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October 4, 2015

Rami G. Khouri

America Flunks Hard Lessons of War

A bad local situation is always made far worse when American or other foreign powers send in their armed forces and open fire at will, because they shatter the local political landscapes as well as the thin credibility of the United States as a useful or reliable partner. Read More

Demolitions in Sinai, New Walls in Beirut

Situations like those in Lebanon and Egypt require deep discussions among citizens and their public officials that address the serious grievances that have been put on the table. Home demolitions and concrete walls represent the most severe antithesis of serious political engagement. Read More

Plague of Violence Is Everyone’s Problem

The Middle East today is in such bloody and tragic turmoil for many different reasons, but one of them is that the five major powers of the region and the two global powers are all at war simultaneously. Read More

Arabs Watch as Lebanon Navigates a Crucial Moment

The protesters vision of the role of the state and their rights as citizens is very different from how the establishment men in the national dialogue see the citizen and the state. Read More

What Do We Learn from the Iran Deal?

What lessons have we learned from the process behind getting the Iran deal through American congress? Perhaps not much new, but some clarity on old understandings of the relationship between the United States and Israel. Read More

War & Peace Over Lunch II

Saudi Arabia and Iran could lead a bold diplomatic process to shape a Gulf-centric, Middle Eastern regional security architecture that is modeled on the Helsinki Process of a generation ago between the American- and Soviet-led camps. Read More

War & Peace Over Lunch

A delightful lunch in which I disagree with the fundamental premise that our region is largely defined by the confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Read More

Repeating History in Syria

Just as Syria was created after World War One by negotiations among Western powers who decided the country’s composition and its leadership and power configuration, Syria today is being reconfigured in the image of other powers. Read More

Historical Developments Visible in Turkey-Syria

The events Monday transcend domestic Turkish issues. In fact, they reflect the convergence of at least five important new trends in the Middle East that touch on Turkey, the Kurds, Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the Mideast policies of the United States and other foreign and regional powers. Read More

Remembering Hiroshima, Amidst Hell in Syria

Mass killings by weapons of mass destruction matter more than ever in the Arab world because we seem to be the world’s most problematic arena for mass killings, refugee flows, and the use of violence by states and non-state groups that is rarely if ever subject to any accountability. Read More

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Syrian Diplomacy

The best available option now is to seek an American-Iranian-Russian-Saudi agreement on basic principles to end the fighting. This would allow Syrians themselves to forge a political path towards…well, nobody knows towards what. Read More

Venturing very far afield, to learn about home

Last month I ventured very far afield to read a tale of adolescent youth in ethnically mixed British society, whose main characters are two teenage British-Pakistani girls. Read More

Can NATO Militaries Generate Mideast Stability?

The agreement between Turkey and the United States on a yet-to-be-defined plan to establish a sixty-mile-long Islamic State-free zone in northern Syria is at once decisive and dangerous. Read More

EU Separates Israel’s Security from its Settlements

Slow but continuing moves by the European Union — including two developments in the past week — place the Palestinian-Israeli struggle in the arena of international law, accountability and appropriate sanctions. Read More

Gen. Odierno speaks half the truth needed to defeat ISIS

The faster and more concretely the United States and Arab states play their parts in addressing the non-military issues that promote IS, the faster that 20-year horizon for destroying IS and everything it reflects will whittle down into a shorter time frame. Read More

Iran is drama, but Iraq is destiny

Their cooperation with American and Iranian elements suggests that Iraqis are determined to keep trying to work together for the common good of their united, pluralistic country, rather than to fight each other for the right to rule small ethnic provinces. Read More

ISIS Is Weak, but so Are Arab States

The political and sectarian problems that prevent military coordination also plague the constructive political development of countries like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Lebanon, Palestine and others. Read More

Hillary Clinton should stop lying

The BDS movement that includes divestment and boycott moves by leading American churches and European banks and even some governments is not trying to delegitimize Israel. Read More

Egypt, ISIS, Elvis and other inspirations

Anniversaries this week that inspire liberty, human rights, and the enjoyment of life. Read More

Reflecting on a Week of Terror

Identifying more honestly the combination of reasons that drive ordinary citizens into the arms of killers has stumped Arab and Western authorities for decades, though any Arab teenager could probably explain in five minutes what ails them, and channels some of them into criminal acts. Read More

Signs of a more effective Palestinian strategy?

Two initiatives this week may well point the way towards a more effective path of political and diplomatic struggle that could overcome the constraints now suffered due to Palestinian fragmentation. Read More

Good Grief: ISIS Cannot be Fought with Facebook Likes

ISIS and Al-Qaeda can only be fought by cutting out from beneath their feet the combination of policies and conditions in the Arab region that deeply offend and threaten ordinary citizens, and ultimately turn a very small number of them into ISIS recruits. Read More

To Obey the Law or Continue Criminal Actions?

Four very different approaches on to how to resolve situations of violence, atrocity, and occupation. Read More

The U.S. Supreme Court Wisely Upholds the Law

The Supreme Court's recent decision could prove consequential in the years ahead, as the political battle between Israelis and Palestinians continues to find its way into American courts. Read More

The Spirit Lives, in Gdansk and Beirut

Remembering the life and work of the late Samir Kassir, who was assassinated ten years ago in Beirut. Read More

ISIS Attracts Because Arab Systems Repel

Along with strong military actions, the Arab world must take parallel political steps to defeat ISIS. Read More

Is Joint Militarism Really the Answer?

This is the moment to ponder whether excessive reliance on militarism as a response to political and ideological disagreements is in fact the appropriate solution, or actually one of the causes of the problems we face. Read More

Attack ISIS' Drivers to Defeat It

It’s not the war against ISIS that is “long,” it’s rather the conditions of inequity, oppression, imperial reach, state violence, and mass deprivation that have gone on for so long that they have finally erupted in the form of the terrible revenge called ISIS. Read More

Narrow Ethno-nationalism Plagues All in the Middle East

The Middle East continues shifting toward increasingly narrow state identities and government policies that are defined by a combination of narrow ethnicity, increased militarism and religious conservatism. Read More

Vulnerable, Abused Citizens Lead to Unstable States

Arab societies are brittle, volatile, violent and fragmenting in many cases because there is no effective check on the exercise of power by indigenous or external powers, which leaves average Arab citizen totally exposed and helpless. Read More

Grasp This Window to Hold Killers Accountable

A UN report that addresses the actions of Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza war is an opportunity to dare to move towards holding chronic killers accountable. Read More

Threats and Responses in the GCC's New Militancy

Will the GCC’s new militarism respond to the long list of perceived troubling regional threats as well as it already responds to the GCC’s need to safeguard its own national interests? Read More

Our Homemade Weapons of Our Own Mass Destruction

Wildly flashing red lights telling us to stop building one-way highways to hell for tens of millions of our children who are denied the most important opportunity of their lives. Read More

A Question About Policy in Yemen

America’s top officials seem comfortable continuing an approach in Yemen even though in the same breath they acknowledge its dangerous consequences for the Arab world. Read More

Iran Accord Could Spark Momentous Regional Changes

The consummation of a full, multi-decade agreement on Iran’s nuclear program is likely to have monumental consequences across the entire Middle East. Read More

Rare Courage, Respect, Reciprocity Drove Iran Deal

The agreed deal on Iran’s nuclear program that was reached Thursday represents a monumental achievement that affirms the power of reason and diplomacy over the ravages of fear and warfare. Read More

Yemen's War is Debatable, but Probably Historic

Simultaneous adjustments at national, regional and global levels have been taking place across the Middle East region since the end of the Cold War. The Saudi-Yemen situation is important because it captures developments at all three levels. Read More

Four Active Arab Wars Stem from a Common Malaise

Yemen is not really about the legally authorized use of force to ensure a calm Arab future. Rather, it is mainly a testament to the marginalization of the rule of law in many Arab countries in our recent past. Read More

The United States Should Now Respond to the Arab Peace Plan

The Obama administration is doing something that no other American administration has ever dared to do, which is to confront and challenge Israel in public on the core issue in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Read More

One Arena and Two Players

After a strong victory by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party and a consolidation of rightwing sentiments, Israeli-American relations is the critical arena, and the European and Palestinian leaderships are the two pivotal actors to watch. Read More

Four Middle East Cities Today Might Define Our Fate

The fate of this region remains in the hands of its people. How current events in Tikrit, Cairo, Tel Aviv and Tehran play themselves out will shape our fate for generations to come. Read More

Syria Reflects Wider, Older Arab Troubles

The Middle East is likely to endure many years of dislocation and violence until local authorities re-establish order that is based on a more credible social contract among citizens who feel they belong to a state. Read More

Drama Becomes Farce in U.S.-Israeli Ties

Netanyahu just tore up the rulebook, and nobody is quite sure what will happen next in U.S.-Israeli relations. An unsanctioned, thriving Iran that is not a nuclear threat would force a new balance of power in the Middle East. Read More

Another Blow to the Farcical 'Peace Process'

All concerned should be braced for some bad things to happen in the arenas of security, political rhetoric, administration, finances and economy, and physical and psychological well-being of citizenries on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Read More

The Battle Forces Against ISIS Remain Incomplete

If ISIS and other such movements are to be defeated, we need to see tangible signs of change in the way Arab societies are governed. Read More

A Milestone in United States-Israel Relations

The fact that we now see strong, public criticisms of Netanyahu from the belly of the Israel-loving beast that is the U.S. Congress suggests that a significant political and historical marker has been passed. Read More

Sisi's Joint Arab Military Idea is Stunningly Idiotic

The idea of joint Arab action for common security needs is a good one in principle, but given the legacy of Arab military actions at home and abroad, it makes no sense whatsoever, on many counts. Read More

Honesty and Dishonesty in Fighting Violent Extremism

Unusual for American senior officials speaking about the Middle East or Arab-Islamic dynamics, a case of refreshingly accurate, honest and relevant talk from a U.S. president. Read More

Only Fools Confuse Religion with Criminality

Declaring that Islam is at war with itself, or that we witness a battle for the soul and heart of Islam, is vulgar, reductionist and essentialist. Read More

Rep. John Yarmuth Matters and Deserves Our Respect

The American representative will not be attending Netanyahu's speech to the U.S. Congress. It's worth understanding his reasons. Read More

Yemen and the Agony of the Modern Arab Era

While Yemen is a telling lesson in how not to practice stable statehood, it also requires more urgent attention because it poses real and major danger to others in the region and the world. Read More

Jordan Today Reflects Arab Strengths and Weaknesses

Jordan’s dilemma, which is on full display today, is that its strengths are also its weaknesses. Read More

Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt Offer Real Choices

Tunisia, Bahrain and Egypt show us the options we face. I honor and choose Tunisia, as I suspect do most of the 360 million Arabs who can speak freely, if they are not in jail and have not had their citizenship revoked. Read More

No Succession Drama, But Plenty of Regional Drama

Regional and foreign policy is the arena where traditional conservative Saudi values and operating methods run up against the challenges of modern geopolitics and aggressive initiatives by many other states and non-state actors. Read More

Israel vs. Hezbollah-Syria-Iran

Because of the tangled dynamics of Hezbollah’s relations inside Lebanon and around the Middle East, the Israeli attack in Syria — an almost routine event in the last few decades, sadly — actually hit three targets in one, namely Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. Read More

Should We Welcome, Fear or Ignore the Quartet?

The Quartet was a good idea that initially aimed to expand the circle of major parties that lent their weight to achieving a negotiated peace. That never happened for several reasons. Read More

Problems in Paris and Khartoum

A bad week in the continuing saga of an Arab world in search for decency, democracy and development, which remain elusive despite the proven thirst for these things across the region. Read More

Insights from the Kouachi Brothers’ Crimes and Lives

The lives, attitudes and actions of the Kouachi brothers reflect many other elements beyond freedom and blasphemy. It is time to get more serious about the real drivers of tension and violence that plague the multinational, transcontinental universe in which the Kouachi brothers lived. Read More

Protests Cause Americans to Take Notice

When normal life and the economy are disrupted briefly, America takes notice. The status quo seems to endanger young black men in the first instance, but many other Americans sense they could be losers also. Read More

Time for Serious Palestinian Leadership

Serious issues of national fate require serious leadership, and Abbas does not fit that bill any longer. Read More

A Moment to Recall the Corrosion that Threatens Egypt

The Al-Jazeera journalists must be freed, but so also must the Egyptian and Arab people be freed from the crippling, deadly grip of military rule. Read More

What to Watch for at the UN Security Council

An important debate will soon take place at the UN Security Council on draft resolutions to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We should pay attention. Read More

How Fares the Global War on Terror?

The more the GWOT continues, the greater seems to be the expansion and impact of the very terror groups it seeks to defeat, with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra being the most recent examples. Read More

The Angels and Devils of Our Last Four Years

We know today about both our angels and our devils, and they will battle for our souls for some years to come. We have become normal countries, in the early years of our painful birth. Read More

Imperial Crimes in the United States and the Middle East

Is the United States the shining republic, or just another banana republic? Is this a moment of pride or shame for Americans? Right now, it seems to be a bit of both, but how it emerges in the longer term remains to be seen. Read More

More Simplistic Nonsense from the United States Government

Until Arab, Western and other foreign rulers accept that their policies were the main underlying reason that allowed ISIS and other such movements to come into being, statements such as John Kerry’s this week will only meet with ridicule and disbelief. Read More

The Universal Horrors of Killing with Impunity

The United States reminds us now that killing with impunity is a terrible crime and a national failure, wherever it happens — Ferguson, New York City, the occupied Palestinian territories or elsewhere. Read More

Egypt is Sad, But Still Hard to Read

The acquittal of former President Hosni Mubarak last weekend marks a symbolic nail in the coffin of the uprising and revolution that overthrew his government in February 2011. It is tempting but reckless to make definitive judgments about the meaning of the extraordinary stages of Egyptian political life since then. Read More

Obama’s Dangerous Embrace of War

Ignoring the US public’s sentiments, presidents continue to use the country’s enormous capabilities to wage war around the world at will — usually create more havoc and generating new dangers that did not exist previously. Read More

Important Lessons from the Iran Negotiations

Decisive yet sensible leadership among those involved in the talks has been able to triumph over extremist ideological positions of domestic foes, and scare tactics of perturbed foreign parties like Israel and Saudi Arabia. Read More

Only Active Citizens Can Save Their Precarious States

The precarious status of half a dozen countries, which run the risk of collapsing or fragmenting into smaller units, is a defining issue of the Arab world today. Read More

Is Jerusalem the Last Battle?

Living in a political vacuum, Palestinians in Jerusalem have only themselves to rely on to defend their lands and rights, and in cases of extreme threats and violence used against them, they resort to violence such as we are witnessing these days. Read More

Impressive Citizenship in Professor Horn’s Class in Boston

Public officials in the United States who seek sensible advise on how to govern should attend a few sessions of Professor Denise Horn’s introductory class on International Affairs and Globalization at Northeastern University in Boston. Read More

President Rivlin’s Important, Intriguing Gesture

One of the few times in recent memory that a senior Israeli official makes a personal gesture that touches the core of Palestinian pain. Read More

Egypt Follows U.S. and Israeli Failed Strategies

When heavy-handed anti-terror actions demean, kill, injure or ruin the lives of civilians, some of these civilians end up joining the militant groups, simply to exact revenge against those who attacked them. Read More

Lessons from the Historic Tunisian Elections

The Tunisian elections were the most significant domestic and national political development in the history of the modern Arab world since its creation a century ago. Read More

The Rule of Law Triumphs — Sort of — in the USA

Punishing a few hired gunmen while ignoring the responsibility of the political leadership of the United States and Great Britain that waged this criminal war in Iraq in the name of their entire nations is a gross abdication of responsibility. Read More

ISIS is the Latest of Many Different Islamisms

ISIS, like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Hamas, Gamaa Islamiya, non-violent Salafists, militant Salafist-Takfiris, Al-Qaeda and others before it, is a symptom of, and a reaction to, deeper ailments in Middle Eastern society. Read More

Refugees Themselves Can Crack This Tough Nut

An ICG report, “Bringing Back the Palestinian Refugee Question,” is a timely and convincing reminder of why the Palestinian refugees must be central actors in the quest for a negotiated resolution of their conflict with Israel. Read More

New Hare-Brained American Ideas in the Middle East

Why does the United States repeatedly discard the relevance of human nature and history when it unleashes its guns and goes into action around the world? Read More

Three Questions to Ask before Unleashing the Military

If any foreign power asked about the legitimacy, the efficacy, and the consequences of its military involvement in other countries before actually launching such militarism, it might be possible to minimize the negative consequences that we have experienced in the Middle East in recent decades. Read More

How to Assess Fragmenting Arab States

Seven issues gauge the real power and longevity of non-state actors, alongside the dilution of state authority. These seven are Identity, Sovereignty, Territoriality, Service-delivery, Legitimacy, Nationality, and Statehood. Read More

Desperate Netanyahu Sticks to Old Lies

The repeated mistake Netanyahu makes—or perhaps it is a deliberate lie—is to see any movement or rhetoric in the Middle East that references Islamic values as a dangerous threat. Read More

Palestine’s Moral Force Needs Diplomatic Power

Abbas is making decisions on his own without consulting widely among all Palestinians, and he is using the ICC as a threat, when it should be a central component in any Palestinian strategy that seeks to hold Israel accountable to the international rule of law. Read More

Creating or Evading the Gates of Hell?

Three principal developments in and around the Arab world: The combined American-Arab Gulf states air strikes in Syria, the control of the Yemeni capital by Houthi rebels, and the meeting in New York between the Saudi Arabian and Iranian foreign ministers. Read More

Shameful Hamas-Fateh Behavior Must Stop

That Hamas and Fateh do not consummate a unified Palestinian government does not only reflect irresponsibility and incompetence on their part, but in view of the difficult context for Palestinians as a whole it is nothing less than a crime. Read More

The Reluctant Posse

It is not surprising that when the threat becomes really serious, Arab leaders wait for the United States to save their skins. Read More

Polarization and Solidarity Coexist in Arab Societies

Why is it that otherwise rational men and women cannot sit down together and hammer out agreements on fair power-sharing, representation, decision-making, and accountability? Read More

Hard to Be Confident in the Coalition-to-Come

Several troubling aspects of the American-led military plan to defeat the “Islamic State” Read More

We Do Not Need a Rerun of the War on Terror

The GWOT, with its armed invasions, regime changes, drone fleets and other means, has only sustained and even expanded the Al-Qaeda/“Islamic State” phenomenon, because the twin drivers of Arab-Asian autocracy and foreign aggression remain virtually untouched. Read More

Strengths and Weaknesses in the Palestinian Initiative

Abbas is behaving more like a parent who promises his or her children a birthday surprise than a responsible leader who has been handed responsibility for the fate of some eight million Palestinians entering their fourth generation of exile, occupation and refugeehood. Read More

Panic or a Coming of Age in the Gulf?

The UAE air attack in Libya clarifies a major shift underway in the worldviews and self-perceived roles of leading Arab states, who now throw their weight around the Middle East in a direct manner they never did previously. Read More

The Riddle of Citizen Views on Arab Statehood

Citizens will rebel against their central state if they do not feel that their needs are being met equitably, or that they are being mistreated by the government and its military forces. Read More

Israeli Propaganda Starts to Wear Thin

More and more governments and observers around the world have realized that Hamas and Hezbollah have nothing to do with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, rejecting Israeli propaganda. Read More

Iraq Is the New Proving Ground for Arab Statehood

Islamic State-type rule has no more chance of giving Arabs a decent life than did the centralized police state or the corrupt sectarian state that Arabs have endured for decades. Iraq is the place now where this issue will be put to the test. Read More

Zionism vs. Arabism, Not Hamas in Gaza

It is easier for American-Israeli propagandists to highlight Hamas’ militancy rather than to grapple with the fact that all Palestinians — and most of the world, actually — support the demands that Hamas has articulated and that have been negotiated by the all-inclusive Palestinian delegation in Cairo. Read More

Revived PLO Is Now a Top Priority

The most important political action the Palestinians should take now is to rapidly reconstitute the institutions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), so that Palestinians speak with one voice and benefit from the total backing of the eight million or so Palestinians around the world. Read More

A Ceasefire Would Beckon Real Leaders to Act

If any real leaders and statesmen and women exist out there who can respond to this challenge, now is the time to stand up and act. Read More

From Biblical Wars to Justice for All

This round of attacks by Israelis and Palestinians may prove to be most significant for pushing all concerned to seek a permanent resolution of this conflict, rather than letting it fester in 19th Century colonial mode. Read More

Washington Absurdity, Arab Helplessness

Washington’s quest for a ceasefire in Gaza while wholeheartedly supporting and arming Israel’s onslaught against Palestinian civilians reflects the frightening extent of bankrupt Arab diplomacy and the true nature of the US government siding with Israel. Read More

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