Monday, July 21, 2014

Tripoli Gets Worse

Fighting in Libya's capital has spread beyond the airport:
Officially Libya is not at war, but for the thousands of residents of the capital, Tripoli, who fled their homes at the weekend it is starting to feel like it. Fighting spilled across Tripoli's western districts after a battle between rival militias on July 19th and 20th for control of Libya’s main airport left 47 dead, marking it as the most violent day since the end of the 2011 revolution that toppled Muammar Qaddafi.
Militias from Misrata, frustrated at their failure to capture the airport after a week of fighting with the Zintan militia that holds it, arrived with tanks to pound the perimeter. The Zintanis responded with shells and anti-aircraft fire. As the violence expanded, huge fires burned in the city's western districts. “A shell hit my neighbour’s house and a lot of people left,” says Seraj, a resident of the western suburb of Janzour.  “We stayed inside, it was not safe on the streets...”
Without command of any troops willing and able to intervene, Libya's foreign minister, Muhammad Abdul Aziz, on July 17th asked the UN Security Council to send military advisers to bolster state forces guarding ports, airports and other strategic locations. He warned that Libya risks going “out of control” without such help. But he found no takers.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mosul's Christian Exodus

The latest news from Caliph Ibrahim's Land of Horrors is that the last remnant of Mosul's Christian community has fled.  The group which I prefer to still call ISIS had summoned them to a meeting Thursday to discuss the community's status.  When Christians did not appear, the group issued the declaration they were probably going to issue anyway, requiring Christians to convert to Islam, pay a special tax, or depart.  The option of departure means giving up their possessions, but that is the one Christians have apparently chosen en masse:
A YouTube video shows ISIS taking sledgehammers to the tomb of Jonah, something that was also confirmed by Mr. Hikmat. The militants also removed the cross from St. Ephrem’s Cathedral, the seat of the Syriac Orthodox archdiocese in Mosul, and put up the black ISIS flag in its place. They also destroyed a statue of the Virgin Mary, according to Ghazwan Ilyas, the head of the Chaldean Culture Society in Mosul, who spoke by telephone on Thursday from Mosul but seemed to have left on Friday...
For the Christians displaced from Mosul, sudden departure has meant a series of treks — first to nearby Christian villages like Bartella and Hamdaniya, already badly overcrowded, then to Kurdistan, a semiautonomous region of Iraq where there is more tolerance for Christians.
As the Christians leave Mosul, ISIS has painted the Arabic letter that means “Nasrani,” from Nazrene, a word often used to refer to Christians, on their homes. Next to the letter, in black, are the words: “Property of the Islamic State of Iraq.”
The militants have also told Muslims who rent property from Christians that they no longer need to pay rent, said a businessman who rents from a Christian. The landlord now lives in Lebanon.
Jonah is a prophet in Islam.  The militants are probably destroying his tomb out of concerns veneration of the prophet distracts from worship due only to God, the same reason many Muslim sites have been destroyed in Saudi Arabia.

Mosul's Christian community, which via the city's absorption of neighboring Nineveh may even date from apostolic times, will probably never come back.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Transitional Justice in Tunisia

Carlotta Gall reports on the controversy in Tunisia surrounding how to deal with crimes of the Ben Ali regime:
Of the approximately 20 former senior officials detained in the aftermath of the uprising, almost all are now free. Only Mr. Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia with his wife and son on Jan. 14, 2011, and his family still face stern punishment. The president has been sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia, and arrest warrants have been issued for his wife, Leila Trabelsi, and other relatives. A nephew of the former president, Imed Trabelsi, is in prison, convicted of drug possession and check kiting, and faces further charges of embezzlement.
Lower-ranking police officers and soldiers have also faced charges for shootings during the uprising, when at least 320 protesters were killed and over 2,000 wounded in the weeks of unrest. But they have invariably received lenient or suspended sentences or been acquitted by the military tribunals, victims’ relatives and human rights organizations say.
Gall links this to policies of the Ennahda party government by which former regime officials are also allowed to continue to seek office.  Ennahda leaders apparently decided it was better to let them into the political arena where they will almost certainly lose than exclude them and face potentially destabilizing opposition from their supporters, particularly in the security services.  The party did, however, pass a transitional justice law:
Under the law, a 15-member commission was inaugurated on June 9 and will work for the next four or five years to expose the repression of citizens since Tunisia gained independence in 1956. The commissioners will hold hearings and will have the power to search government archives and detain or fine people who obstruct their work. Special chambers will be set up to hear the most grievous cases...
Sihem Bensedrine, a human rights activist and former journalist who heads the Truth and Dignity Commission, said the tens of thousands of cases of torture, rape and murders over 50 years of dictatorship would be investigated. Those of the martyrs of the revolution, however, will be a priority because of the symbolism of the uprising against tyranny...
Her main aim is to prevent any return to dictatorship. “To have a Seriati in prison is not sufficient for me,” she said. “We want to show all the pieces of the machine, and show this is how you construct a dictatorship and this is how you deconstruct it. We do not want it anymore."
This sounds like what happened successfully with South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and perhaps closer to home the Equity and Reconciliation Commission set up in 2004 to investigate the human rights violations of Morocco's "Years of Lead" under King Hassan II.  The latter, which was in part an effort simply to boost the popularity of the new King Muhammad VI by contrasting him with his predecessor, has been found inadequate by Amnesty International.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tripoli Airport Battle

It is easy to watch events in Iraq and Israel/Palestine and forget that Libya is also in turmoil.  Today marked the fourth day of a battle for control of Tripoli's main airport, a crucial line to the rest of the world.  Yesterday the New York Times reported:
At the Tripoli airport, no quick end to the fighting was in sight. Fighters from the western mountain city of Zintan took control of the airport in 2011, after the revolt against Colonel Qaddafi, when the militias involved in the revolt embarked on a mad dash for spoils.
Hundreds of Zintani fighters were in the airport on Tuesday, defending their turf. In the passenger terminal, some cooked dinner, preparing to break the Ramadan fast. On the airfield, the fighters used tanks, mortar shells and antiaircraft guns against their enemies: rival fighters, including from the coastal city of Misurata, who had taken up positions in a village next to the airport...
The violence had links to a battle on the other side of the country, in the eastern city of Benghazi, where a general named Khalifa Hifter has declared that fighters loyal to him constitute the national army, with a mission to vanquish Libya’s Islamist militias and politicians. The fighting at the airport also seems to reflect the unsettled politics in Libya, where recent elections were expected to return fewer Islamist lawmakers to Parliament.
To complete the circle, the militias attacking the airport are affiliated with Islamists, the political tendency targeted by General Hifter and his allies.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Salim al-Jubouri

Iraq's parliament has managed to elect a speaker:
Salim al-Jubouri, a moderate Sunni Islamist, won the speaker’s post with 194 votes of 272 cast. Joining him as deputy speakers were Haider al-Abadi, a Shiite, who is a member of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s Dawa Party, and Aram al-Sheikh Mohammed, a Kurd from the Goran Party.
The Parliament had tried and failed twice before to elect a speaker, so Tuesday’s decision represented something of a breakthrough since it starts the clock for setting up the entire government. The Constitution requires that in two weeks, the speaker must nominate a president. The president then has four weeks to nominate the prime minister. 
An amusing quote from the article: "By custom, a Sunni holds the position of speaker; a Kurd has the presidency, and a Shiite is prime minister."  That "custom" can be at most a decade old, right?  Lebanon has had a similar customary system for much longer, with a Maronite president, Sunni prime minister, and Shi'ite speaker.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

KDP, PUK, and Kurdish Independence

There are two important Kurdish political factions in Iraq: the KDP, which leads the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the PUK, which has more influence on the national stage.  I last blogged a bit about them here.  Mohammed Salih writes for The Christian Science Monitor of their differing attitudes towards independence:
But behind the front of Kurdish secessionism lies a quietly simmering battle between two dominant political faction that could undermine any independence push. On one side is Massoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdish Regional Government, whose Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP)  wants independence now. On the other is the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of Jalal Talabani, which is divided on the question and distrust the KDP's motives...
The predominantly Kurdish parts of northern Iraq are now divided into two zones of influence, a legacy of the 1980s conflict. The KDP controls the local administrations and security forces in Erbil and Duhok provinces, while the PUK is the dominant force in Sulaimaniyah and Kirkuk provinces...
Unlike the PUK, the KDP has a relatively centralized decisionmaking process and Barzani is its undisputed leader. The PUK has lacked a strong leader since Talabani was reported to have suffered a stroke two years ago. The party is split on the bid for independence – some officials support and others oppose...
The KDP, with its dominant role in the regional government, has developed strong ties with neighboring Turkey, which sees the benefit of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan with its own oilfields. The PUK is more mindful of Iran's influence and its sensitivities towards its own Kurdish minority. Some PUK officials argue that many countries in the region are opposed to a breakaway state and that could undermine it. 

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Sunday, July 06, 2014

ISIS's Electricity Binge and Water

In Syria, the ISIS has sharply increased electricity generation from a critical dam, causing water shortages elsewhere:
Under the watch of the  Islamic State group - formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) - levels in Lake Assad have dropped so low that pumps used to funnel water east and west are either entirely out of commission or functioning at significantly reduced levels. The shortages compel residents in Aleppo and Al Raqqa to draw water from unreliable sources, which can pose serious health risks.
The primary reason behind the drop appears to be a dramatic spike in electricity generation at the Euphrates Dam in al-Tabqa, which has been forced to work at alarmingly high rates...
"Ten years ago the government told engineers to forget this dam for energy [generation] … that it is only a strategic reserve of water," Waleed said. "Normally we should not use more than one or two of the turbines for more than four or five hours per day. But for the last month and a half they have been using eight at full [capacity]..."
At the beginning of May, electricity supply in rebel-confrolled al-Raqqa suddenly spiked, reaching up to 16 hours per day - unheard of in Syria's conflict-ridden northern provinces.
It sounds like ISIS tried to endear themselves to the inhabitants of Raqqa by providing more electricity, but in a way that was unsustainable and that continues to cause significant water shortages elsewhere, most notably in Aleppo.

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Thursday, July 03, 2014

Drying of Azraq

In his piece about dessication in the Middle East, Scott Greenwood singles out Azraq in Jordan:
One dramatic effect of groundwater over-abstraction was the destruction of the Azraq wetlands in eastern Jordan. The wetlands had served as an oasis for humans and animals for centuries before the unsustainable extraction of groundwater caused the springs feeding the wetlands to dry up in the early 1990s. Today the wetlands are only 0.04 percent of their original size, and groundwater from the Azraq aquifer continues to be pumped to satisfy the needs of Jordan’s northern cities. One relatively positive development for the wetlands —and for Jordan’s water security in general — is the recent completion of the Disi Water Conveyance Project. This project is provides nearly 100 million cubic meters of fossil groundwater annually to the capital. Amman, and this has lessened the need to pump water from Azraq to Amman for municipal use. However, the Disi project is not without its own challenges as the water from Disi is naturally radioactive and must be mixed with other sources of freshwater to make it safe for consumption. In addition, the cost of pumping the Disi water to Amman – about 400 miles away – has greatly increased the budget deficit of the Water Authority of Jordan and is putting pressure on the government to raise water prices for consumers.
On an ancient history note, the earliest named Arab in the historical record, "Jindibu the Arab," was probably from Azraq.  He was an ally of Israel's King Ahab against the Assyrians.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Baladhur the Memory Drug

In the medieval Islamic world, those wishing to improve their memory would take a drug called baladhur, a sap drawn from the nut of the Indian plant Semecarpus anacardium.  I had run across this previously in the story of a ninth-century historian's grandfather whose death was attributed to an overdose, but recently found full discussions in Kristian Richardson's book on disability in late Mamluk and early Ottoman period and an article by Gerrit Bos in the 1996 Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies.  In addition, baladhur could reduce stress.  Because in the medical theory of the time it was seen as promoting the hot humor, those who were easily sexually excited were advised against it, and its medical use was mainly forgetfulness associated with old age.  Side effects could include itching, leprosy, hearing demonic whispers, and having one's flesh begin to rot.  (Can't you just see the TV commercial for this now?)

Baladhur was widespread from at least the 9th century into Ottoman times, and seems to have had a social profile among the educated classes because of its addictive qualities.  In fact, many physicians advised against it altogether because overuse and/or improper preparation could actually lead to dementia and irascibility, the opposite of why people were taking it.  Stories abound of scholars who ultimately suffered because of their baladhur use.  Richardson focuses on a man named Shihab al-Din al-Hijazi, who early in life was an outstanding student of Islamic Studies, but during his 20's suffered a period of acute mental instability attributed to his years of baladhur use.  Even upon his recovery he suffered chronic memory loss, and so had to make his career elsewhere.

The social context for all baladhur's popularity leads me to relate it to steroids in modern sports.  Put simply, memorization was the key skill scholars possessed in the medieval Islamic world, and the scholarly world wa known for its intense competition such that it is unsurprising many sought an edge despite the pitfalls.  The use of writing as a memory aid only became accepted during the 9th century.  Even during the Mamluk period of the 1300's and 1400's, the prevailing view was that you could only claim as knowledge what was in your head, and scholars were often called upon to recite long books during public performances.  In public debates, scholars would have to draw on any number of memorized accounts and traditions, complete with lengthy chains of authorities verifying the information, and errors would open one to ridicule.  At stake was a great deal of wealth, for not only would rulers heap financial rewards upon prominent religious scholars, but as Michael Chamberlain has shown, the key to maintaining wealth and influence across generations of political instability was to earn and keep positions in mosques and madrasas that went to the best scholars.

Semecarpus anacardium is still used in India as an herbal remedy.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Qawasmeh as Spoilers

Shlomi Eldor situates the murder of three Israeli teenagers within a historical pattern of the Hebron area's Qawasmeh clan working to undermine Hamas moves toward moderation:
The total number of people belonging to the clan is estimated at about 10,000, making it one of the three largest clans in the Mount Hebron region. At least 15 members of the family were killed during the second intifada, nine of them while committing suicide attacks against Israel. All of the terrorists lived in the Abu Qatila neighborhood, within a radius of less than 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) from one another. Whenever the head of the terrorist organization within the clan was assassinated or arrested by Israel, one of his brothers or cousins was selected to replace him...
Marwan Qawasmeh, the man behind the abduction (of the teenagers), emerged as a dominant figure in the clan after Israel arrested Imad Qawasmeh and sentenced him to life in prison.
Each time Hamas had reached an understanding with Israel about a cease-fire or tahadiyeh (period of calm), at least one member of the family has been responsible for planning or initiating a suicide attack, and any understandings with Israel, achieved after considerable effort, were suddenly laid waste.
Back in the days of the peace process, people spoke of a "bomber's veto," in which terrorist attacks would disrupt the negotiations whenever they made progress.  Israel and the Palestinians are not negotiating at the moment, but Hamas has reached an accord for Palestinian unity with Fatah, one in which Hamas is allowing Fatah to take the lead.  If the Qawasmehs are the party responsible for the deaths of the three youths, then they are using Israeli as their willing military force to push Hamas toward more hardline policies.

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Iraq's Sectarian Media

Daoud al-Ali writes about how Iraq's sectarian media is inflaming the crisis:
While some media organisations were strident in their support of the fight against Sunni Muslim extremists, others described them as revolutionaries who were taking part in a popular uprising. It quickly became clear that the Iraqi media was giving in to sectarian sentiments, just as the Iraqi people on the street were...
Over the past two to three weeks it has become quite normal for Iraqis to spend two hours watching news programmes which basically feature a lot of battle songs, while the presenter answers calls from Iraqis who were volunteering to fight the Sunni Muslim extremist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS...
On the “other side” of the media, the opposite was happening. Various media organisations began to promote the idea that the extremist fighters were revolutionaries and that they were leading a popular uprising. These media organisations began to celebrate the “liberation” of Mosul...
Over the past week or so, many local journalists have started saying that they were pressured to cover the news in a biased way. 
His whole article is worth reading.  An academic study of the Iraqi media, Media Practice in Iraq, was written by Ahmed K. al-Rawi.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer Ramadan


This picture was taken during Ramadan 2007 at Midan Hussein in Cairo, a popular place for large groups to eat during Ramadan.  This brings out the point that Islam's holy month isn't just about fasting, but breaking the fast.  As the sun sets, spontaneous meals break out all over the Islamic world.  What I found in my brief Ramadan stints in Egypt and Turkey was that lots of people would bring food primarily to share with others when eating became legit.

In 2007, Ramadan was in the fall.  This weekend Northern Hemisphere Muslims begin a summer Ramadan, a season in which fasting is most difficult.  The original Ramadan fast, however, was also during the summer, as the month's name comes from an Arabic root whose words all refer to intense heat and sunlight.  Islam uses a strictly lunar calendar, but the Arabian calender of Muhammad's day kept months in season with intercalary months, much as the Jewish calendar does.  I blogged here about some reasons why Islam might have done away with intercalation and let the months drift through the seasons.

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Qaboos Keeps Price Controls

In Oman, Sultan Qaboos has put on hold a plan to scrap most price controls:
Oman’s ruler Sultan Qaboos Bin Said has put on hold the government’s decision to scrap price controls for most products after a public uproar triggered an intervention by his consultative council, state news agency ONA said.
Under new rules announced last week, retailers and traders no longer needed to ask the government for permission to raise prices, except for 23 basic items such as rice, tea and fish which remained controlled.
But after debating the new rules on Tuesday, the advisory Shura Council drafted a letter to the Sultan, recommending that he postpone their adoption until other laws protecting consumers and preventing monopolies could be enacted.
“The Council agrees completely with the principles of free-market economy and that the state shouldn’t intervene in the market, leaving it to the power of supply and demand,” ONA quoted the letter as saying...
The new rules had caused an unusual public furore in the the country, with hash tags objecting to the reform drawing tens of thousands of tweets, even though economists predicted only a minor impact on inflation.
It is not clear to me that the Shura Council knows what a free market means, if they linked support of one to a continuation of price controls.  In terms of regional politics, this shows the Gulf rulers are still attentive to public outcry, a sensitivity which was heightened by the Arab Spring.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Iraqi Memories of 1991

Given the salience of the Sunni/Shi'ite divide in the current crisis in Iraq, I am unsurprisingly hearing examples of what I call the "timeless enmity canard": that a particular conflict exists perpetually independent of any actual grievances of beliefs found in particular times and places.  There are definitely cultural biases at work here.  If you look at Anglo-American prejudices against Latinos, you will hear about current issues such as employment and language.  The centuries-old history of political and cultural rivalry in North America between speakers of English and Spanish matters only as a deep historical explanation for the existence of a fault line which under other circumstances could lie dormant and barely known.

In understanding the development of today's sectarian turmoil in Iraq, one good place to start is the March 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm.  A complete history of this has yet to be written, though there is an important oral history project underway.  What I know of these matters comes primarily from books by Eric Davis, Fanar Haddad, and Dina Rizk Khoury

The revolt had nothing to do with religious ideology, except probably in terms of fortifying many people to take on the struggle spiritually and providing a defiant iconography against a regime that had suppressed Shi'ite rituals and centers of authority.  It was, if anything, a revolt against the cost for individuals against Iraq's military failures.  It began among troops returning from the front against the U.S.-led coalition, and most intense in areas that had been hit hard not only during Desert Storm, but the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, where the most intense fighting took place in the south.

Although there were incidents in most Iraqi provinces, it was overwhelmingly a southern revolution.  A conventional explanation is the use of Shi'ite symbolism that put off Sunnis, though I find myself wondering if the motives to revolt were also distributed unevenly geographically.  In any case, it became a Shi'ite uprising, especially in historical memory, and the divided historical memories of it became an important fissure going forward.  After the revolt was suppressed, a series of articles appeared in a leading government media outlet which presented an interpretation of events that Sunni Arabs, who had no other information and probably had some predisposition to the cultural stereotypes on which it drew, largely accepted.  The articles, Saddam Hussein himself may have written, claimed the revolt had been instigated by large numbers of Iranian instigators and was largely carried out by uneducated from the social margins - marsh dwellers and the Shi'ite urban poor.  Indeed, "Mob's Rebellion" came to be one term used for the uprising among Arab Sunnis.

During the Iran-Iraq War, the Iraqi internal self-presentation was that they were fighting for a modern secular lifestyle against a medieval theocracy led by clerics whose followers obeyed them blindly.  I find myself wondering how much the Ba'athist portrayal of 1991 echoed some of that propaganda.  The bottom line is that for Sunnis, then, the revolt was ultimately against what they understood Iraq to be, along both class and ethno-religious dimensions.  For Shi'ites, however, they were the Iraqi nation rising against a despised dictatorship, and they did not understand how Sunnis would not join them, and instead appeared to cheer on their defeat.

These conflicting narratives continued to fester during the 1990's, and serve as some of the background for why parties acted as they did after Saddam's ouster by the 2003 Anglo-American invasion.  In the wake of that, of course, Sunnis still saw foreign hands as behind the Shi'ite rise and themselves as the guardians of the nation, while Shi'ites saw themselves as the nation liberated having to fight off remnants of the old regime who were little more than terrorists allied with international salafi jihadists.

In other words, while Sunni and Shi'ite are opposed in modern Iraq, there is nothing timeless and unchanging about that, nor is it because of centuries-old religious disputes or theological differences.  If you went to Iraq and asked people of one community about the other, you might hear some cultural stereotypes that may or may not be tied to religious beliefs and practices, but the most emotional issues would be grievances concerning what has happened in the last generation, who can be trusted to defend a particular view of Iraq as opposed to betraying it to outsiders, and what their perceived plans were for the future.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Pearling History of the Gulf

If I were to name the most important recent book on Gulf history, it would actually be Robert Carter's Sea of Pearls.  Carter is an archaeologist who is more than competent in history, and I have previously highlighted his work on Gulf Christianity in the early Islamic period.  His objective in the current book is to push pearling to the forefront of the history of the pre-oil Gulf, given "how fundamentally the pearling industry moulded the settlement patterns and economy of the region, and how utterly the societies of the Gulf depended on it."

The book is based on archaeological work, oral history, primary sources available in western European languages (including in translation), and the work of previous scholars on particular aspects of its subject.  It has a chapter on antiquity and another on what is conventionally called the Middle Ages, but becomes more detailed when sources become more abundant on the eve of the Portuguese arrival in the region.  One central them is that for much of history, the Gulf pearling industry was centralized in a very few sites under the domination of a particular state, such as the Sasanian Empire, the Qarmatian polity of the 10th century, and the Safavid Empire.  This changed during the 18th century, when Iran entered its long period of instability and a number of new Arab tribes arrived, creating a much more decentralized industry with numerous centers.  The pearling towns which were founded during this period continue into the modern period as cities and towns on the Arabian shore, from Ras al-Khaimah to Kuwait.

The book also dedicates several chapters to explaining industry practices during the 19th and early 20th centuries, many of which are clearly similar to those of earlier times.  As early as the 1300s, merchants supported the expeditions with loans designed to cover the costs of equipping the expedition and support for divers' families during the four month of the annual pearling season.  If the divers and captains could not repay these debts, they had to continue working for the merchant, which often involved more debt.  This debt chain is often described as a form of indentured servitude, but Carter situates it within a general pattern of patronage relationships throughout the region, with the wealthy often providing for the poor in exchange for forms of service and loyalty.  The descriptions of great hardship all come from the late days in which the industry was dying, and the loan system generally seems to have prevented destitution following bad years, served to spread risk and profit within the pearling community, and allowed for the easy integration of newcomers and expansion of the industry during boom times.

There is, simply put, a ton of information in this massive book, which goes right up to the present, noting aspects of the pearl/oil transition, including the rise of a more generalized jewellery business and the continuation of many economic relationships.  Another thing is that it deals with the entire Gulf littoral, as opposed to focusing just on the Arabian shore or an unwieldy unit of whole states bordering the Gulf.  Finally, although Carter reads neither Arabic nor Persian, there is a vast amount of well-presented terminology in this book which will be of use to those who do.  This book is pricey, but has a place in any academic library serving scholars of the Middle East.

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