Blog entries from: MEI Editor's Blog

A Blog by the Editor of the Middle East Journal

1 to 10 of 284

July 28 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Mon Jul 28 2014, 09:37:00

One hundred years ago today, Austria declared war on Serbia, lighting the fuse that within a week would transform what Bismarck had called the Balkan powder keg into a Europe-wide explosion. It was one month exactly since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo.

On the same day, July 28, two men on opposite sides of Europe would take actions that would lead to the Ottoman Empire joining the German side. In London, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill initiated the idea of confiscating two Turkish battleships being built in  British shipyards, one already complete and the other nearing completion, and adding them to the Royal Navy. Meanwhile on the same day in Constantinople, the most pro-German member of the Ottoman Cabinet, War Minister Enver Pasha, was ...

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July 27 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Sun Jul 27 2014, 18:00:00

Though the usual astronomical issues mean the end of Ramadan will vary from country to country, most Muslims in the United States and the Middle East consider Monday to be the first day of Shawwal, which means the Ramadan fast ends at sundown today.'Id al-Fitr greetings to my Muslim readers.

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July 25 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Fri Jul 25 2014, 18:30:00

The good news is that reports from several days ago that ISIS had destroyed the traditional tomb of the Prophet Yunus (Biblical Jonah) turned out to be untrue. The bad news is, we know this because they blew it up yesterday. Quite visibly.

Jonah, in the Bible, and Yunus, his equivalent in the Qur'an, was sent as a Prophet to Nineveh after the incident being swallowed by a "great fish." The Mosque and shrine stood on a hill known as Nabi Yunus, above the ruins of ancient Nineveh, across the Tigris from Mosul. It stood on the site of an earlier Assyrian Church dedicated to Jonah.ISIS had denied earlier reports that it had destroyed the tomb, but the video above and the before and after photos below seem to leave no doubt; as Conflict Antiquities notes, they also match older photos of the ...

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July 24 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Thu Jul 24 2014, 20:06:00

The Iraqi Parliament is Still Deadlocked on a new Prime Minister, but it did elect a new President today, though that post is much less powerful.  Fouad Massoum, a veteran figure in the Payriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), will replace Jalal Talabani,  head of the PUK, who recently retuned to Kurdistan after a lengthy recovery in Europe from a stroke.

The fact that there is serious talk of a Kurdish referendum on independence by the end of the year underscores the fragility of Iraq at the moment.

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From MEI Editor's Blog Thu Jul 24 2014, 19:58:00

&Earlier today there ws great furor over  claim by a United Nations official that the Islamic State had ordered that women in Mosul aged 11 to 46 must undergo female genital mutilation (FGM, "female circumcision"). The original allegation appears to have been without foundation;  even ISIS has denied it. It soon became clear that reports coming out of the Islamic State made no mention of it, and something seemed wrong with the story from the beginning. FGM is extremely widespread in North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, where it is by no means limited to Muslim groups (and is often enforced by the females of the family); outside of Egypt and Nigeria it it is not usually part of an Islamist/jihadist agenda, and it is not a traditional practice in most of the fertile crescent.

While ...

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From MEI Editor's Blog Thu Jul 24 2014, 08:17:00

Israeli analyst Shlomi Eldar has a sobering assessment a Al-Monitor's Israel Pulse: "Hamas: the first Palestinian army." While the title may underrate the operations of Fawzi al-Qawuqji and 'Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini's forces in 1948, it does notice the increasing professionalism and fighting skills of Hamas, even if their tactics remain objectionable. For one, Israel's casualties among the IDF is already much greater than in Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, though Operation Protective Edge  has not lasted as long.

In fact the growing number of non-state actor and irregular forces showing professional skill is a subject of interest and, for state actors, perhaps a cause for concern. Hizbullah in Syria has reportedly borne the brunt of some of the heaviest fighting, surpassing their ...

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July 23 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Wed Jul 23 2014, 16:41:00

Today marks the 62nd anniversary of the 1952 coup in Egypt that toppled King Farouq and brought Muhammad Naguib (and Nasser).

And once again, as in all but one year of those 62, the President is a military man.

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From MEI Editor's Blog Wed Jul 23 2014, 08:31:00

Yes, Part II of Hester Stanhope is coming. Meanwhile, back to the present century.

This is several years old, but I'm sorry to say it's not out of date. It dates from 2012 and is by Jewish-American cartoonist Nina Paley. I'm stunned I never ran this before.

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