The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
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The Independent

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Israel’s position is firmly based on its own self-interests
Every country in the Middle East is reacting in its own egocentric way to the prospect of the US launching a military strike against Syria. For all their proclaimed concern for the human cost of the crisis, Syria’s neighbours worry most about the effect of US actions on the regional balance of power and its... Read More
A rebel attack on Maloula is a warning for a minority accused of supporting government
At the end of last year I visited the ancient Christian town of Maloula in a deep gorge in the mountains 20 miles north-west of Damascus. It has been a place of refuge for 2,000 years, its cliffs riddled with caves and its buildings clinging to towering walls of rock. It is one of the... Read More
Deal in Geneva shows the Kremlin’s influence is at its greatest for more than 20 years
Russia’s return to the status of a great power has been obvious for some time. A Middle East leader who asked a senior American general earlier this summer about US plans for military intervention in Syria was told that prospects differed from the past because “Russia is back” as a major player. The agreement reached... Read More
Ethnic cleansing continues as President Rouhani prepares to address the UN on Tuesday
Cracks suddenly appear in the ice of the deep-frozen relations between the US and Iran. President Hassan Rouhani emulates Vladimir Putin by writing an opinion piece in the American press oozing goodwill and willingness to co-operate with the US. He gives an interview on American television, repeating: "We have time and again said that in... Read More
The country could have enhanced its influence and saved a lot of lives. It did the exact opposite
Whatever happened to the idea that Turkey was the coming power in the Middle East, with its surging economy and stable democracy under a mildly Islamic government which might be the model for Arab states as they ended decades of police state rule in 2011? Turkey seemed perfectly positioned to lead the way, with no... Read More
The timing of the latest shot in a covert war invites questions about the role of proxies
What to make of the latest alleged assassination in Iran of a senior officer in the Revolutionary Guards just as Iran and the US move towards negotiations? Is it a last-minute attempt by Israel or the Iranian dissident group the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) to sabotage talks – or at least to show that they are still... Read More
The sacking of journalists is seen as a way of keeping newsrooms timid and self-censored
A foreign journalist was driving on a road near the rebel-held city of Raqqa in north-east Syria confident that he was safe because he was travelling with a commander in the Free Syrian Army and militiamen. They were stopped at a checkpoint manned by al-Qa’ida-linked fighters who promptly kidnapped both the journalist and his FSA... Read More
The perception that the militiamen had beat Gaddafi through their own strength in 2011 was an illusion helped along by...
Seldom has the failure of a state been so openly and humiliatingly confirmed as happened in Libya this morning with the brief kidnapping the Prime Minister
The US and British governments never appreciated the hatred with which Iraqis at all levels regarded foreign security contractors. They were detested as freelance gunmen with licences to kill or maim Iraqis, safe in the knowledge that they had the same immunity from Iraqi law as US soldiers. They often appeared to view Iraqis as... Read More
Amid claims that torture is 'the norm', cultural chasms are creating a repressive island of hate
Two-and-a-half years ago the Bahrain government bulldozed the Pearl Monument, whose tall, graceful pillars held a giant pearl as a symbol of the island kingdom, because it had become the rallying point in the capital, Manama, for pro-democracy protesters. The authorities have never chosen a new symbol to replace the one they destroyed, but, if... Read More
The real story of security after Gaddafi can be seen in the Foreign Office's advice to travellers
It is revealing to read Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advisories addressed to British citizens about security, or the lack of it, in countries where the Government otherwise plays down the dangers. I used to enjoy reading scary FCO advisories about Iraq eight or nine years ago, warning travellers not to set foot there because... Read More
Where there are Sunni minorities in Iraq, they will be killed or forced to flee
The civil war in Syria is reigniting the
In South Korea a sense of vulnerability bred from past humiliations lies just below the surface
Old hatreds bred from old atrocities and injustices are slow to disappear. South Korean President Park Geun-hye said at the start of visits to France and Britain this week that she is willing to hold a summit anytime with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, whose country intermittently threatens war against South Korea. But she... Read More
Death of leader seriously weakened the Palestinian cause and removed the one figure who could unite the diverse and...
Suspicions that the former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned will be strengthened by the discovery by Swiss scientists of 18 times the normal level of radioactive polonium in his remains. Mr Arafat, who had long symbolised the Palestinians fight for their own state, died on 11 November 2004 from an illness that was never... Read More
A deal on nuclear weapons has been on the cards since President Obama decided not to attack Syria
The decision by President Obama not to launch air strikes on Syrian government forces after the apparent use of chemical weapons by them on 21 August prepared the ground for a possible US-Iranian deal on Iran's nuclear programme. By its actions, the US showed it was not prepared to undertake military action to overthrow President... Read More
The Reformists in Iran will be vulnerable to allegations that they are negotiating from weakness
Has the best chance of an agreement on controlling Iran’s nuclear programme just passed by? Political will for a deal is still there in Washington and Tehran, but its opponents will also gather their formidable forces. These include Republicans and many Democrats, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, France. The momentum towards an interim... Read More
At a time of tremendous religious significance for the Shia, the insensitive actions of a British security man appear to...
Hundreds of foreign workers are being hurriedly evacuated from Basra in southern Iraq following violent protests by Iraqi oil workers and villagers over two incidents. In one of them, a British security man tore down a poster or flag bearing the image of Imam Hussein, a figure highly revered by Shia Muslims. The violence may... Read More
Sadrism deeply divides the Iraqi Shia, many of whom see the movement as having a history of sectarian violence
Muqtada al-Sadr comes from a family of martyrs: his father, Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, was the leader of a Shia religious revival in the 1990s which became so threatening to Saddam Hussein that he had the cleric murdered, along with two of his sons. Muqtada’s father-in-law and cousin was Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr, a revolutionary leader and... Read More
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Warning from Muqtada al-Sadr - the Shia cleric whose word is law to millions of his countrymen
In a rare interview at his headquarters in Najaf, he tells Patrick Cockburn of his fears for a nation growing ever more divided on sectarian lines. The future of Iraq as a united and independent country is endangered by sectarian Shia-Sunni hostility says Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia religious leader whose Mehdi Army militia fought the... Read More
The Shia record of governance here is not good, but the city's ancient heroes remain untarnished
There is no city like Najaf, which stands on the edge of the desert a few miles west of the Euphrates in Iraq. It was in nearby Kufa in 661 that Imam Ali, the son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet Mohamed, was badly wounded by an assassin and, as he lay dying, instructed his followers... Read More
Iraqis fight to the death to defend Shia shrines - they show less zeal for Assad's regime
Thousands of Iraqi Shia's are in Syria, as much from economic need as ideological conviction, as the country turns into the principal battleground of sectarian conflict in the Muslim world. In Damascus, Shia men from Iraq fight to the death to defend the Shia shrine of Sayyida Zaynab, the daughter of Ali and Fatimah and... Read More
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Everyone knows where al-Qa'ida gets its money, but while the violence is sectarian, the West does nothing
Donors in Saudi Arabia have notoriously played a pivotal role in creating and maintaining Sunni jihadist groups over the past 30 years. But, for all the supposed determination of the United States and its allies since 9/11 to fight "the war on terror", they have showed astonishing restraint when it comes to pressuring Saudi Arabia... Read More
Britain and America's decision to suspend deliveries of non-lethal aid to Islamist rebels operating in northern Syria came after fighters from the Islamic Front drove the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) out of bases and warehouses contained American-supplied equipment in the north-western Syrian province of Idlib. The significance of the British and American action is... Read More
The West’s favoured faction is on the run, while the Riyadh-backed rebels steadily gain ground
The final bankruptcy of American and British policy in Syria came 10 days ago as Islamic Front, a Saudi-backed Sunni jihadi group, overran the headquarters of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) at Bab al-Hawa on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey. The FSA, along with the Syrian National... Read More
Syrians 'forced to eat cats and dogs' to survive the war as three-quarters of population of 22 million will need aid to...
As Syrian society teeters on the edge of final collapse after three years of ferocious warfare and economic devastation, the UN is making its biggest-ever appeal for £4bn in aid to help the country’s starving civilians. Three-quarters of Syria’s 22.4 million people will need humanitarian aid to survive by 2014, according to a UN study.... Read More
From child torture to sarin gas, the security services’ methods have dictated the war
Why did Dr Abbas Khan die? Nobody takes seriously the obvious lie that he committed suicide four days before he was to be released from prison. Who gave the orders for his murder? And why? It would be difficult to think of a more self-destructive act by the security services of the Syrian government and... Read More
Although five people were killed and 10 wounded, police say the casualties would have been far higher if Ayyub Khalaf...
An Iraqi policeman is being remembered as a hero after wrapping his arms around a suicide bomber to shield others from the blast. The attack in Khalis, a town north-east of Baghdad, killed five and wounded 10 people on a Shia pilgrimage, but police said the casualties would have been far higher if Ayyub Khalaf,... Read More
In a period of failure for many, one man is on the up and up. And he's no friend of the West
Who was the most successful leader in the Middle East in 2013? It is a hoary tradition of newspapers and magazines to produce end-of-year league tables listing the successful and the unsuccessful. The results are often anodyne or quirky, but in the Middle East over the past 12 months such an approach has the advantage... Read More
What a contrast between the optimism of the Arab Spring and the dark mood of today's Middle East
It was a year of decisions in the Middle East but what was being decided was mostly that conflicts would grow worse. What a contrast there is between the dark mood in the Arab world today and the optimism of three years ago when protesters appeared to be bowling over long-established police states from Bahrain... Read More
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Anti-Shia propaganda threatens a sectarian civil war which will engulf the entire Muslim world
Anti-Shia hate propaganda spread by Sunni religious figures sponsored by, or based in, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, is creating the ingredients for a sectarian civil war engulfing the entire Muslim world. Iraq and Syria have seen the most violence, with the majority of the 766 civilian fatalities in Iraq this month being Shia... Read More
As the wars in Iraq and Syria increasingly become one, Iraqi Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki must restore order before...
The Iraqi army is planning to storm the city of Fallujah 40 miles west of Baghdad that has been taken over by fighters from al-Qa’ida in Iraq, which is part of the umbrella organisation, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). They have torn down Iraqi national flags and raised the black al-Qa’ida flag... Read More
The country is in such a bad way as western troops depart that leaders can only spin, almost to the point of lying
A few years ago in Kabul, I was listening to a spokesman for an Afghan government organisation who was giving me a long, upbeat and not very convincing account of the achievements of the institution for which he worked. To relieve the tedium, and without much expectation of getting an interesting reply, I asked him... Read More
Powers call for humanitarian aid as rebels fight each other
The US and Russia have discussed a ceasefire in Syria and the delivery of humanitarian aid to besieged rebel-held areas, as the civil war between rival rebel groups intensifies. After a meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Paris, Mr Kerry said “we talked about the possibility... Read More
The terrible butchery could end now that the US and Russia both want to finish the war
Gloomy predictions precede this week’s Geneva II peace talks aimed at ending the three-year-old war in Syria. US Secretary of State John Kerry says the meeting is about a mutually agreed political transition in Damascus, while the Syrian government insists it should focus on how to deal with “terrorism”. Nobody expects President Bashar al-Assad to... Read More
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But Iran left in the cold by UN - and now Assad says he may stand in this year's presidential election
A long-awaited peace conference on Syria is likely to go ahead without one of the major participants of the conflict after the United Nations withdrew an invitation to Iran to attend the talks in Geneva. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, rescinded Iran's invitation on the same day it was unexpectedly issued, following the threat of... Read More
Scepticism on the streets as al-Qa’ida poses as peacemaker
Syrians in Damascus say they are resigned to the talks in Geneva not doing much to end the violence or improve their living conditions. They point out that the opposition delegation does not have enough support in rebel-held areas of Syria to deliver on any promises it might make on ceasefires, safe passage for foreign... Read More
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For the first time in the Syrian civil war a ceasefire agreement in a Damascus district sees rebel fighters keep their weapons and control of their own neighbourhood in return for an end to the fighting. If repeated in other parts of Syria, such agreements have the potential to de-escalate violence that has left 130,000... Read More
“They came through the main sewer at 4.30am and caught us by surprise,” says a Syrian soldier, who gave his name as Abu Ali, describing the rebel capture of part of the industrial town of Adra, just north of Damascus. “They chose a cold day in December to attack when there was snow and you... Read More
Fighting in the country is now thought to have claimed 130,000 lives. But what about those who lived, yet suffered...
“I was shot by a sniper in Aleppo last year,” says 21-year-old Mohammed Diab, a soldier in the Syrian Army, as he lies in bed in Mezze Military Hospital in Damascus with his shattered left lower leg held in an external metal splint. He described how five months earlier he was taken in an armoured... Read More
Civilians go hungry after months of sieges
“Bread is a dream for children inside Yarmouk Camp,” says Fuad, a Syrian Palestinian music teacher who tries to help bring food to the 20,000 Palestinians besieged inside Yarmouk. Standing by a barrier of sand and rubble that blocks an entrance to the camp in south Damascus, he adds that “people have been trapped in... Read More
The main road entering Damascus from the north runs for several miles through a sea-scape of ruins. On each side of the road there are smashed buildings with collapsed concrete roofs and heaps of rubble, without a person in sight, in places that used to provide housing and workplaces for tens of thousands of people.... Read More
Gravediggers stay busy as peace talks end in failure
The first session of the Geneva II peace negotiations, which ended yesterday, were more of a failure than they look. It was the sort of international conference of which the sponsors say that useful spadework was done and sceptics respond that the only spades in evidence were those of the grave diggers: some 1,870 Syrians... Read More
The rebels fight among themselves, government advances slow down, and the hard cores grow ever more intransigent
The Syrian army was in a triumphant mood. It claimed that it had beaten back a rebel assault in the al-Qadam district of south Damascus aimed at cutting the main road to Jordan. An army commander, who gave his name as Abu Yusuf, said: "The attack started at 10 in the morning last Sunday and... Read More
The battle lines of the Syrian civil war are edging closer to Krak des Chevaliers, the most famous Crusader castle ever built. The massive walls and towers of the great fortress on its hilltop glistened white in the sunshine yesterday, as the Syrian Army fought rebels in the valleys below. The rebels hold the castle... Read More
No relief in sight for city where neither side wants to hand the other a victory
The sound of shellfire boomed every few seconds from the besieged Old City. The rebels, surrounded in the densely packed quarter, replied with mortars of their own. Each of them detonated with a sharp crack, shaking the walls of the building I was in, a kilometre from the front line. In between shell bursts the... Read More
With jihadis at their door, terrified Maysoun, Nizar, Karim and Bishr reached for grenades rather than face torture and...
It is a terrible story but it throws a grim light on the terrors of the Syrian war. It is told at first in a calm, precise voice by Nusair Mahla, a middle-aged government employee, until he finally has to choke back tears as he speaks of the last moments of his sister Maysoun Hala... Read More
The Srebrenica massacre of 1995, in which more than 8,000 men and boys were killed, could be repeated in Syria’s Old City of Homs, William Hague has warned. Writing in The Independent as delegates for the Assad government and the opposition Syrian National Coalition meet for another round of talks,
The country’s wealth of archaeological treasures is under threat both from iconoclastic Islamic fundamentalists and...
Islamic fundamentalists in Syria have started to destroy archaeological treasures such as Byzantine mosaics and Greek and Roman statues because their portrayal of human beings is contrary to their religious beliefs. The systematic destruction of antiquities may be the worst disaster to ancient monuments since the Taliban in Afghanistan dynamited the giant statues of Buddha... Read More
The Arab Spring model of protest, symbolised by Tahrir Square, is now destabilising democratically elected leaders
In the spring of 2011 I was in Benghazi, standing in a crowd of anti-Gaddafi demonstrators protesting outside the hotel of a visiting delegation. Most of the protesters were waving banners with slogans written in English in front of the cameras of foreign television companies, but, when I talked to them, many spoke only Arabic.... Read More
Figurehead’s surprise withdrawal from active role linked to parliamentary pensions vote
The surprise announcement by the influential Shia religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr that he is withdrawing from active politics will only add to the political turmoil in Iraq at a moment when violence is in a state of sharp escalation. Mr Sadr’s unexpected statement comes two months before national parliamentary elections and was sparked by some... Read More
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