The Happy Arab News Service

Friday, October 30, 2009

Relearning the Middle East - Nobody fears death. People fear torture

NPR's (National Public Radio) Terry Gross in conversation with Greg Jaffe (Washington Post's Pentagon correspondent) about Obama's options in Afghanistan. At some point the interview delves into the background of leading US military officials involved and reveals a few interesting episodes from the process through which the US general John Abizaid was relearning the land of his ancestors.

GROSS: I was really interested in your descriptions of General Abizaid, who, you know, helped lead the war in Iraq in its first stage, but didn't seem to agree with the philosophy that the Army was using.

Abizaid's great-grandfather was Lebanese. Abizaid speaks fluent Arabic. He spent time in the Middle East before the war in Iraq, and it sounds like he was very skeptical of the Iraq War from the start, yet he helped lead it. He was the commander of all military forces in the region, the position that Petraeus later took over. So would you explain why he was skeptical of the invasion from the start?

Mr. JAFFE: Yeah, I mean, he does spend a lot of time in the Middle East. Now, he doesn't grow up speaking Arabic. He actually teaches himself Arabic or goes to the Defense Language Institute and then spends two years in Jordan at the University of Amman as a student. They he spends one year in Lebanon, in southern Lebanon in the mid-'80s, watching the Israelis fight a very tough insurgency with Shiite extremists, and particularly Hezbollah, which is just beginning to emerge at that period.

I think he has a sort of deep appreciation for the culture, religion and the huge role those play in the Middle East in terms of determining the fate of kind of countries and how wars unfold. So I think he was deeply skeptical. I mean, he likes to say you can't control the Middle East. If you try, it'll end up controlling you.

So I think he was deeply skeptical of these sort of grand ambitions to change places, particularly Iraq, where he also has this experience at the end of the Gulf War, an experience that's very different from the rest of the United States Army and leads him to take very different lessons from the Gulf War than most of the U.S. Army.

GROSS: So how did Abizaid's Gulf War experience shape his thinking on Iraq?

Mr. JAFFE: Well, you know, most of the Army's - for the Gulf War is the 100-hour tank battle, you know, which is this tank-on-tank fight in which the U.S. Army, you know, obliterates the Iraqi army. Abizaid has a different experience. He misses the tank battle. He's stuck in Italy, much to his chagrin and disappointment for that, but is sent in in the latter days of the war -essentially after the war - to northern Iraq on a mission to protect the Kurds.

It quickly turns to he's also protecting the Iraqi army and the Iraqi army soldiers from the Kurds, and Iraqi soldiers are running to his checkpoint. And he has this - tells this very interesting story. In the latter days of his mission there, he's walking with a Kurdish Peshmerga, a Kurdish militia fighter, and they - the Kurds have caught a couple of Iraqi soldiers who were stragglers, and they grabbed these Iraqis and they torture them and then kill them. And Abizaid, in his very typical, John Abizaid way, says hey, if you're going to kill them, anyway, why do you bother to torture them? And the Peshmerga, the militia, Kurdish militia fighter, says well, nobody fears death. People fear torture. And we have to kill them and torture them and leave them in the middle of the road as an example to the other Iraqi soldiers not to mess with us anymore.

And at that point, I think Abizaid, who already sensed this, realizes that the Iraq War might be over for the U.S. Army. It might be over for the United States of America, but it's still continuing for the Iraqi people and continues throughout the '90s, until we invade the country again in 2003.

Source: NPR

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Obama's pastors

There is one thing that Barack Obama seems incapable of ever getting right. According to Times, Obama's new pastor, Carey Cash, is Islamophobe and intense supporter of the war in Iraq. In his book published in 2004, the pastor called Islam a violent faith that "from its very birth has used the edge of the sword as a means to convert or conquer those with different religious convictions". Another pearl from the book is the pastor's belief that a wall of angels protected US troops that stormed Baghdad in 2003 (Cash was a chaplain in one of the first units to reach the city). This is of course highly ironic given that Obama was elected in part riding the wave of popular discontent with the war in Iraq.

Obama's previous pastor, Jeremiah Wright, has deeply embarrassed the president by his his bizarre anti semitic allegations. At one point Wright alleged that Jews were preventing the two from meeting each other. Obama had to disavow Wright and since then went paranoiac about choosing a new pastor, so much so that he started switching churches to avoid getting accidentally associated with another nutty pastor. When he finally dared to praise Cash and express admiration for his powerful sermons, this was quickly revealed as a mistake of colossal proportions. Times says the pastor and his family have refused to be interviewed by the Washington Post on the grounds that they were instructed by the White House to keep their mouth shut and not to talk to the newspaper.

Obama certainly could do better. For example he could easily compensate for his lack of touch for pastors by asking one of his aides to at least browse through the book before telling reporters how excellent Mr Cash is. Now this episode, if given publicity, may sweep the Arab and global Muslim media and annihilate whatever successes on the PR front Barack Obama has achieved with his Cairo and other appearances. As Obama is about to soon embark on a search for a new pastor, based on the president's previous selections and his obvious talent for doing it, I would bet that Obama's next pastor will be promptly revealed as a white supremacist.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

He is Alive!

Last updated: October 18, 2009

At last! The Persians have blasted persistent rumours that Supreme Leader died by releasing pictures of him meeting Senegalese president. My feeling of tremendous relief did not last for long, however, as soon it became apparent that we've got more reasons to worry about. On a photo published by ISNA (Iranian Students News Agency) Khamenei still looks shit and struggling to hold his head up, but Abdullah Wade of Senegal looks simply as if he died half way through the meeting or something.

Source: ISNA

"The Senegalese President also expressed his satisfaction with Iran's impressive June 12 presidential election and its results," said ISNA, but it appears that on saying this Abdullah Wade has largely exhausted his energies and went zombie. Even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose youthful overconfident appearances usually mitigate the impression of doom and gloom emanating from Iran's clerical gerontocracy, looks subdued and cowering in his corner. I am wondering if this may have something to do with "Iran's impressive June 12 presidential election and its results".

The good old days of yore - Khamenei, Ahmalala and Belarus president Lukashenko


Breaking News... A suicide bomber killed 20 people, including five senior Revolutionary Guard commanders in Sistan-Baluchistan Province of Iran. Scores of others are reported wounded. Among the dead a deputy commander of the Guard's ground force and the Guard's chief provincial commander.

As one who went through one suicide attack and had to visit a friend in a hospital after another one (not to mention that the line I used to go to work was bombed twice), I feel really proud about my contribution to development of this impressive military technology. (Come on, guys. You have to give it to me. No weaponry can mature until tested on live targets and somebody has to do it). Congratulations and my unconditional support go to Baloch nationalists and all other peace loving minorities of the Middle East.

2007, Sistan-Baluchistan. Iran executes a Baluchi insurgent
after a previous attack on the Revolutionary Guard

October 18, 2009

Iran's president Ahmadinejad promised a swift retaliation for the attack in Balochistan, lightening up the hearts of Baluchi insurgents and certain malicious outsiders. There are millions of Baluchis scattered around the region between Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan and Jundallah, the flagship of Baluchi resistance, is rumored to have ties with Al-Kaida. What a fertile ground for a mega Sunni Shia confrontation!!!

However, there seems to be some nuances.

Iranian officials have been reluctant to open full-scale military operations in the southeastern border zone, fearing it could become a hotspot for sectarian violence with the potential to draw in al-Qaida and Sunni militants from nearby Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Source: AP

A big disappointment it is.

Shattered dreams and broken hopes. Angry and dismayed, Baloch insurgents wasting time in their camp - no sign of the Persians coming

Trust me, guys. I can feel your pain. Inshallah, lets pray for better days to come.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

What a concept!

People sometimes post comments that in two lines nail it down better than any social scientists can do. This one, for example, was posted on The Reality Moment in the New York Times. This is basically what America and actually most other democracies are about.

Blacklight: Gee, responsible, pragmatic political leaders who put their careers on the line to tell you the things that you, the electorate, don't want to hear. And the electorate responds. What a concept!

Simply brilliant!

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Obama should stay course on Iraq

The Sunni insurgents in Iraq blew up a key bridge used by the US to withdraw its forces from the country.

BAGHDAD – A suicide bomber blew up a dynamite-laden truck in western Iraq on Saturday, destroying a key bridge on a highway used by the departing U.S. military, while four Iraqi soldiers were killed in a separate attack near Fallujah, police said.

There were no casualties in the Saturday morning blast that destroyed the bridge, said a police officer in the city of Ramadi, about 70 miles (125 kilometers) west of Baghdad. The highway is used heavily by the U.S. military to transport equipment out of the country.

Source: Associated Press

The attack came in the wake of a surprising decision by the Nobel committee to award Barack Obama with the 2009 Nobel peace prize. Smart observers will find here signs of a broad international consensus that the decision to end the occupation was premature.

Mr. Obama, people of the world are looking to you to hold steadfast in Iraq. If you need more encouragement, just say it. What do you want us to do? Do you want us to give you another prize or do you want us to blow up another bridge?

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Russia celebrating Independence

Source: Telegraph

A mysterious cloud was spotted over Moscow as Muscovites are readying themselves for celebrations of Russia's independence day. I don't want to be a spoiler but I do feel like I have to remind to our readers how such shit usually ends...

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Monday, October 12, 2009

And here we go...

This post is an update to Flashdance. You will probably have to read the original post to understand what this one is about.

Iran's parliament gives green light to Ahmadinejad's fuel subsidies reform...

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's parliament on Monday moved ahead with a bill to sharply slash energy and food subsidies, approving one article of a draft law that has the potential of stoking major unrest in a country struggling under international sanctions.

State radio said the article approved by lawmakers would gradually cut energy subsidies over five years, bringing the heavily discounted fuel prices more in line with international prices.

Officials say the cuts are needed to recoup some of the roughly $90 billion spent yearly by OPEC's second largest exporter on subsidies, and to target the funds more directly at helping poorer segments of the population as well as funding infrastructure projects.

Subsidies currently eat up about 30 percent of the government budget at a time when already high spending and the collapse of oil prices last year squeezed the country's economy.

"The plan would prevent an important part of excessive consumption (in Iranian society), as well as injustice in the redistribution of subsidies," state-run Press TV quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying in a live interview on Iranian television Sunday night.

Source: Associated Press

Among its possible consequences, the approved bill has direct bearing on the issue of punitive sanctions against Iran. It's unlikely that the US and its allies can take action to disrupt Iran's oil exports due to the adverse effect this would have on the global energy market and through this on their respective economies. Imposing some kind of embargo on gasoline imports into Iran sounds like a more plausible course of action to take. Under Ahmadinejad the Persians were investing like mad into their refining capacity and switching cars to natural gas. This effort should start paying off in the next few years, dramatically reducing the impact of possible sanctions against Iran. In fact, Iran may yet emerge as one of the leading, if not the leading, gasoline exporters of the world. The incoming reform may dramatically speed up this process if it succeeds to reign in domestic gasoline consumption. In short, while the President of presidents is brooding over his options in Iran, he may soon find that one about sanctions suddenly unavailable.


This means nothing in terms of Israel's options. If it comes to trading ballistic missiles with Iran, the correct way for Israel to proceed in order to avoid creating a global energy crisis and becoming enemy of all mankind, is to target refineries and not oil fields and terminals.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

To Win the Nobel

Last updated: October 12, 2009

December 23, 2006

From a conversation with a Lebanese friend:


one person told me that when i call myself politically incorrect this is a very gentle description (it was Abubalboola actually NB)


well I wouldn't recommend you for the nobel peace prize


no ??? because that was my dream for years - to win the nobel peace prize


mine too
do you think I stand a chance ?

. . .

. . .

Yet a few days ago another Lebanese wrote me this:

No one ever won a nobel peace prize for not offending anyone. Besides, if Henry Kissinger, Menachem Begin and Yassir Arafat can win one, you'll be just fine.

. . .

. . .

So it's not over yet . . . I still hope to be one day awarded a Nobel for promoting peace, love and understanding between Jews and Arabs.

October 10, 2009

Go Obama! Goooooo!!!

My Nobel ambitions have been frustrated again and this time by a person with the Kenyan background or something. What can be more humiliating?! However, while we are still on this Nobel prize thing, I want to say that I fully support the committee's decision. Obama's achievements in peace making are not particularly impressive, but his intentions are good and, as the Buddhist philosophy is teaching us, from the purely Karmic perspective intentions count more than actual actions. Never mind a huge amount of work that lies ahead. More troops are needed for Afghanistan. More may be needed in Iraq in the near future if something goes wrong. And of course we have Iran's nuclear reactors waiting to be bombed. With so much peace making that needs to be done, Obama certainly needs some kind of encouragement. In short, however offensive personally I find the committee's persistent ignoring of my own peace making initiatives, I support the decision and am ready to wait patiently for my turn. However, all this is only on condition that mr. Obama will do his peace work properly.

Peace... Beace... Shalom...

Inshallah, one day it will be my turn to go to pick up my Nobel.

Matisyahu - One Day

October 12, 2009

Another Nobel gone...

The Nobel oration, I promised to Nizo in the comments section, seems poised to suffer yet another delay...

As bad as they are, nukes have been instrumental in reversing the long, seemingly inexorable trend in modernity toward deadlier and deadlier conflicts. If the Nobel Committee ever wants to honor the force that has done the most over the past 60 years to end industrial-scale war, its members will award a Peace Prize to the bomb.

Source: Time

So first I was elbowed down to the end of the line by Kenyans and now I will have to wait because they will be busy showering peace Nobels on nukes and chemical bombs. It just can't get more ridiculous than this. I want my Nobel back and I want it now!


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Do you wanna revolution?

This post is an update to Far larger than its leaders

According to the New York Times, Iran's Parliament started an investigation into the nation's telecom monopoly's takeover by a company affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard. This one follows a similar inquiry into a $2 billion worth deal by means of which another company affiliated with the Baseej militia has acquired in August what is reported as the largest lead and zinc mine in the Middle East. And on top of this, reports the New York Times, there are talks about transforming the Baseej into a full time force.

In the wake of the Green Revolution, some analysts have been speculating about a possible takeover of the state by some sort of a joint military clerical rule led by the Revolutionary Guard. Ahmadinejad has reportedly promoted dozens of former Guard commanders to high administrative posts and let firms affiliated with the Guard to take over key economic installations under the cover of what was supposed to be a privatization campaign. The Guard's acquisition spree that followed the collapse of the Green Revolution generally confirms this suspicion and can make fans of revolutions in general, and green revolutions in particular, somewhat disheartened at the reduced prospect of regime change by means of a popular uprising. However, while this seems to be a very reasonable and pragmatic assessment of the situation, it's not that clear that what the regime is currently trying to do makes sense in practical terms.

For starters, to let the Guard into the economy means to expose it even more to corruption and ineffectiveness that are the defining characteristics of Iran's social and economic system. Making the Guard the biggest employer may also set it on a collision course with the population given the chronic state of massive unemployment and floor level wages of Iran's economy. Clearly, the Guard is at its best as a professional fighting force acting as an outsider during political turmoils such as the last one. Transforming Iran into a police state and making the Guard part of this corrupt and messy system is a double edge sword that can destroy both the last bits of the Guard's reputation and the motivation of its rank and file members.

The thing is that Iran is a different society than it was 20 years ago and no amount of repressions can change this. Highly televised forced confessions by dozens of members of the so called opposition (the opposition seems to be packed with people who under Khomeini were the revolution's flesh and blood) could make a lot of sense a few decades ago when the regime was capable of eliminating people by thousands, but this is no smart thing to do under the present system that can't do away with accusations of torture and mistreatment even within its own media. Extracting forced confessions from so many people is no good if you then leave them around to share their horror stories with the media. Iran's standing, even in the Shia world, seems to have already taken a blow from which it can't recover and the mismanaged crackdown on the opposition is bound to wreck it even further as time goes by. In fact, it looks as if the regime is struggling to internalize the fact that neither itself, nor the country it's running, are any longer what they used to be. By its basic instinct, the regime is leaning to harsh and uncompromising methods, but it's lacking teeth to implement them thoroughly enough.

The idea of transforming the Baseej into a regular force may also prove to be self defeating in the long run. One can argue that if the Shah would have had some equivalent of the Baseej, the monarchy would have been still around today. The Baseej effectiveness stems in part from its being a kind of volunteers driven militia. During the Green Revolution regular police forces were frequently reported as vacillating or plainly sympathizing with the protesters. The Baseej moved in and their "irregularity" was revealed as a big advantage both in terms of their zeal and motivation, and the unrestrained violence they used against the protesters. The fact that many Baseej were highly motivated volunteers from inside the ordinary population should have had an added benefit of them having at times better information than professional security services. And this they have put to good use when mopping up protesters and during overnight raids on their homes. To transform the Guard into a state within a state, or to structure the Baseej as a regular force may deprive them of the very same qualities that make them so valuable for the regime.

Actually, the very fact that the Parliament is running inquiries into the Guard's latest acquisitions indicates that while the system is busy attempting to devour its disillusioned creators, it's plainly struggling to get hold of itself. So not everything is yet lost for the opposition. As a wise (crazy) man said: If you will it, it is no legend. Translated to Persian it roughly reads as: If you wanna revolution, you may eventually get one.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Burning money, cooking troubles

This post is an update to Flashdance. If you have any comments, leave them there

This chart from the last Economist gives a very good perspective on the situation of energy subsidies in Iran.

Source: The Economist

As can be seen in the table, Iran is leading the way, and by a wide margin, when compared to other countries by the sheer volume of its energy subsidies. Iran is a big country of course. However, it's also obvious from the table that Iran is still at the top when the subsidies are recalculated per capita, only Saudi Arabia spends more. It spends $786 per person in energy subsidies every year. The subsidies not only account for the lion's share of the budget, but they are also responsible for the out of control domestic petroleum consumption that, according to some, may undermine the nation's position as a leading oil exporter at some point during the next decade.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Lessons of the Holocaust

The Jerusalem Post

Sep 30, 2009

. . .

Perhaps Goldstone truly believes that since effective military action inevitably involves civilian casualties, it should be outlawed: that since multiple attempts to stop Palestinian rocket fire without war - two truces, pinpoint attacks, international pressure and blockade - failed, Israel should just have let Hamas continue firing thousands of rockets a year at its citizens. Yet few people would accept that solution were their own countrymen under fire.

Speaking in Jerusalem nine years ago, Goldstone attributed his views on war and war crimes to the Holocaust. But he clearly failed to learn the obvious lesson: What ended the Holocaust was overwhelming force. Had the Allies adopted his impossible standards, World War II would never have ended, and Hitler would have continued slaughtering Jews with impunity.

BUT GOLDSTONE also ignores one final lesson from Hitchcock: Despite far higher casualties, Europe's liberation aroused less antagonism among civilian victims than Afghanistan's has, in part because "the Normandy invasion lasted just one summer, and the people whose homes were destroyed knew that it was all over and they could start rebuilding," Bernstein quotes him saying. Afghanis have no such comfort.

. . .

Source: Goldstone's recipe for never-ending conflict

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