Key shifts in the Arab ‘moderates’ position on Hamas and Israel

Published by Middle East Monitor

The Egyptian, Saudi and other Arab “moderates” position on the Gaza war has been presented in most media discussion and political analysis as a striking departure from previous policy and indication of a new shift towards Israel and its view of Hamas, “resistance” and other regional challenges to the global order. The fact is, however, that their Gaza policies are the consequence of over a decade of restructuring of Arab positions to accommodate the United States. Continue reading Key shifts in the Arab ‘moderates’ position on Hamas and Israel

UAE attacks in Libya: Not Zayed’s vision

First published at Foreign Policy and ECFR

One of the key principles of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Nahyan, who forged the United Arab Emirates (UAE) out of seven sheikhdoms, was to portray his small and vulnerable country as a friend to all Arabs. The federation he created evolved as an unusual hybrid, with cities as diverse as the liberal Dubai and the religiously conservative Sharjah next door. It has become one of the Arab world’s strongest economies, the second largest after Saudi Arabia despite a population one-sixth of the kingdom’s size, and continues to develop at breakneck speed. What Zayed — who passed away in 2004, leaving power in the hands of his ambitious son — would have made of his country’s involvement in the tangled revolutionary politics of Libya, several thousand miles to the west, is worth pondering. Continue reading UAE attacks in Libya: Not Zayed’s vision

EL PUZLE ISLÁMICO: Batallas internas en el islam político

Published in Spanish in Vanguardia Dossier, July/Sept 2014

Islamic society and politics in the Middle East are riven by two schisms today that have produced violent instability that is set to continue until a critical moment, such as the fall of a regime such as that in Iran or Saudi Arabia, or a historical compromise between the two. It would be hard to choose one as more unlikely than the other in the current situation. Both conflicts are products of the past generation and though they have developed separately it is possible to see a link between them if we consider the Islamic Republic in Iran as a Shi’ite mirror image of the political Islam that the Brotherhood and movements such as Ennahda, Hamas, Islah are representative of within a Sunni framework. Continue reading EL PUZLE ISLÁMICO: Batallas internas en el islam político

Reform and Dissent in Saudi Arabia since 2011

From BBC Arabic on release of documentary Saudi Secret Uprising

_75195397_safaincarThe Saudi regime likes to present the country as an apolitical space where the rules of normal politics don’t apply. It promotes a vision of Saudi Arabia as an Islamic utopia, replicating the Sharia state of the early Islamic era, with Al Saud in charge of the political affairs of state and the religious scholars (ulama) assuring the application of God’s law in society. This schema obviates the need for political parties, elected legislature or right to public protest since the divinely-ordained society would have no differing opinion and the ulama have in any case arrogated the right to rule to the dynasty. Continue reading Reform and Dissent in Saudi Arabia since 2011

From World Cup to the Brotherhood: worrying trends for Doha

Published by ECFR

Qatar’s World Cup bid is just one of a number of headaches facing the Gulf state and its new emir, Tamim bin Hamad. Last week the Sunday Times published news of a stash of emails that it claimed proved a “plot to buy the World Cup”. The allegations, centring on Qatari former FIFA executive member Mohammed Bin Hammam and money paid to FIFA delegates and officials to ensure Qatar’s win, are not new. Qatar’s response has been to distance itself from Bin Hammam, saying he did not act with official blessing. There is a general assumption that Qatar did indeed play dirty to bag the deal, but the bigger issue is the corruption of FIFA to allow such things to happen. Continue reading From World Cup to the Brotherhood: worrying trends for Doha

Saudi Arabia and Iran Policy: In Terra Nova

From Asfar.org

In its modern iteration, Saudi Arabia has been through several crises of varying nature and intensity. But none quite resemble that which a convergence of circumstances have created in the era of the Arab uprisings. A combination of factors including the brutal war in Syria have threatened Saudi Arabia’s alliance with the United States, leaving the Saudi leadership in a precarious global position and opening up questions about its relationship with other Arab states. Continue reading Saudi Arabia and Iran Policy: In Terra Nova

ECFR: The campaign to condemn the Brotherhood

The decision of the British government this week to launch an investigation into the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood is a major victory for Saudi Arabia, which has been arguing since the 9/11 attacks that it is the Brotherhood’s brand of “political Islam” that is the source of jihadist violence and extremism, not Saudi Wahhabism. Privately, British officials said there had been months of Saudi pressure, complementing Saudi anger over the West’s shift on Iran since November. The UK ambassador to Riyadh no less has been chosen lead the probe. Continue reading ECFR: The campaign to condemn the Brotherhood

TIME: In Egypt, It’s Street Art vs. State Soap

Before the street, there was the screen — and the stage. In Syria and Egypt pre-2011, citizens used soap operas, plays and songs to voice political commentary — slipping criticism in between lines and lyrics. Then, the Arab Spring began, collapsing this natural order and impaling the region’s most powerful and traditional motors of media production in Egypt and Syria. Continue reading TIME: In Egypt, It’s Street Art vs. State Soap