying out of it. One thing is certain: at least 110,000 have died to date and come diplomacy or air strikes - or anything else, for that matter - there are few signs that the carnage will abate any time soon.- Victor Kotsev (Sep 11, '13)

Nerve gas flashbacks hit Iran, Iraq
While traumatized Iraqi Kurdish survivors of Saddam Hussein's chemical weapon attacks say the use of poison gas in Syria should invite international retribution, Iranian survivors of a similarly deadly strike during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war are more skeptical over America's motivations. Had the world taken either tragedy seriously, perhaps they wouldn't have been repeated. - Golnaz Esfandiari (Sep 11, '13)

After Syria, six countries still at large
If Syria agrees to accept the US-Russia proposal to abandon its weapons under the Chemical Weapons Convention, six other countries will still be outside the treaty. Myanmar and Israel have signed but not ratified, while Angola, North Korea, Egypt, and South Sudan are in the same situation as Syria in having neither signed nor ratified the convention. - Thalif Deen (Sep 11, '13)

Lavrov gambit checks Washington
The joys of the geopolitical chessboard: Russia throwing a lifeline to save Barack Obama from his self-spun "red line" on Syria. By forwarding a two-step proposal on Bashar al-Assad giving up its nerve gas, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov outplayed Washington, though his move is not a checkmate; it is a gambit, meant to prevent the US from becoming al-Qaeda's air force, at least for now. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 10, '13)

Intrigue surrounds Obama's intel
The intelligence summary on last month's chemical attack in Syria released by the Barack Obama administration on August 30 did not represent an intelligence community assessment. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's refused to endorse the document - presumably because it was too obviously an exercise in "cherry picking" to support a decision for war. - Gareth Porter (Sep 10, '13)

Kerry becomes first war casualty
The strain of defending an indefensible brief to push for a US military strike on Syria is beginning to show as US Secretary of State John Kerry performs taxing diplomatic acrobats. As gaffe piles upon gaffe, the United States is being forced to consider the merits of Russia's proposal for Syria to hand over chemical weapons. It's time for a contorting President Barack Obama to step up to the bar. - M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 10, '13)

Papal challenge rocks US's Syria plans
Pope Francis' case against a military solution in Syrian crisis cut deep to the Christian core of United States' governance, and the Holy See can count on the support of European countries made skeptical by the collapse of US-backed revolutions in Egypt and Libya. The pope's calls could grow into a historic opportunity for the Vatican to regain a global political role. - Francesco Sisci (Sep 10, '13)

The (farcical) emperor is naked
The threatened US attack on Syria is not about ''strong common sense'', as the White House puts it. Is about farce built upon farce built upon farce, not least the ''credibility'' farce starring the Obama administration, caught in its own self-spun net woven of recklessly created ''red lines''. The pesky ''world'' is not buying it. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 9, '13)

Diplomacy offers route out of chemical crisis
Diplomatic bargaining is more likely to cool the chemical weapons crisis in Syria than military strikes with a high risk of blowback. If Damascus' allies can pressure it into signing the Chemical Weapons Convention, this could lead to benefits for regional stability such as Israel abandoning the nuclear opacity that motivated Syria to build up its chemical stockpile in the first place. - David Lowry and Gordon Thompson (Sep 9, '13)

Putin eyes Syrian abyss for the US
While Russian President Vladimir Putin has publicly compared a US war on Syria to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, privately he's likely thinking of the Soviets' 1980s conflict in Afghanistan. By refusing to send troops to Damascus but providing it with sophisticated weapons, Putin can ensure the US is dragged into a protracted war that bleeds its money and credibility dry. - Ahmed E Souaiaia (Sep 9, '13)

Dogs of war versus the emerging caravan
While China and Russia pulled up at the G-20 caravanserai to re-enact the spirit of the Silk Road, the dogs of war were baying for blood outside. "Yes We Can" bomb Syria, barked US President Barack "Red Line" Obama. To which the emerging-powers caravan threw him an old bone, "It's the (global) economy, stupid", and kept on trucking. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 6, '13)

Syria crisis yet to derail Iran nuclear talks
The appointment of Iran's Western-educated Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as lead nuclear negotiator will add to the growing conviction in Washington that it can work with Tehran to resolve concerns over Iran's atomic program. In such a climate, any US action in Syria would be more likely to delay than derail international talks. - Jasmin Ramsey (Sep 6, '13)

West's wars of choice target the weak
The defining feature of the brutality that has become a hallmark of Western behavior in the Middle East is its cowardly nature, as the UK vote against military action in Syria shows; that it finds it much safer to attack countries lacking effective deterrents. Wars of choice are waged against the weak and isolated. Libya and Iraq were both of these things; Syria is neither. - Dan Glazebrook (Sep 6, '13)

The dark heart of West's Iran obsession
A Dangerous Delusion: Why the West Is Wrong About Nuclear Iran by Peter Oborne and David Morrison
Using concise research, this work argues that Iran's readiness to accept monitoring and lack of weapons-grade uranium enrichment make a mockery of Western hype over a supposed nuclear program threatening the security of Israel and Gulf states. Its only questionable conclusion is that the US wants to prevent Iran from becoming a major Middle East power. - Peter Jenkins (Sep 6, '13)

Traps on the road towards barbarism
The downfall of the Soviet Union created a psychological trap for the West - that of a belief in invincibility. This is seen in the manner in which it is trying in Syria to present power as moral responsibility to protect. Convinced that advanced weapons are a guarantee of its security, the West has accepted barbarism and developed contempt for civilized behavior. - Nicholas A Biniaris (Sep 6, '13)

What does a 'two-state solution' mean?
As the United States takes pains to work out a ''two-state'' solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Secretary of State John Kerry, like his predecessors, appears to have overlooked one key question: What is a "state"? Absent an appropriate answer, his efforts, like those that have gone before, are doomed to failure. (Sep 5, '13)

Pro-Israel groups mix Iran into Syria debate
The powerful Israel lobby has taken the lead in pressing the United States Congress to authorize military action against Syria. But in addition to saying that Damascus must be punished for alleged violations of international norms against chemical weapons, pro-Israel groups are focusing their appeals on stopping what they say is Iran's nuclear-weapons program. - Jim Lobe (Sep 5, '13)

The re-politicization of violent conflict
Violence and conflict in the Cold War era seemed to fit into clear categories of interpretation: East versus West, or imperialist aggression. At first the aftermath saw conflicts involving ethnic groups and the formation of small states, now superseded in a more globalized yet fragmented world with politicized communities seeking influence amid the world order. - Andreas Herberg-Rothe (Sep 5, '13)

Obama dips toe in Syrian Rubicon
For the first time through the two-year old Syrian conflict, and against all expectations, the United States has mentioned the necessity of its commander-in-chief having the option to put "boots on the ground". Whether Barack Obama ends up deploying troops in Syria, the demarche that he should have such a choice underscores that iron has entered into the president's soul.
- M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 4, '13)

How Assad keeps the upper hand
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is well aware of the post-Iraq syndrome which sees Western powers unable to commit to any serious extent in the Middle East, and knows he can count on Iran, Hezbollah and Russia's support. Since Assad has the strategic upper hand in the conflict, by starting a "limited war" Washington will merely put Israel in the firing line. - Riccardo Dugulin (Sep 4, '13)

Lousy game theory in Syria
Rather than convince tinpot dictators of the West's moral or military superiority, all the mooted attack on Syria will achieve is an acceleration in nuclear weapons programs of countries ranging from Egypt and Iran to Turkey. But for the West this is a Mount Everest moment - for once it must act simply due to expediency rather than strategy or humanitarian aims. - Chan Akya (Sep 4, '13)

Splintered Damascus holds its breath
For some in the concrete-block ringed center of Damascus, the Syrian capital is a golden cage amid tight security and the sound of artillery on the outskirts. By contrast, restive working class suburbs such as Saida Zainb are battlegrounds between the government and the opposition. They are united only by tense anticipation as the US administration intensifies the pressure for an attack that some residents say is unthinkable. - Karlos Zurutuza (Sep 4, '13)

Palestine talks doomed to repeat history
That Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas readily returned to peace talks despite a lethal Israeli raid on a Jerusalem refugee camp underlines the asymmetric nature of the current negotiation process. Abbas' acquiescence to sweeping concessions echoes previous attempts to secure peace. - Ramzy Baroud (Sep 4, '13)

The indispensable
(bombing) nation

The indispensable nation that drenched North Vietnam with napalm and agent orange, showered Fallujah with white phosphorus and large swathes of Iraq with depleted uranium is getting ready to attack Syria based on extremely dodgy evidence and the "moral high-ground". Anyone who believes the White House's pre-bombing maximum spin should rent a condo in Alice in Wonderland. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 3, '13)

Obama challenges pathology of power
US President Barack Obama's decision to seek congressional approval before using military force against Syria has been dismissed by his opponents as symptomatic of a lame duck presidency, even "red lines" turning to a "yellow streak". But as he veers from a gun-ho path, he is challenging the pathology of presidential power. - Dallas Darling (Sep 3, '13)

ATol Specials

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

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

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

Nir Rosen goes inside the Iraqi resistance

Nir Rosen rides with the US 3rd Armored Cavalry in western Iraq

Islamism, fascism and terrorism

by Marc Erikson


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