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A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press.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, May 29, 2007

The Self-Defeating American Empire

UPDATE: Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo reports on a Reuters story that George W. Bush (and, one assumes, US strategic planners) admits that the US military intends to stay in Iraq for decades using the so-called Korean model. But it's not the Korean model at all, it's out-and-out occupation, says Josh:
No, US troops are in Iraq for domestic security, in so many words, to protect it from itself, or to ensure the continued existence of an elected, pro-US government. That tells you that the US military presence in Iraq will never be as relatively bloodless as the US military presence in Korea since it has no external threat it's counterbalancing against. In a sense that the US deployment in Korea has never quite been, it is a sustained foreign military occupation.
Is Pieterse right (See below)? Can you build an imperial administrative structure using "just in time" methods?

The March-April 2007 issue of The Historical Society's bulletin, Historically Speaking, contains an important, must-read analysis by Jan Nederveen Pieterse of the innate contradiction of globalism and imperialism that leaves the door open to the nightmare of a security state. As our institutions "drown in the bathtub", the Department of Defense extends it network of bases and missile shield platforms, the CIA its secret prisons and the Executive Branch conducts wars for which the reasons are classified. [Aside: The Junior Partner prepares a law to do away with habeas corpus.]

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"Neoliberalism eviscerates state capabilities, shrinks the social state, and strengthens the security of the state. The mature neoliberal state, after decades of government rollback [starting with the 'Reagan Revolution' -->Government is the problem<--], its typically institutionally inept and a military law and order state. Well before government is "small enough to be drowned in a bath tub -Grover Norquist's right wing utopia- special interests have walked away with it. The State is captive to by K Street lobbyists and neoconservative zealots who fudge intelligence and war plans by stetting up their own shadow state operations. Hence the neoliberal state doesn't spend less, it spends more, but on corporate and security agendas. The weakening of countervailing forces within the state reinforces institutional independence on the security apparatus and yields a Situation Room worldview that specializes in threat assessment, and, just in case, threat inflation.

The unsurprising outcome is state agencies that don't function, whether in disaster management, Medicare reform or drug prescription policies. The neoliberal state is both war prone (the security sector grows as other functions shrink) and inept (because of the erosion of state functions by special interests. Hence the gradual erosion of international institutions that the United States, in an earlier incarnation, helped to build...."

In the same issue, there is an article by Deepak Lal that is a paean to Anglo-Saxon global empire (it is the textual version of a plenary address to the Historical Society's on Globalism, Empire and Imperialism in June 2006).

Lal affirms that America's failure to claim its imperial obligations through fusion (or partnership) with British Empire at the end of WWI paved the road to WWII as it left an vacuum in which other hegemons (Japan, Germany and Italy) were free to act.

Lal is no enemy of globalism (he waxes positively lyrical about it and its parent organization, 19th century gentlemanly British capitalism) and therefore fails to point out that the weak or non-existent American institutions that he so desires to provide the sinews for American Empire, or rather, Pax Americana, are not there because the are being undermined the the neoliberal project.

"The United States has created the military structures to project its power, but has failed to build the complementary imperial administrative structure required to run an empire...."

To sum up, the Republican's own cosmology is fundamentally opposed to empire yet they blindly assert the projection of the US military without the necessary political entities. (Many of us will recall the Heritage Institute brats that were marshalled to run Iraq or characters like the gold bedecked General Jay Gardner, not to mention the Blackwater corporation).

So, if you have a soft spot for a US-run world (what Hubert Vedrine calls le monde unipolaire), lack of imperial institutions dooms the enterprise. As Don Rumsfeld would say, you go to war with the Bob Jones University graduates you have, not with the Imperial College of Global Administration graduates you'd like.

Ye Olde Pulpit

All the US understands nowadays is ka-boom or the bully pulpit. 4 hours of talks with the Iranians and Chester Crocker did nothing but lecture. Maybe in a week he and Hassan Kazemi Qomi will actually talk. I'm not holding my breath. On the other hand, it could have been ye olde dogue and pony show for the US publick.

However, this was comforting: Premier al-Maliki (inasmuch as he'll last until the end of the week) declared that Iraq would not be used as a springboard for aggression aimed at neighboring states.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Hubert Védrine: Part 2

Finally found the time to finish this intersting exchange with Hubert Védrine

Q - What about other issues?

I do not think that on the Israeli-Palestinian question, the Israeli-Lebanese question and the Syrian-Lebanese question there can be any resolution without realism. The startup of a process to find a solution between Israel and the Palestinians would remove pretexts from Syria and the others.

Q - Don’t you think that the process could aggravate demands and ambitions, if only because the peace process calls for a Palestinian state and that several regional regimes would want to control it?

The longer Israel waits, the more problems will arise. If the Israelis had negotiated seriously with the Palestinian nationalists, they would have had a ready-made barrier against against Islamism. The longer they wait, the greater the chances are that the Palestinian movement will weaken and fall under the control of hostile forces. In my opinion it was a tremendous error to push the Palestinians into elections then to boycott the results. It’s one of the worst errors the West ever made and one that both Europe and France accepted. Either you don’t want the Islamists in government, for good reason, so you don’t ask the Arabs to hold free elections or you believe that the democratic process is more important and you accept the results. The West destroyed its own message. As to Iraq, I agree with the Baker-Hamilton Report. In any case there are no perfect solutions, only flawed solutions. A regional approach is required so that Iraq’s neighbors gradually have less interest in maintaining or increasing the chaos in Iraq.

Holding talks with Iran doesn’t mean supporting the Islamist government or that you’ll agree to whatever they’ll ask you. It means betting on something else. You have to think dynamically, not statically. If you impose preconditions, that’s arrogance or pretentiousness. Things don’t work that way. You have to bet on a changing circumstances. The United States would have done well to reopen dialog with Khatami. Khatami was weak, but his hand would have been strengthened had there been dialog. By reopening the dialog, there was a chance that other forces in Iran would have come to the fore; the idea is to talk to nationalist Iran, not Islamist Iran. If dialog restarts, these forces will appear. But you cannot manage the dialog naively. While negotiating, you have to distinguish the normal regional desires of Iran –to become a regionally important power- from outrageous demands. Little by little, and it won’t happen in 24 hours, Iran must receive recognition of its regional status so that it will reduce its investment in Hezbollah and Hamas.

As to other questions, between Syria and Israel, Lebanon and Israel and Lebanon and Syria, I believe that progress can be made, including progress in Lebanese reconstruction and sovereignty, by relying on different mechanisms. If not, it’s all a waste of time.

Interview conducted by Jana TAMER

Link: (subscription required)

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Interview with Hubert Védrine on US foreign policy

The former Foreign Minister of France, Hubert Védrine has just published a book: "Continuing History"
Interview in Paris conducted by Jana TAMER of L'Orient-Le Jour.

The former Foreign Minister in Socialist Lionel Jospin’s coalition government from 1997 to 2002, Hubert Védrine is esteemed in all political circles, both in France and abroad. He was recently sounded out by President Elect Nicholas Sarkozy, as well as other members of the French Socialist Party, about joining the new government. Author of a work that was published amidst the French presidential campaign, Mr. Vedrine has agreed to an interview with us to discuss the overall situation in the Middle East from the realistic standpoint contained in his book, “Continuning History” (Fayard).

Q - In your book you examine back to back US and EU policies toward the Middle East and you refer to these policies as unrealistic.

The overall theme of my book is that after the fall of the Soviet Union, the West went overboard with euphoria in the notion that it had won the battle of history. It believed that its notions would then be automatically applicable everywhere : its ideas of democracy, its conception of the market economy, its values –which it believes are universal. In its mindset, there will be no more policy problems because there will be no more fundamental disputes on anything. All that would remain is how the world would be organized. It has even been adopted World Bank jargon, talking about things like "governance" which suggests business management rather than policies.

This Western illusion is split into two branches: one is American and the other European. The American branch attributes primordial importance to military superiority. It is here where the Neocons suceeded in hijacking US foreign policy with their very peculiar understanding of the Middle East –an interpretation which they tried to foist on the rest of the world. In their minds, the Palestinian question is of no importance –it is merely a pretext invented by the enemies of Israel– and therefore it is necessary to transform Arab states willy nilly and make them democratic, which would naturally make them pro-Western. But this type of reasoning is borrowed from Dr. Strangelove. How in heaven’s name did the United States, a great country, –certainly very nationalistic but overall very smart– get hijacked in this way ? This is worth investigating.

The other branch, the European branch, is very different but I would lable it ingenuous. Modern Europeans believe that the world is made up of Boy Scouts who want to protect the overall well-being of humanity. They believe that we are part of an international community that works to prevent conflicts through the United Nations, etc.

These two irrealistic branches of thought, which are very different, really don’t work. Actually, a kind of multi-polar world is in the process of forming. This multi-polar world is not one of the grandiose rhetoric we deploy in France. And this world can very well progress without us, or even against us.

My main concern, –which regards not only foreign policy but also things that are more global and more historical in nature– is that Europeans do not possess the required energy to cooperatively build a power that could affect things. I try to redefine the contours of a modern school of realism. This is the work that I have been doing on the political and intellectual planes in France. With respect to Europe, I am also trying to introduce a more realistic approach. There is still quite a bit of irrationality and chimeric illusions. I’m one hundred percent pro-Europe myself, but there are several ways in which to be European. Moreover, I’m fighting against a sort of depressive tendency that has existed in France for several years. I maintain that it’s acceptable to look history in the face, including the darkest chapters –there are such episodes in the history of every nation– but it’s not a reason to sink into depression and permanent compulsive expiation.

As part of all this, I believe that Western policies over the last few years toward the Near and Middle East –spurred by the United States– have been completely idiotic. That’s quite clear.

Q - But how can the realism that you promote and which is similar to the approach offered to the United States by the Baker Hamilton report produce any better result? What comparison do you make between current US Middle East policy and that pursued by Bush Sr. And James Baker ?

You can’t compare the war waged for Kuwait with the events that are transpiring in Iraq. The war in Kuwait was impeccably managed with respect to legality and legitimacy. There was unanimity among the permanent members of the UN Security Council and many Arab nations in the Coalition. And this Coalition ceased combat to avoid exceeding its mandate.

Q - But there wasn’t only the war in Kuwait…

On the question of the Middle East, Bush père and James Baker were the only ones to put some pressure on Israel when they blocked financial guaranties at one point. They even succeeded in setting off a crisis in Israel and launched the process that led to Rabin's ascent to power. Without Rabin, there would have been no Oslo process. As we look back on that period, we see that Rabin was the greatest Israeli man of state in thirty years. Inside Israel, there is a cleavage between those who would use any pretext to avoid a peace process because, as they do not want to give back territory, they don’t want a process (they therefore claim that there are no partners for dialog) and those, like Rabin, who want to advance the process not through a sudden move driven by compassion for the Palestinians, but because they claim that the vital interests of Israel lie on making progress. While it is true that these two groups exist, Israeli foreign policy has been dominated by Likud for quite some time, a sort of twin of the American Neocons. We don’t know who influences whom.

The polices of Bush Jr. are the worst of any US policies since 1945. That said, the US reaction following 9-11 focusing on the Taliban and al Qaeda was completely justified and moreover, there wasn’t a soul in the world who criticized it. But the war on Iraq was a monstrous error, above all for the United States. The US should have done just the opposite –it should have pursued the peace process. We were told that Bush wasn’t interested in the subject (a Middle East peace process) but what really happened is that Bush backed Sharon to the hilt. Bush Jr.’s White House aligned with Sharon from the minute it took office, before 9-11.

Q - The so-called realist approach, such as the Baker-Hamilton Report, raises quite a bit of fear in the Middle East. Some think they will have to bear the brunt of any realistic policies pursued by the West which would then aim at transforming enemies into friends and striking deals with them.

I believe that the approach used in the past by Bush père and Baker, which was picked up by the Baker-Hamilton Report, is less insane and more serious. But there are several ways of implementing realistic policies. And within these realistic policies, there is plenty of choice. I’m with those who think that there should be no taboo on dialog. Realism means recognizing that Bush’s policies in the Middle East are ideologically-driven and Manichean. You should never tie your hands behind your back and declare, “I will never negotiate with the terrorists and the regimes which threaten us”. The United States and the Soviet Union negotiated throughout the Cold War despite the fact that they threatened nuclear annihilation on one another; Kissinger went to China…You should never prevent yourself from talking out of Manichean motivations, dogmatism or morality. You have to do what’s necessary, and not just out of obsession with discussion or diplomatic routine.

On the Israel-Palestine question, you have to adopt a realistic solution in the interests of the West but also in those of Israel. Not to mention that of the Palestinians, who live in deplorable conditions. Moreover, we know more or less what the solution looks like. Its a blend of the Taba Accords, the Clinton Criteria, the Geneva Accords... I recognize that it will be fraught with difficulty. To become engaged in the process, the Israelis need a powerful, reliable and convinced Prime Minister. Israel’s extreme right wing and especially certain actors on the Palestinian and Arab side will try to prevent a successful agreement. But if it is announced in advance that there will be obstacles but that there is determination to proceed… Well, it assumes another Rabin, who would be supported by another Clinton but in the space of a year the crisis would be under control ! Realism demands that the focus be placed there –not on Iraq or on other countries as the US Neocons would like. If their plans for Iraq had succeeded, they would have intended the same for Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia… Because of the glaring defeat in Iraq, they no longer know what to do. US policy should now enter a transitional phase, but it’s not clear that this will actually occur. Realism would also command not to invade Iraq –and everything that President Jacques Chirac said was basically justified. We could question his tone, or his methods or his rhetoric but at the end of the day, he was correct.

(To be continued...)

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Palestinians in Lebanon

There for 60 years! And they are forbidden to work in any decent-paying job.

The camps are ghettos with rudimentary infrastructure.
LE MONDE | 22.05.07 | 14h56 • Mis à jour le 22.05.07 | 14h56

The approximately 400,000 Palestinians registered in Lebanon by UNRWA, the UN agency specialized in issues relating to Palestinian refugees, live in 12 camps scattered around Beirut, the south, the north and the east of the country. The estimated 16,000 refugees of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war are not included in this statistic in that UNRWA considers a refugee any Palestinian having lived in Palestine two years before the 1948 exodus and who was then expelled, including his or her descendants.

An agreement concluded in 1969 with Lebanon sponsored by Nasserite Egypt granted Palestinians the right to continue their struggle against Israel from the Arkub region in the south of the country. This agreement, drafted by Cairo, forbade the Lebanese to enter the refugee camps where the Palestinians were in charge of security. This agreement, of which the special section relating to the south, is in de facto lapse after the departure of the Palestinian fighters from Lebanon following an Israeli invasion, was abrogated by the Lebanese Parliament in 1987.

The mainstream Palestinian organizations are nevertheless well established and the predominance of one group or another depends on the geographical location. Thus, since the time Damascus exercised it hegemony over Lebanon, and considering its geographic proximity to Syria, the two refugee camps in the north of the country, Nahr al-Bared and Baddawi, have been dominated by Fatah-Intifada, which grew out of a pro-Syrian splinter group in 1982 from Yassir Arafat's Fatah.

But since the end of the 1990’s, Salafist networks have sprung up inside the camps in a sort of osmosis Lebanese Salafists in the Akkar region, further north, as noted by Bernard Rougier, in Le Jihad au quotidien [Everyday Jihad] (Presses universitaires de France). This event does not seem to have preoccupied the Syrians, who were already wooing the Lebanese Salafists in northern Lebanon. At the other extremity of the country, far from Damascus, in the Aïn Al-Helowi camp east of the town of Sidon, Jihadist Islamism ten years later and is part of global Islamism, opposed to the PLO and Palestinian nationalism, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In the other refugee camps, Fatah is dominant.

Built on land granted by the Lebanese state in the aftermath of the creation of Israel, they lack basic infrastructures and are ghettos where the population lives in growing misery, denied economic and social rights. In exchange for the “organization" of security inside the camps and the disarming of Palestinian outside the camps, the government of Fouad Siniora has begun to offer this guest population a decent life.
While awaiting the outcome of discussion on this topic, a Interior Ministry circular made timid headway in reducing the number of professions [such as law, investment, accounting] that are forbidden to Palestinians from 72 to 20. This is the only fragile achievement to date coming out of extremely intensive dialog.

M. Na.

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Insecurity in Afghanistan

It's not getting any better....

Insecurity grows in the northern Afghan provinces, spared until now
LE MONDE | 21.05.07 | 14h57 • Mis à jour le 21.05.07 | 14h57
Our Correspondent in Islamabad

Violence has doubled in Afghanistan where a week after the announcement of the death of one of their military chiefs, Mollah Dadullah, the Taliban claimed credit for two suicide bombings that on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 May killed 24 and wounded 50. Fourteen Afghan civilians were killed on Sunday in Gardez (southeast Afghanistan), two hours by car from Kabul when a man detonated his payload in a market after a US military convoy went by.

On Saturday in Kunduz (north) another man detonated his payload near a group of German soldiers who had stopped to shop. Three German soldiers and seven Afghan civilians were killed. These two suicide bombings follow three others that took place Thursday 17 May in Kandahar (South), killing nine and wounding eleven others, including the Afghan Information Minister Abdu al-Karim Khoram.

These bombings, where are less and less the prerogative of the south of the country where the Taliban are the most active, seem to confirm the desire of the militia's leaders to spread their struggle to the rest of the country. The bombing in Kunduz, the most serious since 2003 against German troops, 3,000 of which are deployed in the northern provinces follows another a month ago with killed nine Afghan police in training in a similar manner.

The Province of Paktia, of which Gardez is the capital, is also the prey of increasing insecurity. In this region, the influence of the Taliban, commanded by former Mujahedeen commandant Jalauddeen Haqqani, is asserted more and more.

For its part, NATO is multiplying its operations and has made pubic claims of impressive progress that is impossible to veryify. In a communiqué, NATO claimed to have “driven off or killed more than 100 enemy combatants" over the last two days in the eastern command zone that includes the Provinces of Paktia and Ghazni, where, according to Afghan security forces, “30 Taliban were killed” on Saturday. The Afghan security forces, who are participating in growing numbers in operations, are also taking very heavy casualties, but this is also unverifiable.

Since the beginning of the year, according to calculations from different sources, more than 1,600 people were killed in circumstances linked to the ongoing conflict. Civilians are paying a heavy price and the Red Cross stated on Sunday that 2,000 people are homeless following bombardment by coalition forces led by the United States, which at the end of April struck 14 villages in the Shindand District (west), killing 50 civilians.

Françoise Chipaux

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Do-Over War

"This summer is going to be critical time for the new strategy.... We are going to expect heavy fighting in the next weeks and months and we can expect American and Iraqi casualties." G.W. Bush

How many times is Bush is permitted to re-fight that goddam Iraq War?

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Gulf States about to un-peg currencies to the dollar

Kuwait decided Saturday to stop pegging its currency to the dollar and will replace it with a basket of currencies in which the euro figures prominently. Apparently the Gulf Cooperation Council is about to follow suit, with local investors to follow. With the Chinese so heavily invested in the NYSE, this could constitute a buffer. But...

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Be Nice to America

A thousand shookran's to The Doghouse of Booya. Maybe I better but him back on the blogroll.


Another Day, Another War Crime

The BBC reports that US military has sealed off the town of Samarra, preventing the delivery food, medicine and fuel to the beleaguered predominantly Sunni city of 300,000, where infants and the elderly are dying.

The treatment appears to be collective punishment for a May 6th attack that killed 12 police. If it were a military necessity to seal off the city, the US should then supply the town itself. The fact that our military has given the residents people nothing at all and are turning away Red Crescent trucks is a war crime.

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Bolton Loses His Cool (as usual)

Oh, this is too funny. From L'Orient LeJour

Former UN Ambassador John Bolton, answering questions live on BBC4 on US policies in Iraq lost his cool, accused his interviewer of being a "leftist" and "empty-headed".

The short-tempered diplomat justified the US action in Iraq and suggested that force might also be used to stop the Iranian nuclear program. But when show host John Humphrys, the doyen of interviews on BBC, asked Mr. Bolton, who is close to the Neocons, asked if the Bush Administration has "lost the match" in Iraq by its reckless gamble to invade, Mr. Bolton become extremely agitated. "You are completely wrong (...) People who think this way are mostly anti-American from the get-go", shot back Mr. Bolton. Mr. Humphrys then reminded Mr. Bolton the view was also held by philanthopist George Soros, a US citizen. But Mr. Bolton thundered back, "Are you kidding me? That guy is an extreme Leftist (...) and I'm sure you have plenty in common with him, just like most everyone on the Continent", said Mr. Bolton, alluding to alleged anti-American sentiment in Europe.

The BBC interviewer then protested his impartiality, reminding Mr. Bolton that journalists often play the role of devil's advocate and suggesting that it was something that was "perhaps disliked in the United States". "Oh, so your a superior Brit, eh? So I guess you don't have an opinion at're empty-headed? Mr. Humphrys then cut Mr. Bolton short, changing the topic to Paul Wolfowitz and asking Mr. Bolton if Wolfowitz, accused of nepotism," was "going to resign". "Oh, I you're a gravedigger, too? Well, I don't think he'll resign", said Bolton, clearly hot under the collar.


Thursday, May 17, 2007


UPDATE: WOLFIE'S OUSTED (But, like his pal, Tony Blair, he gets one more month)

Who else but Paul Wolfowitz would:

1) Accuse the Board of the World Bank of lying
2) Attempt to strike a reverse plea bargain* (You declare me innocent, and I'll leave)
3) Cheat like hell then declare "I acted in good faith".

* A reverse plea bargain is extortion.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Profile in Courage

Via the NY Times

Senate Rejects Iraq Funding Cutoff

...“We are doing everything we can to influence the president to change the war in Iraq,” Senator Clinton said shortly after the vote. “It’s very important for us to do all we can to try to express the will of the American people.”

But when asked by a reporter whether she supported the underlying idea of the Feingold bill, to cut off financing for major combat operations next spring, she declined to say yes or no. One day earlier, a spokesman said the senator supported the legislation.



We now have two tsars, or C-tsars: David Petraeus and Douglas Lute. Should we assume that CENTCOM got a lashing from Bush when he was down in Tampa last week and has been declared a non-command?

Seriously, I have no clue why Douglas Lute, essentially a tank commander, is about to be elevated to cabinet rank.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Whistleblowers sentenced to jail

Via Craig Murray:

Two principled Britons, David Keogh, a Whitehall communications officer, and Leo O'Connor, researcher to a former Labour MP, were found guilty of breaching the Official Secrets Act and jailed.

Keogh and O'Connor leaked a memo showing that Bush suggested bombing Al Jazeera headquarters in Qatar in 2004.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Bridges on the River Tigris

Three Four down in one month

22 are dead and 60 wounded following a coordinated dual suicide attack in southeast Baghdad on Thursday. One bomber, driving a truck, and another behind the wheel of a car crammed with explosives,I attacked two checkpoints run by Iraqi police, erected to protect the two most important bridges of the city, a new bridge and a old one spanning the Diyala River, a tributary of the Tigris, as well as the police barracks of the Zafaraniyah quarter of Baghdad, a mixed neighborhood of Sunnis and Shi'a. The two bridges partially collapsed, destroying a crucial link to Salman Pak and southern Iraq. The destruction of these two bridges will cause increased traffic chaos following the 12 April bombing that badly damaged a third bridge. Trucks weighing more than 1.5 tons are now banned on all but 2 bridges into Baghdad. [Via La Repubblica]

* TAIJI - A truck bomb hit a bridge near the town of Taji on the main highway connecting the capital with cities in the north, an Iraqi army source said, adding the attack was followed by a car bomb that killed four Iraqi army soldiers there. [Reuters, via Juan Cole]

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Big in Arabia

Thousands of hits from Riyadh to Rabat just to view the tender derrières of these Italian war protesters (blogged 11 November 2005).


12 May 2007 Bloody Saturday

PAKISTAN: At least 27 are dead and a hundred wounded in Karachi in fighting betweeen rival political groups as demonstrations began in support of the ex-President of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, fired by President Mushareff in violation of the Constitution. Members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the largest organization supporting Musharraf, and the Popular Pakistani Party, led former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, in exile, clashed. In the tulmult a police station, 4 buses and several vehicles were set afire. Three leaders of the opposition were shot dead by assassins on motorcyles. Police also fired on the crowds. [Via Il Corriere, Milan]

IRAQ: Officials fear for the fate of 3 US soldiers, who disappeared after an attack on US forces south of the Baghdad. Five other soldiers died. The three were likely captured by insurgents near Falluja, 50 km from the capital.

A patrol of 7 US soldiers accompanied by an Iraqi interpreter came under small weapons fire at 4:44 am local time 20 km west of Mahmudiyah and fought a battle with insurgents, who likely mounted a fake checkpoint. This group was travelling in two Humvees, which, apparently, is not SOP. Meanwhile, on the Baghdad-Falluja highway, 24 bodies were recovered. 17 were found bound and blindfolded, having been shot in the head. The other 7 were found in Abu Hatem quarter of east Falluja.

In Baghdad, an attack using dynamite gravely wounded the son of the Iraqi Vice President, Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunnit. Ahmed al-Hashimi is in critical condition after having been wounded Amiriya quarter of west Baghdad; he has already lost a sister and a brother in attacks on his family. Tariq al-Hashimi recently threatened to resign if Premier Nuri al-Maliki did not improve the security situation.

Two other bombs exploded, one in the Baladiyat Quarter of east Baghdad and another in the Saidiya of southwest Baghdad which targeted a US patrol. A suicide bomber detonated his payload against Iraq security forces in Madayin, 20 km south of Baghdad. [Via La Repubblica, Rome]

TURKEY: Smyrna. A bicycle suicide bomb killed 1 and wounded 12, some severely, in a marketplace. A major anti-Government demonstration is planned in Smyrna for Sunday.

SOMALIA: Mogadishu. A roadside bomb targeting the motorcade of UN representative John Holmes, UN Representative, killed 8 and wounded several more. No one in the motorcade was injured.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

See ya, Wolfie!

WASHINGTON, May 10 — European leaders have told the Bush administration that Paul D. Wolfowitz must resign as president of the World Bank in order to avoid a vote next week by the bank’s board declaring that he no longer has its confidence to function as the bank’s leader, European officials said Thursday. [Via The New York Times].



Monday, May 07, 2007

7 May 2007 events in Iraq and in the region

17:46 Baghdad. US soldier killed in firefight in west Baghdad. The US military has lost 3,374 troops in Iraq since March 2003.

13:54 Diyala. A Russian journalist, Dmitri Shebotayev, was killed along with 6 US troops by a roadside bomb yesterday. He was working for the Russian edition of Newsweek.

10:37 Ramadi: Dual carbombing, at least 20 are dead and 40 wounded.

09:47 Khalis. 31 bodies recovered in the last 24 hours.

08:38 Kirkuk. 4 Iraqis arrested for seeking to blow up oil pipeline supplying Turkey. They were assembling a bomb with 320 lbs. of explosives when discovered.

06:37 Kabul. Two US soldiers were shot dead with a handgun this morning in Afghanistan by a man dresssed in a Afghani Army uniform as they left the maximum security prison of Pul-i-Charkhi, in the eastern suburb of Kabul. Another two US soldiers were wounded.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Another Bloody Sunday: 6 May 2007

I used to do a hour-to-hour timeline of daily violence in Iraq and around the Middle East. I have a few spare moments today, lest we lose sight of the carnage:

21:01 Diyala. Six US soldiers and a journalist die when their car hits a roadside bomb in Diyala Province.

18:25 Tunceli, Turkey. Kurds and Turkish troops in firefight. 5 Kurds and 2 Turkish soldiers dead.

16:34 Shubara, Pakistan. 2 Shi'ite clerics murdered.

16:20 Gaza, Palestine. Radical Islamic militants attack an elementary school, killing Majid Abu Shamallah, an MP for Fatah. Another 6 wounded, including a child and the Vice Principal.

15:32 Baghdad. US raids Sadr City, killing 10 people. The US military said they were importers of explosive from Iran.

15:29 Algiers. Intelligence unit warns Islamist suicide bombers about to strike again.

14:21 Baghdad. Three US Marines die in al-Anbar province, bringing total military deaths to 3,365 since 2003.

13:48 Al-Gurah, Egypt. French military training aircraft crashes shortly after takeoff on a highway in the Sinai Peninsula. 9 dead, including 8 French military personnel and an officer of an undisclosed nation.

13:32 Gaza, Palestine. UN-run school attacked.

12:48 Baghdad. Ansal al-Sunna beheads Iraqi soldier and uploads video to the 'net.

12:37 Samarra. Two suicide bombings targeted different police stations 120 km north of Baghdad as mortar and machine gun fire heard. A suicide carbomber rammed the central police station. A second rammed the barracks of the special emergency police unit. 12 police killed, 6 wounded, including the Police Chief, Abd al-Yalil Nahi. The 3rd Brigade of the 82nd airborne rushed to the scene where they came under machine gun fire. A US Humvee took a direct rocket hit, wounding one US solider. A suicide bomber blew himself up in front of a second US Humvee. No word on casualties.

11:49 Ramallah, Palestine. Militants blow up a fuel truck, wounding an Israeli security guard.

10:42 Baghdad. 35 killed and 80 wounded the al-Bayaa quarter of Baghdad as a booby-trapped car explodes on 20th Street. In the same quarter, residents have been moving out over the last 3 days as al-Mahdi Army militants take over.

09:17 Al-Asriyah. 13 wounded in marketplace bombing 40 km south of Baghdad

09:15. Baquba. 3 killed in a marketplace firefight between gunmen and Iraqi troops 60 km northeast of Baghdad.

09:04 Gaza. Four rockets launched at Israeli settlements in the Neghev Desert.

07:53 Baghdad. US bombs 4 residences in Sadr City, wounding 6 people, including children.

07:43 Ghazni, Afghanistan. 5 police killed by roadside bomb.

06:41 Herat, Afghanistan. 8 Afgani police and 4 Taliban die in firefight.

02:29 Washington. Bush requests "responsible" funding for the "war against al-Qaeda" in Iraq.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

5 May 2007: Events in Iraq and in the Middle East

23:25 Washington. New US peace plan for Israel-Palestine discarded three days following introduction.

14:02 Baghdad. An audio tape recorded by Abu Ayyub Al Masri labels Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi a criminal.

12:24 Hilla. Carbomb south of Baghdad kills 4 and wounds 20.

12:00 Baquba. 12 men found blindfolded and slain.

11:44 Abu Ghraib. Suicide car bomber rams police barracks in the al-Karkh quarter of west Baghdad. 15 killed, 22 wounded.

Friday, May 04, 2007

We The People

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Turkey on the Tipping Point

The threats issued by the Turkish general staff are self-defeating and have certainly delayed any chance of Turkey's entry into the EU until 2015. That said, Merville asks the question: Why is the Justice and Development party treated so differently from Hamas?

Op-Ed by Christian Merville, L'Orient-Le Jour, 1 May 2007

Are there people seeking to redefine secularism? Do these people occupy high positions of power? Has the ideology introduced by Atatürk been attacked? If “yes” is the answer to any one of these questions, it would mean that Turkey is threatened by Islamic fundamentalism.
The source of these statements, made during an address to the cadets of the War Academy last October 2nd, General Yasar Büyükanit, is hardly a shrinking violet. Quite the contrary. The Chief of the General Staff is considered, in the eyes of his peers, a hawk who does not mince his words. These four statements resonated like a shot across the bow, the first in a series of salvos that have continued through Friday, when General Büyükanit attacked the government in the harshest of terms and accused it of failing to defend secular principles.

It was a pointless effort on the part of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to defend his management of public affairs as he underscored that he had stepped away from the extremist movement to which his predecessor (and mentor), Necmettin Erbakan, belonged and to vaunt the fact that that over the last five years, Turkish economic growth has been spectacular. Try as he might, he was unable to mollify a wrathful army that jealously guards the heritage from the Father of the Nation.

Meanwhile, the West is confronted with a terrible dilemma: how to reconcile the necessity of strict observance of democratic norms, which would mean keeping the current cabinet in their jobs and the election a week from now of Abdallah Gül as head of state and, at the same time, to prevent Turkey from teetering dangerously on the brink of fundamentalism, which would reduce its chances of admittance to the European Union to zero and multiply by a factor of 100 the chances of contagion to every other state in the region.

Another problem for the Western pseudo-defenders of so-called republican values: How to demand for the Justice and Development Party what it denies to Palestine’s Hamas, which came to power after a perfectly honest election. One after the other, the Vice President of the European Commission, Guenter Verheugen, Special EU Envoy Hanjoerg Kretschmer and Enlargement Spokesperson Olli Rehm insisted that the army remain out of politics.

Yesterday, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy counseled “our Turkish friends to carry the Constitutional process (and, therefore, the presidential election) to its conclusion”, while recalling “concern for respect of secularism”.

These well-intentioned individuals would do well to make a practical demonstration of this unheard-of way of dealing with the democratic goat and the secular cabbage.
Nevertheless, all these considerations of pure form beg one more question, which is: How is the army able to claim the right to intervene in the country’s political life when this could result in seeing everything acquired since 1925 being swept away without there being a thing it can do about it?

On four occasions in forty-seven years –in1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997–, the military intervened to restore the state to the Kemalist rails. Following each of these interventions, they quietly retreated back their barracks being careful, however, to keep an eye on the switch to ensure respect for the heritage of Mustafa Kemal, who desired, he said, “to free religion from its role as a political instrument”, this goal being one of the famous “Six Arrows" of reform based on "laikdik", a word derived from “laïcité “ or secularity, so dear to Europe.

Some people may judge the fears of the military brass, who prefer prevention to cure, as excessive and misplaced, as singed as they are by the Iranian experience. In 1979, explains one of them, Zeyno Baran of the Hudson Institute, when those loyal to the Shah finally came to realize the danger of Khomeinism, it was too late to do anything about it.

Precisely. Iran. In the halls of power in Washington there are voices being heard underscoring the necessity of having a Turkey able to serve as a counterweight –from the confines of Afghanistan to the heart of the Middle East– to the influence of Tehran. But then, although it’s impossible, as the Anglo-Saxons say, to have your cake and eat it, too, the generals cannot really be blamed for an excess of political orthodoxy and the desire to prevent the repudiation, upon short notice, of everything that over the last eight years that has made Turkey modern.

Perhaps, at the end of the day, one should let the old Sick Man of Europe finish his convalescence with the hope that his return to health occurs through the Constitutional Council or under the bracing effect of the hinted use of force, rather than the real thing.

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