Saturday, March 10, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: Guests speak about violence in Syria's Idlib

"Riad Al Asaad is a commander with another armed opposition faction, the Free Syrian Army. We also speak to Robert Baer is a former CIA case officer who was primarily assigned to the Middle East."

Al-Jazeera Video: Annan visits Syria as attacks continue

Al-Jazeera Video: Death toll climbs in Israel raids on Gaza

"Medics say at least 14 Palestinians are killed and a dozen more injured after Israel hits Gaza Strip."

Al-Jazeera Video: Fawaz Gerges on Annan's "impossible mission" in Syria

"If former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan fails to negotiate an end to the violence during his trip to Damascus this weekend, the country will likely plunge into a "protracted crisis" that could last for years, said London School of Economics Professor Fawaz Gerges.

He said Annan's diplomatic mission, carried out under UN and Arab League auspices, amounted to an "impossible mission," since rebels and opposition figures insist on an unlikely foreign military intervention as the only solution."

Annan Meets With The Butcher of Damascus

(Click on photo to enlarge)

Fierce fighting in Idlib, Syria - in pictures

As Kofi Annan arrives in Damascus to hold talks with Bashar Al-Assad, photographer Rodrigo Abd captures the intensifying violence in Idlib, Saturday 10 March 2012
(12 photos)

$5 A Gallon Gas, by Khalil Bendib

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Iraqi teenagers stoned to death for "emo" haircuts


"At least 90 Iraqi teenagers with "emo" appearances have been stoned to death by religious extremists in Baghdad in the past month after an inflammatory interior ministry statement dubbed it "devil worshiping", activists said.

Iraq's Moral Police released a chilling statement on the interior ministry's website condemning the "emo phenomenon" among Iraqi youth, disturbingly declaring its intent to "eliminate" the trend.

"The 'Emo phenomenon' or devil worshiping is being followed by the Moral Police who have the approval to eliminate [the phenomenon] as soon as possible since it's detrimentally affecting the society and becoming a danger," the statement read.

"They wear strange, tight clothes that have pictures on them such as skulls and use stationary that are shaped as skulls. They also wear rings on their noses and tongues, and do other strange activities," it continued.

Religious extremists caught onto the interior ministry statement, and have been harassing and killing teenagers with "strange" or "emo" appearances.

A group of armed men dressed in civilian clothing led dozens of teenagers to secluded areas a few days ago, stoned them to death, and then disposed their bodies in garbage dumpsters across the capital, according to activists.

The armed men are said to belong to “one of the most extremist religious groups” in Iraq.

“First they throw concrete blocks at the boy's arms, then at his legs, then the final blow is to his head, and if he is not dead then, they start all over again,” one person who managed to escape told Al-Akhbar.

Iraq's moral police was granted approval by the Ministry of Education to enter Baghdad schools and pinpoint students with such appearances, according to the interior ministry's statement.

The exact death toll remains unclear, but Hana al-Bayaty of Brussels Tribunal, an NGO dealing with Iraqi issues, said the current figure ranges "between 90 and 100."

"What's most disturbing about this is that they're so young," she said.

Al-Bayaty said the killings appear to have been carried out by extremist Shia militias in mostly poor Shia neighborhoods and said she suspected "there's complicity of the Ministry of Interior in the killings."

Photos of the victims were released on Facebook, causing panic and fear among Iraqi students......

Below is the full Al-Sharqiya report in Arabic....."

EMO in IRAQ (translated) - تصفية مقلدي ظاهرة الأيمو بالعراق

Ahhhh....The "New" Egypt! أوباما يشكر إسرائيل على وساطتها في قضية الامريكيين في مصر

"وجه الرئيس الأمريكي باراك أوباما، الشكر لإسرائيل على «المساعدة التي قدمتها» في الإفراج عن الأمريكيين العاملين في منظمات المجتمع المدني في القاهرة، جاء ذلك خلال «قمة إيران»، التي عقدت بداية الأسبوع الجاري بين أوباما ورئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي، بنيامين نتنياهو.

وقالت صحيفة «معاريف»، الخميس، إنه «بعد فشل الجهود الأمريكية لتحرير الأمريكيين، وقبل أن تتحول القضية إلى أزمة دبلوماسية حادة بين البلدين، توجه البيت الأبيض لمكتب نتنياهو وطلب مساعدة إسرائيل في إطلاق سراح الأمريكيين، البيت الأبيض اعتقد أن إسرائيل ستستطيع مساعدة الولايات المتحدة في هذه القضية، بسبب العلاقات الأمنية القوية بين إسرائيل ومصر».

وأضافت الصحيفة الإسرائيلية: «فور تلقي الطلب، كلف رئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي بنيامين نتنياهو مبعوثه الخاص، إسحاق مولخو، للسفر إلى القاهرة وممارسة التأثير الإسرائيلي على مصر في هذه القضية، نجحت مهمة مولخو، وتم السماح للأمريكيين بالسفر قبل أيام.

وهذه ليست المرة الأولى التي يكلف فيها مولخو بالسفر إلى مصر للقيام بمثل هذه المهمة، حيث مثل إسحاق مولخو، إسرائيل، قبل أشهر في الاتصالات التي أجريت مع مصر لإطلاق سراح الإسرائيلي- الأمريكي، المتهم بالتجسس، إيلان جرابيل، والذي كان محبوسًا في القاهرة.

الت «معاريف» إنه أثناء وجبة الغداء المشتركة التي أقيمت في البيت الأبيض، الأسبوع الماضي، والتي جمعت أوباما ونتنياهو، وحضرها مستشاري الرجلين، ذهب رئيس الولايات المتحدة إلى مولخو وشكره بشكل شخصي على مساعدته.

وبحسب مصادر أمريكية، فإن الرئيس الأمريكي قال لمولخو: ««أنا أقدر جدًا العمل الذي تم بتكليف من رئيس الوزراء في هذا الشأن، وأشكرك على ذلك من كل قلبي».

وكانت الولايات المتحدة قد قدمت مساعدة مماثلة لإسرائيل، عندما ضغطت على الحكومة المصرية من أجل تحرير الطاقم الأمني الخاص بالسفارة الإسرائيلية وبعض الدبلوماسيين الإسرائيليين الذين تم احتجازهم داخل مبنى السفارة في القاهرة، في سبتمر الماضي، من قبل متظاهرين غاضبين

The dirty war on WikiLeaks

Media smears suggest Swedish complicity in a Washington-driven push to punish Julian Assange

John Pilger, Friday 9 March 2012

"War by media, says current military doctrine, is as important as the battlefield. This is because the real enemy is the public at home, whose manipulation and deception is essential for starting an unpopular colonial war.....

To the chagrin of many in authority and the media, WikiLeaks has torn down the facade behind which rapacious western power and journalism collude. This was an enduring taboo; the BBC could claim impartiality and expect people to believe it. Today, war by media is increasingly understood by the public, as is the trial by media of WikiLeaks' founder and editor Julian Assange.

Assange will soon know if the supreme court in London is to allow his appeal against extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sexual misconduct, most of which were dismissed by a senior prosecutor in Stockholm. On bail for 16 months, tagged and effectively under house arrest, he has been charged with nothing. His "crime" has been an epic form of investigative journalism: revealing to millions of people the lies and machinations of their politicians and officials and the barbarism of criminal war conducted in their name......"

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bahrain's Shias demand reform at mass rally

Tens of thousands march along a main road near capital after sermon from leading Shia cleric urging greater democracy.


"Tens of thousands of Bahrainis have demonstrated outside the capital Manama to demand political reforms, a year after the Gulf Arab state crushed an uprising, witnesses said.

The protesters began marching along a main road near the city on Friday in response to a call from leading Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim who urged people to renew their calls for greater democracy.

A live blog showed images of the protesters carrying banners denouncing "dictatorship" and demanding the release of detainees.

"We are here for the sake of our just demands that we cannot make concessions over and we stick with them because we have sacrificed for them," Qassim said before the march, during his weekly sermon in the Shia village of Diraz.

He had promised to personally lead the march, his most high-profile action in more than a year of unrest......"

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian community in Russia suffer regime backlash

"The crisis in Syria is being closely watched by Syrians living in Russia. Those who back the opposition, say they have become a target of government agents."

UN envoy due in Syria amid signs of more cracks in Assad regime

Kofi Annan to meet Bashar al-Assad over latest initiative to halt bloodshed as more defectors follow lead of deputy oil minister

Julian Borger
and agencies, Friday 9 March 2012

"Kofi Annan is due to arrive in Damascus on Saturday to launch the latest initiative to stop the bloodshed in Syria, but opposition leaders said that any deal with President Bashar al-Assad was unthinkable while civilians were being killed by government forces.

Opposition activists said that at least 26 people were killed across Syria on Friday, but there were also signs of more cracks in the Assad regime. A Turkish official said that two Syrian generals, a colonel and two sergeants had defected to Turkey on Thursday, soon after Syria's deputy oil minister, Abdo Hussameldin, and a brigadier general announced their desertion of the regime on YouTube videos.

Western diplomats speculated on Friday that the public nature of their renunciation of the Assad government had encouraged other high-ranking officers to follow their example.

The new defectors were among 234 Syrians who have crossed into Turkey since Thursday. The defections were welcomed by EU foreign ministers meeting in Copenhagen, where they were portrayed as a sign that sanctions against the Damascus government were working.

"It is very good news that clearly high-ranking state and military officials are increasingly turning away from the Assad regime," said Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said, speaking in Berlin before his departure for the Danish capital. "The process of disintegration of the Assad regime has begun; the signs of erosion will continue. No country can be led in the long term with cruelty and repression."......"

Al-Jazeera Video: Double standards tangle Syria diplomacy

"The United States has railed against Syria's crackdown on civilians, but others would point out that plenty of civilians died after the US-led invasion of Iraq. Russia has declared itself against interference in Syrian affairs, but it is selling many millions of dollars worth of arms to Bashar al-Assad's government. Gulf Arab leaders have declared the right of Syrian rebels to fight against Assad's troops, but they sent their own militaries into neighbouring Bahrain when a peaceful uprising broke out in that country.

Almost every nation involved in the Syrian crisis has tried to stake out the moral highground, but none find themselves free from accusations of hypocrisy and self-interest.

The diplomatic minefield provides Assad with ample opportunity to play sides against each other and in the process survive a little longer."

Al-Jazeera Video: حديث الثورة - الوضع السوري و واقع المرأة والربيع العربي

"الجزء الأول من الحلقة استضاف الدكتور برهان غليون للحديث عن تطورات الوضع السوري، قبينما ناقش الجزء الثاني واقع المرأة في بلدان الربيع العربي

Time photographer tells of deaths in Syria and flight to safety

The Guardian

"Time magazine's cover story this week carries a lengthy account of the attack in Syria that killed Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik, as told by French photographer William Daniels.

It also tells of the harrowing flight from the beleaguered city of Homs made by Daniels, a Spanish reporter, Javier Espinosa, Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy and Le Figaro reporter Edith Bouvier, both of whom were injured. They eventually escaped to safety across the border into Lebanon.

Daniels, who was on assignment for Time, explains to the magazine's writer, Vivienne Walt, exactly what happened in the aftermath of the shelling.

Time's managing editor Rick Stengel writes in the issue that Daniels's "dramatic story is a microcosm of what millions of Syrians are going through - only they cannot escape the iron hand of their government and their suffering is far worse." He continues:

"We tell this story to not only document the atrocities occurring in Syria but also highlight the fact that journalists like Daniels, Bouvier, Ochlik and Colvin have been the primary means by which the world even knows what is going on there.

Unlike the aborted Green Revolution in Iran or the Arab Spring in Egypt, Syria is far more isolated and repressed, and few people can film, tweet or email evidence of what they are seeing and experiencing.

That is one reason, as this story reveals, the Assad regime is deliberately targeting journalists."

Read Stengel on Facebook here. See Daniels's pictures on Time's Lightbox here"

Escape from Syria

Time Magazine

"In a war zone, some buildings are obvious targets--command centers, weapons depots, enemy hideouts--and some are not, like schools, hospitals, media centers. But in the battle for Syria, where rules of war do not apply and where civilians are facing a savage massacre, the house that served as a makeshift press center in the rebel district of Bab Amr is ground zero.

Destroying that target would go a long way toward allowing the regime of Bashar Assad to flatten the entire enclave without the whole world watching.

And so, at 8:22 in the morning on Feb. 22, the rockets fell, three..."

Guardian Video: Kofi Annan calls for peace talks in Syria

Speaking on Thursday, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, stresses the need for dialogue rather than outside military intervention. His call for talks with President Bashar al-Assad's government was later rejected by the opposition Syrian National Council. After visiting Homs, UN humanitarian chief Baroness Amos expresses her shock at the devastation in the Baba Amr suburb, Friday 9 March 2012

Syrian activists reject Annan's dialogue call

Syrian National Council chief fears mediation effort is a "waste" without military pressure on Assad government.


"The leader of Syria's most prominent opposition group has rejected Kofi Annan's call for dialogue with the government.

Burhan Ghalioun, president of the Syrian National Council (SNC), said on Friday that any solution to the crisis must be accompanied by military pressure on President Bashar al-Assad.

Annan, enlisted as an envoy by the Arab League and UN, said in Cairo on Thursday that "militarisation" of the conflict would only make it worse and said he aimed to reach a political settlement through dialogue.

The former UN chief, who is due to arrive in Damascus on Sunday, cautioned against military intervention, saying it had worsened other conflicts in the region.

"These kind of comments are disappointing and do not give a lot of hope for people in Syria being massacred every day," Ghalioun said.

"It feels like we are watching the same movie being repeated over and over again."....."

Is Egypt's women's movement strong enough to face threats?

Al-Masry Al-Youm

".....The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights issued a report for the occasion of International Women’s Day, celebrated annually on 8 March, summing up the challenges that Egyptian women faced throughout the year. The report concluded that, after revolting for their rights, women suffered exclusion from the political scene, severe human rights violations and a campaign against the laws that protect their rights.

“Would it have ever occurred to women that their state after the revolution will be the opposite of what they revolted for? And will Tahrir Square stay synonymous to freedom and equality or will the revolution eat its children, starting with the women?” This question in the report echoes a widely believed idea that the targeting of women as a weak sector of society is the first blow to personal rights in general, which will eventually affect society at large.

According to the report, women were disregarded for most leadership and decision-making positions after the revolution. There have only been one to three women in the governments that have been formed since the revolution, no woman has been appointed governor and there has been weak female representation in important committees, such as the one that discussed constitutional amendments before the referendum in March of last year and the Advisory Council that was formed by the military council, which contains three women out of 30 members.

Women represent approximately one percent of the current Parliament....."

بعد طرد محاضر إسرائيلي من عمان: "السلام قد يكون على الورق فقط"


"تناولت "يديعوت أحرونوت" اليوم، الجمعة، حادثة طرد محاضر إسرائيلي من الجامعة الأردنية، الجامعة الحكومية الأم في الأردن، يوم أمس، مشيرة إلى أن السلام بين إسرائيل والأردن قد يكون موجودا على الورق فقط.

وأشارت أيضا إلى أن من زار جامعة عمان يوم أمس قد يعتقد أن إسرائيل والأردن عدوتان لدودتان، حيث تجمع حشد كبير من الطلاب احتجاجا على محاضرة د. غدعون انهولت في موضوع الصحة النفسية في كلية الطب، ومنعوه من تقديم المحاضرة، ما اضطر المنظمون إلى تهريبه عبر بوابة خلفية.

كما أشارت إلى أن المتظاهرين طالبوا بإلغاء المحاضرة، ودعوا إلى طرد السفير الإسرائيلي من الأردن، ووقف عملية التطبيع في العلاقات، وإلغاء اتفاقية السلام التي تم التوقيع عليها في العام 1994.

ونقلت الصحيفة عن د. انهولت وصفه لعملية تهريبه من الجامعة، حيث قال إن الطلاب بدأوا بتوزيع نشرات تندد بمشاركة "المحتلين الإسرائيليين" في مؤتمر في الأردن، وطالبوا بوضع حد لذلك. وأضاف أن الأجواء أصبحت مشحونة، وفي نهاية المطاف اضطر الحراس إلى تهريبه من بوابة خلفية.

وبحسبه فقد شعر بالخطر عندما علم أن تقديرات قوات الأمن تشير إلى مشاركة أكثر من ألف طالب المظاهرة. وعندها تم تهريبه إلى خارج الجامعة عائدا إلى الفندق، ومن هناك قفل عائدا إلى إسرائيل عن طريق جسر الملك حسين (ألينبي).

وأضاف أنه وصل الثلاثاء إلى الأردن للمشاركة في مؤتمر يتركز حول "الخوف والاضطهاد في الشرق الأوسط"، وأنه كان ينوي عرض أفكاره أمام مجموعة من الباحثين المهمين، والاجتماع بباحثين عرب آخرين، وفحص إمكانيات التعاون.

لى ذلك، أشارت الصحيفة إلى أن الجامعة الأردنية أكدت على أنها لم تكن تعلم بمشاركة إسرائيليين في المؤتمر. وبحسب د. انهولت فقد تم تنظيمه من قبل مجموعة أمريكية، وأنه على ما يبدو لم تكن إدارة الجامعة على اطلاع على هوية المشاركين.
طرد المحاضر "الإسرائيلي" من "الأردنية" قناة اليرموك

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Bloody Emad Hajjaj

Hamas is making a tactical appeal to the grassroots

Instead of declaring itself Iran's proxy, the movement is aligning with the democratic rise of 'moderate' Islamic politics

Tareq Baconi, Thursday 8 March 2012

"Hamas officials have said that in the event of a war between Iran and Israel, they will not become involved on Tehran's side. While this is not surprising, other officials within the movement were quick to deny such reports.....

If anything, this move comes on the heels of several recent manoeuvrings aimed at better aligning Hamas with regional changes. The recent tour of the region by Ismail Haniyeh climaxed with explicit support for the people of Syria against a brutal regime. Also, Khaled Meshaal recently declared his intention to form a Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, suggesting a desire to capitalise on the democratic rise of "moderate" Islamic parties in regional politics.....

At a time when people at the grassroots are calling the shots across the region, Hamas is prudently differentiating itself from other regimes and parties by visibly siding with the people.
This is not a new concept for Hamas, since it has always derived its legitimacy and popularity from Palestinians. Hamas feels – probably rightly – that it can capitalise on the changes sweeping the region. This will almost certainly be more rewarding than defending Iran for a potential, but improbable, return to financial support."

Homs devastation shocks UN humanitarian chief

This is WHAT HAPPENED to the people of Baba Amr, Lady Amos!

Lady Amos visits Baba Amr suburb of Syrian city after government forces' month-long assault

Peter Beaumont, Thursday 8 March 2012

"The United Nations humanitarian chief, Lady Amos, said she was shocked by the devastation she witnessed on a visit to Baba Amr, the suburb of the Syrian city of Homs that has suffered a month-long siege.

Amos, who visited Baba Amr on Wednesday for 45 minutes, was speaking on Thursday after meeting ministers in the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who permitted her to visit Syria and Homs after weeks of refusing her access.

She said: "The devastation there is significant. Part of Homs is completely destroyed and I am concerned to know what has happened to the people who live in that part of the city."...."

Al-Jazeera Video: Palestinian plight no longer on world agenda

"At the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAX conference this week, it was Iran, not Palestine that dominated proceedings.

World leaders may be looking elsewhere, but the clashes at Israeli checkpoints are on the rise. Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strike in Israeli detention centres, and a growing sense of impotence and frustration is fuelling talk of a third intifada.

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation executive are finalizing a letter, listing all the ways, over the last 20 years, that they say Israel has blocked peaceful progress.

They will deliver it first, out of courtesy [They call themselves a "Liberation" Organization?? They are ISRAELI COLLABORATORS!], to the Israeli government, and then circulate it to the international community.

Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan reports from the Occupied West Bank."

Nada Bakri, Widow of Anthony Shadid, on Her Husband’s Life and Posthumous Memoir, "House of Stone"

Democracy Now!

"We speak with Nada Bakri, the widow of Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Anthony Shadid, about her husband’s passion for covering the Middle East and his posthumous memoir. "House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East" chronicles Shadid’s rebuilding of his family’s ancestral home in Lebanon. The house was built by his great-grandfather and damaged by an Israeli rocket in 2006. Shadid died of an apparent asthma attack in February while covering the conflict in Syria....."

Special Relation, by RJ Matson

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Interview: why Hana al-Shalabi’s hunger strike is the focus of Women’s Day in Palestine

Jillian Kestler-D'Amours
The Electronic Intifada
7 March 2012

"Palestinians will mark International Women’s Day (8 March) this year with solidarity actions for Hana al-Shalabi, who has now spent more than three weeks on hunger strike in protest of being held under Israeli administrative detention without charge or trial.

Al-Shalabi is the second Palestinian prisoner in recent weeks — the first being Khader Adnan, who ended his fast after 66 days — to go on hunger strike as a way to draw attention to Israel’s use of administrative detention and mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners.

“In Palestine, Women’s Day is a day of struggle,” wrote Janan Abdu, a political activist and wife of Palestinian prisoner Ameer Makhoul, in the call-out announcing Women’s Day as a day in solidarity with al-Shalabi.

“Despite the achievements of some significant things, which were achieved as a result of long paths of struggle, we shouldn’t celebrate yet as we are still Palestinian women, whether in Palestine 1948 or in the West Bank and Gaza or the diaspora suffering from colonialism, occupation, discrimination and racism,” she stated.

The Electronic Intifada contributor Jillian Kestler-D’Amours interviewed Khitam Saafin, chairwoman of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees about the challenges Palestinian women face today and why al-Shalabi’s hunger strike should be supported......"

Egyptian Ties with US on Civil Society Rocks

By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani

"CAIRO, Mar 8, 2012 (IPS) - Egypt's legal campaign against a handful of foreign NGOs reached a crescendo last week with the repatriation of several U.S. nationals indicted on charges of engaging in unauthorised civil society activity. But many local analysts believe the latest developments - far from signifying the end of the crisis - portend nothing less than a seismic shift in Egypt's longstanding "strategic relationship" with the U.S.

A year after Mubarak's ouster, Egypt-U.S. relations have come to a crossroads," Tarek Fahmi, political science professor at Cairo University, told IPS. "The issue of foreign-directed 'civil society' groups has led to the first fundamental crisis between the two countries in more than 30 years.".....

Fahmi, however, like many other local observers, doesn't see things going back to business as usual.

"Judging by its recent behaviour, Washington continues to act as if the Mubarak regime - which never dreamed of challenging the U.S. - was still in power," he said. "It doesn't seem to have realised that here was a revolution in Egypt - and that it can now therefore expect a degree of resistance to its diktats." "

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do you support international military intervention in Syria?

With about 300 responding (it is very early), 64% said yes.

Real News Video : A Glimpse into Rural Egypt

Jihan Hafiz: Support for Muslim Brotherhood and Military Council widespread despite growing economic insecurity plaguing the country

More at The Real News

Real News Video : Palestinian Film Breaks Ground on Women's Issues

First film in the Arab world to deal with sexual assault of women and girls released in Israel/Palestine

More at The Real News

Al-Jazeera Video: Egyptians stuck in "political" NGO crackdown

"Yehia Ghanem had not even spent a day on the job as a consultant for the US-based International Center for Journalists when he found himself wrapped up in a high-profile government investigation into the foreign funding of civil society groups in Egypt.

Now Ghanem and 13 other Egyptians are on trial, facing charges of operating without license and illegally receiving foreign funds. And they're on their own: the 13 Americans and other foreigners who had been charged and banned from leaving Egypt were abruptly allowed to fly out of the country on March 1 after the United States negotiated a deal with the Egyptian government. Only one American voluntarily remained.

That disappointed Ghanem, who hoped the foreign defendants would shine a light on what he says is the unfair prosecution, and it has incensed many other Egyptians who view the deal as an embarrassment and an infringement on the judiciary's independence.

Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros reports from Cairo."

The Syrian refugee crisis is aggravating old tensions in Lebanon

Once a sanctuary for refugees, Lebanon is now divided down sectarian lines in how it reacts to those fleeing Syria

Chris Doyle, Wednesday 7 March 2012

".....Since last April, hundreds have crossed the border, fleeing the Assad regime's oppression. By this month there were just over 7,000 UN-registered refugees in northern Lebanon, with thousands living unregistered in the hills and in Tripoli.

As the Syrian regime "cleansed" Bab Amr in Homs, another 2,000 to 3,000 fled across the border, joined by others following the Syrian army's shelling of towns such as Al Qusayr near the border on 4 March.

The refugees had to walk for days in freezing conditions, evading landmines and regime forces who shelled one bridge used to cross into Lebanon at Qusayr.

They arrive traumatised by the horrors of what they left behind. Most families have lost loved ones and are terrified of going back. One refugee I met during my visit had had to be dragged injured by his friends across a minefield. Refugees from Tell Kalakh, close to the border, told me that their houses had either been taken over or destroyed since they left.

The effects on children have, as ever, been the most dramatic. In a run-down apartment in Tripoli, Ahmed, a four-year-old boy from Homs, came up to me and said: "All I can hear is the tanks firing outside my house.".....

These refugees need and deserve our support. In Tripoli, doctors tell me that they cannot cope with the injured and require help now. The international community could do little to help the people of Homs throughout the shelling of Bab Amr, but they can at least ensure that survivors of that terrifying ordeal can live in dignity in Lebanon with their rights respected. So far, international governments have done precious little."

Guardian Video: Syria's deputy oil minister announces defection from Assad regime

Abdo Hussameldin announces his defection via a video posted on YouTube, becoming the first high ranking civilian official to abandon Syria's President Bashar al-Assad since the uprising against his rule erupted a year ago. Hussameldin says he will withdraw from the Arab Ba'ath party and join the revolution, Thursday 8 March 2012

This year let's celebrate … the Saudi women's driving campaign

International Women's Day: The campaign got women's rights moving, from political participation to jobs in lingerie shops

Eman Al Nafjan, Thursday 8 March 2012

"I don't believe gender differences are so strongly felt anywhere in the world as in Saudi Arabia. Even strolling down the street, the great majority of men are in white ankle-length shirt dresses while women are, by law, required to wear a black abaya and head scarf wherever they go in public. And gender differences in rights and obligations are just as black and white as the dress code. Women are banned from driving their own cars; they are not allowed to run their own businesses; they are not allowed inside main government buildings; and they cannot travel abroad, no matter what their age, without official permission from their guardians, which has to be authorised by the government.....

This year let's celebrate … the women of Egypt's revolution

International Women's Day: Women are standing up against bullying and sexual abuse by the military and won't be silenced

Ahdaf Soueif, Thursday 8 March 2012

"On 16 February 2011, 10 of the most active feminist NGOs in Egypt issued a statement with a broad agenda. It ended:

"As women, we have been active participants in the Egyptian popular revolution and will continue this role, insisting on the full participation of women in the political and decision-making processes in the coming period. We believe that the elimination of all forms of discrimination – not only those based on gender, but also on class, race, belief or ideological affiliation – is the way to achieve citizenship for all."

On 9 March, however, the military discriminated: having detained scores of young activists from downtown Cairo and taken them off to military jails, they asked the women if they were "girls" or "women"; the "girls" were then subjected to a virginity test. When they were released, one of them, , Samira Ibrahim, took the military to court and is fighting her case now. When she spoke at Banha University recently, she was hailed as a heroine.......

On 17 December, during a vicious attack on protesters outside the cabinet office, the military generated the "blue bra" image that flashed across the world. The incident also brought out a 3,000-woman march chanting: "Our revolution, the military stole it, the women of Egypt will restore it." One young woman, who had to have 25 stitches to her head and many more to her legs after soldiers beat her, rose to fame for throwing Field Marshal Tantawi (the chief of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) out of her hospital ward when he had the gall to come to visit.

Women here have come forward as a solid force, an integral part of a national movement bent on change, participation, social justice and freedom. And they're taking steps to ensure that the old tactics of bullying and sexual abuse cannot be used to intimidate them."

Egypt: Drop Charges in Non-Profit Group Cases

New Associations Law in the Works is a Potential Way Out

March 7, 2012

"(New York) – The Egyptian authorities should drop the charges against 43 workers with nongovernmental organizations who are charged with operating “unlicensed” groups under a repressive law, Human Rights Watch said today.

The trial before the South Cairo Criminal Court is scheduled to re-open on March 8, 2012, after the previous panel of judges recused itself and the appeals court president referred the case to a new circuit. In the meantime, the Egyptian parliament is drafting a new law governing nongovernmental organizations to replace the Mubarak-era law, which grants the government excessive powers to regulate and restrict these groups.

“Egypt’s judges have in the past protected nongovernmental groups and dismissed politicized charges against dissidents,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “This is an opportunity to end a politicized saga by throwing out the case while parliament drafts a new law that will decriminalize peaceful activity by nongovernmental groups.”...."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Syria's deputy oil minister defects

Abdo Hussameldin announces his defection in a video whose authenticity could not be immediately verified.


"Abdo Hussameldin, Syria's deputy oil minister, has announced his defection in a video posted by activists on YouTube.

If confirmed, Hussameldin would become one of the highest ranking civilian official to abandon President Bashar al-Assad since the uprising against his rule erupted a year ago.

"I Abdo Hussameldin, deputy oil and mineral wealth minister in Syria, announce my defection from the regime, resignation from my position and withdrawal from the Baath Party. I join the revolution of this dignified people," Hussameldin said in a YouTube video.

Rami, the activist who shot the video and posted it on YouTube on Thursday, told AFP news agency in Beirut that the opposition helped arrange his resignation. He asked that the location where the video was shot not be disclosed for safety reasons.

Hussameldin denounced Russia and China for backing the regime saying they were not "friends of the Syrian people but partners in the killing of the Syrian people".

He said he had served in the Syrian government for 33 years and did not wish to end his life "serving a criminal regime".

"That is why I have joined the right path knowing that this regime will burn down my house, hunt down my family and fabricate lies," he said.

He advised his colleagues to abandon "this sinking ship"......"

The "New" Egypt, by Emad Hajjaj

حماس والابتعاد التدريجي عن ايران بعد سورية

حماس والابتعاد التدريجي عن ايران بعد سورية
رأي القدس

"تعيش حركة المقاومة الاسلامية 'حماس' عملية تحول استراتيجي غير مسبوقة تشمل من ضمن ما تشمل، اعادة النظر في تحالفاتها الاقليمية السابقة، ونسج تحالفات جديدة ربما تؤدي في نهاية المطاف الى قطيعة مع ماض استمر لاكثر من عشرين عاما تقريبا.
بداية هذا التحول تجسدت في انحياز الحركة الى الثورة الشعبية المطالبة بالتغيير الديمقراطي في سورية، وادارة ظهرها للنظام الذي فتح لها ابوابه واحتضن قيادتها طوال السنوات الماضية، ومغادرة جميع قياداتها المقيمة في الخارج دمشق والاستقرار بصفة نهائية في عواصم عربية.
السيد خالد مشعل رئيس المكتب السياسي للحركة حط الرحال في العاصمة القطرية الدوحة ومعه عضوان من المكتب السياسي هما محمد نصر وعزت الرشق، بينما استقر الدكتور موسى ابو مرزوق نائبه في القاهرة، واختار السيد عماد العلمي التوجه الى مسقط رأسه في قطاع غزة.
مرحلة المراجعة هذه لم تقتصر على القطيعة مع النظام السوري، والانحياز الى الشعب وثورته احتجاجا على القمع والحلول الامنية الدموية التي ادت الى سقوط سبعة آلاف شخص حتى الآن، وانما في طريقها للامتداد الى ايران ايضا الدولة التي دعمت حركة 'حماس' ماليا ومعنويا وكانت عاصمتها طهران محجا موسميا لاعضاء قيادتها.
مسؤولان في الحركة فاجآ المجتمع الدولي قبل العربي والاسلامي يوم امس باعلانهما انها لن تتدخل في اي حرب بين ايران واسرائيل، ولن تطلق ما في جعبتها من صواريخ على المستوطنات والمدن الاسرائيلية في حال نشوب هذه الحرب، اي انها ستقف على الحياد مثلما يمكن فهمه من خلال التصريحات التي ادلى بها في هذا الخصوص كل من السيد احمد يوسف مستشار وزارة الخارجية في حكومة غزة، والسيد صلاح البردويل عضو المكتب السياسي للحركة.
السيد البردويل قال جازما بان الحركة لن تقدم الدعم لايران في حالة تعرضها لضربة اسرائيلية او امريكية لتدمير مشروعها النووي، مؤكدا 'ان ايران شيعية بينما ابناء الشعب الفلسطيني في القطاع هم من اتباع الطائفة السنية' مثلما جاء في حديثه لصحيفة 'الغارديان' البريطانية التي نشرته في عددها الصادر امس، بينما حرص السيد يوسف على القول ان حماس لن تتدخل في هذه الحرب لانها 'ليست جزءا من اي محور عسكري او سياسي وعملها ينحصر في ارض فلسطين فقط، واذا تعرض قطاع غزة لهجوم عسكري فستتولى القيادة العسكرية الميدانية الرد'.
هذه التصريحات ستفاجئ الكثيرين خاصة في ايران من حيث توقيتها، والكشف في الوقت نفسه عن اتصالات جرت بين الدكتور محمود الزهار الرجل القوي في الحركة ومسؤولين في الادارة الامريكية مثلما قال السيد البردويل في المقابلة نفسها.
التوقيت مهم، لان التصريحات الامريكية والاسرائيلية تتوالى هذه الايام حول عدم استبعاد اي خيار عسكري لتدمير البرامج النووية الايرانيةن خاصة على هامش زيارة بنيامين نتنياهو رئيس الوزراء الاسرائيلي لواشنطن ولقائه مع الرئيس الامريكي باراك اوباما.
من المؤكد ان السيدين البردويل ويوسف لا يعبران عن آراء شخصية وانما عن استراتيجية جديدة للحركة، فالمسألة ليست زلة لسان وانما تسريب متعمد لارسال رسالة واضحة حول التغيير في تحالفات حماس الجديدة لاكثر من طرف عربي واسلامي ودولي.
حركة 'حماس' ليست مضطرة للاجابة على اسئلة افتراضية مثل عما اذا كانت ستدخل الى جانب ايران في حرب ضد اسرائيل، فأبجديات علم السياسة تنهى عن وقوع المسؤولين في هذه المصيدة، وتحث على التريث بالقول 'اننا سنقطع هذا الجسر عندما نصله' مثلما يفعل معظم السياسيين المخضرمين.
من الواضح ان هناك تعمدا مقصودا للتأكيد على ابتعاد الحركة التدريجي عن معسكر ايران- سورية- حزب الله، بصفة مؤقتة او نهائية، والاقتراب اكثر من محور الاعتدال العربي الذي يضم دولا 'سنية' مثل المملكة العربية السعودية وقطر والامارات والكويت ومصر وانسجاما مع مواقف الاسلاميين وحركة الاخوان المسلمين خاصة التي باتت تملك مع التيار السلفي ثلثي مقاعد البرلمان المصري على الاقل.
حركة 'حماس' عادت الى حاضنتها الطبيعية اي حركة الاخوان المسلمين، وارادت بمثل هذه النقلة تصحيح 'خطأ'، واستجابة لضغوط مكثفة من قبل الحركة الام، اي حركة الاخوان، تزايدت في الاشهر الاخيرة بعد اندلاع ثورات الربيع العربي.
من السابق لاوانه اطلاق احكام متسرعة على توجهات الحركة المستقبلية، ولكن حديث السيد خالد مشعل عن تبنيه للمقاومة السلمية والعصيان المدني ربما ينبئ بالكثير في هذا المضمار، بالاضافة الى ما يتحدث عنه مراقبون مقربون من الحركة حول الانسجام الشديد بينه وبين الرئيس الفلسطيني محمود عباس الذي ظهر بوضوح في الاسابيع الاخيرة وادى الى توقيع اتفاق الدوحة.

UN envoy visits battered Homs district

Valerie Amos, in Syria for talks aimed at securing humanitarian access, saw city that was 'completely devastated'.


"The United Nations' humanitarian affairs chief has visited the battered Syrian opposition neighbourhood of Bab Amr, in Homs, finding it largely deserted of inhabitants, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who arranged the visit, has told Al Jazeera.

Valerie Amos followed a delegation from the Syrian Arab Crescent into the district, after first receiving approval from the government, ICRC spokesman Saleh Dabbakeh told Al Jazeera.

She saw a city that was "completely devasted", her spokesperson said.

Amos heard gunfire during her visit, and was denied entry into areas that were under opposition control, despite being promised by the Syrian foreign minister earlier in the day that she could visit any part of the country, Amanda Pitt, the spokesperson, said......"

Grasping the Syrian Quagmire


"One of the most significant and enduring consequences of the Arab Spring has been the bloody uprising in Syria. For almost a year cities across the Levant have been defying the iron grip of the Assad regime and challenging the police state of the Ba'ath party.

Of all the countries engulfed by the revolutionary fever encompassing the Arab World, Syria, a country of 23 million, epitomizes the toughest case....

Similar to Iraq's Saddam Hussein, every aspect of Syrian politics and public institutions has been dominated by the totalitarian-style of the Ba'ath party since 1963. But unlike Tunisia or Egypt, where the public enjoyed a relatively vibrant civil society, Syria suffers from the total absence of any democratic institutions, civic organizations, or independent media....

....Corruption in Syrian society has become endemic. A small but powerful elite composed of the Assad family and other powerful Alawite families, as well as small number of loyal families from the prominent merchant class in Damascus and Aleppo, have been controlling all major industries, financial institutions, and trade in the country. According to Transparency International, Syria ranks 129 in the world on the corruption index (by comparison, Egypt's Mubarak ranked 112 and Tunisia's Ben Ali, 73).....

But despite the massive evidence of atrocities, why has the Assad regime's assault on its people gone unabated? What are the factors that distinguish Syria from the other uprisings of the Arab Spring? And finally, what are the likely scenarios of the Syrian revolt? To answer these questions one needs first to understand the regional and international context and the players that have a direct stake in the outcome of the Syrian conflict.....

But hypocrisy is not the domain of the West alone. Iran and Hezbollah, which have been very popular with the Arab masses for decades, have also chosen strategic calculations over moral principles. Their unwavering support for the Assad regime, despite its massacres against peaceful protesters, has cost them dearly in the Arab street. In the case of Iran, the support was not only political but included providing military hardware and expertise, tear-gas canisters causing severe burns and partial paralysis for the demonstrators, as well as providing technical assistance in communications and in monitoring the Internet. According to a well-placed source in Damascus, several senior members of Iran's revolutionary guards have been providing technical expertise in command-and-control to the Syrian military onslaught against major cities such as Homs and Hama.

More recently Ali Larijani, Iran's parliamentary speaker, angrily admonished the leaders of the Palestinian resistance groups during their recent visit to Tehran because, unlike Hezbollah, they were not actively and publicly supporting the Assad regime. Shortly after, many Palestinian leaders -- including most Hamas senior cadres -- left the Syrian capital for good as their relations with Tehran and Damascus has reached an historic low....

So what are the possible scenarios for the Syrian quagmire?

The Tunisia/Egyptian scenario:.....

The Yemeni scenario:......

The Libyan scenario:....

The Iraqi/Somali scenario:.....

The assassination plot scenario:....

The grand political bargain scenario:.....

The long-term regime attrition scenario:
In essence, the conflict in Syria is a test of wills between the regime and the Syrian people. For almost a year the Syrian people have demonstrated courage, determination, and resolve to reclaim their freedom against a brutal and bloody regime. After a year full of enormous sacrifices, it is unlikely that the will of the Syrian people could be crushed. The fear of the regime by the people has been broken, as more people from all walks of life across Syria have taken to the streets. Despite its enormous military power, the readiness of the army and security apparatus has been deteriorating daily and cannot be sustained for a long period of time. The economy is collapsing and soon major commercial strikes and civil disobedience might spread, paralyzing the country. In all likelihood, the International Criminal Court will also indict Assad and his senior leaders, tightening the noose around their necks. In this scenario the combined effects of all these measures would result in the collapse of the regime and the disintegration of the exhausted army.....

....Almost a decade later, Iran is committing the same miscalculation with its unconditional backing of the Assad regime. Whichever scenario plays out, it is unlikely that Assad would survive, unless Israel attacks Iran, resulting in a whole new calculus.

Barring this possibility, the question then becomes how would the region look as Assad disappears from the scene: is it the ultimate triumph of people power or a sectarian fire spreading across the entire region?"

Syria's Alawite activists stuck in the middle

Despite fears of sectarianism if the regime falls, some in the Alawite minority are speaking out against Assad.

By Nir Rosen

"The Syrian opposition has been stepping up efforts to get religious minorities involved in the year-old uprising. The exiled opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) recently issued a statement announcing that it "extends [a] hand to the Alawite community", the sect which President Bashar al-Assad belongs to.

Although a minority, Alawites dominate Syria’s various security agencies, its army's officer corps and key positions in the government. Western backers of the SNC and opponents of the regime often say the Damascus leadership will only fall when the Alawite community is persuaded to abandon it.

An older Sunni opposition intellectual who spent time in prison before and during the current uprising agreed with this analysis when I spoke to him in Damascus. "The system will fall only when Alawites believe they are headed in the wrong direction," he said, adding that "Alawite intellectuals must realise that if they want to live in this country, they must be against the regime and with the revolution."

Historically, Alawites have played a prominent role in the opposition. But in the ongoing uprising, there are few prominent Alawite voices. Many members of the community fear they will be marginalised if the Sunni majority gains power. Given their experiences of oppression before the Baath party took over in 1963, some statements by the opposition have only encouraged their fears.....

Despite these challenges, the pressures they face from their own communities and families, from the regime and from sectarian trends in the opposition, Alawite activists are keen to make their voices heard.

On December 31 a delegation of Alawite activists joined about 500 Sunni demonstrators in Barzeh.. The leader of the rally announced to the crowd that they had special guests that evening. One man took the microphone and told the crowd he was an Alawite from Homs. They cheered and clapped. He told them there were other Alawites in the crowd and many Alawites "in the prisons of the dog called Bashar al-Assad". The crowds cheered and clapped again, and continued doing so after he shouted: "I am from the Alawite sect - not from the Assadi sect". He led the crowd in chanting "one, one, one, the Syrian people is one!" and "the people want the execution of Bashar!""

Al-Jazeera Video: Syria's propaganda war

"The Syrian government has reportedly attempted to cover-up civilian casualties of its almost month-long bombardment of opposition strongholds in Homs by clearing out bodies and through its media propaganda campaign."

Real News Video: Netanyahu Invokes Holocaust and Threats to Americans in Iran AIPAC Speech

Max Blumenthal: Netanyahu concedes "red line" to Obama, but creates a culture for war

More at The Real News

Real News Video (with Transcript) : The Effects of Sanctions and Talk of War in Iran

Hamid Dabashi: Threat of war makes Iran more of a "garrison" state as sanctions hurt ordinary people

More at The Real News

China: Rise, Fall and Re-Emergence as a Global Power: Some Lessons from the Past

By James Petras

"....China has powerful trading, financial and investment networks covering the globe as well as powerful economic partners .These links have become essential for the continued growth of many of countries throughout the developing world. In taking on China, the US will have to face the opposition of many powerful market-based elites throughout the world. Few countries or elites see any future in tying their fortunes to an economically unstable empire-based on militarism and destructive colonial occupations.

In other words, modern China, as a world power, is incomparably stronger than it was in early 18th century. The US does not have the colonial leverage that the ascendant British Empire possessed in the run-up to the Opium Wars. Moreover, many Chinese intellectuals and the vast majority of its citizens have no intention of letting its current “Westernized compradors” sell out the country. Nothing would accelerate political polarization in Chinese society and hasten the coming of a second Chinese social revolution more than a timid leadership submitting to a new era of Western imperial pillage. "

Back-Seat Driver, by Bagley

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

Tunisia: Free Speech Double Standards

by Amna Guellali
(Amna Guellali is the Tunisia and Algeria researcher at Human Rights Watch)

"Freedom of expression has become a battleground in post-revolution Tunisia. Debate is already raging at the National Constituent Assembly over a draft constitution put forward by the Islamist Ennahdha party that includes an article stating, “Freedom of thought, expression, press, and publication are guaranteed while taking into consideration the sanctities of peoples and religions.”

This debate has implications for all of the countries experiencing the ‘Arab spring’. But there have been recent echoes of the same issues in western capitals as well. Meanwhile in Tunisia, the flag of freedom of expression has often been waved when politically convenient and forgotten when it isn’t.

A visit in February by the Egyptian cleric Wajdi Ghounim, notorious for his fatwa supporting the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), widened the rift between secularists and Islamists. Invited by three Tunisian nongovernmental organizations, Ghounim gave sermons around the country in which he equated secularists to enemies of Islam. On the airwaves of Radio Mosaïque FM, he said that FGM, while not compulsory, is a practice encouraged by Islamic scholars for “medical reasons” and likened it to “cosmetic surgery.” “Every person who does not abide by the law of God,” Ghounim said on Mosaïque, “is an apostate.”...."

Senator McCain Wants to Wage War Against Syria. A Libya Redux??

Former GOP presidential nominee calls for airstrikes against Assad government

Common Dreams

"Republican US Senator John McCain, his party's nominee for president in 2008 and a perennial war hawk, urged US military intervention in Syria on Monday. On a speech from the Senate floor, McCain said the US should use its "full weight of air power" against the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

"Providing military assistance to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups is necessary. But at this late hour, that alone cannot be sufficient to stop the slaughter and save innocent lives.The only realistic way to do so is with foreign air power." He added, "The United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centers in Syria, especially in the north, through airstrikes on Assad's forces."...."

Back to basics in Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud
Asia Times

"Ongoing destruction of Palestinian olive trees by Israeli settlers underlines Israel's efforts to break historic bonds. Bizarre laws allowing indefinite detentions, property seizures and the interrogation of surgery patients add insult, and as apartheid-like practices worsen, counting on Western leaders to provoke change proves futile....

Before we speak of "solutions" to the "Palestinian-Israeli conflict", I believe that we must first resolve our own dilemma by divesting from an occupation that runs counter to any conception of true humanism.

Desmond Tutu once said, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

Where do we stand in relation to this conflict? Are we on the side of the armed Brooklyn settler, and the US-armed Israeli soldier? Or are we on the side of the bearded old man holding tightly to his broken olive branches, conveying a profound mix of despair and hope?

The choice is yours. And the consequences of your choice could redefine history. "

Anwar Al-Balkimy, Egyptian Lawmaker, Resigns Following Nose Job Scandal

"Egypt's conservative Al-Nour party announced Monday that it has expelled one of its members of parliament, Anwar al-Balkimy, after discovering that the lawmaker fabricated a story about getting beaten up by a masked gunman in order to cover up a recent nose job, The New York Times reports.

The lie was discovered after Al-Nour party members decided to travel to the hospital where al-Balkimy was recovering from facial injuries and investigate his claim that he was assaulted and mugged by unidentifiable carjackers, according to a statement released by the party on Monday.

"Based on what the hospital officials said, we decided to expel him from the party, and so he submitted his resignation," al-Nour party spokesman Nader Bakar was quoted as saying on the group's official Facebook page. "We are trying to bring forth a new set of social values in politics based on Islamic principles. He may be suffering from an emotional disorder."

A number of Egyptian media outlets have reported that al-Balkimy checked into a Cairo hospital on Feb. 28 in order to undergo a rhinoplasty procedure and then checked into a second hospital the next day, telling doctors that his bandaged face was the result of an attempted carjacking on the Cairo-Alexandria desert highway.

While he was checked in to the second hospital, he received a flood of visitors including the head of a rival party, the AP reports.

In the meantime, Al Arabiya published a photo of al-Balkimy with his face heavily bandaged, which quickly spread across news outlets.
The revelation that al-Balkimy lied was highly embarrassing for a party which espouses ultra-conservative beliefs, according to The New York Times. It's also an early hit to Egypt's burgeoning electoral democracy, which had its first meeting of parliament just 40 days ago........"

Gauging Arab public opinion

A new, comprehensive poll illuminates Arabs' opinions on democracy, corruption, Palestine/Israel, and the US.

By Marwan Bishara

"The first of its kind - a poll conducted in 12 Arab countries, representing 84 per cent of the population of the Arab world, in an attempt to gauge the region's political mood - has arrived at some interesting results.

Organised by the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS), face-to-face interviews by Arab surveyors with 16,731 individuals in the first half of 2011 revealed majority support for the goals of the Arab revolutions and notably, for a democratic system of government.

The countries surveyed included Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Sudan, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania, with the help of local institutions and research centres.

While people seem generally split on the question of separation of state and religion, a majority supports the non-interference of religious authorities in politics.

And by a 15-1 ratio, Israel and the US are seen as more threatening than Iran. However, this ratio is lower among those living in proximity to Iran.

Opinions differ on certain issues from country to country and region to region, but there's clearly a trans-national, trans-border public consensus when it comes to questions of identity and national priorities.

The data generated by the poll, the largest conducted so far in the region, is a treasure trove for those looking to better understand the political environment in the Arab world......"

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Stratfor and geopolitical instruments of our demise

The privatisation of intelligence procurement has led to the rise of Stratfor, as recently leaked emails reveal.

By Mark LeVine

"......More troubling is Stratfor's contracts with Homeland Security, which is on record as coordinating the recent police attacks on the Occupy movement across the United States, as documented by Rolling Stone.

At the very least, we should not be surprised if in the coming years, Stratfor and similar organisations play an increasingly prevalent and pernicious, role in the privatisation of the security, intelligence and policing by governments across the world. It is this function - the ability to monitor and even attack citizens when governments can't afford to get their hands dirty - which will be the most important "geopolitical instrument" (to use CEO George Friedman's term) that companies like Stratfor can offer their corporate and government customers.

If so far their "craft" remains amateurish, the experience of Iraq shows that all they need to do to succeed is sow enough chaos and distrust among their adversaries to keep the customers happy and the profits rolling in. If Stratfor can do that, George Friedman and his henchmen will have the last laugh, no matter who is reading their emails."

Can the Syrian regime crush the uprising? Yes, suggests history

Bashar al-Assad's fall is far from inevitable: past Middle Eastern uprisings have failed more often than succeeded

Chris Phillips, Tuesday 6 March 2012

".......The more the regime kill, the more they risk affecting extended families in other cities, widening the opposition. Recent demonstrations in the previously loyal middle-class district of Mezze in Damascus suggest the tide of public support may yet turn, particularly if the economy continues to decline under the weight of sanctions and unrest.

For now, however, as with Algeria, Iraq and his father before him, the pillars of Bashar's regime remain in place. Recent historical examples in the region illustrate how difficult it is to unseat a ruling regime without the assistance of western firepower. In its absence, those seeking to topple Assad must thus consider how best to erode those pillars in a manner least damaging to Syria in the long run.

For those wondering about Assad's next move, however, policymakers could do worse than look at the past Algerian, Iraqi and Syrian examples for a dictator's handbook on how to survive an uprising."

Hamas rules out military support for Iran in any war with Israel

Senior figures say Gaza-based Islamic militants would not launch rockets into Israel at request of Tehran, a key sponsor

Harriet Sherwood in Gaza City, Tuesday 6 March 2012

"Hamas will not do Iran's bidding in any war with Israel, according to senior figures within the militant Islamic group.

"If there is a war between two powers, Hamas will not be part of such a war," Salah Bardawil, a member of the organisation's political bureau in Gaza City, told the Guardian.

He denied the group would launch rockets into Israel at Tehran's request in response to a strike on its nuclear sites. "Hamas is not part of military alliances in the region," said Bardawil. "Our strategy is to defend our rights"

The stance underscores Hamas's rift with its key financial sponsor and its realignment with the Muslim Brotherhood and popular protest movements in the Arab world.

Bardawil's words were echoed by a second senior Hamas figure, who declined to be named. Hamas, he said, "would not get involved" in any war between Iran and Israel......"

Exclusive Video: Syrian Doctors Torturing Patients

A Syrian employee at the Military Hospital in Homs has provided video evidence that medics are torturing patients, writes Channel 4 News Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Miller.

Channel 4 News

"Chilling video images, covertly filmed by an employee at the hospital, who risked his life to bring to world attention the plight of what he claims are civilian patients there, were broadcast on Channel 4 News on Monday 5 March.

It is the first time such video evidence has emerged. Medical and human rights experts consider the intentional infliction of pain by doctors within the confines of a hospital to be the ultimate desecration of human rights and "a gross breach of medical ethics"......"