Photo by Justin Salhani

My latest column:

Placing the Israeli cart before the Palestinian horse

by Claude Salhani

US President Donald Trump's latest attempt at finding a solution to the long-standing Arab-Israeli dispute has been rejected by Palestinians and Jordanians as unrealistic. There are certain processes that need following in any negotiations if one hopes to achieve results but Trump thinks that all the harsh realities of the conflict, the wars, the occupation and the terrorism that grew out of this conflict can be bypassed by placing the proverbial Israeli cart before the Palestinians' horse, if they even have one. (click on headline for full story.)

Russia, Iran and Syria - talk about strange bedfellows. You could not get three more opposing ideas and philosophies than from those three. Well, except for the fact that all are authoritative states ruled by autocratic leaders with a deep-rooted desire to spread their political agendas and to dominate as much of the world as possible. (Except for Syria, which is just trying to survive).

This piece was written in 2007 for The American Conservative magazine. it warns of the advances the Chinese have made in space:


The weakness of any authoritative leader -- be it US President Donald Trump or Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- usually comes down to two weak links: their insistence on surrounding themselves with "loyal" people, regardless of competence," and the mismanagement of the economy, usually by the same incompetent people put in power because of their loyalty.


Qatar's unsportsmanlike behaviour is a source of concern

by Claude Salhani

"Fair play" has been the motto of FIFA, the world governing body that organises World Cup football tournament -- the world's most popular sporting event.

However, the controversy surroundinng Qatar, the host country for the 2022 World Cup, has proven to be anything but fair play. British media reports indicate that Qatari government has bribed FIFA officials and potential host countries' representatives to swing the vote to host the tournament in Qatar's favour. (CLICK here for full story).

Trump's approach to Middle East politics will further muddle the debate

by Claude Salhani

US President Donald Trump may think he is the latest and the greatest of them all in everything from business to politics.

He may think he is more cunning than a KGB officer who was in charge of East Germany under Soviet rule.

He may even believe he can convince the North Koreans to forgo their nuclear weapons and that he is savvy enough to negotiate with the Iranian leadership. (Click here for full story.)


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Victory lap in Syria comes with death notices

by Claude Salhani

There seems to be a significant turn of events in the Syrian civil war with President Bashar Assad indicating he is the ultimate winner. In recent weeks, the Syrian government has issued hundreds of death notices of deceased political detainees who had been held in government detention facilities.

Observers familiar with this situation in Syria say this may be a sign that Assad feels he can declare himself the victor of the protracted civil war. (click here for the rest of the piece.)

What did Qatar think it was doing providing $1 billion to a terrorist group?

By Claude Salhani -
How should the international community deal with state-sponsored terrorism? The official position of most countries is to not negotiate with terrorists because it encourages them to commit further acts of terrorism.
Does paying a ransom encourage more of the same? (Click h§ere for complete story

Censorship is alive and well in Israel

by Claude Salhani

When thinking of censorship in the Middle East, many people, especially Americans, tend to think that most, if not all, Arab countries impose some form of censorship on foreign and domestic media. Many countries in the region do impose restrictions on the press but typically those affect domestic media.

Hezbollah leaves Lebanon in murky waters

By Claude Salhani

Lebanon's primary export should be prosperity and neutrality, as had long been the case. The "Switzerland of the Middle East," they used to say. Ah, but those days of political insouciance when the Lebanese would steer clear of regional politics are long gone. (more)

Why resolving the question of Palestine is still important

By Claude Salhani

The Gaza Strip, historically a thorn in the side of whoever occupied the turbulent territory, represents a major security risk for Israel and can spell real trouble for the PalestinianGaza carries all the characteristics of a failed state - and then some - due to the complex relationship it has with the Palestinian Authority and the West Bank.

Managed by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement (if one can use the word "managed" loosely), Gaza is a major problem for the Palestinian Authority that rules in the West Bank but is also a major security headache for Israel. (Click here for full story)

Assad is fooling no one

By Claude Salhani

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad may succeed in fooling some into believing that he has won the war that has ripped his country apart and forced nearly one-third of the Syrian people to become refugees. He may have even succeeded in fooling himself into believing he will emerge victorious from the nightmarish ordeal through which he has taken Syria.Click here for full story

Rohani embarks on charm campaign in Europe while threatening neighbours

By Claude Salhani

Iranian President Hassan Rohani appeared to threaten to disrupt oil shipments from neighbouring countries if Washington presses ahead with its promise to prevent the sale of Iranian oil. The thinly veiled threats made July 3 at a media event in Zurich during the Iranian ppresident's visit.

Tehran's Grand Bazaar unrest harbinger of change to come

By Claude Salhani

Despite the opening of two modern shopping malls in Tehran, the country's Grand Bazaar has always been the pulse of Iran's trade and commerce. The bazaar has constantly provided an accurate reflection of the country's political mood.

Erdogan re-election worries the West and with good reaso

By Claude Salhani

If Turkey still held a tiny sliver of hope of being allowed to join the European Union, that chance is gone with the re-election of Recep Tayyip Erdogan to another term as president. (Click here for the rest of the story)

Palestinians take to the air - somewhat - amid threats of cuts to refugee aid

By Claude Salhani

Facing the worst funding crisis in its 68-year history, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) warned it has "an unprecedented shortfall" of more than $250 million.

With the danger of having emergency assistance to its refugees severely cut back, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are flying kites and balloons that would be set on fire and crashed into Israeli orchards. There have been no reports of human casualties on the Israeli side because of the attacks but estimates of damages caused to property put the figure at more than $2 million.

Addressing the UN Security Council, UN Middle East Envoy Nikolay Mladenov warned that UNRWA was "weeks away from painful cuts" to its emergency assistance for Gaza and refugees and elsewhere because of the gap in its budget. All relief work would end by August.

However, as the assault of burning kites continued, Palestinians said the action was in retaliation against Israelis for closing the border and depriving thousands of Palestinians of day jobs in Israel. Palestinian protesters flew hundreds of kites, Hamas officials said, that descended on orchards in Israel, starting fires and causing damage to property.

The Trump administration told the United Nations last January - although not in so many words - that it was withholding $65 million of a planned $125 million funding instalment for UNRWA. It released $60 million so the agency wouldn't shut down but made clear that additional US donations would be contingent on major reforms within UNRWA.

ed to be ineffective against the Gazans' low-tech attack. Price of an F-35: $93.4 million. Price of a kite: $3-4.

This is not the first time low-tech methods have been used in the Middle East against a far superior military force. Think back to the devastating effect that improvised explosive devices - IEDs - had against coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ironically, in Afghanistan, a country where flying kites was a national pastime, the flying of kites was banned under the Taliban.

When the roots of conflict are not addressed, violence can always find even the implausible means to manifest itself.

Change in Iran will have to come from the inside

by Claude Salhani

Since it officially became an Islamic republic in 1979, Iran has consistently tried to expand its horizons and enlarge its influence. As one observer pointed out, Iran is the only country with expansionism as a founding tenet in its constitution.

Indeed, Iran or its proxies control parts of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen as well the Gaza Strip. There is an added value to having a say in Gaza as it gives the Iranians access to Egypt and Israel's back door