Sunday, April 30, 2006

Egyptian Blogger Arrested

The Egyptian blogger Malek was arrested during a protest in support of dissenting judges in Egypt. At least 30 protesters were also arrested during the demonstration.

Human rights activists condemned the arrest of at least 30 protesters at demonstrations held on 26 and 27 April, held in support of pro-reform judges.

"There were incidents of extreme violence against protesters who had been demonstrating peacefully in solidarity with reformist judges," said Sally Sami, programme coordinator for the Arabic Human Rights Information Network (HRInfo).

The police has a habit of arresting people during high profile demonstrations. I think they will be released soon. Hopefully.

One of the major things that happened during last year's political upheaval was the emergence of a group of judges who were willing to challenge the status quo and voice their opposition to what's happening in the country. The Washington Post had an interesting piece on this.

  Posted by BP at 11:52 pm Comments (10)

Good News From Iraq

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani held talks with insurgents and the outcome was promising. There is an indication that more Sunnis will lay down their weapons once they get more involved in the political process and discover that they have stake in their country.

President Jalal Talabani met with representatives of seven armed groups and is optimistic they may agree to lay down their weapons, his office said Sunday. It was the first time a senior Iraqi official has acknowledged talks with insurgents.

However, Talabani did not identify the groups or specify when and where the meeting took place. The spokesman of one major insurgent group, the Islamic Army in Iraq said his organization had not taken part in such a meeting.

Also the Shitte block is ready to forgo the interior post.

Leaders of Iraq's powerful Shiite Muslim political bloc said Friday that they were willing to give up control over the Interior Ministry and its police forces, a move that could ease both the fears of other sectarian groups and the formation of a new government.

Under Shiite leadership for the last year, the ministry has been accused of providing cover for death squads and militias that have targeted minority Sunni Arabs, stoking mistrust of security forces and spurring the growth of destabilizing armed groups.

  Posted by BP at 11:11 pm Comments (6)

Powell is Right

Colin Powell said that he adviced President Bush to have enough troops to oust Saddam Hussein and secure the peace afterwards. Judging from the current state of Iraq, we have to admit that Powell, who himelf was an army general, was right. Powell was not the only person who saw it coming. General Eric Shinseki, who was sidelined by the Pentagon, said the same thing before the war started.

Now Condi Rice is trying to defend the war planning.

Rice, Bush's national security adviser during the run-up to the war, neither confirmed nor denied Powell's assertion. But she spent a good part of her appearances on three Sunday talk shows reaching into the past to defend the White House, which is trying to highlight the positive to a public increasingly skeptical in this election year of the president's conduct of the war and concerned about the large U.S. military presence.

"I don't remember specifically what Secretary Powell may be referring to, but I'm quite certain that there were lots of discussions about how best to fulfill the mission that we went into Iraq," Rice said.

"And I have no doubt that all of this was taken into consideration. But that when it came down to it, the president listens to his military advisers who were to execute the plan," she told CNN's "Late Edition."

Not only Powell and Shinseki, Paul Bremer also said the same thing.

Bremer said his memo to Rumsfeld suggested half a million troops were needed — more than three times the number there at the time.

Rice continues:

"There will be time to go back and look at those days of the war and, after the war, to examine what went right and what went wrong," Rice said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"But the goal and the purpose now is to make certain that we take advantage of what is now a very good movement forward on the political front to help this Iraqi government," she said.

Many mistakes were done in Iraq. Disbanding the army and not sending enough troops top the list.

  Posted by BP at 10:43 pm Comments (6)
Saturday, April 29, 2006

Judgement Day by Iran

According to Al Sharq Al Awsat, Iran will literally set the entire world on fire if attacked.

Eight fundamentalist Islamist organizations have received large sums of money in the last month from the Iranian intelligence services, as part of a project to strike U.S military and economic installations across the Middle East Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.

The plan, which also includes the carrying out of suicide operations targeting US and British interests in the region, as well as their Arab and Muslim allies, in case Iran is attacked, was drawn up by a number of experts guerilla warfare and terrorist operations, and was revealed by a senior source in the Iranian armed forces' joint chief of staff headed by the veterinary doctor Hassan Firouzabadi,

The source added that the forces of the Revolutionary Guards’ al Quds Brigades, under Brigadier General Qassim Suleimani is responsible for coordinating and providing logistical support for the groups taking part in the execution of the plan, codenamed al Qiyamah the Islamic word for "Judgment Day".

Amongst the leaders who visited were the head of one of the Iraqi armed group who was very clear and honest. He said his men would transform Iraq into a hell for the Americans if Iran were attacked.

When will the Iranians do themselves and the world a favor and topple this regime?

  Posted by BP at 7:45 pm Comments (48)

Take Care of Your Bedouins

Michael Totten is in Israel and he met an Israeli lady who had some interesting stuff to say about Egypt's Bedouins who live in Sinai.

Lisa told me the Bedouin in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula speak Hebrew.

“Why?” I said. “Did they learn it during the occupation?” Israel seized the Sinai from Egypt during the Six Day War in 1967 and gave it back when Anwar Sadat agreed to a peace treaty.

“No,” she said. “They wanted to learn Hebrew so they can talk to us when we go down and visit.”

“When you go down there and visit?” I did not know what she was talking about.

“Last year 200,000 Israelis visited the Bedouin during Passover," she said.

“Two hundred thousand,” I said. “On just one day?”

“You didn’t know about this?” she said.

“No,” I said. Before I went to the Middle East I had no idea Israeli Jews had any kind of genuinely friendly relations with Arabs in any country except right-wing Lebanese Maronites. And a significant number of Maronites say they aren't even Arabs at all.

“The Bedouin roll our joints for us,” she said. “They sell us hashish. Israeli women like to go topless.”

“You go topless in front of the Bedouin?” I said. “Isn’t that offensive?” Bedouin are arguably the most conservative people in the entire Middle East.

“It doesn’t bother them,” she said. “They understand that our cultures are different. They don’t impose their values on us. And I never once saw a Bedouin man with wandering eyes.”

It made sense once I thought about it. Bedouin may be Egyptian Arabs, but they are completely isolated from Hosni Mubarak’s deranged state-run media. They could not care less about the politics of the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict. No one ever told them they are supposed to hate Jews. When politics can be pitched over the side, Israeli Jews and at least some Arab Muslims have a natural affinity for one another and they get along great.

“They are our brothers,” she said.

It is very true that the Israeli government treat its Bedouins citizens much better than the Egyptian government treat its own. The abuse and neglect that Bedouins in Egypt led to the possible involvement of some of them in the attacks in Sharm el Sheikh and Dahab.

As mentioned, Israel treats its Bedouins in a much better way, however, this is slowly changing as the Israeli government carries out stupid policies aimed at its desert dwellers. According to an Israeli rights organization, "approximately 40% of Bedouin have been relocated into seven government-planned townships, while the majority choose to maintain a rural lifestyle in 43 officially unrecognized villages. The government's failure to recognize the villages results in a lack of infrastructure necessary for providing the most basic services including electricity and running water, equal education, and health services. Bedouin live in cramped sub-standard 'shantytown' conditions and are forbidden to build permanent structures of any kind, which causes severe hardship for residents."

Bedouins can be a huge asset if you respect them and their traditions. Pissing them off will hurt.  

  Posted by BP at 7:19 pm Comments (33)

Naked Hypocrisy

This picture was taken during a rally in Lebanon to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the "Qana massacre" that happened when an Israeli unit shelled a UN shelter mistaking it for a Hezbollah position. Over 100 civilians were killed.

I have always had this thought: Iraq's suicide bombers commit daily atrocities that far exceed Qana. Will we ever commemorate these massacres? Or they will be forgotten for the mere fact that the killer is one of our children?

Anyway. You mama in the picture above. The kid at the front wants to sleep, tug him in bed. He should be there and not parading on the streets with a toy gun in his hands.

  Posted by BP at 12:15 am Comments (14)
Friday, April 28, 2006

France Gets Tough

French foreign minister said that the UN must send a "rapid and firm" signal to Iran over its nulcear ambitions.

The UN Security Council must send a "rapid and firm" signal to Iran over its refusal to suspend internationally condemned nuclear activities, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said on Thursday.

The message was needed "given Tehran's attitude and the acceleration of its (nuclear) programmes," he said on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

 His remark — made on the eve of a crucial International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report — echoed a sharp line by his US counterpart, Condoleezza Rice, who called on the Security Council to act against Iran.

"The situation is serious and worrying," Douste-Blazy said, adding: "There is nothing to suggest that Iran is conforming to the demands of the international community."

In Paris, a high-ranking diplomat said France was looking to invoke text in the UN Charter against Iran in a resolution that would open the way to the imposition of sanctions.

Now this is the same France many Americans considered as their enemy when it opposed the Iraq war. I believe the current cooperation between the US and countries such as France and Germany is the result of the diplomacy of Condi Rice. Aware of the mistakes of Bush's first term, Rice put more emphasis on listening to and consulting with US allies in Europe. She was also very successful in ending the monopoly that the "civilian Pentagon" and the vice president had over foreign policy. Judging from the outcomes in Sudan and Lebanon, and now the cooperation on Iran, it is very clear that the US can in fact work with its friends and merge its power with the power of diplomacy. This is what Rice is doing so far. No wonder she is the most popular person in the Bush administration, besides Laura Bush of course!

  Posted by BP at 12:47 pm Comments (3)

That’s My Girl

I blogged before about Elham Manea, the Yemeni intellectual with very daring thoughts. Manea has written an article urging Muslim women to remove their hair covers. Her article was quoted on Al Arabiya website. She was ripped apart by the commentors there. Few comments were in support of her though.

"I call on you, my Muslim sister, to take off the veil. This is an honest call… Its intention is not to defile you, nor to encourage you to [moral] lassitude. I call on you to exercise [free] thought and to use your own mind.

"The veil is, therefore, a political issue. In two countries [Iran and Saudi Arabia], the political elite rules in the name of religion, and strives to propagate its own model [of Islam] – while at the same time [using religion] to guarantee the legitimacy [of its rule]. Both these countries imposed the wearing of the veil on women, presenting it as a sign of piety, whether the women wanted to [wear it] or not.

"The first argument is based on the assumption that the Arab man is a lecherous animal that cannot control its urges, and therefore, one must be on guard against it. [The Arab man's] thoughts are controlled by sex, and therefore he cannot be relied on, and the woman's [seductive] parts must be covered in order to protect him from the devil inside him. This premise is unfair to the Arab man, whom we know as a brother, as a father, as a husband, and as a human being. He is capable of treating a woman as a human being, and not as a commodity to be used for pleasure. He is capable of controlling his urges – even though they exist and he is aware of their existence – just as a woman is capable of doing so…"

"The second argument is based the premise that there is a connection between wearing the veil and the establishment of a good society. According to this logic, a good society is one in which no intimate relations take place out of wedlock. However, this premise is at best mistaken, since, as a matter of fact, the societies that mandate the wearing of the veil and insist on segregation of the sexes are not those in which sex out of wedlock is least common. On the contrary, the forced segregation [of the sexes] has led to homosexual relations, as indicated by studies which show that the wearing of the veil in Arab and Islamic societies has not prevented some of the girls from having [sexual] relations out of wedlock. After that, they usually have surgery to reconstruct the hymen.

"The third argument rests on the premise that [Islam] has a firm position on the issue of the veil, while the fact is that there are many [different] religious texts on the subject. This abundance [of religious texts] has always existed. You, [the Muslim woman,] can read the texts for yourself, and need no intermediary. [When you read them] you will see that not only is there an abundance of texts, but that they also have numerous interpretations….

"As a matter of fact, the third argument, which claims that it is religion that imposes wearing the veil on women, is the weakest argument, since we never heard it before the late 1970s, and we didn't see it implemented until the orthodox interpretation of Islam became the most prevalent interpretation in the Arab and Muslim world.

Makes sense huh?

  Posted by BP at 8:00 am Comments (11)
Thursday, April 27, 2006

Egypt’s al-Jazeera chief arrested

Yesterday I made zillions of phone calls and surfed zillions of websites to know if what Al Jazeera said about an attack in the governorates of Sharqiyah was true. Everyone at work was shocked. We were not surprised at the attacks in Sinai as much as at the news of the Sharqiyah attack. This governorate is not in Sinai and no tourists go there, an attack there means that the budding terrorist network is more sophisticated and widespread than we all anticipated.

Well it turned out that Al Jazeera was just practicing what it does best: incitement. The ministry of interior announced that what Al Jazeera said was untrue and arrested its chief in Cairo.

The Cairo bureau chief of TV channel al-Jazeera has been arrested by Egyptian police for allegedly spreading false information on the Sinai bombs.

The interior ministry said Hussein Abdel Ghani had falsely reported a blast in eastern Sharkia province.

Mr Abdel Ghani said in a phone call broadcast on the Qatar-based channel he was the victim of "a complete police kidnapping operation – beyond the law".

Well, I am in a dilemma. My good nature tells me that arresting journalists is wrong wrong wrong no matter what. However, my sinful man (we all have a bit of evil in us right) tells me "good riddance, come on it's AJ"!

I'd rather follow my good nature. Abdel Ghani should be released.

However, I'm still awaiting Al Jazeera's apology though for spreading false news. Don't all professional news channels apologize when they make mistakes? Or Al Jazeera's "professionalism" does not encompass such a thing?

  Posted by BP at 12:42 pm Comments (6)
Wednesday, April 26, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: SINAI HIT AGAIN

This is just in. 2 suicide bombers hit a base of peacekeeping forces in Sinai. So far 2 peacekeepers were injured.  

Update: Two Egyptian soldiers, one Norweigian, and one New Zealander were wounded. The foreign soldiers are attached to the multinational peacekeeping forces in Sinai.

Two suicide bombers on foot struck just outside a multinational peacekeeping forces base south of the Rafah border crossing to Gaza on Wednesday, wounding at least four people.

One New Zealander and one Norwegian attached to the multinational force as well as two Egyptian policemen were wounded, security officials and Egypt's official news agency reported.

A spokesman for the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), Normand St. Pierre, said the first bomber appeared to target observer force vehicles but there were no MFO casualties.

It is now clear that Sinai became a "Tora Bora" for terrorists. Damn them those terrorists, they can't withstand a beautiful place, they have to destroy it.

As I said before, the government must get its act together with the Bedouins. You piss them off, they will bring hell to Sinai. It's their land.

Update: There has been another attack in Ariesh and Sharqiyah. In Ariesh (North Sinai) they attacked the security bureau and in Sharqiyah (governorate in North Egypt) they attacked a police car. This is war!

Other blogs to follow for updates: Tomanbay

Update: The attack in Sharqiyah is not true according to the police. We are still getting very conflicting reports so far as to what happened.

  Posted by BP at 11:12 am Comments (22)