Archive for May, 2011

Egypt Restores Information Minister Job, and He’s a General

May 31st, 2011 Comments off

UPDATE: Some are denying or questioning the report I linked to. It may be a false alarm, or a trial balloon that didn’t take off. Let’s see what happens.

 In  the wake of the Revolution, Egypt announced it was abolishing the Ministry of Information in order not to regulate the media. Well, now it’s reported that they’ve named a new Minister of Information, and he’s a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces: Maj. Gen. Tareq al-Mahdi.  (Link is in Arabic.)

This, along with recent Military Council questioning of journalists and others critical of the Army, has led to considerable concern about the Army’s intentions, to say the least. As I’ve noted before, the Council issues very mixed signals, when it says anything at all. Last Friday’s demonstration included much open criticism of the Army. But a military man in charge of Information (a Ministry supposedly “abolished”)? There doesn’t seem to be much ambiguity in that message, I’m afraid.

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The Rafah Crossing and Egyptian-Israeli Relations

May 31st, 2011 Comments off

Egypt’s decision to reopen the Rafah crossing between Sinai and Gaza has been sharply criticized in Israel, which fears increased arms smuggling, but welcomed throughout the Arab world and most of Europe, as well as quite popular home. What many Egyptians saw as Egyptian state complicity in the blockade of Gaza and its resultant humanitarian consequences is now lifted.

Egypt has indicated that it will abide by its peace treaty with Israel, and despite some sensationalist speculation to the contrary, there isn’t real much prospect of its not doing so. But the tone of the relationszhip is clearly cooler, with Egypt more willing to deal with Hamas and criticize Israel. Israel’s favorite Egyprtian interlocutor, ‘Omar Suleiman, (who was also a determined foe of Hamas) is no longer in the picture.  Gaza and Egypt have historic ties (Egypt occupied it 1948-67, and there are many historic links with Sinai) and the siege has been terribly unpopular. The peace treaty envisioned open borders, not closed ones.

At the same time, Israel has legitimate concerns about continuing rocket attacks from Gaza and the dangers of an open Egyptian border; overall Israeli discomfort with the changes in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world will be heightened by the opening of Rafah. Generally, though, an improvement of the conditions of life in Gaza could eventually strengthen peace prospects by weakening Hamas’ grip.

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Burqa: both burlesque and Berlusconiesque

May 31st, 2011 Comments off

If you type “burqa cartoon” into Google, you will find a wide variety of cartoons making fun of the burqa and the controversy over it. Here are just a few samples…

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Categories: Arab Blogs Tags: , , ,

Carbon Emissions Record, Food to Double in Price

May 31st, 2011 Comments off

It is hard to decide which is the worst news in the International Energy Agency’s new study.

The central piece of bad news is that as the world recovers from the 2008-2009 crash, it is spewing record amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In 2010 human beings sent 30.6 gigatons of carbon into the air, 5% more than in 2008, beating that previous record.

A lot of the sources of emission are fixed coal and other hydrocarbon plants that will likely go on operating through 2020, suggesting that there will be annual increases in emissions into the next decade.

In turn, this steady production of atmospheric poison, which causes the atmosphere to retain the heat of sunlight and interferes with it being radiated back out into outer space, is likely to increase the average global surface temperature by more than 2 degrees. Climate scientists had hoped that international protocols and government efforts would hold the increase to that amount. An average increase of 3 degrees would suggest that in some times and places it would be hellish, with a deleterious impact on crops and human health.

Oxfam has just issued a warning that food staples will likely double in price by 2030, in part because of climate change. A billion people in the world go hungry already, and spend 80% of their income on food. If the world envisaged by Oxfam materializes, obviously there is the potential of widespread starvation.

The Big Oil and Big Coal executives attempting to stop efforts to reduce emissions are thus in effect mass murderers of a future generation.

America’s corporate police state has decided that ecological activism is a danger that it needs to spend millions combating. (In fact, genuine ‘eco-terrorism,’ as opposed to FBI entrapment of aging hippies, is rare.)

Given what is being done to the planet, the FBI should instead be having agents sit outside Big Oil and Big Coal corporate offices tracing how the money goes out from them to buy our political representatives (that is illegal, guys) and have them work against green energy and engage in climate change denial.

Aljazeera English reports:

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Yemen in Flames

May 31st, 2011 Comments off

The political situation in Yemen continued to deteriorate on Tuesday. Since Sunday, 50 protesters have been killed by troops and security forces in the country’s second-largest city, Taizz. The government insisted on forcibly removing the protesters from their own version of Tahrir Square, which accounts for some of the casualties of the past two days, which include according to some reports hundreds of wounded.

In the capital of Sanaa, fighting has again broken out between the followers of Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar and government troops. Al-Ahmar is both head of the Hashed tribe and leader of the fundamentalist, tribal al-Islah Party. He had been allied with President Ali Abdullah Salih until this spring. Although Saleh springs from the Hashed tribe as well, his military is now acting as a tribal force against those loyal to al-Ahmar, whose compound is being subjected to heavy fire.

In the provincial capital of Zinjibar, a small group of Muslim fundamentalists has taken over. The regime calls them al-Qaeda, but they are not in fact followers of Usama Bin Laden.

Aljazeera English reports

The USG Open Source Center translated or paraphrased Yemeni reactions to the Government’s attack on protesters in Ta’izz:

‘ Yemen: JMP Decries Salih’s ‘Brutal Attacks’ on Protesters in Ta’izz…
Yemen — OSC Summary
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Yemeni newspapers and news websites were observed on 29 and 30 May to carry reports on the reactions to the unrest in Yemen. The following is a roundup of reports as published by several Yemeni papers and websites:

Sanaa SABA in Arabic — Official news agency of Yemen; URL: http://www.sabanews. — on 29 May carries a 250-word report citing Staff Major General Muhammad Ali al-Maqdishi, commander of the Central Military Area, as categorically denying any connection or relation to the statement made by Major General Abdallah Ali Ulaywah, in which he called on the security and army forces to join the revolution. The report also cites Maj Gen Al-Maqdishi as stressing his allegiance, as well as that of all the heroic militants of the Central Area, to constitutional legitimacy, which is represented by President Ali Abdallah Salih.

Ma’rib Ma’rib Press in Arabic — Independent news website focusing on Yemeni affairs; URL: http://www.marebpress. net/ — on 30 May carries a 400-word report on the statement issued by the Joint Meeting Parties, JMP, following the Ta’izz incidents. The report cites the statement as “denouncing the ongoing crimes by President Salih and his security and military forces against humanity, targeting the youth of the peaceful popular revolution in the squares of change.” The report also cites the statement as “calling on brothers, friends, the international community, and the UN Security Council to make decisions and take decisive stands that protect Yemenis from this hysteria” and stop the bloodshed in Yemen.

Sanaa 26 Sibtimbar Online in Arabic — Yemeni Armed Forces’ official news website; URL: — on 29 May carries a 450-word report citing a military media source as expressing his astonishment over the insistence of some opposition websites, including the Ma’rib Press website, on publishing false rumors. The report also cites the source as denying the reports published by Ma’rib Press claiming that the 9th Mechanized Brigade of the Republican Guard in Dhamar Governorate has joined the youth revolution. The report also cites Staff Brigadier General Ibrahim al-Ja’ifi, commander of the brigade, as stressing that the affiliates of the brigade will remain faithful to the homeland and to constitutional legitimacy.

Sanaa 26 Sibtimbar Online in Arabic on 30 May carries a 350-word report citing Staff Brigadier General Murad al-Awbali, commander of the 22nd Republican Guard Brigade in Ta’izz Governorate, as categorically denying the news reported by Suhayl TV and Al-Jazirah Channel claiming that the brigade’s forces have joined the protesters in Ta’izz. The report also cites Brig Gen Al-Awbali as stressing that all of the affiliates of the brigade will remain faithful to constitutional legitimacy.

Al-Wahdawi Online in Arabic; URL: http://alwahdawi. net/ on 30 May carries a 550-word report on the statement issued yesterday by the executive committee of the coordination council of the peaceful revolution forces at Al-Taghyir Square in Sanaa on the “brutal massacre” committed by (President) Ali Salih in Ta’izz. The report cites the statement as stressing the council’s insistence on the peacefulness of the revolution, and hailing the members and officers of the Armed Forces who have rejected to engage in a useless war against the people. The report also cites the statement as hailing the heroic stance of the tribesmen, who confronted some brigades of the Republican Guard forces who had been heading to the cities to attack the protesters, and forced them to retreat. Al-Wahdawi Online in Arabic

on 30 May carries a 400-word report citing the Preparatory Committee for National Dialogue as “condemning the heinous crime perpetrated against the protesters at sit-in square in Ta’izz city.” The report also cites the committee as “holding Ali Salih, his sons, and his supporters, responsible for spreading security chaos in Abyan Governorate previously and in Lahij Governorate currently, and for the serious consequences that could result from these acts, including the spreading of crime.” Sanaa News Yemen Online in Arabic — Independent news website focusing on local affairs; URL: –

on 30 May carries a 500-word report citing the civilian alliance of the youth revolution as condemning the continuation of violent practices by the regime, and as calling on the protesters to peacefully escalate their protests in the various squares of change and freedom.

Sanaa News Yemen Online in Arabic on 29 May carries a 500-word report citing a high-ranking military source as saying that the so-called “Statement No 1″ that was issued by military personnel who lost their leadership capacity “is an attempt to split the army and exploit the demands of the youth so as to restore their control of Yemen’s future.” The report also cites the source as saying that “some of the signatories to the statement were negatively affected by the endorsement of financial reforms on the budgets of the armed and security forces” approved by President Salih in early May.

Sanaa Al-Masdar Online in Arabic — Website of independent weekly newspaper, critical of government policies; URL: com/ –on 29 May carries a 400-word report citing the JMP as holding the Yemeni president responsible for the attacks carried out against the protesters in Ta’izz, and as “pledging to prosecute President Salih and bring him to justice.” The report also cites Shaykh Husayn al-Aji al-Awadi, one of the prominent leaders in the Ma’rib and Al-Jawf Tribes’ Alliance, as calling on the tribes, Huthists, and military units supporting the revolution “to establish a national popular army to confront the crimes by President Salih and his bullies.” The report also cites Shaykh Al-Awadi as “calling on all Yemenis in the various governorates to call on the military units present in their areas to join the ranks of the rebels,” adding that “they must besiege and force any military unit that does not respond to this call to surrender.” ‘

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Jeffrey Feltman met Mohamad Reza Shibani in Beirut?

May 31st, 2011 Comments off

MEMRI translates:

“The Kuwaiti daily Al-Anbaa said, citing a senior official of Lebanon’s March 8 Forces, that on May 20 U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Middle East Affairs Mohammad Reza Sheibani met in Beirut and discussed the situation in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. The paper reported that Feltman had set the date for his visit to Beirut to coincide with that of Sheibani.”

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‘Neutered Hamas?’

May 31st, 2011 Comments off

Administration & Intelligence officials: Hersh’s piece is a "slanted book report"…

May 31st, 2011 Comments off
“… In “Iran and the Bomb,” from the issue dated June 6, Hersh adds up what’s known about the Iranian nuclear program and concludes that the Obama administration is overstating the threat coming from Tehran, just as the Bush administration did nearly a decade ago when sizing up Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.
But two administration officials told 
POLITICO’s Playbook that’s not the case.
“[A]ll you need to read to be deeply concerned about Iran’s nuclear program is the substantial body of information already in the public domain, including the most recent IAEA report,” a senior administration official said… 
“There is a clear, ongoing pattern of deception, … These examples and more make us deeply skeptical of Iran’s nuclear intentions.”
And a senior intelligence official also ripped Hersh, saying his article amounted to nothing more than “a slanted book report on a long narrative that’s already been told many times over.”
“We’ve been clear with the world about what we know about the Iranian nuclear program: Tehran is keeping its options open despite the fact that the community of nations demands otherwise,” the official added…”

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Bahrain’s king offers July reform talks (Reuters)

May 31st, 2011 Comments off

Reuters – Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa called for talks on reform involving all parties in the Gulf Arab state “without preconditions” from July 1, the state news agency said on Tuesday.
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Bahrain king calls for dialogue from July 1 (AFP)

May 31st, 2011 Comments off

A Bahraini woman holds a sign during an anti-regime protest at Pearl Square in Manama, March 2011. Bahrain's King Hamad called for a national dialogue to begin on July 1, as the authorities readied to lift a state of emergency enacted during a crackdown on demonstrators.(AFP/File/Joseph Eid)AFP – Bahrain’s King Hamad called on Tuesday for a national dialogue to begin on July 1, as the authorities readied to lift a state of emergency enacted during a crackdown on demonstrators, BNA state news agency said.

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