Posted By: Damian Thompson at Dec 17, 2008 at 13:05:37 [General]
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Posted By: Damian Thompson at Dec 17, 2008 at 13:05:37 [General]
Posted by News Service at 3:57 PM
Sat Dec 20, 2008 3:48am EST
By Jonathan Wright
CAIRO (Reuters) - Breaks in three submarine cables which link Europe and the Middle East have disrupted Internet and international telephone services in parts of the Middle East and South Asia, officials said on Saturday.
Posted by News Service at 3:59 AM
Friday, December 19, 2008
New revelations in Iraq point to a possible link between the shoe thrower and the Iraqi Baathists who just made a botched attempt to topple the government of Nouri al-Maliki and return Saddam's party to power.
Reports in the Arab media indicate that the Iraqi shoe thrower, Muntather al-Zaidi may have been planning his assault on President Bush for more than a year, helped by Iraqi Baathists seeking to overthrow the U.S,-backed government. One leading Arab website said the al-Zaidi's handlers may have been funded by Raghad, the eldest daughter of former dictator Saddam Hussein.
The former dictator's eldest daughter, Raghad, currently lives in self-exile in Jordan and is wanted in Iraq for funding terrorism
Raghad, who currently lives in self-exile in Jordan, is wanted in Iraq for funding terrorism and for looting billions from state funds on the eve of the 2003 war that toppled her father.
Dia' al-Kanani, the judge investigating the shoe-throwing incident, said Thursday he turned down a request to release al-Zaidi on bail for security reasons, including fear for the suspect's own security. He said there was a real threat he may be attacked.
An Iraqi government spokesman said al-Zaidi sent a letter to al-Maliki on Thursday asking for a pardon. The journalist described his own behavior as "an ugly act" and asked to be pardoned. There was no comment from the Iraqi government.
Al-Zeidi is a correspondent for al-Baghdadia, a pro-Baathist television station based in Cairo, Egypt, that some suspect is funded by Raghad. He could face two years imprisonment for the assault and for insulting Bush and al-Maliki.
Posted by News Service at 9:18 AM
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Posted by W. Thomas Smith Jr. on 17 December 2008 at 6:53 pm UTC
If the U.S. State Department-designated terrorist group, Hizballah, and Hizballah's allies gain control of Lebanon through parliamentary elections slated for June 2009, "American support for Lebanon will be placed in jeopardy" and "we should have no illusions about that," said former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin S. Indyk during a panel discussion hosted by the Washington, D.C.-based Aspen Institute, last week.
Indyk's remarks reflect a particularly disturbing reality for the pro-democracy majority in Lebanon, which lost much of its political power to Hizballah and its allies when concessions were granted to Hizballah in order to persuade Hizballah to stop the killings (after the organization turned its weapons on the Lebanese people in May 2008). And the remarks should reflect a disturbing reality for the rest of the world.
"[Hizballah] is a premier terrorist organization," Indyk said. "Beyond that, it has built up an independent military capability that is greater than the military capabilities of the Lebanese armed forces."
Indeed, as we have time-and-again reported, Hizballah – the so-called "party of God," which rules a Shia kingdom inside the sovereign state of Lebanon, which battled Israel in the 2006 war (inflicting enormous damage on Lebanon), and which gained enormous strategic / political leverage in May of this year – may well have evolved into the world's most formidable terrorist army.
Consider the following:
- Hizballah is trained, equipped, and heavily financed (an estimated one-billion dollars annually) by Iran, and the organization is operationally supported by both Iran and Syria.
- Hizballah is expanding its base, and the organization is increasing its global reach.
- Hizballah has "conducted very large, spectacular" terrorist operations worldwide.
- Hizballah has defiantly refused to surrender its arms in Lebanon as called for under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701.
- Hizballah has demonstrated time-and-again since May that it has no qualms about overtly killing Lebanese civilians as a means of furthering the organization's aims.
- Hizballah has heavily infiltrated the Lebanese Army.
- Hizballah, since May, has wormed its way into position as an official component of the overall Lebanese Defense apparatus.
Yet the U.S. has provided – and continues to send – hundreds-of-millions-of dollars in military aid to Lebanon's armed forces and national police when some experts and analysts have surmised that money may well end up in the hands of the terrorists.
Moreover, last month, Lebanese Pres. Michel Sleiman – the pro-Hizballah, pro-Syrian former Lebanese Army commander – signed a new Defense pact with Iran, and Sleiman's newly dubbed Army commander, General Jean Kahwaji, traveled to Damascus for a series of schmoozing sessions with his Syrian counterpart General Ali Habib.
On Monday, Naharnet reported Iran's allocation of some "$600 million for the Lebanese elections" as told to the Kuwaiti newspaper, Alseyassah (Al-Siyassa).
Simply put, total control of Lebanon achieved by-and-for the Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah axis may well-be in the offing and under our noses. The pro-democracy movement may be effectively quashed within six months, and the West may lose – in fact it may have already lost – its Lebanese front in the broader war on terror.
In a letter just released by the World Council of the Cedars Revolution (Lebanon's largest pro-democracy movement), WCCR president Joseph P. Baini calls on both Sleiman and the "parliamentary majority" to postpone elections until Hizballah and all armed militias lay down their arms.
I'm not holding my breath, but at least Baini is saying what must be heard.
"It should be clearly stated that Hizballah is not the only faction to be fully armed," Baini writes. "There are of course its very close affiliates such as the Amal movement, the Palestinian Camps, and terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Fatah al-Islam and Islamic Jihad, who are all proxies for and subservient to Syria and Iran. Therein lies the real dilemma for the people of Lebanon and the Cedars Revolution. Most of the military arsenal within Lebanon is in the possession of organizations classified by the free world as 'terrorists.'"
Speaking to Alseyassah, Tom Harb, secretary general of the International Lebanese Committee for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, says Hizballah must be disarmed before free and fair elections can take place.
"Elections cannot take place while groups are intimidating voters by force or the threat of force," says Harb, and after all, "elections in Lebanon have been postponed in the past."
If elections take place as is, Hizballah will be the one political party in possession of rifles, grenades, machineguns, missiles, and a demonstrated willingness to use them on anyone who does not wish for the same things the terrorists wish. And the Lebanese Army has demonstrated its unwillingness to confront Hizballah.
— Visit W. Thomas Smith Jr. at uswriter.com.
Posted by News Service at 9:44 AM
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Sentiment on Al Jazeera poll - 73% hail the shoe thrower as a hero. Americans should understand that the man was really throwing shows at every American.
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST
Muntadar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at US President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad on Sunday, is being hailed throughout the Arab world as a hero, with many calling on other journalists to use the same method against the Arab heads of state.
The overwhelming majority of comments posted on various Arabic Web sites also heaped praise on the Iraqi journalist. Many described him as a "lion" and prayed to God that he would be released unharmed.
Dozens of Arab lawyers expressed their readiness to defend al-Zeidi, while many Arab journalists protested against his arrest and praised him as one of the most respected newsmen in the Arab world.
Bush ducked a pair of shoes hurled at his head - one shoe after the other - in the middle of a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Both shoes narrowly missed their target and thumped loudly against the wall behind the leaders.
"Don't worry about it," the president said as the room erupted into chaos.
Iraqi reporters started shouting what Bush later explained were apologies for the incident.
"So what if the guy threw a shoe at me?" Bush said, comparing the action to political protests in the United States.
"If you want the facts, it was a size 10," he joked.
The shoe attack came as Bush and al-Maliki were about to shake hands. At that point al-Zeidi leaped from his chair and hurled his footwear at the president, who was about 20 feet away.
"This is a farewell kiss, you dog," he yelled in Arabic. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."
The crowd descended on al-Zeidi, who works for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo.
He was wrestled to the ground by security officials and then hauled away, moaning as they departed the room. Later, a trail of fresh blood could be seen on the carpet, although the source was not known.
In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt. When US Marines toppled Saddam Hussein's statue on Firdos Square in 2003, the assembled crowd whacked it with their shoes.
When Bush met with reporters later aboard Air Force One, he had a joke prepared: "I didn't know what the guy said but I saw his 'sole.'"
Later, he said: "I'm going to be thinking of shoe jokes for a long time. I haven't heard any good ones yet."
Many Arab reporters are now worried that they will be asked to take off their shoes before attending press conferences with US officials. A Palestinian journalist joked that the Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank have begun confiscating all shoes from the local markets as a precautionary measure ahead of a scheduled visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Abdel Bari Atwan, the Palestinian editor of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily, defended the Iraqi journalist's action, saying he must have felt frustrated because of the deterioration in his country.
"The new Iraq that Bush is boasting about has become a mass grave and a battlefield," he said in an editorial entitled, "An Appropriate Farewell for a War Criminal."
"One million Iraqis have died and another five million have fled the new democracy of Iraq," he added.
Atwan, who is known for his anti-American sentiments, said that while he disagreed with the journalist over the method he used to express his opinion, "he was only expressing the opinion of the silent majority of Iraqis who are suffering. There is no water, no electricity and no work opportunities in a country that is supposed to be one of the richest in the Arab world."
Atwan also criticized the Iraqi journalist's colleagues who were quick to apologize to Bush following the embarrassing incident.
"We don't agree with the Iraqi journalists who apologized to Bush," he said. "This Iraqi colleague was only practicing his right of expression. It's Bush who has to apologize to the Iraqis for shedding their blood. This journalist represents the true face of the Iraqis."
The Al-Jazeera Web site, one of the most popular in the Arab world, said it received a record of 3,500 talkbacks in response to the incident. Over 90% of the Arabs who posted comments expressed full support for al-Zeidi and condemned Bush as a war criminal who deserved to die.
Some of the comments hailed the journalist for "degrading the American president who has killed many Muslims and Arabs," while others described him as "national hero" and as the man who brought honor to all Muslims and Arabs.
Mohammed Gandi, one of the readers who posted a comment, said that the Iraqi journalist represented the wish of the majority of the Arabs who hate Bush and those who are conspiring with him - a reference to US-supported Arab dictators.
Ahmed Osman, another reader, advised the Arab rulers to hold their press conferences only in mosques to avoid being attacked with shoes, since Muslims are required to take off their shoes before entering a mosque.
Fadi Tahan called on journalists who attend press conferences with Arab leaders "to wear bigger shoes so that they could help us get rid of these dictators."
Rashid Ramadani prayed to God that he would "bless the hands of the Iraqi journalist. One billion thanks to this Iraqi hero. We are very proud of you; you made us cry out of joy."
Ahmed al-Kadry expressed hope that the Arab dictators would be punished in a similar manner.
"This journalist is one of the greatest men in the Arab world," he said. "I hope that all the Arab presidents will see what happened and draw conclusions. I think it's time to say to all the criminals of the world to go away."
Hussein al-Bassoumi predicted that the Iraqi journalist would become a "legendary" hero for the Arabs and Muslims and that future generations would be taught about his "legend."
He urged the Arab masses to name streets and public squares after the journalist. He also urged the Iraqis to place the shoes that were used in the attacks in a museum in Baghdad.
Huda Azzam wrote: "Thank you to this brave journalist who has taught the Arab leaders a lesson in bravery. We hope Arab lawyers will form a special committee to defend this hero."
Addressing the journalist, Mahmoud al-Arabi said, "We salute the symbol of the Arabs and Islam. Please allow us on this day to kiss your hand on behalf of all the Arabs and Muslims."
Mohammed Ghaleb said that the Iraqi journalist will be defended not only by 100 lawyers, "but by millions of Arabs and billions of Muslims. He is a bright light in our dark day, God bless him. This is a beautiful day."
AP contributed to this report.
Posted by News Service at 3:05 PM
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies: The Soviet Virus Is Still Entrenched in the Arabs' Minds
Ideologically, the Situation in the Arab World Is Anomalous
Posted by News Service at 3:17 PM
Boutros Khawand Vanished in Syria
Written by Ana-Maria Luca
The Media Line/ Published Tuesday, December 16, 2008
[Beirut] Rana Khawand does not remember her father. She was four years old when he disappeared. Boutros Khawand, a well-known Lebanese Christian politician, is said to have been kidnapped in December 1992 in East Beirut, in an area controlled by the Syrian Army.
"Witnesses saw his car intercepted by a squad of 11 gunmen who forced him into a red van and drove away," his daughter says. "We haven't seen him since. They say Boutros Khawand is not in Syria. But we know. Other prisoners have said they saw him in prison there," the girl whispers.
Khawand is one of the many Lebanese who vanished into Syria during the 1980s and early 1990s.
"We are speaking of hundreds of Lebanese prisoners in Syria. We had a list containing the names of 250–270 Lebanese prisoners before the Syrian withdrawal. From April 2005 until now, the number has risen to 600," journalist and human rights activist Pierre Atallah says.
According to the Damascus government, there are no Lebanese political prisoners in Syrian prisons. The issue has been haunting the nascent diplomatic relations between Damascus and Beirut.
"It's been going on for a while. We say 'give us our prisoners' – they say they don't have any. Then after a while, people show up at home and say they had been detained in Syria," Atallah says.
Ali Abu Dehn is one of the people who came back from the Syrian prisons. He was released in 2000 after former Syrian President Hafez al Assad died and his son and successor, Bashar, pardoned 54 Lebanese political prisoners in honor of his father.
Dehn's nightmare began on December 7, 1987, when the Syrian Intelligence took him from the Australian embassy in Damascus. He was trying to leave Lebanon for Sydney to escape the civil war.
"Instead I was sent to hell for 13 years," he says, with a bitter smile.
He was imprisoned in Saydnaya and Tadmur (Palmyra), together with dozens of Lebanese detainees. Dehn was charged at first with fighting against the Syrian presence in Lebanon, as well as with spying for Israel, a charge common to most of the detained Lebanese.
He says they were tortured, beaten and humiliated.
"What they did to us was inhuman. I was hanged by my wrist until the joint separated. The person interrogating me told me he would show my elbow to me. I didn't believe he could. But he twisted my hand, so I saw my elbow," he remembers.
He also remembers how he got the dozens of scars on his body – the ones on his legs from the beatings – the broken hand, the cigarette burn on the back of his neck, the dislocated shoulder.
He says he is not afraid to speak out, although he has been threatened with death several times.
"I'm trying my best for the other prisoners who are still being tortured. There were many Lebanese with me. Bashar al Assad denies the existence of Lebanese in their prisons… but I left six of my friends in there. I know! We were sharing the little food, the small potato we had to split between five persons. They are still there! I don't know if they are alive or dead – but I left them in Syria!"
The situation of Lebanese detainees was an official taboo in Lebanese-Syrian relations for decades. Damascus had a military presence and control over Lebanon from 1976 until April 2005, when it withdrew its troops after the Cedar Revolution, the Lebanese reaction to the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri on February 14, 2005.
Several human rights organizations and the families of the detainees missing in Syria started to pressure the government in Beirut to take action and ask for information on the missing Lebanese in Syrian jails. But there has been little progress.
"The problem is important for both political alliances in Lebanon, March 14 and March 8. They cannot deny it and can't run away from responsibility in this case," Atallah stresses.
At the request of hundreds of families, the Lebanese Ministry of Justice has recently started to update the files of the alleged political prisoners. But Atallah, who is a member of the Foundation for Human and Humanitarian Rights, says he is not very optimistic.
"The Lebanese government is not well organized, it's not serious," he says.
One by one, the Lebanese politicians who visited Syria after the establishment of diplomatic relations threw the ball into somebody else's court.
The minister of justice, Ibrahim Najjar, has acknowledged the existence of 745 Lebanese citizens missing in Syria. In a television interview, he said these citizens were divided into two main categories – convicts and kidnap victims – and that the Justice Ministry should take responsibility for the convicts.
However, Najjar did not say how the Lebanese government would deal with the situation of the kidnap victims.
At the end of September 2008, the justice minister announced he had received an updated list of 120 Lebanese prisoners from Damascus. But no political prisoner was on it, Atallah says.
"They are criminals imprisoned for drug trafficking or smuggling weapons or working in prostitution. There was no information about the soldiers detained during the 1990 Syrian attack on the Christian areas."
After his visit to Damascus in November, Lebanese Interior Minister Ziad Baroud said his talks with Syrian Interior Minister Bassam Abdel Majid did not cover the dossier of missing persons and detainees in Syrian prisons.
"The issue of missing Lebanese in Syrian jails was not excluded from discussions with the Syrians, but I did not want to exceed my authority, so we only discussed the role of the interior minister in this matter," Baroud said in a statement on his return to Beirut.
When Lebanese President Michel Suleiman asked his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al Assad, about the fate of the political prisoners, the leader in Damascus is said to have replied that it was not a presidential matter.
"They diverted this case to the joint committee, the Syrian-Lebanese Committee. It's not promising. The work of this committee is based on a routine.
"At every meeting the Lebanese present a list of people who are allegedly detained in Syria, and the Syrians ask for information about their people lost in Lebanon in the civil war. In fact, this is not the same thing," Atallah says. "They were in Lebanon for 30 years. Why didn't they look for their people then? Now they remember?"
Gen. Michel Aoun, the Free Patriotic Movement leader, also visited Syria recently. The human rights organizations, as well as the families of the people who vanished in Syria, asked him to bring up the issue in front of the Syrian president. Aoun refused to deal with the case because he said it was the responsibility of the president of the republic.
The families of the people who vanished in Syria still hope they might hear from their relatives.
"We hope that now, with the diplomatic relations with Syria, maybe we might know what happened to my father," Rana Khawand sighs. "The last time they heard of him was in 2004. A Lebanese prisoner was released and he said that he saw my father in prison."
Her father would now be 79. She hopes he is still alive, but she knows that the chances of seeing him lessen every day.
"If Syria doesn't admit it has Lebanese prisoners, nothing can be done. I can't see a good relationship with Syria if there are still Lebanese prisoners there," she says.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has confirmed that an embassy will be established in Lebanon by year's end.
Atallah says he can hardly wait for a Syrian embassy to open in Beirut. "The day they open it, the families of the prisoners will set up tents in front of it," he promises.
*Copyright © 2008 The Media Line. All Rights Reserved.
Posted by News Service at 8:20 AM
Monday, December 15, 2008
Libyan group gives courage award to reporter who threw shoes at Bush
The group said the Iraqi authorities should honor the journalist for his actions.
Posted by News Service at 10:50 AM
By Gwen Ackerman
Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Israel can't tolerate a Hamas-run state in the Gaza Strip, as a six-month truce with the Islamic militant group comes to an end.
"Hamas cannot continue to control Gaza," Livni said in remarks to high school students today. "In the long term, Israel cannot tolerate an extreme Islamic state on its southern border."
The truce, or "lull," as both sides call it, has been repeatedly violated in recent weeks as Palestinian militants lob rockets at Israel and Israeli troops and aircraft fire on launchers. The period of calm officially ends Dec. 19.
Livni's comments were the harshest the Israeli leader has made to date and came in the midst of an election campaign that began after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned to fight corruption allegations. Livni, who took over as leader of their Kadima party, failed to form a new coalition. Israelis go to the polls on Feb. 10.
"This is not just rhetoric," Gerald Steinberg, a political scientist at Bar Ilan University, said in a phone interview, referring to the comments by Israeli leaders. "It clearly reflects a crossroads. The policy has failed and all options are back on the table."
More than 90 Qassam rockets and 72 mortar shells have been launched at Israel from Gaza since Nov. 15, an army spokeswoman said, speaking on condition of anonymity by regulation. Israel carried out five air strikes against the Gaza militants during the same period, she said.
One of the more sensitive issues between Israel and the Muslim group is Corporal Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held by Gaza militants for more than two years. Barak has said Israel's interest in the lull in fighting has been to maintain a truce that would allow negotiations for Shalit's release to continue.
Livni told the students today that it may not be possible to bring every Israeli soldier back home.
'Skit of Horror'
At a Hamas rally yesterday to mark the 21st anniversary of its founding, the group presented a militant dressed in an Israeli army uniform who begged in Hebrew to be allowed to go home. Photos of the skit were splashed across on the front page of the Israeli mass-circulation dailies Ma'ariv and Yediot Ahronot. "A skit of horror," read the banner headline in Yediot.
"The fact that Shalit is still being held is adding to tensions," Steinberg said. "Hamas is stronger, not weaker. The truce has broken down. Iran's presence in Gaza is increasing and a new administration is coming to Washington. A new policy has to be developed."
As part of a bid to stop the rocket attacks and put pressure on Hamas to return Shalit, Israel sealed off its border crossings with Gaza on Nov. 4, when the latest round of rocket attacks began. It has periodically eased the closure to allow in necessities.
Ninety trucks carrying animal fodder and humanitarian supplies were allowed into Gaza today, said Nasser al-Sarraj, an official at Gaza's ministry of economy. Some fuel was also allowed in, he said. The easing of the restrictions was confirmed by Maj. Peter Lerner at Israel's Defense Ministry.
Hamas has to some extent bypassed the embargo with tunnels it dug under Gaza's border with Egypt.
Steinberg said the options under consideration by Israel include military actions such as a temporary reoccupation of Gaza, a resumption of the so-called targeted killing of top Hamas leaders, and an attempt to rescue Shalit.
Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya told journalists in Gaza yesterday that the cease-fire won't be extended when it ends in four days. "The Israeli occupation forces have destroyed the lull, its conditions and terms by sealing off the crossings and continuing their aggression against the Palestinian people," he said.
Posted by News Service at 4:45 AM
Angelo Young | Arab News
JEDDAH: Abiding by international agreements as well as Shariah has been a stated focus of the governmental Saudi Human Right Commission, which recently commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Posted by News Service at 2:38 AM
At least 55 people have been killed after a bus ran off the road and plunged into a canal south of Cairo, Egypt's capital, officials say.
The bus was travelling on a narrow road when it veered off the road into the Ibrahimiya Canal, near the village of Bahrut about 200 kilometres from Cairo.
Posted by News Service at 12:56 AM
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Hotels are booked solid through January, Manger Square is bustling with tourists, and Israeli and Palestinian forces are working to make things go smoothly.
Posted by News Service at 3:58 PM