Links for April 24-29 2010

Fred HallidayThe leading international relations scholar and Middle East specialist Fred Halliday passed away in Barcelona this week, at 64, due to complications from cancer. Before moving to Barcelona, Halliday had been one of the stars of the London School of Economics' IR department, and as an undergraduate student I would sneak into his Masters' seminars to get a peak of the legend. I remember a masterly, but free-flowing discourse on great power politics in the Middle East.
One of the things I admired about Halliday was his transition from journalist to academic, something that was not easy back in the 1980s and is probably even less so today in this age of narrow academic specialization. Of course, it helps when you speak about eight languages and you've already published fantastic books such as Arabia Without Sultans.
There's a bunch of obituaries out there that will give you more flavor — see Sami Zubeida's or dozens more at OpenDemocracy. One of the controversies around Halliday is that, perhaps because as a Marxist he believed that imperialism would accelerate the development of third-world political systems, he supported the 1990 war against Iraq and, though less publicly, the 2002 invasion too. I particularly liked this memory from Brian Whitaker:
My favourite memory of Fred is a story he used to tell about meeting a Yemeni somewhere out in the wilds who asked which tribe he belonged to. Fred replied that his tribe was the Bani Tanwir (the "Sons of Enlightenment"). 
And now for the links:
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.