Blog entries from: MEI Editor's Blog

A Blog by the Editor of the Middle East Journal

1 to 10 of 351

September 19 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Fri Sep 19 2014, 23:40:00

Or hits it out of the park. Lameen Souag is a linguist I quote from time to time, as I did a week ago tonight, on whether spoken Levantine is closer to Arabic or Aramaic. His latest,

Zombie hypotheses and the Zeitgeist, is more common sense.

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From MEI Editor's Blog Fri Sep 19 2014, 18:46:00

This piece at Al-Monitor about how Yazidis, Christians, and other minorities in northern Iraqi are asking to be armed and trained to fight ISIS may be particularly timely, since ISIS is currently threatening to take the city of Kobanê, a mixed town of Kurds, Turkmen, Armenians and Syriac Christians. Rather like Amerli, which was besieged by ISIS until US airstikes nd Iraqi ground roop lifted the siege, there are fears of a massacre of the minorities if  Kobanê, (which is also spelled Kobani and is known by the Arabic name of 'Ayn al-'Arab), falls to ISIS.

There is one big problem:  Kobanê is in Syria, not Iraq, and no one is yet bombing targets in Syria. The town has been under the control of the People's Protection Units (YPG), Kurdish Syrian Peshmerga. ISIS is ...

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From MEI Editor's Blog Fri Sep 19 2014, 12:10:00

The French, who previously had been carrying out reconnaissance missions, have now begun carrying out air strikes against ISIS in northern Iraq by striking a depot.

The aircraft were French Rafales.  France has a base with Rafales at the al-Dhafra air base in Abu Dhabi.

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September 18 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Thu Sep 18 2014, 20:18:00

I thought it would be worth a comparison but apparently every op-ed editor on earth thought so, too. I guess it was inevitable for everyone from Kurds to Scots to Middle East analysts to draw the obvious parallels today

Robin Wright at the WSJ blog: "Will Scotland, and Kurdistan, Break Away?"

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From MEI Editor's Blog Thu Sep 18 2014, 18:14:00

With the withdrawal of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force from the Disengagement Zone and behind the Israeli line of control earlier this week, what happens next? For 40 years UNDOF watched over a quasi-border that was normally quiet, and provided a crossing point for Golan Druze to visit relatives on the Syrian side of the disengagement lines.

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From MEI Editor's Blog Thu Sep 18 2014, 08:47:00

There's Scots and "Scotch-Irish" in my DNA, and I like to think about Bannockburn and Culloden, Wallace and the Bruce and Bonnie Prince Charlie, but romanticism has its limits in the age of the EU.

I have no vote in this, but think I'd vote "no" if I did, and in any event I plan to raise a glass (I think there's a dust-covered bottle of Laphroaig in the basement somewhere, though I rarely touch the hard stuff these days) and toast Alba gu bràth (Scotland forever, for the Saxons among you, and cognate for you Irish ti Eireinn go bragh).

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September 17 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Wed Sep 17 2014, 18:19:00

At times the growing chaos in the Middle East must seem almost apocalyptic, and it's hardly surprising that some fundamentalist evangelical Christians are seeing signs of Armageddon, though hardly for the first time. Outside the Islamic world, many may have overlooked the growing apocalyptic discourse among radical Sunni and radical Shi'ite theorists who are also playing the apocalypse game.

Hardline Shi'ites since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 have been talking about the imminent return of Imam Mahdi, and Ayatollah Khamene'i  has sometimes endorsed the idea that the return of the Twelfth Imam was imminent. Sunnism has been less end-times oriented, at least since 1979, which corresponded to 1400 AH, and led to a self-proclaimed Sunni Mahdi seizing the Haram st Mecca.

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From MEI Editor's Blog Wed Sep 17 2014, 13:33:00

Longtime readers will recall that every year on September 17,  I note the birthday of Edward William Lane (1801-1876), the author of The Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon, a translation if the Arabian Nights, and Cairo 50 Years Ago (edited by his nephew, Stanley Lane-Poole). Manners and Customs remains an essential description of daily life in Egypt in the age of Muhammad 'Ali, and the Lexicon is unique in English. Lane, his sister Sophia Lane Poole and nephew Stanley Lane-Poole (with a hyphen unlike his mother) formed a sort of dynasty of British writers on Egypt, Arabic, and Islam.

As an old Cairo hand, I am privileged to share a birthday with Lane, so I always make note of his. Unlike him, I am not (yet) 213.

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September 16 2014

From MEI Editor's Blog Tue Sep 16 2014, 21:37:00

Yesterday the United Nations announced:

The situation in UNDOF on the Syrian side and the area of separation has deteriorated severely over the last several days.Armed groups have made advances in the area of UNDOF positions, posing a direct threat to the safety and security of the UN Peacekeepers along the "Bravo" line and in Camp Faouar.All the UN personnel in these positions have thus been relocated to the "Alpha" side. UNDOF continues to use all available assets to carry out its mandated tasks in this exceptionally challenging environment.Deciphered from opaque UN-ese (which is probably why this has been little commented upon in the Western media), this means that UNDOF has completely withdrawn from the Golan disengagement force zone it has held since 1974 and into Israeli-controlled ...

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From MEI Editor's Blog Tue Sep 16 2014, 20:30:00

Thisyear I failed to note Coptic New Year (Neyrouz) on September 11, though I have done so in previous years,  so belatedly I'll refer you to this story: "Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities celebrates New Coptic Year." 

The year just begun is AM (Year of the Martyrs) 1731. The calendar is Julian and dates from the persecution of Diocletian in AD 284.

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