Shukair's "My cousin Condoleeza"


"Ma cousine Condoleezza : Et autres nouvelles" (Mahmoud Shukair)

Click below for Le Monde's review of Palestinian writer Mahmoud Shukair "My cousin Condoleeza and other stories", originally released in Arabic and now available in French. And here's a review of his previous collection of stories, Mordechai's Mustache and His Wife's Cats.
Ma cousine Condoleezza de Mahmoud Shukair Kazhem Ali ne laisse personne s'asseoir sur le siège avant de son taxi parce que c'est la place de son idole Ronaldo. Abd-el Ghaffar veut créer un comité pour faire taire les chiens errants. Nômane " le cinglé " rêve d'épouser Nahla, et Nahla voudrait échapper à cette galerie d'imbéciles... Ecrivain et journaliste, Mahmoud Shukair met en scène, dans ce recueil de nouvelles et de poèmes en prose, des Palestiniens qui se cherchent, avec un brin de folie, dans une société ballottée par ses contradictions, microcosme villageois où les grandes guerres se transforment en petites batailles du quotidien. Les personnalités publiques subissent aussi des transformations. " Shakira " devient " Shakoura ", " Moustafa'annan " sonne mieux que " Kofi Annan ", et Naomi Campbell devient la fille du commis boulanger " Ne'meh Kamel ". Nous voici perdus dans les réseaux d'un gigantesque téléphone arabe. Tandis que la planète entière regarde cette région du monde, le nouvelliste renverse les situations. Cette vision de l'intérieur est à la fois comique et bouleversante : le regard de nos Palestiniens sur le monde sent un peu le renfermé. Ma cousine Condoleezza offre une tendre caricature de la situation régionale et mondiale. Leïla Pailhès Traduit de l'arabe par Stéphanie Dujols, éd. Sindbad, 154 p.
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Links October 29th to October 30th

Links from my del.icio.us account for October 29th through October 30th:

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CNN and the Khalidi affair

This is an actual sentence from a CNN report on Sarah Palin attacking Barack Obama over his relationship with eminent Palestinian scholar Rashid Khalidi:

Khalidi has been a stern critic of United States foreign policy towards Israel and has accused the country of “occupying” Palestinian territories, but he has denied acting as a spokesman for the PLO.
How dare Khalidi suggest that Israel may be "occupying" (let's use quote marks to underline the outrageousness of it all) Palestinian territories? As Philip Weiss says, this is the result of the disastrous effect of the Israel lobby and the skittishness with which US media approach the issue. But I'm sure Wolf Blitzer, former AIPAC lobbyist, will look into that. Incidentally, the Khalidi business does make Obama look bad - it along with other decisions to distance himself from former friends makes him look like he's opportunistic and ready to dump his friends at the drop of a hat. On a related note: Joe the Zionist.
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Unmarried blues

Just saw this Washington Post interview with the Egyptian spinster who has made a success out of her (lack of) marital status. I kept looking for the book عازة اتجوز ("I Wanna Get Married") in bookstores in Cairo last summer, after friends mentioned it to me. It was always sold out. Hopefully I'll find it at Christmas. In the meantime, I'm checking out the blog. The book sounds fun and certainly topical. It seems to be part of an interesting proliferation of quite provocative how-to books in Aameya.
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Links October 28th to October 29th

Links from my del.icio.us account for October 28th through October 29th:

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New book on Egypt, "Egypt between democracy and Islamism"

Another new book about Egypt in the twilight of the Mubarak era has come out:


"L'Egypte entre démocratie et islamisme : Le système Moubarak à l'heure de la succession" (Jean-Noël Ferrié)

I haven't gotten a chance to read it yet, but from the blurb it looks at how the "Mubarak system" works and its success in preventing a much-anticipated social explosion. For a look a Ferrié's approach to Egypt, see this article [PDF], from November 2006.
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Links for October 27th

Links from my del.icio.us account for October 27th:

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Links October 25th to October 27th

Links from my del.icio.us account for October 25th through October 27th:

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Links October 22nd to October 25th

Links from my del.icio.us account for October 22nd through October 25th:

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The rise of the "Awakenings" model

Is this really a good idea:
Pakistan plans to arm tens of thousands of anti-Taliban tribal fighters in its western border region in hopes -- shared by the U.S. military -- that the nascent militias can replicate the tribal "Awakening" movement that proved decisive in the battle against al-Qaeda in Iraq. The militias, called lashkars, will receive Chinese-made AK-47 assault rifles and other small arms, a purchase arranged during a visit to Beijing this month by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistani officials said.
Do you really want to pump in tons of small arms into an area of great lawlessness and tribal rivalry?
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That French Jimmy interview

For those who missed it, below is a Word file with the transcript of the Gamal Mubarak interview that appeared in the French review Politique Internationale. Nothing amazing but some interesting personal touches.
B. A. et P. D. - Dans quel état d'esprit avez-vous grandi ? 

 
G. M. - Comme beaucoup de mes compatriotes, j'ai su très vite, enfant déjà, ce que signifiait être fils de militaire. Mon père était officier de l'armée égyptienne. J'ai appris le sens de l'honneur et j'en connais plus que jamais la portée aujourd'hui. Je voudrais ajouter que ma génération est composée de milliers d'Égyptiens qui, comme moi, ont été marqués par la guerre : leur père, leur oncle, des membres proches de leur famille ont participé aux différents conflits qui ont jalonné l'histoire de l'Égypte durant les années 1960 et 1970. Cette expérience les aide à apprécier la paix à sa juste valeur...


B. A. et P. D. - Est-il difficile de se faire un prénom quand on a un père aussi éminent que le vôtre ?

 
G. M. - En réalité, ce genre de considération est secondaire. Ce qui compte, pour moi, c'est de travailler et de poursuivre les réformes engagées. C'est aux Égyptiens et aux membres du PND de se prononcer : ai-je réussi parce que je suis le fils du président ou en raison de mes compétences ? Lorsque je suis entré en politique, il y a sept ans, j'ai voulu prouver que j'étais capable de participer au processus de réformes. J'espère y être parvenu.

Drouhaud_GamalMoubarak_PolitiqueInternationale_Sep2008.doc Update: Now also in PDF: Drouhaud_GamalMoubarak_PolitiqueInternationale_Sep2008.pdf
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Links October 20th to October 22nd

Links from my del.icio.us account for October 20th through October 22nd:

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The alternate universe of Condi Rice

Condoleeza Rice is on a mission to save her (and her boss') legacy in the Middle East, with all this last minute peace-processing and the recent relaxation of the "no talking to Hamas or Syria" approaches of the past. She and her colleagues made a right mess over the last eight years with their "transformational diplomacy" and now they're returning to tried-and-true methods to limit the damage, apparently with greater-than-usual focus on preparing the transition to the next administration (or so one hears). But in this (poor) al-Arabiya interview she really seems desperate to provide a positive spin to her disastrous tenure as NSA and SecState:
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, let’s take a panoramic look at the region, the Middle East. The Bush Administration came with some high wishes, hopes: preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power; spreading democracy in the Middle East; a peaceful Iraq, a democratic Iraq; and after Annapolis, a commitment to have peace between the Israelis and the Arabs. And are you disappointed because some of these objectives were not met – I mean, especially on the peace process? SECRETARY RICE: Well, first, let’s look at the Middle East when this President became President in 2001 and the Middle East now. In 2001, you had a raging intifada after the collapse of the Camp David talks. You had in power in Israel a prime minister who did not come to power talking about bringing peace, and you had Yasser Arafat in power in the Palestinian Territories. You had Lebanon with Syrian forces occupying Lebanon, which they had done for decades. Saddam Hussein was in power in Iraq, threatening his neighbors, as he had done for decades. There really wasn’t very much discussion of democracy in the Middle East. And you look now and you see that, first and foremost, Saddam Hussein is out of power. And while Iraqis are struggling with their new democracy, they are now a democratic state, a multiconfessional, multiethnic, democratic state. Lebanon has a president. Lebanese forces are throughout the country for the first time in decades; Syrian forces are out. Syria has established proper diplomatic relations with Lebanon. You have a situation in which throughout the Middle East, people talk about popular rule, women can vote in Kuwait, elections have been held in a number of places, and in the Palestinian-Israeli situation, the two-state solution is now taken for granted that this the only real possibility. And President Bush, who put it on the agenda in 2001, has helped the parties come to a process after Annapolis so that you have the first really robust peace process in a number of years. And so yes, it’s still a difficult region, but I think a lot has been achieved over the last several years.
And look towards the bottom at how the journalist fawns over "how hard you worked" on the peace process... since when? Since she realized that not working at all on the issue in her first seven years in office was not a super idea, that's when.
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More Pamuk

Just following up on my Pamuk obsession with a link to this piece he recently published in the Guardian (from the Literary Saloon). The author talks about amassing his library, the changing status position of and novels in Turkish literature, and more. I keep meeting Turks in New York who diss the Nobel Laureate and I can't tell what this is about. It's almost like there is something suspect about his international success, some sense that if he's won a global audience it's because he's playing to that audience and not being "authentic."
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Sinbad The Spy

In the last two years, there had been repeated leaks that some of the best intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program was coming from Germany, which was explained as one reason the Europeans (and Germany in particular) were leading the diplomatic offensive against Tehran and letting the US take a back seat in negotiations. It turns out that a key source of intelligence for the BND, Germany's intelligence service, was coming from a rather dodgy businessman who has just been arrested for smuggling key technology into... wait for it... Iran. Der Spiegel has published the first story on the case, and I am reproducing a full BBC Monitoring translation after the jump. First some choice excerpts:
His colleagues know the businessman from Iran as manager of a medium-sized company based in Hesse: a dignified gentleman, 61 years of age, who had just returned from a trip abroad. The customs officers know him as a smuggler of armaments technology for Iran - this, at least, is the suspicion that has now landed him in pre-trial detention. The BND knows him as "Sinbad." This was the cover name under which he spied for the German foreign intelligence service for more than a decade. . . . The documents that Sinbad supplied came obviously from the holy of holies of the state apparatus in Tehran. He obtained pictures of tunnel rock drills, details of secret deposits, and up-to-date documents on progress in developing carrier technology for nuclear warheads. The information must have come mainly from ministries in Tehran to which he had excellent access. In Pullach, where Department 1 is based that supervised Sinbad, and in Berlin, where the analysts of Department 3 processed Sinbad's information, everyone was thrilled. What the source from Tehran served up went together well with the fragments that the BND obtained from other sources. As a result, a relationship of mutual trust developed between the BND and its spy in the mid-1990s, when their cooperation began. The BND paid its top spy about 1 million euros, an unusually high amount that is invested only in exceptional cases. He was, an officer said, "one of our best-quality sources in the area of proliferation in general."
Apparently "Sinbad" was delivering technology for use in delivery systems -- the Shahab series of missiles unveiled by Iran in recent years and that are a more plausible medium-term threat/deterrent against Israel and US allies (or installations) in the region, even if they don't carry a nuclear payload. So perhaps the Iranians very well knew who they were dealing with, giving him info on a nuclear program they know they won't be able to complete in the near-future anyway, in exchange for making progress on building a more effective deterrent against a US/Israeli preemptive strike on the nuclear program. If you can deter and project strength effectively, after all, then you can afford to take the time on the nuclear program anyway. ---------------------- BBC Monitoring Europe - Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring October 15, 2008 Wednesday German loses top spy over arms trading with Iran Text of report by independent German news magazine Der Spiegel website on 13 October [Report by Holger Stark: "Sinbad's End" - first paragraph is Der Spiegel introduction.] An Iranian businessman has been the top source of the German Intelligence Service (BND) spying in Tehran - now, his cover was blown. The German Government is afraid of massive diplomatic problems as a result. One of the most spectacular spy stories of the current decade had a very unspectacular end. The investigators of the Customs Criminological Office waited until the elderly gentleman had gone through passport control in Frankfurt Airport on Sunday before last [ 5 October], before they stepped forward. Handcuffs clicked, and the man was led away. His colleagues know the businessman from Iran as manager of a medium-sized company based in Hesse: a dignified gentleman, 61 years of age, who had just returned from a trip abroad. The customs officers know him as a smuggler of armaments technology for Iran - this, at least, is the suspicion that has now landed him in pre-trial detention. The BND knows him as "Sinbad." This was the cover name under which he spied for the German foreign intelligence service for more than a decade. The story of the man is a modern version of the sailor from the world of fairytales. He is a travelling salesman from the Orient, with whom you can never be sure where his loyalty lies in the end. Just as his role model from the Tales of the Thousand and One Nights, the modern Sinbad travelled half the world, doing business in Tehran, in Germany, and in Canada, of which he holds a second citizenship. He became a prosperous businessman, trading in high-technology goods - and secret information. Until now, Sinbad had been one of the best and most important sources for the BND overall. He delivered information from a region that is regarded as a no-go area for diplomats and intelligence services more than any other: Iran, the country of the mullahs and its unpredictable head of state Mahmud Ahmadinezhad, who wants to lead his nation to the status of nuclear power. Planting a spy in Iran is the crowning achievement of any intelligence service that they all try to attain: Israel's Mossad, Britain's MI6, the American CIA - and Germany's BND. Yet the case holds barely foreseeable complications now. Sinbad's information filled the blank areas on the map of the BND; it was sent straight to the Foreign Ministry and had been an important element for the German Government's policy towards Iran for years. The data delivered by the spy were repeatedly directly incorporated in the situation analyses of Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Social Democratic Party). Germany's influence in the negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme is mainly due to Steinmeier's clever tactics, consisting of a mix of concessions and threats. They were also based on unusually detailed information - also thanks to Sinbad. The German Government now fears that the reaction of the mullahs will be draconian, when it becomes obvious for how long the BND was active in Tehran and what methods it used. It worries over a whole range of potential backlashes, from a burden on diplomatic relations to intelligence countermeasures. The documents that Sinbad supplied came obviously from the holy of holies of the state apparatus in Tehran. He obtained pictures of tunnel rock drills, details of secret deposits, and up-to-date documents on progress in developing carrier technology for nuclear warheads. The information must have come mainly from ministries in Tehran to which he had excellent access. In Pullach, where Department 1 is based that supervised Sinbad, and in Berlin, where the analysts of Department 3 processed Sinbad's information, everyone was thrilled. What the source from Tehran served up went together well with the fragments that the BND obtained from other sources. As a result, a relationship of mutual trust developed between the BND and its spy in the mid-1990s, when their cooperation began. The BND paid its top spy about 1 million euros, an unusually high amount that is invested only in exceptional cases. He was, an officer said, "one of our best-quality sources in the area of proliferation in general." Yet doubts were also voiced in Pullach early on, as to whether someone that acts with such nonchalance could perhaps have more than one principal. It appeared to be barely conceivable to the German officers that the government in Tehran did not keep an eye specifically on the dynamic businessman who travelled through the world entirely unhindered, which only very few Iranians can do. The intelligence people tried to dispel doubts whether the Iranian intelligence service had, perhaps, sent the West manipulated playthings through Sinbad. Yet a large part of the information he supplied had been confirmed. In several cases, he delivered pointers to other proliferation cases. And was the profit that Sinbad made from the barely fathomable business deals of his companies not attractive enough to carry on? Carry on he did. With the knowledge of the BND, the businessman established a company in Canada and another one in Germany, in central Hesse. This role enabled him to travel a lot. In the end, it was his undoing. The reason is that, apart from the intelligence services, an authority had cast out its net that is regarded as one of the most efficient supervisors in the area of arms exports: the Customs Criminological Office (ZKA) in Cologne. That was the net in which Sinbad got caught. The tax authorities had accidentally selected the businessman at the start of the year to conduct a foreign trade audit. A look into the books revealed serious discrepancies. The documents were sent to the ZKA, telephones were tapped, e-mail traffic monitored, and the businessman put under observation - until the ZKA discovered what it was looking for. Sinbad's company seems to have exported equipment that can be used for the Iranian missile programme. Since September 2007, deliveries appear to have been completed in two cases, with two more being planned. The master spy had not told the BND a word. The equipment is of "dual use" [previous two words published in English], which means that it can be used both for military and civilian purposes. However, the recipient to whom the deliveries were sent is on a blacklist, which currently comprises some 25 firms in Iran - these are the companies of which the German Government assumes that they are involved in the "very ambitious launch vehicle programme." This makes doing business with them unlawful. The Federal Prosecutor's Office in Karlsruhe assumes that the equipment was destined for the production of Shahab missiles, which are Tehran's pride and joy. With an estimated range of 1,300 to 1,600 kilometres, they can fly to Israel - and perhaps be tipped with nuclear warheads in the future. This is why deliveries that could be meant for the Shahab programme are monitored especially keenly. The customs investigators soon realized that the businessman was a BND informer; the relevant clues were supplied while he was under surveillance. As a result, a first crisis meeting took place between the spy's supervising officers and the federal prosecutors. The code of criminal procedure allows staying preliminary proceedings when there is a "risk of a grave disadvantage for the Federal Republic of Germany." This is the way in which such cases are resolved in most other countries. The BND would have been pleased to rescue its source. However, the law provides for such an emergency measure to be taken by a constitutional state in cases of offences relating to state security only. Yet in Sinbad's case, the point at issue was a breach of the External Trade Act. It was soon obvious, therefore, that the statutory loophole was not applicable. On top of that, Chief Federal Prosecutor Monika Harms raised massive objections to a deal, because the law did not allow that. BND President Ernst Uhrlau accepted her point of view although the consequences were foreseeable. Apart from foreign policy issues, the damage caused by the arrest is enormous, particularly for the BND. In the future, it will be far more difficult to obtain insider information on the Iranian armaments programme. The BND must also deal with the question whether it should get its informer a new identity. The reason is that Sinbad is threatened with imprisonment because of the exports - but what comes afterwards will be much worse. The revenge of the Iranian intelligence service when dealing with traitors can be terrible; only recently, a revolutionary court sentenced businessman Ali Ashtari, who is assumed to have spied for Mossad, to death. Sinbad would hardly have a better fate, should the Iranian service get hold of him. Why the spy betrayed his government in Tehran, while simultaneously delivering armaments is an open question. Perhaps he thought he was inviolable. It is not unusual for informers to consider themselves as sacrosanct; they may live in the firm conviction that they are immune to the banality of the judicial machinery. Or perhaps, as a businessman, he wanted to clean up twice. In the end, he was loyal to just one party: himself. Source: Der Spiegel website, Hamburg, in German 13 Oct 08
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Links October 10th to October 18th

Links from my del.icio.us account for October 10th through October 18th:

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Jewel of Medina

The Literary Saloon has a good post collecting reviews of "The Jewel of Medina," the novel about the Prophet Mohammed's young wife Aisha that made it into the news mostly thanks to the kind of idiotic reaction that one can unfortunately almost count on.  Unsurprisingly, most reviewers agree the book (which is described as a "bodice-ripper" and has a scene in which the protagonist's marriage is consummated) is pretty mediocre. But it's apparently the #1 selling book in Serbia (I'm still not sure why). Let's just hope Egyptian clerics and tabloid editors don't get ahold of this story, or we'll have another Danish cartoons situation.
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Links for October 10th

Links from my del.icio.us account for October 10th:

  • Israeli town hit by third day of Jewish-Arab clashes - Yahoo! News - "Chanting "death to Arabs," the protesters were headed from a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood to the house of an Arab when police intervened."
  • America the Banana Republic: Politics & Power: vanityfair.com - Hitchens finds out maybe he doesn't like Bush after all.
  • LRB · Adam Shatz: Short Cuts - Adam Shatz on the latest Zio-con trick: "If you live in an American swing state you may have received a copy of ‘Obsession’ in your Sunday paper. ‘Obsession’ isn’t a perfume: it’s a documentary about ‘radical Islam’s war against the West’."
  • Team of rivals - The National Newspaper - Nathan Field: "For the first time, Salafi jihadists seem to be focusing their energies on Israel: Abu Sharif also told al Akhbar that “we are focusing on forming a military wing in Palestine. On September 2, the London-based al Hayat published a front-page story about the sudden appearance of an al Qa’eda linked group operating out of Gaza who emphasise a shared ideology with al Qa’eda but aim to fight Israelis. In 2006 the al Jazeera reporter Yousri Fouda produced a documentary on al Qa’eda in the Levant, in which Fuad Hussein, an expert on Islamist groups, maintained that al Qa’eda’s goal in Iraq was to build a base from which to weaken security in Lebanon and Syria – for the purposes of laying the groundwork to operate in those countries against Israel, their ultimate goal."
  • In Egypt, End of Hostage Crisis Is a Mystery - NYTimes.com - "The Egyptian government says that the prisoners were freed as the result of an “operation,” and the state-controlled media here reported the release as a result of a heroic commando raid. It was a bit of good news for the authorities, who are often blamed for their inability to deal effectively with a crisis. But now the reports of the rescue have been called into question by the former prisoners themselves, like Mr. Abdel Wahab, and officially by an opposition member of Parliament, Hamdy Hassan, who has demanded an investigation. Mr. Hassan said in a complaint issued this week that there was a broader principle at stake, that the government needed to be called to task if it used its control of the news media to spread false information and that it must have some degree of accountability."
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