Special Correspondent, Middle East
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Sep 21, 2011

Obama rejects Palestinian U.N. statehood bid

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – President Barack Obama, trying to avert a showdown on Palestinian statehood, told the United Nations on Wednesday there was no substitute for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations or a short cut to peace.

With U.S. credibility and influence in the Middle East at stake, Obama wants to dissuade the Palestinians from asking the U.N. Security Council for statehood in defiance of Israeli objections and a U.S. veto threat. But they have shown no sign of renouncing their plan to stake their claim on Friday.

Sep 13, 2011

Analysis: Turkey’s Erdogan struts Arab stage

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has captivated many Arabs with his tough talk against Israel, but voices at home and abroad question his drive to carve out a leadership role for Turkey in an Arab world once under the Ottoman imperial thumb.

“A Palestinian child crying in Gaza wrenches a mother’s heart in Ankara,” Erdogan told the Arab League in Cairo on Tuesday, using language calculated to delight Arab masses.

Aug 22, 2011

Analysis: Arab leaders mute on Gaddafi’s fall

LONDON (Reuters) – Libyans celebrated, Western leaders exulted, but Arab governments greeted Muammar Gaddafi’s fall in near-silence on Monday, even though most had viewed him as an embarrassing, if not dangerous, maverick during his 42 years in power.

Despite their disdain for the Libyan leader, many Arab rulers are queasy at the spectacle of his violent overthrow at the hands of ragtag rebels backed by Western air power.

Aug 19, 2011

Analysis: Uneasy transition awaits post-Assad Syria

LONDON (Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad looks doomed, politically if not militarily, and the longer he clings to power by brute force the harder it will be to achieve an orderly transition and mend a ruined economy.

The 45-year-old leader has shown no sign he is willing to relinquish office. A military coup or a contest within elements of the army, security forces and the Baathist party elite could break the stalemate. Otherwise more bloodshed seems inevitable.

Jun 6, 2011

Analysis: Saleh’s exit lessens risk of civil war in Yemen

LONDON (Reuters) – Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s departure to have his wounds treated in Saudi Arabia offers Yemen a precious chance to halt a slide into civil war and achieve a peaceful transition of power. Much could go wrong.

Young protesters eager to add Saleh to the list of toppled Arab autocrats have greeted his exit with euphoria, but they fear a come-back by the wily leader, who was wounded along with other senior officials in an attack on his palace on Friday.

May 20, 2011

Obama struggles to be heard in Arab ferment

BEIRUT (Reuters) – In an Arab world engulfed in political tumult and, in many cases, economic distress, U.S. President Barack Obama’s words can seem lofty, but limp.

“By the time we found (Osama) bin Laden, al Qaeda’s agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands,” Obama declared.

May 20, 2011

Analysis: Obama struggles to be heard in Arab ferment

BEIRUT (Reuters) – In an Arab world engulfed in political tumult and, in many cases, economic distress, U.S. President Barack Obama’s words can seem lofty, but limp.

“By the time we found (Osama) bin Laden, al Qaeda’s agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands,” Obama declared.

May 18, 2011

Rehoused Lebanon refugees still long for Palestine

NAHR AL-BARED, LEBANON (Reuters) – Like the crowds of Palestinian refugees who rattled Israel’s border fences this week, Subhia Loubani yearns to return to the homeland she had to flee when the Jewish state was created in 1948.

Even though, unlike most of them, she has a brand-new house.

Loubani, 72, received a key last month to one of the first few homes built by UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, in north Lebanon’s Nahr al-Bared camp, which was utterly destroyed in fighting nearly four years ago.

May 9, 2011

Analysis: West turns blind eye to Bahrain crackdown

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The fate of Bahrain’s protest movement is a stark reminder of how Western and regional power politics can trump reformist yearnings, even in an Arab world convulsed by popular uprisings against entrenched autocrats.

Bahrain is not Libya or Syria, but Western tolerance of the Sunni monarchy’s crackdown suggests that interests such as the U.S. naval base in Manama, ties to oil giant Saudi Arabia and the need to contain neighboring Iran outweigh any sympathy with pro-democracy demonstrators mostly from the Shi’ite majority.

May 9, 2011

West turns blind eye to Bahrain crackdown

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The fate of Bahrain’s protest movement is a stark reminder of how Western and regional power politics can trump reformist yearnings, even in an Arab world convulsed by popular uprisings against entrenched autocrats.

Bahrain is not Libya or Syria, but Western tolerance of the Sunni monarchy’s crackdown suggests that interests such as the U.S. naval base in Manama, ties to oil giant Saudi Arabia and the need to contain neighbouring Iran outweigh any sympathy with pro-democracy demonstrators mostly from the Shi’ite majority.

    • About Alistair

      "I cover the Middle East, with an emphasis on political analysis, region-wide stories and in-depth features. I live in Beirut and have been in my current post since June 2006. Outside my main Middle Eastern beat, I have covered Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan."
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