Saddam, eradicating illiteracy, and the Ba’athist propaganda machine

Fascinating interview on women, writing, and the Ba’athist state.

Hawraa Al Hassan’s Women, Writing and the Iraqi Ba’thist State: Contending Discourses of Resistance and Collaboration, 1968-2003 (University of Edinburgh Press, 2020) is unique because it both explores discourse concerning women and how women themselves used literature to create a site of resistance to the state. Al-Hassan’s work is also inclusive, as it joins a wider call to make literary studies a space in which works which were previously considered propagandistic can also be seriously considered.

New Books Network | Hawraa Al Hassan, “Women, Writing and the Iraqi…

There are some great gems in this episode and areas I would like to dig deeper on, such as:

-Saddam eradicating illiteracy chiefly to build a wider audience for Ba’athist propaganda.

-Book covers as messages (not many read the book, but they do see the cover).

-The novels of Saddam Hussein. You may recall, it is believed that Sacha Baron Cohen’s comedy The Dictator was inspired by one of these novels.

For more, here’s a print interview with Dr. Al-Hassan over at ArabLit.

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The Shadow Commander

Just finished this after hearing about it on the Angry Planet podcast.

In this gripping account, Arash Azizi examines Soleimani’s life, regional influence and future ambitions. He breaks new ground through interviews with Iranians, Afghans, Iraqis and Syrians who knew Soleimani for years, including his personal driver, the aides who accompanied him to his Moscow meeting with Vladimir Putin, and his brother. Through Soleimani, Azizi reveals the true nature of Iran’s global ambitions, providing a rare insight into a country whose actions are much talked about but seldom understood.

The Shadow Commander

I listened to the audiobook version. It was a great narrative, telling the story of Soleimani’s life and the military-political machinations of the Middle East over the forty years. The mini-Cold War in the Middle East is such a deep and fascinating subject. There’s so much more we need to know.

I thought this quote from Ryan Crocker that comes towards the end of the book nailed it pretty well:

Over the last several years, it seems that General Suleimani allowed his ego to overcome his judgment. The shadow commander came out of the shadows, holding news conferences and conducting media tours. This time we were waiting. 

Opinion | The Long Battle With Iran – The New York Times

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CENTCOM’s Facebook Page – in Arabic

القيادة المركزية الامريكية

I’m way fascinated by CENTCOM’s Facebook (Arabic) page. As far as I can tell, they mostly just post interesting pictures of military stuff to engage with a mostly Arabic speaking audience. For Arabic students, it’s great, easy practice.

What a strange job to have though, huh? Manager of CENTCOM’s Facebook page in Arabic.

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So you wanna know about the Middle East?

Battle of Karbala

A friend recently sent me an email asking for book recommendations to get up to date on the Middle East. I didn’t have any good recommendations for her, but what I did share was the list of news sources and blogs that I read daily that helps keeps me up to date.

Shortly after firing off that email, I realized that it was a pretty good list and would make a good post.

Below are the sources in my feedly list that I have collected over the years.

If you know of any good ones that aren’t listed here, please let me know in the comments.

News:
Al Jazeera English (Middle East): News outlet with a focus on the Middle East.
Baghdad Bureau (New York Times): This is the ‘At War’ Blog at the New York Times. It often runs essays by military/veteran personalities and others usually in regards to wars in the Middle East.
Middle East Channel (Foreign Affairs): Short excerpts from Foreign Affairs on the Middle East.
NYT>Islam: News from the New York Time’s Islam section.
NYT>Middle East: News from the New York Time’s Middle East section.
The Independent – Middle East: News from The Independent’s (UK) Middle East section.
Robert Fisk: Controversial and outspoken journalist that covers the Middle East.
WP: Middle East: News from the Washington Post’s Middle East section.
BBC News – Middle East: Middle East section of the BBC.

Blogs:
hawgblawg – Ted Swedenburg, ME anthropologist. Mostly blogs about the kufiya and Arab pop music.
Informed Comment– Juan Cole. ME Studies Professor. Liberal bent. Very good ME stuff.
Jihadology – a source for translated statements from muslim extremist groups.
MEI Blog – Blog of the Middle East Institute. Sporadic historical posts.
al-bab – Blog of Brian Whitaker, Middle East journalist.
Letters from the Underground (was ‘Frustrated Arab) – blog by an anti-imperialist activist.
gary’s choices – Tumblr blog by Gary Sick, former National Security Council Advisor. Iran-hand.
intelwire – Blog of J.M. Berger, Middle East analyst focusing on extremism, especially in social media.
Jadaliyya – Ezine on Middle East. Mostly political stuff. English/Arabic.
Jihadology – Mostly translated Islamic extremist releases/messages.
jihadica – more jihad stuff.
jillian c. york – prominent blogger on ME issues and social media.
Marc Lynch – Formerly ‘abu aardvark,’ blog on ME stuff hosted at Foreign Policy.
Musings on Iraq – Iraq centric blog by Joel Wing.
Mondoweiss – Blog focusing mainly on Israel/Palestine issues.
Sandbox – blog by Middle East Scholar Martin Kramer.
Saudiwoman’s Weblog – Blog focusing mostly on Women’s Issues in Saudi Arabia.
The Arabist – blog about Arab politics and culture.
The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer– Arab politics through football.
Views from the Occident – Blog by PhD student in Islamic Studies. Focused mostly on extremist groups and imagery.

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Fotros Drone

Week ending November 24, 2013

The top search was ‘fotros drone.’ Earlier this week, I posted this: The New Iranian Drone – Fotros “a redeemed, fallen angel.” I haven’t posted much middle east stuff for awhile and I found the name of the drone to be interesting, considering the mythology behind it. Doing another Google search for ‘fotros drone,’ I found that past the news articles concerning the big reveal, there isn’t much else written about the drone, thus the reason the search term led a few people to Carrying the Gun.

fotros drone

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Ma’salaama, Abu Muqawama!

The New and Improved Abu Muqawama

I read today that Abu Muqawama is shutting down.

Without question, there is no military blogger out there that influenced my own decision to blog than Andrew Exum. He is a Middle East scholar and ex-infantryman and a clear trailblazer for those leaving the service who were/are interested in studying the Middle East. He paved a way to do it and it was easy to follow.

I am fortunate to have met Andrew on a couple of occasions and just missed him once in London when he was passing through. It would have been out of control.

My favorite Abu Muqawama post was this one, which was a simple picture criticizing the botched Israeli boarding of the Mavi Marama back in 2010. Ex was at his best when he was able to mix his military experience with his Middle East expertise and get it out there in a way that was accessible and fun for everyone else to digest.

He hinted in his post that he’s heading to the “private sector” – so I hope he’ll consider changing his now famous “Lego terrorist” avatar to something like the one posted above.

Ma’salaama, Abu Muqawama! And good luck!

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Assad’s Lionesses

Terrifying.


This, from The Independent:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has recruited a brigade of women to man checkpoints and carry out security  operations as he attempts to free up soldiers in his beleaguered army to fight the rebels.

Dressed in fatigues and armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, the female recruits – the “Lionesses for National Defence” – are part of a new paramilitary force. They have already been deployed in Homs, where they have been spotted guarding areas where residents still largely support the regime. Videos from both opposition and pro-government sites purport to show members of the all-female unit in action.

A spokesperson from the Syrian opposition claims that placing weapons in the hands of women is simply a way to get the Free Syrian Army to kill women, which would then enflame opinions against the rebel cause.

 

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“Iraq finds itself in the face of an undeclared war…”

Joel Wing writes at Musings On Iraq, a great blog for Iraq watchers. He often finds interesting videos and posts them without comment. This is a propaganda video about the origins of the Iran-Iraq War, a subject I’m deeply interested in. It casts the blame for the war squarely on Iran.

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