Syria, Israel, Iran

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A striking feature of recent developments over Syria is that US congressional and public opinion appears not to have been much influenced by an intensive campaign by the Israeli lobby led by AIPAC to make the administration stand by its earlier determination to use force in Syria. This is unprecedented in recent years. Since it appears to reflect …

The Geneva talks

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While fighting continues in Syria the US/Russian talks, about to enter a third day, deal with two related problems. The first is Syria's chemical weapons; President Bashar al-Asad has agreed that they should be disposed of, but the technical, military and political problems are daunting, and disposal while a civil war is in progress is unprecedented. The second …

Israel and Saudi Arabia: unlikely partners

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The stagnant and relatively predictable Middle East scene of recent years has been rudely disturbed, following the Arab Spring, by the election of an Iranian president who appears to seek a more conciliatory policy towards both the Arab world and the wider world, the unpredictability of post-Mubarak Egypt, the end of Sunni domination in Iraq …

Israel: a villa in the jungle

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In an article in the Guardian of 20 August  the Israeli journalist Aluf Benn describes the normality of life in Israel contrasting with a deadly crackdown on protests in Egypt, civil war in Syria, car bombs in Lebanon, a refugee crisis in Jordan and sectarian war in Iraq. Israel has never appeared so …

Lebanon and Israel

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On 7 August an explosion near al-Labouneh on the Israeli-Lebanese border injured several Israeli soldiers. UNIFIL has opened an investigation. The area has been mainly quiet since the 2006 war, but history shows that the combination of lack of trust, militarisation of the area, aggressive tactics and lack of agreement about the border can produce retaliation and counter-retaliation …

The Palestine negotiations

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With peace talks due to begin the Israeli cabinet is reported to have authorised extra subsidies for a number of Jewish settlements, including three formerly classified as "illegal outposts" that were recognised last year, Bruchin, Rachelim and Sansana. Hanan Ashrawi of the PLO described the move today 4 August as a confidence-destruction measure. The Prime Minister's spokesman Mark …

Kerry announces talks

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The US Secretary of State John Kerry announced on 19 July as he concluded his sixth quickfire visit to the region that “we have reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis…If everything goes as expected, Saeb Erekat and Tzipi Livni, Minister Livni, and Isaac Molho [an Israeli lawyer, Netanyahu’s envoy for peace talks] will be joining me in Washington to begin initial talks within the next week or so”. This follows a three-year period during which …

Sinai

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The peninsula, largely desert and containing areas of impassable mountains, separates Egypt of the Nile Valley from the countries of the Levant. It is Egyptian territory and has a population of about half a million, largely Bedouin tribes. On the eastern side it borders Israel and Gaza. The southern part of the peninsula, physically divided by desert and mountains from the North, has become a major tourist destination containing both biblical Mount and Saint Catherine’s monastery and the seaside resorts around Sharm al-Shaikh. Northern has long been an …