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January 07 2014

08:01

Bloody Iraq: Syrian Spillover, Regional Fear

Iraq in trouble again. Al Qaeda spillover from Syria, now in Fallujah, Ramadi, Anbar Province. We’ll look at Iraq’s return to turmoil and the threat of regional upheaval.

An empty street shows burned vehicles as buildings including a provincial government building, center in the background, are seen damaged in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. Provincial spokesman Dhari al-Rishawi said Iraqi security forces and allied tribesmen are pressing their campaign to rout al-Qaida from Fallujah and Ramadi, two main cities in the western Anbar province. (AP)

An empty street shows burned vehicles as buildings including a provincial government building, center in the background, are seen damaged in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. Provincial spokesman Dhari al-Rishawi said Iraqi security forces and allied tribesmen are pressing their campaign to rout al-Qaida from Fallujah and Ramadi, two main cities in the western Anbar province. (AP)

Guests

Suadad Alsalhy, Baghdad correspondent for Reuters. (@suadadalsalhy)

Ned Parker, independent foreign affairs reporter. Former Baghdad bureau chief for The Los Angeles Times. (@nedmparker1)

Roger Cohen, op-ed columnist for The New York Times. (@NYTimesCohen)

From Tom’s Reading List

Wall Street Journal: Scores Dead in Iraqi Battle With Al Qaeda-Linked Fighters – “The three days of fighting have left at least 21 people dead in Fallujah, including women and children, and an additional 11 dead in Ramadi, according to the Anbar Health Directorate. Many more have been injured. The assault on Fallujah, using helicopters, tanks and mortars, marks the government’s fourth attempt to retake the city since Thursday evening, when fighters loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, seized most of the town, according to the security official.”

New York Times: Power Vacuum in Middle East Lifts Militants — “The bloodshed that has engulfed Iraq, Lebanon and Syria in the past two weeks exposes something new and destabilizing: the emergence of a post-American Middle East in which no broker has the power, or the will, to contain the region’s sectarian hatreds. Amid this vacuum, fanatical Islamists have flourished in both Iraq and Syria under the banner of Al Qaeda, as the two countries’ conflicts amplify each other and foster ever-deeper radicalism. Behind much of it is the bitter rivalry of two great oil powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, whose rulers — claiming to represent Shiite and Sunni Islam, respectively — cynically deploy a sectarian agenda that makes almost any sort of accommodation a heresy.”

Foreign Affairs: The Iraq We Left Behind — “Both Maliki and his rivals are responsible for the slow slide toward chaos, prisoners of their own history under Saddam. Iraq today is divided between once-persecuted Shiite religious parties, such as Maliki’s Dawa Party, still hungry for revenge, and secular and Sunni parties that long for a less bloody version of Saddam’s Baath Party, with its nationalist ideology and intolerance of religious and ethnic politics. Meanwhile, the Kurds maneuver gingerly around the divisions in Baghdad. Their priority is to preserve their near autonomy in northern Iraq and ward off the resurrection of a powerful central government that could one day besiege their cities and bombard their villages, as Baghdad did throughout the twentieth century.”

October 28 2013

13:17

Saudi Arabia, Iran And A Region In Flux

Saudi Arabia, Iran , and the new geo-political calculus of the Middle East, with America awkwardly in the middle.

Ever since FDR famously sailed into the Suez Canal to meet with Saudi King Ibn Saud in 1945 on the American destroyer the USS Quincy, the United States and Saudi Arabia have been deep strategic partners in the Middle East.  Plenty of stresses, as the US allied with Israel and the Saudis flexed their massive oil power and exported Wahabi Islam.  But the Saudi monarchy had also been an American bedrock in the region.  Now the talk is of potential crackup in the partnership.  That’s big.  Up next On Point:  Saudi fury as the US charts a new course in the Middle East.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Stephen Kinzer, professor on International Relations at Boston University and a former New York Times correspondent. Author of “The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and Their Secret World War” and “Reset: Iran, Turkey and America’s Future.” (@StephenKinzer)

Dr. Abel Aziz Aluwaisheg, Assistant Secretary General for Negotiations and Strategic Dialogue at the Gulf Cooperation Council. (@abuhamad1)

Dan Drezner, professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, columnist at Foreign Policy Magazine and senior editor at The National Interest. (@DanDrezner)

From Tom’s Reading List

Arab News: Saudi move highlights need for UN Security Council reforms — “The timing of the Saudi decision on Friday appeared to be related in particular to the failure of the UNSC to stop the carnage perpetrated by the Syria regime. Over the past 30 months, the Syrian regime has killed over (100,000) of its own people, while forcing seven million Syrians to be either refugees outside their country, or displaced inside it. UN human rights agencies and special commissions have documented crimes committed by the Syria regime, including mass killings, torture, rape, collective punishment and wholesale destruction of towns and neighborhoods. They have also named key officials who are believed to be behind crimes against humanity committed in Syria.”

Foreign Policy: On Syria, You Say Bureaucratic Politics, I Say Realism — Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off – “Clearly, a lack of consensus among Obama’s top foreign policymakers buttressed his own stated reluctance to get too deeply involved in Syria.  That said, the policymakers with the most influence over the president were articulating a rationale for why continued conflict might not be a bad thing.”

The Guardian: New President Hassan Rouhani make the unimaginable imaginable for Iran — “Finding a way to bring Iran back into the world’s mainstream will be Rouhani’s principal challenge. His power is limited, though in the fluid world of Iranian politics, he is likely to accumulate more. His adversaries, most notably supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel and the United States, ridicule him as a puppet of repressive mullahs.”

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