Syria

Tunisia and Egypt
January 26, 2011

When one wave of revolution hits an Arab country it is very likely to hit several others. Like the revolts of the colonels. It started with a coup d’état of army colonels by Gamal Abdel Nasser (who supplanted his lackey Muhammad Naguib) in early 1953. There followed another coup of colonels in Syria which then teamed up with Egypt to comprise the United Arab Republic in 1956. The preposterous flag with two stars, one for each state, is about as deep as the union was.

Belarus Betrayal
December 17, 2010

On December 19, citizens in the former Soviet republic of Belarus will head to polls to vote in the country’s presidential election, the fourth since 1994. But Belarusians don’t have any real hope of unseating incumbent Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country with an iron fist since winning the presidency 16 years ago. Widely known as “Europe’s Last Dictator,” Lukashenko has cracked down on independent media, routinely broken up public protests, and “disappeared” prominent opposition leaders.

The Rise of Lil' Kim
September 16, 2010

The best way to understand North Korea is to think of it not as a traditional nation-state, but as a nuclear-armed organized crime family, albeit one that will soon find itself in need of a new boss.

Historical Fiction
August 17, 2010

The argument that Israel is a colonialist entity is often marshaled to undermine the Jewish state’s legitimacy. The theme has certainly permeated Western academia, almost uncritically. For decades, it has been employed against Israel in one international forum after another. In 1973, the U.N.

Terrorism And The Mosque
August 15, 2010

Apparently, Muslims are also not particularly stirred by the president’s policies. They wanted him to be more forthright and more forthcoming on their issues as he had indicated he would be in his much-vaunted “new beginning” speech last year in Cairo. In a New York Times dispatch yesterday, Sheryl Gay Stolberg cites an Arab-American journalist as complaining that Obama has since left many Muslims disappointed. Well, on this count, at least, those disappointed Muslims are at one with most other Americans.

Who’s The Happiest One Of All?
July 29, 2010

This is one of those slightly hokey surveys that measures the happiness of nations. Done by the Gallup World Poll and written up for Forbes by Francesca Levy, its results are not entirely surprising. Rich countries generally do better than others, although Saudi Arabia ranks 58th just ahead of Pakistan. Almost three times as many Saudis are “struggling” than “thriving.” On the other hand, the United Arab Emirates (which is a country made up of wealthy scions and resident ex-pats) and Kuwait register respectably 20th and 23rd. So how about Egypt?

Obama's Strange Defense of the Hijab, and Syria's Defiance of It.
July 20, 2010

One of President Obama's weirdest causes is his defense of the hijab or the niqab. Not that I want to take the veil away from any Muslim women... anywhere. Still, he is president of the United States and might just want to limit his special pleadings to truly significant ones. Anyway, he didn't. He tried out the trope in Cairo last year and followed it up during the Ramadan fest at the White House. These turned out to be not very successful interventions. As we learn from this morning's newspaper, even Syria has turned its back (or Bashaar Assad, his) on Obama's pleadings.

Barack Obama Vs. Mort Klein. Who The Hell Is Mort Klein?
July 15, 2010

The president doesn’t like Mort Klein. I don’t know whether they’ve ever met. But the Obama folk did convene a meeting for the president with the “Jewish leadership,” which included, as it happens, American Jewish organizations (new on the block and who are financed mostly by Jewish billionaires who care not a fig for the survival of a people they do not think of as their home) believing that Israel is basically responsible for the intensity and duration of the conflict with the Arabs, in general, and the Palestinians, in particular.

“… Syria Elicits Groans In Washington”
July 03, 2010

So says a headline in Wednesday’s New York Times. And the article by Mark Landler elaborates the cosmic kvetch brought on by the Obama administration’s courting of Damascus. I’ve written about this a few times myself. The courting of the Assad dictatorship was supposed to lure Syria away from its entanglement with the Ahmadinejad regime in Tehran. But the Senate Foreign Relations Committee refused to consider the confirmation of the president’s nominee, Robert S. Ford, as emissary to the Syrians. My friend, John Kerry, loyally subbed for the putative ambassador.

Erdogan Makes A Turkey Out of Obama. Bad Pun, Important Thought
June 28, 2010

Sorry for the bad pun. But it's 1:30 a.m. Monday morning. Turkish political culture is now in tatters. Or, rather, its sensible political culture is in tatters. But the sensible Kemalists were no longer so sensible. They were corrupt, they were very authoritarian, they exported what some of them explicitly called their "surplus population" to Europe. These were mostly Kurds with Turkish passports. Now, some of them are called "Germans." But the reality is that many of them are internal Kurdish exiles.

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