Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Exceptional documentary by Talal Derki: "Return to Homs". Main character is the charismatic Abdul Baset Saroot, one of the many young men who took on the Syrian regime, 2011-13.



Critical commentaries of the nuclear deal often sound more like after dinner banter than rigorous thinking

Harvard Law Prof Alan Dershowitz offers (Boston Globe, July 16, 2015) what I take to be a illusory critique of the Iran nuclear deal that is rather typical of much of the punditry on the Iran nuclear deal.
"We could have stuck to the original redlines – non-negotiable demands – from the beginning. These included on-the-spot inspections of all facilities rather than the nearly month-long notice that will allow the Iranians to hide what they are doing; shutting down all facilities specifically designed for nuclear weapons production; maintaining the embargo on missiles and other sophisticated weapons rather than allowing it to gradually be lifted; and most crucially, a written assurance that the international community will never allow Iran to develop a nuclear arsenal. The current assortment of indeterminate and varying timelines agreed to will allow Iranians to believe — and proclaim — they will soon be free of any constraints on their nuclear adventurism."
Two conclusions spring from a reading Dershowitz’s querulous commentary on the nuclear deal with Iran.  First, the U.S. gave away too much in the negotiations.  Second, that the writer apparently believes that nothing short of Iranian capitulation to U.S. redlines would constitute a success.

Rather than accept an imperfect agreement, Dershowitz would like the U.S. to be ready to go to war with Iran to “permanently end” its nuclear program.  He apparently thinks that sanctions could have been kept in place indefinitely and that the Obama Administration was mistaken to have said otherwise. 

Some of his notions about how the negotiations might have been organized would insure ineffectual results.  For instance, he suggests that Middle East allies of the U.S. should be allowed to participate.  Given the multilateral quality of the negotiations that means that Russia, China and other partners should invite their regional friends too.  Imagine how successful that confab would be and how quickly acrimony would break out.

He seems to think—“most crucially” in his words-- that a written assurance by the “international community” that Iran will never be allowed to have nuclear weapons would help demonstrate resolve.  Perhaps Dershowitz thinks a U.S. General Assembly resolution would do the trick?

Critics of the deal, such as Dershowitz, defame President Barack Obama by suggesting that he is willing to sacrifice U.S. security in favor of his agenda.  In turn, they offer careless thinking about how one gets to yes in negotiations and they blithely presume that hanging tough against Iran will eventually come to heel.  

Those who would like to kill the deal need to think much more rigorously about what they suggest as an alternative, and how they propose to put that alternative in place.  So far, what they offer resembles petulance more than analysis.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

U.S. documents reveal Israel assassinated Syrian General Muhammad Suleiman in 2008

Leaked U.S. documents from the horde stolen by Edward Snowden point to Israeli naval commandos as the killers of the Syrian general on beach in Tartous on August 1, 2008.   The information was derived from intercepts of Israeli communications, and would seem to be more or less definitive.

The killing was noted here on August 3, 2008.

BBC reports note that $80 million cash was found in Suleiman's home by Syrian officials after his death.  BBC cites a 2009 U.S. diplomatic document.  We may presume that he did not win a lottery.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Afghanistan's first rural college for young women--the Zabuli Technical College

This is an enlightened effort to bring higher education to young women in a rural setting where the notion of "going off to college" is culturally difficult.

Some the graduating student wrote essays on the importance was progressing to college.  See the Telegraph to read them, or the Marie Claire blog.

The new two-year technical college is a follow-on project to a impressive local school that has garnered the support of village fathers and mothers. The story of the school is told in a new documentary from Principle Pictures--"What Tomorrow Brings"--that will be premier later this year.  The teaser is here.

Read about the two year college initiative and think about digging into your pocket book to make a contribution.  The fund raiser ends in mid-July 2015.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Just published by IISBU: A new occasional paper by Eric Davis who takes democracy seriously in Iraq.

Davis is the author of the superb Memories of State and Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University.

A special note thanks to Jaime Jarvis, a superb professional editor, for her help in bringing this publication to life.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

"Youth Politics in the Contemporary Middle East," Sept. 5, 2015, at the annual meeting of the APSA, San Francisco

For more than 30 years, the Conference Group on the Middle East has met in conjunction with annual meeting of the American Political Science Association.  This year's panel on youth politics promises to be excellent.  Put the panel on your calendar for 10:15-12:00 Noon, September 5.

CONFERENCE GROUP ON THE MIDDLE EAST:
YOUTH POLITICS IN THE CONTEMPORARY ARAB WORLD

Chair: Augustus Richard Norton, Boston University and Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (OCIS)
Discussants: Denis J. Sullivan, Northeastern University and Emily Cury, Northeastern University

Papers:
In Continued Denial: Youth Dissatisfaction in the Post-Arab Awakening World
Mary Chloe Mulderig, Boston Universiy

A Crisis of National Identity: How Youth Fuel Political Entropy in Libya
Ayman Grada, Boston University School of Medicine

Unusual Suspects: Soccer Fans as Key Political Actors
James Dorsey, Nanyang Technological University

Youth and the Allure of the Islamic State: Identity, Recruitment, Political Economy
Eric M. Davis, Rutgers University, New Brunswick


Background on the CGME.

Info on the APSA annual meeting.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Fourth edition (May 2014): Hezbollah: A Short History

New Prologue and Expanded Afterword.

"Best introduction....succeeds in rising above the passions of the debate."--As'ad AbuKhalil (Journal of Palestine Studies).  Jimmy Carter reading Hezbollah.  "Best recent study on Hezbollah"--Fareed Zakaria (Newsweek). "Norton has pulled off a noteworthy feat by producing an accessible yet nuanced study of Hizbollah--a rare achievement in academic research."—Melani Cammett (MESA Bulletin). "[T]he most authoritative, up-to-date analysis of this enigmantic group....Piquant anecdotes and richly textured details make the book enjoyable reading."--Kristian P. Alexander (Middle East Policy). "A series of related essays, each concise and provocative, this is an excellent introduction for the novice."--Joel Gordon (Journal of Military History). “A cogent analysis of [Hezbollah's] emergence and impact on Lebanese politics”—Sheldon Kirsher (Canadian Jewish News). "Norton deserves praise for writing an insightful and multilayered work accessible to a wide...readership."—Rula Abisaab (Journal of Palestine Studies). "...thorough study of Hezbollah, updated with a new afterword in 2008, retraces Hezbollah’s history, from its emergence to its recent struggle against Israel in 2006."—Lina Zuhour (Arab Reform Initiative). "It's wonderful, the best I've read in English"--Anthony Shadid (2007 post). "For first time readers on Lebanon and Hizbullah I highly recommend..."—Sami Hermez (International Journal of Middle East Studies). “This short, authoritative book, based on first-hand experience, efficiently analyses [Hezbollah's] status"—Iain Fianalayson (The Times). "America's leading scholar on Hezbollah"—Joshua M. Landis. “Highly informative, jargon-free book...An objective account of the genesis and development of Hezbollah....Highly recommended.”—N. Entessar (Choice). “A good, concise survey by a perceptive student of the Lebanese Shia”—David Gardner (Financial Times). “Thorough, articulate portrait of Hezbollah”—Publishers Weekly. “Norton's timely Hezbollah chronicles that dramatic evolution and its sweeping implications for the region and beyond”—Jonathan Finer (Washington Post Book World). "Everyone who wants to understand the complexities of the Middle East . . . should read this book”—Bruce Elder (Sydney Morning Herald). “Recommended”—Harvard Bookstore. “Norton elucidates . . . domestic and international complexities in Hezbollah”—Allen McDuffee (In These Times). "He ends on a tentative note, voicing hope that Hezbollah will play a "constructive" role in Lebanon. One can only hope he's right."—David Rosenberg (Bloomberg News). “Short personal anecdotes from his time in Lebanon add both color and authority to the book”—Beryl C.D. Lipton (Harvard Crimson). “An excellent summary that ends with a dramatic question: ‘What next?’"—Kail C. Ellis (Middle East Journal). "An excellent primer"—(The Colby File). "Most fluent survey of Hezbollah to date_covers the Lebanese resistance group from its inception to the current Lebanese political crisis”—Margeret Hall (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs). : “In an easily read, easily comprehended book, Norton traces the origins and history of Hezbollah”—Suzi Brozman (Atlanta Jewish Times) “The many complex and often changing dimensions of Hezbollah are presented in the book in a clear, concise manner”—Rami G. Khouri (Daily Star). "Suggested reading"--(NPR). "There is no better person to address these questions…than Norton, who has been studying Lebanon, and especially the Lebanese Shiites, for longer than Hezbollah has been in existence. He offers here a brisk and balanced history"—L. Carl Brown (Foreign Affairs).  

Kindle version.
iTunes book.
Google Play.
Barnes and Noble.
Kno ebook.
Kobo ebook.



Monday, March 16, 2015

"The Turkish Complex" is the topic of the 2015 Campagna-Kerven Lecture on Modern Turkey at Boston University

Reserve your seat for the 20th annual CKLS lecture.

This years lecture is delivered by Professor Jenny White from the Department of Anthropology at Boston University.  Those who follow Turkey will be well-acquainted with her writings (and her blog Kamil Pasha), not least her most recent book: Muslim Natonalism and the New Turks.


Monday, February 09, 2015

Leaked conversation between then soon-to-be-president al-Sisi and high ranking collaborators about shaking down the Gulf Shaykhs and stashing billions in the Army banks accounts

Borzou Daragahi offers an excellent report on the leaked tapes.

The plotters' ridicule of and obvious disdain for the Gulf "half-states" will not play well in Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Leaked conversations in Arabic (with subtitles)

Sunday, January 25, 2015