Are you an Assadist?

Hunkering down: a poster of Syria's president at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus, Jan. 14 2012. (E. Arrott/VOA)

Some people whose interest in the Middle East is recent think that Assad is a uniquely Syrian phenomenon. I think the excessively harsh despotism and the equally excessive ability to cruelly exterminate your own population while believing yourself to be setting your nation on the road to modernity are quite unique in terms of their degree and intensity, but Assadism is nonetheless a more widespread political disposition in the Arab world. It can even be described as a mode of being. How do you recognise an Assadist? Here are some helpful suggestions for the newcomers: • An Assadist is anyone who … Continue reading

The BBC is not ‘left-wing’

You often hear the BBC described as having a ‘left-wing’ bias. This is despite all the evidence to the contrary. The logic behind such accusations seems to be that the state and its institutions are inherently ‘left-wing’. Although the BBC is somewhat removed from the market pressures heaped upon private companies, it is still subject to the same sorts of political pressures facing state bodies. The absence of advertising and corporate sponsors does not leave them totally beholding to the state. The BBC does enjoy an aloof relationship with the state. Of course, though the BBC is a public service … Continue reading

Catastroika

So Russia is now an active participant in the Syrian civil war. The pretext is standard: Islamic State must be defeated at any cost to the Syrian people. Yet the bombs are falling on other rebel targets – al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra, no doubt – and civilian targets are not out of bounds. Russian bombs have already hit hospitals and medical centres. These incidents will only increase as the bombing continues, and the war continues to hurtle onward. As I wrote before the Russian army began bombing Syria, Vladimir Putin has a more coherent strategy than the Western powers – which … Continue reading