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A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press.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).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

SISMI in Afghanistan

None of us have much sympathy for SISMI, the fascist branch of Italian military intelligence, but this statement by Mario D'Auria to Sky News is revealing. You see, his son, Lorenzo D'Auria (whom they say was an expert on Afghanistan), married with 3 kids, was send on a covert operation to monitor Afghanistan's frontier with Iran and was promptly kidnapped -say accounts- by Mullah Khuda-e-Dad, who was going to turn them over to the Taliban. He was riddled with bullets in the rescue operation launched by British special forces and lies mortally wounded in an Italian military hospital.

"He and his partner were sent to make an incursion across the frontier, because the Italian clandestine services were charged with discovering whether weapons were coming through there to satisfy Bush, who's an arms trader himself"

Moreover, Mario says that he cannot go the the hospital to see his son because after his statement to the press, SISMI would have him arrested.

So now the question. Does this not sound like that SISMI has been recruited to plant evidence of Iranian arms smuggling into Afghanistan?

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US Attacks Baghdad's Military Academy

Not only doe the US bomb residential areas with impunity, it has now resorted to attacking Iraq's miliary academy.

US troops conducted a raid on Tuesday on Iraq's largest military academy located in Baghdad


US military command has acknowledged a spike in violence that has killed 70 people in three days. At least 27 were killed on Wednesday alone. Yesterday a suicide bomber drove his car into the residence on a tribal sheik in Sinjar, in northern Iraq, killing 8 people.

[Via L'Orient-Le Jour]


US causes Kurdistan to be cut off, prices soar

According to accounts that I have been reading, there is raging inflation in the states along the Arabian Gulf. The US kidnapped an Iranian trade delegation rep in Sulaymaniyeh on September 20th, so the Iranians have responded by closing the border:

This account is from L'Orient-Le Jour

Millions of dollars of losses in Kurdistan after border crossings closed

Sulaymaniyeh's Trade Minister, Mohammad Raouf, said that Kurdistan was losing $1 milion a day after Iran closed border with Kermanshah Province to protest the arrest of a trade reprentative accused of arms smuggling, says Suleymaniyeh's Trade Minister, Mohammad Raouf. A miles-long caravan of trucks containing food, electrical appliances and electronics has formed in Iran after 15 years of trade have ground to a halt.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Viva Zapatero

Ha. Zapatero has released Aznar's secret convesation with Bush in the runup to the war to the newspaper, El Pais, which has published the transcripts.... More later... and the translation to follow.

Viva Josh Marshall, too...

Geez, Bush makes dark threats against a lot of people...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Les Lettres Persanes

This riff on Montesquieu's "Lettres Persanes" by Le Monde's Robert Solé is too cute!

Mon cher Usbek,

New York est encore plus grand que Téhéran. Les maisons y sont si hautes qu'on jugerait qu'elles ne sont habitées que par des astrologues. Mais les habitants de cette ville enchanteresse ont une manière de recevoir leurs hôtes qui n'est point du tout persane. Le président de l'Université Columbia, qui avait insisté pour m'inviter, m'a présenté comme "un dictateur minable et cruel", avant de me poser mille questions inconvenantes auxquelles je me suis employé à ne pas répondre.

Ma visite à New York coïncide avec celle du roi de France. Que me servirait de te faire une description exacte de son habillement et de ses parures ? Quand je l'ai aperçu, il sortait de l'hôtel pour aller courir avec son ministre des affaires étrangères. Oui, le roi court ! Il paraît même qu'il court tout le temps. Il était vêtu d'un tee-shirt sombre aux couleurs de la police de New York, tandis que son ministre avait fait inscrire sur sa poitrine "Gare au gorille !" Pourquoi la police, mon cher Usbek ? Et qui est le gorille ?

De New York, le 25 de la lune de Shahrivar, 2007,1-0@2-3232,36-959292,0.html

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Iraq Cholera epidemic spreads to Baghdad.

The WHO reports that up to 29,000 Iraqis are suffering from massive watery diarrhea with 500 confirmed cases of cholera, including in the capital. [Via L'Orient-Le Jour]

Israelis Seal off West Bank

Via L'Orient-Le Jour

Those kind and generous lovers of humanity have once again demonstrated what a big heart they have by sealing off the West Bank on the second Friday of Ramadan, preventing thousand of Palestinians from accessing the Esplanade of the Mosques.

Saudis Show Signs of DecouplingTheir Currency from the Dollar

An Op-Ed published today in Rome's La Repubblica by Marcello de Cecco, Professor of Monetary Economics at the Università di Roma "La Sapienza", "Passing the Baton", contained some surprising news that has been completely ignored by the US press.

Prof. de Cecco's editorial primarily focuses on the historic benchmark set my the euro on Thursday when it broke through the psychological barrier of $1.40. There are several reasons for the soaring euro, including actions taken by Saudi Arabia. It it is concerning Saudi Arabia that Prof. de Cecco made three rather shocking revelations.

The first item is that there is rampant inflation in the states along the Arabian Gulf, not due to the rising cost of oil, but to the skyrocketing food prices. The second is that Saudi Arabia, which has traditionally pegged the rial to the dollar, did not follow Ben Bernanke's move and left its interest rate unchanged. For Prof. de Cecco, the Saudi decision is indicative of its desire to decouple from the dollar and peg the rial to the euro. The last item is that Saudi Arabia and Russian have struck a deal to jointly manage OPEC policies.

The article is well worth the read, and I hope to get around to translating it later.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Blackwater: License to Kill Revoked

As if that would stop them...

Via L'Orient-LeJour:

The Iraqi government announced yesterday that the authorization granted to Blackwater, an American private security company, was revoked following a fusillade that left at least 8 Iraqis dead. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry says that Blackwater employees opened fire on a crowd of civilians in Nisoor Square in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Mansour after a mortar round landed near their convoy.

Update via BBC: "All Blackwater personnel have been told to leave Iraq immediately" Ha ha. All 140,000 of them!

Funny Kind of Central Banker

Since when does the Fed Chairman recommend war to the President for the sake of controlling foreign oil? Since Alan Greenspan.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What Fatah Needs

Tony Blair has identified the problem. What the Palestinian faction, Fatah, needs is clearly, more cops. It's "capital", says Tony. BTW, not to keep the damned Israelis out but to police an already desperate people.

The Wall They Love So Well

General Petraeus claims as one of his successes the walling of Baghdad neighborhoods. But the Baghdadis don't like it so well.....

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

As if the Iraqis have any power...

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the US is to build a military base in Iraq along the border with Iran, allegedly to fight the smuggling of weapons and entry of Iranian fighters.

General Rich Lynch says the base, 6km from the border with Iran, will be built between now and November 6 km. The US is also to provide X-ray equipment to the Zurbatiya border crossing.

In addition, troops deployed by Tbilisi will man 6 border crossing.

[Via L'Orient-Le Jour]

Hezbollah = Al Qaeda

In the minds of children like Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, who declared that Hezbollah would mount an attack against the United States if Iran were threatened.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tony Blair In Charge

And suddenly, Abbas declares that Hamas = al Qaeda

Friday, September 07, 2007

Full Moon in Sydney for Bush

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The excesses of the Surge

Via L'Orient-Le Jour, with edits

According to Iraqi officials, [inexcusable] US air strikes in Baghdad killed 14 civilians during the night of 5/6 September, an embarrassing incident at a time when US military command is claiming [phantom] success in the pacification [submission] of the country.

Sources in the Iraqi Defense and Interior Ministries reported that US helicopters [manned by baby killers] fired several missiles between 02h00 and 03h00 at the Shi’ite neighborhood of al-Washash, in the majority-Sunni quarter of Mansur in west Baghdad. Fourteen civilians were killed and at least six wounded, according to a local hospital.

“The attack on the residences took place as people slept inside. There was no disturbance and the quarter was calm”, said an unidentified Interior Ministry source to AFP. He underscored that the [contemptible] US operation was aimed at insurgents [yeah, right, the Shi’ites work for the Baa'th Party].

In a [disingenuous] communiqué, US command [falsely] explained that the [repugnant] operation was conducted against [misidentified] extremist Shi’ites who were part of an [alleged] terror cell operating in the al-Washash area of Baghdad”. “Ground units” [jokers] called in a [dis]proportionate air strike against building a [wrongly] identified as the source of light arms fire, continued the communiqué. “Four [apartment] buildings were damaged [completely destroyed]. Two were enemy bastions [an internet café] and two neighboring [residential] buildings were subject to moderate damage [toppled].

One [unlucky] resident, Abu Ali Saad, told [honest news agency] AFP that US units [flying the Jolly Roger] had arrived [as marauders] in the middle of the night. “There were tanks, armored vehicles and numerous troops. The tanks opened fire then helicopters overflew the neighborhood. They fired missiles. Residences were destroyed. A [innocent] family and five children [God love them] were killed [murdered] in that house”, he added, pointing at the ruins. "There was no light arms fire [lying military sons of bitches]. Everyone was fast asleep”, he continued. In the ruins a bloody mattress could be seen and from the body parts strewn about, it was evident that the victim was surprised [butchered] in his sleep. According to neighbors, a six-member family was killed [cut to shreds and incinerated], including a 6 year-old girl. Residents surveyed the extent of the damage and did not bother to hide their rage against the Americans. “They [inhumanely] stopped me from bringing my wounded neighbors to the hospital", said Ammar Assem, "and they fired on my car. I had to turn around." Assam also declared that [war criminal] US troops positioned trucks to block access to the neighborhood by firefighters, who attempted to put out the fires in the homes set ablaze by bombs.

This [tragic and cruel] incident [worthy of the SS] occurs at a critical time for the United States, which enters a period of crucial reports on the surge strategy for Iraq…Iraqi figures show that August was particularly deadly, with nearly 1,800 civilians killed....

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Bertrand Badie on the Failure of Western Intervention

Bertrand Badie: “Intervention in other states presupposes respect for the society concerned”

LEMONDE.FR | 07 JUNE 07 | 17:06

On-line chat with Bertrand Badie, Professor of Political Science, France

Q: The US intervention in Iraq is a disaster and is likely to destabilize the whole region. NATO intervention in Afghanistan is also a failure, owing principally to the inability of the US to gain acceptance by the local population. As to Kosovo, secession is being legitimized and it could spread to other Balkan nations. Doesn’t all this demonstrate the profound ineffectiveness of the projection of foreign military force into ethnic powder kegs?

Your assessment is indeed trenchant and it raises the noting of the ability to transform a political system from the outside. This notion is enthusiastically defended now that the Soviet Union is no more and what we believed to be an active and interactive international community has emerged.

In 2001, a well-known report was published on the responsibility to protect, based on the idea that countries are not only responsible for their own citizens but also for those who, beyond their national boundaries, are subjected to maltreatment by their own states that they are unable to prevent.

The blunder of ideological use of the intervention principle, unilateralism and, above all, the failure to think about what the rebuilding of a political system by foreign actors actually entails have very quickly annihilated any chance for success.

Your appreciation is quite correct, although I would make a slight correction: the crises that have developed in Afghanistan and in Iraq were not originally ethnic questions. The problems there are the result of blundering and violent foreign intervention in States within an international system and the collapse of structures that banally have led to civil war.

As to Kosovo, although the ethnic nature of the cleavage hasn’t escaped anyone’s attention, it would be facile to reduce this conflict to a clash between communities: it is above all the grandiose, authoritarian Serbian project devised by Milosevic that is at the source of this destabilization of this region. The antagonism between Albanian-speaking Muslims and Serbian Kosovars was not a one-way street and the international community should have known better than to promote the inter-ethnic rationale that has polarized a situation whose reality is far more complex.

Q: The Iraq quagmire and the degradation of the situation in Afghanistan seem less revealing of "excesses " inherent with intervention and more of the insufficiency of the means used. Do you think that it is above all the reticence of Western powers to make a massive commitment in foreign theaters (as demonstrated by the recent pullout of French Special Forces from Afghanistan) that is at fault?

A: The term “excesses” is meant to underscore the impasses and the contradictions with which the intervening powers were immediately confronted. These are not causes but rather the description of the mediocre and quickly gained results of poorly planned and badly implemented interventions.

As to the rest of your question, the crux of the problem is not one of the extent of engagement by foreign powers in the conflict. The real question is far more qualitative and forces us to question our ability to rebuild a social contract from the outside, to reconstitute a nation unwilling to cooperate, and to build a state by imported artifice.

Moreover, the use of force can also be questioned: can you really create political order simply by force, especially by foreign actors? Moreover, I would counter you line of reasoning: the more massive the outside intervention, the more internal violence is fed and the more the purveyors of violence actually running things on the ground inside the suffering country are satisfied. Escalation produces results that were already observed during the wars of decolonization: the legitimization of actors and organizations which present themselves in the trappings of the legitimacy of resistance.

Q: What makes foreign interventions succeed or fail?

I would say that the results of any intervention rely on trust, as aspect that is often neglected. Trust among the populations concerned: impartiality and disinterest must be perceived, otherwise the intervention cannot succeed.

Trust presupposes the careful observance of international law, another forgotten aspect. Trust also presupposes widespread agreement among the international community, without which any unilateral intervention is invalid. Last, trust presupposes an intimate link between the interveners and local actors, who must be seen neither as puppets of the expeditionary corps nor as passive and powerless victims of invasion.

A last requirement for success has more to do with strategy: as the Brahimi Report (2000) showed, the intervention must be proportionate... The worst possible case is to plan intervention relying solely on a military offensive, thereby producing a conventional war...a war of conquest.

One of the most delicate aspects of intervention has to do with the fact that it must in no way resemble conventional war. Use of force invariably creates a dynamic of the banalization of the combatants –peacekeeping troops who quickly degenerate into warriors, just like all the others.

Since the beginning of the century, the United Nations has been very careful to establish a link between its interventions and humanitarian actions. However, this has been somewhat abandoned, which has contributed to the impasses and failures that we’ve been seeing.

In short, intervention presupposes respect for the society in which one is to act. It cannot be treated as a dependent and submissive society, which only revives the classic perception of war.


Q: Why should the intervention in Afghanistan be seen as a failure? There is no longer the risk of an anti-American state that would support Jihad. The price paid by the Afghans and Coalition troops there is acceptable and I think that the governments involved are satisfied with the results.

First of all, there is no central state in Afghanistan. Most of the country is not completely under the control of administration in Kabul or Coalition troops. The south of the country is de facto under the administration of the Taliban.

The warlords are far from being disarmed or defeated. Afghanistan’s civil society is under constant threat of boiling over owing to ethnicity and identity, which foreign intervention has only reinforced.

As to your claim that there Afghanistan does not constitute an anti-American state, this is debatable given that Afghanistan is now more than ever a cauldron of violence for which neighboring states continue to bear the brunt –above all Pakistan.
Perhaps the sole concrete result of foreign intervention in Afghanistan is the acceleration of the breakdown of the Pakistani political system and its institutions. A sad outcome.

Q. How can the United States get out of Iraq?

Recently it was announced that 50,000 troops from the present contingent in Iraq would ensure post-crisis management. But let us look more closely: this past May was the deadliest since 2003 for the US Army, and the month of June is likely to equal this figure.

A pullout, even partial, under the current conditions is unlikely. Total withdrawal is very far on the horizon unless it is motivated by the political desire for complete rupture, somewhat like the pullout of Soviet Troops stationed in Afghanistan ordered by Gorbatchev.

Q: After Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan, what can be done for Darfur? Isn’t intervention necessary?

First, "intervention” has become such a nebulous term and so discredited that the options cannot be limited to this type of action. Humanitarian assistance to Sudan is required. Any intervention should not replace assistance offered by humanitarian organizations, which, however, are encountering more distrust.

As to a major politico-military intervention on a scale comparable to the interventions that we have just discussed, it is extremely dangerous to contemplate it in the current climate, which one of mistrust, frustration and disappointments....

The increasing division in the international and regional community cannot be overlooked and without consensus, no large-scale action has any chance of success. More and more we are turning to the old idea of a humanitarian corridor with its inherent shortcomings and perverse effects but despite this, its ability to relieve suffering.


At the end of the Eighties, the idea of intervention suddenly took on a positive connotation. There was talk of the right of interference, even the duty of interference, to show that we lived in a world where national sovereignty was a thing of the past, and something to be jettisoned.

The paradox is that the failures that we have witnessed have inverted the terms: if the international community has failed, it is precisely because it never really knew how to intervene, that is, by actively intervening in rebuilding social contracts and torn nations.

Instead of interference in the strictest sense of the word, the international community contents itself with the use of force, military control, and, indeed, conquest without getting involved with the society. Given that this kind of intervention has been so unsuccessful, the word has now taken on a negative connotation: pure sovereignty is now forever gone but beneficial intervention has also disappeared. We now face a political and moral vacuum.

Chat moderated by Gaïdz Minassian and Anne-Gaëlle Rico

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tony Blair Comes Alive!

After having accepted the Quartet's mandate, Tony Blair seemed to have gone to ground. But now he emerges to say that he's in Jerusalem again where his talks with PM Olmert were "constructive" (no luck). He is to visit Palestinian Salaam Fayad on Saturday.