Saturday, 19 November 2011

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Haykal's Warning

In his extended interview with Al-Jazeera, Muhammad Hassanayn Haykal said something very interesting with regards to what seems will be explicit Western recognition of groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (and we can add Al-Nahda in Tunisia). He says to such groups "Be careful, this recognition is not innocent". He explains that in seeking a Sunni bulwark against Iran, cozying up with such groups can be construed at part of a process of ratcheting up pressure and regional support against the latter.

How the bogeyman is framed often changes - Communism, Political Islam, Shi'ism, Persian Safavids (I don't joke) - but at the risk of sounding like too much of a realist, the strategical calculations behind such framing look pretty discernible.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Syrian Regime's Media Strategy

There has been and will be a lot said about the content of Bashar Al-Asad's latest interview with Russian TV and the Telegraph piece too, especially with regard to his comments on the earthquake that awaits if intervention takes place. But he had made precisely this kind of threat, perhaps more tacitly, in his previous interviews on Syrian TV and it would be well-known to all policy makers. These recent interactions by the regime with 'Western' journalists, even with the likes of Robert Fisk as shown in his latest, reflect Syria's change in media policy of late - control of the message as or more crucial as/than levelling threats, re. both the more sympathetic Russian media and hostile Western sources.

I haven't seen the outrageous Reem Haddad about on TV lately and it seems as rather than seeing Westerners smuggled in from Lebanon, the regime wants to see if it can create that 'balance' that may earn it some space for its 'side' of the story to be told.

Bashar's interview was pretty lousy and boring though, and it seems Hassan Nasrallah does a much better job of articulating a defence of Syria, although his words were clearly directed at a sympathetic Arab audience. (I do agree with Hamid Dabashi that Hizbullah's hypocricy has been exposed here, but I use the word better to mean it will convince or solidify existing convictions of many, and presents itself as coherent). One thing I wish As'ad Abu Khalil dealt with in depth in his coverage of Nasrallah's speech was the argument that the majority of the population still support the regime, regardless of how grotesque it is. This, in Nasrallah's opinion, makes it a totally different picture from Libya, Yemen, Bahrain etc. where such support for the regime is not in place.

In any case, does this change of tack from the Syrian regime come from a position of strength or weakness? Will the threats threaten and the charming charm?

Friday, 7 October 2011


Welcome! This will (I hope) be a blog I maintain to articulate and share my thoughts on Middle Eastern politics, current affairs and beyond.