Hugh Roberts

Hugh Roberts is the Edward Keller Professor of North African and Middle Eastern history at Tufts University. His most recent books are The Battlefield: Algeria 1988-2002 and Berber Government: The Kabyle Polity in Pre-Colonial Algeria.

American intelligence saw Islamic State coming and was not only relaxed about the prospect but, it appears, positively interested in it. The US Defense Intelligence Agency document doesn’t talk of ‘the possibility that Isis might establish a Salafist principality’ but of ‘the possibility of establishing’ a Salafist principality. So who was to be the prime mover in this process? Did IS have a state backing it after all?

The Revolution That Wasn’t

Hugh Roberts, 12 September 2013

Western opinion has had difficulty working out what to think, or at any rate what to say, about Egypt. It now seems that the pedlars of hallucinations have been cowed and it is no longer fashionable to describe the events of 3 July in Cairo as a ‘second revolution’. But to describe them as a counter-revolution, while indisputably more accurate, presupposes that there was a revolution in the first place. The bulk of Western media commentary seems still to be wedded to this notion. That what the media called ‘the Arab spring’ was a succession of revolutions became orthodoxy very quickly.

Western Recklessness

Hugh Roberts, 11 October 2012

Libya no longer has – or is – a state. The political field throughout most of the Middle East and North Africa is dominated by the various fiercely competing brands of Islamism, while the religious field has been in a state of profound disorder since the abolition of the Caliphate following the destruction of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War. A degree of order was...

Who said Gaddafi had to go?

Hugh Roberts, 17 November 2011

So Gaddafi is dead and Nato has fought a war in North Africa for the first time since the FLN defeated France in 1962. The Arab world’s one and only State of the Masses, the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriyya, has ended badly. In contrast to the bloodless coup of 1 September 1969 that overthrew King Idris and brought Gaddafi and his colleagues to power, the combined rebellion/civil war/ Nato bombing campaign to protect civilians has occasioned several thousand (5000? 10,000? 25,000?) deaths, many thousands of injured and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, as well as massive damage to infrastructure. What if anything has Libya got in exchange for all the death and destruction that have been visited on it over the past seven and a half months?

From The Blog
11 March 2019

The Algerian state is in crisis. The popular refusal to accept a fifth term for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has immense constitutional implications and confronts the army commanders with a massive dilemma. Public opinion is not repudiating Bouteflika personally; it is indignantly rejecting the suggestion that, in his permanently crippled, wholly incapacitated condition, he should be considered eligible for another five years in office. The Algerian people are defending the constitution, not violating it. Article 102 clearly defines the procedure to be followed ‘whenever the President of the Republic, because of serious and enduring illness, finds himself unable to exercise his functions’. This should have been set in motion long ago.

From The Blog
20 January 2013

There are numerous aspects of the violent drama at the gas plant at Tigantourine near In Amenas in south-eastern Algeria that remain unclear if not frankly baffling. Since the dust is yet to settle this is not the moment to pass judgment on the behaviour of the Algerians or the significance of the event. Instead I propose to list some of the questions to which answers are needed if we are to get a clear view of what happened.

From The Blog
22 September 2012

Libya no longer has – or is – a state. The political field throughout most of the Middle East and North Africa is dominated by the various fiercely competing brands of Islamism. The religious field has been in a state of profound disorder since the abolition of the Caliphate following the destruction of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War. A degree of order was effectively restored to it by intelligent nationalist movements which, once in power, promoted a ‘national Islam’ the better to subject religion to raison d’état and curb its more dangerous and sectarian enthusiasms. But Western policy since the end of the Cold War has been relentlessly opposed to the nationalist tradition and its exponents throughout the region.

Letter

The Hijackers

15 July 2015

If by ‘the Syrian opposition’ Brian Slocock means the Syrian element of the opposition to the Assad regime, I have not accused it of intransigence at all and, in quoting Lakhdar Brahimi’s assessment without comment, I accepted that the regime showed more intransigence in the Geneva II talks (Letters, 30 July). My central point is that the Syrian opposition’s sponsors –...
Letter
Hugh Roberts writes: Ignoring my clear critique of the Jamahiriyya, Hisham Matar misrepresents my opposition to the war policy as a lament for Gaddafi’s dictatorship and accuses me of disregarding the will of the Libyan people when the Libyan people, pre-empted by Western governments, rebel militias and Nato, have had no opportunity to express their will (Letters, 1 December). It is precisely...

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