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Showing posts from June, 2013

Syria: How Sunni-Shia warfare came to dominate the Middle East.

With hindsight one can now see that there has been a growing pattern of Sunni-Shia conflict emerging in the Middle East, which to some degree paralells the Moslem-Jewish conflict and may be far more bitter. Iraq seems to have been the spark that ignited the conflict, and it may well be that it won't extend beyond Syria-Lebanon.

Round I: The Iraq - Iran war (1980 - 1988)
In 1980 the Sunni-dominated Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein invaded Shia-dominated Iran, then fresh from a religious revolution. This lead to the Iraq-Iraq war and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civillians in both Iraq and Iran. The invasion was the product of a long history of tension and border disputes between the two countries, much revolving round Kurdish revolts in Iraq, however the revolution in Iran had radicalized the Shia third of Iraq and led to growing attacks on the regime by Iraqi Shia radicals.
The Iraq-Iraq war was not purely a Sunni-Shia conflict, and the Iraqi regime was not ove…

The Sri Lankan analogy: Why Israel is more like Sri Lanka then South Africa and what that means for the Palestinians

The main problem with the infamous Israeli-Apartheid analogy is that discrimination and conflict in Israel is based on religion and not on race. Zionism does not incorporate race theory and does not hold that the Palestinians are racially inferior which was a basic principle of Apartheid and European colonial societies.  Its not surprising that Zionists did not adopt such doctrines given that most race theorists regarded the Jews as non-European inferiors. Other problems with the Apartheid analogy are that outside the occupied areas there is full democratic procedure in which Arabs/Moslems also participate and that half of Israeli Jews can reasonably considered to be Arabs.

Sri Lanka is similar to Israel-Palestine in that it is also a religious conflict, between Hindus and Buddhists belonging to separate ethnic groups (Tamils are Hindus and Sinhalese are Buddhists). Although Buddhists outnumber Hindus in Sri Lanka, they are massively outnumbered in neighbouring India, just as the Jews…

Deaths in Palestine and Syria compared.

Wikipedia quotes a UN estimate of 80,000 for the deaths in the current conflict in Syria. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Syrian_civil_war
A further 10,000 - 40,000 were killed in an uprising in Hama in 1982.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hama_massacre

There are, I think, no reliable figures for deaths in the Lebanese civil war in the 70's and 80's, but Wikipedia has an estmate of 150,000.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebanese_Civil_War#cite_note-1

About the same number of people have died in the current Syrian civil war as in all the Arab-Israeli wars put together. If you just take Palestinians killed by the Israelis, then far more Syrians have been killed then all the Paelstinians ever killed by Israelis.

So how many Palestinians have died?  There are a number of figures to take into account here, first Palestinians killed by peoples other than the Israelis: Thats mainly the British, the Jordanians and the Lebanese. Second, Palestinians killed by other Palestin…

Ba'ath regimes in Iraq and Syria both used chemical weapons against their citizens

Every so often in the past year, we hear a dull rumble late in the evening.  Its the unmistakable sound (at least to us Israelis) of war planes flying overhead. Sometimes we read the next day about a bombing in Syria and sometimes it just reflects growing tension in the North.
Until a few weeks ago it seemed certain that Assad was due for a rapid exit, but now, with help from his three allies, Russia Iran and Hezbullah he seems to be hanging on, at least for the moment. He has suddenly woken up the the fact that Israel was bombing with impunity in Syria and threatened to retaliate. I'm inclined to believe him, because without a response his credibility will be zero, though he will probably try and prevent escalation.  This raises the spectre of Hezbullah fighting Israel using Syria as a proxy - instead of, as was true for so many years, the reverse.

The nightly news analysis on Israel's channel two now says that Assad may survive. As a political scientist I have this to say: H…