Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Middle East Timeline of Events

Want to keep up to date with everything that's happened and is happening in the Middle East? Click here for a full comprehensive and easy to navigate timeline. Read more...


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Syrian Uprisings: Reasons

With human rights groups saying that more than 60 people have been killed so far suring the Syrian uprisings, what exactly are the Syrian people, ruled by an Alawite minority, uprising against?

For full details on the protests in Deraa and other Syrian towns, click here.
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Analysis on Middle East Revolutions

A massive change is occurring throughout the Middle East and it is far from clear how the geo-political world will look once the dust has settled. Furthermore, in a region so rich in oil and yet so poor in democratic process or infrastructure, the western world is right to wonder what will be the outcome of these revolutions - democratisation for long suffering peoples or further radicalisation?

It is clear why the revolutions are taking place. Organised and carried out mainly by a large majority of young people who feel frustrated at lack of job security, social safety nets, basic freedoms of speech and movement as well as a lack of the dignity of clear governance, the people have finally had enough. What is not clear however is where these revolutions are headed and to what end. What is more, although these revolutions have been primarily inward facing, the concerns in Israel for how this will affect her, despite Israel's general long held belief that a democartic Middle East will improve prospects for peace and stability in the region, are strong.

The first major revolution we saw, shortly after Tunisia, was in Egypt. After 30 years of rule by Mubarak, the 80m strong Egyptian people finally stood up and hit back. Egypt however, a bastion of stability and a 'Moderate' leader in the region, is seen by Israel to be a taste case for the others to come. Sharing a 150 mile border with Israel across the Sinai, Egpyt is at the heart of the Arab world and is traditionally the sign of emerging trends, as the birthplace of the authoritarian military rule, Pan-Arabism Islam and now the revolt against dictatorship. After the 1973 yom Kippur War, supporting strongly by the US, Egypt lead the way in the signing of Peace Treaties with Israel that was shortly followed by a treaty with Jordan, both of which have stood the test of time and removed the threat of war between Israel and the strongest Arab military force.

Despite the military forces who have taken over the interim governance of Egypt following the ousting of Mubarak in January, Israelis still have reason for concern as to what lies ahead for the future of its peace treaty with Egypt. For one, although the peace treaty was kept in spirit, it was far from taken on board by the Egyptian people. One thing this revolution has called into question indeed is that peace treaties can be made with governments but to really be considered solid they need to also be made with the people themselves. As Egpyt took a strong position in coordinating Israeli-Palestinian relations, security and the peace process, the new regime may well look differently upon this. Whether the new government feels the same is very much up in the air.

Secondly, there is already a dangerous deterioration of security in the Sinai with the Egyptian police not monitoring the activities going on there as much as they did under Mubarak. Indeed, there has already been a sabotage on February 5th on the Egypt-Jordan natural gas pipeline with delays in it being re-installed (suggesting the delays were of a political nature as well as logistical) as well as attempted attacks on the gas pipeline that supplies gas from Egypt to Israel. This calls into question the future of commercial and business considerations between Israel and Egypt that will be determined by Egypt's foreign policy.

so what does this mean for the West and the International community as a whole? Although the US and Europe could not control much of what happened during the revolution itself, they can however have a major impact on what happens following it. With the US already supplying large amounts of military aid to Egypt, it should be looking, along with Europe due to its own economic deficit, to provide Egypt with the necessary tools to build its democratic infrastructure and institutions. The EU is in a good position to improve and upgrade its commitments to Egypt in economic reform and investments as already laid out in the EU-Egypt Action Plan of 2007.

In the wider context the revolution in Egypt took place at a time of weakening of te pragmatic Arab leadership lead by Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well as Jordan and the Palestinian Authority with many splits dividing their strength and unity against the more radical Shiite entity of Iran. Furthermore, there is an increasingly prominent view of the US's weakness in the region with regards to its influence and power.
in its place, the void was filled by more radical forces such as Iran, as is currently being seen in Iraq as the Americans come closer to withdrawing in the not too distant future, as well as on-the-fence states such as Turkey, Qatar and Syria who have positioned themselves as in-betweeners and hold much influence in the region enabling them to play one side off against the other.

In order to not allow these more pragmatic and moderate regimes, such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan, to fall, the internaitonal communtiy needs to show more support and involvment in bolstering them and their governments to ensure revolution does not break out there too. Furthermore, the west needs to get more involved in the transition process in general in those countries which are currently going through dramatic change.

As we watch the events in Libya unfold, it is crucial that the international community does not allow Ghaddafi's forces to win the battle for this will surely dishearten other potential revolutions that are boiling in places like Syria and even Iran. In contrast, autocratic rulers will interpret Ghaddafi's victory as evidence that the only way to suppress such potential revolutions is with violent and brute force in the knowledge that the West will unlikely intervene in fear of another failure.

As for the Peace process, there is strong debate in Israel over whether now is the time for renewal of it and trying to bring it back to life or to wait until the regional pieces of the jugsaw have fallen into place and they know who is who. The concern of starting the process again is whether there is enough stability to ensure that any potential agreement is sustainable.

Israeli PM, Bibi Netanyahu seems to have finally decided that the former option is more favourable as waiting for the regional outcome entails too much risk. To further delay the renewal of the process is only likely to encourage frustration from the Palestinians and strengthen the calls for self-declaration of a Palestinian State and the isolation of Israel in the public arena. In addition, with the current wave of uprisings taking place in the region, Palestinians may well be encouraged to undertake another popular uprising/Intifada and lead to further escalation and move away from the more pragmatic approach of round the table talks. The EU should sieze on this opportunity to support the Palestinians in bringing them back to the table and setting agreed upon parameters upon which the talks can take place. At the same time they need to continue the good work done by Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyed in the West Bank of institution building.

It may also be wise to revisit the Syrian peace track and lure it away from the grips of Iran to balance out the shaky balance of power. In turn this would cool down the relations it has with Hezbollah and bring it closer towards the moderate camp.

To conclude, the current level of instability in the Middle East makes the stakes way too high for the international community to ignore and simply let the chips fall where they may. The outcome of these revolutions will determine the world's geo-political scene for generations to come and so if the international community is to have any say in how they would like this new world to look, then the time to act is now.



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IDF Siezes Weapons

As Islamic revolutions continue to rage throughout the Middle East, the signs that Iran is taking this opportunity to expand its influence in the region are becoming more and more clear. On March 15th the Israeli Navy siezed a large shipment of weapons headed for Alexandria where upon disembarkment they would be smuggled across the Sinai and into the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip.

The full video of this capture can be seen here:

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

IDF Raids Gaza

As the British, French and US forces begin their aerial bombardment of Colonel Ghadaffi's compounds and infrastructure to enable a no-fly zone in Libya, the Israel Air Force has been carrying out raids in Gaza following a large volley of morter and rockets fired by Hamas into Southern Israel's towns over the weekend.

50 rockets were fired by Hamas into Israel, disturbing the usual deterrence that Israel has created following the Gaza war back in 2009. The recent air raids by Israel will be aiming to restore this deterrence by causing sufficient damage to Hamas facilities in the Gaza Strip. The reason for the rapid increase in rocket attacks could well be Hamas's desire to artificially create a crisis situation that would detract from the internal unrest and dissatisfaction with their rule by Gaza residents.
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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jihad Forums

The Jihadi Websites Monitoring Group at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism presents a periodical review of significant issues discussed in Jihadi forums. The review covers a broad range of fields and presents trends in the dialogue between Jihadi activists and supporters. It examines new Jihadi publications as well as traditional news sources, and includes: leaders' statements, Jihadi magazines, interesting correspondence which stimulated dialogue, specific threats and clues regarding attacks, predicted future activity and more.

This report summarizes the most prominent events posted on the Jihadi online forums in the second half of January 2011. Among the central topics appearing in this issue are:
• An audio tape by Osama bin Laden addressing the French people was released.
• Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's no. 2 man published an audio tape in which he defends the Sunnis against the Shiites.
• The Iraqi “Al-Furqan” institute dedicated a video on the subject of explosive devices to the Mujahideen in the Arabian Peninsula.
• Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula published the fourth issue of the English Jihadi magazine “Inspire”.
• An announcement was made by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb following the revolution in Tunisia.
• The Jihadi forums welcomed the riots in Egypt and surfers called to reinforce the Jihad there.
• A report was issued regarding the death of Dagestan's Deputy Amir, Adam Husseynov Amir Hassan.

or the full Periodical Review: Summary of the Jihadi Forums, The Second Half of January 2011, please click here
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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

No Fly Zone Over Libya

As the crisis in Libya deepens the pressure on the international community is increasing to intervene and stop the violence taking place against the Libyan people. the latest update is from Britain's David Cameron who is suggesting a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent the Libyan military from firing upon protestors from the sky.



Barak Seener, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, told Al Jazeera that any UN resolution backing a no-fly zone
would have to demand that the no-fly zone is not open ended and subject to review at certain intervals.


Despite all this and an estimated 1000+ people killed, along with the 140,000 Libyans who are fleeing to cross the border to Tunisia and Egypt, Colonel Gaddafi continues to live in denial claiming that the people love him.

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