A new Emir but plus ça change for Qatar’s international role

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani

Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani

While Qatar celebrates new leadership the wealthy emirate’s international activism is likely to continue, albeit in a different guise.


Read the article at ThinkIR



extGSN Risk Management Reports (special edition 2013)

“GSN’s annual New Year assessment of the political and financial factors that impact on the region’s polities and economies finds a marked divide between the Gulf’s high-net worth oil producers and other Middle Eastern populations, who face a more precarious outlook.

GSN’s Risk Management Report 2013 consists of 12 one-page risk management reports on the GCC, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (federation and emirates) and Yemen.

Published alongside a country map, each risk management report includes a political and financial risk grade, factboxes, key economic data, and rounds up noteworthy events and significant trends in a series of short entries on politics and economics.

GSN’s Risk Management Report 2013 is an important reference tool for anyone conducting business in the Gulf region in 2013. It is available as part of a GSN subscription or may be purchased separately.

Price: £75″

Editor: Fiona O’Brien
News Ed: Eleanor Gillespie
Contributors: John Hamilton, Phil Leech
Cartographer: David Burles
Production: Shirley Giles
Editorial Director: Jon Marks
Publications Director: Nick Carn

Palestine: the precarious present

The Palestinian Authority is gazing into an abyss, and it is beating people in the streets.

By Anan Quzmar and Phil Leech

Published on openDemocracy 19 July, 2012.

Anan and his brother after the police attacked

While news about Palestine has been dominated in recent days by an Al Jazeera investigation into Yasir Arafat’s death, the mainstream media has largely ignored another more serious series of events. This is that the Palestinian Authority – the regime that has administered several of small enclaves within the Israeli occupied West Bank since Arafat agreed to the Oslo agreements in the 1990s – is teetering at the edge of a political and financial abyss, and that its reaction to these circumstances is the brutal suppression the general population…. Click here to read at openDemocracy.

New Abu Dhabi Oil Pipeline Provides Alternative to Hormuz Strait

For the sake of showing that I’ve got ‘range’ – i.e. can write about other things (this was submitted as part of an application to an internship).

The Strait of Hormuz (Image from the Washington Post)

Thursday, Abu Dhabi began pumping crude oil via the recently completed Habshan-Fujairah pipeline that bypasses the contentious Strait of Hormuz. The, Dh10 billion (£1.75 billion), pipeline is expected to carry up to 50% of the UAE’s oil exports (approx. 1 million barrels a day) by the 1 July (GSN 923/10). This has been seen as an important step in reducing Iranian influence over the global oil markets.

Continue reading

Why Jabal an-Nar? Researching Nablus

This is to be published in the forthcoming Bulletin of the Council for British Research in the Levant also available via the CBRL website (September 2012) by Maney Publishing.   

Many thanks to Dr. Carol Palmer, Anan QuzmarAlaa Tartir, Jeremy Wildeman, and Josh Rickard for their feedback and input – and many thanks to my Dad for his superb (and very patient) proofreading (go and read his blog!)

Why Jabal an-Nar? Researching Nablus


This article explains why the politics of the Northern West Bank city of Nablus, long an
historic focal point of Palestinian independence and resistance to foreign rule, is still an
important area for research today. Nablus suffered badly under an Israeli siege for eight
years in the early 2000s but it now represents the front line of the Palestinian Authority’s
neo-liberal ‘state-building’ agenda. The tensions between the city’s strong identity and rising tide of neo-liberalism are a microcosm of broader political dynamics in Palestine and as yet the future remains uncertain.

Continue reading

Thanksgiving in Nazareth

This is the last of three articles looking back at my time in Palestine. This one comprises diary entries from fieldwork trips in 2009. The purpose of this article, and the two previous, is simply to try and reflect as much of the day to day reality of Palestine-Israel that I experienced during my time there. Obviously these experiences have been formative in my understanding of the situation. Yet, at the same time it would be inaccurate to suggest that the conclusions I present in the more analytical articles on this site (and elsewhere) are based exclusively on personal experiences such as this.

The entry below has been chosen purely at my own discretion. I believe that it represents a collection of interesting moments, including the occasional humorous element. It has been edited for clarity and succinctness and real names have been substituted. This records part of a journey I took with friends from Nablus to Nazarath and then on down the coast to Nir Am, a kibbutz near Gaza. 

overlooking Haifa

This quick trip around Israel ended up as one of the most bizarre escapades I’ve ever experienced. Of course now that I think through the stories of the past few days the majority of what we did would just describe the normal tourist experience in Israel, but it was the last day, particularly looking over Gaza from the lush green landscape around a Kibutz near Sedrot, with the helpful policemen who wanted us to get a better view, and the young couple on a hilltop study date overlooking a devastating humanitarian catastrophe, in the last hours of that last day that really shook my sense of the world.

Continue reading

From the archives: Qaryut

This is the second of three entries that look back on my reflections of time spent researching in the West Bank between 2007-2012. This post has also been published on Palestine Remembered

For the previous entry in this group of three: Inshallah  ان شاء الله  please click here.


Qareoot (or Qaryut, or Karyut) has about 2,500 inhabitants and is surrounded by three Israeli settlements, two of them pretty big ones. Its just less than 20 miles from Nablus (where I’m based now) and about 15 mins from Ramallah on ‘Route 60’ (the main road for both Palestinians and settlers that runs north-south through the West Bank). A big problem recently has been that the settlements surround the village have grown very large, very fast taking up a lot of Palestinian land… they also employ a private security firm that operates with virtual impunity. Last year one of the settlements built a ‘settler only road’, upon which it is a crime for Palestinians to drive or walk connecting it to ‘Route 60’. As a ‘security measure’ they decide to block the dirt road that is used by villagers to gain access to ‘Route 60’. You can see how and where things are on the map here.

Continue reading

From the archives: Inshallah ان شاء الله

Over the next few days I am going to post three articles I wrote during my earlier periods of research in the West Bank. The reason for this is twofold: first, I want to have all the work I’ve done to detail my experiences of Palestine all in one place. Second, through so doing I hope to give anyone who reads my later articles with the chance to look back at my earlier discussions of events that helped shape my understanding of the current situation and my more recent analyses. Of course these do not comprise an exhaustive account of what I did and what I learned. However, I hope that this opportunity to look back will help in providing context for what has come after.

I wrote this first post during my first research trip to the West Bank in 2007. It is reposted here with some minor tweaks fro the sake of clarity. 

Inshallah  ان شاء الله

inshallah [in shállə]

or insh’allah [in shállə] 


if God wills: an expression meaning ‘if God wills’, used to suggest that something in the future is uncertain


Boy playing football in the village of Bil'in

[Mid-19th century. šā ‘Allāh ] 

It’s a simple word, and it’s used here a lot. I’d heard it before I arrived here, and then, and until perhaps recently, the real significance of its meaning hadn’t hit me. As the definition states, it is an expression of human fallibility in relation to higher power.

This, I’m afraid isn’t a post relating my conversion to any particular religion or even to any kind of deistic philosophy either, I’m afraid there is a lot more convincing left to be done to this particular religious sceptic before I’m ‘saved’ by anyone or anything.

Continue reading


Draining the hourglass: Iraqi refugees in Jordan

In Jordan, Iraqi refugees are commonly referred to as ‘brothers’ yet at the same time also suffer a variety of social stigmas. But do Ali and his family have a better chance, having worked for the coalition forces?

From OpenDemocracy 11th April, 2012

To read the full article click here.


IMPORTANT UPDATE (8 April 2013). Ali’s application has finally been processed and he will be moving to the US Next Month! This is a great relief and I’m extremely happy that this has finally worked out for a wonderful friend.  


Image from Indymedia

Education, Occupation, Incarceration

The story of Omar Qassis, a Palestinian student detained for more than a year without trial, is far from unusual.

Published in on The Guardian‘s Comment is Free pages in September, 2008.

To read the full article click here.