Government in Graphs

In February there are a lot of Spring-related anniversaries: it’s two years since Mubarak resigned, one year since the Port Said massacre, two years since the beginning of protests in Libya, and one year since Saleh resigned in Yemen.  Plus, with the political guignol going on in Tunisia (still unresolved as of this writing, and perhaps I’ll have something to say about that next week) it’s not surprising that a lot of people are going  into a reflective ‘what did the Arab Spring ever do for us’ mode. It’s a fair question: in the last two years Egypt’s economy has … Continue reading Government in Graphs

Oh God, Not Syria Again

On Thursday I went to a conference at the LSE called Inside Syria: 18 Months On.  There were four panels on different subjects (the regime, the opposition, Syrian identity, and the economic situation) and a closing speaker (none other than Burhan Ghalioun).  Something that particularly struck me was that practically every opposition activist who spoke – as opposed to the academics – mentioned the prospect of international intervention in a positive light.  They also stressed that although the uprising’s development into a civil war was not desirable, now that it has happened we have to deal with it on those … Continue reading Oh God, Not Syria Again


So it’s finally happened, after 16 months.  The major world powers have agreed a transition plan for Syria.  The Russians agreed to let go of Bashar and the Americans agreed to allow parts of his government to remain for the transition.  The opposition will join the government, Bashar will step down and be replaced by a moderate figure (if anyone can find one), and a process of national reconciliation will begin. Or it would have done, had this been June 2011, or September 2011, or even probably January 2012.  But the global powers have taken such a lot of persuasion to … Continue reading War

Khartoum’s slow march to oblivion

It must be difficult to be Omar al-Bashir.  He is suspected of having orchestrated the murder of about half a million people, famously in Darfur and also in what was until recently the South of his country.  Since 2008 the ICC has had a warrant out for his arrest.  His Arab Sudanese compatriots are under strict political oppression; there is virtually no area of the country outside Khartoum which does not feel neglected.  Yet despite having taken his country and himself to new limits of international isolation, things for Bashir are usually ticking over all right.  But not this time. … Continue reading Khartoum’s slow march to oblivion

A Personal Absolution from Dictatorship

(Nota bene – some or all of this might have been written with the assistance of pain-killers) I am done with talking about Syria.  With the release of the Assad e-mails, the world is finally went mad.  After a year of the Syrian uprising gradually deviating from the narratives obligingly set out from it, from the unswift nature of the conflict to the protestors’ stubborn decision not to be CIA agents, the release of the e-mails is an attempt by the forces of liberal Orientalism (here represented by the Guardian) to cow Assad’s image towards proper tyranny and make him … Continue reading A Personal Absolution from Dictatorship

John Brennan: Sinister or cretinous (or both?)

Today, tomorrow, or possibly a little later – the Yemeni government has said that the votes might take some time to tabulate, as if we didn’t all already know the result! – for the first time in 33 years, Ali Abdullah Saleh will not be President of Yemen. American politicians and diplomats are already crowing about “democracy by the ballot box”, all the while ignoring that there is only a single candidate on the ballot paper and his rise to power is not really in doubt.  In fact, given that there is no minimum turnout specified for the results to … Continue reading John Brennan: Sinister or cretinous (or both?)

The Last Chance for a Syrian Syria

In the wake of Russia and China vetoing the most recent Security Council resolution dealing with Bashar, there seems to be a broad consensus in the media that events in Syria are shifting into a new gear.  As with so much of the trash that gets written about Syria, this would probably be the story no matter what the situation on the ground, but this time it happens to probably be true, but not in the way that’s generally meant.  The general view is that perhaps we can finally move from these boring and lengthy discussions about what to do … Continue reading The Last Chance for a Syrian Syria