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Friday, March 28, 2008




A Turning Point

From the Washington Post March 24, 2008

. . .

. . .

A Turning Point

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Zobaie contacted other Republican Guards and military officers. Many had lost their jobs when U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer ordered the disbanding of the Iraqi army. For the next two years, Zobaie said he was a commander in the Sunni insurgency. "Everywhere I could reach, I fought the Americans," he said. "I didn't feel well until I hit the Americans. Then I felt comfortable."

But a turning point came in 2004. U.S. troops and insurgents fought fiercely in Fallujah. Zobaie battled U.S. forces in the nearby town of Zaidan, where he grew up. By mid-2005, he had grown wary of the foreign fighters and radicals, with their brutal tactics and rigid interpretation of Islam. They banned smoking, satellite television, even Pepsi, because the prophet Muhammad never drank it. One day, Zobaie said, he was stopped at a checkpoint in Zaidan and forced by fighters to watch three men saw off another man's head with a knife.

By April 2006, Zobaie had had enough. He joined the new Iraqi army and was appointed a brigade commander. Then senior Shiite officers had him removed. When al-Qaeda in Iraq militants learned he had enlisted, they kidnapped one of his cousins, who had also joined the army. Zobaie never saw him again. Zobaie said he decided to return to fighting, but against a new enemy: "On that date, it became a public war between us and al-Qaeda."

In November, a relative who was a member of al-Qaeda in Iraq kidnapped Zobaie's brother, Ahmed, and beheaded him with a shaving razor. Zobaie found his head and body four days later. The relative disappeared. A week later, Ahmed's wife gave birth to a daughter.

Zobaie become Fallujah's police chief that December. He sent his wife and seven of his eight children to Iraq's Kurdish semiautonomous region for their safety. When it was time to select a code name to speak over police walkie-talkies, he chose "Ahmed."

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Source

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Friday, March 21, 2008




Bread and Martyrs

Last updated: April 10, 2008

March 11, 2008


Global warming comes to the Middle East . . .


DUBAI, 11 March 2008 (IRIN) - A report by UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), entitled Climate Change: Implications for Agriculture in the Near East, has said the food security of those who are poor, malnourished or dependent on local food production could be adversely affected by climate change.

“Climate change will affect food security in all its four dimensions - food availability, food accessibility, food stability and food utilisation,” Will Killmann, chairman of FAO’s working group on climate change, told IRIN on 10 March.

“Food security is particularly threatened in the already vulnerable regions - sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and parts of the Middle East,” he said.

Shifts in rainfall patterns could affect crops, particularly rice, in many countries in the region, said the FAO report, which has singled out Yemen as being particularly at risk because of its endemic poverty, rapidly growing population and acute water shortages.

. . .

. . .

Recent incidents in Egypt highlight the vulnerability of the Middle East region to the vagaries of reduced agricultural production and the rise in food prices: Two people were killed as they fought over a place in a queue for cheap, subsidised bread in Helwan, southern Cairo; Egypt’s semi-official newspaper Al Ahram reported that a man doused a bakery with petrol before setting it alight after its owner refused to sell him bread; and a few days later, on 11 March, Al Ahram reported that the number of people who had died in bread queues (so-called “bread martyrs”) had reached 10.

Egypt, the world’s second-largest importer of wheat, subsidises wheat, flour and bread at an annual cost of US$2.74bn to the state (New York Times, 17 January 2008). Economists have said the subsidies distort the economy and some within the government have reportedly been talking of a reduction in basic food subsidies. The last time the Egyptian government attempted to do that - in 1977 - there were street riots in which the police killed over 70 protesters. Bread prices in Egypt increased by 36.5 percent from February 2007 to February 2008.

In the past few weeks, there have been food riots or demonstrations - albeit on a smaller scale - against rising food prices in a number of countries in the region, including Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. A number of people have died in clashes with security forces.

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Source



March 11, 2008

One by One

As Yemen's water basins are collapsing one by one, next it will be Yemen itself to go down.


BEIT HUJAIRA, Yemen (Reuters) - Black-clad women trudge across a stony plateau in the Yemeni highlands to haul water in yellow plastic cans from wells that will soon dry up.

"We come here three or four times a day," says Adiba Sena, as another woman draws water six metres (20 feet) to the surface and pours it into jerry cans lashed to her grey donkey. "We use it to clean, cook, wash -- we have no pipes that reach us."

These women are at the sharp end of what Yemen's water and environment minister describes as a collapse of national water resources so severe it cannot be reversed, only delayed at best.

. . .

"We have nothing, God help us," fumed Husseina al-Qabri, 45, who is weary of her daily forays to the well. "We want water, electricity, a school. I want to learn to read."

Beit Hujaira lies in the water basin of Amran, a parched province just north of Sanaa, the capital.

"Amran and Sanaa are probably very close to collapse," said Ramon Scoble, team leader of an Amran water project run by the German aid agency GTZ.

"Saada in the far north may be next in line. Further south, the basin in Taiz collapsed almost 10 years ago and people have been relying on renewable resources," he said, meaning fresh rainfall as opposed to water stored in the ground.

. . .

Yemen was long envied for its rainfall, terraced fields and irrigation channels. The Romans called it Arabia Felix, a name that mocks the unhappy modern reality of water scarcity.

Desalinating sea water would be costly for an inland city like Sanaa, perched 2,200 metres (7,200 feet) above sea level, with higher peaks barring any pipeline route from the Red Sea.

Millions of people might eventually have to move from arid highland cities to Yemen's Tihama coastal plain, which has more water potential, but is also hot, humid and prone to malaria.

. . .

The women lugging water in Beit Hujaira are victims of the worsening water crunch. Qabri said she had kidney problems, a complaint shared by many in the village and in Yemen generally.

"There are people aged 20 with kidney stones because they simply don't drink enough water," said Scoble.

Source

It's not clear to what degree Yemen's mounting crisis is due to the global warming, but in any case the global warming can only be exacerbating trends that have started in the region decades ago. What makes Yemen special is the apparent inevitability of its eventual self destruction. Thus Yemen provides us with an opportunity to have a good look at the general pattern of a classic Malthusian collapse in an Arab society overwhelmed by backwardness and demographics. Such an opportunity is all too more valuable given that Yemen may be soon followed by at least one other Arab country.


Last updated: March 21, 2008

Inflation in Jordan was up by 9 percent in February alone after the government decided to completely abolish fuel subsidies. The national budget was crumbling under the pressure of rising food and oil prices on the world markets that rendered the system of fuel and food subsidies unsupportable. According to the MEED, removing fuel subsidies has led to price hikes across a wide range of commodities.

Inflation in Jordan increased by 9 per cent in February after the government scrapped fuel subsidies, according to a survey by the Department of Statistics.

Fuel and lighting costs were 22 per cent higher than in February 2007 after retailers were allowed to set their own prices for petrol, diesel, kerosene and gas on 8 February.

The prices of some popular foodstuffs increased even more quickly. Eggs and dairy products were 31 per cent more expensive than in February 2007, and cereals were 23 per cent higher, even though the government continued to subsidise wheat.

Fat and cooking oils rose 21 per cent and fruit was 19 per cent more expensive.

The government increased the salaries of all 600,000 civil servants and members of the armed forces by up to JD50 ($71) a month at the start of February.

Source

Jordan is just one of a whole dozen of Arab countries hit by rising food and oil prices, but it was the first to address the problem in such a direct and bold way. The king personally intervened and threw his weight behind the cabinet as he was encouraging ministers to act quickly before the situation gets out of control.

It's unlikely that Jordan remains for long the only state in the region forced to take such drastic measures while risking more confrontation between the regime and the population. Morocco, whose agriculture has been ravaged by two consecutive years of a severe drought, may be the next in line to move on subsidies. More bread martyrs may be already on the way.

PS

One of our bunch was guest posting on the Oil Drum a few weeks ago about climate change, biofuels and food subsidies in the Middle East. I would disagree with the general tone and orientation of his conclusions. Nevertheless the post is well researched and describes the current situation in a clear and lucid way: Bread and Oil.


April 2, 2008

South Yemen in Revolt

Michael.di said...

Is there any sort of government in Yemen? I thought that parts of that country were socialist until the 90s.

March 18, 2008 1:49 PM

The government of Yemen is reported to have ordered the army to move tanks into southern cities in order to stop what's starting increasingly looking as a major revolt in what used to be the former communist state.

By AHMED AL-HAJ
April 1, 2008

SAN'A, Yemen (AP) — . . .

Over the past three days, security forces arrested at least 120 former army officers and lawmakers believed to be leading demonstrations in the south, said a Yemeni official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to journalists.

Tanks moved in after six demonstrators were "seriously injured" during early morning clashes with police, witnesses reported.

. . .

Last week, 20,000 demonstrators gathered in the southern city of Dhalae, 135 miles south of the capital, San'a, to demand reforms and the reinstatement of southerners into the army.

On Sunday, rioters set fire to at least two police stations, burned military vehicles and tried to storm the state-owned bank in Dhalae, the Yemeni official said. He said at least nine demonstrators were injured.

On Tuesday morning, riot police fired in the air to disperse demonstrators and roads were sealed by tanks and barricades, turning southern cities into ghost towns, witnesses said. Protesters responded by blocking the highway to the port city of Aden, the witnesses said.

. . .

Source

Intifadah in Dhalae



April 10, 2008

On the loose

It was not Morocco but Egypt. And it happened sooner than expected. Anyway, this time it was Egypt's turn to be hit by an outbreak of bread riots. If you are interested, the Sandmonkey was blogging about it here, here and here. There is also a feeling that this time it's different. The genie may be finally out of the bottle.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008




Hard Headed Woman

Last updated: March 16, 2008

March 12, 2008


A 24 year old Israeli Arab from the village of Na'ura, near Afula, was put into police custody after he'd called emergency services and politely informed the paramedics: "I just shot my sister."

According to police, the attack had been carefully planned over a long period, and the suspect had informed his family of his murderous intentions. Family members who knew of the plot and cooperated with the suspect will also be arrested and charged in the near future, Afula police chief Dep.-Cmdr. Orly Malka told The Jerusalem Post.

"He simply stole a gun, fired a number of shots, kicked her, and stopped when he thought she was dead," Malka said. She added that her district had seen no major changes in the number of attacks against women among Arab families. "There has been a constant which hasn't changed in 100 years," Malka said.

The suspect later claimed that despite her young age his 19 year old sister had already had a long and rich history of violating the family's honor. According to the JPost, the young man "was warmly praised by some members of his family".

However, despite the young man's careful planning of the attack over a long period, he had clearly underestimated how hard headed his sister was. According to the JPost, the woman has survived the attempted honor killing "after two bullets fired at her head shattered on impact, failing to penetrate her skull (!!! NB)". It goes without saying that were this woman Jewish, she would have been dead by now.

Israeli Arabs are known for brothers occasionally driving cars over bodies of their sisters during honor killings to ensure fatal outcome. Ordinary Israelis usually tend to dismiss this strange custom as another example of their Arab neighbors paranoiac mindset. Yet the story of a woman shattering bullets with her head like one of the characters of the Matrix trilogy presents this strategy in a very different light.

Anyway, now the family may have to pay for the young man's failure to stick to the time honored tradition and methods polished over generations. Family honor is a tricky business but its first principle is that publicity is much worse than the actual thing. So if you are going to kill somebody to enhance your family's honor, you should better make sure that the person dies. Otherwise you may have to spend decades trying to hunt down somebody who is under police protection. And of course the fact that a 19 year old girl first survives your bullets and then goes away sheltered by the state makes you an object of all sorts of jokes and speculations on the part of your neighbors, precisely the thing you wanted to avoid in the first place.

There may be several reasons why the suspect has failed to finish the job. But the most plausible one is that at a certain point the brother had simply despaired to see his sister ever die at all. According to police, the suspect has arrived to the place of the attempted murder in a car of his younger brother who apparently cooperated with him. However, instead of running the car over his sister, the young man just kept kicking her body all over until he eventually got tired and called the paramedics. One can easily imagine the frustration of a brother who, having thrown away his useless gun, keeps kicking his sister shouting: "Start dying you fucking bitch." In short, when the time to run a car over his sister has arrived, the young man might have already lost all hope that a car can succeed where bullets failed. The bottom line is that honor killings are an art. They are not for amateurs.

Also interesting is the reaction of Nurit Kaufmann, director of Violence Against Women at WIZO, which runs the National Hot Line for Battered Women and Children at Risk in partnership with the Social Affairs Ministry. Kaufmann seems to have been completely unmoved by the police claims that there was no major change in the number of attacks against women among Arab families in the area.

Kaufmann said that regarding honor killings specifically, much progress had been made in the Arab community to raise awareness of the phenomenon, but that this murder highlighted there was still much work to be done.

Source

One can only hope that in the age of the internet and satellite TV the awareness of this phenomena in the Arab community is indeed rising. However, the exuberant enthusiasm displayed by some members of the family for the actions of the young man makes one think that it's not necessarily awareness or the lack of it that's the problem.


March 16, 2008

A peculiar detail of the last shooting is that it happened just a week after an Israeli court sentenced to 16 years in prison a member of an Israeli Arab clan that has made honor killings its specialty. The sister of the convicted was the last of the nine women of the clan killed by their relatives in the last years.

A Tel Aviv court has sentenced an Israeli Arab man to 16 years in prison for involvement in the murder of his sister in an "honor killing," after several female relatives took the rare step of testifying against him, according to court documents.

Hamda Abu Ghanem was the ninth woman killed in the clan in recent years by men in the family. She was shot in January last year as she slept at her parents' home in a Muslim neighborhood of Ramle, a mixed Jewish-Arab town of 65,000 in central Israel.

. . .

The clan is well known in Ramle. One cousin, Reem, was drugged by a brother and thrown in a well after refusing to marry the man her family chose, relatives said.

Reem's mother, Nayfa, was stabbed to death. Another woman slipped in the bathroom and died of her injuries. Others were gunned down or stabbed to death.

. . .

Source

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Friday, March 7, 2008




The Eyes of Lunacy

As'ad AbuKhalil, about whom the IraqPundit once said that he typifies much that is repulsive about the pan-Arabist poseur, and who goes in the blogsphere under the name of Angry Arab is running one of the most popular Arab blogs in English. On every single day Asad offers his readers the same invariable mix of the typically Asad's cynicism and no less typical Arab conspiracism. Asad's cynicism may at first appear of not a bad quality, but it quickly turns very repetitive and boring if one keeps following the blog. According to Asad, everybody is at fault except George Habbash. Habbash was a real man. Ever since he died, Asad's life is like a dark night without a glimpse of light. Even fried eggplants, Asad's favorite dish, don't help.

In terms of ideology Asad is a living proof that some of the dinosaurs and mastodons may have survived into the current age and be wandering around the jungles of Congo or Borneo at this very moment. There hardly exists one single ideology discredited by history and proven hopeless beyond repair by experience that is not part of Asad's ideological baggage. Apart from his antiquated pan-Arabism, the man is also a kind of a Marxist (though Asad's understanding of Marxism seems to be no better than his understanding of anything else).

Normal people who by mistake stumble on Asad's blog are quick to correct the mistake, though usually not before having left a comment like this one:

. . .

This is the first article of yours I read. If this is an accurate sample of your analytical abilities generally it hardly seems worth reading anymore.

Be as angry as you like--but do you have to be so damned stupid?

Source

With normal people all gone, only idiots and perverts stay. The idiots worship Asad's blog, Asad is the idiots' god. The perverts keep coming back because they get hooked on Asad's comments section (The author of this blog belongs to this group). The comments section of Asad's blog is the crown jewel of the whole blogsphere. At any time of the day the section is full of life as a whole bunch of highly dedicated and intelligent individuals are busying themselves with filling the space with dozens and hundreds of extremely subtle and thoughtful comments.

Anyway, what's relevant to the subject of the post is that a few days ago Asad surprised some of his readers when he lashed at the Albanian separatists in Kosovo by quoting from something published by Abunimah (another one very intelligent individual).

Monday, February 25, 2008


"By identifying Israel with the supposed underdog, ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Haaretz implicitly recognizes that there are indeed some striking similarities though not ones it would acknowledge. Kosovo, like Israel, was illegally severed by force of arms from another country against the wishes of the majority population of the whole territory. Both entities came into being and can only survive with the sponsorship and support of the Great Powers of the day who sustain them in violation of international law because it suits their imperial interests. Furthermore, both entities are animated by a virulent ethno-nationalism that is fundamentally incompatible with the values of freedom, tolerance and democracy that they claim to have come into being to uphold. In this sense, Kosovo is the latest in a collection of Western-backed pseudo-states that also includes the Kurdish entity (!!! NB) in northern Iraq."

Posted by As'ad at 6:52 AM

Source

Some readers thought that this time Asad went a bit overboard with his proletarian internationalism or how do they call it in Marxism. Western-backed or not, it's nice to get another Muslim state in Kosovo. Though the "Kurdish entity" faired worse with Asad's readers (many of the readers are Arabs). The readers also seem to be generally unaware of the intensity of the pro-American sentiment among Albanians.

However, a week later Asad has staged a very impressive comeback when he's taught his readers by personal example that proletarian internationalism or not, there are still things about which there can be no compromises.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


I sincerely am curious: how do Arab supporters of the Iranian regime justify Iranian occupation of the three UAE's islands?

Posted by As'ad at 11:11 AM

Source

Some people may say that Asad is not always equally smart and consistent in his views. If anything, it's the UAE that rather looks like a Western-backed pseudo-state and not Iran. There may be some truth in this but then who really cares? My personal experience suggests that when talking to Arabs it's much safer to avoid mentioning Iran and Iranians.

Anyway, that was the voice of lunacy. And these are the eyes of it.

As'ad AbuKhalil - The Eyes of Lunacy

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