Archive for September, 2011

Winning hearts and minds in Iraq

September 30th, 2011 Comments off
When my team tried to give away fruit tree seedlings to replant ruined orchards, a farmer spat on the ground and said, “You killed my son and now you are giving me a tree?””

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From Tunisia to Gaza

September 30th, 2011 Comments off
“A Tunisian delegation visiting the Gaza Strip paid a visit to the Karama Hospital. Dr.Ismail Nassar, the hospital’s director, and his team of doctors met members of the delegation and took them on a tour of the hospital wings and operating theatres to see for themselves the services provided to patients by the hospital.”

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Coverage of Bahrain

September 30th, 2011 Comments off
Angry Arab chief Bahraini correspondent (her identity shall not be revealed for her protection):  “This article on Bahrain is terrible on so many different levels, but this sentence really stood out for me:

All Shiites, one was a turbaned cleric who could have been out of central casting for the part of an Iranian mullah. The second was a Moscow-trained engineer in a jacket and tie who runs a successful local contracting company. The third was a woman wearing a headscarf, though more loosely worn than the head coverings of many of the Sunni women at the event; she had formerly been a physical-fitness teacher.
Apparently the west views us only through the prism of whether we are sunni or shia, so even one woman’s decision to wear the hijab more loosely than her peers is viewed through this prism. Being sunni or shia is the only part of our identity that matters to them.
The author is apparently a “Baker fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.” No wonder American foreign policy is so messed up – you have idiots sitting in think tanks advising them and claiming to be middle east experts. Maybe I should start calling myself a middle east expert. Apparently the bar for that is really low.”

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"The Friday of Reclaiming the Revolution"

September 30th, 2011 Comments off

Today a broad coalition of center and left parties in Egypt are demonstrating to express their objections to the ruling Military Council’s recent changes to the electoral law and to threaten a possible boycott of the elections. It’s been proclaimed the “Friday of Reclaiming the Revolution.”

Ahram Online is providing ongoing coverage as the day progresses. I’ll have more when it’s over.

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Ali Abdullah Salih: Time will tell

September 30th, 2011 Comments off

Photograph by Yahya Arhab, EPA

Yesterday Yemen’s “embattled” President Ali Abdullah Salih granted an interview to Time Magazine and The Washington Post. While not very enlightening, it does suggest a new sign of desperation. The interview transcript (in English translation of course) is online. He once again played the blame game, insisting that he has been willing all along to abide the GCC agreement and step down.

Then there is the last question. Dodging any direct answer to the official U.S. call for him to step down, he pulls what may be the most desperate part of the interview — talking directly to the American people. The message is one that should resonate with the Tea Partyers who still think President Obama is a Muslim(at least those too dumb to realize who Salih is]. Here is Ali Abdullah Salih, the good dictator who can rid his country of the evil al Qaeda terrorists. Here is the gist:

I want to ask you about Yemen and U.S. relations, which is important: On the day you returned to Yemen …
[Salih] This is the last question. (See a video on the uprisings in Yemen.)

On the day you returned to Yemen …
[Salih] The Yemeni-American relationship is good. In fact, it has not been affected during the past 33 years. And we have relationships with many political powers in Washington, whether they are from the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. There have been some differences during the last Gulf War because of the Yemeni stance, but then the Americans realized that we were right and that we were not just defending the Iraqi regime.

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Al-Qaeda Brands Ahmadinejad a Conspiracy Theorist!

September 30th, 2011 Comments off

The al-Qaeda-linked magazine “Inspire” has reprimanded Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for indulging in “stupid” “conspiracy theories” because of his stance, repeated at the recent United Nations meeting, that 9/11 was a Bush administration inside job.

When al-Qaeda accuses you of being a conspiracy theorist, you’re really a space cadet.

Incidentally, a far rightwing Muslim fundamentalist and former head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, Hamid Gul, has alleged that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has moved from Pakistan to Yemen, and that that country is now the center of gravity of al-Qaeda:

“Former Pakistani intelligence Chief Says Al-Qa’ida, Al-Zawahiri Moved To Yemen
Interview with Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, former director of the Pakistani intelligence Service; by Umar Faruq; in Islamabad –…
Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online
Sunday, September 11, 2011 …
Document Type: OSC Translated Text…

(Faruq) Will the attempt to achieve reconciliation in Afghanistan succeed?

(Hamid Gul) The Americans are making efforts to drive the Taliban Movement to join a coalition government. I think that this is impossible because the Americans want the Taliban Movement to isolate itself from Al-Qa’ida Organization, and this is a wrong idea at present. Al-Qa’ida Organization has a different objective. Al-Qa’ida has set a trap for the Americans in Afghanistan , and now they moved to the Middle East. A broad-based government can be formed in Afghanistan immediately after the Americans leave Afghanistan.

(Faruq) Is there still something hidden from the public concerning the Abbottabad operation in which Usama Bin Ladin was killed?

(Hamid Gul) Certainly. Usama Bin Ladin has died and they have closed the unit that was pursuing Bin Ladin at the CIA headquarters. During the three years in which George Bush (name as published) was in office he did not even mention Usama Bin Ladin. Obama wanted to put an end to the war. He wanted to be a president of peace. They have worked out a plan for our Pakistani people. When they knew that some family members of Usama Bin Ladin were living in Abbottabad, the issue of Raymond Davis (the American CIA agent who killed two Pakistani citizens in Lahore) surfaced, which led to tensions between the CIA Director Panetta and Lieutenant General Shuja Pasha, director of the Pakistani Intelligence Service. This has forced the CIA to announce that it does not trust the Pakistani Intelligence Service, and later, the Americans carried out that unilateral operation.

(Faruq) Have you read the statements of daughters and wives of Usama Bin Ladin that they saw the Americans shooting Bin Ladin at a close range. They made these confessions during the interrogations by the Pakistani Intelligence officials, and the information was then leaked to the media.
(Hamid Gul) These allegations do not deserve comment since I do not believe them at all.

(Faruq) Is Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Al-Qa’ida Organization, present in Pakistan or in a tribal area?

(Hamid Gul) I think that he left for Yemen. I do not think that he is in Pakistan. He got married in Bajaur, but I think that the center of gravity of Al-Qa’ida Organization has shifted to the Middle East, to Yemen. We do not have an extensive presence for Al-Qa’ida Organization in Pakistan. We only have 24 persons.

(Description of Source: London Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online in Arabic — Website of influential London-based pan-Arab Saudi daily; editorial line reflects Saudi official stance. URL:”

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Stop the Presses: Merkell has ‘doubts’ about Netanyahu’s aims

September 30th, 2011 Comments off
Angela: ‘Are you serious about Peace?’
Netanyahu: ‘Would I lie to you?’

Germany reprimands Israel over new Jerusalem construction – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

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Israel firster & convict: "Erdogan Should Mind His Own Glass House!"

September 30th, 2011 Comments off
“… but in fact Erdogan’s foreign policy is in shambles. The Arab Spring, which often cites approvingly Turkey’s domestic model, has also presented the Turkish prime minister with his first serious tests. And Erdogan has stumbled badly.

But it is in Syria that Erdogan has suffered his most serious setbacks. He had once loudly advertised a regional foreign policy of “zero problems with neighbors”; helped create an EU-like free trade and travel zone with Syria, Iraq and Iran; and backed Syria’s President Assad and Iran’s rulers in their quarrels with the West, even seeking to shield Iran’s nuclear program. But today, Turkey staggers under problems with Syria, Iraq and Iran. Worse yet, Erdogan has appeared ineffective. The Syrian crisis is the proximate cause, but Erdogan’s problems run deeper still.It began in Libya, where Erdogan had warned sternly against NATO intervention, even though NATO sought to protect Muslim civilians. NATO ignored him, and Erdogan soon crept back into line, even trying to claim credit.Erdogan raised the stakes in Syria by declaring it to be not merely a regional issue, but a crucial “domestic” one for Turkey. After all, violence in Syria risks flooding Turkey with Syrian Kurds; and Turkey’s long-running problems with its Kurdish population includes terror attacks by the Kurdish group, PKK. So Erdogan demanded that Assad halt assaults on Syrians and reform, even as Erdogan was bombing PKK camps in Northern Iraq, killing Iraqi civilians, violating Iraqi sovereignty and causing Iraq to complain about Turkey.Nonplussed, Assad has repeatedly rejected Turkish demands, despite Turkish sputtering that its “patience” was running out. Once, Turkey’s foreign minister proudly announced he had persuaded Syria to withdraw tanks from a siege, only to see the tanks return hours later. Turkey looked the fool.Turkey failed because Assad knows both the dreadful price of looking weak and that Iran will support him. Herein lies the deeper cause of Erdogan’s failures in Syria: Iran also seeks to lead the region. For that, it needs its proxy Syria. Erdogan is in Syria’s and Iran’s way. So Iran charges that Turkey’s suppression of its Kurdish opposition is no different than Assad’s suppression of his opposition. Iran – which is itself shelling Iraqi territory – refers sometimes to the PKK not as “terrorists” but as “insurgents,” who are an authentic voice of legitimate Kurdish aspirations. As Erdogan squirms, Iran chortles.For the moment, and for so long as Assad stands, the region will see Iran as winning. As long as Iran continues work on its nuclear program, time works against Erdogan. This is what lay behind Turkey’s recent decision to accept installation of a U.S. radar needed to protect against IranAgainst this background, Erdogan launched his Arab Spring tour, expelled the Israeli Ambassador and threatened naval war with Israel. He sought to shift the focus to those Arab and largely Sunni lands where his strengths lay; but his liabilities lurk still. Arab League dignitaries in the audience were enraptured by Erdogan’s denunciations of Israel, but others – the Egyptian military included – do not relish where this may lead. And the League’s serious business that day was Syria, about which Erdogan sat silent. As he left the hall, Syrian exiles called him “coward.”Indeed, some in the Turkish opposition have begun to denounce Erdogan’s morally hypocritical “glass house.” They ridicule his government’s travels as motion without results. They deride his vanity, a man given to delivering moral sermons whose tests he fails – ironic commentary on the man who still holds with pride the Gaddafi prize for human rights.All this, then, marks Erdogan’s reverting to trump: the anti-Israel card....For a would-be leader of the new Middle East, his anti-Israeli, anti-Western tactics look awfully similar to the old. So far, at least, Erdogan’s foreign policy has mostly just entangled Turkey more in the unproductive Middle East politics his predecessors avoided. Erdogan’s foreign minister has essentially admitted as much. While calling the “zero problems” policy a success, he now defines it narrowly as Turkish-Egyptian alliance, one implicitly directed against Israel…”

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Quote of the Year!

September 30th, 2011 Comments off

One of my all time favorites, Rudyard Kipling:

“Now it is not good for the Christian’s health
To hustle the Aryan brown,
For the Christian riles and the Aryan smiles,
And it weareth the Christian down.
And the end of the fight
Is a tombstone white
With the name of the late deceased
And the epitaph drear: “A fool lies here
who tried to hustle the East.”

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UN rights office criticizes Bahrain sentences (AP)

September 30th, 2011 Comments off

AP – The U.N. human rights office on Friday questioned the fairness of a Bahrain court that sentenced an anti-government protester to death and gave lengthy prison sentences to medical staff who treated the injured during the country’s uprising.
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