The CSS Blog Network

ISN Weekly Theme: The Saudi Touch

US Army chaplain prays toward Mecca, Saudi Arabia, photo: Lance Cheung/flickr

This week the ISN takes a closer look at the enormous challenges facing Saudi Arabia on both its domestic and foreign policy fronts. The world is watching to see how the Middle East’s largest country will address its internal discord, while jockeying for regional dominance in 2010 and beyond.

The ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Dr Amnon Aran examines the challenges and opportunities of Saudi foreign policy, arguing that its promotion of the Middle East peace process could improve not only its geopolitical standing but wider regional stability.
  • A Podcast interview with Toby Jones debunks some of the stereotypes about the country’s deep-seated political and religious conservatism to paint a more nuanced picture of a complex land.
  • Security Watch stories about Saudi internet jihad, the country’s foreign relations from Iran to Yemen and much more.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including a recent US Congressional Research Service analysis of Saudi-US relations.
  • Primary Resources, like the Saudi government’s “Initiatives and Actions to Combat Terrorism.”
  • Links to relevant websites, among them the Saudi Woman’s Blog that deals with life and culture in the country from a woman’s perspective.
  • Our IR Directory with relevant organizations, including the Ministry of Saudi Foreign Affairs and the Center for Contemporary Middle Eastern Countries.

ISN Weekly Theme: Turkey at the Crossroads

Atatürk's deathbed at Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, courtesy of Serdar Gurbuz/flickr

This week the ISN explores the geopolitical implications of Turkey’s strategic location at the intersection of civilizations. For the first time since its Ottoman glory days, the country appears poised to capitalize on its position at the crossroads of East and West.

In this week’s Special Report:

  • An Analysis by Philip McCrum examines Turkey’s rising geopolitical prowess on the regional and international stage.
  • A Podcast interview with Dr Ali Tekin explores the political gravitas Turkey has gained through its status as a pipeline thoroughfare.
  • Security Watch stories about a brewing military coup scandal, energy pipeline politics, regional relations and much more on Turkish current affairs.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including a recent Atlantic Community paper on how the US and EU are “Seizing Opportunities from Turkey’s Growing Influence”.
  • Primary Resources, like the full text of Ataturk’s speech on the tenth anniversary of the Turkish republic.
  • Links to relevant websites, among them the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies’ analysis of “Turkey’s Strategic Imperatives (2010-2012)”.
  • Our IR Directory with relevant organizations, including the Turkish Statistical Institute.

Where Is Tony?

photo: Emanuele / real desert storm  / fotosensibile 2.0

photo: Emanuele / real desert storm / fotosensibile 2.0

I don’t see any reason to be optimistic about a possible revival of serious peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is busy trying to arrange a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next week. But, what happened to the ‘Quartet’ – made up of the US, Russia, the EU and the UN – which was supposed to be an active peace broker? » More

Big State is Watching You

Police guard on the Kasr El Nil Bridge in Cairo.

Police guard on the Kasr El Nil Bridge in Cairo / photo: Cristina Viehmann

A new report released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) tells us that Burma is the worst place in the world to be a blogger.

Next on the list of countries notorious for clever intimidation techniques are the Middle East and North Africa candidates: Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

I’ve just returned from Egypt, ranked 10th on the CPJ list. After my Cairo conversations with young journalists and artists, I also realized how difficult it still is to walk the thin line between the state and religious authorities in this country. Even with this, bloggers and internet artists dare to voice what they think.

Take Mohammed A. Fahmy for example, leader of the Ganzeer art project in Cairo. In his work he does not refrain from criticizing both the government and the societal or religious constraints ruling his country. Referring to a cover from a December 2004 Cairo youth magazine, illustrating the many “fine” inventions of Arab civilization, one of which is the “presidential monarchy,” I asked Mohammed: “How critical can you afford to be?”

“As critical as it gets,” he said.

Citizen journalism and artistic creation presuppose freedom of speech. Bloggers report, artists depict. Mohammed is one of those young critical voices that won’t be intimidated.

And yet, the role of intimidation remains strong in Egypt; in every aspect of life where opinions are to be voiced. A few fall prey to the oppressive state mechanisms: detention, hearings and weeks under state observation. These serve as warnings for all other critical voices out there.

As the CPJ report points out, in these countries it is enough to jail a few bloggers to intimidate the rest. It’s an oblation given for criticism and analysis to continue.

Yet even in these countries, censorship rules will not prevail. Technological advances are with the young and connected. Therefore, censors will lose the race.

In this article from the ISN Digital Library you can read how the new Arab media challenges the militaries. Also, you might want to check our Security Watch news stories, about the limits of Egypt’s cyberactivism, the Bahraini blogosphere and about how blogs and Internet forums debate political issues in Russia.

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