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Entries in The Guardian (83)


Iran Feature: "Britain Rebuffs US Pleas to Use Its Military Bases for Attack" (Hopkins)

Britain has rebuffed US pleas to use military bases in the UK to support the build-up of forces in the Gulf, citing secret legal advice which states that any pre-emptive strike on Iran could be in breach of international law.

US diplomats have also lobbied for the use of British bases in Cyprus, and for permission to fly from US bases on Ascension Island in the Atlantic and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, both of which are British territories.

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Syria Feature: A Beginner's Guide --- Who is Arming Whom? (Chulov)

Russia has retained its historical role as the key weapons supplier to Bashar al-Assad's regime over the past 18 months. It is believed to have sent at least three shipments of heavy ammunition to the jointly run port of Tartous in northern Syria. Other Russian supplies are thought to have been flown in.

In late September, Russian envoys around the world were summoned to Moscow for an annual gathering. One ambassador present said the unexpected presence of Soviet hardliners, including Yevgeny Primakov, meant no imminent change in Russia's support, or let-up in weapons supplies.

Moscow has refurbished Syrian attack helicopters, but has been unable to deliver some of them after interference from western Europe.

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Jordan Opinion: Is the Monarchy Courting Trouble?  (Libdeh)

Protest in Amman, September 2012

Jordan has the potential to transition to democracy in a more peaceful and organised way by following the Moroccan example. In 2011, the Moroccan monarchy agreed to transfer more powers to parliament, including the authority to form cabinets. This ensured the survival of the monarchy and averted further unrest and violence there.

Unfortunately, it does not appear as if Jordan's king has the vision or the courage to follow this path --- but failure to learn the lessons of the Arab spring may mean that the Jordanian people will make that decision for him.

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Syria 1st-Hand: The Insurgents' PR Quest for Ammunition in Aleppo (Abdul-Ahad)

Insurgent with empty ammunition boxes in Aleppo (Photo: Iskandar Kat/AFP/Getty)

The rebel plan for the assault on Aleppo had been simple, Abu Mohamed said. They were told by the leadership that if they took the fight to the heart of the city, the supply lines would flow. But three weeks after the rebels entered the town, the ammunition for a front stretching from the Saif al-Dawla boulevard in the north to the Salah al-Din neighbourhood in the south-west had dwindled to 600 bullets and six RPG rockets. The lines were close to collapse.

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Syria 1st-Hand: Darayya After the Mass Killing --- "The Stink of Death" (Di Giovanni)

A funeral procession in Darayya in August, days before the deadly regime attacks

Two weeks on, Darayya still stinks of death. A poor Sunni suburb south of Damascus, it had been well known for furniture-making, and for its peaceful resistance before the conflict. Now it is a ghost town of shattered glass and broken graveyard walls, bombed vegetable shops and decapitated blocks of flats. Rank rubbish is piled on corners, uncollected. There is the unmistakable smell of rotting corpses that have not yet been removed from houses. A lone bicyclist makes his way awkwardly through the rubble and debris.

The town is still and lifeless.

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Egypt Feature: Mubarak-Era Officials "Retain Millions of Pounds" of Assets in Britain (Shenker)

Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's ousted former president, was sentenced to life in jail in June. A six-month investigation, conducted by BBC Arabic and released in conjunction with the Guardian and al-Hayat, a pan-Arab newspaper, has identified many valuable assets linked to his family and their associates that have not been frozen.

These include luxury houses in Chelsea and Knightsbridge and companies registered in central London. One member of Mubarak's inner circle has even been permitted to set up a UK-based business in recent months, despite being named on a British Treasury sanctions list of Egyptians who are linked to misappropriated assets and subject to an asset-freeze.

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Mauritania Feature: A Country Shackled by Slavery? (Mark)

A CNN report from March 2012

In 1981 Mauritania became the last country to abolish slavery, although it was only criminalised in 2007. Officials repeatedly denied it existed and refused to talk to the Guardian about slavery. But activists and former slaves speak of a centuries-old practice, a relic of the trans-Sahara slave trade when Arabic-speaking Moors raided African villages, flourishing in remote outposts of this vast desert country.

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Syria Video Feature: Fighting the Battle with Camera Phones (Harding)

Street fighting in Aleppo, 23 July 2012

In April last year Ahmad Mohammad left his village in northern Syria filled with its pomegranate trees, figs, and goats, and moved to Lebanon. He came back five months later with a certificate in mobile phone maintenance – a weapon more powerful than Bashar al-Assad's helicopters and tanks.

While he was away Mohammad learned how to upload videos to YouTube – a website banned by the Syrian regime. "Nobody in Syria knew how to do this," he said. In the meantime Syria's revolution snowballed from a handful of protests into a seething nation-wide revolt, characterised by nightly anti-regime gatherings, shootouts with the security forces and a growing number of casualties.

Mohammad had a laptop but no money. His brother lent him some cash, with which he bought a 3G modem and a Sony Ericsson phone from Turkey. Within a couple of days, he had rigged up a high-speed internet connection at his parent's home – the cable sitting next to the vine above the terrace and a pot of basil on a wall.

Last autumn opposition fighters took control of his village. On 10 January 2012, Mohammad shot his first video, a demonstration, on which did a voiceover in Arabic: "Don't trust Assad's reforms, join the revolution!"

The day was muggy and wintry; the picture quality wasn't great, with sepia tones. But Mohammad's career as a video activist had begun.

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Syria Snapshot: The "Jihadists" in the Fight in the Northeast (Abdul-Ahad)

Claimed footage of insurgents in Deir Ez Zor, 2 July 2012

As they stood outside the commandeered government building in the town of Mohassen, it was hard to distinguish Abu Khuder's men from any other brigade in the Syrian civil war, in their combat fatigues, T-shirts and beards.

But these were not average members of the Free Syrian Army. Abu Khuder and his men fight for al-Qaida. They call themselves the ghuraba'a, or "strangers", after a famous jihadi poem celebrating Osama bin Laden's time with his followers in the Afghan mountains, and they are one of a number of jihadi organisations establishing a foothold in the east of the country now that the conflict in Syria has stretched well into its second bloody year.

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Syria 1st-Hand: The Stories of the Widows (Sutton)

Photo: Tara Sutton/The GuardianI didn't find out the day he died. My family told me gradually. They told me "your husband was shot" and then they told me he might have passed away. Two days after he died, they finally told me that he had been killed. I felt that I lost a piece of my heart. I told my eldest, Ahmed, myself, but the neighbours had to tell the youngest.

I am proud that he was killed for a good cause and he was not a traitor to his country or his people. The Koran says: "Those who are killed fighting for the cause of God are alive and not dead."

I am surviving with the help of God and I have a strong personality. I don't like to collapse in front of my kids. If I fall apart, what will happen to them?

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