Libya's post-intervention history has been so bleak that it is being compared to Iraq and cited as proof that American interventions make things worse. But that is probably a hasty judgment.
The Iraqi Sunnis who live under ISIS control may be preparing for a second "Sunni Awakening" after ISIS destroyed a treasured site of Mosul's religious heritage.
ISIS concluded a recent campaign of destruction by bombing a shrine at the tomb of the prophet Jonah. Jonah was revered by Christians, Shias, and Sunnis alike, and the tomb's public bombing has triggered a resistance campaign among Sunnis, according to the AFP. A group of students, businessmen, and young professionals have been joining Kataeb al-Mosul, the Mosul Brigades, to fight against ISIS. The group received both a new spirit and a new name with the bombing of the ancient tomb—the Nabi Yunus Army, after the prophet Jonah.
The World Cup ended weeks ago, but the next competition that has captured the spirit of voyeurism is midway through another round—the Israeli-Palestinian conflict!
It's convenient, in a way, this affair with Gaza coming so close on the heels of the World Cup. Soccer and football fans alike had a few days to rest their vocal chords with some hot tea and lemon before the bellowing started up again. A few reporters probably relocated from South America to the south of Israel, but most viewers didn't even have to change the news channel to get near-continuous coverage of the next international contest.
For those without front-row seats, media fall-out awaits, and with it comes #hashtagactivism. During the World Cup, #USA was automatically followed with an American flag on Twitter. Perhaps we could do the same thing now, using Israeli and Palestinian flags. That way, even the illiterate could decide which team to support. Better yet, this quick system of icons would make it easier to check which side your favorite celebrity is on. Here are a few to get us started.
John Kerry's most recent trip to the Middle East earned him such discouraging reviews in the local papers, not to mention receptions from Israeli politicians, that American officials have made their diplomatic displeasure known—diplomatically, of course.
Kerry spent last weekend in Cairo negotiating the latest ceasefire in missile exchanges between Hamas and Israel, but the Knesset rejected the plan outright as giving too much to Hamas and too little to them. They leaked their non-support through the media to avoid a diplomatic stand-off, and the media took off. The Times of Israel referred to the whole episode as "the betrayal," and that's only in the headline:
Leaked comments from unnamed senior government sources to Army Radio, Channel 2 and other Hebrew outlets have described the secretary as amateurish, incompetent, incapable of understanding the material he is dealing with — in short, a blithering fool.
ISIS have expelled all the Christians from their territory in Mosul and commenced destroying evidence of any faith other than their own twisted brand of Sunni orthodoxy.
As predicted, the treasures of Iraq's past, which are the heritage of the three Abrahamic faiths, are being obliterated. ISIS removed the worshippers from the mosque at the tomb of the prophet Jonah and bombed it into oblivion, according to the Christian Post. The shrine is associated with the prophet Jonah, whose aquatic adventures Jews, Christians, and Muslims all know from their respective scriptures. Like many ancient holy sites, it was built atop ruins of even older churches where earlier centuries of faithful had worshipped. It was sacred to all the Abrahamic faiths and known as a symbol of the area's religious heritage.
John Kerry has made a surprise visit to Jerusalem to negotiate a cease-fire between Gaza and Israel, but since the conflict thus far has served only to unify Gazans and Israelis alike in mutual dislike, a more creative solution will be needed.
There is a certain appeal to this image of Kerry flying in unannounced to Israel's airport—which was recently closed to Americans for safety reasons—perhaps with a red, white, and blue cape fluttering in the breeze created by passing missiles. It is not terribly realistic, though. Both Israelis and Gazans view Egypt and the Obama administration—the powers that negotiated the ceasefire in 2012—with suspicion, and that will make a repeat deal challenging.
Besides that, neither side would gain much from a return to the tense, non-violent hostility of a month ago. For Israel, it would be a matter of time before war began again. And besides that, explained Jerusalem Post reporter Gil Hoffman, Israelis are almost unanimously behind the ground invasion:
The cause of religious liberty galvanizes Americans of faith, yet America's foreign policy has ignored religion to the point of harming her interests and moderate allies in the Middle East.
"America is really, by virtue of its foreign policy, distanced from our natural allies," Andrew Doran, one of the founders of the group In Defense of Christians, told TAS. "They've actually been marginalized over the last several years [by our] commitment to procedural democracy."
Doran described meeting a Christian man in Lebanon who, having never visited America, asked why Americans do not act when Christians face persecution in the Middle East. Doran told him most Americans do not know that any Christians live in the Middle East.
"He was dumbfounded," Doran said. "You can tell that any sense of solidarity with the broader Christian world is gone, and they suddenly feel very alone."
The most prominent Christian landmark in Iraq was emptied of its Christians on Sunday. Mar Behnam is a Syriac Catholic church that was built by a fourth-century Assyrian king. The church was his penance for killing his son, a Christian convert. It is now under the control of Islamic extremists from ISIS, and the monks having been sent away with nothing but the clothes on their backs, according to AFP. They walked for miles before Kurdish Peshmerga forces picked them up and took them to Qaraqosh.
The monks were the last Christians to leave the plains of Iraq; a few still live in Baghdad, but the rest have fled to Kurdistan.
Shopping in the Middle East can be a surprise to Westerners. There's the greeting, the inquiry after one's family, leading questions from the buyer, perhaps a cup of Arabic coffee from the seller. The buyer suggests a price, and the vendor protests that to accept it would bring his children to the brink of starvation. The buyer strides ostentatiously from the establishment, only to be called back by a better deal.
The rejection by Hamas of Egypt's cease-fire deal after more than a week of missile exchange with Israel was merely good business for Middle Eastern bargaining, said Ghaith al Omari of the American Task Force on Palestine at an American Enterprise Institute discussion.
The Egyptian deal did not meet any of Hamas's demands, namely: a re-release of the prisoners Israel first freed in 2011, funds from Qatar to pay employees' salaries, and a reopening the "secret" supply tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. That last one is especially relevant; some have speculated that the supply tunnels are what drove Hamas to enter a unity government with Fatah, which is what started the recent hostilities in the first place.
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.