Category Archives: Middle East

Israeli Settlements Have “No Legal Validity”

On 23 December 2016, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the adoption of a Security Council of Resolution 2334 (2016) which states that the establishment of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, have “no legal validity,” constitute a “flagrant violation” under international law and are a “major obstacle” to a two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. “The resolution is a significant step, demonstrating the Council’s much needed leadership and the international community’s collective efforts to reconfirm that the vision of two States is still achievable,” the UN chief’s spokesperson Continue reading

Syria: Partial Ceasefire Agreed

As reported, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, says the partial Syria ceasefire agreed at talks in Munich ‘will apply to any and all parties in Syria with the exception of the terrorist organisations Daesh and al-Nusra’. However, the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (SCPR) on Syria conflict finds that in all, 11.5% of the country’s population have been killed or injured since the crisis erupted in March 2011. The number of wounded is put at 1.9 million. Life expectancy has dropped from 70 in 2010 to 55.4 in 2015. Posts on Syria’s war are available on Pakistan Horizon here, here, herehere and here.

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Pakistan Security Report 2015

Security is the source of global concern these days and Pakistan is one of the worst affected countries in that regard. Below are the details of the security situation in Pakistan. Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) brings out an annual security report at the end of each year, which is widely disseminated in Pakistan and abroad. The report comprehensively compiles data on violent incidents, comparative analysis of various security variables, the changing targets and tactics of militants, strategies of the government and the nature of its response to the security challenges. Pakistan Security Report 2015 (see overview) includes not only the number of conflict-related incidents for the entire year, but also prioritizes the major actors of instability as well as analyses the perpetrators’ tactics and the security forces’ response. The report highlights the progress made by the government on eliminating militancy Continue reading

Ian Black: Saudi Arabian Trilogy

As noted on our Pakistan Horizon Blog, the Guardian’s Ian Black is among the world’s elite Middle East correspondents. And over the past three days he has published a brilliant trilogy of articles on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (or KSA as the Saudis are otherwise known). The three articles are (1) Saudi king’s son drives reforms and war in a year of anxiety and change (2) Saudi Arabia and Isis: Riyadh keen to show it is tackling terror threat and (3) Austerity, Saudi-style: cheap oil nudges Riyadh toward economic reform (see also Saudi Arabia v Iran: Riyadh defiant and angry after turbulent week and John Kerry reassures Gulf states over US relationship with Iran.) As noted in our event with Ambassador Ghori, Pakistan’s economy is inextricably linked to Saudi Arabia’s as 1.5 million of our country’s workers are employed there and send home remittances. According to Black, Khaled, a taxi driver touting for custom at Riyadh’s international airport, manages to keep his family comfortable with the help of an army pension, but he worries what will happen when all subsidies end in five years. Mohammed, a fifty-something from Medina who has 10 children, moonlights on top of his undemanding government job, and his wife also works in an effort make ends meet. “Look,” he says. “There’s a war in Yemen. Of course it causes economic problems, but it’s not so bad.” Continue reading

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography: Volume Two, Everything She Wants

Many people say many things about former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher who was in Downing Street from 4 May 1979 to 28 November 1990 and was arguably more famous on the international stage than any other British prime minister, save Sir Winston Churchill. Her official biographer Charles Moore has canonised her in the awaited part two of his account Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography extracts of which were published in October 2015 in the Tory Party’s primary propaganda machine, The Daily Telegraph: see full preview here. (Equally, the Guardian has also, 10 October 2015, rated this as the book of the week, see Andy Beckett’s review here.)  Moore is the former editor of the Telegraph and his book is a tribute to the woman who infamously came to be known as Britain’s “Iron Lady”. Thatcher’s legacy is one of destroying the welfare state and creating crony capitalism but Moore’s biography provides a marvellous exposition of the larger political stage during her premiership and it is studded with brilliant photographs. It is replete with an analysis of all the great challenges of the day. The book, which is volume two of the series and is entitled Everything She Wants, deals with aspects of Continue reading

Palestine: Uncertainty Over Abbas Succession

In addition to all the death and destruction that surrounds them, the Independent has expertly reported that Palestinians face new uncertainty over President Mahmoud Abbas succession. This excellent report from Ben Lynfield in Ramallah explains that Mahmoud Abbas is now 80 years old and has indicated he is ready to scale back his workload. But with no designated successor, a power vacuum could develop, which Israel would willingly exploit. As Lynfield expertly reports: With more than two decades of trying to secure an independent Palestinian state through negotiations at a hopeless dead end, the ageing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas now hopes to begin scaling down his responsibilities, with a view towards an orderly succession of power. But after a decade in which Mr Abbas failed to groom a deputy or successor, in keeping with a tradition of one-man rule in the Arab world and in order to cast himself as indispensable, analysts in the West Bank  and Gaza do not expect the transition to be smooth. Indeed, the sense in the Palestinian Authority’s de facto capital, Ramallah, is that the lack of any one outstanding candidate to succeed Mr Abbas, and infighting within his Fatah Continue reading

Caliph Country: Under The Black Flag

Why ISIS Fights is another phenomenal long read from the Journal in The Guardian which is a must read article for all PIIA members. The veteran Martin Chulov narrates the accounts of jihadi fighters in Iraq and Syria, he reveals “the apocalyptic motivations of the militant movement that has hijacked the Syrian uprising – and transformed the Middle East.” As Chulov explains: It was around this time that I met an Iraqi jihadi named Abu Ismael, who was not shy about his own past. “I was a member of the al-Qaida organisation from 2005-11,” he said, his black eyes set in an unflinching stare. “I joined them with my father when I was 16, and apart from one and a half months in prison, I was very active in every way.” Now 23, he had made his way to al-Bab in Aleppo province in the second half of 2012 and been accepted as an auxiliary fighter by a local opposition unit, Liwa al-Tawheed. “We don’t trust al-Qaida,” the group’s leader, Sheikh Omar Othman, said at the time. “They don’t want what we want, but as Muslims we must accept wayfarers, especially if they come to help.” Chulov explains further that: By April 2013, the number of Iraqis fighting in Syria Continue reading