Links September 27th to September 29th

Links from my account for September 27th through September 29th:

  • Mai Yamani: The Arab world's cold war patron seems to be back | Comment is free - The ghost of Yevgeny Primakov is back to haunt us: "Today, US power in the Middle East is at its historical nadir, and Russia is seeking to fill the vacuum. Even America's closest allies – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel – are vulnerable as they face the aggressive expansion of "radical forces" represented by Iran, Hamas, Hizbullah, Syria, and the Iraqi resistance. In the prevailing atmosphere of turmoil and confusion, the radical Islamists attack the Americans as barbarous crusaders who have replaced the communists as the enemies of Islam. Indeed, for the conservative majority in the region, the US, with is pop culture and liberal democracy, is seen as a far more problematic ally than the autocratic and wealth-loving Russians."
  • The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب - Check out this Angry Arab post on how the Petra News Agency photoshopped pics of Queen Rania to make her more covered up.
  • Middle East Report 248: Waiting: The Politics of Time in Palestine - A new issue of MER focuses on Palestine
  • Al Jazeera English - Africa - Egypt tourist kidnappers shot dead - The plot thickens - are the hostages in Libya or Chad? Are the kidnappers Sudanese, Djiboutian, Chadian, Egyptian? Did the Sudanese army's raid, which killed six kidnappers, make further negotiations more difficult?
  • Terrorism: Firebomb attack on London book publisher | UK news | The Observer - "The London home of the publisher of a controversial new novel that gives a fictionalised account of the Prophet Muhammad's relationship with his child bride, Aisha, was firebombed yesterday, hours after police had warned the man that he could be a target for fanatics."
  • Armed robberies in Egypt's remotest desert - Yahoo! News - This is what happens when you're next door to a failed state: "CAIRO, Egypt - The abduction of a European tour group in a distant corner of Egypt's desert underlines the potential dangers of adventure tourism pushing deeper into remote destinations and getting closer to conflict zones. In the case of the 11 Europeans and eight Egyptians held since Sept. 19, the lawlessness in the desert plateau of Gilf al-Kebir may be a spillover from the violence in eastern Chad and Sudan's Darfur region, where armed bands are notorious for hijacking and robberies."
  • Egypt allows prisoners to order out restaurant food - Yahoo! News - Maybe they should just use "CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian prisoners are set to be allowed to order meals from any restaurant they choose after a trial run during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan was deemed a success, a senior security official said on Saturday." What this really is is yet another bonus for the well-off prisoners (usually kept together) who were mostly jailed for corruption and similar crimes. Ordinary prisoners will continue to live in atrocious conditions dependent on family visits for food. In other words, Egyptian economic segregation expands into prisons.
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Egypt hostages freed

The word is the 19 hostages are now free and healthy. Update: Reuters says: <
CAIRO, Sept 28 (Reuters) - The 11 Western tourists and eight Egyptians taken hostage in a remote border area of Egypt more than a week ago have been freed and are in good health, state-run Egyptian television said on Monday. The hostages were on their way back to Cairo, the state television reported, quoting an unidentified official source. Egypt had said four masked gunmen kidnapped the tourists -- five Germans, five Italians and one Romanian -- and their Egyptian guides and drivers while on a desert safari in a remote border area and then whisked them into Sudan. The Sudanese army said on Sunday it had killed the leader of the kidnappers and five other gunmen in a gun battle near the Egyptian and Libyan border, but said the hostages were in Chad under the protection of 30 gunmen. One security official said the kidnappers had demanded a ransom of 6 million euros ($8.78 million). Update II: More details from AP:
CAIRO, Egypt - Egyptian and Sudanese troops rescued an abducted 19-member European tour group in an assault on the kidnappers in the remote Sahara borderland, officials said. The tourists and their Egyptian guides returned safely to Cairo on Monday. The operation, apparently backed by European special forces, ends a 10-day hostage drama that took the 11 Europeans and their eight drivers and guides across a barren stretch of the Sahara Desert. They were seized by gunmen on Sept. 19 while on a desert safari in remote southwestern Egypt. Their abductors took them to Sudan. Reports followed that they were then taken to Libya, or perhaps even Chad. An Egyptian security official said they were rescued in a joint operation near the Sudanese-Chadian border late Sunday or early Monday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press. Egyptian Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi said "half the kidnappers" were killed in the rescue operation, according to the state news agency MENA, but the report did not give a precise number or give details on the rescue.
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Links September 26th to September 27th

Links from my account for September 26th through September 27th:

  • Golan brides know there is no going back - Yahoo! News - About a bride crossing the border from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to Syria
  • Car Bomb in Damascus and Rise of Salafi Groups in Region - Josh Landis: "The car bomb that exploded this morning in Syria is the first successful “al-Qaida” type terrorist attack in Syria in the last 10 years. Two theories are developing on little evidence so far. One is that the bombers were targeting a state security center. The other theory is that they were targetting Shiites. So far we don’t know what the truth is." Link this with the recent reports of troop movements on the Lebanon border + anti-Syria / anti-Hizbullah feeling among Lebanese Salafists that Nir Rosen recently wrote about (see links from a couple of days ago).
  • Daily News Egypt - BUILDING YOUR OWN STATE - Ibrahim Hudaiby: "When my father decided to buy a farm in the suburbs of Cairo and live there a few years ago, his justification was that if you decide to live in Egypt, you should be ready to build your own state. I must admit it took me years to understand what he meant." "To secure a decent, respectable life in Egypt, one should never depend on the state. The state’s revenue mainly made up of taxes, tariffs and foreign aid, and the state’s different apparatuses do not function to serve Egyptians, but rather a few hundred influential politicians and businessmen. The state’s role starts by providing security for its citizens, residents and visitors. Mubarak’s regime increasingly fails to do so. Not only is the police unable to prevent the mounting number of crimes, but it also participates in threatening people’s safety through torture and corruption."
  • #1. Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation | Project Censored - The top under-reported story of this year is the death toll caused since the invasion of Iraq
  • Sarah Palin: Henry Kissinger is Beyond Naive When it Comes to Diplomacy - Palin says Kissinger, Obama "naive" about diplomacy with Iran. Maybe Kissinger is naive, if he thought his time was well-spent with Palin.
  • 'The Secret': Coming soon to a bookstore near you - Haaretz - Israel News - Controversy over new book on the Lavon Affair, which refers very dirty underbelly (involving Skeletor himself, Shimon Peres) of what was in any case very dirty business.
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Rocking the cradle: Grateful Dead in Egypt, 1978

51uZ+d-CoQL._AA240_.jpg I am not a Deadhead, but having no idea until today that the Grateful Dead played at the Pyramids in 1978, I would love to see this new DVD (click on the album cover above to see the Amazon details):
Much has been written about this storied adventure: About the band’s long-standing desire to play in “places of power,” as Phil put it years ago… The incredible logistical gymnastics necessary to get permission for this strangest of American rock bands to bring their peculiar alchemy to the cradle of the ancient world… The huge, scattered caravan of crazies that descended on Cairo from the U.S. and Europe, drawn to the desert by some irresistible force… The sheer magnitude of shipping in tons of sound equipment, setting up in 110-degree heat, maxing out the local power grid, trying to turn the King’s Chamber in the Great Pyramid into an echo chamber (alas, Osiris would have none of that!)… The wondrous interplay at each of the three concerts between Nubian drummers and singers and the Grateful Dead… The miraculous final show, during a total lunar eclipse… The synchronicity of that last show and the signing of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel… Magical horse and camel rides under the desert moon…Trips up and down the Nile… High adventure at every turn!
Now that sounds like fun.
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Paulson of Nigeria

Facile but funny:  
From: Henry Paulson  Date: 9/23/2008 Subject: Supper secret transaction Need you're help Bright Greetings Dear American: I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude. I am Ministry of Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had a crisis that has caused the need for a large transfer of funds of 700 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you. I am working with renowned Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe. This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred. Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive you're information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds. Wonderful salutations to you cherish friend from Republic of America. Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson
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Links September 25th to September 26th

Links from my account for September 25th through September 26th:

  • We run the road - The National Newspaper - Nir Rosen rides with Lebanese salafists.
  • Theater of the Absurd: Sworn Enemies - Nir Rosen: "American troops currently hold more than 20,000 detainees in two main Iraq prisons, and unknown numbers in smaller holding facilities. Very few have ever been charged. In December, the 1-28 Infantry asked elders in Baghdad's Jihad district to name neighborhood residents who should be released. A list of 700 men was submitted, most of them locked up for being "suspected of Shiite militant activity," commanding officer Lt. Colonel Patrick Frank told me." You should really read the rest, including the weird oath released prisoners are made to say -- and the pic accompanying the article is pretty funny.
  • Queen Rania of Jordan in New York. - By Rania Al Abdullah - Slate Magazine - Queen Rania's blog: "I was there talking up the Middle East—not a region in conflict and turmoil, as many think, but a mosaic of cultures, stories, traditions, and warm, welcoming people." Oh I am relieved to hear that, all this time I thought it was a region in conflict and turmoil, I stand corrected and great news about the warm, welcoming people. Just remember not to throw shoes at them that would be culturally insensitive.
  • Israeli professor wounded in Jerusalem bomb attack - Yahoo! News - "JERUSALEM - A pipe bomb exploded Thursday outside the home of a prominent Israeli scholar and outspoken critic of Jewish West Bank settlements, lightly wounding him in what police suspect was an attack by Jewish extremists. Investigators found posters in Professor Zeev Sternhell's neighborhood offering a $320,000 prize to anyone who kills a member of Peace Now, a dovish Israeli group whose views Sternhall shares."
  • H. R. 6975 - bill currently being considered by Congress - "To require aliens to attest that they will not advocate installing a Sharia law system in the United States as a condition for admission, and for other purposes." It would also remove naturalization from US citizens who advocate Sharia, which surely would be unconstitutional.
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Links September 23rd to September 25th

Links from my account for September 23rd through September 25th:

  • The trust problem - Paul Krugman - Op-Ed Columnist - New York Times Blog - "The whole premise of the bailout push has been “We’re the grownups, we know what we’re doing, just trust us.” Sorry, but that’s how Colin Powell sold the Iraq war. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice … you shouldn’t get fooled."
  • Edward Luttwark in the TLS: Without Sentiment - You probably won't find it online, but this week's Times Literary Supplement has a rather strange article review of Lawrence Freedman's "A Choice of Enemies", in which he spends half the article ridiculing that oil and Israel had anything to do with the invasion of Iraq, but then never really says why or presents an alternative explanation (although he keeps saying that he will.) The closest he gets to it is this: "Hardest to accept is precisely the motive that seemed most powerful to this observer, who has known the protagonists for a very long time: the desire to fight Islamic extremism and terrorism by bringing democracy to the Arabs, through the example of a democratic and prosperous Iraq engendered by eliminating the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein." A truly bizarre point of view, since after all many of these protagonists have been around for a long time and were never known before as die-hard democratizers.
  • What's the Point of a Finance Ministry? Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) - "The Syrian Minister of Finance, Doctor Mohammed al Hussein, wrote an article for the Syrian Al Thawra Newspaper entitled, ‘Syria: The Country Least Affected by the Financial Crisis…The Reasons Lie in its own Capitalism,’ in order to reassure citizens and investors that Syria is the state least affected by the financial crisis and if only he didn’t write! ... What the finance minister is trying to say, in simple terms, is that Syria has been saved from this international financial crisis because his country has no financial market and because of the regression of banks and financial institutions in Syria, as well as the lack of foreign investments. Any Arab investments are merely grants or accompanied by political motives."
  • Fears grow in Lebanon as 10,000 Syrian troops arrive on the border - Times Online - "The Lebanese media report that between 8,000 and 10,000 Syrian special forces have taken up positions along some of the hills overlooking the Kabir. Their surprise deployment comes after several months of clashes in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, pitting the majority Sunnis against the minority Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam."
  • CPJ News Alert | TUNISIA: Recently freed journalist is abducted, threatened - "Boukhdhir, who spent eight months in prison for writing articles critical of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, told CPJ that he was abducted Saturday evening as he was heading to an Internet café in Sfax, Tunisia’s second-largest city. He said he was forced into a small French-made car and taken first to a police station near the city’s old district and then to an isolated area about nine miles (15 kilometers) west of Sfax. There, he said, his captors threatened him before forcing him from the car. Boukhdhir, noting that he was taken initially to a police station, said he believes his captors were plainclothes state security agents."
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Links September 22nd to September 23rd

Links from my account for September 22nd through September 23rd:

  • Egyptian Policy Imperils Refugees, Migrants at Israel's Door - - "Since the first recorded border killing in the summer of 2007, when Egyptian authorities announced a live-fire policy on the Sinai border, Egyptian security forces have shot dead at least 28 migrants as they left Egypt for Israel, the rights group Amnesty International said Thursday. Of those, the group said, 23 have been killed since January... Refugee advocates say that Israeli and U.S. pressure on Egypt to stop the flow of African migrants into Israel led the Egyptian government to adopt its live-fire policy -- an assertion Israeli and U.S. officials deny. Israeli officials do, however, acknowledge fears that their prosperous country will be overwhelmed if African migration across its porous 155-mile-long border with Egypt is not checked."
  • Dissident Lobbies for Conditions on U.S. Aid to Egypt - - "Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a 69-year-old sociologist from the American University in Cairo, is lobbying members of Congress to attach conditions to America's $1.5 billion annual aid to Egypt. "I am pushing for conditionality, and I would like the democracy and freedom agenda to be a bipartisan one," Ibrahim said."
  • La piraterie au large des côtes somaliennes en pleine expansion - Afrique - Le - On piracy in Somalia - alleges a US warship has already sunk pirate ships, French may start naval escort initiative, how the ransom system works
  • Phillip Toledano - America the Gift Shop - Get yourself unique Global War Own Terror souvenirs such as the Abu Ghraib coffee table
  • A Deadline for Survival at The Sun - - Neocon hate rag going down. Remind me to break open the champagne.
  • Pourquoi l'armée française doit se retirer d'Afghanistan - Alain Gresh argues for French withdrawal from Afghanistan, essentially on the grounds that the French troops there have no input in the way the peacekeeping mission is run, that it's likely to cause blowback and that the human rights argument is bogus. These are good points. I think I probably disagree: France and the EU should increase their presence in Afghanistan, but only if they are given more decision-making power to correct the mistakes made by the US and the Karzai regime. I don't really see what "negotiations" there is to have with al-Qaeda.
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Links for September 22nd

Links from my account for September 22nd:

  • A Mauritanian Routine: strike, frustrate and repeat « The Moor Next Door - Good post on recent (dodgy) AQIM attack in Mauritania and the wider problem of terrorism in the Maghreb
  • Pray silence for Bin Laden the wedding poet - Times Online - OBL's sensitive side: "POETRY by Osama Bin Laden is to be published next week by an Oxford-educated academic, who has discovered that the world’s most hated terrorist was once in great demand as an after-dinner speaker. Bin Laden’s recitals at wedding banquets and other feasts during the 1990s were recorded on tapes recovered from his compound in Afghanistan in 2001, after the September 11 attacks. They have been studied by Professor Flagg Miller, who teaches Arabic poetry at the University of California, Davis. He said: “Bin Laden is a skilled poet with clever rhymes and meters, which was one reason why many people taped him and passed recordings around, like pop songs.”"
  • Op-Ed Columnist - The Push to ‘Otherize’ Obama - Op-Ed - - Nic Kristoff on the Obama as Muslim rumors: "What is happening, I think, is this: religious prejudice is becoming a proxy for racial prejudice. In public at least, it’s not acceptable to express reservations about a candidate’s skin color, so discomfort about race is sublimated into concerns about whether Mr. Obama is sufficiently Christian. The result is this campaign to “otherize” Mr. Obama. Nobody needs to point out that he is black, but there’s a persistent effort to exaggerate other differences, to de-Americanize him."
  • Rachel Shabi: Voice of the Jerusalem's poor | Comment is free | - On Israel's Black Panthers, a Mizrahi social justice movement once active in the 1970s and that is reforming to run in Jerusalem elections: "The new Panthers proclaim blanket support in "the neighbourhoods" – aka the deprived city districts. But that might not actually count for much: the local election voting turnout from these quarters is around 20%, as compared with 40% within Jerusalem's better-off streets and 70% in the religious sector. The Arab sector has historically refused to vote – in protest against an authority it does not recognise as legitimate. Still, Marciano-Sabag emphatically includes the notoriously deprived neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem in her social justice plans: "I personally feel Palestinian," she says. "My colour is their colour, their language is my language, their accent is my accent. And their situation is absolutely unbearable … when we speak of equality we mean the whole city, whether or not people vote.""
  • Middle East Online - Coptic Bishop Morcos: ""If elections take place, I would vote for Gamal Mubarak because he is an economics man and was brought up in a firmly established political household, and this is the view of most members of the Holy Synod," Morcos said in an interview with the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm." One of the things that makes a Jimmy presidency more likely is that since he is the only person who appears to be vying for the presidency, he is the only person who will receive the endorsements of those people who just support the likely candidate (as opposed to stick to principles). The religious establishment in Egypt (Muslim or Christian) is really disappointing for its lack of guts and imagination.
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Kidnappings in Nubia

An unknown gang has kidnapped tourists exploring the Western Desert near Aswan:  
"Up to 15 people, including 11 foreign tourists, have been abducted in Egypt, according to the Italian foreign ministry and Egyptian security sources. 
The Italian foreign ministry confirmed on Monday that at least five Italian nationals were among those taken near the border with Sudan. The Egyptian tourism ministers said that the other people seized were five Germans, four Egyptians and one Romanian. "This is a gang act [by] masked men," Zoheir Garrana, the minister, said, adding that talks were under way on a ransom to release the abductees."
Although it's easy to jump to conclusions when the Israeli government recently issued a warning that Israeli tourists were being targeted for kidnappings in Sinai, this is very far away from Sinai and may simply be a criminal gang, considering they're asking for ransom. Of course that does not rule out the possibility that some violent political group (Islamist or otherwise) is trying to fundraise through kidnappings, which would mark the return of organized militant political violence in Upper Egypt. But I personally doubt it, but this kind of criminal activity is bad news for Egypt and a sign that more attention should be paid to the porous border with Sudan. Not to make light of this, but I am reminded of The Tragedy of the Korosko, a nice little novella by Arthur Conan Doyle about a kidnapping in the same area. Here's the bit where the eclectic group of Western tourists get kidnapped:  
The travellers, nestling up against one another, had awaited, each after his own fashion, the coming of the Arabs. The Colonel, with his hands back in his trouser-pockets, tried to whistle out of his dry lips. Belmont folded his arms and leaned against a rock, with a sulky frown upon his lowering face. So strangely do our minds act that his three successive misses, and the tarnish to his reputation as a marksman, was troubling him more than his impending fate. Cecil Brown stood erect, and plucked nervously at the up-turned points of his little prim moustache. Monsieur Fardet groaned over his wounded wrist. Mr. Stephens, in sombre impotence, shook his head slowly, the living embodiment of prosaic law and order. Mr. Stuart stood, his umbrella still over him, with no expression upon his heavy face, or in his staring brown eyes. Headingly lay with that china-white cheek resting motionless upon the stones. His sun-hat had fallen off, and he looked quite boyish with his ruffled yellow hair and his un-lined, clean-cut face. The dragoman sat upon a stone and played nervously with his donkey-whip. So the Arabs found them when they reached the summit of the hill. 
And then, just as the foremost rushed to lay hands upon them, a most unexpected incident arrested them. From the time of the first appearance of the Dervishes the fat clergyman of Birmingham had looked like a man in a cataleptic trance. He had neither moved nor spoken. But now he suddenly woke at a bound into strenuous and heroic energy. It may have been the mania of fear, or it may have been the blood of some Berserk ancestor which stirred suddenly in his veins; but he broke into a wild shout, and, catching up a stick, he struck right and left among the Arabs with a fury which was more savage than their own. One who helped to draw up this narrative has left it upon record that, of all the pictures which have been burned into his brain, there is none so clear as that of this man, his large face shining with perspiration, and his great body dancing about with unwieldy agility, as he struck at the shrinking, snarling savages. Then a spear-head flashed from behind a rock with a quick, vicious, upward thrust, the clergyman fell upon his hands and knees, and the horde poured over him to seize their unresisting victims. Knives glimmered before their eyes, rude hands clutched at their wrists and at their throats, and then, with brutal and unreasoning violence, they were hauled and pushed down the steep winding path to where the camels were waiting below. The Frenchman waved his unwounded hand as he walked. “_Vive le Khalifa! Vive le Madhi!” he shouted, until a blow from behind with the butt-end of a Remington beat him into silence. And now they were herded in at the base of the Abousir rock, this little group of modern types who had fallen into the rough clutch of the seventh century—for in all save the rifles in their hands there was nothing to distinguish these men from the desert warriors who first carried the crescent flag out of Arabia. The East does not change, and the Dervish raiders were not less brave, less cruel, or less fanatical than their forebears. They stood in a circle, leaning upon their guns and spears, and looking with exultant eyes at the dishevelled group of captives. They were clad in some approach to a uniform, red turbans gathered around the neck as well as the head, so that the fierce face looked out of a scarlet frame; yellow, untanned shoes, and white tunics with square brown patches let into them. All carried rifles, and one had a small discoloured bugle slung over his shoulder. Half of them were negroes—fine, muscular men, with the limbs of a jet Hercules; and the other half were Baggara Arabs—small, brown, and wiry, with little, vicious eyes, and thin, cruel lips. The chief was also a Baggara, but he was a taller man than the others, with a black beard which came down over his chest, and a pair of hard, cold eyes, which gleamed like glass from under his thick, black brows. They were fixed now upon his captives, and his features were grave with thought. Mr. Stuart had been brought down, his hat gone, his face still flushed with anger, and his trousers sticking in one part to his leg. The two surviving Soudanese soldiers, their black faces and blue coats blotched with crimson, stood silently at attention upon one side of this forlorn group of castaways.
As you can see, it has plenty of full-on Victorian racism and very Anglo depictions of the French as surrender monkeys -- a very good example of where the Bush administration gets its worldview. Despite this, I think it's ripping yarn and a good example of Doyle's works outside of Holmesiana. Again, I mention this because it crossed my mind, and naturally wish for the speedy return of the hostages to their families.
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Links September 21st to September 22nd

Links from my account for September 21st through September 22nd:

  • The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب - Angry Arab reviews the latest Woodward book: "What is lacking in reviews of the book is the most damning conclusion: that the Bush administration was lying to the American public throughout: statements that were made in public were contradicted by classified reports that were read in private meetings. In fact, the best case scenario for Iraq was according to them a Mubarak-like dictator. In the words of Sen. McConnell: "I'd settle for Egypt.""
  • US/MIDEAST: Obama Advisor Stresses Carrots Over Sticks - Susan Rice, Obama's advisor: "On the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Rice said Obama would be "supporting the Israelis and Palestinians in their effort to broker a lasting peace based on two states -- the Jewish State of Israel and the Democratic Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security."" Interesting choice of adjectives -- Israel must be defined as Jewish (even though it has a large non-Jewish population) and Palestine as democratic, suggesting that if its government is not perceived as democratic by the international community then it should not be a state. So many code words, so little time.
  • POLITICS-US: Arab Americans Favour Obama by Wide Margin - "The poll, which was conducted by Zogby International for AAI, a Washington-based lobby and public education group, found that the Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, currently leads his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, by some 20 percentage points among Arab American voters -- 54 percent to 33 percent -- in a two-man race. Obama's lead, however, dropped to 46 percent to 32 percent when the 500-plus respondents who participated in the survey were also given the option of two other candidates -- independent Ralph Nader and Libertarian Bob Barr."
  • POLITICS-US: Anti-Islam Film Targets "Swing State" Voters - "Clarion Fund was founded by the writer and executive produce of "Obsession", Israeli-Canadian Raphael Shore. The group also runs the website -- an educational site which implores its readers to "take action against radical Islam" by exploring its resources under four headings: "fueling terror", "Sharia law", "vote 2008", and "radical Islam overview." Because of Clarion Fund's non-profit, tax-exempt status, it is not permitted to sway voters in a partisan manner. But reportedly was, until it was recently pointed out in the media, carrying an article that explicitly endorsed Sen. John McCain. "
  • Egypt » Blog Archive » Salafis vs the Ikhwan in Egypt, Playing With Fire? - Nathan discusses the "is the Egyptian regime using Salafists against the Ikhwan?" question. I guess that depends what you mean by "using". A more precise question would be, is the regime allowing them to practice what I would call "proto-takfirism" in the hope that it will draw young Islamists away from the more political Ikhwan tradition? Because I don't think you can say they are being used in the same explicitly political sense that Islamist groups were generally used against the left in the 1970s. Rather, they are being used to de-politicize.
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Links September 19th to September 21st

Links from my account for September 19th through September 21st:

  • Arts and Letters: Freeing the Elephants: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker - Oh, lighten up: "Babar, such interpreters have insisted, is an allegory of French colonization, as seen by the complacent colonizers: the naked African natives, represented by the “good” elephants, are brought to the imperial capital, acculturated, and then sent back to their homeland on a civilizing mission. The elephants that have assimilated to the ways of the metropolis dominate those which have not. The true condition of the animals—to be naked, on all fours, in the jungle—is made shameful to them, while to become an imitation human, dressed and upright, is to be given the right to rule. The animals that resist—the rhinoceroses—are defeated. The Europeanized elephants are, as in the colonial mechanism of indirect rule, then made trustees of the system, consuls for the colonial power. To be made French is to be made human and to be made superior. The straight lines and boulevards of Celesteville, the argument goes, are the sign of enslavement."
  • Artists take cue from Egypt’s sombre tone - The National Newspaper - Egypt is getting so fucking depressing it's not even funny
  • Bill and Kathleen Christison: The Making of Recent U.S. Middle East Policies - "Sniegoski’s new book demonstrates clearly how U.S. and Israeli policies and actions with respect to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the other Gulf states, and even most recently Georgia are all tied together in a bundle of interrelated linkages, each of which affects all the others. The right wing of Israeli politics, the neoconservatives in the U.S. who strongly support Israel, and the aging Israel lobby in the United States all have worked together, and are still doing so, to bring about more wars, regime changes, and instability, specifically the fragmentation of any Middle Eastern states that might ever conceivably threaten Israel."
  • Le Figaro - International : L'émir du Qatar, médiateur des crises internationales - Profile of Qatar's Sheikh Hamad al-Thani
  • Pow! Take That, Old Superhero Clichés! -" - A review, in comic form, of a new book that (poorly) revisits the theory that American superhero comics are all about immigrant Jewish issues, i.e. that Superman is actually Supermensch. Or something like that.
  • Adrian’s Take on the War on Terror in The Sahara « Arabic Media Shack - Lengthy, detailed post on Algeria and counter-terrorism -- good stuff!
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Links September 18th to September 19th

Links from my account for September 18th through September 19th:

  • Desmond Tutu: Israeli shelling in Gaza may be war crime | World news | The Guardian - "Tutu said the Israeli attack, which hit the Athamna family house, showed "a disproportionate and reckless disregard for Palestinian civilian life". The archbishop presented his comments in a final report to the UN Human Rights Council, which had sent him to Gaza to investigate the killings in Beit Hanoun in November 2006. For 18 months Israel did not grant the archbishop or his team a visa. They entered Gaza in May this year on a rare crossing from Egypt. On the three-day visit, Tutu and his team visited the house, interviewed the survivors and met others in Gaza, including the senior Hamas figure and former prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh. At the time, Tutu said he wanted to travel to Israel to hear the Israeli account of events, but he was not permitted."
  • Almasry Alyoum | Suspicious Tour By US Ambassador In Cairo University - Al Masri Al Youm's reporting has really gone down the drain, this story is ridiculous.
  • The Witness | Egypt: Thieving donkey sent to jail - "CAIRO — An Egyptian donkey has been jailed for stealing corn on the cob from a field belonging to an agricultural research institute in the Nile Delta, local media reported yesterday. The ass and its owner were apprehended at a police checkpoint that had been set up after the institute’s director complained that someone was stealing his crops, the state-owned Al-Ahram daily said. The unnamed ungulate was found in possession of the institute’s corn and a local judge sentenced him to 24 hours in prison. The man who had his ass thrown in jail got off with a fine of 50 Egyptian pounds (about R70)."
  • The political state of Egypt | Will the dam burst? | The Economist - I missed this long briefing on Egypt's sorry current situation and uncertain future.
  • Saudi Arabia's puritanical clerics | Death to the media moguls! | The Economist - On crazy Saudi fatwa against depraved satellite channels.
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Links for September 18th

Links from my account for September 18th:

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Links September 17th to September 18th

Links from my account for September 17th through September 18th:

  • Egypt Plans To Order U.S. Missiles - MiddleEastNewsline - For all that tank warfare that the Egyptian army is engaged in: "Egypt has requested the TOW-2A anti-armor guided missile from the United States. The Bush administration has approved the sale of up to 6,900 TOW-2A missiles to Egypt in a deal estimated at $319 million."
  • Iraq's Counterinsurgency College - - Courses taught on "moderate Islam" at college for Iraqi soldiers
  • Greek ship hijacked off Somalia - "A Greek-owned ship, reportedly taking a cargo of salt to Kenya, is seized by pirates off Somalia's south coast." And remember there is still an Egyptian ship and its crew being held for ransom in the same area.
  • Taheri's absurd conceit - Marc Lynch debunks Amir Taheri's claim that Obama is conducting some kind of conspiracy with Iraqi leaders. Taheri, of course, is a pure product of neo-con / Zionist institutions.
  • All Countries in BBC Poll Prefer Obama to McCain - World Public Opinion - But Egypt, Russia and Turkey do not have a favorite: "Despite the preference for an Obama victory in all countries, significant proportions in several said they do not favor either candidate, favour both equally or do not know which would be preferable. This was particularly the case in Russia, where 75 per cent do not express a preference between the candidates, but also in Turkey (63%) and Egypt (61%)."
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Links September 16th to September 17th

Links from my account for September 16th through September 17th:

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Links September 14th to September 15th

Links from my account for September 14th through September 15th:

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Orhan Pamuk's Museum

I was recently struck by this article about Orhan Pamuk's new novel (noted by the excellent Literary Saloon). Apparently Pamuk has created an actual, physical museum alongside his writing of "The Museum of Innocence." 
Yes, "The Museum of Innocence" chronicles the love story of Kemal, an upper-class person, a person who is occasionally described as high-society. He is 30 years old in 1975 and chronicles his infatuation with a distant relative, a twice removed cousin, Fusun, an 18 year-old shop girl, but very beautiful. As sort of a compensation for his failure to get her hand, he collects everything he can get that Fusun touches, and in the end he makes a museum of the objects that their story is associated with. My "Museum of Innocence" is a real museum too, which tries to pin down all these objects. I've been collecting things for this museum almost for six years. I bought a house which is actually where this part of the story has been taking place since about ten years ago. I converted it into a museum so the "Museum of Innocence" is both a museum and a novel. The enjoyment of the novel and the enjoyment of the would-be museum are two entirely different things. The museum is not an illustration of the novel and the novel is not an explanation of the museum. They are two representations of one single story perhaps.
What a strange and lovely project, and how well suited it seems to the melancholy Pamuk. I've been a great admirer of his work for years. "My Name is Red" had sentences of jolting beauty, and I still remember reading "Snow," during a week in Istanbul--far from the snowy, Eastern town where the novel is set but close (so I felt) to the author's own Istanbul home and office. I think his Nobel acceptance speech should be read by everyone, and he also has some wonderful essays in the collection "Other Colors."
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