Arab Media: From Decolonisation to Arab Spring

(First published by Italian think tank IPSI)

Arab media has been a powerful tool in the hands of Arab states since the decolonisation period. The Nasser regime used radio, television and print media to mobilise support for Egypt’s Non-Aligned and Pan-Arab foreign policy, apply methods of mass media propaganda developed in Europe and establishing a model for the region. The power of media to function as a subversive force was seen in the 1970s when cassette tapes of preachers denouncing governments for tyranny and corruption spread in Egypt and Iran. Continue reading Arab Media: From Decolonisation to Arab Spring

Issues regarding Arab-European dialogue

I just spent three days at the Rome Mediterranean Dialogues event, where I took part in a panel on media and cultural issues in relation to ISIS. Listening to the discussions from European and Arab politicians and policy-makers, a number of points of interest or concern jumped out, which I just wanted to summarise here. Continue reading Issues regarding Arab-European dialogue

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

The “moderates” on Gaza: sowing seeds of hate

First published on Al Jazeeara.net aje.me/1sgTl1V

In 2006 Saudi Arabia’s leadership broke with convention in Arab politics by publicly blaming a self-proclaimed “resistance” force for provoking Israel to unleash a war. Rather than hold Israel to account for targeting civilians, ground invasion, air and sea blockade, Saudi Arabia took aim at Hizbullah for what it called “irresponsible adventurism” in kidnapping two Israeli soldiers. This set the tone for a number of Arab governments during a month of war during which it became clear they hoped Israel would “finish off” Hizbullah, a nuisance that inflamed popular passions, leading to impossible demands on regimes who relied on Western support to survive. Hosni Mubarak couldn’t even bring himself to call Hizbullah by its name, referring to it famously during the Lebanon war as “thingy”. Add to that, especially for Saudi Arabia, the fact that Hizbullah was an extension of Iranian power. Continue reading The “moderates” on Gaza: sowing seeds of hate

Key shifts in the “Arab moderate” position on Hamas and Israel

The Egyptian, Saudi and other Arab “moderates” position on the Gaza war over the past three weeks 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 moderate” position on Hamas and Israel

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

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

FT: Gulf states forge deal to end spat over Doha backing for Brotherhood

The Riyadh Document: What could it mean?

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are apparently on their way to resolving their dispute with Qatar over its backing for the Muslim Brotherhood. A foreign ministers’ meeting was convened in Riyadh on Thursday, leading to a statement issued later in the evening. Continue reading The Riyadh Document: What could it mean?