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Sunday, December 31, 2006




Another Peaceful Day in Iraq

Dec 30, 2006

By LAUREN FRAYER
Associated Press Writer


BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- At least 80 Iraqis died in bombings and other attacks Saturday as they prepared to celebrate Islam's biggest holiday, their first without Saddam Hussein.

The bombings came hours after Saddam was hanged in Baghdad for ordering the killings of 148 Shiites in the city of Dujail in 1982. Despite concerns about a spike in unrest, Saturday's violence was not unusually high for Iraq (!!! NB), nor did it appear to be in retaliation for the execution.

Source

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Saturday, December 30, 2006




ICU, You See Me ?

The Islamic Courts' Union (ICU) seems to have abandoned Mogadishu without a fight. One thing is clear though. Superpowers may not be capable of defeating Islamist insurgencies and their guerilla tactics, but it's certainly within their reach to not let them rule.

The New York Times

By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Published: December 29, 2006


Just hours after Islamist fighters abandoned Mogadishu, the capital from which they ruled much of Somalia, thousands of troops of the transitional government marched into the city on Thursday in a stunning reversal of fortune.

The government soldiers and the Ethiopian infantrymen who have been backing them poured in from the outskirts, residents said.

. . .

Ethiopia sided with the government because the Islamists had vowed to invade Somali-speaking areas of Ethiopia and wage a holy war against it.

By Wednesday, the Islamist military had been decimated by Ethiopian airstrikes and mass desertions. Clan elders, traditionally the pillars of Somali society, pulled their troops and firepower out of the Union of Islamic Courts, after a string of back-to-back military loses in which more than 1,000 fighters, mostly teenage boys, were quickly mowed down by the better-trained and equipped Ethiopian-backed forces.

“Our children were getting annihilated,” said Abdi Hulow, an elder with the powerful Hawiye clan. “We couldn’t sustain it.”

. . .

Even before the government troops had planted themselves in downtown Mogadishu, the political negotiations began.

Mr. Hulow and other elders said they had asked transitional leaders for positions in the new government in exchange for support. Ali Mohammed Gedi, the prime minister, told the elders that first he needed help in disarming the militias.

. . .

One group was noticeably absent from all these talks: conservative clerics, who seemed to have overplayed their cards.

. . .

The Islamist leaders may have miscalculated the appetite among Somalis for the harsh brand of Islam they were pushing. On Thursday, to celebrate the departure of the Islamists, many Mogadishu residents stuffed their mouths with khat, a mildly narcotic plant that the Islamists had outlawed, and cranked up Western music, which some clerics had tried to ban.

Source

I would have stuffed my mouth with ecstasies on such an occasion but lets respect local traditions

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Friday, December 29, 2006




The Darwinian Evolution in the Middle East

As the forces loyal to the provisional government supported by Ethiopia are approaching Mogadishu the ICU defenses appear to have collapsed without giving one serious fight since their hapless attempt to take Baidoa a few days ago. It is reported from Mogadishu that the Islamists have melted away leaving the city to looters. The old style clan militias are already taking control and erecting checkpoints across Mogadishu.

Many analysts say that the blitz krieg inflicted by the Ethiopians on the ICU will be a short lived success and are predicting a prolonged guerrilla war. Regardless if this prediction is correct it is clear that Greater Somalia will have to wait for a while until the Islamists figure out how to fight back the regional superpower whose army in two days broke the back of the ICU militias. With hundreds of ICU fighters wiped out from the air by Ethiopian gunships, the teenage warriors who do most of the fighting for the Courts apparently lost their morale and quit the battlefield.

The meteoric rise of the ICU to power was often compared to the Talibans' takeover of Afganistan. Their downfall is also strikingly similar to the collapse of the Caliphate of Afganistan. The pattern is basically the same. After senselessly provoking a confrontation with a superpower, the Islamists then faced coalitions of their local opponents supported by the superior fire power of gunships and F-16's. And after losing their first battle the Islamists' defenses crumbled everywhere with cities abandoned without a fight and the Islamists disappearing back into where they originally have come from, means nowhere. With the Islaimst forces now heading for Kismayo apparently to take their last stand there after abandoning the capital, they are just replaying in Somalia the story of Kandahar where the Taliban fought their last battle after fleeing Kabul.

If there are any lessons to be learned here, then, i think, the first one should be that the future of the region does not belong to these hard line Taliban style militias lead by reclusive clerics bent on immediate and strict application of the Sharia law. The Al Kaida inspired groups like the Iraqi Sunni insurgents just cannot avoid alienating the very people, they believe they are fighting for, by their bloody throat slitting and beheading rituals and by their uncompromising interpretation and applications of the Sharia law. Chopping people's heads in front of cameras or hacking their limbs in courts is not fitting for the modern age. Those faithful who don't recognize this will have to give their place to something more flexible and reasonable. The Taliban and ICU failed to maintain their hold on such backward nations as Afganistan and Somalia, while the Sunni Salafists failed to win the civil war in the much more developed Algeria and are losing in the great battle of ethnic cleansings raging now in Iraq. The unmoderated Islamism is proving too hard to swallow even for the ordinary Muslims themselves and as the law of the Darwinian natural selection postulates - the unfit won't survive. There is little place here for movements like the Taliban and ICU.

But this does not mean that the future belongs to the so called secular liberals who are weak, uninspiring and lacking any charisma in the eyes of the Arab street. It should be admitted that for the Arab street normal political parties have a limited appeal. The Arab masses are looking for one who can be their father and their mother, as the Shia in Lebanon call Hezbollah. It is those, who can play this role by creating an extended and efficient networks of public services often presented as an alternative to the corrupt and mismanaged social infrastructures of the modern Arab state, who will win the hearts and minds of the Arab street. And certainly this is not going to be a story of the secular liberals.

The future of the region belongs to movements like Hezbollah, who see Islamic state based on Sharia not as a method and a goal in itself but rather as a long term objective or even as a semi utopian ideal similar to the arrival of messiah in the Jewish orthodox tradition. Hezbollah may never break free from the cage imposed on it by the Lebanese sectarian system, but in the Sunni world large chunks of the Muslim Brothers movement are already mutating into something that can be recognized as an Islamic movement of the future.

Since years ago many on the radical left have been trying to present moderate Islamists as part of the global anti US/anti capitalism/anti globalization movement. In fact at the conceptual level Muslim radicalism itself has become heavily penetrated by the Western radical left thinking. When it comes to anti imperialism and anti globalization, the left and many Islamists speak already the same language and can understand each other at the basic level. Adopting parts of the ideological baggage of the Western radical left is a must for the new Islamists in order to make themselves acceptable not only at home but also in many quarters in the West.

Preference for technocratism instead of theocracy, combined with an ample supply of highly motivated and committed activists will enhance their reputation as able and corruption free administrators. Putting Sharia on hold or implementing a very mild downsized version of it, while adopting revolutionary and nationalist rethorics should win them sympathies of the urban middle class and leftist intellectuals and expand their support base enough to make them the most likely candidates to overthrow the regional dictators like Mubarak. By redirecting their religious jealousy away from their co-patriots into the archetypal battle against foreign powers, represented by the West/Israel and their proxies, these people will create and command an unending respect and enthusiasm of the Arab street.

It will happen sooner or it will happen later, but watching Hamas activists decorating Christmas trees in Beit Lehem, it is hard not to see that it's indeed happening.

Related Posts:

Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

Lame Tigers and Broken-Leg Gazelles

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Thursday, December 28, 2006




Sharon, Wake Up. Olmert in Coma

Shimon Peres once addressed the residents of Sderot, who are facing almost daily attacks by Kassam rockets, in the following way: Kassams Shmassams. What is this shit? (I quote from memory) What are you whining about?

Today Peres brought his baby, a joint Palestinian Israeli team, to Sevilla to play against the local team. It was not difficult to see that the stadium was close to empty and that even the commentators who covered the game, despite their professed support for peace and Peres, were much more into gossiping about their collegues than into paying attention to what was going on on the field.

The symbolic peace team was playing badly, since the Palestinian players don't have access to any facilities to train themselves, while many Israeli clubs declined to send their best players ( Source).

Meanwhile the situation around Gaza and the so called ceasefire starts looking more tense by day. . .

It has become a curious game of Palestinian Roulette. The rocket that hit a sensitive strategic target near Ashkelon yesterday could have, with a little less luck for Israel, released poisonous chemicals over a densely populated urban center. The rocket that fell in a Sderot nursery school playground could have, with a little less luck, taken the lives of many toddlers.

International opinion is not even aware that some 60 rockets have been unleashed on Israel during what's purported to be a cease-fire. Hence Israel's restraint wins no merit points. Local opinion only hears that "little damage was wrought." But even "little damage" can undermine a town's economy, its social fiber and its psychological fortitude. Sderot's nerves are plainly frayed. --> Source

The Jeruslaem Post's report from Sderot paints a picture of people boiling with anger and about to explode any moment:

After yesterday's early morning volley of four Kassams, some of Sderot's frustrated citizenry began threatening to "take the law into our own hands." The angry talk reflected rising resentment, exasperation and, most of all, an overriding sense of helplessness. Ordinary folks feel their government has abandoned them to the homicidal whims of Gazan terror gangs.

Batya Katar, head of the local Parents-Teachers Association, put it most dispassionately: "Each day we become increasingly convinced that this government has excluded us from the state's territory, from obligations of protection a country owes its population. We aren't part of Israel."

The symbolic peace team eventually suffered no less symbolic defeat of 3-1, but Peres and the mayor of Sevilla were too busy complimenting each other on their contributions to peace and universal brotherhood to notice the symbolic signifance of the outcome of the game. Yet back at home there is brewing something that can soon put Peres' short attention span under severe stress.

This is because it's not only Sderot where people are madly angry. People elsewhere may not talk about this so much, yet anger is in the air everywhere. It's not only in Sderot where people are struggling to hold back the feelings of rising resentment, exasperation and, most of all, an overriding sense of helplessness in the face of this government, whose actions and policies many Israelis find incomprehensible. Never before in my memory the Israeli government was so cut off from people on the street. And the detemination, with which this government is now pursuing an agenda that appeared nowhere during its election campaign, may soon spell big troubles for all involved.

Olmert was lucky to get away so cheaply after having publicly proclaimed that he won't stop the war in lebanon until he gets back the captured soldiers. He is lucky that this whole city is not covered with placards 'Olmert, where are the two soldiers?'. But Olmert is now plainly stretching his luck with his and Livni's peace intiatives.

It's plainly obvious that for Israelis a government, who does not know how to protect its citizens and who leaves captured soldiers behind, should not allow itself any steps that can endanger the nation's security . Land concessions are out of question in this situation. Olmert and Livni may have a point or not, but the situation is not appropriate for them making any dramatic decisions. People are clearly too angry and may soon refuse to put up any longer with this deeply unpopular government that in the eyes of too many has lost any credit of confidence to continue in office. And the unending corruption scandals, involving Olmert himself, just don't help the situation.

It is this mostly unexpressed yet boiling anger and frustration, often raising into an open hostility to the leading figures of this government, including the haples defence minister, and the chief of stuff, that one encounters everywhere. This government should better start paying attention to its own people. Othwerwise both Olmert and Livni, and their friend Peres Shmeres, may soon find themselves in the middle of something they could never imagine.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006




All Roads Lead to Allahu Akbar


(The sign says God is great)

Two years ago, foreign engineers built a new highway through the desert of western Afghanistan. . .

The modernization comes with a message. Every 5 to 10 miles, road signs offer quotations from the Koran. "Forgive us, God," declares one. "God is clear to everyone," says another.

Source

Another New York Times reporter reports about Iranian activities in the region. This time it's Afganistan. The pattern of penetration is somewhat similar to Lebanon and Azerbaijan - high profile infrastructure projects, schools and social services. Unlike Lebanon though it appears that here the Iranians are building mostly by themselves.

Only 20% of Afgans are Shia. They are concentrated in Western provinces. As in Iraq, in Afganistan the American experiments in democracy have produced an impressive Shia revival. The governers of 4 out of the 34 Afgan provinces are now Shia. The hardline Sunnis resent this situation. Last February gun battles between Sunnis and Shia were raging on the streets of Herat. Elsewhere in the country the Iranian aid is cautiously welcomed but the Iranians are feared. Yet the Iranians are throwing money everywhere from Herat to Kabul.

The Iranian economy is not in a good shape. Unless something is done to drastically supress the domestic oil consumption, the nation may find itself by the beginning of the next decade in a very embarassing and even dangerous situation of having to import crude oil. Wasting billions on reconstruction projects around the region does not help Iran's finances nor its economy, but given that God is great and clear to everyone, who really cares.

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The Horn of Africa Blows and Blows

The New York Times

By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Published: December 26, 2006


Islamist forces in Somalia beat a hasty retreat today to their stronghold in Mogadishu, Somalia’s battle-scared capital, crumbling faster than anyone expected after a week of attacks by Ethiopian forces.

. . .

The fast-moving developments seem to confirm what United Nations officials and witnesses in Somalia have been saying since the fighting erupted a week ago: that the young forces of the Islamists, however religiously inspired, were no match for the better trained, better equipped Ethiopian-backed troops who have tanks and fighter jets.

Still, the conflict is hardly over. Thousands of people continue to march in the streets of Mogadishu, rallying behind the Islamists, and analysts are unanimous that an Ethiopian occupation of Mogadishu, a city thick with weapons and xenophobia, could become a bloodbath.

Source

Of course taking over Mogadishu does not mean that the conflict is over. It means that a long and bitter war is laying ahead. Anybody who thought that this conflict would be limited to border skirmishes is up for a big disappointment. If the Islamists prove to be totally uncapable of facing the Ethiopia backed forces of the provisional government in the open field, then they will switch to guerilla tactics.

But unless the provisional government proves itself an able administrator and a provider of a real alternative to the Sharia based order restored by the ICU, their cooperation with the old enemy will win them very few hearts among their people. It's hard to know how the Somalis see the Islamic Courts movement, but collaborating with the Ethiopians is probably the red line for many of them.

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Monday, December 25, 2006




We Got New Friends

We got new friends or the Mother of all conspiracy theories


First a new conspiracy theory. . .

The New York Times

By HASSAN M. FATTAH
Published: December 22, 2006

. . .

. . .

Last week, a group of prominent Saudi clerics and university professors called on the government to begin actively backing Iraq’s Sunnis. The clerics described what they called a Persian-Jewish partnership besieging the Sunnis (!!! NB).

“There is a segment in this country that will do everything the U.S. wants,” said Turki al-Rasheed, who runs a group that seeks to encourage democracy in the Persian Gulf. “But fortunately the big leaders know this whole agenda will take us to hell.”

The New York Times is reporting the Saudi deliberations over how to face Iran and its ambitious president and some of the stuff is just hard to believe. . .

Saudi newspapers now denounce Iran’s growing power. Religious leaders here, who view Shiism as heresy, have begun talking about a “Persian onslaught” that threatens Islam. In the salons and diwans of Riyadh, the “Iranian threat” is raised almost as frequently as the stock market.

“Iran has become more dangerous than Israel itself,” said Sheik Musa bin Abdulaziz, editor of the magazine Al Salafi (!!!), who describes himself as a moderate Salafi, a fundamentalist Muslim movement. “The Iranian revolution has come to renew the Persian presence in the region. This is the real clash of civilizations.”

Many here say a showdown with Iran is inevitable. . .

. . .

“The possibility of having conflict is very high,” said Abdelrahman Rashid, managing director of the satellite news channel Al Arabiya and a respected Saudi columnist. “Who will face the Iranians tomorrow? Just the Israelis alone? I don’t think that is possible.”

Now we should only figure out who are our real friends - the Persians or the Khalidgees. You can adopt whatever theory that's more to your liking.

The whole thing makes me think once again about what Olmert is actually trying to achieve and why the Saudis are suddenly pushing so hard for a comprehensive Israeli Arab peace settlement (apart of course from their worries about being blown away by their insane Arab street). The Saudis also appear to have got some highly original ideas on how to undermine the continuing Shia advance in the region.

A member of the Saudi royal family with knowledge of the discussions between Mr. Cheney and King Abdullah said the king had presented Mr. Cheney with a plan to raise oil production to force down the price, in hopes of causing economic turmoil for Iran without becoming directly involved in a confrontation.

The Saudis can hardly orchestrate anything like this since their production capacity (proven reserves notwithstanding) is reportedly falling far behind the market.

And the Saudis threaten the US against prematurely pulling out of Iraq and they do it in no mean terms:

Shortly afterward, Mr. Obaid’s op-ed article was published, building on earlier public comments that Saudi Arabia intends to get serious about Iran and may back Sunnis in Iraq in the event of an abrupt United States pullout. Neither Prince Bandar nor Prince Turki was available for comment for this article. . .

With all the respect I have for the Saudis (and I have none) my advise to Ehud Olmert - stay away from this Sunni Shia shit. It's none of our business.

Actually I think it's the first lines of the article that contain the real message and the real lesson for all involved. . .

At a late-night reading this week, a self-styled poet raised his hand for silence and began a riff on neighboring Iraq, in the old style of Bedouin storytellers.

“Saddam Hussein was a real leader who deserved our support,” he began, making up the lines as he went. “He kept Iraq stable and peaceful,” he added, “and most of all he fought back the Iranians.” He continued, “His only mistake was invading Kuwait.” (!!! NB)

Source

How fucking true !!!

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Money is NOT everything

Herb Keinon makes a bloody good point in his "It's about ideology, stupid" in today's JPost. Commenting on the recent decision to free some funds for Abbas in order to "strengthen the moderates", HK writes:

The problem with this approach, however, is that it underestimates the strength of religion and ideology in the society, and reduces everything to shekels and agarot. It is a throwback to the Shimon Peres way of thinking of the early 1990s, that if you just improved the Palestinian economic situation, peace would spring up along with the next branch of McDonalds.

While few dispute that destitution nurtures terrorism, alleviating the poverty will not necessarily dry up the reservoir of terrorists. Remember that those who brought down the World Trade Center were not destitute refugees in rags.

In my view this misunderstanding, HK refers to, stems from the fact that the Israeli secular culture is deeply hedonistic and materialistic in its essence. In this it just follows the global trend dominating the West over the last decades. Though at times this culture may present a vocal anti capitalist/anti materialistic facade, it's not hard to see that behind it is hiding the same hedonistic principle of life is there to be enjoyed. The point made is usually that small joys of life are just more enjoyable than the rats race after money and status, and this point is made by the same culture that recently has got so keen on using pain killers to squeeze out of life the last trace of discomfort, that it starts worrying the medical profession.

This culture is hardly capable of making any sense of such notions as pride and honor that play an important role in the Arab culture. And it's plainly struggling to come to terms with the fact that for some people there can be more to life than just planting flowers and smiling to strangers, or incessantly analyzing psychological soap operas in a vain attempt to fish out something of relevance to the feelings of loneliness and emptiness that besiege too many people in this society.

HK points to the fact that, as Lebanon/Gaza show, our conflict with the Arabs is much more about ideology/religion than it's about territory. And in relation to the idea of propping up the moderates by providing them with money, as a way to buy the Arab street out of its extremism, he says:

. . . for whatever reason - and they are myriad - an extreme ideology is on the ascent from Afghanistan to the Sudan. And it is an ideology that is more attractive to the masses - or so it now seems - than the stodgy, bland, often corrupt alternatives offered up by the Arab "moderates."

HK mentions the recently spotted trend that the last war has driven a real wedge between the moderate Arab regimes of Mubarak/king Abdullah and the Arab street that went absolutely extatic after the Hezbollah's 'divine victory'. Yet the Israeli secular culture is still deluding itself with weird notions about the Arab street being manipulated into extremism by their rulers, though it's easy to see that just the opposite is true. The Israeli secular culture is scared, and with a very good reason, to find out that on the other side many ordinary people may be ready to sacrifice their lives and their well being for something 'better' than just 'lets have a nice dialog' or some bizarre affirmations that 'we all have something in common'.

The "universal brotherhood" and "we are all human beings" that's filling the air all around contrasts sharply with an easily observable fact that at the personal level too many people in Tel Aviv are simply lonely or have to satisfy themselves with very shallow friendships. The half desperate half obsessive preoccupation of many Israelis with "talking to neighbors" in order to stop wars and save lives should be viewed against the background of the extensively commented upon fact that the share of the settlers and Kibbutz members among soldiers who died in the last war was out of any proportion to their share of population, while such a bastion of 'war prevention' as Tel Aviv has been largely spared its share of casualties. It goes without saying that in this region peace is a prize only for those who are desperate not for achieving it at any price and with closed eyes.

HK got a nice way to end his masterpieace while avoiding falling into either extreme:

Which doesn't mean that Saturday night's decision to try and prop up the moderates in the PA was wrong. Just that it should be done with eyes wide-open, fully aware that in this part of the world - where religion and ideology have such a powerful pull - money isn't everything, and throwing money at the problem won't necessarily solve it.

Source

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Jets? What Jets?

Ethiopia has apparently discovered that its tanks and hundreds of its soldiers do take part in fighting in Somalia (see previous post). After the shock of initial surprise the decision was made that "since we are already there, lets continue" . . . and so Ethiopian fighter jets were dispatched to attack Mogadishu international airport in the middle of Somalia's capital.

Ethiopia publicly admitted that its forces are fighting in Somalia. The residents of Somalia's cost reported having seen hundreds of foreign militants entering the country.

Dec 25, 2006

By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN
Associated Press Writer


"Our defense force has been forced to enter a war to defend against the attacks from extremists and anti-Ethiopian forces and to protect the sovereignty of the land," Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said in a television address Sunday night. "Our intention is to win this war as soon as possible."

Source

Somehow having Muslims as half of your population seems to be an extremely bad starting position for waging a war against Islamic fundamentalists.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006




From Bottom Up

The New York Times

By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Published: December 23, 2006


Residents of Baidoa, the seat of the internationally recognized transitional government, said they saw columns of Ethiopian tanks chugging toward the front lines, . . . Meanwhile, residents in Mogadishu, the battle-scarred traditional capital and the base of Somalia’s powerful Islamist movement, said they saw sailboats packed with foreign mercenaries landing on the city’s beaches.

According to United Nations officials, the transitional government, with the help of thousands of Ethiopian troops, has inflicted heavy losses on the Islamists, who rely on teenage boys to do much of their fighting. On Friday, the fighting was concentrated in towns ringing Baidoa, where witnesses said bodies were piling up in the streets.

. . .

Tanks? What tanks?” said Zemedkun Tekle, spokesman for Ethiopia’s Information Ministry. . .

. . .

All schools in the Islamist-controlled areas have been closed indefinitely so more young people can be funneled to the front. On Friday, recruitment centers were swarming with teenage boys begging for guns. . .

. . .

. . . While the United Nations and donor countries have struggled to get a new government on its feet, a grass-roots movement of Islamic courts has steadily gained power.

The Islamist movement defeated the last of Mogadishu’s warlords in June and immediately restored a sense of law and order unheard of in the capital for 15 years (!!! NB). . .

. . . American officials have said that if it were not for Ethiopian protection, the transitional government would have fallen months ago.

The fighting began near Baidoa on Wednesday, as European diplomats were meeting with leaders from both sides in an effort to strike a peace deal. The diplomats were initially upbeat. But as the fighting has intensified, the diplomats have become more pessimistic, saying that the rank-and-file Islamists seem bent on war even if their leaders are conciliatory (!!! NB).

Source


In this country teenage boys do the bulk of the fighting, while rank-and-file Islamists push their conciliatory leaders into extremism.

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The Azeri Factor

The New York Times reports from another front on which Iran is trying to establish itself as a regional super power.

The New York Times

By ILAN GREENBERG
Published: December 24, 2006


An article seen as denigrating Islam published early last month in an obscure Baku newspaper prompted demonstrations across Azerbaijan and in Iran, raising Azeris’ concerns over Iran’s influence here.

The article blamed Islam for Azerbaijan’s meager economic development.

. . . An Iranian cleric demanded the death of the two authors, and denunciations from village imams and other religious conservatives in Azerbaijan have sent tremors through the Azeri government and the secular elite of this Shiite nation.

. . .

A group of 40 leading public intellectuals has released an open letter calling for Iran to stop encouraging religious extremists in Azerbaijan and for the Iranian cleric, Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani, to rescind his fatwa . . .

. . .

More than a third of Iran’s 66 million people are ethnically Azeri, a beleaguered minority that frequently agitates for more rights and cultural autonomy. A cartoon ridiculing ethnic Azeris by portraying them as cockroaches published earlier in the year in a Tehran newspaper drew protests in northern Iran.

. . .

Iran already has some sway in Azerbaijan. As it does in Lebanon and elsewhere, Iran has lavished social assistance programs on Azerbaijan, especially in the bleak countryside.

Source

As an editor of one of the largest Baku dailies admits to the reporter, such a furor over an article would have been impossible two years ago. The country is growing more religious. Azerbaijan is apparently still deeply secular at the state level. The newly dicovered religious piety is more like a grass and roots development, which can bring in the future more tensions between the secular state and its population, in particular, in rural areas..

What catches attention is a pattern of the Iranian penetration into Azebaijan, which is similar to Lebanon. The Iranians throw money on social projects, in particular, in backward rural areas. Though the reporter don't go into details it is not hard to imagine that religious NGO's are probably the main chunnels through which Iranian money and influence flow into the country. Cultivating underdogs may have become one of the pillars of the Iranian policies aimed at spreading its influence across the region.

It's impossible to know to what extent the accusations thrown at Iran by the Azeri secularists are true and not a result of the paranoia sparkled by the fatwa. But it's clear that the country is getting more religious and the Iranian influence inside Azerbaijan is growing. Azerbaijan may become, if it's not already, another buffer zone for the anti Persian coalition to fight Iran's global ambitions.

It's worth mentioning that while Iran is exciting and riding the wave of Shia religious revival to penetrate Azerbaijan, this is a two way process. Azerbaijan is deep inside Iran in the form of a big Azeri minority which is 1/3 of the population of Iran. There are more Azeris in Iran than in Azerbaijan itself. Azeris are Shia, but ethnically they are close to Turks and the tensions between them and the state of Iran have never gone away. So that while Iran is penetrating Azerbaijan by using the religious factor, the Azeri minority in Iran is an extension of Azerbaijan inside Iran.

It is the ethnic factor against the religious one. The religious factor may be very powerful in the short term. On another hand it's impossible to keep people in a state of religious fervor forever. It is the ethnic factor that seems to be persisting beyond any expectations and surprisingly difficult to defeat everywhere. So over the long term I place my bet on the ethnic factor to win and this means that there are more countries in the region to go the way of Iraq in the future.

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The Horn of Africa Blows at Midnight

Just when you thought the Middle East is more than enough. . .


Associated Press

Dec 24, 2006
By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN


Ethiopian fighter jets pounded several Somali towns held by a powerful Islamic militia, a sharp escalation in violence that could engulf the volatile Horn of Africa, witnesses and a militia official said.

. . .

. . . Ethiopia and Somalia have fought two wars over their disputed border in the last 45 years. Islamic court leaders have repeatedly said they want to incorporate ethnic Somalis living in eastern Ethiopia, northeastern Kenya and Djibouti into a Greater Somalia.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has said his government has a legal and moral obligation to support and defend Somalia's internationally recognized government. He has repeatedly accused the Islamic courts of backing ethnic Somali rebels fighting for independence from Ethiopia and has called such support an act of war.

. . .

As Sunday's fighting wore on, the Islamic leadership in the capital, Mogadishu, began broadcasting patriotic songs about Somalia's 1977 war with Ethiopia. . .

. . .

The militants, who want to govern Somalia according to Islamic law, invited foreign Muslims on Saturday to join their holy war against Ethiopian troops. . .

. . .

In Kismayo, a strategic seaport captured by Islamic militia in September, residents saw several foreign Arab fighters disembarking from ships this week.

Source

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District by District, Shiites Make Baghdad Their Own

According to the New York Times Baghdad is fast falling into the Shia hands with at least 10 mixed neighborhoods now gone completely Shia.

By SABRINA TAVERNISE
Published: December 23, 2006

As the United States debates what to do in Iraq, this country’s Shiite majority has been moving toward its own solution: making the capital its own.

Large portions of Baghdad have become Shiite in recent months, as militias press their fight against Sunni militants deeper into the heart of the capital, displacing thousands of Sunni residents. At least 10 neighborhoods that a year ago were mixed Sunni and Shiite are now almost entirely Shiite, according to residents, American and Iraqi military commanders and local officials.

For the first years of the war, Sunni militants were dominant, forcing Shiites out of neighborhoods and systematically killing bakers, barbers and trash collectors, who were often Shiites. But starting in February, after the bombing of a shrine in the city of Samarra, Shiite militias began to strike back, pushing west from their strongholds and redrawing the sectarian map of the capital, home to a quarter of Iraq’s population.

. . .

Sunni political control in Baghdad is all but nonexistent: Of the 51 members of the Baghdad Provincial Council, which runs the city’s services, just one is Sunni.

The push developed by Shia militias for ethnic cleansing Baghdad from its Sunni population seem to enjoy backing by some in the Iraqi government.

The debate reaches to the heart of the American enterprise here. While President Bush is considering more troops, some in the Shiite-dominated government say the Americans should stay out of the sectarian fight in Baghdad and let the battle run its course. Getting involved would simply prolong the fight, they say.

Shia militias are not confining themselves to Baghdad alone. Towns around Baghdad are reportedly invaded and taken over by the Mahdi Army.

In a Shiite mosque in northern Baghdad, refugees from the embattled northern village of Sabaa al-Bour, many of them women in black abayas, gathered in October asking for food and shelter.

Killings of Shiites in the town had enraged leaders in Baghdad. But weeks had dragged on, and one morning in October, a volunteer walked through the refugees telling them to go back home.

The Mahdi Army was there now, she said. The town was now safe for Shiites.

The local, and maybe even state authorities, are plainly following the Mahdi Army's drive with plans for resettling Sunni-populated areas with Shia

In another plan that appears intended to repopulate heavily Sunni-controlled areas with Shiites, the Ministry of Public Works has proposed giving land to victims of violence inflicted by Mr. Hussein and by insurgents since 2003. The plots would be in six towns outside Baghdad — Abu Ghraib, Taji, Salman Pak, Husseiniya, Mahmudiya and Latifiya, according to a local official familiar with the plan.

. . .

It was not clear how soon the plan would be carried out. A previous proposal, made by the Iraqi cabinet last year, would give some land in heavily Sunni west Baghdad to about 3,000 families, but names are still being registered.

Well. I think the idea is clear. The Sunnis are on the losing side in this war of ethnic cleansings. The Sunni insurgents have started for them a war the Sunnis plainly cannot win and when Shia militias have finally entered into action, it seems that the Sunnis got pretty nothing that can stop them now.

A college student with a Sunni name said he hid in his house, as Shiite militiamen went into homes on his block in late September and marched people away. A few days later, his uncle, a 35-year-old refrigerator repairman, was taken. The body was found in Ur, a Shiite stronghold in north Baghdad.

But unlike a bomb blast, where everybody remembers how someone died, the Sunnis’ losses seems to melt away. The Mahdi Army-controlled police station had no record of them.

Terrified, the men of the family scattered, settling on couches and in a garage of friends and family.

The student, Omar, is keeping a diary.

“One day I’ll be a teacher,” he said. “I should teach children what we passed through.”

Source

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Saturday, December 23, 2006




No Frogs for Abbas

This report by Spiegel confirms the IDF's view of Abu Mazen's chances to win against Hamas. They are very low.

The Palestinian police and forces loyal to Fatah are poorly trained, demoralized and include too many people with split loyalties. They are facing a movement that's universally admitted to be corruption free and ruthlessly efficient. Hamas militants are discplined, dedicated and well trained.

If it comes to a full scale civil war, Abbas may discover that numerical superiority means very little and actually it's not clear if he has even this advantage as it appears that there are people for whom to serve in Fatah security forces is more like a way to make money . . . partly to be able to pay their membership dues in the Hamas Qassam Brigades.

It's a pitty that Abbas does not have a habit of looking to the IDF for advise. He can save himself a lot of trouble in the future . . . and maybe even his own life.


Spiegel Online

December 21, 2006
By Ulrike Putz in Gaza City


By day, he's a member of Fatah security forces. By night, he wages holy war with Hamas. With the two Palestinian groups fighting against each other these days, Abu Khaled's life has become a dangerous balance. If need be, he says, he would even kill his friends.

. . .

By day, the 23-year-old serves in the Palestinian security forces, which are controlled by Fatah. When Abu Khaled's workday ends, though, he goes home, changes his uniform, pulls out his weapons and transforms himself into a fighter with the Qassam Brigades -- the military arm of Hamas. . .

"We are not a rarity," says the fighter. He estimates that about 30 percent of the men who officially serve with the Palestinian security forces are secretly active members of militia groups with ties to Hamas -- armed men who change sides depending on the time of day. No wonder the situation in Gaza is so confusing. In most of the gun battles between Hamas and Fatah in recent days, it was almost impossible to tell who was shooting at whom, when they were shooting, and why. After each new incident, the barrage of back-and-forth accusations merely triggered the next shoot-out -- a spiral of violence that is difficult to stop.

. . .

. . . "The official forces are poorly trained and armed," he says. "They could never do much harm to the Israelis."

He's likely right. A visit to a Fatah training camp that morning was unconvincing. Although the camp's 50 recruits were able to perfectly recite Fatah's various slogans after three months of training, most were incapable of performing even the most rudimentary of combat maneuvers.

. . .

He normally spends five nights a week with the Qassam Brigades, stationed at the border with Israel. "In the past few years, I have attacked Israeli tanks, fired rockets and grenades and laid mines," he says, listing his achievements. According to Khaled, the weapons are homemade; land mines, rocket launchers and even Kalashnikovs and ammunition are produced at Qassam's secret workshops in the Gaza Strip. The material, he says, is smuggled in from Egypt through tunnels or comes "from the Israeli mafia." (!!! NB)

. . .

Though already 23, Abu Khaled doesn't have a family of his own. . .

. . . Financial concerns are partly responsible for the fact that he hasn't married yet. He received his last full pay nine months ago. He uses part of the money he occasionally receives for his daytime services to pay his membership dues in the Qassam Brigades. "It is an honor for us to be permitted to fight for Hamas. We give some our money so that the fight can continue."

. . .

Khaled vehemently denies the possibility that the Qassam Brigades could attack his unit. "The Qassam Brigades never attack their brothers. We only defend ourselves." But the possibility has crossed his mind. "If we are attacked by the Qassam Brigades, I will identify myself and switch to their side."

. . .

When asked what he would do were his fellow Fatah members . . . realize his split loyalties, Khaled says: "I would try to escape."

And if that didn't work, he would kill friends, if necessary. "It has come to this in Palestine."

Source

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Friday, December 22, 2006




Lame Tigers and Broken-Leg Gazelles

This post was inspired by this article published on YNet - Kibbutz youth on 'Journey of Peace'. In particular, by the following lines:

More than 800 12th graders from kibbutzim will take off Monday morning on a 'Journey of Peace' along the Israel - Egypt border.

. . . The participants will try, among other things, to shake hands with Egyptian soldiers across the border.

I dedicate this post to all young people of our country who want peace and for the sake of achieving it are ready to spend years at our borders, waiting for an occasional Egyptian soldier or Hezbollah militant, who has lost his way and by mistake wandered into our territory, to take him by surprise and shake his hands before he realizes his mistake and flees back.

To all the peace stalkers, peace talkers and other men of peace: Salam !!! Warahmatulla aleikum wabarakatu !!!




This is a synthesis of my three previous posts, the list of which can be found at the bottom.

Despite its impressive economic growth Egypt appears far from having secured its place among the economic tigers of these days. In fact the very low productivity growth as well as the fact that the growth is restricted mainly to the gas industry and construction, indicate that the bulk of the economy is as stagnant and inefficient as ever. With such a limited growth base Egypt can be no economic tiger or China of the Middle East. The growth in its present form is unsustainable. But Egypt has got even worse problems that this. --> Continue Reading

While Egypt enters the period of the fastest economic growth in its history, the budget deficit is still hovering around 10% and the situation is predicted to worsen. With the inflation already rising, hard landing of the economic miracle is looming on the horizon. But if the general economic conditions take turn for the worse, due for example to a US led global slowdown, hard landing may quickly degenerate into crash landing.

Egypt is known to have been pegging its currency to the dollar the same way Argentina did and with similar negative results, only on a smaller scale. Pegging the local currency to the dollar is a risky policy and requires a considerable fiscal discipline on the part of governments that try to tread this tricky path. In many respects it's the same as trying in reverse to peg the dollar to the local currency and governments should exercise extra caution if they don't want to find themselves in a situation like this:


However, Serhan Cevik, Vice President of Morgan Stanley for the Middle East and North Africa, says:

There is no denying the fact that exchange-rate flexibility, albeit limited, and bureaucratic reforms played a role in jump-starting the engines of growth, but Egypt's staggering performance is mainly a result of expansionary macroeconomic policies and the global liquidity injection.

From Cevik's words it appears that at some point Egypt has relaxed its exchange rate regime and so managed to steer the economy away from an Argentina style collapse. Yet the country has not escaped the danger zone as the rising inflation and other statistics indicate.

The problem with Egypt's finances is probably akin to what happened in other countries that went through a similar transition to free market economy from a very unfavorable starting position. The budget deficit is probably a result of losses the state enterprises suffer from the increasing competition coming both from inside and outside of the country. The mounting losses of the state behemoths may be the main factor that's pushing the state finances into the red line.

For decades Egypt has been abusing the state sector to fight unemployment. It's impossible to estimate the scale of the hidden unemployment in Egypt but it may be reaching between 1/4 and 1/3 of the workforce employed by the state. These people not only do not contribute to the national economy, they actually detract from it.

The common misconception about hidden unemployment is that it means that some people are paid money for doing nothing. This is wrong. It means that some people are paid money for causing damage. These people should be kept busy and they keep themselves busy by interfearing, as anybody, who has ever had business with the Egyptian bureaucracy, learned on his own skin. Inside the state enterprises these 'hidden unemployed' 'contribute' to the production in much the same way. To sack these people should be the first priority of any government that gets serious about reforms.

It is clear that for Mubarak it's now a one way road since he cannot back down. If he does not establish control over the government's expenditures, the monetary situation may get out of control. The only way for these reforms to proceed now is by laying off dozens of thousands of workers, closing the most hopeless of state companies and selling the rest into private hands.

But while Mubarak's team is planning to tackle the problem of the state sector head-on, the Muslim Brothers, who consolidated recently their control over the trade unions, are already waiting for Mubarak around the corner. The Brothers temporarily kissed good-bye to their support for free market economy (not clear what this support has actually meant anyway NB) and stated their opposition to privatization or any other attempt to slim down the state sector.

The Egyptian society is ill prepared for shock therapy in any form, and actually to any therapy at all. Strong work ethics and entrepreneurial spirit are not outstanding characteristics of the Egyptians. These are people who want stability first of all, people who want to stay put in the same place while watching their living standards miraculously improving year by year. These are no Chinese. Even if the reforms succeed, the uncertainty they will bring (which is part of free market economy), as well as dislocations and economic migrations may increase even further the dislike of the regime by the population.

One should really think too much of the Egyptian society, as actually of any other Arab society, to believe that when the pain of reforms hits them hard, the Egyptians can face it with patience and understanding. It's not hard to imagine what a regular Egyptian should think about Mubarak and his team. That they are corrupt thieves, stealing the riches of the nation while the ordinary people eat shit. Any reform that hurts ordinary people is interpreted as another attempt by the ruling elite to squeeze more money from the poor people for the sake of building their villas and yachts.

But Egypt may soon find itself facing an even worse situation - when the pain of reforms is accompanied by a low economic growth brought upon by tough anti inflationary measures. The regime can hardly expect any favours from its population on a regular day, but in this situation the Arab street would turn even more hostile and volatile.

The options of the regime are limited. To reverse or to freeze reforms is hardly possible and so the regime should press ahead, behind its back lurking the danger of economic meltdown. The regime has to move quickly to dismantle the huge bureaucracy and state sector in order to rescue the budget. But for Mubarak to proceed with his reforms is like for the IDF to venture into Palestinian camps where militants are always ready for its arrival. On the way ahead the Muslim Brothers are already waiting for Mubarak and his reforms to come, ready to ambush him with their trade unions. The trade unions now under their control, the Brothers are in a perfect position to confront the regime the very moment it makes the first move. The Arab street is their territory and Mubarak should better know this.


Related Posts:

Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

Lame Tiger on the Nile

Muslim Brotherhood in Ascent in Egypt

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1 - 0

In Somalia forces loyal to the transitional government and their Ethiopian coaches met the militia of Islamic Courts near Baidoa. The first round ended with a 1-0 win of the transitional government. The jury of United Nations officials confirmed the result.

The New York Times

By Jeffrey Gettleman
Published: December 22, 2006


. . .

. . . The fighting started early Wednesday as hundreds of Islamist fighters attacked the transitional government’s forces from two sides.

Witnesses said the transitional government, with help from Ethiopia, had repelled the Islamist advance in Daynunay, a town outside the government’s base in Baidoa. But in Diinsoor, near Baidoa, the battles were closely contested, and on Thursday, witnesses said each side continued to pound away with artillery, mortars and antiaircraft guns on pickup trucks.

. . .

“We have overrun their troops,” said Abdirizak Adam Hassan, chief of staff for the transitional president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed.

United Nations officials confirmed heavy Islamist casualties in the fighting, which began Wednesday and continued Thursday.

The Islamist fighters — many of them lightly armed teenage boys, the officials said — were mowed down by transitional government soldiers backed by the Ethiopian Army, the most powerful military in the region.

“The Islamists attacked, they retreated and then they made the mistake of running into an open field,” a United Nations official said on the condition of anonymity. “After that, it was one shot, one kill.”

United Nations officials estimated that dozens of Islamists had died. . .

After initially playing down the fighting, Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, the leader of the Islamist forces, announced Thursday over national radio that Somalia was at war and said, “All Somalis should take part in this struggle against Ethiopia.”

Source

Thumbs up for the transitional government.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006




Big Brothers are Watching You

Institute for War and Peace Reporting

(ICR No. 205, 9-Dec-06)
By Yasmin Ahmed in Mosul


Scattered stones are the only remnants of a famous statue that stood in a Mosul square, in the northeastern part of the city. The sculpture in the al-Zihour area used to show a group of women carrying jars on their shoulders, before insurgents reduced it to dust last month.

The campaign against the public display of what they see as non-Islamic art is part of a wider operation by Sunni insurgents to try to establish an Islamic state in Iraq. As a stronghold of Sunni insurgents, about 400 kilometres north of Baghdad, Mosul is the intended capital of this so-called Islamic Emirate, comprising the provinces of Salahaddin, Anbar, Diyala, Baghdad and parts of Wasit and Babel.

To implement their agenda, the extremists have set up what they describe as a ministry of war that issues leaflets and announces campaigns, such as the one launched in November against public statues, which they claim were symbols of paganism.

. . .

The statues under threat were erected in the city during the 1970s and include those of ancient artists such as the Arab poet Abi Tammam and the singer of religious songs Mullah Othman al-Mosulli.

Brigadier-General Sa'eed Ahmed al-Juburi, a spokesman for Mosul police, told IWPR that “a group of foreign terrorists” had planted bombs under the destroyed statue during the curfew.

He says he’s dumbfounded by the destruction. “Do these statues work with police? Were they translators for the Americans or members of the dissolved Ba’ath party?” (ha ha ha NB) he asked. “Those terrorists are a bunch of idiots.”

Extremists have started to interfere in all aspects of daily life in Mosul. A recent leaflet called upon owners of clothes shops to cover the heads of manikins on display.

Many have complied with the demands, covering the figures with plastic bags (Shit !! NB)
. Shopkeeper Mutaz Ahmed, 30, protested, “I don’t know where these groups came from. They want to take us back 1400 years. But if you want to stay alive, you have to obey their orders.”

Several public baths have been forced to close after extremists banned the use of soap, claiming that it didn’t exist under the reign of the Prophet Mohammed 1400 years ago (!!!).

The leaflets prescribe in detail how to live, eat and behave, according to ultra-conservative Islamic principles. Some orders seem rather absurd, such as banning restaurants from preparing a mixed salad of cucumbers and tomatoes because one is male and the other female (!!! ha ha ha NB).

But people are taking them seriously out of fear. Khalaf Khalid, who runs a restaurant, has started to serve tomatoes and cucumbers in separate dishes. “We obey them because they threatened to blow up the restaurant and kill us if we didn't,” he said.

“They dictate even the way we eat. Tomorrow, they will even dictate how we sleep with our wives (ha ha ha NB). It’s unbearable and the government should do something about Mosul.”

. . .

For Salim Abdul-Baqi, a social researcher at a women’s centre in Mosul, the extremists “believe in the Islam of an era when people were living in caves” and cannot cope with modern life. He accuses them of double standards, “Why do they drive new cars instead of riding camels used [at the time of the Prophet Mohammad]?”

Source

Holy shit !! We need to dispatch urgently a delivery of frogs to the Iraqies. They will need to double and to triple their normal courage to be able to face these lunatics.

Hey, |3uno. Have you got some spare frogs in Rio to send to Mosul ?

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TurkmenBashi Kicks the Bucket


Reuters


Turkmenistan's President-for-life Saparmurat Niyazov died suddenly on Thursday after 21 years of iron rule, raising a risk of political instability in the energy-rich country that some feared could have an impact on Europe's gas supplies.

Niyazov, 66, who crushed all dissent in his reclusive state and basked in a unique and bizarre personality cult while ruling a country with huge natural gas reserves, died overnight of cardiac arrest, state television said.

Source

I would say that a unique and bizarre personality cult is a very mild description of what Niazov has created there. TurkmenBashi is credited with such feats as building the biggest mosque in Cenral Asia whose walls are decorated with Koran verses on a par with verses by Niyazov himself.

The birthday of his mother has become a national holiday, while education in Turkmenistan's schools was largely reduced to studying the book Niazov has personally written to educate his nation. The book was translated into dozens of languages, including Suahili. I just imagine the Africans sitting there under their palm trees and enjoying Niazov's literary creations.

One of Niazov's unfinished projects is a huge entertainment center, DisneyLand style, built from ice. . . in the middle of the desert, of course.

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Just NO Chance


The New York Times

By NAZILA FATHI
Published: December 21, 2006


As protests broke out last week at a prestigious university here, cutting short a speech by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Babak Zamanian could only watch from afar. He was on crutches, having been clubbed by supporters of the president and had his foot run over by a motorcycle during a less publicized student demonstration a few days earlier.

But the significance of the confrontation was easy to grasp, even from a distance, said Mr. Zamanian, a leader of a student political group.

. . .

Mr. Zamanian, the head of public relations of the Islamic Association at Amir Kabir, said that while the situation had not been ideal in the Khatami years, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s antireformist campaign had led students to value their previous freedoms.

. . .

The students also complain about the president’s failure to deliver economic growth and jobs. At last week’s protest, which coincided with a now infamous Holocaust conference held by the Foreign Ministry, students chanted, “Forget the Holocaust — do something for us.”

. . .

Mr. Zamanian said that the protest had not been planned ahead of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s visit, but that students were further enraged when they saw supporters of the president being bused in.

Although the auditorium was almost filled with the president’s supporters by the time any students were let in, the protesters forced their way inside, chanted, “Death to the dictator,” and held banners calling him a “fascist president.” They also held up posters of the president with his picture upside down and set fire to three of them. Many of the students are now in hiding.

. . .

The president was eventually forced to cut his speech short and leave. But angry students stormed his car, kicking it and chanting slogans. His convoy of four cars collided several times as they tried to leave in a rush. Eventually the students were dispersed.

. . .

A few days after the protest, former Amir Kabir students affiliated with the Islamic associations’ coordinating office wrote a letter to Mr. Ahmadinejad. In it, they turned down what they said was his invitation to share their problems with him, because they believed that he wanted to use the occasion to bolster his candidates in the local elections.

The students also wrote that the president had insulted their intelligence by talking to them in the same language he uses in remote villages on his provincial trips.

“You should know that what happened at Polytechnic University was the voice of universities and the real voice of the people,” they wrote. Tehran Polytechnic was the university’s name before the revolution.

Source

It's encouraging to see that finally some people in Iran got fed up with the Ayatollas and are pressing for change. It is possible that after a while the Palestinians spend with Hamas in Gaza, they may come back to their senses. But given that it took the Iranians 27 years to regain their sanity and they are still half way through, and given how backward the Palos are compared to the Iranians, just no chance I will see this happen in my lifetime.

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No Pain, No Gain

Infected Mushrooms Unleashed

The Jerusalem Post

Dec. 21, 2006

Though Israel's public image overseas may be a source of constant stress for policymakers, if one recent poll is to be believed, the country is among the world's most popular for devoted club-goers.

Infected Mushroom, DJ Yahel and Offer Nissim aren't likely to be familiar names to most people out of their 20s, but thanks to DJ magazine's recent ranking of the world's top 100 DJs, these performers - and three of their compatriots - are now among the hottest names on the global dance music scene.

The results of the prestigious DJ annual poll have been a boon to these Israeli artists, and to Israel's reputation on the electronic music scene. With six of its premier DJs ranked among the world's top 100 - actually, among the top 50 - Israel is disproportionately represented, in a very big way, among the countries whose performers appear on the poll.

. . .

And regardless of the online poll's statistical shortcomings, Church (Magazine DJ's news editor) says Israeli DJs have indeed made their mark on the international clubbing scene. "Psy-trance" - psychedelic trance music popular at rave parties - "coming from Israel has certainly become quite a big genre," he says.

Israeli DJs' international prominence may have its roots in local culture, according to Avi Nissim of the trance group Astral Projection. In a three-page feature in DJ about the Israeli artists ranked in the poll, Nissim told the magazine that the pressures of living in Israel may have contributed to the rise of the genre here. Many Israelis, the article suggested, initially discovered trance music at raves during post-army trips in Goa, India, then brought the music home.

Source

Let us not forget those who by their hard work have made this huge success possible. I mean all those fans who spend their weekends pounding the dancefloors of Tel Aviv after-parties. I myself lost count of all the acid and other shit I was pumping myself with in Fetish and HaOman in order to make my country a superpower of electronic music.

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Signs of Courage

(do not enlarge !!!)


Reuters

Dec 20, 2006
by Claudia Parsons


Iraqi soldiers bit the heads off frogs and ate the heart of a rabbit as signs of courage on Wednesday at a ceremony to transfer Najaf province, home to one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest shrines, from U.S. to Iraqi control.

A U.S. general called the transfer, under a plan to gradually hand over security and allow the withdrawal of 135,000 American troops, a major step in strengthening the Iraqi government as it seeks to stop sectarian violence.

. . .

Politicians, tribal and religious leaders and soldiers watched displays of military prowess and one demonstration, hailed as a display of courage, in which five soldiers stopped before the grandstand to bite the heads off frogs.

A sixth holding a live rabbit slit open its stomach and ate its heart before tossing the carcass to his comrades to chew on.

Under Saddam Hussein's rule, his feared Fedayeen militia carried out similar acts, and in one instance were videoed hunting a fox and then tearing it apart with their teeth.

Source

The Arabs got strange ideas about courage. But I still believe we are all just simple human beings (sarcasm).

Probably in a purely physical, based on a sheer brutal force, confrontation we just cannot do against these people. We should stick to our hi-tech.

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PM is Right

Associated Press


As a cease-fire took hold in Gaza on Wednesday after more than a week of factional fighting, residents were angry at the Palestinian gunmen and despondent about the future.

. . .

Emotions were so pitched that hospitals couldn't place wounded from different factions in the same room for fear of clashes between their relatives.

. . .

"I feel bad. If I'm going to die this way, it's very stupid, by stupid people with guns, and no one cares about the civilians," said human rights lawyer Iyad Alami, who lives in the line of fire between the Hamas-controlled Foreign Ministry and Abbas' compound.

He said he and his family stay away from the windows and crawl or crouch on the floor, for fear of stray bullets.

. . .

"I think the Israeli shelling is easier to deal with," said 13-year-old Khaled Khatib, who fled a gun battle in his neighborhood Tuesday and saw two children wounded by gunfire. "We are used to the shelling, and we know who the target is." (Hey. Missing IDF?? NB)

. . .

Nearly 350 Palestinians have been killed in internal fighting in Gaza this year (!!! I did not know this NB), including family feuds and gun battles between militias, according to Health Ministry officials. . .

Source

I tend to agree with the PM for a change. He is right (see previous post). There is too much violence there (sarcasm).

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UnderStatements

The Jerusalem Post

Dec. 20, 2006
by Herb Keinon


Prime Minster Ehud Olmert, in his first public comments about the Palestinian infighting, said on Wednesday that the violence did nothing to contribute to "the stability in the region" nor to Israeli-Palestinian relations.

. . .

He said that Israel was not pleased when Palestinians kill other Palestinians and that it was a manifestation of too much violence in the Palestinian society.

Source

I would say there are two massive understatements here. The first is this too much violence in the Palestinian society. Hey, man. They got a civil war there.

The second is Israel is not pleased when Palestinians kill other Palestinians. What does it mean We are not pleased ? I did not sleep last night!

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006




Thank You, Hezbollah

The Jerusalem Post

Dec. 20, 2006
by Gil Hoffman


Defense Minister Amir Peretz tried to light a fire under his re-election campaign for the Labor Party leadership on Wednesday by hosting a Hanukkah party for 300 Labor activists at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters.

Peretz told the crowd that were it not for the war in Lebanon, Labor under his leadership "would have changed the face of Israel in every aspect." (!!! NB)

Source

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Dreams Come True in UAE

By Lin Noueihed (Reuters)


Hand-picked voters cast their ballots in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday in the final phase of limited elections billed as the first step toward giving people more say in politics.

Rulers of the seven emirates comprising the UAE have chosen 6,689 voters, less than one percent of its 800,000 nationals, to elect half of the 40-seat Federal National Council (FNC), an advisory body with no legislative powers.

They envisage the partial polls as a stepping stone toward universal suffrage for Emiratis in around four years. Once this vote is over, the FNC's role will be expanded to include more oversight powers, but half the members will still be appointed in the Gulf Arab country where political parties are banned.

Source

There should be no doubt that both Olmert and Peretz, whose ratings are so low that they can be considered non-existent, sometimes dream themselves Emirs in the Gulf.

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The Battle for Power in Iraq

This post is a follow-up on the one below (The Battle for Power). It appears that the Sunni insurgents in Iraq have managed to sabotage completely the power network supplying Baghdad and both the Americans and the Iraqi government are short on plans and ideas of how to fight this economic insurgency.

This and the recent spate of suicide bombings in Afghanistan make one start wondering to which extent a modern super power, operating under restrictions of the politically correct which currently rules the West, is capable of running nation building projects of such a scale in a Muslim country, that responds to the invasion by violent insurgency and economic sabotage.

Modern occupation forces have no effective answer to the challenge of suicide attacks. On another hand the nature of modern economy provides saboteurs with many soft spots, like power grid and communication lines, by attacking which it's possible to bring an entire country to a halt. The American planners of the post-war in Iraq gave very little thought to these considerations, with a result that the US was caught completely unprepared for the challenges it is now facing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

it is well known that Paul Brenner modeled the American occupation of Iraq after the similar American experience in Germany. People, who criticize such Brenner's decisions as his de-Baathification campaign or the decision to completely disband the Iraqi Army, simply don't understand that these decisions were inspired by the success of the similar measures taken by the Yankees in Germany after the WW2.

The American occupations and post-wars, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, might be badly planned, but this does not exclude the possibility that the world has changed. The explosives and weapons now at disposal of any insurgency worth its name, as well as such a killer weapon as suicide bombers, may have tipped the balance at this stage of human history in favor of forces of destruction and sabotage. The Yankees should try to plan their post-wars better, but they also should take into account the possibility that the world has indeed changed and there is not so much the US or anybody else can do about this.

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The Battle for Power

The New York Times

December 19, 2006
By JAMES GLANZ


Over the past six months, Baghdad has been all but isolated electrically, Iraqi officials say, as insurgents have effectively won their battle to bring down critical high-voltage lines and cut off the capital from the major power plants to the north, south and west.

The battle has been waged in the remotest parts of the open desert, where the great towers that support thousands of miles of exposed lines are frequently felled with explosive charges in increasingly determined and sophisticated attacks, generally at night. Crews that arrive to repair the damage are often attacked and sometimes killed, ensuring that the government falls further and further behind as it attempts to repair the lines.

. . .

“Now Baghdad is almost isolated,” Karim Wahid, the Iraqi electricity minister, said in an interview last week. “We almost don’t have any power coming from outside.”

. . .

The reason that the attacks on the high-voltage electrical lines, known as 400-kilovolt lines, have been especially devastating is that they serve as the arterial roads of the national grid, the gargantuan electrical circuit that was designed to carry power from the energy-rich north and south to the great population center in Baghdad.

Throughout the country, there are perhaps 15 particularly critical 400-kilovolt lines, carried by their unmistakable 150-foot towers. The entire network runs for 2,500 miles, often passing through uninhabited desert, . . .

. . .

. . .Electricity officials say the decisive moment came July 6, when saboteurs mounted coordinated attacks across the country, gaining a lead in the battle that the government has not been able to reverse.

“They targeted all the lines at the same time, and they all came down,” Mr. Abbo said.

. . .

. . . Last week even the official United States State Department figures, which many Iraqis contend lean toward the optimistic side, said there was an average of 6.6 hours of electricity per day in Baghdad and 8.9 hours nationwide.

Before the war, Baghdad had 16 to 24 hours of power and the rest of Iraq 4 to 8 hours, according to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent United States federal office.

Source

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006




We are NOT that fucking stupid

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday in a televised speech that after an independent Palestinian state were established within the 1967 borders, Hamas would be prepared to honor a hudna of anywhere from 10 to 20 years, Channel 2 reported.

Source

I am wondering what these fucking idiots are thinking. We are manufacturing here all this fucking hi-tech. Can it be that the monkeys still think the Jews are that stupid?

That stupid to let them rule Gaza for 20 years. We, of course, will go back to the 1967 borders. And, of course, we will let them control the border with Egypt. And for 20 years we'll be watching them smuggling in weapons and foreign Jihadists... guessing their intentions after the Hudna expires.

Let the monkeys go to look for other suckers.

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Gaza in Bloom

It's really heartening to know, that despite the fundamental differences between us and Hamas, there is still something we can agree upon... After all, we are all just ordinary human (hunam?) beings, right ?

The Jerusalem Post

Dec. 19, 2006
By Associated Press

Mashaal: PA leader Abbas 'counts for nothing' (True NB)

"With regards to [Abbas], didn't you realize yet that he counts for nothing?" Mashaal told Corriere. "Nothing when he was Arafat's Number Two, and nothing when he was premier in 2005. Why should he be supported by Europe now? Remember, the only way to peace runs through Hamas." (!!! NB)

Source

At this rate Hamas militants will soon be busy planting flowers around Gaza

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Question

Dear |3runo

I am just curious: how many blogs you pass on average in one single day ?

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I mourn for Jericho

Superb post by The Raccoon... a very good perspective on the beginning of second intifada from the israeli side ...

. . .

Old Yasser - the Rayiss - pushed the button that started the new intifada. And within the span of a single day, everything changed. The guys we had coffee with on a daily basis suddenly started shooting at us. Khaled stopped being nice and let his inner beast surface. The casino was occupied by gunmen that constantly fired on us. The old tree under which we drank coffee was blown up. Shops were looted by militias. Restaurants closed. Hothouses were shattered. The streets filled with gunfire and rubble.

Our base was burned down and riddled with bullets - where once we had only plaster walls, now stands reinforced concrete. The casino was shelled to get rid of the snipers. The local population descended back into violence and poverty. And me - I had a severe nervous breakdown and was transferred away from the front.

And this, my friends, is the sad tale of what briefly was the most successful town in PA. . .

Source

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Abbas O' Dahlan

Hamas has suddenly discovered that, despite its frenetic smuggling of weapons into Gaza, in one respect it's still awfully unprepared for confrontation with Fatah. Its supporters have no slogans to chant against Abbas and his party on demonstrations, and, as everybody knows, chanting slogans as well as shooting into air and tossing babies wrapped in dummy suicide belts is an integral part of Gaza carnivals.

Over the last years, Hamas has accumulated a huge arsenal of slogans, both imported from abroad and manufactured locally. Unfortunately all of them are directed against USA/Israel. So Hamas called on its faithful to come up with catchy anti Abbas/Dahlan/Fatah slogans. Below is a short list of top hits:

Hamas, O' Kassam, trample on the head of Dahlan! (Kassam is the name of the armed wing of Hamas)

Abbas, O' Abbas, the people will trample on you with their shoes! (Normally when Palis want to express their respect for somebody, they trample on that person barefoot)

Abbas O' Dahlan, agents of the Americans!

Dahlan you traitor, go to Israel!

Source

Whatever you may think about Hamas, nobody can claim that its supporters lack originality.

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How do You Say 'Thank You' in Satmar ?

Washington Post

December 14, 2006
By Michael Powell and Robin Shulman


. . .

. . .

Neturei Karta is best understood within the confines and context of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which harbors the world's largest ultra-orthodox Jewish shtetl, or community. Here the garb -- black coats and hats for the men, wigs and demure dresses for the women -- is that of the 18th century, Yiddish is the lingua franca and there is no deviation from the teachings of Torah and Talmud. The Satmar sect dominates this ghetto, and anti-Zionism is central to their identity.

It was a sin before God, the Satmar argue, for the secular Zionists to have created a Jewish state before the Messiah's arrival. Jews live in exile by divine decree. Israel has inflamed Arabs and Muslims and created nothing but pain for the Jews, they argue. They suggest that the Holocaust itself was a terrible symbol of God's displeasure with the Zionists.

During World War II, the Zionist Reszo Kasztner negotiated with Adolf Eichmann to buy the freedom of Satmar's Rebbe Joel Teitelbaum, who had been sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. But Teitelbaum, who died in 1979 and was considered the most charismatic of the Satmar leaders, would later write: "It is because of the Zionists that six million Jews were killed."

. . .

. . .

Source

I would say that the Jews not only know how to be smart, they also know how to be grateful

:D :D

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Monday, December 18, 2006




Let's Play a Game

As one Israeli analyst rightly noticed - the Palestinians' civil war games will be over, when a prominent leader of one of the sides gets killed. If this happens, what will follow, will be game no more. At that point Haniyeh will have some work to do to enhance his dictionary.

And as a standupist claimed today, there is a growing concern in Israel that the Palestinians will now start killing each other. And an even greater one that they won't.

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Communism Not Dead Yet

THE JERUSALEM POST

Dec. 18, 2006
by Avi Kravitz


Kibbutz industry exports in the third quarter rose 10.2% to approximately $600 million, with the summer's war in the North not slowing sales during the period.

. . .

The first nine months of the year saw Kibbutz industry exports grow 6.8% over last year to $1.8 billion. The plastics and rubber sector made up $824m. of the sales in the nine months while the food industry had exports of $262m.

Source

For those who don't know, Kibbutz are communes. In some of them cars and housing are considered communal property. No. They haven't yet abolished families.

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Lame Tiger on the Nile

Pinchas Landau from The Jerusalem Post recycles for uninitiated the analysis of the situation of the Egyptian economy released by Serhan Cevik. Serhan Cevik is a Vice President of Morgan Stanley who covers the Middle East and North Africa.

Landau very rightly notices that:

The state of affairs in Arab countries, including those directly bordering Israel, attracts virtually no coverage in the Israeli media.

Changes in government, and certainly terrorism, rioting or other negative news, are immediately reported, sometimes prominently, but anything normal, such as economic and social developments in our neighbors or in the Arab world generally, are treated on a par with news from Uruguay or Laos.

True. The shallow Israeli media never covers properly the neighboring countries apart from reporting about the million of Lebanese who showed up on the Martyrs' Square in Beirut or the increasingly more violent civil strife in Gaza . So Israelis who seek to understand better their region are forced to read The Economist and other outside sources to get an idea of what's going on around us.

Even the pseudo intellectual Haaretz, whose intellectualism means mostly taking wild moral stances against its own society, never fails to leave his readers in blissful unawareness of the long term trends developing in the region. So the Israelis have little idea that recently Mubarak's regime has been diligently implementing a series of economic reforms, some of which included very unpopular measures which indirectly testifies to how serious the dictator got about the economy. Yet it appears that Mubarak still has quite a way to go before he can claim the title of Pinochet of the Middle East.

According to Cevik the economic growth is picking up and is predicted to reach tigerish 7% in 2007 and 7.5% in 2008. This is compared to an average of 4.4% in the 1990s and 3% in 2002 to 6.9% in the 2006 fiscal year. Yet Cevik is unimpressed by these achievements and denies that we got another economic tiger in the making here. Cevik points out to the fact that the year-on-year inflation rate has already surged from 3.2% at the end of 2005 to 11.8% in October 2006. It appears that the economy is overheating.

In fact I would say that this combination of rising inflation and accelerating economic growth smells too much of a regular bubble fueled by inflationary politics. The economic history of the world is full of stories when two-three years of such a growth were followed by a decade of desperate attempts to stabilize the economy and to suppress the inflation and all too often led to acute political crises.

Cevik explains some of the inflation by the removal of fuel subsidies which is a right step and demonstrates commitment on the part of the regime which has guts to take painful and unpopular measures. Yet Cevik says this is only part of the story.

The budget deficit persists around 10% and the interest rates still remain negative despite recent increases. According to Cevik the growth base is extremely narrow limited to the gas industry and construction. Productivity growth remains very low increasing inflationary pressures in a country which also appears to be awash with petro-dollars from the Gulf.

Yet the root cause of the problem is the government's inability to get hold of its expenditures. Landau:

. . . the failure to sharply reduce the budget deficit during these good times suggests to Cevik that the boom is unsustainable and that trouble is brewing. The fact that the share of government expenditure within GDP is growing instead of falling basically gives the game away.

In short, Cevik says that the government failed to establish control over its fiscal policies, the current rate of growth is unsustainable and the monetary situation is getting out of hand. And the economy is ever more vulnerable to a possible slowdown of the global economy.

Landau:

. . ."the euphoria surrounding the country's [high growth] could easily subside if the global economy goes through an abrupt and painful adjustment phase." There again, the Nile never was tiger territory.

Source

It remains to be seen if indeed the current race would pick out soon, Cevik talking about dangers over the medium term. Yet reading Cevik leaves one with the feeling that Egypt is not such a tiger as we used to think and that the celebrations of the birth of a new free market economy in the Middle East came too early.

Given the tense political situation in Egypt, where the government has been arresting leaders of the Muslim Brothers over the last few days, acusing them of trying to set up a militia, it does not smell of a happy end for this, increasingly besieged by the domestic opposition, regime.


Links:

Serhan Cevik: The Dangers of Overheating

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Sunday, December 17, 2006




Gun battle outside Dahlan's home

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Dec. 17, 2006


An intense gun battle was raging late Sunday evening outside Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan's house in Gaza, witnesses reported.

Less than an hour earlier, Palestinian factions had reportedly reached a cease-fire agreement. (!!! NB)

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Peaceful Co-Existence

THE JERUSALEM POST

Dec. 17, 2006


Police, in cooperation with the Shin Bet, arrested a 17-year-old Israeli Arab on suspicion of planning to carry out a suicide attack on Nazareth Illit's "Plaza" hotel, it was released for publication on Sunday.

. . .

An investigation of the affair revealed that the accused, a former resident of the Palestinian territories currently living with his mother in Nazareth, was supposed to receive a bomb belt from Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades operatives; however, the Amakim sub-district CIU and security forces arrested him two days before the transaction was to take place.

During his interrogation, the youth said he had originally lived with his father in the northern Samaria village of Daan, but he claimed that whenever he would visit the territories, Islamic Jihad and Hamas operatives would deride him for cooperating with Israel.

Endeavoring to prove the opposite (!!! NB), the boy agreed to carry out a suicide attack on the Nazareth hotel.

Police and the IDF have foiled dozens of terror attacks in the last several months.

Source

Good. At least they are still trying to prove something. I hate to think about the day when they start blowing themselves up just for fun.

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Breaking News: bin Laden Gunned Down

Associated Press

Dec 17, 2006

A killer elephant named after Osama bin Laden by fearful villagers was killed by sharpshooters, officials said Sunday. The animal was blamed for 14 deaths in the northeastern state of Assam. --> Source

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Gaza Circus Strikes Back

In a dramatic move Abu Mazen called today for early parliamentary and presidential elections. Almost immediately violent clashes between Fatah and Hamas supporters erupted all across Gaza.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

In a major policy speech that was boycotted by members of the Hamas-led government, Abbas told hundreds of supporters: "I have decided to call early parliamentary and presidential elections as soon as possible to resolve the crisis that has plagued our cause. Nothing will prevent us from returning to the people to get rid of this miserable situation."

Indeed. Everybody in Gaza is just waiting for Abu Mazen and his Fatah to return.

Abbas also referred to the failed assassination attempt on Haniyeh, in which one of his bodyguards died:

"Our goal was to ensure that Haniyeh will leave the Gaza Strip honorably and return in the same manner," he said. "But some complications happened when it was said that he was trying to smuggle money. . ."

Yes. We also noticed that some complications happened. . .

Abbas also criticized Palestinian armed groups for continuing to fire rockets at Israel, saying such actions have harmed foreign investments in the Gaza Strip.

Source

How fucking true !! The biggest problem with the Kassam attacks is . . . that they may scare away foreign investors !! I bet if we reoccupy Gaza for the second time, the Palis will never understand why this happened.

For God's sake !! How does the world want us to negotiate with these idiots ??!!

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