Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Al-Qaeda Coming Back from the Cold, Iran and the Sunni Crescent, Jews in Egypt

Iran and the Bomb:
The Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported that Israel has received permission from three Arab states on the Persian Gulf to use their airspace in case she decides to bomb Iran. Qatar, UAE, and Oman were mentioned. The secretary general of the Arab League denied the charges.
Question: why single out these three Gulf states that do not have common borders with Israel? Any flight from Israel to the Gulf would have to cross the mother of all Arab airspaces, over Saudi Arabia.

Seymour M. Hersh reports in The New Yorker that the administration is planning to attack Iran- that it is folllowing a two-pronged strategy: it is building a case and trying to provoke the Iranian regime. He claims that a case is being made through revelations of Iranian arms shipments to the Shi'a militias. These weapons were reported by officials to have killed as many as 170 American troops in Iraq. So, then, tell us: whose weapons killed the rest, the other 2,900 brave young American men and women? And, at least as important: whose money has been funding the Salafi Jihadist groups responsible for those other 2900 killings and many more thousands of maimings?

The Al-Qaeda Embrace:
There is strong evidnce, only some of it anecdotal, of a mutant al-Qaeda that might fit for the time being with the goals of a mutating Arab strategy. Arab strategy noawadays means Saudi strategy. Al-Qaeda's resurgence, now clearly gathering steam, goes beyond its bases in al-Anbar province of Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The dormant war in Algeria seems to be reviving, with a new twist that points to new Saudi influence: there is much talk about the Shi'as and Shi'ism among Algeria's Salafis these days, and the Saudi-owned media like Alarabiya TV and Asharq Alawsat daily have echoed these grumblings. This in a country that has hardly any Shi'as and hardly knows anything, or cares, about that sect. Another area of new resurgence of al-Qaeda is peaceful, secular Morocco, where Jihadist activity has been picking up in recent months. This could be devastating for the economy of Morocco, which depends heavily on tourism.

A recent and bizzare twist involves some troubles in Yemen, where the Saudi-owned media now claim that a Zaidi (Shi'as) revolt is destabilising the country- which would mean the necessity of making peace with that country's extensive al-Qaeda network (remember the USS Cole?). One Saudi media outlet even reported that Iraqi and Iranian agents were uncovered as part of a plot to establish, get this : "a Persian state" in Yemen. Must be the desire to tap all that chewable green qat.
But it gets even more bizzare: the same Saudi media reported recently that some Islamic shaikhs in the Comorro Islands, off Eastern Africa, have publicly condemned, presumably to the very same Saudi media, attempts to spread Shi'ism in that country. Even in Lebanon, the normally secular and cosmopolitan Sunnis are being targeted. New, shadowy Salafi/Wahhabi groups are sprouting faster than the petro-dollars and the Hariri billions can finance them. Which means that, like in Iraq, the most educated Sunnis, among others, will come under unbearable pressure. Which would mean that now both secular Sunnis and secular Shi'as who, along with the Maronite Christians, formed the backbone of Lebanese stabilty, will have to take sides or leave the country. Unless they are willing to Saudi-ize or Irani-ize.

Not only Seymour Hersh, but other evidence over the past few months point to a possible re-emergence of a tri-partite Saudi-Jihadist alliance, with the United States as the third, perhaps somewhat reluctant, partner. But will al-Qaeda be happy back in the Wahhabi bosom of its genesis? And for how long?

A meeting of foreign ministers of seven mainly Sunni Moslem states was held in Islamabad Sunday. The Arab League claimed that the meeting was to discuss the "Arab peace plan", and did not mean to exclude large Shi'a states, like Iran and Iraq. The meeting included such members of the Sunni Crescent as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, as well as al-Qaeda-hosting Pakistan and European-aspiring Turkey.

Retro in Egypt:
In Egypt, the secretay general of the Higher Council on Antiquity, is bringing charges against a private school in Cairo- because part of its curriculum material claims that Jews helped build the Pyramids, and that they were persecuted (shocking,this last assertion). I could have sworn that the Holy Quran also says that Jews were persecuted in Egypt, with the staff of Moses changing into a snake and all that, although it does not mention the pyramids. The man claims that the pyramids were completely built by Egyptians, Charlton Heston and Cecil B. de Mille notwithstanding, and that they considered it a "project of national pride", which is a new PC take on an old slavery issue.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Saudis Unleash CACA, Sex Psych War in Iraq, Egyptian Madness

An Iraqi woman, who had warrants for her arrest, claims that she was raped by security officers, presumably Shi'as. The woman was arrested during a raid on a known insurgent house. The Sunni politicians quickly jumped in to support her claim, and seem to see in her some kind of a rallying cry, an opportunity. The Arab World has a long history of rallying to a captive woman's call for help, but Arab politicians have also often used women in this sense in order to enrage the 'street'. The Arab (Sunni) media have interviewed her, and the Shi'a media have noted that she was acting her part in a psychological war, that she was fully made up for the interview (on Aljazeera and Alarabiya TV), that she is being used as a pawn in a sectarian conflict. The Iraqi government has released hospital test results showing that she was not sexually assaulted, but some Sunni Arab media claim that tests show that she was raped. American military spokesmen, who accompany Iraqi unites on missions, are silent for now, pending an investigation. In any case, this will have no impact on the ongoing Battle for Baghdad.

Flying Pigs of Arabia:
Saudi Arabia's News Agency reports (Feb. 20) that the Saudi cabinet, headed by the king, has approved a 'National Strategy for the Protection of Honesty and Combatting Corruption'- now that is a mouthful. The report claimed that all officials, including the high officials will be held responsible for their actions. Which presumably means that heretofore they have not been held responsible for anything.
A new National Anti-Corruption Authority- the acronym NACA sounds very appropriate here- will follow up on the implementation of, what else, anti-corruption measures. A reminder: pigs never fly, not even in Arabia, where le jambon is not kosher to start with. Attached to the strategy is a measure that would restrict the employment of non-Saudis in the jewelry stores and workshops- although it is not clear how this would combat corruption. I could name a few more relevant measures, but then again, they will never be implemented. Besides, the head of NACA (this is a really easy acronym and sounds quite.....catchy) would lose at least his job if he follows my advice, which he won't.

Interesting Egyptian Vignette:
An economics professor at Egypt's Hilwan University started class one bright Egyptian morning by writing on the blackboard (they are still black over there): B'ism America Al-Azeema, In The Name of America the Great, instead of the usual Bismillah, In the Name of Allah. Then he refused to open a discussion with students on his strange behavior, instead asking for written questions, which he answered promptly, to the further outrage of his students. In his answers, he stated that he believed in the American Faith, and that he was free to choose his own religion, which further infuriated most of his students. The professor has been arrested and sent to a psychiatric hospital. The president of the university, to his credit, has suspended judgement, stating that the man might be sick and not responsible for his action.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Muqtada al-Sadr Plays Waldo, Allawi Goes Global- Uncle Sam, The Ayatollahs and Gulf ED

Iraq: so, what else is new?:
Muqtada Al-Sadr has gone AWOL. While a U.S. military spokesman confirms that the mysterious Shi'a leader has gone to Iran, a Sadrista spokesman has denied that assertion, claiming that Muqtada is at his home in Najaf. An Iraqi official now claims that Muqtada is on a visit to Iran, just a normal visit. (This is increasingly resembling the Anna Nicole Smith paternity confusion). Some in the Arab, as well as American, media speculate that he is just laying low, waiting for the 'surge' to run its course. Of course, there is always an outside chance that we could all be pleasantly surprised and the much-maligned surge may succeed. But then again, that all depends on the ultimate goals of the surge, just how modest or how audacious they are.

Meanwhile, London based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports that former Interim Prime Minister Ayyad Allawi has renewed his proposed plan, yes again, to stabilize Iraq. Not surprisingly, the plan calls, again, for a 'unity government' and declaring martial law for two years. That would mean suspending the constitution. The Shi'a alliance quickly rejected the plan as extra-constitutional, which it is. So far, the Kurds have not dignified it with a response. In fact the proposal is way extra-constitutional, a retro plan, like totally Ba'athist, and the ruling coalition noted that it would require arbitrarily undoing the electoral process, i.e, defying the will of the electorate that risked life and limb to vote (remember the purple-stained fingers raised proudly in Baghdad and at the Capitol in Washington?). An Allawi ally stated that Allawi presented his proposal to the United States government, the Arab League, the OIC, and the Gulf Coopertaion Council- just to make sure that it will be rejected by the ruling coalition and probably by most Iraqis. It is not clear if Allawi consulted with his elected government before approaching unelected foreign governments and potentates with his plan- but then, hey, this is the Arab Middle East.

Uncle Sam, The Mullahs, and the Salafis:
The US will send a third aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf, an unprecedented move that will literally choke the narrow waterway. Many in the Middle East interpret this as a sure sign that the Bush administration plans to strike at Iran. This, of course may be part of the fog and smoke of war. Some claim the U.S. is already involved in operations against Iran, that it is arming and financing groups opposed to the clerical regime in Tehran as a retaliation for Iranian involvement in Iraq. Still, outside the Arab World, there seems to be a shift toward a concensus opinion that there will be no war. Within the Arab region, the consencus is for war, with some in the media in the Persian Gulf states doing some saber rattling, rattling the American saber of course, since their own sabers are miniscule on account of intestinal and moral ED. The vulnerable Gulf states worry about being caught in the violence of a new war, although, oddly enough, the most vociferous proponents of a U.S. attack on Iran are prominent Salafi Jihadist types in some of the GCC countries that border Iraq. These are the soul mates of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Perhaps this is to avenge the Iranian support of the U.S invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 that led to deposing the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, or perhaps it is a case of 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend, for now'.

You Figure This One Out:
An Iraqi newspaper reports that the Israeli government has advised all Israeli citizens in Iraq to leave that country and not return.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Al-Zarqawi Redux, Islamic Fault Lines, Ethanol and Political Methane

Alfayhaa Iraqi Satellite TV reports (Feb. 12) that a Gulf GCC-Iraqi 'Council' is being discussed, and may be established next March. The report said the goal of the council is to promote Iraqi-Gulf relations, and reduce 'outside' intervention that 'tends to destabilize the region and affect its security'. The last one is a tall order, since everybody seems to interfere in Iraqi affairs these days, whether in the form of sending arms for the militias, or sending arms, money and men for the Jihadist Salafi terrorists. Then there is the other ultimate intervention: 'demands' that the Iraq constitution be changed- these demands are mostly by Arab countries that either do not have a constitution or trample theirs if they have one.

The Jordanian Salafi terrorist Ahmad Fadhil Nazzal al-Khalayleh, a.k.a Abu Musa'ab Al-Zarqawi, succeeded in one of his two main goals. He wanted to establish an Islamic 'Emirate' in Iraq, and that is not likely to be realized, not without oil, although the jury is still out. His other goal was publicized in his shocking famous message , displaying a breath-taking hatred of the Shi'as (Shi'ites) in a style reminiscent of the Third Reich. The Zarqawi letter of 2005 refers to the Shi'ites as "the overwhelming obstacle, the lurking snake, the crafty and malicious scorpion, the spying enemy, and the penetrating venom." It blames Shi'ites for "patent polytheism," "worshipping at graves,", "circumambulating shrines," and "insulting the mothers of the believers and the elite of this nation (I guess these elite would be the Sunni potentates?)."
He succeeded in pushing his expressed opinion of the Shi'as (Shiites) toward acceptance by the mainstream Sunni media, mostly along the sectarian fault lines in the Persian Gulf region where anti-Shi'a feelings have always been barely below the surface. The electoral rise of the Shi'as in Iraq and the growth of the violent militias in Baghdad as a counter to the Jihadist/Ba'athist terror, have exacerbated sectarian tensions in other countries, mainly the Gulf states and Lebanon, where the Shi'as form either a substantial minority, a plurality (Lebanon), or a majority (Bahrain). Surprisingly, the bulk of the Arab intellectual elite in the Gulf, or whatever stands for an intellectual elite, have lined up along sectarian fault lines. Free, perhaps imperfect, elections in Iraq, the freest in Arab history, are dismissed with calls for more 'sharing' of power. The demands are for more sharing of power, but only in Iraq. Perhaps there can be more 'sharing' of power along the shores of the Gulf and the Red Sea as well.

Speaking of sharing, the The Society for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the powerful para-military, well sort of para-something, Islamic religious police of Saudi Arabia is cracking again on Valentine's Day. Their bearded, dour, visages can be seen in the markets, malls, restaurants, and wherever things are sold, making sure there are no pink, red, white or black hearts, no signs of celebration. Do these shaggy Mutawwa'een religious police know about Saint Valentine? That should make them redouble their efforts.
And wasn't that old King Abdullah himself in the midst of a love-fest in Mecca the other day? Weren't those pink and red roses at the kingly conference in Mecca that sealed the Palestinian accord to share the cake of power and aid money between Hamas and Fatah last week? Wasn't that Abu Mazzen kissing the "be my Valentine" Hamas leaders at the center of la vie en rose at Mecca? It looked like the Saudi royals and the Palestinian neo-potentates were celebrating Valentine's Day early, and in Mecca of all places.

Reports indicate that there is unrest in Mexico over the increased price of corn, a main staple for people in that country and in many other less developed countries. One culprit is the push for the use Ethanol as replacement for fossil fuels. Ethanol competes with the world's hungry for corn. Speaking of Ethanol, fuels, and gases: the Arab World has been blessed with abundant petroleum and natural gas, but its leaders have also been blessed with an abundance of that 'other natural gas': Methane, a.k.a CH4. The web site (ghgonline.org) claims that: "Global man-made methane emissions are estimated to total about 320 million tonnes each year". That is a lot of energy wasted in our part of the world. The U.S. EPA estimates that "Methane is emitted from a variety of both human-related (anthropogenic) and natural sources. Human-related activities include fossil fuel production, animal husbandry, enteric fermentation and manure management).......... and waste management." Interesting stuff.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Oprah and The Preppy Wahhabis, Iraq's Axis of Evil, A Persian Gulf Political Casserole

Oprah recently started a 'prep' school for select poor girls in South Africa. This admirable project is by nature centered on a selective group of girls, and unfortunately most of them will eventually end up in places where they are least needed: Western Europe or North America. But that will come much later, after they are educated and trained, with the media attention gone. Unlike that other source of free 'education' for the Moslim poor in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and for the Moslem middle classes in the West- the Wahabi oil-financed madrassas. Madrassa in Arabic simply means 'school', a term that has been attached to the largely Saudi-financed fundamentalist religious schools run by Wahabi/Salafi shaikhs around the world. That was the genesis of the Taliban movement, the word 'Taliban' being plural of 'Talib', a seeker of knowledge, a student. That might also explain why three countries quickly recognized the Taliban regime after it overthrew the bickering Afghan government: Saudi Arabia (the money bag), Pakistan (its notorious ISI being the mentor), and the United Arab Emirates (not clear how the moderate and cosmopolitan UAE fit into this axis of .....goodnes?).
In any case, Oprah's African girls should turn out fine, unless she hires Wahhabi teachers for her school, in which case they will turn into little preppy Wahhabettes.

Terrorist bombers struck in a Shi'a area in central Baghdad (the Sadriya district) today, killing more than 130 civilians and wounding hundreds more. Two days earlier, another terror bombing in the Shi'a town of al-Hilla killed 73 people. Iraq's government spokesman said a ton of explosives was loaded on a truck, and he hinted that the terrorists may heve sneaked into Iraq from Syria. Initial Arab reaction was calm and neutral.....headlines reported about 'bombings in Baghdad, many dead and wounded'. No condemnation so far: perhaps they are waiting for the now almost inevitable bloody retaliation by the militias before condemning....condemning the retaliation not the initial act itself. This was not labeled a 'sectarian' massacre, even though the victims were Shi'as and the modus operandi of the mass killings clearly pointed to the Wahabi/Salafi/Ba'athist axis of evil. It becomes 'sectarian' only when the Shi'a militias commit their own bloody atrocities.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistant, meanwhile, called for calm and for avoiding doing anything that would raise sectarian tensions. Al-Sistani criticized those who issue fatwas against other sects and try to fan the flames of sectarianism among Moslems. Meanwhile, Salih al-Mutlak, head of the Sunni National Dialog Front, complained about police raiding his house and arrested two of his guards.
It also looks like tensions are rising in the northern city of Kirkuk, where about 20 people were killed in car bombings this week. Things will get much worse in Kirkuk, before a referendum on the future of the city that must be held this year.

The national intelligence estimate (NIE) on Iraq has finally corrected, perhaps modified is the word, the administration's rhetoric on who supports the insurgents in Iraq. While it noted that Iran supports and arms Shi'a militias, it downplayed its role in the terrorist insurgent campaign. It did not, however tackle the issue of the sources of the huge funds that keep that Jihadist/Ba'athist campaign going.

Iraq has decided to expel the Mujahideen Khaq, an Iranian socialist-Islamic opposition group that has been in Iraq for two over decades. The group had recently published a 'list' of 31,000 Iraqis it claimed were paid agents of the clerical regime in Tehran. It has also claimed that Iran is supplying weapons to Iraqi 'groups'. In doing this, it apparently broke a condition not to meddle in internal Iraqi affairs.

Kuwait's royal chief of the National Security Council, their own Rice or Hadley, or Kissinger if we go back in history, stated in an interview on Alarabiya TV that he is a 'liberal Islamist' and that he has 'good relations' with Jihadists, who are not necessarily terrorists. He said that 'anyone who is not an Islamist is not a Moslem'.... whatever that means. Sounds like logical contortionism to me, a veritable political casserole, but then perhaps he is trying to straddle a thin political line here.
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