Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Friday, August 31, 2007

Dispatch from Mogadishu

Il Corriere della Sera's Massimo Alberizzi reports on the recent Somali peace conference.

The peace conference in Mogadishu concludes
Somalia: Concern behind the smiles

Forty-five days of work, 2,605 delegates and $6 million. These were the figures from the Somali Conference on Reconciliation which ended Wednesday in Mogadishu amid applause, celebration, singing and dancing, and the presence of the President of the Federal Transitional Government, Abdullah Yusuf, the Prime Minister, Ali Gedi, and a small international delegation including the UN Special Representative for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall (removed from his controversial post, which he vacates on today), ambassadors and the Italian envoy, Mario Raffaelli, who arrived in the capital by special flight. The mood of the attendees was positive but behind the smiles, one could made out signs of profound concern.

In fact, the most important components of Somali civil society – several clans, including the powerful Aer, Duduble, Soleiman and Murusade, as well as a few ex-warlords, such as Hussein Aidid, did not attend. Also striking was the absence of Islamists from the reconciliation conference, including moderates and representatives of the Islamic Courts, who, until last year, ruled in Mogadishu and in the countryside. Indeed, President Abdallah Yussuf, a Midgan Darood, displayed openness to other clans and opponents. In his closing address he pledged to step down in 2009 when his mandate ends. “We will yield power to anyone elected thereafter”. The old Abdullah let it be known that he would not run for office again, effectively sparking a war of succession among his acolytes.

The Chairman of the conference, the former interim head of state following the removal of Said Barre (January 2001), Ali Mahdi, spoke more frankly about the fate of Somalia. Mr. Mahdi, a Habr Gedir-Abgal, declared a few days ago, “The end of the conference does not mean the end to the challenges facing Somalia. The road is long”. Reading the main points of the final conference communiqué, which will be published today, the regret that "the Asmara Group and the remainder of the Islamic Courts” did not intend is expressed. The former includes Islamic leaders who have gone into exile in the Eritrean capital following the defeat of the Courts between last December and January, including its leader, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and the former Parliamentary Speaker of the current administration, Sharif Hassan Aden, who was removed following a dispute with President Yusuf and Premier Ali Gedi. The reference to the "remainder" of the Islamic Courts seems to be directed to Sheikh Hassan Daher Aweis, the historic leader of Islamic fundamentalism.

The policy of inclusion, which Italy has been promoting for some time through its envoy, Raffaelli, now seems to have received the benediction of Washington, which was convinced by Italy’s special envoy to abandon its intransigence. Raffaelli explained to them that peace is made between enemies and that serious negotiations could not be held if enemies were not given a seat at the table. However, the Department of State continues to be unwaivering on the fate of the "terrorists" – not only Somali, but also foreign, who are still in Somalia. It insists that they must be handed over. The targeted bombings carried out by the US last winter and spring were fruitless. The CIA appears to have a few intelligence problems on the Somali chessboard.

According to reliable, well-informed sources from within Ethiopian intelligence, the ferocious, fanatical Shebab Islamists (which means "youth" in Arabic and who are the equivalent of the Taliban), defeated in a bloody battle in January, are regrouping again in lower Jubbada, that is, along border with Kenya where they established their sanctuary last January, and in the north, along the frontier with Somaliland. They are training young men in weapons handling and in bomb-making. These individual are then sent to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, to carry out bombings against the government and Ethiopian troops, its allies.

The inability of the meeting organizers to unite all the actors of troubled Somalia around the conference table could result –as some observers and Somalis believe- in a repeat civil war among the clans that the Ethiopian troops will not be able to contain. The situation in Jilib, near Kismaayo, is extremely tense, where Shikali milias are warring with the Marehan. In central Somalia, the Murosade are clashing with the Hawadle.

Yesterday, in the large tent where the conference’s closing ceremony was held, there was a standing ovation for China’s ambassador, Guo Chongli, who, addressing the delegates, announced that his government would contribute $1 million to the reconstruction of the country. There was applause and giddiness as tribal elders and chieftains jumped for joy, as always happens when money is offered. This was one more advance in the Chinese conquest of Africa. Beijing’s diplomats are offering money everywhere in exchange for concessions and benefits. They then ask that governments turn a blind eye to human rights abuses, such as the use of forced convict labor from China to build roads, buildings and railroads.

On the last day of the conference, news of the death of someone who had been one of the major protagonists of Somali civil society and who could have been one of the architects of reconciliation, Ali Iman Sharmerki, flattened everyone like ton of bricks. Sharmerki, an Aer-Habr Gedir, working as Director, Editor-in-Chief and host at Radio-Television Horn Afrik, left Canada (where he became a citizen) eight years ago to return to his native Somalia and to contribute to the pacification of the country. On August 11th, he stepped on a remote-controlled land mine, set off by someone intent on spreading chaos. And, indeed, this may be the case.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mogadishu: Road to Hell Paved by Uncle Sam

The United States immorally pushed Ethiopia to invade neighboring Somalia, and now Washington has provoked yet another useless bloodbath as it attempts to cover its tracks by hyping Darfur.

Via Le Monde:

Month after month, massacre after massacre, Mogadishu's descent into hell looks as if it may never end. Since January, endless fighting has been going on in the Somali capital. For the third time, insurgents linked to the Islamic Courts have attacked the [US-sponsored] Transitional Federal Government and its Ethiopian allies, which intervened in Somalia without an international mandate at the end of 2006. The population of Mogadishu, nearly cut off from the rest of the word, is on the receiving end of violence from the two camps.

[More later...]

Al-Maliki in Syria while Senator Levin Fumes

Senator Carl Levin, supposedly a good guy but in reality just another member of the War Pack, is fuming that Iraq's Prime Minister al-Maliki is in Damascus, just 10 days after an official visit to Tehran. Mr. Levin, who wants to "fire" PM al-Maliki, seems to be convinced that if only the US could find the right Shia-friendly Arab Sunni, it could coerce the Iraqis into doing its bidding.

As the senator fumes, tag-teaming of highly visible photo ops of official visits by al-Maliki and Iranian President Ahmadinejad is obviously a big thumb in the eye to Washington. Indeed, Ahmadinejad may visit Iraq in September.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

War Made Easy

If you are an American, someone you know is definitely a propaganda patsy.

You Tube has excerpts from the documentary, War Made Easy, by Norman Solomon.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Don't miss Wayne Morse

Monday, August 13, 2007

Prodi breaks the taboo, but then wimps out

This is another illustration of Israel owns or attemps to own legislators and political parties.

Italian Premier Romano Prodi has suggested, as did the report by UK Parliament on the Middle East, that there should dialog with Hamas. Already, Israel propaganda is wailing that Prodi coddles the "rapists" of Israel. The Center Right (the former Christian Democrats of Italy) now demands that Prodi justify his remarks before Parlamento.

I am tempted to praise Prodi's courgage, but, per his spokeman, he has backpeddled with the following contractory statment: "The Premier calls for opening of dialog but this is not a course correction, i.e., I didn't mean it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Draft

It's not his decision, but General Douglas Lute (The War Czar) apparantly said tonight that the draft is coming back.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mange du Kebab

Lil'Mazz says it's good for you! Go here:

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Jerusalem of Asia

I should spend some time reading Korean history instead of relying on Le Monde. This is from an article by Philippe Pons.

"Protestant sects and later Catholics (specifically thanks to the Foreign Missions of Paris) were particulary active in the north of Korea: Pyongyang was considered the 'Jerusalem of Asia' in the 1920's, with huge Presbyterian and Methodist congregations."

With respect to the Korean hostages in Afghanistan:

Pastor Bae, who is a member of the Presbyterian community of Saemmul in Bundang, a suburb of Seoul, quit a large corporation to study theology. He departed to Afghanistan with a group of young Koreans aged 20 to 35 to undertake humanitarian operations in in Kandahar [the hotbed of the Taliban--Nur]. He and his community are militant proselytizers.

Failure of a Jirga Foretold

Le Monde's South Asia Correspondent Françoise Chipaux reports from Islamabad:

"Bush and Karzai face the specter of defeat in Afghanistan"

Advertised by US officials as a “private strategic session” between partners, the visit by Afghan President Hamid Karzaï to Camp David at the invitation of President George W.Bush takes place a crucial time as the specter of failure looms over Afghanistan.

Mr Karzaï , who is ever the optimist, had to concede on Sunday 5 August in an interview on CNN that “Security has certainly deteriorated after the last two years. There is no doubt about that”. The fate of 21 South Korean hostages held by the Taliban, who have killed two, since 19 July, will be discussed at Camp David, even if the two presidents agree on a firm stance toward the kidnappers, who are demanding the release of 23 Taliban. Negotiations are now being led by the South Koreans, who have asked for the help of Islamabad. The Governor of the Afghan Province of Ghazni, where the hostages were taken, Mirajuddin Pattan, has accused Pakistani intelligence services of interfering in the crisis.

Afghan officials routinely accuse Pakistan of mounting the Taliban insurrection, rhetoric that has risen in tone over the last few months. At the urging of President Bush, Presidents Karzaï and Pervez Musharraf have agreed to a Jirga (Council) of tribal leaders from both countries to find a solution to the violence which has gripped the south and east of Afghanistan. The Jirga is to be held from 9 to 11 August in Kabul, but the absence of Taliban leaders and the refusal of several Pakistani tribal chiefs to attend place the utility of the meeting in doubt.

At a time when US officials are multiplying the number of menacing statements against Pakistan, accused of having permitted al-Qaeda cells to reform in tribal areas, Mr. Karzaï says that he will raise the issue of the "waves of foreign fighters" entering Afghanistan through Pakistan with his Pakistani counterpart. Mr. Karzaï will also urge Mr. Bush for restraint in fighting the Taliban because the number of civilian victims has become a real problem.

The role of Iran in the Taliban insurrection is another subject of division between the two presidents. While Mr. Karzaï declared on CNN that he considered Iran a partner for peace and in fighting the war on drugs, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates accused Tehran of exploiting both sides in Afghanistan....

For his part, Mr. Bush, who has promised $10 billion in aid to Afghanistan in 2007, is to demand significant progress in building a state. For several months, foreign military officials in Afghanisan underscore the that lack of "good governance" is a problem that is just as serious as the Taliban…Most Afghanis believe their government and civil service corrupt and a source of more woes than assistance.

As the poppy harvest is to again break a new record, President Bush could again put on the table a US proposal to spray herbicides from aircraft as was done in Colombia. This idea was rejected in 2006 by President Karzai out of fear of a violent reaction by farmers.

Since 2000, the war on drugs in Afghanistan is a victim of discord among the different international actors over what to, the fear that angry farmers could join the Taliban if deprived of their subsistence income and the involvement of government officials in trafficking.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Ready, aim, shoot foot

US Congress prepares draconian sanctions against Iran while Ambassador Crocker is conducting crucial negotiations with Tehran. Likud Democrat Tom Lantos is the author of the bill. I saw this in L'Orient-Le Jour:

"Europe has addressed a warning to US Congress concerning the hardening of US sanctions against European energy companies which invest in Iran, a measure that will affect several European groups, according to the Financial Times. The House and the Senate plan on systematic sanctions against those Europeans energy groups which have invested more than $20 million in Iran, removing the right to grant waivers to third parties from President Bush.

Several European countries including France, Germany and the UK have warned that the measures "could hit European energy groups, undermine transatlantic unity on Tehran's nuclear programme and provoke a dispute at the World Trade Organisation", according to a diplomat cited by the newspaper. The House is favorable to a second bill that would list US companies having invested more than $20 million in Iran and facilitate disinvestment by public pension funds from these companies."

(Royal Dutch Shell and Repsol are involved in a project worth up to $10bn to produce Iran's first liquefied natural gas.)

US Congress has got to be the dumbest legislature on the planet. With the declining dollar and the price of oil nearing $80 per barrel, why would it pass legislation that is guaranteed to render oil and natural gas prohibitively expensive, not to mention undercutting Ambassador Crocker?