A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bernard Lewis is 100 Today

The scholar and academic (and sometimes polemicist) Bernard Lewis is 100 years old today. That is a notable birthday for anyone. The remarkable size of his output, scholarly and popular, is also remarkable. Especially in the past 20 years, he has become a political lightning rod in Middle East policy studies.

I won't criticize a man on his birthday, especially such a landmark one. In person he has always seemed an eloquent English gentleman. I will note that if Lewis' academic output had ended at, say age 70 or 75, his legacy would be less controversial. Works like The Emergence of Modern Turkey stand as major contributions. (Though that book was not without controversy when later editions softened the language on the Armenian massacres.) Lewis always had his opponents: Jewish and a lifelong Zionist, he was an outspoken supporter of Israel when that was rare in a field dominated by Arabists, though he had a full command of that language.

When Edward Said, in Orientalism, painted Lewis as a prime example of Orientalist discourse, Lewis welcomed the title and debated Said in print and in person. More recently, some of his works on Islam have been increasingly controversial, and he was often seen as the favorite public intellectual of the neocon movement, and seen as a supporter of invading Iraq (though he has denied he supported the war).

There will be time to assess the man and his legacy. Meanwhile, Happy Birthday.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Why I've been Absent

On Friday I underwent emergency surgery for an infected toe. I am still in the hospital undergoing inter venous antibiotic treatment to try to clear the infection. While I have a recovery ahead of me I hope to go home tonight (today's a US holiday anyway) and to resume blogging soon.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

ECFR: A Guide to Libya's Main Players

The European Council on Foreign Relations has published A Guide to Libya's Main Players
 with sections by several experts, which you may find useful. Downloadable PDF here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

More Sykes-Picot: The Unraveling, 1917

Continuing my argument that the Sykes-Picot agreement was never really implemented, let's begin by looking at the gradual unraveling. One has to begin even before it was signed, with the promises made by Sir Henry McMahon to Sharif Hussein in their correspondence, especially in the "borders" letter of October 24, 1915. Whatever  interpretation one places on the contentious text, it is hard to reconcile the promise of an independent Arab state (a Caliphate) with the spheres of influence and direct rule carved out by Sykes-Picot, which, of course, was secret and unknown to Hussein.

Then on November 2, 1917, Arthur James Balfour wrote his letter to Lord Rothschild:
His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
The vague wording of the Balfour Declaration might be compatible with Sykes-Picot's international regime for Palestine. But the agreement was secret, and unknown to the Zionists, who presumed Britain was free to make promises. (UPDATE: Martin Kramer notes in a comment that the Zionists knew about it from a leak, and links to his article.)

  Then it all started to come apart. Only six days after the Balfour Declaration, this happened:
Russia had already left the war after the March (Old Style February) 1917 Revolution, but with the Bolshevik takeover on November 8 (Old Style October 26), they began publishing the text of Sykes-Picot and other secret treaties.

On November 23, both Pravda and Izvestia published Sykes-Picot. Three days later, The Manchester Guardian followed suit.

The cat was out of the bag. Britain denied it, but not very convincingly. Things were starting to unravel.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Moshe Ya'alon, Former General, Replaced as Israel Defense Minister by Avigdor Lieberman, Former Bouncer and Non-Veteran. Does Israel Feel More Secure Now?

Please forgive the multi-tiered headline, but I couldn't resist. You probably already know that in order to expand his coalition, Binyamin Netanyahu replaced his Defense Minister, retired General Moshe Ya'alon, of his own Likud Party, with Yisrael Beitenu's Avigdor Lieberman, who indeed was once a bouncer who did not serve in the IDF. Netanyahu had been trying to enlarge his fragile coalition and had been making overtures to Zionist Union (Labor) leader Isaac Herzog. Bringing the Opposition leader into the coalition would have tilted the coalition, now the most right-wing in Israel's history, a bit to the center-right. Bringing in Lieberman instead, moves it even farther right.

But reaction has been harshly critical beginning with Ya'alon himself, who chose not to go gentle into that good night. Instead of attending Lieberman's swearing-in on Sunday, he resigned effective Friday afternoon, and went out with several blasts at Netanyahu for abandoning him and defending hisown behavior. No dove himself, h criticized Israel's rightward drift.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak warned that the government was sowing the "seeds of fascism," while former Defense Minister Moshe Arens, once a Likud stalwart, wrote in a column in Ha'aretz, (paywalled) in which he said:
The coalition representation in the Knesset will increase to 67 from 61. But the price Likud’s leaders paid for these six extra votes is a heavy one for both the country and Likud far heavier than they seem to realize. Their simple-minded explanation that a stable government is good for Israel and therefore replacing Ya’alon with Lieberman must be good for Israel is not likely to be accepted by most Israelis.
The defense minister is not just another of Israel’s many government ministers. He is by far the most important minister, shouldering direct responsibility for Israel’s security, the personal security of Israel’s citizens, and the lives of their children serving in the Israel Defense Forces.
Defenders of the murky deal to oust an xcellent defense minister offer an explanation: that in addition to the defense minister, many others are involved in taking decisions on defense matters which presumably means that it’s not so important who the defense minister is. This shows an abject ignorance of the workings of the defense establishment.
All Israelis were lucky to have Ya’alon as defense chief these last few years, and this luck now seems to have run out. Choosing between an excellent defense minister serving in a narrow coalition and firing an excellent defense minister and obtaining a few more coalition votes should have been easy. But Benjamin Netanyahu made the wrong choice.
Tensions between the IDF command and the security services on the one hand and Netanyahu on the other hand have been bad for years due to disagreements over Iran and other issues, but the Ya'alon dismissal seems to have exacerbated the problem.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sykes-Picot: Others are Making the Same Point

I'll be returning to my series on Sykes-Picot and how it was only one piece in the complex mix that was the postwar settlement, but I thought I should note that while the anniversary was marked, as I'd predicted, by far too many articles about how Sykes and Picot drew the borders of the modern Middle East, there were also a number of voices who took the more realistic view. few of them:
More on this subject soon.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Yemen Bans Qat in Aden on Weekdays. Does Anyone Expect This to Work?

Authorities in South Yemen (the areas controlled by President Al-Hadi rather than the Houthis) have decided to ban the importation of qat into the city of Aden on weekdays. Qat, of course, is the mildly narcotic leaf chewed daily by many Yemenis, and there is no question that its use reduces efficiency and productivity.

The Hadi government, while claiming to be the internationally recognized government, recaptured Aden only with the help of Saudi and GCC troops. does it really feel confident that it can break a national habit quickly? Or is this perhaps an outburst of Saudi-influenced puritanism?

While wishing them luck, count me as a skeptic until I see it working.

Latin Leaders of Arab Origin

Now that the new interim President of Brazil is of Lebanese origin, The Washington Post surveys the success of Latin American politicians pf Arab origin.

Which reminds me of a brilliant remark I saw somewhere on social media, though I must apologize to the author for forgetting who said it:  Brazil now has a Lebanese President, while Lebanon still doesn't.

The Lebanese Presidency has been vacant since 2014.

Update: a commenter credits Karl Sharro and it certainly sounds like him, though I can't locate the original.

Update II: Apparently a lot of people had the same thought.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Clovis Maksoud, 1926-2016

Source: American University
Clovis Maksoud, diplomat, writer, intellectual, professor, and a familiar figure in Washington since the 1970s, has passed away at the age of 90.

He served for many years as a Representative of the Arab League, and was sent as a Special Representative of the League to the US during the oil crisis of 1974. From 1979-1990 he was the Arab League's Ambassador to the US and the UN. Maksoud, a proponent of Arab unity, resigned that post over the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. He was also a frequent spokesman for Palestinian issues.

At earlier periods in his career he had served as a writer and editor, and continued to write newspaper columns and articles for many years, as well as books. In recent years he served as Director of the Center for the Global South at The American University in Washington.

Ambassador Maksoud and his late wife Hala were prominent figures around the Washington diplomatic, Arab, and Lebanese communities for decades. He was always friendly, accessible, and outspoken, a highly visible voice for Lebanon, for Palestine, and for the Arab World as a whole.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Did the First Black Aviator Fly for Turkey in WWI?

Aviation buffs, especially those interested in early aviation and World War I, may know the name of Eugene Bullard, a black American who flew for France during World War I as a member of the Lafayette Flying Corps (a broader grouping than the elite Lafayette Escadrille).

Eugene Bullard is generally agreed to be the first African-American combat pilot, but he served in the French Foreign Legion until wounded at Verdun in 1916, and only took up flying late that year.

But by 1916, a military pilot of African descent was already flying: Ahmet Ali Çelikten.

This is a reminder that bloggers can learn from their readers. Back in April I posted about the centennial of a British air raid on Constantinople in 1916 and one of the comments on that post noted this:
Did you know that the first black air force pilot was Turkish? Can't remember his name, but he was the son of slaves that had to follow their Muslim owners when they had to leave Crete. His family, like many of the Afro-Turks, settled in the Izmir area especially after extracting themselves from agricultural work on the cotton farms. He got an education and made his way into the military school and the rest was history.
I'd offer thanks except the commenter was anonymous; I told him/her I'd give credit if she/he could self-identify, but heard nothing. And the details may not all be accurate  but the basic story is.

Çelikten's biographical details are a bit hazy. English profiles at Wikipedia, at BlackPast, and at other sites essentially replicating these. Turkish Wikipedia is fuller for those who read the language, as is another Turkish source here. He was indeed born in İzmir of African slave ancestry, but most accounts do not mention the Crete connection. His dates are given as 1883-1969. It is usually said his grandmother, or at least an ancestor, originated in the Emirate of Bornu in what is now now northeastern Nigeria and northwestern Chad.

Whatever the ancestry, he was African, trained as a Naval Aviator and then flew for the Ottoman Air Force beginning in 1914. He was almost certainly the first military aviator of African descent.

"Don't Go to Iran"

A clever little three minute effort at making a point:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

More on Sykes-Picot: The Agreement as Written

As I noted in my first post on the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which was concluded a century ago this month, "Sykes-Picot" has become a convenient shorthand for the entire constellation of agreements and understandings that contributed to the postwar settlement, agreements spread out from as early as 1915 to as late as 1939, or even later if we include the partition of Palestine. In coming days I'll be dealing with the actual agreements, but first let's look at the real Asia Minor Agreement negotiated between Sir Mark Sykes and M. François Georges-Picot in 1916 and what borders it actually envisioned.

Britain and France began discussions of a post-Ottoman settlement on November 23, 1915, with Georges-Picot negotiating with Sir Arthur Nicolson, soon replaced by Sir Mark Sykes,. At that time efforts by David Lloyd George and Herbert Samuel to promote a Jewish state in Palestine were already under way, and Sir Henry McMahon in Egypt was already committing Britain to support an independent Arab state in correspondence with Sharif Hussein of Mecca. Another round of negotiations took place in December, and in February 1916 Sykes visited Petrograd to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Segey Sazonov. Negotiations with the Zionists and the commitments to Sharif Hussein were known to Sykes.

Sir Mark Sykes
F. Georges-Picot
The basic text was ready by May. On May 9, French Ambassador to London Paul Cambon transmitted it in a letter to British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, who returned it  with approval on May 16. Signed May 19 and with a formal exchange of notes May 23, the precise date that should be "celebrated" as the centenary is a little slippery.

The agreement's text is below after the map. Although the agreement gives lip service to the idea of an "independent" Arab stste, it would be subordinate to British and French zones of influence, and both had zones in which they claimed direct control. Britain and France made a umber of guarantees to each other (Palestine would be under international control but with Britain controlling Haifa, Acre, a railway to Egypt and a future railway to Iraq.)

Both parties seemed to recognize that the agreement had potential conflicts, but it was a secret agreement, and intended to remain so. As I've tried to make clear, I'm not defending Sykes-Picot, which was imperialist arrogance at its worst; I'm simply saying that, except for a general role for France in Syria (but then including Mosul) and Britain in Iraq, the borders are not today's.. The status of Mosul and Palestine would be among the first things to change, and of course the whole disposition of Anatolia would change.

One thing that would speed the unraveling of the details of  Sykes-Picot was its sudden revelation by the Bolsheviks in November 1917, which we'll discuss in Part 3.

Text of Sykes-Picot Agreement

It is accordingly understood between the French and British governments:
That France and Great Britain are prepared to recognize and protect an independent Arab states or a confederation of Arab states (a) and (b) marked on the annexed map, under the suzerainty of an Arab chief.
That in area (a) France, and in area (b) great Britain, shall have priority of right of enterprise and local loans. That in area (a) France, and in area (b) great Britain, shall alone supply advisers or foreign functionaries at the request of the Arab state or confederation of Arab states.
That in the blue area France, and in the red area great Britain, shall be allowed to establish such direct or indirect administration or control as they desire and as they may think fit to arrange with the Arab state or confederation of Arab states.
That in the brown area there shall be established an international administration, the form of which is to be decided upon after consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the other allies, and the representatives of the Shariff of Mecca.
That great Britain be accorded (1) the ports of Haifa and Acre, (2) guarantee of a given supply of water from the Tigris and Euphrates in area (a) for area (b). His majesty's government, on their part, undertake that they will at no time enter into negotiations for the cession of Cyprus to any third power without the previous consent of the French government.
That Alexandretta shall be a free port as regards the trade of the British empire, and that there shall be no discrimination in port charges or facilities as regards British shipping and British goods; that there shall be freedom of transit for British goods through Alexandretta and by railway through the blue area, or (b) area, or area (a); and there shall be no discrimination, direct or indirect, against British goods on any railway or against British goods or ships at any port serving the areas mentioned.
That Haifa shall be a free port as regards the trade of France, her dominions and protectorates, and there shall be no discrimination in port charges or facilities as regards French shipping and French goods. There shall be freedom of transit for French goods through Haifa and by the British railway through the brown area, whether those goods are intended for or originate in the blue area, area (a), or area (b), and there shall be no discrimination, direct or indirect, against french goods on any railway, or against French goods or ships at any port serving the areas mentioned.
That in area (a) the Baghdad railway shall not be extended southwards beyond Mosul, and in area (b) northwards beyond Samarra, until a railway connecting Baghdad and Aleppo via the Euphrates valley has been completed, and then only with the concurrence of the two governments.
That Great Britain has the right to build, administer, and be sole owner of a railway connecting Haifa with area (b), and shall have a perpetual right to transport troops along such a line at all times. It is to be understood by both governments that this railway is to facilitate the connection of Baghdad with Haifa by rail, and it is further understood that, if the engineering difficulties and expense entailed by keeping this connecting line in the brown area only make the project unfeasible, that the French government shall be prepared to consider that the line in question may also traverse the Polygon Banias Keis Marib Salkhad Tell Otsda Mesmie before reaching area (b).
For a period of twenty years the existing Turkish customs tariff shall remain in force throughout the whole of the blue and red areas, as well as in areas (a) and (b), and no increase in the rates of duty or conversions from ad valorem to specific rates shall be made except by agreement between the two powers.
There shall be no interior customs barriers between any of the above mentioned areas. The customs duties leviable on goods destined for the interior shall be collected at the port of entry and handed over to the administration of the area of destination.
It shall be agreed that the french government will at no time enter into any negotiations for the cession of their rights and will not cede such rights in the blue area to any third power, except the Arab state or confederation of Arab states, without the previous agreement of his majesty's government, who, on their part, will give a similar undertaking to the french government regarding the red area.
The British and French government, as the protectors of the Arab state, shall agree that they will not themselves acquire and will not consent to a third power acquiring territorial possessions in the Arabian peninsula, nor consent to a third power installing a naval base either on the east coast, or on the islands, of the Red Sea. This, however, shall not prevent such adjustment of the Aden frontier as may be necessary in consequence of recent Turkish aggression.
The negotiations with the Arabs as to the boundaries of the Arab states shall be continued through the same channel as heretofore on behalf of the two powers.

It is agreed that measures to control the importation of arms into the Arab territories will be considered by the two governments.

I have further the honor to state that, in order to make the agreement complete, his majesty's government are proposing to the Russian government to exchange notes analogous to those exchanged by the latter and your excellency's government on the 26th April last. Copies of these notes will be communicated to your excellency as soon as exchanged. I would also venture to remind your excellency that the conclusion of the present agreement raises, for practical consideration, the question of claims of Italy to a share in any partition or rearrangement of Turkey in Asia, as formulated in Article 9 of the agreement of the 26th April, 1915, between Italy and the allies.
His Majesty's Government further consider that the Japanese government should be informed of the arrangements now concluded.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Rant: The Next Week will be Full of Op-Eds about Sykes-Picot: Almost All of them Will Get it Wrong

May 19th will mark the 100th anniversary of the "Asia Minor Agreement," or as it is universally known today, the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Brace yourself.

They're going to tell you that Sykes-Picot created the modern borders of the Middle East (only a few of them), that it is being overturned by ISIS (even less so), that it was ever really implemented /imposed (only in a limited sense),  and that all the problems of the Middle East stem from it (a bit more arguable), not to mention that the whole reason that the Middle East is such a clusterfuck mess today is because of Sykes-Picot (even more arguable).

Not because I approve of British and French diplomats carving up the Middle East while a) not asking the locals what they wanted and b) in the British case, promising the Promised Land to themselves, Jews, and Arabs at the same time. The fact is, though, that Sykes-Picot is not what you think it is because, as I've ranted before, and in fact more than once, Sykes-Picot, deplorable as it may have been, was never implemented as written.

Look at the map above. Does it look like today's Middle East? In addition to the British and French (pink and blue) zones, Zones A and B are areas of their influence. France controls Mosul, Kirkuk, and northern Iraq. Britain gets the rest of Iraq, plus southern Palestine, while northern Palestine and Jerusalem are internationalized. Russia controls Constantinople and the Straits, and Armenia. Italy gets its own pound of flesh. But that is not the postwar map of the Middle East.

The reason is simple: "Sykes-Picot" has become a convenient shorthand for "the entire postwar settlement of the Ottoman territories," not the original agreement.

My readers who have studied the history know this: even before the agreement the Hussein-McMahon correspondence, and soon after,the Balfour Declaration,  the Paris Peace Talks, the Treaty of Sèvres, the San Remo Conference, the Treaty of Lausanne, and other agreements.

I will be discussing the whole postwar settlement package in coming days. My goal is not to exonerate Sir Mark Sykes and M. Picot, but to place their colonial enterprise in broader context.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Thoughts on the Latest Saudi Reshuffle

The latest Saudi Cabinet reshuffle over the weekend included  the replacement of powerful Petroleum Minister‘Ali al-Na‘imi, and the realignment of several other ministries, and serves as a reminder of just how much things have changed under the ascendancy of Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. The 80-year-old Na‘imi had had disagreements with Muhammad in Salman (or MbS as he's sometimes referred to) and had held the position for 20 years. The oil experts can debate what the change means for energy policies, but the change underscores just how unusual a change in the Oil Ministry has been: in the 54 years from 1962 (a decade before the rise in oil prices) until last Saturday, Saudi Arabia had six Kings (Sa‘ud, Faisal, Khalid, Fahd, ‘Abdullah, Salman), but only three Oil Ministers (Shaikh Ahmad Zaki Yamani, 1962-1986, Hisham Nazer, 1986-1995, and ‘Ali Na‘imi, 1995-2016). The selection of Aramco President and CEO Khalid A. Al-Falih is no surprise, since that's the classic route to the Oil Minister's job, but it's indicative of how rare such changes are.

Khalid al-Falih
In fact, those of us who have followed the KSA for years have gotten used to the fact that barring death or serious illness, key posts in Saudi Arabia rarely change.  The late Foreign Minister Sa‘ud al-Faisal served from 1975 until 2015, a full 40 years, and when he stepped down for health reasons only a few weeks before his death, he was the world's longest-serving Foreign Minister. The late Prince Sultan, though admittedly a senior prince and full brother of King Fahd, held the Defense Ministry from 1963 until his death in 2011; Prince Nayef was Interior Minister from 1975-2012; the late King ‘Abdullah, before taking the throne, headed the National Guard from 1962 to 2010 and passed command to his son. Traditionally, "Cabinet reshuffle" in Saudi Arabia either meant changing the Deputy Minister of some obscure ministry or replacing somebody who died.

The rise of 30-year-old Muhammad bin Salman has turned much of the usual way of doing business in the KSA leadership on its head, and whether that's good or bad remains an open question.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Beirut in the "Golden Age" Before the Civil War

A little Friday night nostalgia: I first saw Beirut in 1972, three years before the civil war began. For those who never saw the Lebanese capital in its glory days, or for those who want to recall it as it once was, here is a collection of photos from the 1960s.

Writing in Arabia Before Islam

The history of pre-Islamic Arabia, and of what languages preceded the rise of Classical Arabic, is a fascinating subject and one still emerging. Most may have heard of the Old South Arabian languages, which are quite a separate matter, but the various scripts and languages of Northern Arabia are less well known. The 15-Minute History Podcast at the University of Texas at Austin has a podcast for those interested in Ancient Arabia and Comparative Semitics (and who isn't?), "Episode 82: What Writing Can Tell Us About the Arabs before Islam", which is introduced as follows:
In most world history survey courses, Arabia is introduced for the first time only as backstory to the rise of Islam. We’re told that there was a tradition of oral poetry in Arabic, a language native to central Arabia, and that the Qur’an was the zenith of this oral tradition. New evidence, however, suggests that Arabia was linguistically diverse, that the language we’ve come to know as Arabic originated in modern day Jordan, and that the looping cursive writing system that’s become the language’s hallmark wasn’t the original system used to write it. What to make of all this?
Guest Ahmad al-Jallad co-directs archaeological/epigraphic projects in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, uncovering new inscriptions thousands of years old, and shares his research that’s shedding new light on the writings of a complex civilization that lived in the Arabian peninsula for centuries before Islam arose.
You can listen to the podcast at the link.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

That Explains It: Mideast Vioence is Tom & Jerry's Fault

For years, the Middle East has tended to blame others for its woes: the US, Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, or all of the above conspiring together. But now the Head of Egypt's State Information Service, speaking at a Cairo University Conference, has uncovered another culprit: Tom & Jerry cartoons. (Also here.)

So when we talk about addressing the root causes of ISIS, we should go after MGM and Hanna-Barbera?

Personally I find this ridiculous. I blame Warner Bros.: the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote are much more violent.

Davutoğlu's Fall

The "resignation" of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu marks another step in the continuing concentration of power by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He "resigned" after losing the confidence of the AKP Party's Board, which has increasingly been packed with Erdoğan loyalists. Tensions between the President and Prime Minister have been rising for some time, as described here.

Erdoğan's desire to amend the Constitution to create an executive Presidency is well known,  but  he lacks a sufficient majority to do so, and a referendum is considered unlikely to carry. When the AKP Board meets this month to choose a successor to Davutoğlu it will presumably choose a more malleable ally of the President.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Nusra, ISIS Push Back in Aleppo and Deir al-Zor

Although the pro-regime alliance have declared completing the encirclement of Aleppo and the lifting of the siege of the garrison at Deir al-Zor as its primary military objectives, in the past few days Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies counterattacked in Aleppo and set off a tunnel bomb under several regime controlled buildings, a tactic the the rebels have used previously, having bombed Air Force Intelligence in Aleppo in March 2015 using a tunnel bomb; some accounts suggest this bomb was under or near the ruins of that building.

Meanwhile, in the east, ISIS sought to expand its control in Deir al-Zor by pushing back the regime defenders there; ISIS presumably hopes to gain control of Deir al-Zor airfield, which has been essential to Syrian regime and Russian resupply of the besieged garrison.

Although regime reports suggest that both offensives has been pushed back, today's announcement that the partial troop has been extended to Aleppo mat be a sign that the offensives had some effect. Regime and Russian news reports that were touting both the Aleppo and Deir al-Zor advances seem more muted.

Below is a pro0-regime video of drone footage purporting to show the latest tunnel bomb damage.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sham al-Nassim

Sham al-Nissim delicacies (Al Kahira-Cairo-LeCaire)
Greetings to Egyptian (and Sudanese) readers on Sham al-Nassim, the national spring holiday for "smelling the breeze"," when locals travel or picnic along the Nile, marked by traditional foods (above) and celebrated on Coptic Easter Monday, though it is celebrated equally by Muslims and Christians, and formerly, by Jews.

Said to be a survival of the Ancient Egyptian spring feast Shemu, which would make it, with Wafa' al-Nil, the Nile Flood holiday in August, one of two holidays surviving from Ancient Egypt.

Relax and enjoy the long weekend if you've had off since Friday.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Easter Greetings

Easter Greetings to all who celebrate according to the Orthodox and other Eastern Christian traditions that celebrate today.