The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged france
Mediapart: Rafale jet crashed as Macron visited Egypt

The French website Mediapart has an interesting scoop by Arthur Herbert about the crash of a Rafale jet just as French President Emmanuel Macron was visiting Egypt. According to the report, the crash took place on 28 January, on the day that Macron met with Egyptian President Abdelfattah al-Sisi: they were discussing some €1.5bn’s worth of contracts being negotiated and Macron let Sisi know that he would bring up human rights concerns in a speech later that day, a rare mention of the topic ever since, under Macron and his predecessor François Hollande, France became one of Egypt’s top cheerleaders in the EU. A Rafale jet piloted by Major Mohtadi al-Shazli – one of the first Egyptian pilots trained to use the Rafale after their initial purchase in 2017 said to be involved in the May 2017 raid on Derna in eastern Libya – crashed for unknown reasons.

No one wants to discuss the crash, particularly as Egypt is negotiating the purchase additional Rafales, which at over €100m a piece (24 were bought in 2015, most probably with at least some UAE or Saudi co-funding or guarantee, more are scheduled despite the Egyptian Air Force already having a considerable fleet of other modern fighters, especially American F-16s) are the subject of controversy since the country has faced a major economic downturn in recent years and Sisi has massively increased spending both on defense procurement (especially with France and Germany) and prestige projects such as the widening of the Suez Canal. Until a few years ago France struggled to sell the Rafale, and Egypt’s purchase was a major coup – should a technical problem be at fault, it could cause problems for future contracts. Egypt appears to have tried to cover the story, and even spread rumors that the jet in question was a Chinese K-8E Karakorum rather than a Rafale, and most French officials are refusing to comment.

Mediapart (which is among the fiercest critic of Macron’s presidency from the left) is highlighting both the commercial fallout and Macron’s apparent discomfiture at a press event in Cairo, just after he learned about the crash:

Lundi 28 janvier 2019. Il est peu après 13 heures. Au Caire, Emmanuel Macron en visite d’État en Égypte, sort d’un entretien avec son homologue Abdel Fattah al-Sissi. C’est une visite compliquée : alors que l’Élysée avait annoncé la signature d’une avalanche de contrats pour près d’un milliard d’euros, plusieurs ne seront finalement pas signés ou contre toute attente transformés en simples protocoles d’accord.

Le chef d’État français a aussi prévenu : si un an et demi auparavant il avait donné un blanc-seing au président égyptien en affirmant ne « pas vouloir donner de leçons », cette fois à la conférence de presse qui est sur le point de se tenir, il évoquera ouvertement les violations des droits fondamentaux qui ont cours en Égypte.

L’ambiance est pénible. Dans la grande salle à dorures du palais présidentiel, une quarantaine de journalistes sont en train de s’installer. Derrière les grandes portes en bois marquetées, quelques secondes avant de se présenter devant la presse, une autre mauvaise nouvelle est glissée à l’oreille du président français : un Rafale vient d’être perdu.

Peu de temps avant, à 100 km au nord-ouest du Caire, sur la base aérienne militaire de Gabal al-Basur, le Rafale EM02-9352 des forces armées égyptiennes vient de s’écraser. Sous les yeux d’une équipe de formateurs et d’experts de Dassault Aviation, l’appareil flambant neuf, livré le 4 avril 2017 à l’Égypte a piqué du nez avant de se fracasser au sol.

À son bord, le major Mohtady al-Shazly, un pilote de l’armée de l’air égyptienne, connu sous le matricule « Cobra », était l’une des toutes premières recrues entraînées en France pour piloter les Rafale fraîchement acquis par les Égyptiens.

Originaire du village d’al-Atarsha, dans la localité d’al-Bagourg au nord du pays, l’homme de 32 ans, père de deux enfants, a été enterré le soir même en présence du gouverneur de Menoufyia. Lors des funérailles et sur les réseaux sociaux, l’homme est porté en « martyr ». On lui attribue notamment les bombardements égyptiens contre l’organisation de l’État islamique à Derna en Libye en mai 2017. Une opération menée après l’attaque qui avait tué vingt-huit fidèles coptes près d’al-Minya.

Contactés quelques heures après l’accident, les responsables de Dassault Aviation étaient injoignables. Au même moment, Éric Trappier, dirigeant de l’entreprise qui construit les Rafale, était dans la délégation qui accompagnait le président français au Caire. En dehors du petit cercle directement touché par la nouvelle, les officiels et les directeurs d’entreprise faisant partie du voyage n’ont pas été tenus informés, a confié l’un d’eux.

Devant un parterre de Français expatriés au Caire et d’Égyptiens francophones conviés à une réception tenue par le président français le soir même, à la tribune, lorsqu’il s’exprime devant le public, Emmanuel Macron tente de ne rien laisser percevoir. Dans l’assistance, on remarque néanmoins « un discours brouillon, comme s’il avait été mal préparé ». « On aurait dit qu’il venait juste de se prendre un gros scud dans la tête », ironise innocemment un invité.

A letter from Marseille: politics and identity in France

In March I spent a little time in (and fell in love with) Marseille, France's poorest, most diverse major city, trying to figure out the election that would eventually witness the implosion of the country's Socialist party and the election of the 39-year-old, party-less candidate Emmanuel Macron. I was particularly interested in the debate over identity, immigration and Islam that has dominated French politics in recent years, in part due to terrorist attacks and in greater part due to the fear-mongering of the far-right Front Nationale. I think the election of Macron is the best outcome one could have hoped for in this particular election, but the FN isn't going anywhere and we'll have to see what the new president can accomplish to address the economic issues, mistrust of the political system and identitarian divides the country is struggling with. 

Housing projects on the outskirts of the city. 

Housing projects on the outskirts of the city. 

I wrote this for The Point, an excellent Chicago-based magazine on politics and culture I strongly suggest you subscribe to. It will be included in the next print issue. 

I stayed with an old friend, M., who lives at the top of the Canebière, an artery that descends in a straight line to the old port, where sailboats bobbing in the water are watched over by the gleaming statue of Mary atop the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde—which everyone refers to as “la Bonne Mere.” The historic center of Marseille, unlike that of Paris, has not gentrified. I heard Arabic everywhere, and the busy central market of Noailles—where downtown residents buy their produce—was full of halal butchers, veiled female shoppers, men sitting in cafés, and shops selling olives, spices and pastries from North Africa.

This kind of bustling neighborhood seems to be the worst nightmare of many in France, who lament that in such areas, which they may never set foot in, their country has turned into “a foreign land.” The election was taking place in the wake of several terrorist attacks (beginning with the bloody assault of the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015), carried out in great part by French citizens of immigrant origins. One of the front-runners in the election, Marine le Pen, was the candidate for the Front National (FN), an isolationist, populist far-right party that has campaigned on anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment. Le Pen is adept at mixing concerns about terrorism with fears of other “threats” to the Republic, such as burkinis, veils, halal meat and Arab rappers. But wringing one’s hands over the imminent imposition of Sharia law has become a political gambit, an intellectual industry and a literary genre common across France’s political spectrum.

“France’s obsession with identity is symptomatic of a crisis of the political system, of France’s place in the world,” Thierry Fabre, a prominent Marseille intellectual, told me. Fabre is a specialist in Mediterranean studies and a champion of cultural exchange between Europe and the Arab world. Twenty-three years ago he founded Les Rencontres de Averroes, a prominent annual series of public talks with scholars, artists and writers from both sides of the Mediterranean. “From the point of view of living together,” he said, Marseille, despite its divides, flaws, and contradictions, “is an emblematic city of the 21st century,” an example to be followed. Yet he admitted that France’s “machinery for integration has broken down. We are witnessing the exhaustion of the Fifth Republic.”

Indeed, a feeling of hopelessness, indignation and restlessness hung in the air in Marseille: the sense, which seems common to so many countries these days, that things can’t go on as they are. To some extent, this has to do with the economy. Growth has been stagnant for years in France, public services are strained, and unemployment hovers at around 10 percent. Yet a concern with shrinking opportunities and unfairness has morphed into a much larger malaise. France suffers from a debilitating obsession with identity, and has nothing but disgust for the country’s politicians, who are viewed as corrupt, out of touch and out of ideas. From people on the left I heard the word “catastrophe” more than once. “The point you have to make in your article,” M. told me, “is that we don’t know who to vote for.”

Anti-police brutality demonstration in Marseille. 

Anti-police brutality demonstration in Marseille. 

Islamophobia in France

In the run-up to the incredibly unpredictable French presidential election, I took a look at some of the books being written by prominent (and not-so-prominent) French scholars, and wrote about the vitriolic debate over Islamophobia, Islamic radicalism and the alleged creeping Islamization of France. It is hard to over-state both how complicated, personal and over-the-top this debate can get. 

$20.44

I found Gilles Kepel's book Terror in France interesting as an overview of jihadism in France and of major political developments for France's Muslim minority since 2005 (including some analysis of political participation and of the question of a Muslim vote). Kepel is very critical of the idea of Islamophobia – not because he denies that there is discrimination against Muslims in France but because he says that Islamophobia has been politically instrumentalized to forbid criticism of Islam (Kepel is, not coincidentally, at loggerheads with the Comité Contre L'Islamophobie en France). Yet while I am sure that there are Islamists who use the victimization of Muslims as a means to set themselves up as leaders and spokesmen (always men) and to accrue political influence, there is plenty of criticism of Islam in France these days -- it's practically an intellectual and media industry. 

Which brings us to one of the other books I discuss, which is representative of the genre. Below is an excerpt:

$8.80

"That is one of the arguments of a book published this year for which Bensoussan was the lead editor: Une France Soumise, Les Voix du Refus (A Vanquished France, the Voices of Refusal). A collection of essays and interviews with public employees and officials, the book paints a dire picture of France turning into "a foreign land," its culture, identity, and rule of law threatened by the advance of Islamism. France faces a choice, a passage in the books warns, between civil war or "Houellebecquian" submission to Islam (a reference to the best-selling 2015 satire by Michel Houellebecq, Submission, in which the country elects a Muslim president and adopts Shariah law).

As evidence of creeping Islamization, the book cites demands for prayer rooms and halal meals; husbands who will not allow their wives to receive medical care from male doctors; reports of Muslim high-school students’ refusing to observe the moment of silence after terrorist attacks or expounding conspiracy theories. Many of the interviews are anonymous or do not specify when and where particular incidents took place. Bensoussan admits that it "is not an exhaustive investigation and does not have scientific pretensions." Yet he insists that it exposes a reality that France’s elites refuse to acknowledge."

Another book, now out in English, I strongly recommend is Olivier Roy's Jihad and Death, a beautifully written analysis of the narcissism and nihilism of jihadis and a critique of the paranoid view of Islam as an imminent threat to France. Also, although I don't write about it in this piece, French journalist David Thomson's book Les Revenants ("The Returnees"), a collection of interviews with young French jihadis (and their female supporters/partners) who have returned from Syrian, is also a riveting work of reportage. 

France draws the military consequences of US disengagement from the Middle East

From Le Figaro's report on a "white paper" on France's military doctrine for the years ahead:

«C'est un fait majeur, lourd de conséquences, aussi important selon moi que les printemps arabes, car il signifie que l'on ne pourra plus désormais compter sur les États-Unis comme on le fit jusque-là», commente Étienne de Durand, le directeur du Centre des études de sécurité de l'Ifri, qui a suivi de près les travaux du livre blanc. Les deux dernières guerres livrées par la France, en Libye et au Mali, organisées autour de coalitions verticales, représentent selon lui «l'avenir». «Le fait que les États-Unis ne veuillent plus être en première ligne est un changement fondamental qu'il nous faut intégrer», poursuit cet expert.

The report also stresses the need to maintain France's African bases as a consequence of Operation Serval in Mali, describes the "vertical" coalitions used in Mali and Libya as "the future" and stresses that "the fact that the United States no longer want to be on the front line is a fundamental change that we must integrate". 

In Mali, it's not Françafrique

Stephen W. Smith · In Search of Monsters: What are they doing in Mali? · LRB 7 February 2013

Stephen Smith writes in a piece critical of the French intervention:

Since the end of the Cold War, the prerequisites for a ‘Franco-African state’ – a bipolar world order capable of overriding the commercial interests of other Western powers; the absence of democracy and hence of elite competition in Africa; manageable demographics for a mid-level power like France etc – have diminished or disappeared entirely. Yet observers still tend to explain what Paris does, or fails to do, in sub-Saharan Africa as an effect of la Françafrique. Old habits die hard even in unfavourable circumstances, and the French have needed time to come to terms with many inconvenient truths. This may account for the fact that la Françafrique is such a lively anachronism in their public debates. But if France’s decision to intervene in Mali had anything to do with la Françafrique, at least some of the following conditions would be met: Hollande would enjoy a cosy relationship with the ‘big man’ in power in Bamako, who would have secretly funded the French Socialist Party; thousands of French expats would be making a good living in the former colony; Mali’s mineral or agricultural resources would be firmly in the hands of French companies; and the country’s diplomacy would follow the French lead as unerringly as a sunflower follows the daystar.

So what is it, then? Not sure Smith finds a satisfactory answer to that question — and perhaps he just can't quite admit that an intervention that had received UN backing, was welcomed by most African states, and was at the request of the country's government need not have some great hidden motive.

On Mediapart's Libya-Sarkozy scoop

The French news site Mediapart has released another document it claims shows that French President Nicholas Sarkozy and his close associates had maintained backdoor ties to the Libyan government from 2005 to 2011, including a 2005–6 agreement to allegedly funnel 50 million Euros worth of Libyan money into Sarkozy’s campaign chest.

The December 10, 2006 letter in question is said to be an official correspondence between Bashir Saleh Bashir[1], then-head of the Libyan African Investment Portfolio, the LAP and Moussa Muhammad Koussa, former head of the Mukhabarat el-Jamahiriya (the intelligence service) who in March 2011 quit his post as Foreign Minister and fled to the UK. In the letter, Moussa informs Bashir that per the results of the two men’s October 6, 2006 meeting Sarkozy’s chief of staff Brice Hortefeux and the arms dealer Ziad Takieddine, the LAP would be responsible for making payment of 50 million Euros to Sarkozy’s election campaign. The Libyan document released last week is the first new piece of evidence to be presented by the outlet since French terrorism lawyer Jean-Charles Brisard’s walking back of testimony he gave that had described alleged secret 2005 conferences between Sarkozy’s people and the Libyan regime in 2005.

The document is the latest piece of evidence reported by Mediapart in a now 10 month-long investigation into Sarkozy’s alleged ties to the deceased Libyan dictator. Jean-Charles Brisard, a French counterterrorism expert, had previously provided Mediapart with testimony from a French doctor associate of Takieddine and documentation of contacts among French Interior Ministry staffers, Takieddine and members of Qadhafi’s family, notably Saif al-Islam, former director of the Qadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation, and former military intelligence head Abdullah Senussi, who is wanted in France for his alleged role in the bombing of UTA Flight 772 in 1989. Anonymous sources told Reuters last month that the French government is very interested in winning Senussi’s extradition to them because of his contacts with French officials and defense contractors.

This October 6, 2006 meeting would have taken place a year to the day following an alleged October 6, 2005 meeting between some of the principal players in this drama. That 2005 contact reportedly took place during Sarkozy’s only known official visit to Libya. The 2005 meeting recorded by Brisard is said to be where the 50 million Euros payment was first discussed with Hortefeux, with the option of using a front company in Panama and a Swiss bank account to conceal the transactions. Mediapart did not note how it came into possession of the 2006 memo; the outlet’s 2005 sourcing come Brisard, who has since sought to distance himself from the materials of his cited by Mediapart by stating that the testimonies he has gathered “have no probative value” and that Mediapart was misrepresenting his research.

For the record, Sarkozy’s official campaign spending for the 2007 election was approximately 20 million Euros, just short of the maximum spending ceiling for candidates.

Takieddine, according to Mediapart, was the primary fixer between Sarkozy’s team, in particular Hortefeux who made the 2005 visit, as well as Claude Guéant (who replaced Hortefeux as Minister of the Interior last year) and Thierry Gaubert , Hortefeux’s predecessor and a confidant of Sarkozy’s. Takieddine reportedly sought to advance his own agenda of securing sweet deals for French firms with him as the broker through these get-togethers. Amesys, a French IT firm, has also been implicated in these dealings, having sold “Internet-interception equipment” to the Libyan government in 2007, whoch until early 2011 the regime used to monitor dissidents. Takieddine is thought to have helped broker this agreement, and earned a cut of US$500,000 from the deal, which after Qadhafi’s fall became hugely embarrassing for the telecommunications firm. Takeiddine also reportedly tried to make arrangements for Sakrozy’s 2005 visit by getting to discuss refitting contracts for the Libyan Air Force, now no by the UN from making orders to European defense majors, outside of the purview of the French Defense Ministry.

The arms dealer denies being present at these meetings, but says he believe that this agreement is authentic, claiming to have spoken with an irate Saif al-Islam in March 2011 about the funding and having seen documents he thought Gaubert would fear becoming public. Takeiddine says he is not sure whether the transaction actually went through or not in the end, but Saif al-Islam told him it did and actually went on TV last spring to accuse Sarkozy of “stealing” from the Libyan people.

Takieddine’s testimony is suspect, of course, because he is currently being investigated by a French court for his possible role in a scandal over kickbacks and money-laundering from the sale of warships to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia going to French politican Edouard Balladur’s 1995 presidential campaign. Sarkozy acted as Balladur’s spokesman during that campaign, and Gaubert was investigated last September over his alleged role in securing kickbacks for the 1995 campaign. Takieddine is thought to have maintained contact with the Saudis to secure further kickbacks under Sarkozy’s watch. The Pakistani ties are currently being investigated as a possible motive in a 2002 terrorist attack in Karachi that left 11 French nationals dead. This isn’t the first time key Sarkozy asosicates have come under scrutiny for alleged financial wheelings and dealings: at least two of his associates have been investigated for influence peddling.

Sarkozy denies the allegations, as do all of his associates from the Interior Ministry. It is not clear what effect this election year scandal has had on Sarkozy’s 2012 presidential campaign, but he is widely expected to lose his reelection bid to the Socialist candidate François Hollande, coming in second to him in the first round of elections. The second round of voting, and expected Sarkozy defeat, will take place on May 5–6.

(Ed. note: Moussa has denied the validity of the document from Qatar, where he has asylum, and the Sarkozy campaign has accused of Mediapart of being manipulated for political purposes and acting as an “officine” — an unnoficial political intelligence plant. The Hollande campaign has not pushed forcefully on this issue, but simply used to cast attention to the overall series of scandals that have plagued the Sarkozy administration. Mediapart has, for years, taken an anti-Sarkozy line and claims to have been the subject of surveillance by the Sarkozy administration. Its editor, Edwy Plenel, is a former managing editor of Le Monde and a highly respected and influential journalist.)


  1. Bashir’s name, and that of other Libyan officials, have more recently come up in reports from the British press on foreign intelligence services abetting Qadhafi’s spies in keeping tabs on dissidents in the EU.  ↩

PostsPaul Mutterfrance, lybia
Did Qadhafi finance Sarkozy's election campaign?

Bad investment

Back in the early days of Libya war, the reasons for France's rapid intervention were the subject of much discussion. One of the rumors that was floating was that Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, was eager to cover up the Qaddafi regime's close ties with his own party and business networks including the financing of Sarkozy's presidential campaign in 2007.

The rumor has now come back with a vengeance and possibly, proof. The quality (anti-Sarkozy) website mediapart.fr has published an incendiary document suggesting that the campaign was financed through Saif Islam al-Qadhafi to the tune of €50 million. The document, which was leaked by government sources and had previously been part of the evidence in a case involving the relationship between Sarkozy's party and the arms dealer Ziad Takieddin, suggests an elaborate setup negotiated between the Qadhafis and Sarkozy's advisors. The money was laundered through a Panama-based shell company and the Swiss bank accounts of the sister of a prominent right-wing politician also close to Sarkozy, according to mediapart. Takieddin was also known to be a troubleshooter and fixer for the French Interior Ministry in seeking contracts for French companies that provide security services, including for Saudi Arabia.

In March 2011, just a few days before French jets struck Libyan army vehicles moving towards Benghazi, Saif al Islam gave an interview in which he demanded that France return the money used in the presidential campaign, threatening that he had details of bank accounts that could incriminate Sarkozy. This was ignored at the time, and dismissed as an attempt to embarrass the French. What is beyond dispute, though, is that the Sarkozy administration had close an fruitful ties with the Qaddafi regime, both formally and through back channels.

Although this remains to be confirmed, it appears consistent with widespread rumors going back to at least the 1970s of illicit financing of right-wing little parties and candidates by Arab and African dictators. Jacques Chirac for instance was commonly said to have received campaign baksheesh from Lebanon's Rafiq Hariri and Morocco's Hassan II. This latest affair is part of a growing scandal dossier involving Sarkozy party and his entourage — one that could become a major reason he loses his reelection bid in May.

Qatar funds social services in France

Earlier today, Sultan Qassemi and I had an interesting conversation based on his tweet about this Qatar-funded project in France:

PARIS — Qatar has set up a 50-million-euro ($67-million) fund for entrepreneurs from France's often-deprived suburbs to set up businesses, the Gulf nation's ambassador to Paris said Friday.

"Qatar is not just words. We must act. The emir (Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani) decided to create a 50-million-euro fund to work with you," said ambassador Mohamed Jahan al-Kuwari.

"The fund can be increased," Kuwari told a group of 10 French elected local officials, all of North African origin.

I really think this is quite remarkable, in the current European context. Qatar, a tiny immensely wealthy country that 50 years ago was mostly a fishing village is now funding social services — or social entrepreneurship if you prefer — in one of the great powers of the last century. And it's specifically helping those people across the Arab world who share language and religious affinities with Qataris, but little else.

This is happening at a time when countries like Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are probably the chief source of surplus capital in the financial markets, at a time when more established economies are reeling from excessuve sovereign debt, frozen banking markets and the rest. I wonder how much of the merger and acquisitions activity taking place in the West right now is funded by Gulf sovereign wealth funds. Or indeed what proportion of the money is the financial markets come from recycled petrodollars. Those right-wing idiots in the US and elsewhere who complain about the high price of oil simply don't realize that it goes back to a large extent into the Western financial markets. It's basically a direct transfer of money from the gas station to the big investment banks. And now, for those countries whose immigration policy are leaving some behind, there's now social welfare as well as corporate welfare. 

Incroyable mais vrai. 

Column: Running interference

This week at al-Masri al-Youm, I look at the surreal obsession the Egyptian government has with "foreign interference" — by which it means foreign criticism of its human rights record — and the role some Western countries have played in helping it. France, which this week is sending its human rights ambassador to Cairo with strict instructions to only address anti-semitism (not exactly Egypt's top human right problem), is a particularly telling example.

Niqabitches

Via The Telegraph, citing a Rue89 piece where the Niqabitches (as the two anti-ban activists who feature in the above video call themselves) write:

"To put a simple burka on would have been too simple. So we asked ourselves: 'how would the authorities react when faced with women wearing a burka and mini-shorts?," asked the students, one of whom is a Muslim.

"We were not looking to attack or degrade the image of Muslim fundamentalists – each to their own – but rather to question politicians who voted for this law that we consider clearly unconstitutional," they said.

"To dictate what we wear appears to have become the role of the State (as if they didn't have other fish to fry ...)."

 

Cocorico
From Bakchich, here's the latest outburst of somewhat amusing bigotry by a French politician. His name is André Valentin, he is the mayor of a small town called Gussainville and a member of Sarkozy's center-right party. He said:

It's time for us to react... because otherwise we're going to be eaten alive. There's 10 million of them, 10 million that we pay to do nothing.


Obviously this caused a bit of a stir, so when contacted, he denied he meant 10 million (mostly Muslim) immigrants. He swore, on his "deeply Christian" faith that he had been quoted out of context and set up by journalists. He says he actually meant people living in poverty. As for journalists...

I'd like to see these assholes face to face to get my rifle out. Me, I've taken part in wars. They're a bunch of fags. Er... not that I have anything against those people!


Charmant.
Links for 10.21.09
'Just World News' with Helena Cobban: Nozette: Pollard, 2.0? | On the latest Israeli spy scandal in the US.
"friday-lunch-club": Netanyahu refuses Kouchner's request to see Gaza's destruction ... | Gaza? What Gaza?
To Earn HIs Nobel Prize, Obama Will Need a "Plan B" | Stephen M. Walt | "If I were President Obama (now there's a scary thought!), I'd ask some smart people on my foreign policy team to start thinking hard about "Plan B." What's Plan B? It's the strategy that he's going to need when it becomes clear that his initial foreign policy initiatives didn't work."
ذاكرة مصر المعاصرة - الصحافة | Alexandria Library's online collection of historical Egyptian newspapers, including the first issue of al-Ahram (which was founded, it must be reluctantly noted, by Lebanese.)
News Analysis - Painful Mideast Truth - Force Trumps Diplomacy - NYTimes.com | Painful Media Truth: For NYT, bias always trumps journalism. Look at the language used in this piece: Palestinian violence is "very bloody" and Israel carries out "military action." Israel's plans to attack Iran are considered as legitimate. And there is a mixing of terrorism and the attacks on Israel's "legitimacy" -- i.e. the legitimacy of its landgrabs, occupations and militarism. Pure hasbara.
Israel, US start major joint air defence drill - Yahoo! News |
The exercise will test the Arrow (Hetz) system, the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence), the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defence System, as well as Patriot and Hawk anti-aircraft systems, media said. It will simulate the firing of long-range missiles from Israel's foes Iran, Syria and Lebanon, and towards the end it will include a "live" missile interception, reports said.

Matthew Yglesias » Bernstein on Human Rights Watch | A good retort to the latest silly attack on HRW (by one of its former chairman) "or having the temerity to hold Israel to the same standards of international humanitarian law to which it holds every other country." But this just points to the problem of bias in the higher echelons of HRW - among former and current staffers.
Almasry Alyoum | No Fly Zone | Nice story looking at the recent airport detentions of various kinds of activists.
Almasry Alyoum | Pope Shenouda: "I Support Gamal Mubarak" | What a nasty little man, and what disservice he does to his flock. I hope Copts flee the Orthodox Church en masse over this.
Arab states consider joint counter-terror police unit | "Arabpol." Oh Lord Have Mercy.
Egyptcarpoolers | A carpooling connecting website for Cairo.
Saddam Interview | Transcripts of interviews with Saddam Hussein during his captivity in 2004.
Links for 10.13.09
Essay - The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate - NYTimes.com | Speaking of the Large Hadron Collider, this is pretty cool.
BBC NEWS | Europe | 'Al-Qaeda-link' Cern worker held | Terrorist attack of potentially cosmic proportions: "The suspect had been working on the LHC Beauty (LHCb) experiment, which is investigating the slight differences between matter and anti-matter by studying a type of particle called the "beauty quark"."
Kurdistan Halts Oil Exports - NYTimes.com | Over payment dispute with central government.
AFP: Hamas claims member tortured to death in Egypt jail | In other words, a Hamas member is treated like an Egyptian.
Erotic Poet Cavafy’s Trace Fades in Egypt’s Mythic Alexandria - Bloomberg.com | The usual nostalgia for cosmopolitan Alexandria. Do visit the Cavafy museum when in Alex, though.
Loonwatch.com - "The Mooslims, they're heeere!" | A newish website that tracks Islamophobia, with a particular lookout for the kind of people who write for Middle East Forum and other reflexively anti-Muslim, anti-Arab sites.
Middle East: a Belgian solution? | Khaled Diab | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | This is a funny, surreal headline but Khaled Diab is very misinformed about Belgian politics: the Belgian model is not pragmatic compromise, but rather wasteful deadlock.
Ben Barka: Le dossier secret de la gendarmerie - affaire ben barka - leJDD.fr | Ben Barka's body said to have been incinerated outside of Paris.
Tariq Ali: Ahmed Rashid's War | Nasty attack on Ahmed Rashid by Tariq Ali. Don't know if any of this is true, but Ali alleged Rashid operates on behalf of Hamid Karzai.
Middle East News | Egypt detains 24 Muslim Brotherhood members | More zero-tolerance in Egypt towards people protesting in solidarity with Palestinians.
Algerian Islamists in the Era of Reconciliation « The Moor Next Door | On the Algerian branch of the Muslim Brothers, and their relationship with the regime.
New Statesman - Textbook injustice in Gaza | Gazan children go back to school with few textbooks, and anything else for that matter.
FT.com / UK - Airline flies on natural gas | Qatar experiments with natural gas-derived kerosene, which makes sense for the country with the world's biggest gas fields.
Netanyahu: No war crimes trials for Israelis - Yahoo! News | One day there will be many trials ya Bibi... and until then Israeli officials will be less and less able to travel abroad.
Palestinian Memo says Hopes in Obama 'Evaporated' Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | "JERUSALEM, (AP) – An internal document circulated among members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' political party says all hopes placed in the Obama administration "have evaporated" because of alleged White House backtracking on key issues to the Palestinians."
Links for 07.18.09 to 07.20.09
Gambling with peace: how US bingo dollars are funding Israeli settlements | World news | The Guardian | More Moskowitz. There should be an international financial blockade against any institution involved in the settlements.
'U.S. tells Israel to halt East Jerusalem building' - Haaretz - Israel News | More on Irving Moskowitz's settlement plans.
Asma Al Assad: Syria's First Lady And All-Natural Beauty (SLIDESHOW) | HuffPo celebrates the beauty of Asma al-Assad. Never mind her hubby being a dictator and all...
WaPo bows cravenly to pro-Israel lobby | WaPo publishes inaccurate "correction" on Gilo settlement.
De “Freej” à “Hamdoon” : le dessin cartonne aux Emirats | On the spread of homegrown cartoon characters in the UAE.
French agents kidnapped in Somalia | Security trainers were posing as journalists and staying at journalists' hotel — can't say I feel any sympathy for them.
Publier ici votre bilan des dix de règne - Comme une bouteille jetée à la mer! | Larbi, one of the best Moroccan bloggers, is inviting readers to send in their assessment of the first 10 years of Muhammad VI's reign.
Breaking the silence | Soldiers’ Testimonies from Operation Cast Lead, Gaza 2009
Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | Cementing the rift via dialogue | Update on Egypt-brokered Palestinian reconciliation talks after Ramallah meeting, takes the position that Fatah is sabotaging talks for electoral purposes. But does not acknowledge Egypt's acquiescence in this plan.
The freegans' creed: waste not, want not | Environment | The Observer | Article on freeganism, i.e. eating free food that's been thrown away. Clearly only possible as a lifestyle in the first world.
Somaliland's addict economy | GlobalPost | About Qat (also spelled Khat, the drug) in Somaliland.
EGYPT: Poet accused of insulting Mubarak awaits final verdict | Babylon & Beyond | Los Angeles Times | Ridiculous.
OpenStreetMap | Not bad alternative to Google Maps. For Cairo not bad, but Google is more detailed and in Arabic. Still, good effort that might improve, and does not lock us in to the G-Man.
Revisiting Obama's Riyadh meeting | The Cable | So the idea that Obama came out empty-handed out of his pre-Cairo Speech meeting with Saudi King Abdullah is gaining ground. But it is ridiculous to imagine that Abdullah would pre-emptively agree to concessions before the Israelis have made even a single concession.
Egyptian chronicles: Ahmed Rushdie-Barely-Speaks For The First Time | Very interesting post on former Egyptian minister of interior Ahmed Rushdie, described here as the only minister of the Mubarak era to have resigned and the only interior minister who was respected. (I don't know how true this is, but it's interesting!)
International Crisis Group - 152 Sudan: Justice, Peace and the ICC | New ICG report on Sudan warns of laying off pressure on Khartoum over Darfur as focus shifts to the south and the CPA again. Among key recommendations to the ruling party is that Bashir should step down as soon as possible.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman Talks to Asharq Al-Awsat | Sharq al-Awsat interview, mostly on Syria. The Obama administration sure loves Saudi media.
Palestinians aim for massive pastry record Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | I'm all for building the world's largest ball of twine or baking the biggest kunafa, but the reporting on this is over the top.
Taboo Topics on Contemporary Foreign Policy Discourse | Stephen M. Walt | Excellent post on the Ten Commandments of foreign policy wonks. You could add plenty more, but I would add (as far as Egypt is concerned) "Thou shall greet yesterday's oppressor as today's reformer, or vice versa if appropriate." Walt makes so many good points it's hard to choose a favorite, although #9 is up there.

On France's Zionist Fanatics
You never hear about this in Haaretz or the New York Times:

Thousands of books drenched in cooking oil – that is the latest exploit of the Zionist fanatics who regularly attack property and people in Paris and get away with it.


In the early afternoon of Friday, July 3, five men, mostly masked, stormed into the “Resistances” bookstore located in a quiet residential neighborhood of the 17th arrondissement in northwest Paris. To the startled women working in the shop, as well as two customers, they announcing that they were from the Jewish Defense League and began ripping books off shelves and tables, dousing them heavily with cooking oil, and then smashing four computers before leaving rapidly in a waiting vehicle.

The bookstore is owned and operated by Olivia Zemor and Nicolas Shashahani, who are also the leaders of the very active militant group CAPJPO-EuroPalestine (CAPJPO stands for Coordination des Appels pour une Paix Juste au Proche Orient). In addition to a wide collection of books on the Middle East and other subjects, including fiction, the bookstore has a reading room and a lending library, gives courses in English and Arabic, and possesses a modest but well-attended auditorium where authors are invited to speak.

Two and a half years ago, on December 7, 2006, a similar attack squad threw teargas grenades into the bookstore as a crowd was gathering to listen to the late Israeli author Tanya Reinhart and her companion, the Israeli poet Aharon Shabtai. On that occasion, Shashahani had to be treated for effects from the teargas but material damage was slight. This time, the entire shop is a shambles, with countless ruined books, and damage runs to tens of thousands of euros, according to Shashahani.

But, he stresses, this is only one in “hundreds of violent actions” carried out by the French version of the banned US Jewish Defense League in recent years. There is no reason to expect them to stop so long as they can count on indulgence on the part of French authorities and the silence of the mainstream media. The vandalism on the Resistances bookstore was reported by the French news agency AFP, but the dispatch was apparently carried only by the small tabloid Le Parisien and not by the major newspapers, much less by television. Usually, almost the only people who are informed about such events are in the politically active circles targeted for intimidation.