An Egyptian anti-government demonstrator

Media Evolution on the Eve of the Arab Spring

Nine months before Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation, the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University hosted a symposium on Arab media. Much (and not much) has changed in the region’s media landscape since. Understanding the structural and functional characteristics at a historical juncture ahead of the uprisings can help us comprehend what precipitated (and inhibited) the ensuing changes. The[…]

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When Hypocrites Take the Hippocratic Oath

Or, Undoing the “Arab Spring” Earlier this month, the White House unveiled its new foreign policy credo: “Don’t do stupid shit.” While many lamented the modesty of this approach, acting with restraint in order to limit iatrogenesis is certainly a worthy goal—and an approach with wide and enduring popular support—in fact, this is the vision[…]

A rebel under Ibrahim Jathran holds the Cyrenaica flag while standing on a boat at Es Sider port.

Libya: More Good News for People Who Love Bad News

In a recently-published article for The National Interest, I explored the profound depth and scale of the problems facing Libya. That article ended on a cautiously optimistic note: while many of the endemic problems were set to persist indefinitely, there seemed to be a breakthrough between the central government and the Eastern rebels, which would allow[…]

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Ethics and Methods in Conflict

On Wednesday, January 29 in the University of Arizona Student Union’s Kiva Room, the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts and the University of Arizona School of Journalism convened an interdisciplinary panel to talk about issues for academics, journalists, and researchers working in conflict zones: Ethics and Methods in Conflict panel Featuring[…]

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Regaining Legality: The Rendition Of Abu Anas Al-Libi

After 12 years of war, it is temping to interpret the increased use of drones in the U.S. counterterrorism campaign as a sign that officials now prefer to kill terror suspects rather than risk lives detaining them. These days, nostalgic interrogators and analysts see drone strikes as the new paradigm in counterterrorism, one with a[…]

Protesters burn a replica of the U.S. flag during a demonstration against the capture of Liby in Benghazi

Abu Anas Arrested: But will a too-late victory for America hasten the early demise of Libya?

Image: Libyans burn an American flag in protest of al-Libi’s “kidnapping” On October 5th 2013, in a joint operation between the CIA and U.S. Special Forces, the United States captured and extracted Nazih Abdul-Gamed al-Ruqai, known popularly as Abu Anas al-Libi (not to be confused with the late Abu Yaya al-Libi of AQSL). Abu Anas[…]

That Haven-Hopping Al-Qaeda Finds a Viable Landing Pad in the Sinai

What the vacuous security situation means for Egypt, her neighbors, and the U.S. As U.S. drone strikes and targeted killings in states like Pakistan and Yemen continue to make life for terrorists there less and less sustainable, the ethereal group of Islamic Salafists who self-identify as al-Qaeda seem to be adapting to this new brand[…]

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Moammar Gaddhafi, Giantslayer

The Libyan Intervention in Retrospect It would not be surprising if there are many in the Obama Administration who occasionally think, “I miss Moammar Gaddhafi.” And if no one there is thinking that, they should. And not just because of the camping trips he would take in New York City, his amazing sense of style, his[…]

New Hosts of Drone Bowl III?

Reaping Ungovernability in North Africa In the previous edition of the bulletin SISMEC pondered Western involvement in trying to deny al-Qaeda a safe haven in North Africa, wondering if we might see another invasion. It seems that we were provided an answer this week as Niger gave approval for the establishment of a US drone[…]

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A Tale of Two Consulates

Even Coppola couldn’t whip this one up… It’s been the weirdest of times, for sure. L’affaire Petraeus has shed some light on the military-intelligence complex that generally avoids the myopic scrutiny of the public. It’s not the lack of transparency nor the vicious post-election politicizing, but rather the feckless improvisation behind the skirts of the[…]

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Recent Protests: The Innocence of US Mainstream Media

The same old song and dance replays: why do they hate us? On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged that the attack on the US consulate in Libya on the anniversary of 9/11 was likely a premeditated terror attack. Witnesses present at the scene told CBS News that there was never an anti-American[…]

Democracy is messy

It’s complicated in Tunisia Once again, Avenue Habib Bourguiba is full of protesters. After 56 years of single-party dictatorship, Tunisia’s first foray into representative government is looking like a bumpy ride. The ruling coalition is threatening to splinter, Salafis and secularists are fist-fighting, and the first draft of the new constitution rankled many. Oh, wait,[…]

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The Lion’s Advocate

Working through misconceptions in the Syrian uprising While one would never know it from the news, the reform process in Syria is actually going smoother than it is in Egypt. If this might sound crazy to the everyday headline reader, think of it this way:  Syria has a popularly approved new constitution, a democratically elected[…]

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A Shift in Islamist Discourses, A Prelude to the Arab Spring?

Recent events in the Arab World have brought the Islamists back to the fore after many Western scholars had declared the dawn of a post-Islamists era.[1] This premature declaration emerged in parallel with great shifts in Islamist discourses in late 1990s. These shifts manifested in these movements’ rejection of violence and in their desire to[…]

Bidding Sarko Adieu?

The Future of French Middle East Policy As the final round of voting for the French presidential election approaches, it looks like Sarko might need to start looking for a new job. Socialist candidate François Hollande has been consistently leading the polls and remains ahead after Wednesday’s big debate. Foreign policy somehow did not make[…]

State-run media: Is this a joke?

Is state-run media the regime’s misguided last gasp?   This week we watched in disbelief as a Libyan state TV news anchor brandished an Ak-47 during a broadcast.  This type of spectacle symbolized the complete disconnect between Qadafi and his core supporters and the bulk of the Libyan population.  State-run media has surely attempted to[…]

Everything you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask

Chad: Axis of what again? In a recent interview with the continent’s most respected weekly news magazine, Jeune Afrique, the president of Chad Idriss Deby claimed that al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQLIM) activists raided Libyan army depots and seized significant quantities of weapons. He made specific reference to surface-to-air missiles that[…]

Dropping the Barrel?

Libyan Rebel Oil Production: A Lost Opportunity? With the ninth largest known oil reserves in the world and the greatest reservoirs of African oil, Libya has been the number seventeen producer of oil in the world and the third most productive in Africa. Producing between 1.6 and 1.8 million barrels a day, or approximately two[…]

Qadafi’s u-turn to the West – a final gamble?

Qadafi: Resurrecting the Rhetoric of the War on Terror Muammar Qadafi’s Tuesday speech was characteristically aggressive and weird, vowing to cleanse Libya from the ‘few rats’ that managed to turn Libya’s youth into drug-crazed lunatics. But it was also more than ranting or raw defiance: by repeatedly invoking al-Qaeda he hoped to link his struggle to the[…]