Wednesday, 30 November 2011
God and King in Sumeria

by Mark Anthony Signorelli (December 2011)

No longer did they sacrifice the court retinue upon the death of a king. That such practices occurred among the Sumerians we know as a result of the discovery of the famous Royal Tombs at Ur; several burial chambers there revealed an arrangement of human remains seated about a central figure. Poison appears to have been the means of this ritual suicide. more>>>

Posted on 11/30/2011 2:40 PM by NER
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Islam and Christianity: The Roots of Europe’s Religious Identity

by Richard L. Rubenstein (December 2011)

In a 2004 interview Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, asserted that “Europe is a cultural continent, not a geographical one” whose roots are Christian. Recalling the wars of religion between Christianity and Islam, the Pope argued that Turkey belonged to another cultural continent and ought not to be admitted to the European Union. more>>>

Posted on 11/30/2011 2:35 PM by NER
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Mohammed & Charlemagne Revisited: An Introduction to the History of a Controversy

by Emmet Scott (December 2011)

The book that follows is not a history in the normal sense, but, as the subtitle explains, the history of a controversy. The controversy in question is the one which has raged for many years around the question: What ended Roman civilization and brought about the Dark Ages?  more>>>

Posted on 11/30/2011 2:27 PM by NER
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Diaa Rashwan Doesn't Understand Why Islam Can't Be The Solution

In an article by Robin Wright about Islam and the new Tunisian regime, she claims that "[m]any Muslims share conservative values even as they push for freedoms. The right to human dignity, Muslims believe, is God-given -- a view shared by Thomas Jefferson and engraved on the walls of his memorial. The values of their religion are a starting point for all other aspects of life."

But is this correct? Do Muslims believe that non-Muslims have a "right to human dignity"? What do we learn, by studying the texts of Islam -- Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira -- and the most authoritative Muslim commentators on, and interpreters of, those texts, about the view toward Infidels that Islam inculcates? This Robin Wright fails to explore, possibly because she does not know the answer, and possibly because she does.

And then the last two paragraphs of her articel contain a quote and a plaintive query from "an expert on political Islam" at Al-Ahram University (really, a school of Islamic theology):

'"Without Islam, we will not have any real progress," reflected Diaa Rashwan, an expert on political Islam at Cairo's Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. "When Western countries built their own progress, they didn't go out of their epistemological or cultural history. Japan is still living in the culture of the samurai, but in a modern way. The Chinese are still living the traditions created by Confucianism."

"So why," he mused, "do we have to go out of our history?"

Wright chooses not to even begin to answer this question. But we can. We can note that Islam, as a Complete Regulation Of Life, and Total Explanation Of the Universe, goes far beyond what Diaa Rashwan somewhat confusingly calls its "epistemological or cultural history" by which I assume he means Hebraism, Hellenism, Christianity, and the Enlightenment, but since he would prefer not to mention any of these, he keeps it all vague. He then adduces two non-Western cultures. He describes a samurai" Japan (as if that warrior-cult, and not Lady Murasaki, or Basho, or the Floating World, or Shinto, were enough to sum up Japan. And he mentions China, and the tradition of Confucianism but not other strains in Chinese thought, including Buddhism. In other words, Diaa Rashwan thus  omits all  mention of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Shinto.

And he asks why "do we have to go out of our history?" Could it be that if Muslim peoples and polities which to remove the source, or at least weaken the source, of their own political, economic, social, intellectual, and moral failings, they will have to systematically downplay, tie in knots, undercut, the power of Islam.

Ataturk recognized this, and by weakening Islam as a social and political force he managed to rescue Turkey, and to create a class of secular Turks who inhabit, more or less, the same intellectual universe as Western man and, come to think of it, Eastern man as well. Bourguiba recognized this, and did what he could to create a similar class in Tunisia. But the tug of Arabness, 'Uruba, which reinforces and is reinforced by Islam (a vehicle for Arab supremacism), made his task much harder. In any case, Islam never goes away, even where it has been systematically suppressed, and in both Turkey and Tunisia, after Ataturk and Bourguiba were replaced by epigones less talented, or more corrupt, than they, Islam has come back, with a vengeance.

Islam is based on the view that the Qur'an is uncreated and immutable, and cannot be questioned. Islam discourages free and skeptica inquiry about the thing that in Muslim societies matters most -- Islam itself -- and hence it discourages such an attitude of mind for all other things as well. Muslims want, think they can buy or otherwise obtain, the goodies -- the technological gewgaws -- created by the West (and now the East too). But they cannot recognize the need to create the mental conditions for political freedom, based on the notion of the free individual, cannot see how Islam, with its inshallah-fatalism and the razzia-mentality which survives in the desire to seize the state, and through political power acquire wealth, with its inculcated mistreatment of all non-Muslims and of all women, ensures economic backwardness that persists even with the vast infusion of wealth, the more than fifteen trillion dollars, that Muslim members of OPEC have received since 1973 alone, not through any hard work or entrepreneurial activity, but merely because of an accident of geology. Not a single Muslim state has managed to create an advanced economy. Only a handful of Muslim states that do not possess oil have managed to advance economically: Turkey (because of Ataturk), Tunisia (because of Bourguiba and the creation of a class of "Arabs who want to be Europeans"), Malaysia (because of the Chinese and Indians who make up nearly half the population), Indonesia (because of Chinese entrepreneurs, and the influence of a mild, sometimes syncretistic culture that includes elements of the Hindu and Buddhist past, that predates the arrival of Islam), Lebanon (because of its large and once-dominant Christian population).

Diaa Rashwan can't possibly recognize all the ways that Islam holds Muslims back, holds them down, and makes them into permanent enemies of non-Muslims everywhere, who by now have become so wary of Islam, in just a decade, that there is no going back to the naive hopefulness, or possibly obliviousness, that once characterized the attitudes of Western elites, for a few decades after World War II, toward Muslims. Now there is only suspicion and hostility toward Muslims -- both of them well-deserved, and both of them likely to increase as people educate themselves about Islam, and see for themselves the Jihad news of the day, or try to make sense of the observable behavior and attitudes of Muslims in their midst.

He can't.

But we can.


Posted on 11/30/2011 1:25 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
A Musical Interlude: Time On My Hands (Russ Columbo)
Listen here.
Posted on 11/30/2011 12:55 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Salafists Hold University Professors Hostage In Tunisia

From MiddleEast online:

Salafists besiege Tunisian university: Dean, professors taken hostage

Salafists disrupt classes at Tunisia Manouba University, demanding stop to mixed-sex classes and for female students to wear full face veils.

Middle East Online

Salafists’ weapons: Threats, verbal abuses

TUNIS - A group of Salafists disrupted classes on Monday at a university west of the capital Tunis, demanding a stop to mixed-sex classes and for female students to wear full face veils, officials said.

The mob of Salafists also took hostage the dean of the University of Letters, Arts, and Humanities of Manouba along with several other professors.

One of the professors who witnessed the protest said the group threatened him and verbally abused other professors. The professor called on the protection of the army, but no security forces had yet been confirmed arrived.

"A group of Salafists, dressed like the Afghans, have been camped in front of my office since early afternoon," Habib Kazdaghli, the dean of faculty at the University of Manuba, said.

The group of several dozen students interrupted an English class in the morning, Kazdaghli said.

"They want girls to wear the niqab, a mosque in the middle of the campus, a stop to mixed classes and a prohibition of women teaching male students and vice versa," he said, adding that it marked the first such incident on campus.

Tunisia's Salafists have become more assertive in recent months, following the revolution that ousted a staunchly secular regime along with president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in January following mass protests.

The ministry of higher education "firmly" condemned the incident, saying that "all recourse to violence is inadmissible and intolerable."

In regards to policies concerning the niqab, a ministry spokesperson said that "according to current regulations, each student must be able to be identified before accessing the university, for pedagogic and security reasons."

Visible again on the streets of Tunis and other major cities, their new assertiveness has led to a number of more or less violent clashes.

In the eastern city of Sousse earlier this month, some 200 Islamists stormed the university campus after a female student wearing the niqab, or burka, full face veil was not allowed to sign up.

On October 9 in Tunis, a mob of Salafists tried to attack the offices of private Nessma TV station that aired "Persepolis", a French-Iranian animation film.

Posted on 11/30/2011 12:50 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
School allowed to ban Muslim pupil's praying

From the German edition of The Local

A German federal court on Wednesday backed banning a Muslim pupil from praying according to Islamic rites at a Berlin public school, ruling it could jeopardise its smooth operation. In the case of the 18-year-old pupil, who took his school to court, it justified the ban at his Berlin high school because the issue of praying had already sparked conflict among Muslim pupils.

The court said the school, in Berlin's ethnically diverse Wedding district, was right in stopping him from praying as "sometimes very severe conflicts" had broken out among Muslim pupils over the interpretation of the Koran. Capping a more than two-year legal battle, it ruled that a pupil "is not entitled to perform prayer during school outside of class when this can disrupt the running of the school."

Tilman Nagel, an expert in Islam who appeared as a witness at an earlier court hearing, said that postponing midday prayers was acceptable if there was a good reason. He also argued that the Islamic ritual of praying undertaken with other people was very different to the Christian private act of praying, and was thus disruptive in a public space.

Posted on 11/30/2011 12:35 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Terrorism At Topkapi

From Associated Press:

Gunman shot dead at Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace after he wounds 2 people

November 30, 2011

ISTANBUL — A heavily armed man opened fire at one of Istanbul’s main tourist attractions on Wednesday, wounding a Turkish soldier and a security guard before police snipers killed the attacker, officials said.

The motive for the assault at Topkapi Palace was not immediately known. But police said the man, a Libyan with Syrian citizenship, had entered Turkey only three days ago.

Police said the attacker arrived at the palace in a car with Syrian license plates. Minutes before the attack, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had announced tough economic sanctions on Syria to protest its government’s crackdown on an 8-month-old pro-democracy uprising.

Multiple gun shots were heard from behind the high walls of the Topkapi Palace before the attacker was killed, and some tourists threw themselves on the ground to avoid the violence , officials and witnesses said.

Topkapi Palace, the seat of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years, is located in the city’s historic Sultanahmet district, which also includes the Blue Mosque and the former Byzantine church of Haghia Sophia.

The palace — including ornate courtyards, gilded treasures and dozens of rooms that once housed harems, attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Witnesses said the man shot the soldier in the leg and the guard in the abdomen before running into the palace courtyard through the main gate, chanting in Arabic “God is Great!”

Istanbul’s governor, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, said the wounded are not in life threatening condition.

Mutlu said the gunman made no demands and that police decided to shoot him when he refused to surrender.

Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin said the attacker had entered Turkey on Sunday. The state-run TRT television, citing unnamed officials, identified him as 36-year-old Samir Salem Ali Elmadhavri, a Libyan with Syrian citizenship.

Authorities would divulge further details about the man’s identity and Sahin said it was not immediately known if the attacker was affiliated with any groups or organizations in Libya or Syria.

The prosecutor’s office in Istanbul launched an investigation into the attack, authorities said.

A spokesman for Libya’s National Transition Council, Jalal el-Galal, said authorities in Tripoli have no information at this point on the gunman.

The man was seen at an outdoor cafe in the area before going on his rampage, witnesses told Associated Press television. A photo obtained by The Associated Press shows the attacker carrying a rifle and a cartridge belt around his neck.

“I saw the gunman carrying a gun on his shoulder, like a hunter. He had ammunition around his neck and a backpack. His overcoat was buttoned, I couldn’t see what was underneath,” witness Idris Cengiz told AP television. “He was coming toward us and my friend said he looked like a hunter so I asked him in English ‘Are you a hunter?’ He said something in Arabic which I didn’t understand. Then he said ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Great).”

Cengiz said he and his friend heard the gun shots moments later.

“We ran we saw a soldier and a security guard laying on the ground,” he said.

No tourists were hurt in the attack.

“I’m not afraid because this kind of thing can happen anywhere these days, even in Amsterdam, where I live,” ["even in Amsterdam" -- that is, even in Western cirites to which Muslims may travel or in which they have been allowed to settle] Dutch tourist [a Muslim who apparently has Dutch citizenship], Yeuonne Alkemade, told AP television.  “I’m sad for Turkey and Istanbul because this is one of the top tourist attractions here.”

Turkey has suffered a number of terrorist attacks in the past.

Earlier this year, police arrested alleged Turkish members of al-Qaida terrorist network accused of planning to attack the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and another group in the southern city of Adana, which is home to the Incirlik Air Base used by the United States to transfer noncombat supplies to Iraq and Afghanistan. Authorities have said al-Qaida planned to attack Incirlik in the past but was deterred by high security.

An attack blamed on al-Qaida-affiliated militants outside the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul in 2008 left three assailants and three policemen dead.

Homegrown Islamic militants tied to al-Qaida attacked the British Consulate, a British bank and two synagogues in Istanbul in 2003, killing 58 people.


Posted on 11/30/2011 12:33 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
New York - Cabbies at UWS Mosque Obey Religious Laws Over Parking Rules

From DNA Info - Manhatten local news.

UPPER WEST SIDE — A popular worship service at an Upper West Side mosque has prompted dozens of local cabbies to flout the rules of the road in order to observe the rules of their religion, neighbors and mosque officials said.

Dozens of cab drivers rushing to services at the Islamic Cultural Center at Riverside Drive and West 72nd Street are double- and triple-parking outside the house of prayer, forcing northbound traffic on the recently-reopened stretch of Riverside Boulevard to veer into the oncoming traffic lane, DNAinfo has learned.

"It's an accident waiting to happen," said James Beale, the resident manager at 240 Riverside Blvd., one of four Trump high-rises along the boulevard. "It's a very dangerous situation. It's like all the rules of the road are thrown aside."

The illegal parking was largely ignored for years, but has recently become the source of a police crackdown . . .

But the cabbies who gather for the religious devotions — which can run as long as a 30 minute sermon followed by a 15-minute prayer — say they have no qualms about breaking parking rules in order to attend the prayer services, which are mandatory for practicing Muslims. The Friday service, which is typically scheduled during the middle of the day, is the most heavily attended, with up to 300 worshippers.

"For me, my prayer is more important, because that's what I'm going to take with me the day I die," said cabbie Abdoulaye Diallo, a 30-year-old immigrant from Guinea, who left his taxi in a no parking zone outside the mosque at 1 Riverside Drive on Tuesday evening so he could dash in for a quick evening prayer, one of the five mandatory prayers he performs daily. Diallo said he's racked up several $75 tickets for parking illegally in order to pray, but he doesn't mind. "I'm not going to take my money with me," he said.

Jim Littlefield, a security director at the Trump Corporation, said that as police have stepped up their enforcement on the illegal parking, tensions have flared. He said he saw a police officer who had been asking double parked cars to move handcuff a taxi driver on Nov. 18. Littlefield, a retired NYPD cop, said he then called 911 because he saw several cabbies approach the officer and was concerned about his safety.

Abdur Rahman, an assistant imam at the mosque, said officials at the Islamic Cultural Center are well aware of the parking problem and have made repeated announcements asking worshippers to follow parking laws. . . "In Islam, you have to make happy neighbors," he said. "It's a rule of Islam. Good Muslims should follow parking rules, because it's a rule of the city."

Rahman said the city should consider more flexible parking rules around Muslim houses of worship on Fridays. He noted that on-street parking is free on Sundays, in part so Christians can go to church without worrying about feeding a meter.

Posted on 11/30/2011 12:24 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
No Longer Drowning, And With No Intention Of Waving

Israelis save drowning Iranians

Drama in Thailand as Israeli lifeguards save two drowning Iranians. 'When we told them we were Israeli they just got up and fled'

Reuven Weiss

11.29.11 13:14 / Israel News
Nimrod Machani (27) has been working as a Tel Aviv coast lifeguard for four years. His father Shimshon, 60, was employed as a seaman for many years and between voyages, also worked as a Tel Aviv lifeguard.


Two years ago Shimshon moved to Koh Samui, Thailand where he opened a surfboat business for local tourists. At the end of the summer season in Israel, Nimrod decided to visit his father in Thailand and help him in setting up the new business.


Last week the father-son team went out on their daily rowing course. "The weather here is tropical," Shimshon explained. "Things can change in a second. And indeed, on the way back, the weather changed all at once. The winds got stronger and the waves grew tall."


Suddenly, they noticed two swimmers who were crying out for help. "Their Kayak had overturned in the storm and was swept away, they were left alone in the water," said Shimshon. "They didn't have much of a chance."


The two lifeguards rowed towards the drowning men. "When we reached them they were already at the point of exhaustion," nimrod noted. " "We loaded them on to the surf boat and kept rowing towards the shore, a kilometer away."


For 45 minutes the two battled against the winds and the waves with the swimmers on board. "When they came around and started talking among themselves I noticed they were speaking in Persian. I was born in Iran and speak the language. I told them in Persian: 'Don't be scared, you're in good hands," Shimshon recalls.


When they reached the shore the two, who introduced themselves as Mundar and Ali, hugged and kissed their rescuers and thanked them.


"When we told them we're Israelis they just got up and fled," Nimrod noted.

Posted on 11/30/2011 10:54 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Valentina Colombo On Tawakkul Karman

From HudsonNewYork:

Whitewashing the Muslim Brotherhood
Nobel Peace Prize for a "Muslim Sister"

by Valentina Colombo
November 30, 2011

Once again the West has chosen among the heroes and heroines of the "Arab Spring" the most politicized, and especially the closest, to its short-sighted policies in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, as mentioned by al-Mashari Dhaid on the Arab international daily Asharq al-Awsat, we should never forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace is political, and it "is an instrument of soft pressure to fulfill a specific path of peace or stability, according to a Western perspective."

Mashari al-Dhaid is right when he states that "Tawakkul Karman is not Mother Teresa, but a political activist who acts in accordance with the directives and policies and social needs of her own party."

The Yemeni Congregation for Reform, to which Karman belongs, is the party representing the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen. Tawakkul Karman is 'Abd al-Salam Khalid Karman's daughter, a member of the same party. The Reform Party, as you can easily infer from its political program published on the official website (, acts on behalf of Islam and claims the implementation of sharia law, advocates equality among believers without distinction of sex, even though sharia law states that a woman is worth half the man (see Koran II, 282; IV, 11).

Tawakkul Karman is indeed an activist: a political activist. There is no doubt that she is the symbol of a revolution, but at the same time her victory has to be placed in the continuum of Arab Springs that are witnessing the domination of the organized and economically strong Muslim Brotherhood.

The Nobel Prize follows the International Women of Courage Award assigned to Karman by US State Secretary Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama. Everything confirms the US and Western policy of whitewashing the Muslim Brotherhood. And what a better leader and symbol than a young and determined woman like Karman? During an interview, in June 2010, she declared that the day would come when "all human rights violators pay for what they did to Yemen." If she was referring to Yemeni President Saleh, fine; but I wonder if human rights under Sharia -- the law her party would like to introduce in all levels of the country - match universal rights.

"In the name of God Most Gracious, Most Merciful, to sister Tawakkul 'Abd al-Salam Karman, president of Women Journalists Without Chains, a member of the Governing Council of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform (al-tajammu' al-yamani li-al-islah), greetings and appreciation. With great joy we have received, within the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, the announcement of the assignment to your person of the Nobel Prize for Peace as the first Arab woman to receive this award and the first Yemeni personality to enjoy this international attestation of esteem.

"Congratulations for this historic achievement since we believe that this victory is to support the peaceful revolution of Yemen, and a Yemeni woman who fights and who is aware of her ability to win despite the obstacles the legacy of backwardness and tyranny that separate our people from progress."

This is the beginning of a release of October 8th 2010 signed by Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah al-Yadumi following the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Peace to the Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman.

Well, many of us were happy because finally an Arab woman, last but not least a symbol of the Yemeni "Spring" had her efforts and courage recognised. Even secular intellectuals like the Yemeni political scientist Elham Manea, of Yemeni origin, who now is living in Switzerland, and the Yemeni writer Ali al-Muqri, have rejoiced.

While in many other countries, Islamic parties are banned, Islah participates in the political process and has even formed a coalition government with the ruling General People's Congress. One significant difference between Islah and other Islamic parties is that it is not purely an Islamic Party. The Islah Party is a heterogeneous party made up of three distinct groups: the tribes, Islamic elements and conservative businessmen. Islah could be described as a reflection of the conservative segments of Yemeni society. Nevertheless, it has an Islamic ideology and pushes for social and economic reform, similarly to other Islamic parties in the region.

Some people even praised Karman as the woman who has "torn" the veil. This is half true: in 2004 during a conference on human rights, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace removed her black full veil, worn by the vast majority of Yemeni women, to replace it with a simple veil, which she calls "Islamic." The statement published on the website of her Party after a demonstration celebrate the award says that it is a "source of pride and honor not only for Yemeni women, but also for Arab women and the Islamic veil."

So Karman replaced the traditional black veil -- "un-Islamic"-- in favor of a colorful headscarf that is not so much a symbol of Muslim women, as of the women of the Muslim Brotherhood, or at least of women wearing the veil as a political symbol.

Posted on 11/30/2011 10:13 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Shi'a-Sunni Battles In Yemen

From Reuters:

Northern battle flares as Yemen seeks interim government

Nov. 30, 2011

By Mohammed Ghobari

SANAA (Reuters) - Fighting between Shi'ite rebels and Sunni Islamists wounded at least 26 people in north Yemen Wednesday, as the new prime minister worked to form a government under a Gulf plan to avert civil war by easing President Ali Abdullah Saleh from power.

The plan crafted by Yemen's wealthier neighbors envisions a government including opposition parties that backed 10 months of protests aimed at ending Saleh's 33-year rule, which would lead the country to presidential elections in February.

Saleh, who backed out of that deal three times, signed it last week and transferred powers to his deputy, a step the plan's sponsors said will help reverse the chaos Yemen has slid toward during the political struggle over Saleh's fate.

One of the country's multiple, overlapping regional conflicts flared anew when Shi'ite Muslim fighters who have rebelled in a northern province along the Saudi border attacked Sunni Islamists whom they have fought over the last week.

A group of Yemeni Salafis -- Sunnis who hold a puritanical creed with followers in Saudi Arabia -- said fighters from the rebel Shi'ite Houthi movement attacked early Wednesday in Damaj, 150 km (90 miles) north of the capital Sanaa.

The official, Abu Ismail, spoke by telephone with explosions audible in the background, and said several students of the town's Dar al-Hadith religious school had been injured in shelling. His group said at least 25 people were killed in Houthi shelling in the region Saturday and Sunday.

The Houthis, members of the Zaidi branch of Shi'ism who draw their name from a tribal leader, effectively control the northern Saada province and are deeply wary of Saudi Arabia's promotion of Salafi creeds that class Shi'ites as heretics.

They have accused the Salafis in the northern Saada province of working to build military encampments near the Saudi border.

Saleh's forces struggled to crush the Houthi rebellion -- which Saudi forces also intervened against militarily -- before a cease-fire last year.

The fighting came as Yemen's prime minister designate, Mohammed Basindwa, a former foreign minister who joined the opposition to Saleh, worked to form a transitional government that he has said will be set in days.

Opposition politicians, who are to split seats in the government with members of Saleh's ruling party, said negotiations were underway on the formation of a security committee tasked in part with separating the forces of Saleh's partisans and foes who have clashed in the capital.

In the south, where the United States -- which long backed Saleh in its campaign against al Qaeda -- and Saudi Arabia fear the Yemeni wing of the Islamist group could find a foothold, an older political conflict also overshadows the Gulf plan.

Members of a secessionist movement who want to undo the territorial union that Saleh presided over in 1990 marched through the southern port of Aden Wednesday, carrying flags of the former South Yemen, a socialist republic.

The march, which commemorated the 44th anniversary of the south's independence from Britain, reflected the resentment many southerners feel over the region's treatment under union, which erupted into civil war in 1994.

Elsewhere in the south, security officials said a police commander survived an assassination attempt by gunmen who opened fire on a police vehicle in Khor Maksar, east of Aden, when militants opened fire on a police vehicle, killing two soldiers.

Tens of thousands have been displaced from the southern Abyan province due to fighting between Islamists who have seized chunks of territory and Yemeni forces, in addition to those displaced by the fighting in the north, which peaked in 2009.

Nearly a year of political turmoil over Saleh's fate has deepened the poverty of the resource-strapped country, where a U.N. official said Tuesday that millions of people were facing a humanitarian crisis.

U.N. assistant secretary-general and deputy emergency relief coordinator Catherine Bragg, after a visit to Yemen, warned of "some of the world's highest malnutrition rates, a breakdown of essential services and a looming health crisis."

Posted on 11/30/2011 10:07 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Meretricious, Hysterical, Altogether Unpleasant Pakistan

From The Telegraph:

Pakistan hardens stance on Nato attack

Pakistan stiffened its public stance on a Nato attack on Wednesday, accusing commanders of deliberately targeting two border posts and killing 24 of its soldiers.

But the prime minister also offered a glimmer of hope that Pakistan could still attend a crucial conference on the future of Afghanistan.

The deaths have provoked daily demonstrations in Pakistan where much of the population cannot believe the attack was an accident.

The US military insists a joint patrol with Afghan forces was first upon first and only attacked the posts – which a commander mistakenly identified as Taliban training camps – after checking there were no Pakistani forces nearby.

But details of Pakistan's official version emerged yesterday with a point-by-point rebuttal of the US account.

Major General Ishfaq Nadeem, director general of military operations, stepped up the rhetoric, rejecting the possibility the attack was an accident. Instead he claimed two or three helicopters launched an unprovoked attack early on Saturday morning.

He told local reporters that the attack happened in an area free from militants and that the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan knew the position of Pakistani border posts.

"The positions of the posts were already conveyed to the ISAF through map references and it was impossible that they did not know these to be our posts," he said.

When one post, named Volcano, was attacked, he added, a second base, Boulder, engaged the helicopters with anti-aircraft fire but also came under "We informed them about the attack. But, the helicopters reappeared and also engaged the Boulder post," said Maj Gen Nadeem.

It also emerged yesterday that a US base in eastern Afghanistan had come under mortar attack from Pakistani territory on Tuesday night.

However, Nato officials said they were able to talk to their Pakistani counterparts to defuse the situation and avoid a repeat of Saturday's cross-border air strike.

The wave of anti-American anger leaves a feeble government and a military still embarrassed by the US raid to kill Osama bin Laden trying to prove their nationalist credentials and head off hardline religious leaders.

Pakistan has shut its borders to Nato supply convoys in protest at the raid and on Tuesday announced it would boycott next week's Bonn conference on the future of Afghanistan.

Although few analysts believe the meeting is anything more than a talking shop, Pakistan's withdrawal reduces even slim hopes of progress.

Yesterday, however, Pakistan's prime minister signalled that the decision could be reversed if his country's security could be guaranteed.

Briefing reporters on a call made by Afghan President Hamid Karzai asking him to reconsider, Yousuf Raza Gilani said: "If we go to Bonn for you then who will guarantee our security? We cannot just go like this if someone will not ensure our security."

Posted on 11/30/2011 10:03 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
New York Synagogue–Mosque Twinning Event Cancelled Because of Fearful Illegal Alien Muslims

Source: The Jewish Daily Forward West End Synagogue and Imam Souleimane Konate

You may recall we had taken to task Rabbi Marc Schneier of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) that sponsors annual twinnings of synagogues and mosques throughout the US, the EU and even, Turkey. You can see the list for the most recent twinnings that occurred over the weekend of November 18th-20th on the FFEU website, here. There you will notice twinnings in the US involving Muslim Brotherhood front groups like the Muslim American Society and the Muslim Student Association, the latter with Hillel Chapters on some university campuses. When we interviewed Dr. Charles Jacobs of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, he talked about their uncovering a twinning event with Syrian terrorism sponsors and antisemitic Imams that forced the Buffalo, New York Jewish community to abandon that twinning episode. 

Rabbi Schneier’s FFEU persists in dhimmi-like delusion that these interfaith encounters further "dialogue and understanding." These FFEU twinning events are effectivelyf da’wah or call to Islam opportunities for their Muslim partners. The twinning event that was held the weekend of November 18th at Manhattan’s West Side "new age" egalitarian conservative synagogue, B’nai Jeshurun, featured none other than Daisy Khan of the American Society for the Advancement of Muslims, wife of controversial Imam Abdul Feisal Rauf of the Cordoba House Initiative and what many believe is the ‘bust’ ground zero mosque project. In the JTA account of that FFEU twinning event at B’nai Jeshurun, Ms. Khan uttered this taqiyya comment totally lost on her Jewish interlocutors:

Asked about the concept of twinning, Arline Kane, a Jewish participant, answered that “It means that we are finding out we are closer than we think.”

Khan also noted the commonality between the traditions.

“Islam," she said, "is like a 1,400-year-old Jewish tradition.”

However, there was another twinning event that weekend which was cancelled at the last minute at another West Side Manhattan synagogue, that The Jewish Daily Forward has covered in an article published today, “Synagogue Hopes To Build Mosque's Trust “. The Jewish Daily Forward story attests to the mindset of liberal Jews who venerate the liberal interpretation of the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam - "repairing the world."  It is about a twinning that never happened between the West End Synagogue in Manhattan and West African immigrants in Imam Souleimane Konate’s Masjid Aqsa Mosque in Harlem. Why? Because many members of the Masjid Aqsa Mosque, who hail from the Ivory Coast and Senegal, are "hard working" illegal aliens who were afraid of exposure to the authorities.

The Jewish Daily Forward picked up the threads of this complicated  tale:

When members of New York City’s West End Synagogue were recently disinvited at the 11th hour from a long-anticipated Friday gathering with Muslims at Harlem’s Masjid Aqsa, some involved in organizing the meeting feared that hard-line mosque members were behind the cancelation.

But at the synagogue the next morning, the mosque’s imam, Souleimane Konate, showed up to take part in Sabbath services, fulfilling his part in the weekend twinning arrangement the two congregations had planned together. Furthermore, Konate informed the West End congregants that his followers’ decision to disinvite them stemmed not from anger or hostility, but from fear.

“Immigration [agents], what they are doing, is separating families,” Konate said. “We have many cases where a father has been deported leaving behind his wife and kids. We are not criminals. We are hard working people.”

Konate, a native of the Ivory Coast, explained that the majority of his 1,200-member congregation consists of immigrants from West Africa — many of whom are undocumented. The congregants include cab drivers and cart vendors who work tirelessly to send money back home to support their families and communities, he said. But many have had experiences with scam artists claiming to help with immigration paperwork. All of them have seen other members of the community deported, he said, resulting in distrust and fear of any outsider.

Imam Konate when he spoke to this liberal West Side Reconstructionist Synagogue put in his da’wa pitch:

In his guest sermon before West End Synagogue congregants, Konate explained that during that particular weekend, Muslims commemorate the death of Abraham — patriarch to Muslims as well as to Jews. Abraham’s death was an opportunity for his sons, Ishmael and Isaac, to come together to bury their father, he noted, adding that the weekend signaled opportunity for the two congregations, as well.

Of course there was nothing about Muslims under Mohammed engaging in wholesale massacres, rapes and enslavement of Jewish tribes and enforcing dhimmitude on the frightened remainder in Arabia, which effectively made it judenrein. None of the congregants probably were conversant in the Qur’an to ask about Sura 5:51: “O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he among you that turns to them for friendship is of them.”

So what do these West End Synagogue members do in response to Imam Konate’s guest sermon?

Synagogue members offered words of support in response. “It seems to boil down to being the stranger,” said Eileen Sobel, a congregant in attendance. “Gehr in Hebrew means ‘stranger.’ It’s very important to realize that at any time, we can become a stranger.”

Others from the congregation offered material support. Jerry Posman, who serves as vice president for finance and administration at City College, expressed his desire to collaborate with Konate in setting up scholarships for undocumented youth who wish to pursue higher education.

“As Jews, we try to understand our identity, which emphasizes an awareness of the outsider,” said Rabbi Marc Margolius, West End Synagogue’s spiritual leader. “The imam’s concerns really struck a chord with my congregation and even helped the congregation relate.”

I wonder if the rabbi and his congregation would dare to ask Imam Konate how many members of his mosque have polygamous marriages and take their daughters back to the Ivory Coast for female genital mutilation procedures. 

After this revelation in today’s Daily Forward about a bust twinning event, the New York regional office of the ICE might have more than a passing interest in monitoring the Masjid Aqsa Mosque. As for the West Side Synagogue spiritual leader Rabbi Marc Margolius, he’d better consult with his board and worthy counsel about what liability is attached to their providing aid to illegal alien Muslims from the Ivory Coast.

Posted on 11/30/2011 9:09 AM by Jerry Gordon
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Lifeless Qatar

From The New York Times:

November 30, 2011

Qatar’s Capital Glitters Like a World City, but Few Feel at Home

DOHA, Qatar — Along a skyline that feels as ambitious as it is ephemeral, there is a building named for its design — the Tornado. The renowned architect I. M. Pei built a museum here in a quest for the essence of Islamic architecture. Another tower, built by another famous architect, is sheathed in an exoskeleton and suggests a Saracen helmet.

“It’s a mimic of a city that could have been built anywhere,” an unimpressed Issa al-Mohannadi, an engineer who has been asked to create something different, declared as he gazed out his fourth-floor window. “What you’re seeing shouldn’t be our future.”

Doha is many things: a former backwater on the Persian Gulf that at one time had a pearling boat for every 350 residents; the capital of a country with enough natural gas to make those same people the wealthiest in the world today; and the seat of an emir determined to put his country on the map with brash foreign policy and the power of Al Jazeera, the satellite television news channel. It is also a city in search of an identity that still feels as shapeless as the tracts of sand interspersed between domed skyscrapers and the most improbable geometry.

The debate, of course, is not new. All the emerald cities on the Persian Gulf have to varying degrees struggled with tradition and modernity, as oil and gas created what a Qatari official called “Earth on Mars.” But nowhere else is the debate so pronounced, driven by so many billions of dollars, cluttered with so many visions and punctuated by so much criticism over what Doha, in some ways an accidental creation of a city, should look like.

Here is what it offers: a film festival, the World Cup in 2022, a new airport, a metro system and a Coffee Beanery with a menu in English, Arabic, Korean and Japanese. Here is what it lacks: an urban fabric, in a place where citizens are a tiny minority and legions of foreign workers toil in bleak conditions.

In the growing debate here, drawing in everyone from the emir’s wife to Qatar’s lone comedian, the question most often asked is whether a sense of the cosmopolitan can reflect the skyline and transcend the rootless globalism and commercialism that have so long stood as the Persian Gulf’s grasp at modernity.

Dubai, shimmering like a mirage, never had the money. Saudi Arabia, with a conservatism born of a Bedouin sense of life’s caprice, never had the ambition.

Doha now has both, and a determination to will a world capital into existence. “There is depth to the vision,” said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center.

Abdul Aziz al-Mahmoud is a rarity in Qatar — a novelist whose book has become a best seller, by standards here, since it was published last month. Set in the 19th century, the novel delves into the struggle between the British and littoral tribes that inhabited the Persian Gulf. Three years in the works, the book fills a gap, he said, in perceptions.

“The region didn’t appear from nowhere because of oil,” he said in an interview. “People lived here; they had their troubles and their happiness. We were not oil. Oil came to change our lives, but people were always here.”

Testaments to that history feel like oases in a city of more than a million that numbered just 12,000 a century or so ago. Suq Waqif is one of them. Once a labyrinthine seaside market where Qataris traded fish and goats, the market was abandoned, then left to crumble. Five years ago it was rebuilt with a faithfulness to detail that recreated even its shoddiness. Exposed timber and reed roofs look worn and white-washed walls antique, even though they are not. Hawking everything from SpongeBob sandals to ceremonial Syrian swords, the shops are like the country: owned by Qataris and run by South Asians.

Mr. Mahmoud said he would take friends from abroad there to see a representation of the essence of a bygone culture, but he would not normally visit the suq.

“It’s about a sense of belonging,” Mr. Mahmoud said. “Qataris go there occasionally, but it’s not where they go and socialize and interact, no.”

Qataris number just 225,000 of a population of 1.8 million, and interaction between them and the rest feels as lifeless as the miles of plastic grass that line the boulevards in Education City. Mr. Mahmoud describes it as a “hidden enmity,” where Qataris feel comfortable not at the Islamic Museum or Jean Nouvel’s latest addition to the skyline, but rather in a majlis, one of the traditional segregated salons that stand as a fixture of social life.

“It’s like fragmented, divided communities,” he said. “They don’t talk to each other. Somehow we have to design a melting pot to make them all feel at home.”

Mohammed Kamal has wrestled with that question of a sophisticated city. Imbued with an earnestness that belies his self-declared standing as Qatar’s lone comedian, he believes humor can create “openness and confidence” in culture. Confidence, he suggests, is the foundation of cosmopolitanism.

“I want our culture to be O.K. with laughing at ourselves,” he said “It’s better to laugh at ourselves then wait for someone from outside to make jokes and laugh about us.”

His task is not easy. The police told him that religion, sex and politics were off limits. “What else is stand-up comedy?” he asked. A Qatari woman threatened to hurl her shoe at him when he imagined a pampered Qatari woman working as a flight attendant. Sometimes his bite goes too far, as when he scolded Qatari men for threatening to revoke the visas of expatriates any time an argument erupted. But he managed to stage a comedy show in February, and it drew 1,200 people — Qataris in front, expatriates in back.

Not even Dubai, a city built on success in marketing an image, feels as self-conscious as Doha. Banners read “Rediscover the essence of our community” near a cultural village named Katara, with sparsely peopled offices for the Qatar Fine Arts Society, Qatar Photographic Society, Qatar Music Academy and Doha Film Institute. Buses bear ads that read “From Qatar to a Greener World” — this in a city built on exploiting one of the world’s largest gas fields. Museums compete with any in the world, and Education City has attracted branches of six American universities.

“I think they are hoping that with time, all this will be a big component of the Qataris’ or the nationals’ lives,” said Seif Salmawy, managing director of Bloomsbury in Qatar, which is seeking to make the country a publishing force in English and Arabic in the Middle East. “As it stands, I think it has little to do with their actual lives.”

His colleague Andy Smart added, “You need a city center for an urban life.”

Posted on 11/30/2011 8:29 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
That Iranian Missile Site, Feeling Poorly


Satellite Image Shows 'Extensively Damaged' Iranian Missile Site

A Washington-based research group has released a satellite image showing an "extensively damaged" Iranian missile base two weeks after an explosion at the site was reported.

Paul Brannan, a senior research analyst for the Institute for Science and International Security, which specializes in nuclear weapons programs, said some of the buildings at the compound near the city of Bid Kaneh appear to be destroyed following the Nov. 12 explosion, which Iranian authorities have characterized as an accident.

"Some of the destruction seen in the image may have also resulted from subsequent controlled demolition of buildings and removal of debris," Brannan said in a statement. "There do not appear to be many pieces of heavy equipment such as cranes or dump trucks on the site, and a considerable amount of debris is still present."

As such, Brannan said most of the damage seen in the image likely resulted from the Nov. 12 explosion.

ISIS officials recently learned that the blast occurred as Iran achieved a "major milestone" in the development of a new missile. Iran was apparently performing a "volatile procedure" involving a missile engine at the site when the blast occurred, Brannan said.

Another explosion was reported on Monday in Isfahan, which houses another key Iranian nuclear facility. The cause of that incident is not immediately clear.

The Nov. 12 explosion, meanwhile, killed Maj. Gen. Hassan Moghaddam, chief architect of Iran's ballistic missile program. Some reports have claimed that the Israeli Mossad was responsible for the blast, the Jerusalem Post reports.

Brig. Gen. Itay Brun, head of Israel's Military Intelligence Research Directorate, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that the latest blast could delay Tehran's development of long-range missiles.

"The explosion at the site to develop surface-to-surface missiles could stop or delay activities on that track and in that location, but we must emphasize that Iran has other development tracks in addition to that facility," Brun said, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Posted on 11/30/2011 8:24 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Happy Birthday Jacques Barzun

Professor Barzun was born November 30, 1907 and his remarkable career has not ended yet - see his latest book review in the WSJ here. Michael Murray's excellent new biography of Barzun, Jacques Barzun: Portrait of a Mind, ends with this:

Barzun ever held to his view that although Western culture was "going down fast," decadence would be followed by rebirth. ..."Someone will have a novel idea," Barzun had said in another context in 1956 in The Energies of Art: "It will at last be possible for a new generation to start on new axioms. That  generation will be in the position of Blake when he saw that the Augustan muse, having uttered an astronomical number of heroic couplets, was doomed to silence....Creation then is easy because the old gestures have become impossible."

What will be wanted is fresh young minds who will "turn their backs on analysis and criticism and reinvent - say - the idea of the university, and show what it can do; who, seeing that bureaucracy is inevitable, will rethink the art of administration and make it work. And when the energies of reconstruction revivify the landscape, the fine arts will spontaneously mirror the change." Meantime, as long as the race exists, "civilization and all its works also exist in germ. Civilization is not identical with our civilization, and the rebuilding of states and cultures, now or at any time, is integral to our nature and more becoming than longing and lamentations."

We send Professor Barzun our heartfelt best wishes and want him to know that he is, always has been, and will continue to be a guiding light for New English Review. May God bless and keep him.

Posted on 11/30/2011 7:03 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Andrew McCarthy On A Reception For Ghannouchi On Capitol Hill

From The Corner (NRO):

Springtime in November: Islamist Group Hosts Tunisia’s Muslim Brotherhood Leader on Capitol Hill

November 29, 2011

Yes, you read that correctly: Somehow, the Muslim Public Affairs Council has been given space in the Cannon Office Building on Capitol Hill this evening to welcome Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Ennahda, the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate that recently won the election in Tunisia.

MPAC is an Islamist group whose founders included disciples of Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna as well as admirers of Hezbollah — some of whom referred to the Shiite terrorist organization that is an arm of Iran as a “liberation movement,” rationalizing its 1983 bombing of the U.S. marine barracks in Beirut as a “military operation” rather than a terrorist attack. After 9/11, MPAC’s current director, Salam al-Marayati, immediately pronounced that Israel should be on top of the list of suspects. (More background on MPAC from the Investigative Project on Terrorism, here.)

Rachid Ghannouchi is a longtime Islamist who was actually banned from the U.S. during the nineties — when he was invited here by Sami al-Arian, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative who has since been convicted on a terrorism charge. Consistent with the Brotherhood’s wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing marketing makeover, which is a perfect strategy for winning over Westerners desperate to be convinced, he and Ennahda are putting on their moderate airs. They purport to have committed to refrain from implanting sharia, to protect women’s rights, etc.

But Islamists have trouble maintaining this charade, especially when they think credulous English ears are not listening. As the Investigative Project on Terrorism reports in its story about tonight’s festivities, only a few months ago, in an interview with an Arab-language website, Ghannouchi called for the destruction of Israel and expressed optimism that the Jewish state would soon disappear:

The Arab Spring “will achieve positive results on the path to the Palestinian cause and threaten the extinction of Israel,” Ghannouchi said. “I give you the good news that the Arab region will get rid of the bacillus of Israel. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas, said that Israel will disappear by the year 2027. I say that this date may be too far away, and Israel may disappear before this.”

The IPT report elaborates that Ghannouchi is a cheerleader for Hamas (the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch), calling for Muslims to support the terrorist organization and excusing jihadist attacks against Israeli civilians as necessary “martyrdom operations.” His Ennahda group refers to Israel as an “alien entity planted in the heart of the homeland, which constitutes an obstacle to unity and reflects the image of the conflict between our civilization and its enemies.” 

No wonder MPAC describes Ghannouchi as “one of the most important figures in modern Islamic political thought and theory.” MPAC, by the way, brags that President Obama personally calls its Washington office to thank the organization for its important work. By contrast, the White House sometimes seems less than proud of the relationship — inviting MPAC’s Washington director to its annual Iftar dinner but omitting his appearance from the published list of guests. But then again, the Obama/Holder Justice Department did rush to purge FBI training materials of information about Islamist ideology when Marayati took to the pages of the LA Times to complain.

Good to know who’s calling the tune in Washington these days. Happy Arab Spring!

Posted on 11/30/2011 6:38 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 29 November 2011
A Musical Interlude: All Of Me (Ambrose Orch., voc. Sam Browne)
Listen here.
Posted on 11/29/2011 10:16 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Iran Stuck To Tarbaby Syria

From Payvand Iran News:

Nov. 29, 2011

Iran Threat Is a Tactic: Main Goal Is to Checkmate Syria
By Ali Valigholizadeh, Expert on International and Geopolitical Issues (source: Iran Review)

The international scene has been recently witness to various threats by Israelis, Americans and certain European countries against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Although such threats, especially from the Israelis, had started before release of the recent Iran report of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the country's nuclear program, they became more serious after IAEA director general, Yukiya Amano, published his report. The report has been assessed by most experts as being purely motivated on political grounds. In that report, IAEA claimed that it is in possession of information which proves the existence of a military dimension to Iran's nuclear activities. Interestingly, Israeli and American officials knew all about the content of the report before it was officially circulated and orchestrated an intensely negative propaganda campaign against Iran. According to IAEA Statute, the content of the reports, which is considered confidential, cannot be revealed before they are released to all members of the Agency.

Although recent threats against Iran have been very extensive, the West's claims about diversion in Iran's nuclear activities are nothing new. Efforts made by the western countries to intensify sanctions against Iran are not new either. Even Israel's military threat against Iran is not new. Many experts maintain that all these threats and measures are aimed to help the United States to set the stage and encourage the international community to agree to more serious and extensive sanctions against the country. In this way, they want to make Iran totally isolated in economic terms. Even before IAEA released its latest report, they talked about imposing sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran to disturb the country's import and export system. According to this viewpoint, although the White House has followed its usual strategy toward Iran in which no option has been ever taken off the table and military assault is always an option, a threat to military strike against Iran seems to be nothing more than a political tactic.

Under present circumstances, a military strike against Iran is not strategically possible for the United States because of various reasons. On the one side, such an attack will fall short of meeting West's expectations against Iran as it may put an end to peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program. On the other hand, given the currently critical economic conditions in the United States and Europe, it is very unlikely that after getting engaged in two costly wars in the Middle East, Washington will be willing to get involved in a totally different and new war. Such a measure will have grave political, economic and diplomatic consequences for the attacker. Firstly, Iran is totally different from Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya and all countries have owned up to Iran's military might and regional position. Though hated by some political establishments in the region, Iran is highly popular in geopolitical terms among popular groups in the Middle East. Iran is not only one of the biggest producers of oil and natural gas in the world, it is in full control of the world's biggest and the most strategic energy flow channel, that is, the Strait of Hormuz. If Iran could, even temporarily, close down the Strait, through which about 40 percent of the world oil passes, international oil prices will greatly rise. This will be a further blow to already weakened world markets and cause severe losses to the process of economic recuperation in the United States. Therefore, under present circumstances and considering economic crisis, arrival of the cold season, as well as high energy demand and price, it will not be in Obama's benefit to enter into a new war.

On the other hand, given the United States' geopolitical interests in the periphery of Iran, especially Iraq and Afghanistan, the least pressure by Iran on the US troops in those geostrategic areas will exacerbate the security conditions to the detriment of Washington. Americans are also quite familiar with political and national spirit of the Iranian nation. They know that despite political differences, Iranians will unite in the face of any foreign assault. Meanwhile, the Americans are well aware that they cannot use fictitious scenarios (without producing any real document to prove diversion in Iran's nuclear activities) as a ground to attack Iran. Perhaps, the United States and its allies would be able to interfere in Syria under the pretext of supporting democracy and popular opposition groups - as they did in Libya - and that intervention may be supported by Sunni Arabs, especially revolutionary groups in the Middle East and North Africa. In the case of Iran, however, concocting scenarios under the present circumstances will certainly increase popularity and geopolitical position of Iran among revolutionary groups. This may make the already shaky standing of the United States in the Middle East totally critical.

Another facet to this discussion is disorderly internal situation of Syria as Iran's closest strategic ally in the region which has drawn regional and international attention to the country. A geopolitical approach to this issue, not one based on human rights concerns, will prove that Syria is the biggest strategic ally of Iran and the anti-Israeli resistance in the region. The country is also the Achilles' heel of the Arab and Sunni world. Therefore, the international community's claim to supporting democracy in Syria is just an excuse under which they are trying to topple the government of the incumbent President Bashar al-Assad and create new geopolitical arrangements against Iran by eliminating Achilles' heel of the Arab world.

In more precise words, the region is in the vortex of extensive strategic changes and concurrent pressure on Iran and Syria can be considered along the same line. In view of the aforesaid reasons, military intervention in Iran is currently out of the question. Therefore, the United States and Europe are trying along with their allies to boost political, economic, and psychological pressures against Iran to make economic and political activities more difficult for the country. Intensification of Iran's geopolitical isolation will have profound psychological effects on the spirit and power of Tehran's strategic ally. The United States and its allies have done their best in recent days to occupy Iran with grave psychological and economic problems in order to prevent its political and military support for Syria. Examples to the point include recent allegations about Iran's complicity in an assassination plot targeting the Saudi ambassador to US and insistence of Washington and Saudi Arabia on taking the case to the United Nations Security Council to adopt an anti-Iranian resolution as well as intensification of tensions between Iran and the Saudi - Turkey axis. They have been also escalating international sanctions against Tehran to include the Central Bank of Iran in a bid to disrupt the country's import and export mechanisms.The undocumented report of IAEA director general (mostly based on US claims) about Iran's nuclear activities and its consideration by IAEA Board of Governors was done with the purpose of using that report to further incite the international community against Iran. They have also launched an unprecedentedly widespread propaganda campaign about possible military attack on Iran. Add to this long list the fact that Iran is already entangled in domestic political, foreign, and economic crises.

On the other hand, Syria, as Iran's closest strategic ally, is experiencing totally critical conditions on the other side of the equation. Now that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is done in Libya, the United States and its allies have completely focused on Syria. Although Damascus has threatened that foreign intervention in Syria will be like playing with fire, the United States and its allies have decided to reduce the power of Damascus before any form of direct intervention. As said before, unlike Iran, foreign military intervention in Syria is by no means impossible. At present, Syria's conditions have become once more critical. Perhaps this is somehow due to the reality that just a day after the Syrian government announced its agreement to the Arab League's plan to stop harsh treatment of protesters, withdraw security forces from the streets and start negotiations with the opposition, clashes heightened between protesters and government forces. Some opposition figures even noted that the Arab League's plan was too reconciliatory and lenient and asked the protesters to continue street demonstrations, avoid of negotiations with the government, and continue their struggle until the Syrian regime is toppled with the help of foreign forces.

The conditions provided the Americans and their allies with a good opportunity to use a multifaceted active diplomacy (one facet of which was worsening geopolitical isolation of Iran) and clear the way for a regime change in Syria. It is quite evident that the Arab League's plan was meant for justification of foreign intervention from the first. After opposition groups treated the plan coldly, the European Union announced that its members have reached an early agreement to impose more sanctions against Syria. Meanwhile, the pressure exerted on Syria by Russia and China to accept the Arab League's initiative should not be ignored. If it was not for such pressures from Russia and China, the Syrian government would not have accepted the plan even orally. One day after the Syrian protesters carried placards asking the Arab League to suspend their country's membership in the League and officially recognize the transitional council, the League members took the Syrian government by surprise and in addition to suspending its membership, recalled their ambassadors from Damascus.

Judging from their positions on Syria, it seems that Arab countries have been convinced about regime change in Syria. Diplomatic pressures, in the meantime, are tightening on the Syrian government. It started by suspension of Syria's membership in the Arab League and was followed by the Jordanian king's call on Assad to step down and the three-day deadline given to Damascus by the Arab League to stop suppression of protesters and allow foreign observers to enter the country. In addition, it was recently announced that some Arab leaders have said they were ready to grant asylum to the Syrian president. Turkey has also announced that if military intervention gains relative legitimacy from Arab countries and even the EU, it will directly take part in the conflict. Turkey has already ended cooperation with Syria in exploring oil reserves and has threatened that if the violence continued in the country, it would cut power exports to its southern neighbor.

On the whole, the international community has not reached a final conclusion on the necessity of military intervention in Syria, as it did in the case of Libya. However, overall political situation in the region as well as threats leveled and pressures exerted by the Americans and their allies against Iran and Syria indicate that all the pieces of the regional political and geopolitical chess have been arranged in a cunning way by the United States and its allies against Syria. In fact, the United States and its allies are trying to kill two birds with one stone through this strategy. Firstly, they want to increase Iran's geopolitical isolation by boosting concurrent political and economic pressures on Syria. If successful, this process will provide Turkey and Saudi Arabia, as the sole regional rivals of Iran, with a vital geopolitical opportunity.

Therefore, the main goal of all the ongoing propaganda as well as political, economic and military threats by the United States and its allies is to change the Syrian regime. At any rate, Iran's diplomatic apparatus should take West's threats quite seriously because increased sway of the West in Syria will lead to contraction of Iran's geopolitical borders.

Posted on 11/29/2011 10:04 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 29 November 2011
CAMERA's New England Event in January
Posted on 11/29/2011 3:22 PM by Dexter Van Zile
Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Our Permanent Enemy Pakistan
From the Associated Press:
Pakistan steps up anti-US rhetoric after attack

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan withdrew from an international conference on stabilizing Afghanistan to protest the deadly attack by American forces on its troops, widening a fresh rupture in ties with a nominal ally that is endangering the U.S. plan for gradually ending the war.

In an unusually hostile comment, a top Pakistani army general said Tuesday that the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers were the result of a "deliberate act of aggression." He said the military has not decided whether to take part in an American investigation into the weekend encounter along the mountainous Afghan border.

The hard line was aimed partly at pacifying the country's anti-American public, most of whom detest their leaders' close association with Washington. The uncompromising stance of the army was also likely designed to press for more concessions from Washington.

Regardless of motive, Pakistan's retaliatory moves and tough rhetoric lower the chances of greater cooperation in the Afghan war and will make it harder to repair ties with the U.S. once emotions cool.

Those ties have been beset by crises for the most of the year, most notably after the U.S. raid on May 2 that killed Osama bin Laden and wounded Pakistani pride. Each time, U.S. officials have worked to get the relationship back on track, knowing that Pakistan's influence over Afghan Taliban leaders could be key to achieving a negotiated settlement that would allow American combat troops to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Pakistan needs American aid and diplomatic support but has shown no willingness to listen to American requests to fight insurgents who use the border as a staging area to carry out attacks inside Afghanistan. Indeed, the army is widely believed to support those militants, hoping they can help ensure that any future regime in Kabul shares Pakistan's hostility to India.

Differing versions of Saturday's incident have emerged, but all agree that 24 Pakistan soldiers were killed in attacks on two bases by NATO aircraft. NATO has described the incident as "tragic and unintended," and U.S. officials have expressed their sympathies with the families of the dead.

Hours after the attack, Pakistan closed its two crossings on the western border to trucks delivering fuel, vehicles and food to NATO troops in Afghanistan. A NATO official said military operations could run at the current pace for "several months" because the alliance has stockpiles of supplies and alternative routes into the country.

Islamabad also ordered the U.S. to vacate within 15 days an air base in southwest Pakistan that housed CIA drones which attack militants along the Afghan border. U.S. officials have said this will not greatly impact the drone program because most of the aircraft are flown from bases in Afghanistan.

The decision to skip the Afghan conference Monday in Bonn, Germany, was made during a Pakistani Cabinet meeting.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she hoped the government would reconsider.

"They should still understand that the Afghanistan conference is a very important one. It's a very good opportunity to bring forward the political process," she said.

Pentagon press secretary George Little also urged Pakistan to come.

"We believe it's critical that countries in the region and who have interests in Afghanistan attend, and we certainly hope that Pakistan will attend the conference," Little said in Washington.

More than 90 countries are expected to attend the conference, intended to map out a sustainable future for Afghanistan once international troops withdraw. It was once hoped that the conference would help toward reconciliation with the Taliban, but the assassination in September of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani severely undermined efforts to reach out to the insurgency.

Few had high expectations the conference would result in significant progress. But the absence of Pakistan, the most important country in the peace process, will make even minor achievements more difficult.

Soon after the Pakistani Cabinet meeting ended, two army generals briefed several dozen Pakistani newspaper editors, talk-show hosts and defense analysts on the fallout from the attack.

Maj. Gen. Ashfaq Nadeem, director general of military operations, called the incident a "deliberate act of aggression" and said it was "next to impossible that NATO" did not know it was attacking Pakistani forces, according to people who attended the briefing, which was closed to non-Pakistani media.

In the most detailed account yet of the Pakistani version, he said two or three helicopters attacked the first post, called "Volcano," without warning. Nadeem did not mention whether those soldiers had opened fire on the advancing choppers. Seeing the attack, troops at the nearby "Boulder" post opened fire with anti-aircraft guns. That base was then attacked, he said.

At the Pentagon, Little declined to respond directly to Nadeem's remarks, saying: "No one at this point has the complete narrative on what happened and I think it's important that we wait for the investigation to occur."

U.S. officials said a joint U.S.-Afghan patrol was attacked by the Taliban on the Afghan side of the border in Kunar province. They say while pursuing the Taliban in the poorly marked border area, the patrol seems to have mistaken one of the Pakistani troop outposts for a militant encampment and called in a NATO gunship and attack helicopters to open fire, starting the engagement.

Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, announced Monday he has appointed Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark, an Air Force special operations officer, to lead an investigation and include input from the NATO-led forces as well as the Afghan and Pakistani governments.

But Nadeem said the army may not cooperate with the investigation, saying it had little faith that any U.S. probe will get to the bottom of what happened. He said other joint inquiries into at least two other similar, if less deadly, incidents over the last three years had "come to nothing."

Although Pakistan is angry over the deaths of its soldiers, it also appears to realize this is a moment to reset ties with the United States in its favor, analysts said. The incident has given space to right-wing, Islamist voices that have long called for the army and the government to sever ties with America and cut off the supply lines.

"The timing of this incident allows Pakistan to ratchet up pressure on the U.S., although it's not clear what the Pakistanis actually want," said Tim Hoyt, counterterrorism chair at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

Anthony Cordesman, an analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said this crisis likely "will get papered over" with some sort of U.S. or NATO apology and a "bribe in the form of better aid flows."

"In the process, however, the U.S. will face even less prospect that Pakistan will really crack down on insurgent groups in the border area, or stop seeing Afghanistan as an area where it competes with India and which is useful for strategic depth in some future war with India," Cordesman said.

Last year, Pakistan closed one of the border crossings for 10 days after a U.S. chopper killed two Pakistani soldiers on the border in a friendly fire incident. Militants then attacked dozens of the stranded supply trucks that were lined up by the side of the road. After 10 days, the U.S. apologized and Pakistan reopened the border.

Posted on 11/29/2011 3:04 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Embassies, Androlepsy, And Islam

The special status accorded embassies and diplomats is a Western idea. It is the same with such important concepts as Pacta Sunt Servanda -- treaties are to be obeyed. In Muslim lands, treaties with Infidels are not to be obeyed. Treaties are, rather, made only to be breached, on the model of Muhammad's agreement with the Meccans made in 628 A. D. at Hudaibiyya.

In Muslim lands, non-Muslim diplomats and embassies are fair game, and often the Muslim mobs assemble before the embassies of their Infidel enemies to express, in the way that comes so naturally to those inflamed mobs, their fury. 

It has a long history. Those who think the Iranian mob that attacked the British embassy in Tehran are doing something unusual, or something that should make us think only of the attack on the American embassy in 1979 and the 444 days of "America Held Hostage" -- as ABC's Nightline put it in describing what the Iranians, and ABC's Nightline -- were both doing to America for the exact same length of time -- but of even earlier attacks.

Russians will remember the attack on the their legation in 1837, and the killing of Russia's greatest playwright, and author of "Woe From Wit" (Gore Ot Uma), Griboedov, who was killed as he tried to defend Christian girls who had earlier taken refuge at the legation from Muslims determined to punish them for being, and acting, as Christians.

Others will think of attacks in other Muslim lands. Usually the mob doesn't require much to get it going. And since Muslim minds are unused to skeptical or even rational thought, and thus prey to conspiracy theories, mob violence against an embassy or consulate may be prompted not by anything Infidels have actually done, but the crazed belief that they must have done something.

When, in November 1979, Muslims even more fanatical than the usual Muslims seized the Great Mosque in Mecca, Muslims everywhere rioted. In Pakistan, a country that is as fanatically Muslim as any Arab country because the Pakistanis have no alternative pre-Islamic or non-Islamic identity to be aware of and to look to (as do, for example, Kurds, or Berbers, or Turks, or Indonesians), a Muslim mob attacked the American embassy. Two Marine guards were killed. More than 100 people were trapped for more than five hours, and were finally rescued by Pakistani soldiers.

Just a month or so ago, an Egyptain mob attacked, and sacked, Israel's embassy in Cairo, and would surely have massacred the Israelis who had barricaded themselves in a safe room inside had not, but only after nearly 24 hours had passed, the Egyptian military finally suppressed the mob. And that military did so only when both Secretary Panetta and President Obama got on the phone and made the Egyptian military an offer they could not refuse.

Some months after Jyllands-Posten published those cartoons of Muhammad, Muslims living in Denmark, seeing a good thing,  decided to travel to Muslim lands and whip up sentiments gainst Denmark and Danes. Their effort paid off: in many  Muslim lands, Danish embassies and consulates were besieged and attacked.

The British outrage over the attack on the embassy in Teheran is justified. British surprise, however, is not.

Posted on 11/29/2011 11:53 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Anders Breivik Declared Insane

The BBC reports on what was obvious from the beginning. Of course, this conclusion is no comfort to the victims and their families.

Psychiatrists assessing self-confessed Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik have concluded that he is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

They believe he was in a psychotic state both during and after the twin attacks on 22 July that led to the deaths of 77 people and injured 151.

Their report must still be reviewed by a panel of forensic psychiatrists.

Breivik will still be tried in April but it seems likely he will be placed in psychiatric care rather than prison.

Breivik admits carrying out the attacks but has pleaded not guilty to charges, arguing that that the attacks were atrocious but necessary for his campaign to defend Europe against a Muslim invasion.

The two psychiatrists who interviewed him on 13 occasions concluded that he lived in his "own delusional universe where all his thoughts and acts are guided by his delusions", prosecutors told reporters...

Posted on 11/29/2011 12:00 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Remembering, But Only In Order To Put Paid To, The Polypragmonic Impulse

"Polypragmonic." Remember?

Of course you do.

It's goodbye to the polygragmonic impulse. Many are happy to see it disappear, echoing now only in the bosoms of the very rich. such as John Kerry (rich through marriage) and Hillary Clinton (rich through marriage to a grasping but charming cheat who has managed to accumulate 100 million dollars since leaving office), who are careful to be big spenders with government money, which provides them with the illusion of being personally generous when they are miserly. 

Then there are those who, ignorant of history and thus heedless of reality, are so enamored of such words as "democracy" and "freedom" that they are willing to overlook what Islam means, what Islam causes.

But if one correctly identifies Islam as the problem that explains, underlies, sustains, the despotisms seen throughout the Muslim world, some of them now to be replaced by other kinds of despotism, and that which explains, underlies, sustains turns out to be Islam itself, the one thing that Believers cannot dare to identify or recognize as the source for their economic, political, social, moral, and intellectual failures. But we can. And in abjuring the polyprgamonic impulse, we force some of those born into Islam, the most advanced and thoughtful among them, to come by degrees to recognize the Great Despotism of Islam. It will take quite a while. So what? Watch the daily spectacle of permanent disorder and disruption in the Muslim lands. All this helps bring peace on earth to men of good will. What more. right about now, could you ask for? 

Posted on 11/29/2011 11:09 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Showing 26-51 of 398 [Previous 25] [Next 25]