Middle East

Your questions to Jeremy Bowen

Image caption Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen has just returned from Libya and Egypt

BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, on a reporting trip to Libya, Egypt and Lebanon, has answered your questions in a live Twitter Q&A on Monday 17 September.

This is an edited version of the session.

Question from @iraqyiaforever: Do you find it interesting that Iraq is becoming more stable than many other countries in the region?

Jeremy answers: I am overdue a visit to Iraq. It's more peaceful than Syria - but my impression is that Iraq is showing worrying signs of instability.

Andy Cloke emails: Why do you think Islam is so sensitive to perceived insult or criticism?

Jeremy answers: Because Muslims believe they've had too much unjustifiable criticism and to varying degrees they perceive threats from Western governments.

@MJes54 asks: Are you allowed to conduct in-depth interviews with snr/strategic Hezbullah, Hamas leaders?

Jeremy answers: Yes can interview senior leaders of Hamas or Hezbollah, as long as they agree. Hamas often says yes. Hezbollah no for Nasrallah.

Nigel Tabb posts on the BBC News Facebook page: Why are Middle Eastern Muslims so much more sensitive than European Muslims?

Jeremy replies: Assume asking about film. Not a matter of relative sensitivity. More a matter of how you protest.

Graham Miller emails via Google+: Has the average person benefited from the Arab Spring or have their lives been become more difficult?

Jeremy Bowen answers: Removal of police states takes away big source of fear. But revolutionary societies haven't solved serious probs of instability and unemployment.

Question from @curatingturkey: What, if any, role will Turkey play in the Middle East/North Africa politics?

Jeremy answers: Potentially it can be very influential. But the realities of using power are complex. See its relations with Israel and Syria.

Ian McEwan emails: How much of the Islamic world reaction was the result of organised politics than rage?

Jeremy answers: Genuine offence at film. After that demos etc organised. A very organised one by Hezbollah here in Beirut today

Brian Mc posts on the BBC News Facebook page: To what extent do you think the Americans and British knew the groups involved in the Arab Spring?

Jeremy replies: US and UK taken by surprise by uprisings. They spent 2011 struggling to keep up. Recent events suggest 2012 just as capable of surprising them.

Phil Heath emails via G+: Will the Syrian situation really change without outside intervention?

Jeremy replies: Outside intervention already happening. More direct military force could overthrow Assad. But fears in countries strong enough to do it that they might make matters worse.

Question from @JustAct_me: Who do you perceive to be most vulnerable group in Middle East now?

Jeremy answers: The young

@Fubsy asks: What's driving the recent Mideast unrest? Social media? Spontaneous or organised? What is the end game?

Jeremy answers: Main driver is a young population, dissatisfied and realising from social media and esp TV that their lives don't have to be the way they are.

Mike Manzo posts on the BBC News Facebook page: Were the protests based on the film or was the film used as a catalyst to rally people?

Jeremy replies: In Cairo film was a rallying cry, then a catalyst for other kinds of protests.

Chas via email: I read that the majority of Muslims do not agree with the protests. Why do we not hear the moderate voices?

Jeremy answers: I'd say most pious Muslims do agree that the film was insulting. Many don't agree with violent protests. I hope our reporting reflects that.

Pancha Chandra via email: Will the latest protests be a major set-back for peace efforts in the Middle East?

Jeremy replies: There is no meaningful peace process for the region's major conflicts to be set back.

Question from @AdamJSchwarz: How successful have Libyan authority attempts at de-arming the general population been since the civil war?

Jeremy answers: Libyan govt weak and spectacularly ineffective at persuading people to give up weapons. Militias even do jobs for govt.

John Brooks sends an email: Do you think that Nato's recent adventure in Libya has opened the door to Islamic extremists?

Jeremy responds: If you mean Jihadists they have more freedom to operate now in Libya than under Gaddafi. But there aren't very many of them.

@Daviddixey asks: Israel/Iran - war or no war? Your opinion?

Jeremy replies: Possible, unless there's a deal with Iran about enrichment. Israel would prefer US to attack, but take their solo threats seriously.

K Jamal emails: Libya under Gaddafi did not have so many weapons. Who supplied the rebels with all the arms?

Jeremy replies: Gaddafi bought huge amounts of weaponry, which rebels captured. They also had weapons from abroad, esp from Qatar.

Question from @HenryPryor: You've been a war correspondent in Mid East & EU for decades. Don't you sometimes yearn for a go on CountryFile?

Jeremy answers: Couldn't do Country File as don't own wellies and prefer cities! Years on the road do make me fed up with travel sometimes.

@EfiHenshaw tweets: What do you consider a must-do when travelling in the Middle East?

Jeremy replies: As a journalist, [to] tell the story I find, not always the one I expected. As a human being I like to enjoy Mideast food and sun.

Callistus Cally Bunke Nwabuikwu posts on the BBC News Facebook page: What effect will a prongled Syrian civil war have on Lebanon?

Jeremy responds: Prob disastrous. Lebanese hope to stop violence spreading. But many connections with Syria and same sectarian faultlines so it will be hard.

Question from @drjameschums: Has youth unemployment & poor education contributed to the willingness of younger people to join protests?

Jeremy replies: Unemployment and poor education have produced a generation of young men especially who are full of anger and ready to protest.

@mrjoekidd asks: How has your job changed with advances in technology?

Jeremy answers: The mechanics of filing stories and broadcasting have changed hugely and made 24/7 news cycle possible. Fundamentals of journalism don't change.

Question from @TimMurray16: Why is the BBC TV news so quiet on Bahrain protests and court cases?

Jeremy answers: Bahrain is an important story, we reported it well, should have done so more often. Other big stories ate airtime. No conspiracy.

Question from @MikeTonge: Have you ever been put under pressure to report events in a different way to which you have found them?

Jeremy answers: Never have been asked to report stories any way other than how it seems to me. BBC tradition of trusting its own people.

Charlotte Lait emails: I'm a young journalist, wld like to set myself up in the Middle East. What advice would you give me?

Jeremy replies: Find an under-reported place, go as a stringer and hope for a story. Or work your way up in a big news organisation. Also be persistent with potential employers without being a pain, & hone skills so when you get a break you don't screw it up.

@conspiricymick asks: How much do they censor you? Truth please.

Jeremy answers: I have never been censored by the BBC. Wouldn't accept it. I was censored in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Question from @kodzos: Any thoughts as to why Arab Spring led to regimes falling in Libya, Egypt & Tunisia but not Morocco and Jordan?

Jeremy tweets: Republics were more vulnerable than monarchies. Rulers who'd seized power had less legitimacy. Kings could sack their govts. Doesn't mean kingdoms are invulnerable. Morocco there have been some clever reforms, prob not enough yet in Jordan. No Arab state is immune from demands for change. Assad thought he was and said so. Difference is how they deal with them.

Tweet from @Mardyoldgit: Was there ever a time when you didn't think you'd make it back to the UK alive?

Jeremy replies: In more than 25 yrs reporting, inc. many wars, have had a few nasty moments which at the time I thought were my last ones. Trying harder to avoid that these days. Not doing front line stuff if I can help it.

Question from @CathalPMc: Can you see any sign of changing approach to foreign policy from US/UK in relation to Middle East?

Jeremy replies: US/UK struggling to keep up with Mideast change. Shows how their influence reduced. UK used to that, US isn't. West based Arab mideast policy for years on authoritarian friends like Mubarak. Harder now to work out who deal with.

Question from @iMazharHasnain: Do you see any prospect of regime change in Syria? If so what would be the scenario of Arab Spring afterwards?

Jeremy answers: Syria is a tough one to assess because so far neither side has looked like losing - or winning. That can't last. Long term hard to see how Assad regime can survive in current form. Getting more bloody there, not less. Syria could export instability for a generation. Here in Lebanon and across all Syria's borders people nervous about prospect.

@Alistair_Binney asks: After which story did you feel you had made it as a journalist & how do people abroad perceive the BBC?

Jeremy replies: 1st really big story was Lockerbie air crash in 1988. After covering 1991 Gulf war from Baghdad I joined BBC premiership.

Question from @Carlzinho: What future do you see the Palestinians having?

Jeremy answers: Palestinians (and Israelis) squeezed out of news by Arab uprisings. But issues are the same, and will make headlines again. Palestinian future right now is bleak. No prospect of independence. Conflict now has a bigger religious dimension. The religious dimension - from Muslim and Jewish perspectives - makes conflict harder to solve. if God is giving the orders what's the point of negotiating and making deals?

Question from @Stato_Grant: What has been the most hostile place you have spoken for the BBC from?

Jeremy tweets: So many hostile places. Most dangerous was Grozny [Chechnya] in the war of winter 94-95. absolutely terrifying and deadly.

@ShadHoshyar asks: Could you see an independent Kurdistan coming out of the Syrian revolution?

Jeremy replies: Doubt independent Kurdish state will come out of Syrian Rev. Turks v anti. Autonomous area, like Iraq, could be giant step.

Question from @Nick_Stafford: Do you think the US election is as big a barrier to international military action in Syria as the China and Russia veto?

Jeremy answers: No votes in another war in US elecs. But after Iraq and Afghanistan intervening in Syria politically toxic idea in US

Tweet from @Chris1966: Could the West live with a nuclear Iran?

Jeremy answers: West lived with nuclear Soviet Union. Would deterrence work with Iran? Quite likely. Iranians are rational actors. But deterrence works both ways. Nuclear Iran would be strengthened, and so would its allies. One reason why Israel so worried.

Question from @garethharding: In 'War Stories' you write about giving up war reporting. What made you change your mind?

Jeremy replies: Impossible to cover Mideast without accepting some danger. Difference now is I don't look for it as I did when I had hair.

Question from @madshepole: Who do you think benefits most from the current bout of anti-American and anti-Zionist riots?

Jeremy replies: Fringe groups who believe they will benefit from unrest, undermining and challenging govts that these days are often elected.

@fred_brand asks: What news event of the last century would you have loved to cover?

Jeremy answers: Second World War - especially D-Day and the fall of Berlin.

Question from @MarkSmi_73: Apart from passport and a notepad/pen, what else would you absolutely keep hold of "in the field"?

Jeremy answers: Always have herbal tea bags. Rooibos is my favourite.

Tweet from @MatofKilburnia: What's your favourite dinosaur

Jeremy replies: Triceratops.

For more tweets from Jeremy Bowen you can follow his Twitter account.