Links for 07.13.09

Settlers are encountering their first real opponent - Obama - Haaretz - Israel News | An interesting article even for an Obama-settlements skeptic like me. Provides good details and background. Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s Fatwa – Tehran Bureau | "[TEHRAN BUREAU] In a very important development, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the most senior cleric living in Iran, and one of the top two* marja’ taghlid (source of emulation) in Shiite Islam, issued a series of Fatwas, calling the Supreme Leader illegitimate and saying that he was working with the government against religion. Montazeri has called on people to take action against this injustice, even if they have to pay a heavy price for it." Egypt's President Mubarak planning to retire and transfer power to son - The Irish Times - Sat, Jul 11, 2009 | The Irish Times has a scoop. I really must get around to writing that post warning against following the hysteria of the Egyptian and Arab press on succession etc. MIDEAST: Succession Issues Face Key U.S. Allies - IPS | Helena Cobban on Egypt and Saudi Arabia's dueling successions. Brothers divided by Gaza rivalry - The National Newspaper | Cool story on two brothers - one from Fatah, one from Hamas - and how they make do. News | Egyptians protest award to controversial writer | Sayed al-Qimni receives award, Islamists angry. Don't let it be said that the MB does not do this anymore. Israel phone firm's West Bank wall gag fails to amuse (Reuters) |
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Links for 07.08.09 to 07.09.09

Bint Al-Beltway | Blog by Washington-based policy wonk, good stuff on Syria, Lebanon, US MENA policy, technology and military issues. Middle East Report Online: The Day After “Victory”: Kuwait’s 2009 Election and the Contentious Present by Mary Ann Tétreault and Mohammed Al-Ghanim | On Kuwait's election. Palestinians reject Netanyahu's 'economic peace' plan - Haaretz - Israel News | As well they should, Palestinians don't need an economic boost, they need independence and the end of the occupation. A Renditions Scandal in Britain—By Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine) | On the case of Rangzieb Ahmed, an Ethipian rendited to Pakistan, which is currently being investigated by Britain. Which is more than you can say about Obama's decision not to investigate and prosecute these cases in America. Hamas: Mubarak doesn't know soldier's condition - Yahoo! News | Mubarak had said Shalit was well, but Hamas says Hosni has no idea what he's talking about. International Crisis Group - Iraq and the Kurds: Trouble Along The Trigger Line | Another ICG report on the important issue of how to settle resource-sharing, political rule among the Kurds and Arabs of Iraq, urges US to mediate resolution before withdrawal. In Morocco, an Alternative to Democracy - Morocco Board News Service | Excellent critique of a stupid WaPo article on Morocco. Q&A with Iranian Opposition Politician Ebrahim Yazdi Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | Essential interview with Iranian opposition figure. The Israeli ambassador is a dual national. | Isn't that a problem? Views | A veiled attack on freedom in France's niqab debate | Egyptian Muslim Brother Ibrahim al-Houdeiby on the France/niqab debate. Interesting use of Obama's Cairo speech at the end.
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Links for 07.02.09 to 07.04.09

ANALYSIS / Loud-mouthed rabbi reflects IDF's religious bent - Haaretz - Israel News | Article on Brigadier General Avichai Ronski, the Israeli Army's chief rabbi. Interesting tidbits on how he brought the influence of settlers and religious right, was recruited by Dan Halutz to "bring the IDF closer to the sectors of the public that opposed the Gaza disengadgement." Egypt: See no strikes, hear no strikes, report no strikes | Menassat | Joe Mayton on how journalists are prevented from covering strikes in Egypt. What's the point of learning to type in Arabic | Bint Battuta of Bahrain on Microsoft's new Maren software, which allows you to type Arabic in Roman characters and have them converted on the fly (like Yamli but as part of OS.) She takes issue with the assumption that Arab users don't want to learn how to type with an Arabic keyboard. Daily News Egypt - On The Inheritance Of Power In Egypt | Osama El-Ghazali Harb, prominent Egyptian political scientist and former Gamal recruit to Policies Committee before he left in a huff, on inheritance of power and Gamal's schemes won't work. Amos Elon (1926–2009) - The New York Review of Books | Tony Judt on the Israeli writer. OPT: Gaza-Egypt crossing to open three days a month | Hamas, PA and Egypt agree to allow 3 days a month and move towards 2005 AMA; article details continuing difficulties for those making the crossing.
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Sudan air strike may have killed 119

A new development in the Sudan airstrike story. A few days ago we highlighted to a piece that showed how confusing the various information on the subject is. Now the BBC is reporting that Sudan's minister of defense says the toll was much higher than originally reported:

An air raid in a Sudanese desert in January killed 119 people travelling in a people-smuggling convoy, the country's defence minister has said.

Abdul-Rahim Hussein told parliament that the attack was still under investigation, state media reported.

Fifty-six smugglers died as well as 63 people wanting to emigrate, he said.

Israel - battling Hamas in Gaza at the time of the attack - was suspected of being behind air raid, but has never explicitly confirmed any involvement.

. . .

In his report, Gen Hussein said there were up to 1,000 people in the convoy involved in "a smuggling process at the border with Egypt", Suna reported.

Among the convoy were people from Ethiopia and Somalia, the defence minister said.

It's hard to tell whether this is the truth or an attempt to make Israel (which presumably carried out the strike) look bad by blaming it for the deaths of migrant refugees. And it still does not tell us anything about this convoy and what it was smuggling, although the suggestion that over 1,000 people were there makes the secret cargo for Hamas theory look slightly weird. Update: Worth reading this analysis in conjunction with the above.
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Piecing together the Sudan airstrike story

Guy Gabriel at the Palestine Chronicle has done a review of the publicly available info on the alleged Sudan airstrikes of last January, a still unsolved mystery that we were very cautious in handling when it was first revealed. Here's a quick breakdown of what is supposed to have happened:
Piecing together information from various reports, this is a composite picture of what happened: The attackers were American, Israeli, or of unidentified origin, using perhaps gunships, F15s, F16s, or Hermes 450 drones and Eitan UAVs, taking off from Eritrea, Djibouti or possibly south of Tel Aviv. In January and/or February 2009, they attacked 1-2 convoys, consisting of 4-23 trucks, 1-3 times. The attacks left 39-800 dead (including some Iranian escorts or Revolutionary Guards), and there were between 0-50 survivors, which possibly included an Ethiopian mechanic. The attack left 18 craters, ranging in size from 160-430 metres (!). In addition, 0-1 ship[s] were sunk. The convoy[s] were smuggling either goods, people, G4s and Kalashnikovs, or 120 tonnes of arms and explosives, including anti-tank rockets and Fajir rockets with a 25-mile (40-kilometre) range and a 99-pound (45-kilogram) warhead.
Not exactly illuminating. He concludes:
It is quite possible that any one of these reports may be accurate, or perhaps none of them - or any combination of truth or falsehood in between. However, what is notable is that although we simply do not know the details of what happened, that has not stopped the story reaching the mainstream media with certainty that Israel's long arm stopped a conspiracy involving Iran, Hamas, and smuggled weapons bound for Gaza. Obscure or fringe sources were deemed passable in piecing together this story that in other situations would be rejected for being too unreliable. This was nearly the case here, relegated at first to blogs, but the significance of the ideal version of the story was too good to miss out on, and so graduated to mainstream Sunday newspapers and weekly news magazines.
Previous discussion of this on
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'Egypt entices Palestinians to unite with Gaza crossings pledge' - Haaretz - Israel News

> 'Egypt entices Palestinians to unite with Gaza crossings pledge' - Haaretz - Israel News - "There will be no reconstruction, no lifting of siege, no truce and no peace talks until an agreement is reached," Egypt's official news agency quoted Suleiman as saying after Saturday's meeting.
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AJI: Focus on Gaza - Factional Violence

Part I of report on factional violence between Fatah and Hamas and Israel efforts to pressure Gazan fishermen into acting as informants. Part II: Link to HRW report on factional violence by Hamas in Gaza. One wonders: there is anti-Fatah action by Hamas, and there are punitive measures against people suspected of collaboration. Collaborators are never treated kindly anywhere.
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Hamas paints Gilad Shalit mural

Hamas militants painted murals of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit and missing Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad Wednesday night in the Jabalyah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The graffiti portrays Shalit as he looks in 2009 next to a mock-up of how the soldier will look after another 30 years in captivity, his hair grey and his face beset by wrinkles. The murals were painted during a demonstration held to mark Prisoners' Day, presumably in a bid to tilt Israeli public opinion in favor of a prisoner exchange with Hamas. During a rally held four months ago to mark the 21st anniversary of the founding of Hamas, the Islamic group performed a skit where an operative dressed in an IDF uniform mimicked Shalit, portraying the soldier complaining in Hebrew about how he "misses mommy and daddy."
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Now not only Hizbullah, but Iranian Revolutionary Guards?

I haven't really had time to weigh in on the Hizbullah-in-Egypt scandal, but the story continues to develop with more allegations and charges made against the Hizbullah cell, including another Shorouk scoop this morning that four Iranian Revolutionary Guards were arrested by Egyptian authorities last December, apparently entering on the country using Shia Iraqi IDs and networking with Iraqi Shia refugees in Cairo. Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that the public prosecutor is preparing a "surprise" when more charges are formally filed, which some think will include charges against Hassan Nasrallah himself. The informed consensus among Egyptian commentators is that Hizbullah made a mistake in toying with Egypt's sovereignty, but that Egypt should not exaggerate in its response either. Most center around the accusation, confirmed by Nasrallah, that Hizbullah was setting up a logistics support network for Hamas' weapons supply line. It would be naive to assume that this is strictly all they were doing, some level of spying should also be assumed. Most commentators reject the accusation that Hizbullah was planning attacks against Israeli tourists in retaliation for the assassination of its military chief Emad Mughniyeh, although some recent information has surfaced that there may have been parallel networks operating: in addition to the ones helping Hamas, there might have also been one concentrating on the Iraqi Shia community and what one might call general purpose espionage, for instance on the Suez Canal (rather, as some newspapers have alleged, a plan to fire shoulder-launched missiles at passing ships.) Although the brouhaha over this affair will probably have the intended effect of turning part of Egyptian public opinion against Hizbullah on nationalist grounds -- and I would certainly agree that any country should be concerned about arms smuggling and espionage operations taking place -- it is also highlighting Egypt's strangehold on Hamas supply lines (financial and military) which the likes of columnists Fahmy Howeidy, the Muslim Brothers' General Guide Mahdi Akef and others are condemning. Nasrallah, in his unusual confession that Hizbullah does have operatives in Egypt, also reiterated the helping-Hamas-as-a-duty line that has some resonance here, and not just among Islamists. Perhaps more details on the accusations to date later... Update: I wanted to ask readers who are more familiar with Hizbullah than I am the following: the Egyptian press reported in the last couple of days that the name of the Hizbullah handler for their Egypt operation is called Muhammad Qabalan, alleged to be the head of intelligence for Hizbullah. And that Emad Mughniyeh's replacement as head of military operations is called Talal Hamiyeh. Anyone familiar with those names?
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New April 09 Arab Reform Bulletin

Khaled Hroub on Pressures on Hamas in Reconciliation Talks
The 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza affected Egypt more than any other country. While there is a possibility that Americans or Europeans would tolerate a Palestinian consensus including loosely-worded formulas that allow Hamas to participate, it is the Egyptians who are taking a hard-line approach and pressing Hamas into an unequivocal stance. Egypt wants to minimize the chances of Hamas winning future Palestinian elections. Egypt’s delicate domestic situation cannot withstand the emergence of a successful or partly successful Muslim Brotherhood-inspired experiment anywhere in the Arab world, and certainly not on its very doorstep. The situation is all the more sensitive because Hamas is confronting the Israeli occupation, deeply unpopular with most Egyptians, which provides a tool for Egyptian Islamists to use in mobilizing the street against the government. But Cairo is aware that Hamas’ position is awkward and its choices are limited, especially with escalating resentment against some of Hamas’ policies within Gaza before, during, and after the recent war, which is pushing Hamas to adopt a more flexible attitude.
Iman Baibars on Ramifications of Women’s Rights Initiatives:
While the NDP appears serious about increasing the number of women in parliament, it is not clear yet exactly which seats will be designated for women or how they will be selected. Will it be, for example, by means of an individual candidacy system, in which two women from each governorate are nominated (one a professional and another a laborer), a party list system, or some combination of the two? The quota is thus part of a larger discussion of overall reform of the oft-revised Egyptian electoral system. But in any case, it seems likely that a quota for women will be in place in time for the 2010 parliamentary elections. The question is no longer whether more women will enter parliament, but rather how this will be accomplished.
Also: Intissar Fakir Western Sahara and Regional Security (IMHO overstates the security issues in the Sahel region from a US perspective, ignores political expediency of creating a "jihadist situation" in that sub-region for both local and external powers.) Josh Landis on The Nexus of Economy, Diplomacy, and Reform (I like Landis but fear he's rather too sanguine about this: "President Assad has also promised to put political liberalization back on his agenda because he no longer believes Western powers seek to destabilize Syria." Forget liberalization, Assad will never do it!)
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Links February 13th to February 15th

Links for February 13th through February 15th:

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Links January 25th and January 26th

Automatically posted links for January 25th through January 26th:

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Links January 23rd and January 24th

Automatically posted links for January 23rd through January 24th:

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Links January 20th and January 21st

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Links January 15th and January 19th

Automatically posted links for January 15th through January 19th:

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Links for December 4th

Automatically posted links for December 4th:

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