EU Foreign Policy Archives
March 07, 2012
On Israel & its American tropes, re Iran
The Economist Blog on America has a wise comment, in Israel, Iran and America: Auschwitz complex | The Economist that is rather more intelligent the normal idiocy that is written about Israel
But Israel has even less control over its own destiny than Portugal or Britain do. The main reason is that, unlike those countries, Israel refuses to give up its empire. Israel is unable to sustain its imperial ambitions in the West Bank, or even to articulate them coherently. Having allowed its founding ideology to carry it relentlessly and unthinkingly into what Gershom Gorenburg calls an "Accidental Empire" of radical religious-nationalist settlements that openly defy its own courts, Israel is politically incapable of extricating itself. The partisan battles engendered by its occupation of Palestinian territory render it less and less able to pull itself free. It is immobilised, pinned down, in a conflict that is gradually killing it. Countries facing imperial twilight, like Britain in the late 1940s, are often seized by a sense of desperate paralysis. For over a decade, the tone of Israeli politics has been a mix of panic, despair, hysteria and resignation.
No one bears greater responsibility for the trap Israel finds itself in today than Mr Netanyahu. As prime minister in the late 1990s, he did more than any other Israeli leader to destroy the peace process. Illegal land grabs by settlers were tolerated and quietly encouraged in the confused expectation that they would aid territorial negotiations. Violent clashes and provocations erupted whenever the peace process seemed on the verge of concrete steps forward; the most charitable spin would be that the Israelis failed to exercise the restraint they might have shown in retaliating against Palestinian terrorism, had they been truly interested in progress towards a two-state solution. Mr Netanyahu believed that the Oslo peace agreements were a mirage, and his government's actions in the late 1990s helped make it true.
Having trapped themselves in a death struggle with Palestinians that they cannot acknowledge or untangle, Israelis have psychologically displaced the source of their anxiety onto a more distant target: Iran. An Iranian nuclear bomb would not be a happy development for Israel. Neither was Pakistan's, nor indeed North Korea's. The notion that it represents a new Holocaust is overstated, and the belief that the source of Israel's existential woes can be eliminated with an airstrike is mistaken. But Iran makes an appealing enemy for Israelis because, unlike the Palestinians, it can be fitted into a familiar ideological trope from the Jewish national playbook: the eliminationist anti-Semite.
I believe this hits the current situation head on - and also highlights the madness that this dead-end might pull in the last super-power into a mad bit of co-enablement and suidice pact (not nuclear holocaust, but security over-reaching touching off a Gulf region war that is not needed or useful, spiking oil prices into a deadly range)
February 26, 2012
Egypt NGO Trail encores (delay to April)
The murky and ongoing political trials against NGOs backed by foreign money took another strange twist in the delay to 26 April. God alone knows what is going on now in Egypt, which is sliding chaotically sideways.
However, in this NYT/IHT arty, I rather more Trial of Nonprofit Workers in Egypt Is Abruptly Put Off - was struck by this:
But another contingent of lawyers had turned up to argue on behalf of Egyptians who they said had been harmed by the activities of the nonprofit groups, which officials of the military-led government have charged with stirring unrest in the Egyptians. They shouted back accusations the defendants and their supporters were agents of the United States.Emphasis added. That is a line of agitation - clearly by Salafistes - that is quite dangerous.
As though to complete the sense of a climactic unleashing of pent-up bad feeling between the two longtime allies, another group of protesters outside the courthouse chanted for the United States to release from prison Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian jailed for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. Some here have argued he should be released in a prisoner swap for the Americans on trial in the case.
American diplomats, Egyptian lawyers and others involved said the efforts to resolve the case had foundered amid a breakdown in the lines of authority within the military-led transitional government in the final months before the generals have pledged to leave power. American officials say they have tried to find Egyptian counterparts who might intercede, but Egyptian leaders say they cannot intervene in the judicial process.
If the case is not resolved, Congress and the Obama administration have vowed to cut off the $1.55 billion in annual aid to Egypt, potentially rupturing the three-way alliance among Washington, Cairo and Jerusalem that has been a linchpin of regional stability.
There is no dispute that the two groups and their staffs have broken the letter of Egyptian law. Both groups sought, but never received, licenses from the Egyptian government, and both are openly financed from abroad. They therefore violate two restrictions on civil groups left over from government of Hosni Mubarak, the strongman president who was deposed a year ago. But both groups have been tolerated here for years, along with scores of Egyptian nonprofit groups that also break both rules.
But the case has continued to move forward, and the American threats to cut off aid have set off a new wave of Egyptian nationalism.
The arty elsewhere notes the idea being mooted by American officials of some deal to let the Americans go, the Egyptian nationals with short sentences. I would advance the opinion that such would be quite damaging for American image overall.
However, few choices exist.
February 06, 2012
End American (and other) Aid to Egypt
Noted this via the Arabist, frankly Steve Cook is spot on: From the Potomac to the Euphrates » Egypt and the United States: It’s Not You, It’s Me
I say we oblige Aboul Naga and wind down the aid program—including military assistance—as soon as practical. It’s hard to run against the “foreign hand” if there is no foreign hand. In addition to undermining Aboul Naga’s claims (and hopefully weakening her) bringing an end to the aid program and shutting down the USAID mission has multiple political benfits. First, Washington will no longer be in the unseemly position of providing taxpayer largesse—however small in the grand scheme of things—to a government that resents the United States and clearly does not share its values. Second, it will provide an opportunity for a much-needed change in military-to-military relations in which the United States merely pays for the services it needs like expedited transit through the Suez Canal. Third, it is consistent with this moment of empowerment and dignity for Egyptians many of whom do not want U.S. assistance either because they believe it actually stands in the way of a democratic transition or accept Aboul Naga’s argument along with those who couldn’t care less about U.S. assistance because it doesn’t touch their lives. Finally, it will free up funds for the United States to help others who actually might want Washington’s help, perhaps the Tunisians, Moroccans, or some sub-Saharan African countries would be grateful for development assistance.This goes for others aide as well (UK, Germany).
Assistance spent on Tunisia, Morocco, the Sahel, would make rather more sense. Egypt, well, would do well to go through a "cure."
April 20, 2011
Carnegie + W Bank on NA and EU: True, False, Nuanced, Well-known?
Soliciting the experts regardng these summary statements via Carnegie and World Bank, below. Basic fact, nuanced, fundamentally off? I go with #1, but just confirming.
March 24, 2011
A wee oversight: sanctions cut rebels cash, access to arms
Now, one would have hoped that this would have been worked out, given past experience (from Libya crisis: live updates | World news | guardian.co.uk):
4.32pm: In his update to MPs, William Hague said Libya's National Oil Corporation would be subject to sanctions (12.46pm). The tightening of the economic noose on Gaddafi means the regime has been cut off from oil revenues. But economic sanctions will also hit the opposition, points out Samuel Ciszuk, a Middle East energy analyst with the IHS consultancy.Additionally by all accounts they are also fully subject to the arms embargo. Well that's really very very precious. The Guide already has the stocks he likely needs, so sanctions are a bit of high-mindedness without much effect, and he's by all accounts got major cash reserves on hand. So, the main effect of sanctions in the near term would appear to be to hobble the Rebellion. Brilliant.
The state-owned NOC subsidiary, the Arabian Gulf Oil Co. (AGOCO), the upstream, midstream and downstream infrastructure of which the opposition largely controls, has been named as a sanctioned entity, making any near-time efforts to sell crude through the eastern oil port of Marsa El-Harigh for now, rather impossible. For the opposition movement, which cannot fall back on rumoured large gold reserves, this poses a significant immediate problem.
Libya: American hand wringing, the Iraq Complex
I saw this on Kevin Drum's blog, Libya's Thousand-Man Rebellion | Mother Jones and left comment, reacting to:
A thousand men? If that's true, then there's virtually no chance of Qaddafi losing this war. For this and other reasons, Adam Garfinkle believes it's almost a certainty that the French and British will have to send in ground troops if they're genuinely committed to expelling Qaddafi, and this in turn could spell trouble for us:
Emphasis added.So what happens if the French and British try but do not succeed in a reasonably expeditious way? What happens is about as obvious as it gets: not Suez happens. The Americans come and save the day, as they demurred from doing in October 1956. The French and British know in their heart of hearts that we cannot let them fail miserably at this, or that’s what they suppose. I suppose they’re right.
What this means is that the President may before very long be forced to make the most excruciating decision of his life: to send American soldiers into harm’s way to save the Western alliance—even from an operation that is not explicitly a NATO mission!—in a contingency that has no strategic rationale to begin with; or not, leaving the alliance in ruins and Qaddafi bursting with plans to exact revenge.
What's worse, even if Garfinkle is being unduly pessimistic and we manage to oust Qaddafi successfully, we still don't seem to have any idea whether the rebellious tribes are really any better for Libya or for us than the tribes currently aligned with Qaddafi. Helluva war we have going here.
My comment is quoted below as well, but I would preface it by two further remarks. First, Qadhdhafi already as early as the first declarations that he "had to go" by the West (before intervention, in the early days of the protests that mutated into rebellion), was already bursting with plans to exact revenge. Indeed, as my Tunisian colleague can confirm, there were credible reports that he had already begun to fuck with Tunisia by funding / supporting agentes provocateurs from the old regime, and saw Tunisia and Egypt as Western plots. I further note that one has to be extraordinarily ignorant to propose that there is an equivalence between the Rebellion and The Guide.
Regardless, as I lay out in my comment, the Libyan Eggs of Stability were already broken by the time Sarko forced intervention, pissing and moaning as if the choice was about some form of stability or intervention (as was the case in Iraq) is sheer idiocy. This without even counting the negative influence of the image of the West moaning about Qadhdhafi as he massacred the opposition, leaving the inevitable insurgency in the hands of the 'Told you so' Takfiris.
It is fine to argue against intervention, but advance alternatives to actual reality, do not piously pretend that Humpty Dumpty had not in fact fallen.... My comment then:
March 22, 2011
Non binaries: A Libyan Fight for Democracy, or a Civil War?
The NY Times poses this burning question: A Libyan Fight for Democracy, or a Civil War? - NYTimes.com Well, it's not an either or, now is it?
A bit unfair perhaps, but I find the answer to their question:
Is the battle for Libya the clash of a brutal dictator against a democratic opposition, or is it fundamentally a tribal civil war?To be "Yes."
Or more shortly, it is clearly not just a tribal civil war, although it could evolve in that direction, but neither is the opposition abstract democrats. They oppose Qadhdhafi (an eminently sensible position regardless of one's politics). After that....
“It is a very important question that is terribly near impossible to answer,” said Paul Sullivan, a political scientist at Georgetown University who has studied Libya. “It could be a very big surprise when Qaddafi leaves and we find out who we are really dealing with.”Well, I shouldn't think it is a surprise as such. One is dealing with a chaotic melange of people who hate Qadhdhafi, which as reflected in even the wider Arab public's response, is "pretty much anyone of any political flavour, excepting only those people directly supported and/or related to him."
Of course saying he only has mercenaries, as I have noted in passing on several occasions, is a wee bit too simple. His support is more fundamentally of a tribal logic.
Returning to the opposition, there are clearly some nasty people there, ex-regime figures who are not particularly wonderful folks, Islamists of a quasi-Takfiri inclination, etc.
I'd hazard the opinion that there are precious few liberal democratic types in Libya, so expecting a Liberal Democratic Revolution is the height of idiocy.
Nevertheless, insofar as Qadhdhafi unleashed hell in response to the demonstrations, and the Eggs of Stability are already broken, one has to move forward with that reality (this in contrast with the Iraq situation, where Bush ibn Bush willfully and with precious little understanding, started breaking eggs - an active choice).
The behavior of the fledgling rebel government in Benghazi so far offers few clues to the rebels’ true nature.Errr, no. It offers lots of clues. First of which, they're not a unitary movement, second of which they don't have a "True Nature" in a unitary sense, and that this chaotic mix can go in a lot of different directions - probably bad directions but certainly bad directions if there is no countervailing influence.
Further to that, I find this sort of writing just strange (although after typing that I stopped to think, well, the Journo needs to convey that the heroic image of the freedom fighter and the credence given by many to the claims out of the Rebellion, needs, ahem, some nauncing):
Like the Qaddafi government, the operation around the rebel council is rife with family ties. And like the chiefs of the Libyan state news media, the rebels feel no loyalty to the truth in shaping their propaganda, claiming nonexistent battlefield victories, asserting they were still fighting in a key city days after it fell to Qaddafi forces, and making vastly inflated claims of his barbaric behavior.Marhaben il Libya, bled al Jamahiriyah.
Let's just say that nothing about Libyan political culture over the past 50 years has built anything like objectivity into public discourse (if I may engage in moderate understatement).
As to the notes on violence, this is in fact a good thing to highlight:
In the neighborhoods of the capital that have staged major peaceful protests against Colonel Qaddafi, many have volunteered — speaking on the condition of anonymity — that their demonstrations were nonviolent mainly because they could not obtain weapons fast enough.Emphasis added.
Even one religious leader associated with Sufism — a traditionally pacifist sect something like the Islamic equivalent of the Quakers — lamented his own tribe’s lack of guns for the fight.
That stands in sharp contrast to Libya’s neighbors, Tunisia and Egypt. In Egypt, in particular, the young leaders of the revolution were so seized with an ethic of nonviolence that in the middle of winning a battle of thrown stones against a loyalist mob, two young protesters said they believed they had lost, simply because they had resorted to violence.
Sufism is not a pacifist sect like the Quakers. It's not even a "sect" - it is an approach to worship, like Charismatics in Christianity.
I have no idea why Westerners can't get it fucking right re Sufism. It appears that pacifist quasi Quaker stuff sold by Indian Swamis in the 1960s can't be removed from English speaking consciousness.
Aside from that, the contrast with Tunisia and Egypt is correct: Egypt and Tunisia are relatively modernized societies, Tunisia more than Egypt, and
Of course expecting Non Violence to be a preferred methodology (this reminds me of Andrew Sullivan's idiocy a few days ago on this subject) in the face of The Guide, who rather obviously has few compunctions about violence, is more than a bit precious.
March 19, 2011
Libya Intervention Nuances
As a close to the evening, some nuances. Listneing to BBC I heard an American Lt. General - missed the name - engage in that very American military analysis of others characters, saying he did not expect Qadhdhafi to stick after more pressure, that he lacked the "good moral centre" and that he would "remove himself from Libya"... Queer analysis, that's what people seem to have been writing since this started. I can't say I had a sense from the US military types interviewed they really have gotten beyond a terribly colonial view of Arabs. I rather predict his predictions that this will be over in days, weeks "not months" will not prove out.
But regardless, in conversations with various MENA colleagues of mine, a nuance about support for this intervention. Now that there are actual planes in the air, a contradictory reaction has emerged in the conversations, the Qadhdhafi anti-colonial rhetoric echoes a bit. I think Mark Lynch is right - very right - to warn that in-region (and probably in-Libya) support for the intervention is thin and fragile.
March 18, 2011
Text of Security Council Resolution on Libya: License to Kill the Qadhdhafi Regime?
Louns ETA: [Moving this up as it deserves review and reflexion]
Marty McFly fled armed Libyans in Back to the Future but in this time period and real world a martial no-fly zone -- or something far larger, even an authorization to aerially and materially assist in a war to unseat Qadhdhafi -- has been declared by the UN Security Council (SC 1973). Text of resolution follows below some initial commentary.
Sullivan bis: Delerium & Fantasy re Libya & impact "Arab 48"
ETA: The LibGov has declared a ceasefire (via the ForMin), but I rather suspect this is a delaying action and not real on the ground (reports seem to indicate that indeed combat continues). Probable intention is to have a pause (likely needed in the East to bring up logistics), use rebels ongoing pushback as excuse to resume.
Really should combine, but off to meeting, so Andrew Sullivan
That seems to me to be a minimal requirement for such a drastic and risky action. The Congress must have a debate and vote on this. It's hard to express how disappointed I am not just by the administration's decision but by the president's refusal even to explain a third war to the American people. And he's now off to Brazil ...? Is he kidding?
This from a fellow who full-throatedly backed the Iraq war. Insofar as I can tell the US has merely voted support for the UN resolution (and never mind how comical it would be to bring the Congress to debate in the closing hours of Benghazi over the theatre of the No Fly). Really, Sullivan is over compensating for his idiocy over the Iraq war, with deeper stupidity about the No Fly.
The most important part of the UN vote last night was no the actual No Fly (although France resuming its old war with Qadhdhafi has an interesting side to it), but the effect of stiffening the spines of the Rebellion. Morale effect. And worth an effort.
Unless of course Sullivan and the others can advance a scenario where Libya reconquered by Qadhdhafi, but awash in weapons 'liberated' from Government depots and filled with embittered rebels does not turn into a Chechnya or an Algeria c. 1993 (except next to Tunisia and Egypt, themselves struggling to establish stability) with the rebels turning to the hard-core Takfiri Jihad wing as their point of reference....
March 15, 2011
Libyan rebellion on its back feet
It would appear that if they cannot hold (Libya Live Blog - March 15 | Al Jazeera Blogs) Ajdabiya, the Rebellion is in deep trouble, if not on its death bed, make No fly and other talk rather academic:
Libya and Middle East unrest - live updates | World news | guardian.co.uk
Al Jazeera has learned that Gadaffi forces have reached the western gate of Ajdabiya
• Gaddafi forces have retaken the town of Brega and are shelling Ajdarbia, 90 miles from Benghazi. Rebel forces plan to make a stand there, the last major obstacle to Gaddafi before Benghazi.This is a pity as if there is one person in MENA that there is consensus on getting rid of, including local consensus, it's the Guide, as the FT ( "Gulf provides wrong kind of support for Bahrain") in talking about Bahrain, slyly notes:
• Libyan government troops have captured Zwara, the last rebel-held city west of Tripoli to fall back under government control.
• G8 foreign ministers are expected to omit any mention of a no-fly zone in their draft communique in Paris. The West German foreign minister said the west should not get sucked into a war in north Africa,
It is an irony, of course, that some of the leaders who are facing the wrath of their own people should be clamouring for the demise of a fellow ruler – except that he happens to be Col Gaddafi, loathed by virtually all his peers and brutally crushing a rebellion. In fact, getting rid of the colonel is probably one of the very few things most Arab states agree on.Quite, indeed one of the few things most Arabs period agree on.
On intervention, my change of spirit is in many ways summed up in this New Yorker article, “Where is America?” hits on:
The rebels have lost ground because they have not learned how to hold it. At the front lines at Ras Lanuf and Brega, they didn’t dig trenches, and so when jets came to bomb them they panicked and ran. Last Friday, I was with them as they abandoned what had been their new fallback front line, in front of the refinery east of Ras Lanuf (having lost the town itself the day before) under withering barrages of rocket fire. That night, I slept in Brega; when I ventured back, the next day, to see if there was anything left of the front line, I found just fifteen or twenty battlewagons at a checkpoint in the desert fifty miles east, near El Aquela. A few more technical vehicles with guns showed up from Brega to reinforce the line; a few were beyond, “probing “ the desert, according to an officer I talked to—one of the very few soldiers I had spotted anywhere near the front lines in recent days.
Suddenly, the sky filled with the approaching roar of a diving jet fighter, which swooped in and, as we scrambled next to a car, dropped a bomb about a hundred feet from where we were. Once again, as we had seen so many times in the previous days, everyone fled—because there was no cover, and nowhere to hide. At Brega, there was a kind of reassembly of men, but they were few, and there were, again, no fortifications, no trenches, and precious few guns. The next morning, Brega, too, was abandoned amid similar scenes, as Qaddafi’s forces, coming onwards, heralded their intention to advance with long-range rocket fire and more aerial bombardment.
In truth, even if a no-fly zone is imposed now, it might not be enough to stop Qaddafi’s advance. Its real value, as far as I have been able to ascertain, would be the symbolic importance, the morale boost it would give the fighters, to allow them to feel that they are not entirely alone in the world. It might even buy them enough time to rally more volunteers to stand and fight, rather than retreat, in the face of Qaddafi’s advancing ground forces—or at least to dig some trenches. If Libya’s revolutionaries are truly abandoned, however, anything is possible. An ideological incoherence seethes in these young people—trying to be brave, terrified and nonetheless going forward, and being blown to pieces—which could be exploited if their revolutionary euphoria turns to bitter resentment.
I had thought No FLy rather pointless as the Qadhdhafi planes have been technically almost entirely useless per most reporting. However, I had also thought there was more of a spine of trained Army among the Rebels. The pure psychological impact of the airplanes is clearly more useful to Qadhdhafi than their actual effectiveness. That the Rebels are just a kind of "flash mob" rather than an actual force renders them fundamentally ineffective. In reading the reminder that the Rebel commander is the former Interior Minister, one has to wonder if he is not deliberately letting the mob get bloodied to create the basis for takeover - if not too late.
As to the last item, revolutionary euphoria, more than failure, failure without any real gesture of support from the West - ex-France - seems to me to carry the profound danger of ceding the terrain of opposition to Al Qaeda fil Maghreb. Without some signs of real support, the only credible actors may end up the Takfiri Jihad movement. That is in no one's interest. Better support and failure than no support and failure. The Germans are being incredibly myopic. (But then German policy under Merkel seems to be largely characterised by myopia).
March 14, 2011
The Full Q. Rebound, & Support
Although I have been a sceptic of No Fly, I have to say time is coming to abandon that. The Guide is increasingly getting more effective use out of his airforce it appears (perhaps the pilots beginning to think that he's going to last after all) and the Rebellion is in real danger now, as this note from the guardian.co.uk show, although the caveats as to real impact remain.
11.26am: The issue of a no-fly zone is all the more pressing given that Gaddafi's air force is continuing to raid rebel positions. According to rebel groups, war planes attacked weapons stores today near the eastern city of Ajdabiya.I've come to the conclusion that it is better to try and fail than not to try, as the impact on the Western image chez the Libyans - and the potential gains for the Jihadis - is large (negative and positive respectively).
France and the UK are seen as the main proponents of a no-fly zone within the G8 group of major industrialised nations, which also comprises the US, Russia, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada. Russia, one of the big players if a proposal is to be put before the UN security council, apparently remains to be convinced. The country's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said this morning that he wanted more information about how such a zone would work. Russia would "closely study" any proposal put before the security council, he added.
March 11, 2011
No Fly & the Full Qadhdhafi
This could be the opening needed for support to the Rebellion, let us hope that Arab League shows more spine than it has ever before in its existence (helped along by the fact that none of them have ever liked the Guide):Libya uprising - live updates | World news | guardian.co.uk
3.59pm: 3.57pm: The Arab League is apparently set to back a no-fly zone over Libya, according to Reuters, who quote the Hungarian foreign minister, Janos Martonyi.
"The most important thing is that the Arab League agrees with [it]," he said.
"The expectation is that they will support [the] no-fly zone under some conditions."
First, it rather appears that Qadhdhafi has launched a fullish military campaign now:
Libya uprising - live updates | World news | guardian.co.uk
2.59pm: More details and colour from Reuters:There is a real chance Qadhdhafi can entirely reverse his losses in the west, not clear to me regarding the East, fundamentally more hostile to him as it is. Nevertheless, as my earlier notes indicated, the Rebellion must rapidly get more organised and serious or they are in deep trouble. This may also make them more open to foreign support, but unless they are more organised, foreign support isn't going to do much (although there is probably a synergestic relationship between potential for foreign support and getting organised, as else a reverse of the abandoning of the regime is as likely to emerge as not).
The sound of explosions and small arms fire came from Ras Lanuf on Friday as government troops landed from the sea backed by tanks and air power fought to recapture the oil port town.
A large column of black smoke billowed from storage tanks at an oil installation, television pictures showed, after what Arab channels said was a series of government air strikes.
2.56pm: An update on the fighting in Ras Lanuf. A look at this map helps put things in context
(AP) The rebels appeared to have a tenacious hold around the oil facilities at Ras Lanuf, taking refuge among the towering storage containers of crude oil and gas. Government forces stopped directing their fire at those positions, apparently to avoid blowing up the facility's infrastructure, according to fighters.
Instead, the pro-Gaddafi troops, positioned in Ras Lanuf's residential about 10 miles (16 kilometers) east of the oil port across a barren desert no man's land, were raining rockets and shelling along the main coastal highway, targeting rebel vehicles trying to reinforce and bring supplies to the port, said Mohammed Gherani, a rebel fighter.
The bodies of at least three opposition fighters killed in the shelling were brought to rebel-held Brega, a larger oil port to the west, bringing the toll from two days of battles at Ras Lanouf to at least nine.
It's worth highlighting the disorganisation:Libya uprising - live updates | World news | guardian.co.uk
2.05pm: AP offers a fascinating profile of the rebels fighting for Ras Lanuf and hoping to work their way to Tripoli:Romantic gallantry, but leaderless 'flash-mob,' cell-phone organised cluelessness with AKs in the face of a real army is going to go down in bloody failure. It is not possible to help this mob unless they get themselves organised, and fast.
"The front-line force … is surprisingly small. Not counting supporters who bolster them in the towns along their path, it is estimated at 1,500 at most Libyans from all walks of life, from students and coffee-shop owners to businessmen who picked up whatever weapons they could and joined the fight. No one seems to know their full size, and they could be picking up new members all the time …
"The rebel force is a leaderless collection of volunteers, operating in an evolving collaboration with soldiers who deserted various units over the past month and are still be trying to organise themselves. It's not clear who, if anyone is giving orders …
"The volunteer militiamen largely have been acting and reacting as a pack to government assaults, launching initiatives wherever they can. They ride around in dozens of pick-up trucks, some with machine guns and anti-aircraft guns strapped to the back. Some rebels have weapons, while others seem hardly able to operate a gun …
"Many of the fighters come from Benghazi, the main city in the rebel-controlled eastern half of the country. They are united by hatred for Gaddafi and a burning desire to overthrow him and establish a state under the rule of law."
(Edited to add additional item from Fareed Zakaria's The Libyan Conundrum - TIME
March 10, 2011
Franco British demarche for intervention
This may actually lead somewhere, and given the signs that the Rebellion could be in for serious reversals, comes at a good moment, as the anti-intervention feelings in the Rebellion will likely be seriously cooled.
French recog of Benghazi Nat Council as legit gov
France gets out ahead, and recognises the National Council as the legit Gov: Libya uprising - live updates | World news | guardian.co.uk
10.12am: France has just become the first major European power to recognise the Libyan national council in Benghazi as the legitimate representative of Libyan people.
France is to open an embassy in Benghazi and will allow the Libyan embassy in Paris to reopen.
This will be welcomed by the Libyan council, which has been pushing for such recognition.
This is riskier than it looks as it is not by far a sure thing this council will come out on top, either internally to the rebels (although if they prevail, more likely) or vis-a-vis The Guide.
February 27, 2011
French FM resigns over Tunisia
This was long overdue, she was really flagrantly incompetent in handling the crises in Maghreb:
Pressure mounts on Gaddafi - live updates | World news | guardian.co.uk
5.04pm: The French foreign minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, has resigned after mishandling the crisis in Tunisia. "I ask you to accept my resignation," Alliot-Marie wrote in the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters. President Nicolas Sarkozy, due to make a televised address later today, is expected to replace her with the defence minister, Alain Juppe, a veteran conservative who served as prime minister and foreign minister in the 1990s.
February 25, 2011
Tunisia, Don't forget Tunisia.
Don't Forget Tunisia
25 Feb 2011 05:19 pm
J. Scott Carpenter says it is "going to need help from the international community - and a lot of it":
If Tunisia doesn't succeed, no other country in the region can. Tunisia's 10 million inhabitants do not suffer the ethnic and sectarian divisions that bedevil many of their neighbors. Tunisians are well educated and largely middle class -- 80 percent own their own homes. Nearly all Tunisians practice the same form of moderate Islam. The populace looks to Europe for its economic and political inspiration. The cry Tunisians made famous around the world during their revolution, "Dégage!" (Get out!), is tellingly in French, not Arabic.
The underlying article is good, but the emphasized parts are annoying. Just because someone speaks French or English well doesn't mean moderation. Tedious condensation that (doubtless the writer, a former State person, was a francophone). Same re "moderate Islam" - I understand why it has to be said in these articles but really it gets tiresome.
Let me suggest an alternative, "the ordinary, non-extremist Islam of most of the Islamic world..." - excepting the seriously retarded places, (AfPak, Gulf).
February 23, 2011
The Libyan Mirage Defection: Maltese First account
Very interesting note from Malta's English newspaper
.... Meanwhile, AFM sources have told this newspaper that the jets, ... broke out of formation when their squadron was ordered to attack Libyan civilians. ..
While it is not yet known whether the two Colonels were in command of the mission and whether they encouraged their fellow pilots to make for Malta, it has been established that the two aircraft peeled off and dove for the deck. They flew below 500 feet to avoid detection while in Libyan airspace – presumably both out of fear of surface-to-air missiles being launched from Libya and also to lose the rest of the squadron. It is understood that the flight, which takes about 40-45 minutes on a commercial jet liner, took only six to nine minutes in the Mirages, as afterburners were engaged. In pilot talk, as one source put it, they “bunted, dove for the deck, hit the afterburners and screamed towards Malta”.
There are two accounts of how the aircraft made contact. Some sources say they requested emergency landing clearance as they were out of fuel (Malta is obliged to acquisce), while others said that the planes landed in formation and only announced their arrival when they set down on the tarmac on the commercial runway.
The newspaper also notes that the flight time is scary for Malta as a reminder of how close they are to Libya should more serious trouble breaks out.
February 08, 2011
Tunisia Appeal for Aid
A smart appeal, although I suspect the US, instead of investing in the country where it has the greatest liklihood of effect (and where it chose the side of Angels), will continue to pour billions down the Egyptian rat hole.
FT.com / Middle East & North Africa - Tunisia appeals for aid to protect democracy
Tunisia’s interim prime minister, Mohammed Ghannouchi, has appealed for international funding to “protect the Tunisian experiment”, insisting that the cost “would be really very modest compared with what is at stake”.
He told The Financial Times in an interview there was no guarantee that the transition to democracy after the toppling of Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali as president last month would go smoothly. The popular uprising inspired protest campaigns across the Arab world, most notably in Egypt.
“There are forces that would like to take it back to square one,” he said. “All the people who have things they can reproach themselves for, who profited from the old system, are going to do all they can to hinder this democratic process.”
January 30, 2011
Rached Ghannouchi Returns to Tunisia (with rant on Anti-Islamist Panic)
Exiled Ennahda party leader Rached Ghannouchi was received by enthusiastic crowd when his plane landed. Given that he is somewhat of an Islamist, apparenlty his presence doesn't count as a step towards True Democracy, in the proposals of Robert Satloff, who wants the US to sponsor a new wave of Arab democratic government which would, apparently, not allow any non-secular or at least Islamist party to participate. In other words, the same thing all over again, a Ben Ali, only with multiple parties. Rant below, on anti-Islamist Panic.
July 22, 2010
Turkey & the Israel to do, American silliness
I dislike commenting on the entire Israel-Palestine fiasco, it's a pointless and endless running sore that won't be solved until the Americans stop reflexively backing every bit of Israeli security-overreach.
But this is very queer. The Americans publicly questioning the Turkish alliance. This is idiocy:
FT.com Turkey: The sentinel swivels
Conversely, the perception in Washington is that Ankara is becoming a volatile and unreliable partner. Some in Congress view the breakdown of relations with Israel as proof of an eastward tilt by an authoritarian Islamist government. US officials, usually careful to keep differences behind closed doors, are expressing doubts. Philip Gordon, assistant secretary of state and one of Turkey’s strongest supporters in the state department, says the country’s commitment to Nato, the EU and the US “needs to be demonstrated”.The Americans - and I have heard this in speaking now and again with American diplomats - are simply daft to put their alliance in question over Israel. Turkey is a rather more useful and important actor, and one with a growing ego (and economy). The quoted statement is the highest form of self-regarding idiocy. Tone deaf, blind to Turkish frustrations with EU (bloody hell, after the Turks get stiff armed, the Americans say THEY have to demonstrate commitment?)
April 06, 2010
Class Demographics Explain Better MENA/Muslim Integration in USA?
The Washington Times, not normally a spurting fountain of Muslim-friendly coverage, praises the relatively successful integration of Muslim immigrants in America when compared to that of Europe. (The newsstory mostly concentrates on inter-faith dialogue, but the broader implication of better relative integration (e.g. “melting pot”) in America comes through loud and clear.) While I do enjoy a nice dose of American exceptionalism, and I do think it may apply here in some ways, let me nevertheless throw out a less nationalistic hypothesis on relative integration levels. I am too lazy and busy to find and crunch the appropriate numbers and surveys to confirm or refute it, but here it is: Could some of the relatively better Muslim/MENA integration in America be simply due to the fact that Muslim immigrants there have tended towards the educated professional and middle class, rather than being a large class of laborers as may be the case in lots of Europe?
April 21, 2009
Maghreb, Mirages of Ungovernable Somalia on the Atlantic bis
Insofar as this gets out of the usual Middle Eastern centred blithering on, perhaps a return to the issue of Ungovernable Spaces is worth another post.
FT - Algerian militants strike from eyries
The group seems to have since decided to restrict itself to military and security targets, although civilians often end up as collateral damage. Experts believe the change in tactics could mean the group has been weakened or that it has decided to try to spare civilians to avoid alienating the population.Emphasis added.
“The suicide bombings tarnished them in the eyes of the people,” says Hmida Layachi, a newspaper editor and expert on Algeria’s Islamist groups. “They were losing the image that they were only fighting the rulers so they started avoiding operations in Algiers and other big cities.”
He believes there are 800 to 1,200 militants in the mountains of central and eastern Algeria in comparison with an estimated 40,000 armed insurgents during the 1990s.
AQIM also has groups in the Sahara desert in the south of the country. These have been roaming the borders with neighbouring countries, recruiting and training militants from Mauretania, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. The groups in the desert are small,but perform a crucial function by ensuring that a smuggled weapons and explosives reach their colleagues in the north.
A US military official says: “Right now if it weren’t for the logistic supply from southern Algeria and northern Mali, the group would be on its last leg.
This may or may not be true (I would be inclined to think it has some degree of truth in that the vast spaces of the Sahara are indeed hard to control and generally not actually worth controlling), but it certainly is a perception with no small degree of policy driving value.
Insofar as the Somali pirating has reminded EU & North American policy makers how very, very annoying ungoverned places can be, and how much paranoid fear of Al Qaeda drives foreign policy, I would hazard the opinion this sort of activity will have outsized impact on EU & NA engagement with the Maghreb and the Sahel.
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March 30, 2009
A Chechen in Every Potshot? Dubai Assassination
Stretching out our Dubai trilogy to 4, Chechen on-again off-again military leader, Sulim Yamadayev, who was apparently against the Russians before he was recently for them, was just shot to death while staying in the UAE. (There appears to be a pattern of exiled adversaries of current pro-Russian Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov dying in a veritable Fodor's list of the world's more glamorous cities.) It appears Dubai's gendarmes have made an arrest. In all the unhappy news about Dubai, let's not hope for "free fire zone" to replace a currently economically bumpy "free trade zone." Importing Russian affairs has typically hitherto had only a recreationally carnal implication.
In the end, though, this is probably more a Chechnya-Russia story here than a Gulf one.
January 09, 2009
Gaza: A Modest Proposal
At risk of delving into the Israel/Palestine issue, where people too often yell, scream throw things, and put words into my mouth, I'd like to see what the denizens of Aqoul think of this idea for a cease-fire in Gaza, and where to go afterward, which is part of a larger plan to eliminate conflict by addressing socioeconomic inequalities, and which would also address other conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere.
December 30, 2008
Gaza round, all ye clowns: Open thread
Try to keep the hyperpartisanship down in this more heat than light subject. Observations, etc. on the latest, have at it. But when in doubt, note sentence 1 here again.
September 01, 2008
Let us praise Libyan craftiness and all the lessons learned from Italy
I confess no small degree of admiration for the Desert Hookah Smoker, my early childhood guide, Si Mouamar Gaddafi. this little bit is an act of piracy worthy of .... Rome I think
It's delicious, extorting equity:
In a tent outside Benghazi on Saturday, Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's centre-right prime minister, returned a headless statue of Venus carted away by Italians decades ago and signed a friendship pact with Muammer Gaddafi, the Libyan leader.
The agreement, in which Italy pledges to pay $5bn (€3.4bn, £2.75bn) over 25 years in reparations through various projects - including a highway across Libya from Egypt to Tunisia - follows a decade of difficult negotiations under a succession of Italian governments.
Of course any pledge over 25 years by an Italian government should be discounted to present value using a discount rate appropriate to Italian finances, perhaps Medieval ones. Still, a win win - B Boy and the Guide get to bask in the PR of Large Numbers, and the Guide gets to pocket a decent amount of current exchange.
Almost as intriguing is is The Guide's "Extol[ing] virtues of capitalist reforms" as the FT arty puts it.
Well not quite:
August 24, 2008
MENA Development and Investment: How 'bout just makin' stuff?
Moving back MENA-ward, I add a rant inspired by long-time discussions here and elsewhere regarding investment in Middle East and North African (MENA) countries. My amateur self keeps reading about Gulf or other money chasing things like real estate or hub port facilities, or digging out more of that Texas tea. Now, I hope I don't use too technical economic terms here, but here goes the rant: shouldn't the bulk of this fund dough, including money from superrich nations, be going towards activities where, you know, MENA regular folks will, like, MAKE NEW STUFF and then SELL THAT NEWLY-MADE STUFF TO OTHER PEOPLE for, um, HARD MONEY. That may sound a bit hi-falutin grad-school airy-fairy idealistic, development economics-y, but it needs to be said.
August 16, 2008
Georgia-MENA open thread
(Apologies for genuinely accidental labored allusion.) Anyway, Russia has been doing a bit of marching through Georgia, reviving the Cold War-era 1980s for a bit (assuming the decade had ever left). Readers, writers, commenters, members, computer-owners and -operators are invited to share their wisdom on the latest Caucasian occasion, but most particularly in ways it may relate to the Middle East North Africa regions. Iran yawns; Israel lays low; Turks get dissed; Georgia removes its legions from Mesopotamia. And Vladimir Putin has been confirmed as Tsar of all the Russias, every blasted one of them, even those little Russias that fall under the couch cushions.
August 07, 2008
Nouakchott in the Dark: Mauretania Coup
Semi-Aqoulite alle on his blog provides background and details on Mauretania going coup coup. In comments by alle elsewhere on this site, he notes that "there goes the Arab world's most interesting experiment in democracy-by-coup."
July 26, 2008
Anglos & Arabic: the bizzaro world of the MEMRIstas
Thanks to The Skeptic, or maybe to curse him as this I missed blissfully, of this special piece of stupidity that the Washington Post published earlier, in which a certain student Pollack whinges on about supposed biases in his Arabic text. A terribly tedious and queer little whinge - why it got published escapes me. Although this text came out I think some years after me own Arabic studies (done in the strange dark years of the Orange), I have encountered the book he refers to, and I have to say one has to be a particularly sensitive Likoudiste to find it objectionable. Boring, perhaps, but objectionable?
Although parenthetically, and perhaps of more interest, I wonder how I fit into our Skeptic's Egyptological scheme when I lived there:
July 13, 2008
Ya Rayah...Ch7al nedmou lebad l-ghafline qblek: Southern Med & Socio Economics
With proper reference to Taha's Ya Rayah* which seems more than appropriate given the subject matter, and prompted by The Economist’s recent profile on investment in the Mediterranean as well as a series of articles on the Maghreb and southern Med region (let me call this MedSud from now on, as MEDA sounds idiotic), including a previously noted Lounsbury article from NY Times piece on Algerian Youth, an interesting FT series on labour markets, education and youth in MENA (and in particular on entrepreneurship, or rather not being a lazy bureaucrat), in addition to the rather cretinous article from Abu Dhabi on Maghreb investment that Hogan already cited.
Update: also in similar vein see Comments on Khaleej Times whinging on Islamic Finance
Update II - 15 Jul: quick clarification on my remarks and in particular my MedSud usage. While the underlying article and research by ANIMA covers a wider range - the MEDA zone as they define it including Israel and Turkey, my remarks do not. I personally consider both too different to look at analytically in grouping with the Maghreb or the Arab Machreq. Obviously discussable, but the remarks below should be understood as excluding entirely Turkey and Israel.
June 27, 2008
Bubble, Bubble, Oil and Trouble
This Washington Post story nurtures the question: are the recent bubble-like oil price spikes driven by speculative runs on oil or are they driven by a fundamental growth in demand? The supply side, aka Saudi Arabia, claims the first choice and the demand side, aka America and industrialized states, claims the second. My semi-educated wild hunch is that the supply siders' 'explanation (high speculation) is closer to the truth. (UPDATE: Commenter Klaus notes a more recent Krugman column on the same subject arguing that economic fundamentals are primarily driving the price increase.)
June 25, 2008
Background of the Boumediene vs. Bush case
As a follow-up to the recent US supreme court decision, it’s interesting to note that, Lakhdar Boumediene and the five other Algerians who were arrested with him were not captured in combat, but in their homes in Bosnia, a case of the “extraordinary renditions”, making even their status as “unlawful combatants” questionable.
They were naturalized Bosnian citizens, who the US authorities in Bosnia wanted extradited based on secret evidence (tapped conversations with “coded references to a terrorist plot” between one of the Algerian Bosnians and a relative of his who worked as a janitor in the Sarajevo US embassy, and other phone calls to a Pakistan based suspected terrorist). Several accounts seem to indicate the US would have exercised heavy Rambo-style pressure to obtain their arrest:
U.S. pressure to have the group extradited to the U.S. continued to mount. Initially, it boiled down to "if you are not going to convict them, just let us know when do you plan to release them and we will arrest them." A day before their detention ended, SFOR commander Gen. John Sylvester and U.S. Ambassador Clifford Bond met with top Bosnian and Muslim-Croat Federation officials and plainly told them if they did not hand over the group, Bosnia would pay a very high price. They added that they were through with Afghanistan and were just looking for another place to continue the struggle against terrorism. The message was quite clear, especially since they stressed that President George W. Bush was personally interested in the matter.
March 09, 2008
Favouring Religous Minorities in Emigration - MENA, US, EU & Iran
An issue without an easy answer, with respect to "what is right" as such, raised by a Washington Post arty on US favouring religious minorities in emigration from Iran which to follow the article, has drained the communities.
The essential message from the article, in grosso modo, most Xian and Zoroastrians, etc seeking to leave have largely economic motivations. Hardly news, saw everywhere really. However, the community leaders see their people being drained away (and of semi-amusing note, to a land of immorality... US of A where gays can marry [ahem, well no, but...], horrors to the priest quoted). One wonders what would happen to Iranian Sunni communities given the same chances. What is right here? Rather like the priest, one has to say, well, given a chance...
January 18, 2008
Don't Worry, the French Military is En Garde Duty in the Gulf
France just announced plans to establish a military base in the UAE.
October 24, 2007
MENA Reform: Reform is Dead, Long Live Reform
In part provoked by stunningly irritating conference call with idiots (aka known as 'funders") and in part by getting this piece of silliness emailed to me by some of the same participants, the recent naming of a government in Morocco (for which you can see some useful French commentary chez Ibn Kafka, whose 2nd home at Aqoul sadly awaits the intervention of a mystery writer coming out with a stunning review of some Somali chick...) is a moment to reflect on reform, via this flawed although not entirely useless article in FT (if one closes one's eyes to the idiocy of quoting the USFP). I will add that yes it is clear that England is clearly stringing together his series of quotables, poor bastid is a bit at sea.
First, in preface, let me say that I have long held the opinion that political reform can not really take place except when driven by economic change. At the same time, my dear Ben Ali in Tunisia shows that economic progress without political reform in our MENA region, well can go down a blind alley to be polite.
September 07, 2007
Bin-Laden Versus Bin-Laden, same day
Osama bin-Laden on Sept. 7 2007* -- "19 young men were able, by the grace of [God], the Most High, to change the direction of [America's] compass."
Osama bin-Laden on, um, Sept 7, 2007 -- "burning living beings is forbidden by our religion, even if they be small like the ant, so what of men?"
In addition to terrorist, criminal, fanatic, and other filth-and-foul words, we can now add "what a fatuous dick".
September 03, 2007
Dar Fur: Not So Simple as Arabs attacking "Blacks"
As longer-term readers of Aqoul know, I have rather long been beating away at a point re Dar Fur: that the nice little story packaged up for college activists and Islamo / Arabophobes re Dar Fur fundamentally mis-characterises tribal resource war as genocide and that the real story is desertification and excessive population pressure on an environment that can't support the combination of population lifestyles and numbers. And that the simplistic narrative of Black Africans versus Arabs (imagined to be people looking rather like Saudis, rather than the said Arab elders in the photo... who are rather obviously Arabised locals of a most "Black" genotype....)
The New York Times in a generally decent article, Chaos in Darfur on Rise as Arabs Fight With Arab makes me point, if belatedly. Of course, it contains certain idiocies, such as referring to Arab tribes in the plural but the Fur as a single tribe - they are of course a linguistic group about as much a single tribe as "the Arabs." Which is to say, they are tribes, plural. The article is very much worth a read and promotion. As I am an optimist by nature, perhaps it can help correct some of the delirious whanking on about Arab genocide on the Blacks, and maybe refocus on the real tragedy of an ecological and economic catastrophe and a spiral of destruction as clan and tribal warfare becomes bloodbaths via guns (not that history of the Maori should be forgotten in reminding one and all this is hardly a new phenomena).
May 07, 2007
Sarkozy: The Mediterranean Union
Sarkozy’s proposal of a Mediterranean Union have been discussed a lot by French media, but with little substance. The fact is, there aren’t many details in the proposal anyway. From his party’s website:
Je favoriserai le développement des pays pauvres, en cessant d’aider les gouvernements corrompus, en mettant en place une Union méditerranéenne avec les pays du Sud
I will favor the development of poor countries, by stopping aid to corrupt governments, by creating a Mediterranean Union with southern countries
Since most countries of the South happen to be Arab and corrupt regimes, I wonder how his pro-colonial, pro-Israeli, “anti-corrupt” attitude is going to help him cooperate in building any kind of union with them.
April 28, 2007
France reflections: elections, Beurs, MENA, economy
As per The Lounsbury's suggestion, and following Ibn Kafka's extensive coverage of French elections, here are my two cents about them, Beurs, France and the MENA region and related economic bits.
Sunday's [May 6th] second round will most probably bring Sarkozy to French presidency. I have to say I'm very mixed up about this election. This round's vote is a matter of either gambling on Sarkozy, and risking what happened with Arab Americans, who happen to have voted George Bush in 2000, or choosing an economically destructive but marginally more risk averse community-wise choice with Segolene.
April 06, 2007
My Inner Neocon & Iran's Shatt Across the Bow
No, I don't want us or Britain to go to war with Iran. Heck, I'm a "cut and runner" on Iraq from before it happened. But am I the only one not of neoconnish-hawkish outlook who is a little perturbed that uniformed professional British sailors and Marines, engaged in lawful patrolling and probable legitimate intelligencing, roll over and "confess"? (Side note to antiwar folks: the coalition presence is now lawful, regardless of other moral or prudential non-rectitude.) Civilians, I understand. Me, I'll give away your social security number when faced with a nail clipper. But what happened to stiff upper lip; name, rank and serial number? If they were tortured or threatened I won't judge, but at least I'd want to know. UPDATE: Rolling over does make a little more sense after these revelations of mock executions, etc..
April 05, 2007
Well, Golly: Egyptian Finance Comes to Town
Youssef Boutros Ghali, Egypt's Minister of Finance, will be giving his take -- perhaps a bad choice of words -- on the economy of Nile-dom right here in Potomac River City, aka Washington D.C., on Thursday, April 12 (reserve at the CATO Institute by 11 April). Full details are below the break, and here, the most important of which is "Cato Forums and luncheons are free of charge." D.C area Aqoulites are required to go, if they are below 32 and in any kind of University. Meanwhile, informed comments from all on the subject, including from our own regional finance hyperinformed but Masrophobic resident Id, are welcome.
January 14, 2007
War with Traditional Islam
An interesting blog post from military specialist and commentator Col. Pat Lang (a real colonel, unlike my old Col appellation, a mere shortening of my name) on War Against the Boogey Men, critiquing the American approach to the Iraq war and the larger engagement with the Middle East.
The item that caught my eye was this:
"Freedom" and "Islamic Fascism" clearly have "special" meanings here. I say that "freedom" as the bushies use the term is code and really means westernization and "globalization" in the sense that we want to see the world "ironed out" flat so the it meets the egregious Friedman's dream of a homogeneous world. "Islamic Fascism" means, I think, simply "Islam." That is, Islam as it has been understood by millennia of Muslims. That is, as an all encompassing view of the world and man's relationship to God. "Ah, but these are not real Muslims," I can hear the outcry now. Rubbish. We non-Muslims can not dictate to any particular group of Muslims what Islam means to them. We want an Islam similar in its role in life to the emasculated role that Christianity plays for most Americans in their lives? Sorry! We do not get to choose for them. There wil be a reaction to what I have written here. It will be similar to the outrage vented on me by a former congressman from the Midwest who went on and and on about the nice ladies who come to his office to tell him that Muslims are a peaceful lot. Peaceful? Yes? Within limits.
My analysis leads me to the belief that we are fighting against traditional Islam.
December 29, 2006
Islamist Election & Moving MENA Forward: Any Real Meaning in "Moderate" Elections?
A somewhat Arab News-ish article from FT on the Moroccan PM - who's on shaky ground according to the movers and shakers of the Maghreb biz community - comments that the Islamists can't really win in the upcoming elections, given they're structured against them.
I continue to be frustrated with this short-sightedness.
Returning to the question posed in the title, is there any real meaning in "moderate" elections? Am I the only observer that feels this sort of game has the tendency to bring long term discredit on the concept of "secularism"? (well, actually my opinion is that it already has.)
September 27, 2006
Solidarity, Reg: Maghreb, Outsourcing and Reaction
One of the issues that the United States has gotten right in MENA is its sometime concentration (when the gross fabulists that are political leadership of the Bush Administration are not dreaming up imaginary and magical transformations of a New Middle East, in time to render themselves ridculous and fools, e.g. Lebanon) on economic liberalisation as means to grow the region and provide new opportunity. It would do better to focus more on seeing real liberalisation see the day, and let its completely magical thinking about democratisation fall by the wayside.
The political support for such liberalisation contrasts favourably with the absurd double talk Europe engages in with respect to economic policy, above all France (which of course is no worse and in many ways better informed than the self-decieving fabulism the Americans are engaging in on the political 'democratisation' front). The Financial Times has an important article, although one not likely to be noticed by many, on the clash between Axa unions in France and the company over its plans to outsource to the Maghreb.
August 27, 2006
Losing and Winning: Constituency Service
Roula Khalaf, who I may add is simply one of the must-read journos on Middle East has a fine profile in FT on Hezbullah's reconstruction efforts
I know from work I am engaged in right now that this will send France, US and others into a tizzy.
But there is no beating them. Quick roll out of Western institutional aid is simply not going to be competitive, because the networks are not there.
Where the damage is, the institutions are Hezbullah.
August 11, 2006
Lebanon & Regional Blowback (Updated)
The rising chorus of commentators horrified at the American-Israeli desire to play a self-indulgent Thelma & Louise drive-off-the-cliff policy in MENA continues to grow.
Ranging from a late echo to my own "Guns of August" allusions, in the Washington Post yesterday (although the lunatic Thelma & Louise approach is reaffirmed by Gingrich and Krauthammer today), to Roula Khalaf's analysis in the Financial Times last week, to intelligent Israeli analysts realising that this 1982 business is not going to get any better, whatever the utterly magical thinking going on in Bush and Olmert governmental quarters, to The New York Times (in a generally decent if somewhat superficial review) noting the disastrous impact this useless war is having on American policy interests.
August 06, 2006
Sarkozy, Lebanon & French Arabs
[Editor's Note: Our occasional contributor Shaheen sent us this interesting note on Euro-Arab developments re Lebanon and French policy]
French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy's recent remarks about Lebanon (for those who don't understand French, he's basically siding with Israel) infuriated quite a few French Arabs (once more). Yet, the ascending interior minister and probable next president is the story of a big failure from French Arabs' part, first and foremost.
August 03, 2006
Creative Destruction & Own Goals - "The New Middle East is Already Dead"
The entry title comes from a radio report I just heard on RFI. The above is from a Moroccan business journal online, l'Economiste, normally a fairly liberal publication. Fairly amusing in the end, and illustrative of the spill over effects of the public US diplomatic position.
August 01, 2006
Baalbek (Updated: 2 Aug)
The madness continues.
Sats (Arab and Euro) are reporting Israel is attempting an air-mobile operation in Baalbek (Mid-Lebanon, Beqaa).
The sole value in this entire madness is a near perfect illustration of tactical considerations, poor leadership and domestic politics getting the better of cold-blooded rational calculation of state interest.
[Update: watching Hezbullah spokesman on al Jazeerah, I found it interesting that in ranting on about Arab occupied lands he finessed the issue of Israel - i.e. cited Golan, Chebaa, Gaza, but not Israel qua Israel. Artful that was. Added further, caught on BBC World Service interview w Leb rep, who ostentatiously refused to take a bait to whinge on about Syria but was highly US critical]
July 26, 2006
Slowly, Slowly into the Morass We Return (Updated)
The agonising replay (is it farce this time or tragedy?) of 82 continues. The New York Times article Israel Finding a Difficult Foe in Hezbollah amply illustrates the idiocy that is this Guns of August replay.
It is hard to decide what is most depressing. The predictability of the slow, inching back into the morass only exited in 2000, the delusional commentary from America which seems to have utterly abandoned critical thought, or the certainty of nasty blow-back as time goes on in this utterly (except for Hizbullah) Pyrrhic battle.
July 24, 2006
Skillful Asymmetry & Spin (Israel-Lebanon Land War)
In the twilight realm that is the competing spin on the Israeli-Leb crisis, it is hard even to know where to begin, when our own yellow satire barely outdoes actual American commentary justifying civilian massacres.
However, I would suggest that the Superpower's bizarro-world approach to the crisis, infected as it is with utterly magical thinking as it reportedly is shopping for a 'coalition of the willing' [my term my dears] to "disarm" Hizbullah, and uniquely confirm its own allies as Quislings... [link restored]
The Financial Times, with fine understatement reports this evening that Rice ideas for peace disappoint in Beirut, although that may be about as much news as Israeli and Arab leaders don't see eye to eye.
July 21, 2006
Lebanon-Israel Crisis: The Demos Start (Updated)
Although less impressive than the scenes you can catch of the Arab Sats, this Al Jazeerah arty (Arabic) Continued Criticisms of Israeli Hostilities Against Lebanon and Palestine / استمرار التنديد بالعدوان الإسرائيلي على لبنان وفلسطين conveys in pictures (and of course text) the Islamic world reaction after the Friday prayers. The demos shown on the telly in Amman, Cairo, and Damascus were particularly large relative to the security presence. The article also notes the khutub (sermons) in particular in Baghdad; oddly perhaps the Israelis will provide Iraqis an inter-ethnic rally point.
June 18, 2006
Somalia: Islamic Courts & Women's Progress
A quick note on a interesting arty in The Washington Post on the role of women in backing The Islamic Courts movement that seems to be well on its way to taking power in Somalia and displacing the "secular" warlords.
If there is one item that most at once irritates and amuses me about Western and American commentary specifically is the weird gullibility in the usage of "secular" versus "Islamist" - although in a sense it is relavatory of why secularism has or is failing in the MENA region and many parts of the Islamic world - where "secular" seems to mean "any corrupt bunch of idiots presently in power who are not overtly and ostentatiously 'Islamist' in political orientation."
If this is the "secularism" being offered, and indeed backed by the West and America specifically, does anyone think it should be suprising that, whatever bitter individuals like Hirsi Ali Magaan say for the consumption of the fearful Westerner, secularism is losing ground?
March 05, 2006
Bedfellows & Commerce: Israel's Zim Lines Supports DPW (Updated)
Sadly my work is distracting me from the fun of the ongoing Bigotted Know Nothing Nativist Ignoramus Mob Madness surrounding DPW's takeover of UK's P&O and the incidental acquisition of the operating leases for port operations at six major US ports (although in the UK and globally sanity has prevailed*), I wanted to augment my dear friend and colleague, Secret Dubai's post on Israeli support for Dubai and DPW with specific reference to the Israeli shipping line Zim's statement of support; I should say it comes as no surprise to anyone with experience in the region that some Israelis would step forward on this, even in a politically delicate situation - not so oddly it is the moderates on all sides trying to do business that know each other.
January 29, 2006
Democracy, Liberalism, Consequences
The election of Hamas has set off quite a lot of overdone hand wringing with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and with respect to 'democracy promotion.'
I am going to ignore the I-P conflict as an endless toothache, although frankly in the medium term this is probably a boon as Hamas seems likely to be a more effective player than the corrupt and broken PLO/Fatah.
Rather, a few words on democracy promotion in the Middle East and North Africa.
The first words are, I am no fan of it, and frankly largely do not believe in it on the terms that it is pimped to the general public, etc. However, the handwringing post-Hamas victory requires some comment.
January 26, 2006
The results appear to give Hamas a strong electoral position, which is not surprising if one had one's ears to the ground - despite the Bush Administration apparently sad and Johnny come lately intervention on the side of the sick old man, Fatah.
Here is the rub made clear, really democratic elections are going to produce these kinds of results. If one is going to pimp simple minded democracy, than one has to ive with them. I have met enough Hamas people to suspect that they can in fact be dealt with. It's better optics in the end to try and fail, the exclude which merely feeds into Hamas cycle of popularity.
January 18, 2006
Al Hayat: Maghrebine - Euro -Iraq connexions, the new Afghan al-Arab?
al Hayat has an interesting article on what is described as something of a major network علومات تكشفها تحقيقات الشرطة في الرباط ... خلايا اوروبية تجند المغاربة الانتحاريين وترسلهم الى العراق ... قبل «خلايا الزوجات»
الرباط – محمد الأشهب الحياة - 18/01/06/ش
December 30, 2005
Orhan Pamuk and the Turkish Officer
Once a month or so, my good friend Turkish (nickname to be explained shortly) and I meet up for lunch to discuss both local and Mideast politics. Turkish is very serious, intelligent and articulate, the sort of person who thinks more than he speaks and measures every word carefully. He is also an ex-officer in the Turkish military and an avowed Kemalist, which makes for an interesting perspective. Once I asked him what he thought about Kurds and he replied with an enigmatic smile: “Kurds are Turks too, they just haven’t realized it yet”. I think he was joking, but I'm not entirely sure.
When we last met, Turkish author Orhan Pamuk was due to appear in court shortly, charged with the “public denigration of Turkish identity” for making a pointed observation in a Swiss newspaper about his country’s silence over Kurd and Armenian deaths. From FT (subscription, but I quote extensively for the uninitiated):
"Thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and almost nobody but me dares to talk about it."
His comment referred to the two most traumatic events in Turkey's modern history: the struggle against Kurdish separatism in the 1980s and 1990s and the massacre of Ottoman Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces as the empire collapsed during the first world war. The Armenian question is especially sensitive in Turkey. Armenians say the event marked the twentieth century's first genocide. Turkey rejects any such assertion, though it does not deny that many Armenians and Turks died in those terrible days…
Mr Pamuk is being tried under article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which criminalises "insulting Turkishness, the republic, and the institutions and organs of the state". If found guilty, he faces three years in jail, part of which is an extra punishment for committing his "crime" abroad.
December 20, 2005
On Iraq, Elections, Spying and US Media Coverage
Being back in the land of tubby supersized people is reminding me what completely atrocious news coverage is available in the US broadcast media. The shrieking exageration that seems to be the baseline for any and all stories is painful to watch.
Truly painful. It doesn't seem particularly ideologically focused, despite the endless whinging I have read online in blogs and the like (which one may take, including I may add this one as mere navel gazing, and the pretension among some in the "blogosphere" that they are bringing new standards is absurd and laughable... although given broadcast media in the US of A....). Rather, it strikes me as simply bad professional practice.
November 20, 2005
Surfacing on Iraq
Having begun this weekend with some fine work on valuation documents for Gulf area firms, a little bit of coughing up blood, and the tedious work of creating a matrix to figure out what the bloody hell I have among pile of bloody Arabic financial reporting, I thought I might take a moment to comment on the chatter about Iraq and the US policy optoins.
Frankly, most of the discussion rather strikes me as surreal navel gazing delusionally disconnected from the evident reality in Iraq.
As I have been indicating for a rather long time, Iraq long ago (say early 2004) entered into a 'Lebanese logic' which rather made the creeping civil war situation in Iraq, that is clear for anyone with eye to see, inevitable.
Now, the simple minded I suppose expect(ed) this to explode all at once. It has not and will not. Rather, as in Lebanon, it will creep forward in fits and starts until it is undeniably there for even the most deluded. The self segregation, the inter-community killings and hardening of lines despite decades of friendship, etc., that is already ongoing and there is frankly nothing substantial in terms of Iraqi dynamics counter-weighing this. Iraqi dynamics are all that count, not Americans running around claiming idiotic body counts, not hand waving pseudo-political excercises masquerading as democracy to please the gullible Westerners who think such things have meaning in such circumstances, not anything but Iraqi social dynamics.
There is, in short, nothing that is substantively running against the power dynamic of the hard men with guns. Nothing, period, regardless of the idiotic self-deluded happy talk I have seen now for three fucking years running. Good news from Iraq, indeed. Even in the depths of any civil war one can find "good news" - it's intelligent analysis that gets one understanding.
November 14, 2005
One more on France, riots --- and a memorable opening sentence
While I tend to think this full Reason Online article by Tim Cavanaugh is a good commentary on the France upheavals and certain literary matters, it is the opening sentence that is worth its word-weight in gold, and deserving of extended airplay and replay:
Here's a good rule of thumb: If you come across the phrase "Islamo-fascist" unironically deployed in an article, there's a 99-percent the author doesn't know what he or she is talking about.
November 11, 2005
Last item on France, Muslims & the Maghreb
Sadly I have little time to devout to what is clearly an important topic at present, which is indeed the riots in France, their meaning and the storm of ill-informed English language commentary on the same. Unfortunately such trivial issues as valuing illiquid assets pledged as capital contributions, fund structures and other fine things require my time.
France and the Riots - The (Partial) Myth of the 'Arab' 'intefada'
I briefly, in lieu of more extended commentary, draw attention to this article from the conservative Le Figaro regarding the makeup, per the police, of rioters at present: Davantage de Noirs chez les émeutiers:
Au-delà des rivalités entre ces différentes vagues d'immigration qui se rejettent la responsabilité de la dégradation de leurs quartiers, policiers et travailleurs sociaux ont maintes fois signalé, sans jamais pouvoir la chiffrer, l'augmentation de la délinquance des jeunes issus de l'immigration africaine.Au cours des dernières nuits d'émeutes, «il y avait plus de Noirs que de Maghrébins», confirment les policiers de la Seine-Saint-Denis.
For those who do not read French, the quote indicates that leaving aside rivalries between different waves of immigration, each of which reject responsibility for the degradation of their neighborhoods, police and social workers have frequenly noted that, without being able to give figures, the augmentation of deliquency among youth from the African immigrant community. In recent nights of rioting, 'There were more Blacks than Maghrebines' confirmed police from Seine-Saint-Denis.
I have noted consistently the mirage and delusional quality of the bigotted assertions in the Anglo blog world about the Arab-Muslim character of the riots (assertions that continue even now), when anyone with a decent familiarity with the 'immigrant' (albeit native born 'immigrants' but this being France, native born darkies are, well 'immigrants.') districts knows the
November 08, 2005
France, Riots and Online Commentary: Islamophobia Demasked
This will be a brief post, as unfortunately (or fortunately) I have mountains of work that must be addressed.
However, in the guise of a comment I thought I would, after reading Andrew Sullivan's ludicrously ignorant banging on about France and the riots as an Islamic intefada (and via Fist Full of Euros, Pipes' equally ludicrous assertion of the same, whanking bigotted fool that he is) as well as other comments, make an assertion.
The Anglophone commentary, essentially American on this subject I think is demasking a deep reservoir of fear and loathing directed at Muslims and Islam in general. Polite bigotry, if you will, dressed up in terms like "extremist Muslims" and Islamists versus "moderate Muslims" when the real meaning is "niggers/scum we fear and despise for their difference" versus "good niggers who know their place."
October 28, 2005
Ahmadinejad and Israel
What's going on in Iran? First the country's president calls for Israel to be "wiped off the map." Naturally, this doesn't go down well at all internationally, with the Israelis going so far as to call for Iran's expulsion from the UN. So Iran's Moscow embassy issues a statement saying the president didn't mean to "speak up in such sharp terms," and we are reminded that such statements are made all the time during rallies but don't really mean anything.
So the new president made a stupid diplomatic error, not realizing his new position makes his words carry more weight. And after his country's ambassadors are summoned to various European capitals to explain their government's actions, all this will die down, right? So then why is Iran stupidly upping the ante by ordering its diplomats in Western countries to launch protests there against Europe's attitudes towards 'Zionist crimes'? My own take is that Iran's foreign policy, more or less directionless since Ahmadinejad came to power a few months ago, is starting to go down the tubes.
October 17, 2005
Dar Fur (aka Darfur): Round and round and round again
I see there is another “Dar Fur” attention thing going on, wherein bloggers who a year ago or two had no bloody clue as to where the bloody hell the place is or who the Fur are (of course they still don’t – for all that the history of the Sultanate of Fur is actually rather intriguing) pontificate about the issue.
At the risk of being the perennial naysayer – well actually why not? Naysayers are useful, we drag the deluded back to reality. – let me again comment on Dar Fur (or if you must, Darfur).
October 12, 2005
Migration, Economics & MENA-African pileups
While I may be banging away at an issue of little general interest, I was encouraged to find something of relevance to the rising issue of Euro-African migration and the Maghreb in the last issue of the Economist.
Be my guest
The economic case for temporary migration is compelling; the historical record less so
Oct 6th 2005
(Yes subscription, don't like it? Fuck off then and read some free twaddle.)
For those puzzled, my reference is to the recent problem emerging in the Maghreb and especially Morocco with its land border with the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Mellila, which I mentioned in my typically light weight Illegal Immigration - Borders & Madness and The Maghreb-African Immigration Problem
October 09, 2005
On Arabic, Translation, Training and Spying
Being conflicted as to whether this is a purely personal rant or something of wider interest, but on rereading thinking I may have accidentally said something of wider interest, let me refer 'Aqoul readers to Lounsbury - 'Aqoul and a small post on issues related to traning in Arabic, translation, and spying.
The Maghreb-African Immigration Problem
It appears the issue which I first started noting roughly two weeks ago (see esp. Illegal Immigration - Borders & Madness: Mass Attempts at the Spanish-Moroccan border) has hit the big time with live European and al-Jazeerah coverage of explusions today, Sunday and round-ups of what is said to be thousands of 'illegal' migrants.
It appears, per al-Jazeerah reporting, that Algeria has closed its borders amidst reports that Moroccan authorities have been dumping expelled non-citizens from Mellila and Ceuta across the border.
October 04, 2005
Via Lenin's Tomb, an article in the Socialist Worker points out that the other occupying power in the Iraq war was ALSO involved in a dirty little counterinsurgency war in the 1960s. So skip past the obligatory British political infighting and the "colonialist butcher" reference, and you get to the meat:
One British army officer in Aden in 1967 describes the developing disaster in the following familiar terms:
“A major problem which was to recur throughout the campaign was the lack of any specific, reliable intelligence about the enemy — where they were, what their organisation was, what their aims and objectives might be, or indeed, who they were”...
Readers of British newspapers at the time were treated to a bewildering array of acronyms to describe the competing factions of the resistance in Aden, as well as tales of “foreign extremists” from Egypt and Yemen.
These militias, strangely, appeared set on killing British soldiers as well as each other, despite the fact that Britain had promised them independence as soon as the trouble had stopped.
What made it worse was that the security forces themselves appeared to be arming various organisations — and there were growing fears of clashes between the local police and militia and the British army.
September 30, 2005
Illegal Immigration - Borders & Madness: Mass Attempts at the Spanish-Moroccan border
Recently The Father of Aardvarks made a comment on some recent apparent censorship in Morocco with regards to press comments about illegal immigrants in Morocco attempting to reach Europe. Or as the Father of Aardvarks put it:
Here's a story of an Arab government clamping down on the media with an unusual twist. Al-Jazeera reports that the Moroccan government confiscated the press run of a local newspaper because it ran a "racist" and "inflammatory" article about African immigrants "invading northern Morocco."
While I understand the Father of Aardvarks is a media critic by interest and trade, my first thought was to the underlying crisis (the second being it would be nice to know which paper; there are some in Morocco I am familiar with which I have no problem suspecting of racist and inflammatory yellow journalism).
This past week saw rather dramatic events underlining precisely the level of bubbling tension on all sides that might well justifiably provoke action by the government: a series of mass assualts by "thousands" of African would be immigrants to Europe on the frontier fences of the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Mellila.
The crisis effectively is a rather large accumulation of sub-Saharan Africans building up in the Moroccan north - in the region called the Rif - along the border areas with the Spanish enclaves. This has been fairly little mentioned in the local press, although one does see time and and again in some areas clots of what are clearly sub-Saharan migrants begging and travelling north. Something most people do not trouble themselves about as Moroccans try to emmigrate in much the same way.
However, in the last few years, Morocco has been under intense pressure from the EU to "do more" with regards to stopping the flow of illegal immigrants to Spain and onwards and has taken stepped up measures to block transits via the Mediterranean and the enclaves.
July 23, 2005
Combating Islamist Terrorism: Policy Approaches
Militant Islamist ideology is not a recent phenomenon, the concepts have been around for decades. It was popular with Muslim youth in the 1960-70s, particularly after Sayyid Qutb published Signposts on the Road, a bestseller in the Islamic world that continues to influence Islamist ideology today. At the time, enthusiasm for nationalism was waning and writers like Qutb were disgusted with the corruption of secular authoritarian governments and the perceived erosion of Islamic principles in Egypt and across the Middle East. The answer was of course a return to religion, and a firm rejection of jahiliyya, the state of ignorance and barbarism that occured in the absence of Islam (historically, this term refers to the pre-Islamic period).
So why has this sort of thinking been adopted more recently by a segment of young European Muslims? What is the source of their disenchantment and frustration and how can European (and North American) governments address this issue without compromising ideals such as tolerance and multiculturalism?