These are all the Blogs posted on Saturday, 19, 2011.
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Does somebody in the Victorian police force have a sense of humour and a sense of history?
Carefully read these two accounts of a police operation that has just culminated with a series of raids in Melbourne, Victoria, targeting members and premises of a couple of notorious Muslim crime 'families', and you will see what I mean.
Here is the report from the ABC, Lisa Maksimovic reporting.
'Crime task force raids in Melbourne's west'.
'Santiago Task Force police have raided eight houses in Melbourne's west this afternoon, in relation to an attempted murder last year.
'Four people have been taken into custody, including three men and a woman.
'Some of the properties raided belong to the Haddara family.
Who are Lebanese Muslims - CM.
'Haddara family members have been involved in a long-running feud with the rival Chaouk family.
Who are also Lebanese Muslims - CM.
'Police say the raids relate to a shooting on 6th June last year when an 18 year old man was shot in the face in Altona Meadows.
One of the members of the clan seemingly mistook his own cousin for someone in the enemy clan, and shot him; as you will see if you read the report at this link -
'Today's raids took place at Altona, Altona North, Seabrook, Caroline Springs, Williamstown North and Hoppers Crossing.
'More than 100 members from the Special Operations Group, Critical Incident Response Team, Clandestine Laboratory Squad, Organised Motor Vehicle Theft Squad and Dog Squad were involved.
The Victorian police do not, it seems, feel much concern about offending Muslim sensibilities re. dogs...- CM.
'The Santiago Task Force was set up in 2007 to investigate a series of non-fatal shootings in Melbourne's west".
And now for a few more details, in the version provided by the Melbourne 'Age', Max Cooper and Thomas Hunter reporting.
'Raids Follow Haddara Shooting'.
'Six people have been arrested as police today swooped on eight properties in relation to the drive-by shooting of a teenager in Melbourne's west last June.
'Sam (sic: this is his 'Aussie' nickname, his real name is Sabet, as you will see if you click on the other 'Age' link I inserted above - CM) Haddara, 18, from Altona North, was shot in the face on June 6 2010 as he sat in a car in Altona Meadows.
'More than 100 police members, including armed officers (I see that the Victorian police have learned that in dealing with Muslim criminals a display of overwhelming force, right from the outset, is always useful - CM) today raided properties in Altona, Altona North, Seabrook, Caroline Springs, Williamstown North and Hoppers Crossing.
'The Haddaras and a rival family, the Chaouks, have been involved in a long-standing violent feud, which has been linked to a spate of shootings.
In other words they have been behaving, in suburban Melbourne, Australia, exactly as they used to do back home in Lebanon. - CM.
'Mr Haddara's cousin Mohammed was shot dead in 2009 and in August last year Machhour Chaouk, the 65 year old patriarch of his family (in other words, the Big Boss; his 'family' is up to its neck in all manner of organised crime - CM), was shot dead at his Brooklyn Home. (He was neither missed nor mourned by any intelligent Australian Infidel - CM).
'Today's operation was headed by Santiago Taskforce, which was originally formed to investigate shootings related to the feud in Melbourne's western suburbs.
'Three men aged 26, 28 and 33, and a 25 year old woman were arrested following the raids and are assisting police with their enquiries. Another two men, one aged 32 and the other in his 30s, were also arrested.
We are not dealing with hot-headed 'youth' here, but with grown men and women. - CM.
'Detective Inspector Stephen Dennis said vehicles, cash, and a small amount of drugs and chemicals had been seized.
'Police later said two firearms were located.
'Detective Inspector Dennis said two of the homes searched had belonged to members of the Haddara family but did not explain what their suspected role in the shooting might have been.
'Those arrested are being questioned in relation to attempted murder, serious assault and drug offences.
'Members from the Special Operations Group, Critical Incident Response Team, Clandestine Laboratory Squad, Organised Motor Vehicle Theft Squad, Dog Squad, and other Crime Department staff were involved in today's raids.
'Despite the heavily armed raids, Detective Inspector Dennis said police had not expected strong resistance from the targets.
Hmmmm - CM.
'The raids began at midday, and Detective Inspector Dennis described them as "very successful".
Now you have read these two reports, I have a question. Did you notice the name of the special task force involved?
Maybe it is just a coincidence. Maybe they pulled the name out of a hat. Maybe whoever chose that code-name for this particular Infidel police investigation, into the nefarious activities and dangerous-to-innocent-infidel-bystanders internecine murderous strife of two Muslim clans, was merely thinking of the city of Santiago in Chile. But maybe not. Scroll down through the article at the link here
and you will come across my reasons for suspecting that 'Santiago' was not chosen at random. - CM.
Posted on 03/19/2011 12:55 AM by Christina McIntosh
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Muslim mum convicted of assault loses appeal
From Runcorn and Widnes World
A WOMAN convicted of assaulting young children has failed to persuade top judges her trial was unfair because too few Muslims were on the jury.
Ruba Talib, aged 42, of Briarwood, Runcorn, Cheshire, claimed it was wrong for her to go before a jury at Chester Crown Court as there were not enough Muslims in the area and on her panel.
The court heard Talib had hit one child with a shoe. She sat on another and gave a child a nose bleed with a slap in the face. She denied the offences and claimed she should never have stood trial as she had "no case to answer". She also criticised the lack of Muslims in the Chester area and on her trial jury.
Lord Justice Pitchford, Mr Justice Treacy, and Judge Stephen Kramer QC, sitting at London's Criminal Appeal Court last Tuesday, rejected her appeal against both conviction and sentence.
Posted on 03/19/2011 1:49 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 19 March 2011
The Rise and Fall of Muslim Dynasties
The Arab world is in turmoil. The residents of Egypt and Tunisia have been driven out of office by people power. This week in Yemen, anti-government tribesmen killed four people, despite their President's pledge to step down. In Libya, a brief civil war is reaching its bloody conclusion. Even the youth of fundamentalist Gaza have taken to the streets with clubs. Clearly, the Arab masses are unhappy with their rulers.
This unrest now threatens to destabilize the formerly sleepy monarchies of the Persian Gulf, oil terminal to the world. Last week, during one disturbance, Saudi security forces shot three protesters from Islam's Shiite branch -who are a minority within the Sunni nation, but the dominant group in the region of the country's eastern oil fields. In neighbouring (Shiite-majority) Bahrain, the Sunni-led government has declared a state of emergency and called in Saudi troops to protect them from Shia protesters and possible Iranian intervention (as the Iranians have claimed that Bahrain is a historical part of Iran). The West has done little so far, except stand by and watch. But the stakes are huge: An upheaval in the Gulf could radically change the balance of world power.
Despite the wealth and apparent stability of the Saudi Kingdom, it is actually quite a fragile state, with a decadent ruling class that has become estranged from its austere religious ideology. As we shall see, its rise and (possibly imminent) fall epitomize the waxing and waning of Muslim states since Mohammed's time.
Saudi Arabia is a one-commodity country: A command economy where 90% of export earnings, and three-quarters of government revenues, come from oil. Within its borders lie one-fifth of the world's petroleum reserves. When oil began to pump in the late 1930s and '40s, there were no more than two or three million people living in the Kingdom -many of them nomadic. Today, the population is over 25million, with a sky-high birthrate. The state generally has found the money to satisfy their expanding economic expectations. When the money has run dry, there have been protests and riots.
Saudi Arabia has a medieval social structure, comprising four classes of people. The royal family is on top: It includes all the descendants of the original Saudi rulers and their tribal allies. The family includes an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 princes. Their yearly allowance generally is over a million dollars each. Many get much more.
Second comes a smaller group of businessmen dependant on the patronage of the Royal Family, followed by government employees. At the bottom are the majority of commoners who are supported through the welfare state. Oil revenues are treated as the personal property of the Saudi royal family and distributed downward, as in any medieval society.
How did Saudi Arabia become such an anachronism? The country is home to Mecca and Medina, the bases from which the Prophet Muhammad preached the new religion of Islam to the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula 14 centuries ago. When his descendants left Arabia to conquer neighbouring lands, Arabia lapsed into a tribal backwater. The centre of Islamic life moved to other cities, in modern-day Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Turkey and Central Asia.
In the 13th century, when the eastern Arab empire was conquered by Turks and Mongols, there arose an Islamic theologian named Ibn Taymiyya who preached a fundamentalist version of Islam that marked a radical departure from the previous six centuries of Islamic jurisprudence. He argued that anyone deviating from the original practices of the Prophet and his companions were not really Muslims but heretics, even infidels, and they could become the targets of holy war.
In the early 1700s, when a theology student named Mohammad Abdel Wahab returned to Central Arabia after studying the works of Taymiyya, he married into the family of a tribal leader named Muhammad Ibn Saud. Their allied lineages of priests and warriors started a holy war in Arabia based on the radical theology of Ibn Taymiyya. This centuries-old strategic alliance remains the backbone of Saudi power -and gives the state its modern name and its distinctively austere and backward-looking school of Sunni Islam ("Wahabism").
In the 1800s, the Saudi-Wahabi alliance conquered Mecca and Medina, but were eventually defeated by the Ottomans and the Egyptians. However, in the early 20th century, when the Ottoman Empire collapsed, the alliance regrouped. Within a few years of the end of the First World War, they had re-conquered the peninsula. Then they struck oil, and their erstwhile backwater become a powerful petro-state.
It is a nation with split personality: On one hand, it makes billions selling oil to the West. On the other, its princes have done more than anyone else to export jihadist ideology and finance terrorists -including Osama bin Laden, himself the son of a Saudi construction magnate.
Massive oil wealth earned by the Saudi royal family led its members to adopt lavish Western lifestyles in the privacy of their homes and European properties -double lives, in other words. (A former Swedish soldier once told me that while visiting a Saudi ambassador's residence on business, he was ushered in to his office. The ambassador changed out of his Saudi costume, and then gladly shared a double whiskey while wearing jeans and a T-shirt.) It is this hypocrisy and moral rot that eventually can be expected to help bring down the regime.
In fact, the corruption and downfall of Muslim leaders is an established subject within Islamic literature -including that of Ibn Khaldun, a 14th-century Arab social theorist who believed that Islamic states rise and fall according to a predetermined cycle. Scholar Caroline Stone has summarized his theory succinctly:
"Ibn Khaldun perceives history as a cycle in which rough nomadic peoples with high degrees of internal bonding and little material culture to lose, invade and take resources from sedentary and essentially urban-based civilizations. These urban civilizations have high levels of wealth and culture but are self indulgent and lack both 'martial spirit' and the concomitant social solidarity. This is because those qualities have become unnecessary for survival in an urban environment and also because it is also almost impossible for the large number of different groups that compose a multicultural city to attain the same level of solidarity as a tribe linked by blood, shared custom and survival experiences. Thus the nomads conquer the cities and go on to be seduced by the pleasures of civilization and in turn lose their solidarity and come under attack by the next group of rough and vigorous outsiders and the cycle beings again."
This description of "rough nomadic peoples with high degrees of internal bonding and little material culture to lose" arguably describes not only the original Saudi-Wahabi dynasty, but also other more modern ascensions to power in the Arab and Muslim worlds -including that of Saddam Hussein, the PLO and even Muammar Gaddafi.
But the Saudis are the ultimate case study in the dissolution caused by wealth, which is why I am dwelling on them in this article. Decades of British scandal sheets have highlighted the behaviour of Saudi princes in Europe drinking alcohol, cheating on their polygamous wives and gambling away their billions. This explains the repulsion of self-styled ascetics such as Bin Laden, who has assumed the spiritual mantle of Abd al Wahab and declared war on the Saudi royal family.
In another, more positive, variant, the same spirit of reform can be found in the democratic-minded protestors who brought down Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, in large part motivated by revulsion at the manner by which he used power to enrich himself, his family and his cronies.
But the Saudi top dogs won't go down without a fight. The country's military contains a special, private "Praetorian Guard" called the Sang -a sort of army within an army that answers directly to the royals. If push ever comes to shove, it might well square off against the rest of the military. Amidst the resulting mayhem, tribal, regional and religious militias may fight it out as they did in Iraq after the fall of Saddam.
There is no evidence that the Saudi royal family will democratize to avoid this likely meltdown. As the late King Fahd once said, "A system based on elections is not within our Islamic creed." Ibn Khaldun could have predicted this more than six centuries ago. Corrupt Islamic regimes, he saw, did not bend. They broke.
The pampered and softened Saudi elites will be overwhelmed by new puritans who come from within or outside of their own borders. That day may be closer than we imagine. Perhaps Barack Obama should buy his own copy of Ibn Khaldun's works to understand what will come next.
First published in the National Post.
Posted on 03/19/2011 5:39 AM by Geoffrey Clarfield
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Murder Most Foul: Reaction Worse
Brian of London writes at the EDL website:
Last week, in a place called Itamar, which I and many others consider to be in the Land of Israel, something happened which has shocked me and Israel to the core. This description comes from another web site because it's well written and I can't bring myself to write these things:
Ruth Fogel was in the bathroom when the Palestinian terrorists pounced on her husband Udi and their three-month-old daughter Hadas, slitting their throats as they lay in bed on Friday night in their home in Itamar.
The terrorists stabbed Ruth to death as she came out of the bathroom. With both parents and the newborn dead, they moved on to the other children, going into a bedroom where Ruth and Udi’s sons Yoav (11) and Elad (four) were sleeping. They stabbed them through their hearts and slit their throats. The murderers apparently missed another bedroom where the Fogels’ other sons, eight-year-old Ro’i and two-year-old Yishai were asleep because they left them alive. The boys were found by their big sister, 12-year-old Tamar, when she returned home from a friend’s house two hours after her family was massacred.
Tamar found two-year-old Yishai standing over his parents’ bodies screaming for them to wake up.
There are some horrific pictures of the murder scene on the web. I won't link to them. I prefer this video from happier days.
I live in a northern part of Israel's largest city, Tel Aviv and Itamar is a 44 minute drive from my home. There is one security checkpoint on the highway between my home and Itamar.
Now I'm going to switch subjects and ask you what is your primary source of information on the EDL? Is it the BBC News reports that say the EDL are racist football thugs? Is it the UAF website or Searchlight magazine who say the EDL are the new heirs of Hitler, just waiting to murder all Muslims and anyone else they don't like? Do you think these descriptions apply to you?
For years now, anyone who lives in parts of Israel that were occupied by Jordan or Egypt until 1967 is called a "Settler". This has come to be a term of abuse, it's a way of separating them from the rest of the, presumably, good Jews. These "ultra nationalist" or "far right" or "ultra orthodox Zionists" have been demonised and dehumanised. Interestingly Palestinian and other Arab news and TV doesn't make such a huge separation: all Jews in Israel, pre-1967 or not, are settlers and all of modern Israel is a settlement of Jews on Muslim lands.
The mis-categorisation and demonisation of these people is on a much larger world wide scale to what has happened to the EDL and other counter Jihad movements in Europe. But it really is related. When this demonisation is combined with the murderous roots of Islam you have a very big problem.
You are essentially telling people who believe they have a mandate for murder from their God and his prophet that certain people's existence is illegitimate and they must be murdered. This is how you make a sane person cut off the head of a baby.
I'm not saying EDL members and their children will be murdered in their beds in England any time soon because of what the BBC says. What I am saying is that before you judge, think about your own experiences with the media: have they always told you the truth? Do they have an agenda? If there is one thing the EDL is showing people in England it is that they need to think for themselves. Don't take my word for it that the BBC dominated media in the UK is tainted on the subject of Israel. Check for yourselves. You don't have to support or reject Israeli policy to understand that there is never a reason for stabbing a baby.
Oh and last night, unreported in the UK I'm sure, these dangerous 'Settlers' and the unspeakably cruel IDF saved the life of a Palestinian woman and delivered her baby when she was driven at speed toward one of the checkpoints near Itamar.
I'm closing with the final two paragraphs of Melanie Phillips blog posting about the slaughter in Itamar (not a piece in the Daily Mail, this is too hot a topic to get that kind of exposure). I encourage you to read it all but first read the last few lines and ask yourself if you're on the side of humanity or evil.
The question now has to be asked of every person in Britain and the west who promotes the boycott of Israel, or wears the keffiyeh in solidarity with the ‘Palestinians’, or so obsessively demonises the ‘settlers’ or ‘apartheid’ Israel, or makes vicious comments at the dinner tables of the elite about the bloody Jews and shitty Israel, why these ‘enlightened’ folk turn a blind eye to the slaughter of infants as they sleep, and assist Jew-hating fanatics in their racist aim of destroying Israel and denying to the Jews alone the right to live in their own historic country – and all because Israel is reluctant to reward these fanatics by giving them the territory from where they can finally achieve their murderous aims. These ‘progressives’ need to be outed for what they are – the fellow-travellers of psychotic religious fascism.
Israel is the signature moral issue of our time. Which side people choose to be on in the Arab and Muslim war against Israel tells us whether they are on the side of truth, justice and basic humanity – or the side of evil. The sickening response to the slaughter of the Fogel family shows us all too horrifyingly which side the west is on.
Exactly as happened to the Jews in their ancient home of Israel after massive colonisation by Islam, England can become a Muslim country and you will have to beg for the right to remain alive in it. If you don't stop it.
Posted on 03/19/2011 6:26 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Allah is Dead Goes into Second Printing
We have been very pleasantly surprised, no make that flabbergasted, at the strong sales on Allah is Dead: Why Islam is not a Religion. After a few much needed alterations, this book will go back to the printer next week for more.
We want to thank our reviewers, A. Millar, Louis Palme, and Ruth King and our Amazon reviewers, ChrisLA, Lorna, Don Carlos and Jonnyfromfar for their thoughtful words and insights.
We also want to thank the websites who have so kindly run ads for us: Gates of Vienna, Vlad Tepes, Sunlit Uplands, Israpundit and Sultan Knish.
And lastly, we want to thank all those who have used their hard earned cash to buy this book.
Posted on 03/19/2011 7:54 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Pierre De Beaumont: Frogs, Mutt And Jeff, And Brookstone
Pierre de Beaumont, Brookstone Founder, Dies at 95
Pierre de Beaumont, a nominal nobleman and inveterate tinkerer who founded Brookstone, the gadget-and-gift retailer that is a familiar presence in American shopping malls, died on Dec. 4 at his home in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. He was 95.
Mr. de Beaumont’s brother-in-law, Joseph C. Robbins, confirmed the death, which the family announced publicly only recently.
With his wife, Mary, Mr. de Beaumont began Brookstone in 1965, for $500, in their Berkshires farmhouse. (The company, originally a catalog retailer of hard-to-find tools, was named after their farm.) After learning accounting by correspondence, the couple mailed catalogs to thousands of hobbyists, sowing the seeds of a going concern.
Today Brookstone, based in Merrimack, N.H., comprises more than 300 brick-and-mortar stores throughout the United States, as well as catalog and Internet business. Its wares include luggage, massage chairs and remote-control toys.
Brookstone’s sales in 2009, the most recent year for which figures are available, totaled $430 million, according to Deirdre Zimmermann, a company spokeswoman.
If it seems incongruous that so fundamentally Yankee an enterprise was conceived by a French count (for that, technically, was what Mr. de Beaumont was, though he did not noise it about, and, as his brother-in-law said on Tuesday, “he didn’t think much of it”), then it bears noting that he was also a trained engineer who had worked for the Packard Motor Car Company.
Equally incongruous — and even less widely known — was the fact that Mr. de Beaumont happened to own the rights to an emblematic American art form, the “Mutt and Jeff” comic strip, which he had inherited from his mother, a countess and occasional Broadway chorus girl. She had obtained them after a marital dispute that was widely covered in the newspapers and also involved frogs.
Pierre Stuart de Beaumont, familiarly known as Pete, was born in New York on Aug. 1, 1915, while his mother, a French beauty who had married a count, was on a visit there. After Pierre’s father, Count de Beaumont, was killed in World War I, his mother, the former Aedita Stuart, settled in New York with her son.
Under the name Gypsy Norman, the countess found work in the chorus of early-1920s Broadway revues, including “Bombo,” starring Al Jolson, and “The Whirl of New York.”
Pierre de Beaumont attended Harvard, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering in 1938; he later worked for Packard, General Motors and other companies.
Meanwhile, the Countess de Beaumont had married — and, in a welter of wooings and suings avidly chronicled in the press, separated from — the cartoonist Harry C. Fisher. Mr. Fisher, known as Bud, had created what became “Mutt and Jeff,” the long-popular comic strip about two mismatched tinhorns, in 1907.
In 1925, Mr. Fisher married Countess de Beaumont aboard a trans-Atlantic liner. In 1927, a New York judge granted her a legal separation after she testified, as The New York Times reported, to “her husband’s cruelty” in “permitting her to be neglected by his servants while they looked after a number of live frogs he maintained in their former apartment on Riverside Drive.”
Mr. Fisher died in 1954. Mrs. Fisher, who apparently never divorced him, retained the rights to “Mutt and Jeff.” These later devolved on Mr. de Beaumont.
“Mutt and Jeff” is currently reprinted in syndication in about 40 newspapers worldwide.
Mr. de Beaumont’s first marriage, to Barbara Anne Longstreth, ended in divorce. His second wife, the former Mary Deland Robbins Kelley, whom he married in 1960, died in 2001. He is survived by three stepchildren, Joan Kopperl, Kathleen McAllister and Edward Kelley; seven step-grandchildren; and seven step-great-grandchildren.
Brookstone was acquired by the Quaker Oats Company in 1980; it is currently owned by a consortium led by Osim International, a Singapore retailer.
In founding Brookstone, Mr. de Beaumont identified and closed a small but singular gap in the market. Where else could consumers find, all in one place, sought-after arcana like miniature anvils, wood-rot-cure kits and dental picks (prized by makers of model ships)?
“As far as we could tell, no one else was selling those types of things,” he told The Times in 1981. “We didn’t know whether it was a hole in the market or a hole to fall into.”
Posted on 03/19/2011 1:01 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
A Pledge Against Self Destruction of American Jews
by Jerry Gordon (March 2011)
On Friday evening, March 11th, five members of the Fogel family, a father, mother and three children, one as young as three months old, who lived in the community of Itamar in Samaria, were brutally and stealthily slaughtered jihad style in their sleep by one or more intruders coming, most likely, from a nearby Arab village. Read this report: “West Bank Settler Family Murdered in their Beds.” more>>>
Posted on 03/19/2011 12:59 PM by NER
Saturday, 19 March 2011
That's The "Arab Participation"?
When almost two dozen Arab states voted for a "No-Fly Zone" over LIbya, they assumed the West would do all of the work, and to make the Infidel Man's Burden hellishly difficult to fulfill -- but fulfill it the West must, without harming a single Arab civilian, of course, for That Would Be Wrong -- they insisted at the same time that there be "no military intervention." The absurdity of this, the near-impossibility of this, was not comented on by the solemn solons who gravely comment on such matters, and of course not by Hillary Clinton, apparently now taking her cue from the likes of Susan Rice and Samantha Power, if we are to believe -- let's give it one last try -- The New York Times.
Now we learn that perhaps two, or maybe three, of those nearly two dozen Arab states, will graciously allow a few planes -- and what about the pilots? -- from their vast arsenals, the ones on which they have lavished trillions over the past thirty years -- to fly over Libya. That's it? That's the "Arab Paricipation"? That's what gives this operation "an Arab face"?
Oh, for god's sake.
And just wait. The minute any Arab civilians or "civiilians" are killed, the Arabs here and there and everywhere will denounce the West, will rage against the country of origin of both plane and pilot, and Qaddafy & Sons will make hay while the sun shines, and even when it doesn't.
Folie à deux, trois, quatre....say, just how many Western states allowed themselves to be inveigled by the Arabs, or the Quai d'Orsay and the excitable Mr. Sarkozy, those French people who for many decades prided themselves on knowing so much better than the dumb Americans on how to handle the Arabs (for they "knew their Arabs") and, as a result, have five million or more Muslims on their hands.
Posted on 03/19/2011 1:04 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
A Musical Interlude: Nikodem (Adam Aston)
Posted on 03/19/2011 1:18 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
No Western Intervention In Syria Is Apparently Contemplated
Syrian forces seal city after clashes kill 5
BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian police sealed off a southern city Saturday after security forces killed at least five protesters there in the first sign that the Arab world's pro-democracy push is seeping into one of the region's most repressive places.
Residents of Daraa were being allowed to leave but not enter the city on Saturday, said prominent Syrian rights activist Mazen Darwish. The quick cordon seemed aimed at choking off any spread of unrest after Friday's clashes and emotional funeral processions for the dead on Saturday.
President Bashar Assad, who has boasted that his country is immune to the cries for change that have already toppled leaders in Egypt and Tunisia, sent a delegation to the southern city to offer his condolences to families of the victims, according to a Syrian official.
Serious disturbances in Syria would be a major expansion of the region's unrest. Syria, a predominantly Sunni country ruled by minority Alawites, has a history of brutally crushing dissent.
Security forces launched a harsh crackdown on Friday's demonstrations calling for political freedoms. Protests took place in at least five cities, including the capital, Damascus. But only in Daraa did they turn deadly.
Accounts from activists and social media say at least five people died in the gravest unrest in years in Syria.
A Syrian official acknowledged only two deaths and told The Associated Press that authorities would bring those responsible to trial. The official said that even if an investigation shows security officers were guilty, they will be put on trial "no matter how high their rank is." He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations that bar him from being identified by name.
Another government official said top Syrian leaders held a meeting Saturday in which they decided to form acommittee to investigate the circumstances of Friday's violence and to punish those responsible for the deaths in Daraa.
"The Syrian president categorically rejects the shedding of any Syrian blood," the official said, also on condition of anonymity.
A Syrian lawmaker from Daraa, Khaled Abboud, blamed Islamic extremists for Friday's violence.
"There is a group of Islamic extremists, they have a private or foreign agenda," he told AP. He did not elaborate. [this is what Qaddafy also says about his opponents -- the Arabs know what to say for Western consumption.]
Activist Darwish, who said he was in contact with residents of Daraa, said four of the dead were buried in the city Saturday. Thousands of people took part in the funeral under the watch of large numbers of security agents but there was no violence, he said.
Later in the day, an activist in Damascus also in contact with Daraa residents said security forces fired tear gas at mourners chanting "God, Syria and freedom only." He said several people were detained and others suffered from tear gas inhalation. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
The London-based Syrian Human Rights Committee said that during the funerals security forces raided some homes and detained people. Citing residents in the city, it added that troops were in full control of the streets.
The AP could not independently verify the accounts or reach residents of the city directly by phone.
Syria places tight restrictions on the movements of journalists in the country when it comes to security issues and state-run media and officials rarely comment on such sensitive matters.
A video of Friday's clashes posted on YouTube showed a bloodied young man, who appeared to be dead, being carried by a several people. Shortly afterward, shooting is heard and crowds scatter. The authenticity of the footage could not be confirmed.
In Washington, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said, "The United States strongly condemns the violence that has taken place in Syria." He added that the U.S. calls on the Syrian government to allow demonstrations to take place peacefully and for those responsible for violence to "be held accountable."
The violence was the worst since 2004 when clashes that began in the northeastern city of Qamishli between Syrian Kurds and security forces left at least 25 people dead and some 100 injured.
Although Assad keeps a tight lid on any form of political dissent, he also draws considerable popularity for being seen as one of the few Arab leaders willing to stand up to Israel.
Assad told The Wall Street Journal in February that Syria is insulated from the upheaval in the Arab world because he understands his people's needs and has united them in common cause against Israel.
Also Saturday, Abdul-Karim al-Rihawi, head of the Arab League for Human Rights, said 10 women who were detained on Wednesday after protesting in front of the Syrian Interior Ministry in central Damascus have begun a hunger strike.
Citing relatives, al-Rihawi said the women were being held in Douma prison on the outskirts of Damascus, adding that one of them is suffering from a "serious condition."
The women were among 33 people, most of them relatives of political detainees in Syria, detained Wednesday. They were charged by a prosecutor Thursday with hurting the state's image.
Separately, Syria said Saturday it was reducing compulsory military service by three months, making it 15 months for educated males and 18 months for those who have not completed primary education.
The state-run news agency said the new legislation will go into effect by June.
Posted on 03/19/2011 1:31 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Clinton Hails Arabs For "Taking A Leadership Role" In Confronting Libya
She didn't really say "taking a leadership role." But she might have.
Amid strains, Clinton hails Gulf leadership on Libya
By Andrew Quinn
PARIS, March 19 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday hailed Gulf Arab nations for leading the charge on Libya, seeking to bolster ties that are under strain as allies such as Saudi Arabia assess the U.S. stance toward protests shaking the region.
Clinton, in Paris for a conference to determine the next steps against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, said Washington viewed Arab countries and particularly those in the Gulf as key to the campaign's success.
"We have said from the start that Arab leadership and participation in this effort is crucial," Clinton told a news conference, saying the United States looked to Arab leaders for continued support.
The United States has seen ties with the Gulf's Sunni Muslim monarchies shaken by events in Bahrain, where violent protests by the kingdom's Shi'ite majority have forced the king to call in reinforcements from Saudi Arabia and other neighbours and to declare a state of emergency.
The United States has urged Bahrain's royal family to engage in real political dialogue with its opponents, a step that has raised anxiety in Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia whose oil-rich eastern region also has a large and sometimes restive Shi'ite population.
Political analysts say the Bahrain crisis has helped push the U.S.-Saudi relationship into dangerous territory as the world's top military power and its top oil producer make very different calculations about the impact of the political change washing over the Middle East.
UNITED AGAINST GADDAFI -- AND AGAINST IRAN
Despite these tensions, the Arab League has backed western-led efforts to get tough on Gaddafi and two Gulf countries -- the United Arab Emirates and Qatar -- may help with military support against a leader they had long regarded with suspicion.
Clinton, who met the foreign ministers of both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates while in Paris, underscored shared fears about Iran, the region's Shi'ite heavyweight which has sparked international concern over its nuclear ambitions.
"The United States has an abiding commitment to Gulf security and a top priority is working together with our partners on our shared concerns about Iranian behaviour in the region," she said.
"We share the view that Iran's activities in the Gulf, including its efforts to advance its agenda in neighbouring countries, undermines peace and stability."
Political analysts say Saudi Arabia's deep suspicion of Iranian meddling has been one reason for its military intervention in Bahrain -- spurred in part by fears of a Shi'ite-led government emerging on its side of the Gulf.
The United States, which has sought to "get in front" of pro-democracy protests across the region, criticised Bahrain's violent political crackdown this week
But Clinton on Saturday said the United States also recognised Bahrain's "sovereign right" to call in security help from its neighbours and said the real goal was a credible, peaceful political process that can address all parties' concerns.
"We have made clear that security alone cannot resolve the challenges facing Bahrain," Clinton said. "Violence is not and cannot be the answer. A political process is."
Posted on 03/19/2011 1:40 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Meanwhile, In Tribal Murderous Primitive Yemen
From The Telegraph:
Yemen protests: Evidence snipers shot to kill
Photographs and amateur video footage have provided the first compelling evidence that professional snipers shot to kill when they opened fire on an anti-government demonstration in Yemen that left at least 52 protesters dead.
Image after image of the dead, men and boys, showed that those killed in the most violent day in the capital city Sana'a for 30 years had been systematically shot through the head and neck by gunmen positioned on city rooftops.
Yet even as the international community condemned Friday's violence, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's president of 32 years, remained unbowed as his security forces visited more bloodshed on protesters in the port city of Aden, a strategic British colony until 1963.
Police used live fire to disperse demonstrators calling for Mr Saleh's resignation. Local human rights groups said that at least four people died, while more than a dozen more were wounded.
Abandoning all pretence of defending his people's legitimate right to protest, a pledge that he had made just a week before, Mr Saleh deployed tanks on the streets of Sana'a after declaring a state of emergency.
But if he hoped to scare the ever-growing movement demanding his overthrow, Mr Saleh appeared to have misjudged the public mood.
Just 24 hours earlier, many had stood defiant at the same spot as bullets flew around them.
Video footage released on Saturday suggested the callousness of a plot that seemed design to kill as many people as possible.
One clip shows smoke billowing from the southern end of the protesters' camp where unidentified men had erected a burning barricade of tyres to prevent the demonstrators, many of whom had been outside the university for days, from escaping.
Suddenly, there is a crackle of gunfire and scores of people duck involuntarily. But even as one man is felled, blood turning his white dishdasha (Italics please) robe white, others around him resume their anti-government slogans undeterred.
On the other side of what the demonstrators have begun to call "Taghyir" or "Change" Square, others stripped off their jackets and advanced towards the ever more relentless gunfire, pointing towards their chests as if in an invitation to shoot.
As the carnage continued, killing 52 and wounding hundreds more, victims were brought to a nearby mosque that had been turned into makeshift hospital.
Photographs showed the dead, identity cards and miniatures of the Koran laid on their corpses, lain in rows across the carpeted floor on an inner prayer room.
One young boy, barefoot and dressed in an Arsenal football club T-shirt, had been shot just above the eye. Another photograph showed a veiled woman cradling the body of her young son, his arms outstretched as if in supplication.
In one video, a man holding the body of his dead brother is shown making a tearful telephone call to his mother to tell her, in a faltering voice, that her son is dead.
Nearly all the bodies in the photographs had bullet wounds either in the forehead, neck or in the back of the head. There seems little doubt that this was the work of trained marksmen.
Yet President Saleh, while expressing his sorrow, claimed that the gunmen were either the demonstrators themselves or irate residents neighbouring the university who had grown tired of the noise of the protests – a claim denied by the residents themselves.
The opposition coalition at the forefront of the protests accused Mr Saleh, a key US ally against al-Qaeda, of perpetrating crimes against humanity.
"It is a massacre," said opposition spokesman Mohammed al-Sabri. "This is part of a criminal plan to kill off the protesters, and the president and his relatives are responsible for the bloodshed."
Much of the sniper fire emanated from a building allegedly owned by a regional governor close to President Saleh, further evidence, the opposition said, of the regime's involvement in the killings.
Video footage showed a masked man crouching behind a balustrade on the building's roof.
As the gunfire continued unabated, a group of protesters stormed the rooftop, braving gunfire to capture 10 of the snipers – seven of whom were said to have possessed government identification papers.
One of the suspected snipers was dragged into the streets, where he was beaten and clubbed by protesters, while a second was allegedly flung off the edge of the building.
Although 20 protesters had been killed in scattered incidents before Friday's violence, the scale of President Saleh's retribution proved too grotesque even for some of his longtime allies.
Three resigned in the aftermath, including one cabinet minister, a prominent ruling party figure who condemned the killings as "totally unacceptable" and Nasr Taha Mustafa, the high-profile head of the state news agency, a major source of regime propaganda.
"Nothing can justify the deaths of scores of youths whose only sin was to exercise the freedom guaranteed by Islam and the constitution to demand change," Mr Mustafa said.
Under the urging of Egypt's new military leadership, Mr Saleh had, before Friday, exercised a week of restraint after initially responding to protests that erupted last month with force.
But he appears to have changed course after hardliners in the Bahrain royal family reversed a policy of tolerance this week to shoot dead over a dozen protesters in this island kingdom before calling for and getting military intervention led by Saudi Arabia.
Backed by Saudi Arabia, and believing the West to be absorbed in implementing a no-fly zone in Libya, Mr Saleh apparently calculated that he could get away with a crackdown on the opposition protest movement, analysts said.
He may also have taken heart from only criticism for the United States, which did not repeat calls made in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia for regime change.
Seeing Mr Saleh as both a bulwark against the growing al Qaeda presence in Yemen and a safeguard against instability in a country plagued by two secessionist rebellions, the United States instead urged the protesters to be more "constructive" and engaged with the president.
In an effort to quell the unrest, Mr Saleh offered a raft of economic and political reforms as well as a pledge not to seek a further term at Yemen's next presidential election in 2013.
But Mr Saleh has promised not to contest elections in the past and few in the opposition trust him to honour his word this time.
With dozens of Mr Saleh's one-time allies deserting him, among them the head of a powerful tribal confederation to which the president belongs, the opposition senses that it now has the advantage.
"Sending tanks to the street is a sign that the regime is in a state of panic," said Mr al-Sabri.
"The widespread killing that took place, followed by the declaration of emergency law, demonstrate that the power of the people on the street has become greater than that of the government."
Although President Barack Obama condemned Friday's violence, Washington is also coming under pressure to take a more robust line with its ally and there have been calls for a suspension of US military aid to Yemen.
"Time and again, President Saleh promises he will stop attacks on peaceful protesters and yet the number of dead keeps rising," said Sarah Lee Whitson, the Middle East director for the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
"The United States should back up its words condemning the carnage with action and halt all military aid to Yemen."
Yet Washington remains uneasy about some of the high-profile figures among the protesters, in particular the prominent cleric Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, who has been termed a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" by the US treasury department.
Mr Zindani, who is accused of once serving as a spiritual mentor to Osama bin Laden and has links with the radical Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, has attended the protests to call for the president's resignation and the creation of an Islamist state in Yemen.
Although Mr Zindani is influential, there is no evidence that his vision is shared by the bulk of the protesters, many of whom are lawyers and university professors from Yemen's middle class.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has also publicly fretted about possible Iranian influence in the protests because Tehran has offered support to Houthi tribesmen waging a rebellion in the north of Yemen.
The Houthis, however, only represent a tiny fraction of the protests, analysts say.
While Washington's muted reaction has done little to endear it to the protester movement that could well form the next government in a key front line state in the war on terror, European diplomats are privately warning that Yemen could sink into a tribal war if Mr Saleh is not ousted soon.
"We are witnessing ever greater fragmentation within Yemen's all-important tribal structure," one western official said. "Allegiances are shifting quickly and Saleh's hold over the patronage system that keeps Yemen from collapsing is visibly slipping."
"It is not in the West's best interests to see this degenerate into a Libya-style conflict that would play into the hands of Islamist militants, which is why it would be better for Saleh to go sooner rather than later."
Posted on 03/19/2011 1:44 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Where Was The West's Intervention When 2.5 Million Sudanese Christians Died?
This didn't happen long long ago. It happened, in slow motion, during the last few decades. Where was the West? There was a Special Rapporteur, M. Gaston Biro, who reported what was happening.
Was the West held back because the Arab League wouldn't have approved? Would the West -- now that's busy fulfilling the "mandate" of the Arab League -- and just look at the way Susan "International Community" Rice scampered around trying to round up votes to vote as the United States did, something she never bothers to do when, clearly with no great enthusiasm, she raises her arm and casts the lone vote against some obscene anti-Israel measure (how different from Daniel Patrick Moynihan or Jeanne Kirkpatrick -- why, even William F. Buckley was better on that score)--do so today?
What about the persecution and killing of Christians in Muslim lands? What are the numbers, and how do they stack up, against the apparent handful of civilian casualties in Libya?
Is there any where in the world where the American government would intervente to stop Muslims from killing, in their own lands, non-Muslims -- Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and so on? Is there anywhere in the world where the American government would at the very least cut off all aid to such countries beginning, for example, with our permanent enemy that keeps being called an ally, Pakistan?
Posted on 03/19/2011 2:28 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
What's Wrong With American Universities? Well, Start With The Grotesque Pay For Their Presidents
Yes, this is three years old. Imagine what Amy Gutmann, and those other university presidents, are now making. And no group of enraged alumni does a thing to stop it.
Gutmann pay increases by 40 percent
Salary jump makes her one of highest-paid univ. presidents
Penn President Amy Gutmann received a 41-percent pay increase last year - a jump in compensation that makes her one of only a handful of college presidents who take in more than $1 million annually.
Gutmann earned a total of $1,155,634 in the 2006-07 fiscal year, the latest year for which compensation figures are available. That's about 17 percent more than Gutmann's predecessor, Judith Rodin, earned her last year as president, when she took in $986,915.
It also makes her one of only about eight college presidents who earn seven figures, according to Khiet Ho, a project analyst for Washington law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, who specializes in higher-education compensation issues.
And Gutmann is also the best-paid president in the Ivy League for whom figures are available. The next highest is Ruth Simmons of Brown University, who earned $775,718. (Yale, Columbia and Princeton universities did not provide their tax returns before press time.) -- but Ruth Simmons also earns much more in other activities -- apparently she has plenty of time on her hands and doesn't need to devote it to being president of Brown.
Raymond Cotton, a partner at Mintz Levin, said that the average compensation increase among university presidents was about 10 percent a year.
When asked to comment for this article, Gutmann's office referred all questions to University spokeswoman Lori Doyle.
In a statement, Doyle said the pay increase was a result of Gutmann's exemplary performance handling the transition from Rodin's administration to her own. [isn't that her job?]
"Rather than lose momentum during the transition to a new president in '05, we have gained momentum and Penn is in a very enviable spot in higher education," she wrote in an e-mail.
She added that Gutmann's salary was lower than normal during the first several years of her presidency because of her status as a new and first-time president.
Of her total compensation, Gutmann earned $750,000 in salary and took in $139,000 for "retirement and disability-related expenses" as well as $170,000 in deferred compensation that will be paid out if she reaches "certain goals and objectives," according to Doyle, who was unable to elaborate further. She also had a $66,848 expense account, which was used for living and travel expenses.
The last two figures represent about 29 percent of her total compensation, a jump of 11.2 percentage points from the year before and an unusually high sum, according to Cotton. He speculated that this jump could be attributed in part to Penn's efforts to retain Gutmann in an increasingly competitive market for university presidents - especially because Harvard University was attempting to replace Lawrence Summers as president during this time period, and Gutmann was a contender for the job.
He called this money a "golden handcuff" because deferred compensation would probably be lost if she left Penn to head another institution.
Cotton also pointed out that a president like Gutmann, who at the time was unrolling a massive capital campaign and overseeing Penn's expansion into the postal lands, could expect pay increases as a result of her successful initiatives.
Despite Gutmann's lofty salary, she wasn't Penn's highest-paid employee last year. That distinction goes to Arthur Rubenstein, dean of the Medical School and executive vice president of the Health System. He raked in $3,455,767.
Gutmann's yearly salary is set by the Board of Trustees, Penn's highest governing body, on the recommendation of its compensation committee, while deans and other top officials' salaries are set by the trustees on Gutmann's recommendation.
James Riepe, chairman of the Board of Trustees and head of the compensation committee, did not return repeated requests for comment for this article.
University Secretary Leslie Kruhly refused two requests to make other members of the committee available for interviews.
"Mr. Riepe is the only trustee who speaks on behalf of the compensation committee," she wrote in an e-mail.
Posted on 03/19/2011 3:21 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Latest On The Bliss-Was-It-To-Be-Alive Revolution In Egypt That
Atfer Anderson Cooper and Cristine Amanpour left, we learned all kinds of things.
That the attack on the journalist Lara Logan was not a singular event. One hundred twenty five journalists had been attacked by Egyptians, pro and anti-Mubarak.
The Egyptian army joined in an attack on a Coptic church (so much for "Muslim and Christian, men and women" etc. that was intoned endlessly during the coverage of what was called the "Jasmine Revolution"
The front-runner in the "new" Egypt is someone who has been a loyal, and well-rewarded member of the most corrupt Arab elite, even serving as President of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, whose quarrel with Mubarak was not about corruption, but only about Amr Moussa's wanting Mubarak to be even less faithful to the promises made to Egypt under the Camp David Accords than Mubarak already was being.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been celebrating its existence, proudly, openly, all over Egypt.
The women who marched to demonstrate for women's rights in Tahrir Square were attacked by a mob of Muslim men, and quickly retreated.
And there's much more, including the attack today on El Baradei, about which you can read here.
Posted on 03/19/2011 3:27 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
A Worrying Position For The Telegraph
Here's what an editorial in The Telegraph (London) had to say about David Cameron and Libya:
Libya: David Cameron has taken a dangerous gamble
Telegraph View: If Mr Cameron wants to adopt a higher profile in world affairs, he should give the Armed Forces the resources they need.
David Cameron can reflect with satisfaction this weekend on the diplomatic triumph he and William Hague have achieved in winning international support for military intervention against Libya. Mr Cameron took a bold gamble two weeks ago when he became the first Western leader to call unequivocally for a no-fly zone to protect anti-government rebels from the bloody reprisals undertaken by forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator. Unexpectedly, it appears to have paid off.
At the time, there seemed to be little appetite for the measure elsewhere. Indeed, Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, dismissed the Prime Minister's suggestion out of hand, warning us of the dangers of "loose talk". Persuading President Barack Obama's administration to support action has undoubtedly been the most tricky aspect of Mr Cameron's mission. As Gaddafi's forces mustered a highly effective counter-offensive against the rebels, the Western alliance was reduced to a state of paralysis by the mood of indecision in the White House. At one point this week, Mr Cameron's exasperation with Washington led him to adopt the dubious proposition that military action could be taken against Libya without United Nations backing.
We know from the bitter experience of Iraq the pitfalls of launching a military intervention against a sovereign power without authorisation from the UN. But even though the Government's perseverance resulted in resolution 1973, there are still serious obstacles that need to be addressed as Mr Cameron and his allies seek to translate their diplomatic success into victory. After all, the ultimate objective of all the international arm-twisting remains the removal of this appalling regime from power.
But, as Gaddafi has demonstrated repeatedly since the crisis erupted a month ago, he is a canny operator. For example, yesterday he responded to the new resolution by unilaterally declaring a ceasefire against the rebels. In the unlikely event that he were to keep his word, the West would find it difficult to justify launching air strikes. And what would happen if the rebels, encouraged by their Arab supporters, took advantage of the ceasefire to launch their own attacks? Would the RAF and other air forces enforcing the no-fly zone feel obliged to support the rebels in their quest to overthrow the regime?
Mr Cameron neatly side-stepped such issues yesterday when he informed a sombre Commons that he was committing Britain to the first war of his premiership. So far as Gaddafi's ceasefire pledge is concerned, the Prime Minister said he would judge the Libyan leader "by his actions, not his words"
The editorial writer regrets, is offended by, " the dubious proposition that military action could be taken against Libya without United Nations backing." Can he expect us to agree with what he apparently means, that no Western power can take military action unless the U.N. approves, when the U.N. has a sole bloc voting that controls almost everything -- the Arab-Islamic bloc? Can or should any Western power or people start to believe that they need, for whatever actions they take, the approval of the U.N.? That's a terrible idea. The U.N. should be mocked, attacked, cut down to size, regarded in Europe as most intelligent and well-informed people in this country regard it, with a justified mixture of amusement and contempt.
Posted on 03/19/2011 3:56 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
In Bahrain, In Yemen, In Libya, Everywhere It's "Where Are The Americans?"
Islam is a cargo cult, whose members cannot dare to recognize the reasons that they cannot, on their own, produce the ideas, the technology, the anything, that the Western world -- and the Far East too -- seem able to produce. Muslims have lots of money, money gained not through work or entrepreneurial flair but through an accident of geology, and this allows many of them to buy what the West has, without troubling themselves overmuch as to why the non-Muslim world has it and they don't -- as long as they have the money to buy it, they don't care. So they buy trillions of dollars worth of miiltary hardware. They buy contractors and architects and doctors to staff hospitals, and engineers, and teachers. They buy access to Western medicine and education, and even set up little local succursals in Dubai or Abu Dhabi of Western museums and Western universities. And it is no different when it comes to desiring a different distribution of money and power -- whenever there is opposition that will not roll over and play dead, the cry goes up "Where Are The Americans? Where Are The Americans?" That this preposterous state of affairs has been allowed to develop is one more bit of evidence of Islam as a Cargo Cult, and evidence, too, of American failure to put things right, to state things clearly. We owe the world of Islam, the world's Muslims, exactly nothing.
Here's an article today; I've put in bold the "where are the Americans" bit. This happens to be a story from Bahrain. It has also appeared, repeatedly, in stories from Libya, and Yemen. It may have happened in Egypt, too.
The Proxy Battle in Bahrain
CAIRO — King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has demonstrated one lesson learned from the course of pro-democracy uprisings across the Middle East: The world may cheer when autocrats resign, but it picks carefully which autocrats to punish for opening fire on their citizens.
That cynical bit of realpolitik seems to have led the king to send troops last week over the causeway from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain, where they backed up a violent crackdown on unarmed protesters by Bahrain’s own security forces.
The move had immediate consequences for Middle East politics, and for American policy: It transformed Bahrain into the latest proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for regional dominance. And it called into question which model of stability and governance will prevail in the Middle East, and which Washington will help build: one based on consensus and hopes for democracy, or continued reliance on strongmen who intimidate opponents, sow fear and co-opt reformist forces while protecting American interests like ensuring access to oil and opposing Iran.
For Saudi Arabia, the issue in Bahrain is less whether Bahrain will attain popular rule than whether Iranian and Shiite influence will grow.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have sparred on many fronts since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 — a Shiite Muslim theocracy in Tehran versus a deeply conservative Sunni Muslim monarchy in Riyadh — in a struggle for supremacy in the world’s most oil-rich region. The animosity was evident in Saudi Arabia’s support for Iraq during its war with Iran, and it still shows in Iran’s backing for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Now, after a decade that seemed to tilt the regional balance toward Iran, Saudi Arabia decided that Bahrain was the place to put its thumb more heavily on the scale. It sent troops under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council to help crush pro-democracy demonstrations because most of the protesters were Shiites challenging a Sunni king.
“If the political opposition in Bahrain wins, Saudi loses in this regional context,” said Mustafa el-Labbad, director of Al Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “Saudi is regarding itself as the defender of Sunnis. And Iran is trying to defend Shiites in the region.”
The problem for the United States, however, is that Bahrain, at Saudi urging, chose to resolve its fears with force, rather than by addressing the protesters’ demands for democratic reform, as American officials had publicly encouraged.
And for that reason, the military deployment may now have a profound impact on the United States and its primary strategic interest in Bahrain, the Navy base it maintains there.
Because Washington did not ultimately support the protesters’ demands — as it came to do in Egypt and as it has now, very late in the game, come to back foreign intervention in Libya — many protesters believe that the Saudi troops were sent in with American complicity, or at least with an expectation of American acquiescence. So, among the protesters, who turned out by the tens of thousands, the crackdown may well yield animosity toward America and its Navy when events finally settle down.
One American expert in the Persian Gulf who advises policymakers in Washington said the Saudi king’s action was taken without regard for what might happen if it fails — if the violence leads only to more violence. The Saudi policy, he said, “is risky and could potentially draw us into conflicts we have not looked for.”
“What if the Bahrain venture fails, who will bail them out? It will have to be us.”
Saudi Arabia’s supporters acknowledge that this confrontation can escalate, but they tend to place the responsibility on Iran. “It can lead to that direct conflict if Iran were to interfere and use this as an excuse to interfere,” said Abdulaziz O. Sager, chairman of the Gulf Research Center, which is based in Dubai. “I hope Iran can understand that any interference will not be acceptable.”
There has been no evidence that Iran played a part in Bahrain’s uprising, which was led by young Bahrainis from the Shiite majority. Still, many protesters have said, it is reasonable to expect Shiites to be more receptive to Iran if they do gain power. There is little doubt, they also say, that a Shiite-led government would be less receptive to the Saudis.
Even some of the Iranian regime’s harshest critics are saying the Saudi military venture in Bahrain will change the narrative of the region in Iran’s favor. Abbas Milani, an Iranian who went into exile after the 1979 revolution and is now director of Iranian studies at Stanford University, put it this way: “Iran, as the most brutal authoritarian regime in the region, will now have the chance to seem to stand with the democratic aspirations of the people, and against authoritarians clinging to power.”
The Saudi king’s decision to back King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa’s crackdown in Bahrain also underscored the challenge the United States often faces with its closest allies in the Middle East, where some interests align — like protecting the flow of oil — and others do not, like financing global terrorism. Saudi Arabia has moved aggressively to cut off radical Islamic terrorism within its own borders, but it has addressed the global phenomenon with far less conviction, many American experts have said.
One of those experts was Richard C. Holbrooke, the United States special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Shortly before his death last year, he was asked if heroin was the top source of funds for the Taliban. The answer was no. “It’s the gulf,” he said, meaning cash from sources in Saudi Arabia and another American ally, Kuwait.
One effect of the crackdown was to underscore President Obama’s failure to close the gap in expectations between his talk of democracy during his historic speech in Cairo in 2009 and his actions on the ground. The contortions needed to preserve the old model of stability while supporting aspirations for democracy were strikingly evident in a comment by Senator John Kerry, an ally of the president. “They are not looking for violence in the streets,” the senator said of the Saudi troops moving into Bahrain. “They would like to encourage the king and others to engage in reforms and a dialogue.”
Time quickly proved him wrong. The violence started the next day, and it was not only Iran that blamed Washington. “Where are the Americans, where are the Americans, why are they allowing this, they are killing us with heavy guns, where are the Americans?” shrieked Hussein Muhammad, 37, a bookstore owner and political activist, in a breathless phone call Wednesday from Manama.
When the tear gas cleared, the streets of Manama were littered with canisters that said, on their side, that they had been made in the United States.
While Washington has pressed for restraint, it has also continued to support the monarchy.
“My guess is that there are probably very significant parts of our government that were happy with this,” said Daniel C. Kurtzer, a professor at Princeton who was ambassador to Egypt under President Bill Clinton, and to Israel under President George W. Bush. “Although they are not able to say it, because other parts of our government see it as destabilizing. I think parts of our government are looking at the Iranian threat and the possibility of Bahrain being the first dominoes in the gulf to fall.”
Mr. Kurtzer pointed to an irony in that line of thought: the decision to support Bahrain’s king this time may undermine short-run interests the United States thought it was protecting. For 60 years, the United States has based the Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. It operates openly, and its personnel have enjoyed largely unrestricted freedom of movement around the kingdom.
But last week, the Navy authorized family members and nonessential personnel to leave. The question now is: How safe will United States ships and personnel be surrounded by a population that may see Americans as complicit in the crackdown?
Posted on 03/19/2011 4:09 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Will A Bill Be Submitted To The Arab League For Services Rendered?
Today 110 cruise missiles were launched by the American military against Libya.
The cost of the missiles alone comes to about $600,000 per missile. So the cost of just the basic war materiel, leaving aside all the expense of the mission itself, for just this first day comes to about $70 million. How many hundreds of millions, or billions, will the West expend, because the Arab League voted "unanimously" (as I've heard television newscasters repeatedly say, when both Algeria and Syria voted against the No-Fly Zone) to have the West get rid of someone whom they all detest, not because he is a despot (almost all the rulers of Arab countries are despots), not because he "makes war on his own people" (ditto), not because he's venomous and armed to the teeth (double ditto), but because he's always attacking and making fun of them, the other Arab leaders, and the Arab League too. That's why they wouldn't mind seeing Qaddafy gone. And if the oil markets are roiled, if Qaddafy takes Libyan oil off the market and the price of oil goes sky-higher, they will reap the benefits, while the endlessly gullible Western powers, now busily risking the lives of its pilots and using up its war materiel as if there is no tomorrow, will have to pay more.
I don't how much this little operation is costing the British and the French, but their taxpayers might wish to know, might wish someone to find out and publish the results.
Morally speaking,, the fighting over power in Libya.is not quite as clear a contrast as one supposes. It may be closer to Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Qaddafy, however, is a known and now chastened quantity. He's outs with everyone. For the West, that's good. Why intervene so expensively when the best he can hope for at this point is, maybe, to hold onto the western two-thirds of the country, with constant internal challenges to his rule?
Is there really such a superfluity of cruise missiles, that they can be thrown around like confetti?
Posted on 03/19/2011 4:18 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Armed Men Attack Reuters Gaza Bureau
Gunmen claiming to belong to Hamas raid news agency's office; CNN also targeted
So Al-Reuters and Al-CNN have "Palestinian" employees working in their Gaza offices and they are still attacked.
How impartial can these "journalists" be in relation to Israel?
The Reuters staff attacked were Palestinian
After the attack on the Reuters newsroom, more than 100 Palestinian journalists staged a sit-in in the street in Gaza to condemn the violence and to demand a full investigation.
In any case if the "journalists" reported impartially their lives would be in danger.
And this scheme of things doesn't just apply to Israel ("the Jews").
It applies to all kuffar conflicts.
The whole reporting system has been hopelessly compromised.
For a shocking insight into how Islamic Jihad has invaded the media, by design, see: Television News
Posted on 03/19/2011 4:36 PM by The Law
Saturday, 19 March 2011
The Unbearable Bernard-Henri Levy And His Diplomatic "Triumph"
Crédits photo : François BOUCHON/Le Figaro
Arrivé en retard en Égypte, BHL est un artisan important du virage diplomatique international qui vient de s'opérer vis-à-vis de la Libye.
Il y a dix-huit ans, Bernard-Henri Lévy avait déjà réussi un beau coup diplomatique en emmenant personnellement le président bosniaque Alija Izetbegovic - dont il soutenait la cause depuis le début de la guerre civile yougoslave - dans le bureau de François Mitterrand à l'Élysée. Mais, cette fois, notre dandy national, «ministre des Affaires étrangères» à ses heures, aura fait encore plus fort : entraîner la France - et à sa suite tout l'Occident - dans la guerre, afin de débarrasser la Libye d'un dictateur sanguinaire qui, il n'y a pas si longtemps, jouissait du privilège de planter sa tente en plein VIII e arrondissement de Paris.
Tout commence à la fin du mois de février, quand BHL se rend au Caire, pour écrire un reportage destiné à Libération, journal dont il est administrateur. Très en retard par rapport aux reporters professionnels du monde entier, il arrive sur place alors que Moubarak est déjà tombé. Personne ne remarque même son papier. Au moment où il s'apprête à s'envoler pour Paris, lui parviennent sur son BlackBerry les premières nouvelles de l'insurrection libyenne à Benghazi, et de sa sanglante répression par les forces de Kadhafi. Il hésite, mais monte quand même dans l'avion. Après quatre jours passés à Paris, il repart et se rue, à l'instar de dizaines d'autres journalistes occidentaux, vers une Cyrénaïque libérée par son peuple de la police du dictateur. Pour faire le trajet de la frontière égyptienne à Tobrouk, BHL, accompagné de son fidèle Gilles Herzog, ne trouve pas de taxi : il monte dans la camionnette d'un marchand ambulant de légumes. À Benghazi, il s'installe sur la Corniche, à l'hôtel Tibesti, où le grouillement des journalistes lui rappelle sans doute l'Holiday Inn de Sarajevo. À ce moment-là, surpassé par les ténors des grandes télévisions anglo-saxonnes, BHL n'est qu'un troisième couteau au sein du grand cirque médiatique qui couvre l'insurrection des tribus de l'est de la Libye.
«Accepterais-tu de recevoir les Massoud libyens ?»
C'est seulement le vendredi 4 mars que BHL réussit à prendre un envol, qui va le faire passer progressivement du statut de reporter de guerre amateur à celui d'acteur majeur de la diplomatie mondiale. Dans l'après-midi, à force de traîner sur la Corniche devant le bâtiment de la Cour suprême servant de QG improvisé à la nouvelle opposition, à force de baratiner un porte-parole autoproclamé du Conseil national de transition (CNT), BHL parvient à se faire conduire dans la villa de Moustapha Abdeljalil, l'ancien ministre de la Justice devenu le chef politique de la rébellion. Coup de maître ; il est seul ; il a largué le troupeau des journaleux. Mais il ne se contente pas de faire une interview exclusive. Il passe directement à la diplomatie parallèle et secrète. Au maître de la Libye nouvelle, qui le reçoit entouré de son cabinet tout juste formé, il dit que les Libyens libres sont le sel de la terre et que le monde entier les regarde. Voilà pour l'entrée. Vient très vite le plat principal : BHL invite en France ses interlocuteurs, leur promettant de tout faire pour les amener à l'Élysée. Le soir venu, il parvient, depuis son téléphone satellite, à joindre Nicolas Sarkozy : «Accepterais-tu de recevoir les Massoud libyens ?» Le président de la République donne aussitôt son accord.
Le jeudi 10 mars, à 10 heures, dans le salon vert du 1er étage du palais de l'Élysée, le chef de l'État reçoit le philosophe et les trois émissaires libyens du CNT. À ses côtés, le conseiller diplomatique Jean-David Lévitte et, tout pâle, le conseiller spécial Henri Guaino qui, en 2007, traita BHL de «petit con prétentieux». Sarkozy, alors, annonce aux Libyens éberlués et ravis le plan qu'il a concocté l'avant-veille avec BHL : reconnaissance du CNT comme seul représentant légitime de la Libye ; envoi d'un ambassadeur de France à Benghazi ; frappes ciblées sur les aéroports militaires du pays ; le tout avec la bénédiction - qu'il a déjà obtenue - de la Ligue arabe. Deux heures plus tard, alors que les Libyens ont déjà annoncé aux médias du monde entier la bonne nouvelle, Alain Juppé descend du Thalys à Bruxelles. Les caméras se jettent sur lui. Le masque. Manifestement, le ministre des Affaires étrangères n'est au courant de rien.
Comment le «ministre-bis» gagne la partie
Changement de vent dès le week-end : alors que Kadhafi avance sur le terrain, les médias se déchaînent contre l'improbable duo Sarkozy-BHL et leur «diplomatie de perron». Pire encore, mardi 15 au soir : lors de l'entretien, organisé par BHL, à l'hôtel Westin à Paris, entre la secrétaire d'État de l'Amérique et l'émissaire libyen Mahmoud Jebril, le courant ne passe pas ; l'homme de Benghazi comprend que Washington ne veut pas d'une intervention militaire.
C'est alors que BHL décide de mettre la pression sur Sarkozy, en déclarant jeudi matin à la radio que si Kadhafi prend Benghazi, l'immense drapeau français qui flotte sur la Corniche sera littéralement éclaboussé du sang des Libyens massacrés. L'image porte. À 14 heures, Sarkozy appelle BHL. Il a pris sa décision. Il envoie Juppé à New York et appelle lui-même, un à un, les présidents ou chefs de gouvernement des 15 pays membres du Conseil de sécurité de l'ONU. À minuit, le président annoncera lui-même à son «ministre-bis» qu'il a gagné la partie, que la résolution est votée…
Posted on 03/19/2011 4:44 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
A Musical Interlude: Once In A While (Casino Royal Orchestra)
Posted on 03/19/2011 4:51 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
What Would Ulysses Think Of Operation Odyssey Dawn?
The American government has given its lobbying of cruise missiles, hundreds of them, with mustard and relish, around and possibly in Libyan cities, the name "Operation Odyssey Dawn."
So what would the hero of that Homeric tale, Odysseus -- resouceful, farseeing, cunning, wily, polytropic Odysseus -- make of "Operation Odyssey Dawn," if he knew, and he would know, because that's what makes Odysseus Odysseus, not only about about Qaddafy and Libya, but about the Arabs, and the Americans, and the Europeans, and demography, and the oil markets, and the attention-span in Washington, and the texts, tenets, attitudes, and atmospherics of Islam, but about somuch else besides, and especially about men and events, in time and through space.
Would he approve, or might he have other ideas as to how to proceed?
Posted on 03/19/2011 5:11 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
A Literary Interlude: Homer. Insomnia. Taut Sails (Osip Mandelshtam)
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Insomnia. Homer. Taut sails.
I've read through half the list of ships:
This spun-out brood, this train of cranes
That once ascended over Hellas.
A wedge of cranes to foreign shores,-
Your kings' heads wreathed in spray,-
Where are you sailing? Were it not for Helen,
Achaeans, what would Troy have been to you?
The sea and Homer - love moves all.
Where should I turn? Here Homer is silent,
While the Black Sea clamors oratorically
And reaches my pillow with a heavy roar.
Posted on 03/19/2011 5:31 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Libyan OIl Production Could "Reach A Halt" But If So, Arab Oil Producers Will Be Delighted
Libya Oil Chief Says Crude Production ‘Could Reach a Halt’ Due to Conflict
By Mar 19, 2011 -
Libya’s oil production fell to less than 400,000 barrels a day after foreign companies pulled out their staff, the chairman of the country’s state-run National Oil Corp., Shokri Ghanem, said in a televised media conference from Tripoli.
Ghanem said the North African country had no intention of breaking commitments with foreign companies and called on them to send their employees back to resume work. Libya may otherwise award new oil and gas concessions directly to companies in countries such as China, India and Brazil in order to raise production, which “could reach a halt,” he said.
Within hours of Ghanem’s remarks, war planes and naval vessels from the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Italy began bombing Libyan air defenses and other military targets to enforce a United Nations-authorized no-fly zone. Earlier today, dictator Muammar Qaddafi abandoned a cease-fire he announced yesterday and ordered an attack on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
Oil and gas installations in Libya, including the main oil hub of Ras Lanuf, were damaged in fighting between rebels seeking the ouster of Qaddafi and forces loyal to him after mass protests against his four-decade rule erupted on Feb. 17.
“We are continuing to monitor the situation,” Michaela Huber, a spokeswoman for Vienna-based OMV AG (OMV), said in an e-mail. Robert Wine, a spokesman for BP Plc (BP/), said the London-based company is also keeping an eye on events in the country.
Daily supply from Africa’s third-largest producer dropped by an estimated 195,000 barrels to 1.385 million barrels in February, from 1.58 million barrels the previous month, before slumping to a “trickle” by March 11, the Paris-based International Energy Agency said in its monthly Oil Market Report.
Oil fell yesterday after the Libyan regime said it would cease military operations and begin talks with the rebels. Crude for April delivery dropped 35 cents to settle at $101.07 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures were up as much as 2.2 percent at $103.66 before the Libyan announcement.
Oil prices have risen by more than 10 percent in the past three months as unrest has spread across the Middle East, toppling the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.
Posted on 03/19/2011 7:49 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Sunnis Will Never Let The Shi'a Rule In Bahrain
From The Independent:
Bahrain and Yemen declare war on their protesters
With 42 killed in Sanaa, regimes show they will keep power at any cost
By Patrick Cockburn
20 March 2011
A brutal counter-revolution is sweeping through the Arabian Peninsula as Bahrain and Yemen both declare war on reform movements and ferociously try to suppress them with armed force.
In Yemen police and snipers on rooftops opened fire on Friday on a mass demonstration outside the main university, killing at least 42 people. The government has since declared martial law and set up checkpoints throughout the capital, Sanaa.
In Bahrain repression began a few days earlier, when King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa called for military support from other Gulf monarchs and 1,000 troops from Saudi Arabia crossed into the island kingdom. "This was the green light for our army to kill people," says Ali Salman, the leader of al-Wefaq, the main opposition party.
As decisively as in Yemen the Bahraini al-Khalifa royal family has rejected reform and showed that it intends to hold power by armed force. Serried ranks of riot police advancing behind a cloud of tear gas and backed by armoured vehicles and helicopters cleared protesters from Pearl Square, which has been the gathering point for protesters. The 300ft-high monument commemorating the pearl fishers of the Gulf, a rallying point for protesters, has been torn down by the army. "It was a bad memory," said the Bahraini Foreign Minister, Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa.
"There are 80 people still missing that we don't know what happened to," said Mohammed al-Maskati, an opposition activist, in a telephone interview. He added that there was no information on the whereabouts of the seven reform leaders who have been detained, but they have been charged with "incitement to kill" and being in communication with a foreign power. Mr Maskati did not think there was much that the pro-democracy protesters could do in the face of the army and police.
"They have made clear that they will stop any demonstration by brute force," he said. He added that the opposition have called on people to go to the roofs of their houses between 4.30 and 5.30 pm and wave the red-and-white Bahraini flag. They were also asked to shout "God is great" at set times.
The most visible sign of popular protest in Bahrain is at the funerals of those killed when the army moved in. The funeral of Ahmed Farhan, a 29-year-old unemployed fisherman, took place in the Shia town of Sitra on Friday and was attended by thousands of mourners.
King Hamad and President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, who has ruled for 32 years, have chosen their moment well to try crush the reformers. The US and its allies are absorbed by the likelihood of armed conflict with Libya and need the support of the Gulf monarchies to give an Arab gloss to Western military intervention there. The United Arab Emirates and Qatar have promised to supply some of the forces needed.
In Bahrain the reformers are dependent on their numbers to make their voice heard. The Shia, who have been marginalised for 200 years by the al-Khalifas and the Sunni ruling elite, make up 70 per cent of the 550,000 population., The 30,000-strong army is entirely Sunni and the police and security, which are of similar size, contain many Sunni from Pakistan, Jordan, Syria and Yemen. The Shia say that these foreign Sunni have also been made citizens to change the demographics of Bahrain.
The reformers denounce the government for playing on sectarian differences and claiming that the struggle is purely one between Shia and Sunni. But there is no doubt that the Saudis have always seen the struggle for power in Bahrain largely in sectarian terms and are fearful that it will spread to their own largely Shia Eastern Province. There were protests calling for the release of pro-democracy leaders in Qatif, the largest centre in this region of Saudi Arabia, on Friday with demonstrators chanting: "One people – Qatif and Bahrain." The Saudi King Abdullah made one of his rare appearances on television to promise $93bn (£57bn)for extra benefits in addition to $37bn already promised.
The repression in Bahrain has been denounced in Tehran, Baghdad and Beirut, but leaders there can do little about it. Any action by Iran will be swiftly used by the al-Khalifas as evidence that there has been an Iranian hand behind the disturbances. Leaked cables from the US embassy say there has been no evidence for this in the past but the accusation will find believers in the US Congress.
The US has important strategic interests in supporting the status quo in Bahrain This is the headquarters of the US Navy Fifth Fleet and a vital base for the US in any future confrontation with Iran. After the dispatch this week of Saudi troops to Bahrain the island looks even more like a Saudi protectorate than before. With the fall of President Mubarak, America is even more reliant on the Saudis and averse to offending them.
The crackdown in Bahrain and Yemen means that the Arabian Peninsula, where so much of the world's oil reserves are located, is becoming a zone of conflict. Mr Salam says that whatever the government does "it will not solve the political problems of Bahrain". Minority rule by the Sunni al-Khalifas means the little kingdom will remain unstable in the long term.
In Yemen even short-term stability is not likely. President Saleh faces a host of well-armed enemies in his impoverished country where 40 per cent of the population try to survive on $2 a day. In addition to pro-democracy reformers, there is a powerful independence movement in the south of the country and rebels barely restrained by a truce in the north.
The struggle in Arabia in future will be on several levels: between kleptocratic ruling elites and disenfranchised and impoverished masses; between Sunni and Shia; and between regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Iran and the US. The price for last week's counter-revolutions is long-term crisis and instability.
Posted on 03/19/2011 7:58 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald