Category Archives: Arab Spring

Kurdish Studies Scholars’ Statement of Solidarity and Call for Action to Support Kobani

Source: Reuters

The humanitarian crisis caused by the Islamic State (IS) continues to terrorize and displace hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East. The autonomous canton of Kobani is now bearing the brunt of the IS’s attacks as the international community has mostly been watching. The city has been under siege for three weeks. Despite fierce resistance by the defenders of the town, the advance of the IS forces towards Kobani is threatening to set off another massacre similar to that of Shengal. As scholars working on issues related to the Kurds and other peoples of Kurdistan, we are profoundly concerned about yet another imminent humanitarian crisis and stand in solidarity with the people of Kobani. We urgently call on the coalition forces against the IS and the broader international community to take immediate action to prevent an impending disaster by supporting the Kurds in their fight for self-defense. Continue reading

The Rise of Iran

Source: Reuters

One could be led to believe that it all started in 2013 with the election of Hassan Rouhani to the presidency of Iran. Rouhani, along with his moderate and reformist agenda, bore much optimism among Western countries that Iran might shift direction towards a more pragmatic and less anti-Western foreign policy. But this was not what put Iran to the epicenter of the Middle East and international politics.

Iran’s increasing influence and rising role in the broader region has been prompted by three main developments: a) the Iraq war of 2003; b) the withdrawal of the American troops from Iraq by 2011; c) and the failure of Western policies in the case of Syria’s civil war in conjunction with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (henceforth, ISIS). Rouhani and the new round of negations about Iran’s nuclear program are only “the cherry on the pie.” Continue reading

Book Review: The Arab Spring, Democracy and Security: Domestic and International Ramifications, Efraim Inbar (ed)

book reviewTo offer analysis on an on-going political event is always a challenging task. Yet, the “Arab Spring” has given rise to many questions about the past, the present and the future of the Arab world and the Middle East more generally. The Arab Spring, Democracy and Security: Domestic and International Ramifications addresses some of these questions. The chapters of this edited volume have been written by selected Israeli scholars focusing on “issues such as democratization, the role of economic factors in political change and explanations for variations in regime stability in the Middle East.” The relationship between internal and external politics is also explored while special emphasis is given to the impact of the “Arab Spring” on Israel and its neighbourhood.

Read the rest of this book review in the Journal of Conflict Transformation and Security.

Egypt Military-Backed Gov’t Takes Decisions that Would Sustain its Own Role – Expert [Interview with Z.T.]

Egypt has lifted its three-month state of emergency on Tuesday. The measure would mean an end to night-time curfews that choked economic life in the country. The court decision comes amid continued protests across the country. Meanwhile, the government edges a step closer to passing a law on demonstrations that the opposition says could be a new way to curb protests. Zenonas Tziarras, Teaching Assistant at the University of Warwick and Junior Research Scholar at the think-tank “Strategy International”, Greece, shared his insight in the situation in Egypt in an interview with the VoR. Continue reading

A Note on the Socio-Political Importance of Events in Egypt

The unfolding events in Egypt, which initially started with the break out of the revolt in 2011, are very important in terms of their social and political impact. Particularly important are not the events themselves, but rather the dynamics and prospects which have been developed through them, both at the domestic and the regional level.

To begin with, it is today clear that the social turmoil of 2011 was not a revolution which brought about systemic changes to Egypt’s political scene, but rather a revolt with limited political and ideological cohesion and goals.[i] Yet, the second, and more massive, revolt of the summer of 2013, which also led to the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, is indicator of an important fact: The Egyptian society is currently at a point of rupture of the historical cycle during which it had become de-politicized through imposed top-down policies. It is undergoing a process of re-politicization and it is gradually realizing its rights and power; and thus the refusal of the masses to accept the governance of a Muslim Brotherhood that did not meet their demands. Continue reading

The Thoughtlessness of the Intervention Advocates – Syria (revisited)

Author’s Note: The following article, titled “The Thoughtlessness of the Intervention Advocates – Syria,” was published by Al Yunaniya on June 16th, 2012. It makes the case against an intervention in Syria. Sadly, more than one year later things have remained largely the same in terms of the Western stance and rhetoric vis-à-vis the Syrian crisis. Once again, at a crucial juncture it seems that the “International Community” (admittedly dominated by Western countries) is contemplating an intervention in Syria. Wrongfully, in this author’s opinion, the debate revolves around legalistic, tactic-related, and grand strategy arguments. Even more problematic is the effort to exploit a “moralistic” pretext, such as the use of chemical weapons, to the accomplishment of immoral ends – related to international, economic and geopolitical interests. In this respect the International Crisis Group report was absolutely right to point out that should an intervention is decided, it would be undertaken “for reasons largely divorced from the interests of the Syrian people.” And that is all that matters.

Let us and the international society not fool ourselves: The International Community, NATO, and even individual countries willing to get involved in an intervention in Syria – be it authorized by the UN or not – will comprise a coalition of national and international elites completely dissociated from the intentions and interests of the public opinion and, even worse, dissociated from the interests of the Syrian people. Any effort of political communication by (inter)national leaders in favor of an intervention in Syria advocating that the operations would be “surgical” and that there would be benefits rather than new problems for the Syrians is largely misleading. Continue reading

A Note on the Escalation of the Syrian Crisis

It has been reported that Israel conducted two airstrikes in Syria in the last few days. It is also said that these airstrikes targeted military facilities and equipment that was destined for Hezbollah. After a Syrian official called Israel’s attack “a declaration of war”, many speak of a turning point in the Syrian crisis and a war between Syria and Israel.

Things are both simple and complicated at the same time. This is indeed a turning point in the crisis not so much because of what Syrian officials have stated but because Israel’s actions demonstrated that the security risk stemming from Syria just reached the point where regional powers cannot remain unresponsive; it is within this framework that we should also evaluate Turkish Prime Minister’s remarks that Assad will pay for the deaths of thousands in Syria. This in turn means that as long as the Syrian regime escalates the violence and its cooperation with militant groups, such as Hezbollah, we will witness an increase in such actions/attacks. Continue reading