Monday, March 31, 2008

The Battle for Basrah: will Baghdad and other towns pay the price?
The Jihadists' own March Madness, but without the Tarheels.
Are al-Qaeda and Bin Laden fearing irrelevance? Are they bored? Why not get some new wives?
Libya's entertaining Qaddafi does it again: he opines on Bush doing the Hajj and on Shi'as.
The logic of eschatology and logic.
Saudi bully tactics and the fading Arab summit institution.

The Battle for Basrah: will Baghdad pay the price?:
The battle for Basrah rages, as it has been for some time now, but with some new players. Now Iraq has become more 'fair and balanced'. The government, with US help, is fighting not only Sunni terrorists, but also renegade Shia militias. The emphasis is on "renegade": the Awakening Councils and the sanctioned Shi'a militias are not "renegades", not yet.

It is possible that, with the push to stabilize Basrah, there is the danger of destabilizing large sections of Baghdad. Unrest is already spreading, and many Sadristas are itching for a fight, except their 'nominal' leader who seems to have switched to civil disobedience. Maybe he does not think the time ripe for a battle, he has a history of pullng back from a battle when it suited him, as he did in 2004 and 2007.

Basrah need to be pacified for Iraq to begin to achieve some normalcy, hopefully a different one form the pre-2003 normalcy. Basrah is the sea gateway to Iraq, and its main oil city, which explains the continued inter-Shi'a fighting over it. It also explains the periodic emergence of some new "apocalyptic" armed groups in its vicinity, groups that Iraqis claim are financed by petro-money from some neighboring countries (other than Iran which already supports some well-known groups).

Do al-Qaeda and Bin Laden fear irrelevance?
UBL and his sidekick must be going through their own March Madness somewhere out there. That must be the explanation for their recent behavior: men don't suffer PMS.

Al-Qaeda has blown its chances in Iraq, at least for now but most likely forever. It has handed all those resentful Sunni tribals who would rather sup with the devil than break bread with the Shi’a al-Maliki, handed them to someone even worse according to their doctrine, the full-fledged American kaffir heathen. The very same who overthrew the Arab nation’s last not-so-white hope (not sure hope for what other than self destruction) and opened the door for the installation of the Shi’as and Kurds in power.

It is enough to make a gas-throwing genocidal officer of the Old Ba’ath Army cringe- that would be the same army, the third world tribal shell Wehrmacht that five-year later cable TV quarterbacks of the media are regretting that it was disbanded.

Al-Qaeda seems to be having a fire sale: new tapes from UBL and al-Zawahiri have been handed out furiously this month- threatening evrybody, including the Europeans as well as that old staple, Israel. They are as usual repetitive: it must be boring for them up there in the tribal Pashtun areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. One advice: get a new wife or two, you both must be short of the regulation four wives by now, what with all the raids and strikes.

Turns out that the Jordanian butcher al-Zarqawi was probably al-Qaeda’s last best hope in Iraq, that his demise was the beginning of the end for AQI, and the end of the only battlefield for UBL in the Arab world. His death sucked the air out of the Salafi fundamentalist militants in the Arab East, demoralized them. Now they are thriving on the pereiphery of the Arab world, places they would rather not be: like Algeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. When they would rather be in the Big Apple, in the area from Egypt through the Levant to Iraq and the (Persian) Gulf. Everyone wants to be in the Big Apple, but lately al-Qaeda has been dealt only ‘camel apples’. Even the Saudis have managed to thwart all their plans in the Kingdom, their natural and literal home base.

But never fear: it is resurgent in Afghanistan, for now. It is down in Pakistan, for now: but will grow again as the new alliance of the corrupt Bhutto-Zardari and Sharif tightens its grip. As the kleptocracy starts to do what kleptocracies can't resist doing- kelpting or kleptocrating?.

The GOP may keep UBL as a campaign poster for the November elections, but that would be a double-edged sword. Now that they have “the” national security candidate. Now that he knows the difference between Sunni Wahhabi fundamentalist al-Qaeda and Shi'a fundamentalist al-Mahdi Sadristas. He also knows the difference between the Jewish Purim and the American Halloween, courtesy of Joe Lieberman, the “real” national security expert.

Libya's Qaddafi Does it Again: On Mecca and Shia's:
Colonel Qaddafi has a knack for irritating some other Arab leaders, especially the Saudi royals in recent years. That is why he is the most entertaining Arab leader to listen to: he is the only one who does not bore you to sleep (or death), at least not for the first hour. The other Arab leaders make one yawn just looking at them.
This week Qaddafi was at it again, again infuriating the Saudis and their media by touching on two topics that are very "touchy" for them: the sanctity of the (Kaaba) Holy Shrine at Mecca, and the treatment of Shi'as in many Arab countries. These are subjects that are not to be discussed in genteel company, especially genteel Wahhabi company.

First, the colonel literally invited George W. Bush to walk around the Kaaba as many times as he wants, if he wants- which is doubtful, unless he decides not to have a third Bush term. He contends that it is the house of God, an hence should be open to all who believe in Him: i.e to people of all monotheist religions, incluing Christians and Jews. The colonel does not know that Zaroastrians are also monotheists- notr does almost anybody else.
He said the pilgrimage to Mecca preceded the Prophet Mohammed and Islam, which is true. Pagan Arab tribes used to go on pilgrimage long before Islam, when the Kaaba was lined with statues of pagan idol gods. Again, for the second time he said that Mr. Bush should have the right to go since he is a person of the book (Christian or Jew). He really wants Bush to do the Hajj, but the logic of eschatology sometimes defies....logic.

Second, Qaddafi reiterated that Shi'as are "persecuted" in Arab states, often treated as second or third class citizens. He did not mention Saudi Arabia by name, but if the shoe fits one often tends to wear it.
Qaddafi also blasted the Salafi Wahhabi doctrine, without naming it, for criticizing some faiths for "idolizing" the prophets, for example celebrating the birth of the Prophet. H noted that the Quran mentions Mohammed, Jesus, Moses, Mariam (Mary) many times, which they might consider a form of idlolatry.

Much of Arab media, especially in the Gulf, ignored the speech which for some reason was delivered in Uganda, although one Lebanese daily and Aafaq reported it. The colonel immediately drew the ire of the vast Saudi media, which again criticized him severely, without mentioning the contents of his speech.

The Saudis are pissed again, and there is no doubt they will send a royal janitor to Tripoli next time the Arab summit is scheduled for Libya. They are doing marginally better by the coming Summit in Damascus: they are sending a royal doorman (ends with an 'n' not a 't').

Saudi Bully Tactics and a Fading Summit:
Saudi Arabia and a few other allies are trashing the Arab summit in Damascus. They are punishing the Syrian regime for not toeing the line in Lebanon. Clearly the Saudis would like to see all over the Arab world the same uniform conformity that they have apparently managed to enforce at home.
They have downgraded their delegation to the coming summit in Damascus as a punishment. As I noted above, the Kingdom is practically sending a royal doorman to represent it.

The rump Lebanese cabinet has decided to boycott altogether. It has published a long litany of reaons that it will not attend, but the list did not include the one probable true reason: the Saudis, who have at least as much influence on the Hariri-Saniora group as Iran has over Hizbullah, probably more, have downgraded the Summit. They are sending someone who cannot speak for the kingdom, thereby effectively boycotting it.

Of course the moves by Saudi Arabia and Egypt are not just insulting to Syria, they are also insulting to all Arab leaders who will attend. King Abdul de Jourdanie has predictably decided to boycott. This is not a Syrian Summit, it just happens to be scheduled in Damascus: it is an "Arab" Summit, but the despots don't see that.
This basically ends the institution of Arab summits: next year it will be boycotted by the other side. Which may not be a bad thing: as I have written earlier, these meetings do nothing for the peoples.

VP Cheney's visit last week to the New Middle East has also been noted, and some claim that it was partly aimed at stiffening the boycot of the Summit. The Syrians are already blaming the US for the "attendance problem", aka the truancy of several kings and presidents-for-life.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

How has the Bush administration empowered OPEC?
Ex-oilmen and high crude prices.
Causality between Mideast visits and oil prices.
Bush and Iran's Nukes: will the mullahs retain Alan Dershowitz?
Shi'a fundamentalism vs. Bible Belt Sunni fundamentalism.
A new positive church-mosque debate in Arabia.
Finally, did McCain really mix up a Jewish holiday with Halloween?
Wasn't it bad enough mixing al-Qaeda with al-Sadr?

Who Empowered OPEC?
Robert Samuelson notes in Newsweek that OPEC has finally reached the point where it controls the crude oil market. It is official, it is now a true blue cartel, perhaps for the first time.

I find it interesting that it has taken a Republican administration run by two ex-oilmen obsessed with national security to finally consolidate the cartel's control- to finally empower all those in power in Tehran, Riyadh and Caracas. A long 34 years after Kissinger's IEA (International Energy Agency). This is a feat even Jimmy Carter could not achieve, blunder as he may on energy matters.
Maybe oil is thicker than blood to the ex-oilmen: the blood that has already been spilt and the blood of those soldiers in harm's way.

It has also taken the same two ex-oilmen riding out from the West to empower Iran's rulers, financially and, as a natural consequence, politically. Iran's daily crude production is at well over 4 million b/d. The prices it receives for the high levels of export are also at historically high levels, at least in nominal terms. Its influence across the Middle East has never been stronger in the past three centuries. As I wrote here many months ago, the old Saudi threat to drown the markets with crude in order to cause a price collapse and weaken the ruling mullahs was just frustrated talk.
Maybe the ex-oilmen had looked into the eyes of Hugo Chaves and the others, the moderate neo-domocrats (small D) of the New Middle East, and had seen through into their souls, and seen the kindred souls, or is it spirits, of fellow oilmen.

Paranoia time:
One more, odd, observation and it is highly suspicious. Last January Mr. Bush made a much publicized tour of the moderate New Middle East, a near-victory lap. No sooner had the potentates sheathed their dancing swords and waved goodbye to their guest than oil prices started to move up again, to new highs.

This week Mr. Cheney has been visiting the moderate New Middle East, including Riyadh although he will not do the 'omrah pilgrimage to Hijazz- he'll stick to Najd, where they have no oil but get all the money from it, where they have no holy shrines but oversee them. Oil prices have moved decisively over $ 100 per barrel since he started his trip. By the time Cheney leaves, prices will remain fairly within their recent historically high range: somewhere between $95 and $111. It is enough to make both the Prez and the Veep eager for Januray 21st, when they can ride into the sunset, deep into Speechland in Petroland.

Am I seeing things (that are not there)? Should I try a regression analysis to establish significant causality before making such observations?

Maybe both leaders would have been better off visiting Caracas and Tehran: maybe then oil prices would not have risen as much.

Bush, Iran and Nukes:
"Iran has declared they want a nuclear weapon to destroy people."
George W. Bush: Radio Farda Mach 19, 2008

I would like to see a copy of that Iranian declaration Mr. Bush refers to.
So would Mr. Cheney in preparation for his next Fox News interview.
So would White House spokesperson Dana Perrino before meeting the sharks in the press room.
So would representatives of all permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
It is possible, nay very likely, that Iran is aiming at a nuclear weapon- but would they be foolish enough to declare it in this fashion?

Fortunately for the president, the ruling mullahs are not litigious, or maybe they are not into lawsuits just right now. Or maybe some of them are already perusing legalzoom. Or maybe they are already calling to retain Alan Dershowitz.
Or maybe the Iranian regime worries that litigation will lead to more intrusive inspections of their nuclear program.

Or maybe Mr. Bush has looked into Ahmadinejad's eyes, on HD television of course, and seen through into his fellow fundamentalist soul (Shi'a fundamentalist not Bible Belt Sunni fundamentalist) , a la Putin and all the neo-democrats of the moderate New Middle East.

Church and Mosque Controversy:
A Vatican representative had mischievously noted that perhaps churches will be allowed sometime soon in Saudi Arabia. That was in the context of opening the first Church in Qatar recently. He had noted that there are some 4-5 millions Christians in Saudi Arabia. That is true, a big percentage of the millions of foreign labor are Christians from Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas. That is a fact that tends to be ignored, conveniently, by Saudi officials and their surrogates.

The reaction was swift. Most Saudi shaikhs and others of influence categorically reject the idea of churches in their country. ( How about Christmas trees? At least give amnesty to Rudolph, legalize him). Someone mentioned that perhaps that can b tied to a Vatican recognition of the Prophet Mohammed (presumably as a messenger of God). But that would automatically mean conversion to Islam, even if they do not fast or pray. (Jews who two millennia ago accepted Christ ended up being called 'Christians', they are Jews no more, n'est-ce pas?).

Still, this is an intriguing debate that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Clearly there is some positive change in the Arabian air: merely talking the talk makes it so much easier later on to walk the walk. Is this a hallmark of the moderate New Middle East? Is the debate part of its famous birth pangs? Probably not: radical Old Middle East countries, ogres like Iran and Syria have always allowed churches, and some synagogues, they still do. Oh no, did I just say synagogues and Riyadh in the same paragraph?

The National Security Candidate:
Finally, did McCain really mix up a Jewish holiday with Halloween?
Wasn't it bad enough mixing al-Qaeda with al-Sadr?
Or mixing Shi'as with Sunnis?


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Saudi blogger Fouad al-Farhan has been detaiend without charges for about 90 days.
Republicans and McCain using the tragedy of Iraq as campaign poster.
Are Shi'as, Sunnis, and Kurds Frenching in Baghdad now?
What are these rumors and stories about little Hizbullahs in the Gulf?
Should Florida be allowed to vote, ever?

Five Years, So Many Billions, So Many Lives Later:
Especially so many lives, and many more limbs later, how do we see Iraq?
What we saw the past three days was a war torn country being used as a campaign poster.
Iraq, and the American soldiers put in harm's way, and the Iraqis who are in shock (maybe awed as well) were all being used as a pawn in a show that will continue until early November. Of course it could last through next December if Florida, true to form, manages to mess up its voting again (it is already well on its way with the primary mess).

What Iraqis saw was a pleasant-looking older man seeking to be leader of his own country, a man who has noted that he will remain in their country for 100 years if needed- without consulting them. Which means that they saw a war without end, of necessity spilling over across borders, across old battlefields.

The nice-looking old man was clearly focused on his election campaign: he went to Israel, but refused to see the Palestinian President Abbas. Not worth it: not many voters in Dearborn. Besides, Michigan always goes Democratic.

Fox News interviewed GOP's Ed Gillespie from the White House this afternoon. He said, among other things, that Shi'as, Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq were in love again. Yep, you would think that the laws against Frenching have been repealed in Iraq just so that Shi'as, Sunnis, and Kurds can....french each other with impunity. All in the spirit of brotherhood, sisterhood, and cross-gender-hood. Film at 11- but make sure your kids are safely in bed, with the "red relephone" to the White House, the one that might ring at 3 AM, handy nearby.
(BTW: there are anti-frenching laws in all Arab and Islamic countries, although the word itself is never specifically mentioned.)

What Hizbullah?:
A new term has been circulating in the Arab media these past few weeks. It is a term unheard before, at least unheard by me: mini Hizbullahs. Mention has been made of Hizbullah in Kuwait, Hizbullah in Bahrain, and Hizbullah in Saudi Arabia. Soon there might be one in Lebanon.

In Kuwait the authorities have accused some political and religious activists of belonging to a local party called "Kuwaiti Hizbullah". Somehow it doesn't ring right. In Saudi Arabia, eight Bahraini youths who claimed to have strayed into forbidden territory have been held for weeks without charge. Some Saudi media claim that they might be "charged" with belonging to Bahraini Hizbullah. It is not clear, in that case, on what grounds can Saudi Arabia prosecute foreign nationals for being members of a party in their own country- whether that party is legal or not. Unless the eight were intent on, or were involved in some "actiivities" inside the kingdom. Who knows.

Anyway, suddenly many little Hizbullahs are sprouting all over the (Persian) Gulf. Are there such mini-Hizbullahs? Are the authorities making them up, or merely inflating this for political purposes? Are the extreme rightwing media in one or two Gulf countries exploiting this to saw fear and instability? Is it all of the above? I need a scantron sheet to answer.

Some newspapers in the Gulf, especially two newspapers in Kuwait, have in fact been using this (almost?) mythical party to stir up political and sectarian divisions, scare people, and perhaps have them look to 'big brother' for safety. These pendejos with looted public funds may have succeeded.
Gulf Shi'as tend to deny the existence of such local parties. The Bahraini Minister of State for Foerign Affairs has also publicly denied the existence of such a party in his country.

This may just be the latest fashion. A decade or two ago, the spectre of Zionism was used all across the Arab world, and all were on the lookout for Zionist agents bent on mischief. Maybe they were bent on stealing our advanced technology? That has been debunked, so now we have a convenient "enemy" from within.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Saudi blogger Fouad has been in detention without charges for 90 days. He was expressing his views in this moderate New Middle East.

McCain, Kings, and Arab Dwarves:
Senator McCain has moved on from the safe streets of Baghdad to the mean streets of Jordan, where he met in Amman with little King Abdul de Jourdanie, the US Senate's most favorite monarch that is not a butterfly. Actually I shouldn't call him 'little king', that is a belittling term Nasser's Egyptian radio used to describe his father the late King Hussein. Of course Anwar Sadat outdid even Nasser: at one point he called all Arab leaders "a'qzam", dwarves. Maybe he was unto something.

Most Arab media saw the McCain visit for what it was: promoting his presidential campaign, in the US not in Iraq.

VP Dick Cheney is also in the Middle East, creating more traffic jams in Baghdad. But he had some good advice to give this time. He urged the Arab states to start opening embassies in Baghdad, a bit of wise advice which they may not be wise enough to heed anytime soon. It would be a good start, a must if they ever want to contain the Iranian influence they have been whining about. A clear cut case of put up or shut up..

Kirkuk Simmering:
Elaph quotes a Turkman politician from Kirkuk claiming that the main Kurdish parties have resettled about half a million Kurds in Kirkuk in preparation for a referendum on the city's future. The report also claims that US forces have armed 10,000 Sunni Arabs in the Kirkuk area, as part of the Awakening Councils. This last move, if true, does not seem like a smart thing to do. The politician claims that the apparent goal was to resist al-Qaeda, but the real goal may be to confront the Kurds in the future. Very likely they alo have their eyes on participation in any future sectarian civil war.

The referendum was postponed last year and is slated to be held before summer of this year. Sooner or later things will come to a boil in Kirkuk, with Arabs and Turks opposing returning the city to Kurdish control.

Vacancy at the Summit:
Looks like the next Arab Summit will be held in Syria as scheduled, The Syrians have invited everybody except the Clinton's kitchen sink, including Lebanon's part-time rump Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and apparently even Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The last one is odd, a first for Arab summits, since Iran is not a member of the Arab League- it is not even an Arab country. Maybe host Bashar Assad worries that leaders and potentates of the Moderate New Middle East will gang up on him, and feels that he needs a friend? (Apparently he's never listened to James Taylor).

If they are now inviting to Arab summits all foreign leaders who have strong influence in the Arab world, why only Iran? Why leave out the others, the most important two? Why not complete the trifecta of powers moving the New Moderate Arab World by inviting Mr. Bush and Mr. Olmert?

Better yet, why not Dick Cheney and Tzipi Livni? She is better looking than Olmert (certainly better looking than Cheney). Besides, she is a powerful woman in her own right even outside the bedroom and therefore capable of making Arab potentates squirm, as powerful women outside the bedroom are wont to do.

And the Arab potentates won't even have to shake her hand or kiss her, just as they didn't do earlier at Annapolis. They do, however, have to announce their honorable intentions not to kiss or shake hands with her beforehand, just like they did before Annapolis. That would be the least gentlemanly thing to do under the circumstances- unless they want to be real gentlemany and kiss her anyway.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ah, ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann
ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann
Oh Barbara Ann, take my hand
ba ba ba ba let's bomb Iran

Senator McCain, aka Beach Boy

McCain, Obama, Iraq, and the Bomb:
A congressman from Iowa named King has told a radio program that if Barack Obama is elected, terrorists and extermists will dance in the streets of the Middle East more than they did on 9/11. This will be a main GOP slogan in the coming months- it may be their major one, after tax cuts of course.

He was wrong, of course. The Jihadists and Islamic extremists were handed their best present by the neoconservatives, when the Bush administration decided to linger in Iraq for years.

It has been a gift that keeps on giving: it has lowered the status of the United States to unprecedented levels in both Europe and the Middle East, and it has encouraged many young men from the 'moderate' allied countries of the New Middle East to join various Sunni Jihadist groups, especially al-Qaeda.

Actually nothing will please the Jihadists more than to have the same gift keep on giving: having US combat troops remain indefinitely in Iraq, providing a rallying cry for Islamic extremists, as well as tempting targets. That means that a McCain victory will keep the Jihadist cause alive: it most likely will please extremists in the Middle East. So much for the Sunni extremists.

As for the Shi'a extremists, they have not had much of a direct conflict with the United States since the 1980s in Lebanon. They will likely join the fray once Mr McCain establishes what is seen as permanent bases. Once he does a "James Polk", starts his march across the rugged Persian Plateau, as he has threatened. He will be following in the footsteps of the unfortunate Marcus Crassus and his legions, on his way to a political Carrhae for his party, doing his macabre rendition of the Beach Boys' Barbara Ann. (FYI: he won't do it, he is too smart, but they think he will-they being both the Islamic Jihadists and the Neocon Jihadists).
But I'm moving too fast: people are not looking forward to a third Bush term, are they?

Jihadist ET, Call Home:
The Pentagon is considering providing telephone services and allowing some Guantanamo detaines to call home. It is not clear if they will be allowed to call their 'extended' families, in Pakistan and the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan.
Next step: will some students in Qandahar or Riyadh start a "cell phones for detained Salafis" program?

Speaking of phones: reports say that CENTCOM'S Admiral Fallon resigned by phone- a phone also provided by the DOD. So the plan is to have the Salafis phone in their resignations from the cause, and its other-worldly pleasures, from Gitmo- then head for the beach, the rum, and las chicas.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Iraq- Muqtada al-Sadr is Going Religious, or is it Political?
Muqtada al-Sadr has gone back to college, to Grad School, or its equivalent in Shi'a theology. Arab media quote Muqtada that his father had advised him early on to finish his studies. His father and two brothers were assassinated by Ba'ath regime agents in 1999. An uncle and aunt were tortured and murdered by Ba'ath security in Baghdad in 1980. (It is possible that some of these very same guys are being rehired in the New Iraq Security Forces even as I rant, Of course they would be older, with more extended bellies).

Al-Sadr leads a political faction with thirty members in Iraq's parliament. He has twice declared an effective ceasefire with US forces, freezing all activities by his Mahdi militias, although US commanders still target what they call 'renegade factions' of the Sadrist movement. The freeze has coincided with the US surge. Muqtada himself has periodically railed against 'renegade' elements.
Lately the Sadrists had threatened to lead prtests if the new law on provincial (regional) councils is hindered. The law has not been ratified by the Presidential Council.

Al-Qaeda Rampant?
Arab media report that a wanted al-Qaeda man, has again appeared at a Yemeni court last week and then allowed to walk out free. His name is Jaber al-Banna and is on the Most Wanted list in the United States and has a $ 5 million reward for his arrest.
Reports say that he has posted bail to be able to go free, but it is not known if the bail posted exceeds ten US dollars.

Future Soccer Moms and the Mufti:
Alarabiya reports that the Mufti General of Saudi Arabia has intervened in a university to stop a race (running as in a track meet or cross country) among female students. Earlier a soccer (Football) game between female students of two Saudi colleges had created a controversy in the conservative quasi-fundamentalist kingdom. The soccer game was held in a closed stadium where only females were allowed entry- perhaps the boys were outside imagining things?

The Mufti Abdulaziz Aal al-Shaikh is a direct descendant of Mohammed bin Abdul-Wahab, an early political ally of the al-Saud dynasty whose name is given to the Wahhabi sect.
There is another Mohammed Abdelwahab, who is even more famous across the Arab world, and for good reason: the late great Egyptian composer and singer with that same name. But he was not much into fatwas.

Is It the Jordan River Water?
A Jordanian man has stabbed his brother to death after finding out that the brother has been violating their sister. The crime was discovered by the girl's husband on their wedding night when it turned out she was not a virgin. She confessed that the brother was the guilty party. The killer was sentenced to one year in prison. Interesting.

Another Jordanian man has killed his sister and a Syrian shepherd, claiming he had caught them in a compromising position. He fired six bullets into his sister and four bullets into the Syrian shepherd (that is nepotism) after he caught them 'together' early morning. A medical exam confirmed that the girl was still a virgin when she was shot.
It turns out the man was helped by two cousins who did not believe in mixed dating (mixed presumably being men-women and Jordanian-Syrian dating, apparently no Jordanian sheep were involved).
No word about the take of the sheep on all this- normally sheep are not allowed to testify in Jordanian courts.

In Jordan, the law limits sentences for "honor" killings to a range of between three months and one year. A kiss can be very costly in Jordan, but in Jordan life can be almost as cheap as it was in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Enough about life and death in the moderate New Middle East- I won't mention the famous birth pangs this time.

Arabian Frustration:
Alarabiya reports that police in the town of al-Khubar in eastern Saudi Arabia have intervened to stop a marriage, on the wedding night. Apparently some of the bride's brothers were disgruntled, and had sued against the marriage on the ground that the two are not campatibe in terms of clans, i.e not tribally compatible.

Arab Parliament Redux (Again):
Arabs can rejoice: the Provisional Arab Parliament has formed a committe to study and propose solutions for all inter-Arab problems. From now on all Arab problems and crises will be resolved forthwith. Rejoice my people.
(Actually it may not be a bad idea, it may turn out to be more effective then the Summits or the Arab League). Still, I would recommend that they move it to Strasbourg.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Are Iraq's neighbors softening?
Arab potentates may now be regretting having neglected Iraq for the past five years. The neglect was partly an ill-conceived way for the potentates to punish the new political order in Iraq. They may have thought that diplomatic relations are a sort of reward. In that they seemed to be aping the Bush administration that considers meeting others and establishing a diplomatic dialog as some form of reward- it is not now, maybe in the next administration.

All they did by staying away was to allow Iran a freer hand in Iraq. Today Iran is Iraq’s biggest trading partner, and Iranian investments are pouring into the country, especially in the southern provinces.

There was anger among some Arab leaders, expressed in the Saudi and pro-Saudi Gulf media, at the visit of Ahmadinejad to Iraq last week. Some commentators in the Saudi-owned press called it an insult to Arabs- not sure how a head of state visiting another is an insult to anyone.
Some got misty-eyed and said it was an insult to all the Iraqis who died fighting Iran during the 1980s war and those who have died since the invasion. There was no mention of the fact that Arab regimes funded that long war and facilitated the invasion of 2003 and the initial war that has been raging since. There was also no mention of the Arab nationalities of the Salafi terrorists who for almost five years have targeted Iraqi civilians, thus weakening the unity of the country's social fabric, nor is there any mention of their sources of financing.

The anger is understandable, but it should be directed inward, toward those same regimes: they helped create the diplomatic vacuum that Iran has taken advantage of.

Now it looks like they may be having second thoughts- and about time. There has been renewed talk of opening embassies: there has been such talk for several years. When it comes to Iraq, as with other regional issues, the Arab regimes seem paralysed, incapable of acting, waiting for someone else to point the way. That someone else is usually non-Arab.

Speaking of trouble spots and fences:
It seems that walls and fences are the vogue in the Arab world as well these days. Just as they are among some U.S politicians during election years, as well as in North Korea.

Arab media report that Egypt has already started building a fence along its entire border with Gaza. The wall is supposed to be 3 meters (well over 10 feet) high. If this is true, it is the fastest the Egyptian bureaucracy has ever worked on starting anything. That is why I am doubtful.
Israel has had a partial fence built around the Palestinian West Bank for some time.

Then there is the Mother of All fences: the long fence project separating Saudi Arabia from Iraq that will eventually cost many billions of dollars- it is a Saudi fence, of course, not an Iraqi one. And there is a proposed fence between Kuwait and Iraq which is being talked about, as well as the various little fences separating Iraqi communities themselves. The way things are going now, it is possible that eventually the only countries that will not wish to build fences along Iraq's borders will be her non-Arab neighbors, Turkey and Iran.

Congressman Tom Tancredo, a noted lover of border fences, may be gone from the limelight, thank God, but his ghost has reached the Middle East and hovers over all Arab borders these days.

Luckily, once the November elections are over (in America, not in Arabia- they are never over in Arabia), the issue of a fence will be DOA in the United States, not to be revived for another four years. I can imagine Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs forming a new CNN Border Patrol Party to challenge the major parties that have sold out border security for the price of dubious and inequitable free trade.

Dobbs worries mostly about trade and jobs, which are reasonable worries- just look at the economies around some regions of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. His beef with illegal immigrants and NAFTA has mainly to do with loss of American jobs, not necessarily with a fear of having to file his tax returns in Spanish.

Beck, on the other hand, apparently couldn't tell Karl Marx from Milton Friedman- hint: one was quite hairy, while the other was as smooth as an eraser as well as being a perfect egghead. Both were extremists in their own zone of the economic electromagnetic spectrum, and both had the same roots.

Beck keeps losing sleep over terrorists, usually hailing from the moderate New Middle East, sweeping across the Mexican border and doing harm to Lake Mead or Sea World. And in the process further confusing Mr. Beck as to who is the enemy, and who is not, over there.
Of course they have to get into Mexico first and then across it, not an easy task for many, especially a Salafi Jihadist who would never touch a carne asada that is not kosher.
I believe that Beck is also terrified of someday having to file his tax returns in Spanish- pobrecito.

Ken Starr Redux?
Senator Clinton’s campaign has tried to revive the ghosts of the 1990s, again. The latest was accusing the Obama campaign today of using 'Ken Starr tactics'. It was a call to arms to the Democratic faithful, most of whom have not been faithful to Clinton. The call seems odd, quite surreal now that such bogeymen as Gingrich and DeLay are not around. It is like watching another president set a new goal of landing another man on the moon by, say, 2016.
What next: the famous black beret?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The USS Cole, along with other ships of the Sixth Fleet, has been moved close to the Lebanese shores. The Cole has a sad history behind it, as most people know, or should know. It was attacked in the fall of 2000, by citizens of allied soon-to-be New Middle East countries, in a seaport of another New Middle East moderate ally. Nineteen people died in that suicide attack, most of them American victims.

The emergence of the Cole, target of al-Qaeda at the port of Aden, off the Lebanese shores has raised speculation. Fouad Saniora, PM of the rump cabinet in part of Beirut, was quick to deny that he had requested its presence. He said that US officials had not informed him of the deployment of the Cole, then added that "it will remain outside Lebanese waters", without explaining how he knew that it will. Other members of the Saniora coalition hinted at things to come, perhaps hopefully.

The Shi'as and their Christian Maronite allies are predictably pissed. Hizbullah said that it was part of an American campaign of threats and intimidation, and that it will not work. Perhaps: warships are not normally sent anywhere unless the purpose is to use them or to threaten their use. Hizbullah TV was quick to say that this move showed who were the real leaders of the pro-government forces.

Some media sources reported that the Cole is there because of worries about Syria. But Syria seems boxed in now, mostly laying low, so it is not likely to attack, say, Israel, or the realm of King Abdul in Jordan. And it does not send supplies and men to Hizbullah by sea. as a clever Arab analyst noted. Hassan Nassrallah does not seem to be getting ready to escape Lebanon through the Mediterranean. And I doubt that the rump cabinet is about to seek political asylum en masse in Dearborn anytime soon.
Some say that it is a show of force designed to stiffen the backbon of the Hariri-Saniora alliance- the next best thing to putting ground troops in harm's way. This is a mystery.

Ali al-Kemawi, R.I.P:
The Iraqi Presidential Council has approved the death sentence of "Chemical" Ali Hassan al-Majeed, mass murderer of Kurds and others, once Governor of occupied Kuwait and Ba'ath regime big man. Like some other Iraqi Ba'athist butchers, he was also once looked up to in some limited Arab circles, especially in some Gulf states, as an Arab folk hero because he tended to butcher mostly the "right kind' of people- just like his wilier and more famous cousin.
He is to be executed within a month.

He served a tribal and largely sectarian regime with a modern veneer that often deceived willing Westerners. It used as its front a party that was originally modeled after the National Socialists of a Germany gone berserk about a perverted Austrian former corporal in the Kaiser's army.

Later, the "Party" sensed the changing winds and adopted some of the ideologies of the socialist co-victors of the European war. The party was never popular in Iraq before 1968, when it took over through a military coup and started a bloody reign of terror that spared no group, sect or party in Iraq. Kurds were bombed, gassed, and uprooted- Shi'as were tortured, stripped of their citizenship and deported- Jews were hung in public squares to die slowly of asphyxiation not of broken necks- Sunnis were tortured, executed and exiled. It was a party of Equal Opportunity Persecution for those who did not toe the line or were suspect.
In the end very few Arab people, mostly among those who never had to live under its rule, were saddened by the demise of the party.
May that nightmare never ever revisit any nation.
Cheers, most likely
Blog Directory