It was unclear how widely the Orascom Telecom service would be available to the public. Spokespersons were not immediately available for comment. North Korea began a mobile phone service in November 2002. But 18 months later, it banned ordinary citizens from using the service and began recalling unauthorised handsets. There is still thought to be a mobile network in Pyongyang which is open for government officials. Most foreigners are not allowed to use mobile phones inside the country.
Al Jazeera English has started airing a nine-part series on Arab unity, of which the first two episodes have already aired and are available on Youtube. I've watched the first one (below) and while it's nicely produced, it lacks some detail and makes some historical mistakes, such as saying the Egyptian Free Officers' coup in 1952 was the first military coup in the Middle East (that honor goes to Hosni al-Zaim's 1949 takeover in Syria). Still, they interview interesting people like Fawaz Trabulsi and Saad Eddin Ibrahim who provide first-hand reminiscences about the period.
It's also an interesting topic at a time when the Arab world is more politically divided than it has ever been, yet has surprising figures uniting much of public opinion, such as Hassan Nasrallah of Hizbullah. I hope later episodes will look at the road not taken of a gradual version of pan-Arabism focused on building institutions rather than charismatic leaders.
Here is the second one aired thus far.
The Washington Independent is a new online magazine, mostly about Beltway politics. Spencer Ackerman has an intriguing piece on how the CIA had to learn interrogation and torture techniques from Middle Eastern countries after 9/11 has its own staff were largely untrained in them.
But 9/11 changed all that. Despite having nearly no off-the-shelf experience, the CIA was tasked by President Bush to come up with a robust interrogation program for the most important al-Qaeda captives. So the agency turned to its partners for assistance in designing its interrogation regimen: Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabiaâ€”all countries cited by the State Department for using tortureâ€”among others. Additionally, as Mark Benjamin has reported for Salon, two psychologists named Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, who worked as contractors for CIA, helped the agency "reverse-engineer" the military and CIA training on resisting torture for use on detainees. Suddenly, waterboarding, an illegal practice of simulating or in some cases inducing drowning, became an American-administered practice.
I'm not sure how this can make that much sense -- didn't the CIA provide the torture training and interrogations manuals to Iran's SAVAK in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as Latin American dictatorships? To be fair Ackerman briefly mentions the supposedly Nazi-inspired KUBARK Manual, but there was also the 1983 "Human Resources Exploitation" Manual used in Pinochet's Chili and elsewhere. Moreover, the idea that CIA and other US staff were distant from actual interrogation in the rendition countries is not true. Last year I interviewed a senior intelligence officer in a rendition program country who said the Americans from the CIA and FBI routinely walked in and out of the interrogation rooms and detention centers. Not to mention that interrogation and torture does not seem to have been a problem for the people at Guantanamo. One can't help getting the feeling that the people that Ackerman spoke to pulled a fast one on him. The idea that torture has only been used under the Bush administration, while perhaps self-serving for CIA officials with careers that will outlive the administration, is quite laughable. The US, France, Japan and many others have been using these techniques (notably against anti-colonial movements and in counter-communism policies) for a long, long time.
As the twentieth century progressed, he argues, democracies not only tortured, but set the international pace for torture. Dictatorships may have tortured more, and more indiscriminately, but the United States, Britain, and France pioneered and exported techniques that have become the lingua franca of modern torture: methods that leave no marks. Under the watchful eyes of reporters and human rights activists, low-level authorities in the world's oldest democracies were the first to learn that to scar a victim was to advertise iniquity and invite scandal. Long before the CIA even existed, police and soldiers turned instead to "clean" techniques, such as torture by electricity, ice, water, noise, drugs, and stress positions. As democracy and human rights spread after World War II, so too did these methods.
Also see this interview of Rejali.
Automatically posted links for January 27th through January 28th:
- The Root | TheRoot.com - New African-American webzine
- Mort de George Habache - Carnets du Diplo - Alain Gresh
- Obituary: George Habash - David Hirst
- Killer noise pollution in Egypt - Average Downtown Cairo "like spending the day in a factory"
- Iran's Literature Today - Contemporary Iranian lit in translations (and the original)
- US MILITARY BREAKS RANKS, Part 1 -
- US MILITARY BREAKS RANKS, Part 2 - Mark Perry on Iraq, the surge and military bureaucratic politics
- Egypt takes offers for nuclear project - Let the race for contracts begin
Automatically posted links for January 25th through January 26th:
- The Arab - New London-based magazine on MENA
- MidEast Brief::Egypt - Newish website links to articles on region
- Egypt says will keep border open and help Gazans restock - Unable to stop flow of people, Egypt maintains borders open
- Abbas: No talks with Hamas despite Gaza border chaos - Abu Mazen turns down Cairo talks with Hamas
- PALESTINIANS CREATE NEW BREACHES DESPITE EGYPTIAN ATTEMPTS TO SEAL THE BORDER - Article mentions Egyptian tanks on their way to border
- Gaza source: Hamas planned border wall blast for months - Amira Hass
- Gaza into Egypt Middle East Strategy at Harvard - M. Kramer revives "give Gaza a chunk of Egypt" idea, good response by S. Cook
- The People in Gaza Challenge Sham Peace Process - Juan Cole's Informed Comment hosts Joel Beinin op-ed
- ANALYSIS: Gaza border breach shows Israel that Hamas is in charge - Haaretz analysis
- ?????????? ?????: ????: ???? ?? ???? ??? ??????? ????? ??? - Mahdi Akef denied that Khaled Meshaal asked him to stage Gaza siege demos
- Furlough Day for Gazans (Prospects for Peace) - Daniel Levy
- Appeal for the defense of individual freedoms - Moroccan liberals call for right to individual freedoms after Islamist gay witch-hunt
- Egypt's Gaza policy / A pan-Arab consensus? - Haaretz analyzes Egypt's tough position re: Gaza and Hamas
Automatically posted links for January 23rd through January 24th:
- Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi : "La Mauritanie n'est pas un pays de prédilection pour les terroristes" - Afrique - Le Monde interview with Mauritanian president
- Egypt holds scores from Brotherhood over Gaza protests - Backlash against MB for organizing first major protests since 2006
- Gazans flood through Egypt border - Things are not looking good, especially as Israelis have cut fuel supplies again
- YouTube - TPMtv: War of Attrition - Excerpts from Democratic debate - some good jousting there
- The worst market crisis in 60 years - George Soros in the FT on the current financial crisis
Automatically posted links for January 22nd:
- Defusing the Gaza Time Bomb - Rob Malley op-ed on Gaza
- L'Iran soupçonné de traficde matière radioactive - Uzbek catch shipment of Cesium 137 on train, Iran suspected
- THE ANNAPOLIS OPENING HAS CLOSED - Former Israel negotiator with Syria explains why another opportunity for new peace track has gone
- BibliOdyssey: Arabic Machine Manuscript - Beautiful images of ancient books on science
- La base de l?Africom sera installée au Maroc - Algeria's Liberte says AFRICOM base will be in southern Morocco
- Internal Memo Takes on Obama?s Approach to Middle East - Jewish organizations uneasy about Obama?
- Guys, I'm afraid we haven't got a clue ... - The first of three extracts from Jonathan Steele's new book on how Britain went to war in Iraq utterly unprepared
- ei: Where does it end? - Abunimah on the siege of Gaza
Automatically posted links for January 20th through January 21st:
- al-Qaida Solicits Questions Online - Questions include "why haven't you opened a new front in Egypt" and more depressing idiocy
- Measuring liberty | When freedom stumbles | Economist.com - Look at the charts: in 1982 Egypt was "partly free," now it is "not free"
- Economics focus | Selling sex | Economist.com - Interesting article on the economics of prostitution
- HAMAS ASKS EGYPT TO REOPEN RAFAH BORDER - Hamas puts Cairo on the spot
- Translating the Party of God into English - Quilty reviews Hizbullah in translation
- Review: Loaded Dice by Neill Lochery - Debunking of idea that UK Foreign Office is pro-Arab or anti-Israel
- The rise and decline of London as a pan-Arab media hub - Media critic Najm Jarrah
- An Israeli Law for Censorship of Web Comments - Elijah points to a bill in the Knesset that would enable libel laws for web comments
- Why does Johnny come marching homeless? - How Iraq veterans with psychological problems end up homeless
- Those troublesome engineers « Kafr al-Hanadwa - SP has a good post on why engineers are over-represented in Islamist groups
Automatically posted links for January 15th through January 19th:
- Comment is free: Out of Egypt - Khaled Diab talks about the wave of Egyptian exile
- Hussein Agha and Robert Malley - Middle East Triangle - Argument for three-way deal between Hamas, Israel and Fatah
- Rantings of a Sandmonkey » Google takes down Kefaya - SM says Google is blocking Kefaya site from its results - to be followed
- PUBLIC OUTCRY OVER TALK OF SUBSIDY REFORM - Detailed business story on subsidies
- Bread, the (subsidized) staff of life in Egypt - International Herald Tribune - Slackman writes on bread subsidies
- Bedouin named consul general to Alexandria - Israeli consul in Alex is Bedouin
- Le Monde.fr : Colère de l'Egypte après l'adoption au Parlement européen d'un texte sur les droits de l'homme - Euro parliament resolution on Egypt rights leads to 27 ambassadors being summoned
- NPR : Egypt Produces Squash Champions - Why does Egypt have 15 out of the top 20 players in the world?
Automatically posted links for January 14th:
- Daily Kos: Bush fawns over the U.A.E. - Great takedown of Bush's appraisal of UAE as "model society"
- Total, Suez, Areva to build two nuclear plants in Abu Dhabi - The Middle East nuclear race that really matters
- Bush Nudges Mideast on Democracy - Story number 129747247 on Bush abandoning democracy talk
- Official Version of Naval Incident Starts to Unravel - Tiny Iranian boats not aggressive and posed no threat
- Pursuing happiness behind the veil - The LAT's Jeffrey Fleishman: king of the mixed metaphor
- Islamists emerge in stifled Tunisia - Returnee mujahideen spell trouble
- Kuwait set to invest as Merrill seeks $4bn - Another big Gulfie investment in top Western financial firm
- EGYPT HOLDS ARMY OFFICERS FOR 'PLOTTING ISRAEL ATTACKS' - Now, if you were an Egyptian Islamist in the army, would it be Israel that's your target?
- EGYPT: Iraqi refugee return driven by lack of money IRIN Middle East | Middle East | Egypt | EGYPT: Iraqi refugee return driven by lack of money | Early Warning Refugees/IDPs | News Item - Iraqis fleeing death find poverty in Egypt
Automatically posted links for January 13th:
- Arab Stereotypes in American Film - Jack Shaheen short
- Barack Obama - I'm sure we've seen him somewhere before - Armando Iannucci on Obama: it's dead on
- Comment is free: Laughing at dictatorship - Ibrahim Hudaibi on Mubarak jokes
- Arabs eye £500m Liverpool buy-out | Sport | The Observer - Dubai group to buy Liverpool FC
- Citi Looking Abroad For Major Investors - WSJ.com - Waleed Bin Talal to invest
Automatically posted links for January 12th:
- The Lost Archive - Recovery of lost German archive of early Qurans
- Egypt?s cartoon revolution - Yemen Times - Profile of Destour cartoonists
- Rival Egyptian families agree to end 'mustache war' - Saidi mustache vendetta ends in reconciliation
- Egypt's new golden age of television | Menassat - Review of Egypt's satellite channels
- Bush Alters Stand on Palestinians - WaPo as bad as NYT, thinks Palestine occupation is just "presence"
Automatically posted links for January 11th:
- Islam and democracy | The practice?and the theory | Economist.com - Rather flawed piece since it alleges democracy not discussed in Muslim lands
- The Arabs | Between fitna, fawda and the deep blue sea | Economist.com - "IT IS not easy to be an Arab these days"
- George MacDonald Fraser - Economist obituary of Flashman creator
- ACLU: Court Rejects Government?s Attempt to Deport Egyptian to Torture - Egyptian convert successfully claims torture is likely if sent back to Egypt
- House Leaders Vow Tough Stance on Iran - Tom Lantos potential successors just as gung-ho on Israel
- Torture In Egypt: The Nadeem Center?s Report at 3arabawy - Hossam has torture report available for download
- Egypt names site of first nuclear reactor - It's Dabaa, whatever the real estate speculators wanted!
- CIA: We said back in 1974 that Israel had nuclear weapons - But in Seymour Hersh's "Samson Option" it's clear the US knew, but did not want to hear, in late 1960s
- 25 Simply Amazing Mosques - List includes many modern mosques, but what about Hassan II in Casablanca?
- Threat To Cut U.S. Aid Opens Rift With Egypt - Forward looks at Egypt's accusations at Israel lobby
Automatically posted links for January 9th through January 10th:
- ??????? ???? ????? ????? ?????? ?????? ?«?????» ??????? - Egypt cuts subsidies on food oils, etc.
- 151,000 civilians killed since Iraq invasion - WHO, Iraq Gov says revises death tool (1/4 that of Lancet)
- Has the Era of Cheap Oil and Food Prices Ended? - Walid Khadduri addresses top question in many Arabs' minds
- Can the Middle East sustain democracy? Middle East Strategy at Harvard - Debate on Arab democracy - Alterman, Dunne, Carpenter, etc. in comments
- La rééducation des terroristes d'Arabie saoudite - Jihadi re-education: to do jihad, make sure the Saudi Gov says it's OK
- US candidates are vague on Middle East democracy - Steven Cook examines -- Edwards has most concrete plans
- Jacob?s Jottings: The Case of Fouad Ajami The National Interest - Another Ajami takedown, this time on his newfound Huntingtonism
- Rehabilitating Libya - International Herald Tribune - Op-ed reminds of Libya's nastiness -- or does it not count when victims are not Western?
- Democracy: inevitable no more - M. Albright on democracy, but she was never a supporter of Arab democracy
- Saudi Calls on Sarkozy to Visit Alone - After some in Egypt were outraged by Sarko's new girlfriend, Saudi draws the line
Automatically posted links for January 7th through January 8th:
- Bhutto Killing Roils Province, Spurring Call to Quit Pakistan - WSJ.com - Sindhis outraged, some call for armed insurgency, secession!
- Trip Notes from the Middle East - White House blogs during Middle East trip
- The Clash - Fouad Ajami, with hindsight, agrees with Huntington and fears for West
- Menassat - New NGO website on Arab media
- Egypt Police Officer Jailed 5 Years - Another conviction in a police abuse case
- G H A S B O U B A: Touareg Genocide - Very interesting interview (in French) of Niger Touareg leader
- An American in Iran - The New York Review of Books - Max Rodenbeck visits Iran
Automatically posted links for January 6th:
- Report: FBI translator says Israel planted nuclear 'moles' in U.S. - Another twist the Larry Franklin affair / Israeli spy operation in US
- Interview with Khalil Enani - Author of new book on Muslim Brothers
- Egypt police torture mentally handicapped boy - Can a day pass without one of these stories?
- Egypt court jails three police in abuse case - Another conviction against police torturers
- al-Qaida Videos Now on Cell Phones - Bin Laden & co. develop multimedia distribution platforms
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