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Predictably, Israel and the U.S. have reacted to the news of a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal using an outdated lens, whereby the inclusion of Hamas in any Palestinian government rules out the possibility of a negotiated two-state solution. That is most likely true, but it is also irrelevant. The real impact for Israel of the Hamas-Fatah deal, assuming it holds up, is not in its effect on the short-term possibilities, where no peace deal was forthcoming regardless. The impact is on the long-term choices Israel faces. Before the deal, the alternative to a two-state solution was a one-state apartheid system that […]

The Saudi intervention in Bahrain has upped the ante in the Saudi-Iranian cold war, crystallizing it into a wider Sunni-Shiite schism in the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia has reportedly invoked a treaty with Sunni-dominated Pakistan to secure troops to stabilize both Bahrain and its own oil-rich eastern provinces. Riyadh has also asked Turkey to make it clear to Iran that interference in the Gulf states will not be tolerated. At the other end of the spectrum, Shiites worldwide are enraged at what they see as Western duplicity in not stopping Saudi heavy-handedness in Bahrain, while showing solidarity with anti-regime protestors […]

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Under pressure from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Arab League has indefinitely postponed a planned summit meeting in Baghdad. In an email interview, Sean Foley, a Fulbright scholar at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization in Kuala Lumpur and author of “The Arab Gulf States: Beyond Oil and Islam,” discussed Iraq-GCC relations. WPR: What has been the state of relations between post-Saddam Iraq and the GCC? Sean Foley: While both Iraq and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are energy-producing states allied with Washington, they have poor diplomatic relations. Shiite Arabs dominate Iraq and have close ties […]

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Reports are coming out of Syria that some soldiers are siding with the anti-government protesters. Amateur footage is said to show that some troops have been shot at from within their own ranks for refusing to fire upon protesters in the city of Deraa. Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the footage, which is said to have been filmed on Wednesday.

The worsening crisis battering Syria threatens more than the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. It also carries with it the potential to recast the balance of power in the Middle East, with damaging results for Iran and conceivably disastrous consequences for its allies — Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Given the magnitude of the stakes for these players, one can argue that it would make strategic sense from their perspective to try to lure Israel into a more intense armed conflict: not an all-out war, but clashes powerful enough to garner headlines and capture the attention and emotions […]

Currently, the most urgent issue in relations between the United States and Iraq is how many American troops will remain in that country after the end of this year and what roles they will perform. In an effort to galvanize progress on this issue, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Iraq on April 22 bearing a warning: Decision time is now. Since it entered into force at the beginning of 2009, the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement, also known as the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), has governed the U.S. military presence in Iraq. In addition […]

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The sudden deployment of tanks and infantry into the Syrian city of Daraa on Monday has some observers wondering whether the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may soon devolve into a civil war comparable to the one raging a few hundreds miles away in Libya. “If the opposition wants to continue to press its cause, there’s only one way to do it, and that’s through armed struggle,” says Joshua Landis, a professor of Middle East studies at the University of Oklahoma. Landis, who maintains Syria Comment, a leading English-language blog on Syrian politics and society, tells Trend Lines that […]

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Syrian government tanks and troops have gone on the offensive in the southern town of Deraa, the cradle of the protests which began last month. Residents say the forces moved in just after dawn prayers, opened fire at random, while bodies were left lying in the street.

The Obama administration has been criticized in recent weeks for its soft response to the suppression of the uprising in Bahrain. The mild diplomatic protest by the U.S. to Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s violent crackdown on Shiite pro-democracy protesters stands in sharp contrast to U.S. reactions to Arab uprisings in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. The Obama administration has justified its tolerance of the Bahraini crackdown in the context of Iran-U.S. rivalries in the Persian Gulf. The argument made directly or indirectly by American diplomats is that if Bahrain’s Shiite majority ousts the ruling family, Iran will gain […]

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Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan conducted a joint military exercise in Tuzla, Turkey, last month. The joint exercise had been decided on at a summit meeting in December under the auspices of the Turkey-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Forum. In an email interview, Ishtiaq Ahmad, the Quaid-i-Azam Fellow at St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford, discussed the trilateral forum. WPR: What is the background of the trilateral forum, and to what extent has it been formally institutionalized? Ishtiaq Ahmad: The Turkey-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Forum was launched in April 2007 as a regional effort to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan by fostering multifaceted cooperation among three […]

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Reporters Without Borders — a media rights group — is condemning Wednesday’s killing of two reporters in Libya. The NGO says the killing of journalists in Libya is a way for the authorities to eliminate independent reporting of the conflict.

Six months ago, Hosni Mubarak was the unchallenged ruler of Egypt, and his son Gamal was generally assumed to be the heir-apparent — a modernizer and reformer waiting in the wings. Today, Mubarak père is detained in hospital, while Mubarak fils is prisoner No. 23 at Tora Farm, the country’s most notorious prison. The wheel of fortune has turned so dramatically for the Mubaraks, in part because the provisional military government found it necessary to mollify protesters — who continue to challenge its reform bona fides — by vigorously taking action against the ancien regime. Indeed, with the wheels of […]

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The Libyan intervention is now reaching an inflection point, with the limited initial commitment of force apparently incapable of achieving the expressed — and universally desired — strategic outcome of driving Moammar Gadhafi from power. As a result, Britain and France will send small teams of military advisers in an effort to improve the rebels’ fighting capability, and the U.S. has decided to commit UAV drones to the intervention. But neither measure is likely to have a rapidly decisive impact on the fighting, which has now devolved into a war of attrition that neither side seems poised to win, which […]

When the Arab uprisings started spreading across the Middle East, human rights and democracy activists around the world held high hopes that the peaceful push for reform would spread to the many countries where populations live under repressive leadership. After protesters succeeded in overthrowing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a British member of parliament declared, “I would like to see regime change in Zimbabwe and Burma.” The sentiment was optimistically echoed by exiles of repressive states and their supporters in many places. For a moment, it seemed as if the exultant Egyptian protesters might just unleash a wave of freedom that […]

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The wave of violence gripping Iraq intensified Monday when a double suicide car bombing killed at least six people and wounded 20 outside the heavily fortified entrance of Baghdad’s Green Zone. The bombings — likely carried out by Sunni groups linked to al-Qaida — could allow Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to strengthen his hold on power, says J. Edward Conway, a World Politics Review contributor and former U.S. Defense Department analyst covering Iraq. “With the ongoing attacks, he’s basically allowed to play the security card,” Conway told Trend Lines this morning. “Some are worried that al-Maliki is acting more […]

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This report focuses on squabbling over control of the rebels between Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, who headed Libyan Special Forces under Gadhafi until February when he resigned to join the uprising and Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who served as a commander under Gadhafi during the early-1980s.

The NATO campaign in Libya has just begun its second month, and the situation on the ground is not improving. The defenses of Misurata are deteriorating, and rebel forces appear to be falling back from Adjadibya. In spite of the deteriorating tactical situation, however, the leaders of France, the United Kingdom and the United States have formulated in very certain terms the maximalist strategic goals of the campaign: the end of Moammar Gadhafi’s grip on power. The basic problem remains one of complete incoherence between strategic goals and operational means. Paris, London and Washington want Gadhafi gone. However, none of […]

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