The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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Arab Spring

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Two very different political waves are sweeping through the Middle East and north Africa. Popular protests are overthrowing the leaders of military regimes for the first time since the failed Arab Spring of 2011. At the same time, dictators are seeking to further monopolise power by killing, jailing or intimidating opponents who want personal and... Read More
The Arab Spring reported and misreported
I was sceptical from an early stage about the Arab Spring uprisings leading to the replacement of authoritarian regimes by secular democracies. Optimistic forecasts I was hearing in the first heady months of 2011 sounded suspiciously similar to what I had heard in Kabul after the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and in Baghdad... Read More
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Arab Spring was always a misleading phrase, suggesting that what we were seeing was a peaceful transition from authoritarianism to democracy similar to that from communism in Eastern Europe. The misnomer implied an over-simplified view of the political ingredients that produced the protests and uprisings of 2011 and over-optimistic expectations about their outcome. Five years... Read More
Freedom and safety are scarce five years after the Arab Spring
I was planning to visit Baghdad last summer and stay with my friend Ammar al-Shahbander, who ran the local office of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. I had stayed with him for 10 days in June 2014, just after Isis forces had captured Mosul and Tikrit and were advancing with alarming speed on... Read More
When it comes to pure ineptness, it’s been quite a performance -- and I’m sure you’ve already guessed that I’m referring to our secretary of state’s recent jaunt to the Middle East. You remember the old quip about jokes and timing. (It’s all in the...) In this case, John Kerry turned the first stop on... Read More
Credit: Ramy Raoof, Wikimedia Commons
Three Ways the Youth Rebellions Are Still Shaping the Middle East
Three and a half years ago, the world was riveted by the massive crowds of youths mobilizing in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand an end to Egypt’s dreary police state. We stared in horror as, at one point, the Interior Ministry mobilized camel drivers to attack the demonstrators. We watched transfixed as the protests spread... 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
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With No End in Sight
Pessimist alert: the situation in what began as the Arab Spring is moving from bad -- Egypt's Mubarak, Syria's Assad, Iraq's Saddam -- to worse: Egypt's ever stricter military dictatorship, Syria's three year-old civil war, Iraq's renewed chaos. A downward spiral with no end in sight. Two unrelated books, the first just out, the second... 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
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 killing of the US ambassador to Libya and angry demonstrations across the Muslim world over a tacky anti-Islamic hate video have produced the usual flood of wrong-headed commentary from our media and politicians. Across the land comes the familiar cry, “why do they hate us?” That any Americans can in this day and age... Read More
A Year Later
A year ago the popular anger that grew into the Arab Spring was first ignited by an impoverished Tunisian fruit and vegetable seller, Mohamed Bouazizi, who set fire to himself after his cart, his sole means of feeding his family, was confiscated by police. Within days, pictures of protests in his home town sparked by... Read More
Anyone who hoped the Arab Spring might eventually take over the Persian Gulf and those lands once known as Arabia Felix has enough reason to drown in sadness. The Arab counter-revolution is stronger than ever - led by the House of Saud and its monarchy minions at the Gulf Counter-revolution Club (GCC), officially known as... Read More
CounterPunch Diary
Threaten the stability of Saudi Arabia, as the Shi’a upsurges are now doing in Qatif, and al-Awamiyah in the country’s oil-rich Eastern Province and you’re brandishing a dagger over the very heart of long-term U.S. policy in the Middle East for over half a century. In 1945 the chief of the State Department’s Division of... Read More
Autumn in the Middle East hasn’t the melancholy connotations you attach to it in the North. For you, this is the season of dying; maple leaves turn purple and geese fly south. For us, this is the jolly season of awakening after stupefying summer heat; grass hatches again on the burned-to-reddish-brown lawns and trees are... Read More
Forget about the Hollywood Transformer franchise; as facts on the ground go, the ultimate transformer in real life is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATO has just admitted it was "probably" responsible for the humanitarian liberation of nine Libyan civilians, plus 18 injured, via an early morning strike against an apartment building in a... Read More
As the Arab Spring turns into summer, the counter-revolution is winning. Tyrants - but not systems - are down in Tunisia and Egypt. The Libyan "revolution" is a sham: North Atlantic Treaty Organization air war plus Western spooks/special forces helping dodgy defectors/exiles on the ground. Bahrain, Yemen and Syria have been popular defeats. As far... Read More
They are a shish kebab of hereditary monarchies, emirates and outright theocracies. Most sit on oceans of oil (45% of the world's reserves). They are addicted to the West's glitter and glamour - from London to Monte Carlo, from the delicacies of Paris to the weaponized delicacies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO. They... Read More
But to live outside the law you must be honest Bob Dylan, Absolutely Sweet Marie "No one expects the #spanishrevolution." That's one of the signs in Madrid's iconic - and occupied - Puerta del Sol Square; Monty Python revised for the age of Twitter. "I was in Paris in May '68 and I'm very emotional.... Read More
March 14, 2011, will go down in history as the infamous day when the House of Saud launched - with full United States backing - a vicious counter-revolution designed to smash the Gulf chapter of the great 2011 Arab revolt. (See Exposed: The US/Saudi Libya deal Asia Times Online, April 2, 2011). This is the... Read More
Facts on the ground will decide whether the United States really "values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator". So let's start with a fact. For US President Barack Obama, Saudi Arabia is not in the Middle East. Maybe the House of Saud has relocated the... Read More
FROM THE PREFACE: The popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia have overthrown the public face of the imperial-backed dictatorships in the region, and inspired supporters of popular democracy worldwide. As the Arab revolt spreads from North Africa to the Gulf and deepens its demands to include socio-economic as well as political demands, the Empire is... Read More
Ironies in the Middle East come bathed in arsenic; the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria lifts a state of emergency in effect for 48 years just when Syria is in a real state of emergency. And then a regime newspaper, Tishrin, states "the most sublime form of freedom is the security of the homeland". To... Read More
Now the Counter-Attacks
Is a counter-revolutionary tide beginning to favour the "strongmen" of the Arab world, whose regimes appeared a couple of months ago to be faltering under the impact of the Arab Awakening? From Libya to Bahrain and Syria to Yemen, leaders are clinging on to power despite intense pressure from pro-democracy protesters. And the counter-revolution has... Read More
How to turn a ''kinetic military action'' - which is not a war - into some sort of endgame, by bending a United Nations resolution that was allegedly passed to minimize a humanitarian threat? You write a lame op-ed. Just ask The Three Amigos - US President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and... Read More
If former Pentagon supremo Donald "known unknown" Rumsfeld were still in business, he'd be grumbling that Libya presents no bombable targets - as in Afghanistan in 2001. As far as United States quagmires go, Libya is bigger than Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan combined. But any possible "targets" concentrate in a few cities along the Mediterranean... Read More
United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is in Riyadh to talk to Saudi King Abdullah. The Associated Press told the world's media they should discuss the "Arab upheaval". Then there are all those other cliches - "political reform", oil production, "the Iran threat". But as the Pentagon meets the House of Saud at the... Read More
Odyssey Dawn slogs on - a tawdry "kinetic military action" (as per the White House) worthy of the Pentagon's resident Homer. The stalemate on the ground could go on for weeks, if not months. This is more like The Iliad remixed - remember, the Trojan War slogged on for 10 years without a decisive result.... Read More
The current Arab counter-revolution is brought to you by the House of Saud - and enabled by the Pentagon. The Gulf has been plunged into pre-emptive war. After the initial euphoria of the great 2011 Arab revolt, the message of the Gulf kingdoms and sheikhdoms to Washington has been unambiguous - and effective; if we... Read More
The "enlightened" West has just sent a message to the rebelling Libyan people; Muammar Gaddafi's forces will have to dissolve you into a sea of blood before we decide to do anything. And even if we do, it may be too late. Sorry. As for the African king of kings, he just had to slightly... Read More
United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits Bahrain to meet King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa on Saturday. Saudi Arabia invades Bahrain on Monday. This has got to be just a coincidence; Gates and the king were obviously discussing the fortunes of Ferrari and MacLaren in the (postponed) Formula 1 Grand Prix in Bahrain. Moreover, this... Read More
Three mummies were recently found in an underground temple in Luxor, Egypt. Translated hieroglyphs identified them as the Clash of Civilizations, the End of History, and Islamophobia. They ruled in Western domains into the second decade of the 21st century before dying and being embalmed. That much is settled. Without them, the Middle East is... Read More
Ten years ago, on the road in AfPak before and after 9/11, the volume of choice in my backpack was a French edition of Gilles Kepel’s Jihad. Night after night, in many a mud brick house and amid endless cups of green tea, I slowly came to embrace its key thesis: that political Islam was... Read More
You're Muammar Gaddafi, and you're sitting in your Bab al-Azizia bunker sipping green tea and surveying the odds of staying in power. Let's see. You control some neighborhoods in Tripoli; some cities in the far west, near the Tunisian border; your birthplace, Sirte. And that's it. You may have lost like 90% of your country.... Read More
You don't stay 41 years in power without learning a geopolitical trick or two. A wily fox, the African king of kings Muammar Gaddafi seems to have carefully surveyed the chessboard and come to an iron-clad conclusion; the no-fly option - not to mention an invasion of Libya - won't fly in the United Nations... Read More
The key slogan in Tahrir Square in Egypt was "the people want the downfall of the regime". When it comes to Saudi Arabia, it's more like "the House of Saud wants the downfall of its people". Which brings us to the US$36 billion question; can an ailing monarch (Saudi King Abdullah) bribe his subjects with... Read More
The great 2011 Arab revolt, the cry for democracy in Northern Africa, the mostly Shi'ite revolt in the Persian Gulf, the Western despair over the price of oil, and the new United States Middle East doctrine of "regime alteration" - not to mention the Pentagon's full-spectrum dominance doctrine - have been convoluted into the ultimate... Read More
In the standoff - not civil war - between state power in Tripoli and a tribal-based parallel government plus "irregular militias", identifying key players in Libya gets increasingly murky. It's a long (1,000 kilometer), windy, desert road from Benghazi to Tripoli, or from uprising to victory, with a crucial midway stop in Sirte - Muammar... Read More
How does it feel to be on your own, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone, crisscrossing the desert sands, howling to the winds that the end of the end of history is now? Western ideological categories lie mummified in a tomb. There's no dichotomy, or "clash" of civilizations, between Western parliamentary democracy and... Read More
Most accounts of the Arab revolts from Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Iraq and elsewhere have focused on the most immediate causes: political dictatorships, unemployment, repression and the wounding and killing of protestors. They have given most attention to the “middle class”, young, educated activists, their communication via the internet, (Los Angeles Times,... Read More
Forget "democracy"; Libya, unlike Egypt and Tunisia, is an oil power. Many a plush office of United States and European elites will be salivating at the prospect of taking advantage of a small window of opportunity afforded by the anti-Muammar Gaddafi revolution to establish - or expand - a beachhead. There's all that oil, of... Read More
Picture a feudal, or neo-medieval, paradise, the former home of legendary Sindbad the Sailor, absolutely ruled by an unmarried, slim, lute-playing septuagenarian who prefers to live alone in his palace; paradigm of discretion Sultan Qabus bin Sa'id. That, in a nutshell, is Oman. Oman practices Ibadi Islam - neither Sunni nor Shi'ite - also found... Read More
Author's introduction A bottom-up democratic revolution in Egypt has brought down what had seemed until very recently to be the unshakable rule of Hosni Mubarak. It was an amazing accomplishment of the people's power — something that is often sloganized about but rarely realized. The fact that the revolution succeeded with little violence on the... Read More
Usually reliable intelligence sources are reporting that the situation for a couple of Arab rulers is getting desperate. Moammar Ghaddafi actually used artillery against crowds of demonstrators in Benghazi this morning, killing hundreds, and is calling up his tribal supporters and telling them to prepare for civil war...also Saudi troops have crossed the causeway and... Read More
CounterPunch Diary
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton rushed to contrast the repressive brutality of the Iranian authorities with what they now seek to present as the bloodless, US-managed triumph of pro-democracy forces in Egypt. By any measure this was brazen impudence, starting with the fact that across the past few weeks the 300 dead, slaughtered... Read More
CounterPunch Diary
We need good news. When was the last time we had some, here in this country? The Seattle riots against the WTO? That was back in 1999. Around the world? Hard to remember – it’s been a long dry spell. It reminds me of the old Jacobin shivering in the chill night of Bourbon restoration,... Read More
Here's a crash course on the Egyptian military dictatorship's sinister worldview compared with the courage displayed by people power. Exhibit A: Vice President Omar "Sheik al-Torture" Suleiman's message to the revolution. Pay special attention to the end of the interview. [1] Context: this is the horse Washington has decided to bet on, the conductor of... Read More
The Egyptian revolution is being dissolved right in front of the world's eyes by an optical illusion. The protesters who have been on the streets for two weeks still want President Hosni Mubarak out. Now. Yet United States President Barack Obama is firmly in not-so-fast mode, glad that "Egypt is making progress". Obama has not... Read More
Sacrificing Dictators to Save the State
Introduction: To understand the Obama regime’s policy toward Egypt, the Mubarak dictatorship and the popular uprising it is essential to locate it in an historical context. The essential point is that Washington, after several decades of being deeply embedded in the state structures of the Arab dictatorships, from Tunisia through Morocco, Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Saudi... Read More
So Pharaoh Mubarak had to prove once again he's a real superstar of the "war on terror". Old habits die hard. He's now unleashing terror against his own people. It was just a matter of time before Mubarakism unleashed its thugs and goon squads to try to smash people power. In the absence of "chaos"... Read More