Weekend Roundup: Yemen Ignites New Mideast War Within Islam


Nathan Gardels is the editor-in-chief of Noema Magazine.

If reading the next sentence about the bewildering tangle of so many bloody crossed swords in the Middle East makes your head hurt, just be thankful you live somewhere else where decapitation is not a regular occurrence.

The intensifying Saudi-led Sunni coalition assault on Iranian-linked Shiite tribes in Yemen this week — at the very moment when Shiite militia allied with the U.S.-backed Iraqi government were ousting Saudi Wahhabist-inspired Islamic State jihadis from Tikrit — signaled the onset of a generalized sectarian religious war across the region. And if the current bright spot of the interim agreement with Western powers that curbs Iran’s capacity to weaponize its uranium enrichment program should unravel over the coming months, the entire conflict threatens to go nuclear.

Graham Fuller, former vice-chair of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council and a former station chief in several Mideast countries, deciphers the perplexing labyrinth of the Yemeni conflict, where “the enemy of my enemy is also my enemy.”

Muhammad Sahimi argues that Iran, and its rapprochement with the West, is the real target behind the Saudi military attacks in Yemen, which, he says, aim to assert Sunni dominance against an emerging “Shiite crescent.” Nuclear arms expert Joe Cirincione calls the Lausanne agreement with Iran “a victory for American national security.” In a mirror image, the first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, says in an interview that the agreement is “one-sided” against Iran and blames the ayatollahs for policies that have isolated his country. American political analyst Howard Fineman assesses what the Iran deal means for the legacy of Obama’s presidency while Senior World Editor Eline Gordts takes the pulse of global opinion. We also ask scholar Ariane Tabatabai to assess whether this Iran nuclear agreement was a good one.

WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones reports from Baghdad that, despite U.S. denials, not only were Iran-backed Shiite militias active in the battle in Tikrit ousting the Islamic State fighters but that they now intend to join the fight in Yemen as well. She also tells the story of Sunnis changing their names out of fear of the Shiite militias, accused of sectarian crimes, roaming the country. Farheen Rizvi says Pakistan, which has been debating joining the Saudi coalition, should instead focus on squashing its own jihadis instead of being drawn into the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. “Extremist” author Qasim Rashid examines why the Islamic State is expanding its activities “outside of its ‘caliphate’” into North Africa, Nigeria and elsewhere.

Writing from Amman, prominent Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab argues that, now that the “state of Palestine” has joined the International Criminal Court, Palestinians must unite in pressing the issue of Israeli settlements.

Jumoke Balogun and Milton Allimadi hail the outcome of Nigeria’s elections this week — most notably because the current president, Goodluck Jonathan, surrendered power voluntarily. Associate World Editor Charlotte Alfred profiles the new Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown expresses his outrage at yet another attack on a school by Islamist jihadis, this time in Kenya. Associate World Editor Nick Robins-Early offers a brief history of Al-Shabab, which carried out the Kenya attack. And in this week’s “Forgotten Fact,” we focus on the massacre in Kenya as a reminder of the growing threat from the Somali terrorist group.

Writing from Mexico City, poet Homero Aridjis contrasts the tragic and violent reality on the ground with the government’s effort to promote “Brand Mexico” during the filming there of the next James Bond sequel, “Spectre.”


Crew preparing the scenery for filming the latest James Bond movie “Spectre” at downtown streets of Mexico City on March 23, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty Images)

Writing from Vladivostok, Artyom Lukin wonders why Russian President Vladimir Putin is castigated for hosting a visit by North Korea’s Kim Jong-un when it is okay for U.S. President Barack Obama to embrace the Saudi monarch who oppressed women and decapitated wrongdoers.

In the premiere of a new talk show on China’s Youku, Shanghai entrepreneur and scholar Eric X. Li engages Francis Fukuyama about the sorry state of American democracy.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, writing from Athens, calls for a time out in the blame game between Greece and Germany. French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy defends German Chancellor Angela Merkel and scores rising “Germanophobia” in Europe. Writing from Santiago, former Chilean Finance Minister Andrés Velasco warns of the coming debt squeeze in overleveraged emerging economies as the U.S. dollar strengthens and commodity prices on which they have depended for growth continue to fall.

Legendary environmentalist and Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson recounts the experiences that led him to see nationalism as a mask for collective guilt.

In our Singularity University series this week, Nick Ellis counts the ways in which a tech-driven economy can create new jobs instead of just displace them. Fusion this week looks at how hip-hop musicians get embarrassingly corny when they try to rap about technology.


EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Senior Advisor to the Berggruen Institute on Governance and the long-time editor of NPQ and the Global Viewpoint Network of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate/Tribune Media, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Senior Editor of the WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is the National Editor at the Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s editorial coverage. Eline Gordts is HuffPost’s Senior World Editor. Charlotte Alfred and Nick Robins-Early are Associate World Editors.

CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul; Matt Sheehan in Beijing.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media) Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as the Advisory Council — as well as regular contributors — to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Juan Luis Cebrian, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon Musk, Pierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy, Eric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen, Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, Wu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Ahmed Zewail, and Zheng Bijian.

From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony Blair, Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing, Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Peter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.


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