The Saudis, the French and the Embargo

by Fareed Mohamedi , Roger Diwan
published in MER193

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.

Gun Belt in the Beltway

by Robert Vitalis
published in MER197

On August 22 and 23, 1993, Saudi Arabia’s finances received rare front-page coverage in the New York Times, inaugurating a period of hand wringing inside the Beltway and among the academy’s consulting class over the kingdom’s future. This is a tradition going back decades, to the 1940s, when the Saudi treasury was managed by a decrepit alcoholic and the Americans created the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority to replace him. Nostalgia was probably unavoidable among the ranks of Saudi watchers “present at the creation,” like Herman Eilts, then a young US embassy official, or Phebe Marr, an ambitious analyst in what the American ambassador called Aramco’s private intelligence service.

The Most Obscure Dictatorship

by Alain Gresh
published in MER197

The camera avoids faces, except those of the plainclothes police. The black-and-white images are hazy, jumpy. They evoke the antiquated style of negatives that have escaped the censor and customs searches. “This could be any country,” says the commentator -- Chile under Gen. Pinochet, or Burma under the military. But here the men who gather wear long white robes and checkered headdresses, held in place by an ‘iqal, a black silk tress. The women remain invisible.

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The Taliban, the Shari'a and the Pipeline

Rivalries and Power Plays in Afghanistan

by Olivier Roy
published in MER202

Underlying the appearance of the Taliban movement, first of all, are factors internal to Afghan society, in particular the discrediting of the government and the “commandos” born out of the resistance to Soviet intervention. The rapid expansion of the militia, culminating with the conquest of Kabul on September 26, 1996, cannot be understood without considering the direct support of Pakistan, abetted by the US and Saudi Arabia, as part of a larger project to export fossil fuels from Central Asia to Western markets via Afghanistan and Pakistan, bypassing Iran and Russia.

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The Romance of Tahliyya Street

Youth Culture, Commodities and the Use of Public Space in Jidda

by Lisa Wynn
published in MER204

For middle and upper class elite, entertainment in Jidda is overwhelmingly centered around commodities. In particular, the city’s Tahliyya Street is a monument to commercialization in Saudi Arabia: a string of shops and fast food restaurants such as Benetton, Esprit, McDonald’s and Sbarro, mixed in with local entrepreneurial creations, such as Stallion Records and Dujaj al-Tazij.

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Oil, Gas and the Future of Arab Gulf Countries

by Fareed Mohamedi
published in MER204

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Washington Still Refuses to Learn an Obvious Lesson

by Chris Toensing | published June 6, 2011

Back in 2004, three years into the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 Commission report made its debut to the gushing admiration of the Washington press corps. The report was everything that the mainstream media adores: bipartisan, devoid of divisive finger-pointing, full of conventional wisdom.

Take this pearl: “One of the lessons of the Cold War was that short-term gains in cooperating with the most brutal and repressive governments were often outweighed by long-term setbacks for America’s stature and interests.”

Migration, Modernity and Islam in Rural Sudan

by Victoria Bernal
published in MER211

For the villagers of Wad al-Abbas in northern Sudan, transnational migration has generated new understandings of what it means to be a Muslim. From the mid-1970s through the 1980s, Wad al-Abbas’s incorporation into the global economy was mediated primarily by Saudi Arabia. The Saudi kingdom exerted influence on Sudan at the national level by pressuring then-President Numeiri to institute shari‘a law in 1983 and funding opposition groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. At the same time, Saudi Arabia attracted ordinary Sudanese from all walks of life as labor migrants. Villagers from Wad al-Abbas found work in Saudi Arabia as truck drivers, electricians, factory workers and sales clerks.