Monday, January 31, 2011

US pressured Mubarak to reform

After the fall of Saddam.

Spreading to Syria

"What began as a popular uprising that toppled the Tunisian government before spreading into Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan and, of course, Egypt, may now be headed for Syria.

Opposition movements in Syria are calling for mass protests on Saturday against the rule of President Bashar Al-Assad.

The groups are organizing on Facebook, with several pages promoting protests in Damascus, Aleppo and other cities."

The end of Mubarak's rule

'10pm, Monday 31 Jan: A selection of slogans adorn the walls and banners in the square. One reads "Gas for the Egyptian people, not Zionist tanks".

A big professionally made banner declares: "Egyptian engineers support the Egyptian peoples' protests and want them to bring this political system down! Together for the sake of Egypt."

Other slogans include "Game over Mubarak" and "Off with his head"(in English...perhaps they have been watching the students confronting Charles and Camilla).

One family, including an elderly grandmother and young children, sit together around their own poster which simply reads: "Mubarak fuck off".'

Thanks Ghassan for posting the link on fb.

This would have been impossible in Egypt 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. This is a new age in the Middle East, when you can tell your President to fuck off, in writing. It's about time!

Internet & Mobile Phone cutoff backfired on Mubarak

It forced Egyptians to go to Tahrir in the middle of Cairo.

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Also see in this clip parts of Obama's speech in Cairo in 2009. He said “I do have an unyielding belief, that all people yearn for certain things: The ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed. Confidence in the rule of law, and the equal administration of justice. Government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people. The freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere.”

Brilliant and true (and thank you for the support). Is Obama the reason there's been no anti-American sentiment in the protests? Obama's speech was a good one, even the Tea Party Patriots must admit.

Arab dictators & kings fear domino effect

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Israel must change for the sake of peace

I've been thinking a lot about Palestine the last few days, especially since hearing the news of the leaked documents that shows how the Palestinian Authority made all kinds of concessions to Israel, including giving up on the right of return. The PA also agreed to let Israel keep large parts of illegally occupied East Jerusalem. To this incredible (incredibly stupid) offer Israel said no thanks and gave no counter-offer. My first reaction was "is this really true?" Well it turned out to be true, and the documents were leaked to and by Al Jazeera. How embarrassing for the PA. They really are puppets, it seems. How sad for the Palestinians. Israel has taken four-fifths of historic Palestine and they inch closer to 100% with the help of the Palestinian Authority. What a betrayal.

There has been a "peace" between the "moderate" Arab states and Israel since the 70s, and top world leaders don't seem to care enough about Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes and Israeli annexation of Palestinian land to put real pressure on Israel to stop. The US government has it all under control: they paid Israel and Egypt billions of dollars, they vetoed every UN Security Council resolution against Israel, and they made sure the price of oil remains stable by all means possible. They got Israeli and Palestinian leaders to talk about resolving the conflict, and evidently they got the PA to cave on key demands. Yet Israel's response to the PA concessions was to say NO THANKS, Israel's getting by just fine annexing land whenever Israel wants. Americans call this the "peace process".

It has been obvious for a long time that Israel would like to annex the West Bank, and probably many conservative Americans would like the US government to help Israel in achieving that goal. But how will they achieve this and keep Israel Jewish? How does Israel take the rest of the 20% of historic Palestine without expelling a majority of the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza? In the modern age of the internet and freedom of the press, it has become difficult for Israel to pull off a Deir Yassin often enough to chase most Palestinians out. Even America would not allow it (except maybe the Tea Party). So the Palestinian populations in the West Bank and Gaza grow, even with continued emigration and economic hardships.

Israel does not want to give the Palestinians in the occupied territories Israeli citizenship, because then there would be more Palestinian citizens of Israel than Jews, and it would no longer be a "Jewish" state. So the progressive Israelis realize they need a two state solution.
And the conservatives just keep demolishing and saying God gave them that land, dammit.

Jeff Halper, who founded the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, summarizes:

"In the complex situation in which Palestinians and Israelis currently find themselves, two things seems equally evident: First, a viable and truly sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel is an absolute prerequisite for a just and lasting peace; and second, Israel needs a Palestinian state. Without a Palestine state Israel faces what it considers as two unacceptable options. If it annexes the Occupied Territories and grants citizenship to their three million Palestinian inhabitants, it creates de facto a bi-national state of 5 million Jews and 4 million Palestinians (not counting the refugees), an option that would end the Zionist enterprise. If it continues its Occupation, it inevitably creates a system of outright apartheid, an untenable option in the long run."

Israel, especially when led by conservative governments, has stalled on real peace, and the US, along with its "moderate" allies in the region - Egypt, Jordan, KSA - have helped Israel stall. Now we know the Palestinian Authority has also helped Israel stall. It should be no wonder why so many Arabs have turned to the Muslim Brotherhood for answers. The policies of the US and Israel since 1967 have created enemies across the Middle East, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism has resulted in unprecedented terrorism.

The need for justice in Palestine has become even more imperative now that the Egyptian people have stood up to Mubarak, who's been taking billions of dollars in US aid but has done little to alleviate poverty in his country. Mubarak has done what the US and Israel want him to do: clamp down on Islamic extremism and seal the border with Gaza. Essentially the US, Israel, and Egypt have been implementing measures to ensure "stability" in the short term. But what does "stability" mean? And how long are the Arabs supposed to stand by as Israel annexes more Palestinian land and makes life difficult for Palestinians in the territories?

Sealing borders and imprisoning Muslim fundamentalists may be a short term solution, but it will not solve the Palestine problem. Military spending will not bring true peace to Israel. Egyptians are no doubt pissed off at their government for taking Israel's side and doing nothing to help end the plight of the Palestinians.

Israel alone can defeat any Arab nation military, including Egypt. But that doesn't mean that Israel should not change. Israel must change; Israel must be fair to the Palestinians in order to bring about true peace. If they agree to a two state solution, Palestine must not look like an archipelago state. If they annex the remainder of Palestine and opt for a one state solution, the new Palestinian citizens of Israel must have the same rights as Jews.

Arabs and Muslims must also change. They must stop calling for the "destruction" of Israel. There will be no destruction of Israel. There will be no "pushing Israel into the sea" as the Baathists proclaimed in the 60s. The reality has been the opposite in the last half century: the Palestinians were pushed into the hills of the West Bank, into Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and other parts of the Middle East. Nevertheless, the Arabs must be fair to the Israelis, a large number of whom were born in Israel and should not be blamed for what happened decades ago. The Arabs should remember the Arab Jews who were expelled from Arab nations over the last six decades. The Arabs should be educated on the Holocaust, but Israel should not exploit it. The age of healing wounds must begin in earnest. It will help Iraq heal too, I believe.

Why is Palestine-Israel so important? Because it is decades old. The injustice continues; it's a wound that will not go away and it unites Arabs and Muslims. It must be dealt with fairly. The closer you are to Palestine the more you feel the injustice. Cairo is very close to Palestine and has been directly involved in the conflict since 1947. A democratically elected government of Egypt will demand justice for the Palestinians. Without justice, there will be no peace.

Iran summons US hiker Sarah Shourd for spying trial

BBC: 'In Tehran on Monday, judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi said a court had summoned Ms Shourd to return and stand trial on 6 February.

Iran has said she will forfeit $500,000 (£314,386) bail if she does not return to stand trial. It remains unclear who provided the money.

It was unclear on Monday whether Ms Shourd would agree to return.

The US has said there is no basis for a trial and has demanded that Mr Bauer and Mr Fattal be released on humanitarian grounds.

The trial had been set to begin in November but was postponed because Ms Shourd had not been summoned back.

Meanwhile, on Monday a group of eight international figures, including Noam Chomsky, actor Sean Penn and South African anti-apartheid leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu, called for Iran to release the two men.

"The time for Shane and Josh's freedom is overdue and we implore you to allow them to go free and return to their families," the group said in a statement. '

The peace may disintegrate

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sudanese protest in Khartoum

"Student protesters in Khartoum clashed with police on Sunday and called for the ouster of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, in a movement organizers said was inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt."

US pays Egypt to keep peace with Israel

"Many analysts here said that even if Mr. Mubarak were forced to leave office, those who replaced him could maintain Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, since it is the basis for more than $1 billion in annual aid to Cairo from Washington and much foreign investment."

The $1 billion does not include a billion or two in military aid. That seems like an artificial peace, if the US has to give Egypt billions of dollars every year.

Despite the peace between Egypt and Israel, "24,813 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel since 1967."

Israel does not want hostile Arab neighbors

Of course they don't. But that's what Israel will get if Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes, annex Palestinian land, and treat the Palestinians as if the Palestinians invaded Israel and not the other way around.

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It's as if Israel has never been hostile to its neighbors in the last six decades.

Some Iraqis say Tunisian & Egyptian protests inspired by fall of Saddam

'BAGHDAD: Iraqis on Saturday welcomed the revolt in Egypt that threatens to topple President Hosni Mubarak, with some claiming the tremors shaking Arab rulers had begun with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

"Saddam was their teacher, and all of these dictators are his little pupils," declared Hussein Mohammed, taking a break from loading boxes of imported toys into a truck.

"The dictator (Mubarak) must leave -- all dictators must go," the 55-year-old added, noting that he stayed up until 4:00 am listening to the radio for news from Cairo.

"From Morocco to Saudi Arabia, we Arabs want all dictators out."

Other Iraqis remained glued to their television sets throughout the day, with electronics store owner Maher Minjal tuning four televisions to different Arabic news channels reporting events in Egypt.

"The fuse was lit by Iraq, because we became the first Arab country to achieve democracy and get an elected government," said Minjal, 28, from his store in Baghdad's commercial Karrada district.

"If the regime in Egypt falls, all other Arab regimes will fall, because Egypt is the biggest and most powerful country in the Arab world."

Anti-regime riots that raged Saturday for a fifth straight day in Egypt, inspired by the overthrow of Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month, have sent shockwaves across the region.

At least one Iraqi political analyst agreed with the assessment that Iraq had begun a process that seemed to be spreading across the Middle East.

"It is absolutely true that (former US president George W.) Bush was right when he said that democracy in Iraq would sweep through the Arab world," Baghdad-based analyst Ihsan al-Shammari said.

"In fact, Iraq was the first democratic regime in the region, but we are different from Egypt and Tunisia in that we were changed by foreign forces (the US-led coalition) and they are being changed by popular uprisings.

Iraq's al-Mashriq newspaper pejoratively referred to Mubarak as a "Pharaoh," and said the day of reckoning had come for a leader who had been a friend to the enemies of Arabs, which it said were Israel and the United States.

"The American ally and the friend of Israel has been ruling Egypt since 1981, but the ground is shaking beneath the feet of the Pharaoh," the Arabic-language newspaper said in an editorial.

Read more: Egypt, Tunisia inspired by Saddam's fall: Iraqis - The Times of India

Angry Arabs want an Angry Egyptian Govt

"One more note to the Zionists who are weeping--and all Zionists are weeping as Mubarak is tottering: there are names being discussed for forming a transitional council. I have received many of those lists and read many of those names. I can assure you that every one of those names is a bitter foe of Israel. Let me put it this way: the name of Hamdi Qandil is on every one of those lists and may emerge as the spokesperson of the new movement. Qandil is as Angry an Arab as I am. (He is married to Najla' Fathi, famed Egyptian actress on whom I had a strong crush as an adolescent). Oh, one more thing: ha ha ha and ha." --Angry Arab

Did Mubarak release violent criminals from prison?

That's what Saddam did before he was ousted! And Mubarak shut down Al Jazeera.

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Iraq's security at risk without more US aid

"Without more help — and quickly — Iraqi security forces may not be able to protect the fragile nation from insurgents and invaders after American troops leave at the end of the year, according to a U.S. report released Sunday.

The semiannual report by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction also cites data by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad showing that the nation's government, economy, legal systems and basic services like electricity and water remain unstable.

The 156-page report forecasts a dim outlook at best for Iraq's near future as the United States steps back after nearly eight years of war and billions of dollars in aid.

It largely blames corruption in Iraq's military and police forces for wasted resources and bad planning in running its bases and maintaining its equipment. Congress is still weighing how much money to give Iraqi forces this year."

Islamist returns to Tunisia after 22 years in exile

'Leading Tunisian Islamist Rachid Ghannouchi returned home Sunday from 22 years in exile, witnesses said. Thousands turned out to greet him at the airport.

His return is a powerful symbol of the change that has swept this country since its president was toppled by popular protests this month.

Supporters of Ghannouchi's Ennahda movement, which had been banned for two decades, crowded into the arrivals area of the airport and held up banners reading: "No to extremism, yes to moderate Islam!" and "No fear of Islam!"

A group of about a dozen secularists were holding up banners reading: "No Islamism, no theocracy, no Sharia and no stupidity!" '

Saturday, January 29, 2011

"They should all be afraid now"

'Mady used to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, until he split to form al-Wasat. He dismissed Western concerns that the Islamist group might use the situation to its advantage and take over the country. "The Muslim Brotherhood is powerful, and they have large numbers, so yes there is a small worry," he says. "But this revolution is not just opening the doors to the Brotherhood, but to all political actors. This will actually lead to a balance in Egyptian society, where power is distributed to all, not just the brotherhood, as the regime has threatened." Mady echoed a refrain common to many politicians opposed to Egypt's president: "The Brotherhood is a scarecrow that the regime sets up to frighten westerners into accepting Mubarak's police state. Once power is evenly distributed, we will see that they don't have that much strength."

As he spoke, a ticker flash on CNN said that Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah had pledged his support to Mubarak. Asked about this, Mady laughed: "All the Arab regimes, they are terrified. They know that if Mubarak falls, they will be next. Tunis gave us a push, but Egypt is the beginning of the end for the Arab world's dictatorial regimes. They should all be afraid now." '

Read more:,8599,2045116,00.html#ixzz1CSNqTR3u

US gives $1.3 billion per year to Egypt

and that's just military aid. It's been that way since 1979, after Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel. I wonder how many American dollars actually help the Egyptian people.

"The United States provides $1.3 billion a year in military financing for Egypt. According to the State Department's 2010 budget request, the aid is used to help strengthen and modernize the Egyptian army."

The US has given Egypt $68 billion since 1948.

This was published in 2003: "Egypt, the largest recipient of U.S. aid among Arab Leaguers, is not immune to Middle East malaise. Hosni Mubarak took power after the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981 and has run a virtual one-party shop. Opposition parties can exist. Outright opposition, however, is not tolerated. In the streets Egyptians speak cautiously about their ruler. Most welcome clampdowns on Muslim Brotherhood and others with suspected terrorist ties. Less welcome are arrests of democracy advocates and Christian converts."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Everything can change overnight

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The revolution is being televised

On Al Jazeera. But can it be called a revolution yet?

NYT: "WASHINGTON — As street protests raged across Egypt on Friday, with the future of the Arab world seeming to hang in the balance, rapt viewers across the region — and the globe — watched it unfold on Al Jazeera, which kept up an almost continuous live feed despite the Egyptian government’s repeated efforts to block broadcasts.
The channel was widely hailed for its early and aggressive coverage of the revolt in Tunisia, and it seemed bent on playing a similar role with the turmoil in Egypt.
The images were relentless. Thousands of people surging forward on a Cairo boulevard clouded with tear gas. Bloodied young men throwing rocks and grappling with baton-wielding riot police officers. A roaring crowd trying to push a burning police vehicle over a bridge into the Nile. Flames rising from the headquarters of Egypt’s governing party.
It was a spectacle that would have been unthinkable less than two decades ago, when Middle Eastern governments strictly censored any subversive images. Now, it seems, all revolutions are televised."

Mubarak fires his Cabinet

but not himself.

"Embattled President Hosni Mubarak said he has asked his Cabinet to resign in his first appearance on television since protests erupted demanding his ouster.

ubarak gave no indication that he would step down as the nation's leader during his brief address late Friday evening.

Mubark said he would press ahead with social, economic and political reforms. He called anti-government protests part of plot to destabilize Egypt and destroy the legitimacy of his regime."

Egyptian police cannot hold back protesters

Obama reacts to Egyptian protests

Iraqi govt urges women not to marry insurgents

Some Iraqis are very naive.

NPR: 'A spate of attacks around Iraq last week showed that the Sunni insurgency is still a force to be reckoned with.

The movement started with Saddam loyalists and militants from neighboring countries whose aim was to fight Americans. Then they turned on their Shiite countrymen.

Now they seek to destabilize what they see as a U.S.-backed, Shiite-led government.

Caught up in all of this are the wives: the women who provide the insurgents with food, shelter, children — and sometimes help. Now that militants have been caught or killed, it's the women who are left behind.

One Woman's Story

At first, the young mother is leery. Twenty-one years old and stubborn, Um Salah comes from a traditional tribal village in Diyala province, a former al-Qaida stronghold about an hour north of Baghdad. She refuses to provide her full name.

When we ask about her husband, she has only praise.

"He was a good guy," she says. "No one would criticize him for anything."

But we know different. We know Um Salah's husband was a high-ranking member of the Islamic State of Iraq, the local branch of al-Qaida.

We also know he was accused of helping kill Um Salah's father, and that he was handed over to authorities by her own brother.

Eventually, Um Salah admits that her husband was part of what she calls the resistance.

She shows us a record of her marriage. It was performed by a religious cleric. But the record is only a stained piece of notebook paper, with no date and no signature.

What this means is that Um Salah is not legally married — and that her 2 1/2-year-old boy, Salah, is not registered with the government. No registration means no food-ration card, no right to visit the hospital, no school.

Um Salah says that with her husband now in jail and accused of being a terrorist, she has no money and no hope. While she talks, the boy hangs on her shoulder. She starts to cry, and her mother interrupts: "Sometimes when she is so fed up with her situation, she would just pray ... 'God, take my life, OK, let me die, with my son, now,' " her mother says.

Marriage To Insurgents

Aid groups say there are more than a hundred women like Um Salah in Diyala province alone.

With that in mind, the Iraqi government recently launched an anti-al-qaida media campaign that urges women not to marry insurgents. Marry a terrorist, and your children will have no rights, the campaign goes. Marry a terrorist, and you'll be shunned by society.

The program, broadcast on state TV, featured two women who said they were forced to marry foreign fighters. One woman says her uncle arranged a marriage with a Palestinian-born militant from Syria. The man was was later killed in a raid by Iraqi troops.

About 20 women who once were married to militants have recently been detained. Ministry of Defense spokesman Mohammad al Askari says he finds it hard to believe that any of them are totally innocent.

"If you live with someone ... you know his reactions, his mentality, his ideology, the way he reacts. So you should know something about him," he says.

Um Mohammad, who declined to give her full name for fear of bringing shame to her family, agrees. She is also from Diyala province. And she was also married to an insurgent.

She says the people in her village willingly joined the insurgency because fighters promised to rid Iraq of the American invaders.

"Those guys had a very sweet talk," she says. "They were all pious people who prayed and fasted."

Um Mohammad says the women naturally helped these men, whom they saw as holy.

"They would hide men," she says. "When the men wanted to move, they would disguise them in women's clothes and help them. If someone would come and ask, 'Where is he?' they would say, 'Oh, we don't know,' while he is hiding in her house." '

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Egypt's big democracy test

Tomorrow will be a big day for Egypt. I don't think Mubarak will step down, like the Tunisian dictator did. But it will force Egypt to become more democratic. It might force other countries to change too.

Iran hangs protesters

David Pryce-Jones on Jan. 24: "Fifty-seven people have been executed already this year in Iran. That means the ayatollahs are hanging someone every eight hours. Last year they executed at least 180 people, a total they will surpass in a matter of weeks at the present rate. Most of the victims are hanged in public and there are sickening photographs of bodies on the gallows with a watchful crowd standing back a bit. The idea of course is to intimidate those bystanders, and it must work up to the point when they can take no more of it, and revolt. But what is this need to intimidate? That ghastly statistic of 57 hanged can only mean that the ayatollahs are terrified of a Tunisian-style uprising, an equivalent surge of popular rage which ends in regime change. The Tunisian dictator Zine Ben Ali is a Sunni and therefore welcome in Sunni Saudi Arabia, but the ayatollahs are Shia and there is no other Shia country to which they can flee. Repression is their last resort."

Thanks C.H. for linking to the Michael Totten article.

Tens of thousands protest in Yemen

"The unrest in the Middle East spread to impoverished Yemen on Thursday as tens of thousands of protesters angry over unemployment and political oppression marched through the capital against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Instability in Yemen is a major concern for Washington, which has been working with Saleh's government to defeat an entrenched Al Qaeda network that claimed responsibility for last year's attempted bombings of planes over U.S. airspace. Officials fear anarchy in the country would give militants a strategic base in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa."

It's amazing to see so much protest across the Arab nation at the same time, and thus far we haven't seen thousands of deaths, not even hundreds. Which Arab country is next? Could Saudis get away with this without being killed in the thousands? I wonder how Iraqis would have reacted if Saddam was still in charge and how Saddam would have reacted.

Al Jazeera is naturally covering the protests from all angles, and I should give them credit for finding a spot on their homepage for the funeral bombing in Baghdad.

They want democracy

'Heba Saleh, writing in The Financial Times, said that "Egypt's young activists organise on the Internet and generally eschew ideology. They want democracy, social justice and an end to corruption, torture and police brutality. Their demands do not include Islamic rule or a government of any particular hue."

Facebook and Twitter are popular venues for contact, he said, and activists' "face-to-face meetings are rare. There is no single leader and those who organise the protests remain anonymous — which has generally kept them out of the hands of the police."

Saleh quoted one organizer, who wrote on Facebook: "I don’t know what will happen tomorrow and where I will be tomorrow night. I may be at home, protesting on the street, in prison or in my grave. But I know I have to go and get my rights." '

Bombing kills dozens at Baghdad funeral

We haven't seen a funeral bombing in a while. An example of religious & political rhetoric gone Wahhabi. It is how they protest.

"At least 39 people were killed Thursday when a car bomb exploded next to a funeral tent in a Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Baghdad, police said, as a wave of fresh violence continued in Iraq.

The explosion was Iraq's fifth major attack in the last 10 days, leaving a death toll of nearly 200 people. The relentless pace of bombings was something the country has not seen in more than two years."

AP says 48 were killed: "A car bomb ripped through a funeral tent in a mainly Shiite area of Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 48 people and triggering skirmishes between Iraqi troops and demonstrators angry about security failures."

Correlation between rhetoric and violence

Laura Conaway observes the positive correlation between political rhetoric and political violence in Uganda:

In Uganda, they call them "iron-bar killings." It means someone beats you to death with a hunk of metal, like a tire rod, a hammer or a crowbar. Iron-bar killings date back to the reign of Idi Amin in the 1970s, the BBC reports, and they're back now that Uganda has been debating a bill to make homosexuality a criminal offense punishable by death.

...When we talk about the consequences of violent political rhetoric in the United States, we generally separate the senseless acts of the mentally disturbed from the embarrassing electioneering of those who seek power. In Uganda, the politics themselves are violent. And while we don't yet know why Mr. Kato was killed, we can't so easily cleave the state violence proposed by Mr. Bahati from the very real fear experienced by gay Ugandans.

When leaders encourage people to kill homosexuals, most people do not respond with violence, but there will inevitably be those few who believe that killing gay people is the moral thing to do because a government official implied so. The same thing happens in Iraq. Islamic clerics issue fatwas condemning homosexuals, and a small number of individuals become convinced that killing gay people in their own families would not only be tolerated, but rewarded by God.

In many parts of the world there is a clear correlation between political or religious rhetoric and violence. It is always shocking to see people calling for the deaths of innocents.

Muslim Brotherhood to join Egyptian protests

"The Muslim Brotherhood has called for its followers to demonstrate after the weekly Muslim prayers -- the first time in the current round of unrest that the largest opposition bloc has told supporters to take to the streets.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian Nobel laureate and opposition leader, is returning home from Europe on Thursday and plans to participate in the big protests."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Is Glenn Beck on drugs?

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Mubarak tightens his grip on Cairo

"Pockets of rebellion echoed across Cairo on Wednesday as security forces tightened their grip on the capital and activists set fires and hurled stones, trying not to lose the momentum sparked a day earlier by an unprecedented nationwide protest against President Hosni Mubarak.

The Interior Ministry -- stunned by the size and passion of Tuesday's demonstrations -- announced it would not tolerate further protests. Activists in parts of the city defied the ministry's threats of "immediate arrest." But the crackdown appeared to keep thousands of protesters, angered by unemployment and repression, from venturing back into the streets."

I think Mubarak's days as dictator are numbered. American officials must be worried that democracy in Egypt could result in an Islamic state, although the Angry Arab says the protesters are mostly secular. The professor noted Mubarak's formula: "As long as he keeps his doors open to Netanyahu, and as long as he imposes a savage siege on the people of Gaza, the US congress is happy--very happy--with Mubarak." I think this is true. The US pays Egypt $3 billion per year to keep the peace with Israel and clamp down on Islamic extremism.

So what would the US do if Mubarak is overthrown? Is it possible for the Egyptian people to overthrow Mubarak?

Iraq and Kuwait try to improve relations

"Iraq and Kuwait pledged Wednesday to work toward resolving border disputes and debt issues as the two former enemies seek to repair relations damaged by Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of the oil-rich emirate.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and the Kuwaiti ambassador made the remarks at a flag-raising ceremony at the new Kuwaiti Embassy in Baghdad — the latest in a series of gestures between the former enemies as they struggle to repair relations after decades of bad blood."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Healthcare reform is necessary in America

Films about the Holocaust

I've been watching some good movies lately. I watched two films about the Holocaust after watching "Battle of Algiers". There are some great movies about the Holocaust. Schindler's List may be the most famous, but it's not included in this list of the top ten. The Pianist has been in my top three in the last few years. Today I added a new film to my top three: Au Revoir Les Enfants, an excellent French film about a French Catholic school that sheltered three Jewish children and focuses on the friendship between one of those kids and a French boy at the school. I think it's the best movie about the Holocaust I've seen. It is a must see for all.

After watching Au Revoir Les Enfants, I watched The Children of Chabannes, one of the best Holocaust documentaries I have ever seen, and it is now in my top three as well, bumping off Schindler's List from my top three. The documentary is a different class of film, and I've seen a few documentaries about the Holocaust, but somehow The Children of Chabbannes moved me the most.

The Holocaust is unique in the history of war and genocide. Nothing can be compared to what the Nazis did.

PS: I'm now watching Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State, another excellent documentary.

PPS: My top five Holocaust films, as of Jan. 26, 2011 are:

1) Au Revoir Les Enfants
2) The Pianist
3) The Children of Chabannes
4) Schindler's List
5) Life is Beautiful

Algiers is not Baghdad

Yesterday I watched "The Battle of Algiers", a really cool black and white account of the Algerian fight for independence from France. One thing that sorta surprised me was that they show how the Algerian FLN was engaged in terrorism. But so was the French military, and they used torture, or "interrogation" techniques, as the French Colonel insisted to the presss.

In 2007 and 2008, when I read and commented on the Palestinian Pundit more often, a commenter named Fatima encouraged me to watch "The Battle of Algiers" and said that I would understand why Iraqis fight the occupation after watching the movie. Apparently she saw a legitimate resistance in Iraq that was fighting an occupation that was akin to the French occupation of Algiers. One could argue that there are similarities, the use of torture being one of them. A few American soldiers and contractors committed serious crimes in Iraq, and there was collateral damage, but the conflict in Iraq is very different from the French occupation of Algeria. The biggest difference is obviously that Iraq has been through a sectarian war, preceded by decades of miserable dictatorship, wars and sanctions. Algeria was plagued by civil war, but it was in the 1990s and it was between Islamists and the FLN regime. In 1950s Algiers, the setting for "The Battle of Algiers", the FLN was fighting French colonialism. Although there are people (I don't see them around anymore) who insisted the US war in Iraq was one of colonialism, it has become clear that colonialism was not on Bush's mind in 2003, and it's definitely not on Obama's mind today.

There are those who also believed, like Fatima did, that at least a fraction, if not most, of the bombings of Iraqi cafes, restaurants, mosques, etc. in Iraq were caused by the US military. This theory too is rubbish. Why would the US military bomb people they are trying hard to protect? The bombings made the US military in Iraq look bad because the US was blamed for not being able to protect the Iraqi population, just like the Iraqi government today is blamed for not being able to protect Iraqis. It was not in the interest of the US military to bomb Iraqi markets. It was in the interest of Al Qaeda and other US enemies to blow up Iraqi markets. I don't know if Fatima and other Arabs ever understood this.

Baghdadi Christians selling homes

I spoke to my mother today. My parents want to sell their home in Baghdad, but she said this is not a good time to sell because so many Iraqi Christians have put their Baghdad homes on the market and thus inventory in Baghdad is high.

Obama says Iraq war coming to an end

"President Barack Obama says the Iraq war is coming to an end and the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan will begin in July.

In remarks released in advance of his State of the Union address Tuesday, the president focused largely on domestic issues. He touched briefly on the two wars that the nation has fought for nearly a decade. In Iraq, he said the United States is finishing the job of bringing our troops out and America's commitment has been kept."

PR for dictators

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Rudy Giuliani is a dick.

The hypocrites on FOX News

Watch this . Too funny! Go Jon Stewart! It's also funny how the guys on FOX News refer to left-leaning media as "mainstream" media. Isn't FOX News mainstream? LOL

Will Iraq be like Tunisia or Lebanon?

NYT: 'BAGHDAD — Iraq’s new government has been in office for just over one month, but already it has seen the toppling of governments in Tunisia and Lebanon , anti-government protests in Egypt, and a rise in violence and unrest at home. On Tuesday, as Iraqis watched televised street demonstrations from Lebanon, some here wondered how far they were from destabilizing conditions of their own.

“We need electricity, security and job opportunities,” said Ghazwal Abdul Karim, who runs a laundry in the mostly Sunni Yarmouk neighborhood. “If not, we will be like Tunisia or Lebanon.” '

PS: Hasn't Iraq already been much worse than Tunisia and Lebanon in terms of violence? Or does he mean Nuri al Maliki would have to step down?

Thousands protest in Cairo

"Thousands took to the streets of Cairo Tuesday to voice frustration at poverty and corruption and to demand the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, in protests inspired by the overthrow of the Tunisian regime earlier this month."

Thanks Fayrouz for posting on fb.

PS: I just read this: '"This is the first time I am protesting, but we have been a cowardly nation. We have to finally say no," said 24-year-old Ismail Syed, a hotel worker who struggles to live on a salary of $50 a month.'

Monday, January 24, 2011

9/11 suspects to be tried in NYC

The Obama administration has made a decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in civilian court in NYC. Conservatives are "outraged".

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Bombing kills 35 at Moscow airport

"Terrorists detonated a bomb at Moscow's busiest airport on Monday, killing 35 people and wounding another 152, Russian authorities said."

Attacks on Shiite pilgrims continue

"Deadly attacks against religious pilgrims continued in Iraq on Monday, with three car bombs exploding in Karbala, where as many as 10 million marchers are expected for one of the most sacred holidays on the Shiite calendar.

The explosions, which began with two nearly simultaneous blasts in the early morning, killed as many as 30 people and wounded more than 100. At least 85 Shiite pilgrims have been killed in Karbala in the past week."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Opportunity for regime change squandered in 1991

Dr. Geoffrey Wawro: 'Having seemed to settle on limited aims, Bush casually expanded them, enjoining Iraqis to rise up and overthrow Saddam. His actual words were not stirring—"In my own view, I've always said it would be—that the Iraqi people should put him aside and that would facilitate the resolution of all these problems that exist, and would certainly facilitate the acceptance of Iraq back into the family of peace-loving nations"—but they sufficed to trigger an uprising, which further complicated the war's termination. Suddenly the U.S. was responsible for all of those rebels answering Bush's call to arms. Yet at the Safwan negotiations, Schwarzkopf carelessly authorized the Iraqis to use helicopter gunships on their side of the cease-fire line. The Iraqi generals were so surprised by that concession— which permitted them to strafe and rocket Kurds and Shiites from the air—that one of the Iraqi generals incredulously asked: "So you mean even the helicopters that are armed can fly in the Iraqi skies?" Having first foresworn a breakup of Iraq and then encouraged one, the Bush administration spent the last days of the conflict watching its would-be insurgents being hunted into "no-fly zones" and debating what to do. Bush finally accepted Scowcroft's position that he must leave Iraq united and reasonably strong to balance Iranian power. Powell and Schwarzkopf warned against any "Lebanonization" of Iraq that, as Powell put it, would leave Washington to "sort out 2,000 years of Mesopotamian history." It's too bad they didn't enforce that view until after all of those Iraqis had been driven from their homes and slaughtered.

Overall, Bush 41's careless termination of the Persian Gulf War arguably sowed the seeds of the Bush 43 administration's invasion of Iraq. No demand was made for the surrender of WMD. The Republican Guard pulled off a "desert Dunkirk" to fight another day. Neo-cons like Paul Wolfowitz, who served in Cheney's Pentagon and protested the mildness of the war's end, were later emboldened to go "all the way" in Iraq, reasoning that great opportunities for regime change had been squandered in 1991.'

Unfinished business from 1991

Geoffrey Wawro: 'Bush called for a "clean end." The main thing, Bush insisted, was to avoid "charges of brutalization," of piling on just to kill Iraqis in the war's last hours. Secretary of State Baker concurred: "We have done the job. We can stop. We have achieved our aims. We have gotten them out of Kuwait." But, like everyone else in the room, Baker worried about "unfinished business." What would become of the Saddam Hussein regime? Would the Americans give it a shove, or let it stand? In Riyadh, Schwarzkopf was declaring victory at the Hyatt Hotel -- "the gates are closed ... we almost completely destroyed the offensive capability of the Iraqi forces" -- and assuring the press that going to Baghdad was not in the cards. That ingenuous revelation prompted a startled protest from Paul Wolfowitz in the Pentagon, who agreed that the allies probably weren't going to Baghdad, but considered it foolhardy to tell that to the Iraqis. Wolfowitz and the other "Washington hawks" -- the future neo-cons -- were still hoping for a coup, and wanted to keep pressure on Saddam.

In Riyadh, the deputy Centcom commander, General Calvin Waller, also expressed amazement at Washington's hasty, charitable concession of a cease-fire, when only about half of the Republican Guard's equipment had been destroyed, and before the last bridges over the Euphrates had been demolished, effectively bottling up the Iraqi army, most of which was still south of Basra, squarely in the sights of the U.S. forces. American planners had planned to disarm and dismount the Iraqis and then send them streaming back into Iraq on foot. That was the kind of image that would humiliate Saddam and rock his regime. "You have got to be shitting me. Why a cease-fire now?" Waller expostulated. "One hundred hours has a nice ring," Schwarzkopf chuckled. "That's bullshit," Waller said. "Then you go argue with them," Schwarzkopf said. "Them" was the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon, and the Bush White House. Schwarzkopf had never squared off against Powell and was not about to begin now. Powell set the tone in the J.C.S., and talked the other chiefs into an early end to the war. Desert Storm had evicted Saddam from Kuwait and erased the stain of Vietnam, so why fight on?

Air Force Chief of Staff General Merrill McPeak privately protested the "merciful clemency" offered Saddam, but publicly supported Powell. President Bush too wanted to quit while he was ahead. In Washington, the analogy on everyone's mind was not Vietnam, but Korea, where a limited American war -- to evict the North Koreans from the south -- had slipped (under MacArthur's gung-ho influence) into an unlimited struggle to destroy the North Korean communists that had dragged on bloodily and inconclusively for three years and then left American troops as a permanent fixture in South Korea. Few wanted to risk this easy victory and expand American liabilities by rolling the dice and pushing north to Baghdad. Powell ridiculed the notion: it was not as if "a lot of little Jeffersonian democrats would have popped up to run for office" in Baghdad on America's coattails. Still, Bush felt tension and incompleteness everywhere. "Why do I not feel elated?" President Bush asked aloud. He knew why. The instigator of the war had survived to fight another day, and there was little that Bush could do to change that outcome. In his diary, Bush wrote of his anger at seeing Baghdad Radio broadcasting victory even as U.S. forces trounced the Iraqis. But the coalition would not support continued combat in Iraq or Kuwait merely to "destroy Iraqi forces," nor would many Americans. The war was not cheap either; 390 Americans had died in combat, and the bill for the war stood at about $620 billion. "We need to have an end. People want that. They are going to want to know that we won and that the kids can come home. We don't want to screw this up with a sloppy, muddled ending." Within a year, two-thirds of Americans would come to believe that President Bush had terminated the war too soon, and the unresolved issue would contribute to Bush's defeat in the elections of 1992.

The Hundred Hour War ground to an equivocal close, over Paul Wolfowitz's recondite objection that "100-hour war" would be a politically disastrous term since it would evoke memories of the 100-hour Franco-British-Israeli attack on Egypt in 1956. ("Would 99-hour war be better?" Cheney joked.) Bush had confidently predicted that the Iraqi "troops will straggle home with no armor, beaten up, 50,000," but they were more numerous than that, and they had extricated lots of armor. American surveillance photos of southern Iraq revealed the depressing news that Saddam had pulled one-quarter of his tanks and half of his APCs from Kuwait. Worse, the tanks that escaped were largely Republican Guard. Indeed the Republican Guard divisions in Kuwait had pulled off a desert Dunkirk, extricating 80,000 troops with large numbers of tanks, helicopters, and heavy guns.

"The end game: it was bad," McCaffrey recalled. "First of all, there was confusion. The objectives were unclear. And the sequence was wrong." Ordinary Iraqis expressed wonderment at Saddam's continued hold on power. Retreating troops fired their AK-47s into the portraits and murals of Saddam that lined their routes home. An Iraqi cement worker muttered: "Kuwait destroyed by Saddam. Iraq destroyed by combined forces. But Saddam is still in his chair." The Shiites of southern Iraq, who had begun to seethe even before the ground war, exploded into rebellion after the cease-fire. Saddam was weakened and discredited. The moment to rise up had arrived. In northern Iraq, the Kurds made the same calculation. They took President Bush's awkward March 1 declaration as a call to action: "In my own view, I've always said it would be - that the Iraqi people should put him aside and that would facilitate the resolution of all these problems that exist, and would certainly facilitate the acceptance of Iraq back into the family of peace-loving nations."

But even as he incited the Iraqis to rebel, Bush rejected any push to Baghdad and conceded Saddam the use of armed helicopters on his side of the border. Saddam promptly exploited the American concession not to hop-scotch over shattered roads and bridges but to blast his rebellious subjects from the air. Bush 41 expressed again his mixed feelings about Desert Storm, this time to a (startled) White House press conference: "You know, to be very honest with you, I haven't yet felt this wonderfully euphoric feeling that many of the American people feel." The father's doubts would sow the son's resolve to, as Bush 41 concluded, "cross the last 't' and dot the last 'i.'" '

In 1991 Americans were moved by a lie

They thought it was the truth at the time.

'By September 1990, 80 percent of Americans supported Operation Desert Shield, which belied Powell's hand-wringing about scant "popular support." Most Americans recognized the need to defend the Western world's energy security. Americans were also moved by a largely spurious $11 million P.R. campaign paid for by the Kuwaiti government and crafted by Hill & Knowlton. Its most effective piece of propaganda was a lie: that Iraqi soldiers had entered Kuwaiti hospitals, yanked newborn babies out of their incubators and dashed them on the floor before packing up the equipment for shipment to Iraq. That lie was retailed by the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S., who pretended to be a Kuwaiti nurse who had witnessed the Iraqi atrocities. In fact, she was not a nurse and had not even been in Kuwait when the Iraqis invaded. Nevertheless, senators and congressmen swallowed the story hook, line and sinker. Many of them referenced it when explaining their votes in support of the war, which was narrowly authorized by the Senate 52-47 and by the House 250-183 on January 12, 1991.'

Yemenis inspired by Tunisia

"Drawing inspiration from the revolt in Tunisia, thousands of Yemenis fed up with their president's 32-year rule demanded his ouster Saturday in a noisy demonstration that appeared to be the first large-scale public challenge to the strongman.

Clashes also broke out Saturday in Algeria, as opposition activists there tried to copy the tactics of their Tunisian neighbors, who forced their longtime leader to flee the country more than a week ago.

The protests in Yemen appeared to be the first of their kind. The nation's 23 million citizens have many grievances: they are the poorest people in the Arab world, the government is widely seen as corrupt and is reviled for its alliance with the United States in fighting al-Qaida, there are few political freedoms and the country is rapidly running out of water."

Comcast takes over NBC, Keith Olbermann gone

That sucks. I became addicted to Countdown in 2006, during the height of the war in Iraq. Olbermann's coverage of Iraq was nonstop and although I sometimes disagreed with him (The Surge), he seemed to care a great deal about Iraqis. His coverage of Blackwater's wrongdoings in Iraq was the best in US media. I wonder how much longer Bush would have waited before sending the FBI to Iraq if hadn't been for Keith Olbermann's criticism.

I think this is the first time I link to TMZ:

"Sources connected with the network tell us ... Comcast honchos did not like Keith's defiance and the way he played in the sandbox.

Our sources say Keith has around two years left on his contract, and he'll be paid his salary -- around $7 million a year.

We don't know if Comcast will let Keith make a deal with another network as part of an exit agreement, but it's a good bet he'll be benched for a minimum of 6 months, and probably longer."

The Washington Post says the end of Olbermann's contract with MSNBC was a long time in the making:

"We're in great shape," Griffin said. ". . . I don't think we'll lose a beat." ...But in his final show Friday, Olbermann indicated that tensions with his employer had been building for a long time. "There were many occasions, particularly in the last two and a half years, where all that surrounded the show - but never the show itself - was just too much for me," he said.

His sudden exit prompted widespread suspicion of interference by Comcast Corp., which is expected to complete its purchase of MSNBC's parent, NBC Universal, this week. Comcast denied any role in a statement Saturday, and an MSNBC spokesman also said there was no link to the acquisition, which received regulatory approval Tuesday.'

The Huffington Post says MSNBC will replace Keith's time slot with The Last Word, also a great show.

Whatever the reason for his departure, Olbermann leaves a strained and tense environment behind him, and MSNBC moved quickly to fill the hole in its schedule. Within minutes of the announcement, the network unveiled its restructured evening lineup. Lawrence O'Donnell, host of "The Last Word," will move to 8 P.M., while "The Ed Show" with Ed Schultz will air at 10 P.M. Rachel Maddow's program will remain in its 9 P.M. slot.

I watched Lawrence O'Donnel almost everyday when I had cable. Sadly, his show is not available online. I'll continue watching Rachel Maddow and the Ed Show online, but I'm reluctant to get cable, especially after learning that Comcast is in bed with the Republican Party. In MSNBC's The Week in Political Cartoons, cartoon #17 is even more poignant after Olbermann's departure.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lebanese Druze kingmaker changes his mind

Walid Jumblatt says he supports HizbAllah. Sometimes Lebanese politics resembles Iraqi politics.

'Twenty years may have passed since Lebanon's civil war subsided but there has been precious little substantive peace and reconciliation. Fears the current crisis could slip towards the same horrors are very real.

But finally, after all the waiting and pushing and shoving here, Jumblatt's decision to jump sides from the U.S.-backed faction of the outgoing Hariri to Iran-backed Hezbollah, is dealing not just Hariri a blow but the United States too.

There is no guarantee Jumblatt's 11 member block will follow suit and hand Hezbollah and its allies the right to chose the next prime minister but in his justification provides clues to why the United States is losing its influence -- not just here but across the region as a whole.

..."Without compromise, his compromise, the risk of bloody sectarian violence will increase." '

I don't understand why some people insist on spelling it "Hezbollah" - Americans end up pronouncing it Hézb-Ollah. It should be spelled the way it's pronounced in Arabic - "Hizb Allah", which means "Party of God". What a name for a political party. They think they represent God. It's silly.

Friday, January 21, 2011

US allies funded insurgency in Iraq

Nibras Kazimi: "America’s allies are directly implicated, as financiers, ideologues, orchestrators and managers, in the deaths of American soldiers. I hope this is not glossed over by those now privy to this information. Without this money, it seems to me, the insurgency would have been crippled early on, even with Sunni resentment at fever-pitch. The money made the nightmare of the last eight years possible. It was also eye-opening for me to realize that squabbles over money, as it began to peter out, had a very big deal to do why the insurgency could never coalesce into a whole."

Egypt, KSA, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, perhaps?

Sacha Baron Cohen to play The Dictator

Zabiba and the King was a best seller?

From Saddam Husayn's Novel of Fear by Ofra Bengio (2002):
Zabiba and the King is best understood as Saddam’s own preparation for his final descent from the stage. It should be read as a summary of his life, an "artistic" contribution to his people, an epitaph, and a last will and testament, all rolled into one. In all probability, Saddam was moved to write the novel by the deaths of other veteran rulers in Jordan, Syria, Morocco, Qatar, and Bahrain. Were Saddam still welcome at an Arab summit conference, he would no longer face many of his old cohorts across the table.

The ongoing sanctions and the suffering of Iraqis make for a very mixed legacy, and Saddam now feels the need to be absolved of guilt by his own people. The possibility that they might trash his memory on his demise is a fear that runs through the novel. "Will the people carry me aloft on their shoulders," the king asks Zabiba, "after I die?" "Yes," she reassures him, "after long life, your royal highness, they will bear you aloft on their shoulders and keep you in their hearts."27

But Saddam cannot be so certain. His core message is that he is blameless for the many hardships, and that "others"—family members, Jews, kings, emirs, and foreigners—are the true villains of the piece. Saddam has tried to convey the same message by every possible medium; in Zabiba and the King, it is the turn of literature. This is propaganda disguised as a novel—and poorly disguised at that.

It is also the capstone to the vulgar kitsch that forms the "artistic" legacy of Saddam’s regime. Iraq was once a flourishing center of Arabic literature. But nothing it has produced in recent years is likely to outlast the rule of Saddam, since all of it is somehow contaminated by his omnipresence. Now that Zabiba is headed for the musical stage, one begins to wax nostalgic for the art of imperialism. After all, it gave Egypt Aida.

Sahwa commander had "one foot in terrorism, one in the state"

This caught my eye too: "The Islamic Army is a Salafist group that includes former officers from now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein's army. It first appeared in 2004 and has kidnapped foreigners and carried out grisly beheadings."

AFP: ' Iraqi police have arrested a Sunni anti-Qaeda militia leader and his aide over three car bombings outside the shrine city of Karbala that killed 45 people, a top general said on Friday.
The two men, who were not identified, were arrested overnight in the village of Al-Hamiyah in Babil province south of Baghdad.

They are suspected of direct involvement in three car bombings, one of them by a suicide attacker, against Shiite Muslim pilgrims on their way to Karbala on Thursday.

"We arrested a Sahwa commander in Al-Hamiyah along with his aide," said Major General Nohman Dakhil, the commander of police rapid response forces across the country.

The Sahwa (Awakening) are a collection of Sunni tribal militias who turned against Al-Qaeda and began siding with the US military from late 2006, turning the tide of the insurgency that threatened to engulf Iraq.

The Sahwa leader "works for the Islamic Army, and was directly involved in the Karbala attack," Dakhil added, noting that his forces would arrest another "target" later on Friday.

The Islamic Army is a Salafist group that includes former officers from now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein's army. It first appeared in 2004 and has kidnapped foreigners and carried out grisly beheadings.

Describing the militia leader arrested on Friday, Dakhil said: "He is a criminal -- he had one foot in terrorism, and one foot in the state." '

Sadrists demand better security

'Hakim al-Zamili, a lawmaker in al-Sadr's political movement, said the fiery cleric's supporters were unlikely to wait for the government to fix the security crisis while devout Shiites continued to be killed.

His remarks were a veiled threat to reassemble the Mahdi Army, al-Sadr's feared militant wing, which spurred sectarian violence in neighborhood raids on Sunni homes and rampant killings in major Iraqi cities for years.

"We have reached a stage where we will not stand for any more attacks," al-Zamili said in an interview Friday. "We have the power and the ability to protect our holy shrines, our mosques and our people. We have a strong arm in the parliament, and we will demand better security."

Al-Zamili maintained al-Sadr's offer to register the Mahdi Army with Iraqi forces and help plug security gaps, but said the government continues to rebuff it. "The government does not really trust us," he said.'

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Joe Lieberman would do it again

Because Saddam would have developed WMD capability, he argues.

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PS: It would have been better for Joe if he'd just said that the Duelfer Report states "Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq’s WMD capability, after sanctions were removed and Iraq’s economy stabilized. Saddam aspired to develop a nuclear capability—in an incremental fashion, irrespective of international pressure and the resulting economic risks". He should not have been so condescending to Ariana Huffington.

Iraqi terrorist escaped back to Canada

...thought he could get away with his crimes. It feels good to read this kind of news:

EDMONTON - A “surprised” Edmonton man accused of helping a terrorist network kill five Americans in a 2009 suicide bombing in Iraq made his first court appearance Thursday.

Sayfildin Tahir-Sharif, 38, looked around the Court of Queen’s Bench courtroom prior to the brief appearance, but all he saw was a horde of reporters staring at him.

The alleged terrorist – a short dark-haired man with a moustache, goatee and soul patch – was ordered brought back to court next Thursday for a possible bail hearing.

Defence lawyer Bob Aloneissi said Tahir-Sharif lives and works in Edmonton and has a wife and children. He said his client was “surprised” by his arrest and charges, which Aloneissi described as “probably the most serious charges you can face” and rare for Edmonton.

“He definitely had some reaction there,” said Aloneissi, who didn’t want to reveal personal details about Tahir-Sharif.

The lawyer said he doesn’t expect the extradition process to start for at least six months and will look into applying for bail for Tahir-Sharif.

The Iraq-born man, who U.S. authorities say also goes by the name Faruq Khalil Muhammad Isa, was arrested around 9 a.m. Wednesday in downtown Edmonton, according to RCMP spokesman Sgt. Patrick Webb.

“It was without incident and conducted by RCMP members,” said Webb. “And they were arresting in support of the FBI investigation into a suicide bombing in Iraq in April 2009.”

As well as allegedly helping in the deadly terrorist attack, U.S. officials also allege Tahir-Sharif wanted to conduct a suicide bombing himself, and told his mother “his greatest wish was to die a martyr and be greeted by 70 virgins in paradise.”

The U.S. Department of Justice said Tahir-Sharif was charged with conspiring to kill Americans abroad and providing material support to a terrorist conspiracy.

Tahir-Sharif “is charged in connection with his support for a multinational terrorist network that conducted multiple suicide bombings in Iraq and that is responsible for the deaths of five American soldiers,” said the justice department in a press release.

The soldiers were killed April 10, 2009, when “a Tunisian jihadist ... drove a truck laden with explosives to the gate of the United States Military's Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul, Iraq.”

It's not 2006 anymore

"Suicide attacks on Shiite pilgrims. Mass murders of police. It's not 2006 in Iraq anymore, but sometimes it feels like it.

...Massive suicide attacks on Shiite pilgrims and places of worship have been a fact of life in Iraq from practically the moment in March 2003 when Saddam's statue was pulled down in Firdos Square in Baghdad. The following August, two huge car bombs outside the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf murdered 83 people, among them Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of the country's two large Shiite political parties."

Islam not a factor in Tunisian uprising

As'ad Abu Khalil says "Islamists have no role whatsoever in it," but 10 Jews leave Tunisia, just in case.

I noticed the professor doesn't cover the sectarian violence in Iraq, where more people have died in the last week than in the entire jasmine revolution thus far.

They are cowards

They always have been. And they think they're going to heaven.

'No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Iraqi officials said the blasts were likely the work of al-Qaida. "The attacks were expected, because this is the biggest annual commemoration, with the highest number of pilgrims," Hussein Sadhan, a member of Karbala's provincial council, told The New York Times. "We are expecting more attacks by al-Qaida because the pilgrims are open and easy to target and while al-Qaida is invisible."

...And in Baquba, three more people, including a female journalist, were killed in a car bomb today. "I heard a massive blast and suddenly, there was a rain of shrapnel falling from the sky," Murtada Aiseh, a government employee, told Agence France-Presse. "I woke up in the hospital and found my wife near my bed; she suffered injuries to her right hand." '

Dozens of Shia pilgrims killed

"Suicide bombers launched a series of deadly assaults on Thursday against pilgrims marching toward a shrine sacred to Shiite Muslims, the police said, and dozens were killed in a third straight day of attacks against an array of targets.

The pilgrimage, which was banned under Saddam Hussein, is expected to draw as many as 10 million people to the city of Karbala over 10 days. It has been an annual flash point for sectarian violence. Until this week, the holiday had been free of major bloodshed, and Iraqi security forces had claimed progress in their ability to protect the populace from violent extremist groups.

That progress evaporated on Thursday, as three car bombs along the roads leading to Karbala, some 60 miles south of Baghdad, killed at least 52 people and wounded 150, according to an official with the Iraqi police."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jordan not like Tunisia

The Jordanian King would not let go of power so easily.

Last Christian man in town

NYT: "The last Christian man in town goes to church each morning to clean the building and to remember the past. Romel Hawal, 48, was born in this town in Anbar Province back when most of the population was Christian. Now, he said, his 11-year-old son knows no other Christians and has no memory of attending a church service.

“When my son swears, it is on the Koran, not the Bible,” Mr. Hawal lamented.

His wife wants to leave town or leave the country, joining what is becoming an exodus of Christians from Iraq and throughout the Middle East. But Mr. Hawal said he felt an obligation to stay. And he found support from an unlikely source.

“What gives me courage,” he said, “is that my Muslim brothers say, ‘Don’t leave.’ ”