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    "Israel: Have we lost that loving feeling, and can we get it back?"
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US Troop Level for Iraq, and Questions for Libya

Currently, America’s policymakers are deliberating on how many US troops should remain in Iraq.  The Department of Defense is pushing for 3,000-5,000, and some in Congress are pushing for 10,000 or more.  If they listen to the preferences of Moqtada al-Sadr, the number will be zero, according to this story from Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile, BBC News has a general update on Libya.  The most noteworthy piece is that in a speech the leader of the National Transitional Council announced that Libya will be a state guided by Moderate Islam, and denounced extremism.  The New York Times has posted a story about the future role of women in Libya, which details how their contribution to the Revolution will help shape opportunities after the revolution.  With Libya, it seems like we in the West are still struggling to ask the right questions about Libya’s future, so finding answers is even further off, perhaps because its just easier to root for the capture of Muammar al-Gaddafi.  But these issues like will Libya be a moderate country, or go tribal, or something else, are important to always keep in mind (even that sentence ignores so much nuance).


New Movie Depicts Lives of Palestinian Women

In less weighty news, a new movie hits theaters today. It’s called “Miral,” and its about the lives of four Palestinian women over a period of several decades from the 1940s to the 1990s. Indie director Julian Schnabel is at the director’s helm for the pic, which looks visually appealing and thematically ambitious, judging by the trailer. The following are links to two reviews: one fairly positive, the other lukewarm. If anyone gets around to seeing it, let us know.

The Feminist Revolution in Egypt & Beyond

The always interesting Naomi Klein penned a recent op-ed in Al-Jazeera. Her argument: women played a huge, yet under-appreciated, role in sparking the uprisings that have gripped the Middle East in 2011. Klein mostly focuses on Egypt, describing how female bloggers like Leil Zahra Mortada kept the world abreast of developments from Tahrir Square. She points out that more than 50% of college students in Egypt are women and thus credits their rising educational achievement as a key reason for their participation in anti-regime protests. Klein also theorizes that social media outlets have provided a means for women to have a greater voice given their reluctance to take leadership roles in person. Personally, I’m a bit of a skeptic on the role of social media in aiding and abetting the protests in the Middle East. But I have no doubt that women continue to play a big role and that their story has gone largely unreported by major media outlets in the West.

Divorce Rate In Iran On The Up

For all those who read Robert Baer’s The Devil We Know for Intelligence & National Security in the Fall, you may remember the author describing Iran as a place of many paradoxes. Well, here may be another reason. The divorce rate in Iran has tripled since 2000, a development that is starting to catch the attention of senior clerics and societal commentators alike. In the New York Times article describing the phenomenon, the impression is that this is a good thing, in that it reflects a greater effort by Iranian women to express a fundamental right. To all readers with a keen interest in or knowledge of Iran: what say you on the matter?

Separate Bomb Plots Linked to Yemen

Several news sources are reporting on the recent wave of bombing attempts.  On Friday, two cargo planes were grounded at East Midlands Airport, in Nottingham, north of London, and at a courier facility in Dubai.  A package containing explosives found in the UK was on board a UPS cargo aircraft, while another, in Dubai, was found in a FedEx sorting facility.  U.S authorities are heightening security, and Yemeni President Ali Abudullah Saleh again reiterated his government’s commitment to fight terrorism, but reminded the international community that Yemen “will not allow anyone to intervene in its affairs.”

Al Jazeera, BBC, & NYTimes report on this breaking news.