Poison gas: a world policeman – or not?

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Following rapid developments in London, Washington and Paris on the issue of military action in Syria, President Obama has pressed the pause button by referring the matter to Congress without recalling it for an emergency session; the debates are expected to take place on 9 September, so after the G 20 summit in …

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: Hizbullah versus al-Qa’ida?

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A car bomb in the Shia southern suburb of Beirut Bir al-Abed on 9 July wounded over 50 people. On 15 August a second probable car bomb in Dahieh also a Shia area close to the Sayyid al-Shuhada complex where Hizbullah often holds mass rallies killed 22 people and injured at least 300 according to the Lebanese …

America: love and hate

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America is both loved and hated in the Arab world and Iran. Loved for the progress it stands for including material development and non-material values from education to accountable government, hated for its political and military interventions nearly always ending in tears through the law of unintended consequences. In this it follows after the European imperialist powers …

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 …

Closing embassies

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On 4 August the State Department spokeswoman announced the closure of 19 US embassies and consulates, mostly in the Middle East "out of an abundance of caution", adding that "This is not an indication of a new threat stream, merely an indication of our commitment to exercise caution." On 9 August she said 18 would reopen on 11 August. …

Qatar: no U-turns, no surprises

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Since our posting of 2 July Qatar under the new ruling Amir Tamim bin Hamad has taken no striking initiatives, though it has shown no sign of withdrawing from the forward foreign policies of the previous Amir Hamad bin Khalifa. Today 31 July the Amir received in his Palace Ahmad al-Jarba, president of the National Coalition …

Hizbullah: tiling the sea

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Our posting of 11 June outlined the formation of Hizbullah in the early 1980s to resist the Israeli occupation and the two roles it now claims, championing the Shia in Lebanese politics and defending Lebanon against Israeli aggression. It plays its part in the Lebanese Parliament and in national politics, and is giving military support to the …

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 …

Jordan: the impact of Egypt

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Well over half a million refugees from Syria are placing an enormous burden on Jordan’s resources. This follows the impact of refugees from Iraq after the 2003 invasion, reportedly about three quarters of a million (Jordan’s population is just over 6 million). Events in Egypt have had no such physical impact, but the political impact …