Simon Assaf

War on ISIS backfires

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The Coalition campaign to destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has failed to dent the Islamist movement.

Despite thousands of bombing missions by Western warplanes, the Iraqi army and its Syrian counterpart continue to retreat in the face of a few hundred determined fighters.

The Coalition and its allies promised earlier this year that they were about to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second city that fell to ISIS during its lightning offensive last summer. Instead it is the newly rearmed Iraqi army that is once again in retreat.

Egypt regime arrests revolutionaries

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The Egyptian state has once again arrested Mahienour el-Massry.

Mahienour, along with renowned revolutionary Youssef Shaaban and six others, has been charged with storming the al-Raml police station in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria in March 2013.

On the day a small group of demonstrators staged a protest outside the trial of policemen accused of murdering political blogger Khaled Said, whose death triggered the 25 January revolution.

Imperialism and the new wars in the Middle East

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The decline of US imperialism in the Middle East is fuelling rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Simon Assaf looks at the region as it plunges deeper into violence and uncertainty.

In the heady days of the Arab Spring revolutions, tens of millions of people took to the streets in vast movements for change that raised the possibility of a deep transformation of the region. The retreat of these revolutions has been marked by a return of repression and the unleashing of horrific sectarianism.

Yemen: a dangerous escalation

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Yemen’s Houthi rebels have swept across the country, reaching as far as the strategically vital port of Aden, driving out the president and laying siege to a US base. The Houthis are Shia tribes from the mountainous north. They have been able to fill the power vacuum following the stalling of the Yemeni Revolution, one of the most popular and well supported uprisings of the Arab Spring.

The Crocodiles: A Novel

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Egyptian author Youssef Rakha has produced two books, both of which are exceptional. His breakthrough novel, Book of the Sultan’s Seal, was published as the 25 January revolution was in full tilt. His second, recently translated into English, came out on the eve of the counter-revolution.

Rakha’s style is difficult to categorise. His book is narrated in numbered paragraphs and slips between prose and poem. It jumps in time, and between different characters at different points of their lives.

The French Intifada

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When a copy of Andrew Hussey’s The French Intifada, The Long War Between France and Its Arabs, first came across my desk, I set it aside. The cover is of the Eiffel Tower surrounded by Islamic designs, with the French cock, the symbol of revolution, imprisoned in an Arabesque style cage. At the base are rising flames — presumably depicting French society burning from below. But since the Charlie Hebdo killings it provides a useful insight into a mindset that has gripped many intellectuals on the left.

Egypt: murder that rocked the regime

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The heartbreaking murder of a young woman activist has exposed the fragility in the rule of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, a well respected member of Egypt’s left wing Socialist Popular Alliance Party, was shot in the chest by riot police as she was preparing to lay a wreath in Tahrir Square on the fourth anniversary of the revolution.

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