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Jerusalem’s parking issues 11, July 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
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The MEI Editor’s blog has an interesting couple of hundred words on the Jerusalem parking lot issue. As fascinating as that doesn’t sound, it’s worth a brief read as it highlights the divisions which are often forgotten within Israeli society by ‘Jewish Americans who idolise Israel and Arabs who hate Israel’ to paraphrase Dunn’usalems key sentence.

US support for Mousavi 20, June 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Iran.
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Thank God that McCain is not in the White House. Of course, were he there, maybe he’d act differently. Yet his call for Obama to offer some kind of support for the protesters on the streets would be, as Michael Collins Dunn simply summarises, devastating for Mousavi’s movement.

Any open support the US offers, other than the cautious sort of comments made so far by Obama, could be used by the regime against the protesters. Being able to paint Mousavi and his backers as American puppets — and Ahmadinejad is trying hard to do that — would guarantee the outcome. We’re the “Great Satan,” remember? And Mousavi was Foreign Minister and Prime Minister in the days of Imam Khomeini himself: his approach has been to call for returning to the principles of the revolution, not to the policies of the monarchy.

I’m not talking here about private citizens: Bloggers who change their website color to green in empathy, for example, or the Twitter posters who last night were urging others to change their location and time zone to make it appear they were in Iran, in order to confuse the security forces trying to track down tweeting Iranians. What I’m talking about is any open governmental support such as McCain and others seem to be calling for. That would be precisely the wrong thing to do.

It is not far from terrifying to think that someone so close to the White House would or even could countenance such a reaction. It just seems so startlingly obvious that to support them would offer Ahmadinajad such a staggeringly open goal and a guaranteed way to sink any (slim) hope that Mousavi has. Anyone heard of ‘the Great Satan?’ Ring any bells? To castigate someone as being US supported in Iranian politics is about as bad as it gets. To be openly supported at this stage by an American administration would just be suicidal. I realise that I am saying the same thing over and over again, but, it’s just such a ridiculous and worrying idea that I feel i must emphazise and then emphasize and then over emphazise just how bad and idea it is.

Iran election comment round up 16, June 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran.
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Here is a round up of the best of the analysis of the Iranian election shenanigans:

– As usual Michael Collins Dunn offers a sage eye weighing up both sides over at the MEI blog.

Arab Media Shack and the Washington Post caution people against assuming a coup of some description simply because Ahmadinejad is not the West’s favorite leader. Overall though, I disagree with their interpretation.

– Juan Cole on the election and a rebuttal to the Washington Post’s conclusions.

– Gary Sick with an excellent overview.

– Brian Ulrich – always worth a read.

– And another link to Eskandar Sadeghei’s take on it all.

MEI blog & the Sins of Middle Eastern Scholarship 21, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East.
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I’ve followed Michael Collins Dunn over at the Middle East Institutes’s blog since its beginning in January this year. Overall, it is one of the best blogs on Middle Eastern affairs. It is a selection of educated and manifestly knowledgeable ruminations of various aspects of Middle Eastern politics and international relations in the broadest sense. To my mind, the best post so far is, in fact, a link that Dunn posted in April to a blog by Professor of Political Science, Eric Davis. This post is entitled “10 Conceptual Sins” in Analyzing Middle East Politics” gives a critical and insightful run-down of the grave errors that are made by Western scholars when looking at and analyzing the Middle East. As Dunn beseeches his readers, you really ought to read the article if you’ve got any interest in ME IR at all. Below is a brief recapitulation of Davis’ ‘sins‘ and a word or two, usually taken from his text, briefly explaining them.

Sin # 1: “Presentism.” – Not “taking history seriously” and believing in stereotypes to a large degree.

Sin # 2: Overemphasizing the ethnic and confessional identities, the “ethnoconfessional model.”

Sin # 3: The idea of a “communal mind.” – “If a political scientist from Iraq, Egypt, Iran or any other Muslim country in the Middle East were to come to the United States and assert that, if s/he knew the ethnic, racial or religious background of an American, s/he could tell us what that person’s ideology and political beliefs were, Americans would find such a notion ludicrous, to say the least. Yet many analysts of Middle East politics base their assessments of the region’s political dynamics on the social background of the political leader or activist in question.”

Sin # 4: The excessive focus on elites

Sin #5: The myth of “Islamic fundamentalism.” – “the notion of a radical Islam at the root of much if not all of the Middle East’s problems is pervasive in the Western media.”

Sin #6: Seeing the Middle East politics through binary thinking. –  For example, “the Council of Guardians in Iran, led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad constitute a set of unsavory political leaders, to put it mildly. Nevertheless, as many public opinion polls have demonstrated, Iranians by and large are very supportive of democracy, especially the educated middle classes.

Sin #7: Failure to learn the history, language and cultures of the region. –  For example, “would we take seriously a correspondent who was bureau chief in Washington, DC, for a major daily newspaper in Iran, the Arab countries, Turkey, or Israel if s/he did not speak English?”

Sin #8: The failure to consider political economy – For example,  “the percentage of young people under the age of 25 is as high as 60% in countries such as Iraq and Iran, and a very large percentage of them are unemployed or under employed.”

Sin #9: Failure to account for exogenous influences and “neighborhood effects’” on the region’s politics.

Sin # 10: Why can’t they be like us?


Dunn comments on several of the sins here, here and here.

Egyptian Army v Police 13, March 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Egypt.
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There is a very good piece of analysis of the recent army attack on the police in Egypt over at MEI Editor’s blog. The BBC reported that army cadets attacked a police station after one of their number was apparently mistreated. Michael Collins Dunn makes the following points:

– It is rare for the police and army to mix, usually being assiduously separated.

– The army are rarely used for internal order issues.  The few notable exceptions being after the 1986 Central Security Forces riot, after the 1977 bread riots and after the 1997 killing of tourists in Luxor.

– It suggests that police brutality/bullying is widespread in society. If they treat the army like this, this does not auger well for how they treat ordinary members of the public.

– The fact that the Egyptian government strictly ordered all the press in Egypt – independent and government alike – not to report the incident, highlights just how seriously they are taking the incident. Also, as Collins Dunn points out, it shows how the government “have yet to come to terms with cell phone cameras and video sharing media. The days when a government could keep this sort of news from leaking are gone, except in countries like Saddam’s Iraq or North Korea where computer ownership was tightly regulated.”

Excellent stuff.