Mummies and Models in the New Middle East

The article originally appeared on That much is settled. Without them, the Middle East is already a new world that must be understood in a new way. For one thing, Egypt, that previously moribund land of “stability” and bosom buddy of whoever was in power in Washington, has been hurled into the Middle East’s New Great Game. The question is: What will be its fate—and that of the millions of Egyptians who took to the streets in a staggering show of aggressive nonviolence in January and February? It is, of course, impossible to say, especially since shadow play is the norm and the realities of rule are hard to discern. In a country where “politics” has for decades meant the army, it’s notable that the key actor supposedly coordinating the “transition to democracy” remains an appointee of Pharaoh Hosni Mubarak, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi from the Supreme Army Council. At least, popular pressure has forced Tantawi’s military junta to appoint a new transitional Prime Minister, the Tahrir Square–friendly former transport minister Essam Sharaf. Keep in mind that the hated emergency laws from the Mubarak era, part of what provoked the Egyptian uprising to begin with, are still in place and that the country’s intellectuals, its political parties, labor unions, and the media all fear a silent counterrevolution. At the same time, they almost uniformly insist that the Tahrir Square revolution will neither be hijacked nor rebranded by opportunists. As the ideological divide between liberalism, secularism, and Islamism disintegrated when the country’s psychological Wall of Fear came down, lawyers, doctors, textile workers—a range of the country’s civil society—remain clear on one thing: they will never settle for a theocracy or a military dictatorship. They want full democracy. No wonder what that implies makes Western diplomatic circles tremble. An Continue Reading

A New Middle East

In July 1789, when news of the Paris disturbances reached him in Versailles, Louis XVI is said to have exclaimed to his trusted adviser, the Duke de Liancourt, “Why, it is a revolt!” “No, sire,” responded the duke. “It is not a revolt. It is a revolution.” One could say the same about the cataclysmic events covered by this special issue of The Nation. The word perhaps most commonly used by those engaged directly in the Arab liberation struggle is revolution (thawra), but also frequently heard are uprising (intifada), renaissance (nahda) and awakening (sahwa), which we use on our cover and which echoes the title of the classic 1938 text on Arab nationalism by Lebanese scholar George Antonius. The phrase Arab Spring, which quickly gained prominence in Western media, nicely evokes flowering and rebirth but is less often heard in the region, perhaps a reflection of the hesitancy of people to have their freedom struggle reduced to the vagaries of a season, with its quick passing and absence of human agency. And “spring” hardly conveys the savage repression now imposed in Syria and Bahrain, as Patrick Seale and Scheherezade Faramarzi make clear, or the gilded, police-state cage of Saudi Arabia described by Toby Jones. Nor does it capture the seesaw armed struggle in Libya, now reaching its chaotic climax in Tripoli as we go to press. No single word can fully convey the complexity and disparate development of the uprisings stretching from Morocco on the Atlantic Ocean to Bahrain on the Persian Gulf, from Syria on the Mediterranean to Yemen on the Arabian Sea. But as Rami Khouri points out, one commonality is the demand for democracy and open government, and for an end to the corruption and brutal humiliations of autocracy. The rise in civic engagement and hunger for a new kind of politics is reflected in Alia Malek’s report on the Egyptian Democratic Academy. But as Graham Usher and Joel Beinin point out in their Continue Reading

Will North America Be the New Middle East?

This article originally appeared at To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from burning, then Texas and Arizona on fire. First Pakistan suffered a deluge, then Queensland, Australia, went underwater, and this spring and summer, it’s the Midwest that’s flooding at historic levels. The year 2010 saw the lowest volume of Arctic ice since scientists started to measure, more rainfall on land than any year in recorded history, and the lowest barometric pressure ever registered in the continental United States. Measured on a planetary scale, 2010 tied 2005 as the warmest year in history. Jeff Masters, probably the world’s most widely read meteorologist, calculated that the year featured the most extreme weather since at least 1816, when a giant volcano blew its top. Since we’re the volcano now, and likely to keep blowing, here’s his prognosis: “The ever-increasing amounts of heat-trapping gases humans are emitting into the air put tremendous pressure on the climate system to shift to a new, radically different, warmer state, and the extreme weather of 2010-2011 suggests that the transition is already well underway.” There’s another shift, too, and that’s in the response from climate-change activists. For the first two decades of the global-warming era, the suggested solutions to the problem had been as abstract as the science that went with it: complicated schemes like the Kyoto Protocol, or the cap-and-trade agreement that died in Congress in 2010. These were attempts to solve the problem of climate change via complicated backstage maneuvers and manipulations of prices or regulations. They failed in large part because the fossil-fuel industry managed, at every turn, to dilute or defang them. Clearly the current Congress is in no mood for real regulation, so—for the moment anyway—the complicated planning is being Continue Reading

A New Middle East Approach

The chance for a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not dead. A way to reach a just, secure and internationally guaranteed compromise exists. Though the path forward may not be easy, it is infinitely preferable to what otherwise lies ahead: a complete unraveling of the Oslo Accords, the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority and a massive escalation of death and destruction on both sides. We must start with a simple fact: The Israeli-Palestinian final-status negotiations did not end at Camp David in July 2000. Nor did they end when the Al-Aqsa Intifada started two months later. President Clinton’s framework for peace was presented only in December 2000. Indeed, the negotiations in Taba in January 2001 were viewed by the participants as having been distinctly productive. Had Israeli Prime Minister Barak won re-election, it is quite possible that a peace agreement would have been concluded. The new intifada has been enormously destructive, but only after the February 2001 election of Ariel Sharon, to which it contributed, did the violence itself become the dominating issue, ending the negotiations. This has, of course, been reinforced by the events of September 11, 2001. The American approach to the collapsed peace process remains firmly rooted in the Mitchell report, which was issued last spring: Achieve a cease-fire, undertake confidence-building measures and renew negotiations. It seems eminently sensible. Yet the extraordinary American effort made to achieve even a brief cease-fire suggests that this policy will not work. Indeed, even if a cease-fire takes hold, chances are very high that it will break down long before confidence-building measures have been undertaken. Moreover, even if negotiations are renewed, with the vast gap on final status between the PLO and the present Israeli government led by Sharon, the likelihood for negotiations deadlock, on every central issue, is very high. And such total deadlock will inevitably Continue Reading

New Middle East coronavirus MERS a deadly threat in hospitals: Saudi study

The new Middle East coronavirus that has killed 38 people after emerging late last year is a serious risk in hospitals because it is easily transmitted in healthcare environments, infectious disease experts said on Wednesday. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers said the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)was not only easily transmitted from patient to patient, but also from the transfer of sick patients to other hospitals. Nine infected patients in Saudi Arabia had received dialysis treatment at the same hospital, some at the same time. The international investigative team of specialists, who went to Saudi Arabia to analyze the outbreak in May, said it was even more deadly than a similar outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, in Canadian hospitals in 2003. MERS is related to SARS because the virus that causes it is from the same coronavirus family. The MERS virus, which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, has spread from the Gulf to France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Britain. The World Health Organization puts the latest global toll at 38 deaths from a total of 64 laboratory-confirmed cases. The team, which included Saudi, Canadian and other scientists, was invited by Saudi officials to help investigate the outbreak in several Saudi hospitals. For the study, they compared it to an outbreak of SARS in Toronto in 2003 which the same team had also investigated. Trish Perl, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the United States and a member of the international team, said the investigation "showed some surprising similarities between MERS and SARS". "Both are very deadly viruses and easily transferred between people, and even between healthcare facilities," she said in a statement about their findings. Initially, 23 people in Saudi Arabia were infected with MERS at the time of the investigation, and 11 died. Saudi health officials now put the Continue Reading

Swine flu spreads to Middle East, South Pacific; New Zealand reports 11 confirmed cases, Israel, one

MEXICO CITY — Swine flu spread to the Middle East and the South Pacific on Tuesday, as New Zealand reported 11 confirmed cases and Israel said it had one. World health officials raced to contain the outbreak, raising a global alert level as more deaths were reported in Mexico. Swine flu has already spread to seven countries and appears to be jumping borders via airplane flights. Those infected in New Zealand are a group of students and teachers who returned recently from a trip to Mexico, where the virus is suspected to have infected nearly 2,000 people and caused more than 150 deaths. Fifty cases — none fatal — have been confirmed in the United States. Six cases have been confirmed in Canada, two in Spain and two in Scotland. European Union officials reported Tuesday flu cases were also being probed in Denmark, Sweden, Greece, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Ireland, in addition to Spain and Britain. "At this time, containment is not a feasible option," said Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general of the World Health Organization, which raised its alert level on Monday. New Zealand Health Minister Tony Ryall reported 11 confirmed cases and said another 43 people were suspected of having the virus. All have been voluntarily quarrantined, along with their families. Israeli Health Ministry laboratory tests confirmed swine flu in a 26-year-old patient who recently returned from Mexico in the Israeli city of Netanya, north of Tel Aviv, according to Laniado Hospital's medical director. In Europe, Spain reported a second confirmed case and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the country's two swine flu patients were improving. "Both patients are in better health and ... one may leave the hospital today," Brown said on a visit to Poland. Brown urged people to consult a doctor if they have health concerns but stressed that Britain is "among the best prepared countries in the world" to fight the spread of the disease. Spanish Continue Reading

A Middle East ally emerges: Its name is Iraq

The barbarism in Mumbai and the economic crisis at home have largely overshadowed an otherwise singular event: the ratification of military and strategic cooperation agreements between Iraq and the United States. They must not pass unnoted. They were certainly noted by Iran, which fought fiercely to undermine the agreements. Tehran understood how a formal U.S.-Iraqi alliance endorsed by a broad Iraqi consensus expressed in a freely elected parliament changes the strategic balance in the region. For the United States, it represents the single most important geopolitical advance in the region since Henry Kissinger turned Egypt from a Soviet client into an American ally. If we don't blow it with too hasty a withdrawal from Iraq, we will have turned a chronically destabilizing enemy state at the epicenter of the Arab Middle East into an ally. Also largely overlooked at home was the sheer wonder of the procedure that produced Iraq's consent: classic legislative maneuvering with no more than a tussle or two - tame by international standards (see YouTube: "Best Taiwanese Parliament Fights Of All Time!") - over the most fundamental issues of national identity and direction. The only significant opposition bloc was the Sadrists, a mere 30 seats out of 275. The ostensibly pro-Iranian religious Shiite parties resisted Tehran's pressure and championed the agreement. As did the Kurds. The Sunnis put up the greatest fight. But their concern was that America would be withdrawing too soon, leaving them subject to overbearing and perhaps even vengeful Shiite dominance. The Sunnis, who only a few years ago had boycotted provincial elections, bargained with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, trying to exploit his personal stake in agreements he himself had negotiated. They did not achieve their maximum objectives. But they did get formal legislative commitments for future consideration of their grievances, from amnesty to further relaxation of the de-Baathification laws. Continue Reading

What if Iran gets a working nuclear weapon? How Middle East crisis would hit U.S.

If and when Iran gets nuclear weapons it would set off a global nightmare. Most obviously, Iran could use nuclear arms to attack Israel. It’s easy to say that Iran’s leaders would be cautious, but what if ideology, error, or an extremist faction decides to wipe the Jewish state off the map? Even a 10-percent chance of nuclear holocaust is terrifying. And if Israel decides its existence is at risk, it would launch a preemptive attack that would also produce a big crisis.That’s just for starters. Once Iran has nuclear weapons, every Arab state, with the exception of Iran’s ally Syria, would also be imperiled. Those countries would beg for U.S. protection. But could they depend on America, under the Barack Obama administration, to go to war – especially a nuclear one – to shield them? Uncertain of U.S. reliability, these governments would rush to appease Iran.To survive, the Arab states will do whatever Iran wants – which would come at high cost for America: alliances would weaken and military bases would close down. No Arab state would dare support peace with Israel, either.But Arab states wouldn’t feel safe with just appeasement. An arms’ race would escalate in which several other countries would try to buy or build nukes of their own. Tension, and chance for nuclear war, whether through accident or miscalculation, would soar. The United States would eventually have to get dragged in.European allies would also be scared. As reluctant as they are to help America in the Middle East, that paralysis would get worse. As willing as they are to appease Tehran, they’d go far beyond that.Meanwhile, an emboldened Iran would push to limit oil and gas production and increase prices. Other oil producers would feel compelled to move away from their former, more responsible practices. Consumers’ fears would push up the prices further.Yet there’s worse. Flush with a feel of victory, Iran and its allies — Continue Reading

Hip hotel and nightlife brand spreads across U.S., Middle East

Sbe, a hotel management company responsible for some of the most buzzed about hotels and nightlife venues, is expanding.The company, founded and run by Sam Nazarian, has 10 newly confirmed deals for hotels, residences and restaurants in South America, the Middle East and Asia.By 2021, the company’s portfolio will more than double in size to 50 hotels and residences.SBE is known for such hotels as the boutique SLS, the Mondrian, Delano, and the Redbury. Its restaurants include celebrity chef Jose Andres’ The Bazaar, Katsuya, Umami Burger, and Cleo.Its nightlife venues are Hyde and Skybar at Mondrian, among many others that usually have lines of people outside their door.The company has a presence in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and overseas.Late last year, sbe acquired the Morgans Hotel Group, which owned the Mondrian brand.Nazarian is now looking to get even bigger. Though he calls sbe a “small lifestyle” company, he is expanding it into places such as Mexico City and Doha in Qatar.“We have a robust pipeline,” Nazarian says. “Our goal is very clear. We want to get 50 hotels open by 2021 which is a big feat for a small lifestyle company. And within those hotels we are going to be putting in all of our restaurants and lounges. It’s a multiplication effect.”Nazarian believes that his company will be successful if it continues to provide more than just a place to sleep.“It’s one box and the energy of tha--the operations, the continuity of the experience--it’s something that should be managed in harmony,” he says.Many of the biggest hotel players, such as Marriott and Hilton, have created lifestyle brands but Nazarian says sbe will stand out because it doesn’t stray from that one sector.“We are focused on that mindset, the culture of service, the culture of being on the cutting edge of delivering a 360-degree approach and not just worrying about heads and beds,” he says. Continue Reading

Middle East becomes the world’s new travel crossroads

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — It's 1 a.m. and the sprawling airport in this desert city is bustling. Enough languages fill the air to make a United Nations translator's head spin.Thousands of fliers arrive every hour from China, Australia, India and nearly everywhere else on the planet. Few venture outside the terminal, which spans the length of 24 football fields. They come instead to catch connecting flights to somewhere else.If it weren't for three ambitious and rapidly expanding government-owned airlines — Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways — they might have never come to the Middle East.ARCHIVES: New A380-only concourse opens at Dubai airport (Feb. 12, 2012)PHOTOS: New A380 concourse opens at Dubai airportFor generations, international fliers have stopped over in London, Paris and Amsterdam. Now, they increasingly switch planes in Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi, making this region the new crossroads of global travel. The switch is driven by both the airports and airlines, all backed by governments that see aviation as the way to make their countries bigger players in the global economy.Passengers are won over by their fancy new planes and top-notch service. But the key to the airlines' incredible growth is geography. Their hubs in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are an eight-hour flight away from two-thirds of the world's population, including a growing middle class in India, China and Southeast Asia that is eager to travel.In the past five years, the annual number of passengers traveling through Dubai International Airport — home to Emirates — has jumped from 28.8 million to 51 million, a 77% increase. The airport now sees more passengers than New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport."Everybody accepts that the balance of global economic power is shifting to the east. The geographic position of the Gulf hubs makes them much more relevant today," says Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group, the Continue Reading