A Sudanese man used a plastic knife from the in-flight meal to threaten flight attendants after the plane left Turkish airspace and demanded that the flight be diverted to Jerusalem, the official said. Guards on the flight were able to detain the man and no one was hurt, he said. The flight landed safely at Cairo airport. The man was arrested and was being questioned by state security, the official said. The Boeing aircraft was carrying 87 passengers, a Cairo police official said. He identified the suspect as Mohammed Hamad Nourain, 26, and said he used a passport with a phony name to board the flight. The man told flight attendants he wanted to "liberate Jerusalem," the police official said.
A few day's worth...
✪ Orientalism’s Wake: The Ongoing Politics of a Polemic | Very nice collection of essays on Edward Said's "Orientalism" from a variety of supporters, critics, academics including Daniel Varisco, Robert Irwin, Roger Owen, etc.
✪ The Sources of Islamic Revolutionary Conduct | I have not read in detail this small book by a US Air Force analyst, but scanning through it I see rather odd choices. For instance there are long chapters comparing Christianity and modern secularism to the Islamist outlook, except that it's never quite clear whether the latter means the outlook of engaged Islamist activists or ordinary Muslims. There is also copious quoting from Sayyid Qutb's "Milestones" as if it was representative of all Islamic thinking. Someone should give this a detailed look (and I'd be happy to post the result.) [PDF]
✪ Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | A clean break | On Cairo's garbage collection crisis.
✪ Irving Kristol, Godfather of Conservatism, Dies - Obituary (Obit) - NYTimes.com | Leaving behind a disastrous intellectual, social, economic and political legacy: alleged liberalism on social issues that shirks from real change, supply-side economics, and of course an imperial war doctrine.
✪ Are Morocco And Algeria Gearing Up For Arms Race? « A Moroccan About the world around him
✪ Big mouth - The National Newspaper | Bernard Heykal on how the strength of al-Qaeda is impossible. Which makes sense, at least if you try to do it from the Bin Laden tapes as all the silly pseudo-analysis of last week showed.
✪ Ikhwanweb :: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website | Very much like the new look of the Muslim Brothers' English website, which I hadn't checked in a while. They have a very useful "today's news" feature that can also be used for archives by date.
✪ Al-Ahram Weekly | Economy | Depleting Egypt's reserves | A good article with details on the Egypt-Israel gas deal and why it may be a bad idea in terms of resource management, never mind political and financial sense.
✪ Al-Qaradawi's Fatwa Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | The alleged liberal paid by intolerant Islamists in Riyadh attacks the alleged moderate Islamist paid by Doha:
A news item reported in the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper revealed that Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi had issued a fatwa prohibiting Iraqis from acquiring US citizenship on the grounds that this is the nationality of an occupier nation. However this fatwa has nothing to do with the reality on the ground, and contains more political absurdity then it does religious guidance. Sheikh al-Qaradawi himself is an Egyptian who possesses Qatari nationality, which was given to him after he opposed the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. However when an Israeli office was opened in Doha, al-Qaradawi did not renounce his Qatari nationality.
| "His brother Uday told Reuters: "Thanks be to God that Muntazer has seen the light of day. I wish Bush could see our happiness. When President Bush looks back and turns the pages of his life, he will see the shoes of Muntazer al-Zaidi on every page.""
✪ BAE to axe 1,100 jobs and close site | Business | guardian.co.uk | So Tony Blair quashed the Yamama inquiry to save jobs (or so he says) but BAe still carries out layoffs?
✪ Seinfeld, Sacha Baron Cohen and Natalie Portman slam Toronto Film Festival protest - Haaretz - Israel News| Some stars come to Israel's side in the tiff over TIFF.
✪ GDC | Economist Conferences| Economist infographic shows public debt around the world.
✪ FT.com / Middle East / Politics & Society - Investors seek to revive faded glory of Cairo | On investment in Downtown Cairo properties and plans for gentrification. Look out for another article on this soon.
✪ No concrete proof that Iran has or has had nuclear programme – UN atomic watchdog | Just a reminder that the press reports have spinned things wrongly - this comes straight from the UN: "17 September 2009 – Refuting a recent media report, the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today reiterated that the body has no concrete proof that Iran has or has ever had a nuclear weapons programme."
✪ Egypt Islamic Authority Says Women Can Wear Trousers - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - FOXNews.com | The world is going to hell -- what next, capris?
✪ BBC NEWS | Middle East | 'Many killed' in Yemen air raid | Serious turn in Yemen's trouble -- bombing a refugee camp!?
WASHINGTON — Despite a recession that knocked down global arms sales last year, the United States expanded its role as the world’s leading weapons supplier, increasing its share to more than two-thirds of all foreign armaments deals, according to a new Congressional study. The United States signed weapons agreements valued at $37.8 billion in 2008, or 68.4 percent of all business in the global arms bazaar, up significantly from American sales of $25.4 billion the year before.\\ ... The increase in American weapons sales around the world “was attributable not only to major new orders from clients in the Near East and in Asia, but also to the continuation of significant equipment and support services contracts with a broad-based number of U.S. clients globally,” according to the study, titled “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations.”Note that it's not just Middle Easterners paying out of pocket for this, but also the American taxpayer who is underwriting some of these purchases in form of military aid designed to redirect US funding to those arms manufacturers. This is not just a question of US jobs in this sector, since many of these manufacturers collaborate with foreign firms, and of course their profits are shared among their global shareholders, not just American ones. And it's not just oil-rich states. The article adds:
The top buyers in the developing world in 2008 were the United Arab Emirates, which signed $9.7 billion in arms deals; Saudi Arabia, which signed $8.7 billion in weapons agreements; and Morocco, with $5.4 billion in arms purchases.Morocco is a relatively resource-poor state that receives considerable amounts of aid (from the West and from Gulf allies) and faces no serious conventional threat; yet it has for instance decided to get a bunch of F16s. Its regional rival is Algeria, in the context of the Western Sahara conflict, and Algeria is itself making significant purchases (especially from Russia.) The silly arms race between Algeria and Morocco, two countries that have poor rankings in UN human development reports and deep socio-economic problems, is useful all around: for Moroccan and Algerian generals, for governments selling the weapons (thus cementing alliances and dependence relationships), and of course for the companies. In this context, it's no surprise there is little genuine interest for solving the Western Sahara conflict or encouraging Moroccan-Algerian reconciliation. In the Persian Gulf, one sees not only the patterns of dependence of absolute monarchies on this recycling of petrodollars into weapondollars (here's more on the petrodollar-weapondollar coalition in the Middle East), but also the built-in interest in maintaining high threat levels and the possibility of war (for instance in talking up the possibility of an attack on Iran and its consequences).
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika preparing purge of senior military officers? This would be the final push in Boutef's remarkably successful marginalization of the rival clans that have controlled Algeria over the last two decades to put the presidency at the center of the regime. Many people might see in this a positive step for Algeria, because the in-regime competition was paralyzing. But it can't be a positive step if it merely leads to one-man rule and inheritance of power along family lines. Interesting times in Algiers... and good post at the always interesting Maghreb Politics Review.
On the announcement that Said Bouteflika, brother of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, is launching a political party. Long the go-to business connection for the Boutef clan, this could mean an attempt to secure a brother-to-brother presidential succession. Yet another Arab republic goes the way of a monarchy.
Given the outcome of the 1999 elections, it was important for Bouteflika to establish an independent base of support, one that would free him from the whims of the generals who put him in power. Though Algeria’s 2002 elections recorded what was then the lowest turnout since independence, the outcome indicated the growing power of Bouteflika’s electoral machine. The FLN -- a party that had seemed moribund in the 1990s -- took 51 percent of the seats in Parliament. This surprising show of strength was repeated in October at the local level. Though Bouteflika has been officially independent from the FLN since 1999, the reconstituted FLN provided him with the foot soldiers to bring people to the ballot box. The formation of the “presidential alliance” -- a three-party coalition led by the FLN -- would later guarantee the Bouteflika camp’s total electoral hegemony. Still, Islamist parties performed well in 2002, despite severe restrictions on many candidates; the largely secular-left Berber opposition stayed true to an electoral boycott stemming from the 2001 unrest in Kabylia. As the April 2004 presidential contest approached, there were indications that elements of the security-military-intelligence apparatus were starting to see Bouteflika as a threat. Bouteflika’s Brutus stepped forward in 2003, when Prime Minister and FLN Secretary-General Ali Benflis -- none other than Bouteflika’s 1999 campaign manager -- declared his intent to run. Yet even with the FLN divided and Benflis’ candidacy supported by powerful figures in the security oligarchy, Bouteflika sailed to an impressive 85 percent margin of victory, on turnout of nearly 60 percent. Benflis, who quickly disappeared from the political scene, managed to pull in 6 percent. With his 2004 reelection, it was clear that Bouteflika had established the independent base. A growing ensemble of stakeholders, from traditionalist elements of Algerian Islam to veterans’ and war martyrs’ groups, provided Bouteflika with his own means of reaching down to the grassroots. An Algerian sociologist has provisionally termed this coalition Bouteflika’s makhzan, in reference to the patron-client networks that have allowed the Moroccan monarchy to rule for centuries. There was perhaps no greater indication of Bouteflika’s triumph than the June 2004 “retirement” of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mohammed Lamari, architect of the dirty war in the 1990s, and the 2005 posting of retired Gen. Larbi Belkhir to the embassy in Morocco. Belkhir, a key player for decades, had reportedly championed Bouteflika in 1999 in the face of the skepticism of others and subsequently ran the president’s office. Bouteflika’s new chief of staff and deputy defense minister were trusted allies. With Khaled Nezzar (mastermind of the 1992 coup) sulking in his villa, there appears to be little left of the cadre of “deciders” who allegedly manipulated events behind the scenes in the 1990s, except for long-time intelligence head Mohamed “Tewfik” Medienne, who, like the Wizard of Oz, seems to instill fear simply by staying out of the public eye. It was only after his 2004 reelection that Bouteflika fulfilled his end of the bargain with those who had put him into office. On February 27, 2006, the presidential cabinet, chaired by Bouteflika himself, used a special rule to ratify the National Peace and Reconciliation Charter while the parliament was in recess. Though the Charter had ostensibly passed a national referendum in September 2005, there were doubts as to the authenticity of turnout figures. In its final form, the law amnestied insurgents who surrendered after January 2000, including those facing criminal proceedings or held in prison, while at the same time opening a new six-month window for more insurgents to surrender. At the same time, the Charter kept the same restrictions on amnesty as the 1999 Civil Concord, but those found guilty of unprotected offenses could receive reduced sentences. For the families of the “disappeared” or those abducted by armed opposition groups, death certificates could be issued once all investigations had been completed. Perhaps the most important aspect of the Charter was that, for the first time, the government extended full immunity to the security and military forces, including civilian militias. Merely to criticize the actions of the government or its agents during the “national tragedy” of the 1990s was made a criminal act.Mundy ends declaring:
Bouteflika’s victory is now almost total. He has conquered the generals, kept the FIS from returning in any form, staved off democratic challenges from his own party and the Kabyle Citizens’ Movement, and won the right to a third, or even fourth, term. The challenges he faces now seem almost quaint by comparison: residual political violence, high unemployment, widespread disillusionment with government and the state’s near total dependence on hydrocarbons.Well perhaps Algeria has not made this transition from military oligarchy to dictatorship, it's successfully used an old-generation figure to pass control over to a new generation of oligarchs. And the problem with such coalitions around a transitional figure is that they might very easily collapse with his passing. In the meantime this Algerian election was profoundly depressing when you consider what a regression it constitutes. I am inspired by the Moroccan blogger Larbi to tally up the top five most "popular" Arab presidents: - At number one, like his father unrivaled, Bashar al-Assad at 97% but only in power for a mere nine years (re-elected 29 May 2007). - At number two, the indefatigable Zein al-Abideen Ben Ali with 94.49%, still going strong after 22 years. Like Bouteflika, he had to amend the constititution to be able to run again (re-elected 24 October 2004). - Slipping in at third position, the hero of the hour, Abdel Aziz Bouteflika who managed an impressive 90.24% and quite a strong show for an election many were boycotting. Thus he singlehandedly reestablishes Boumediennism. - Our very own Hosni Mubarak wins for longevity (28 years!) but has been slipping in the ranks lately, only achieving 88.5% in the last election (which, mind you, was the first to include other candidates) on 9 September 2005. Better luck in 2012 ya Hosni! - Finally it's Yemen's Ali Abdullah Salah with a measly 77.2% (re-elected 22 September 2006). Let's hope he tries harder next time. There's been a lot of movement in this race since the uncontested champion for most of the 1980s and 1990s, the late lamented Saddam Hussein, gave up his presidency. Will there ever be another like him, who against all odds is perhaps the world's only politician to win 100% of the vote in a presidential election?
"Until recently, Algeria was the North African exception -- Article 74 of its 1996 constitution set two five-year terms as the limit on the mandate of a given president. On November 12, 2008, however, the parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve several constitutional amendments, the most important of which removed the stipulations of Article 74. This far-reaching amendment opened the way for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run for a third successive term, as he will do on April 9, despite his poor health and controversial performance. Algerians are convinced that, as in Tunisia or Egypt, the result of this election is a foregone conclusion. Like Qaddafi, Bouteflika and his supporters have grounded their campaign for constitutional revision in notions of popular sovereignty. Because Algerians have elected Bouteflika twice, the regime’s story goes, they should not be hindered by a mere piece of paper like the constitution from keeping him around for life. Like its North African counterparts, the Algerian regime claims that it has jump-started economic development so remarkable that the people insist they remain in office to complete the task. Meanwhile, the removal of term limits has ended any semblance of constitutional checks and balances in Algeria."Amidst massive apathy and rejection of this sham electoral process, Bouteflika has an interest in getting as high a turnout as possible to legitimize his continued rule as "the people's will." He recently plumbed new depths, as Le Quotidien d'Algerie reports, by urging the masses to get out the vote and "make him blush in front of the foreigners":
Hier, lors de son meeting de guelma, le président-candidat-président Bouteflika a exhorté la population à voter massivement et à le faire rougir devant l’opinion internationale. Oui, oui! Il a dit exactement ceci: ” Faites moi rougir le visage devant les étrangers en allant voter en masse!” En fait, le terme “hamrouli wadjhi” dans notre parler algérien signifie exactement le contraire de sa traduction en français. “Faites-moi rougir le visage”, en derdja, veut dire faites moi rougir de plaisir, c’est à dire ne m’humiliez pas en boycottant ce vote, plébiscitez moi! Mais au délà de ces nuances de langage, nous découvrons, si nous ne le savions déjà, que tout ce qui compte pour Bouteflika et le régime qui l’a béni, est l’opinion que se font de lui les opinions internationales. Le peuple algérien est le dernier de ses soucis. Une vraie république couscoussière!My translation:
Yesterday, during his rally in Guelma, the president-candidate-president Bouteflika urged the populace to vote massively and to make him blush in front of international public opinion. Yes, yes! He said this exactly: "Make my face blush in front of the foreigners by going to vote in numbers!" In fact, the term hamrouli wadjhi in our Algerian dialect signifies exactly the opposite as the French expression. "Make my face blush" in Derdja (dialect) means "make me blush with pleasure," that is, "do not humiliate me by boycotting this election, but rather elect me by an overwhelming majority." Beyond the nuances of this discourse, we discover - we knew already - that the only thing that counts for Bouteflika and the regime that has backed him is international opinion. The Algerian people are the least of his worries. [We are] a couscous republic!Who will rid us of these decrepit old men...
Links for February 17th through February 19th:
- Jazeera slams TV crackdown - FT on new satellite TV restrictions
- TelQuel : Avoir 20 ans à la campagne - Life for young people in the (extremely poor) Moroccan countryside
- Moscou accuse Paris de saborder le contrat des Mig - Algeria-Russia fracas over Mig contract; France suspected of meddling
- Pharaonic Pump Sits Idle as Egypt Fails to Lure Farms to Desert Bloomberg.com: Europe - Whatever happened to Toshka?
- Middle East Report Online: Disengagement and the Frontiers of Zionism by Darryl Li - "FROM BANTUSTAN TO INTERNMENT CAMP TO ANIMAL PEN"
- The BAE files | World news | guardian.co.uk - Guardian collection of articles on BAE case
- Hamas tells Egypt it is ready to discuss truce with Israel, Shalit deal - "Hamas said Friday it has told Egyptian officials it would consider a cease-fire with Israel if it lifted its blockade of the Gaza Strip and ceased military operations in the West Bank and Gaza."
- UN shocked by 'grim' life in Gaza - "80% of Gaza's 1.5m population now depended on food aid."
Automatically posted links for December 19th through January 5th:
- Fashion and Faith Meet, on Foreheads of the Pious - NYT article from Dec 2007 on that bizarre Egyptian fetish, the zebibah
- Al Jazeera appelée à présenter ses excuses - Al Jazeera called on by its Algerian staff to apologize for poll about Algiers attacks
- Le Monde.fr : Le Dakar 2008 a été annulé - Paris-Dakar race cancelled for first time because of "al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb" threats
- Benazir Bhutto | Economist.com - A good obituary
- AFP: Egyptian woman in legal test of SMS divorce: report - Woman argues third divorce SMS makes it legal
- Guardian's Tehran correspondent expelled without explanation - Robert Tait kicked out of Iran
- Anti-Zionist author kicks off speaking tour of Lebanon - Norman Finkelstein tour
- Du Nil à la Seine, l'étrange destin des Badraouis - Unusual story about an Egyptian village that specializes in emigrating to France
- U.S. envoy Jones starts Mideast security push - New American governor of Palestine arrives
Automatically posted links for November 23rd:
- Arab Countries to Send Senior Delegations to Peace Talks - Saudi reluctantly coming along, other Arab states breathe sifh of relief
- Hands Off Iran - "I will not pay my income tax if we go to war with Iran."
- U.S. Navy steps up fuel deliveries to Gulf forces | Reuters - Increased supply could mean exercises to warn Iran, or worse
- Â«La vie sexuelle dâ€™un islamiste Ã ParisÂ» de Leila Marouane | Babelmed -
- AFP: Egypt Copt jailed 45 years after father's conversion - Utterly ridiculous
- ANALYSIS: PA should have set the bar higher at the outset - Haaretz - Even an Israeli newspaper is aghast at the Palestinians "defeatist attitude" pre-Annapolis
- Al-Qaeda in Algeria | Babelmed - Interview with Hamida Layachi, expert on GSPC
- Una persecucion escandalosaÂ - Spanish intellectuals speak out for Algerian dissident placed under arrest
- Am I to blame for his private war? | The Observer - A photographer and a soldier's story from Iraq
- Mideast Conference Nears, With Few Plans - washingtonpost.com - No one has any idea of what's going on with Annapolis
- Christians in Jerusalem want Jews to stop spitting on them - Love that headline
- "Viva la Revolucion" in Riyadh -- for 24 hours - Chavez in Saudi Arabia, invokes Christ, social justice. Wrong audience?
Luc Cherki is a big man. Carrying his guitar, he approaches the microphone with the swagger of Johnny Cash and sings a folk ballad about the dispossessed worthy of the Man in Black that elicits whoops of recognition from his audience. But this is Marseilles, not San Quentin, and Cherki is French. His song, Je suis un pied-noir, tells of having to leave Algeria for France 45 years ago, thus becoming an emigré in his own country. Accompanying him are the El Gusto Orchestra, veterans of Algerian music’s postwar golden age, when the sound of chaabi united the streets. When the war of independence (1954-62) tore apart the French colony it ripped the heart out of the musical community. For many of those onstage in Marseilles El Gusto is the first time they have seen each other in 45 years. Now the old friends’ schedules includes a film, a tour by the orchestra, which reaches the Barbican in London on October 10 as part of its annual Ramadan Nights season, and an album, produced by Damon Albarn and released on his label, Honest Jons. “I didn’t know chaabi before I became involved,” Albarn admits. “But after I got the call asking me to contribute to this project I made sure I was well-versed before I got here. Then all I needed to do was to put microphones in the right places and try to capture the rawness of the music. I just told them they were the maestros and let them get on with it.”Concerts in London and Paris for those lucky enough to make it, and the album of the recording will come out on October 15. Also see this story in Le Monde.
Treize adolescents algériens ont été condamnés le 23 septembre à trois ans de prison avec sursis pour avoir entretenu des contacts avec Al-Qaida au Maghreb islamique, l'ex-Groupe salafiste pour la prédication et le combat (GSPC). Un suivi psychologique a été ordonné, et leurs parents se sont engagés à les surveiller de près. Arrêtés en juin à Thénia, dans la préfecture de Boumerdès, région où le groupe islamiste armé est très actif, trois d'entre eux avaient été placés sous mandat de dépôt alors que les dix autres, des collégiens âgés entre 14 et 16 ans, avaient été laissés en liberté provisoire. Selon la police, ces jeunes avaient commencé à recevoir, dans les maquis environnants, des entraînements au maniement des armes et au transport de bombes. Certains avaient été gratifiés de noms de guerre. Des disques compacts avec des cours d'entraînement au combat avaient été découverts à leur domicile.