Tuer les autres, se tuer soi-même Attentats de Paris

L’ASPECT LE PLUS TROUBLANT des massacres commis à Paris est qu’ils ressortent d’une violence intime. C’est ce que nous peinons à cerner et qui nous travaille. La recherche d’une explication qui reposerait sur l’altérité des commanditaires ou des exécutants, suggérant un changement de stratégie de la part de l’organisation de l’État islamique (OEI) ou un…

Erosion and resilience of the Iraqi-Syrian border

THE ONGOING WARS in Syria and Iraq have triggered a spate of commentary and counter-commentary debating “the end of Sykes-Picot,” shorthand for the collapse of the century-old state system imposed on the Middle East by European powers after World War I. (1) One class of commentators has warned of the erasure of the post-Ottoman order—in…

The Islamic State through the looking-glass

ONE OF THE PARTICULARITIES of the movement calling itself the Islamic State is its investment in the phantasmagorical. It has an instinctive understanding of the value of taking its struggle to the realm of the imagination as the best way to compensate for its real-world limits. Even as it faces setbacks on the battlefield, it has made forays into our collective psyche

IS back in business

THE SO-CALLED ISLAMIC STATE (IS) — the jihadist movement also known as ISIL or ISIS and by the derogatory acronym Da’ish in Arabic — now controls much of northeast Syria and northwest Iraq (1). In a region beset with so much confusion, it appears uniquely determined and self-assured. Despite its name, it is in no sense…

Taking Iraq apart

THE RECENT SURGE in power of a Sunni jihadist force in northwest Iraq has been spectacular. But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s protestations of shock and horror are both theatrical and disingenuous, for it was his own actions that paved the way for this surge. His friends, especially those in Iran, know this but are playing…

The Arab World into the unknown

TWO AND A HALF YEARS AGO, Arab countries were abuzz with interesting conversations. Rich and poor, old and young, villager and urbanite, Islamist and secular all had their own take on the bewildering turmoil of the uprisings they were caught up in. They tended to be aware of the risks, hopeful that change was both…

Egypt’s quest for itself

SINCE PRESIDENT MOHAMMAD MURSI was deposed last July, the coalition leading the transition may not be liberal and inclusive, but it does enjoy (for now) broad popular support, is committed to a clear electoral roadmap and, in any event, is a reality on the ground; “let us deal with it on that basis”, say most…

The Syrian heartbreak

THERE WAS A DISTINCTIVE SENSE of national pride in Syria. It flowed from the confidence of a civilization dating back to the times of the earliest alphabets and visible in the country’s wealth of archaeological sites, including some of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It came from the depth of local culture….

The new normal in Baghdad

AFTER VIOLENCE THAT SHATTERED hundreds of thousands of lives and left nearly everyone with a tragic story to tell, life in Iraq has settled into a strange normality — with no discernible direction or clear future. “How do you make sense of the last ten years?” said a novelist, who is trying to do just that….

Beyond political ruptures: Towards a historiography of social continuity in Iraq

ATTEMPTING TO UNDERSTAND present-day Iraqi tribal, religious, class, political, generational, geographical, and social fault lines makes little sense without taking the longer view. In the wake of the 2003 invasion and subsequent ill-conceived U.S. occupation policies, the collapse of the Iraqi state created a sociopolitical discontinuity — indeed an aberration — leaving a vacuum that…

Beyond the fall of the Syrian regime

SYRIANS ARE APPROACHING the one-year anniversary of what has become the most tragic, far-reaching and uncertain episode of the Arab uprisings. Since protesters first took to the streets in towns and villages across the country in March 2011, they have paid an exorbitant price in a domestic crisis that has become intertwined with a strategic…

Le monde arabe est-il vraiment en hiver ?

SI LE “PRINTEMPS ARABE” suscitait l’enthousiasme aux beaux jours, le pessimisme est désormais de saison. Dans les médias, un glissement sémantique s’est opéré du thème révolutionnaire vers un registre à connotations négatives, où le triomphe des islamistes, les dynamiques de guerre civile, la désillusion et l’impuissance figurent en bonne place. Aussi les commentaires donnent-ils la…