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Exclusive: Libyan fighters join Syrian revolt

By Mariam Karouny


Tue Aug 14, 2012

(Reuters) - Veteran fighters of last year's civil war in Libya have come to the front-line in Syria, helping to train and organize rebels under conditions far more dire than those in the battle against Muammar Gaddafi, a Libyan-Irish fighter has told Reuters.

Iran government criticized over earthquake response

By Yeganeh Torbati


Tue Aug 14, 2012

(Reuters) - Iran's government faced criticism on Monday over its response to two earthquakes that killed 306 people, with complaints of a lack of tents and about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's decision to go ahead with an overseas trip.

Former Syrian PM: Assad controls only 30% of the country

By Reuters

Aug.14, 2012 |

Former Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab said on Tuesday President Bashar Assad's government is falling apart and only controls 30 percent of the country, in his first public appearance since defecting to the opposition.

Extreme Violence and Terrorism in Mexico

by Howard Campbell and Tobin Hansen

August 14, 2012

Extreme Violence and Terrorism in Mexico:

A Dialogue between Howard Campbell and Tobin Hansen

Editor’s note: This dialogue between anthropologists Howard Campbell, author of “Drug War Zone Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Juárez” and Tobin Hansen explores the relationship between violence, politics, and terrorism in Mexico’s narco-conflict. The dialogue (in form of an interview) took place 11 August 2012 in El Paso, Texas. It addresses the question: Is narco-violence terrorism? JPS/El Centro

The Libyan Crisis and West African Sahel: Emerging Security Issues




August 14, 2012

The Arab Spring has posed varied challenges to countries in the North African region. While Egypt and Tunisia have transitioned to their first democratically elected governments following decades of autocratic rule, Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria have witnessed protests that have not translated into as dramatic changes for their government structures.

The Battle for Aleppo

Robert G. Rabil

August 14, 2012

Notwithstanding the destruction and staggering loss of life as the raging battle for Syria's commercial capital of Aleppo continues, the battle for both the regime and the opposition has taken on a multidimensional strategic aspect. The battle for Aleppo confirms that the first phase of the Syrian civil war has ended, and the battle for consolidating sectarian cantonization has begun. And it has initiated a process with far-reaching implications for Syria and the region.

China’s Growing Jihadist Problem

By O. Hamid

August 14, 2012

On August 2 2012, security forces arrested 20 individuals from various cities in Xinjiang on charges of terrorism and secessionist activities. The regional government is attempting to take pre-emptive measures against Uyghur groups in the province to ensure that no major terrorist incident occurs before the leadership transition in Beijing in October 2012. While the ability of the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) to conduct a major attack in China remains limited, jihadist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan are increasingly likely to view Chinese assets and personnel as legitimate targets.

The World from Berlin 'Egypt's Moment of Truth Has Arrived'

Der Spiegel

14 August 2012

President Mohammed Morsi has made the bold and surprising move to disempower the Egyptian military, but many questions still remain about the country's democratic future. German commentators on Tuesday praise his political finesse but worry Morsi may be paving the way for an Islamist state.

Turkey and the Euro CrisisEU Membership Losing Its Appeal

Der Spiegel

14 August 2012

Amid the euro crisis drama, Turkey has seen economic growth as its European neighbors have suffered. As a result, the country has a newfound confidence that makes EU membership seem less important. But the waning aspiration could stall important democratic reforms.

Egypt Lifts a Junior Corps Impatient Over Military Failure

New York Times

14 August 2012

CAIRO — In his purge of Egypt’s top generals, President Mohamed Morsi leaned on the support of a junior officer corps that blamed the old guard for a litany of problems within the military and for involving the armed forces too deeply in the country’s politics after the uprising that ousted Mr. Morsi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.

Economy, Europe, Greece, Politics

Greece Completes Largest Debt Sale in Two Years

Wall Street Journal

14 August 2012

Greece completed its largest debt sale in two years Tuesday, ensuring that it will have the money to repay bonds held by the European Central Bank next week.

The Greek Public Debt Management Agency said it sold €4.063 billion ($5.01 billion) of 13-week treasury bills at an auction, which included a 30% noncompetitive tranche. The uniform yield was 4.43%.

Jordan squeezed as Syrian conflict rages next door

Washington Post

14 August 2012

MAFRAQ, Jordan — Hundreds of Syrian refugees slip across the border near here each night with little more than harrowing tales and occasionally grave wounds. For this landlocked and resource-poor kingdom, the newcomers are fueling new economic burdens and worries that the war next door might spread beyond its own frontiers.

Thirty eight years on, Famagusta remains Turkey’s hostage

Famagusta Gazette

14 August 2012

Cyprus marks on Tuesday the 38th anniversary since Turkey’s second offensive against the island in the summer of 1974, which resulted in the occupation of the Republic’s northern third, including the city of Famagusta.

The Israeli Crisis

By George Friedman
August 14, 2012 |

Crises are normally short, sharp and intense affairs. Israel's predicament has developed on a different time frame, is more diffuse than most crises and has not reached a decisive and intense moment. But it is still a crisis. It is not a crisis solely about Iran, although the Israeli government focuses on that issue. Rather, it is over Israel's strategic reality since 1978, when it signed the Camp David accords with Egypt.
Perhaps the deepest aspect of the crisis is that Israel has no internal consensus on whether it is in fact a crisis, or if so, what the crisis is about. The Israeli government speaks of an existential threat from Iranian nuclear weapons. I would argue that the existential threat is broader and deeper, part of it very new, and part of it embedded in the founding of Israel.

Islamic leaders gather to discuss Syrian conflict

Deutsche Welle, 14 August 2012

Foreign ministers from the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation convene in Mecca, Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. They are expected to suspend Syria’s membership due to the crackdown on a 17-month-old rebellion.

Bleak prospects for no-fly zone as proxy war grips Syria


Deutsche Welle, 14 August 2012

With the UN peace plan in tatters, regional battle lines are being drawn in Syria. Calls for a no-fly zone have grown, but the West remains reluctant to intervene during an election year and an economic crisis.

As Syria enters its 18th month of bloodshed, the conflict there has increasingly become a regional proxy war, with the United States and its allies - particularly Turkey - facing the difficult question of how to proceed in the wake of the failure of diplomacy to end the violence.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at news conference during the ministerial meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday, June 7, 2012. Clinton on Thursday condemned the Syrian government for new reports of "simply unconscionable" violence, accusing President Bashar Assad of intensifying a crackdown of a national uprising that has already killed thousands. (Foto:AP/dapd)

Clinton announced the creation of a working group with Turkey

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Istanbul over the weekend, where she met with Turkish President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to discuss what she called ways to "hasten the end of the bloodshed and (President Bashar) Assad's regime."

When asked by a reporter whether establishing safety or no-fly zones was under consideration,she indicated that both Washington and Istanbul were actively weighing the pros and cons of a military intervention.

"It is one thing to talk about all kinds of potential actions," Clinton told a press conference after her meeting with the Turkish foreign minister on Saturday. "But you cannot make reasoned decisions without doing intense analysis and operational planning. And we share not only the frustration, but the anger and outrage of the Syrian people at what this regime continues to do."

As the civil war in Syria has escalated, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated and increasingly strained the resources of neighboring countries, particularly Turkey. The UN refugee agency reports that almost 150,000 Syrians have fled their homeland since the uprising began, with at least 50,000 taking refuge in Turkey alone.

According to the UN, the widespread and indiscriminate use of warplanes and helicopter gunships by the government against rebel forces in the city of Aleppo has led to a spike in the stream of refugees. Meanwhile, Western nations have expressed concern that the Assad regime could use its alleged chemical weapons in an act of desperation, or simply lose control of them as Syria slides toward collapse.

"The range of contingencies people are discussing is very much larger and there's going to be a broader debate about responses, including a no-fly zone," Ian Lesser, director of the Transatlantic Center with the German Marshall Fund in Brussels, told DW.

Reluctance in the West

Although the resignation of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has sparked discussion among some NATO member states about using airpower to establish a no-fly zone, there's little appetite for military intervention after a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"First of all, there's the ongoing presidential campaign in the United States and the fact now that Europe is in the midst of a major euro crisis," Fadi Hakura, an expert on Turkish politics with Chatham House in London, told DW.

"So at the current time, I do not think the conditions are right for the Western powers and its regional partners to implement - unilaterally - a no fly-zone outside of the remit of the United Nations Security Council," Hakura added.

Syrian refugees stroll at Reyhanli refugee camp in Hatay province on the Turkish-Syrian border March 15, 2012.

Turkey is housing tens of thousands of refugees and as well as the Free Syrian Army

China and Russia have already used their Security Council veto power to block three resolutions aimed at putting pressure on the Assad regime. Beijing and Moscow have drawn a redline, making it clear that they will oppose any diplomatic move that could open the door to a Libya-style intervention in Syria.

"In the UN Security Council it would be very difficult to get a mandate because of continued Chinese and Russian and potentially other opposition," Lesser said. "So the notion of intervention without a solid international mandate, the enthusiasm for this is clearly limited."

According to Lesser, deadlock at the Security Council is "a complicating factor, but it's not necessarily a limiting one" for the West. Washington and its allies have the capability to intervene in Syria, as they did in Kosovo, without a United Nations mandate. But there remains a more fundamental issue of what a military intervention could realistically achieve.

"There's this big open question - politically, what can you do usefully with the use of force? It's not clear," Lesser said. "The Syrian military is by all accounts much more capable than the Libyan military."

The regional proxy war

As Western nations mull the risks of using military force, the major regional powers are already deepening their involvement in Syria's civil war. Rebel forces in Damascus kidnapped 48 Iranians earlier this month, some of whom have been confirmed by Tehran to be retired members of the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guard.

The Syrian opposition has long claimed that Iran and the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah are providing active military support to the Assad regime. Meanwhile, the Sunni Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are reportedly supplying weapons to Syrian rebel groups. Turkey, for its part, has provided a sanctuary on its soil to the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army (FSA).

"The Syrian conflict is not really about Syria per se, but it has come to symbolize the regional struggle that is taking place between the United States, its Gulf Arab partners, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and most of the north African countries and European partners on one side," Hakura said. "Then on the other you have Russia, China, Iran, and the Baathist regime in Syria."

The Sunni states in the Middle East are keen to hasten the collapse of the Assad regime. They are betting that by eliminating Tehran's Syrian ally, they can break the back of the "axis of resistance" - the alliance between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.

Redlines in Syria

So far, the Western nations such as the US and the UK have publicly limited themselves to providing non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. That aid primarily consists of communications equipment, which experts such as Hakura say is intended to strengthen and centralize the rebels' weak and chaotic command-and-control capabilities.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (r) welcomes his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad at the presidential palace in Tehran, Iran, on 19 August 2009 . Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived 19 August in Tehran for a one-day visit and started talks with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in the presidential office. EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH +++(c) dpa - Report+++<br />
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Western and Sunni Arab states want to break the Tehran-Damascus alliance

The West has acted with caution and stopped short of directly supplying the rebels with weapons out of concern that Islamist fundamentalists could be infiltrating their ranks. Both the Guardian and the Long War Journal have reported that militant groups, such as the al Nusra front, are operating with the secular Free Syrian Army. Al Nusra has alleged ties with al Qaeda affiliates that cut their teeth during the US occupation of Iraq.

Although cautious, there are certain redlines that could precipitate a Western military intervention in the Syrian civil war. Lesser says that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, or if those weapons fall into the hands of the aforementioned Islamist groups, Washington would likely intervene. A sharp escalation of the humanitarian crisis that destabilizes neighboring states could also mobilize a coalition of Western nations to act.

And unlike the Libyan conflict, the Syrian civil war and the resulting refugee crisis are unfolding across the border from a major NATO member state - Turkey.

"Turkey is a NATO ally," Lesser said. "If Turkey is attacked by Syrian forces, this could conceivably become a so-called NATO Article 5 contingency in which an attack on one is an attack on all."

"Turkey's NATO allies would be obliged to come to Turkey's assistance and so it would become a US military contingency as a matter of alliance solidarity," he continued. "I don't think that's likely but it's not inconceivable."

Syria is a crossroads in the Mideast, a nation where a mosaic of ethno-religious and tribal groups have loyalties that stretch across national borders into the rest of the region. The outcome of the Syrian conflict is likely to play a decisive role in the regional power game - one which is escalating.

"This is not a place that is marginal to the future of the Middle East," Lesser said. "It is, like Egypt, a place that is very central to the future of the Middle East. There's a great deal at stake."


Greece, Cyprus, Israel to talk gas

Kathimerini, 14 August 2012

A meeting between officials of Greece, Cyprus and Israel is being lined up for September so the three countries can agree on transporting natural gas from the Southeastern Mediterranean to the European market.

An Act of Self-Preservation: Why Iran Wants the Bomb

The Diplomat

14 August 2012

The real roots of Iran’s nuclear program lie not in physics - but in Iran's own sense of history.

Exactly ten years ago today the Iranian opposition group, Mujahideen al-Khalq (MeK), revealed the full details of a uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy water plant at Arak in Iran. Since then Iran and the international community- since 2006, the P5+1 (the U.S., Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany) -have been locked in a diplomatic battle that has ground to a stalemate.

Preparing for a post-Assad Syria

Deutsche Welle

13 August 2012

Syria's President Bashar Assad is still clinging to power. But many governments are expecting his regime to fall - and are planning for what comes next.

It was only eighteen months ago that the US government sent an ambassador back to Syria. But Robert Stephen Ford did not stay long. In October 2011, after only ten months, the American envoy left again - for safety reasons, Washington said. The peaceful protests of the Syrian population against their government had turned into a violent conflict. Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Assad has come under heavy international pressure for sanctioning brutal attacks against his own people.

Invitation from Paris


Sarkozy welcomes Assad to Paris for a national holiday

Syrian opposition calls for no-fly zone

Al Jazeera

12 August 2012

A Syrian opposition official has asked for no-fly zones across Syria and safe havens patrolled by foreign forces near the borders with Jordan and Turkey.

Abdel basset Sida, head of the Syrian National Council, said the United States had realised that the absence of a no-fly zone to counter President Basher al-Assad's air superiority has hindered rebel movements in the country.