Iraq’s election: Alas, it may make little difference

ON APRIL 30th Nuri al-Maliki stepped behind a cardboard voting booth in a hotel ballroom in Baghdad, cast his ballot and raised a triumphant finger dipped in purple ink, urging other Iraqis to head for the polls, too. But this was in the relative safety of the fortified “green zone”, the government area which, he fears, is the ultimate target of opposition fighters now proliferating to the west and north of the capital. Elsewhere in Iraq the election took place amid bombs and bitter sectarian animosity between Sunni and Shia politicians

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Egypt: Hang them all?

IN MARCH an Egyptian judge shocked the world by sentencing 529 men to die for the murder of a single police officer. On April 28th the same judge outdid himself, condemning another 683 men in a separate case to the gallows. This raised his personal one-month total of death sentences beyond the number of people known to have been judicially executed worldwide last year, excluding China, and close to the 1,378 that America has injected, electrocuted, shot or gassed since reintroducing capital punishment back in 1976.Yet the most populous Arab country may not carry out such lethal punishments

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Syria’s civil war: A flower in the desert

Father Paolo at home IN THE early 1980s an Italian Jesuit came to Syria to study Arabic and found a disused monastery in dry mountains north of the capital, Damascus. Research revealed that Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi (the Monastery of Saint Moses the Abyssinian) had been founded at the site in the 6th century and rebuilt in the 11th—adorned with beautiful frescoes—before being abandoned several hundred years later. Won over by the history and the aspect of the monastery, Paolo Dall’Oglio set about restoring it.By 1991 Deir Mar Musa was once again home to a flourishing community

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Syria’s war economy: Bullets and bank accounts

AS SYRIA’S 2011 uprising against President Bashar Assad turned into a civil war, business in Damascus and Aleppo, the country’s two biggest cities, plunged and inflation soared. Early this year, when rebels took over the northern city of Raqqa—and with it a good chunk of Syria’s oil and agricultural land, two main sources of government revenue fell into rebel hands

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The Israel Defence Forces: Taking wing

His next assignment is in a cubicle SOME 30,000 soldiers are slowly vacating their bases in Israel’s main city, Tel Aviv, and moving to the Negev desert. By the end of the decade, much of the country’s army will have migrated to four huge bases alongside Bedouin shanties.

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