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L’archipel de Palestine orientale 24, April 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East.
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Palestine and water replacing Israel

This is another fantastic map taken from Strange Maps. As the Arabist says, water has replaced all the areas controlled by the Israelis such as roads and settlements. It vividly highlights if not the impossibility then at least the vast difficulties involved with establishing a cogent and workable state under such conditions.

What on earth is this? 23, April 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar, Random.
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The Gulf Times reports the appearance of what can only be described as an amazing little creature in Qatar. It was found, apparently, near Doha’s Corniche. A number of people attested to seeing the creature, which eventually ran off. I don’t suppose that there is the remotest chance that this thing is not a fake, but you never know…

Hat tip: the Arabist

“Your booze and fags calculator” 23, April 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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The Sun newspaper, as ever leading by example in the cut-throat world of hard, gritty journalism, offers its readers a ‘booze and fags’ calculator to see the true and important effects of Alastair Darling’s budget.


Torture doesn’t work 23, April 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations.
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Ben Makintyre at The Times of London offers a compelling and persuasive  argument for why torture simply does not work. Here are a few choice excerpts.

The key example is Ibn Shaykh al-Libi, a Libyan al-Qaeda trainer captured in Pakistan in 2002. He denied knowing of any links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, but, under torture, “remembered” that Iraq had trained Islamic terrorists in the use of weapons of mass destruction. His evidence formed the centrepiece of George W. Bush’s pre-invasion speech: “We’ve learnt that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and gases.” Al-Libi’s “confession” was entirely false, but by the time the CIA retracted the claim, the war was under way…

Violence is taboo,” wrote Robin “Tin Eye” Stephens, the fearsome monocled martinet who ran Britain’s wartime interrogation centre in London. “Not only does it produce answers to please, but it lowers the standard of information.” Torture fuels insurgency, as the French discovered in Algeria. The extreme violence of the second intifada has been directly linked to the mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners after the first. Britain discovered from its experience battling the IRA that violent repression could be profoundly counter-productive.

Kuwait arrest Aussie for insulting Emir 23, April 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Kuwait, The Emirates.
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Until recent developments in Iraq, Kuwait was usually considered to have had the freeest press as well as the most democratically advanced political system in the Gulf. Recently, however, there have been strains on the Kuwaiti political system, resulting in the Emir acrimoniously dissolving the Parliament and calling for new elections for the third time in three years. Some reports stated that at the heart of the matter was the ruling families inability to countenance the notion that they might be called to account for their actions. Their belief that they are utterly and unequivocally above cross-examination or explanation jars with fundamental democratic principles.

Indeed, another example of the exalted place of the ruling family can be found in the Kuwait Times. An Australian woman and a former Kuwait citizen has been arrested and sentenced to two years in prison for insulting the Emir. Again, this highlights just how precious the ruling family view themselves. These types of laws are to be found throughout the Gulf. The UAE is even currently trying to bring in a law to make it punishable if one writes negative comments about the economy.

It is easy to sit in the West and mock these kinds of crass examples of an archaic system that it doomed to eventual failure. What must not be forgotten, however, is that in their current political make-up many of the Gulf states are but a few hundred years old and some far less that that. Thus they are in the early stages of political evolution. They are simply going through the growing pains of working their way through and out of notions such as the divine right of kings that European states went through centuries ago.

Israeli Foreign Minister: US will accept any foreign policy decision 23, April 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
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The new Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has somewhat undiplomatically said that America will follow Israel’s foreign policy decisions. Such a crass statement will no doubt soon be splashed all across the Arab world and will infuriate – essentially – the whole region. Such an injudicious quote will also – rightly – be seized upon by Mearsheimer and Walt and their thesis highlighting the apparent unusual levels of influence wielded by the Israeli lobby in America.