Reflections on the meaninglessness of terrorism in post-Arab Spring Egypt.
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With the rise of al-Qaeda, increasingly repressive regimes, and weak, even collapsing states, the Arab Spring is looking more and more like a nightmare for U.S. security interests. Perhaps, then, it makes some sense that the Obama administration would increase security assistance to the Middle East, from 69 percent of the total budget request for 2014 to 80 percent. However, this also entails a significant reduction in democracy assistance to the region, which will drop from $459.2 million to $298.3 million. Congress might further deepen these cuts.
But to look at this as a security problem risks conflating cause and effect. Today’s Middle East is a product, at least in part, of failed democratization, and one of the reasons it failed was the timid, half-hearted support of the Obama administration.
Read more. [Image: Reuters/Louafi Larbi]
How drought, foreign meddling, and long-festering religious tensions created the tragically splintered Syria we know today.
Read more. [Image: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters]
The price Americans pay for fuel at the pump has fallen to its lowest in more than then two years. At $3.19 per gallon, you can fill up a 12-gallon tank for less than $40.
So, what’s going on? And will prices keep going down?
Five contemporary terms that are older than you might think.
The country’s leadership must realize that growing authoritarianism won’t foster stability.
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Egyptian protestors shine laser lights on a military helicopter flying over the presidential palace in Cairo, on June 30, 2013, as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gather during a protest calling for the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.
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When Farah said goodnight to her boyfriend one evening in January 2007, she had every reason to expect to see him the next day. Though she’d only been dating Omar for a month, the two students at Syria’s Damascus University already shared a special connection. Their first date had been over coffee. Soon, they were wearing matching clothes. “See you tomorrow,” they told each other that evening. But that “tomorrow” would not come for five turbulent years.
When Farah called him the next day, Omar did not answer. She looked for him in the dormitory and asked his friends, but no one would tell her where he was. She began to suspect that Omar, who was several years older and claimed to occasionally “travel,” had been playing games with their relationship. “I was angry, hated him a lot, and did not forgive him,” she recalled.
What she only learned later was that, in the early hours of the morning, eight Kalashnikov-wielding mukhabarat state police had arrested Omar in an Internet café where he had been chatting on MSN with a Syrian opposition member outside the country and e-mailing reports on detained students to international human rights organizations and Western embassies. At the time, Farah didn’t know he was involved in opposition activities, which had gotten him arrested before. Omar had so internalized his awareness of the regime’s reach that he’d kept this part of his life even from her. […]
Five years later, peaceful protests calling for Assad’s ouster turned to an armed uprising, with at least nine thousand killed so far, according to United Nations estimates, and opposition leaders calling for international intervention. For better or worse, Syria’s uprising may never have become what it is without the dedication of activists like Omar, and later Farah, who sacrificed for years, putting everything on the line to resist one of the world’s cruelest regimes. But their story also shows the perseverance of common human bonds even in the most trying circumstances, and the ability of Farah and Omar to rediscover their love, despite the turmoil that has permeated every layer of Syrian society, in one small but symbolic victory over the regime that would keep them apart.
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This is a beautiful, excellent story: ”And yet, for all the force of their love, it had taken an uprising to bring them together.”
An endless cycle of peaceful protest and violent crackdown has endured for now 15 months in Bahrain, the tiny Arab island nation where a U.S.-backed Sunni minority rules over a Shia-majority population. Less visible than the geopolitics (Saudi Arabia has sent troops in support of the monarchy, which it sees as a bulwark against Shia Iran), the complicated dilemma for the Obama administration, or the lives and struggles of the democracy activists who refuse to give up, are the children of Bahrain.
Human Rights First, a U.S.-based NGO that has worked heavily in Bahrain since the Arab Spring began over a year ago, recently launched a project called Through Children’s Eyes to check in with Bahrain’s children and attempt to understand how the country’s conflict is affecting them. Two local activists who work with Human Rights First — and who are now both in prison on political charges — “asked some children who had been directly affected by the crackdown to draw whatever was in their minds.”
[Image: Maryam, age 7, told activists that the drawing portrayed her and her sister running to help their uncle, who was shot in the head by security forces. Graphic images of his body were broadcast widely in Bahrain after the incident. The Pearl Monument again appears, frowning.]