Repercussions in the Middle East

by
published in MER152

Egypt

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Fissures in Hizballah's Edifice of Control

by Mona Harb , Lara Deeb | published October 30, 2012

On August 15, Beirut awoke to the news that more than 20 alleged members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) had been captured by a group calling itself “the military wing of the al-Miqdad family.” The group had sent footage to the al-Mayadin television network, which was quickly picked up by other local and international channels. In the clip, men dressed in camouflage and black ski masks, and gripping Kalashnikovs, surrounded two prisoners seated in a dark room. A man with his back to the camera posed questions to the prisoners, who replied that they worked for the FSA, on orders from Khalid al-Dahir, a Lebanese parliamentarian affiliated with the Future Movement, the Sunni-majority political party led by Saad al-Hariri.

Human Rights Briefing

by Nabeel Abraham
published in MER160

The bus arrived at Tadmur Prison where the military police awaited us. The warders helped us off the bus, whipping us brutally and mercilessly until we were all out. They removed the handcuffs and blindfolds, and then we were taken into a courtyard overlooked by the prison’s offices, where our names were registered. All the while we were being whipped from all sides. Then we were taken through a metal door into a courtyard, known as the torture courtyard. The military police searched our clothes. One by one we were put into the dullab (tire), and each person was beaten between 200 and 400 times on his feet.... When they had finished beating us, we were lined up in single file.

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Karsh, The Soviet Union and Syria

by Fred H. Lawson
published in MER163

Efraim Karsh, The Soviet Union and Syria: The Asad Years (London: Routledge, 1988.)

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To Save Syria, Work with Russia and Iran

by Aslı Bâli , Aziz Rana | published August 15, 2012

As the violence intensifies in Syria, external powers, including the United States, are embracing increasingly belligerent positions. Indeed, in recent days the United States and Turkey have announced plans to study a no-fly zone after calls by many American commentators for a more direct military role.

Although there is no doubt the government of President Bashar al-Asad carries the overwhelming responsibility for the unfolding tragedy in Syria, the attempt to militarily defeat the regime is the wrong strategy if the goals are reducing violence and protecting innocent civilians.

Syria's Radical Dabka

by Shayna Silverstein
published in MER263

A clip circulating on YouTube begins with two sets of feet stepping on a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, defaced with a blood-red X and tossed on the ground. It soon becomes apparent that “dirty Asad” lies inside a ring of protesters, who circle the head shot stomping rhythmically -- on the downbeat, in repeated or alternating steps that rock backward and forward, left and right -- to a rollicking tune in the background. The video is captioned, “The Sweetest and Finest of Syrian Dabka.” [1]

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To Stop the Killing, Deal with Asad

by Aslı Bâli , Aziz Rana | published April 10, 2012

In the wake of the recent Friends of Syria conference, the United States and Middle Eastern powers that include Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are stepping up aid to armed resistance groups in Syria. Under American leadership, the conference pledged $100 million to provide salary payments to rebel fighters.

Whatever the humanitarian intentions, this strategy, along with discussions of “safe zones” and “non-lethal aid,” is misguided at best, and counterproductive at worst. For all the talk about safeguarding civilians, the proposals are far more likely to escalate violence than to reduce civilian casualties.

Syrian Kurdish Cards

by Denise Natali | published March 20, 2012

Upheaval in Syria has given Kurdish groups new opportunities to advance their nationalist agendas while serving as proxies for neighboring states. In Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK has taken advantage of the rift between the regime of Bashar al-Asad and the Turkish government by turning to the former to help it launch its armed operations. In Iraq, after some delay, Kurdish elites have entered Syrian opposition politics as well, highlighting the ironies and internal tensions of their own position. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is keen to persuade Turkey, its key regional patron, that it can contain the PKK elements based in Iraqi territory and moderate Syrian Kurdish demands, while also assuring its Kurdish brethren that it will support their claims. And in Syria itself, Kurds have created the Kurdish National Council in parallel to the main opposition body, the Syrian National Council (SNC) -- a reaction to the possibility that the SNC will morph into a successor regime led by Muslim Brothers under Turkish influence.

The New Arab Cold War and the Struggle for Syria

by Curtis Ryan
published in MER262

In his classic study, The Arab Cold War, Malcolm Kerr charted the machinations of inter-Arab politics during an era dominated by Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser. In another renowned work, The Struggle for Syria, Patrick Seale documented the links between Syria’s tumultuous domestic politics and the broader contest for supremacy in the region, stemming from factors ranging from inter-Arab conflicts to the global cold war. [1] Today, amid the chaos in Syria and the transformations in the region, these texts, both originally published in 1965, seem all too contemporary. Once again, regional politics shows many signs of an Arab cold war and, once again, that broader conflict is manifesting itself in a struggle for Syria.