World Service Twice

Golan drinks, Lyse looks on, Nihad eyes me suspiciously
Golan drinks, Lyse looks on, Nihad eyes me suspiciously

Last night I was at London’s Purcell Room, honoured to be in the presence of novelist and screenwriter Nihad Sirees and poet Golan Hajji. The event was chaired by the BBC’s Lyse Doucet. We were talking about writing in the context of the Syrian revolution. Then I participated in the morning edition of the BBC World Service’s World Have Your Say, discussing Syria, and I joined the WHYS in the evening too, discussing Syria and Mali (on which I’m no expert) at greater length.

Here is the morning edition.

And here is the longer evening programme.

‘Google Capitalism’; Indian surrender; and Spanish accountability in January TaxCast

A significant ruling against Dell in Spain, India shelves rules that would have tackled corporate tax abuse until 2016, the EU threatens to blacklist Switzerland and we take a look at ‘Google Capitalism.’

The Tax Justice Network‘s latest TaxCast is out. Hosted  by Naomi Fowler, each 15 minute podcast follows the latest news relating to tax evasion, tax avoidance and the shadow banking system. The show features discussions with experts in the field to help analyse the top stories each month.

What I saw in the war

Reporter Janine di Giovanni has been to the worst places on Earth to bring back stories from Bosnia, Sierra Leone and most recently Syria. She tells stories of human moments within large conflicts — and explores that shocking transition when a familiar city street becomes a bombed-out battleground.

The Revolution Armed Itself

regime policy in aleppoThis piece, a rebuttal to Marc Lynch, was published at Foreign Policy under the title Fund Syria’s Moderates.

In response to non-violent protests calling for reform, the Baathist regime in Damascus has brought Syria bloodshed, chaos, and created the conditions in which jihadism thrives. The now partially armed revolution is doing its best to roll back the bloodshed and to eliminate the regime that perpetrates it.

Yet Foreign Policy’s Marc Lynch, one of the more perceptive analysts of the Middle East, argues that after more than 60,000 lives have been lost, “the last year should be a lesson to those who called for arming the rebels.” In a previous article, Lynch noted, “Syrian armed groups are now awash with weapons.”

Anyone laboring under the delusion that pro-revolution foreign powers have flooded Syria with hi-tech weaponry should scroll through the blog of New York Times correspondent C.J. Chivers or peruse the web pages displaying improvised catapult bombs and PlayStation-controlled armored cars. These are hardly the tools of a fighting force that has been armed to the teeth.

While it’s true that some armed groups — particularly the al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra — have sometimes found themselves in possession of plenty of weaponry, the resistance remains overwhelmingly dependent on the weapons it can buy, steal, or seize from captured checkpoints and bases.

Simply put, the assumptions of those who called for arming the rebels have not been tested because the rebels have not been armed — except in irrelevant, sporadic and, in Lynch’s words, “poorly coordinated” ways. For instance, an ammunition shortage slowed the original rebel advance in Aleppo to a destructive halt.

Continue reading “The Revolution Armed Itself”

Obama’s torture policy

Al Jazeera’s excellent Fault Lines returns:

As a candidate for president, Barack Obama promised a new direction. Just days after taking office, the new US president issued a series of executive orders banning all acts of torture, discontinuing the use of CIA black sites, and calling for the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay to be closed.

Continue reading “Obama’s torture policy”

Iran Shoots Itself in the Foot

iransyriahizbThis was written for the excellent Lobelog.

In August 2012 Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi attended a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran. His presence at the conference was something of a diplomatic victory for the Iranian leadership, whose relations with Egypt, the pivotal Arab state, had been at the lowest of ebbs since the 1979 revolution.

Egypt’s President Sadat laid on a state funeral for the exiled Iranian shah. A Tehran street was later named after Khalid Islambouli, one of Sadat’s assassins. Like every Arab country except Syria, Egypt backed Iraq against Iran in the First Gulf War. Later, Hosni Mubarak opposed Iranian influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, worked with the US and Saudi Arabia against Iran’s nuclear program, and was one of the Arab dictators (alongside the Abdullahs of Jordan and Saudi Arabia) to warn darkly of a rising “Shi’ite cresent”. Not surprisingly, Iran was so overjoyed by the 2011 revolution in Egypt that it portrayed it as a replay of its own Islamic Revolution.

Iran also rhetorically supported the revolutions in Tunisia and Libya, the uprising in Yemen, and, most fervently, the uprising in Shia-majority Bahrain.

In Syria, however, Iran supported the Assad tyranny against a popular revolution even as Assad escalated repression from gunfire and torture to aerial bombardment and missile strikes. Iran provided Assad with a propaganda smokescreen, injections of money to keep regime militias afloat, arms and ammunition, military training, and tactical advice, particularly on neutralising cyber opponents. Many Syrians believe Iranian officers are also fighting on the ground.

Continue reading “Iran Shoots Itself in the Foot”

A Response to Jacky Terrasson’s Agent, Christophe Deghelt, about the Red Sea Jazz Festival

Note: I don’t speak French, I’m responding to a Google Translate version of the original post, so I’ll refrain from my usual special attention to semantics, in order not to dwell on what may be a technical mistake in translation.

Jacky terrasson with manneger Christophe Deghelt
Jacky terrasson with manneger Christophe Deghelt

Last Wednesday, Jacky Terrasson’s agent, Christophe Deghelt, responded to the massive campaign to boycott the Israel state sponsored Red Sea Jazz Festival (more details on the government and corporate connections of the festival in this article). Since thought did actually go into this post, I think we in the BDS movement should respond. So here it is, point-by-point. I hope this furthers public discussion, as BDS so often does, because just like Christophe Deghelt, this is a “debate that I hold dear”.

On Notions of  War, Peace, and Popular Struggle

Continue reading “A Response to Jacky Terrasson’s Agent, Christophe Deghelt, about the Red Sea Jazz Festival”

The global food waste scandal

A new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers estimates that globally 30-50% of food is wasted. (Download the report.). In the following video Trstram Stuart, author of the 2009 book, Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, tackles the subject. Writing in the Financial Times Tristram quoted Lord Haskins, then one of the chief advisers to the government on food and farming, as estimating that 70% of food produced in Britain is wasted. This is obviously a striking example of market efficiency.