Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bashar al-Assad: A smooth talker with bloody hands

The Syrian leader has frequently promised reform while his security forces mete out death to Arab spring protesters. Will he change his ways now the US and Russia say he must?

Peter Beaumont
The Observer, Sunday 7 August 2011

"....Last week Bashar al-Assad pulled the same trick again, announcing an end to one-party rule in his country so long dominated by his family – an announcement that was delivered even as his security forces were still killing Syrians protesting against his power....

Perhaps that should not have been a surprise for as Human Rights Watch has noted, during his first decade of rule he failed to improve human rights in his country.

Indeed, in 2008, amid a brief thawing in relations, his courts were imprisoning pro-democracy activists – even as he was being courted both by French president Nicolas Sarkozy and British foreign secretary David Miliband.....

Some, like the Palestinian-American commentator Lamis Andoni, have argued that the two faces of Bashar al-Assad and his regime, far from reflecting a tension, have been two aspects of an identical objective – a deliberate and self-serving ambiguity in the pursuit of what she has called "survival at any cost".

For the reality is that Bashar al-Assad, even as he was talking about reform, far from being an exception among Arab dictators, was using the same tactics as Mubarak, Gaddafi and other leaders.....

"Assad has decided to shut this down," one western diplomat told the Guardian this year in the same month that al-Assad once again dangled the promise of reform. "The regime is playing survival tactics. It's a security-led approach first, second and third.".....

Certainly his use of tanks to storm the city of Hama where fighting continues – a place where two decades before his father ordered the slaughter of up to 20,000 – does not suggest, despite all his talk of dignity and pain, someone overly concerned with the human consequences of his continuing repression, something that the international community has come belatedly to recognise.....

It is not only in the US that patience has come close to running out. Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in an interview last week said he had sent personal letters to President al-Assad, urging him to launch reforms, reconcile with the opposition, restore civil peace and build a modern state.

Failing that, the Russian leader said, al-Assad is "doomed"."

Iranian Official warned Turkey on Syria

"An article, titled "Iran's Serious Stance in the Face of Syrian Events" and said to reflect Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps thinking, has warned that Syria would remain a strategic asset of Iran.

IRGC said Ankara was playing a double game, pretending to support democratic change while working to undermine Syria.

Iran, stressing its strategic interests, has warned Turkey to end intervention in Syria. IRGC has issued a harsh warning to Turkey to end activities in Syria. In an article in IRGC's weekly Sobh'eh Sadegh, the elite military force asserted that Turkish forces were crossing into Syria as part of a Western campaign to destabilize the regime of President Bashar al-Assad....

"The whole world is aware of Iran's relationship with Syria and Iran should not keep this hidden," the article said. "Should Turkish officials insist on their contradictory behavior and if they continue on their current path, serious issues are sure to follow. We will be put in the position of having to choose between Turkey and Syria. Syria's justification in defending herself along with mirroring ideological perceptions would sway Iran toward choosing Syria."

The article was published after Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei relayed a warning to President Barack Obama against U.S. intervention in Syria.

Teheran has also warned Turkey against helping Washington in a NATO-led missile defense umbrella aimed to stop Iranian attacks on Europe.

Khamenei raised the prospect that Turkey could be a target of Iran's huge missile arsenal.
"From Iran's standpoint, the Syrian leadership is in the midst of resolving its problems
, and as soon as foreign meddling stops, the Syrians will be able to revert back to normal," the IRGC article said."

Today's Cartoon by the Syrian Cartoonist Ali Ferzat

By order of the Ba'th party, click on cartoon to enlarge.

Caging Mubarak: 'The Pharaoh has no clothes'

The trial of the former president of Egypt shows how the "rule of the mighty" is being replaced by the rule of law.

Larbi Sadiki

"An Arab president in a cage adds panache to the Arab Spring. The mighty Arab Spring has thus far catalysed the fall of the strong and the humbling of two arrogant power-makers.

Beyond catharsis and retribution, what does the "caging" of Mubarak and his trial imply for Egypt and the wider Arab Middle East?

The king is the law, no more

The image of the cage made of of mesh and bars, in which Mubarak appeared, humbled, will be haunting the powerful across the Arab world. Bashar al-Assad, Gaddafi, and many more must have taken notice. And so they should.....

The law is king

Mubarak - in the cage and on trial - will last in the memories of the free as some redress, and may be a milestone in Egypt's journey towards the rule of law.

In a cage, or on that stretcher, it matters not whether the emperor has clothes. What matters more is Thomas Paine's pearl of wisdom that, in good government, whether in America or Egypt, the law ought to be king. Egypt is on track: the chapter of the king as the law is being closed."

الجيش يحاصر مظاهرة تنعي شهيد العباسية

From Hossam El-Hamalawy

Al-Jazeera Video: Gaetan Vannay talks about his experiences in Hama

"Gaetan Vannay, a journalist with the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, has recently returned from the besieged city of Hama.

He told Al Jazeera that even if the protest movement in Hama is crushed, the repression of the city will trigger larger protests in other parts of the country. "

Al-Jazeera Video: Inside Story - Why won't the international community stand up to Bashar al-Assad?

Al-Jazeera Video: 'Deaths in Syria Friday protests'

"Gaetan Vannay of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation is one of the few western journalists who witnessed what is going inside Syria. Until four days ago, he was in the city of Hama."

Al-Jazeera Video: Deaths reported during Syria Friday protests

"Human rights activists say at least 15 people have been killed in Syria as the government crushes opponents to President Bashar al-Assad.

On Friday protests took place across the country, despite attempts to quell the months long uprising.

Witnesses have told Al Jazeera scores of people have been killed in the city of Hama, which has been under siege since Sunday.

However, fear of the army has not deterred demonstrators, Al Jazeera's Rula Amin reports from Beirut."

Real News Video: The Libyan Intervention: Humanitarian or an Aggression?

Hamid Dabashi and Nader Hashemi debate the US/NATO intervention in Libya

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

This brand new poll asks:

Do you believe that Mubarak's trial reinforces the supremacy of the law in the Arab world?

It is early, but with about 300 responding, 80% said yes.

The city and its workers that first took on Mubarak


By Robert Fisk

"...Every time I asked about the strike, the officials asked me if I'd seen Mubarak in his Cairo court cage. They thought I was talking about the battles in Tahrir Square last January. Only when one of the heroines of the Battle of Mahallah, Widdad Dimirdash, a scarved woman of super-energy, loud voice and a great sense of pride, walks into the room do they understand. Mrs Dimirdash helped to lead one of the first great strikes against the government-owned (that is, Mubarak-owned) Misr Cotton Company in 2006. "It wasn't really political," she says – I'm not sure I believe her here – "but we had no choice. Our wages had become so low and the cost of food so high that we could no more afford to eat and live."

Of the 30,000 cotton workers in Mahallah – women and men labour in separate factories – 6,000 are female. They stopped work along with the men, living in their separate factories and refusing to leave until they received a "massive" pay increase; from £60 a month to £100, making them – still – among the lowest-paid industrial workers in Egypt. But the Mubarak government agreed the new salaries within three days.

It had no option. Mahallah, the centre of Egypt's export trade, was too big to fight....

The French journalist Alain Gresh was among the first to grasp the full significance of this; that these workers were "the forgotten actors" of the Egyptian revolution. He has recorded how one Egyptian industrial reporter responded to his questions in Cairo by asking: "Why, up till now, have the rebellions in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain failed?" He might have added Syria to the list. But it was in Tunisia, whose unions were strong, that the Tunisian general workers' syndicate finally brought down the Ben Ali dictatorship. In his final days, its call for a general strike was devastating. Nor were the men and women of Mahallah the only industrial workers to crush Mubarak's power. The Suez cement factory complex workers – who had staged their own miniature "revolution" in 2009 to protest at the company's cement sales to Israel – began another political strike in February of this year.

As for the workers of Syria, Libya, Yemen, they had long ago been co-opted, Baathised, Green Booked or tribalised, socialism being an unhappy inspiration to most dictators despite their expressions of friendship for the old Soviet Union. So does it take a strong trade union or workers' movement to bring revolutions in the Middle East to successful fruition? Mahallah is a grubby city – but its place in history is growing by the year."

Syrians take to streets over Hama massacre as outrage grows

Demonstrators gather in cities across the country while Bashar al-Assad's troops continue shelling residential areas

Mark Tran and Paul Owen, Friday 5 August 2011

"Tens of thousands of Syrians returned to the streets to denounce President Bashar al-Assad's regime and declare support for the residents of Hama, where an estimated 200 residents have been killed in a government assault since Sunday.

Troops opened fire on crowds of demonstrators after Friday prayers, killing at least 13 people amid mounting international condemnation of the brutal tactics deployed by Assad's forces in the five-month uprising.

In Hama, tanks resumed shelling of residential districts around 4am, as people were beginning their fast for Ramadan, a resident told Associated Press....

As the attack on Hama continued, protests took place throughout the country. At least seven people were killed in the Damascus suburb of Arbeen, according to the London-based Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees, a group that tracks protests. Another was killed in the suburb of Moaddamiya and two in the central city of Homs. "Hama, we are with you until death," a crowd marching through the central Damascus neighbourhood of Midan shouted. In another district, Qadam, protesters carried a banner reading: "Bashar is slaughtering the people and the international community is silent."

There were also protests in the southern province of Daraa and in Deir al-Zour in the east. Other demonstrations were reported in Qamishli, near the Turkish border.

There has been a near-total communications blackout in Hama but Gaëtan Vannay, a journalist with Swiss Radio, managed to enter Syria secretly and spent 10 days in the beseiged city. He was there on Sunday when Syrian forces began their attack.

"Until then the demonstrations were absolutely peaceful," he told the Guardian. "They were well-organised, the protesters were always writing new songs, coming up with new slogans against the regime. On the Thursday before the attack there were two speakers with different sound systems entertaining the crowds, playing off one another. It was very festive. On Sunday at 4.30am people gave the alarm, shouting 'Allah u akbar (God is great)'. People lit tyre barricades to make it difficulft for the tanks and fought back with sticks, stones and molotov cocktails. The fighting lasted until around 1pm in the afternoon."

Vannay left Hama on Monday, the day tanks shelled the city's two hospitals.

"They had positioned tanks at three or four places in the city, strategic locations," said Vannay, who saw two tank crews leave their vehicles to join the demonstrators."When I left I met quite a few soldiers and policemen in hiding who said they had been told to kill the population or be killed by the security forces," he said. "Sometimes we would be hiding in the same house."

Murhaf Jouejati, professor of Middle East studies at the National Defence University in Washington DC, said: "The more the Assad regime is using violence, the more the protests are growing."

"The regime's violence is increasingly counterproductive and what is remarkable is that there is no protester fatigue.".....

Even Russia has sought to distance itself from the regime. The Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, said on Thursday he had warned Assad that he will face a "sad fate" if he fails to introduce reforms and open a dialogue with the opposition.

"This is very significant," said Jouejati. "The Assad regime is even losing its international friends. "Russia was the beacon of support for Syria in the UN security council, not willing to condemn for a long time, but even [they] are coming around.""

US credit rating downgraded to AA+ by Standard & Poor's

Rating agency says deficit reduction plan passed by Congress does not got far enough to stabilise country's debt crisis

Larry Elliott, Jill Treanor and Dominic Rushe, Friday 5 August 2011

"The United States lost its AAA credit rating late on Friday night, ending another wild day on the world stock markets and prompting fears that next week could be equally as calamitous.

Rating agency Standard & Poor's decision to cut the US debt rating could have dire consequences, increasing the cost of borrowing for the US and setting off more panic selling when stock markets open again on Monday.

S&P had held back cutting the rating earlier in the day, after the US government reportedly questioned its maths. But the agency insisted it was cutting America's top AAA rating by one notch to AA-plus, saying the deficit reduction plan passed by Congress on Tuesday did not go far enough to stabilise its debt situation.

This is the first time that S&P has issued a "negative" outlook on the US government since it began rating the credit-worthiness of railroad bonds in 1860.

The dramatic reversal of fortune for the world's largest economy means that US treasuries, once seen as the safest investment in the world, are now rated lower than bonds issued by countries such as the UK, Germany or France....."

Afghan helicopter crash kills 31 US troops

Taliban claims hit as seven Afghan troops also killed after aircraft crashes during operation against fighters in east.


"A NATO helicopter has crashed in east Afghanistan during an anti-Taliban operation, killing at least 31 members of the US special forces and seven Afghan troops, a statement from the Afghan president's office said.

"President Hamid Karzai was grieved by the deaths of 31 American Special Force troops after a helicopter they were on board crashed in a province," the statement said.

"Also on board this chopper were seven members of the Afghan Forces who too were all killed in the crash," it added, offering condolences to the families of the victims.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the crash.

The aircraft came down late on Friday in the eastern province of Wardak, southwest of the capital Kabul, Shahidullah Shahid, the provincial spokesman, said....

Taliban claims responsibility

In a written statement, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the group claimed responsibility for the crash.

He said NATO had attacked a house in Sayd Abad where Taliban fighters were gathering on Friday.

The Taliban then fired on NATO and downed the helicopter, killing the crew, Mujahid said.

Aircraft crashes are relatively frequent in Afghanistan, where insecurity and difficult terrain make air travel essential for coalition forces transporting troops and equipment.

There have been at least 17 coalition and Afghan aircraft crashes in Afghanistan this year."

The New Egypt? You Be the Judge: Army cracks down on activists holding iftar in Tahrir

"The army troops wielding batons and firing in the air dispersed around 300 activists holding iftar, the traditional Ramadan meal, in Tahrir square Friday…"

Friday, August 5, 2011

Syria Protests August 5, 2011 : A Video Roundup

A Comprehensive roundup of 50 videos.

Al-Jazeera Video: Interview with Hossam El-Hamalawy

Hosni Mubarak's puppet trade union federation dismantled

Egyptian Trade Union Federation blocked strikes and intimidated labour activists as regime faced wave of unofficial disputes

Jack Shenker in Cairo, Friday 5 August 2011

"An Egyptian trade union federation that was used by the government to repress labour activism has been dissolved, dismantling another powerful component of Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship.

Since its creation in 1957, the state-run Egyptian Trade Union Federation (Etuf) had been the sole official outlet for labour activism in the country. Through affiliates that supposedly represented workers at all levels of Egyptian society, the federation played a key role in blocking strikes and intimidating any labour organisers perceived as a threat to the ruling elite.....

Egypt's interim cabinet spokesman Mohamed Hegazy this week announced that the federation would be dissolved after judges ruled that elections to the board had been fraudulent. It is not yet clear whether a new board will be formed or whether the nascent independent federation of trade unions will take its place....."

Video: Protests in Hama, Syria, today

As Hama continues to come under attack from Syrian armed forces, residents protest against the Assad regime. The signs being held up read: "5 August 2011 – Ramadan day five – Hama" and "We ask the Arabic world: how much is Syria worth?", Friday 5 August 2011

Al-Jazeera Video: Talk to Jazeera - Nabil el-Arabi

"The secretary-general of the Arab League in conversation with Ayman Mohyeldin."

Al-Jazeera Video: Bahrain: Shouting in the dark

"Bahrain: An island kingdom in the Arabian Gulf where the Shia Muslim majority are ruled by a family from the Sunni minority. Where people fighting for democratic rights broke the barriers of fear, only to find themselves alone and crushed.

This is their story and Al Jazeera is their witness - the only TV journalists who remained to follow their journey of hope to the carnage that followed.

This is the Arab revolution that was abandoned by the Arabs, forsaken by the West and forgotten by the world."

Today's Cartoon by the Syrian Cartoonist Ali Ferzat

(The Rabbit is getting ready to flee....
But his son (Hafez, after the Rabbit's father) is crying and does not want to leave....
Hafez Jr. is saying that he wants to become president!
And that is the way it is in the Republican Monarchy of Syria)

Living in fear, Hama residents forced to bury bodies in parks

By Khalid Ali
The Independent

Friday, 5 August 2011

"Witnesses have described appalling conditions in the besieged Syrian city of Hama, with relatives being forced to bury bodies in town parks and newborn babies dying in their cots due to power cuts. In accounts given to The Independent yesterday, residents from Hama described the state of fear which has gripped the city since government forces began a deadly onslaught on Sunday.

Their stories come a day after the UN Security Council issued a statement condemning events in Syria – a move human rights groups dismissed as a "completely inadequate" response to President Bashar al-Assad's bloody crackdown on protests that erupted in March. Rights activists say at least 100 people have been killed in the attack on Hama, during which neighbourhoods have been subjected to heavy shelling, tanks have stormed the city centre, and plain-clothed gunmen have reportedly shot civilians at random. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said 1,000 families have fled their homes in the city.....

Hama, which for decades was a hotbed of anti-government dissent, was largely outside government control until Sunday's offensive. Back in 1982 it was the scene of a notorious massacre when the current President's father killed anywhere between 10,000 and 25,000 civilians in a bid to crush a Muslim Brotherhood uprising."

Could Arab staying power ultimately defeat Zionism?

Abbas's UN appeal, combined with the civil rights fight inside Israel, is changing the nature of the Palestinian struggle

David Hearst
The Guardian, Friday 5 August 2011

"There is an Arabic word you come across a lot when Palestinians talk about their future. Sumud means steadfastness, and it has turned into a strategy: when the imbalance of power is so pronounced, the most important thing to do is to stay put....

This is not a casual shift, as it could affect outcomes. If Israel ends its occupation of the West Bank, and allows it to join with Gaza, the result could be two states – a Palestinian one alongside an Israeli one. But if you accompany that with a civil rights movement inside Israel, the goal could be very different – a secular, democratic state "for all its citizens", where Jew, Christian and Muslim are equal. A one-state solution in which Jewish citizens lose an inbuilt majority. The end of Zionism, no less.....

"The only thing the world knows about Jaffa is oranges," says Shehadeh. "I am not an orange. [Benjamin] Netanyahu, when he was finance minister, called people like me a demographic timebomb. How can I explain to my children that they are a bomb?"

The discrimination suffered by his community is extensively documented. Half live below the poverty line, 48% can not build a house for the next 15 years because there no permits or plans. Only 19% of Arab women with Israeli citizenship are in a job, compared with 65% of Jewish women.

But the terrain of their changing identity and allegiance is not so well mapped. Israel demands expressions of loyality from them. Loyality to what, they ask. A democracy or a supremacist state?"

UN Security Council Syria statement ‘completely inadequate’

4 August 2011

"The UN Security Council’s response to the recent bloodshed in Syria is deeply inadequate, Amnesty International said today, after the council released a statement condemning the Syrian government’s deadly crackdown on protesters.

The UN statement called for an end to violence and said it “condemned the widespread violation of human rights by the Syrian authorities”, but fell short of taking decisive action. The call was issued as a presidential statement, which is not legally binding.

The UN’s response is completely inadequate. After more than four months of violent crackdown on predominantly peaceful dissent in Syria, it is deeply disappointing that the best the Security Council can come up with, is a limp statement that is not legally binding and does not refer the situation to the International Criminal Court”, said Jose Luis Diaz, Amnesty International’s representative to the UN.

“President Assad has allowed his security forces to carry out another bloody attack on civilians, with dozens killed in the city of Hama in recent days. It’s crucial that a UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission to Syria is able to investigate the situation as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the Security Council has also failed to provide support for such a mission”, he said.

The Syrian authorities have so far not allowed the UN fact-finding delegation into the country....."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Palestinians will soon come full circle

Sam Bahour

The Guardian

The new Palestinian leaders, those whom the Israeli negotiators have not yet met, see the larger picture and refuse to believe that Israel desires to live in peace when every indication for 64 years has shown the opposite. The emerging Palestinian leaders see Israel for what it is: a settler, colonial, apartheid movement clinging to a racialist, exclusivist ideology that neither wishes nor intends to allow another state to emerge between the Mediterranean sea and the Jordan river, let alone allowing Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and be compensated for their hardships, as was stipulated as a condition when the UN accepted Israel as a member state on 11 May 1949.

Once this foredoomed move toward Palestinian membership in the UN runs its course, a new paradigm will take root, one that Israel dreads because it implicitly views Palestinians and Israelis as equals, as co-citizens, as partners. This new shift will see Palestinians dropping their desire for independent statehood in a fraction of their historic homeland and instead will find them, within a genuinely representative political structure, articulating their desire for self-determination within their historic homeland, even if that homeland today is called Israel.

خطاب محمود عباس في "المجلس المركزي"


أراد خطاب محمود عباس أن يقول إن ما تفعله سلطة رام الله بالكبيرة والصغيرة هو "المقاومة الشعبية" ولا يفكرنَّ أحد بإطلاق انتفاضة ثالثة في مواجهة قوات الاحتلال والمستوطنين.

فنحن هنا أمام مصادرة المقاومة الشعبية السلمية مثل المقاومة المسلحة وحتى التصدي لقوات الاحتلال بالحجارة.

قوات الاحتلال تُقاوَم ببناء مؤسسات السلطة وباللجوء إلى هيئة الأمم والتمسك بإستراتيجية المفاوضات، وهذه كلها اسمها "المقاومة الشعبية" و"السلمية السلمية".

أما ما عدا ذلك من مقاومة مسلحة وانتفاضة وعصيان مدني واشتباك الآلاف بحواجز الاحتلال ومحاصرتها والتصدي للدوريات، فمن الشيطان ولا علاقة له بمقاومة الاحتلال.

هذا اسمه لعب الورقات الثلاث في موضوع مقاومة الاحتلال، ولا يمكن أن تختار من بينها غير ورقة محمود عباس أو سلام فياض، أما ورقة المقاومة التي عرفتها منطلقات فتح وميثاق منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية عام 1968، وعرفها تاريخ الشعب الفلسطيني منذ عشرينيات القرن العشرين، وصولا إلى الانتفاضتين وحركتي حماس والجهاد، وحرب 2008/2009 على قطاع غزة، وأسطول الحرية وشهدائه الأتراك، أو المقاومة التي حررت جنوب لبنان، فلا علاقة لها بمقاومة الاحتلال، ولا يمكن أن تسحب ورقته في لعبة الورقات الثلاث في خطاب عباس الأخير.

بكلمة.. كان على محمود عباس أن يُعلِن فشل سياسته وفشل اتفاق أوسلو والسلطة، وسوء الاعتماد على الدول المانحة، وفشل المفاوضات، ويعلق استقالته لتعود البوصلة الفلسطينية إلى المنطلقات والمواثيق والتحرير الكامل لفلسطين وعدم الاعتراف بالكيان الصهيوني، وإلى إعادة الاعتبار لإستراتيجيات الكفاح المسلح والمقاومة والانتفاضة، والتأكيد على انخراط الثورات الشعبية العربية في القضية الفلسطينية باعتبارها قضيتها الأولى، بعد الخلاص من أنظمة الاستبداد والفساد والتبعية والتفريط في القضية الفلسطينية.

Video Report from Cairo: Egyptians Celebrate as Mubarak Stands Trial For Murder, Corruption

"In Egypt, the trial of former president, Hosni Mubarak, has been adjourned until August 15. On Wednesday, Mubarak appeared in court for the first time, along with his two sons, Gamal and Alaa. He was brought into the Cairo courtroom on a hospital stretcher. Mubarak denied all the charges against him which include profiteering, illegal business-dealing involving Israeli gas exports, and the unlawful killing of protesters during the revolution. Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous was outside the courtroom where crowds had gathered to watch, many expressing relief that justice could be served for the victims of the revolution. Special thanks to videographer Nicole Salazar...."

Al-Jazeera Video: Egypt's former ministers back on trial

"A day after Hosni Mubarak appeared in court, the trial of Egypt's former interior minister Habib al-Adly, and six senior security officials, has resumed in Cairo.

Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros has the latest update, and Khaled Fahmy, chairman of the history department at the American University of Cairo, discusses public perception of the trials."

Al-Jazeera Video: Hamas delivers free meals to Gaza's poor

Al-Jazeera Video: UN Security Council condemns Syria's use of force

Real News Video: Mubarak Trial and the Egyptian Revolution

Lina Attalah: Military sending message that Mubarak trial the last concession to the revolution

A Judas Kiss to the Poor

Obama's Great Betrayal


"The unconscionable result of the manufactured crisis over the debt ceiling shows that the political Right knows how to play hardball, and that President Obama and his hapless party know how to get rolled. There are other options; and we, the people, need to press them home.

The Obama-brokered deal on debt and spending was certainly what the Germans call eine schwere Geburt (a difficult birth); this one should have been aborted.

The Obama surrender reminds me of a sermon that Dr. Martin Luther King gave during the turbulent 1950s, in which he peered into the future and issued a prescient warning: "A nation or a civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan."....."

Times have changed in Cuba, but softly the struggle continues

On his first visit in 1967, John Pilger witnessed the effects of US efforts to isolate the island. Cuba today may be going through a big social and political transition, but its people still hold independence dear.

By John Pilger
The New Statesman

Published 04 August 2011

"....It is the idea of Cuba having slipped the leash that still threatens America's time-warped sense of its own power and self-given right to define other societies. As Richard Gott points out in his fine book Cuba: a New History, modern Cuba's creator, el máximo líder Fidel, in swapping his slogan from "socialism or death" to "a better world is possible", has ensured that there will be little change when he dies: regardless of machinations across the Florida Straits, change has already taken place."

Al-Jazeera Video: 3 August: Mubarak's Trial

With Hossam El-Hamalawy

When did the American empire start to decline?

By Stephen M. Walt

"Today is the 21st anniversary of a key date in world history. On this date in 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, setting in motion a train of events that would have fateful consequences for Saddam himself, but also for the United States. Indeed, one could argue that this invasion was the first step in a train of events that did enormous damage to the United States and its position in the world.....

Not only did "Mission Accomplished" soon become a costly quagmire, but wrecking Iraq -- which is what we did -- destroyed the balance of power in the Gulf and improved Iran's geopolitical position. The invasion of Iraq also diverted resources away from the war in Afghanistan, which allowed the Taliban to re-emerge as a formidable fighting force. Thus, Bush's decision to topple Saddam in 2003 led directly to two losing wars, not just one. And these wars were enormously expensive to boot. Combined with Bush's tax cuts and other fiscal irresponsibilities, this strategic incompetence caused the federal deficit to balloon to dangerous levels and helped bring about the fiscal impasse that we will be dealing with for years to come.

Obviously, none of these outcomes were inevitable back in 1990. Had cooler heads and smarter strategists been in charge after the first Gulf War, we might have taken advantage of that victory to foster a more secure and stable order throughout the Middle East. In particular, we would have pulled our military forces out of the region and gone back to offshore balancing. After all, Saddam's decision to invade Kuwait in 1990 did not force the United States to choose "dual containment." Nor did it make it inevitable that we would bungle the Oslo peace process, pay insufficient attention to al Qaeda's intentions, or drink the neocons' Kool-Aid and gallop off on their foolish misadventure in Iraq. But when future historians search for the moment when the "American Empire" reached its pinnacle and began its descent, the war that began 21 years ago would be a good place to start."

Once untouchable, the old despot and his sons faced the wrath of the nation they had terrorised

This was a moment when a country proved not only that its revolution was real, but that its victims were real

By Robert Fisk

"Just when the Arab dictators desperately need to drink the secure, cool waters of an Arab summer, along came the Egyptians yesterday to poison the well. Deep into its depths, those dictators could see a flickering enmeshed face, fragile, fingers playing over its nose and mouth, the arm of a man on a stretcher raised to prevent the light getting too close but – for just a few brief moments – with the same old arrogant eyes. Then the heavy black mike appeared in the man's left hand. "I am here, your honour," said a chillingly strong voice. "I have not committed any such crimes.".....

And across the vast, arid wastelands of the Arab despots, the government televisions continued to show game shows and cooking classes and domestic dramas and friendly crowds, all of whom loved their presidents and kings and potentates, who could never – could they? – be accused of these awful crimes. Outside Egypt itself, the only live coverage of the trial was broadcast by post-revolutionary Tunisia and that nemesis of the Mubarak regime and of the United States and of Israel: the Hezbollah's Al-Manar television.....

For history – Arab history and western history and world history – will place the scenes in the Egyptian Police Academy yesterday in whole chapters, footnoted and referenced, the moment when a country proved not only that its revolution was real, but that its victims were real, its dictators' corruption detailed down to the last Egyptian pound and the last fake company title, its people's suffering forensically described.

Despite its flaws, this was not summary justice, the kind so beloved of the Assad family and the Gaddafi family or, indeed, the Mubarak family. The Caliph had been brought low – and the "Arab Spring" (ever a dodgy item right now, with the butchery in Syria and the trumpery of the Libyan war) revived. Even when the helicopter bringing the old boy to justice appeared in the pale, hot skies over the desert, we shook our heads for just a moment. All true......."

In the Cage, by Dave Brown

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Egyptians must guard against a show trial as Mubarak faces the people

Seeing the Mubaraks behind bars will be widely viewed as poetic justice, but it's accountability – not humiliation – that matters

Brian Whitaker, Wednesday 3 August 2011

".....There is also a risk that the trial – if mishandled – could generate some undeserved sympathy for Mubarak. He is 83 years old and clearly unwell, though how unwell is a matter of debate – some say he is exaggerating his illness for propaganda purposes. On Wednesday he was lying on his back on a stretcher as the case began.

The other potential hazard is that it could distract Egyptians from efforts to consolidate their revolution. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which is now in charge of the country while elections are prepared, may be hoping that the trial will divert public attention from its own increasingly authoritarian behaviour.

It is a ploy that the Mubarak regime itself resorted to quite often, contriving to dominate the headlines with sensational court cases in times of political and economic difficulty."

Assad's myth needs busting

He is not defending Syria from sectarian tensions. The world must condemn our dictator's crimes now

Ali al-Bayanouni
(A lawyer and former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria), Wednesday 3 August 2011

".....The time has come for the world to say that Assad's regime has lost all legitimacy. That is what the Syrians want – no more and no less. A free conference of all the nationalist forces in Syria could then be convened, enabling Syrians to develop a collective national alternative, as they did in the first Syrian conference of 1920. Syria is an ancient civilisation; it needs no external guidance or foreign intervention to determine its future after the departure of this dictator.

Half a century of struggle has passed, changing both the vision and functioning of Syria's various political forces. All opposition groups are insistent that the uprising should continue on its peaceful, inclusive, pan-nationalist path. All would rally round a civil, plural state based on power sharing, free elections and a modern civil constitution in which all citizens – men and women – are equal. This is what the Syrians want, and what they are on course to achieve."

Palestinians will soon come full circle

Years have been wasted making concessions to their colonisers. Palestinians were right to call for a secular state at the outset

Sam Bahour, Thursday 4 August 2011

"The Palestinian national liberation movement has reached its end. As the Palestinian leadership – if there is such a legitimate body today – prepares to bring the issue of statehood to the UN this September, the weeks and months ahead will witness the last desperate attempt to get the international community to assume their responsibilities and ensure that a Palestinian state becomes a reality in the occupied territories.

The reasons for the failure of the Palestinian national liberation movement are many.....

The new Palestinian leaders, those whom the Israeli negotiators have not yet met, see the larger picture and refuse to believe that Israel desires to live in peace when every indication for 64 years has shown the opposite. The emerging Palestinian leaders see Israel for what it is: a settler, colonial, apartheid movement clinging to a racialist, exclusivist ideology that neither wishes nor intends to allow another state to emerge between the Mediterranean sea and the Jordan river, let alone allowing Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and be compensated for their hardships, as was stipulated as a condition when the UN accepted Israel as a member state on 11 May 1949.

Once this foredoomed move toward Palestinian membership in the UN runs its course, a new paradigm will take root, one that Israel dreads because it implicitly views Palestinians and Israelis as equals, as co-citizens, as partners. This new shift will see Palestinians dropping their desire for independent statehood in a fraction of their historic homeland and instead will find them, within a genuinely representative political structure, articulating their desire for self-determination within their historic homeland, even if that homeland today is called Israel.

The Palestinians are about to come full circle. They were correct, painfully so, to call for a secular democratic state at the outset of this conflict. Sadly, they wasted precious time and lost too many lives trying to accept unjust modalities of a resolution....."

Video: UN security council condemns Syria's violence against civilians

"In its first substantive action on the uprising in Syria, the UN security council has condemned human rights violations and use of force against civilians by Syrian authorities.

Prompted by an intensification of the three-month-old bloody crackdown against anti-government protests, the statement was agreed after three days of hard bargaining. It 'condemns widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities'. Syria's neighbour Lebanon has dissociated itself from the text.", Thursday 4 August 2011

UN: Syria Should Heed Council’s Call to End Attacks

Access for Human Rights Investigation Key Test

Human Rights Watch
August 4, 2011

"(New York) – Syria should respond to the United Nations Security Council’s condemnation of its use of force against civilians by ending attacks on overwhelmingly peaceful protesters across the country, Human Rights Watch said today.

The Security Council on August 3, 2011, adopted unanimously a presidential statement on Syria. It “condemned the widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities,” called on the government “to respect its human rights obligations,” and deplored the “lack of progress” in reform.

“The Security Council’s unanimous statement shows that Syria can no longer count on even its close allies to support its crackdown on peaceful protesters,” said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “President Bashar Assad needs to listen to the council’s strong message, and end the attacks by his security forces in Hama and across the country."

The Security Council was finally spurred to action following the Syrian security forces’ military assault on Hama, Syria’s fourth largest city, which started on July 31. At least 100 residents were killed in the attack, according to local human rights groups. They reported that water, electricity, and communication lines were cut in Hama in the early hours of August 3, as tanks and armored vehicles advanced toward the central Assi Square......

Syria needs to allow human rights monitors access to the country and freedom to conduct their investigation, as a starting point,” Hicks said. “Security Council members should make the council’s call for cooperation meaningful by demanding immediate access for the high commissioner’s team.”

A key sticking point in Security Council discussions over the statement was Syria’s claims that “armed gangs” were responsible for the violence. Some countries had proposed language that would have equated violence by Syrian forces with the actions of the protesters by simply calling on “all sides” to stop the violence. Instead, the Security Council explicitly condemned Syrian authorities for “widespread violations of human rights and use of force against civilians,” while calling for restraint on all sides.

There’s an easy way to check Syria’s claims about armed gangs – allow independent investigation of all parties,” Hicks said. “By refusing to allow access for the investigation mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, Syria calls into question the credibility of those claims.”....."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Syrian Ambassador leaves Egypt following protests at embassy

Al-Masry Al-Youm

"Syrian Ambassador to Egypt Youssef Ahmed traveled to Damascus with his family Wednesday.
Ahmed refused to say if he had left for vacation or other reasons, but the trip follows protests outside the Syrian Embassy that demanded he leave.

The protesters condemned the Syrian military's violent suppression of protests in Hama, al-Bukamal and Deir al-Zor. Syria is in the midst of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad that has been going on since March.

The protesters called on Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the chief of Egypt's ruling military council, to expel the ambassador and sever diplomatic relations with Assad's regime."

"الصمت عار": أول تظاهرة لفلسطييني الداخل تضامنا مع الشعب السوري بالناصرة الجمعة

عــ48ــرب / ربيع عيد
I Salute the 1948 Palestinians for Taking This Step!

""لأن الصمت عن الجريمة مشاركة فيها ودعما للمجزرة، ندعوكم لهذه التظاهرة تحت شعارات واضحة تندد بالجريمة وتدعو لوقفها حالا، وتطالب بإطلاق الحريات السياسية والحقوق الديموقراطية والانسانية للشعب السوري".. تحت هذا النداء، تنظم مجموعة من شباب الداخل الفلسطيني يوم غد الجمعة، الموافق 5\8\2011، الساعة الواحدة والنصف ظهرا، تظاهرة رفع شعارات تضامنا مع الشعب السوري في ساحة العين بمدينة الناصرة، تحت عنوان "الصمت عار"، في خطوة هي الأولى من نوعها في الداخل الفلسطيني، إذ أن أحداث الثورة الشعبية السورية الممتدة منذ قرابة خمسة أشهر، لم يتفاعل خلالها عرب الداخل مثلما حدث مع ثورتي تونس ومصر، حيث شهدت البلدات العربية عشرات الفعاليات المناصرة لحرية الشعوب العربية التي نظمتها الأحزاب وأطر أهلية وشبابية مختلفة.

Dropping of the last mask of democracy

New Israeli legislation banning the support of boycott movements goes even further in limiting Palestinian rights.

Omar Barghouti

""You should definitely postpone your book launch in Jerusalem," warned a close friend who felt that the planned event for launching my recently published book on the Palestinian-led movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel might be too risky in light of the recently passed Israeli law that effectively bans support for the thriving boycott movement. At the packed bookshop-cafe in occupied East Jerusalem last Thursday, however, the engaged and Italian-coffee scented atmosphere was almost jubilant, as if declaring a collective defiance of Israel's latest draconian measure.

Much controversy has arisen since the Israeli parliament passed legislation that would effectively criminalise support for any boycott against Israel or its institutions, under threat of heavy penalties and worse, without the need to prove "guilt". Dozens of Israeli civil society organisations and leading legal scholars, including many opposing the boycott, have resolutely opposed this exceptionally authoritarian law on diverse grounds, ranging from the most principled to the downright pragmatic....

If Palestinian activists learned anything from the South African struggle it is that the darkest moment is that that precedes dawn. In an ironic way, this new Israeli law may be a harbinger for that darkest moment, with no masks or pretence, and then we see the light of freedom and justice."

Syrian Forces Attack Civilians in Hama As U.N. Security Council Wavers on Condemning Crackdown

"Syrian forces are pushing towards the center of the restive city of Hama as they continue an offensive in which an estimated 140 people have been killed. Residents say they saw explosions Wednesday morning and lines of tanks heading into the city. Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, called on Tuesday for a rapid end to violence in Syria but said direct U.S. involvement was unlikely. The U.N. Security Council met Tuesday to discuss the crisis, but failed to reach an agreement. With foreign media and observers banned from Syria, we speak with Nadim Houry, the Beirut-based senior researcher on Syria and Lebanon for Human Rights Watch. “We need a strong Security Council resolution at this stage,” Houry says. “[But] there is no support for military action. People inside Syria do not want to see any form of military intervention. They think it will make the situation worse.” Instead, Houry calls on Syria to grant access to independent observers, journalists, and a U.N. fact-finding mission....."

Sharif Abdel Kouddous: Opening of Mubarak Trial is "Defining Moment in Egypt’s History"

"Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous was on sight in Cairo today as former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, appeared in court for the first time to face allegations of corruption and the killing of protesters during the uprising that overthrew his rule. The trial has been adjourned until August 15. “This is a defining moment in the revolution and in Egypt’s history,” Sharif says....."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian forces 'continue' shelling Hama

Al-Jazeera Video: Opening moments from Mubarak's trial

Today's Cartoon by the Syrian Cartoonist Ali Ferzat

By Order of the Ba'th Party: Click on cartoon to enlarge.

Syria: Tired Slogans and a Looming Dawn

By Ramzy Baroud
Palestine Chronicle

"There is no linear narrative capable of explaining the multifarious happenings that have gripped Syrian society in recent months. On March 23, as many as 20 peaceful protesters were killed at the hands of Syrian security forces, and many more were wounded. Since then, the violence has escalated to such a level of brutality and savagery that can only be comparable to the regime's infamous massacres in the city of Hama in 1982.....

It seemed that Syria wanted to be involved in the region only so much as to remain a visible player, but not to the extent of having to face violent repercussions. It was an act of political mastery, one that Hafez crafted in the course of three decades and which Bashar cleverly applied for nearly eleven years. In essence, however, Syria remained hostage to familial considerations, one-party rule and the sectarian classifications initiated by colonial France in 1922.

True, Syria was and will remain a target for Western pressures. But what needs to be realized is that these pressures are motivated by specific policies concerning Israel, and not with regards to a family-centered dictatorship that openly murders innocent civilians in cold blood. In fact, there are many similarities in the pattern of behavior applied by the Syrian Army and the Israeli Army. Reports of causalities in Syria's uprising cite over 1,600 dead, 2,000 wounded (Al Jazeera, July 27) and nearly 3,000 disappearances (CNN, July 28). Unfortunately, this violence is not new, and is hardy compelled by fear of international conspiracy to undermine the Baath regime. The 1982 Hama uprising was crushed with equal if not greater violence, where the dead were estimated between 10,000 and 40,000.

The Syrian regime is deliberately mixing up regional and national narratives, and it is still exploiting the decades-old political discourse to explain its inhumane treatment of Syrians. Civilians continue to endure the wrath of a single family, backed by a single political party. But there is only one way to read the future of Syria. The Syrian people deserve a new dawn of freedom, equality, social justice, free from empty slogans, self-serving elites and corrupt criminals. Syria and its courageous people deserve better. Much better."

Bloodshed in Bab Qebli: portrait from Syria’s violent crackdown on Hama

Amnesty International
2 August 2011

".....Before Khaled was buried, his body was brought home so his family could say goodbye.

Though his body had been crushed, his face was untouched, belying the violent death he had suffered.

“He was innocent,” the eyewitness said.

“He did nothing wrong and harmed nobody. He was very polite and sweet.”

On Sunday afternoon, Khaled was buried along with two other men in the garden of al-Serjawi mosque. Because the clashes continued, the mourners could not get to the cemetery outside the city to bury their loved ones, and the graves had to be dug in a hurry to avoid intense shooting.

Yesterday, 10 more people were reportedly killed, including a 17-year-old woman who was buried in the same plot, after being shot in her home. Locals said she was a newly-wed and had a child.

The military continued their attack on Hama unabated. "

Tail Gunner, by Dave Brown

Bahrain: From a new awakening to a divided nation

Five months after protests began, Patrick Cockburn reports from a nation where revolt and suspicion still simmer below the surface

".....Bahrain, with a population of 1.2 million, half of them Arabs, should have been the one place in the Arab world where compromise was possible between rulers and ruled, and between Sunni and Shia. Instead it has joined places like Beirut and Jerusalem, with communities polarised and hate and suspicion filling the air. The shock of what happened is all the greater because Bahrain regards itself as one of the most liberal and best-educated countries in the Gulf. Unlike nearby Saudi Arabia, women drive cars and hold important government jobs.

The simple explanation for the human disaster that is consuming Bahraini society is that the government over-reacted. The Khalifas felt their rule was under threat as long-established despots across the Arab world were overthrown. They treated moderate reformers as if they were professional revolutionaries. Without any evidence, the authorities demonised Iran as the hidden hand behind the demand by the Shia for an end to discrimination. "The Sunni community here was told that it faced an existential threat and equal citizenship for Shia meant an end to the Sunni," one Shia political activist says. They believed it....."

Egypt awaits first trial of an Arab Spring dictator

Former president Hosni Mubarak is charged with corruption and the killing of protesters

By Robert Fisk

".......Yes, the phones between the Land of the Prophet and the Land of the Pharaohs were obviously hotter than midday yesterday, the former – now in the land of the Saudis – gold-plated, no doubt, the latter rather more grimly held in the headquarters of the Supreme Military Council in Cairo, by the guys who really, really would prefer to find an excuse to postpone the whole affair until the King of Watermelons has passed away. That would bring in a few bob from the men in Riyadh. And the iron cage could be used for the little watermelons, the sons and former satraps.

But what would the angry, grieving families say if they had nothing to consume at "iftar"? An appearance by the old man might at least give the impression there'd been a revolution... Or are there more important things these days? "

Video: Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak begins trial

The toppled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak arrives in court in Cairo on a stretcher, charged with the unlawful killing of pro-democracy protesters in the uprising against him earlier this year.

He is also accused of profiteering by abusing his position of power and exporting gas to Israel for prices lower than international market rates. Sentences for these charges range from five years in prison to the death penalty.

Mubarak's sons Alaa and Gamal also appeared in court. They are charged with profiteering by abusing their father's power. This charge carries a potential sentence of between five and 15 years in prison, Wednesday 3 August 2011

Video: Hama protesters clash with Syrian troops

Amateur footage posted on the internet shows Syrian government troops moving to crush the uprising in the city of Hama, opening fire using tank shells and machine guns. Meanwhile official state TV footage purports to support government claims that the pro-democracy protesters are violent terrorists.

The government offensive was launched on Sunday, the eve of the Ramadan fast. The UN has struggled to agree to condemn the violence unleashed by President Bashar al-Assad, which has cost the lives of at least 140 demonstrators, Wednesday 3 August 2011

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

The question asked is:

Does the trial of the deposed Egyptian president contribute to meeting the demands of the revolutionaries?

With over 2,000 responding, 72% said yes.

إسرائيل عرضت على مبارك اللجوء السياسي


"كشف عضو الكنيست ووزير الأمن الأسبق، بنيامين بن إليعيزر، صباح اليوم الأربعاء، أنه توجه مع رئيس الحكومة بنيامين نتانياهو إلى الرئيس المصري المخلوع حسني مبارك، قبل عدة شهور، وعرضا عليه اللجوء السياسي في إسرائيل.

وفي الوقت الذي تم نقل المخلوع المصري على حمالة إلى قاعة المحكمة لبدء أولى جلسات محاكمته مع نجلية ومسؤولين آخرين بتهم الفساد وقتل متظاهرين، قال بن إليعيزر لإذاعة الجيش إنه التقى مبارك في شرم الشيخ، وأبلغه بأن المسافة قصيرة إلى إسرائيل، وستكون فرصة جيدة بالنسبة له لتلقي العلاج.

وقبل أن يشير إلى رفض مبارك، قال بن إليعيزر، الذي تربطه علاقات قوية مع مبارك، إنه كان على قناعة من أن الحكومة الإسرائيلية سوف تستقبله.

وأفادت "هآرتس" أنه كان من المقترح أن يتم توفير اللجوء السياسي لمبارك في مدينة إيلات.

وكتبت "يديعوت أحرونوت" أن بن إليعيزر الذي هاجر من العراق إلى البلاد ويتحدث العربية بطلاقة، كان صديقا لمبارك لسنوات طويلة. وكان يجري محادثات معه بشكل دائم خلال أيام الثورة وحتى في ساعاته الأخيرة في السلطة.

وقال بين إلعيزر إن "مبارك قائد نجح في الحفاظ على الاستقرار في الشرق الأوسط، وكان ملتزما بعملية السلام بين إسرائيل والفلسطينيين، وحاول مرارا لا تحصى جسر الهوة بين الطرفين".

وأضاف أن الشرق الأوسط بعد مبارك سيكون مختلفا تماما

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Al-Jazeera Video: Sherine Tadros reports live from Cairo

The Military Bars The Media! It Wants to Control the Message.
The Whole "Trial" is a Show! The Old Pharaoh WILL NOT BE CONVICTED, and That I Am Sure of.

The Saudi Kingdom of Horrors, With Billions Pledged to the "Supreme Council," Has Made Sure That Conviction Will Not Take Place.

Al-Jazeera Video: Interview: violence in Syria

"Professor Murhaf Jouejati, a specialist in Syrian affairs at George Washington University, talks to Al Jazeera about the latest escalated violence in Syria."

Al-Jazeera Video: Differing accounts of Syria protests

"Activists in Syria insist that the anti-government protests are peaceful and that they are being brutally attacked by government forces using heavy weapons.

But state television presents a different picture, airing what it describes as armed men on the streets of Hama. The government says it is fighting armed gangs who attack the army and residents, closing down roads and manning checkpoints.

Meanwhile, international pressure is growing on Syria to end the bloodshed.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin reports from Beirut in Lebanon."

Al-Jazeera Video: Egypt readies to put Mubarak on trial

"Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is due to appear in court on Wednesday - charged with the killing of protesters during the revolution which ousted him.

The opening session will be held in Cairo, where the leader will be tried with his two sons.

Sherine Tadros reports from Cairo."

Hosni Mubarak due in dock but Egypt uncertain whether trial will proceed

The 83-year-old ousted president faces charges of corruption and unlawful killing which could carry the death penalty

Jack Shenker in Cairo, Tuesday 2 August 2011

"Egypt's faltering revolution will reach a defining moment on Wednesday morning when toppled president Hosni Mubarak goes on trial to face charges of corruption and unlawful killing.

Just over six months after the start of an uprising that would eventually overthrow his regime, ending 30 years of autocratic rule and sending shockwaves across the region, the 83-year-old is scheduled to appear in the dock in white prison overalls and will stand behind the bars of a specially constructed metal cage – although there are some doubts whether he will actually appear.

His much-anticipated downfall is to be screened live on Egyptian state television, attracting tens of millions of viewers. For most, it will be a scene that only last year seemed utterly unimaginable.....

Yet as the final preparations are made to ferry the ailing former leader from his hospital bed in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to the temporary courthouse – a police academy that once bore his name, in the sandy outskirts of the capital – few Egyptians are under the illusion that this trial will be a panacea for the multiple problems their country is facing......

However, there is uncertainty over whether Mubarak will appear or not, with some reports suggesting that even if he does enter the dock, the trial will be swiftly adjourned – a potentially welcome compromise for the ruling generals, who are facing intense public pressure to see the prosecution through but fear that politically explosive revelations may leak out when Mubarak takes the stand, implicating the army top brass......

Mubarak could face the death penalty if convicted. But even a guilty verdict may not be enough to quell much of the popular anger stemming from his reign, particularly as the "unlawful killing" charges refer only to the 18-day uprising this year - and to none of the alleged brutality that proceeded it.

"My biggest regret is that Mubarak will never face trial for the 30 years of police brutality, systematic torture and forced disappearances carried out under his rule," said Morayef. "His legacy is such a destructive one because he institutionalised abuse, and it will take us generations to overcome that.""

Ahead of Mubarak Trial, Egyptian Forces Forcibly Remove Protesters From Tahrir Square

"As the holy month of Ramadan begins, the Egyptian army has deployed tanks and troops in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, firing shots in the air to disperse the remaining pro-democracy protesters who have been occupying the square for three weeks in protest against the slow pace of reform after the popular uprising ousted former president, Hosni Mubarak. According to witnesses, security personnel stormed the area from several directions, smashing tents and stalls before taking some protesters into military detention. Meanwhile, the trial of Mubarak on charges including corruption and murder is set to open tomorrow at Cairo’s Police Academy. We go to Cairo for an update from Democracy Now! Correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous....."

Syrian Activist Razan Zaitouneh: Assad Regime the Lone "Terrorist Group" Inside Syria

"We go to Syria to speak with human rights activist and attorney Razan Zaitouneh, who provides us with an update of the violent government crackdown on pro-democracy protest movement across the country. “We want the whole world to know what is going on,” Zaitouneh says. “We all know the truth, that the only terrorist group in the country is this regime, who has been killing its own people for more than four months, who has been arresting dozens of thousands of people only because they want their freedom.”...."

As Ramadan Begins, Assad Regime Intensifies Deadly Crackdown on Syrian Protesters

"The government crackdown on protesters in Syria has reached a new level of violence just as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan has begun. At least six people were killed earlier today, pushing the toll to at least 150 over the last two days. An attack on the central city of Hama began Sunday when more than 100 people were killed by government forces, and continued into Monday with another 24 dead across the country. Syria has banned most foreign journalists, making it hard to verify exactly what is happening there. We speak with Ziad Majed, assistant professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the American University of Paris and coordinator of the Arab Network for the Study of Democracy...."

Al-Jazeera Video: Bahraini politician's wife tells of fear

"The government of Bahrain insists human rights experts are being given unrestricted access to investigate allegations of abuse during protests earlier this year.

However, hundreds of protestors remain in prison as stories circulate of torture and arbitrary arrests.

Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford spoke to Amal Matar, the wife of Matar Ibrahim Matar, a jailed opposition politician."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian crackdown shows no respite


(19 Videos)

Today's Cartoon by the Syrian Cartoonist Ali Ferzat

Libya Paralyses Security Council on Syria

By Thalif Deen

"UNITED NATIONS, Aug 1, 2011 (IPS) - The U.N. Security Council has continued to remain politically paralysed on the indiscriminate killings of civilians in Syria, and that paralysis, according to U.N. diplomats, has been triggered ironically by the ongoing turmoil in another Arab nation - Libya....."

Islamophobia, Zionism and the Norway massacre

Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman condemned Breivik's ideology, but he is still an enabler of Islamophobia.

Ali Abunimah

"In a Washington Post op-ed last week, Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti Defamation League, likened the hateful ideology that inspired Anders Behring Breivik to massacre 77 innocent people in Norway to the "deadly" anti-Semitism that infected Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries.

This is a parallel that I, and many others who have been observing with alarm the rise of anti-Muslim incitement in the US and Europe, have made frequently.

Does this mean that Foxman - head of one of the most hardline and influential pro-Israel lobby groups - has found common ground with the Palestine solidarity movement?

That would be a good thing if it helped to fight the growing scourge of racist incitement. But by criticising the ideology that inspired Breivik, and pointing the finger at a few of its purveyors, Foxman appears to be trying to obscure the key role that he and some other pro-Israel advocates have played in mainstreaming the poisonous Islamophobic rhetoric that has now - Foxman himself argues - led to bloodshed in Norway....."

Obama's "Compromise", by Dave Brown

Syrian forces kill 24 on first day of Ramadan


"Syrian forces killed 24 people on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a human rights group said today.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said most of the deaths were in the central city of Hama, the target of a heavy military operation since Sunday.

Protests escalated yesterday, the first day of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.

The group said today that yesterday's deaths included 10 people in Hama, six in the Damascus suburb of Arbeen and three in the central province of Homs. Two were killed in the eastern town of al-Boukamal, two in the coastal city of Latakia and one in Maadamiyah, near Damascus.

About 1,700 civilians have been killed since anti-regime protests began in mid-March, according to tallies by activists....."

Syria is on course for destruction

Bashar al-Assad knows his fall from power is inevitable, but seems determined his dominion will self-destruct with him

Fadwa al-Hatem, Tuesday 2 August 2011

".....Ironically, 1 August is called Armed Forces Day – a day when Syrians can celebrate the institution that is supposed to protect them.

Many analysts argue that the Assad regime has made a desperate attempt to crush the uprising prior to the holy month of Ramadan, when prayers held every evening in mosques throughout the country are expected to increase the frequency and intensity of protests – but I don't think so.

I think this regime has deliberately and intentionally bloodied the nose of the Syrian people on the eve of this holy month. By now, only the most deluded of Assad's circle of close advisers would think that the Syrian uprising can ever be crushed. The start of Ramadan should be seen as the beginning of a war of attrition by the regime against the Syrian people, similar to the situation in Libya.....

In the end, Syria has gone down the road of Libya, not that of Tunisia or Egypt. As with Muammar Gaddafi, Assad seems to have realised that once the Syrian people broke through the fear barrier, his fall from power would be inevitable. As a result, I have no doubt that the regime now intends to pursue a ferocious campaign against the people who dared to rise up against it....

Whether it was Saddam Hussein or Gaddafi, it seems as if all Arab dictators have spent the decades of their rule, apart from plundering their countries, also ensuring their dominions would self-destruct should they ever be ousted from power, as an additional bolster to their eternal rule – Après moi, le deluge! I fear that when Assad is finally ousted from power, Syria will be left a smouldering wreck."