Sunday, May 27, 2007

Some Arab media, particularly those owned by Saudi Arabia and in the Gulf monarchies are complaining that elections in Syria are not fair or real. That is true, elections in Syria are rigged so that the regime will stay in power- after all, this is still an Arab country. But then again, elections in Saudi Arabia do not even exist. In almost all Arab countries that have elections, they are either rigged or limited to bodies with hardly any powers.

Saudi media quote officials that at least four of the Fath al-Islam jihadists who were killed in the battles with the Lebanoese army were Saudis. Others are listed as from several other Arab countries. Some in th media wonder why, if only about 200 armed fundies are in the camp near Tripoli, does the Lebanese army need eight huge transport plane shipments of U.S weapons? The Lebanese army is based on a balance among the various sectors, Shi'a-Sunni-Christian, and any attempt to involve it in internal political disputes will lead to its break-up along sectarian lines. It must be kept out of inter-Lebanese conflicts, otherwise it will break up.

Interesting article by Frank Rich in today's NYT, about how the administration is scapegoating the Iraqi government for its own monumental failures in Iraq.

In Algeria, President Abdulaziz Bouteflika is going to 'allow' a constitutional change that would keep him president beyond his two terms. He wil become anothet Arab despot for life, instead of a despot for two terms only. Bouteflika's party, the FLN or NLF (but never the NFL) really screwed up Algeria's economy and politics for four decades, with the eager participation of little Abdul Bouteflika himself. He broke away for a while, went into blissful French exile, but the military summoned him to power and intends, in true FLN and military fashion, hang onto it for life. Just like everyone else in the Arab World, with the possible exception of Iraq and perhaps one or two other states.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Apparently the fighting in Lebanon continues. The Lebanese army death toll now is put at 22, at least. How many of the jihadists have been killed? It looks like some Lebanese politicians, in their zeal to counter Hezbollah, have financed and encouraged Sunni extremist groups with al Qaeda Wahhabi affiliations. These groups are not fighting Hezbollah now.
In the past Arab regimes, and some Western powers, in their doubtful farsight, financed Islamists as a counter force to the demanding secular opposition (democrats, leftists, pan-Arabists, etc). That gave us al Qaeda, the Salafis, Hamas, and now their Iraqi and Lebanese offspring.

Lebanon's Jihadists, Jordan's Gestapo

So, it is happening in Lebanon as well. Some time ago this site warned that a lot of money was going to Sunni Jihadist groups in Lebanon without regard to their real affiliations. Both Lebanese money and Persian Gulf oil money (in some notable cases they are one and the same in Lebanon) was directed toward groups that might weaken the Shi'a Hezbollah or offset its influence, and we warned that some of that money was going to al Qaeda allies, especially around the northern city of Tripoli (the other Tripoli, not the Tripoli of the shores in the song).
Lebanon reports today that 13 of its army soldiers were killed and 19 wounded in ongoing clashes with Fath el-Islam, a Sunni extremist group. Even Hezbollah has not killed Lebanese soldiers, at least not in recent decades and not in these numbers. And this is only one group of potentially dangerous Jihadists in the country.
Meanwhile, Lebanese security authorities are apparently trying to decide whether to blame the group's new strength and cockiness on Syria, Iran, or both. In the past Israel was blamed for any such inexplicable and embarrassing developments in an Arab country.

Egypt's Al-akhbar (May 19) reports that Jordanian Mukhabarat (their own Gestapo) has established a new "Division for Combatting Shi'ism". Viva moderation in the new Middle East.

New Saudi currency will bear the picture of King Abdullah, complete with the dyed jet-black beard and moustache. The one riyal note will bear a picture of the "first" Islamic dinar issued centuries ago, but not a picture of the original Roman Dinarius coins issued much earlier, perhaps 2200 years ago.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hamas, Fatah, and the Arab-Israeli Civil War

A war rages in the Palestinian territory. It is a civil war with regional parties involved, reflecting a new realignment in the Middle East. On one side is Fatah, Yasir Arafat's organization now led by Mahmoud Abbas, on the other side are the Hamas, which controls the Palestinian legislature and gorvenment.

The Fatah side is getting help from Israel, which has been bombing and/or shelling Hamas strongholds, and Hamas has been firing into Israel. Fatah gets money from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, and gets moral and tactical support from Egypt, Jordan, and the West. Hamas gets support from Iran and Syria, and it has the votes since it won the last election.

The Arab Middle East is basically divided into two new camps, the Israeli-Moderate camp and the Radical camp. The goal of the Israeli-Moderate camp ids to contain and push back the Radical camp, which so far consists of Iran, Syria, Palestinian Hamas, and a lot of Iraqis. And let's not forget al Qaeda and the Shi'a threat, whatever the latter is. The goal of the radical camp is to end and push back what it considers growing American-Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.

The goal of the Moderate camp is to maintain the status quo, ante-Iraq, shore up existing Arab regimes and achieve a final Palestine settlement of two states. It will eventually succeed in the last part of its goal, the Palestine part, because the only feasible solution is two states. As for the status quo, ante-Iraq....we are already post-Iraq, and it is impossible, in American terms, to push the toothpaste back into the tube. Or in Arab terms: to push the genie back into the brass lamp.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Who took the three American soldiers in the Triangle of Death? Al Qaeda has warned the U.S forces not to look for them, which is an interesting new approach by them. And why aren’t they on the internet or some Arabic satellite TV begging for their lives? Reports say the attack on their unit was well planned- presumably so was the abduction. So what happened to the usual audio or video or clip?

There are three possible explanations:
They are dead, but this is the least likely outcome. It is a bad one, but not the worst outcome.

Or, the worst possible outcome: al Qaeda has them, but they are still within U.S.-controlled territory. They can’t get to a video camera or a webcam yet. This is a very likely outcome. It is also the most unfortunate outcome.

Or, the best possible outcome: they are being held by a different group than al Qaeda. The latter is possible and explains the reward announced for information about them. Obviously al Qaeda can’t be the target of a reward offer. Another group might be bargaining for them, which would mean a bidding war between al Qaeda and the Unites States. Or maybe the group is still on the run, trying to get the men out of American-controlled areas. They would know that al Qaeda might merely give them an IOU and tell them to collect their reward when they get to the other world- It may even help them get there. They know they have a better chance of collecting in this world with the Americans.

As U.S and Iranian ambassadors in Baghdad get ready to meet over Iraq, the White House is eagerly minimizing the importance of the meeting. Which makes one wonder: why hold the meeting at all? This looks like a case of the lady who protests too much. Still, this meeting may be scuttled, just like the earlier one a year or so ago.

Persian Gulf Media still largely expect a U.S and/or Israeli attack on Iran sometime soon. But then again, they have been expecting an imminent attack for over a year now. One warmongering newspaper in Kuwait, alseyassah , has been changing its favorite deadline for D-day every couple of months, putting the attack off while its owner/editor consults fortune tellers and the djinn about the next most-likely date.

Gulf diplomats and top politicians, who probably know no more about this than yours truly (that would be moi), try to sound wise and knowledgeable when asked, mumbling vague sweet nothings about nuclear dangers and the dangers of any war in the region. Which is a sure sign that they don’t know much about future plans for the Gulf Region: these plans are completely out of the hands of Arab diplomats and leaders, subject to the interactions and conflicts of Iranian and American policies.

It looks like the much touted Palestinian accord reached in Riyadh between Hamas and the Fatah is dead, deader than Mr. Arafat. Palestinians are again killing each other while Israel celebrates its independence.

There are reports in the media (both Arab and Western) that Saudi Arabia is doing a ‘Bush White House’ in its relations to the Iraqi government. Just as the U.S administrations refuses to talk with its ‘foes’ so the Saudi royals refuse to sit down and talk to al-Maliki and the Shi’a members of his cabinet. They talk with President Talibani (Kurd), Foreign Minister Zibari (Kurd), and Vice President Hashimi (Sunni), but reports indicate that both King Abdullah and his Foreign Minister have refused to sit down with the Prime Minister (Shi’a). In other words, an unelected absolute monarchy has downgraded the elected Iraqi government. That is another example of Arabian chutzpah.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sadrist deputies, representing the Muqtada al-Sadr movement in Iraq’s parliament, have managed to obtain signatures of a majority of 144 members, out of a total of 275, on a bill that sets a time limit for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. No word yet if Muqtada, affectionately called Mookie by neocons, plans to run in the New Hampshire primary against Hillary and Barack.
The draft law was handed to the Speaker of Parliament (a Sunni). The Speaker himself was involved in a quarrel with another lawmaker earlier this week, and he ended up slapping the other man. No duel is expected because of the slap since he used his bare hand instead of a silk glove. Besides, they do not duel in Iraq these days, they ambush each other, or use car bombs.

Another major suicide bombing in Kurdistan killed and wounded at least 200 people. Looks like the center of bloody gravity in Iraq is moving north as the date for the referendum on Kirkuk nears. A bomb near Baghdad killed a mere 50 people or so. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for killing several U.S soldiers and abducting three yesterday. Looks like in spite of its problems with some tribal sheikhs in al-Anbar, al Qaeda is resilient enough to move around and operate in the central and western Sunni regions of Iraq. Taking 3 U.S soldiers alive is an unprecedented thing for the terrorist group. How did it happen? Who slipped? Did some Iraqi soldiers or officers aid and abet the fuzzywuzzies?

Iraq’s largest political party, the Shi’a SCIRI, has decided to remove the R, standing for ‘Revolution’, from its acronym. Which makes sense, since the party is now part of the ruling coalition, and not 'revolting' anymore. Reports also indicate that the party will consider Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in Najaf, its main source of council on matters of faith. This would replace the Iranian Ali Khamenai, to whom they looked for guidance after the assassination of its leader, Ayatollah al-Hakim in the summer of 2003. This would also presumably put some distance between SCIRI (-R) and the Iranian leaders, who love their 'R' and want to continue to be revolting- perhaps not as revolting as som Arab leaders, but close.

Iran’s Ahmadijejad is stalking V.P Dick Cheney around the Gulf. He is making his own round of the Persian Gulf states right on the heels of Mr. Cheney. Almost nipping at his heels.

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday beheaded an Ethiopian woman convicted of killing a man over a dispute. The woman, Khadija Bint Ibrahim Moussa, was found guilty of stabbing the victim. Officials said that she had stabbed him in the neck while he was asleep and then beat his head with a glass bottle (she must have been really pissed about something). She was executed in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, the second woman executed this year.

Saudi Arabia executes people convicted of murder, drug trafficking, rape, armed robbery, homosexuality, practicing witchcraft, resorting to witchcraft, consorting with the djinn, apostasy, kicking a television set showing at least one prince on the air, and notconformity, among other things. In fact, Islam never set any punishments for drugs and armed robbery in the Holy Book or the Hadith, simply because drugs did not exist and armed robbery was a legitimate and respectable avocation among the tribes for some time. As for nonconformity: well, Islam was quite nonconformist in its early years, as was the Prophet himself obviously. You don't start a new faith by conforming to the old one- aren't all religions that way at the beginning?
Beheadings are carried out with a sword in a public square. Most of those executed tend to be from poorer third world countries, the exception being those convicted of terrorism.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

From Jordan To Iraq With Hatred?

When he was in power, Saddam Hussein had a special relationship with the Jordanian press. They always sided with him, elevating him to a position of paramount Arab leader, more so than the foolish Gulf press, which did it for free before his invasion of Kuwait. In Exchange, he was generous with them: cash, gold watches, Mickey Mouse watches, even cars were reported to have been given out by the Iraqi Ba'ath to Jordanian reporters and their editors. It was like a whole cottage industry. But it was profitable for both sides.
The man is dead, but many in Jordan, those who never had to live under his rule, still lament his departure, both from the scene and from this world.

The epitomy of Saddam-philia and hypocrisy was published by a Jordanian columnist named Samih al-Maayytah yesterady, in the Jordanian AL-Ghad newpaper, and eagerly, perhaps gratefully re-published on the website of Saudi Alarabiya TV. Here is a close translation of the article:
(Warning: have a sick bag- barf bag- or a bucket ready nearby).
Here goes:

"The essence of the Iraqi file is not in the hateful American occupation and criminality, that is to be expected from an administration that is manipulated by Zionism and ideology. The problem is that a major part of Iraqi forces has chosen to build its relationship with its homeland bsed on hatred and vengeance. This force does not just hate the old regime, but also hates Iraq, and all it sees is power based on uprooting the others (de-ba'athification?).

"Hatred does not builds nations, and that is why those who have ruled Iraq have failed, because their whole equation was based on hatred, vengeance, and narrow self-interest. The first decision they helped the occupier make was the hateful one of disbanding the Iraqi army, which had defeated Iran (that is indeed news, but I used to think that they also gassed a few people). Then came de-ba'athification which was not aimed at leaders, but it was based on hatred of people, institutions, scientists, and army leaders.

"Hatred made supporters of this government come out into the streets and celebrate the anniversary of the occupation as 'liberation'. There is an explanation for that: hatred made this group come out and celebrate the fall of Baghdad. Why else could anyone celebrate the hated fall of their country to the killers and occupiers?
"It is hatred which makes it impossible for these hateful people to be a source of strength and building for their country.
"Iraq will always live in chaos because those who rule it are obsessed with hatred, and full of hatred toward their country and people. There is no excuse for this hatred. These hateful people will always feel alienated, even with power, titles, and money (was that last one a slip by the author?)..........."

Wow, interesting huh? That was a rather hateful article, and very tribal. Whatever way you look at it, there is an awful lot of hate somewhere in there....wouldn't you say?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Arab Toothpaste Plan for the Iraq, Price of Saudi Marital Intimacy

The Saudi-owned media, dominating Arab print and airwaves with its huge overseas outlets (alhayat, asharq alawsat, alarabiya TV, etc...) is again calling for a military-led regime in Iraq, in order to, as they claim, restore order and prepare for a 'more balanced' political system. The editor-in-chief of a major Saudi paper published in London came out openly today for a restored Iraqi army, presumably without its Halabja-era arsenal of chemicals and poison gas, to take over. Does he know that he is proposing to push the Iraqi toothpaste back into its old impossible task now? Not even the best-paid writers in London can achieve that.

Saudi-owned columnists in the Gulf and across the Arab World are again repeating the same message, which is almost a mantra now.
The main thrust of these arguments is asserting control by a central government, which incidentally will be less Shi'a and less Kurdish.....especially less Shi'a, which would make it more in line with other Arab regimes. Sort of like, dare I say, our erstwhile brothers, our old buddies of the Ba'ath Arab Socialist Party.

Should this new regime be un-elected, then this would make it even more in line with all the Arab despots, absolute monarchs, and presiedents-for-life. All brothers in....despotism.
Nobody has mentioned anything about the fate of autonomous Kurdistan in this desired re-centralized is the almost-independent elephant in the room that no one mentions.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Sunni political parties have been hinting at withdrawal from the government and perhaps from the political process. Vice President al-Hashimi the other day mentioned May 15 as a target date for some serious work on the constitution, or else.

This is apparently part of a coordinated drive to put some pressure on the al-Maliki government. But the real target is the Bush administration, which is even more susceptible to pressure here, since it is terrified of any appearance of a weakening of the Iraqi political process.

The good news is that the sensible Biden-Gelb idea of a union of autonomous regions is gaining support in the Senate.

Love and Marriage in Arabia:
Alarabiya website reports (May 8) on a strange phenomenon in Saudi Arabia: husbands who refuse to ‘get intimate’ with their wives, and wives who have to pay their husbands for intercourse.
One husband demanded 1000 rials from his wife in exchange for his ‘services’- the site did not report what the going rate is for escorts over there. The wife borrowed the money from her brother and paid her husband in order to have intimacy with him. When she lost after the Saudi stock market crashed and could not repay the money, her brother sued her.

The network reports that this has become more common, and is a major cause for divorce or law suits to force the husbands to perform their ‘roles’ in bed. One wife, who is also a businesswoman complains that she has to pay her husband for each time she needs his ‘services’.

Now, where do you suppose these husbands go for their……fun? Unless there is a national need for ED medication.

Saudi religious police in Jeddah roughed up some people and ejected three Canadian women from an exhibition on 'Education in the Middle East'. This parallel police is called 'The OAuthority for Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Sin'. They are dedicated to the prevention of any kind of fun that is not related to eating and drinking soda pop. And no, they do not have their headquarters in Washington D.C.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Secret Shi'a (Shiite) Agenda In Iraq

CNN and the Washington Post, and now other media, have been talking darkly and ominously of a Shi'a (Shi'ite) agenda being pushed by the al-Maliki government in Iraq. The reports talk of a secret office attached to al-Maliki that is pushing a 'Shi'a agenda'. Imagine, a Shi'a agenda in Iraq, where only 65% of the people are Shi'as! What will they try next? Majority rule?
This sounds as ominous and threatening as pushing a Communist agenda (pre-1991), and perhaps more ominous than a Salafi-Wahhabi-al Qaeda agenda nowadays.

It is not clear how exactly this secret office is pushing its secret agenda. The office is accused of engineering the firing of officers who do not help the purported Shi'a agenda. Some (Sunni) Iraqi officers are complaining about it. Some U.S officers (anonynmous, of course, in the best tradition of these days) are talking to the media, hinting that there should be more 'control' of that office. Not a bad idea, but control by whom?? And who is this Dr Bassima, the female mastermind of it all, who is supposed to be like Scooter Libby and Karl Rove rolled in one?

On the Shi'a question (is there such a question ?) CNN and the Washington Post are beginning to sound exactly like the huge, well-financed Saudi media, with its far-flung newspapers and satellite stations (Alarabiya TV, alHayat, Asharq Alawsat, LBC, ART, etc, etc). Is a corporate takeover in the cards?
And what the hell is a Shi'a (Shi'ite) agenda?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day, Mayday... in Arabia

Some Iraqi tribal elders in al Anbar are claiming this morning that the Emir of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayoub al-Masri, has been killed. I will believe it when I see it in living color, or when the U.S military confirms it. Hold that reward money for now!

Looks like the days of Israeli PM Ehud Olmert are numbered in view of the Winograd Report on the Lebanon War last summer. Now, if he were the PM of an Arab country he could declare a 'state of emergency' and get off the hook easily. He could even postpone any further elections until after his death.
See? It pays to convert if you are a leader.

In Yemen, a mini-civil war has been raging for months now, with thousands reported killed. Now President-for-Life Ali Abdullah Saleh has hit on a possible source for this war: he has accused Libya and Iran of supporting and arming the 'rebels'. That should, incidentally, make the Saudis happy, since their two major foes are being implicated...but I am sure it is just a coincidence. President Saleh has not implicated Syria and North Korea, not yet, but things could get worse.

A Sudanese appeals court has reversed the execution by stoning of two women convicted of adultery. The women will be retried. Another court also reversed the sentence of a man whose hand was about to be cut off for stealing- just seconds before he lost his hand.
Since it normally takes two to commit adultery: what happened to the two men involved? It looks from recent experiences in Sudan, Nigeria, UAE, and especially the repeat offender Pakistan, that the penetrators get away free, and only the penetrated get punished and thus get the proverbial shaft as well.

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