Archive for February, 2010

Iran frees four journalists, professor

February 28th, 2010 Comments off

Four reformist journalists and professor released after detained after last year’s disputed presidential poll.
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Ahmadinejad calls Israel ‘corrupt microbe’

February 28th, 2010 Comments off

UPDATE 1: Israel is ‘microbe of corruption’ and Islamic resistance will send it to ‘hell’, -Ahmadinejad.
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Cherie je t’adore… comme la salsa de pomodore

February 28th, 2010 Comments off

I am a complete sucker for these things — so I’ll just lift this video from Zeinobia and post it here.

The singer is Bob Azzam — a Palestinian Greek Orthodox crooner whose family took refuge in Cairo after 1948.

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Things fall apart

February 28th, 2010 Comments off

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Yeats, The Second Coming

I don’t have much to add to all the noise around the Mabhuh assassination, except to say that this is the opportunity to pressure European governments to distance themselves from Israel, notably by freezing any further advanced status talks between the EU and Israel. Ideally, a review of visa regulations for Israeli citizens should also be considered. Politicians need to latch on to this seriously, especially in Britain. Considering what’ve seen so far is mostly indignation without consequences (and that we can’t really rule out the possibility of European cooperation — see Fisk’s rant on this, although I am pretty agnostic about it).
I am still forming my own take on the impact of the assassination for the region (as opposed to Europe.) One of the most important things I think it reveals is the level of instability of the regional order — it suggests to me that since at least 2006 if not earlier the dynamic is one of chronic instability where open war is generally avoided (except by the Israelis) but all kinds of dirty games and pressures are being played. Think of the Bush administration’s role in training Palestinian Authority forces, the Gaza clashes that led to the Hamas takeover, Hamas being pushed into an incredibly difficult position, the Syrians and Saudis playing all sides, Lebanon entering a post-post-Hariri phase, Iraq still to find a role for itself post-Saddam, Egypt’s loss of control internally and externally, and so on and so forth. It’s hard to describe today’s Middle East, except that it is no longer the Middle East of the Oslo / dual containment era, nor is it something altogether new yet. Birth pangs indeed. 
The other thing that comes to mind is that Mossad was taken off-guard at crime-fighting capabilities of Dubai (despite its slightly buffoonish police chief). The fact is Dubai has been under considerable pressure to bring its role as a Mecca of arms dealers, money launderers, sanction busters and other shady characters under control for the past decade. Tremendous efforts were made by the US to control terrorism financing, and more still to monitor if not stop Dubai’s connection with Iran. The fascinating thing about the Mabhuh tapes is that they were probably made using a British CCTV system that was built to keep track of these things, not Mossad operations. Likewise, as mentioned in the Economist story below on Lebanon, the monitoring equipment Lebanon used to uncover Israel’s spy network was the result of French and/or Russian equipment brought in in part to improve the monitoring of Hizbullah.  O happy unintended consequences!
(Update: I just saw this WSJ piece that is exactly along these lines. It’s by Robert Baer, the former CIA field operative.)
Here’s a few links to some of the more interesting coverage I’ve seen, do send more!
And not really Mabhuh assassination related, but telling of Dubai’s role as an international zone of shady deals:
Finally, via The National, this map of the comings and goings of the hit team:

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Against childbrides

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A million signatures delivered to Yemen’s parliament call for an end to the child brides. Hundreds of Yemeni students demonstrated outside the Yemeni parliament this week to protest against child marriages. Students demanded parliament pass legislation to raise the minimum marriage age of girls to 18 in a country where child brides are a common occurrence.

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Israeli spies: names and addresses

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“AN Israeli spy based in Dublin is suspected of supplying information for the forged Irish passports used by the team of assassins who murdered a Hamas commander in Dubai. And details of more fake Irish passports used in the assassination of a Hamas official are expected to be given to the Irish Ambassador in Dubai today.” (thanks Matt)

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Tragic accidents happen–every single day

February 28th, 2010 Comments off

“US soldiers killed an Iraqi tribal chief’s son and wounded his wife in what the Americans on Saturday called a tragic accident, although local accounts of the incident differed.”

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Categories: Arab Blogs Tags: , , , ,

Diversity and Perversity

February 28th, 2010 Comments off

Dr. Jamil Khader, Stetson University

A little more than a week ago a story was reported about an experiment at Stetson University by Professor Jamil Khader. The idea was for 15 coeds to wear veils and see the reactions of their fellow students. But that is only part of the story. First read the story, then check out the comments by the readers. The comments are somewhat chilling, demonstrating once again the extraordinary extent of Islamophobia out there.

Stetson students don veil for diversity experiment
By MARK HARPER, Dayton Beach News Journal Online, February 11, 2010
Education writer

DELAND — For five days, Andreana Mangie wore a pink veil on and around campus.

At the student union, people stared at her. Another student in line near her told another, “Muslims aren’t worth anything.” She was denied entrance to a party.

“This needs to be thought about,” she told a group of about 150 students Wednesday. “This is a big deal.”

Mangie was one of about 15 Stetson University women to participate in the experiment dubbed “Veil for a Day” by Jamil Khader, a professor of English and gender studies. The women discussed their experiences as part of the DeLand school’s Town Meeting on Diversity.

The university canceled classes Wednesday so students could, for one day, go outside their comfort zone and learn about others. Other sessions touched on residence hall life, environmental justice and “How We Live Homophobia.”

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"… The bigger picture of the Lebanese economy"

February 28th, 2010 Comments off
Lebanon making dough, but can't catch up to what she owes

Sami Halabi, the full essay in Executive/ here


… An elusive formula

When all the figures are tallied, Lebanon’s real economy is expected to have recorded bumper growth in 2009, albeit less than the IMF’s figure of 8.5 percent seen in 2008. The real amount of growth, however, is a contentious topic in the country’s economic community. The latest figures from the IMF predict a total growth of 7 percent for 2009. However, according to Bank Audi’s research department, the last GDP figures provided by the government are those from 2007.

“You have several problems with estimating GDP. Even the government accounts are not up to date because they run on arrears,” says Chaaban. He predicts that 5 percent GDP growth is a more accurate number considering that “too few companies report their accurate figures. Even when it comes to real estate registration, hardly anyone puts in the right figure. You end up with a system of estimation and not accurate measurement.”

Much of the debate over the country’s accurate GDP centers on methodology. According to Hamdan, the government is currently using the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies’ (INSEE) methodology to calculate GDP. This method offers three different ways to calculate GDP (see box on next page) and uses several parameters that cannot be calculated if sectoral or income-based reporting does not exist or is indeed inaccurate.

“Unfortunately we have no surveys which confirm the situation at the level of the economic sector,” says Hamdan.

Lebanon's new cabinet at the Presidential Palace at Baabda

The difference in methodologies has prompted organizations such as the EIU to maintain an estimation of 5.1 percent real GDP growth in 2009 as of end-October.

Marwan Iskandar, economist and managing director of MI Associates, however, agrees with the 7 percent (of course he would!) IMF estimate made in early October, saying that the figure is not just down to a bumper tourist season and real estate investments.

“The financial crisis had a beneficiary effect on the Lebanese economy because many Lebanese felt that their money abroad was not that safe, brought it back and are now looking at possibilities,” he says….

The prognosis of many experts however, is that remittance levels will remain relatively stable in 2010, as the global economy is expected to see some kind of recovery and Lebanon has not seen the massive influx of expats from the Gulf that were expected due to the global downturn…..

The increased non-resident interest in Lebanon is also reflected in the growing amount of foreign direct investment in the country. In 2008, FDI reached $3.61 billion, according to a statement made by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and is expected to hit $4 billion this year, says IDAL’s Itani.

Certain elements of Lebanon’s investment climate helped as well, such as the number of procedures needed to start a new business, which remain at five, lower than the Middle East and North Africa’s average of 7.9, according to the World Bank’s “Doing Business Report.” The report also stated that the time needed to complete these procedures had decreased from 11 to nine days in 2009 compared to a regional average of 20.7 days. Despite the increasingly friendly investment environment, legal recourse in the country remains an obstacle for investors, because of Lebanon’s infamously tedious litigation process and inefficient judiciary….

(continue/ here)

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Al Qaeda ‘double agent’: Jordanian Mukhabarat confided of Mughniyeh’s hit details …

February 28th, 2010 Comments off

Al Jazeera/ English/ here

“…. In the video, al-Balawi also accused Jordan of providing information for the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, in 2006 as well as that of Imad Mughniyeh, the Hezbollah commander who died in a car bomb in Damascus in 2008.
“The Jordanian intelligence apparatus has a record which emboldens them to such behavior, but with Allah’s permission, after this operation, they will never stand on their feet again,” he said.
Al-Balawi, a doctor, hailed from the same hometown of Zarqa as al-Zarqawi and was a prolific contributor to jihadist websites.
But he was never able to realise his dream of joining the jihad until he was arrested by Jordanian security.”

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