Archive

Archive for October, 2010

Portrait emerges of woman whose mummified body was found in car – Los Angeles Times [del.icio.us]

October 31st, 2010 Comments off

Gross.
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Obama’s task on Egyptian democracy [del.icio.us]

October 31st, 2010 Comments off

Blah blah blah Egypt blah democracy blah Israel blah blah.
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Mavi Boncuk: Egyptian Cigarettes [del.icio.us]

October 31st, 2010 Comments off

In the 19th c. — from an interesting blog on things Ottoman.
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My driver in Damascus

October 31st, 2010 Comments off

My cab driver in Damascus went to pray at a local mosque.  He emerged to discover that his shoes were stolen.  I thought: another reason why not to pray.

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Iran versus Arab countries

October 31st, 2010 Comments off

I saw an Iranian professor from the University of Tehran speak on RT news.  He prefaced his remarks by saying: I am not particularly a fan of Ahmadinajad.  I thought to myself: with all the noise that hypocritical Western governments make about the lack of democracy in Iran (and Iran is not a democracy for sure and its regime is repressive indeed): if a professor at any Arab university outside of Lebanon made that remark about the leader of that country, he would lose his job instantly and would be punished for sure.  This is what people in the West don’t understand: people in the Middle East don’t measure the Iranian political system by the standards of Swedish democracy but by the standards of governments in the Middle East.

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Politically speaking

October 31st, 2010 Comments off

Some people are now wondering whether Bashshar Al-Asad–politically speaking only–is even more shrewd and more intelligent than his own father.  Which reminds me: i saw a sign over a Syrian military post outside of Damascus.  It reads: Hafidh Al-Asad: our Leader forever.  I remarked: Woe to the Syrian army if its leader is a dead man.

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Bombing Iran for votes, the strange path of a dumb idea

October 31st, 2010 Comments off

David Broder has raised
some eyebrows
with his bizarre Washington
Post
column arguing "with strong
Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran’s ambition to become a nuclear
power, [Obama] can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with
the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will
be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war,
the economy will improve." It should only be surprising to those who
haven’t been paying attention, though. Leaving aside the truly odd ideas about
the economy, Broder is actually offering a warmed over, mainstream version of
the argument coined in August by
former Bush Middle East adviser Elliott Abrams
that "the Obama who had
struck Iran and destroyed its nuclear program would be a far stronger
candidate, and perhaps an unbeatable one." Since then, each time the
argument pops up I’ve tagged it on Twitter with "this idea was stupid
enough when Elliott Abrams wrote it in August
."

Broder’s column is an interesting study in how really dumb ideas bounce
around Washington D.C. Fortunately, it’s not an idea that seems to have any
support at all in the Obama White House. Unlike Abrams (who it’s fair to assume
does not wish Obama well in November 2012) and Broder (who… well, it’s anyone’s
guess), the Obama team can see perfectly clearly that the American people have
no appetite for a third major war in the Middle East and that launching a war
with massive strategic consequences for short-term political gain would be
epically irresponsible. They find this argument ridiculous. Even if they were
primarily interested in their electoral fortunes in designing Iran policy, they
would quickly see that such an Abrams-approved stratagem would wipe out their
support on the left and gain absolutely zero votes on the right.

Now, I’m very
worried that Obama’s Iran strategy
will lock the U.S. into ever more
hawkish rhetoric which ties their hands and paves the way to future military
confrontations. I think that serious people disagree about the likely
effectiveness of sanctions or of diplomacy, and that all are struggling to find
meaningful
off-ramps
in the glide towards ever more stringent and militarized regional
containment. I worry about a lot on Iran policy. But this isn’t one of the things
that I worry about. I don’t think that anyone in the Obama White House takes
remotely seriously the epically bad Abrams-Broder advice to pursue military
showdown with Iran for political advantage. This may offer an intriguing window
into how Abrams thought about foreign policy in the Bush White House, and a
depressing case study in the circulation of ideas in Washington, but it tells
us nothing at all about how the Obama administration is thinking about Iran.

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Israeli terrorists burn Jerusalem church

October 31st, 2010 Comments off
… .The church was built in Jerusalem in 1897, and housed the Palestinian Bible College until 1947, when parishioners were pushed out by Jewish armed gangs during the violence accompanying the creation of the state of Israel….  This is not the first time that Israeli right-wingers have destroyed churches and church property – a number of Chrisitan churches were destroyed during the second initfada (uprising) that began in 2000, and many more were destroyed by Israeli forces during the 1948 and 67 wars….”

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"A century of dispute peaks in south Beirut"

October 31st, 2010 Comments off
“… Who would have thought that a gynecologist’s office in the Hizbullah-dominated southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh would be the symbolic place where the colonial and anti-colonial struggles of the past century would reach their confrontational peak and bring to a head this long-simmering war. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s call Thursday night for all Lebanese to stop cooperating with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which is investigating and will soon indict those it believes killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others five years ago, followed an attempt by STL officers to examine patient files in the doctor’s office in Dahiyeh a few days ago, presumably because the STL has evidence it believes implicates some Hizbullah personnel in the assassinations. Hizbullah supporters, mostly women, beat back the STL party and quickly heightened the political confrontation that has been brewing in the country for months.
Nasrallah’s open call to boycott and actively oppose the STL marks a historic moment of reckoning that is as dangerous as it was inevitable. This is because Hizbullah and the STL represent perhaps the two most powerful symbols of the two most important forces that have defined the Middle East for the past century or more: On the one hand, Western (including Israeli) interests and interventions that seek to shape this region in a manner that suits Western aims more than it suits indigenous rights, and, on the other hand, native Arab-Islamic-nationalist resistance that seeks to shape our societies according to Arab-Islamic worldviews as defined by a consensus of local actors, identities and forces.
Stripped to its core, this tension between Hizbullah and the STL is a microcosm of the overarching fact of the modern era in which Western-manufactured Arab statehood has generally failed to gain either real traction or sustained credibility; thus it has fallen on groups like Hizbullah to play a leading role in confronting Israeli and Western power in a manner that most Arab governments have been unable or unwilling to do. Therefore we live through this historic but frightening moment when a century of confrontation reaches a pivotal juncture: the collective will of the Western-dominated world (the Security Council-created STL) confronts the strong rejection and public resistance of the only Arab group (Hizbullah) that has forced an Israeli military withdrawal and confounded the Israeli armed forces, while transcending Arabism and Islamism, religiosity and secularism, Arabs and Iranians, Shiites and Sunnis, and assorted Lebanese Christians and Muslims.
The confrontation now playing itself out in various public milieus between Hizbullah and the STL is made more complex and difficult to resolve because of deep links with other regional actors, especially Israel, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia. The STL is unlike anything that the Arab world has witnessed or experienced in its entire modern history, because it represents something frightening to many Arabs: the unanimous decision of the Security Council of the UN to probe deep into the inner fibers of Arab societies – mostly Lebanon and Syria, in this case – in order to stop the political assassinations that shocked the world five years ago (but that have also plagued the modern Arab world for the past half a century or more, without anyone caring).
The majority of Lebanese want to know who killed Rafik Hariri and would like to see such assassinations cease once and for all, but they have proven unable to do this on their own. The Security Council stepped in forcefully in early 2005 to do the job, and it did so partly because some powers who dominate the council saw an opportunity to hit the Syrians and Hizbullah hard. At a moment when the neoconservative-controlled US thought it could frighten any Arab party into compliance with its dictates simply by brandishing the threat of an Iraq-like assault, the move was made to push Syria out of Lebanon and to disarm Hizbullah. The scenes that followed did not conform to the script the Bush-Cheney White House and their pro-Israeli zealot friends had envisaged, because Syria, Hizbullah, Iran and others pushed back and resisted the moves against them. That dynamic has now reached its climax in events centered on Lebanon.
Two powerful forces confront each other now in public, American-dominated Western colonial intervention in the Arab region, and Islamist-dominated Arab-Islamic resistance from within that same Arab region. Three options present themselves: One of these two forces has to back down, both have to compromise and postpone the day of reckoning in their epic struggle, or they will soon settle this on the battlefields of Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Iran, American-dominated Iran and Afghanistan, and the oil and gas fields of the Gulf Arab states. Armageddon will look like a kindergarten cookie dance if the third option materializes, which is now a bit more likely than it was a week ago – because of the past century, more than the past week.…”

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Israeli PM to visit US next week (AP)

October 31st, 2010 Comments off

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet in Jerusalem, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010. Netanyahu says he is heading to the U.S. next week to discuss Mideast peace efforts with Vice President Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Jim Hollander, Pool)AP – Israel’s prime minister said Sunday he will head to the U.S. next week to discuss Mideast peace talks with Vice President Joe Biden, in a possible sign of movement for the troubled diplomatic process.

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