Publius Pundit
Middle East Archives

Pentagon three-day blitz plan for Iran

Filed under: Middle East

A ranking Swiss official, speaking privately, said, "Anyone with a modicum of experience in the Middle East knows that any bombing of Iran would touch off at the very least regional instability and what could be an unmitigated disaster for Western interests." True. But what other more peaceful alternative is there? The Europeans tried for years and accomplished nothing. Plus Iran is working towards becoming nuclear and taking over the region since 1979 through various channels. Stepping away from the political correctness speech we should look at what Iran is doing in Lebanon through HizbAllah, in Iraq through Al Sadr and Hakim's militias (to name only two of the most important militias), in Palestine through Hamas (it is plain stupid to say that since Iran is Shiia and Palestinians Sunni they cannot possible cooperate; of course they work together as long as they have a common enemy - the enemy of my enemy is my friend aka Zionists, British&American imperialists and the sort of mambo jambo) What is clear is that the war must be fought on all fronts.

"The Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive air strikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians military capability in three days"

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Abd al Bari Atwan: I will dance if Iran hits Israel

Filed under: Middle East

Abd Al-Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper told a Lebanese TV station that "If the Iranian missiles strike Israel, by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight." Finally an honest Arab Muslim! It should not be a secret anymore that (some) Muslims use religion as a shield to justify murder especially when those targeted are Jews. Their real oppressor is not Israel. Palestinians should look at their own government (s) and the 'elite' that keeps them in misery and hide behind religion to achieve power&money.

"If Iran is able to retaliate, it will burn the oil wells, block the Strait of Hormuz, attack the American bases in the Gulf and, Allah willing, it will attack Israel, as well."

Bari Atwan founded the pan-Arab daily in London in 1989, and today the paper has a circulation of around 50,000. He is also a regular commentator on Sky News and BBC News 24.

As soon as we accept that terrorism is nihilistic rage unconnected with, and not a reaction to, any actions or policies on Jews/American part the better.

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EU way: Talk to Hamas

Filed under: Middle East

Representatives of three EU intelligence services have met with top Hamas leaders JPost reports. Why try to defeat Hamas (which is Muslim Brotherhood armed wing in Palestine) when you can talk to them?! EU is more and more like UN. And that's not a compliment. EU failed to convince Iran in three years to give up the nuclear project so how is this any different? It isn't. The fact that EU is willing to talk&negotiate with Hamas can only reinforce Islamists belief that all they have to do is scare us shitless and we'll beg (read: bribe) them to be nice again with us. The problem with EU strategy is that terrorists never abandon their goals. They might slow down for a while but not relinquish.

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France calls for the UNIFIL mandate extension

Filed under: Middle East

France has circulated a draft at the UN Security Council calling for the extension of the UNIFIL mandate in Lebanon and call for a permanent cease-fire and long-term solution to last summer's Israel-Hezbollah war. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the council to extend the UNIFIL mandate after Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora had sent a letter demanding for the renewal of the UN forces’ mandate for a year. "The swift and effective deployment of UNIFIL has helped establish a new strategic military and security environment in South Lebanon," Ban said.

The current mandate of the force comprising 11,428 ground troops, 2,000 maritime personnel, 185 staff officers and 20 local staffers expires on 31 August. UNIFIL troops along with 15,000 Lebanese troops were deployed along Lebanon's border with Israel in order to enforce the UN 1701 resolution.

Read more on UNIFIL here.

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Skill to create solutions needed badly in Lebanon

Filed under: Middle East

Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Sfeir announced yesterday that he is not against amending the constitution if the purpose was to rescue Lebanon. He told As Safir, "We are living in the heart of the danger, and when we talk about two governments, two presidents and two Lebanons, then we are in danger." He also said that if General Suleiman is the only available solution then he is all for it.

Meanwhile, the member of the Future coalition minister Ahmad Fatfat expects that a new president will be elected in November before the end of the term of president Emile Lahoud which ends on 24 November. Fatfat said "I believe we will have a new president in November. Maybe the elections will not take place on the 25 September but it will be a great achievement if the elections take place then."

The Lebanese parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri told Asharq Al Awsat that dialog and consensus are a must if a solution is to be found for the current stalemate situation. He said "the two thirds quorum is a reality now. All those who think of electing a president without the participation of the other faction, whether in the opposition or the majority team, are mistaken. This issue has been bypassed by history". He added, "in any case, no one knows who possesses the majority of 65 seats in the parliament any more". In what seemed to be a response to MP Walid Jumblatt statements, Berri replied without naming him that "those who went back to the quorum of a normal majority are weakening their own positions and trying to get reborn again"

Whether it will be the normal quorum of half plus one to elect a President as Jumblatt suggests or the two thirds quorum as Berri, Sheikh Nasrallah et comp want as long as the leaders are still meeting and speaking to each other there is hope. If and when that door closes we should expect to see worst coming to life in Lebanon.

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Syria announced its choice for the Presidential chair in Lebanon

Filed under: Middle East

Surprised? Hardly!

Army Commander General Michel Suleiman expressed his willingness to head a transitional government if parliament failed to elect a new head of state before President Emile Lahoud term in office runs out in November, provided all sides accept his nomination.

A general who for years was a close ally and friend of the Syrian elite that ruled Lebanon groomed for Presidency? That is far from being a solution to the Lebanese political deadlock.

What good could he bring to the country? A military regime? He is not a compromise candidate; he is simply put a bad idea candidate. HizbAllah may very well accept him since he continues to be a distant (due to new circumstances) friend of Syria. He will not try or even bring the question of HizbAllah's weapons so whats not to like about him? Aoun and FPM cornered by its proSyrian (HizbAllah, Marada etc) allies will have little if anything to say about it.

March 14 will not happy at all but under a certain context might be persuaded to go ahead with this alternative because: 1) they would accept almost anyone expect Aoun, 2) HizbAllah proved to be a tough cookie and Sheikh Nasrallah will wittingly say, 'lets face it a military man looks better than two parallel governments' 3) going in circle - if they refuse this alternative and others that HizbAllah and Amal will come up with then it will be an open shooting season on all sides

The truth is that no one wants to go after HizbAllah the hard way as they should. For decades the mantra was - The hell with the laws and constitution! We don't want to upset HizbAllah. Fear of HizbAllah's weapons seem to have paralyzed the minds of March 14

Just to make it clear. If Suleiman will be President that means ALL Lebanese parties pro-Syrian, anti-Syrian or otherwise will trespass the Constitution which stipulates that "should the Presidency become vacant for any reason whatsoever, the Council of Ministers exercises the powers of the President by delegation". (hat tip Beirut Beltway)

And to top it all- Suleiman visited the Maronite Patriarch last week. Of course the visit took hyperbolic significance now that the General said he is the man for a coup d'etat.

Suleiman said that Fatah al Islam is linked only to al Qaeda not with Syria. Of course he failed to back up his comments with profs. Further more he ignored the fact that this terrorist group had a huge amount of heavy weaponry in the camp. Where did the arms come from? I think it is safe for now to rule out: 1) Hizb Allah 2) the army

The only logical conclusion is that the weapons come from Syria. But a good soldier is a loyal soldier. Taken in consideration that he made a career under Syrian occupation guess to whom is he loyal to? In the end, why not let the people choose the President they want? The Constitution has been amended before to suit Syrian interest so why not modify it to suit Lebanese interest for a change?

For more read Michael Young's brilliant piece here

Update: An interesting connection between Suleiman and HizbAllah here.

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HizbAllah celebrates (again) its "divine" victory

Filed under: Middle East

The July 2006 war HizbAllah started with Israel has only emphasized the fact that most of the rural, less educated, religious and largely ignored by the state Southern Shiias believe that their only objective in life is to fight till death Israel. HizbAllah is setting a dangerous precedent.The party ideologues (the most senior is Ayatollah Khomeini and in Lebanon Ayatollah Fadlallah) admitted long ago that the fight against Israel - the "enemy" will never be over. First the struggle was to protect those whom the state has forgotten; then it was about strengthening the Shiia sect position in Lebanon, later on it was the Shebaa farms argument and it did not stop here. The party claimed it cannot rest till there will be Palestine which implies that Israel will stop to exist. Perhaps no Jews either, but that the party did not openly admit, yet.

This mandate Sheikh Nasrallah is giving the Shiias to fight till the last breath the Israelis, the Americans, the Israeli-Americans allies in the region will bring to destruction the sect. It is true that Shiism is on the rise and taken in consideration the stupid policies employed by the West it has good chances to rise and shine for a while. But not for long. Sheikh Nasrallah should ask himself what comes after the "divine" victory?

Update: Read about HizbAllah's new video game.

HizbAllah is buying land from Christians surely for a good reason - can you guess it?

Ayatollah Fadllalah's wise thoughts on the Islamic Revolution. "Politically my primary objective is to see the Islamic revolution in Lebanon brought to fruition."

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Netanyahu won

Filed under: Middle East

Former prime minister and current Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected to the leadership of the party on 14 August 2007. Two other candidates stood in the election, Moshe Feiglin, of the far right Jewish Leadership group, and Danny Danon, who heads the World Likud movement. As expected, Netanyahu's victory was decisive. The former prime minister received 73.5% of the vote, compared to 23.4% for Feiglin and 3.4% for Danon. Voter turnout was relatively low, with only 39.4% of Likud members choosing to cast ballots.

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Hezbollah's Youth

Filed under: Middle East

I stumbled upon one of the many articles on Hizbullah. This one is pretty interesting. I observed during the years that young men and women (though I personally met only few) that are part of one of HA structures always speak with great passion and conviction about the party ideology, what they think is their duty etc. Those whom I have met were all intelligent, well mannered persuasive and passionate individuals. Entering into a debate with any of them was a challenge. The idea is that not all are as some think a bunch of stupid, crazy people. I am not discussing here about the masses. If I say this, and I am not a fan imagine the impact HA has on Muslims. If we want to succeed we should keep ourselves well informed.

"My problem with Israel, says Bashar, is not only that it marched into Lebanon uninvited and stole parts of our land but is that we cannot survive as long as Israel exists. It is a foul entity that is consistently ever-ready to attack. I believe it to be the cause of all conflict in the Middle East."

Realizing that he said something the party will not admit (publicly) he backs down: "I may aspire to wipe Israel off the map, but I realize that this is not our responsibility. My responsibility as a young Lebanese is to liberate my land, and bring our prisoners of war back home."

Read the whole piece here.

: You can read here and here, Sheikh Nasrallah's latest interview with Al Jazeera.

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Has the government gone mad?

Filed under: Middle East

The Education Ministry has authorized Arab schools to use a history book featuring the establishment of the State of Israel as being disastrous (Nabka) for the Palestinians, Israel Radio reported Sunday. Read more about it here

It is not only that the current Israeli government is weak, it seems they are stupid too!

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Syria's audacious democracy

Filed under: Middle East

President Bashar al Assad began his second term (7 years) in office on Tuesday. Once again Syria as other Arab and Muslim countries gave us a valuable lesson on democracy and basic human rights. 1) Assad was the only candidate to the Presidential Chair and 2) 97% of voters supported him

Let us not forget that Bashar inherited (mind you this is synonym with democratic elections in Mid East) his position from his father, Hafez al Assad in 2000. I suspect that we are about to see the same thing happening in Egypt soon enough. Any thoughts on that?

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New entry in the blogosphere

Filed under: Middle East

For those interested in the Mid East economy a new blog under MEMRI banner has just started. You can find it here
Nimrod Raphaeli explains why the interest in such a project. "There are gaps - some would say large gaps - in the Western media of coverage of economic news and development in the Middle East. For example, while the Islamic banking sector rapidly grows, elevating terminology like sukuk [Islamic bonds] and murabaha [profit sharing in lieu of interest which is prohibited by Islam] to world recognition, much of this phenomenon is overshadowed by the more dramatic political events in the region. Middle Eastern economic news is often relegated to secondary, if not marginal, coverage, and the MEMRI Economic Blog will strive to compensate for it."

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Tony Blair to become new Middle East peace envoy

Filed under: Middle East

The outgoing British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, will be moving to Jerusalem to become the special envoy to the Middle East for the ‘International Quartet'. Representatives from the diplomatic grouping of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations agreed on the appointment at a meeting in Jerusalem on Tuesday. The post of special envoy had been vacant for more than a year.

"I think that anybody who cares about greater peace and stability in the world knows that a lasting and enduring resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is essential," Blair said. "I have said on many occasions, I would do whatever I could to help such a resolution come about."

Blair's new post will be based in Jerusalem, with a potential second office in the West Bank. A major part of his job will be working with the Palestinians on security, economics and governance.

On Wednesday, the newly selected UK Labour Party leader, Gordon Brown, will succeed Blair as Prime Minister.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder welcomed the appointment of Blair. "I have found him extremely fair and he would make a wonderful envoy," Lauder told a press conference in Brussels.

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New Kurdish party in Iraq

Filed under: Middle East

Former minister Arshad Zebari has established a new political party called Freedom and Justice Party.

Zebari opposes the group leaded by Jalal Talabani (Iraq's President) and Massoud Barzani - Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader. He accused them of stealing "the will and options of the Kurdish people, seized their national will by force, spread corruption and embezzlement in Irbil, Al-Sulaymaniyah, and Duhuk and encroached on Arab provinces and governorates such as Mosul, Kirkuk, and Diyala, causing a sedition and war between the Kurds and their fellow Arabs, Turkomen, Christians, and Yezidis in a frantic attempt to divide Iraq and ignite fights between Iraqis." (article published by Al Quds Al Arabi, UK, 25 June 2007)

He further suggested that these leaders are eager to sell everything, including the Kurdish cause as long as they get fat paychecks from Iran, US or Israel. Is this the beginning of an internal tribal kind of strife among Kurds?

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A year later - Gilad Shalit is still captive

Filed under: Middle East

A year ago today, Hamas, the Army of Islam and the Popular Resistance Committees kidnapped Cpl Gilad Shalit. It was one of the most successful Hamas&Al Qaeda actions against Israel.

Ever since 1948 radical Palestinians and Muslim Arabs do what they most enjoy: undermine the signed agreements with Israel, send as many suicide bombers as possible (and here gender is irrelevant) attack Israeli towns and villages with Qassams, smuggle weapons and kidnap Israeli soldiers.

Hamas is no different than Fatah and these two are no different than al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Jemmah Islamyiah, and the list can go on and on. What all want is the destruction of Israel. The only difference is that some terrorist gangs say it out loud, others don't.

The Media Line reported that "New reports in Israeli media say the missing soldier is being kept in a room beneath a highly fortified building in Gaza that is booby-trapped. An Israeli television channel reported that Shalit is in a two-room suite 15 meters below the surface and accessed by a ladder lined with explosives. The channel's sources – said to be Hamas – claim Shalit has a "cordial" relationship with his guards who are under orders to treat him fairly"

What do Arabs say about it? They come with new talks initiative! In the end Israel will have to come up with a new security strategy since the present one is clearly not working in its benefit.

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Development boom in the Gulf

Filed under: Middle East

For the second time this year, Emirates the Dubai-based international airline, placed order for eight additional Airbus A380s, bringing to 55 its total order of this advanced double-decker aircraft.

"Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group, signed the Letter of Intent with Airbus President and CEO Louis Gallois, at the Paris Air Show. The deal is worth an estimated US$2.6 billion in list prices."

Also the real estate industry is booming in the Arab Gulf states. For more read here and here.

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Syria's terror goes unhindered

Filed under: Middle East

Future Party parliamentarian Walid Eido was killed yesterday together with his son, bodyguards and few by standers by a car bomb. The assassination took place in Manara district located alongside Beirut's Corniche. One of NBN news anchor did not notice that the microphone is still on and made some shocking comments: "What took them so long to kill him?" (referring to Eido) she asked her co-worker. She also said "I wonder if Ahmad Fatfat is next" and "We have had enough of them." (referring to Siniora's anti-Syria government)

*NBN fired the woman and her co-worker and apologized for the mistake. Actually NBN merely apologized that the mic was on.

These terrorist attacks are designed to further destabilize the state. Syria is maneuvering on two fronts: 1) in Beirut it continues to target prominent anti-Syrian politicians, journalists and activists

2) outside the capital it uses Palestinian terror groups such as Fatah al Islam, al Qaeda affiliated cells etc In this respect Nahr el Bared is an example. In each refugee camp are literally more than dozen of terror sunni groups (small operative cells affiliated with Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and groups like Esbat al-Ansar, Lebanese Jund as-Sham which means - Soldiers of Syria -- being based in Ein el Hilwe etc) - for the right price some may and few already did help the Syrians. After all they have nothing to lose.

You will find more about the math behind the assassinations here.

Meanwhile the Lebanese army does a wonderful job fighting Fatah al Islam at Nahr el Bared.

Such acts profoundly divides an already split society on sectarian, religious and ethnic lines.
We will have to wait for the International Tribunal to do some justice, but till then the country might slip into chaos. Middle East politics are impossible to predict, but the situation in Lebanon looks grim.

*NBN is Nabih Berri's TV station. Nabih Berri is Speaker of Parliament, Amal's leader and one of Syria's closest allies in Lebanon. Amal is part of the 8 March movement alongside Hezbollah, Free Patriotic Movement, the Syrian Social Nationalist party, Marada, etc)

**Naharnet too provides a translation of the incident -- read it here

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Auf Wiedersehen Fatah

Filed under: Middle East ~ Palestine

The news continues to filter in as the triumph of Hamas in the Gaza strip becomes apparent, culminating with the Palestinian government being dissolved by President Mahmoud Abbas this past hour. Fatah is running with its tail between its legs (quite literally -- 40 Executive Force soldiers loyal to Abbas had to blow up a section of the Israeli-constructed Gaza-Egyptian wall to escape Hamas), much to the dismay of the Western governments who trumpeted Abbas as the heralded moderate in post-Arafat Palestine. It seems his time is dwindling as a serious power broker in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict or in Palestinian internal affairs (the tally for Abbas brokered cease-fires to be ignored the next day is in the teens).

The casual observer will be quick to judge on lines of the media created zero-sum game between Islamist Hamas and Moderate Fatah (capitalized due to caricatures). While the adjectives may be comfortingly simple, the reality has always been faith-based militants with a panache for service and charity against white mustaches primarily interested in diverting funds to Swiss bank accounts and sending their children to Paris. While Hamas isn't nearly as popular as reported, Hamas has created a following extremely devoted to their principles, while Fatah generated support primarily by bullying and defacto generational transposition.

While Fatah was birthed out of the loins of the pan-Arab, Nassir-led movement, it was reared by the slimy hands of Yassir Arafat, who personally siphoned off over one billion dollars of international aid and lined the pockets of those around him. Arafat's malignant spirit still casts a dark shadow over a group that has continued to mimic his policies of graft and kleptocracy. While the money laundering continued, Fatah sunk in a cesspool of its own political bankruptcy, leading to the dismal showing in the 2006 parliamentary elections that may be regarded in the future as the institutional revolution of Hamas.

In the short run, the collapse of the Palestinian government and the split between a Fatah dominated West Bank and a Hamas dominated Gaza will be disastrous. But in the long term, this may speed up the precipitous decline of Fatah, a shell of a party that long ago abandoned its platform of secular socialism in favor of an unhealthy dose of bureaucracy and corruption. The only hope can be that a true moderate party, more responsive to the Palestinian people, will arise during the slow bleed of Fatah's death.

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Just Who Does CAIR Represent?

Filed under: Middle East

The Washington Times reports that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which purports to be the strongest liason between the Islamic and Western worlds, is losing membership fast. In fact, it's membership has dropped so precipitously that it's barely making $50,000 in grassroots contributions a year now. It stays afloat entirely due to large contributions from wealthy donors afar.
Membership in the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has declined more than 90 percent since the 2001 terrorist attacks, Audrey Hudson will report in Tuesday's editions of The Washington Times.

According to tax documents obtained by The Times, the number of reported members spiraled down from more than 29,000 in 2000 to less than 1,700 in 2006, a loss of membership that caused the Muslim rights group's annual income from dues to drop from $732,765 in 2000, when yearly dues cost $25, to $58,750 last year, when the group charged $35.

The organization instead is relying on about two dozen individual donors a year to contribute the majority of the money for CAIR's budget, which reached nearly $3 million last year.

Asked about the decline, Parvez Ahmed, CAIR board chairman, pointed to the number of individual donors to the organization.

"We are proud that our grass-roots support in the American Muslim community has allowed CAIR to grow from having eight chapters and offices in 2001 to having 33 today," Mr. Ahmed said.

The self-described civil liberties organization for Muslims seeks to portray "a positive image of Islam" through public relations and the media, but has instead alienated some by defending questionable accusations of discrimination.

Critics of the organization say they are not surprised membership is sagging, and that a recent decision by the Justice Department to name CAIR as "unindicted co-conspirators" in a federal case against another foundation charged with providing funds to a terrorist group could discourage new members.

M. Zuhdi Jasser, director of the American-Islamic Forum for Democracy, says the sharp decline in membership calls into question whether the organization speaks for 7 million American Muslims, as the group has claimed.

"This is the untold story in the myth that CAIR represents the American Muslim population. They only represent their membership and donors," Mr. Jasser said.
CAIR is by far the favorite organization of the media to go to whenever there is some Islam-related issue to talk about. They're the point men. You see them all over the place making untruthful, asinine comments because they are constantly stuck in front of TV cameras simply because they claim to represent the American-Muslim community.

This could never have been true in the first place, and even less so now. Most of CAIR's couple dozen donors are rich, royally-affiliated Saudi Arabs such as Prince Alwaleed, who donate millions of dollars to keep it afloat. In this sense, it is not even a grassroots organization, but just a plain old lobbyist firm that knows how to work the media. It represents Saudi interests in America; that alone should set off an alarm.

But say we continue to evaluate CAIR based on the premise that it is a grassroots organization. We would have to dismiss the fact that it only has 1700 members -- mostly based in California where, heck, there are mosques that have more members than that! We would also have to completely forget that only 25% of American Muslims are ethnic Arabs, even though most of CAIR's money comes from Saudi Arabia. In fact, the majority of American-Muslims are South Asian and African-America, with absolutely no ties to the world of Saudi oil money. According to CAIR:

Speaking of which, most Arab-Americans aren't even Muslim, but Christian.

The short end of it is that CAIR does not represent anyone but those who give it big bags full of cash. It's membership dues could barely sustain a family for a year, not to mention an entire organization! So the next time you see CAIR on the TV -- which it really shouldn't be after all these revelations -- just think about the money trail left behind it. Think to yourself: who is supposed to benefit from this garbage? And then change the channel.

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Aoun's surprising call

Filed under: Middle East

Hezbollah's ally and former foe General Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement asked Siniora's government "to file a complaint with the UN Security Council so that any country exporting terrorists to Lebanon is condemned."

If it were not serious it would be hilarious. The countries that provoke chaos in Lebanon are the same that support his ally, Hezbollah.

Moreover, when the Lebanese army responded to Fatah al Islam terrorist attacks, Aoun as opposed to Sheikh Nasrallah said that the army has to do whatever it can to protect itself and the citizens. Is this a sign that Aoun is distancing himself from Hezbollah? FPM place was not along HA side to begin with.

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Olmert's wishful thinking

Filed under: Middle East

Ehud Olmert insists on negotiating with Syria. Some from his cabinet and the military ranks have serious doubts about it. The US said that this is not the right time, and yet Olmert cannot be convinced. What is wrong with the man?! Didn't he learn by now that a concession to Muslims is a proof of weakness?

QUESTION: Do you support any Israeli decision to resume peace talks with Syria at this time?
MR. MCCORMACK: Same answer as this morning. I know that that ultimately is -- how Israel conducts its foreign policy is one for the Israeli Government to make on behalf of the Israeli people. At this point, I can't see that Syria has put itself out there as a proponent of positive change throughout the region in supporting greater freedom and democracy, but again, how Israel conducts its foreign policy is going to be a decision for them to make.

QUESTION: Do you encourage Israel to resume these talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: Michel, that's a -- you know, I'm not going to try to make foreign policy for Israel.

President Assad does not want peace with Israel. He wants to distract attention from the International Tribunal -- UN Resolution 1757, under chapter VII.

Those who believe that by giving back the Golan, Syria will no longer support terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah al Islam and dozens others cannot be more wrong. Syria's privileged relationship with Tehran goes back to Hafez al Assad. There is no way that Damascus will exit the Iranian orbit sometime soon. All these are its trumps. Bashar will do everything necessary to ensure that its proxies fight his war (and Tehran's) in Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza and West bank.

Barry Rubin says it all in an interview with Michael Totten. Bashar Assad appears to be a peace-loving guy only because he is under pressure at home and internationally.

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Security Council Votes for Hariri Tribunal

Filed under: Middle East

The 15 state members of the UNSCR voted the UN Resolution 1757 establishing a tribunal to try those accused of the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri. The resolution was sponsored by the United States, Britain, France, Belgium, Slovakia and Italy and brought in at the request of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and of 70 Lebanese MPs.

An Nahar reported that people celebrated in the streets this first important victory, and Saad Hariri thanked the people and the international community for supporting this initiative from the get go.

The tribunal is necessary, not just for Hariri, but also for Pierre Gemayel, Gebran Tueni, Kasir, all good men who have publicly stated that they want a Lebanon free of Syrian interference. And we should not forget that before these assassinations there were others who were eliminated by Damascus, like Bashir Gemayel, Rene Mouwad, Kamal Jumblatt and so on. SOLIDA does a wonderful job reminding the Lebanese and the world that tens of thousands of Lebanese individuals have been illegally detained, many murdered by the heinous Syrian Baath regime in the past 30 years. Not surprisingly, Syria denies it. Actually, Syria refuses to admit that it has ever harm Lebanon or the Lebanese. Go figure! After 30 years of military/intelligence occupation that is a very stupid affirmation even for the Syrian Baath and Assad.

Hezbollah also expressed its criticism of the International Tribunal. If it has nothing to hide, why fear the IT? The same goes for Damascus. Actually SANA the state run news agency said that, "Setting up the court under Chapter 7 (of the UN Charter) violates Lebanese sovereignty and could result in further deterioration of the situation in the Lebanese arena." That means that Syria realizes that it is trapped in its own wrongdoings, but not ready to give up without a fight.

Hezbollah ministers resigned some months ago in order to put pressure on Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora; HA orchestrated the summer war with Israel, the violent street strikes and later on the, mostly peaceful sit-ins in front of the government building. They had the FPM support, but it looks like General Aoun in his ambition to become President, choose the wrong camp.

It is good that the efforts of Syria, HA and its allies (Fatah al Islam, SSNP, FPM etc ) failed to accomplish any of their objectives. Now that justice is on the verge of being made, I bet Syria will do its best to create chaos in Lebanon. If the Lebanese made it so far, lets hope they won't let the criminals' escape prosecution.

In brief: UNSCR Resolutions regarding Lebanon (before 1757)

UN 1559 asking the:
-Withdrawing Syrian forces from Lebanon
-Disbanding and disarming the Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias
-Lebanese independence and sovereignty
-Government control over all Lebanese territory (South and Beqaa included)

UN 1680
-Urging Syria to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon

UN 1664
-Asking for the establishment of the international tribunal

UN 1701
-Full cessation of hostilities
-Israel to withdraw from Lebanon in parallel with Lebanese and UNIFIL soldiers deploying throughout the South
-Disarming HA
-Full control of Lebanon by the government of Lebanon
-No paramilitary forces, including Hezbollah, will be located south of the Litani river
And it stresses the urgency of solving the problem of the two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by HA - fact that lead to the war in the 1st place

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Saudi Arabia promotes religious tolerance

Filed under: Middle East

The tolerance of Saudi Arabia towards non Muslims (Christians, Jews and others) is known worldwide, as well as its tolerance and respect of minority (like Shiias), women, homosexuals, etc rights and liberties. That is why when the Saudi police found a Christian man working in Mecca they immediately arrested him. That is actually a good thing because just few years ago Christians faced torture or worse.


For more information's on Saudi courtesy towards its citizens, residents and visitors, please check this link and this one

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Is it only me or is this a (zillion time) deja vu?

Filed under: Middle East

The moronic Syrian Baath tries to cover its illegitimacy, corruption and abuse of its own people by pointing to: what do you think? the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And while we are at it, do you remember who else blames the darn Zionists each time they fail to deliver? Take a look at the three best buddies ever and you'll have the answer.


I guess accountability is just not part of most of Arab/Muslim state and clan leaders vocabulary.

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Lebanon under attack

Filed under: Middle East

Fatah al-Islam terrorists paid and used as proxy by Bashar al Assad to create havoc in Lebanon triggered a bloody street battle today in Tripoli (second city as importance after Beirut) The good news is that the national Lebanese army is now in control of the situation.

I strongly believe that the UN investigation in Hariri's assassinations (and let us not forget the chain of assassinations and attempts of assassinations that followed) is close to publicly affirm, not only suggest as it did so far, the extent of Syrian involvement in these crimes. Truth is nearing the surface and this is the reason of the recent violent clashes.

The Palestinians brought destruction in the '70s to Lebanon and if let, they will do it once again. I truly hope that Siniora's government will act bold and promptly against the terrorists, be they Palestinian or Lebanese (hint: Hezbollah) who threaten the already fragile stability of the country.

Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said Sunday evening after the cabinet meeting at the Grand Serail that only the Lebanese army and security forces should carry weapons. He added, "We are determined to confront conspiracy."

The Lebanese must understand that without full sovereignty, they cannot enjoy freedom, liberty, rights or security. If Lebanon continues to be used by Iran and Syria in order to settle scores with the United States, Israel and the world soon it will collapse into a state of total chaos and lawlessness just as Gaza is today. And that is exactly what Tehran and Damascus would want.

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The Saudi Initiative - A Genuine Opportunity

Filed under: Egypt ~ International Institutions ~ Middle East ~ Palestine

The famous Israeli diplomat Abba Eban once quipped that "the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity [for peace]." With Israel's refusal to-date to accept the recently re-tabled Saudi Peace initiative offering Israel peace with the entire Arab World, it seems that it may be Israel this time that is guilty of Abba's charge. For years there has been no substantive progress concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Israeli position has been that there is no "viable" partner from the Palestinian side to negotiate with. It seems as though the tide has changed in dramatic fashion over the course of the past few months.

Much of this is due to the assertion of the Saudis as the regional diplomatic powerhouse. In February, Saudi King Abdullah helped facilitate the Mecca agreement between Fatah and Hamas that put an end to the internecine factional violence between the two parties. The Arab League summit, hosted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, reinvigorated the previously inert Saudi Initiative.

This is a window of opportunity that Israel must seize; all 22 Arab countries are willing to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from the Arab territories it occupied since 1967.

So what is the problem? Israel is not willing to negotiate with the new Palestinian Unity Government that includes Hamas because it has yet to meet the Quartet’s (composed of the E.U, U.N., U.S., and Russia) conditions (recognize Israel, renounce violence, respect all previous agreements). Furthermore, despite some positive pronouncements, Israel refuses to accept the Saudi Initiative because of clauses regarding the Palestinian refuges and borders.

This refusal is unwarranted because while the Initiative does call for a sovereign, independent Palestinian state with its capital in Arab East Jerusalem, it does so on the basis of the internationally recognized 1967 borders. In terms of the Palestinian refugees, it calls for a "just" and "agreed upon" solution to the refugee problem. Equally critical, the Arab League Initiative has stated that as long as Israel accepts the Initiative "In Principle", then everything is open for negotiations

Israel's refusal to negotiate is contradictory to American economic interests and Israeli security interests. By achieving regional peace, Israel can finally be fully integrated into the Middle East. The Palestinians will have their state and the Israelis the security they have been unable to achieve since Israel's establishment. One need only look at the Recent G.C.C. (the Gulf Cooperative Council) involvement in major economic outreach programs with Asian countries, such as India and China, to realize the economic potential of peace. Billions of dollars are flowing back and forth between the oil rich Gulf States and Asia.

Instead of exploiting the new opportunity for peace presented by the Saudi Initiative, for peace in the region and a new epoch of economic prosperity for all parties involved, Israel is sitting on its diplomatic hands waiting for the ever important "pre-conditions" to be met. The onus is often put on increasing weakness of the Olmert administration and its lack of political capital. Yet, a majority of Israel citizens desire a two-state solution. There is no other act that an Israeli Prime Minister could perform to galvanize more internal support.

For the U.S., a serious and meaningful role as an honest mediator in the peace process could repair its dwindled and demonized image in the Middle East and Muslim world, with all the attendant benefits of Arab cooperation on Iraq. King Abdullah is not calling for the Israelis to simply sign the Saudi Initiative. Negotiations are expected over the Palestinian refugees, East Jerusalem and final borders before a final agreement is reached.

Israel's continuous claim that it wants peace stands tested by whether it accepts the Saudi Initiative in principle as the framework for a regional peace agreement. The U.S. stands at a fork in the Mid-East and the path it chooses will have serious ramifications on its national security and future economic opportunities in the region. Using our influence with our number one ally in the Middle East to reconsider the Saudi Initiative is our best hope today for securing both our interests and peace.

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General Petraeus Letter

Filed under: Middle East

General David Petraeus, Commander of Coalition forces in Iraq has written an important letter that should be read by all of us who are following Iraq's developments.

"Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen serving in Multi-National Force-Iraq:

Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we, not our enemies occupy the moral high ground. This strategy has shown results in recent months."
For more please check this link

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Assad the troublemaker

Filed under: Middle East

Diplomatic sources revealed to Naharnet (Lebanese Arabic Daily known for denouncing the Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs) that President Assad in a phone conversation with Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of ONU threteaned to "to set the region on fire, from the Caspian to the Mediterranean, over differences with the United Nations regarding Lebanon's stability."

In fact Assad is afraid that he will be caught red handed in Rafiq Hariri's assassination, possible Pierre Gemayel's one and in numerous other heinous crimes the Syrian bath orchestrated during the 29 occupation of Lebanon. Is is time Assad and his accomplices from Syria and Lebanon pay for their deeds! We have yet to see whether UN will establish the international tribunal under the VII chapter but the prospects are good.

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Syrian Pharaoh?

Filed under: Middle East

The Syrian Parliament (Majlis Al Shaab) unanimously approved President Bashar Al-Assad as the solely candidate for the presidency, for a second mandate of 7 years. President Assad came to power in July 2000 with more than 90% of the electorate votes. A referendum will be held at the end of June, but the decision was already taken by the Syrian Baath party. As expected, in an authoritative regime, people will is unimportant.

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More dissidents in Syria

Filed under: Middle East

A faction decided to leave the SSNP (Syrian National Pan-Arab Social party) because of the outrageous manipulation and terrorization of the Alawite regime of President Bashar al Assad. It's good to see that people still find the power to rebel against dictators even if such audacity can cost their freedom and even their lives.

Activist Anwar Bunni is held in jail for the "sin" of speaking against the regime while many others are closely watched by the Syrian Mukhabarat (secret services) and forbidden to leave the country.

update: the Criminal Court of Damascus sentenced today the Syrian dissident, Dr Kamal Labwani to life in prison, which was then reduced by judge Mehiddeene al-Hallak to 12 years in jail; Labwani is accused of contacting a foreign nation, the United States for the purport of instigating attacks against Syria
The Reform Party of Syria reported that Labwani arrived the US in the fall of 2005 where he met with high US officials to discuss oppression of Syrians and human rights in Syria

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Economic boost needed in Lebanon

Filed under: Middle East

In spite of the political mayhem, the Arab Economic Forum is holding its 15th annual meeting in Beirut today. The Al-Iktissad Walamal magazine organized the two day event where approximately 500 persons representing 18 countries will be present, including the governors of the central banks of the major oil exporting countries.

After the July 2006 war with Israel (war started by Hezbollah), Lebanon received $7.6 billion in pledges from the Paris III conference to help rebuild the country and reduce the external debt.
This forum will test the willingness of the participants to address and further support Lebanon's needs for privatization, development and investments. The hope is that economic development will also calm the political tensions between Fuad Siniora's government and Hezbollah-FPM alliance.

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Have You Ever Seen A Woman Stoned To Death?

Filed under: Middle East

The following video was shot by a cell phone camera in Mosul, Iraq. It's hard not to be disgusted when you see it, but the fact that it's out there made me realize that most people cannot comprehend such a thing until they've seen it with their own eyes. So I've decided to post it. Viewer discretion advised.

صحنه هاى بسيار دلخراش از سنگسار يک دختر جوان در موصل عراق

UPDATE: Gateway Pundit covers a protest rally against these honor killings and stonings that are in response to what happened in this video.

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Muqtada is out but not down (yet)

Filed under: Middle East

Shiia cleric Muqtada al Sadr ordered his six ministers to step down from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki government in protest against "his failure in coming up with a timetable for the withdrawal of the foreign forces from Iraq".

Isn't that neat? Finally, Muqtada al Sadr did what he should have done a long time ago. His business in politics was merely to sabotage the government in Iran's interest. Enough is enough even for those who see the coalition forces as "evil".

Today, Al Hayat reported that the negotiation efforts of Anbar tribal leaders finally succeeded between the various armed factions and the Shia tribes in southern and central Iraq "to eliminate the sectarian dimension of the resistance project and to prepare a political program calling for the withdrawal of the occupation (...) The continuous security anarchy and the impotence of the government to deal with the sectarian and party violence are pushing the Shia tribes in southern Iraq to help Sunni armed groups and tribes in western Iraq in their double war against the occupation and the Al-Qaida organization."

As long as the Iraqis have the strength to unite in order to fight Al Qaeda there is still some hope for the country. Is it too much to wish that next they might chop up Iran's and Syria's tentacles? What a day that would be!

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Fearless Iran?

Filed under: Iran ~ Middle East

The Islamic Republic of Iran announced it produces nuclear fuel on an industrial level. Reza Aqazadeh, the country's vice president and head of its Atomic Energy Organization said that the 3, 000 centrifuges from Natanz are merely the beginning. "When we say we have entered industrial scale enrichment, (it means) there is no way back. Installation of centrifuges will continue steadily to reach a stage where all the 50,000 centrifuges are launched." (IRNA)

Meanwhile the United States, Russia, China and Germany (holder of the EU Presidency) accused Tehran of abusing the goodwill of the international community.

Clearly the isolation measures didn't work and new tactics have to be employed to moderate Iran's nuclear and regional ambitions. The West at large tends to forget that in the ME a soft approach is often perceived as weakness. Vigorous actions are needed, diplomatic or otherwise.

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Once A Militia, Always A Militia

Filed under: Middle East

In a televised speech on Sunday, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said that Lebanese "are stuck with us for 50 years more." He further added, "If we were to choose between civil war and keeping the situation this way for a limited period of time, we prefer to continue with this state of affairs (stalemate)."

He doesn't want anymore the 19/11 government formula his party proposed and continues to oppose the international tribunal in Rafiq al Hariri's assassination.

Sheikh Nasrallah is actually promising 50 years of political isolation, poverty, social despair and economic disasters. If Hezbollah will continue sabotaging the government of Premier Siniora, Lebanon will be very soon in a constant state of pandemonium and servitude to Iran and Syria. That is what the 14 March is trying hard to prevent and what March 8 aims of restoring.

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Sitting In The Privileged Chair

Filed under: Middle East

Nancy Pelosi got a very interesting, symbolic, relatively meaningless privilege during her trip to Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday visited Saudi Arabia's unelected advisory council, the closest thing in the kingdom to a legislature, where she tried out her counterpart's chair - a privilege no Saudi woman can have because women cannot become legislators.

Pelosi, the first US woman house speaker, said she raised the issue of Saudi Arabia's lack of female politicians with Saudi government officials on the last stop of her Mideast tour, but she refrained from criticising the kingdom over it.

"It's a nice view from here," said Pelosi as she sat in the chair, facing the ornate chamber with its deep blue and yellow chairs and gilded ironwork.

I don't know why the Saudis would make such an exception. Perhaps that's the cause for the shocked expressions in the picture. Maybe it means that they think she's a man? I can imagine how they'd make the mistake since she wasn't wearing that hijab she picked up. . .

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Dressed To Mock

Filed under: Middle East

One quick glance at a photo of the [now freed] British sailors shows a bunch of guys wearing new suits, and a female sailor bedecked in an Islamic headscarf. People noticed this immediately and condemned the way it must have been forced on her. Such outrage was greater inflamed when Nancy Pelosi went parading across Syria wearing one.

As for the guys, they looked pretty clean pressed. But look closely... Ahmadinejad got one last laugh.

See it? None of the sailors are wearing ties! In fact, the chick isn't the only one donning the latest fashion of the mullahs. The hottest new thing is mock-Ahmadinejad suits with unbuttoned shirts! A favorite of clubbers and tyrants alike. But more importantly, where is The Manolo on this?

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Beware of wolves in sheep's clothes

Filed under: Middle East

The Quds press agency (UK) announced on April 2 that more than 4,000 members of Al-Mahdi Army joined the Iraqi police and regular forces even before the implementation of the much publicized security plan for Baghdad (which is running for almost two months now). The South of the capital is dominated by the Al Mahdi Army of Shiia cleric Muqtada Al Sadr.

The plan of Al Sadr seems to be that of deliberately sabotaging the work of the Iraqi police and security forces by all necessary means. Since the Mahdi militia members joined the national forces the violence escalated in Baghdad.

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A Gentler, Softer Iran

Filed under: Middle East

The latest feature article is up on the right. It takes on the British hostage crisis in the context that Iran is trying to win over European public support to stop sanctions against the country. In fact, it argues that Iran probably treated the sailors really well for that express purpose. To read the article, click here.

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Iranian "Students" Demonstrate At UK Embassy

Filed under: Middle East

Jim at GatewayPundit has a big photoessay of the Iranian "students" in a "spontaneous" demonstration against Britain's embassy. It echoes the 1979 student demonstrations of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's youth, back when he seemed to be a member of the hostage-taking "students" who took American diplomatic personnel hostage in the not-missed days of Jimmy Carter. Britain's appeasing attitude is not going to help.

See the whole thing here.

Hat tip: Instapundit

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Egypt's democracy for the bureaucracy

Filed under: Egypt ~ Middle East

Today's "referendum" in Egypt on proposed constitutional changes passed by with a dismal, low turnout as most people there already know that the outcome is predetermined. Yet while most people are stuck in traffic or sitting down for a meal, there are some strident believers in Egypt's democracy who cannot allow for such leisures. Meet the Egyptians bureaucrat who, known for an average of five minutes of productivity a day, is working overtime to make sure that Mubarak's changes go through. In fact, they seemed to be the only ones, and not even under the clearest of consciousness. Read on:
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said that in the southern Asyut governorate it had monitored local municipality cars broadcasting loudhailer warnings that those not voting would be fined 100 Egyptian pounds (about 17,5 US dollars).

Observers also said public buses were being used across Cairo to take civil servants and workers to vote in the referendum, which has been met by indifference among large sections of the population.
At one polling station in a Giza school, several dozen teachers and civil servants reported difficulties with voting procedures.

'My name and the names of my colleagues were enlisted against our will,' said one public school teacher. Another civil servant said she was told her salary would be halved for a month if she did not vote for the amendments.
Vote or die? Mubarak seems to have taken P. Diddy's advice too strictly. In Egypt, you vote or you lose your job! The only only opinion that counts is that of the bureaucrat or high-ranking party member, and this so-called election shows that their opinion is universal. Will we see a 99.99% approval as we did in Anwar al-Sadat's days, or will Mubarak shave a few percentage points off to placate the United States?

Does it matter?

Marc Lynch has the smartest and snarkiest quotables: "Most Arab outlets are reporting that Condoleeza Rice softened her criticisms of the referendum after meeting with Mubarak. How humiliating, how predictable. Abou el-Gheit is spooning out the terrorism angle - we must do this to protect ourselves, just as you did with your Patriot Act - and Rice (and at least some of the media) seems to be eating it up whatever the flavor. Yes, how could Egypt possibly fight its great terror menace while judges are supervising elections?" Zing!

Also, check out Sandmonkey, who writes about his own experience just yesterday with the riot police putting down a demonstration that he participated in.

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A lesson in legitimizing the opposition

Filed under: Kuwait ~ Middle East

Kuwait Unplugged writes about how the government pulled the plug on a show that he was due to appear on in which he'd talk about blogs. Read the whole post, but here's the most interesting point:
They just don't learn, do they? The more effort you spend suppressing voices, the more those voices will find ways to be heard. The government should stop wasting its time and resources on suppressing opinions and focus on running the country. I even said that on the show.... wait a minute! Could that be the reason it got cancelled?! I hope I'm wrong!
We are living in an era of openness, where even in closed societies technology has made it possible to see things that were once hidden. People are learning that they have the right and ability to decide for themselves, so by blocking the show, they are legitimizing whatever Zaydoun was saying by peaking the public interest. It's possible that when they viewed the program they could have decided that he's full of hot air, but now his point is only proven. Whether the government likes it or not, the people can find out if they want to.
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Mubarak has Rice by the...

Filed under: Egypt ~ Middle East

Just days before Egypt is set to falsify "elections" on its latest constitutional reforms, which by all stretches of the imagination can be nothing more than a great leap backward, Condoleezza Rice hopped on a plane over there. The purpose? To smack President Mubarak around a bit and let him know that the United States has had enough of his despotic shenanigans, that he will not be receiving $1.3 billion in military aid next year, and that the country's people will have America's full support for their democratic aspirations. Take a look at her full comments:
"We have had a discussion. I have made my concerns known as well as my hopes for continued reform here in Egypt," Rice told a news conference after meeting with Mubarak. "The process of reform is one that is difficult. It's going to have its ups and downs. We always discuss these matters in a way that is respectful, mutually respectful. But I have made my concerns known, and we have had a good discussion," she said.
Oh wait, I guess I figured that wrong. The change of tone is mighty different compared to what she was saying in 2005. Just take a look:
Ladies and Gentlemen: In our world today, a growing number of men and women are securing their liberty.

And as these people gain the power to choose, they create democratic governments to protect their natural rights.

We should all look to a future when every government respects the will of its citizens — because the ideal of democracy is universal.

For 60 years, the United States pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the Middle East — and we achieved neither.

Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.
And now: we are not doing anything! Why? Because we can't. In 2005, the elections in Iraq and the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon made the march of democracy seem unstoppable. Now, with persisting problems in Lebanon due to Syria's domination and sectarian strife in Iraq, Arab leaders are relating these problems to democracy itself and asking their people if they want it. The answer, of course, is no.

So regimes like that of Egypt are strengthening themselves on the knowledge that they have convinced their public that American ideas of democracy cannot apply to them. Even though they aren't happy at all with the way things are now, many think it would only get worse with democracy. This really limits how much pressure we can put on Mubarak, consequently leading to such lame statements like Condi was making this weekend.

Chalk it up to another defeat on the PR front.

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Al Qaeda's full moon fantasies put on hold

Filed under: Middle East

Not long ago, Al Qaeda announced it has installed the Islamic State of Iraq, and Abu-Umar Al-Baghdadi is the Emir of the country, and also the Caliph of all countries between Maghreb to India. If that is not wishful thinking, then I don't know what is!

The good news is that some of the Iraqi tribes (Al Anbar and those who have members of both sects, such as Al-Dulaym, Shamr, Tamim, Al-Jabbou, Al-Bu Ajayl, Al-Obeid, Al-Jumaylat, Zubeid, etc) tired of Al Qaeda bullying, bombing and killing their men, women and children rally together in the attempt of weaken the terrorist organization. Hope more tribes will follow the example! (Al Sharq Al Awsat, March 21 and Al Hayat, March 22, 2007)

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Time to Focus Again on the Iranian People

Filed under: Middle East

With the attention of the free world all on the nuclear programme of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we are no longer hearing anyone saying a word in support of the Iranian people. It looks as if they even didn't exist. I understand that the nuclear program is a pressing issue, but I also believe that it's high time to focus again on the Iranians who are suffering under one of the most repressive and Dark Ages regimes on the face of the earth.

I analyzed twenty-eight years of such a rogue regime and what it has meant for the Iranian people and the international community as well.

You can read my analysis at Real Clear Politics here.

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Do we really want a timetable?

Filed under: Middle East

As British troops leave the south of Iraq, and Basra in particular, hell is slowly beginning to break loose. After leaving a governmental department building, masked gunmen from rival Shia factions immediately shot the place up in an attempt to take it over for themselves.

At least we can get a good look at as a case study of what would happen if troops were pulled from the country at large right now. It's important for the Iraqis to take responsibility, but every sectarian group has motives not in line with building a strong Iraqi democracy. The militias are all-powerful, so giving them so much responsibility now would only lead to chaos and likely ethnic cleansing. That can't be allowed to happen. That's why the country's centers of power need to be put firmly in control and the militias wiped out, with their remains scattering into the countryside where they can be picked off slowly.

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Iran gets gassier, pushing Gulf states away

Filed under: Middle East

President Ahmadinejad just inaugurated the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline. "The pipeline will allow transfer of 400 million cubic meter of Iranian gas to Armenia per year during the first phase of the project, to be increased to 2.5 billion cubic meters per year."

Approximately 100km of the 140km, $120 million pipeline is in Iranian territory. The pipeline was constructed in 650 days.

What does it say about Iran's leadership? To the very least that it doesn't stay put while the US and Israel complain about Iran's regional and global ambitions. Iran's bullying attitude deeply upsets (read: frightens) the Sunnis. Thus the Gulf States make plans to avoid the Iranian Strait of Hormuz. Roughly 20% of the world's daily oil supply passes through the strait.

It might work but don't hold your breath just yet. Can we pass the message to the US Congress, asap please?

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A must read post on Egypt's constitutional "reforms"

Filed under: Middle East

Professor Marc Lynch of Abu Aardvark blasts the Egyptian governments for its proposed constitutional reforms, and takes aim at the Bush administration for even thinking that the reforms are mixed, but generally positive in trend. He lists some of these reforms accomplishments, which include:
  • Removing judicial oversight of the electoral process.
  • Giving the voters less than a week to decipher what they all mean.
  • A history of blatant electoral fraud suggests it doesn't matter if they decipher it or not.
  • Only members of registered parties may run for president, the only real one being that of President Mubarak.
  • These reforms make constitutionally permanent the horrid emergency laws; things such as defaming the government or demonstrating publicly could be legally punishable with jail time.
Check out the full post. He really goes into it, smacking down the Egyptian government for being rotten to the core and the U.S. government for being completely toothless in its handling of democracy in foreign policy issues.
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