Tear gas pours out of Capitol Hill on January 6th, 2021. (Wikimedia Commons)

Two days after its first homegrown beer hall putsch, the United States is still in both disbelief and denial. CNN’s Van Jones made ill-informed comparisons to Syria on Wednesday afternoon, and President-Elect Joe Biden tweeted, like many others had before him over the last four years, that America is “better” than this. But the truth is that the historic events of January 6th revealed as much about America itself as it did about Donald Trump, the right wing, and the Republican Party, giving the country its first real taste of the power that authoritarian populism has to derail democracy. …

John DeLoca, the owner of Seneca Sporting Range in Ridgewood, Queens, sets his pistol sights on a target at his range. DeLoca, who also holds instructional sessions and prepares gun license applications for the New York Police Department, said that the number of new applications he has processed in 2020 is at least four times the amount of previous years. (Photo: Michal Kranz)

Steve Faucette, a security technician in Long Island, recently decided he wanted to buy a shotgun to protect his home.

“You have the right to bear arms, and a lot of minorities in this country have been very passive towards that,” said Faucette, who is African American and blames President Donald Trump for facilitating an increase in violence in the country.

Faucette is still waiting to update his driver’s license in order to buy a gun, but he’s not the only one interested in doing so in the New York City area. Firearm training instructors, gun retailers, and consultants in…

A set of security cameras attached to an apartment building in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. According to Jones Security, a security company in Brooklyn, Crown Heights is one neighborhood where the company has seen an increased demand for video system installations. (Picture: Michal Kranz)

When Tatiana Davidoff moved into a new apartment on Coney Island, Brooklyn with her husband at the start of September, they decided to install a $200 video security doorbell.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Davidoff said, referring to the civil rights protests that were held throughout the city during the summer.

Davidoff is part of a growing number of city residents installing home security systems this year. While no official city-wide numbers are available, 80 percent of retail surveillance security businesses in our survey reported an increase in demand for home camera installations. Twelve out of the fifteen…

President Donald Trump stands with First Lady Melania Trump, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh in 2017. All three leaders have used terrorism charges to target protestors and political opponents. (Flickr)

As has become all too common, the last two weeks have felt like two years, and crucial bits of news that seemed earth-shatteringly important at the time have fallen away into the distant reaches of the world’s collective memory as the days have dragged on. One such moment came during Donald Trump’s June 1 speech from the Rose Garden, when he stated in no uncertain terms that he would seek to designate violent demonstrators and petty vandals alike as domestic terrorists.

Even though his pronouncement carries no legal weight (yet), and although news narratives have largely moved on from this…

Rana Dimassi (left) and her son Alaa (right) hold a picture of Fawwaz Fouad al-Samman in Tripoli on May 3, 2020. (Michal Kranz)

Sitting in her apartment in the Sehat al-Daftar neighborhood of Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest and poorest city, Rana Dimassi was unable to hold back tears.

“I want what is right, they killed him and I want his rights,” Dimassi, whose 26-year-old son Fawwaz Fouad al-Samman died after being shot by the Lebanese Army on April 27 during a night of riots in the city. “Would the commander of the army accept the killing of his son?”

Dimassi told me her son had not been involved in the destruction of banks and military vehicles that night had prompted the army to…

A Hezbollah bunker on display at the group’s museum in Mleeta, south Lebanon (Michal Kranz)

The violent exchange between Hezbollah and Israel that took place on Sunday was the most dramatic military confrontation between the two in years. In response to Israeli attacks against its media office in southern Beirut and its fighters in Syria, Hezbollah fired several anti-tank missiles at an Israeli military vehicle, and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) responded by firing around 100 artillery shells into adjacent Lebanese territory. …

People at a wedding celebration in Jordan (Judith Scharnowski/Pixabay)

“Don’t try to explain — just describe. That’s the only way to get to the truth.” These were some of the first words of advice I received after arriving to freelance in Lebanon. They came from a young woman whom I had only just met, who rolled her eyes when I told her I was in Beirut as a journalist. “Not another one,” she laughed. Beirut is a hub for journalists from around the world, each covering the Middle East with their own agendas and preconceptions. …

A Hezbollah flag hangs in a mountain village in Lebanon.

On the eve of the resumption of US sanctions against Iran before the US midterm elections, Israel’s deputy national security adviser Eitan Ben-David relayed a grim message to Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri: Take care of Hezbollah’s missile factories, or we’ll do it for you. This message, relayed through a French official, was the most threatening warning Israel has sent Lebanon yet on the issue of Hezbollah’s ballooning arsenal. Unlike past skirmishes along Lebanon’s borders, the military operation Ben-David was suggesting would require a strike on densely-populated areas in the country’s capital.

But this is just the tip of the…

Sunset in Ashrafieh, the heart of Christian East Beirut.

Exhilaration with a tinge of annoyance — that’s how I would describe the first thing I felt when I arrived in Lebanon. I flew into Beirut late at night, and quickly got my first taste of chaotic Middle Eastern bureaucracy when Turkish Airlines left one of my bags in Istanbul. Unlike the airports that I was used to, Beirut’s Rafiq Hariri International Airport did not deliver misplaced luggage to its rightful owners once it arrived. In a reflection of my own relative privilege, I was both mildly annoyed yet amused by the whole affair, but returned to the airport the…

The town of Al-Hrak in Dar’a Governorate after shelling by Assad’s forces and Russia. (Via @Dannymakisyria/Twitter)

In April of this year, several European Union and United Nations officials implored the warring parties of Syria to restart western-backed negotiations to end the 7-year-long Syrian Civil War. The EU’s high representative for foreign policy, Frederica Mogherini, pleaded with them to think of Syria’s beleaguered population amid the seemingly never-ending onslaught of violence.

“Syria is not a chessboard,” Mogherini said. “It’s not a geopolitical game. Syria belongs to the Syrian people. And the Syrian people have to decide themselves about the future of their country.”

Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

For years now, Syrian President Bashar…

Michał Kranz

Freelance writer/reporter constantly in transit. Middle East & Eastern Europe | National Security | Foreign Affairs

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