Greater Middle East

Syrian dissident detained

From Ya Libnan, May 15:

Beirut & Damascus — Prominent writer and democracy campaigner Michel Kilo was detained after calling for better relations between Syria and Lebanon.

Egypt: opposition crackdown continues

From the Egyptian NGO, Civil Monitors for Human Rights, in Cairo, May 11:

Egyptian Authorities Continue Crackdown on Opposition Today
Continuing in their policy of oppression, the Egyptian authorities are trying to prevent protests which the Egyptian opposition is organizing to support the judges Hisham Bistowissi and Mahmoud Mekki and to condemn the oppressive policies of the Egyptian government.

Egypt: Bedouin face sweeps after Sinai terror

Note that this Reuters report on the Sinai bombings offhandedly mentions more sweeps of the peninsula's Bedouin inhabitants. The Bedouin, their lands divided by Egypt and Israel, have been kicked around plenty on both sides of the border. The situation in the Sinai's desert interior is approaching a small counterinsurgency war against the Bedouin--which will only have the effect of strengthening whatever ties exist to al-Qaeda in their communities. But Sinai only enters the headlines when a tourist resort gets blown up.

DAHAB, Egypt - Egyptian police detained at least 10 people, including three computer engineers, on Tuesday in connection with a triple bombing in the Sinai resort of Dahab that killed at least 18 people and wounded scores.

Sectarian violence in Egypt

As in recent similar cases in Bangkok and Nazareth, the attacks on religious targets in Alexandria are being dismissed as the work of a "mentally disturbed" loner. Could be (although note that in this case there were three near-simultaneous attacks). But (as we argued before) even the choice of targets by the proverbial lone nut reflects a general zeitgeist—and the response to the attacks is assuredly political. "Fanatics"? Certainly. But why are there so many fanatics in the world these days? (They are, of course, asking the same question in Delhi right now.) From AP, April 15:

Turkey: re-escalation in Kurdish conflict

From DPA, April 3:

ANKARA - Three people were killed and one badly injured when suspected Kurdish assailants threw Molotov cocktails at a bus in Istanbul Sunday night, the NTV television station reported.

Vatican confab "rehabilitates" Crusades

How heartwarming to see the new Pontiff lining up with Europe's current Islamophobic zeitgeist. From the London Times, March 20:

Vatican change of heart over 'barbaric' Crusades
The Vatican has begun moves to rehabilitate the Crusaders by sponsoring a conference at the weekend that portrays the Crusades as wars fought with the "noble aim" of regaining the Holy Land for Christianity.

US "left nationalism" and the cartoon crisis

Our contributor Mahmood Ketabchi offers another critique of the US left's reponse to the "cartoon controversy." Interestingly, he finds reflexive support for any forces ostensibly opposing the US to be a paradoxical form of nationalism, that places the United States at the center of the moral universe. He explains his term "left nationalism" in a footnote:

US to fund Syria "regime change"

As we recently noted in the case of Iran, the Bush administration seems divided between Pentagon hardliners who seek a military solution and State Department pragmatists who would pursue a peaceful "regime change" scenario in Syria. But these are not mutually exclusive options, of course. In most recent cases of Washington effecting a power transfer in a targeted country—from Nicaragua in 1989 to Yugoslavia in 2000—a combination of external military pressure and internal political support was brought to bear.

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