World

Bahrain Expels an American Diplomat

By on 7.10.14 | 5:48PM

American diplomacy in the Middle East is starting to resemble a giant game of whack-a-mole. On top of everything else, the government of Bahrain has now expelled an American diplomat.

Bahrain told Tom Malinowski, U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, that he was no longer welcome at their game on Monday. Marlinowski had the gall to set up a meeting with leaders of a Shiite political party. Bahrain is one of the Middle East's rare, majority-Shia nations, so a friendly chat with the leaders of a legal party that has been in dialogue with the government since 2011 seemed natural. The ruling family, however, is Sunni, and they did not take kindly to Malinowski's efforts to be inclusive of the majority of the population.

The government of Bahrain says there are no hard feelings about Marlinowski though. Apparently it says nothing about how they feel about us.

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Crickets Chirp for Islamic Caliph

By on 7.9.14 | 4:57PM

The Middle East is known more for its locusts than crickets, but some kind of insectile chirping could be heard after the Sunni militant group ISIS declared itself a caliphate and commanded the Muslims of the world to join them.

No rush of support greeted the ISIS—excuse me, caliphate underling—call to destroy the Kaaba, the most sacred shrine of Islam, which Muslims believe marks a place where heaven symbolically touches earth.

Even the Sunni clerics who gave bin Laden and others of his ilk the theological go-ahead are questioning ISIS's inattention to proper Islamic jurisprudence, according to the Daily Beast:

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Israel’s Show of Force

By on 7.8.14 | 5:34PM

"We win every battle, but we lose the war," said Ami Ayalon, who once led the Israeli secret service. Ayalon spoke in the documentary "The Gatekeepers" about Israel's strategy for the Palestinians, one that was highlighted by events over the last month in Israel and the West Bank.

The two-week-long search by Israeli officials for three kidnapped Israeli teenagers in the West Bank was the most aggressive in decades. The search for three teens, it turns out, required Israeli officials to blow up two houses, arrest nearly 400 people, and kill five civilians, one of whom was sixteen, the same age as the young Israeli hitchhikers.

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Ukraine is Going Somewhere, But Where?

By on 7.8.14 | 10:44AM

Ukrainian separatists have withdrawn from a number of their strongholds in recent days, retreating to, and fortifying, the regional capital of Donetsk and a few other cities, in what is being described as a tactical decision. After Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gave up on a cease-fire with the pro-Russian rebels, a Ukrainian offensive, facilitated by an apparently revamped military and American aid, has effectively cornered the separatists in what has been called the People’s Republic of Donetsk.

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Japan Mulls a Self-Defense Force

By on 7.3.14 | 10:44AM

In what is being described as a “landmark shift” in Japan’s defense posture, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration authorized a reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution Tuesday. The new understanding of the article allows for Japan’s defense forces to mobilize overseas in “collective self-defense” of the country’s allies. The decision does not appear to be a popular one, as 55 percent of Japanese surveyed by Japan’s Kyodo News last weekend opposed it.

Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, which was implemented in 1947, is a renunciation of war, reading:

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The Curtain Goes Up for Russia in the Middle East

By on 7.1.14 | 4:49PM

Perhaps Americans have forgotten how much of the Cold War was fought in the Middle East, but Russia has not.

Recent events in the Middle East have offered numerous opportunities for greatness in foreign intervention, and Russia, perhaps in a bid to regain the sort of international friend network we now enjoy, has been taking advantage of them.

Syria was Russia's first move. While the chemical smoke cleared and the United States floundered among red lines, Putin benificently arrived with a diplomatic solution. Perhaps it was an atypical role for someone who had spent the last few months supporting Bashar al-Assad's murderous regime; we all know how Russia always hates to see Uncle Sam in a difficult spot. In any case, Putin's plan to remove the chemical weapons from Syria has been largely successful—last week it was hailed as an "unprecedented collaboration" and "success" by the Washington Post and others.

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The Kurds: Underdogs of the Middle East

By on 6.30.14 | 4:44PM

If after the World Cup anyone is looking for a new underdog worthy of support, I submit the Kurds as the most up-and-coming players of the geopolitical world.

The Kurds are the Middle East's classic underdog story: a swashbuckling ethnic group numbering 30 million and residing in pockets of Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. Left out of the twentieth-century nation-making due to a PR problem, the Kurds have been the favorite pin cushion of their respective governments. After decades of being used as pawns in geopolitical power plays, the Kurds have used the recent distraction of terrorists taking over Sunni Iraq to improve their real estate options.

The Kurdish Peshmerga army is the only fighting force that has successfully retaken Iraqi territory from the Sunni militant group ISIS. The Kurds have taken over much of northern Iraq, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. They plan to make the move permanent, said Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, at a news conference Friday:

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Bodies of Kidnapped High School Students Found in West Bank

By on 6.30.14 | 3:54PM

The bodies of three young men, assumed to be the two Israeli and one Israeli-American yeshiva (religious high school) students kidnapped on June 12, have been found "under a pile of rocks in an open field" between two towns in the West Bank, according to New York Times reporting. Initial reports are that the boys had been shot.

Let neither our utterly worthless Secretary of State, John Kerry, nor his utterly worthless predecessor, Hillary Clinton, utter a word about "calm" or "the peace process."

It is time -- well past time -- to end all U.S. financial support for the murderous Palestinians who, even when not directly involved in attacks on civilians and children, celebrate such attacks while teaching their own children that Jews are monsters deserving of suffering and death.

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Loose Canons

The Lost Lessons of World War I

By 6.30.14

Saturday was the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That event is supposed to have caused World War I, which was commonly labeled “the war to end all wars.”

I say supposed to have caused the war because if we look at what actually happened, we can gain a far better understanding of the lessons the world should have but never learned from World War I.

We know the vast scale of the number of dead, wounded, and missing. There were more than 200,000 Americans, three million British, six million French, seven million Germans and nine million Russians among them.

Ignorance of the lessons of World War I is a commonplace. The first among the lost lessons is: contrary to what we are told by an endless string of movies and novels, great wars cannot be begun by accident or by relatively small events such as the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

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Sectarian War Across the Middle East: A Matter of Semantics

By on 6.26.14 | 4:01PM

There is something going on that I may not have told you about.

It is really a matter of semantics, but it has turned out to be rather significant. You may have noticed the multiplicity of English translations for ISIS, the extremist Sunni group that has been terrorizing Syria and especially Iraq in recent weeks. The varied translations exist because the Arabic name—الدولة الاسلامية في العراق و الشام—contains a word, "the Sham," that only roughly translates into English. It refers to a geographic area that has not existed since the Ottoman era, but which includes all the land we now call Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel.

This helps to explain the worrying scope of ISIS's ambition. Evidence of this was reported by Reuters:

The al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades had urged Lebanese Sunni Muslims to attack the Iranian-backed Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah a day before Wednesday's suicide bombing in central Beirut.

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