Saudi-Egypt Battle for Regional Influence Over Syria

By January, the rift in Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s approach to the crisis in Syria had begun to widen and now the two countries are to host rival Syrian opposition conferences as Cairo and Riyadh jostle for the position of most influential regional actor.

The first conference will take place in Cairo at the beginning of June under the auspices of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, and has the stated aim of ending the crisis through political negotiation and putting a halt to the bloodshed.


The Rise of the Digital Caliphate (extract)

Islamic State front cover small

On 1 July 2014, a twenty-minute audio recording by Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was released across extremist websites and social media platforms. He declared a new caliphate and announced he would be its caliph. In the speech, ‘Caliph Ibrahim’ outlined his vision for Islamic State, urging Muslims from around the world to migrate (make hijra) and to join it, ‘because hijra to the land of Islam is obligatory’.

He painted the embryonic state in rosy


Saudi Arabia: An Incubator of Sectarian Hatred?

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is having a tough time these days with war, or the threat of war, on several fronts at the same time: against the Houthis in Yemen, against the Assad regime in Syria, against Iran in Iraq, and now, a  fourth front is opening up against the Islamic State which claimed responsibility for the attack on a Shiite mosque in the eastern region over the weekend.

Most of these conflicts have erupted or escalated since the new King Salman bin Abdul Aziz came to power


The Disgraceful Exclusion From Baghdad of Families Fleeing Ramadi

Abdel Bari Atwan

I was deeply shocked by television pictures of thousands of Iraqi families fleeing for their lives from the city of Ramadi after it was overrun by Islamic State (IS) fighters. Iraqi army troops simply fled, leaving them to their fate. And now they have been refused permission to enter Baghdad unless they have a ‘guarantor’ in the capital and sufficient funds to support themselves. As a result, thousands are living under the blazing sun with no shelter and


Partition Of Syria Looms As KSA/Turkey Ramp Up Rebel Support

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Abdel Bari Atwan

On Saturday, Turkish fighter jets shot down a Syrian helicopter that had crossed into Turkish air space over the southern border. Turkish Defence Minister  Ismet Yilmaz was quoted as  congratulating the personnel who ‘fulfilled their duty’; he described how the helicopter ‘violated the border for a period of five minutes within an 11 kilometre limit’.

The Syrians denied it was a piloted helicopter, claiming the aircraft was a surveillance


US Commando Raid on IS at Deir al-Zour: More Questions Than Answers

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Abdel Bari Atwan

The Islamic State’s (IS) own spokesmen have yet to comment on Saturday night’s  US ‘Delta’ commando operation in which Abu Sayyaf, the Tunisian IS commander believed to be responsible for the organization’s finances, was killed. Meanwhile the American official version is clouded with ambiguity leading one to doubt its truth and accuracy.

Spokeswoman for the National Security Council said that Delta force entered the target area at Deir al-Zour


Regional Turmoil Must Not Eclipse Palestinian Cause [Atwan in Gulf News]

There can be no peace without justice for Palestinians

Image Credit: Luis Vazquez/©Gulf News

No peace without justice for Palestinians

15 May 2015

Friday was the 67th anniversary of the Nakba — ‘the catastrophe’ when Palestinian villagers were forced from their homes to make way for the Israelis. Every other year the event has warranted at least a few column inches in the western press. This year it has been widely ignored.

More surprising still, the Arab


Texas Attacks: IS Claims Responsibility, Blames Western Provocation

Abdel Bari Atwan

The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the 3 May attack that targeted an exhibition centre in the city of Garland, Texas, that was hosting a competition for cartoons poking fun at the Prophet Muhammad. This is a first for IS and may indicate that the organization is moving into new territories.

Since its inception in Iraq, and then in Syria, nothing in its online statements, videos or magazine suggested that it had any intention, or even to attack


Plundering the Gulf’s Sovereign Wealth: Obama’s Security Lies

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Abdel Bari Atwan

It appears that US foreign policy is increasingly designed to promote arms sales to the Gulf States by spreading fear and alarm about the region’s many dangers but mostly focusing – for the moment at least – on Iran, the latest paper tiger. Let us not forget that the Gulf states have treasure troves – sovereign funds – containing upwards of 3 trillion dollars.

The Gulf States must be kept in a state of high anxiety, whether worrying


Is Iran’s Support For Assad Wavering?

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Abdel Bari Atwan

Two days ago, Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) announced that the problem of the Islamic State cannot be solved so long as President Assad remains in power in Syria.

What lies behind this renewed insistence on regime change in Damascus? It seems likely that it is pressures from Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

In an interview with PBS, Power said that Assad had ‘lost his legitimacy’ and that President Obama believed that the thousands