A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Happy New Year: Some 2009 Highlights

Happy New Year to All!

So 2009 draws to a close and this blog, which debuted at the end of January, ends 11 months of life. Marc Lynch already did a People of the Year 2009 post for the Middle East, so I won't go there. But there is the Iron Law of Reporting which says everybody must do an end of year roundup. I've already done my top five hits (previous post), but need to do something more.

So, as I look back over the year's posts, how about some superlatives:
  • Man of the Year: Nobody really stands out. Maybe the late Hossein ‘Ali Montazeri or Mir-Hossein Moussavi.
  • Winners: Oddly, both Bashar al-Asad and Sa‘d Hariri. Also: Crown Prince Sultan (for the comeback), and depending on what happens next, maybe Nuri al-Maliki.
  • Losers: Dubai, Al-Qa‘ida, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mahmud ‘Abbas, possibly Nuri al-Maliki (see also "Winners"), and perhaps Gamal Mubarak.
  • Most Over-Reported Story: Gilad Shalit is about to be released. (As I write this, have you heard: the release is imminent! Again.) Also the flurry of fervor about Mohamed ElBaradei and ‘Amr Moussa's bids for President of Egypt, unless you can explain how they stand a constitutional chance. And the Afghan decision.
  • Most Under-Reported Story: Human rights just about everywhere. Also minority rights in Iraq: Christians, Yazidis, Turkmen, Shi‘ites in Sunni areas and vice versa. And, as always, the expansion of settlements in the West Bank.
  • Stupidest Story: Egypt's mass hamicide. Swine flu isn't spread by swine; killing Egypt's pigs further impovished the already-impoverished zabbalin, who depended on the garbage they collected to feed their pigs, and . . . oh, you've heard this from me already.
  • Best Election: Hard one. Israel or course went smoothly if I didn't love the results. For the Arab world, Lebanon I guess, since it seems to have been fair, but it took forever to form a government.
  • Worst Election: Need you ask? Unless you count farces like Algeria and Tunisia, obviously Iran's.


JR said...

After reading your blog, I have the following two comments.

Best Speech Cairo - Isn't the definition of a banana republic one in which political rhetoric is not matched by actions? Shouldn't the test of speech be its real results?

Election in Lebanon - Is an election fair if it ignores the basic principle of one man one vote? If it isn't fair, how is it a praiseworthy thing?

The Saudis spent almost as much promoting their candidate as President Obama spent on his campaign. Given the disparity in population between Lebanon and the USA isn't this a sign that should trouble observers? And this was not the only foreign money in the election.

Michael Collins Dunn said...

JR: to question 1, I was judging the speech by its initial effect, not the follow-through. Given the other distractions of the year, that might be too early to judge fairly.

To question 2: well, Lebanon is a long way from one man one vote, but the election was no more unfair than what is built into the system by the National Pact, the Ta'if accords, the Doha agreement, and all the other decisions, many of them made by non-Lebanese. As you note, the Saudis poured a lot in, but I'm sure the Syrians and Iranians weren't skimping either.

I take your points, though.