Thursday, November 30, 2006

Saudis Threaten War- An Infidel Legion, But no Beau Geste

Saudis Threaten War:
A ranking advisor to the Saudi government has threatened, in an article in the Washington Post no less (Nov. 30), that his country might intervene in Iraq in the event of an American withdrawal. The author, a Mr. Nawaf Obaid, started by extolling the wisdom of Saudi royal officials, from King Abdullah, to the Prince Foreign Minister to Prince Turkey the Ambassador to Washington. He then stated abruptly that if the U.S withdraws from Iraq, then “the first consequence will be massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shiite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis.” The ’Iranian-backed’ adjective was no doubt thrown in for the benefit of American readers. Then the article, clearly not up to the usual standards of The Post, reads like a propaganda piece in a local Saudi newspaper.
The author also claimed that Saudi Arabia can afford to increase oil supply greatly and strangle support for the militias. Yet a few years ago, partly because oil prices were low, the Saudi regime was considered in peril. It still is not out of trouble. He argues that the Kingdom ‘can cut oil prices in half’, and still finance its current spending, and presumably still be able to allow the thousands of royal princelings and other potentates to live in their accustomed style.
Perhaps the Saudis, when they intervene in Iraq, will make sure that they will have enough boots (or is it Najdi sandals?) on the ground. Perhaps upward of , oh say 350,00 to 400,000 troops, if such numbers can be rounded up. Or, perhaps they can do the usual and hire expatriates for such a dangerous mission: something that we can call 'The Infidel Legion'.
Whatever happened to the idea of a $12 billion security fence? Won't it hamper the Saudi blitzkrieg, no doubt led by another general or field marshall prince, across the desert into the Shi'a-infested southern Iraq?

Oops, AhmadiNejad Does it Again:
Iran's unique (?) president cannot seem to let well enough alone. Just as it looked like he might escape internationl censure and sanctions, the occasinally incoherent leader has sent another letter to the United States, advising changes in foreign policy. Mr. Nejad clearly believes that his earlier rantings against Israel have gained him support on the Arab street- so he has come back for more. That is the misfortune of those who have to listen to or read these lengthy statements.


Monday, November 27, 2006

A Tentative Three-Pronged Peace Offensive in Iraq, Arab Leaders Fete a Terror Supporter

Iraq’s Arab neighbors have been gradually inching away from the elected but embattled regime in that country. Initially, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Persian Gulf states were going through the motion of recognition and diplomatic relations, mainly to satisfy the American protector, or aid-donor in some cases. Now, these governments, having smelled blood both in Iraq and at the U.S ballot box earlier this November, seem to be backtracking both on their professed move to democracy and in helping stabilize Iraq.
The clearest example came this past week, when several Arab states, including Persian Gulf states, Egypt, and Jordan, received Shaikh Harith Al-Dhari, en extremist Sunni ‘cleric’ who leads what is called ‘The Association of Muslim Scholars’, a group that has refused to join the political process and supports ‘the resistance’ in Iraq, i.e. the random killing of civilian Iraqis and American soldiers by terrorists.

A few days ago the Secretary General of the Arab League, Mr. Amr Moussa, met in Cairo with Shaikh Al-Dhari, who is wanted by the Iraqi authorities for questioning. The Arab League never meets with political opponents of Arab regimes- it has never met with Saudi, Bahraini, Egyptian, or other Arab opposition groups. Yet it has elevated Shaikh Al-Dhari by granting him a publicized meeting. The King of Jordan met with Al-Dhari yesterday, then warned of 'civil wars' in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. Mamoun Fendi, an adviser reputed to be close to Saudi King Abdullah, also warned Monday of these same expected civil wars. Meanwhile, an editorial extolling the virtues of this shaikh has been making the rounds in the Gulf newspapers- another step toward rehabilitation.

Predictably, reactions in the Arab capitals to the carnage that slaughtered over 200 Shi’as in Sadr city were noticeably mute, but they picked up steam and noise after the uncontrollable Shi’a militias went on their own ill-advised rampage of vengeful sectarian attacks. Arab states rightly worry about the growing Iranian influence in Iraq, but this week, just as they have done for three years, they were silent about the terrorist-jihadist bombings in Baghdad. Perhaps sides are being selected in what some expect to be a decisive phase of Iraq’s ongoing civil non-war.

As Mr. Al-Maliki gets ready to meet President Bush in Amman (looks like it is on, for now), Iraq's president Talibani is heading to Iran Monday to discuss the same issues. Perhaps Vice President Cheney met with Saudi leaders last week to discuss the very same issues. So, Mr. Talibani (the Kurd) will be the messenger between Iran and the US, Mr. Al-Maliki (the Shi'a) will play the same role, but coming from the other direction, geographically, that is. It is not clear how Mr. Cheny fits into this, perhaps he is the third side of a tri-lateral exchange. Perhaps he went to Riyadh to give the Saudis a heads up on some bad news, or some good news. The plot thickens.

Bahrain Elections:
The (mainly Shi'a) opposition has won a majority of the legislative elections in Bahrain this week. But don't hold your breath in awe\: the elections are for only half the legislature- the king appoints the other half, all of them. The deck of cards is stacked.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Suspicious Killing in Lebanon, Gulf Currency, British-Saudi Arms Deal and Kicbacks

Is Syria being Framed in Lebanon?:
Do you believe in coincidences? On November 17, four days ago, Mr. Sameer G'ag'a (Gaagaa), a Lebanese militia leader allied with the government of Mr. Siniora warned that cabinet ministers might be assassinated in an attempt to destabilize the government of Mr. Siniora. He was implying the Hezbullah and pro-Syrian agents might undertake such attempts. Today, four days after that statement, low and behold, a cabiner minister was assassinated and another escaped the same fate. Most fingers, as expected, pointed toward Syria and her allies. It is possible that Syria's allies and agents were involved...but things just look too convenient. The assassination occurs at a time when Washington and the West in general is seeking to engage Syria on Iraq and other issues. Would Syria be so foolish as to endanger her new 'rehabilitaion'? It is possible- Arab leaders are not always known for their wisdom- but one just wonders about the timing. Remember Don Corleone's warning against believing in coincidences.

Gulf Currency Delayed:
The Gulf GCC states had agreed to issue a unified currancy for the six member states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE) by 2010. Now the media report that there are differences. Some Kuwaiti, Saudi, and Omani officials have already hinted at disagreements and possible delays in introducing the currency. There seem to be disagreement on the name of the currency: most likely the Kuwaits and Bahrainis like it ot called the Dinar, the Saudis, Qataris, and Omanis like the Riyal (or Rial), the UAE probably likes the Dirham. I wonder if they realize that all these names are either of pagan origin (the Dinar and Dirham) or Christian kaffir origins (the Riyal or Rial). The Dinar 's origins are Roman- the Dinarius was the currency of ancient Rome- while the Real (Royal) is Spanish and Catholic to boot. Of course, there is always the Shekel to fall back on, and it was used by some venerable old Prophets....

There is apparently some disaggreement on whether each state will have its own version (issue) of the Gulf currency, or if it should be all indistinguishable. The former does not make any sense in a currency union, which in turn does not make any sense unless it is a monetary union, which also makes no sense unless there is serious coordination of monetary and fiscal policies.

Saudi Slush Fund:
The British media report that the Serious Fraud Office has been investigating allegations of systematic corruption in international arms deals by Britain's largest arms company, BAE Systems.The Guardian reports that the SFO has also been investigating illegal secret arms-deal commissions involving members of the Saudi royal family. Apparently the BAE, the Defense Department and the Saudis were not aware that investigators were closing in, until recently. Swiss authorities have notified two Arabs that investigators are seeking access to their accounts. The BAE has retained lawyers and the Saudis deny any worngdoing. Apparently the investigation might endanger Al-YAmamah 3, a new multibillion pound instalment of BAE warplabe sales to the Saudis. The newspaper reports that the Saudis have threatened to break diplomatic relations and stop anti-terror cooperation if the investigation proceeds.
The Guardian claims to have seen official British documents proving that the Saudi royal family gets information from MI6 about the situation inside Iran. The Guardian had earlier claimed that the BAE runs a 'Saudi slush fund" and uses an offshore conduit, Red Diamond, to make secret overseas payments. The newpaper claims that one Whitehall document quotes a Britidh ambassador as having reported that the family of Crown Prince Sultan "had a corrupt interest in all contracts".

Uneven and Cruel Justice:
Last week a destitute Asian woman (39 years old) was sentenced by a three judge Saudi Arabian court to death by stoning. Funny how those sentenced to cruel death are always the poor, mostly the expatriates from the third world. The woman had been married to an older Saudi man, and had 3 children by him. After he died 3 years ago they became destitute (in a rich oil country), and lived on charity.
The woman had sought to remarry, but could not because in Saudi Arabia she needs the approval of a male relative to marry. She has no male relatives in Saudi Arabia, therefore no marriage. Nature took its course, an unfortunate thing to happpen to the unfortunate ones in Arabia, and she got pregnant. She gave birth at a clinic which promptly reported her to the police. The court claims that she confessed to sinning (in a country that has no sins) and that she refuses to appeal her sentence, that she wants to be executed, 'in order to purify herself' and go to paradise. (It would be a long jump, from hell to paradise).

Friday, November 17, 2006

Iraq and Democrats, Persian Gulf Fences, Mideast Molotov

Democrats and the War:
The Democratic control of both houses of Congress will mean a gradually reduced role for the Unites States in Iraq. It will also mean that the likelihood of war with Iran has receded even farther. That war was always an extremely remote possibility, the warmongering noises among some of the Persian Gulf media notwithstanding. One Kuwaiti tabloid, Alseyassah, claimed somewhat hopefully on its front page on Thursday that the United States has made a decision to attack Iran- it did not make clear if the decision was post-Rumsfeld's resignation or ante the same.
There is still the likelihood of economic sanctions and even a much less likely blockade. The longest example of economic sanctions in our time has clearly failed to achieve its targets: the U.S sanctions aginst Cuba, which did not weaken Castro. The main effect of the U.S sanctions on Cuba has been to transform Miami and make it a more diversified, more lively place. It also acquainted us with the probably exaggerated discreet charms of the Marielitos, thanks to Jimmy Carter's ill-advised throwing of verbal gauntlets and Castro's penchant for practical jokes. Castro has been in power for 48 years under sanctions. Saddam Hussein under sanctions would have died in office, and succeeded by one of his sons or a crony.

Iran's Nuclear Issue:
Iran's Ahmadinejad stated yesterday that his country will be 'fully nuclear' within a few months, whatever that means. The assertion quickly shifted some of the attention in Washington away from politics and toward the Middle East, mainly the Persian Gulf region, particularly across the Shatt al-Arab waterway. Oil prices rose today since his statement reminded traders of economic sanctions and a possible oil supply cutoff, and also because data showed that U.S fuel inventories fell. Now the ball is in Kim Jong Il's court again: he surely will feel the need to make a statement of some kind to reclaim world attention that was righfully his before the little Iranian upstart hit the world stage.

Good Fences and Good Neighbors in the Gulf:
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said that his country will start building its security fence along the border with Iraq next year. It will stretch about 900 kilometers and is aimed at 'keeping Islamic extremists from entering Saudi Arabia'. Perhaps it will also work the other way, keeping Jihadist terrorists and, more important, the oil money from flowing into Iraq and strenghtening the terrorists?
The wall is part of a $12 billion plan that will take up to six years to finish, and is expected to secure the border. The Kingdom is clearly worried about the potential of a civil war in Iraq and possible spillover across the border. I wonder who will get this lucrative building contract and, more important in good Persian Gulf tradition, which potentate is their local representative/agent/dealer?
And to think that Saudi Arabia signed a non-aggression pact with Iraq early in 1990- but then so did Stalin sign a non-aggression pact with Hitler- ok, Ribbentrop-Molotov get the credit for that one. In those same days Egypt-Jordan-Yemen were talked into entering an alliance dominated by Saddam- basically an alliance of Arab have-nots.

Others are now toying with the idea of security fences also, including little Kuwait which has been a target of aggressive moves by various Iraqi regimes since before its independence. The last time was when the Ba'ath claimed that it wanted to 'liberate' Jerusalem via Kuwait in 1990- the rest of that is history that is still unfolding in a bloody fashion.
(It also looks like the idea of a U.S-Mexico fence is dead now, if it ever had a chance: remember, the Maginot Line never lived up to its billing, nor did the Bar-Lev line).

Lebanon is two opposing camps again, with Amal and Hizbullah (both Shi'a) , the President of the Republic (Christian), the Speaker of Parliament, General Michele Oun (Christian) and a few other smaller groups one one side. Most other political parties are on the other side. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and President Emile Lahoud have both called the cabinet now unconstitutional. Unfortunately for the country, given that the Shi'as form the largest group, probably after the Maronites, it looks like there will be either a new Prime Minister or a de facto internal cantonization. Not a good situation for the international peace-keeping forces to find themselves in right now.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Bin Ladin's Women, Salafi 'Facilities', Lebanon

Political tensions in Lebanon intensified. Shi’a ministers and some of their allies have resigned from the cabinet, and the Prime Minister refused to accept their resignations, but he made sure that they remain ‘resigned’ by calling a cabinet meeting that approved a controversial measure about the Harirri assassination. The move has probably doomed the Siniora government, since the Shi’a parties, and a few others, will now refuse to remain in his government. The President of Lebanon, who is by tradition a Christian Maronite, also refused to attend the cabinet session and called the cabinet measure ‘unconstitutional’. Al-Manar TV, run by Hizbullah, said that ‘the pitcher has broken’ between the two sides in the cabinet, which in Lebanese means that they have reached the point of no return.

Thus the stage is set in Lebanon for a new clash between two sides that also represent regional powers by proxy. While one side basically represents the political leanings of the Iran-Syria axis, the other side represents the leanings of Saudi Arabia and her allies and by extension is seen to represent the United States and the West. It looks like Lebanon might be going back to its bad old form of the 1970s and 1980s, when regional and foreign powers moved political events through their proxies.

In Iraq, groups representing Chaldians, Assyrians, and other Christians have asked that they have a semi-autonomous enclave and that it become part of Iraqi Kurdistan. These groups probably foresee an uncertain future, caught between fundamentalist Sunnis beholden to Al-Qaeda Jihadist terrorists and Fundamentalist Shi’as beholden to the militias. The Kurdish region looks attractive by comparison.

Bin Ladin’s Love Life:
A former close associate of Osama Bin Ladin, the Yemeni Rashad M. Sa’eed, has provided Alarabiya TV with glimpses into the Al-Qaeda leader’s love life. He claims that all Bin Ladin’s wives are usually with him in Afghanistan (in Pakistan now), except for his Syrian wife Najwa who travels to her home country each year, and that includes his Yemeni wife. Bin Ladin has divorced one of his Saudi wives because she refused to join him and remained in Arabia. This means that he has four wives at this time, i.e. he is fully occupied now since the faith allows only four wives at one time. This also means, in the delicate lingo used by Salafi Fundamentalists for such delicate matters, that his 'facilities are not kept idle'. He is not even a quarter eligible. It is still not clear whether he is always ready when the moment is right- if that was the case then perhaps Eli Lilly would have him in their commercials.

The man claims that Bin Ladin trusted him sufficiently to send him to Yemen to find him a new wife, his fifth one, which he did successfully and had her shipped to Afghanistn in 2000. Sounds like an Arabian Miles Standish bit on board the Mayflower. He also says that Osama was not a very sexual person and did not over-marry. He claims that two of the wives are already past 50 years, which in Afghanistan/Pakistan would mean that they are way past it, but that he has not replaced them (it may be hard to replace two wives while on the run). He says that Osama had a large house in Kandahar for all his wives, each with a suite of rooms and a kitchen, and that he took turns ‘visiting with’ his wives each day of the week. He denied reports that Osama had a love relation with a Sudanese poet(ess), or that he was sexually interested in a ‘western’ singer, (some western media had reported that he had the hots for Whitney Houston).

Sa’eed also claims that Al-Qaeda has trained women to be active as support and technical personnel and that they are also trained to fight in self-defense. This last assertion is especially highly unlikely to be true. However, if they wish they can get some shailkh to issue a fatwa allowing such training.
He also said that Osama did not suffer from kidney disease, was not homesick, and that he is quite healthy. Oh, and he also missed his mother.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Gulf Markets Weaker, Islamic Caliphate in Iraq, Chianti in Rome, and Burning DC

Saudi Market Meltdown:
On Saturday Nov. 11 the Saudi stock market continued its decline, and lost about Riyal 6 billion in market value. The market index lost about 5% for the day, to close barely above 8000, the lowest level of almost two years. At some point the index briefly broke through that psychological level. The President of the Saudi Market Authority (the equivalent of the SEC and the NYSE) claimed the decline was unjustified and did not reflect the ‘strength of the Saudi economy’. Dr. al-Tuweijri was appointed early this year after the sack of his predecessor because the market was ‘inexplicably’ declining. He contended in an interview that the Saudi market is ‘oversold’, a risky thing for an overseer to say about the market. Traders grasped at his statement and invited the government to put its money where its mouth is and start purchasing these cheap ‘oversold’ Saudi shares.

Other analysts claimed that the behavior of the market is a a catastrophic mystery, and an enigma, but they did not say what it is wrapped in. Some have said that the market is ‘out of control’, beyond the influence of the Authority or the Ministry of Finance. A leading economist claims that the market requires intervention by a ‘higher authority’: they mean the King and not divine intervention. Traders and ‘investors’ seem frustrated that the Saudi market has lost 60% of its value even as the overall economy, led by the petroleum sector, has been growing (in nominal terms). Now all eyes are looking at the ‘Palace’ to do something- the problem is that a palace, even the Saudi ‘Palace’, can artificially lift the market only temporarily through politically ‘inspired’ measures. This was done earlier this year in Saudi Arabia, on order of the King, but its positive effects did not last.
In Kuwait, the market followed the Saudi lead and declined sharply for the day. Traders attributed the decline to profit taking and the effects of the Saudi market decline. The Kuwait market has also been plagued with serious issues of lack of transparency and questionable financial disclosure by listed companies.
At the end of the day, all GCC markets declined, but none nearly as deeply as the Saudi market.

ALfayhaa TV, Iraqi owned and operated but stationed in Dubai, reports that U.S military leaders are re-assessing their strategy in Iraq. Meanwhile Iraqi President Jalal Talibani said that the Democrats, victorious in recent congressional elections, will not push for an early withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

Abu Hamzaa al-Muhajjir (his last name, meaning immigrant, indicates that he is supposed to be from outside Iraq), has issued a comment on the U.S elections. Clearly he watches the American media, for he used the term ‘lame duck’ in his statement. He accused President Bush (he called him the fool) of spreading the influnce of the Persian Magian (Magii) Empire over Iraq. He also urged true believers to be patient, and promised that the Jihad will not end until they ‘reach the olive trees of Rome’, and that would be after they blow up the ‘filthy house they call the White House’. He did, however, not promise free Chianti to true believers once they get to Rome. He also said that the first stage of the Jihad has ended and that they have started a new stage whereby they put down the ‘first brick in building the Islamic Caliphate’.

The Sunni Tawafuq leaders threatened to pull out of the 'political process' and resort to force of arms if they do not get what they want.....more power as a prelude to regaining the total power they lost in 2003.

The political crisis started last summer with the Hezbullah-Israel war has deepened suddenly. Hezbullah and Amal movements, the major Shi’a political organizations in Lebanon, have announced the withdrawal of their five ministers from the Lebanese government. This should doom the current cabinet of Mr. Siniora, whom the Shi’as want replaced with a government of ‘national unity’. Prime Minister Siniora has refused to ‘accept the resignations’, whatever that means. on Monday, the Lebanese cabinet met, minus seven ministers and the pro-Syrian president, and approved a document on the Hariri murder investigation. This is considered an escalation by the Shi'a groups and their allies and it probably spells the end of the current government.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Reactions to U.S Elections, Arab Views of De-Rumsfeld-ification and Re-Ba'athification, Wedding Night Blues

Victorious Jews?:
Quote from (Nov. 8, 2006), the website of the Saudi-owned satellite TV station:
"American Jews celebrated the victories of the largest number of their people to reach the U.S Congress in history. The number of Jews in the Senate increased by two, while the number of Jewish representatives increased by four. Jews now total 43 in both houses of Congress....... It is known that Nancy Pelosi, the prospective Speaker, has strong ties to pro-Israeli Jewish groups. She even lives in the Bay Area, not far from Amy Friedkin, her close friend and former president of AIPAC. " Is this a smoking gun or what?
The station did not specify where these Jewish celebrations took place, and I could not find any information on the web. Their worry is undestandable, though, from their viewers' point of view: today 43, tomorrow.......535? The station is noted for the appearances in interviews over the past two years of top U.S officials, the very top officials.
An interesting question: who keeps records of such details? And how do they know who is what?

Recall the Ba'athists:
Editor of the Saudi-owned Asharq Alawsat (Middle East) has welcomed the departure of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, probably the only bright thread he sees in the Democratic sweep of the elections yesterday. He calls (Nov. 9, 2006) for moves by the U.S to re-institute the old Iraqi army and Security Services in order to 'break Iraq away from Iran'. The editor argues that building institutions is more important at this stage than voting. He does not say who would build these institutions and how they are selected for this task. There were many solid institutions under the Ba'ath, including several security services, numerous political prisons, scattered mass graves- but they did not keep the country stable because it got into several major wars within twenty years, and ended up being invaded and ravaged three times. Initiating wars of aggression against neighbors is one sure sign of unstable institutions.
About this editor's proposal to recall the old, very dead, army and security services: is this a call for re-Ba'athification or de-Rumsfeldification? Or is it a desire for de-Shia-fication? What about the North? Will it be de-Kurdified?

Iraqi Reaction:
Azzaman daily published mostly from London by some of the old Sunni political elites (the secular pan-Arabists who dominated the country) welcomed the departure of Rumsfeld, and called heartily for the punishment of 'those collaborators he brought with him' and gave power to. Azzaman did not mention the three elections that brought some of those people to power.
Assabah, closer to the government in Iraq, did not comment on Rumsfeld's departure.
The Iraqi press did however carry reports of a possible change of ambassador to Baghdad. Other Arab media also speculated about replacing Khalilzad, a Sunni, with whom some in the ruling coalition do not get along.

A Little Cheer:
A Saudi man discovered on his wedding night that his bride was not a virgin- it turns out that she had been married briefly (civil marriage) to a man who had recently divorced her by mumbling the mandatory 'I divorce thee' three times. The latest is demanding that she be jailed and that he get back the dowry he paid for her. Another man, an Arab expatriate in Mecca, is also suing his bride for 'lack of virginity' on their wedding night. He is also suing for divorce and return of dowry (sans interest, of course). Perhaps they emphasized safe sex rather than teaching abstinence at her school district. The husband says that he is devastated and has left his family home and checked into a hotel, presumably in Saudi Arabia, to recuperate. In his case a knowledgeable scholar, no not a frat boy, noted that it would be hard to ascertain when if the virginity was lost before or during the wedding night- apparently the bride is contesting the groom's assertion.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

GCC Markets Anemic, Fundamentalists Celebrate in Tehran, Saddam Sentenced

Gulf Markets Tank:
The Saudi market continued its sharp decline that started the week on Saturday (Nov. 4), the first trading day of the week. The market index today broke 8500, its lowest level of two years (last recorded on January 2005). The index closed the day at 8427.22. The decline has been across the board, with few exceptions. Some traders claim that large funds are dumping ‘quality’ shares that are normally part of their core investments, and these include telecoms, industrials and financials. Among the new measures demanded by traders are easing rules for margin lending, as well as activating the role of market makers. Others attribute part of the decline to the delay by some listed companies of implementing new accounting and disclosure requirements of the Exchange Authority that were initiated on January 2006. Most traders and investors seemed stunned by the continued decline, and some have started to predict possible dire consequences on the loan portfolios of banking system. It is likely now that all new public offerings (IPOs) will be halted or severely curtailed. Other GCC markets also declined in recent weeks, but they improved sightly Wednesday.

Fundamentalist Fiesta in Tehran:
In Tehran a few thousand demonstrators, led by some Iranian politicians, mullahs, and other such exciting personalities, recently commemorated the 1979 storming and hostage-taking at the old United States embassy. The fundamentalists who rule Iran apparently consider that diplomat-napping one of the major achievements of the revolution. If there are other major achievements of the Islamic Revolution over the past 27 years, they must be well hidden and kept as state secrets, for they are not apparent to most others, and they are especially not apparent to the Iranian people. To cap the festivities, some mullahs and demonstrators burned the American and Israeli flags, as well as some unflattering effigies of President Bush. It is understood that the American and Israeli flags are now the second and third most popular flags in Iran, after the national colors of course. It is reported that the same two flags are also quite popular in certain regions of Pakistan as well. In the end the revelers in Tehran all sang a rendition of the mullahs’ all-time favorite hit “Marq bar Amrika, Marg bar Israel..…Death to America, death to Israel.” The Iranian and Arab media, however, did not report if they sang it to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.

Saddam Sentenced in Baghdad:
Saddam Husseim was sentenced to death today. Kurdish towns were quietly relieved, Shia' towns erupted in celebrations, and Sunni towns erupted in angry protests. Looks like a very regional and con-federalist set of reactions.


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