James Denselow

James Denselow is a writer on Middle East politics and security issues.


James writes regularly for The Guardian and has written articles for Middle East International, The Huffington Post The New Statesman, Syria Today, The World Today, The Daily Telegraph and The Yorkshire Post. He has been cited in many international publications including The Boston Globe, Voice of America, The Sunday Telegraph, Reuters and AFP

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James writes book, television and film reviews for International Affairs, Middle East International, The Arab and The Guardian

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See James's published work

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In The Media

James in the media - Watch James discussing Middle East issues on a variety of media platforms including the BBC, Al Jazeera and Russia Today
The death of the Syria peace process PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Denselow   
Friday, 17 June 2016 15:22

(Al Jazeera) Almost six months on from when direct talks were scheduled to begin, is it time to admit the failure of the latest Syrian peace process and look into alternative ways forward?

United Nations Envoy Staffan de Mistura announced last week that he would not attempt to reconvene the Syria peace talks until August, saying that the time was "not yet mature for the official third round of intra-Syrian talks".

Violence in the country is spiking and making a mockery of the international community's "cessation of hostilities" agreed in February. Things are looking particularly bad in Aleppo as the regime and allied forces apply the squeeze on opposition-held areas.

The one route out of the city has become known as "the road of death" such is the frequency of strikes upon it, and those civilians who remain fear a total siege. Muskilda Zancada, the head of mission for Syria at Doctors Without Borders bemoaned how "the world is turning a blind eye" to the carnage in Aleppo.

"Hospitals, markets and residential areas are still under fire, and no one is doing anything to put out the flames," she said.

The Syria of tomorrow PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Denselow   
Friday, 17 June 2016 15:20

(The New Arab) The bombing of a bank in Beirut earlier this month, led some commentators to point out how important credit lines from Lebanese financial institutions will be, when the time comes to begin rebuilding Syria.

Last Updated on Friday, 17 June 2016 15:28
Aleppo's reckoning PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Denselow   
Friday, 06 May 2016 15:27

(Al Jazeera) The citadel that dominates the Aleppo city skyline gives the place a sense of timelessness and permanence, yet Syria's biggest city is currently facing an existential challenge. If, or more likely when, the opposition-controlled areas are cut off from the outside world it will signal not just the biggest siege in the country to date but also a new chapter in the five-year conflict.

The Geneva process, which contained so much hope and promise, gathering the main players and backers into an ambitious series of deadlines for transition and constitutional reform, will surely not survive the siege or fall of Aleppo.

The cessation of hostilities, the main positive to emerge from the talks, saw a huge reduction in mortality rates and 3.7 million Syrians receive food aid in March alone.

Increasingly, however, it could be seen not as a genuine space for peace to emerge but rather a period for redeployment before this latest offensive was launched.

Terrorism and tourism in Tunisia PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Denselow   
Friday, 06 May 2016 15:24

(The Young Arab) Tunisia's recent history shows the power of globalised violence to inspire and inflate the actions of an individual at the expense of the vast majority. For a country that is still coming to terms with its post-revolutionary politics, it remains in the crosshairs of IS and its tourist sector is in urgent need of genuine international support.

The first killer

In April 2002 a suicide attacker detonated a huge explosion outside a synagogue on the southern Tunisian island of Djerba, killing 14 German tourists, four Tunisians and a French tourist. The synagogue was gifted to Jews who had fled Roman persecution by the Berbers in 6th century BC, and as a marker of tolerance and generosity towards others it was an obvious al-Qaeda target. Despite the Bin Laden inspired movement promising 'more to come', Tunisia was largely quiet for almost the next decade.

Then the actions of another individual - Mohamed Bouazizi - sparked the fires of revolution and upheaval across the region. His self-immolation and death in 2011 triggered Tunisia's revolution that saw the end of Ben Ali's 23 years in power. The revolution did not however provide an instant panacea to the country's problems, nor did it immunise it against the global appeal born out of the rise of IS.

Tunisia is reported to have provided the single largest number of foreign fighters who have rallied under the black flag in Syria and Iraq. Discontent among many young, unemployed Tunisians is often cited as one of the reasons behind this, and IS has every reason to want to maintain this. Another arguably more powerful factor is the disintegration of the Libyan state and the subsequent civil conflict and chaos that emerged to Tunisia's east. Weapons, safe spaces to train and porous borders combine into a potent mix for a trans-national 'Caliphate' interested in expansion.

ISIL and the curious case of John Cantlie PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Denselow   
Friday, 01 April 2016 11:50

(Al Jazeera) British photojournalist John Cantlie has been in ISIL captivity since 2012. But rather than appearing as a passive object of captivity, he has emerged as a media tool for the group to pursue its wider aims.

New footage released this month, taking place against the backdrop of the busy streets of Mosul, was the first seen in more than a year. It was the seventh film of a series titled Lend Me Your Ears, in which a rather unenthusiastic and increasingly thin-looking Cantlie regurgitates standard rhetoric from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) about how great they are and how corrupt and ineffective their enemies are.

In this case, Cantlie bemoaned the waste of $5bn of US taxpayers' money spent bombing innocuous ISIL "media kiosks". The imagery and detail in the series has painted a very different picture from Mosul and Aleppo from that covered in the mainstream press.He also has a column in the slick online ISIL magazine, Dabiq, in which he made headlines when he floated the idea that "a truce with Western nations is always an option in Shariah law". Unlike his video appearances we can be even less sure that the writing in Dabiq is Cantlie's, although there is no doubting the shift in his value from hostage to an intimidated asset of a very different sort.Indeed, while he initially appeared in the bright orange Guantanamo inspired jumpsuits, in his later films he is seen simply in black, ISIL's shade of choice.

Stockholm syndrome, sometimes known as capture-bonding, describes how hostages can come to sympathise and develop positive feelings towards their captors. It is no surprise that after years in detention Cantlie is adjusting to do whatever he needs to do to survive.

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