A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press.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, June 26, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
Hoisting a Vehículo blindado 45 feet in the air
6 Spanish soldiers serving in the Segunda Bandera de la Brigada Paracaidista (airborne) in Lebanon perished when a booby-trapped van blew up next to their 15 metric ton armored personnel carrier, blowing the doors off and sending the enormous 6-wheeled vehicle 45 feet in the air. You have to assume it had electronic explosive detection.
This, by the way, is a replay of the Hariri assassination.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Making Iraq Safe for Christianity
"More than 1,000 Christian families in Baghdad have been threatened by Islamic guerrillas for having refused to convert, pay the tax on non-Muslims and to offer a daughter in marriage to a Muslim according to the international NGO, Portes Ouvertes. According to the organization, "there is a campaign underway in the Doura quarter (southeast Baghdad) to oust Christian residents. Refusing to submit to the militias, Christians have no choice but to flee, abandoning all their possessions. Some have gone to Kurdistan while others to Jordan and Syria. Local estimates say that half the country's Christians, a community that once numbered 1 million, have left the country.
According to Mar Dinka IV, head of the Assyrian Church, and the Patriarch of Babylon, Emmanuel Delly, of the Chaldean Church, "Christians are the victims of blackmail, kidnappings and forced displacements, especially in areas controlled by the "Islamic State of Iraq." [L'Orient-Le Jour]
Well, the Islamic State of Iraq must be in charge of Mosul...
Two Christians were murdered in Mosul on Tuesday. The pair was killed in the Nour quarter, where a Chaldean priest and three deacons were murdered on June 3rd.
Five teachers and three Christian students travelling aboard a minibus were kidnapped Wednesday morning along a highway linking Mosul with Qaraqosh, where they resided. The bus was surrounded by "several vehicles" and the hostage takers read a list of those who had to get off the bus. The police watched the entire event unfold but did not intervene.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
General Taguba Ousted
In an article on General Taguba in the New Yorker by Seymour Hersh, the general says that everyone knew full well about the abuses at Abu Ghraib and did nothing to stop them (one supposes that characters like Wolfowitz even encouraged them). General Taguba also says that Rumsfeld lied to Congress about it. A
And there's worse, as Craig Murray reports:
A Seymour Hersh interview with General Anthony Taguba, who investigated Abu Ghraib, confirms details of the abuse not previously public. It also confirms that the torture was sanctioned from the top. Not quoted here, but General Janis Karpinski has testified that she saw a memorandum on "Interrogation techniques" pinned to the wall by military intelligence at Abu Ghraib, signed by Donald Rumsfeld himself. Karpinski was at the top of the line of command of the guards - the military police - but not the interrogators. Taguba here notes that Rumsfeld not only denied advance knowledge, but even tried afterwards to deny having seen Taguba's report or knowing what had happened.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Gaza: Fatah repudiates the Constitutional process
Jean-François Legrain has very kindly made available his interview, published in Paris newspaper, La Liberation on 13 June. In the meantime, Fatah unilaterally dissolved the elected government and imposed an emergency government.
No cobbled-together solution in sight
[Of course not:
A researcher au CNRS/Gremmo (Research and Study Group on the Mediterranean and the Middle East) and an expert on Palestine, Jean François Legrain analyzes the conflict pitting Hamas against Fatah:
How do you explain the war between Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip?
The war represents the hypertrophy of all issues that have been festering over the years, and which Yassir Arafat, despite his weakness, was able to control. Anything that enabled the Palestinians to preserve their society in the face of the Israeli occupation and the rais to consolidate his power was lost in the upheaval of Palestinian society after Arafat’s death. Arafat knew how the gears of his society functioned. He knew how to work those gears, forcing his men to competition with one another, promoting the fortunes of one over the other, and vice-versa.
Why didn’t Mahmood Abbas continue those policies?
Because Abbas does not possess these skills and, furthermore, because of his refusal to go about things in this way, perhaps for the sake of democracy. However, owing to the absence of a state, the accumulation of local grievances, the fallback on blood ties and the solidarity of local interests -factors that are present, by the way, in other Arab countries- the Palestinians have sunk into chaos.
The first outbreak of clashes was witnessed at beginning of summer 2004, shortly before the death of Arafat. At that time, however, the conflict was not between Hamas and Fatah but within the Fatah movement itself. It was at that time that a profusion of armed groups and subgroups emerged –a materialization of local grievances, the extremely personal character of leadership and mafia-like outgrowths. These struggles also reflected the quest for control on the part of small-time chiefs over a highly localized geographic area, combined with resistance to the Israeli occupation. These struggles reflected the heritage of the Feyadeen culture of the 1970's and the new forms of violence linked to the Intifada emerging amidst this very personalized and competitive contest for power. From the turmoil involving Palestinian Authority security groups (official) and groups (informal) linked to Fatah, we then saw the violence spread throughout the area.
But the arrival to power of Hamas changed the equation. All the groups that had been loyal to very disparate and even contradictory ideologies found a common enemy in Hamas. The crux of the problem is that Fatah, in addition to the Presidency, has continually denied Hamas the right to exercise the mandate handed to it at the voting booth.
Nonetheless, Mahmood Abbas appointed Ismael Haniyeh as Prime Minister.
At first, Abbas went along with the outcome of the vote. However, he did everything possible to deprive the new cabinet of its Constitutional prerogatives. It should be recalled that when Abbas served as Arafat’s Prime Minister, he fought to accumulate power for himself and his cabinet. Moreover, he successfully shifted all powers nominally enjoyed by the office of Palestinian Authority President and the PLO to the Prime Minister and his cabinet. Later, with respect to the security apparatus, Abbas shifted the security forces under the authority of the Prime Minister back to the President.
What we are witnessing is civil disobedience –to say the least– on the part of forces under the umbrella of Fatah who are repudiating the Constitutional process. Furthermore, Mahmood Abbas and Fatah benefit from the support of Israel and the international community. Military support from Israel has permitted the shipment of arms to the Gaza Strip from Jordan, Egypt and Fatah militants. The international community continues to deny financial assistance to Hamas as the United States provides financial aid the Presidential Guard, which it concurrently trains in Jericho and in Egypt.
Can we say at this point that civil war is underway in the Gaza Strip?
Its de facto existence is undeniable. But it is difficult to qualify it as one because it is very different from the civil wars in Lebanon and Iraq. This is not a confessional or ethnic conflict. In Gaza, the divisions run through families themselves.
Do you see any type of cobbled-together solution?
I don’t foresee a solution –at least, not without the involvement of the international community and, moreover, not without a determined effort. But no formula, even temporary, is on the horizon because the United States and Europe refuse to make any commitment.
Interview conducted JEAN-PIERRE PERRIN
Related interviews with Mr. Legrain from on-line newspapers translated into English at this site:
Fatah vs. Hamas
Beyond Gaza, beyond Beirut
The Hamas Election Victory
Friday, June 15, 2007
War of the Mosques
Things don't look so good in Iraq. Reading Juan Cole will scare the pants off you today.
War Nerd was quite correct about the Surge: That's what we just did under Petraeus: switched sides, Shia to Sunni, because the Shia were getting too strong.
I have more info but I'm short on time. I'll fill in the blanks tomorrow. But note that L'Orient Le-Jour reports that thousands of Christians are fleeing Baghdad.
Tomorrow may indeed be the day when it all come crashing down. You know what I mean.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Italians protest Bush's visit to Rome
Prodi the Supine
Here is an Italian Prime Minister who is persona non grata in Washington [as is Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero] and in whose face George W. Bush just kicked dirt. Under the nose of the leftist human secularist PM, the Communist (reformed) President and Assembly Speaker, Bush goes to Rome to a)Visit the Pope and b) Silvio Berlusconi. How many foreign heads of state visit a NATO ally---to chat it up with the opposition leader in order to humiliate the coalition in power?
Well, look, perhaps I'm too harsh on Prodi...the fellow probably has no choice.
The Italian papers write that Bush called the Pope "Sir" instead of "Your Holiness".
Typically flubbing his lines, Bush said, "Thanks for your time" to the Pope when leaving.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Don't they have anything better to do...
than to make door-to-door arrests in Sadr City, while this is going on?
The US Army arrested 16 so-called terrorist suspected of arms trafficking with Iran in Sadr City. Of course,they did nothing to break up the gunfight between Shia and Sunni in the Saida quarter of the capital. Not to mention the "Emir of Mossul" and his hit list. He rubbed out a 45 year old Voice of Iraq reporter Sahar Hussein al-Haydari.
What about some news on Kurdistan-Turkey? (Via L'Orient-Le Jour).
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that no military action against Kurdistan would be envisoned without a vote by Parliament. However, Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani has rejected Ankara's conditions concerning PKK separatists. On Wednesday, (confirmed) 600 Turkish commandos, supported by regular Army units and originating from the Turkish town of Cukurca, penetrated 3 kilometers into Kurdistan as another 200 regular troops occupied a hilltop in the Iraqi Kurd region of Sizeri. Moreover, the Turks have announced temporary security zones in the frontier provinces of Sirnak, Siirt and Hakkari through 9 September. Denials notwithstanding.
All professors at Karbala University are getting sidearms, bodyguards, and round-the-clock sentries around their home.
In Rabiaa near the Syrian border, a suicide bomber killed 9 and wounded 22, including 5 British expats.
In Sadr City, 3 were killed in a carbombing.
In Abu Ghraib, two suicide bombers drove their payload into an Iraqi Army checkpoint (Iraq "Army" meaning Peshmerga or the occasional Shi'a).
Don't listen to the rhetoric, they will deal
Ignore Tony Blair's swaggering, "We don't deal with the terrorists". Remember those British nationals kidnapped from one of the downtown Baghdad ministries in huge, spectacular operation? Well, someone must have gone to Oxbridge (Postman Patel, are you there?) or has connections to the elite. The British Ambassador to Baghdad, Dominic Asquith, is ready for whatever it takes to release them (provided they were not unlucky enough to have been in Rabiaa).
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Putin calls Bush's bluff on the "Missile Shield"
Take a look at this 26 April map of the Missile Shield deployment from Le Monde. Now any fool knows that 6 platforms in Eastern Europe, 5 in Poland (Orzysz, Slupsk, Ustka, Zegrze Pomorskie and Cziuchow) and 1 in the Czech Republic (Jince) = Russian, if not French and German, targets.
Now we'll see what Bush will do, that is, spurn the Russian offer for a joint missile platform in Azerbaijian, which would be more of less an admission of other aims than shooting down Shahabs. (As if there would ever be any logic in an Iranian nuclear strike on Europe...)