Wanted: Omar al-Bashir -- and Peace in Sudan

by Khalid Mustafa Medani | published March 5, 2009

For the first time, the international community has indicted a sitting president of a sovereign state. Omar al-Bashir of Sudan stands accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague of “crimes against humanity and war crimes” committed in the course of the Khartoum regime’s brutal suppression of the revolt in the country’s far western province of Darfur. Having indicted two other figures associated with the regime in 2007, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo began building a case against the man at the top, and on March 4, the court issued a warrant for Bashir’s arrest.

A Litmus Test for Iraq

by Reidar Visser | published January 30, 2009

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari arrived in Basra on January 24. His mission in the southern oil port was to stump for his Reformist Front, a breakaway faction of the Da‘wa Party of the current premier, Nouri al-Maliki, ahead of Iraq’s January 31 provincial elections. His itinerary included visits to the Five Miles area -- often described as a stronghold of the movement loyal to the young Shi‘i leader Muqtada al-Sadr -- as well as a rally at a sports stadium. Only days earlier, he had been preceded by Maliki himself, and in the first days of 2009 numerous other national politicians trooped to Basra as well.

The Continuity of Obama's Change

by Mouin Rabbani , Chris Toensing | published January 27, 2009

President Barack Obama’s campaign pledge that his administration would begin working for peace in the Middle East from its first day in office is one that he almost met. On January 21, a mere 24 hours after his inauguration, Obama placed phone calls from the Oval Office to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Husni Mubarak and Jordanian King ‘Abdallah II. The next day, together with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he visited the State Department to announce the appointment of former Sen. George Mitchell as the new special envoy for the Middle East.

Birth Pangs of a New Palestine

by Mouin Rabbani | published January 7, 2009

Shortly after 11:30 am on December 27, 2008, at the height of the midday bustle on the first day of the Gazan week and with multitudes of schoolchildren returning home from the morning shift, close to 90 Israeli warplanes launched over 100 tons of explosives at some 100 targets throughout the 139 square miles of the Gaza Strip. Within minutes, the near simultaneous air raids killed more than 225 and wounded at least 700, more than 200 of them critically. These initial attacks alone produced dozens more dead than any other day in the West Bank and Gaza combined since Israel’s occupation of those lands commenced in June 1967.

Cast Lead in the Foundry

by The Editors | published December 31, 2008

A stopped clock, the saying goes, is right twice a day. The “senior Bush administration official” who chatted with the Washington Post on December 28 was right that Israel is “not trying to take over the Gaza Strip” with the massive assault launched the previous day, and correct that the Israelis are bombing now “because they want it to be over before the next administration comes in.” That’s twice, and so one must take this official’s remaining reasoning -- that President-elect Barack Obama may not smile upon Israel’s gross abuses of military power as the Bush administration has done -- with a grain of salt.

Dangerous Liaisons

Pakistan, India and Lashkar-e Taiba

by Graham Usher | published December 31, 2008

The day after Christmas, the wires buzzed with reports that Pakistan was moving 20,000 troops from its western border with Afghanistan to locations near the eastern border with India. The redeployment, said Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Qureshi, came in response to “certain developments” on the Indian side of the boundary, one reportedly being that New Delhi might be considering military strikes on militant bases inside Pakistan. Pakistani security officials stressed that these moves were “minimum defensive measures”: No soldiers had been taken away from the theater of counterinsurgency operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, only from “snowbound areas” where the army sits idle.

Recipe for a Riot

Parsing Israel’s Yom Kippur Upheavals

by Peter Lagerquist | published November 15, 2008

On October 8, 48-year old Tawfiq Jamal got into his car with his 18-year old son and a friend, and set out for the house of his relatives, the Shaaban family, who lived as of then in a new, predominantly Jewish neighborhood on the eastern edges of Acre. A walled city on the sea, mainly famed in the West for having served as the CENTCOM of the crusading Richard the Lionheart, Acre is today a “mixed” Israeli town, inhabited by Jews as well as Arabs like Tawfiq. That day, he was on his way to pick up his daughter, who had been helping the Shaabans prepare cakes for a wedding scheduled for the following week. He insists that he drove slowly and quietly, with his radio turned off.

Bypassing Bethlehem’s Eastern Reaches

by Nate Wright | published October 7, 2008

The town of Bayt Sahour spills down the hills to the east of Bethlehem, spreading out along ridges and valleys that mark the beginning of the long descent to the Dead Sea. Up the slopes the roads carve out twisting rivers of dirt and asphalt, wending their way through clusters of soft brown stone houses, but across the ridges they run straight and smooth.

Livni in Principle and in Practice

by Peretz Kidron | published September 30, 2008

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, the sitting Israeli prime minister spoke more plainly than ever before in public about what will be required of Israel in a comprehensive peace with the Palestinians and Syria. In a September 29 interview with the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, Ehud Olmert said that, to achieve peace, “we will withdraw from almost all the territories, if not all the territories” that have been under Israeli occupation since the 1967 war, including most of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Particularly coming from Olmert, who long opposed the notion of swapping land for peace, these words might have inspired hope that deals on the Palestinian or Syrian fronts were at hand.

Another Struggle: Sexual Identity Politics in Unsettled Turkey

by Kerem Öktem | published September 15, 2008

What happens when almost 3,000 men, women and transgender people march down the main street of a major Muslim metropolis, chanting against patriarchy, the military and restrictive public morals, waving the rainbow flag and hoisting banners decrying homophobia and demanding an end to discrimination? Or when a veiled transvestite carries a placard calling for freedom of education for women wearing the headscarf and, for transsexuals, the right to work?

Lebanon’s Post-Doha Political Theater

by Stacey Philbrick Yadav | published July 23, 2008

After 18 months of political paralysis punctuated by episodes of civil strife, Lebanon finally has a “national unity” cabinet—but the achievement has come at a steep price. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and new President Michel Suleiman announced the slate for the 30-member cabinet on July 11, six weeks, and much agonizing and public criticism, after Lebanon’s major political factions agreed on Suleiman’s presidential candidacy and principles of power sharing at a summit in the Qatari capital of Doha. As with much else in Lebanon, however, the words “national unity” are sorely at odds with reality. If anything, the politicking behind the composition of this cabinet has deepened the polarization of the country.

Pakistan Amidst the Storms

by Graham Usher | published June 27, 2008

Less than three months after being formed, Pakistan’s coalition government is in trouble. The leader of one of its constituent parties, Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), is awaiting a decision from the country’s Supreme Court about whether he can run in parliamentary by-elections that began on June 26. The court is packed with judges appointed by President Pervez Musharraf, the ex-general who overthrew Sharif, a two-time prime minister, in a 1999 coup.

Lebanon’s Brush with Civil War

by Jim Quilty | published May 20, 2008

When Israel commenced its bombardment of Lebanon on July 12, 2006, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his general staff declared that the air raids were provoked by Hizballah’s kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers that day. As the destruction piled up over the ensuing 33 days, then, Lebanese did not ask themselves, “Why is Israel bombing us?” Rather, the question in many Lebanese minds, those of ordinary citizens and analysts alike, was “Why did Hizballah provoke this?

Underbelly of Egypt’s Neoliberal Agenda

by Joel Beinin | published April 5, 2008

It was business as usual for Orascom, a gigantic Egyptian conglomerate with major interests in everything from Cairene highway construction to Red Sea luxury resorts to cell phones in Iraq.

Debating Devolution in Iraq

by Reidar Visser | published March 10, 2008

In early August 2007, Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, a Shi‘i preacher affiliated with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, made headlines with striking comments to a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor. The cleric revealed in an interview with Sam Dagher that “a massive operation” was underway to secure the establishment of a Shi‘i super-province in Iraq, to be named the “South of Baghdad Region,” and projected to encompass all nine majority-Shi‘i governorates south of the Iraqi capital.