[From BBC NEWS | Middle East | Israel warns of Gaza 'holocaust']
Israeli leaders are warning of an imminent conflagration in Gaza after Palestinian militants aimed rockets at the southern city of Ashkelon.
The deputy defence minister said the stepped-up rocket fire would trigger what he called a "bigger holocaust" in the Hamas-controlled coastal strip.
Israeli air strikes have killed about 30 Palestinians, including six children in the past two days.
. . .
"The more [rocket] fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves," Matan Vilnai told Israeli army radio.
Correspondents say the "holocaust" is a term rarely used in Israel outside discussions of the Nazi genocide during World War II.
MEMRI has this fantastic Iranian Ministry of Intelligence public information video on the American-Zionist conspiracy to pervert Iranian youth and what YOU (i.e. concerned Iranian patriotic citizen) can do about it. Watch it all now.
From Nir Rosen's The Myth of the Surge in Rolling Stone, on the co-optation of former insurgents that had caused a decline in violence over the past year in Iraq :
But loyalty that can be purchased is by its very nature fickle. Only months ago, members of the Awakening were planting IEDs and ambushing U.S. soldiers. They were snipers and assassins, singing songs in honor of Fallujah and fighting what they viewed as a war of national liberation against the foreign occupiers. These are men the Americans described as terrorists, Saddam loyalists, dead-enders, evildoers, Baathists, insurgents. There is little doubt what will happen when the massive influx of American money stops: Unless the new Iraqi state continues to operate as a vast bribing machine, the insurgent Sunnis who have joined the new militias will likely revert to fighting the ruling Shiites, who still refuse to share power.
"We are essentially supporting a quasi-feudal devolution of authority to armed enclaves, which exist at the expense of central government authority," says Chas Freeman, who served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia under the first President Bush. "Those we are arming and training are arming and training themselves not to facilitate our objectives but to pursue their own objectives vis-a-vis other Iraqis. It means that the sectarian and ethnic conflicts that are now suppressed are likely to burst out with even greater ferocity in the future."
Maj. Pat Garrett, who works with the 2-2 Stryker Cavalry Regiment, is already having trouble figuring out what to do with all the new militiamen in his district. There are too few openings in the Iraqi security forces to absorb them all, even if the Shiite-dominated government agreed to integrate them. Garrett is placing his hopes on vocational-training centers that offer instruction in auto repair, carpentry, blacksmithing and English. "At the end of the day, they want a legitimate living," Garrett says. "That's why they're joining the ISVs."
But men who have taken up arms to defend themselves against both the Shiites and the Americans won't be easily persuaded to abandon their weapons in return for a socket wrench. After meeting recently in Baghdad, U.S. officials concluded in an internal report, "Most young Concerned Local Citizens would probably not agree to transition from armed defenders of their communities to the local garbage men or rubble cleanup crew working under the gaze of U.S. soldiers and their own families." The new militias have given members of the Awakening their first official foothold in occupied Iraq. They are not likely to surrender that position without a fight. The Shiite government is doing little to find jobs for them, because it doesn't want them back, and violence in Iraq is already starting to escalate. By funding the ISVs and rearming the Sunnis who were stripped of their weapons at the start of the occupation, America has created a vast, uncoordinated security establishment. If the Shiite government of Iraq does not allow Sunnis in the new militias to join the country's security forces, warns one leader of the Awakening, "It will be worse than before."
An interesting piece with a lot of surprisingly negative commentary by US forces and officials -- read it all.
Ahmed Senoussi, the Moroccan comedian better known as Bziz, appeared on al-Jazeera's "bila hudud" talk show yesterday to talk about the Arab information minister's recent decree introducing a "code of ethics" for Arab satellite stations. The result is hilarious -- just wait through the first eight minutes or so as the host sets up the gag.
Links for February 20th through February 21st:
- The tea war - Kenya's troubles will mean more expensive cup of Arousa
- Egypt?s Parties Committee Seizes Ayman Nour?s Asset - When will the hounding of Ayman Nour cease?
- Egypt bans Western papers over prophet cartoons - WSJ, Observer, Die Welt and Allgemeine Zeitung banned
- Egypt Govt Summons Danish Ambassador Over Caricatures - Egypt continues to fan the Danish cartoon flames
- Embattled Middle East Hand Strikes Back At Political Critics - Obama advisor strikes back at slur campaign
14 jours aprÃ¨s lâ€™arrestation de Fouad Mourtada, plusieurs sites de blogs marocains, rÃ©putÃ©s par leur grande influence au Maroc, sont en grÃ¨ve aujourdâ€™hui, Mardi 19 fÃ©vrier 2008, en solidaritÃ© avec Fouad et sa famille.
Links for February 17th through February 19th:
- Jazeera slams TV crackdown - FT on new satellite TV restrictions
- TelQuel : Avoir 20 ans à la campagne - Life for young people in the (extremely poor) Moroccan countryside
- Moscou accuse Paris de saborder le contrat des Mig - Algeria-Russia fracas over Mig contract; France suspected of meddling
- Pharaonic Pump Sits Idle as Egypt Fails to Lure Farms to Desert Bloomberg.com: Europe - Whatever happened to Toshka?
- Middle East Report Online: Disengagement and the Frontiers of Zionism by Darryl Li - "FROM BANTUSTAN TO INTERNMENT CAMP TO ANIMAL PEN"
- The BAE files | World news | guardian.co.uk - Guardian collection of articles on BAE case
- Hamas tells Egypt it is ready to discuss truce with Israel, Shalit deal - "Hamas said Friday it has told Egyptian officials it would consider a cease-fire with Israel if it lifted its blockade of the Gaza Strip and ceased military operations in the West Bank and Gaza."
- UN shocked by 'grim' life in Gaza - "80% of Gaza's 1.5m population now depended on food aid."
Hossam has updates on the latest blue collar workers' strike in Mahalla al-Kubra, the heart of Egypt's textile industry, where some 10,000 have taken to the street to demand a new national minimum wage:
Only one day before the convening of the National Council for Wages (the govt entity in charge of setting the minimum wage, and which has not convened since the mid 80s!!!) 10,000 textile workers from Ghazl el-Mahalla took to the streets around 4pm demanding raising the national minimum (monthly) wage to LE1200.
Follow his post for analysis and the latest news. For context, most workers currently make only a few hundred pounds.
As part of a new series on youth and religion, the New York Times ran an article today on young people in Egypt. The article, by Michael Slackman, basically argues that economic and social frustration and the inability to get married at a young age has driven many to become more pious:
The despair extends to rural Egypt, always a traditional, religious environment, but one that ambitious young people long to escape. In the village of Shamandeel, not far from Zagazig, it took Walid Faragallah six years after graduating with a degree in psychology to find a job in a factory, and his pay was less than $50 a month. That is an average period of waiting â€” and average pay â€” for new entries in the job market. Mr. Faragallah kept that job for a year, and recently found another factory job for $108 a month, two hours from his home.
â€œIt brings us closer to God, in a sense,â€� Mr. Faragallah said, speaking of the despair he felt during the years he searched for work. â€œBut sometimes, I can see how it does not make you closer to God, but pushes you toward terrorism. Practically, it killed my ambition. I canâ€™t think of a future.â€�
So far so much usual socio-economic analysis of the religiosity of Arab youth. But it's interesting that when they provided an Arabic translation of the article and solicited young Egyptians' points of view on it, this is the reply they got:
After discussing the article with three of four different groups of students, I found that the answers were surprisingly uniform: yes, the government holds them back. Yes, itâ€™s too costly to find an apartment, furnish it, get married and live a happy life in it. But they all asked pretty much asked: â€œWhat does this have to do with the religion mentioned in your story?â€�
â€œYou say our religiosity comes from economical and social pressure,â€� Muhammad Salah, a 21-year-old engineering student told me. â€œThis is not true. Of course, we are under heavy pressure, but this has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with the government.â€�
This was the point of contention â€” they enjoyed the article because it was critical of the government and raised issues they could relate to. But they did not see the connection between government failure and lack of opportunity with their emboldened faith. Being religious, they say, is about leading a good life. For them, itâ€™s a gesture of free will, an individual choice disconnected from larger issues. Determinism plays no part in it.
The thing that struck most about the article, and which I recognized from everyday life in Egypt, is not so much the pervasiveness of religion but the central role idleness plays in young people's lives -- fear of boredom, empty hour to fill, the feeling that it can lead to trouble. From the end of the article:
There is a mosque a few steps from the front door of their house. But an Islamic tradition holds that the farther you walk to the mosque the more credit earned with God. So every Friday, Mr. Sayyid walks past the mosque by his home, and past a few more mosques, before he reaches the Sayeda Zeinab mosque.
â€œBy being religious, God prevents you from doing wrong things,â€� Mr. Sayyid said, revealing his central fear and motivation, that time and boredom will lead him to sin. â€œThis whole atmosphere we live in is wrong, wrong.â€�
If unemployed, prospect-less youth are indeed turning to the mosque, it might be less because of despair-induced spirituality than lack of anything better to do: as Franz Kafka said, idleness is the beginning of all vice and the crown of all virtues.
(And incidentally, there is an Egyptian proverb that says "the idle hand is impure" ( Ø§Ù„Ø¥ÙŠØ¯ Ø§Ù„Ø¨Ø·Ù‘Ø§Ù„Ø© Ù†Ø¬Ø³Ø©), as well as passages and many interpretations of the Quran that warn against idleness as leading to sin-- one Saudi proverb claims "the devil tempts idle men, but idle men tempt the devil. And perhaps most beautiful of all, an old Middle Eastern proverb that may predate Arabic that claims that "The dust of labor is better than the saffron of idleness.")
Prince Bandar: with friends like these...
Can we invade Saudi Arabia now? Please?
Saudi Arabia's rulers threatened to make it easier for terrorists to attack London unless corruption investigations into their arms deals were halted, according to court documents revealed yesterday.
Previously secret files describe how investigators were told they faced "another 7/7" and the loss of "British lives on British streets" if they pressed on with their inquiries and the Saudis carried out their threat to cut off intelligence.
Prince Bandar, the head of the Saudi national security council, and son of the crown prince, was alleged in court to be the man behind the threats to hold back information about suicide bombers and terrorists. He faces accusations that he himself took more than Â£1bn in secret payments from the arms company BAE.
He was accused in yesterday's high court hearings of flying to London in December 2006 and uttering threats which made the prime minister, Tony Blair, force an end to the Serious Fraud Office investigation into bribery allegations involving Bandar and his family.
The threats halted the fraud inquiry, but triggered an international outcry, with allegations that Britain had broken international anti-bribery treaties.
Lord Justice Moses, hearing the civil case with Mr Justice Sullivan, said the government appeared to have "rolled over" after the threats. He said one possible view was that it was "just as if a gun had been held to the head" of the government.
The arrest and brutal treatment of Fouad Mourtada, the young man who create a fake Facebook profile of Morocco's Prince Moulay Rachid, is a sad testimony to the fact that things have not changed as much as the regime would like you to believe in Morocco. Here is the statement his supporters have put out:
Official statement of the Committee of Support for Fouad Mourtada, after a first visit at Oukacha jail.
One week after his disappearance and imprisonment by the Moroccan police force Tuesday February 05, it was finally possible for the family of Fouad to visit him this Tuesday February 12 afternoon at Oukacha jail in Casablanca, Morocco.
Fouad, distraught after one week of detention, stated the following facts:
"I was arrested on the morning of Tuesday by two individuals who embarked me on a vehicle then blindfolded my eyes with a black band. After about fifteen minutes, they changed vehicle, then took me along to some building to undergo an interrogation there. There I was persecuted, beaten up, slapped, spat on and insulted. I was also slammed for hours with a tool on the head and the legs. This calvary lasted such a long time that I lost consciousness several times and also lost the notion of time. I was completely surprised to learn, when I was taken again to another location, that it was Wednesday ".
Concerning the Facebook account, incriminated Fouad indicated:
"I actually created this account on January 15, 2008. It remained on line a few days before somebody closed it. There are so many profiles of celebrities on Facebook. I never thought that by creating a profile of his highness prince Moulay Rachid I am harming him in any way. I, as a matter of fact, did not send any message from that account to anyone. It was just a joke, a gag. I regret my gesture and beg my forgiveness from my whole family for the harm that I have caused them. I am not an evil doer; my ambition in the life was simply to have a stable job and a normal life ".
Fouad Mourtada awaits the starting of his trial, Friday February 15. He could be facing 5 years of prison, to have done what thousands of people throughout the world do everyday: create a profile of a celebrity or a star on Facebook.
For analysis on Morocco's monarchy-controlled "democratization process" see this analysis from the Middle East Institute, which concludes:
Moroccoâ€™s road towards greater democratization remains a project in the making. On the one hand, the climate of greater freedom of speech and accountability on the part of officials is unmistakable, as is the sobering recognition of the enormity of the task ahead. On the other hand, the lingering notion that any reform, constitutional or otherwise, derives from and depends upon the good will of the monarch is a hin- drance to any profound changes to the current system. As he nears his first decade on the throne, Muhammad VI faces the challenge of stirring his nation towards a better future while maintaining the stability and relative tranquility that have made Morocco the envy of other Middle Eastern and North African countries.
A good first step would be that the king ensures that identity theft, if Mourtada's prank can be described as such, be handled professionally by ordinary police rather than secret service thugs whose beatings are reminiscent of the torture and disappearances of the late King Hassan II's reign. Even though Mourtada may get off without a jail sentence due to the bad publicity this brings the monarchy, that is not enough: an apology and the disciplining of those responsible for his treatment should ensue.
Kudos to Jazeera for condemning the recently announced "ethical charter" for Arab satellite stations:
Al Jazeera calls Charter issued by the Arab Leagueâ€™s Ministerâ€™s of Information a risk to the freedom of expression in the Arab world
DOHA, Qatar, February 15, 2008: Al Jazeera considers the adoption of the charter â€œPrinciples for Regulating Satellite TV in the Arab Worldâ€� issued by the Arab Leagueâ€™s Ministerâ€™s of Information a risk to the freedom of expression in the Arab world. Some of the language contained within the Charter is ambiguous and could be interpreted to actively hinder independent reporting from the region.
Wadah Khanfar, Director General of the Al Jazeera Network stated that, â€œAny code of ethics or governance for journalistic practices should emerge, and be governed, from within the profession and not be imposed externally by political institutions. Where codes of ethics are violated and contraventions of journalistic practice occur, for defamation of character or otherwise, there should be independent legal processes to resolve these issues. The region has seen the recent emergence of many media institutions and every attempt should be made not to hamper, but to facilitate, an environment to encourage their independence and freedom.â€�
Links for February 13th through February 15th:
- ei: How Barack Obama learned to love Israel - Ali Abunimah on how Obama wooed AIPAC
- Egypt: Arab Charter for Satellite TV a Major Setback to Press Freedom in Region, Says Article 19 - On recently issued Arab Ministers of Information regulations for satellite TV
- "Six Questions for Darius Rejali, Author of ?Torture and Democracy?" by Scott Horton -
- FT.com / World - Syria arrests prominent dissident - Riad Seif latest Syrian dissident to be arrested after joining "Damascus declaration"
- Palestinian revenge was inevitable - Haaretz - Op-ed by senior Hamas advisor in op-ed, says Abu Mazen can no longer negotiate for Pals
That was part 2, you can find part 1 here.
The Winter 2008 issue of Bidoun, the Middle Eastern arts and culture magazine, has been out for a few weeks now. For some weird reason I can never access it directly from Egypt, it only works through a proxy like proxyfellow.com or hidemyass.com, but it's worth the trouble to check out the striking cover (below) and some of the articles they put online, such as the essay on Moroccan counter-culture in the 1960s/1970s by Issandr El Amrani. Get the print issue (in Cairo from the Townhouse gallery, elsewhere at good magazine stores) to read about Ismail Yassin and much more.
(No, I don't think that building really exists.)
Links for February 9th through February 11th:
- Saudi royal Prince Bandar Bin Sultan's assets frozen - BAE lawsuit slowl moving along
- Egypt deserves support to resolve Gaza crisis - Egyptian consul writes op-ed in SF Chronicle
- U.S. pushes Israel to accept proposed Egypt border deal - " The U.S. wants Israel to show some flexibility on Egypt's demand to add 750 soldiers to its border force, as well as to agree to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's proposal to take over responsibility for the Israel-Gaza Strip border. "
- Cindy Sheehan in Cairo to Monitor MB Military Trial - Errr... why?
- The Arab media | How governments handle the news - The Economist on the strangulation of Arab media
- Cindy Sheehan in Cairo to Monitor MB Military Trial - Errr... why?
- The Arab media | How governments handle the news - The Economist on the strangulation of Arab media
The appointment, pending congressional approval (which appears to be forthcoming soon), of Margaret Scobey as the next US Ambassador to Egypt has continued to get the local press' interest, with her testimony to Congress' Foreign Affairs Committee -- notably her mention of the Ayman Nour case and the human rights situation in Egypt -- earning much commentary. A long-time reader sent me the full text of Scobey's testimony, which I'm posting after the jump. In the meantime, I'm curious to hear what readers know about the women who will become the first female ambassador to Cairo -- a tough job if there ever was one considering that both sides are schizophrenic about what remains a deep, complex and important bilateral relationship. In my time in Egypt the three ambassadors I've known brought quite different styles to their post; their policies however remained largely the same even if constrained by rising anti-Egypt sentiment in Congress and the US press (and although this is less influential, vice-versa.) From what she said, Scobey appears to be more of the same.
Statement of Margaret Scobey to be Ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt
Committee on Senate Foreign Relations
February 6, 2008
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee:
I am deeply honored to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as President Bush's nominee as United States Ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt. I am mindful of the confidence placed in me by the President and Secretary Rice and will do my utmost to fulfill my responsibilities. I have had the privilege of representing the United States in many Middle Eastern capitals and look forward to doing so again in a country where we have built, over the past three decades, a vital strategic partnership based on mutually shared goals of peace, security, and prosperity not only for our own citizens but also for the people of the entire region.
I am also happy to introduce my brother Jim, who came from Winter Springs, Florida to attend the hearing-he and my brother Marty who could not be here, have always provided me moral support and a home in between my assignments.
Egypt is the most populous Arab country in the world. Its leaders promote regional peace and stability throughout the Middle East and Africa; its security forces assure free navigation through the Suez Canal and combat terrorism; its press and cultural vitality influence the entire Arab world; and it is the only Arab country with global diplomatic reach.The implications for U.S. policy are clear: continue to strengthen the U.S.-Egyptian partnership in advancing peace, and encourage Egypt to take the lead in economic and political reform in the region.
We recognize that reform must follow an Egyptian vision and proceed in an Egyptian manner. President Bush expressed in Sharm el Sheikh his firm hope that, ``Egypt can play a role in the freedom and justice movement...`` and that the Egyptian government would build on its economic and democratic reforms to its people to give them ``a greater voice in [their] future.``
During the President's recent visit to Sharm Al Shaykh where he met with Egyptian President Mubarak, he also recalled the longstanding friendship between the United States and Egypt and the respect we have for the Egyptian people, their culture, history, and traditions. Above all else, this friendship has been strengthened by our shared objective of concluding a comprehensive peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbors in a manner that advances the interests of all and that liberates the human potential of this region by removing the fear of war. No Arab nation has done more to advance this fundamental goal. Egyptian courage opened the door to peace in 1979. Since then President Mubarak has persistently worked with us, the Israelis and other Arab states in search for a just and lasting peace. Most recently Egypt played a central role in the Annapolis conference, and now continues to seek ways to facilitate its aims.
Egyptian-U.S. cooperation on regional security and its contributions to regional stability go beyond the Israeli-Arab conflict. In recognition of this, successive Administrations have made significant investments in security and economic assistance to Egypt, including $1.3 billion a year in military assistance. The U.S.-Egyptian military partnership is a powerful force for regional stability in the Middle East and Africa. Our current military operations in the Middle East would not be possible without the overflight rights and facilitated Suez Canal passages afforded by the Egyptian Ministry of Defense.
Egypt is the largest contributor of peacekeeping troops to UNAMID - the UN peacekeeping force in Darfur. Egyptian diplomatic leadership helped persuade the Sudanese government that this force would be in its best interest.
Egypt does face challenges. On January 24, Hamas operatives destroyed the border wall separating Gaza from Egypt and encouraged an influx of tens of thousands of Gazans into Northern Sinai. Egyptian has sought to manage this difficult situation with a minimum of violence. Senior U.S. officials have remained in regular contact with Egyptian, Israeli, and Palestinian leaders who are consulting on ways to find a solution that will restore order at the Rafah border. Egypt is also spending FMF assistance to procure equipment to help combat smuggling via tunnels beneath the Egypt-Gaza border.
The United States benefits from Egypt's regional diplomatic leadership. Egypt hosted the first expanded neighbors' conference with Iraq in Sharm Al Shaykh and supports continued U.S. military engagement in Iraq until the Iraqi military can safely handle its security duties. Egypt is at the very center of seeking to resolve the impasse over Lebanese presidential elections.
Like the United States, Egypt has suffered terrible human and economic losses from terrorism and has long been a stalwart ally in the war against terror. U.S.-Egyptian security cooperation has saved lives throughout the region and will continue to do so.
The President and the Administration will continue to seek Egypt's advice and support; if confirmed, I will do everything possible to facilitate communication and collaboration. Much has changed in the decades since Camp David. The United States can be very proud of its contribution to economic and social development in Egypt at all levels, thanks to efforts and investment of USAID and its Egyptian partners. As a result of U.S. assistance programs, 99 percent of all Egyptians now have access to reliable electricity; 22 million Egyptians in 11 governorates have access to clean water and sanitary sewage collection, greatly reducing infant and child diseases. Since 1975, infant mortality has decreased from 132 per thousand to just 33; child mortality has decreased 80 percent. Polio has been eradicated, and life expectancy has been extended from 55 to 70 years old. Similarly, adult literacy has grown from 39 percent in 1975 to 60 percent now. Girls attending school has risen from 56 percent to 95 percent.
Egyptian economic reform is another success story. Prime Minister Nazif s economic team, has reformed and streamlined Egypt's economy - retiring many vestiges of the old statist economy -- to achieve record levels of growth-reaching nearly 7 percent in 2007.Egypt is attracting increased levels of foreign direct investment -- $ 11.1 billion in 2007, up from just $5.3 billion in 2005. The World Bank in 2007 declared Egypt the ``top reformer`` in the world. Now the government is eyeing strategies for redistributing the benefits of nearly $8 billion in annual subsidies on food and fuel to the poorest poor.
Again, the U.S. is playing a central role in Egypt's economic expansion. The U.S. is Egypt's number one trading partner: U.S. foreign direct investment in Egypt exceeds $5 billion and trade is sharply up - nearly fifty percent in three years.U.S. exports to Egypt increased 33 percent in 2007; U.S. agricultural exports to Egypt doubled.
The Qualified Industrial Zone program, which allows certain exports to enter the United States tariff and duty free, provided they contain 11.7 percent Israeli content, has produced more than $700 million in exports in 2007 and sustains more than 100,000 jobs. Exports from these zones grew 141 percent from $266 million in 2005 to $643 million in 2006 and the impact of this unilateral trade benefit now exceeds the economic impact of our economic assistance.
But much work remains to be done. Forty percent of Egypt's population lives on less than $2.00 per day. The government has identified major challenges in education and health reform. The United States intends to support these efforts in order to ensure a prosperous and stable future for this crucial Middle Eastern state.
As Egypt's economy has grown and matured, U.S. economic assistance has gradually declined, from $815 million a year in the 1980s to just over $400 million in FY 2008. And in the current budget situation we can anticipate further adjustment. I look forward to working with you, other interested agencies of the USG, and our-Egyptian counterparts to continue to develop the most productive and constructive use of U.S. assistance.
The transformation of Egypt's economy required patience and political courage. The gains we see today reflect the Egyptian leaderships' willingness to look beyond the needs of today to position Egypt to meet the needs of its people in the 21st century.
Mr. Chairman, I know that Members of Congress share the Administration's serious concerns about the condition of human rights in Egypt and the limitations placed on political activity.
Egypt has taken important steps over many years in opening its society. Egypt's press, including new independent newspapers and television stations, engage in serious political debate, and Egyptian civil society, with countless NGOs, provide Egyptian citizens the opportunity to address many of the problems facing Egypt. In 2007, for the first time in Egyptian history, 30 female judges took their place on the bench.
The Egyptian government has acted to eliminate female genital mutilation - outlawing it in state hospitals and working at the grass roots to discourage this dangerous and debilitating practice. First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak has personally undertaken this campaign as a priority for the protection of young girls. In the second half of 2007, the state prosecuted three police officers for physical abuse of detainees.
However, as documented in our annual report, the government's respect for human rights remains poor and serious abuses continue. Progress on political reform has slowed, with limitations on political pluralism and major obstacles to opposition parties taking their rightful place in the political life of Egypt and to debate freely government policy and actions. The recent indictment against seven newspaper editors, the continued incarceration of Ayman Nour, the many private lawsuits pending against Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the prosecution in a military tribunal, rather than civilian court, of some forty members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and restrictions on NGO's illustrate the ways in which the government limits political freedom.
Mr. Chairman, I fully understand the importance of Egypt moving forward with meaningful political reform. The Administration is committed to pressing Egypt on reform, and if confirmed, I will take every opportunity to support and advocate the advancement of civil and political liberties in Egypt. I look forward both to working with the government and to meeting and learning from the leaders of Egypt's civil society. I will do all in my power to assure that U.S. support is both coordinated and available to all those who are working for the advancement of democracy and human rights and who would welcome our encouragement.
Over 200,000 Americans visited Egypt last year for business, education, and tourism. No Embassy has a more important duty than extending protection and service to our citizens overseas, and I promise to make this a high priority. Likewise, over 45,000 Egyptians sought visas last year to visit the United States for similar reasons. While fully implementing necessary screening for all visitors, I want every Egyptian visitor to our Embassy to feel welcomed and to anticipate the hospitality and positive experience he or she would have in the United States. We can also do more to encourage Egyptians students to study in the United States. Nothing can replace the opportunity to live and study in the United States. And we all know that the students who return to their home countries after that experience, come home with an admiration and affection for America that no overseas program can instill. I pledge to make this a personal priority.
If confirmed, I promise that the Mission staff and I will give the great attention to getting our message out to the widest possible Egyptian audiences. Egypt enjoys a vibrant press and its opinion-makers influence thinking far beyond Egypt's borders. Getting out to meet Egyptians throughout the country, promoting people-to-people exchanges, especially for students, academics, and religious leaders, bringing distinguished Americans to talk to Egyptian audiences, and engaging the Egyptian public at every opportunity and by every means possible will contribute to the improved mutual respect and understanding that we seek.
The U.S. Mission in Egypt is one of the largest in the world. If confirmed, I will have the great privilege of leading a team of talented Americans and Egyptians, from many different U.S. agencies but working together to advance our interests. I pledge to maintain the highest standards of accountability for the resources given to us and to assure that the U.S. Mission takes care of its people.
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, if confirmed, I would hope to welcome you and many of your colleagues from the Senate as well as the House of Representatives to visit. Your sustained interest in and oversight of our mission in Egypt is one of the most critical elements of any success we may have and helps assure that we are truly representing the American people in a country not only of strategic importance to us but also one where we have enjoyed and benefited from great friendship.
In an echo of the Baghdad embassy, Balad has grown to become the largest US air-base anywhere in the world: a fifteen-square-mile mini-city with its own bus routes, fast-food outlets, two supermarkets and accommodation for 40,000 military personnel and contractors. The base - from which up to 550 air operations each day are conducted - is a permanent construction site; the latest addition is a $30-million command-and-control system that will integrate air-traffic management across the country as a whole.In sum, the United States plan for Iraq is to establish a series of tight political mechanisms of control deriving from the original CPA-era agreements; a huge embassy-based structure in Baghdad to oversee and maintain these; immunity for over 300,000 foreign personnel; and continuing, direct authority over and access to Iraqi detainees. The entire operation is to be secured by the US military and its private contractors, increasingly protected by the use of air power.This ambitious project is hardly consistent with the idea - still the official line propagated by Washington, and uncritically recycled by much of the establishment media - that the US's political objective is to bolster the independent governance of Iraq by the Iraqis themselves. Indeed, it goes further than the considerable power exerted by the United States in several central American countries in the early 20th century; its sheer grandeur might better be compared to some of the French or British colonial-era protectorates. In contemporary terms, it comes close to the establishment of a fully-fledged American colony in the heart of the Arab and Islamic world. Whether or not the George W Bush administration and its supporters realise it, the implications of that - for Iraq itself and for the whole region - are set to match even what has happened over the last five years.Â