A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘iraq

[NEWS] Some Monday links

  • Al Jazeera notes the inequitable terms of a trade agreement between the European Union and West Africa, observes that so far north Kazakhstan isn’t vulnerable to Russian irredentism in the same way as east Ukraine, explores the Northern Gateway pipeline controversy, detects Kurdish-Turkmen tension in the city of Kirkuk, and looks at the Japanese-Brazilian community.
  • The Atlantic explains why poor American women increasingly don’t wait for marriage or even relationships to become parents (what else do they have to do?) and notes the successful treatment of a mentally ill bonobo.
  • BusinessWeek notes that authors of best-sellers tend to be successful American presidential candidates, comments on potential problems of Russia’s South Stream pipeline project in Serbia, and notes that more airlines are cutting service to a Venezuela that doesn’t want to pay their costs in scarce American dollars.
  • CBC notes that Scottish independence could cause change in the flag of the United Kingdom, observes the beginning of peace talks in eastern Ukraine, notes the contamination of a salmon river in eastern Quebec by a municipal dump.
  • MacLean’s examines the collapse of the Iraqi military, looks at the psychology of online abusers, and explains the import of some archeological discoveries in Yukon.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • blogTO notes that the Global Village Backpackers building on the northeast corner of King and Spadina is up for sale.
  • Centauri Dreams and the Planetary Society Blog both comment on the almost last-minute search by the Hubble space telescope for Kuiper belt objects to be targets for the New Horizons probe after it passes Pluto.
  • Crooked Timber’s Corey Robin speculates that the alleged boredom of Obama in office might be taken as a marker for imminent revolutionary sentiment.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that the protoplanetary disk of protostar IRAS 16293-2422 is composed of two segments, both rotating in opposite directions.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money approves of Mattherw Yglesias’ argument that some wars, like a proposed intervention in Iraq, are unwinnable.
  • Marginal Revolution has more on the court decision against Argentina for the benefit of its creditors.
  • Registan describes what the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is doing in Pakistan. (Putting down roots.)
  • Savage Minds features a post by a pair of anthropologists advocating that the discipline take part in a boycott of Israel.
  • Torontoist profiles the #parkdalelove Twitter campaign mounted after Mammoliti’s ridiculous statements.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy reports on a lawsuit by a convert to the church that converted him, alleging that because they publicized his conversion from Islam contrary to his request his life was threatened in Syria.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that Russia annexed Crimea because it thought alternative separatist movements in Ukraine were budding.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • The Dragon’s Gaze examines the very complicated history of the formation of the trinary system of Fomalhaut.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a report on the study claiming to find chemical evidence of the impact that created the Moon out of moon rocks.
  • Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that no plausible American intervention could have prevented the fall of Mosul to ISIS.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen notes the predictions of economists that Brazil will win the World Cup.
  • Out of Ambit’s Diane Duane shares a photo of people scavenging from a hundred thousand books dumped out of a bankrupt bookstore in Ireland.
  • Livejournaler pollotenchegg maps fertility rates in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
  • The Transit Toronto blog notes the arrest of a half-dozen TTC workers on charges of embezzling from their organization.
  • Towleroad notes opposite-sex married but bisexual Anna Paquin’s Twitter posting for pride.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s David Bernstein takes issue with the idea that Jewish Republicans are rare. (Representation is, as a consequence of their distribution.)
  • Window on Eurasia links to an analyst’s concern that the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine, currently seeing fighting, might end up becoming alienated from the rest of Ukraine on the model of Northern Ireland.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • blogTO notes the TTC proposal to remove some streetcar stops.
  • Discover‘s D-Brief suggests that one reason humans are physically weaker than other primates is because we sacrificed physical strength to support our brain instead.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper suggesting Earth has much more carbon and water sequestered inside than expected.
  • Geocurrents notes that estimates on the size of various economies, including Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, often vary quite widely even between years.
  • The Inkfish blog notes that the Humboldt squid can apparently radically slow down its metabolism when it hangs out in oxygen-poor waters.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that continuing improvements in HIV/AIDS mortality have led a Vancouver hospital to shut down its dedicated ward for patients.
  • Language Log shares a photo explaining how an Arabic word on a sign in Iraqi Kurdistan as badly mistranslated.</li
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money discusses misogyny and gun control after the Rodger shooting.
  • The Planetary Society Blog announces that the parent organization supports the NASA proposal to capture an asteroid into lunar orbit, with qualifications (how much will it cost?).
  • Towleroad notes that in Ghana’s capital of Accra, a mob in a Muslim neighbourhood lynched a gay man and began looking for his partner.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the growing list of travel restrictions on Russian citizens imposed by the Russian government and argues anti-Semitism is a bigger threat in Russia than in Ukraine.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links (1)

I’ve accumulated more than a few links in the past couple of weeks. I wanted to share them, in two posts, before I left Toronto on a week-long vacation in Prince Edward Island.

  • Acts of Minor Treason’s Andrew Barton shares a vintage photo of Toronto’s Union Station from 2010, before the massive construction on Front Street that transformed the scene.
  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait notes that the very large majority of stars in the night sky are quite likely to still be alive, not having died in the mere tens of thousands of years (at most) it has taken for their light to reach us.
  • The Burgh Diaspora’s Jim Russell notes that German attitudes which force women to choose between motherhood and employment aren’t going to work in the long run.
  • Centauri Dreams suggests that landing sites on icy Europa’s chaos regions are likely to give probes access to its biologically interesting water oceans, and notes the serious problems associated with focusing lasers for interstellar solar sails across light years of space.
  • Crooked Timber’s Chris Bertram notes the hardening of British attitudes towards migrants, while John Quiggin notes the role of nepotism in the centres of globalization.
  • The Dragon’s Tales has plenty of interesting links: one suggesting that known exoplanet systems seem to follow Kepler’s law, another suggesting that habitable exomoons are likely to orbit at least part of the time outside of the local stellar habitable zone if they’re to avoid overheating, and a third one mapping the genetic legacies of different ancient migrations to the Western Hemisphere.
  • Eastern Approaches notes the new cosmopolitanism and experimenting of Polish cuisine and chronicles the destructiveness of the continued alienation and even oppression of the Roma of Hungary.
  • Far Outlier’s Joel notes the growing popularity of baseball in the late 19th century Kingdom of Hawai’i and chronicles the origins of smallpox inoculation among the beauty practices of Circassian female slaves.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Alex Harrowell makes an argument that independent satellite surveillance played a role in the decisions of France and Germany not to involve themselves in Iraq. Commenters dissent, suggesting that an Italy equally plugged into Franco-German networks didn’t care about the intelligence.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that a bare majority of Taiwanese now support same-sex marriage, and comments approvingly about American gay conservative Jamie Kirchick’s calling out of Russian homophobia on Russia Today at the expense of his career with that station.

[LINK] “Syria: Inventing a Religious War”

Facebook’s Conrad linked to Toby Matthiesen‘s post at the New York Review of Books blog about how Shi’ite international support for the Syrian government is a consequence of very specific choices made by the Syrian government to acquire Islamic credibility for the Alawite sect whose members dominated the Syrian elite, and international allies.

Since late May, pictures of Hezbollah militants standing amid the ruins of al-Qusayr, the former Syrian rebel stronghold, have offered dramatic evidence of the extent to which foreign Shia fighters are shifting the course of the Syrian war. To many observers, the Lebanese militia’s entry into the conflict has shown definitively that it has been a sectarian war from the outset. According to this view, Syria’s Alawite sect, to which the Assad clan and its security forces belong, is “quasi Shiite,” a fact which accounts for the government’s alliances to Iran and Hezbollah; while Syrian rebel forces are overwhelmingly dominated by the country’s aggrieved Sunni majority, now backed by the Sunni governments of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey, along with various foreign Sunni jihadis.

But Bashar al-Assad is head of an ostensibly secular Baathist regime and many Shia think that Alawites are heretics. Why exactly is Hezbollah getting involved, and is this conflict really rooted in religion? The answer to both these questions may lie in a suburb of Damascus called Sayyida Zainab, the site of an important Shia shrine and since the 1970s a haven for foreign Shia activists and migrants in Syria. Today, Hezbollah forces, along with Iraqi Shia fighters, defend the suburb. Though the story of Sayyida Zainab is little known in the West, it may help explain why what began as a peaceful uprising against secular authoritarian rule in 2011 has increasingly become a war between Shia and Sunni that has engulfed much of the surrounding region.

Sayyida Zainab—located some six miles to the southeast of central Damascus—is named after the daughter of the first Shia Imam, Ali Ibn Abi Talib. While Zainab is allegedly buried there (Sunnis believe she is buried in the large Sayyida Zainab mosque in Cairo), the site is less important in the Shia tradition than the shrines in Iraq and Iran. In fact Sayyida Zainab only became a site of mass pilgrimage in the 1980s and 1990s, when a large shrine was built around the tomb with Iranian support.

By the time I did fieldwork there in 2008, however, the suburb of around 150,000 people had become a meeting ground for Shia from around the world. During the summer months, the foreign Shia population would reach tens of thousands, with up to one million pilgrims visiting Sayyida Zainab every year. There were clerics and students from the Gulf, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Africa, and South-East Asia, among other places. Publishers of cultural and religious magazines from Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula were having late-night discussions in the bookshops opposite the shrine. Young religious students were sitting in the Hawza Zainabiyya, a large center for Shia religious study there, or in one of the other smaller religious schools reading and discussing with their mentors. Iranian pilgrims could pay with Iranian currency, their thousand-tuman notes with the iconic picture of Khomeini bundled in the hands of the street vendors.

It was a world apart from the coffee houses and government buildings of central Damascus, where the old rhetoric of secular Arab nationalism still dominated, and at the time, I found it difficult to fathom the government’s reasons for allowing a suburb full of foreign religious students and clerics to flourish. Most Syrians I met had never been to Sayyida Zainab, and whenever I told people I was going there, they advised me not to go, complaining about the Iranians and Iraqis living there and arguing that it didn’t belong to the Syria they knew. Only after the Syrian uprising began in 2011 did it become clear to me that Sayyida Zainab was a crucial part of the alliance with Iran and Arab Shia militias that has until now allowed the Assad regime to keep the upper hand in the civil war.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 18, 2013 at 2:36 am

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Acts of Minor Treason’s Andrew Barton photographs the Gibraltar Point lighthouse and wonders about the Toronto Islands.
  • Bag News Notes visits Iraqi Kurdistan and the survivors of Saddam Hussein’s gassing of the Kurdish city of Halabja.
  • At Behind the Numbers, Mark Mather notes that the projected size of the American population in decades hence has decreased owing to the recession-related fall in the birth rate.
  • Eastern Approaches notes the church-sponsored attack on a gay pride protestin Georgia, its implications for law and order in Georgia, and the impact on Georgia’s reputation abroad.
  • Geocurrents’ Asya Perelstvaig goes over the fluctuating Russo-Finnish border regions.
  • GNXP’s Razib Khan argues that devoting ten thousand hours to practising a particular skill, as described by Gladwell, won’t do anything if one doesn’t have the requisite talent.
  • Language Hat notes an article on the life of Alice Kober, one of the linguists who helped decrypy the Minoan script Linear B.
  • Open the Future’s Jamais Cascio wonders how astronomers would recognize artifacts of a supercivilization–Dyson spheres, FTL warp bubbles, et cetera–as artifacts.
  • Window on Eurasia’s Paul Goble notes that many Russian nationalists are opposed to integrating with post-Soviet countries, particularly in Central Asia, that are currently de-Russifying.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • Over at the Burgh Diaspora, Jim Russell takes a look at Japan’s system of higher education, with a proliferating number of institutions and faculties but collapsing numbers of students, and argues that financially viable higher education systems will need students beyond their immediate catchment area.
  • Crooked Timber’s Henry Farrell starts a discussion about post-democratic governments such as Italy’s recent Monti government and elsewhere, and wonders what response there can be apart from an inchoate populism.
  • The Dragon’s Tales’ Will Baird links to a paper suggesting that the greenhouse effect has been mitigated in the past decade by the sulfur dioxide from volcanic eruptions.
  • At False Steps, Paul Drye contemplates the abortive joint ESA-Russia effort at an Ariane-launched spaceplane, the Kliper.
  • Geocurrents’ Martin Lewis notes, with some local distinctions, the contrast between a broadly secular and liberal minded core Egypt (Cairo and the upper delta) contrasted with a more conservative rest of the country.
  • At The Power and the Money, Douglas Muir expects the Syrian civil war to continue for a good while yet.
  • Towleroad reports on Lech Walesa’s homophobic statements, denounced even by Walesa’s own son.
  • Understanding Society’s Daniel Little sees reason for concern about the long-term effectiveness and academic credibility of the French university system.
  • Window on Eurasia’s Paul Goble notes, via others, the alienation of western Kazakhstan–rich in natural resources, more conservative, but subordinates–from the remainder of the country.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alexander Harrowell reminds his readers–proponents of the Iraq war, too–of the broad consensus in the United Kingdom against the 2003 invasion and its sequelae.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • James Bow comes out in support of today’s strike by Ontario teachers.
  • Beyond the Beyond’s Bruce Sterling links to an article describing how NASA archivists tried to recover data from a 1960s lunar orbiter.
  • Centauri Dreams has two posts on habitable exomoons, the first on gas giants in the habitable zones of other stars and the second on the requirements for moons to be habitable. (They would need to be roughly a quarter the mass of the Earth.)
  • Daniel Drezner likes the idea of a United States-European Union transatlantic free trade agreement.
  • Eastern Approaches notes the directions of Slovakia’s foreign policy.
  • Norman Geras links to a blogger who suggests that, if Saddam Hussein stayed in power in Iraq, the Arab Spring in that country could have been bloody. (Look at Syria.)
  • Understanding Society’s Daniel Little takes a look at the idea that different generations have different experiences.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on a Russian writer who notes that the North Caucasus and its population cotninues to identify as Russian, and shares in Russian experiences. No separatism there.

[LINK] “Syria border standoff a new front in Iraq-Kurdish rift”

Patrick Markey’s Reuters article analyzing the tensions between autonomous Kurdistan and the Iraqi central government over their respective approaches to the Syrian civil war–Iraqi Kurdistan is closely allying itself with the anti-central Syrian Kurds, at least, while the Iraqi central government dominated by Shi’ites doesn’t want the current Iranian-allied government to be dislodged–makes for cheery reading. Oil makes things wonderfully complicated, too.

Might we yet have another Kurdish war in Iraq, or maybe even a broader conflict?

Over a few days last week, Baghdad and Kurdish officials separately rushed troops to the Syrian frontier, ostensibly to secure it against unrest in the neighboring country; but the mobilization brought Iraqi Arab and Kurdish soldiers face to face along their own disputed internal border.

Washington intervened and a potential clash was avoided. But the standoff opened a new front in Baghdad’s already dangerously fragile relations with the Kurds in their push for more autonomy from central government.

“We don’t want to fight, we are both Iraqis, but if war comes, we won’t run,” said Peshmerga Ismael Murad Khady, sitting under a straw awning to ward off the sun, the battered stock of a BKC machine gun pointing not towards some foreign border but at fellow countrymen manning the Iraqi army post.

Just visible are Iraqi army trenches and tents beyond the empty stretch of road that is now a de facto no-man’s land in this small frontline. Nearby, local cars kick up dust as they take sidetracks to skirt the two posts.

Behind the Peshmerga, a title that means literally ‘those who lay down their lives’, a battery of Kurdish 122-mm howitzers directs its barrels towards the Iraqi line. They are part of the heavier armour reinforcements Kurdistan and Iraq drafted into the disputed area just a kilometre from the Syrian border.

Always a potential flashpoint, tensions between Baghdad and Kurdistan escalated after U.S. troops left in December, removing a buffer between the Iraqi Arab dominated central government and ethnic Kurds who have run their own autonomous area since 1991.

Iraq’s national army units and Peshmerga have faced off before, only to pull back before clashes as both regions tested each other’s nerves, lacking however any interest in confrontation.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki, a Shi’ite muslim, and Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani have sparred more aggressively since America’s withdrawal, as Kurdistan chaffs against central government control.

At the heart of their dispute are contested territories claimed by Iraqi Arabs and Kurds and crude reserves now attracting majors like Exxon and Chevron to Kurdistan, upsetting Baghdad, which says it controls rights to develop oil.

Though autonomous, Kurdistan still relies on Baghdad for its share of the national oil revenues.

Kurdistan is growing increasingly closer to neighbour Turkey as it talks about ways to export its own oil and not rely on Baghdad. Maliki’s government accuses Kurdistan of violating the law by signing deals with oil majors.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 9, 2012 at 9:47 pm


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