Focal Points Blog

Does the Islamic State Seek to Turn Gaza Into Another of Its ‘Fiefdoms’?

Militants professing allegiance to the Islamic State have also launched rockets at Israel during a ceasefire. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Militants professing allegiance to the Islamic State have also launched rockets at Israel during a ceasefire. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

From Reuters:

Explosions destroyed six cars belonging to members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups in Gaza City on Sunday, witnesses said, injuring no one but drawing threats of a response.

… The targeted groups issued a joint statement condemning the attackers as “traitors” – suggesting they thought the perpetrators were fellow Palestinians – and promising that they would be “found and punished”.

No one claimed responsibility, but Hamas, which dominates the coastal enclave, has in recent months faced violent challenges from Palestinians sympathetic to Islamic State or al Qaeda, and who seek stringent religious rule in Gaza and open war with Israel.

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Iran Nuclear Deal Redraws Middle East Map

Similar to the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, ethno-sectarian fights will inevitably remold the Middle East and reshape the boundaries for new nation-states. Pictured: the Middle East in the 1600s. (Photo: Paolo Porsia / Flickr Commons)

Similar to the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, ethno-sectarian fights will inevitably remold the Middle East and reshape the boundaries for new nation-states. Pictured: the Middle East in the 1600s. (Photo: Paolo Porsia / Flickr Commons)

Take a look at the map of the Middle East and North Africa. You can see many straight lines labeled as the ‘national’ boundaries of countries like Yemen, Oman, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Sudan and so on. These unnatural political borders which were arbitrarily sliced by several men during the de-colonization era had foretold you that that the flesh and blood peoples living there would, once sufficiently armed, endeavor to reset the fences for their clans after having suffered from all kinds of ethnic-sectarian clashes with their neighbors. What has been more frustrating is that, Afghanistan, Iraq and Egypt under the American ‘administration’ have failed to exemplify that democratic elections, no matter how genuine they are, can resolve the sectarian conflicts inside these state. In Iraq, for instance, since the Sunnis as a forever minority have no opportunity of winning this head-count game to gain the mandate at Baghdad, so why not join the jihadists to establish a new state of their own?
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If Ralph Nader Had Been Elected President, the Iraq War Would Have Been a War Unfought

Ralph Nader has often been unfairly blamed for the election of George W. Bush. (Photo: Troy Page / Truthout / Flickr Commons)

Ralph Nader has often been unfairly blamed for the election of George W. Bush. (Photo: Troy Page / Truthout / Flickr Commons)

Ralph Nader has caught a lot of heat for his presidential campaign in 2000 being a key factor leading to the election of George W. Bush. Or, more accurately, to better position Bush for the Supreme Court to hand him the election.

As Politico magazine reports, Ralph Nader has just published a book titled Return to Sender: Unanswered Letters to the President, 2001-2015. Among those sent to George W. Bush is one from 2006 that, between well-deserved insults, contains some trenchant advice in the wake of Israel bombing Lebanon.
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The Sins of Poland’s Solidarity Came Back to Haunt It

The Gdansk shipyards, where the Solidarity trade union began. (Photo: Trojan Llama / Flickr Commons)

The Gdansk shipyards, where the Solidarity trade union began. (Photo: Trojan Llama / Flickr Commons)

Start with a failing economy. Throw in a team of inexperienced politicians, people in fact who had spent their careers deliberately avoiding official politics. Add a population with the highest possible expectations. And, as a wild card, introduce an international community that was not offering very much in the way of financial assistance.

This was the situation in Poland in September 1989 when Tadeusz Mazowiecki became the first non-Communist prime minister in the region in more than 40 years. Considering the odds against Poland at that time, it’s remarkable that the country survived and, eventually, prospered.
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The 7 Most Incisive Comments About the Iran Nuclear Deal

The Iran nuclear deal not only opened the door to improved relations with Iran, but to an outpouring of keen observations. Pictured: Chief nuclear negotiators U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. (Photo: Yahoo News)

The Iran nuclear deal not only opened the door to improved relations with Iran, but to an outpouring of keen observations. Pictured: Chief nuclear negotiators U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. (Photo: Yahoo News)

We shall start with a headline which, for me, sums up all the excruciating years of accusations, pre-negotiations, and negotiations, as well as the deal itself (which, as I observed yesterday, has no name, but which, I’ve since learned, goes by the singularly undistinctive name Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

Iran Won the Vienna Accords By Agreeing to Stop What It Never Was Doing

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Do Saudi Citizens Prefer the Islamic State to the House of Saud?

Saudi citizens may be questioning whether the House of Saud is qualified to be the guardian of holy cities Mecca and Medina. Pictured: King Saud Mosque in Jeddah. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Saudi citizens may be questioning whether the House of Saud is qualified to be the guardian of holy cities Mecca and Medina. Pictured: King Saud Mosque in Jeddah. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In a New York Review of Books review of an illuminating new book, Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate, by Abdel Bari Atwan, Malise Ruthven cites a poll that seems to show that Saudi citizens might prefer to be ruled by the Islamic State instead of the House of Saud.

In an online poll conducted in July 2014, a formidable 92 percent of Saudi citizens agreed that ISIS “conforms to the values of Islam and Islamic law.”

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Iran Nuclear Deal an “Act of Appeasement,” Raves Representative Republican

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator, has something to celebrate. (Photo: Samuel Kubani / AFP / Flickr Commons)

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator, has something to celebrate. (Photo: Samuel Kubani / AFP / Flickr Commons)

A part of me thinks that the Iran nuclear deal, finally concluded last night, is much ado about nothing. After all, Iran doesn’t have a nuclear-weapons program and doesn’t seem to have done any research toward that end since 2003 as nuclear powers the United States, Russia, and China continue to upgrade their systems. While the fear of Iran developing nuclear weapons was hyped, nevertheless the deal is important because it begins the process of relieving Iran of sanctions. With regards to which, reports the Guardian:

Once the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verified that Iran has taken steps to shrink its programme, UN, US and EU sanctions will be lifted.

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Why Exactly Is the U.S. at War in Yemen?

Yemen is a battleground, the site of what aid organizations say is a human catastrophe. Pictured: Old Sanaa. (Photo: Richard Messenger / Flickr Commons)

Yemen is a battleground, the site of what aid organizations say is a human catastrophe. Pictured: Old Sanaa. (Photo: Richard Messenger / Flickr Commons)

The United States is currently waging war in six Middle East countries — Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. America’s participation in these wars may include training the local army, using drones to attack suspected terrorists, providing weapons and logistical support to one side side or the other, or sending in American combat troops — sometimes all of the above. None of the countries in which the U.S.military is involved poses a threat to our national security, least of all Yemen.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world. It has to import most of its food and other essentials, and only about half the population is literate. Yemen’s chief asset is the city of Aden, which lies on the Gulf of Aden south of Saudi Arabia and across from Somalia. It is, or was was until recently, a strategic port, one of the  best in the world. Aden was for many years under the control of British Petroleum, Inc., which turned it over to the Yemeni government in 1977.
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German Kettle Calls Greek Pot Black

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the Eurozone’s chief austerity enforcer. (Photo: European Council / Flickr Commons)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the Eurozone’s chief austerity enforcer. (Photo: European Council / Flickr Commons)

We will leave it to better economic minds than ours to determine the extent to which the Greek government capitulated to the European Union. But, the tremendous strides in humanity that German has taken since World War II aside, let’s take a moment to examine the hypocrisy the German government has demonstrated during the Greek debt crisis. The Nation posted An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty to Angela Merkel, which called for — in vain, apparently — “a humane rethink of the punitive and failed program of austerity of recent years and to agree to a major reduction of Greece’s debts in conjunction with much needed reforms in Greece.”
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Ripped From Hillary’s Emails: French Plot to Overthrow Gaddafi and Help Itself to Libya’s Oil

“Philosopher“ Bernard Henri-Levy (aka, BHL) worked undercover as a journalist to engineer the deal with Libya, thus paving the way for yet more journalists to be accused of being spies. (Photo: Itzik Edri / Wikimedia Commons)

“Philosopher“ Bernard Henri-Levy (aka, BHL) worked undercover as a journalist to engineer the deal with Libya, thus paving the way for yet more journalists to be accused of being spies. (Photo: Itzik Edri / Wikimedia Commons)

For more of Conn Hallinan’s essays visit Dispatches From the Edge. Meanwhile, his novels about the ancient Romans can be found at The Middle Empire Series.

The Congressional harrying of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over emails concerning the 2012 death of an American Ambassador and three staff members in Benghazi, Libya, has become a sort of running joke, with Republicans claiming “cover-up” and Democrats dismissing the whole matter as nothing more than election year politics. But there is indeed a story embedded in the emails, one that is deeply damning of American and French actions in the Libyan civil war, from secretly funding the revolt against Muammar Gaddafi, to the willingness to use journalism as a cover for covert action.

The latest round of emails came to light June 22 in a fit of Republican pique over Clinton’s prevarications concerning whether she solicited intelligence from her advisor, journalist and former aide to President Bill Clinton, Sidney Blumenthal. If most newspaper readers rolled their eyes at this point and decided to check out the ball scores, one can hardly blame them.

But that would be a big mistake.
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