Tag Archives: Bashar Assad

Journalists collateral damage in Middle East rivalries

Detained journalists on trial, regional rivalries and allegations of terrorism are roiling the Middle East. International affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe  explains in a new column. Excerpt:

Qatar_rel95A bitter feud among Arab states over relations with radical Islamic groups and how to confront regional rival Iran is threatening to bring new volatility to the already raging insecurity in the Middle East.

The feud pits the oil-rich emirate of Qatar against Saudi Arabia, the other Gulf States of the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt. At the heart of the rift is the financial and moral support by Qatar for militant Islamic groups in North Africa, Egypt and rebels fighting the government of President Bashar Assad in Syria, some of which are linked to Al Qaida and other jihadist groups.

Of special concern is Qatar’s vocal and financial support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which has a network of radical Islamic followers throughout the Middle East and North Africa and which has been declared a terrorist organization in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

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Arab Winter of Discontent Lingers

The so-called Arab Spring inflamed democratic imaginations even as activists, citizens, soldiers and rulers clashed violently throughout the region. More than three years after it began, writes international affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe, the democratic potential of the revolution has yet to be realized. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column:

Manthorpe B&WThree years after the flight into exile of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali triggered popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, there is little to show for the cost in blood and chaos … The picture is not all of doom and gloom, however. In all four countries where long-standing dictatorial regimes were toppled by the popular uprisings, the hammering out of new constitutions is in process, with elections in the offing.

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Analysis: Iran and United States join forces against common foes

International affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe writes on the sea-change in the Middle East as Tehran and Washington find common cause and turmoil grows in Iraq and Syria. Excerpt:

As al-Qaida-linked groups hijack the anti-government insurgencies in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, Washington is finding itself making common cause with its old enemy, Iran, and exciting the anger of its traditional ally, Saudi Arabia.

This tectonic shift in Middle Eastern alliances stems from two decisions made by the administration of President Barack Obama in the closing months of last year.

Washington is now finding itself in the previously unthinkable position of leaning more towards the Shiite factions of Islam, led by Iran, and turning away from the purist Sunni factions led by Saudi Arabia.

The first of Obama’s decisions that propelled this shift was his response after United Nations investigators claimed the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad, an ally of Iran whose followers belong to the Shiite Alawite sect, had used chemical weapons against rebel insurgents and civilians.

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