Monthly Archives: March 2012

Tried and Tested

The ‘Friends of Syria’ Conference, based in Istanbul last week, finally yielded some movements towards a unified opposition to the Assad regime in nominally forming the Syrian National Council (SNC) – similar to that formed in Libya at the beginning of the Benghazi uprising last year. The move is a late one – in a conflict that has lasted over twelve months already there has been little success in providing a unified front in the conflict, and sectarian fissures have been prolific in creating a confused and haphazard attempt to overthrow the regime.

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Playing the Fiddle

In 64CE it is said that the Roman Emperor Nero played the fiddle whilst his capital, Rome, was burning to the ground in what would later be known as the Great fire of Rome. Whilst this legend is now regarded by most historians as false, it is telling of the nature of Nero – his brutality and sense of extravagance – that this rumour came into being in the first place. It is also telling that many believe that he started the fire himself to clear space to build his vast palatial complex. The result being, two millennia after his time as Emperor he is remembered with disdain and ridicule as the man who put his own whims, his own extravagant ventures, and his own desires before his Empire, before the people of his Empire.

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Tiny Little Fractures

The proposals that emerged today for a semi-autonomous Eastern Libya, based on an historical region known as Cyrenaica, have been greeted with more concern than shock. Cyrenaica, based around the Eastern city of Benghazi and the original stronghold of the National Transitional Council of Libya, has always been distinct from the Western, Tripoli-centred, region of North Libya; one that had become increasingly disadvantaged – socially, politically and economically – during the Gaddafi era, as he favoured the region around Tripoli, which were closer to him in both geographical and geopolitical terms (his power base was derived from the North-Western corner of Libya, surrounding Tripoli and Sirte). And whilst over the past four decades money has been increasingly spent in the areas surrounding Tripoli and Sirte, a large amount of this money has been derived from the sale of oil from fields in the Cyrenaica region.

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In the Line Of Fire

On the 22nd of February this year, British newspaper journalism lost one of its most fearless and resolute reporters to the Syrian conflict. Marie Colvin, who had long spoken of the dangers of front line war reporting, was killed alongside a French journalist, Remi Ochlik, and was among several others who were severely wounded and remained trapped in the besieged district of Babr Amr, Homs. In the days, and now weeks, that have followed, there has been a lot of debate over the ethics of foreign journalists being present during such volatile circumstances, and unintentionally becoming the focus of the news rather than simply acting as a conduit through which events are reported. This debate was further fuelled as video messages were sent by the injured and surviving journalists, asking for a ceasefire to allow their removal from Babr amr district, and then as several members of the Syrian Free Army lost their lives in aiding the removal of the journalists to neighbouring Lebanon. Continue reading