Oriente Próximo

Representatives led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (Front C) leave after a meeting chaired by Former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, marking a century of diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and Russia on May 30, 2019 in Moscow, Russia on the th Sefa Karacan / Anadolu Agency

What just happened in talks between the U.S. and the Taliban?

A critical milestone in efforts to end the Afghan conflict was reached on 21 February, when Taliban and U.S. representatives issued statements confirming that they had reached an agreement providing for gradual U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, in exchange for Taliban promises to sever ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and to enter intra-Afghan negotiations to resolve the world’s deadliest conflict. The statements explained that the U.S. and Taliban would sign the agreement on 29 February in Doha, Qatar – where negotiations have been conducted for over a year – contingent on the successful completion of a seven-day period of “reduction in violence”, which is meant to begin on 22 February.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Iranian woman walks past election posters in Tehran on Thursday. (Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Friday, the Islamic Republic of Iran is holding parliamentary elections. Expect Iranians to use the moment to send a powerful message to their government.

Spoiler alert: It won’t be a vote of confidence.

The elections are taking place at a time of extraordinary volatility. Last year, a wave of massive street protests ended with the deaths of hundreds of Iranians. Authorities predictably blamed the unrest on foreign agitators.

Then, in early January, came the targeted killing of Iran’s most influential military commander, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad.

Days later, as the regime allowed civilian aircraft to fly during a retaliatory raid on U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

A nadie debería sorprenderle que la propuesta de paz para Oriente Medio del presidente norteamericano, Donald Trump, esté marcadamente inclinada a favor de los israelíes. Lo que sí sorprende es que, en lugar de rechazar la propuesta de Trump, el mundo haya dejado a los palestinos esencialmente librados a su suerte.

Al mismo tiempo que desoye los anhelos nacionales de los palestinos con la promesa paternalista de “mejorar sus vidas”, el plan de paz de Trump abraza el relato nacional israelí de que sólo Israel tiene reclamos históricos válidos sobre Judea y Samaria, la tierra bíblica de los judíos. De manera que, si bien les daría a los palestinos su propio estado, sería un territorio fragmentado que cubriría Gaza y el 70% de una Cisjordania salpicada de asentamientos israelíes y rodeada en todos los flancos por territorio anexado israelí.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man waving an Afghan flag during an Independence Day celebration in Kabul in 2019.Credit...Rafiq Maqbool/Associated Press

When our representatives started negotiating with the United States in 2018, our confidence that the talks would yield results was close to zero. We did not trust American intentions after 18 years of war and several previous attempts at negotiation that had proved futile.

Nevertheless, we decided to try once more. The long war has exacted a terrible cost from everyone. We thought it unwise to dismiss any potential opportunity for peace no matter how meager the prospects of its success. For more than four decades, precious Afghan lives have been lost every day. Everyone has lost somebody they loved. Everyone is tired of war.…  Seguir leyendo »

Palestinians watch the televised press conference of Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu on 28 January 2020 at a barber shop in Gaza City. Photo: Getty Images.

The view from the Gulf

Neil Quilliam

There has been no coordinated response among states of the GCC, but the messages have been universal, and surprisingly each one has welcomed US efforts to restart peace talks and praised this particular US administration for doing so. But in each case, the same set of issues and concerns has been highlighted, namely the status of Jerusalem, the situation of refugees and ultimately a simple absence of a revival contiguous Palestinian state.

While much has been made of younger Gulf generation’s apparent disconnect from the emotive issues around Palestinian statehood, the state of Jerusalem and the larger refugee issue, older leaders in the Gulf continue to pay them heed.…  Seguir leyendo »

Taliban militants laid down their arms in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, this month to join the peace process.Credit...Ghulamullah Habibi/EPA, via Shutterstock

The talks between the United States and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, which were abruptly canceled by President Trump in September, are back on track. After several months of diplomatic regrouping, American and Taliban negotiators are once again on the verge of sealing a deal.

The negotiators haven’t revised the basic transaction they set out last August — an American commitment to withdraw troops from Afghanistan for a Taliban promise not to allow the country to be used by transnational terrorists. Rather, they have added sweeteners to the bargain: As a Taliban concession, a seven-day “reduction in violence” before the United States will sign the deal, possibly followed by further steps to keep violence down, and the release of prisoners demanded by the insurgents.…  Seguir leyendo »

My father had dementia. He also had Parkinson’s disease. He died at age 85, a week after the Parkinson’s pills arrived, their having taken more than 5,000 miles and two weeks to get to Syria. I am not sure that the lack of medicine is what caused his death, but it might as well have.

Until eight years ago, my father was a pharmacist in Homs, Syria. During the war, his pharmacy was destroyed, as was the town center. My father and his wife were forced to stay mostly at home for almost two years to avoid the shelling and gunfire exchanged by the Syrian government and the rebels.…  Seguir leyendo »

Periodistas palestinos levantan pancartas que apoyan la libertad de expresión durante una manifestación en la ciudad cisjordana de Ramallah, el 23 de octubre de 2019, para protestar contra un fallo judicial que bloquea el acceso a docenas de sitios web. AHMAD GHARABLI AFP

No sé si me impresiona más la brutalidad con la que los gobiernos han reprimido las protestas o el coraje y la tenacidad que exhiben los ciudadanos de la región de Oriente Medio y Norte de África. Miedo seguro que tienen, ya saben lo que hay, y aun así mantienen su desafío a unas autoridades sordas a sus demandas.

La protesta no es algo ajeno a esta zona convulsa del mundo. Sin embargo, 2019 ha sido el año en que después de aquellas frustradas (y aplastadas) primaveras, de nuevo, de forma masiva, el pueblo ha tomado las calles y lo ha hecho, en su mayoría, de forma pacífica.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iranian women protest for the Islamic hijab on July 12, 2014 in Tehran. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

Religious indoctrination starts early in Iran, when you are forced at school to learn the Koran. I was a dutiful student, praying assiduously while wearing a loose, ugly school uniform, with my hair hidden under a big scarf. At age 8, I even won a prize for fasting.

At 9, I was introduced by my father to the beautiful game of chess, beloved by ancient Persian poets. Chess requires logic and critical thinking — not faith. Slowly, in my teens, I began to question why, if God is fair, is there so much pain and suffering in the world?

Even if my faith was fading, as a woman in Iran I had no choice but to tolerate the hijab — the Islamic emblem of constant, misogynistic oppression.…  Seguir leyendo »

Omar Haj Kadour/AFP via Getty Images Ruined buildings in the village of Ma’arrat al-Nu’man after a weekslong regime offensive against rebel-held areas in Syria’s Idlib province, February 12, 2020

In response to:

“And the Oscar Goes to… A Simplified Story of Syria’s Civil War,” NYR Daily, February 6, 2020.

To the Editor:

Since December 1, when the Syrian regime and Russia resumed their assault on Idlib, 832,000 civilians have been displaced, most of them children. Two hundred and eighty-six civilians were killed in the month of January alone. The last bastions of the revolution, Saraqeb, Kafranbl, and Ma’arrat al-Nu’man, have fallen. This is the biggest displacement of the war yet—and the majority of those fleeing were already refugees, once, twice, even six times over.

Still convulsed from the so-called refugee crisis of 2015, the West worries about migration, but less so about its causes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mahmoud Abbas, eterno presidente de la Autoridad Palestina en Cisjordania (pero excluido de Gaza por sus rivales de Hamas), defendió el 10 de febrero ante el Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU la causa de su pueblo contra el plan de paz propuesto por Donald Trump. Ese plan, que es más bien una rendición en plena campaña, concede a Israel todo lo que su Gobierno nacionalista exige. Hiperrealista, toma nota de la situación sobre el terreno: dominio total del Ejército israelí y descomposición total del campo palestino. Abbas siempre es bien acogido en la ONU, compuesta por dirigentes que se le parecen, pocas veces elegidos y que confunden la caja de sus Estados con la suya propia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Desde 2018, en todo Oriente Próximo ha habido grandes protestas antigubernamentales, en una oleada que algunos han llamado la Primavera Árabe 2.0. Los manifestantes denuncian la corrupción, el sectarismo y el estancamiento económico. Al igual que los levantamientos árabes de hace una década, estas protestas han logrado derribar a gobernantes clave: han causado la renuncia de primeros ministros en el Líbano, Irak y Jordania, y en Sudán y Argelia derrocaron a dictadores de larga data.

En 2011, las protestas decayeron tras la salida forzada de los gobernantes. Pero esta vez han continuado, lo que destaca la crisis regional de gobernanza y ciudadanía que no se puede abordar adecuadamente con la mera rotación de las cabezas de un cuerpo político disfuncional.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghans during a protest to demand peace in Ghazni, Afghanistan, on Sunday. (Sayed Mustafa/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

On Saturday, a holiday commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, people here awaited the announcement of an agreement between the United States and the Taliban on the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Skepticism here about what comes next pales in comparison with the certainty that continued war will fail.

This agreement can start a process that is the best chance to end Afghanistan’s 40-year war. It meets the core demands of the original antagonists of that war’s latest stage: the withdrawal of U.S. troops for the Taliban and guarantees against harboring terrorists for the United States. Next would come negotiations between the supporters of the Afghan Islamic republic and the Taliban on conditions to end their war, even as the battle against global terrorists continues.…  Seguir leyendo »

Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf in October. Photo: Getty Images.

Following the US strike on Qassem Solaimani and Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis, populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has violently cracked down on youth-led protests in Iraq.

His paramilitaries and ‘blue hats’ –  supposedly created to protect protestors from state and allied parastatal security forces – sought to end the months-long demonstrations by attacking the places where protesters have camped since October. In Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, they successfully captured the famous Turkish restaurant which had become a symbol of Iraq’s ‘October revolution’.

Once the champion of Iraq’s protest movement, Sadr has seemingly changed course and now leads the counter-protests. This reversal has mystified many, from Iraqis who saw Sadr as an ally in their struggle for reform against an impenetrable elite to foreign diplomats who hoped Sadr could help pushback against Iranian influence in Iraq.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cuando Irán anunció en enero que “reduciría” aún más sus compromisos con el acuerdo de 2015 que limita sus actividades nucleares, no fue en respuesta al asesinato por parte de Estados Unidos del líder de las Fuerzas Quds iraníes, el general Qassem Suleimani, unos días antes. Pero ambos acontecimientos reflejan la escalada de la confrontación entre Irán y Estados Unidos desde el verano de 2019. Cualquier esfuerzo por salvaguardar la sustancia del acuerdo de 2015 (formalmente conocido como Plan de Acción Integral Conjunto o PAIC) debe tener en cuenta este contexto.

El régimen iraní declaró que con esta fase “quinta y final” de reducción de sus compromisos con el PAIC, ya no se sentiría atado a los límites superiores acordados del trato en cuanto a las centrífugas y al enriquecimiento de uranio.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement supporters protest the arrest of leader Manzoor Pashteen in Karachi, Pakistan, on Jan. 28. (SHAHZAIB AKBER/EPA-EFE/REX)

For two years now, the Pashtun Protection Movement (known as the PTM) has been taking to the streets to demand the observance of our constitutional rights. Above all we have been demanding accountability from the military, which has used the war on terrorism as an excuse to kidnap, kill and intimidate citizens living in the northwest, most of them ethnic Pashtuns. At 35 million, we are the largest single ethnic group in the country.

Throughout our campaign for change we have observed strict principles of nonviolence, and we have worked to keep our actions rigorously within the framework of Pakistan’s constitution, which explicitly allows for freedom of speech and assembly.…  Seguir leyendo »

Qui s’intéresse encore à la Syrie ? Quelques belles âmes sans doute, ou ceux dont c’est le métier dans les chancelleries ou les rédactions, mais plus grand monde parmi les responsables politiques. L’agonie de la province d’Idlib est à cet égard caractéristique. On sait par les journaux que depuis la mi-décembre 2019 une offensive combinée des forces du régime de Damas et de l’aviation russe a jeté sur les routes plus de 600 000 personnes, principalement des femmes et des enfants ; ces personnes viennent souvent d’autres régions du pays reconquises par le régime dans des conditions comparables. Dans cette province d’Idlib comme ailleurs, des villes entières sont rasées.…  Seguir leyendo »

He estado involucrado en el proceso de paz en Oriente Medio, de una manera u otra, durante 12 años. Rara vez escribo sobre él, porque cualquier cosa que se diga en público suele ofender a alguien, pero la publicación del tan esperado plan de paz estadounidense es una oportunidad para evaluar la situación.

Soy uno de los pocos que aún creen que la creación de un estado palestino es tanto deseable como posible. La mayor parte de los comentaristas recibe la idea con una risita sardónica. Muchos israelíes y palestinos se han dado por vencidos.

Yo no, porque estoy convencido —tal vez irracionalmente— de que la razón siempre triunfa al final.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ha pasado suficiente tiempo para leer y digerir las más de 180 páginas de lo que el gobierno de Estados Unidos llama “Paz para la prosperidad: una visión para mejorar la vida de los pueblos palestino e israelí”. También se lo conoce (a veces burlonamente) como “El acuerdo del siglo”. O, en términos más neutrales, se lo describe como el último plan de paz norteamericano para Oriente Medio.

Sólo que no lo es. La propuesta –supervisada por el asesor sénior de la Casa Blanca Jared Kushner, el yerno del presidente Donald Trump, y difundida por Trump el 28 de enero- no es un plan para la paz.…  Seguir leyendo »

Si le plan Trump était mis en œuvre, il marquerait un tournant majeur dans l’histoire du conflit israélo-palestinien. Ce plan qui est de fait un plan « Netanyahou-Trump » liquiderait en effet la solution que la communauté internationale prône depuis des décennies, la solution des deux Etats. Unilatéral, il offre à Israël la possibilité d’annexer une grande partie de la Cisjordanie, ne laissant aux Palestiniens que la vague perspective d’obtenir des « bantoustans  » discontinus. Un « Etat » qui n’en serait pas un puisque dépourvu de continuité territoriale, de maîtrise de ses frontières et de souveraineté !

Le plan prévoit l’annexion, outre Jérusalem-Est, de la vallée du Jourdain et des colonies israéliennes de Cisjordanie, y compris les implantations isolées et les « avant-postes » que même le droit israélien considère comme illégaux.…  Seguir leyendo »