Syria’s chemical weapons: The other red line

Mr Obama’s other red line—the passing of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) into the hands of jihadist terrorists—is, according to intelligence sources, in real and possibly imminent danger of being breached. According to these sources, the past few weeks has seen a flurry of nervous activity that could result in intervention of some kind but which is also giving new urgency to diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.

 

A day at the gun market

Nour the intrepid intern writes in:

Lately, I have been taking a lot of taxis. Naturally, that means hearing unsolicited political opinions, life lessons, and impromptu stories about women who match my exact physical description and share my sense of style (and, sometimes, my name) getting mugged, raped or murdered, in the hope of scaring me into begging them to my full-time driver and shield of protection. 

Last week, one managed to convince me. Instead of suggesting I promptly take his phone number and call him whenever I need to venture out into the jungle that is Cairo, Reda, my new driver, casually offered me a shotgun for a reasonable LE600.

Being the picky shopper that I am, I refused to simply buy the first gun I hear of and asked for options. Obligingly, Reda decided to call a guy, who knows a guy, to get me a beginner's collection. "Something small for a small lady," he told him.

Read More

Do arms transfers represent breakthrough for Syrian rebels?

FSA fighters being instructed in the use of the ex-Yugoslav M79 anti-tank rocket launcher (YouTube)

The New York Times reported last week that “Saudi Arabia has financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and quietly funneled them to antigovernment fighters in Syria.” The effort was reportedly known to the US, but nothing was said for or against it so that it might proceed under the radar of a European Union arms embargo on Syria.

Palettes of former Yugoslavian weapons are not game-changers in and of themselves, and the way they’ve been secured by the rebels shows that the US still refuses to place its bets on any specific group. That said, the arrival of planeloads worth of small arms is significant in that it demonstrates a greater investment in the rebels by their foreign backers. According to the Australian small arms expert Nic Jenzen-Jones, it is the quantity of the weapons that is the most significant development for the rebels: “a lot of people are discussing, ‘is x system effective against y armoured vehicle?’. What’s more important in this conflict is that we’ve seen an initial dearth of weapons and only recently have we seen supplies of anti-armour weapons significantly increase.” 

“It’s a long term thing, but I’m sure we’ll see the situation in Daraa look very similar to that in Aleppo in the coming months,” the Times’ Eliot Higgins told me, as Aleppo and other parts of northern Syria are falling under rebel control due to the capture of multiple Syrian military bases in the region. According to Higgins, the new weapons have given the rebels an "extra edge that has allowed them to start attacking checkpoints and bases, resulting in the capture of heavier equipment” from the Syrian Army.

Jenzen-Jones explained that three types of Eastern bloc anti-tank weapons – the M79 “Osa,” the M60 recoilless gun and the RPG–22 – now in use in Syria are “suitable for the type of hit-and-run urban warfare the rebels are conducting.” Suitable, but not “game-changing.”

Read More

Cordesman: Give Syrian rebels weapons with off switch

A Technological Fix for Safely Arming Syria's Rebels

Strategic studies wonk Anthony Cordesman advocates giving Syrian rebels advanced weaponry that is time-limited or can be remotely shut off to prevent it falling into the wrong hands. It's a Dr. Strangelove of insurgency moment:

At the same time, the risks of transferred weapons falling into the wrong hands are clear. Iraq, Afghanistan, and the evolving patterns of modern terrorism have shown all too clearly the risks that such weapons could pose in the hands of extremist groups-as has the U.S. inability to control the leakage of Stingers to Iran and outside Afghanistan. The leakage of such weapons to extremist groups in Libya and outside it is a major ongoing threat.

Another clear risk is that extremist networks centered around al Qaeda or the Iranian Al Quds Force could rapidly transfer such weapons far outside the region in which they were originally supposed to be used: allied territory or that of the United States. The risks that such weapons could be turned on the United States and its allies are critical, and we and our allies are far less willing to bear the political costs or casualties of "incidents" than extremists and dictators if things go wrong.

There do, however, seem to be technological solutions that could largely reduce the risk of transferring such equalizers. As pocket cameras with a global positioning system (GPS) show, a small chip can be inserted into these weapons that could continuously read their location once activated. If such a chip was tied to a device that disabled the weapon if it moved to the wrong area, it would greatly reduce the risk of its falling into the wrong hands.

Advanced encryption chips can be equally small and cheap and could perform a number of additional functions. They could have a time clock to disable the weapon at a given time, with the option of extending the life if a suitable code was entered. Activation codes could be built in so the weapon was never active without a code restricted to moderate elements and timed so that such elements had to keep entering a different code over time.

The equivalent of an identification friend or foe (IFF) capability could be built into that disabled the weapon in the presence of U.S. and allied forces or civil aircraft. A similar enabling code could be tied to the presence of a U.S. or allied adviser or covert partner.

Given today's solid-state technology, all of these functions could be built into an MANPAD or ATGM. A rocket or mortar might be somewhat more difficult to modify, but building in such capabilities seems possible. The same seems true of remote triggering devices that can be used in bombs or the equivalent of IEDs or in providing antiarmor capabilities like explosively formed penetrators.

I'm not sure how you make these tamper-proof, or produce them fast enough to be useful, or what it means about the future of  warfare by proxy. Imagine weapons with a GPS tracker: you could arm the rebels, no matter how nasty they are, and then track and kill them once they are no longer useful. So not happy with the current government of South Sudan, for instance? Just arm the Lord's Resistance Army with these and let them at it until you change your mind. Handy to see Bashar al-Assad go because it hurts Iran? Give al-Qaeda fighters MANPADs (which are not a hygiene product for men) that can be turned off when they're done wrecking the kind of havoc you don't have too much of a problem with. If they don't sell them to an unknowing PKK fighter who wants to use them in Turkey first! It'll be turned off eventually, right? 

In his last paragraph, Cordesman writes:

One thing is clear. The United States should not remain trapped in the dilemmas it faces in Syria or remain forced into the kind of hollow posturing both U.S. presidential candidates now bring to dealing with this issue. We need practical answers for both the military and political dimensions of what promises to be a decade of "expeditionary diplomacy," and these are tools that would be cheap and often help do the job.

 Why does it have to be a decade of "expeditionary diplomacy" at all? If the lesson of the last decade of interventionism is that it's better to develop technologies that allow us more control over the mercenaries, proxy groups and occasional loonies we get to do the job, we are in trouble.

3 Comments

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

U.S. triples arms sales, mostly to GCC

U.S. Foreign Arms Sales Are Most of Global Market

Thom Shanker in NYT:

Overseas weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion last year, or more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals.

The American weapons sales total was an “extraordinary increase” over the $21.4 billion in deals for 2010, the study found, and was the largest single-year sales total in the history of United States arms exports. The previous high was in fiscal year 2009, when American weapons sales overseas totaled nearly $31 billion.

A worldwide economic decline had suppressed arms sales over recent years. But increasing tensions with Iran drove a set of Persian Gulf nations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman — to purchase American weapons at record levels.

These Gulf states do not share a border with Iran, and their arms purchases focused on expensive warplanes and complex missile defense systems.

Tripling of arms sales in 2011, with a good half of them going to the GCC. Under the administration of a president who received a Nobel peace prize partly in expectation of future work towards peace.

1 Comment

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Swift boat to Bahrain

If it looks like an arms deal, walks like an arms deal and quacks like an arms deals, is it an arms deal? The State Department says no:

“Today, officials from the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and State’s Legislative Affairs office briefed select congressional offices about their decision to transfer seven rigid-hull inflatable boats and 12 32-foot Boston Whaler boats from the U.S. Navy in Bahrain to the Bahrain government. Offices briefed ahead of the Friday formal notification included aides to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the offices of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-WY) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), two lawmakers who have been leading the congressional opposition to continued U.S. arms sales to Bahrain.”

“This isn’t a new package or policy decision. This is part of what was briefed to Congress in January. We are still maintaining a pause on most security cooperation for Bahrain pending further progress on reform,” a State Department official told The Cable today. “The transfer of these boats are necessary to protect U.S. naval personnel and assets based in Bahrain. None of these items can be used against protestors. The transfer does not include any arms and the boats are intended for patrol missions, which is critical for ensuring a robust and layered defense of Bahrain’s coast and for enhancing Bahrain’s ability to counter maritime threats to U.S. and coalition vessels.”

The real story out of Bahrain these days, though, is not the gift of some old PT boats, but with the vagaries of the dialogue going on between the pro-government camp and the predominantly Shia opposition groups, increasingly splitting between the leading pro-dialogue al-Wifaq group and younger demonstrators opposed to al-Wifaq’s stance.

Read More

Tuaregs, climate and guns in the Sahel

Strife in the Sahel: A perfect desert storm | The Economist:

"Low precipitation may seem normal near the Sahara. In fact, much of the Sahel normally gets enough rain to allow modest farming. But a rise in water temperatures in the nearby Gulf of Guinea has shifted the flow of rain clouds southwards, meteorologists say. Livestock have died in droves. Long-term overgrazing and fast population growth have made the problem worse.

Oxfam, an aid agency, warns of a humanitarian disaster, with more than 1m children facing severe malnutrition. Villagers in Chad already dig up ant hills to gather grain the ants have stored. But the worst-affected place is now Niger, a landlocked country of 15m people which, even in normal times, accounts for a sixth of global child deaths from malnutrition. Save the Children, another aid agency, says that the situation in Niger has worsened since September, when a lack of rain led to crop failures of up to 80%.

Misery has made the Sahel’s thousands of unemployed an easy target for recruiters from extremist groups. Their main base lies across Niger’s badly patrolled border with Algeria, where the Sahel becomes outright desert. A two-decade-old Islamist insurgency there has adopted the mantle of global jihad and renamed itself al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Having failed to dislodge the military regime along Algeria’s densely populated Mediterranean coast, these extremists are increasingly focused on the sandy hinterland.

In January they kidnapped a provincial governor near Niger’s border with Libya. They also hold at least 18 Europeans hostage. Several of these are in the custody of a new splinter group that announced itself in December. The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa is led by black Africans, rather than the Arabs who typically dominate jihadi circles. To set themselves apart they strive to be even more radical. Modern weapons flow to them from Libya. After the collapse of its government last summer, some former rebels have been selling off the contents of looted armouries."

Great rare piece on the complex range of factors that are making the Sahel more explosive than ever. If course the spread of weapons from Libya was something many warned about before the civil war there. But impact of climate change may be more serious in the long run.

1 Comment

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

The military-industrial complex, Bahrain edition

Lockheed Martin goes to bat for oppressive regime — by Justin Elliott in Salon:

A top executive at Lockheed Martin recently worked with lobbyists for Bahrain to place an Op-Ed defending the nation’s embattled regime in the Washington Times — but the newspaper did not reveal the role of the regime’s lobbyists to its readers. Hence they did not know that the pro-Bahrain opinion column they were reading was published at the behest of … Bahrain, an oil-rich kingdom of 1.2 million people that has been rocked by popular protests since early 2011.

. . .

On Nov. 30, the Washington Times published an Op-Ed under the headline “Bahrain, a vital U.S. ally: Backing protesters would betray a friend and harm American security.” It was written by Vice Adm. Charles Moore (retired). Moore was formerly commander of the Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet. From 1998 to 2002, Moore notes in his Op-Ed, he “had the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s leader, as well as many senior officials in his government.” Moore passed through the revolving door and is now regional president for Lockheed Martin for the Middle East and Africa.

Of course the Washington Times did not reveal Lockheed's interest in Bahrain, or that Bahrain lobby firm Sanitas coordinated the op-ed with Lockheed.

Comment

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

The Return to "Normalcy" in the Gulf

The U.S. is not so much ignoring the Arab Spring (since it cannot be ignored), but viewing it in the larger context — i.e., our Cold-Hot War with the Islamic Republic of Iran from 1979 to the present. As one U.S. official told the WSJ when asked how arms sales to the U.S.'s Arab allies were being impacted by domestic unrest, the response was "We in the military are poised to get back to normalcy," i.e., arms sales that send a clear message to Iran (ironically, when Warren G. Harding first used that word in 1920, it was followed up by a major reduction of the U.S. armed forces' strength). 

From Reuters:

"The Pentagon is considering a significant sale of [4,900] Joint Direct Attack Munitions [JDAMs] made by Boeing Co, adding to other recent arms deals with the UAE. These include the sale of 500 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles about which U.S. lawmakers were notified in September."

"The sale of Boeing-built "bunker-buster" bombs and other munitions to UAE, a key Gulf ally, is part of an ongoing U.S. effort to build a regional coalition to counter Iran."

Read More

Sufis vs. Salafists

Love the last line in this story on the emerging feud between Salafists and Sufis in Egypt after a bunch of Salafist neanderthals burned several shrines revered by Sufis (Salafists hate any version of Islam that incorporates mysticism and esoteric beliefs): 

Sufi sheikh warns of sectarian war with Salafis | Al-Masry Al-Youm:

A leading figure from the Azeemia Sufi order has warned of a sectarian war between Sufis and Salafis over the destruction of several shrines connected with revered religious figures.

Sheikh Mohamed Alaa Abul Azayem labeled as “thugs” Salafis who carried out the attacks, and accused them of trying to erase important symbols of Islamic Egypt.

On Tuesday, the Azeemia order held a symposium in which it announced its intention of forming a political party named the Egyptian Liberation Party, which aims to protect Sufis in the event that either the Muslim Brotherhood or Salafis come to power.

Abul Azayem also said he had proposed a meeting with Salafis at Al-Azhar in 2006, but they rejected the proposed venue, and even refused to hold a meeting on their own premises.

However, on Monday, Sufi leaders finally managed to meet with their Salafi counterparts in Alexandria, where Salafis denied responsibility for the demolition of shrines.

For his part, Al-Azhar University Professor Ahmed al-Sayeh said he had asked his relatives in Upper Egypt to send him a machine gun with which to kill those who have demolished shrines.

Bring it on!

Why do the Saudis need so many helicopters anyway?

From the news that the Bush-era deal for the sale of $60bn of weapons to Saudi Arabia:

The arms package includes 84 new F-15 fighter jets and upgrades to 70 more F-15s that the Saudis already have, as well as three types of helicopters: 70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks and 36 Little Birds. Saudi Arabia would also get versions of a satellite-guided "smart bomb" system, plus anti-ship and anti-radar missiles.

What will they use all of these helicopters for? Future incursions into Yemen? Riot control in Dhahran province? Counter-terrorism in the Empty Quarter? Helicopters, unlike F-15s, are not really for engaging another state (like Iran) in the case of a major regional conflict.

Read More

Submit to Mubarak

Once a military man, always a military man.
At a meeting of parliament's national security committee on Wednesday, committee head Mohamed Abdel Fattah Omar urged the Egyptian public to "entirely submit" to the will of President Hosni Mubarak.
"Even if Mubarak chooses dictatorship, we still must obey, since he would act as a benevolent dictator," said Omar.
Omar's comments came as the committee was discussing a draft law on the extension of Law 49 of 1997, which grants the president the right to take unilateral decisions in military issues pertaining to armaments without having to seek parliamentary approval.
Omar's remark came in response to objections to the law raised by Muslim Brotherhood MPs Sabri Amer and Essam Mokhtar. The two MPs also objected to the law on the basis that the president's term was slated to end next year.
Defense Ministry adviser Mamdouh Shahin, for his part, defended the move, noting that "current international and regional threats warrant the extension of the law."
The committee ultimately endorsed the bill, which it will submit to the People's Assembly next week for approval.
There have been some pretty sycophantic paeans to Hosni Mubarak in the past, but never has anything like this been said so explicitly. And this from the man who a few weeks ago was suggesting that Minister of Finance Youssef Boutros-Ghali would be assassinated. We're in Saddam Hussein territory here. I also wonder if M. Omar (or I should say, police general Omar) is inspired by certain Sunni theologians, notably those of the Malekite school, who believe the umma should always submit to the sultan.
In any case, this story does shed light on a little-discussed provision of Egyptian law that has important electoral ramifications and partly explains the regime's panic during the parliamentary elections of 2005. Throughout his reign, Mubarak has been granted by parliament the right to conclude military armaments deals (import and export) without consultation — essentially a fast-track process to carry out these deals. Normally, the deals would have to be reviewed and approved by parliament. But, as long as there was a two-thirds majority in favor, parliament could always give the president the fast track — and it always has.
When the Muslim Brothers looked like they would get up to 120 seats in parliament in 2005, that two-thirds majority was threatened (two-thirds of parliament amounts to about 150 seats). So after the first round the security services began to crackdown and made the sure the Brothers would not get anywhere near that number.
This bill, if I understand it correctly, is either another iteration of the fast track or an actual amendment to the law to permanently enshrine the president's fast track privilege over arms deals — one that provides zero transparency over arms purchases, who gets commissions, and other fascinating aspects of the Egyptian military-industrial complex, its clients, and its major arms suppliers. It is as if Mubarak wanted to make he sure he left that legacy to his successor...
3 Comments

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Links for Dec.24.09

LRB · Adam Shatz · Wanting to Be Something Else | Adam Shatz on Orhan Pamuk. ✪ UN gives mud brick huts to Gaza war homeless | I'm not sure Hassan Fathi-style mud brick homes will work in Gaza - doesn't it rain a lot there? This story also does not say whether they are building with mud bricks because the blockade makes other materials unavailable. ✪ Renewed Lebanese drug trade hikes Mideast tensions - Yahoo! News | Return of cannabis and poppy cultivation in the Bekaa (but had it really ever gone away?) ✪ الآراء من الغرب Views from the Occident: 'Ashura Artwork: Part I | Graphic posters from Shia martyrology. ✪ BBC News - Lockheed secures $842m Morocco contract | For a bunch of F-16s. ✪ FT.com / UK - Moussavi sacked as pressure mounts for a trial | Challenger to Ahmedinejad targeted. ✪ Cameron under pressure to explain £100,000 funding linked to Lebanese former arms dealer | Politics | guardian.co.uk | Those European politicians sure love Arab money.
Read More

Links for 12.04.09 to 12.07.09

ElBaradei on Zakaria's GPS - CNN | Check in at around 30:50 for his take on Egypt's current situation. ✪ Egypt to re-evaluate subsidies for the poor - The National Newspaper | The debate over subsidies reform in Egypt. ✪ Start the Week: 30/11/2009 | Andrew Marr interviews Eugene Rogan, author of "The Arabs". Also interviews on terrorism, etc. ✪ Cyber Jihadis' LOTR obsession | Super funny post on the use of Lord of the Rings in jihadi propaganda ✪ The Associated Press: Veil's spread fans Egypt's fear of hard-line Islam | I don't like this idea of the government backing a "moderate Islam" vs. some hardcore Islam. The government is as Islamist as anyone else. ✪ AFP: Egypt detains 10 senior Muslim Brotherhood members | 227 Brothers behind bars so far. ✪ Egypt to demand the Rosetta Stone from British Museum - Times Online | Fight to get antiquities back continues. ✪ Why U.S. Mideast Policy is (Still) Screwed Up | Stephen M. Walt | "Every appointee to the American government must endure a thorough background check by the American Jewish community." ✪ Arms smuggling heightens fears Iran may be building arsenal | US-backed UAE crackdown on arms smuggling to Iran. Interesting story, who leaked it and why? ✪ Congress.org - News : Rising military suicides | "More U.S. military personnel have taken their own lives so far in 2009 than have been killed in either the Afghanistan or Iraq wars this year." ✪ The Generals' Revolt : Rolling Stone | Are the generals pushing Obama on AfPak because of Petraeus' presidential ambitions? ✪ Egypt’s opposition misled by fixation with Mubarak’s son - The National Newspaper | Amr Hamzawy, ✪ FT.com / UK - Muslim Brotherhood rifts widen | Habib lays out the divide for the FT. ✪ Reset - Dialogues on Civilizations | Life | Interview with Joseph Massad on his ridiculous thesis of the "invention" of homosexuality ion the Arab world by the West and the "Gay International." ✪ Iran whistleblower died from drug-laced salad - Yahoo! News | Nasty.
Read More

Links for 11.12.09 to 11.15.09

Violence Flares Ahead of Algeria-Egypt Soccer Match - The Lede Blog - NYTimes.com | The NYT's blog The Lede has a nice post about the Algeria-Egypt, game, so I don't have to do it as I don't even like football. ✪ Daily News Egypt - Egypt Among States Attempting To Weaken Un Anti-Corruption Convention Enforcement Mechanism | Egypt and others against review mechanism for corruption convention. ✪ The Young Brotherhood in Search of a New Path | Khalil al-Anani. ✪ The Brotherhood vs. Al-Qaeda: A Moment Of Truth? | Jean-Pierre Filiu. ✪ The Saturday Profile - An Arms Dealer Returns, Now Selling an Image - Biography - NYTimes.com | Profile of arms dealer Adnan al-Khashoggi, who apparently has fallen on hard times. Still, I'd like to know why he met with Richard Perle in 2002. ✪ Blogging Imam Who Knew Fort Hood Gunman and 9/11 Hijacker Goes Silent - The Lede Blog - NYTimes.com | Can't believe this guy has not been arrested prior to leaving the US. ✪ 'Going Muslim' - Forbes.com | NYU professor "goes desi" after Texas massacre. Is this just Indian (I assume the professor is originally Indian or Sri Lankan) prejudice against Muslims? I wonder if the next time an Asian shoots people at a college we'll say, "going oriental"... Shame on you, Forbes. ✪ Palestine: Salvaging Fatah | ICG's new report on Palestine. [PDF]
Read More

Links for 09.17.09 to 09.19.09

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.

Freed Iraqi shoe thrower tells of torture in jail | World news | guardian.co.uk

| "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!?


Read More

Oh Brother, Can You Spare an F-16

How the Middle East is providing recession protection for government-connected US weapons manufacturers:
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).
Read More

Links for 09.04.09 to 09.06.09

MEI Editor's Blog: Fun With Google Earth: Middle Eastern Airbase Recon | Middle Eastern airbases and Google Earth fun. ✪ Middle East arms race deals will reach US$100 billion by 2014 - AL SHORFA | I'm always surprised by what comes up on this site, which is run (why? don't ask me) by CENTCOM. And what's with the name, referring to the family of the prophet? ✪ Journalists interrogated over article on Moroccan king - Committee to Protect Journalists | "The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Moroccan authorities to end an investigation of two journalists who have already been interrogated for 40 hours over an article about the health of the king. Authorities have repeatedly pressed them to reveal their sources, according to their lawyer. Editor Ali Anouzla and journalist Bochra Daou of the independent daily Al-Jarida al-Oula ‎were detained on Tuesday and released Thursday night, the journalists' lawyer, Hassan Semlali‎, told CPJ. Semlali said the Rabat Prosecution Office accused them of publishing false news about King Mohamed VI's health in an August 27 article that reported he was ill with a virus." Note the official story had been that he had suffered from a stomach bug and dehydration. There have been rumors lately that he is taking cortizone (hence the puffy look), which is often prescribed for respiratory troubles. ✪ US citizen deported from Egypt - Yahoo! News | AP's Paul Schemm covers Travis Randall's unexplained deportation. This almost certainly has to do with his pro-Gaza activism, IMHO. ✪ Affaire TelQuel (Suite) + Affaire Al Jarida Al Oula (New) - Comme une bouteille jetée à la mer! | Get the censored issue of Moroccan mag TelQuel via Larbi.
Read More

Links for 07.13.09

Class action at 3arabawy | Hossam's latest article, covering a strike at a QIZ factory, highlights practice of forcing workers to sign a resignation letter when hired so they can easily be fired. Maybe Ahmadinejad just likes gallopinto | The Majlis makes a good point about the huffing and puffing made by Hillary Clinton over the fact that Iran is boosting its ties with Latin American countries. Maybe if Bush hadn't let the Monroe Doctrine slip, this would have not have happened. La mafia sicilienne, colombienne et russe s’offre les services d’El Qaida au Maghreb | Algerian newspaper claims AQIM working with Moroccan, Sicilian, Russian and Colombian mafias for drug trafficking. The Dark Sahara by Jeremy Keenan [PDF] | New book by Jeremy Keenan, leading investigator of Algerian govt. involvement in "Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb." Qashtamar Rules Everything Around Me (Q.R.E.A.M.) « THE BOURSA EXCHANGE | Very funny. Britain revokes five Israeli arms export licences - Yahoo! News | Out of 182, over Gaza war. Note here that the Perfidious Albion claims humanitarian concern, as if they don't continue to export arms to other unsavory types, or that this decision did not come out of domestic pressure rather than routine humanitarian review. Israel to keep only Hebrew names on road signs (AFP) | This reminds me of the Flemish-Waloon road sign wars of Belgium - except they had the good sense to keep the English: "AFP - The Israeli transport ministry said on Monday that it will get rid of Arabic and English names for cities and towns on road signs, keeping only the Hebrew terms."
Read More