The edges of Arabia

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A giant baobab tree in the Sahel from Flickr user Osvaldo Zoom We don't often cover issues from the Sahel here — that strip of land on the edge of Arabo-Berber North Africa — so here are a few links to some interesting links. ✩The Majlis takes a look at a recent New Yorker piece on Somalia, which if you want to follow seriously, you should read the blog Africa Comments. ✩ Sahara new centre for drugs trading, UN warns:
The Sahara desert has become a new centre for trading cocaine from West Africa for heroin from East Africa, the UN's drugs chief said yesterday. Antonio Maria Costa said drugs money was being used to fund terrorists and anti-government forces and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime had "acquired evidence" of new trafficking routes across Chad, Niger and Mali. He told the UN security council that the trade of West African cocaine for East African heroin was making drugs a new kind of currency in the region. "Terrorists and anti-government forces in the Sahel extract resources from the drug trade to fund their operations, purchase equipment and pay foot soldiers," he said.
✩ Of course there is the old question of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and how it may benefit from the drug trade and other forms of organized crime. Some see behind it the machinations of the Algerian regime, a kind of exporting/subverting of the remnants of armed Islamic groups from the civil war to carry out black ops, project strategic importance, or simply make money. ✩ Meanwhile, Guinea's leader is recovering in Morocco following an assassination attempt. The country is still highly unstable. It is one of the main routes for drug trafficking across Western Africa, a route that ends in Morocco. Which is hosting several politicians believed to be involved in that trade, and has a poor record of officials being complicit in aiding or covering up the drug trade.
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Links for 07.18.09 to 07.20.09

Gambling with peace: how US bingo dollars are funding Israeli settlements | World news | The Guardian | More Moskowitz. There should be an international financial blockade against any institution involved in the settlements. 'U.S. tells Israel to halt East Jerusalem building' - Haaretz - Israel News | More on Irving Moskowitz's settlement plans. Asma Al Assad: Syria's First Lady And All-Natural Beauty (SLIDESHOW) | HuffPo celebrates the beauty of Asma al-Assad. Never mind her hubby being a dictator and all... WaPo bows cravenly to pro-Israel lobby | WaPo publishes inaccurate "correction" on Gilo settlement. De “Freej” à “Hamdoon” : le dessin cartonne aux Emirats | On the spread of homegrown cartoon characters in the UAE. French agents kidnapped in Somalia | Security trainers were posing as journalists and staying at journalists' hotel — can't say I feel any sympathy for them. Publier ici votre bilan des dix de règne - Comme une bouteille jetée à la mer! | Larbi, one of the best Moroccan bloggers, is inviting readers to send in their assessment of the first 10 years of Muhammad VI's reign. Breaking the silence | Soldiers’ Testimonies from Operation Cast Lead, Gaza 2009 Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | Cementing the rift via dialogue | Update on Egypt-brokered Palestinian reconciliation talks after Ramallah meeting, takes the position that Fatah is sabotaging talks for electoral purposes. But does not acknowledge Egypt's acquiescence in this plan. The freegans' creed: waste not, want not | Environment | The Observer | Article on freeganism, i.e. eating free food that's been thrown away. Clearly only possible as a lifestyle in the first world. Somaliland's addict economy | GlobalPost | About Qat (also spelled Khat, the drug) in Somaliland. EGYPT: Poet accused of insulting Mubarak awaits final verdict | Babylon & Beyond | Los Angeles Times | Ridiculous. OpenStreetMap | Not bad alternative to Google Maps. For Cairo not bad, but Google is more detailed and in Arabic. Still, good effort that might improve, and does not lock us in to the G-Man. Revisiting Obama's Riyadh meeting | The Cable | So the idea that Obama came out empty-handed out of his pre-Cairo Speech meeting with Saudi King Abdullah is gaining ground. But it is ridiculous to imagine that Abdullah would pre-emptively agree to concessions before the Israelis have made even a single concession. Egyptian chronicles: Ahmed Rushdie-Barely-Speaks For The First Time | Very interesting post on former Egyptian minister of interior Ahmed Rushdie, described here as the only minister of the Mubarak era to have resigned and the only interior minister who was respected. (I don't know how true this is, but it's interesting!) International Crisis Group - 152 Sudan: Justice, Peace and the ICC | New ICG report on Sudan warns of laying off pressure on Khartoum over Darfur as focus shifts to the south and the CPA again. Among key recommendations to the ruling party is that Bashir should step down as soon as possible. US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman Talks to Asharq Al-Awsat | Sharq al-Awsat interview, mostly on Syria. The Obama administration sure loves Saudi media. Palestinians aim for massive pastry record Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | I'm all for building the world's largest ball of twine or baking the biggest kunafa, but the reporting on this is over the top. Taboo Topics on Contemporary Foreign Policy Discourse | Stephen M. Walt | Excellent post on the Ten Commandments of foreign policy wonks. You could add plenty more, but I would add (as far as Egypt is concerned) "Thou shall greet yesterday's oppressor as today's reformer, or vice versa if appropriate." Walt makes so many good points it's hard to choose a favorite, although #9 is up there.
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Links for 07.14.09 to 07.18.09

Why is Saudi Arabia buying up African farmland? | FP Passport | More Arab landgrabs in sub-Saharan Africa. Will NBC's The Wanted Endanger Foreign Correspondents? | The New York Observer | This looks like a really stupid idea. WPR Article | The End of Political Islam? | No, it's not. A good passage from this story:
The basic goal of all Islamists, from Salafis to the Muslim Brotherhood, is the revival of Muslim society, and the reversal of the perceived decline it has been experiencing for several centuries. All Islamists agree that this decline occurred because of a shift from the original foundations of its greatness, Islam. Thus, they agree that revival means the re-Islamicization of society through ridding it of what they consider corrupting Western ideas, such as secularization.
Hamas makes feature film about slain militant - Yahoo! News | "the screenplay was penned by Mahmoud Zahar, the Gaza strongman seen as one of the architects of the group's violent takeover of Gaza two years ago." It'd be nice if Zahar was referred to as Hamas' foreign minister, and also if wasn't such an idiot for spending money on this at this time. Who does he think he is, Saddam Hussein or Muammar Qadhafi? BBC NEWS | Middle East | Saudi 'genie' sued for harassment | About time that genies learn that they are not beyond the law. Boston Review — Helena Cobban: Peace Out | The decline of Israel's progressive movement, by Helena Cobban.
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Links for 07.13.09 to 07.14.09

Ould Abdel Aziz & the Jews « The Moor Next Door | On Mauritania's junta leader campaign against the Israeli embassy. TRANSCRIPT: Obama says Africa Command Focused on Partnership to Address Common Challenges | Obama's Ghana speech; bits on AFRICOM highlighted. From the official site. Conflicts Forum » Tehran troubles | Alastair Crooke, has an article which offers analysis of the recent events in Iran but is dead wrong on the 'Western media' not understanding Moussavi was a regime-approved candidate. He also only seems to quote Khameini backers and their foreign allies. His stuff on inter-regime rivalry is interesting but really do we need to go on about the "myth of a color revolution" (few bought it) or entirely dismiss the protest movement as simply North Tehran? Disappointing. Arab Reform Bulletin - Whither Economic Reform? | I wanted to post properly about this piece on economic reform in Egypt, but in the meantime will just link. Post tomorrow, inchallah... A Technocrat Steadily Gains Influence in West Bank, but Questions Remain - washingtonpost.com | About Salam Fayyad. Times reporter recounts life in Iran prison - Washington Times | Iason Athanasiadis recounts his ordeal in Iran.
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