Middle East Research and Information Project: Critical Coverage of the Middle East Since 1971

France

Some Thoughts on November 13 and After

Azadeh Kian 11.20.2015

My son and I were both so excited. It was my first time attending a soccer game at a stadium. And it was a momentous match, pitting the French national team against their counterparts from Germany. The Stade de France just outside Paris was full of almost 80,000 spectators of different social groups, ethnicities, ages and genders. Watching a match at a stadium, I realized, is very different from watching it on television. I was thinking about my Iranian sisters who cannot enter a stadium in Tehran as I can in Europe.

Postcard from the Algerian Saharan Past

In 1923, a crippling drought pushed the nomads of the Algerian Sahara as far north as Bou-Saada, just 150 miles south of the Mediterranean coast, in search of sustenance. The French colonial authorities worried that fighting would break out between the nomads and locals over scarce water. From their perspective, indeed, nearly every year between the early 1920s and the late 1940s was exceptionally dry.

Hybrid Loyalties at the World Cup

David McMurray 06.15.2014

The World Cup raises nationalist (make that nativist) sentiment to a fever pitch all around the Mediterranean Sea basin. But nowhere does the temperature run higher than in France and Algeria (as Martin Evans discusses at length in this article).

Maxime Rodinson Looks Back

Maxime Rodinson (1915-2004) was a pioneering scholar of Islam and the Middle East, as well as a prominent Marxian public intellectual. A product of classical Orientalist training, he was professor of Old Ethiopic and South Arabian languages at the Sorbonne. His scholarly sensibility was historical-materialist, a perspective he brought to his famous biography of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (1961), as well as later publications including Islam and Capitalism (English edition, 1973), Marxism and the Muslim World (English, 1979) and Cult, Ghetto and State: The Persistence of the Jewish Question (1983). Rodinson was a contributing editor of Middle East Report from 1988 to 2000.

Of Principle and Peril

The Editors 03.23.2011

Reasonable, principled people can disagree about whether, in an ideal world, Western military intervention in Libya’s internal war would be a moral imperative. With Saddam Hussein dead and gone, there is arguably no more capricious and overbearing dictator in the Arab world than Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi. The uprising of the Libyan people against him, beginning on February 17, was courageous beyond measure. It seems certain that, absent outside help, the subsequent armed insurrection would have been doomed to sputter amidst the colonel’s bloody reprisals. 

Urban Violence in France

Dorénavant la rue ne pardonne plus                                              From now on the street will not forgive
Nous n’avons rien à perdre car nous n’avons jamais rien eu            We have nothing to lose for we have nothing

The Imperial Lament

Joel Beinin 06.15.2004

Niall Ferguson, Colossus: The Price of America’s Empire (New York: Penguin Press, 2004).

There is something refreshing about British historian Niall Ferguson’s argument “not merely that the United States is an empire, but that it has always been an empire.” For a certain kind of American liberal, the Bush administration's eager invasion of Iraq has been a bad dream. The ignominious departure of US viceroy L. Paul Bremer from Baghdad on June 28, many assume, marks the beginning of the end of a grim, aberrant interlude in an otherwise innocent and idealistic US foreign policy. In contrast, Ferguson cheerily cites the work of the independent Marxist, Harry Magdoff, and the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Geir Lundestad, to establish that US armed forces were stationed in 64 countries in 1967 and that those forces conducted 168 different overseas military interventions between 1946 and 1965.

Francophonie and Femininity

Mary Jean Green, Karen Gould, Micheline Rice-Maximin et al, eds., Postcolonial Subjects: Francophone Women Writers (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996).
Winifred Woodhull, Transfigurations of the Maghreb: Feminism, Decolonization and Literatures (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993).

Nuclear Counterproliferation in the Middle East

The United States and France are developing strategies for using nuclear weapons in developing countries, ostensibly to counter proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical and biological). The Middle East in particular has become a testing ground for nuclear war games. [1] This worrisome trend is more likely to provoke a Middle East arms race than to stop proliferation.

Keeping Up with the French

Foreign policy insiders in Washington are fond of describing France as a uniquely amoral weapons-trafficking nation that will sell anything to anyone. This harsh judgement seemed to be confirmed last August, when the latest Congressional Research Service report on arms transfers revealed that France had replaced the United States as the leading exporter of arms to the Third World, and in a decisive fashion had grabbed 45 percent of all new arms agreements with developing nations in 1994, nearly twice the level of sales registered by the outgoing titleholder.

Ian Lustick, Unsettled States, Disputed Lands

Ian Lustick, Unsettled States, Disputed Lands: Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank-Gaza (Cornell, 1993).

The Saudis, the French and the Embargo

The successful maintenance of a near total embargo on Iraq owes to a number of factors, ranging from geography to post-Cold War global economies. Iraq’s limited access to the sea can be easily monitored, while its record of regional aggression has deprived Baghdad of local friends. Despite some breaches of the export embargo involving high-ranking officials in both countries, Iran is not going to give Iraq much economic relief. The same goes for Syria. Turkey and Jordan, Iraq’s two lifelines to the outside world, cannot risk more than limited and calibrated breaches of the embargo because of their own susceptibility to US pressures.

Paris, Washington, Algiers

The prospect of an Islamist victory in Algeria has alarmed French policymakers and politicians across the political spectrum. The French right, from the National Front’s Jean Le Pen to Gaullist Interior Minister Charles Pasqua have, in varying degrees, raised the specter of Algerian “boat people” swarming across the Mediterranean to threaten the very basis of French civilization. Centrists and socialists excused the Algerian army’s cancellation of the 1991 parliamentary elections by arguing that the Islamists were anti-democratic anyway. The geostrategists among them feared that an Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) regime would spread its revolution to the rest of North Africa and the Middle East and cut gas supplies to the continent.

“Images from Elsewhere”

“You chase colonialism out the door, it comes back through the sky,” observed the Algerian Press Service several years ago, alluding to the phenomenon of satellite broadcasting that has literally brought European television into the living rooms of North Africa. [1] More than 95 percent of urban households in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco have televisions, and more than 30 percent have video decks. Parabolic antennas are sprouting like inverted mushrooms on rooftops around the southern Mediterranean (estimates for Algeria alone range between 1.3 and 2.2 million households, or 8 to 17 million viewers). [2]

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