September 20, 2020

Earlier this month, it was announced that Bahrain would establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. This makes Bahrain the fourth Arab state to do so, following the United Arab Emirates, which forged a similar agreement in August. Both of these nations are wealthy Petro-states, governed by conservative Sunni monarchies and closely aligned with United States, sharing a particular camaraderie with the current American regime. Thus, one would reasonably expect Saudi Arabia, an ally which shares these characteristics, to follow suit. Demonstrably, this is an outcome which some in the Trump administration are keenly working towards; both Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have repeatedly flaunted the prospect of other Arab states normalising ties with Je...

March 10, 2020

On February 29th 2020, history was made in a conditional peace agreement signed between the US and the Taliban. The deal was signed by Zalmay Khalilzad, special envoy to the US, and Taliban chief Mullah Abdul Ghana Baradar. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo witnessed the signing. 

After it was announced last September that the US would withdraw 5400 troops from Afghanistan, hopes were shattered when President Trump stopped talks because of the death of a US soldier. However, within two weeks discussions reopened, perhaps signalling the end was in sight for the conflict. 

Under the deal, the US will commit to withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan within 14 months. President Trump said, “It’s time after all these years to bring our people back home.” The US is also lifting trade sanctions on the...

February 23, 2020

Journalists in Yemen are being silenced, whilst the West holds its hands over its eyes. 

In 2019, Reporters Without Borders released a report covering international journalistic freedom, in which Yemen placed 168th out of 180 countries. Since the beginning of the civil war in 2015 a gut-wrenching total of at least 20 journalists have disappeared. Many journalists have attempted to flee their homes, and in some cases leave the country, whilst the remaining few desperately attempt to lay low. 

Yet, despite all of this, examples of Western coverage of their treatment, as well as the country’s civil war, are few and far between. Yemen’s conflict has been regarded by Amnesty International as the “forgotten war”, and has also been described as the worst humanitarian crisis currently in the world. But,...

February 15, 2020

At what point does procedure descend into farce? For many Israelis, one would imagine that this threshold was met in abundance when the country went to the polls for the second time in a year last September (2019), following an initial round in April. Back then, the prospect of a third election – while distinctly feasible – was an absurd one. Nevertheless, reality is often stranger than fiction; the country will be going back to the polls for yet another re-run in March (2020). The prevailing response among observers has been a mixture of morbid hilarity and exasperation – however, not everyone has been able to see the funny side. For the Israeli centre-left in particular, the stakes are existential.

This isn’t to say that the writing hasn’t been on the wall for a while. Under the current politi...

February 1, 2020

Sultan Qaboos bin Said ruled Oman from 1970 until his death in January 2020 at age 79, to be succeeded by one of his cousins, Haitham bin Tariq. His extraordinary reign modernised the nation and made it a diplomatic hub in one of the world’s most unstable regions. 

Oman’s transformation during those 50 years is difficult to overstate. In 1970, slavery had not yet been abolished. Its public services were lacking or non-existent. It had around six miles of paved road. Today Oman has around 20,000 miles of paved highway, is classified as a high-income economy by the World Bank, and boasts a 93% literacy rate alongside an average life expectancy of 73. 

The nation’s development under Qaboos was not limited only to domestic improvements. His policy of neutrality in a region characterised by strife all...

January 28, 2020

Earlier this month, the world woke up to the news that Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian Major General had been assassinated by a drone strike carried out by the United States. By midday, the verdict was in. Much of the left had concluded that this was a “misled act of war” by the “imbecile” who currently occupies the White House, Donald Trump. Within moments of the announcement they flocked to their smart-phones to condemn the assassination, labelling it as an example of Trump’s poor judgement, and using it make the case for his impeachment and the case against his re-election. This instantaneous reaction demonstrated the unfortunate truth that the polarised politics that had marked the end of the last decade is set to plague our political debate for the foreseeable future.

While I share some of thi...

January 22, 2020

General Qasem Soleimani, a man who has killed Americans, both plotted a bombing in Washington DC and armed Hezbollah in Lebanon with rockets to target Israel. No one, even Trump’s most ardent critics, is trying to defend Soleimani. He was most definitely a bad guy. But the US government and particularly the Trump administration has consistently shown time and time again that they are willing to work with and protect bad guys, including the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman who is suspected of instigating the torture and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident. Whilst Soleimani may have organised a Shia insurgency against the US in Iraq, Saudi Arabia also funded a Sunni insurgency against the US in Iraq. Looking back to Iraq, both the UK and US launched an invasion pa...

January 1, 2020

Living in the West, it’s easy to forget pop culture’s naturally expansive and colonising force abroad. The origins of many western social changes can be found within the arts and pop culture – but is its exportation overseas as effective a force at inducing genuine social and political change? 

This question is nowhere more prescient than in the Middle East. In recent months, some overly hopeful progressives have pointed to events such as the 1975s lead singer Matt Healy kissing a male fan in the audience during a Dubai concert in August as indications that the liberal values of Western pop can have a positive effect in otherwise conservative regions of the world. Such thinking couldn’t be further from the truth. Symbolic of Western universalism, it furthers the notion that these socially conser...

December 15, 2019

The first Arab Spring began in 2011 due to civil unrest and ended in 2013 with either Arab governments quashing the protests with force, money, or both; or because the Arab public saw what happened in Libya, Syria, and Yemen and did not want their own situation to deteriorate into civil war. 

So what is this new about the Arab Spring 2.0? 

This new wave of protests focuses on the same issues, however protesters have learnt from their past and are seeking new goals and means to achieve these. So what have they changed? After previously failing to achieve regime and structural changes, they are seeking to essentially start their political parties and figures from scratch. This has been particularly clear in the reaction to the Lebanese government’s suggested reform plan to placate the protesters. T...

November 18, 2019

Since the turn of the century, the Iraqi public have certainly not enjoyed political stability. The decision of the United States and its allies to invade the country in 2003 set a high threshold for expected disruption. Yet, the seizure of vast swathes of territory by Islamic State a decade later obliterated this threshold, setting it exponentially higher. This inclination toward existential crises seemingly hasn’t abated either; over the last month, the country has been swept by a vociferous protest movement which has persisted despite a range of concessions offered by an increasingly embattled establishment. Nevertheless, somewhat uncharacteristically, the current wave of unrest hasn’t been instigated by the interests of foreign powers, or the ideological and religious zealotry of a narrow,...

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