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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Israel and the Palestinians - over the cliff?

This morning, following the murder of an abducted 18 year old Israeli settler, Eliyahu Asheri, the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation appeared to be spinning way out of control. Israel arrested about 64 Hamas legislators in the West Bank. The arrested officials include Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nasser al-Shaer, Finance Minister Omar Abdel Razek, Minister
Samir Abu Aysha, Khaled Abu Arfeh and Jerusalem Affairs Ministers Naef Rajoub, brother of senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub, Hamas government Labor Minister Muhammad Barghouti, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Khaled Abu Arfa and many other top officials, as well as senior Hamas members Mahmoud Abu Tir and Mahmoud Atuan.

[more]

by Moderator @ 12:44 PM CST [Link]


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Showdown in Gaza: Reality versus politics

Events of the past week underline the total disconnect between reality and diplomatic maneuverings in the Middle East. The highlight of the past week for peace hopes was probably Ohlmert hugging Abbas in Amman, and a flurry of reports of approaching negotiations. This was followed by a PNA announcement of a cease fire. Then we ran out of good things to report, because all the peace talk, as usual had nothing to do with what is happening in reality.

At about the time that the PNA announced agreement with Hamas on a cease fire, Hamas, Popular Front and "Army of Islam" activists attacked an army base inside Israel, killing two soldiers and kidnapping a third. That was the cease fire. It was followed by a rain of Qassam rockets on Sderot. That was not unusual in itself, as there has been a continuous rain of such rockets on Sderot. It is part of the "peace process" it seems.

Mahmud Abbas went about frantically, and reportedly trying to preserve the "truce" as explained by the WAFA news agency:


He asserted that the execution of the Israeli threats would have negative repercussions and would destroy the efforts to preserve the truce or to secure the life of the kidnapped Israeli soldier.

[more]

by Moderator @ 01:37 AM CST [Link]


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Presbyterian anti-terror resolution: A lifeline for the Middle East

A little heralded resolution of the 217th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA may have extended a lifeline to the Middle East on a critical issue.

Sooner or later, everyone will understand that the Middle East is doomed unless we can lick terror. There will be no bright future, no democracy, no freedom, nothing worthwhile, if different groups of bandits are allowed to hold the world hostage to their whims. The entire Middle East will increasingly resemble Beirut during the civil war. The rest of the world is involved too, but the Middle East is the prime target and the major arena of terrorist action.

[more]

by Moderator @ 12:19 PM CST [Link]


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Iraq Embassy Memo portends Busherdammerung

Those who lend uncritical support to the Bush administration's conduct of the war in Iraq may be doing as much damage as critics of the war. An anonymous memo sent from an office in the US embassy in Iraq apparently, reveals details of the unraveling of Iraqi society and of confidence in the US. The memo, outed by the Washington Post tells us that in Iraq the coalition forces are making steady progress, but they are marching straight off a cliff. You don't read glowing progress reports about Iraq because there is no progress to report, and the person who is supposed to type up the reports probably got blown up yesterday anyhow.

The memo documents increased Islamist religious harassment, sectarianism, deteriorating economic conditions, threats to the safety of staff and lack of confidence in the war effort among employees. Iraq is divided into "sectors." These are not gobernment or military sectors, but fiefdoms of control by different groups and sects. As in a bad movie about world chaos after a disaster, people moving through the different sectors camouflage themselves according to the local customs - becoming Shi'a in Shi'a areas, Sunni in Sunni sectors and so on.

Staff are asking what provisions are made for them when the US evacuates. One can almost hear the chopper blades on the roof of the embassy in Saigon. "Don't worry, dear employees, just hold on tight to the landing skids of the helicopters." Oh, sorry, helicopters are only for US citizens. Who will take in all the Iraqi boat people? Or will they be camel people?

Conditions such as those described below are probably not a secret to anyone. If the US were really serious about winning the war, they would have provoked a stormy reassessment. However, nobody in the United States government is concerned it seems. They can't say they don't know. Apparently they don't care. [more]

by Moderator @ 10:00 AM CST [Link]


Monday, June 19, 2006

Occidentalism, Zarqawi and Iraq - A new ideology for a new era?

Though the US has blundered in Iraq, it is hard to understand how any decent person can glorify the "resistance" - terrorists who cut off heads, blow up worshippers in mosques and are preventing any return to normalcy in Iraq. Kidnappings, robbery and banditry are all carried out in the name of "resistance." Only a fool or a knave could find any reason to support such scum. [more]

by Moderator @ 01:34 PM CST [Link]


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Realignment is bent out of shape

Ehud Olmert's plan to evacuate part of the West Bank unilaterally keeps changing. It has been called by various names - Consolidation, Convergence and Realignment are the official ones. Floundering Around and Israbluff might be more appropriate. The plan was sold to Israelis as "Israel will set its permanent borders within 2 years" and Olmert promised that Israel would then be "Fun to live in." I noted my skepticism about that promise at the time. [more]

by Moderator @ 11:21 PM CST [Link]


End of the PNA-PLO?

The PLO and PNA are coming apart at the seams. Almost daily internecine fighting in Gaza and the West Bank continue to spread disorder in the areas controlled by the Palestinian authority. Daily Star protests in its editorial that Fatah and Hamas have no right to endanger their people's struggle, but that is mostly what they have been doing for the past several years. Christian Berger asks Do we actually need the Palestinian Authority? He says it would be a shame to lose the achievements of the Palestinian Authority. Maybe there are achievements, and maybe not, but sometimes it is time to move on, and nothing is lost by changing a framework that outgrew its usefulness.
[more]

by Moderator @ 07:56 PM CST [Link]


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Epitaph for Zarqawi

Juan Cole produced a suberbly fitting epitaph for Zarqawi:


DPA says there are mixed reactions to the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Al-Anbar province. Some hope security will now improve. Some think that the US exaggerates Zarqawi's importance. This was the chilling one:


' Thirty-year-old professor Ahmad Yassin said 'the martyrdom of the jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi represents a grave loss for both the Arab and Islamic Worlds. We lost a great man who died defending the Islamic civilization from Zionist imperialism. I don't think this man can be replaced.' '

[more]

by Moderator @ 03:40 AM CST [Link]


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Tragedy in Gaza

Yesterday, members of the Ralia family enjoying themselves on a Gaza beach were killed by an explosion. Palestinians -- and most of the world-- blame Israel for the explosion, but Israeli authorities were unable to pinpoint the source of the fire. Israelis claim Palestinians are not providing accurate information that would allow verification of the source. Israelis claim the IDF was not firing in the area at the time, though the explosion might have been caused by a stray artillery shell. [more]

by Moderator @ 03:24 PM CST [Link]


Thursday, June 8, 2006

Zarqawi killed: A good day for Iraq

If we can believe the news, it is for once a very good day for Iraq. The head of the al-Qaeda organization, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in an air attack on his safe house, based on intelligence supplied by the Iraqi army. Iraqi PM Nouri Al Maliki also got parliament to -- at long last -- approve a defense minister, a minister of national security and a minster of the interior. Jawad Bulani is the new interior minister, Abdul Qadir Obeidi the defence minister and Shirwan Waili has been approved as minister of national security.

If the government can continue to supply successes and hope, it may succeed against the odds in winning the support of the people and uniting Iraq. However, we should not exaggerate the importance of this dramatic and symbolic victory. Zarqawi was one of those people whose main virtue is that they are mortal, and he has exercised that potentiality. However, experience indicates that will not be the end of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and certainly not the end of terror activity.
[more]

by Moderator @ 03:17 PM CST [Link]


Prisoners' document dilemmas

There is no doubt that Mahmoud Abbas's proposal for adopting the Prisoners' document was a master stroke, though the power behind the throne may be Marwan Barghouti, who engineered the document. He used his National and Islamic coalition to push it through. He used the document to make the National and Islamic front, dormant since the fizzle out of the "al-Aqsa Intifada," relevant again.

The document creates more than one dilemma however, in part because it is a masterpiece of ambiguity, in part because Fatah and PLO supremacy are woven into the document in such a way that it is hard for the Hamas to object, in part because it was a product of processes in Palestinian society, and in part because that was the purpose of the document. The Prisoners' document was not meant to solve everyone's problems and make peace, but to sow confusion among the enemies of Barghouti, including Israel and the Hamas, as well as hitching Mahmoud Abbas's fortunes irrevocably to the National and Islamic front.

The first dilemma is for the Hamas government. As noted previously, about 80% of Palestinians support the Prisoners' document. This is not surprising because prisoners are immensely popular in Palestinian society, and the leaders who signed the document have immense personal prestige. Hamas cannot oppose this initiative. On the other hand, the document poses two problems for the Hamas. The document does not exactly recognize Israel, but it might do so implicitly. Much worse for Hamas is the proposal that the PLO and President Abbas would be in charge of the negotiations. [more]

by Moderator @ 10:58 AM CST [Link]


Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Hamas: Twisting in the Wind

On the evening of 6th June 2006 during the BBC Newsnight programme, a representative of Hamas (Aziz Dueik) was asked directly whether Hamas recognised Israel's right to exist. His response was very interesting as an insight into the perspectives of Hamas and the dilemma it finds itself in. He provided two responses. The first that the PLO had already recognised Israel, the inference being that any further statement of recognition was unnecessary. The second was that Israel as the occupier / oppressor should be the first party to state that it recognised the right of the Palestinians to a nation state and the final boundaries of that state. It was in this second part, that he elucidated more upon his and Hamas' paradigm.
[more]

by Moderator @ 04:02 PM CST [Link]


Saturday, June 3, 2006

Maskiot Settlement tells us about realities of Israeli Policy

On the face of it, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert talked a good line about peace and fighting terror in his election campaign and in his trip to the United States. Olmert's government supposedly represents peace loving and pragmatic Israel. He is willing to give up a large part of the West Bank in order to obtain security in his unilateral convergence (or realignment) plan. He is also willing to talk peace with Palestinian partners, if any such can be found, says Olmert.

Actions, however, speak louder than words. The new settlement of Maskiot tells us that that Olmert's governments may not be the government a lot of Israelis thought they had voted for, and Olmert's policies may not be precisely what he sold to the Americans. Maskiot is probably the first new settlement to be created outside Jerusalem, with full government approval, since the Oslo peace process began. Its establishment violates two undertakings to the United states: Not to establish new settlements and not to settle settle evacuees from Gaza in them. True, the settlement existed as an army base, and Israel may claim it is only "firming up" an existing settlement. However, that is clearly not the case. [more]

by Moderator @ 04:33 PM CST [Link]


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