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Archive for the ‘Yemen’ Category

Yemen: Saleh Returns

I heard the news this morning on Press TV, and here is the Associated Press’ version: ‘Yemen’s president called for a cease-fire Friday, after a surprise return home to his country from Saudi Arabia. Ali Abdullah Saleh urged talks to end clashes that have claimed hundreds of lives since street protests began in February. (23 Sept. 2011)’.

 

 

Pseudo-Ottoman Overtures: Turkey as Champion of the Third World

Turkey hosted the UN developing nations conference last May. Leaders from the worlds’ Least Developed Countries gathered . . . in Turkey, with the objective of helping millions live more abundant lives. Participants agreed on a ten-year development plan that would reduce by half the current 48 countries where the annual income is less than US$745 per person. Toward this goal, developed countries are being asked to grant total debt relief as well as to curb military spending, to fund peaceful development endeavours instead (May 2011).

In a solemn voice, Turkish President Abdullah Gül stated: “I declare open the 4th United Nations conference on the least developed countries”.[1]  Last year, I coined the phrase pseudo-Ottoman to describe Turkey’s new, self-confident posture on the world stage and it seems that hosting this event in Istanbul was more than just a fortuitous act. Dr. Abdiweli Ali, deputy prime minister of Somalia, expressed Turkey’s not-so hidden agenda behind hosting this event: “Least developed countries need a guide, a mentor, a patron that speaks on their behalf. Turkey is taking that role”.[2]  In my piece, I declared rather boldly: “Rather than attempting to establish Turkish hegemony in the region, Davutoğlu’s pseudo-Ottoman foreign policy aims at integrating the erstwhile Ottoman hinterland into the mainstream of Turkish politics today. Turkey’s foreign minister is trying to shine a light on regions and areas previously located in the darkness beyond Turkish recognition and comprehension”.[3]  Turkey’s desire to become the third world’s champion is clearly something completely new and totally beyond the experience of Turkish movers and shakers of yesteryear. Dr. Abdiweli Ali was not shy about expressing his enthusiasm for Turkey’s new station in the world: “I am a great admirer of Turkey and [an] admirer of Ottoman civilization. Turkey is strategically located between South and the North, between Asia and Europe. We think Turkey lays a service to fill that gap”.[4]

Last year, Turkey appeared to be at the forefront of countries sending aid to flood-stricken Pakistan: ‘18 million Turkish liras (TL) has been collected in bank accounts within the scope of an aid campaign aiming at helping flood-hit Pakistan, doubling the previous number, [the] Prime Ministry said on Wednesday [25 August 2010]. A statement by Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate of [the] Prime Ministry said that as of Wednesday, 15.8 million TL, 474,491 U.S. dollars and 667,547 euros have been collected in three separate bank accounts opened within the scope of a circular signed by the Turkish prime minister’.[5]  By late September 2010, Turkish donations to Pakistan had reached a staggering 183.9 million Turkish Liras, in addition to ‘244 tons of relief support that included vaccines, medicine, medical stuff’.[6]  At the moment, the drought in east Africa is another issue that occupies Turkey’s leadership: ‘Donations have reached 40 million Turkish Lira (nearly $22.5 million) in [an] aid campaign launched by Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs [or Diyanet] to help African people suffering from severe shortage of food and water’.[7]  As such, this crisis has provided Turkey’s Directorate for Religious Affairs (Diyanet) with an incredible opportunity to improve its image at home as well as abroad.  The Diyanet official Zeki Sayar said that “donations have so far reached 40 million TL in the aid campaign launched by our directorate, the Turkish Religious Foundation [Diyanet Vakfı] and the Turkish relief agency Red Crescent [Kızılay] to help dr[o]ught-hit African nations. Our target is to reach 100 million TL by the end of the Ramadan Feast [, 29 August 2011]. Africa lives through the worst [drought] of the last six decades. Millions of people face death because of famine. Our people rushed to African people’s assistance. Muslim people’s holy month of Ramadan has a great impact on the aid campaign. Ramadan is the month of solidarity among people”.[8]

And in an effort to show the world that Turkey means business, the Prime Minister and his wily Foreign Minister are planning to go to Somalia in person. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave a speech on Wednesday, 10 August: “We will [be] prepared to help in Somalia [even] if we were the only ones helping the famine victims”. At the speech for his party, the AKP, ‘Erdoğan said he was going to visit Somalia with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, also accompanied by their families throughout the visit’.[9]  Turkey’s pseudo-Ottoman leadership will be going on a family outing to witness first-hand how Turkish benevolence is saving lives in the face of deadly famine and disease killing indiscriminately. The pro-government English-language Turkish daily Today’s Zaman adds that the ‘Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) Chairman Serdar Çam has announced plans to open a new coordination office in Somalia, while he noted [that] Turkey was poised to help further by [aiding] Somalia become a stronger player in the fields of international trade, the economy, agriculture and industry. As the first humanitarian aid gathered by the combined efforts of TİKA, other government institutions and private enterprise landed earlier this week in famine-stricken Somalia [as well], Çam and aid teams led by Turkish Red Crescent Society (Kızılay) General Manager Ömer Taşlı visited refugee camps on Tuesday [, 9 August] to deliver aid packages to the Somalis, the Anatolia news agency reported . . . Çam said that the people of Somalia needed peace and comfort before the state can reach all its citizens and take care of their needs’.[10]  Çam even told the Anatolia news agency that “[a]s a society that feels deeply for the pain Somalis are going through, particularly in this holy month of Ramadan, we [, as representatives of the Republic of Turkey] are here to deliver food aid to the country and make sure it reaches people even in the farthest corners of the land”.[11]

Last year’s disaster in Pakistan somehow managed to stay off the world’s television screens, as floods are slow disasters that gradually rise up and cause destruction and mayhem in slow-motion. But, famine, on the other hand, appears like much more a media-friendly calamity, offering the opportunity to beam horrendous pictures of starving mothers and babies across the world, with a glimmer of hope in the background in the shape of Turkish Red Crescent flag perhaps???  In early August, the President of the Turkish Kızılay (The Red Crescent) Tekin Küçükali stated publicly that Turkey would send ships and planes carrying aid to Somalia.[12]

And on top of all that pseudo-Ottoman effort to bring relief to the starving Muslim nation of Somalia, ‘at Turkey’s instigation’, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) convened an emergency session ‘to discuss the crisis in Somalia, [which] has ended with the agreement of the 57 member countries on concrete steps for action to help the famine-stricken country’.[13]  The OIC released a final statement on Wednesday, 17 August, which read that “we have decided to form a task force composed of  Kazakhstan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and the OIC Secretariat-General”, “In order to closely follow the situation in the horn of Africa, particularly in Somalia, and to take measures as necessary”.[14]

Turkey’s efforts to persuade Syrian President Assad to halt his bloody crackdown on protestors and other hapless civilians has not yielded a lot of success. The European news broadcaster EuroNews reported on Thursday, 18 August, that Assad declared he had terminated his campaign . . . but the reality on the ground in Syria is still very far from clear. An Adjunct Professor, American University’s School of International Service Dr. Josef Olmert summarised that “Bashar Assad promised the UN General Secretary just yesterday [Wednesday, 17 August] that his security forces are out of the main cities of Syria. Hours later more Syrian civilians were murdered by “their” army. The same happened after the visit of Turkey’s Foreign Minister in Damascus. Bashar promised to have the army out of Hama, but in reality the massacre continued unabated”.[15]  Maybe concentrating on Somalia will bring Turkey some much-deserved international recognition after all . . . . Over the past months Turkey has tried to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians, between Iran and the rest of the world, between Syria and Israel, and following the outbreak of the Arab Awakening, the state founded by Mustafa Kemal was quick to present itself as a future role-model for Arab nation states yearning for freedom and democracy . . . Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Syria have all continued their course without taking any account of the Turkish road to prosperity, so that the Turkish humanitarian intervention in the Horn of Africa might just prove to do the trick and turn Turkey into an international player of some importance . . . Or, will the world decide that starving Africans are not their main concern after all and lavish her attention on other, more pressing issues such as the U.S. downgrade,  the looming Euro crisis, and next year’s American elections???  Will Turkey turn out to be the “guide, [the] mentor, [the] patron” the Third World needs to get out of poverty and into prosperity???


[1] Dorian Jones, “Turkey Hosts UN Summit on World’s Least Developing Nations” VOA News (09 May 2011). http://www.voanews.com/english/news/europe/Turkey-Hosts-UN-summit-on-Worlds-Least-Developing-Nations-121527524.html.

[2] Sevil Küçükkoşum, “Turkey could be a mentor for least developed countries” Hürriyet Daily News (10 May 2011). http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=turkey-could-be-a-mentor-for-least-developed-countries-somalia-says-2011-05-10.

[3] C. Erimtan, “pseudo-Ottoman policy: Turkey’s new station in the world” Today’s Zaman (04 November 2010). http://tiny.cc/6qkki.

[4] Sevil Küçükkoşum, “Turkey could be a mentor for least developed countries”.

[5] “Turkish donations double for Pakistan aid campaign” World Bulletin (26 August 2010). http://www.worldbulletin.net/index.php?aType=haber&ArticleID=63018.

[6] “Turkish donation for Pakistan reaches $123 mln” World Bulletin (24 September 2010). http://www.worldbulletin.net/index.php?aType=haber&ArticleID=64325.

[7] “Turkish Donations for Africa reach 40 mln TL” World Bulletin (13 August 2011). http://www.worldbulletin.net/?aType=haber&ArticleID=77454.

[8] “Turkish Donations for Africa reach 40 mln TL”.

[9] “Erdoğan, Davutoğlu to visit Somalia with their families” Today’s Zaman (10 August 2011).  http://www.todayszaman.com/newsDetail_getNewsById.action?load=detay&newsId=253380&link=253380.

[10] “Erdoğan, Davutoğlu to visit Somalia with their families”.

[11] “Erdoğan, Davutoğlu to visit Somalia with their families”.

[12] “Kızılay, Somali için yola çıkıyor” Delikan (04 August 2011). http://www.delikan.net/a/f2/kizilay-somali-icin-yola-cikiyor-16247/.

[13] “OIC meeting bears fruit, task force to be formed for Somalia” Today’s Zaman (18 August 2011). http://www.todayszaman.com/news-254202-oic-meeting-bears-fruit-task-force-to-be-formed-for-somalia.html.

[14] “OIC meeting bears fruit, task force to be formed for Somalia”.

[15] Josef Olmert, “Game Change for Syria” The Huffington Post (18 August 2011). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-josef-olmert/obama-syria-assad-_b_930528.html.

Cynthia McKinney Talks Turkey

Cynthia McKinney tells RT America that the US needs to take care of domestic issues. The financial debt debate has many wondering what is going on with the US financial situation. Many are demanding that the US stop spending on the wars and bring that revenue home to help with domestic issues. Does it make senses to spend billions of dollars on our defense when we are so close to default? Cynthia McKinney, former US Representative and target of O’ Reilly, tells us what’s really going on.

CIA Base in Yemen Imminent???

The CIA is building a secret air base in the Middle East to serve as a launching pad for armed drones to strike in Yemen. Since December 2009, U.S. strikes in Yemen have been carried out by the U.S. military with intelligence support from the CIA. Now, the spy agency is preparing to carry out drone strikes itself alongside the military campaign. The Wall Street Journal reports the CIA, in coordination with Saudi Arabia, has been ramping up its intelligence gathering efforts in Yemen in recent months to support a sustained drone campaign. We speak with Gregory Johnsen, a former Fulbright Fellow in Yemen and now a graduate student in Near Eastern studies at Princeton University.

In his Atlantic piece, the conservative writer and thinker Conor Friedersdorf casually posits that “Yemen is a small country where most of the people speak Arabic, practice Islam, and resent it when their friends or family members are killed by missiles that suddenly rain down from the sky. So safe to say that some of them are going to be mighty angry at the US later this summer when the CIA begins to conduct regular drone strikes in the country, something the spy agency hasn’t done since 2002”.[1]  As  the diligent critic of the current U.S. government that he is, Friedersdorf adds this piece of advice to his piece: “If you’ve lost count, that’s Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen where the Obama Administration will be warring”.[2]

 


[1] Conor Friedersdorf, “The CIA Plans Summer Blockbusters in Yemen” The Atlantic (14 June 2011). http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/06/the-cia-plans-summer-blockbusters-in-yemen/240403/.

[2] Conor Friedersdorf, “The CIA Plans Summer Blockbusters in Yemen”.

The Syria Situation: Turkey’s Response, Russia’s Reluctance, Israel’s Trepidation, and Iran

From Beirut, the BBC’s Jim Muir reports that “[I]It’s the villages and hills to the east and north of Jisr al-Shughour that now seem to be the focus of the army’s efforts to re-impose the regime’s control over the defiant area. State media said the army was chasing what they called the “remnants of armed terrorist gangs” through the surrounding countryside. Activists said local men of military age were being rounded up, houses damaged and crops destroyed. The units involved in this assault are believed to be from the army’s much-feared 4th division, under the direct command of President Assad’s brother, Maher. This was the division that ruthlessly suppressed defiance down in the city of Deraa in the south, near the Jordanian border, where the whole uprising began in March and where dissent continues to smoulder”.[1]  Turkey has defiantly opened its borders to refugees, set up tent cities, and urged the Syrian regime to exercise caution. As remarked by Sevil Küçükkoşum, “Turkey has begun a substantial re-evaluation of its Syrian policy, as more than 7,000 Syrians have now fled to Hatay while another 15,000 mass near the border, according to reports”.[2]  But, as indicated by Iran’s Press TV, not everybody opposes President Assad.

 

Now that the world, in the shape of the UN and NATO, is intervening in Libya for the sake of “protecting civilians” and ensuring that Colonel Gaddafi leaves the scene, voices have emerged urging a similar approach to Syria and President Assad’s Baath regime. Even though the situation in Libya is far from clear, and Gaddafi appears more than unwilling to give up without a fight, the principle of “humanitarian intervention”, even if it might seem nothing but a hypocritical ploy to ensure that Libyan oil does not get lost and regime change usher in the demise of one of the West’s most persistent bogeyman, would also seem to be applicable to Syria. Still, as worded by the erstwhile career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service M. K. Bhadrakumar, “Russia is stubbornly blocking US attempts to drum up a case for Libya-style intervention in Syria”.[3]  And why would Russia be blocking such attempts. As long ago as 27 February 2009, the state-sponsored news broadcaster RT (or Russia Today) reported that ‘Russian warships have returned to the naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus, used by the Soviet Union since the late sixties, after more than a decade of absence’.

 Last year the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that ‘Russia will finish the fundamental renovation at its naval logistics base in the Syrian port of Tartus by 2011, said the Navy’s General Staff on Wednesday. Having been upgrading the Tartus port for several years, the Navy’s General Staff said in a statement that “the main purpose is to develop logistics . . . to upgrade the existing coastal infrastructures and create new ones that will provide convenient moorage and stable supply for Russian ships pulling into Tartus with fuel, water, food and other supplies. The bulk of the works is to be completed in 2011,” said the statement. The Navy’s General Staff also said that its fleet already had a functioning logistics facility at Tartus, whose condition and capabilities fell short of  requirements’.[4]

The Americans are of course fully aware of Russia’s designs in Syria, and are now staging joint U.S.-Ukraine naval exercises in the Black Sea. Russia has been craving access to the Mediterranean since the days of Peter the Great (1682-1725). The Soviets finally succeeded in realising Tsarist ambitions in the 20th century, and in the 21st independent and “free-market” Russia is once again following the lead of its Communist precursor. As the largest country on earth, with untold energy reserves underground and a looming spectre of alcoholism above ground,[5] Russia today is once again engaged in challenging the U.S. in the region and further afield. Do these joint naval exercises make the Russians feel nervous???  Moscow’s Foreign Ministry has issued this official statement recently: “While leaving aside the unsettled issue of a possible European missile shield architecture, Russia would like to know, in compliance with the Russia-NATO Lisbon summit decisions, what ‘aggravation’ the US command meant by moving the basic strike unit of the regional missile defense grouping being formed by NATO in the region, from the Mediterranean to the East?”.[6]

These power games also affect another player in the region, attested by the following report from Jerusalem dating back to August 2008: ‘Syrian President Bashar Assad arrived in Russia . . . for a two-day visit during which he is seeking to purchase advanced weaponry from Moscow including the Pantsyr-S1 Air Defense Missile system, the BUK-M1 surface-to-air medium-range missile system and the sophisticated S-300 long range anti-aircraft missile system already purchased by Iran. Syria has also reportedly offered to allow Moscow to deploy its Russian Iskander missile system, an advanced short-range, solid fuel-propelled missile, in its territory. The new Russo-Syrian military cooperation comes in reaction to the recent US-Poland missile deal which positions NATO missile systems on Russia’s western front, eliciting harsh threats and criticism’.

A month later, the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN) aired this report. Israel’s current Premier Bibi is all but outspoken about his dislike for Iran’s regime and his desire to attack Iran unilaterally.

All the while, hapless Syrians keep pouring into the Turkish province of Hatay. A Turkish government insider, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Hürriyet Daily News that “Turkey will keep engaging with Syria [to urge it to enact reforms and abstain from violence], but Syria’s attitude will determine our position”.[7]  The Associated Press remarked that “[t]roops led by President Bashar al-Assad’s brother regained control of Jisr al-Shughour on Sunday [, 12 June], sending in tanks and helicopter gunships after shelling the town. But residents were still terrified; Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday [, 13 June] that hundreds of Syrians have crossed over since Sunday”.[8]  On the other hand, one should not lose sight of the fact that the conflicts in Libya, Syria and Yemen too are inter-connected and dependent upon a whole range of alliances and counter-alliance. For instance, last year, Xinhua also reported that ‘Russia did not exclude the possibility of building naval logistic facilities in Socotra Island, Yemen, as well as in Tripoli, Libya, but for now, the choice is limited to Tartus’.[9]  As for Turkey’s southern neighbour, Bhadrakumar has this straightforward analysis: “Put simply, the US wants Russia to leave Syria alone for the West to tackle. But Russia knows what follows will be that the Russian naval base there would get shut down by a pro-Western successor regime in Damascus that succeeds Assad”.[10]  And that would spell an end to Russia centuries’ old dream of having a steady access to the Mediterranean, given the equally uncertain future awaiting Gaddafi.


[1] Jim Muir, “Analysis” BBC News (13 June 2011). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13746633.

[2] Sevil Küçükkoşum, “Ankara revisits Syrian policy” Hürriyet Daily News (13 June 2011).  http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=ankara-revisits-syrian-policy-2011-06-13.

[3] M K Bhadrakumar, “Syria on the boil, US warship in Black Sea” Asia Times Online (14 June 2011). http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MF14Ak02.html.

[4] “Russian Navy to upgrade Tartus naval base by 2011” Xinhua (13 January 2010). http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2010-01/14/content_12805592.htm.

[5] “Alcohol Around the World: World Health Organization Report” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (03 March 2011). http://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/alcohol-around-the-world-world-health-organization-report/.

[6] M K Bhadrakumar, “Syria on the boil, US warship in Black Sea”.

[7] Sevil Küçükkoşum, “Ankara revisits Syrian policy”.

[8] “Lips sealed as number of Syrian refugees in Turkey swells to 7,000” Today’s Zaman (13 June 2011). http://www.todayszaman.com/news-247211-lips-sealed-as-number-of-syrian-refugees-in-turkey-swells-to-7000.html.

[9] “Russian Navy to upgrade Tartus naval base by 2011”.

[10] M K Bhadrakumar, “Syria on the boil, US warship in Black Sea”.

Yemeni Protesters Celebrate Saleh’s Departure

Protesters danced and sang in the central square of Yemen’s capital Sunday to celebrate the departure of the country’s authoritarian leader, President Ali Abdullah Saleh , for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia after he was wounded in a rocket attack on his compound (5 June 2011).

Yemen Update

In another blatant display of fear-mongering, AC360′s Anderson Cooper speaks with a panel about concerns that al Qaeda may be gaining ground in Yemen.

 

 Yemen’s President Ali Saleh blames gangsters for the attack on the presidential compound. Mohammed Jamjoom reports.

 The Yemeni state news agency Saba issued the following statement: “A cowardly attack with an explosive projectile took place during Friday prayers at the presidential palace mosque where . . . [President] Saleh and senior government officials were present”. On Saturday, 4 June 2011, the BBC reports that ‘President Ali Abdullah Saleh has left Yemen a day after being injured when his presidential compound in Sanaa came under attack, reports say. Sources in the government told the BBC that he had been flown to Saudi Arabia for treatment, but it is not clear whether he has gone there for good. The prime minister and four other senior officials were also flown out. The president has not appeared in public since Friday, but he broadcast an audio message saying he was well’. [1]


[1] “Yemen president ‘leaves country for hospital treatment’” BBC News (04 June 2011). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13653884.

Arab Awakening: Questions Linger in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain

Fighting intensified Friday around the Middle East as governments tried to overpower uprisings around the region. Jeffrey Brown discusses what’s next for the people and governments of Syria, Yemen and Bahrain with author and foreign policy analyst Robin Wright (3 June 2011).

 

USIP-Woodrow Wilson Center Distinguished Scholar Robin Wright will publish her next book, Rock the Casbah: Rage and evolution Across the Islamic World, with Simon & Schuster on July 12, 2011. Wright, the acclaimed foreign correspondent and television commentator, was well into her work on the many political, social, cultural, young, grassroots, and female forces changing the Islamic world when protests erupted across the Middle East. Many characters in Wright’s book have been involved in the upheavals. The publication date has been accelerated to July because of the extraordinary history now unfolding. Wright has reported on Islamic militancy for four decades. In this book, she tells the stunning personal stories behind the rejection of both autocrats and extremists in the Muslim world. Wright profiles young techies mobilizing political uprisings, clerics publicly repudiating Osama bin Laden, Muslim comedians ridiculing militancy, hip hop artists rapping against guns and bombs, laywrights and poets redefining jihad, feminists reinterpreting the Koran, and militants denouncing violence. She describes the new phase of the Islamic activism as a counter-jihad. For some, it’s about reforming the faith. For others, it’s overhauling political systems. For all, it is about basic rights—on their own terms and not necessarily based on Western models. Muslims are now confronting extremism and rescuing their faith from a virulent minority, thereby taking charge of history and doing what the West cannot. Robin Wright has reported from more than a 140 countries on six continents for The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The  New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Time, The Sunday Times of London, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, the International Herald Tribune and others. Her foreign tours include the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia. She has appeared on Meet the Press, This Week, Face the Nation, Charlie Rose, Stephen Colbert and morning and evening newscasts on NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS,  CNN and MSNBC. Wright has been a fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Brookings Institution, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Yale, Duke, Stanford and others. Among many awards, she won the U.N. Correspondents Association Gold Medal for coverage of foreign affairs, the National Magazine Award, and the Overseas Press Club Award for “best reporting in any medium requiring exceptional courage and initiative.” The American Academy of Diplomacy selected her as the journalist of the year in 2004. She has authored five books.[1]


[1] “Robin Wright to Publish Rock the Casbah: Rage and Revolution Across the Islamic World” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (14 March 2011). http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.item&news_id=682213.

The G8 and the Arab Awakening

Group of 8 leaders wrapped up their two-day summit in Deauville, France, on Friday [, 27 May] by comparing the “Arab spring” to the fall of the Berlin Wall and promising up to $40 billion in aid to Tunisia and Egypt for their fight for democracy. Jeffrey Brown reports on the summit’s conclusion and ongoing unrest around the Arab world (27 May 2011).

The Director General of the Al Jazeera network Wadah Khanfar explains that the “popular revolutions now sweeping the region are long overdue. Yet in some ways, they could not have come before now. These are uprisings whose sons and daughters are well educated and idealistic enough to envision a better future, yet realistic enough to work for it without falling into despair. These revolutions are led by the Internet generation, for whom equality of voice and influence is the norm. Their leaders’ influence is the product of their own effort, determination and skill, unconstrained by rigid ideologies and extremism. It is now clear to all that the modern, post-colonial Arab state has failed miserably, even in what it believed it was best at: Maintaining security and stability. Over the decades, Arab interior ministers and police chiefs devoted enormous resources and expertise to monitoring and spying on their own people. Yet now, the security machineries in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have disintegrated in short order, while the rest of
the authoritarian and repressive regimes in the region can see the writing on the wall. These revolutions have exposed not just the failure of traditional politicians but also the moral, political and economic bankruptcy of the old Arab elites. Those elites not only attempted to control their own people, but also sought to shape and taint the views of news media in the region and across the world. Indeed, it should surprise no one that so many Western analysts, researchers, journalists and government experts failed to recognise the obvious signs of Arab youth movements that would soon erupt into revolutions capable of bringing down some of the most pro-Western regimes in the Middle East. That failure has exposed a profound lack of understanding in the West of Arab region”.[1]

With obvious pride in his voice, Khanfar continues that “[t]hese unfolding transformations have been less of a surprise for us at Al Jazeera. Since our launch nearly 15 years ago, we have chosen to keep close to the Arab street, gauging its pulse and reflecting its
aspirations. It was clear to us that a revolution was in the making, and it was happening far from the gaze of a tame and superficial establishment media that allied itself with the powerful centre – on the assumption that the centre is always safer and more important. Many media outlets in the region failed to recognise what was happening among the Arab grass roots. Keen to conduct
interviews with high-level officials and ever willing to cover repetitious news conferences, they remained oblivious to what was happening on the ground”.[2]


[1] Wadah Khanfar, “We saw the Arab revolutions coming” Al Jazeera (01 March 2011). http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/03/2011317269573443.html.

[2] Wadah Khanfar, “We saw the Arab revolutions coming”.

When Bibi Met Barack: Discord Over 1967 Borders

President Obama welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House on Friday, 20 May, one day after the president’s policy speech on the Arab world and Israeli-Palestinian relations called for a return to pre-1967 borders, a state Mr. Netanyahu called “indefensible”. After a closed door meeting, Netanyahu reiterated that “Israel has certain security requirements”.

 

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