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Category: Arab Spring

Yemen: a calamity at the end of the Arabian peninsula

Written by Vincent Durac.

At the tip of the Arabian peninsula, Yemen’s disastrous war has been raging for nearly two years. Somewhat overshadowed by the devastating crisis in Syria, it is nonetheless a major calamity: according to the UN, more than 10,000 people have lost their lives, while more than 20m (of a total population of some 27m) are in need of humanitarian assistance. More than 3m people are internally displaced, while hundreds of thousands have fled the country altogether. There are reports of looming famine as the conflict destroys food production in the country.

So how did Yemen get here – and what are the prospects for turning things around?

Obama’s legacy will be forever tarnished by his inaction in Syria

Written by Scott Lucas.

As his administration winds down, Barack Obama has plenty to be proud of. He can point to international breakthroughs that seemed unthinkable when he took office, from the nuclear agreement with Iran to the reopening of diplomatic relations with Cuba after almost 60 years. He can cite the concerted international action to stave off economic catastrophe, a more constructive US approach to Latin America, and a solid if cautious relationship with China.

But as far as Obama’s legacy goes, few of these noble achievements will stick to the wall after he gives his farewell speech in January 2017. Instead, he will always be associated with the fate of one country: Syria.

Twin crises in Syria and Ukraine prove the West cannot restrain Russia

Written by David Galbreath.

Only days after the latest ceasefire agreement came into force in Syria, a United Nations aid convoy en route to Aleppo was attacked and destroyed. The UN was quick to declare this both a premeditated attack and a war crime. Citing air space intelligence, the US government released a statement accusing the Russian Air Force of responsibility, detailingthe presence of two Russian Sukhoi SU-24 fighter aircraft in the area at the time of the attack.

The Russian government has denied the accusations, stating that the US has “no facts”, and responded with drone footage of the convoy allegedly showing that anti-government militias were using it as cover. At the same time, it argued that the explosion did not come from the air, and was in fact a militant attack on the convoys. (The convoy was travelling through militant-held territory at the time of the strike.)

David Cameron escapes parliament just as a committee blames him for Libya’s collapse

Written by Victoria Honeyman.

After a summer recess, the House of Commons has returned with one fewer member: David Cameron announced that he was stepping down as MP for Whitney in Oxfordshire. Apparently, he wants to get on with writing his memoirs and undertake new challenges. But conveniently, it also means that he was not in Westminster to hear the damning conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which has released a report on the British government’s 2011 action in Libya.

The committee has found that the action “was not informed by accurate intelligence”, that the threat to civilians was overstated, and that the opposition to Gaddafi contained a “significant Islamist element”. It argues that the planning for a post-conflict Libya was flawed, that that failing has led the country to collapse – and that the blame lies with Cameron.

Chilcot’s verdict: the Iraq War was a failure of oversight and planning

Written by Louise Kettle.

It’s been a long time coming, but the Chilcot Report into the Iraq War, all 2.6m words of it, is finally out. And contrary to some expectations, it’s far from a whitewash.

Although it will take time to wade through the details of this hefty document, it’s already clear that few people have escaped the careful and critical eye of the inquiry – including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the intelligence community, and the military.

The report’s key point is that the Iraq War happened principally because of failures to challenge key parts of the case for war and to plan for the invasion’s aftermath. From the outset, the report makes clear that the war was not one of last resort, that Iraq posed no imminent threat to the UK, that the intelligence assessments the government drew on were ill-founded, and that more peaceful options should have been exhausted before military ones were entertained.

Why Libya’s collapse into chaos is not an argument against intervention

Written by Aidan Hehir.

Libya is mired in crisis – a “shit show” according to President Obama. Many have declared that the 2011 intervention shouldn’t have been launched , and that the Libya campaign is reason enough to put an end to the practice of “humanitarian intervention”.

These arguments are superficially convincing, but they presume a counterfactual history with little supporting evidence – and ultimately amount to an intellectual dead end.

Giulio Regeni, Egypt, and the deafening silence of Europe

Written by Catherine Gegout.

Giulio Regeni, a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge, disappeared in Cairo on 25 January, and was found dead with signs of torture on his body on 3 February. Giulio Regeni conducted research which contributed to our knowledge of social and global justice, the impact of civil movements on power structures before and during revolutions, the role of women in political activism, and the role of trade unions in providing living wages to citizens.

Over 4,600 academics worldwide asked the Egyptian authorities to ‘cooperate with an independent and impartial investigation into all instances of forced disappearances, cases of torture and deaths in detention during January and February this year, alongside investigations by criminal prosecutors into Giulio’s death, in order that those responsible for these crimes can be identified and brought to justice.’

Five years on, the spirit of Tahrir Square has been all but crushed

Written by Lucia Ardovini.

Five years ago, the chant “El‑sha’ab, yureed, isqat el‑musheer!” (“the people want the fall of the regime!“) resounded through the streets of Cairo, marking the start of a popular uprising that saw one of the region’s longest-standing dictators deposed in just 18 days.

The so-called Egyptian revolution of 2011, part of the wider trend of the Arab Springs or Arab Awakening, was seen by many as being as significant as the fall of the Berlin Wall because of its potential implications for both the country and the region. However, five years on, it seems as if little has changed in Egypt – and the country’s proud revolutionary spirit has been almost completely wiped out.

Why are the Gulf states so reluctant to take in refugees?

Written by Rana Jawad.

Europe’s reaction to the refugee crisis has hardly been a calm and considered one; with fences erected and border controls reinstated, the continent’s governments are struggling to agree on a response.

But at least Europe’s governments are acting. In the Middle East, things are rather different. In particular, the Arab Gulf States are catching serious flack for their response to the crisis – or rather, their failure to respond.

One big question is reverberating in the minds of the general public, expert observers and policy-makers; why have the Gulf states, who are among the richest countries in the world, not taken in any Syrian refugees? There’s no need to rewrite the commentary that’s already out there: many articles have provided useful statistics and background information on the international conventions and treaties the Persian Gulf countries are signed up to, and their failure to honour them.