Blog entries from: MEI Editor's Blog

A Blog by the Editor of the Middle East Journal

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November 20 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Thu Nov 20 2014, 08:30:00

I'll be tied up today with the MEI Annual Conference, but prepared this ahead of time because November 20 marks the centennial of the first shot fired on the Suez Canal Front in World War I, a minor affair, but an augury.

The Canal being Britain's lifeline to India, it had already been decided even before Turkey's entry into the War that Imperial forces (Indian, Australian, and New Zealand in this case) earmarked for France would train in Egypt. They would therefore be available to defend the Canal if it was threatened. Once Turkey joined the War, it was decided to station some of them there and deploy them for use in the region. A Territorial Division, the 42nd (East Lancashire)were sent out from Britain as well.

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November 19 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Wed Nov 19 2014, 19:46:00

Iraqi Security Forces now say they have lifted the ISIS siege around the refinery at Baiji, having previously taken the town. 

This is the latest setback for ISIS on the Iraqi front. Juan Cole noted some of the others recently:"Top 5 Ways Daesh/ ISIL is Losing, as it lashes out like a Cornered Rat."

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November 18 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Tue Nov 18 2014, 22:39:00

In my recent preview of coming attractions for my centennial seties on the First World War in the Middle East, I noted that the front between the Ottoman and Russian Empires in the Caucasus was little known in the West. Yet some of the hardest fighting the Ottoman Army endured in that war was against the Russian Army in the Transcaucasus. If this Turkish Eastern Front has any resonance among Western readers it is almost exclusively due to the fate of the Armenians (which I have no intention of avoiding as we discuss the centennial of the Great War). But this part of Turkey's war lasted longer than the others, due to the upheavals in the Transcaucasus after the Russian Revolution. Now, as it happens, I read neither Turkish nor Russian. And while the British Official Histories often provide ...

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From MEI Editor's Blog Tue Nov 18 2014, 20:48:00

In this week of additional violence and terror from ISIS to Jerusalem, let me remind those of you in the Washington area (and anyone arriving early for the MESA Conference this weekend as well), that MEI's 68th Annual Conference is this week. Though the Banquet tomorrow night and lunch on Thursday are paid events, the Conference itself  on November 20 has free registration. The theme this year is "Navigating the Storm: The Middle East in 2015." Full details and information here.

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November 17 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Mon Nov 17 2014, 20:26:00

The attack last week on an Egyptian Navy vessel off the coast of Damietta has been wrapped in mystery from the start, beginning with how far offshore it was (reports range from 10 nautical miles to 70 kilometers) and who attacked it. I noted in passing late last week that some Jihadist websites were claiming that it was really an attempted mutiny, but I dismissed that, considering the source. I may have been premature, and there are a number of other reports further muddying the waters.

The Beirut-based electronic newspaper Al-Modon has published an account which it claims is the true story, (link in Arabic), to the effect that an officer of the patrol launch 6 October, Ahmad 'Amer, with five sympathizers he had smuggled board, took command of the ship and killed the crew; when the base ...

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November 14 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Fri Nov 14 2014, 23:25:00

The Islamic State, trying to seem credible as a state, has released a series of projected coin designs. (Also here.) They will (it is claimed) be minted in gold, silver, and copper and range in value from a few cents to several hundred dollars. The announcement in Arabic with the illustrations can be found here n PDF.

At least two of these coins look rather familiar. The first has been noted on social media; I'm not sure if anyone has commented on the second.

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From MEI Editor's Blog Fri Nov 14 2014, 22:13:00

Some Egyptian media are reporting that the attack Wednesday on an Egyptian Navy vessel involved the vessel being lured into a trap through a false SOS. (Additional details in the Arabic version of the same story here, which describes the vessel as a "launch" patrolling offshore to protect Egypt's oil and gas reserves in its exclusive economic zone, and that it belonged to the Coast Guard, which in Egypt is part of the Navy. The story did not identify the vessel.

Some radical Islamist websites have identified the vessel as the 6 October, which is the name of an Egyptian patrol craft, but these same dubious sites have tried to portray the incident as a mutiny with the mutineers wanting to join "the Caliphate," but none of these versions come from reliable media, and I prefer not to link and ...

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From MEI Editor's Blog Fri Nov 14 2014, 08:28:00

The photo above, taken a century ago today, shows the Sheikh-ul-Islam of the Ottoman Empire, the senior religious authority, Ürgüplü Mustafa Hayri Efendi, proclaiming a fatwa (Turkish fetva) at the Fatih Mosque in Istanbul, declaring in the name of the Sultan a religious duty of Jihad against the enemies of he Empire, and asserting that it was incumbent upon all Muslims, through the sultan's claimed authority as Caliph of Islam, and not merely those in the Empire's territory.

The key element is the last:

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November 13 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Thu Nov 13 2014, 20:21:00

There are still a lot of open questions about yesterday's attack on an Egyptian Navy vessel yesterday, leaving five sailors injured and eight missing. The military claims that with the help of the Air Force four boats were sunk, four attackers killed and 32 arrested. Unconfirmed reports suggested that the Egyptian vessel, whose name and class have apparently not been disclosed, had caught fire.

The Egyptian state media is clearly blaming Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has been waging an insurgency in the Sinai; after 31 were killed three weeks ago, Egypt declared a three-month State of Emergency and began evacuating a strip of land to prevent infiltration from Gaza. Attcks on soldiers and police have continued in Sinai, and this week Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis announced its adherence to the Islamic ...

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November 12 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Wed Nov 12 2014, 23:53:00

It may not be as memorable as the headline linked to in my previous post, but his one from Mada Masr is also great: "Police deny Cairo University student arrested for possessing Orwell's '1984'."

They are not, however, ruling out using it in evidence against the student, who also had writings referring to the Caliphate. The media is, however, playing up the  1984 aspect, for the obvious ironic reasons. The charge sheet listed the book among his possessions and said it refernced "dictator and corrupt military regimes." 

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