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A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press.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

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Richard Clarke

Richard Clarke, former counter-terrorism czar, gave a nice rousing speech at the local university organized by "The Security Network", a group of pro-Dem former security officials. Clarke's underscored the costly blunders of Bush and his team and urged the departure of US troops from Iraq. He even blasted al-Maliki's request for a long-term US presence there. He concluded by affirming that the US had to recover its values as well as the protections of the Constitution trampled by the Bush and his appointees.

I didn't get to ask any questions during the Q&A, but wanted so badly to ask if, when Bin Laden was being recruited by Zbignew Brzezinski, there was someone arguing that instrumentalizing a revealed religion, especially Wahhabi Islam, to fight Communists was a really bad idea.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A city martyred and abandoned

I suppose war in Somalia is yet another classified US-sponsored war. But scant attention is paid the really, really criminal goings-on there that make one regret the peace Somalia and its capital, Mogadishu, enjoyed under the Islamic Courts.

Le Monde devoted some space in its on-line columns a couple of week ago to the situation in Mogadishu -an absolute nightmare. This is just a glimpse:

13 November: 173,000 people flee Mogadishu over the last two weeks - Le Monde and AFP

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says 90,000 residents of Mogadishu have fled the capital to the town of Afgoye, where 100,000 former residents of the capital have sought shelter, provoking an enormous humanitarian crisis: people are living under trees and out in the open. Pro-Ethiopian Somali forces shut down Radio Shabelle and Radio Banadir, accusing the stations of supporting the rebels. Employees escaped, running for their lives.

14 November: The Somali capital devastated, the victim of a war with no rules by Jean-Philippe Remy.

Mogadishu has been methodically destroyed by Ethiopian troops and the allies of the transitional government of Abdullahi Yusuf, the TGF. Because rebel militias were able to regroup and engage them in frontal assaults, the Ethiopians and the TGF reacted by going house to house in the capital, forcing out the residents and stealing their possessions. The poorest collapsed along the roadsides, with nowhere to go and no food to sustain them.

The troops of Addis-Abeba lost all discipline and aimed their artillery at homes and markets. The main market, Bakara, which last year was booming and filled with goods, is no more. Every storage depot and warehouse in the city has been sacked. The sheiks vainly call on the international community to end the massacre. The cruelly injured, those with potentially mortal wounds and missing limbs, can get no medical care.

16 November: Sweeps through the neighborhoods of Mogadishu, theater of urban warfare without pity, by Jean-Philippe Remy

For the first time in its history, the Bakara Market is as quiet as a tomb. The portion of Mogadishu that has not been destroyed is teeming with people displaced and homeless in other parts of the city. Rebel militias are responding to Ethiopian artillery with Katyusha rockets. Warlord Abdi Qeybdid, recruited by the US to "fight" the war on terror and now the TGF's police chief, lost 50 men to rebel attacks. The TGF is losing control of the northern part of the capital. At SOS Hospital, staff refuses to treat wounded rebels for fear of retribution by the TGF.

Mogadishu Governor Mohammed Dheere insisted that security was improving as rebels blew up a troop transport carrying Ethiopian troops.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Not embarrassed to say I told you so about the war that Uncle Sam made on Somalia:

"United Nations officials now concede that the country was in better shape during the brief reign of Somalia’s Islamist movement last year. “It was more peaceful, and much easier for us to work,” Mr. Laroche said. “The Islamists didn’t cause us any problems.”
“This [transitional] government doesn’t control one inch of territory from the Kenyan border up to Mogadishu,” said a Western diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing diplomatic protocol."

[Via the NYT]

Friday, November 16, 2007

Another Day, More Slaughter

When I read things like this, you realize just how much is omitted from the debate on Iraq over at Abu Aardvark and other blogs. The only blogger to come right out and say that the Neocons who have had sway over the Administration have no regard whatsoever for the loss of innocent human life is David Kaiser over at History Unfolding.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Musharraf exaggerates Islamist threat

and the Bush Administration falls for it hook, line and sinker.

CERI Research Fellow Mariam Abou Zahab explains the facts in today's Le Monde.

Q. Since Pakistan’s Constitution permits declaration of a State of Emergency, is what General Musharraf doing a coup d’état?

It is not a state of emergency. It’s a hybrid of a state of emergency and martial law. Legally, General Musharraf is not empowered to order a state of emergency as the Supreme Court has not ruled on his eligibility.

Q. What is the content of the ruling that Pakistan’s Supreme Court is about to issue? Why is General Musharraf refusing to wait for the verdict?

We have no idea but rumor suggests that the Supreme Court was going to declare General Musharraf ineligible, so he took the initiative.

Q. Is the state of emergency really going to help to combat the Islamists?

No and there is cause to be skeptical. Because here again, there are ambiguities. The state of emergency is going to strengthen the militants. Yesterday there was a failed bombing targeting army officers. Paradoxically, yesterday Islamist militants freed more than 200 soldiers that they had been holding hostage since August 30th. There was a prisoner exchange for combatants held in custody by the Army which shows that the government continues to make deals with the militants. And we’ve seen since 2005 that this has done nothing but strengthen the militants.

Q. Did General Musharraf act to consolidate his own position or was he seeking to defend the economic and political interests of certain groups within the country?

I’m afraid to say that he had acted to keep himself in power and that has played his last trump.

Q. But isn’t General Musharraf the best defense against Taliban extremism and the breakup of Pakistan?

No. This is what General Musharraf has been successfully telling the Americans since September 11th but it is not so. He exaggerates the Islamic menace in Pakistan to maintain the support of the United States. By dividing the opposition and discrediting it, he has created a political void that has allowed the religious parties to step in. But these religious parties are legal and perfectly democratic. They sit in Parliament, they represent the concerns of a part of the population. One has to distinguish them from the extremist groups.

Q. Why are the lawyers the vanguard of the anti-Musharraf movement?

For at least two reasons. First, lawyers have always spearheaded protest movements in Southeast Asia since colonial times. Second, because the lawyers have been mobilizing since March, when General Musharraf fired the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In proclaiming the state of emergency, General Musharraf attacked the judicial branch and journalists, holding them responsible for the failure of the fight against extremism.

Q. Western media present the bar associations as the sole veritable expression of civil society. To what extent do they represent public opinion?

The question is whether a movement led by lawyers can lead to a mass movement. We’ve seen that between March and November, the lawyers’ movement has been confined to the urbanized and educated middle class. Indeed, the lawyers are not representative of the population at large, especially the rural population, which has other priorities right now: rising prices, inflation, unemployment and the growing gap between rich and poor. There is disenchantment among the population in the face of these political maneuvers and they have seen enough.

Q. Are the lawyers and the Islamists going to join ranks?

No, absolutely not! They have goals and concerns that are totally divergent. The principal divisions in Pakistan are economic and social cleavages. That is something that the United States has never understood.

Q. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and therefore isn't a military dictatorship preferable to an Islamist theocracy?

There is no risk in the medium term of an Islamist theocracy in Pakistan. That’s a fantasy of the Western media. A military dictatorship is not the answer to Pakistan’s problems. There has been one military regime after the other which has left Pakistan in a catastrophic situation. But on the other hand, the army cannot be excluded from politics. A compromise must be found.

Q. To what extent is regionalism a factor of instability and it is greater than Islamism?

Two provinces west of the Indus (the Northwest frontier province and Balochistan) are in a state of insurrection and most of the territory there is not under central authority. This is a factor of destabilization far greater than that of any hypothetical Islamist threat. Islamist militantism in the Pashtun area is also a manifestation of a social movement which has taken on a religious cast but which remains above all a social movement.

Q. Why is former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto silent?

Benazir Bhutto is the wild card in General Musharraf’s proclamation of a state of emergency. She continues to negotiate with him and it is unknown what she will do if these negotiations fail. What she wants most of all is to become Prime Minister for a third time. There is the fear that if the elections go ahead that she will accept the state of emergency as a necessary evil. If she is unable to reach an agreement with General Musharraf, would she be successful in mobilizing her party to enter the streets against the state of emergency? This remains an unknown. Moreover, it is obvious that she will do nothing without the green light of the United States.

Q. What can the international community do to confront this new political crisis? Should it support the return of Benazir Bhutto?

Benazir Bhutto is not the answer to Pakistan’s problems. The international community should insist on a civilian government with elections in which all opposition parties are allowed to participate, something sought by Nawaz Sharif, who should be allowed back into the country so that the elections have a modicum of credibility.

Q. Is there a genuine democratic current in Pakistan.

Yes. Pakistani society wants democracy but it had a disappointing experience with it in the 1990’s. They are expecting a savior who can solve all the country’s social problems, bring stability, provide security and supply jobs and social justice. That would be an ideal democracy in the eyes of the Pakistanis.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

All You Need to Know About Pakistan

"It was Benazier Bhutto's goverment that unleashed the Taliban, backed by the Pakistan army commando units, in an attempt to take Kabul. The United States, fearful of Iranian influence in the region, had backed the decision."

"One of the most virulent of the [Islamic] groups is a creation of the ISI. Its political wing, Ahle-Hadis, wants the Saudi mode implanted in Pakistan, but without the monarchy...The armed wing, Lashkar-i-Tayyaba could not exist without the patronage of the army."

"Many people in Pakistan had assumed that Musharraf would disarm the Islamists and restore a semblance of law and order in the cities. [However] if, as is widely agreed, between 25 and 30 percent of the army are Islamists, its reluctance to act against the jihadis is understandable: it is nervous of provoking a civil war. Musharraf has a serious problem."

From The Clash of Fundamentalisms, Tariq Ali, Verso, London, 2002.