20 Dec 2013

What happened when Lebanon introduced police lineups

The Lebanese police are always looking for ways to modernise and as part of this quest for improvement they recently introduced police lineups for the first time in the history of the country. We were invited to observe and report this unique experiment.

A man who had been robbed at gunpoint was brought into a chamber separated by one-way glass from another room in which six men that are similar in appearance stood in a classic lineup. The police officer in charge of the investigation, Colonel Karam, conducted the proceedings with the victim, Mr Adel X.

Karam: “Adel, do you recognise any of these men?”

Adel: “Can number one step closer please?”

19 Dec 2013

What this old way of selling mediocre donkeys can tell us about jihadis in Syria

In the old days in the Levant if you had a mediocre donkey that you wanted to sell you resorted to a time-tested method. You place the mediocre donkey next to the skinniest, weakest-looking donkey you can find which makes the mediocre donkey look far more attractive to prospective buyers. Many a naïve person was parted with his gold in return for an average donkey. Everything is relative, as they say.

2013 on Karl reMarks: Six posts to remember the year with

As the year 2013 comes to an end, I selected six of my favourite posts to remember the year with.

March: It’s ever so simple: a tribal map of the Middle East
This is one of my all time favourite posts, it's a satirical take on the way some pundits and journalists insist on seeing Middle Eastern politics as driven by ancient tribal rivalries. 

"The Middle East. The land of minarets and veils and other inaccurate clichés. Where every male’s earliest memory is being assaulted by a stranger who cut off a piece of his genitals, and they wonder why there is so much aggression. The Middle East remains a mysterious place that defies Western understanding because of its complexity and the stubborn refusal of so many to accept broad generalisations about it." Continue reading here.

August: Exclusive: transcript of the intercepted al-Qaeda phone call that sparked embassy closures
I look at what caused the major US freak out and led to the closure of many of its embassies across the Middle East and other places. The intelligence turned out to be an intercepted phone conversation between al-Qaeda's leaders. I provided the full transcript.

"NW: This is becoming more mysterious. Your voice sounds familiar, but this connection is very bad. 
AZ: Oh, curse the devil, I’m al-Zawahiri. 
NW: Who? 
NW: Who? 
AZ: Z – A – W –A – H – I – R – I - " Continue reading here.

July: Liberals, Communists and Assorted Infidels: The Ultimate Guide to Arab Secularists
Following the coup in Egypt in July, many Arab secularists confused the rest of the world with their support for the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and embracing military rule. I take a closer look at who Arab secularists are and what alcoholic beverages each group prefers.

"The liberals are the granddaddies of all Arab secularists. They see themselves as the vanguard in the fight against Islamists, and they often say things like: “this is not my true Islam”, despite not having set foot in a mosque for 17 years. They mostly work for the UN, the World Bank, and western think tanks, but this doesn’t fool Arab leftists who know that this is the perfect cover for the western imperialist conspiracy." Continue reading here.

May: The Angry Arab Interviews Himself About Syria
The Angry Arab ran a series of interviews with respected experts and journalists about the situation in Syria. He promised to interview himself at the end of the series, a task that I volunteered to carry out on his behalf. A good thing I did because he never published that interview. Also check out the first comment on the post.

"AA: It’s quite unusual for an analyst to interview themselves, don’t you think it’s a bit pretentious?
AA: You’re one to talk.
AA: Ha, ha, good point, let’s get down to the interview then. What in your opinion is happening in Syria?
AA: I have talked a lot about this, and I would have expected you to start by asking me a more rigorous questions but you obviously haven’t done your homework." 
At the end of the summer the debate about the 'moderates' in Syria was heating up amid claims that the Islamists have taken over the Syrian rebellion entirely. I provide a helpful guide to the moderate Syrian rebels that include the likes of the legendary Red Unicorn Brigades. 

"The Roses of Damascus Brigade

The ‘Roses’, as they are commonly referred to, are so moderate they only fight on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. In the words of their leader Abu Randa, there’s more to life than revolutions, that’s why they like to dedicate the rest of the week to yoga, stamp collecting and spending time with the family."
Continue reading here.

How is Libya shaping up after the overthrow of Gaddafi? I take a closer look at Libya's emerging democracy. 

"The General National Congress is an elected chamber, much like any other parliament in the world outside North Korea and parts of the Gulf. However the GNC’s procedures were designed to give a voice for those who lost in the elections but still have lots of weapons. A simple majority is used to determine the outcome of legislative votes, but this could be invalidated should 15 or more armed men burst into the chamber screaming and waving their machineguns in the air. At this point, the chairman must recognise the motion and moves to delay the vote and must rush out saying “I’m sorry I have to leave, I’m invited to dinner.” (But using more than 25 men is considered bad form according to convention.)" Continue reading here.

Feel free to suggest your favourite posts in the comment section below. If you're new to the blog, like this blog's page on Facebook to stay updated about new posts or follow me on Twitter. Read other satirical posts here.

16 Dec 2013

Essay: The Arab Uprisings and Self-Determination - The Missed Opportunity

This essay was written in August 2013 and was published in German in Novo Argumente. I am publishing it in English for the first time here. 

As I write these words, a bloody massacre is being committed by the Egyptian police and army as they attempt to clear out two Muslim Brotherhood encampments set up to protest the military coup that removed President Mohamed Morsi from power on the 3rd of July. Amid the violence that claimed hundreds of lives, the authorities declared the return of the dreaded State of Emergency, a reminder of Egypt’s decades-long dictatorship which came to end when Hosni Mubarak was deposed on the 11th of February 2011. The combination of the violent repression and the reinstatement of the State of Emergency have effectively ended Egypt’s short-lived democracy, at least for now.

Six Kalīlah wa Dimnah Tales: Thinly-Veiled Arab Spring Fables

The Lion King engaging in dialogue with a protester
While researching the ancient Arab animal fables book Kalīlah wa Dimnah I came across these six incredible tales in a chapter called The Spring. They bear an uncanny resemblance to our modern day situation and there are many lessons that could be learned from these wise stories, which is why I am sharing them with the general public.

The Turtle King of Toonis

Once in the green forest of Toonis there lived a tyrant turtle who ruled with an iron fist. The Turtle King was in power for decades and had amassed a huge fortune which he shared only with a narrow circle of his relatives while the rest of the animals lived in poverty. The turtle king awarded lucrative government contracts to his wife and his close relatives which bred discontent among the general population.

12 Dec 2013

‘I had a dream’: A brief history of Arab dictators and their not so subconscious

Egypt’s strong man Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has revealed that he had a dream 35 years ago that one day he will be the President of Egypt. The interpretation of dreams is a favourite Arab pastime, there’s nothing that we love more than analysing night-time revelations. The more complex the dream the more enjoyment we will derive out of it. Al-Sisi’s is certainly a complex and mysterious dream, and who knows what it could really mean. To that end, Egyptians and other Arabs have set up popular committees and working groups to pour over the dream’s details and explain the meaning of al-Sisi’s vision. Much coffee will be consumed from Casablanca to Muscat in the coming days.

Now al-Sisi can best be described as a reluctant dictator. Quite how reluctant, time will tell. But he is certainly manifesting several of the symptoms we typically associate with Arab dictators. For one thing, there’s the proliferation of his images in public spaces and in the media. Then there’s his lack of inhibition in using force to achieve his political aims. A less known syndrome however is the Arab dictator’s proclivity for experiencing vivid and elaborate dreams that go on to play an important role in the history of the nation. Below we list a selection of the most remarkable Arab dictator ‘I had a dream’ moments.

Saddam Hussein and the Magical Egg

5 Dec 2013

P is for Party: The Secrets of Hezbollah’s Mysterious Code

Hezbollah, invariably described by western media as the Shiite Lebanese militant group to distinguish it from all the other Hezbollahs out there, has earned itself a well-deserved reputation for its legendary logistical capabilities. The group’s notorious secret code has particularly come to attention as it allows its members to communicate over open lines without fear of interception. Hezbollah’s radio communications in Syria, where it is fighting alongside government troops, have baffled its opponents who could not decipher this secret language made up of obscure cultural references, colloquialisms and logical puns.

The secret language, knows as Da Fneishi Code after the Hezbollah cadre who developed it, is virtually impenetrable to outsiders. We have obtained transcripts of some of the radio exchanges between Hezbollah fighters engaged in battle in Syria which we publish below with some commentary and explanations. The exchanges were recorded by Syrian rebels and represent a fascinating insight into the Party’s operational methods. You can listen to some of those exchange on Youtube.

3 Dec 2013

Catch the Rabbit! The International Intelligence Agency Tournament

American Special Forces infiltrating the rabbits. Thanks to @APHClarkson for the image 
There’s an old joke that goes like this: at the international tournament for secret intelligence services they play a game to determine which is the best agency. They let a rabbit loose in a forest and the agency that captures the rabbit in the shortest period of time wins the competition.

The German secret service retrieved the rabbit in half an hour. They were acting on a tip from a neighbor that thought the rabbit was behaving strangely because he didn't put his recycling in the correct bin.

22 Nov 2013

Dear Britain: A Reply from Lebanon

That looks complicated. We're so impressed

Dear Britain,

We recently received a spam letter from one of your representatives and while we appreciate the effort that went into writing it, you must understand that we are busy and we don’t have time to read advice from former global powers. We have tried to unsubscribe from your spam by replying to the email with ‘unsubscribe’ in the subject line but invariably we keep getting unsolicited advice from your politicians, ambassadors, journalists and Robert Fisk. So we had no other option but to write this letter.

Firstly, let’s address the matter of age. We get the impression that you were talking down to us as a young 70-year-old republic. The key word here is republic, something that still eludes you as you cling to an archaic monarchy and try to pass it off as a national quirk rather than the medieval anachronism that it is.


7 Nov 2013

Death in Ramallah, Poirot Investigates Arafat’s Murder

Hercule Poirot paused before he entered the study. The unpleasant encounter with the Israeli soldiers at the gate had irritated the great detective. I didn't come out of retirement to be humiliated like this, he thought to himself. The soldiers had mocked his moustache of which he took great care, and inquired whether he was smuggling any ‘humanitarian aid’ under his bulging waistline. M. Poirot’s demeanour was always a sensitive subject to him, but he wasn’t going to let those goons distract him from the job at hand. His greatest challenge perhaps. He opened the door and walked in.

4 Nov 2013

Exclusive: The Text of Jumblatt's Letter to Bashar al-Assad

As the Daily Star reported today, Walid Jumblatt sent a conciliatory letter to Bashar al-Assad. In an exclusive scoop, we have obtained the full text of this letter that signals major shifts in the region in the coming period.

Dear Bashar,

I am writing you at this critical juncture of the history of the heroic Arab nation, hoping that you will have the foresight and patience to hear what I have to say. Yes, I am indeed back in one of my pan-Arab phases. I don’t understand why people criticise me for those phases that I have, I think of them as the equivalent of Picasso’s periods. They are expressions of my political creativity. ‘Principles, principles’ they say. So boring.

3 Nov 2013

Frequently Asked Questions about Morsi’s Show Trial

We answer questions about the laws and events behind ousted president Mohamed Morsi's trial, scheduled to begin on Monday.

What kind of court will conduct the trial?


Are show trials normal in Egypt?

Only when regular trials are inconvenient.

Isn't this against the spirit of the law?

We don’t come to your country and tell you how to run your courts.

11 Oct 2013

Reporting from the Annual Conference for Arab Militias

Now in its fourth year, the Annual Conference for Arab Militias has become the event to attend in the world of alternative power structures in the Arab world. This year’s conference entitled ‘Undermining the State Monopoly on Violence: Challenges, Tactics and Theoretical Frameworks’ was held in the Qatari capital Doha and has firmly placed the event on the applied post-structuralism event calendar. The conference was attended by hundreds of delegates representing militias all the way from Libya to Iraq. In order to inform our readers about this event, we sent our correspondent Osman Haraki and he came back with fascinating report.

1 Oct 2013

Your Syrian Horoscope

Your Syrian Horoscope for the first week of October 2013.

21 March – 19 April

Not a good week to start a business, look for a job, start dating or buy a house. Use this as an opportunity to organize your thoughts and plan for the future and avoid going out unless it’s absolutely necessary. Chances of bread shortage are very high.

17 Sept 2013

How Barack and Hassan Became Pen Pals

Dear Hassan,

It's very nice to correspond with you, I have never talked to anyone from Iran before. I work for the government here, and I have a very difficult job but I live in a nice big house with a garden. Please tell me more about yourself.


Barack Hussein Obama

Dear Barack,

I noticed that your middle name is Hussein, that is a very special name in my culture. Are you a Muslim?

I work for the government too, but I'm also a cleric. We're more honest here than in America about how we mix religion and government, we don’t try to pretend like you.

Yours sincerely,

Hassan Rouhani

11 Sept 2013

الشياطين ال١٣ في الربيع العربي

بدأ جهاز الاتصال الخاص بإصدار أزيزه المزعج، مما أوقظ بوعمير من قيلولته. استغرقه بعض الوقت كي يحدد مصدر الصوت، وعندما وصل أخيرا ورفع السماعة كان انزعاج الرقم صفر واضحا.
"لماذا لم تجاوب بسرعة؟"
"يا أخي رقم صفر لماذا لا تستعمل الهاتف الخلوي كالجميع ألان؟ هذا الجهاز القديم من السبعينات متخلف جدا"
"أنت تعرف قواعد المنظمة. لا يجب التواصل إلا عبر الأجهزة المعتمدة. من معي؟"
"ما قلة الانضباط هذه؟ أنت تعرف أنه لا يجب أن تستخدم اسمك. من معي؟"
"اه، نسيت. معك الرقم خمسة. لك أكثر من عامان لم تتصل."

Don't Shout At The Telly : The Coup In Egypt

Watch the discussion that I did with the Worldwrite volunteers about the coup in Egypt.

10 Sept 2013

The incredible story of how Putin used secret KGB chess tactics to outwit the US

Kavlov in 1949, a secret photograph taken by US intelligence camera concealed in his chess board
Russia’s incredibly quick response to John Kerry’s suggestion yesterday that Syria could avert a US strike if it handed its chemical weapons was a masterful tactical move by the Kremlin master. Putin instructed his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to make a statement that Russia will ensure that Syria will surrender and agree to the destruction of its chemical weapon, extending a process a lifeline to president Obama who was struggling to convince US representatives of the necessity of attacking Syria.

Many commentators have pointed that Putin’s quick thinking has offered a convenient solution for all involved, but few have recognised the role that chess played in this incident. Keen enthusiast of the game will recognise that Putin’s proposal was a variation on the classic ‘Jabowntski sacrifice’, in which a functionally-degraded chess piece is sacrificed to create space for manoeuvre elsewhere. But that is only half the story.

6 Sept 2013

Who are the moderates in Syria? A so-so guide to easy-going rebels

The US Secretary of State John Kerry has asserted that moderate rebel groups in Syria are growing in influence, contrary to the common perception that the rebels are dominated by Islamic extremists. In order to get to the bottom of this we commissioned an in-depth study that has concluded that moderates do indeed represent the majority of the Syrian rebels. They are however constantly over-shadowed by the jihadis who frequently do rebel-ish things like fighting battles and shrieking while waving rifles in the air. The moderates are prevented by an innate sense of decorum from acting in this buffoonish way but that doesn’t mean that they are not a significant, albeit subtle, force within Syria. 

16 Aug 2013

“I told you so”, Arab cynic says as the hopes of millions are dashed

An Arab man last night summed up the feelings of thousands of other cynics with four short words: “I told you so.” The statement galvanised the cynic community and emboldened them to express their long-repressed views about the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, in what has been described as a historic resurgence of misanthropy in the Middle East.

“I knew it all along”, said Rami Kamel, 33, originally from Egypt but who now lives in New York and describes himself as an ‘ethical techpreneur’. Experts agree that the made-up word clearly indicates what an irritating, know-it-all type of person he is, but that shouldn’t detract from the power of his words. Mr Kamel took time off signing an online petition for the protection of ancient tribal land in the Amazon to make the historic statement that has resonated across the Middle East.

6 Aug 2013

Exclusive: transcript of the intercepted al-Qaeda phone call that sparked embassy closures

Thanks to our sources in the US State Department, we have obtained the transcript of the al-Qaeda telephone call that sparked temporary US embassy closures in the Middle East and worldwide travel warnings. The conversation between al-Qaeda global leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the head of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) makes it clear why the US had no option but to raise the terrorist threat level to its highest code.

2 Aug 2013

UK Government Nationalises Racism, Launches ‘Fuck Off or Face Arrest’ Campaign

Acknowledging for the first time that the private sector has failed to play its part successfully over the past few years, the UK government has taken the unprecedented step of formally nationalising racism and xenophobia. The Home Office has been granted new powers to allow it to improve both the supply and quality of racism encountered by the average non-white person on the street. To avoid accusations of discrimination, this will apply to all non-white people regardless of nationality.

30 Jul 2013

المبان في آل علمان: دليلك إلى الليبراليين والشيوعيين وباقي العلمانيين

يتفق الجميع على أن العلمانيين هم القوة الحقيقة وراء "الربيع العربي" ولكننا لا نعرف سوى القليل عن هذه المجموعة المغمورة والتي لا تحب الأضواء باستثناء ظهور هنا وهناك على البي بي سي، السي إن إن، أو الغارديان وبعض المؤتمرات الدولية. ولكن من هم هؤلاء الناس حقاً؟ للإجابة على هذا السؤال، قمنا بدراسة موثقة من شأنها لأول مرة تسليط الضوء على العلمانيين العرب والجماعات السياسية المختلفة الخاصة بهم، وما المشروبات المفضلة لديهم.

Liberals, Communists and Assorted Infidels: The Ultimate Guide to Arab Secularists

Everyone agrees that secularists are the real force behind the ‘Arab Spring’, yet we know so little about this obscure group of people that toils in virtual anonymity. Aside from the occasional foray onto the BBC, CNN, The Guardian and international leadership conferences, that is. But who are these people really? To answer that question, we commissioned an authoritative study that will for the first time shed light on Arab secularists, their different political groups, and what their favourite drinks are.

The Liberals

The liberals are the granddaddies of all Arab secularists. They see themselves as the vanguard in the fight against Islamists, and they often say things like: “this is not my true Islam”, despite not having set foot in a mosque for 17 years. They mostly work for the UN, the World Bank, and western think tanks, but this doesn’t fool Arab leftists who know that this is the perfect cover for the western imperialist conspiracy.

27 Jul 2013

Egyptian man experience vague sense of déjà vu while out protesting in support of the army

An Egyptian man experienced a vague sense of déjà vu while out protesting in support of the army last Friday. Mohamed al-Nassi, 64 from Cairo, felt the yet unexplained sensation when he was at Tahrir Square carrying a large poster of army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

23 Jul 2013

'I am like Warda': Exclusive Interview with General al-Sisi, the leader of the Glorious Egyptian Army

Since the Corrective Operation to Unseat the President (COUP) in Egypt, one name has been on everyone’s lips, General Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi the leader of the Glorious Egyptian Army©. It’s true a few were cursing him, but most honourable citizens of Egypt and the other Arab countries were behind the General’s historical corrective manoeuvre against the Muslim Brotherhood.

1 Jul 2013

Arab Dictators: A National Geographic Special

Arab Dictator of the Gaddafi
genus, caught in Libya and
unfortunately killed by  people
who don't appreciate nature.
These days, everybody is taking more interest in the environment and concern for biodiversity and the welfare of different species is shared by all sensible people. One of the species that has been facing serious challenges in recent years is the Arab dictator, found mostly in the Middle East and North Africa. This native species with its long beak and decorative plumage has long been admired by nature-lovers across the globe, but its numbers are dwindling unfortunately. While not yet at the point of extinction, we must all do everything we can to ensure its survival. We teamed up with National Geographic to provide you this guide for the Arab dictator and what you can do to help preserve it.

27 Jun 2013

An Ingenious Plan: How the CIA Vets the Syrian Rebels

So the decision has been taken, and the US will start training and arming the Syrian rebels after vetting them in Jordan. Now we all know what a capable organisation the CIA is so we should all be optimistic about this daring plan. The minor fuck-ups that the CIA has been involved in during its existence should not be a reason for us to doubt this carefully-considered plan. In order to illustrate the strength of its vetting programme, the CIA has allowed us to sit in on a few of those interviews scheduled to begin next month. Below is an accurate transcript of how they went:

CIA Agent: Come in please, I’m agent Johnson and this is agent Johnson. And you are?

Syrian rebel: Mohamed Asa’ad.

14 Jun 2013

Obama to flip a coin to decide what to do in Syria

Following months of indecision and paralysis, the US administration today revealed an initiative for President Barack Obama to flip a coin to decide what course of action to take in Syria. The unexpected declaration has electrified the on-going debate over Syria and sharply divided opinions within policy circles.

President Obama announced the initiative in a press conference held at the White House this morning, outlining the reasons for this unusual but not unheard of strategy. In a typically dramatic gesture, Obama took a coin out of his pocket and lifted it up and declared “this is change we can believe in.” This was interpreted by analysts as a reference to Obama’s popular election campaign slogan in 2008, and was seen as an attempt to tie the initiative to Obama’s earlier idealistic policies.


10 Jun 2013

Exclusive: What is Nick Griffin doing in Beirut?

The Leader of the BNP Nick Griffin is in Beirut and has tweeted several times from there. Here's a sample:

There's lots of speculation about what he is doing there. Here are the most likely scenarios:

He's there to learn about Hezbollah's anti-Jihadi programme

7 Jun 2013

President Obama Launches ‘The American Mukhabrat’

In a historic move that promises to radically transform the way US security agencies operate, President Obama today officially launched the American Mukhabrat initiative. The ambitious restructuring of all US security and intelligence agencies will become Obama’s flagship policy in a bid to ‘embed intelligence work in a more fundamental way within American psyche and society’.

Speaking in front of a loyal ruling Democratic party audience on the White House lawn, Obama announced defiantly “it’s time to consolidate the piecemeal encroachment on civil liberties and increasing surveillance into a clear formal structure that is unapologetic about its role in defending our freedoms. The experience of our Arab friends and allies will be crucial in implementing this reform and this is why we are calling it The American Mukhabrat as a tribute.”

31 May 2013

Lebanese MPs extend their term, argue that ‘time is relative anyway’

Lebanon’s parliament today extended its mandate until November 2014 in a move to postpone the country’s parliamentary elections. The assembled MPs argued that ‘time is relative anyway’ and made a plea for Lebanese citizens to accept the scientific foundations of their decision.

The parliamentary session witnessed heated debates between the majority of MPs who subscribe to Einstein’s general theory of relativity and a minority who tried to scupper the motion by relying on quantum mechanics, but there was no swaying the ardent relativists who succeeded in imposing their interpretation.

30 May 2013

Fashion Alternatives to Sykes–Picot

Everybody knows that the Sykes-Picot agreement which divided the Middle East between Britain and France produced a messy reality. Below are neater versions inspired from the world of fashion.
(Click on images to zoom and scroll between them)
Current Map - Based on the 'messy' Sykes-Picot

Horizontal Stripes: Access to the sea

23 May 2013

Photograph of a Beirut Metro Station

Click to zoom
What would a metro station in Beirut look like? Click on the image to find out.

21 May 2013

Satellite Navigation Error Sends Hezbollah’s Men Fighting In The Wrong Place in Syria

In an embarrassing admission for the Lebanese party, it emerged today that a satellite navigation error was responsible for Hezbollah’s men fighting in the wrong part of Syria. The Party of God’s fighters were on their way to participate in The Campaign To Defend The Shrine of Sayyidah Zaynab located just outside Damascus, but ended up by mistake in the town of al-Qusayr near the northern border between Syria and Lebanon, some 100 miles away from their intended destination.

The town has been the scene of intense fighting between Syrian rebels and government troops for several days, and the arrival of hundreds of heavily-armed Hezbollah fighters was somehow misinterpreted by the rebels as a sign of aggression so they opened fire on the convoy and the Lebanese fighters had no option but to retaliate. The situation quickly escalated and Hezbollah’s fighters were drawn into the battle. Judging by the continuous supplies they are receiving however, it seems that their satellite navigation devices are still making the same mistake.

The Angry Arab Interviews Himself About Syria

The Angry Arab has been conducting a series of interviews with journalists and analysts about the situation in Syria for a while now, asking questions that you would never see in the ‘mainstream media’ as he calls it. He had promised to interview himself at the end of the series, and we are lucky that he decided to allow us to publish this remarkable interview which sheds so much light on one of the most unusual Arab writers and commentators around today. It also gives a unique insight into the situation in Syria unlike anything you might read anywhere else. Here goes:

AA: It’s quite unusual for an analyst to interview themselves, don’t you think it’s a bit pretentious?

AA: You’re one to talk.

2 May 2013

Sunni – Shiite Rivalry Revealed to be an Ancient Hoax

In a dramatic turnaround in the Middle East, it has been revealed this week that the so-called Sunni-Shiite rivalry is in fact an ancient hoax. The hoax appears to have been created by an eighth-century satirist who was generally regarded as a loser by his contemporaries.

Abu-Hayyan Zafer al-Ajayebbi, as he was known in his native Basra in modern Iraq, had penned a number of fake scrolls describing a deep Sunni-Shiite rivalry that were taken at face value by historians because he had not included a warning that the scrolls were works of satire. The sense of rivalry was passed down the generations uncritically and without proper regard to academic standards of source-checking.

29 Apr 2013

The Dentist: Me and The Hunt for Imad Mughniyeh

In 1993 I used to live in Beirut, close to the southern suburbs, Hezbollah’s stronghold. In the spring of that year, I began to get a toothache so I decided to visit my dentist as in common in that part of the world. The dentist was connected to Hezbollah and was reported to be in charge of their top secret dental work, and he was both good and reasonably priced. But when I walked in that day, he wasn’t there and instead a stocky man wearing a baseball cap told me that he’s the dentist’s brother and although he wasn’t technically a dentist he was sitting in for his brother who was out on a carpet-buying emergency. I found that strange, but allowed him to treat my tooth, and he did an excellent job. Little did I know that this is Imad Mughniyeh, one of Hezbollah’s most notorious but completely unknown operatives. In fact, I still don’t know that until today.

But the late Mughniyeh was like that, a man of mystery and random appearances to fill in for other people in their shops despite being on the run from every western and Israeli intelligence agency and leading a life of complete secrecy. When I read Mark Perry’s article about him in Foreign Policy, I decided to write my own story about him, because it is as interesting and true as Perry’s. Future generations, and some of the previous ones, should hear this story.


24 Apr 2013

What happened when Lebanon became an oil rich country

The discovery of off-shore natural gas and oil reserves in Lebanon is expected to have a significant impact on the country. The contracts for exploration work will be awarded shortly and production is expected within a few years. The estimates for the value of the reserves range from 150 to 450bn $US, which will be enough to settle Lebanon’s debts and leave the country swimming in cash. In order to determine what the precise impact of the oil wealth would be, we used a sophisticated computer model to simulate its economic and social impact and came up with the following results:

- The country will become rich, very rich. Given Lebanon’s traditional commitment to equalitarianism, the process will be run efficiently and the proceeds will be distributed equally among the Lebanese.

- The Lebanese, who are generally known for their simple and non-materialistic lifestyle, will be tempted to abandon their traditional asceticism but they will do that with typical classiness and good taste.

- Cooperation is a cornerstone of Lebanese society, and there are hardly any disagreements to be expected over the distribution and use of the oil wealth. The country’s democracy is also reinforced by informal network of inter-sect cooperation, which will ensure everything goes smoothly.

Those are the major headlines, which are quite reassuring. The model also predicted specific results listed below:

22 Apr 2013

Obama insists reaction to Boston bombs was ‘adequately hysterical’

In a speech delivered last night, US President Barack Obama responded vigorously to critique by his Republican opponents who accused him of not over-reacting enough to the Boston bombs. Obama denied the allegations and insisted that his administration has done its best to treat the attacks as an existential threat to the United States, highlighting its ‘serious commitment to overreacting in an adequately hysterical manner.’

Obama appeared to be agitated and far less composed than his usual self, but some commentators interpreted this as a deliberate attempt to look panicky and over-reacting. It is understood that Obama wants to avoid looking level-headed and calm at a time when there is so much pressure on him to show impulsiveness and a ‘let’s go get ‘em’ attitude. But in some quarters Obama’s failure to wear a cowboy hat has been interpreted as a signal that ‘his heart isn’t in it’.

21 Apr 2013

Six English words you didn't know came from Arabic

Many English words are borrowed from Arabic. The BBC recently highlighted a few, such as cheque which comes from the saqq, cotton which comes from qutn, magazine which comes from makhzan and safari which comes from safar. There are however many more words borrowed from Arabic that few know about it, here are twelve of them:

Alarm: Many English words that start with 'al' come from Arabic, and alarm is one of them. It comes from the Arabic al-‘arm which is a device used by airline ground control to alert the police the presence of suspicious passengers. It was a wooden device usually placed in the lowered position, but when the operator saw someone they didn't like the look of, they would lift up, hence the phrase 'raise the alarm'.

19 Apr 2013

How political negotiations work in Lebanon

It’s a warm spring afternoon in Beirut, the birds are chirping and Hamra street is as busy as usual. There’s a lottery salesman staring into the distance, and occasionally he takes a puff from his cigarette then goes back to staring. An old woman is trying to cross the street, and nearby a family is watching the scene from a balcony on the second floor. A typical calm Beirut Afternoon.

A man strolls into a shop and starts inspecting the bags on display with as much disgust as he can summon. The salesman look at him then goes back to reading his newspaper. The psychological warfare has begun and neither man wants to reveal any interest. It’s a battle of nerves, skill and composure.

12 Apr 2013

Thousands attend ‘Arab Spring’ closing ceremony in Qatar

In a spectacular event held in the Qatari capital Doha, the Arab Spring was officially declared over on Friday night. Thousands of Arabs of various nationalities and six Qataris attended the emotional event held at Doha’s National Stadium. The three-hour long ceremony featured hundreds of performers, spectacular firework displays and speeches by Arab leaders.

The decision to host the ceremony in Doha was largely due to Qatar’s neutral position, as it is generally regarded as the Arab country that interfered least in the Arab Spring. Indeed, to highlight Qatar’s neutrality, its international broadcaster Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the Arab Spring consisted mainly of drama and fiction works, avoiding news and factual programmes. This paid large dividends as its received wide acclaim and several awards for its creativity.

11 Apr 2013

Tony Blair Proposes Replacing the Heaven/Hell System With a ‘Third Way’

Tony Blair, left, and you think we're crazy enough to publish a picture of God? 
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s recent foray into theology is understood to have angered clerics of various denominations, igniting a row that seems poised to rage for some time. Blair’s success in ending all the earthly conflicts he was tasked with resolving emboldened him to launch an ambitious initiative to reform the Heaven/Hell system, widely adopted by many religions. Blair’s proposals revolve around the ‘Third Way’ concept which he pioneered, ‘as an alternative to an outdated model that is not fit-for-purpose in the 21st century.’

‘Look, you have to move with the times and adapt to new realities, you can’t see the world in black and white terms. We have to overcome those dualities and my proposals offer a third way between heaven and hell. This is an inclusive and equalitarian alternative that should become the cornerstone of a progressive theological consensus.’

8 Apr 2013

Plans for US – North Korea war break down over ‘lack of cooperation’

Plans for war between the US and North Korea were left in tatters last night amid mutual accusations. There’s a serious possibility now that the war might have to be called off altogether, with each side blaming the other for its lack of commitment to making the war happen. This signals a troubling time ahead for global conflicts, with economic pressures and political calculations threatening to undermine war in the coming years.

A spokesperson for the US State Department laid the blame squarely on Pyongyang, accusing the Korean regime of ‘lack of cooperation’ and ‘half-hearted approach to war’. Speaking at a press conference, the spokesperson didn’t mince his words: “We have put significant effort into escalating the situation only to be met by empty threats. We agreed to exaggerate North Korea’s missile capabilities to bolster their self-confidence, but it’s clear that they are not taking this seriously. We even offered to meet them halfway by moving our interceptors to Guam, but we can't do all the work for them, we need to see some firm commitments.”

5 Apr 2013

Study confirms that Lebanon is indeed the centre of the universe

In what has been dubbed ‘the biggest I-told-you-so moment in the history of mankind’, a four-year scientific study has confirmed that Lebanon is indeed the centre of the universe. The shocking announcement sent waves of euphoria throughout the country, and most Lebanese people now feel that they have been vindicated for possessing a sense of superiority that was hard to explain until very recently. Attempts by Lebanese economy travellers to be upgraded to business class have increased by 137% in a few days, signalling a new sense of self-confidence and entitlement.

The study was carried out at the prestigious US East Texas College under the supervision of Professor Michael Bechara, coincidentally of Lebanese descent himself. The research attempted to reconcile quantum theory with the general theory of relativity by developing the assumption that Lebanon is the centre of the universe. ‘Once we made that assumption, all the pieces seemed to fall into place,’ Declared an ecstatic Bechara.

4 Apr 2013

The EU is running a Jihadi exchange programme in Syria

Recent reports revealed that the EU has been running a Jihadi exchange programme, modelled after the successful Erasmus Programme, with Syria over the past year. It is understood that around 600 people from 14 different European countries have taken part, travelling to Syria to get a first-hand experience of the Jihadi culture. The programme is understood to be part of the Euro-Mediterranean initiative to improve communication and exchange between the participating countries.

Until 2011, Syria was a net exporter of Jihadists and the country had hardly any Jihadi activities within. But since then the government has undertaken a policy shift which has seen it increase its local Jihadi production significantly. In parallel, Syria initiated several programmes to attract foreign Jihadists to the country, and invited the Jihadists that it had previously sent to countries like Iraq and Lebanon to return and participate in the nation-wide programme.


3 Apr 2013

The Tinker of Damascus: A Very Short John le Carré Story

‘Quelle Syrie! ‘

Expression current in France in the early years of this century. Describes an insoluble mess.

Smiley arrived on a Friday in a rainstorm. The rain fell down like a stream of bullets from a machine gun then drifted helplessly across Beirut’s crumbling façades. The streets in Hamra had begun to fill like a bathtub, which reminded him of the summer he spent with the old man. Smiley was sure the taxi driver that brought him from the airport had over-charged him, then looked at him blankly as he asked for a receipt. The housekeepers at the reptile fund won’t be happy with this.

Smiley wasn’t sure how Control had convinced him to come out of retirement. Syria was beginning to unravel very fast and the PM didn’t want to have another disaster like Libya. The Competition were caught with their trousers down, wondering in the desert dressed like Lawrence of Arabia. The new breed of managers at The Circus were out of their depth and Control dropped the affair in Smiley’s lap. Ann had disappeared six months ago, and boredom had been gnawing at his mind like a hungry rat. He was tired of trying to bridge the gap between then and now and said yes before he had a chance to consider.