Afghanistan: the Taliban and the endgame

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Negotiations between the US and President Karzai’s government are still held up on the issue of jurisdiction over American troops remaining in Afghanistan. The Taliban leader Mullah Omar is reported by NBC to have renewed his call for a boycott of next year’s elections until US troops leave. Speaking on his behalf the Talban leader and cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz said attacks on Muslims and innocent people were contrary to Islam but suicide attacks on NATO forces were justified; clerics opposed to the US …

A view from Washington

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Exceptionally we circulate below a single item, an address by former US ambassador Chas Freeman to the 22nd  Annual Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference last week in Washington. His curriculum vitae is that of an archetypal Washington insider, Yale and Harvard Law School followed by a remarkable career in foreign service, beginning as a China specialist but including …

Egypt: out of the headlines

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The death toll from a shooting attack on a Coptic Christian wedding ceremony in the working-class Giza district of al-Warraq has increased to five (the latest to die is reported to be a Muslim). A policeman was killed at a military checkpoint at al-Arish in northern Sinai. The curfew has again been reduced and is …

Saudi Arabia: rebooting?

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Statements by the Saudi head of intelligence Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former head of intelligence Prince Turki bin Faisal and the Saudi ambassador to the UN Abdullah bin al-Mu’allimi following the Saudi decision not to take up its seat on the Security Council emphasise disappointment with American policy over Palestine, Egypt, Syria and Iran. A long

Yemen: murder and hunger

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Since 2002 Yemen has been subjected to assassination of suspected al-Qa’ida terrorists by US drones as part of the "Global War on Terror". At a joint press conference on 22 October Human Rights Watch released a report on drone attacks in Yemen and Amnesty International a parallel report on drone attacks in Pakistan. …

Syria and sectarianism

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The situation inside Syria remains grim, and the prospects for a political settlement almost equally so. The Friends of Syria group, US, UK, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Italy, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and UAE are to meet in London with elements of the Syrian opposition to prepare for the Geneva II conference which may or may not take …

Change in the Arab world

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Following the two articles circulated with our 19 October posting "Arab Cities" another Emirati commentator Abdulkhaleq Abdulla of Emirates University writes on the Al Monitor website  that "Khaleeji Cities Are The Present and the Future". Describing Doha as the de facto diplomatic capital of the Arab world, and dismissing Cairo as "near shambles", Beirut …

Saudi Arabia and the Security Council

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Following the Saudi decision not to make the customary national presentation at the UN General Assembly, the unprecedented decision not to accept a place on the Security Council nevertheless took everyone by surprise, a move more characteristic of the late Muammar al-Qadhafi’s occasional cries of "stop the world I want to get off" than of …

Arab cities

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We circulate below two articles published on the Al Monitor website, both by young journalists from the Gulf (Emirates and Oman). The first describes the emergence of the Gulf states as dynamic centres on the world stage eclipsing the old of Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut. The second argues that they are scarcely more than “cities of salt”, dependent on foreign culture and foreign workers, making no organic contribution to the Arab world and producing few if any “literary giants, scientists, academics or innovators”. To an older observer …

Iran: talks going alarmingly well

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The P5 +1 (or E3 +3) talks with Iran in Geneva appear to have gone well. According to a brief joint statement by Catherine Ashton of the EU and the Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Zarif, Iran presented a plan as a basis for negotiation which is being carefully considered and was followed by …