Sunday, April 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Saturday, January 11, 2014, 4:36 PM
FILE - In this Sunday May 16, 2004 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pauses during a news conference in his Jerusalem office regarding education reform. Sharon, the hard-charging Israeli general and prime minister who was admired and hated for his battlefield exploits and ambitions to reshape the Middle East, died Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. The 85-year-old Sharon had been in a coma since a debilitating stroke eight years ago. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

When former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon died today, after 8 years in a stroke-induced coma, I recalled the many times I had watched him first hand as a correspondent based in Beirut and Jerusalem.

Three memories stand out because they demonstrate Sharon’s long-term vision for securing Israel’s strategic needs, as he defined them. That vision ruled out a sovereign Palestinian state.

This larger-than-life character inspired both adulation and hatred, and a continuing debate over whether he helped or harmed his country, but there is no questioning his ability to adjust to changing circumstances and readjust his strategy when he saw the need.

POSTED: Thursday, December 26, 2013, 11:28 AM

On Christmas eve, the PBS Newshour discussed President Obama’s foreign policy swerve from war to diplomacy in 2013, and whether or not it was successful.  I appeared with former State Dept. head of policy planning Ann-Marie Slaughter, Amb. John Negroponte,  and WashPost columnist David Ignatius.

Watch the segment and let me know what you think.

 


POSTED: Friday, December 20, 2013, 12:15 PM
FILE In this Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2003 file photo Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former chief of Russia's largest oil company, Yukos, center, is escorted by police officers as he leaves a court in Moscow, Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday Dec. 19, 2013, that he will pardon his arch-enemy Khodorkovsky who has spent the past 10 years in prison on tax evasion and embezzlement charges. Khodorkovsky's release could potentially be Putin's biggest political decision this year. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev, File)

Vladimir Putin stunned the world today by freeing Russia’s most famous political prisoner, and onetime richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. 

After his sudden and unexpected release from a prison colony in his country’s frigid north.  Khodorkovsky went first to Berlin, where he  granted his first interview to the crusading Russian journalist Evgenia Albats. He will be reunited with his wife and family – and with his ailing mother, who will fly to him from Moscow.

The move by Putin confirms his tsar-like status in Russia.  In his annual press conference at year’s end, he never mentioned his plan to grant Khodorkovsky a pardon, dropping this news bombshell to reporters after the presser was over.  Khodorkovsky’s lawyers and his family had no idea this was coming.  But a snap of Putin’s fingers, and suddenly he is a free man. This, in addition to an amnesty that Putin’s pliant duma passed that will free other high profile prisoners, like two women from the punk protest group Pussy Riot.

POSTED: Monday, December 16, 2013, 6:23 PM
Syrian restauranteur turned activist had to flee for his life.

    As the Assad air force has been dropping barrel bombs full of TNT and shrapnel on civilians in Aleppo over the past couple of days, I’ve been talking to talented Syrian professionals who have fled to Turkey to save their lives. 

   These young Syrians are their country’s best and brightest.  Unlike the image that’s come to prevail in America of Syrians as Islamists or regime thugs,  these men and women are dentists, doctors, lawyers, financial planners, and journalists.  They are the country’s future, the human talent it can’t afford to lose.

   But, because they believed their country needed to emerge from a corrupt, 43-year-old family dictatorship, because they volunteered in field hospitals, as citizen journalists, or civic activists, their names appeared on lists, they were targeted for arrest, torture and death, and they had to flee.  Visit Gaziantep a historic city in southern Turkey, where the Syrian opposition’s transitional government has offices, and you will find these young people working in opposition offices, in aid agencies, as media activists or translators – or just trying to survive.

POSTED: Sunday, December 15, 2013, 6:00 PM
Youssef Sidhom is editor of the only Coptic Christian newspaper in Egypt.

         To visit Youssef Sidhom, editor of Watany, Egypt’s only Coptic Christian newspaper, one must walk through a Cairo alley and up a worn staircase to a warren of offices that look like an American small town U.S. paper of decades ago.

        But Sidhom has carried on the tradition of the paper’s founder, his father Anton Sidhom, in informing and promoting Egypt’s Copts, the inheritors of an ancient community predating Islam that now makes up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s 85,000 people.

        Sidhom clearly believes that the military’s overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi, was a blessing. Copts turned out in force for the massive June 28 demo that gave the military it’s excuse to move. “We already led the way in repudiating Islamic politics,” he said.

POSTED: Saturday, December 14, 2013, 5:24 PM
Mohamad Tosson, lawyer for deposed Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi.

     Talking to someone from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood these days in Cairo leaves one with a strange feeling.

     Following a coup against the elected president, Mohammed Morsi, the current military-backed government and the security services have committed gross human rights outrages against Brotherhood members.  Hugely disproportional force has been used killing hundreds at demonstrations and encampments;  neutral eyewitness reports indicate that, while some Brotherhood members may have had arms, the overwhelming preponderance of force came from security forces. 

POSTED: Thursday, December 12, 2013, 11:25 AM
Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi (JIM WATSON / Associated press)

My column today looks at a paradox: how a general, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who overthrew an elected Egyptian president in July, became a hero to young Tahrir Square revolutionaries who helped over throw the military-backed government of Hosni Mubarak.

Many Egyptians expect Sisi to become their next president, on the model of the 1960s hero Gamal Abdel Nasser.

So it was interesting to read an English transcript of a video, posted by the mostly defunct Freedom & Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood (which Sisi ousted from power). It’s supposedly a leaked (and unused) portion of an interview previously conducted with Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah El Sisi that shows reveals his interest in visions – and in running for president.

POSTED: Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 1:35 PM
Egyptian friends gather in the Ramy cafe in Imbaba. (TRUDY RUBIN / Staff)

    Sitting in the popular Ramy café in the dense Cairo working class district of Imbaba, a group of eight engineers have gathered for a night out smoking sheesha (flavored tobacco) through long-stemmed water pipes.

     Sipping sweet tea or thick Arab coffee, and eating syrupy white pudding flavored with raisins and nuts, the group is discussing why they all supported the army’s July ouster of elected president and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi.  (Only one of them had voted for Morsi- because he thought a religious man would make a more honest leader).

     The engineers refuse to call the ouster a coup.  “I thought they [leaders from the Brotherhood] would follow good rules of Islam,” says Mohamed Nagy, “but I found out they weren’t to be trusted.” He, like most of the men, got frustrated by the clannishness of the Brotherhood politicians, who sought to control every lever of power,  along with their failure to fix the economy. And like all the other older engineers, he was eager to see General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi the army commander, now turned defense minister, who led the (non) coup, run for president.  Were he to do so, Sisi is expected to get voted in in a landslide.

About this blog

Trudy Rubin’s Worldview column runs on Thursdays and Sundays. In 2009-2011 she has made four lengthy trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Over the past seven years, she visited Iraq eleven times, and also wrote from Iran, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, China, and South Korea.

She is the author of Willful Blindness: the Bush Administration and Iraq, a book of her columns from 2002-2004. In 2001 she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in commentary and in 2008 she was awarded the Edward Weintal prize for international reporting. In 2010 she won the Arthur Ross award for international commentary from the Academy of American Diplomacy.

Reach Trudy at trubin@phillynews.com.

Trudy Rubin Inquirer Opinion Columnist
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected