Egypt’s War on Sunni Supremacism Goes to Libya

American defense secretary James Mattis and Egyptian president Abdul Fatah Sisi stand to attention outside the Pentagon in Washington DC, April 5
American defense secretary James Mattis and Egyptian president Abdul Fatah Sisi stand to attention outside the Pentagon in Washington DC, April 5 (DoD/Amber I. Smith)

From Reuters:

Egyptian airstrikes destroyed twelve vehicles loaded with arms, ammunition and explosive material trying to cross the border from Libya, the army spokesman said on Tuesday.

The airforce acted after hearing that “criminal elements” had gathered to try and cross the western boundary, the army statement said, without giving details on exactly where or when the strikes took place.

Despite the paucity of the initial report, it’s clear the Abdul Fatah al-Sisi is trying to look like he’s getting revenge for attacks on Egyptian Christians by Sunni supremacists, who are trying the same old terror tricks of the 1990s to destabilize the regime. Read more “Egypt’s War on Sunni Supremacism Goes to Libya”

Meet Mohammad bin Salman, the Last King of Saudi Arabia

Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, the crown prince and defense minister of Saudi Arabia, arrives at the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China September 5, 2016
Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, the crown prince and defense minister of Saudi Arabia, arrives at the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China September 5, 2016 (Bundesregierung)

From Reuters:

Mohammad bin Salman, 31, was appointed crown prince by his father King Salman on Wednesday, replacing his cousin who is 26 years his senior. This made the prince, who already oversaw defense and energy policy, the most powerful figure in the country by some stretch after the octogenarian monarch.

Already more than a few have mentioned Mohammad bin Salman’s hawkish anti-Iran policies and his bold economic vision. But there’s more to the new crown prince of Saudi Arabia than that. He may be dynamic, comparatively worldly and supposedly forward-thinking, but the odds are we just met the last king of Saudi Arabia. Read more “Meet Mohammad bin Salman, the Last King of Saudi Arabia”

The Culture Wars Are Ending. Here’s What’s On the Other Side

Manhattan New York
View of Madison Square Park in Manhattan, New York (Unsplash/Daryan Shamkhali)

In 1967, Timothy Leary told the Human Be-In of San Francisco’s Gate Park to “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” It was a high point for counterculturalism, a crescendo of anti-establishment, anti-centrism that exploded into antiwar protests, race riots, civil rights marches and an definitive end of America’s 1950s cultural high.

It wasn’t the beginning of the twentieth’s century’s culture wars, but it was the point by which it was impossible to ignore they were ongoing. They first stirred somewhere in the 1950s in the backrooms of Beatnik poetry slams and the road warrioring of juvenile delinquents as postwar youth experimented with the edges of their humanity in the safety of a democratic superpower’s economic boom. Read more “The Culture Wars Are Ending. Here’s What’s On the Other Side”

Quit Talking About World War III

American soldiers observe a nuclear weapons test in the Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, November 15, 1952
American soldiers observe a nuclear weapons test in the Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, November 15, 1952 (NNSA)

Especially after the downing of a Syrian jet by the Americans.

It’s in The Sun, on talk radio and, of course, whispered by the “underground” corners of the Internet. Passive monitoring of geopolitical movements have led far too many to conclude the next world war is right around the corner.

It isn’t. Not that it can’t be, just that it isn’t. At least, not over Syria or North Korea. Read more “Quit Talking About World War III”

Does the British Election Mean Anything for America?

British prime minister Theresa May and American president Donald Trump speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, January 27
British prime minister Theresa May and American president Donald Trump speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, January 27 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Jay Allen)

As always, yes and no.

Yes, because the ideology of austerity-driven neoliberalism, that which is championed by Theresa May’s suddenly flailing government, is a major component of the ruling Republican Party in the United States. It’s what Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, believes in: cuts to public services to benefit the private market.

Yes, because Brexit, the alt-right-driven anti-immigrant, anti-globalization geopolitical self-harm project is propelled by the same forces that elected the current head of the Republican Party, Donald Trump.

But also no. Read more “Does the British Election Mean Anything for America?”

Bashar Assad’s Big Push to Recover His Eastern Border

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria enters a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, October 21, 2015
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria enters a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, October 21, 2015 (Kremlin)

Bashar al-Assad hadn’t had control of his Iraqi frontier for years. It’s a major headache; it’s allowed Sunni rebels to supply themselves from Anbar, a favorable route for Gulf states hoping to keep the war going.

It’s also allowed the Islamic State to slide supplies from its shrinking Iraqi domains to its shrunken Syrian ones.

The Islamic State famously demolished the literal border wall between the two countries. That was right after they blitzed across it to capture Mosul in June 2014.

Now Assad’s Iranian and Iraqi allies are hoping to rebuild the border and thereby secure the regime they’ve fought so hard to preserve. Read more “Bashar Assad’s Big Push to Recover His Eastern Border”

Duterte’s Play for a Dictatorship

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines attends a ceremony at a military cemetery in Jakarta, Indonesia, September 10, 2016
President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines attends a ceremony at a military cemetery in Jakarta, Indonesia, September 10, 2016 (PPD/King Rodriguez)

When you yearn for a caesar, you more often than not get it. Such now is the price being paid by the people of the Philippines, who swept to power a man whose harsh authoritarianism was clear as day. As the southern island of Mindanao slips into chaos, Rodrigo Duterte’s not-so-subtle desire for absolute power has become all too obvious. Read more “Duterte’s Play for a Dictatorship”

Saudi Arabia’s Culture Wars Strain the Kingdom

Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Prince Muhammad bin Nayef speaks with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh while Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir looks on, January 27, 2015 (White House/Pete Souza)

The Saudi stereotype is bleak. Environmental desolation is mirrored by a cultural desert. Religious police meander between buildings, looking for victims. Women hurry between shadows behind their male guardians. The strict interpretation of Najdi Islam dominates nearly every aspect of life. It is a quiet, bleak place, with the only civic engagement at the mosque, whose loudspeakers are the only music the kingdom ever hears.

It’s stark and it sticks in the mind. It is, of course, not totally true.

Saudi Arabia’s approximately twenty million citizens may be dominated by those who wish the kingdom to look like that; they’ve done a bang-up job controlling the kingdom’s image. Yet beneath the surface, discontent stirs. Read more “Saudi Arabia’s Culture Wars Strain the Kingdom”

What the Hell Just Happened to Turkey?

Jens Stoltenberg Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg meets with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara, April 21, 2016 (NATO)

And “to” seems the right word, because this was done to Turkey by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his political machine. International electoral monitors cite fraud; so too does the powerful Republican People’s Party. That hardly matters, it seems. Turkish election officials will not allow a recount.

And so even if cheated, it is a victory for Erdoğan. It has been a long road for a critical Middle Eastern nation. The geopolitical trajectory of Turkey is now set. Read more “What the Hell Just Happened to Turkey?”

Why Russian Resets Keep Failing

Presidents Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic and Barack Obama of the United States share a toast, Prague, April 8, 2010
Presidents Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic and Barack Obama of the United States share a toast, Prague, April 8, 2010 (White House/Pete Souza)

In short, if it wasn’t one thing, it would have been another.

It didn’t have to have to be a gas attack. It could have been a stray Russian shell in some Ukrainian city, a dead exiled opposition leader on the streets of a Western capital city, a major hacking attack against a critical American target, a crucial NATO ally “flipped” by a Russian disinformation campaign or a released set of Trump e-mails.

It could have been Donald Trump waking up one day to realize the Russians aren’t interested in destroying the Islamic State so long as IS distracts the Americans and grinds down anti-Assad rebels.

It could have been when Trump tried to rally Moscow to support a new round of sanctions or military threats against North Korea.

Perhaps Trump’s bromance might have ended with a shooting incident over Finnish skies or maybe he’d have changed his mind if Russian troops showed up in Libya to prop up Moscow’s increasingly favorited local strongman, Khalifa Haftar.

The fact is, on a long enough timeline, he would have changed his mind or faced an all-out revolt from his cabinet, his generals and his party. Read more “Why Russian Resets Keep Failing”