ISIS, Qaeda, and the Syrian War

Here is an excellent piece in the NY Review of Books on the armed group ISIS operating in Syria.

The most interesting question to me is who is behind this group. All accounts point to foreign fighters as the core and their opposition to other Syrian rebels is well known.

For me there are three choices:

This is Qaeda from Iraq: Syria and Iraq share a border and the group from Iraq is expanding westward into Syria in furtherance of the restoration of the Caliphate.

This is an organization financed by the Gulf states using imported fighters from a diverse Islamic regional base who transit through Turkey in order to support Sunnism.

Assad is behind this group. Creating increased savage violence in rebel held areas (in the wake of the loss of their chemical weapons stockpile) forces Syrian citizens to grudgingly accept the Assad regime.

And while I’m certainly no expert in Syrian history, my bet is for option 3.

China, Russia, and the Lessons of the Cold War

Here is a very interesting article from The Diplomat.

There are those, I count myself among them, who believe that a radical restructuring of global power is underway that threatens to undermine traditional economies unless properly managed. Recent moves by both Putin and the Chinese leadership toward rapprochement bodes ominous as identity culture wars in the West cannibalize and corporate elites drain productivity. The parallels with the end of the 19th century and the twilight of the British Empire creates opportunities for historians to highlight both the error and the danger of these distractions. Unfortunately, recent politics and culture augurs ill for those attempting to highlight the dangers that we face. Our trajectory may be unalterable.

Canada Post: Why Canada needs Postal Banking

In all the huzzah over the holidays, I forgot to post this link from the CCPA on why introducing a banking feature to Canada Post would save the institution, provide a cheaper alternative to the major banks, and contribute profits to the Public Purse.

Meaning that it is the best possible alternative that will be summarily dismissed since it runs counter to the political imperative to privatize Canada Post.


I was mentioning to friends how I really wanted to pack my camera gear and head to Egypt to take photos of the events unfolding along the Nile. I’m not going to go but it is tempting to be on the ground during these tumultuous times.

I have, like many, been following the events quite closely. I find that the Western media have a very superficial understanding of what is happening but, luckily, Al Jazeera and European media outlets have better coverage. I was quite surprised at this article in Le Monde in an interview with an Egyptian general who argues that Egypt is the only country to successfully defeat a militant and political Islam in the 1990s under Mubarak and will again, with the appropriate use of force.

More here.

The most thoughtful coverage is found at the Arabist blog here that includes an article from Paul Sedra, in Jadaliyya pointing to an important departure in the traditional reading of Egyptian nationalism:

“For an arm of the government to reference Copts as a target of violence—much less reference the Copts as a distinct community at all—is a stark departure from a long-standing policy of refusing the acknowledgment of sectarian divisions within Egyptian society.”

Original story is here.

I, like many, am quite concerned with the events unfolding in Egypt. It appears that the USA has decided to withhold any further aid dollars to the military government but that shortfall was quickly made up for by the Saudi’s who have agreed to make up any funding shortfalls.

Stability over justice is the new phrase to keep in mind for this region!

More to come on this topic.

Update: interesting analysis at Dissent here.