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A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press.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, March 27, 2008

"Our" Iraqi Army

In Basrah fighting: "...the Iraqi army broke into shops, took food and water, then set fire to shops and cars on the street."

This is your $22 billion on rebuilding Iraqi security forces at work.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

This Blog is Pro-Obama

For a portrait of our favorite, please read Jonathan Raban in the current issue of the London Review of Books.

For a tragic sense of life is exactly what has marked Obama’s candidacy from the beginning. His powerful memoir, Dreams from My Father, written in his early thirties, is shot through with that sense: its gravely intelligent, death-haunted tone, beautifully controlled throughout the book, is that of an old voice, not a young one – and the voice of the book is of a piece with the plangent, melancholy baritone to be heard on the campaign trail.

...His routine stump speech is built on the premise that America has become estranged from its own essential character; a country unhinged from its constitution, feared and disliked across the globe, engaged in a dumb and unjust war, its tax system skewed to help the rich get richer and the poor grow poorer, its economy in ‘shambles’, its politics ‘broken’.

...He courts his listeners, not as legions of the blissful, but as legions of the alienated, adrift in a country no longer recognisable as their own, and challenges them to emulate slaves in their struggle for emancipation, impoverished European immigrants seeking a new life on a far continent, and soldiers of the ‘greatest generation’ who volunteered to fight Fascism and Nazism. The extravagance of these similes is jarring – especially when they’re spoken by a writer as subtle and careful as Obama is on the printed page – but they serve to make the double point that America is in a desperate predicament and that only a great wave of communitarian action can salvage it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Passportgate - The Plumbers strike again

Please, please, please let this be Bush's Watergate!

Via BBC:

"The US Department of State has fired two contractors and disciplined a third for accessing the passport file of presidential hopeful Barack Obama.A spokesman for the department, Sean McCormack, said the cases were likely caused by "imprudent curiosity". But he said it was not clear what the employees may have seen or what they were looking for."

Liar. Of course McCormack knows what the Plumbers were looking for and why they were doing it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Day of the Dauphin

John McCain will hold talks with Mr Olmert and Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak later on Wednesday, before flying to London for meetings with UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Just who the hell does McCain think he is, the damn Dauphin?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ides of March: Attacks on "Coalition" personnel

On Saturday, March 15th, there were two bloody explosions in which US military and diplomatic personnel were killed.

The first was Vora, Albania, where an ammo dump blew up, killing up to 70 people. At the time 60 military personnel were inside the dump, including, it appears, several members of the US military or a contractors to NATO.

The second was the Luna Caprese Italian restaurant in downtown Islamabad. Reports in the Italian press say at least 1 American nurse and 2 Japanese journalists were killed and scores of people (most foreigners) lost limbs as a blast ripped through the garden dining terrace, creating a river of blood. Juan Cole reports today that FBI personnel were also on the restaurant's terrace.

Today in in the Province of Helmand, Afghanistan, a suicide bomber targeted a NATO convoy, killing 3 NATO soldiers and wounding 4.

Last, in Shi'ite Karbala, a female Sunni suicide bomber killed 42 Shi'a in Karbala as both Dick Cheney and John McCain visit Iraq. Meanwhile, Baghdad itself was rocked by a huge blast. (Haven't seen the details yet.)

Sunday, March 16, 2008


We were looking out over Lhasa and the entire city was on fire.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Coordinated Assault on Obama

Coincidence or conspiracy? Three major international newspapers have slammed Obama's pastor, Milan's Corriere della Sera, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal all ran articles on Obama's handshaking-terms relationship with Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright. Sergio Romano, writing in the Corriere on March 10, was incensed at Wright's antisemitism. Today, March 14th, the US papers objected to Wright's perceived anti-Americanism. Romano went so far as to say that if Obama were the Democratic nominee, McCain would surely win!

The story was nowhere on the radar a week ago. I certainly appears to be the deployment of the "go nuclear" option in the Clinton arsenal.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dead Archbishops

One more corpse and it's Bush's fault. Yet he has no trouble sleeping.

[Via La Repubblica]

MOSUL - "Monsignor Rahho is dead. We found his body in the outskirts of Mosul. The kinappers had buried it". The news of the discovery of Monsignor Paulos Faraj Rahho's body was announced by the Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad, Monsignor Shlemon Warduni, via Agenzia S.I.R. (Religious News Service). It was originally believed that the archbishop had died from natural causes (his health was poor), but in afternoon, L'Osservatore Romano confirmed that he had been murdered.

Monsignor Rahho was kidnapped on February 29th. Two security guards and Rahho chauffer were shot dead by the kidnappers. The fact that the kidnappers were said to demand a ransom had generated the hope that Rahho would be released.

The funeral for Monsignor Rahho will take place on Friday at the cemetery of his home town, the Christian village of Kremlesh.

Walter Hussein Veltroni Obama

Walter Veltroni

Berlusconi fanboy and fascist Giuseppe Ciarrapico

Silvio Berlusconi has joined in the "Get Obama" race baiting melee by labeling the Mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni (a leftist who hopes to become the next Italian PM), the "pale-faced clone of Barak Obama".

Fascists hate Obama. Good!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pols 'n Putas

Back in the forties during the war years, the yachts lined up along the Potomac in Washington were floating high-class brothels for rendezvous between politicians and prostitutes -but then they were known as "Victory Girls" earning a whopping $2,000 a month. A smarter Spitzer should have maintained the he needed his own Victory Girls for the War on Terror.

Lest we forget, here's a few names on Pols 'n Putas Honor Roll:

Judith Campbell Exner/JFK
Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton
Sherrie Rowlands/Dick Morris
Rasheeda Moore/Marion Barrie
Deborah Jeane Palfrey/Rolland Tobias and the 109th Congress
Fanne Fox/Wilbur Mills
Donna Rice/Gary Hart
Vicki Iseman/John McCain
Charlie Wilson/[too many to mention]

Sex is power/power seeks sex.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The only American to condemn US actions in Somalia

Informed Comment includes a guest editorial today by William R. Polk, who is the first American I've heard who has even mentioned the cruel war fomented by the United States against Somalia for which blood-mouth Jendayi E. Frazer is the biggest cheerleader:

Somalia is a worse mess.If you remember the movie, "Black Hawk Down", the really bad guys were the warlords. The Somalis agreed. So when we got out, they threw out the warlords. The only replacements they could find were the religious leaders. The Muslim Fundamentalist are not our favorite people, but they were the only force that could stop the warlords’ extortion, rape and murder, and the Somalis supported them. Now we have encouraged and paid the Ethiopians to invade Somalia and drive them out. We also committed our special forces and our Navy in this attack. It worked – temporarily and at the cost of great human suffering – and has made the Somalis hate us. Worse, it has brought no political solution that anyone thinks can last. The war has not been won, merely worsened.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Spain Votes for the Return of the Caliphate

Hat tip to Atrios

With 95% of the vote counted, Zapatero and the PSOE are returned to power by the Spanish people (via El Pais)


Friday, March 07, 2008

Operation "Hot Winter" a Failure

“The IDF is powerless to end rocket attacks”

In a chat on 3 March, Le Monde's Jerusalem correspondent, Michel Bôle-Richard, looks at Israel's recent incursion into the Gaza Strip.

Q. Can one really talk about an Israeli failure? Hasn’t Hamas been weakened and is the real loser following Operation "Hot Winter”?

A. Hamas has not been defeated. What is the outcome of Operation "Hot Winter”? It killed between 110 and 120 Palestinians, but the official justification offered by Israel - to end Qassam and Katiushka rocket fire- was not achieved. The proof is that when Israeli troops departed in the early hours of Monday, Hamas launched a salvo of rockets in the direction of Israel to "celebrate its victory" and to prove that Operation "Hot Winter" was a failure.

As to a favorable outcome for Israel, when it uses warplanes and combat helicopters to hit the militants, obviously there is no balance between Israeli and Palestinian victims.

Q. Israel says it has wrapped up the first phase of the operation…What should we expect from the second phase?

A. There will be new operations, - if military operations can really end rocket fire in the direction of Israel. But the first operation perfectly demonstrated that Israeli forces were powerless to stop such rocket fire. I spent yesterday with Palestinian fighters. The Israeli forces were 400 meters away and right under their nose, 100 meters away, some Qassam rockets were fired.

The Israelis, positioned on a hilltop that dominates the Jabaliya camp, were unable to penetrate it. Jabaliya has twisting, narrow streets and the casualty rate for the IDF would have been very high, as it would have for the Palestinian population. To end rocket attacks, the Israelis would have to control the terrain for days on end, which is nearly impossible because Gaza has one of the densest concentrations of people in the world and a massive Israeli operation would have a tremendous cost.

Q. As the Israeli Army has been weakened over these last few years, can it even launch a ground assault?

A. The Israeli Army remains powerful. It is capable of launching a massive operation, as it did in Lebanon, even if it was a failure. If Israel tries the same thing in Gaza, it will also be a failure. We are now in the same situation as in July 2006: for 34 days during its war against Lebanon, the IDF was unable to stop the Katyusha rockets and now the same thing is happening in Gaza.

Q. What is Hamas’ capacity for harassment with these rocket attacks?

A. In the past the Qassam rockets, as they were homemade, caused little damage. There have been 12 Israeli victims of Qassam attacks since 2001. Today, Hamas has considerably better rockets and launch capabilities, to the point that their rockets reach the outskirts of Ashkelon. I was there this afternoon when a rocket landed on a building rooftop, causing impressive damage. Yesterday, a rocket landed near a house, pulverizing the interior; the children were uninjured because they had taken shelter.

This means that in the space of a few months, the nuisance and damage that Hamas can cause has considerably increased. They have far more sophisticated means.

Q. Do the Palestinian people support the rocket attacks?

A. The population of Gaza entirely supports these rocket attacks. They think it’s the right way to respond to Israeli incursions. As the Gazans say, when an Israeli is killed by a rocket, it makes big headlines around the world but it takes 50 Palestinian deaths to raise a little sympathy among international public opinion for what is happening in Gaza. Thus, the Gazawis believe that the rockets are the only way to respond to Israeli aggression.

Moreover, in the eyes of the Palestinians of Gaza, this type of operation is counterproductive for Israel and discredits Mahmood Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority.

Q. If Gaza’s Palestinians stop firing rockets, would the Israelis stop their incursions? Wouldn’t it be win-win for both of them?

A. The question is asked over and over again: Who started it? In this case, it started with an Israeli attack on Khan Younes in the southern Gaza Strip where 5 Hamas militants, apparently Qassam rocket builders, were killed. In response, Hamas launched a rocket salvo at Sderot and then things escalated. It’s the old question of the chicken and the egg: which came first? The Israelis believe that it is their right to carry out target assassinations, even if they provoke collateral damage. And the Palestinians say: We can't let ourselves be massacred like this; it's our duty to resist the occupier.

Q.Is there Israeli claim of legitimate defense as a justification for its military operations in Gaza unjustified? What would be the alternative?

A. That is a fundamental question. Israel has the right and the duty to defend its citizens against Qassam rockets. But what should it do? Enter Gaza to slaughter Palestinians? Does that constitute a solution? Does it solve the problem? So far, Israeli incursions into Gaza Strip haven’t stopped Qassam rocket attacks.

Since coming to power on 15 June 2007 in the Gaza Strip, Hamas has made an offer of truce to the Israelis. Israel has refused their offer because it does not wish to enter into dialog with Hamas, an Islamist movement that does not recognized Israel.

The Israelis fear that entering into entering into dialog with Hamas, whether directly or indirectly, would be see as a failure. Moreover, the Israelis believe that a truce would permit the Islamist movement to strengthen its military capacity.

Q. Do the rockets fired from Gaza openly target the Israeli civilian population? What about the Israeli raids?

A. Israeli raids are in fact targeted assassinations and the missiles are fired by drones, combat helicopters or F-16s at cars, buildings or people deemed terrorists by Israel. But this method produces lots of mistakes. According to the figures available to me, of the 110 to 120 Palestinians killed over the last few days, at least half were innocent civilians, including 20 children and a dozen women.

The Palestinians do not have the same access to technology as the Israelis. They use rockets with a range of 10 kilometers that mostly land in Gaza and once in a while in Sderot.

What is undeniable is for the last few months, the range of the Qassam and its propulsion system have improved, but they remain very unreliable devices.

Q. What is the meaning of the statement of the Israeli minister saying a Shoah would descend upon the Arabs of Palestine?

A. The Israeli Vice Minister for Defense stated that if the rockets continued to fall in Israel and if their range increased, a “shoah” would befall the Palestinian people. The term means catastrophe in Hebrew and nabka in Arab.

The word shoah is also a synonym for the Holocaust, while nabka is used to denote the eviction and exile of Arabs during the war that led to the partition of Palestine.

The Israeli Vice Minister recognized that the term was inappropriate because today shoah is understood everywhere as the Holocaust and not as catastrophe. To use the term, shoah, in the context of combatting people responsible for launching Qassam rockets in the Gaza Strip was manifestly inappropriate.

Q. How have the Israeli people reacted to the events of the last few days, especially the death of so many children?

A. The Israeli media have spoken of victims but they are really not concerned by what happened in Gaza. Most Israelis take Hamas for a terrorist regime and believe that the Palestinians deserve what they get. But interestingly last week in a survey published by Haaretz, 64% of Israelis believe that negotiations should be opened with Hamas.

Q. Is the United States applying any pressure to end these operations?

A. Obviously. On the eve of the retreat last Sunday, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert both declared that the operation would continue and Barak even affirmed that there would be an escalation. Everyone expected that the 2,000 IDF troops deployed to the Gaza Strip would stay there several days. But in the morning they left.

Why? Because the White House believed that the violence had to end and that negotiations should restart. The same day, Mahmood Abbas decided to end contacts with the Israelis part of the peace process that began three months ago but have reached an impasse.

Thus US pressure was manifest. Moreover, Condoleeza Rice has begun a tour of the Middle East in an attempt to restart the peace process.

Q. Is an independent Palestinian State in 2008 still a possibility?

A. No, it is not. Ehud Olmert said so himself a few days ago while he was in Japan. It is undeniable that since the peace process was restarted by George W. Bush in Annapolis, the Israelis haven’t moved an inch with respect to lifting the checkpoints on the West Bank or liberating Palestinian prisoners.

On the three essential questions -the status of Jerusalem, the drawing of the frontiers of the Palestinian state and the right of return- nothing has been done. As to dismantling illegal settlements, the Israelis have so far done nothing.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Hell They Don't

Via L'Orient-Le Jour

A woman and a child were killed in Basrah in southern Iraq by British artillery responding to rocket fire. In London, the Defence Ministry claimed that "We do not target residential zones with artillery and we have strict rules on munitions". The Ministry then went on to say that the shells might have been "defective". [koff koff]

Meanwhile, Turkish artillery had a field day lobbing rounds at Bazger in the Sidikan District near Arbil, the Kurdish capital.

Bombing under occupation...and it will go on another hundred years, according to John McCain.

We should also mention that Professor Sattar Taher Sharif al-Tadrissi was murdered in Baghdad today while in Samarra six Anbar Awakening members will wounded in a suicide bombing.

Just another happy, joyous post-Surge day. Whee-hee!