Egypt - Oil Prices Demand A Coup
Looking at the live pictures from Tahrir Square it seems that there are more people there than yesterday.
The army has build concrete block barricades into many access roads to the square. They may be intended to stop or at least hinder the big demonstration the opposition has announced for tomorrow. A pro-regime demonstration has also been announced though it is not clear yet if the plan is to have both demonstration meet and fight it out.
Mubarak promoted some additional hardliners to cabinet positions. He clearly does not want to give up.
The international community, aka the U.S. and EU, now have a new incentive to push Mubarak out. Brent oil just broke the 100$/barrel mark. Oil prices over $100 usually pushes the U.S. economy into a recession. Obama certainly does not want or need another one.
Insecurity about Egypt and the Suez Channel demands that the world pays a high risk premium - or change the situation.
From Wikileaks cables we know that the U.S. "Leahy vetted" what seems to be every officer in the Egyptian Army. We can thereby be sure that the Pentagon has quite intimate knowledge about and good connections with, not only to the very top officers of Mubarak's army, but also to the Colonel and One-Star General level.
Some phone calls made, some money transfer arranged and a coup scenario suddenly becomes a real possibility. Brent at $100 makes it a necessity.
John Barry's Historical Revisionism
Writing in Newsweek John Barry uses historical revisionism to let Hillary Clinton look good:
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself put it last month, in a speech in Doha that now seems uncannily prescient, Arab leaders would face growing unrest, extremism, and even rebellion unless they reformed “corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order.” It was the starkest warning ever delivered by a senior American official, and a message brought home a few days later when Tunisia erupted in revolt.
Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, facing the worst unrest of his rule, said on Thursday he would not run again when his term ends in 2014, prompting scenes of celebration in the streets of the capital.
Ben Ali, only the second head of state Tunisia has ever had and in office for over 23 years, set his departure date in an emotional televised speech made after weeks of deadly clashes between protesters and police.
The speech Clinton held did not show "uncannily prescient" remarkable foresight, as Barry wants to make his readers believe, but was a quite late reaction nearly a month after Tunisia started to erupted in revolt.
Such overt bootlicking may buy the author more access to Clinton and other officials, but it is a disservice to his readers.
Jan 31 - Coverage Of Protests In Egypt
Overnight some protester stayed in the Tharir square in Cairo. Some sources say there were 10,000 people, other say 200.
The government is putting up concrete barrier on several roads in Cairo.
The opposition has called for a big demonstration tomorrow. That might be too early for the big push that is needed. People need rest and have time to discuss the developments. But keeping up the momentum is certainly also important.
The counter-revolution strategy of creating chaos and uncertainty, by pulling the police off the street and letting thugs and goons free to loot, was somewhat effective. Police is slowly coming back to the streets and is reported to be greated friendly.
There is a middle class in Egypt that has things to loose and will prefer stability over political freedom. The 1.2 million security personal are also likely to prefer a continuation of the regime. But the upper class is reportedly busy transferring its money out of the country. That may be a sign that the regime is crumbling.
I do not expect any big development today and will not do a running live coverage today. But revolutions are inherently unpredictable. If something comes up, I'll update accordingly.
What are your estimates and expectations on how the situation in Egypt will develop?
Jan 30 - Live Coverage Of Protests In Egypt
Some scenes and thoughts from watching AlJazeera live and other sources. Newest entry on top.
End of day comment:
Revolutions take weeks, not days. We will likely see a violent crackdown in the next days, possibly tomorrow.
The U.S. closed its embassy. The U.S. and other countries are is still evacuating their nationals. They expect more strife.
They likely know that a major violent crackdown is coming. With the interior security forces coming back tonight/tomorrow, that is a real possibility. There were less people in the street today than yesterday. There will be less tomorrow, giving a chance for a crackdown. That would not be the end but a significant setback. Maybe that an expected rumored crackdown is also the reason why ElBaradei came out tonight - too early, unprepared and rushed.
ElBaradei seems to have been more on U.S. TV today than on Arabic TV. His strategy is to have the U.S abandon Mubarak. He is thinking too U.S. centric. U.S. endorsement will not come and even if it would, it would not be enough. (Thanks to r'giap a fitting translation of Hillary Clinton speaking: What They really Mean)
The people have to take Mubarak down. If ElBaradei really wants to part of that -he currently isn't- he has to be with the people. Not just in a five minute unheard speech in Tahrir, but leading a big march. Endorsement from the Jewish financed Brookings' Indyk and the Brookings expert from Doha who is on Al Jazeera English all day has likely zero to negative meaning on the street.
The opposition should call for big demonstration after next Friday's prayer and repeat such demonstrations every week until the regime falls.
Revolutions take weeks, not days.
---live blogging from today below in time reverse order---
One correspondent on phone says five trucks of interior security forces seen in one suburb neighborhood.
Reuters has some bits from ElBaradei:
"I bow to the people of Egypt in respect. I ask of you patience, change is coming in the next few days," he said.
"You have taken back your rights and what we have begun cannot go back," he said as crowds chanted "Down with Mubarak."
"We have one main demand -- the end of the regime and the beginning of a new stage, a new Egypt."
[Question: Isn't an Indyk endorsement a kiss of death?]
Sultan Al Qassemi (journo from The National) tweets:
BBC Arabic: Martin Indyk former US Ambassador to Israel & Brookings VP says that it seems the US government is leaning to @ElBaradei
[Question: Is ElBaradei a U.S. supported selection?]
18:00 GMT - 20:00 Cairo
AJ live feed from Tahrir - loud shouting - then loud whistling - loud shouting of some slogan again - something is happening there (video shows only the center of the place while most of the people are, like yesterday, in the south east corner of the extended square)
[AJ is over-analyzing the short ElBaradei speech - saying he is now a leader - he is not - he has yet to reach the people]
Some more short video of ElBaradei speaking - he was pressed with (foreign) media folks - hardly a protester who could have heard him
[few people could have heard ElBaradei - he needs to do something much bigger - call for a central big demonstration in daytime - arrange for a stage etc - make it a confrontation point - something more people can hear - more media can cover]
AJ has a short video (not live) of ElBaradei using a megaphone and speaking in Tahrir
Reuters cites security sources in Egypt: Police will be back on the streets tomorrow
[Judging just from the pictures Al Arabia TV coverage is somewhat similar to AlJazeera's. Has some of the same pictures. Shows more looting though. This revolution is then widely seen all over all Arab countries. We can expect more regimes to fall after this.]
AJ has (not live) video of Baradei in Tahrir now - looks tightliped - waiting for people to organise something so he can speak and be heared - lots of people around - Egyptian flags
17:00 GMT - 19:00 Cairo
Live video shows night prayer in Tahrir
[Isn't the army the government - all three on top are military folks - how does on split the army from these?]
Cairo by phone - ElBaradei will make appeal for support to army
Baradei arrived at Tahrir Square
[via a tweet: BBC Arabic says 150,000+]
Cairo/Tahrir by phone - says crowd in Tahrir is increasing
[Not to forget: There are reports by BBC and others of big protests in many other major cities in Egypt. It's not only Tahrir and Cairo though that is the symbolic center.]
[Baradei - not sure how/if people will accept this. Anyway - I believe he would do a credible job (if he survives this) and seems to have no personal intend to become a dictator or longterm power figure.]
Suez by phone - Baradei on way to Tahrir square - has mandate from soem opposition groups including Muslim Brotherhood for national salvation government
16:00 GMT - 18:00 Cairo (two hours into official curfew)
AJ has a video report of a former Egyptian prisoner, a member of "Army of Islam", who says he yesterday fled the prison together with over 1200 other prisoners - used a tunnel to come to Gaza
Live Tahrir square - dusk prayer - about a fifth of the people take part
A column of M1 tanks now said to be near Tahrir square, water cannons moved near
ElBaradei on CNN, explains why Muslim Brotherhood is not what U.S. people think and why it has to be included - Mubarak must step down today - will serve the people if asked - will try to make agreement with military
Egypt state TV shows Nile bridges - low traffic, few people on them
[We had so far not seen any M1 tanks, only older M60 - new more elite units on their way?]
Latest video (not live) shows a column of at least six M1 tanks (modern, US design, license build in Egypt) - fighter jets passing (not VERY low, just low - 500 meters) - a helicopter (Russion MI-17(?))
Cairo/Tahrir by phone - two military vehicle pulled back - crowd cheered
15:00 GMT - 17:00 Cairo
Alexandria by phone - tens of thousands in the city center - chanting want President hung - 70 dead in Alexandria - heard some gunfire in the last minutes - not sure what that was - saw wide shop looting this morning - neighborhood patrols try to hunt looters down looters
Guardian (tanks to Lex in comments):
Sensational political developments in Cairo, with reports that five opposition movements, including the key Muslim Brotherhood, have mandated Mohammed ElBaradei to negotiate over the formation of a temporary "national salvation government."
[fighter jet overflights might have been protection for President helo flight?]
[alltogether crowd in the street and square seems quite less than yesterday]
Cairo/Tahrir Square by phone - last helicopter flying low over Tahrir was from President's fleet with presidential seal marking (video now shows helo low passing over square (50-100 meters) - not military)
Crowd in Tahrir has not grown in the last half hour
State TV - curfew in all Egypt in place
Latest video (not live) shows protesters passing a few soldiers at a road block who try to hold them up by head - civilians regulating traffic - three M60 tanks moving pretty fast along a road
Sultan Al Qassemi of The National tweets
BREAKING: Hilary Clinton on CNN "Mubarak has not met the demands of the Egyptian people & we want a peaceful transfer of power"
No more jet overflights in the last five minutes
U.S. changing tact? Via Reuters: "Clinton says U.S. wants an "orderly transition" in Egypt so there is not a void in governance: Fox interview" and "Hillary Clinton says U.S. wants to see 'free and fair elections' in Egypt as Washington has urged for decades: NBC interview"
Helo in video feed flying low and slow over Tahrir
Cairo by phone - (fighter jet noise - a siren in the background) - while walking from hotel stopped by security forces not army - police back? - saw more military too
Egypt state TV shows the army chief visiting troops on the ground motivating soldiers - in the background were civilians pointing to the sky
AJ has another new live cam view - skyline type - seems to be from the Hilton towards South over the National Museum and towards Tahrir Square - no fighter planes visible in direct overfly but I saw a helicopter passing by on it some minutes ago
14:00 GMT - 16:00 Cairo
Reports of additional military trucks on the way to Tahrir Square
Live feed from crowd in Tahrir has shouting increasing after jet overflights
[Trying to intimidate? Too late now.]
Fighter jets flying low over Tahrir Square multiple times
Intelligence Minister and Defense Minister just entered state TV building - will probably make an announcement
["a committee of concerned citizens" for a MB gang rushing a jail ... hmmm - pretty editorial]
AJ talks to some Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson issam Illarian - who had been in jail and was freed by protesters - interviewer: "We understand you have been released by a committee of concerned citizens, ..." - MB wandts end of emergency state (in place for years) and dissolution of parliament
Egypt state TV announcers and guests call for not watching AJ
Activist in Alexandria by phone - army everywhere - some normal thieves looting, some looters are secret police
Activist in Cairo/Tahrir by phone - spoke to army officer - said had orders to shoot on protesters yesterday but did not do it - (helicopter noise) - believes that soldiers will not fire
Some people in Tahrir Square praying - a fifth of the crowd maybe - crowd now growing quite fast
Alexandria - large funerals held - tuned into large protests - various looting in shops etc - have their own security now - provincial building burned down - army tries to enforce law and order - checkpoints - ID-checks - curfew announced for 3pm (i.e. 15 minutes ago)
Cairo via phone - people discussing a lot - peaceful, but no longer celebratory with soldiers - rumors about old Minister of Interior arrested - unconfirmed - no new cabinet named yet
AJ stopped to announce the names of the correspondents it talks to in Egypt
AJ again with live pictures of Tahrir Square - crowd seems to further grow
13:00 GMT - 15:00 Cairo
Sultan Al Qassemi of The National tweets (newest on top):
ANOTHER EXCLUSIVE: Very reliable source from Egypt: Habib Al Adly authorized snipers yesterday to shoot at protesters. (NOT in the news yet)
EXCLUSIVE: Very reliable source from Egypt: Habib Al Adly was arrested for opening the doors to all jail cells yesterday so chaos ensues.
BREAKING Al Hurra: Egyptian Army issues statement that is has arrested Interior Minister Habib Al Adly & NDP thug Ahmad Ezz (AMAZING!)
Video on AJ is live feed of Tahrir square - thousands milling around, no cars, no military
Suez by phone - demonstrations in main street increasing - army not interfering - strike in factories in Suez - someone is making propaganda against AJ - saw a banner that said "don't talk to AJ, they are lying"
AJ says senior retired judge came out in support of people
Issandr El Amrani blogs from Cairo: Manipulation
There is a discourse of army vs. police that is emerging. I don't fully buy it — the police was pulled out to create this situation of chaos, and it's very probable that agent provocateurs are operating among the looters, although of course there is also real criminal gangs and neighborhoods toughs operating too.
For me, Omar Suleiman being appointed VP means that he's in charge. This means the old regime is trying to salvage the situation. Chafiq's appointment as PM also confirms a military in charge. These people are part of the way Egypt was run for decades and are responsible for the current situation. I suspect more and more people, especially among the activists, are realizing this.
The situation is obviously very confusing at the moment. All I can say is that I have a hard time believing that Mubarak is still in charge, and that the hard core of the regime is using extreme means to salvage its position.
Cairo - Tahrir Square via phone - (video show more people there - several thousands) - reporter says people in lines praying - military helicopters overhead - state TV shows Mubarak meeting military commanders (Mubarak and Suleiman stonefaced) - protesters seem determined
Cairo via phone - helicopters in the air - intelligence security came to AJ bureau and told them to shut down - "stop filming or we take camera"
Report - Ministery of Interior has been evacuated after gunfights
[but Egypt is a military dictatorship]
AJ has some Arabic Brookings fellow - someone will have to back down - possibly cracks in the military
12:00 GMT - 14:00 Cairo
via Twitter - civil cloth security forces shut down AJ bureau in Cairo
via Twitter - AJ crew leaving Suez - too dangerous - direct threats - thugs?
Cairo - Tahrir Square by phone - several thousands protester there - a fire truck trying to drive into the Square - was blocked by protesters as the protesters assumed it would be used as water cannon to push them out - military near by then fired into the air to disperse protesters from fire truck - then ordered the fire truck out - when military fired into air, people did not flee but ran towards the firing
Suez by phone - military officers says will not fire on people - people securing their streets - Egypt state TV shows five arrested looters
Nothing about AJ closure in Cairo on AJ English TV so far
Video of some civil protection groups from last night - have pistols(!) and sticks, Molotow cocktails, want Mubarak gone
NYT has a map with crucial locations in Cairo - includes Oct 6 bridge, Tahrir Square etc.
AJ still has live pictures from AJ Cairo office looking over Oct 6 bridge
11:00 GMT - 13:00 Cairo
Ayman Mohyeldin - AJ correspondent in Cairo on twitter:
Al Jazeera Arabic and Al Jazeera English have just been taken off air in #Egypt (via phone)
Antiquities boss Zahi Hawass on phone - "criminals" broke into national museum - nothing stolen - now army is protecting the museum
AJ - death toll last 48 hours at least 150
Cairo activist on phone - army has closed all traffic to Tahrir Square but lets people through
U.S. and Turkey have send planes to ferry back their tourists currently in Egypt - seems they expect this to go on
Alexandria live view - looks calm, relative light traffic - but reporter says protests in some areas - no buisiness as usual - shops staying close despite this being a business day - people are stocking up - gas stations with long lines
Expert on AJ - Thinking of the army is that its task is protecting the nation, not the system - big difference
[question is who would enforce AJ closing - if AJ is smart they will ask the people for protection]
Evan Hill from Cairo via twitter:
State TV announces Al Jazeera's broadcasting license and press cards are being revoked. Our bureau is packing up. #jan25
AJ studio expert/analyst Hesham ? - believes police retreat is government tactics to target peoples security - it is still to be seen if the army is helping the people or just the system
Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas by phone from Cairo - plans for more protests at Tahrir Square today - some looting incidence are created - some arrested looters had secret security IDs
Alexandria by phone - protests in three neighborhoods now - against Mubarak and Suleiman - military searching some cars, checking identities - found weapons within some cars - tap water is not running in some neighborhoods - military not stopping protesters, only looting - ambulances have been used by looters as disguise to enter neighborhoods - military now checking ambulances
Cairo - a tank with "no Mubarak" sprayed on it - no police on the street at all
Cairo - Oct.6-bridge view - relative light car traffic - some groups of protesters have put up slogans - all major roads have military on it - one roadblock on Oct.6 bridge shows soldiers with helmets and visor and assault rifles ready on hand - less relaxed than yesterday
10:00 GMT - 12:00 Cairo
NYT's take of Suleiman: Choice Likely to Please the Military, Not the Crowds - I would add "And Please Washington", The piece says this a complete military takeover. But Egypt already was a military dictatorship, so that is really no change at all of the system.
[a bit exaggerated in my view - things are still in a balance and the people have not won yet]
AJ studio expert/analyst - calls this a revolution - people will have to decide now - "Mind quake" of the people happened - capability of the people have been build - dictatorship has shown weakness - expects change
Cairo - heavy military presense around state TV and Information Ministery - military setting up more roadblocks in Cairo - U.S. and British embassies cordoned off by military - banks, stock exchange expected to stay closed today
Israel - reporter by video - no reaction from Israel to Egypt military being in the Sinai
Suez - reporter by phone - no protests yet today - security a big problem - reporters were mobed - military in the street but mostly protecting installation - military says it does not have the numbers to control all crime - according to eyewitnesses, looters seem to be known security forces goons - people formed watch groups for their neighborhoods
AJ says - likely more demonstrations today - army increased presense - looting problems
9:00 GMT - 11:00 Cairo
AJ Cairo - sources in Sharm El Sheik, a tourist town in Sinai, say military in the street. Under Camp David accords there is no military allowed in Sinai. There have been rumors that Mubarak is in Sharm El Sheik.
Reports of some prisons stormed by the people and of freed prisoners
8:00 GMT - 10:00 Cairo
Jan 29 - Live Coverage Of Protests In Egypt
Some scenes and thoughts from watching AlJazeera live and other sources. Newest entry on top.
End of day comment:
Mubarak, after taking advice from Washington, has today installed three high militaries - Suleiman as VP, Anan as second VP, Shafik as Premier Minister - as his follow on triumvirate. All three are well known and loved in Washington and Tel Aviv. Mubarak sent his children and their families to London. It seems Washington told him to get ready to step down if needed and, if he has to step down, to hand his military dictatorship over to Washington's selected officers. Washington may then later find or not find a better solution.
Meantime Mubarak is trying to create chaos and fear by first pulling all police, even traffic police, from the streets for over 24 hours and then sending some of them back in civil cloth to loot and do other bad things. Some people who called AJ to report about looting seem to have been stooges supporting that strategy.
After the big win against the regime on Friday and the peaceful big demonstrations today the people are unlikely to accept these machination. The protests will continue.
The military has decided not to act against the people. That could change later, though I find it unlikely after seeing the ways the people and soldiers colaborated today.
ElBaradei is now nicely positioning himself as an interim leader within some temporary national unity government. That would be a good solution in my view.
---live blogging from today below in time reverse order---
Alexandria - some neighborhoods report no tap water
AJ just repeated the swearing in ceremony of Suleiman. After reading his oath, Suleiman gave a military(!) salute to Mubarak (both were in civil outfit).
AJ reports - Officials say NOTHING has been stolen from the "looted" museum [another hint towards a government "looting" strategy] - things have just been put on the ground and two mummies are damaged
19:00 GMT - 21:00 Cairo
Alexandria by phone - reporter has eyewitness reports of looters killed by civilians - some reported no tap water - residents chasing looters in the streets
AJ reporter - state TV claims some Muslim Bortherhood have been jailed for looting - reporter doesn't trust the report of MB looting -- thinks it is government nati-MB campaign.
Steve Clemons of The Washington Note on Suleiman: Omar Suleiman: Egypt's Own George Mitchell
Egypt was selected by the Arab League to lead these talks -- and Suleiman became the Egyptian "George Mitchell" for these unity efforts. Fatah and Hamas came close several times to a deal -- but ultimately, the United States privately conveyed to Mubarak and to Suleiman that it didn't want to see the process succeed.
Suleiman, intel chief and now Egypt's VP, was America's proxy.
Cairo - Two vans with blue flashlights in Tahrir square - protestors let them pass - can not see if police or ambulances, but assume ambulances
Alexandria - by phone - protests ongoing - complete breakdown of law and order - young man with clubs and chains looting - people create civil patrols in their area to prevent looting - there was a protest march against him after announcement of Suleiman as VP
18:00 GMT - 20:00 Cairo
Alexandria - by phone - protesting people shouting against Suleiman - police has released thugs that are looting
Cairo - AJ reporter - no police, security forces has been seen on the streets for 24 hours - reporter says that Interior Ministray has 1.2 million on its force - they just "melted away" - or are looting ...
Baradei in Arabic on AJ - calls for system change - moving faces within the system not enough - wants new national government - Mubarak hasn't got the message - countries (U.S.) should recalculate - Baradei calls on the youth to protect Egypt and property and for the army to protect the people
Cairo AJ reporter says has been getting several reports from eyewitnesses - looters where caught and had government issued security service identification - other looters also described as security service people on motorcycle - reporter says same happened in Tunisia - sees regime intend to create chaos
Cairo live camera - people in Tahrir Square shouting slogans - still several thousand at least
The Angry Arab: The US is cooking in Egypt
Aljazeera is reporting that Egyptian Army's chief-of-staff, `Anan, who was in Washington, DC until yesterday, will be sworn in as the second vice-president of Egypt. The man (Mubarak) who always insisted that there is no need for a vice-president, now has two. The US is clearly trying to abort the change agenda of the Egyptian people but I doubt that the mass genie which is out of the bottle--how is that for a cliche?--will put up with that plot.
Mubarak's children reported to be in London now [rats ... ship]
Cairo - View form AJ studio - pretty empty - a few cars, few people - Tahrir Square seems to get emptier
AJ: Military is reinforcingin all areas to increase security everywhere
17:00 GMT - 19:00 Cairo
Suez - phone report - army starts to enforce curfew - without violence so far - throughout the day army did not intervene in looting says the reporter
Cairo live TV - about a quarter of the people in Tahrir Square bowing in neat rows for evening prayer
Baradei interview - people need real change - Mubarak has to go - wants a substantive transition from authoritarian to a democratic system
[I get the feeling that this "we turn the program over now to our looting reporting phase" is somehow scripted]
Another caller to AlJazeera - whining loud about looting - waiting for police - no military there - but doesn't describe any looting he has witnessed himself - "they are coming from the poor areas" - says where he is there are civilians in the street guarding the shops and streets [so why does he whine?]
AJ now shows pictues from inside a museum that was a bit looted yesterday - later civilians protected the museum with a human chain - military in museum now - looks like some, but small damage
Another caller on AlJazeerah - whining about looting - but has not seen any himself it seems [has U.S. slang in his English - likely a stooke in my view]
[Seems clear to me now that Suleiman is the U.S. selected person. Just replacing the dictator ...]
The king said protesters had been "exploited to spew out their hatred in destruction . . . inciting a malicious sedition,'' according to the statement, posted on the English website of the Saudi Press Agency.
[Looting could be government goons, setting the scene they need to denounce demonstraters. Could also be just normal criminals.]
AJ just had a call from another part of Cairo with reports of looting.
[That sounds like the U.S. accepts (selected) these folks but for PR reasons must push for some 'action' now]
Tweed from State spokesman Crowley
The #Egyptian government can't reshuffle the deck and then stand pat. President #Mubarak's words pledging reform must be followed by action.
[Still a military dictatorship with all top figures high rank military folks - bad move by Mubarak - he should have tried some civilians - but maybe Washington told him to stick with folks they know well]
Ahmed Shafik named new Prime Minister:
a fighter pilot who served as the commander of Egyptian Air Force from 1996–2002, and was nominated in 2002 to become the Egyptian Minister for Civil Aviation
[Suleiman/Soliman could be the selection of the higher military command - he is one of them]
Several analysts asked by AJ think the naming of Suleiman/Soliman VP will not be enough to stop the protests
16:00 GMT - 18:00 Cairo
Cairo - reporter - 8 prisoners have been killed in clashes with the police at a prison in Suz(?) - some vandalism, looting in a luxery shop street
Foreign Policy Review (now defunct) wrote (scroll down) about Suleiman in 2010:
A known quantity at the Pentagon, the CIA and State Department, Suleiman is also well respected in Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia—America’s most critical Middle Eastern allies. As the Obama administration struggles to restart Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and strengthen its anti-Iran coalition in the Middle East Suleiman’s diplomatic and intelligence background could prove to be a valuable asset.
Interview with NDP party speaker - "responding to the demand of people", "reform may not exchange faces", "Presdent can delegate to Vice Presdent" [or can not], "Mubarak is elected President" - calls people in the street "mob"
Cairo - Reporter says people in Tahrir Square already chant against Suleiman
Zainoba of Egyptian Chronicles wrote two years ago about Suleiman (also transliterated as Soliman):
I know that the West is seeing a candidate in Soliman because they consider Egypt as a Military police dictatorship and Soliman is a military contrary to GM and he is also an excellent diplomat with the foreign world ,still this is not enough.
Cairo live - now rows of people parying in the Tahrir Square
Alexandria - by phone - reporter says Suleiman was often seen but never heard - Egyptian can not judge his character - too loyal to Mubarak
Wiki: Omar Suleiman:
Suleiman has acquired a more public profile while trying to broker a deal between the different armed Palestinian groups vying for power in Gaza as the top presidential envoy from President Hosni Mubarak as well as brokering deals or truces between the Palestinians and Israel. His perceived role in negotiations between Palestinian groups gave him the image of an effective behind-the-scenes figure in the Egyptian government as well as identifying him as potentially useful to foreign governments such those of the Arab countries, Israel, the Palestinians and the United States.
[Could that be the U.S. plan - a CIA stooge with good connections to Israel made VP, Mubarak steps back, VP becomes President?]
Intelligence chief Suleiman just made Vice President [the first VP in 30 years]
[the current AJ main talker is an annoying too fast talking agressive woman that asks the wrong questions]
Interview with some Muslim Brotherhood bigwig (Fotouh) - hopes for peaceful ower transfer - calls on people to stay constrained - calls for Mubarak to setp down - wants national transition unity government - then new parliamentary election - points to U.S. and Saudi influence that keeps Mubarak going
Cairo - a M60 main battle tank loaded with protesters slowly crawling through the street
AJ reporter in Cairo says more people today in the streets than yesterday [my impression too]
[Yesterday AJ showed people praying in roes on the street - no such scene today. Does that mean that the Muslim Brotherhood, which did take part yesterday, is not on the street today?]
15:00 GMT - 17:00 Cairo
Cairo - an M113 armourd personal carrier driving through Tahrir Square with some 30 civilians standing on top of it
Cairo - AJ reporter talked with tank commander - has no heavy ammunition for the tank gun, only for personal AK47 assault rifle [very good news]
[Circular news: The AJ studio talker announced the three people dead "according to Reuters", Reuters writes on its website (live.reuters.com/Event/Unrest_in_Egypt) at 3:28pm "Al Jazeera reports 3 protesters dead after attempt to storm Egyptian interior ministry"]
Three people dead after attempt to storm Interior Ministry
[Carried body could be show]
AJ live with feed from Tahrir (Liberation) Square now - looks pretty packed - several 10,000 people - reporter said some were carrying a dead(?) body through the crowd - crowd demanding the murderer - another camera had a short view of the body, immediately cut away - now back - a huge procession following
Some senior politician resigned from ruling NDP party [rats ... ship]
14:00 GMT - 16:00 Cairo - start of official curfew
[I agree with Issandr that the military deployment is meager. Big tanks are not really useful for crowd control - they can be rushed by 'infantry' and can be blocked off. The number of M113 infantry carriers we see is not big either. Those aluminum cans on tracks (they burn well) hold 10 infantry soldiers each. With those dozens deployed we see that are only a few hundred men. Much less than the police numbers we saw yesterday and without chance with these big crowds.]
Issandr has a new piece up: The army and the people
Going around central Cairo today, it strikes me the deployment of the army is quite meager considering the circumstances. The crowds are very pro-army, I filmed an amazing moment when a charismatic one-star general addressed the public and spoke of the importance of maintaining public order. People kept shouting, are you with or against Mubarak? He answered that his mission is making sure the looting stops, and that the issue of who governs if the people's decision, not the army's, and that government should be civilian.
About a 1,000 people trying to storm Interior Ministry downtown Cairo - ministry seen as torture house
Heavy gunfire said to be heard at printing house of central bank [someone needs money?]
State TV reports a burned police station in a southern city
Cairo - live video - crowds, marching groups/columns seem to get bigger - tanks surrounded with people, very relaxed for now - some civilians directting traffic - a military column of M60 tanks moving with civilians directing traffic for them - reporter says civilians handing flowers to soldiers
AJ talking to some leftist professor of the American University in Cairo and head of some worker groups - she calls for a general strike.
[Mubarak has few options now. Ordering the military to enforce the curfew will either not happen, when the military will not follow orders, or will be VERY bloody as the crowds are huge and still growing. The second would probably also lead to even bigger protests.]
ElBaradei on phone with AJ - appeals to army to stay on the side of the people
Cairo live - ongoing marches - people a bit euphoric - one M60 surrounded by some 2,000 people (my estimate), soldiers on top - central bank says all banks should close - one protester, elder man, with a piece of cloth with "Israel head for death" written on it - state TV warns of violating the curfew (in 50 minutes) - to hold curfew will be impossible - roads are full with either cars or protesters
Alexandria live - ongoing peaceful protests - people act against vandalism - caught thieves get handed over to the military
13:00 GMT - 15:00 Cairo
AJ talking with some Egyptian analyst currently in Johannesburg - AJ presses for ElBaradei - analyst says not so sure, the soccer association is more popular and more involved - people did not like that he was absend during the last weeks - but analyst says Baradei could be an interim figure
Issandr El Amrani is back in Cairo and has a current report and his thoughts at The Arabist - seems to confirm what we see.
Human Rights Watch guy from Alexandia by phone - protests all around the city - several thousands - no uniformed police but some armed civil police in the street - hospitals overwhelmed with wounded - life ammunition shots - total dead in Alexandria at least 36 - protesters relatively firendly to soldiers, bring tea to them, but wonder what they will do when they get orders to shoot
[AlJazeera is totally pro-protesters and anti-Mubarak - not sure that is officially intended but it is just so.]
Cairo - video - soldiers sitting relaxed on tanks, drinking tea - protesters around shouting - one man climbs onto a tank, kisses soldier - waves flag jumping up and down - is asked by soldier to get back down - does so
Cairo - live video - two columns of protesters just met - some 10-20,000 (my estimate) shouting slogans, showing flags - no special type of people - socially mixed crowd, but not many women
Cairo - video - protesters passing between tanks that seem to have been meant as a road block - soldiers do nothing
[Wondering who will enforce the curfue. No police has been seen today but the soldiers may need relief at some time and it could be that the likely hated police will come out again.]
Cairo - live video - outside state TV offices - several hundred+ protesters - a thin line of security forces - green cloth, red helmets - holding hands cordoning off an area - in front of them a row of civilians also holding hands - looking towards the protesters - protecting the security forces - behind the red helmet line in the cordoned off area soldiers in sand color fatigue - relexed but with assault rifles
Alexandia via phone - ongoing protesters - civilians regulating traffic - local police officer in civil cloth recognized, attacked by protesters - pictures from Alexandia morgue - some 20 bodies - reporter says another place has at least 8 more - total dead count now over a hundred
12:00 GMT - 14:00 Cairo
Cairo AJ says 50,000 protesters in Tahrir Square - live video feed from AJ offices shows several thousand marching in direction of Tahrir Square - roads towards Tahrir said to be blocked by many military
4:00pm - 8:00am curfew annonced for today
Cairo - video - Oct6 bridge full of cars - groups of some 300 protesters walking along - no police - more protests expected for the afternoon
Alexandria via phone - people lining in front of ATMs withdrawing money - videos shows several burned police vans - people shaking hands with soldiers - groups of protesters
11:15 GMT - 13:15 Cairo
Press TV reports that Israeli embassy personal in Cairo has been evacuated by helicopter and flown to Tel Aviv
Cabinet has now officially resigned - no new cabinett annonced yet
Phone interview with Iranian analyst Marandi - sees this as major loss for the U.S. - compares with Iranian revolution - "the region is changing" - U.S. ties to Israel are the problem
Video pictures from inside a morque in Cairo, five bloody corps - 30 dead there is said - angry people in front of the morgue
[interviewer is pushing NDP guy pretty hard]
Phone interview with NDP (ruling party) functionary (Boutros) - "Mubarak showed response to the people" - defends government and "elected president" - warns of chaos - "we admit mistakes" - (video now shows some broken shop windows - mobile phone shop, bank) - says security people have been killed - laments about looting - "criminals are loose now" - does not want answer further questions
Suez by phone - some dead people in the morgue riddled with bullet holes - 1-2,000 protesters in the street now
Alexandria by phone - small gatherings of protesters - most of the dead were young twenty-somethings
Cairo - more demonstrators marching towards Tahrir Square - video shows groups of people discussing with soldiers - Army asked people not to amass - is obviously not followed - view from AJ office shows protesters on Oct. 6 bridge around a burned out police truck trying to push it over - about a hundered people are protesting in front of a three tank (2xM60 1xM113) roadblock - only about 20 soldiers standing in a wide line in front of the tanks - have helmets with visors and assault rifles in hand - no police visible - protesters start walking away from them
10:00 GMT - 12:00 Cairo
Violent clashes reported in a city Ismaila(?) north of Cairo
Cairo - video at a military roadblock - officer comes towards camera - seems to want it stop filming - cut
Cairo - by phone - reporter at a morgue - people waiting for their dead - furious
Suez - by phone - 2-300 protesters in the main street marching to the government building now - senior military officer says unofficialy to reporter that he will disregard orders to shoot if given, wants president down - no police in the street
Alexandria - by phone - protesters in a moving march - noise of protest slogans calling fro regime change - army in various positions around town protecting government buildings - provincial administration, mayor building police stations are burned out - bodies reporters has seen at morgue had bullet wounds, other bodies completely disfigured
Cairo studio - view shows some car traffic on the bridges crossing the Nile which have been fought about/on yesterday - pictures of a group of 500 protesters
Cairo - gunfire reported - video shows some protesters in the street - military blocks roads to state TV and Foreign Ministry
9:00 GMT - 11:00 Cairo
Cairo - Reuters: police fire shoots in central Cairo square
Cairo - interview with some Egypt blogger - says protests will continue - high level of army loyal to Mubarak
Cairo video - 20-30 burned out civil vehicles inside the perimeter of the still burning NDP party headquarter
Suez - phone interview - "orderly chaos" - army deployed in all the city covering banks - people not sure what to think about the military - ambivalent - 15 dead from yesterday at the morgue
Cairo - mobile phones now working again - some hundred people coming to Tahrir (Liberation) Square, the center of yesterdays protests- bridge in view from AJ stiudio Cairo seems to have been cleaned of yesterday's burned police vehicles
Alexandria - phone interview - all police stations burned down - 23 dead from yesterday in the morgue
Cairo - early morning video - some burned out M113 military tracked vehicle - more M113 and M60 main battle tanks deployed - people seem somewhat neutral to military
8:00 GMT - 10:00 Cairo
AlJazeera Coverage Of Protests In Egypt
Some scenes and thoughts from watching AlJazeera live. Newest entry on top.
Me signing off - this day was big and changed some important global policy issues. The era of "Egypt (80 millions people) supports the Israeli ( 3-4 million Jews) position" is over. Aside from that, some other ME regimes will go down soon. It is unpredictable what will follow them.
21:00 GMT (23:00 Cairo)
Live pictures show some big gun tanks- M60 variant - deploying - new level of violence? [doubt it for now]
[I agree - this is extrodinary and Mubarak can't get it back - additionally - this very excellent AJ coverage today will make sure this will spread to more countries in the ME and possibly beyond - all dictators in the ME (and some of our pseudo democrats elsewhere) have reason to shit their pants now - how this will end? - inpredictable - an Islamic Muslim Brother regime is just as possible as some rudimentary social democracy - whatever the result may be, Israel and the U.S. have lost an "ally" (mercenary) today and will have to do some recalculations - yesterday they were concerned about Hizbullah M8 party issues in Lebanon - Egypt is a different, a much bigger caliber - what are they going to do when Jordan and the Saudi princes fall? (Not that I expect that yet(!), but one wonders)]
AJ studio has talk with some Arab professor - "I'd be astonished if Mubarak last another weak"
20:30 GMT (22:30 Cairo)
White House press conference - 40 minutes presidential briefing on Egypt today - lots of meetings [read panic] - Obama did not speak with Mubarak - "not about picking a person" [read: Mubarak is dead] - legitimate grievencence need to be addressed blahblah - (parallel AJ video shows lots of traffic despite official curfue) - security forces and military should be restrained - our posture based on coming events [read: no idea what's gonna happen] - in continual contact with Egypt government - blahblah - no presidential contact though [Mubarak is now left in the cold - no more U.S. support]
Cairo live report - helicopters in the air - reporter shows tear gas canisters - says Made in U.S.A. - video - people walking down the streat with a looted big Egypt government seal from some ministry - Mubarak nor any other official has said something yet - military and protesters getting more unfriendly to each other - airlines cancels lots of Egypt flights (tourists, money)
AJ studio has talk with some Egypt professor - NDP building burning is a major change - we don't know what army will do - currently a vacuum of power - we need a pillar (new video shows M113 blocking a big street) - clock can not be set back - beginning of a social revolution - Tunisisation of Arab world - Gamal Mubarak succession is dead
AJ studio has a talk with another, older U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Veliotes, - talks about early Mubarak- was more liberal earlier - then blahblah
AJ studio - critical person now is Tantawi - Defense Minister, commander of army and presidential guard since 1991
Cairo - phone live report - protesters seem to be in control - military deployed but passive - mood towards military seems to change - no more celebration of them [dangerous]
Suez - phone live report - main Vodafone building looted (Vodafone blocked internet in Egypt) - business building of leading NDP party guy burned down - no police - no military visible - reporter said protesters started peaceful - there was huge animosity against state security (after three dead earlier) - police did drive vehicles (water cannons) into demonstraters starting violence - now security vacuum in the city - no police - military only securing crucial oil/gas/canal areas/buildings
AJ studio - Cairo hospitals "overwhelmed" by wounded - some 870 [overwhelmed too editorial]
Suez - phone live report - buildings at fire that belong to some NDP elites - chaoic situation - no fire engines - no police - military only secures some oil/gas company buildings/infrastructure
Cairo - phone live report from near the NDP building - six floors of the building at blaze - military helicopters in the air - thousands of protesters on the streets - sounds of gunfire reporter says - no attempts to get NDP building fire out - would be hopeless anyway reporter says
[With its main building burning and looted the NDP, the National Democratic Party which is neither national nor democratic, is done.]
[How does the introduction of the military in the streets and its welcome by the people change the power centers in Egypt? Some generals my now grow big ones. Why is Mubarak not, as announced hours ago, appearing on TV? Is he still in Egypt?]
19:00 GMT (21:00 Cairo, 3 hour into the unobserved curfue)
Cairo live pictures - people looting the burning NDP ruling party main building - a dozen police(?) vehicles around the building on fire - lots of smoke - more vehicle fires around the main square of Cairo from earlier protests there
Suez - phone live report - 12 tanks plus several personal armoured carrier just passed heading towards some important buildings (oil/gas infrastructure) - earlier police shooting at military confirmed by military - thousands of people still in the street, no sign of police, lots of military passing but otherwise just peaceful people
AJ studio says presidential guard deployed to protect state TV building
AJ studio has phone talk with someone in the a North-Sinai peninsula city - had protests - police armoured vehicle fired seven RPG - electricity cut off - there is no army in the Sinai so no military deployed
Cairo live picture - firefighters deploy to put out the fire at the ruling party's building which is next to the National Museum - more military vehicle, armoured four wheelers and tracked, greated, waved at and waving back, with/to the protesters
AJ studio talks with former U.S. ambassador to Egypt - political blah-blah - says U.S. "should not take sides" - emphazises "friendship"
Suez - phone live report - military came in at nightfall - was greeted by protesters, were shoot at from police station - military retreated - now more military vehicles deploying again - still friendly with protesters
Alexandria - phone live report - police gone away since two hours when military deployed - soldiers shake hands with protesters - fires have been put out
18:00 GMT (20:00 Cairo, 2 hour into the unobserved curfue)
AJ studio says Qatar airways stops service to Egypt - despite announcement Mubarak has not yet been on state TV
Cairo phone report from a photographer - reports several fires in Cairo
Suez - phone live report - military vehicle with surrounding friendly protesters in the street where shoot at from a policestation
Unconfimed - army, police clash in Cairo
Cairo live picture - six M113 tracked military vehicle driving towards the ministry buildings - waved at, get cheered while passing by some protesters
Alexandria - phone live report - police seems to be off the street everywhere - military deployed - friendly with protesters
AJ now making some comparison between its own live pictures and live pictures from state media - state media shows no riots as all - just a peaceful city picture
Cairo live picture - a policevan that was in a sidestreet in protesters hand has been pulled to a main street and is on fire - reporter says number of protesters seems to increase - foreign ministry is said to have been stormed by protesters [guess they want to phone Clinton?]
Suez - phone live report - army deployed - their carriers surrounded by friendly protesters
17:30 GMT (19:30 Cairo, 1 hour into the curfue)
AJ studio has phone talk with someone from Baradei's team - he is surrounded in his house- says Port Said had demonstration of 80,000
AJ studio has phone talk with some Muslim Brotherhood guy in a district some 120 miles south of Cairo - There have been protests - 50,000 people he says
Suez - phone live report - protests ongoing - army has taken police stations away from protesters
Alexandria - phone live report - armoured personal carriers from the Army - get thumbs up from protesters, soldiers show thumbs up too - gunfire noise in the background (automatic weapons)
AJ shows Clinton live: all should refrain from violence - urging to allow peaceful protests and to reopen communication lines - calls for reforms - mentions "a democratic society" - no request for Mubarak or government to step down
Cairo live sound - reporter says people are bashing empty police vehicle in a street next to the bureau with stones
[this AJ English coverage is excellent - if the AJ Arabic coverage is similar, the Jordan king and the Saudi princes will have to watch out ... this sets examples for their people]
17:00 GMT (19:00 Cairo, 1 hour into the curfue)
Cairo live picture - police fires teargas onto praying people - someone throws it back - lots of sound of protests and shots
Cairo live picture - some people lining up in the street for evening prayer
Suez - phone report - road that was full of protesters all day now empty - army has deployed tanks(?) but reporter does not know whereto - expects protests to continue
Alexandria - phone report - curfue gets ignored - protests contine - some people try get on cars to go home
Cairo live sound - reporter says gunfire coming from the direction of main TV building - center of government media - fire/smoke in the distance
16:30 GMT (18:30 Cairo - dark now)
Cairo reporter says gun fire - quite a lot in the riot/protester sound - doesn't know where the sound comes from
Cairo live sound - seems to be automatic weapons - lots of protester noice
Cairo live picture - headquarter of ruling NDP party seems on fire - confirmed
Suez - live by phone - army tanks deploying towards the city - center of city in the hands of protesters - total blackout of communication lines - only sat-phones working
Pictures from Alexandria a few hours ago - riots against police
Mubarak to be live on state TV in a few minutes [likely useless unless he announces his retirement]
Cairo live picture - police truck now on fire
16:05 GMT (18:05 Cairo)
Cairo live picture - truck doesn't want to go down the Nile - now trying to set it on fire
[excellent coverage by AJ - best I have ever seen]
Cairo live picture - protesters trying to dump a police personal carrier into the Nile
Cairo live picture - smoke rising near NDP party building
[does Mubarak trust the army? will it use force?]
Egypt state media - army to reinforce the police and enforce curfue
Cairo live pictures - 3 military trucks (30mm(?) cannon turrets)
Cairo live pictures but AJ pulled camera back from balcony now filming through window - protesters rushing a bridge - riot sound
Cairo live pictures - reporter says - police on the way to their office
Cairo live pictures - police has fallen back from the protesters - no clashes currently visible
Cairo live pictures - prayer over - protesters talking to police - on one bridge lots of trucks, police(30+) and fire(3), moving in a column
Alexandria - live phone report - more fires visible - a dozen police trucks on fire
Cairo live pictures - more people praying on a bridge that has been fought over all day
Suez - phone report - curfue announced - reporter thinks police unable to impose that - military?
Cairo live pictures - Prayer time (sundown in Cairo now), protesters asked police to stay back for prayers - protesters in rows praying in the street - police standing some 20 meters away
AJ Cairo says state security has entered AJ building
[curfue - who is suppost to fight for that? - police seems to be overwhelmed]
AJ reports state media says curfue from 6pm (in half an hour) on
[stun grenades are useless in riots - are they running out of teargas? they did shoot a lot]
Cairo - live pictures - some 30 riot police try to get at a group of some 200 protesters - shooting teargas and stun grenades(!) - police pushed back
Analyst (political science prof) - on seeing the military: now the army is decisive - usually the army doesn't like the police security forces - people hope army take their sides like in Tunesia
Suez - live phone report - second police station taken over - one protester dead - protest began peaceful - police escalated with watercanons - protests turned violent
[Cairo - the AlJazeera office is right next to the Hilton hotel and its balconey oversees two of the Nile bridges and the protests there - optimal location for coverage.]
[first time we see soldiers!]
Cairo: live picture - military(!) vehicle with soldiers - friendly to protesters surrounding it - gets cheered
Alexandria: live phone report - Police has no control - police groups overwhelmed - no police leadership - police conscripts don't know what to do - police trucks on fire - reporter saw protesters with a dead civilian body
Suez: live phone report - at least six police trucks set on fire - Protesters have upper hand
[some three hours ago live video from Cairo showed some 2000 people kneeing/bowing for prayer in the usual disiplined mosque rows but on the middle of a large street. Muslim Brotherhood folks?]
[my guestimate of the last scene 5-10,000 protesters.]
Suez: video - protesters burn one police vehicle - One police vehicle flees hitting several protesters - One protester captures teargas gun
[Police looks relative well organized to me, but not effective. Too many roads to cover. Lunatic tactic seen several times when a single police truck with a man looking out of the top and shooting teargas rushes after and into a crowd. Could easily be attacked if the crowd would block it off.]
AJ repeats pictures of
- plaincloth police hitting single caught protesters over and over.
- police truck retreating
- police shooting teargas
- wounded protesters
AJ now reports from London and Washington - 50 people protest in front of Egypt embessy
Suez: live telefon report - Main square under protesters control
Cairo: live-pictures - a group of some 30 riot-police + 20 plain cloth midaged men with clubs, three teargas guns visible - Firing teargas
[AlJazeera pushing pretty much pro-protesters]
Cairo: live pictures - again teargas towards the Hilton hotel /next door to AJ studio) to which some protesters had fled - Dark smoke from tires(?) burning
Alexandria: live telephon report: Some 10 different protests with several hundred each - Reporter saw protester help wounded riot police - Reporter told by eyewitness of dead girl
Protesters appear to be all kind of people - Women, men, even an few children
Cairo: live - some people wounded by teargas canisters - civil cloth police taking some away - hitting single protesters
Cairo: live - quite intense clashes of several thousands live watched from AJ studio building - intense use of teargas - police retreating and re-attacking, demonstrators retreat re-attack
Suez: Video shows police lines retreat from some 5,000 protesters
Suez: Reporter says a main police station was surrounded, prisoners freed, now burning
Suez: Reporter says Suez had lots of police reinforcement after violent protest yesterday
Ayman Nour, one of the opposition figueres, in hospital after having been hit in the head by a stone. His son comes to AlJazeerah and reports live of plaincloth thugs, not police, fighting for the government.
Report of ElBaradei under government siege in a mosque in Giza.
There are reports of protest in additional cities.
AlJazeerah has live reports from Suez, Alexandria and Cairo.
Demonstrations are planned in Egypt after today's Friday prayers. The Mubarak dictatorship has forbidden all protest so street battles are to be expected. Over night security forces arrested many of the protest and Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
Former IAEA boss El Baradei has returned to Egypt and wants to take charge. Read his op-ed in Newsweek. I do not believe that he has yet the power he feels he has. He should watch out for a single bullet coming towards him.
The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, will have the decisive role in the demonstrations today and their likely brutal takedown. If the Brotherhood mobilizes its followers, as it has announced to do, the masses can overwhelm the security forces. Otherwise, ... who knows?
"The government can take away my freedom, but if they take away my internet porn, they're going down."
The U.S. has taken the side of Mubarak with Vice President Biden making unmistakeably clear that for Washington the interests of the Zionist is the most important issue:
“Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with Israel,” the vice president said. “And I think that it would be – I would not refer to him as a dictator."
The Egyptian military has so far stayed neutral. If it would take sides against Mubarak he would be done with. The Egyptian chief of staff is currently in Washington on pre-planned annual meeting. In December some Wikileaks cable were made public that show some general U.S. misgivings about the Egyptian military. That might have set a not too bright background for any influence Washington now tries to take on it.
For background about the protests and how they evolved from the death of Khaled Said watch this Time video.
U.S. Education Is Not The Real Problem
lifted from a comment
President Obama mentioned in his State of the Union Address that we can educate our way back into prosperity. This is probably true if you assume that the more educated you are, the more money you make. But this assumption is wrong.
Making money in America has little to do with how well educated you are. It mostly has to do with how well connected you are, including how good you are at ripping people off and getting away with it. Do a quick background check on all the people that have struck it rich in our rent-seeking society and you’ll have little doubt that I am wrong on this.
I suppose that if we return to a time when our society placed more value on making productive things like cars and other industrial products than on making non-productive things like credit default swaps and other financial products, we’ll see more people striking it rich by being well educated and highly skilled at doing productive work rather than by being well connected and highly skilled at doing unproductive work, particularly unproductive work that’s geared towards ripping people off.
But I don’t see any of this happening until we face up to the fact that economic power is shifting to China not because our workers are less skilled and less educated than their Chinese counterparts, but because our well-connected, rip-off artists from the FIRE economy (i.e., Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate) are better than their Chinese counterparts at turning their own country into a safe haven for rent-seeking parasites.
U.S. Wants Afghanistan To Copy Guantanamo
The U.S. military in Afghanistan wants the Afghan government to take over indefinite detentions of "suspected insurgents" it has captured in Afghanistan. To this purpose it is pressing the Afghan government to change the country's laws outside of the normal process.
The U.S. government had been reluctant to transfer more authority over detained insurgents to the Afghan government because of concern that many would be released if they were tried in criminal courts.
Now there is a real danger. Afghan courts could actually release people from jail when the legal process finds that they have done nothing criminal. That can't let be.
"We've told them we can't transfer detainee operations to you without the proper framework," said a U.S. official familiar with the process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
Do I smell blackmail? "We will not transfer of free your incarcerated sons to you unless you guarantee that they will NOT receive due process!"
Unlike the United States, Aghanistan is a country with laws that do not allow indefinite detentions without trial. The Afghan government, to get control over Afghans the U.S. has captured, will therefore have to change its laws. There is of course the tiny problem of Afghanistan being, at least nominal, a democracy where laws are enacted by a parliament.
Although U.S. officials had hoped that the Afghan changes would be spelled out in a presidential decree and promulgated before parliament convened - under Afghan law, the president can make laws by fiat when the legislature is in recess - a draft decree has yet to reach Karzai.
So they hoped to circumvent the parliament. How is that for 'democracy promotion' the Obama administration claims to favor?
U.S. and Afghan officials say the legal basis for continuing the detentions derives from Additional Protocol Two to the Geneva Conventions.
Afghanistan has signed the AP2, but the U.S. has not. If indeed the AP2 is the required legal basis for indefinite detention, one wonders what legal basis is there for the U.S. military to currently indefinitely detain "suspected insurgents" Afghans.
As this sorry story makes clear, the U.S. does neither care for due process in Afghanistan, nor for any democratic procedures, nor for any real rule of law.
In that it wants Afghanistan to be just like itself.
WaPo Promotes White House 'Democracy' Spin
The Washington Post claims: As Arabs protest, Obama administration offers assertive support. I do not see much of real support there but for the usual empty words the Obama administration is now somewhat famous for.
Aside from that I need some help with this scaremongering paragraph:
Such an approach comes with a degree of risk in the region, where democratic reforms have often empowered well-organized Islamist movements at odds with U.S. objectives.
Which country in the Middle East, besides Iran, had "democratic reforms" which "empowered well-organized Islamist movements"?
I am not aware of even one. Any ideas which countries the writers where thinking of?
A bit later the authors claim:
Polls show U.S. popularity rising in many Arab countries since Obama took office and falling in a smaller number of others.
The latest Middle East poll by Brookings/Zogby, done in July 2010, found:
Early in the Obama administration, in April and May 2009, 51% of the respondents in the six countries expressed optimism about American policy in the Middle East. In the 2010 poll, only 16% were hopeful, while a majority - 63% - was discouraged.
The poll details (pdf) show "unfavorable" ratings for the U.S., mostly unchanged from 2008, at 85%. How is that a sign of "rising popularity"?
So far, at least, the demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia have not featured anti-American rhetoric or been shaped by political Islam.
Tunis, January 26 2011
The whole piece reads like White House spin dictated by some "administration official" written down by some stenographers without any factchecking or sense for reality.
Doesn't democracy, and its promotion, necessitate a free press?
A Few Links and Open Thread
A Guardian reporter was picked up by the Egyptian police yesterday, but they didn't take away his dictaphone. The recordings make for a remarkable report: Egypt protests: 'We ran a gauntlet of officers beating us with sticks'
A Palestinian journalist about the Palestine Papers and criticism of Palestinians from the outside: Who says there's no coordination? - Maan
Why is the Telegraph the only one to carry this story? Kyrgyzstan president accuses US fuel supplier of trying to corrupt her son
Lebanon - What Changed?
Hizbullah has only 12 seats in the Lebanese parliament, out of some 128. It's Christian allies have more. To somehow say that the recent change in the Lebanese government was Hizbullah's deed is a bit comical. The decicive votes for the democratic government change came from Jumblatt's "progressive" party.
A billionaire Sunni "March 14" prime minister, who is friends with the Syrians and Saudis and was backed by Hizbullah parliament and cabinet members, has been replaced by a billionaire Sunni "March 14" prime minister, who is friends with the Syrians and Saudis and is backed by Hizbullah parliament and cabinet members,.
mini-Hariri was incompetent, I don't know if Mikati is any better. Elias at Qifa Nabqi says he is.
mini-Hariri boosted that he made Mikati prime minister in 2005. Five years later Nasrallah can claim the same.
Some Sunni Salafists are rioting in the streets.
Did anything really change in Lebanon?
Not in my view.
That of course that doesn't keep pathetic militarist propaganda folks like Exum from claiming that this somehow gives Israel a right to now attack all of Lebanon.
No change there either.
The Israeli Government Opinion On Law
I was the Minister of Justice. I am a lawyer…But I am against law -- international law in particular. Law in general.
If we want to make the agreement smaller, can we just drop some of these issues? Like international law, this will make the agreements easier.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Nov 13, 2007
Unlike Obama, she at least admits it.
'China's Growing Military' - NOT!
[China] is the second biggest economy in the world, it has the fastest growing military, and it holds a huge share of the US national debt.
The fastest growing military?
JDW 09-Oct-2009 *PLA cuts manpower to modernise capabilities: “China is preparing to accelerate the downsizing of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by slashing its total force strength by up to 700,000 as the country strives to modernise its military capabilities. China’s armed forces consist of 2.185 million personnel, with the army accounting for 1.6 million of these. In September the PLA’s own news service reported that the army faced reductions to help fund increases in the air force, navy and the Second Artillery Force, which operates China’s … – 2009/10/09 00:00:00″
After his false assertion on China's military Mr. D'Amato continues:
However, when the United States is making policy, it needs to be based on facts, not feelings.
Indeed. And that is exactly why no one should ever ask Mr. D'Amato for any policy advice.
So Many Keys ...
... to appoint Lebanon's next prime minister, effectively ending nearly six years of rule by Western-backed leaders and prompting the United States to warn it could cut off aid to this key Arab nation.
Hezbollah-backed candidate in line to become Lebanon's new prime minister
Migration, in short, works as a safety-valve that helps to forestall any prospect of major change in this key Arab nation.
Dreaming of Spain: migration and Morocco
Sunday's meeting between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and President Bush at his Texas ranch serves as a reminder of America's deep involvement in this other key Arab nation.
How Has Egypt Spent $50 Billion in U.S. Aid?
It has been usual to explain the chaos and looting in Baghdad, the destruction of infrastructure, ministries, museums and the national library and archives, as caused by a failure of Rumsfeld's planning. But the evidence is this was at least in part a mask for the destruction of the collective memory and modern state of a key Arab nation
Shock, awe and Hobbes have backfired on America's neocons
The potential gains from the alliance are obvious. First and foremost, it would further isolate Iran and bring a key Arab nation under U.S. influence.
Playing the Syria Card
Last night America bowed to the Saudi reservations and announced it would do without Saudi air bases to launch any air attacks on Iraqi targets. The failure to win the support of such a key Arab nation came despite diplomatic missions by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to bring it into line.
Saudi boycott shakes plan to strike Saddam
Opinion Change: War On Iran Is Indeed The Plan
Until today I was convinced that the U.S. under Obama would not attack Iran. The move would be irrational as the consequences would be too severe. But today the Leverett's at their blog Race For Iran point to a conference in Washington D.C., organized by the mercenary company Executive Action LLC in support of the anti-Iranian marxist terror cult MEK.
Several speakers there argue for attacking Iran. One of them is Gen. James Jones, until recently National Security Adviser in the Obama administration. The way he explains the Obama administration policy towards Iran makes it clear that the intend and logic conclusion from this policy is indeed an all out military attack on Iran.
You can see Jones' seventeen minute long talk in this video starting at 1:15h.
In it Jones says all the same scary stuff that was said about Saddam Hussein before the war on Iraq. That war was, as again confirmed in the Palestine papers today, for the benefit of Israel:
Secretary Rice inserted, "At this time there is no threat from the east [to Israel] because our forces are in Iraq and will stay there for a long time." Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat added, "For a very, very long time."
Jones' in his talk is arguing that Iran could give a nuclear bomb to some terrorist organization. Exactly the same nonsense was said about Saddam's Iraq.
But just like Iraq, Iran does not have any nuclear weapons nor does it want any. Predictions that Iran will have a nuclear weapon "in three years" have been made about every year since at least 1984. All have been false and untrue just like today's predictions about Iran's "nuclear weapons program" are.
What Jones confirms is that the Obama administration's policy on Iran, like most other Obama policies, is simply a continuation of the Bush policy. There is no change at all and with regards to Iran the policy was and is directed to a military solution.
What might hold back the Obama administration is a recent series of events in the Middle East which all point to a harsh decline in U.S. standing there.
The people in Tunesia threw out their U.S. supported and Israel friendly dictator setting an important example. In Lebanon the opposition is interrupting the U.S. plans for the Special Tribunal to viably accuse Iran and Syria. The Palestine Papers expose the hollowness of the "peace process" and the Abbas regime. Muqtada Al-Sadr's support for the new Maliki government in Iraq means the U.S. military will have to leave. The unwillingness to support Karzai's peace talk attempts with the resistance in Afghanistan will pull the U.S. deeper into the maelstrom there.
Thinking rational it seems unlikely that with all these troubles, add in additional Wikileaks and the unsolved economic problems, Obama would think of starting another war. But tossing over the Middle East chess board plus inducing another patriotic wave for war may also be seen as the easiest short term way out of these problems.
After all, Obama does not stand for anything. He will do whatever gets him reelected. If he thinks what he needs is a war on Iran, and from Jones' talk it is obvious that war is indeed the plan, he will launch it.
The Palestine Papers
The Palestine Papers - Aljazeerah
Secret papers reveal slow death of Middle East peace process - Guardian
Abbas and his goons gave away more than they can give away. That still wasn't enough for the Israeli Jews and their U.S. government advocates. They want it all - and even more. Including the dome which they want to tear down to build their third temple.
The publishing of these papers marks the end of the two state solution and the end of the Abbas and PLO regime. There will be more wars.
Some Links - Jan 22
Why China Does Capitalism Better than the U.S. - Tony Karon
EU foreign policy across Arab world faces upheaval - Deutsche Welle
The Obama/Bush Foreign Policies: Why Can't America Change? - Seymour Hersh Doha speech transcript - part 1
I don't know how to describe Obama, as somebody who's now in office for two years. Just when we needed an angry black man, we didn't get one. He has a nice dog.
Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America's Wars in the Muslim World - Nir Rosen in a talk about his book - video (1:15h) - recommended
Use as open thread ...
"What sin did the cow commit?"
Razing villages to save them is a war crime and the Afghans are rightly "extremly angry" about this. General Petraeus excuse, "the Taliban made me do it!", is not valid. It only shows that his campaign is failing. The combatant that can make the other side do something obviously still has the initiative.
In this BBC video we find evidence for additional war crimes being committed by the Marines in Sangin, Helmand. A Marine sniper is shooting at and killing an unarmed person because that same person had earlier be seen "talking on a radio". With no phones in Sangin district, there are good reasons for civilians to use radios. Talking into a radio does not prove any intend to harm anyone. As the BBC describes the scene:
"Come on, come out come and play," said the Marine sniper.
He spoke as he looked through his telescopic sight at a Taliban "spotter" who had just jumped behind a wall some 800m away. The man was not armed but was talking into a radio.
"Got P-I-D [positive identification]," said the sniper. "Cleared to engage." There was the suppressed crack of a silenced sniper round. The man fell to the ground.
"Enemy KIA (killed in action). Doin' the dead man dance."
"Good shooting, bro," came the reply.
It was the 50th kill for this sniper team.
In the video the scene is described the important detail somewhat differently:
[narrator] They are about to kill a man identified as a Taliban spotter.
[narrator] He wasn't armed. How did they know he wasn't a civilian?
[sniper:] He was talking on a radio and eh then he came back out and presented himself trying to be inconspicuous and that's when we dropped him.
As the distance to the man was some 800 meters, it is unlikely that he even knew that the snipers were there.
In the following scene at a side of a field a stash of freshly harvested corn, several feet high, is waiting to be brought in. The Marines burn it down:
They burn piles of corn, so that the Taliban can't hide weapons there. That isn't popular ...
Burning the food the people in Sangin grow to survive is a scorched earth policy. When the Nazis did this in Russia, it was a war crime. What is it when the Marines do it in Sangin?
But again and again, the Marines come across locals who say that a brother, a son or a cousin has been shot by the international forces.
"We don't want your help," said a group of elders going to pray for a relative who had been killed. They refused the offer of compensation from the platoon's lieutenant.
"We don't want your money. You shouldn't kill us. You shouldn't destroy our property. You even shot one of my cows yesterday. What sin did the cow commit?"
Blowing Up The Karzai Government ... And Afghanistan
The past September parliament elections in Afghanistan were fraudulent. The Independent Election Commission threw out one fourth of the votes and in a not-transparent way declared some 249 candidates as valid winners. In addition to the rampant and obvious fraud many Pashtuns in the south and east could not or would not vote at all.
The result is a very skewed political body with some districts, though mostly Sunni and Pashtun, only represented by Shia Hazara candidates or many not represented at all. The "western" occupation governments wanted to pamper over the problem and accepted and even lauded the results.
But Karzai could not accept them. He wants to make peace with the Taliban and prevent a new all out civil war. That demands a parliament which at least somewhat represents the Pashtun population, the biggest single group in Afghanistan, and supports his peace efforts. Instead he was now confronted with a future parliament with a non-Pashtun majority that would likely not agree to any compromise with the resistance.
In December Karzai, with the help of the Afghan Supreme Court (something U.S. media tend not to mention), created a Special Court to again look into the fraud issues. Two days ago and with the parliament ready to be inaugurated on Sunday, the Special Court requested another month of investigation time, asked to postpone the inauguration and even hinted towards new elections.
While the candidates who had "lost" where happy with this, the candidates that had "won" did not like these prospects. They threaten to inaugurate themselves anyway.
Unfortunately the "western" forces seem to support them:
"Enough is enough. What Karzai is doing is clearly illegal," a senior diplomat said.
Mr. Karzai decided Wednesday to postpone the inauguration by a month to give a special court, which he had created, more time to investigate election-fraud allegations.
The newly elected lawmakers argue that the court is unconstitutional, a view shared by Afghan election authorities and diplomats in the U.S.-led coalition.
(Please notice that the Wall Street Journal and the "senior diplomat" do not mention the Supreme Court which has even named the judges for the Special Court. Do legal opinions of foreign diplomats have a higher standing than those of the Afghan Supreme Court judges?)
Several Western envoys, including U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura, have indicated they planned to attend the inauguration, diplomats involved in the meeting in Kabul Thursday said. Doing so would recognize the new parliament and be a blow to Mr. Karzai.
"This is a litmus test for the international community," one ambassador said. "Karzai believes he can freely do what he wants, but Sunday will be a wakeup call."
Actually the "international community" failed the litmus test when it agreed to the fraudulent election results.
But I agree with the "wakeup call" designation.
Seating a parliament that in no way represents major parts of the population will be the wakeup call for many more people to join the resistance against the illegal government. The candidates who "lost", with some quite powerful folks beyond them, will certainly seek revenge for their loss of honor. Having lost his face Karzai may well step down and go into exile. Forget any move towards peace.
That will of course suit Petraeus and others who want to prolong the war as much as possible.
The Attack On Public Worker Pensions
Policy makers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers.
Path Is Sought for States to Escape Debt Burdens
This is an all out attack on public worker pensions. It was launched by Newt Gingrich and some rightwingers at the neocon Weekly Standard.
It is of course completely unnecessary to allow states go bankrupt. States have the power to make their inhabitants pay taxes. Increase state taxes, preferably on the rich, and there is not state debt problem. Simply not allowing states to go bankrupt, like it is today, will take care of that as increasing taxes will soon be the only alternative to them.
The New York Times writers are of course smugly oblivious to that strange concept.
Now guess what Obama's position will be on this.
Is it really necessary for newspapers to induce cognitive dissonance?
Can't they have Fred Hiatt read the Washington Post before writing for it?
And yes, I know all this human rights talk by Obama, Hiatt or The Washington Post is just for show. But even a show needs some consistency.
Blue On Blue In Afghanistan
Friendly fire incidents are somewhat normal for troops in combat. Shit happens. But this incomplete list seems to show two distinct issues. "Western" troops getting killed by Afghan police and military personal in direct confrontation over personal issues while Afghan security personal is getting killed in botched air attacks.
Personal honor issues versus careless brute force application. A difference?
Afghan soldier kills Italian counterpart in Badghis, Jan 19 2011
U.S. marine kills Afghan policeman after dispute, Jan 15 2011
Three Afghan police killed in Nato air strike, Jan 10 2011
NATO air strike kills 4 Afghan soldiers: ministry, Dec 16 2010
Another ‘Afghan Army Soldier’ Kills ISAF Troops, Dec 7 2010
Afghan Policeman Kills 6 NATO Troops, Nov 29 2010
US soldier kills Afghan policeman, Nov 11 2010
Afghan soldier kills two US civilian trainers, July 20 2010
Rogue Afghan soldier kills three British Gurkhas, Jul 13 2010
6 Afghan soldiers killed by German friendly fire, Apr 03 2010
Swedish soldiers killed by 'Afghan police', Feb 8 2010
Anger as NATO airstrike kills 4 Afghan soldiers, Jan 30 2010
Afghan policeman kills four colleagues: official. Nov 29 2009
Rogue Afghan policeman kills five British troops, Nov 5 2009
Afghan soldier kills two coalition troops, U.S. says, Mar 27 2009
Coalition air strike kills nine Afghan soldiers, Oct 23 2008
Afghan policeman kills a US soldier, wounds 3, Sep 29 2008
Foreign airstrike kills 9 Afghan police, Jul 27 2008
Air Strike Reportedly Kills Afghan Police By Mistake, July 20 2008
How the U.S. Killed the Wrong Afghans, Feb 06 2002
Max Boot Thinks Correcting An Obvious Error is Heroism
Max Boot is lauding U.S. Marines in Helmand province, Afghanistan:
It is impossible to offer enough praise or admiration for the grueling, dangerous patrols that these leathernecks are undertaking day in, day out. The Greatest Generation had nothing on them in terms of heroism — especially when one considers that all the Marines in Sangin are volunteers.
One problem with such over the top idolization is that the situation Boot refers to would not have happened if the Marines had not screwed up in the first place.
The NYT piece Boot references says:
Hemmed in at nearby Forward Operating Base Jackson at the beginning of their tour, the Marines of Company I fought fierce, almost daily battles through the months of October and November.
On Dec. 6, they fought their way up Route 611, blowing up scores of I.E.D.’s along the way and taking over an abandoned and booby-trapped British Army base, Patrol Base Bariolai, on a barren hilltop here.
The Marines are now reoccupying a patrol base which the British had used before. But why was the British base abandoned in the first place? That happened last year when the Marines took over in Helmand from the Brits:
[O]ne of the first things the Marines did when they took over Sangin was close roughly half the 22 patrol bases the British set up throughout the district — a clear rejection of the main pillar of Britain’s strategy, which was based on neighborhood policing tactics used in Northern Ireland.
The bases were meant to improve security in Sangin, but the British ended up allocating a large percentage of their soldiers to protect them from being overrun by the Taliban. That gave the insurgents almost total freedom of movement in the district.
“The fact that a lot of those patrol bases were closed down frees up maneuver forces so that you can go out and take the fight to the enemy,” Morris said during an interview at the battalion’s main base in the district center, Forward Operating Base Jackson.
At that time the British were not amused:
"We were all pretty pissed off when we heard," says a British veteran. "To say that we had no success is both ignorant and short-sighted. We were there for four years and we'd already tried what they are now trying, which is obviously not working judging by the casualties."
Just as US commanders questioned the effectiveness of British tactics in Sangin, so British soldiers have begun to challenge the wisdom of closing down the patrol bases they spilt blood to keep.
The bases were designed to protect Sangin's bazaar from Taliban attack and encourage economic development in the town. British officers believe the closures will allow the Taliban to move through the district undetected.
And that is indeed what happened. So the Marines screwed up by abandoning the British bases in the first place and they are now fighting to reoccupy them for just the same purpose the British used them for. From the NYT piece:
They sleep in the frigid cold and go weeks without showers, but they are keeping the nearby Taliban on the defensive.
The Marines can now patrol throughout the surrounding village every day, Sergeant Beckett said. And he has been encouraged by the increasing trust that local villagers are showing, sometimes offering the Marines information that has tipped them off to I.E.D.’s or potential ambushes.
This screwing up by not taking seriously lessons an ally learned has cost the live of Afghans and of Marines. The Marines are now correcting their own error and are losing more lives over it. These Marines ain't the "Greatest Generation, in Afghanistan" as Max Boot headlines. They are arrogant idiots.
Just back from some troubled traveling and no time yet to post.
The Liberation Of Afghan Villages
This is the village Tarok Kolachie in Arghandab River Valley before it was liberated by the U.S. military.
See the same village, now liberated, below the fold.
Joshua Foust, who finally stopped to work for the military, explains the story: The Unforgivable Horror of Village Razing.
You can also see the behavior of the U.S. military in this Taliban propaganda video (sorry for the format - I found no other link - just let it play through the lengthy intro.)
This is not just Taliban propaganda. As Thomas Ruttig explains Razing the village to save it is again standard operation procedure of the U.S. military: Figure of the Day: US$ 100 m. (in destroyed orchards).
The probably biggest damage the Soviets left in Afghanistan was the uprooting of the vineyards and orchards. It takes decades to grow them. In the movie you can see U.S. soldiers with chainsaws doing taking down 50 year old trees. The Afghan government commision confirmed the damage.
What is this supposed to be for?
The Empire's Forked Tongue On Sanctions
With regard to U.S. sanctions on gasoline on Iran:
Obama said the new sanctions were the toughest ever passed by the U.S. Congress and would make it harder for Iran to buy refined petroleum as well as goods and services to modernize its oil and natural gas sector, the mainstay of its economy.
Obama says new U.S. sanctions on Iran toughest ever, Reuters, July2 2010
With regard to Iran's sanctions on gasoline exports on U.S.-Afghanistan:
QUESTION: Some kind of economic tension is brewing up between Afghanistan and Iran. Iran has blocked the supply of gas to Afghanistan, which has led to increasing gas prices and shortages of gas in Afghanistan. What do you have to say about that – on that?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we are watching closely that development. Energy is a critical resource to any country and any economy, and it should be available at whatever the appropriate market price is.
Daily Press Briefing, Department of State, January 12 2011
h/t Ali Gharib
Question: What will the U.S. say when Iran is successful with its current engineering of a democratic(!) regime change in Lebanon?
A Media Oddity
Via the Angry Arab, a piece in the Belfast Telegraph with a publishing date of Monday, 10 January 2011 and with recent comments is headlined: US forced to import bullets from Israel as troops use 250,000 for every rebel killed
Hmm ... I have read such some time ago ...
Search, search, ... tada! The Independent, Sunday, 25 September 2005(!): US forced to import bullets from Israel as troops use 250,000 for every rebel killed
So why is the Belfast Telegraph republishing as 'news' a five plus year old Independent piece???
A new crisis has grown up in Lebanon and is about to explode. To understand what is going on we will have to recap some recent history.
In 2005 the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, a Saudi-Lebanese building magnate and politician who plundered the Lebanese while rebuilding Beirut at their cost and to his benefit, was assassinated with a car bomb explosion. Following that the Bush administration managed to install a UN tribunal to investigate the assassination.
The German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, who earlier had been handy in manipulating other issues the empire was interested in, was installed as commissioner to investigate the case. His organization leaked a lot of rumors and false details. Eventually Mehlis accused Syria on the basis of now retracted false and bought witnesses and imprisoned for several years four Syria-friendly Lebanese officers. For lack of any evidence against them and Syria Mehlis successor Bramerz later set the officers free.
By that time there was less interest in Washington and Tel Aviv to accuse Syria and more interest to somehow get Hizbullah, the Shia resistance and political movement which had kicked the Israeli occupation out of South Lebanon and won a short war against it in 2006. In May 2009 a, likely Israeli, source leaked a rumor to the German news weekly Der Spiegel that the tribunal will implicate high ranking Hizbullah members in the Hariri assassination.
Hizbullah's chief Nasrallah is keen to not have is movement accused. After rumors of a tribunal indictment grew, he convened a big rally and provided some evidence, including captured Israeli drone videos, that pointed to an Israeli involvement in the Hariri killing.
Lebanon is ruled by a unity government which includes all major religious sects within two blocks. Hariri's son Saad, a Sunni, is the prime minister and with some Christian and other groups makes up the Saudi and U.S. supported "March 14" alliance. The Shia Hezbollah and the Christian group of former general Aoun are the Syrian supported "March 8" block which also holds cabinet seats.
A tribunal indictment of Hizbullah could lead to a new civil war in Lebanon. While the U.S. and Israel would probably favor such a war, the Lebanese, the Syrians and the Saudis, who have invested heavily in Lebanon, would rather prefer peace. Accordingly there have been talks between Syria and the Saudis to avoid a conflict.
The mechanism to do so would be a Lebanese cabinet decision to stop to pay for the tribunal and to preemptively reject its findings.
Yesterday the March 8 block announced that it would leave the cabinet, and thereby illegitimize the Lebanese government, if Hariri junior does not agree to that solution. But it seems that USisrael vetoed this outcome and Washington pressed Hariri junior, who was in Washington today, not to agree to any move against the tribunal.
After Hariri's meeting with Obama 11 ministers in the Lebanese cabinet have resigned and the government is no longer able to make any decision.
So how will this end?
The well informed Friday Lunch Club guesses:
After some tractions, we are headed to a government of 'One Color' headed by a Sunni 'hardliner' from the shelved ranks of the Opposition! We do not foresee any trouble on the ground, because all indications do point to a state of 'panic within the ranks of March 14'. However, we are told by Senior Opposition figure &(regional representatives) that should they 'squirm', the riposte is ready.
I'd like that outcome, but there are some possible violent spoilers the U.S. and/or Israel could use to prevent it.
The Political Duopoly And Its Potential Competition
In an MIT lecture on The Financial Crisis, the Recession, and the American Political Economy, Charles Ferguson, author of the documentary Inside Job, describes the U.S. political system as follows:
- The two parties have formed a duopoly in which both parties have agreed to agree on money issues and to disagree on social issues.
- Both parties serve the financial sector and the wealthy. Thus they agree on (de-regulation) / (non-)enforcement / (no )criminal prosecution for the financial sector, as well as on antitrust, campaign financing and tax policies.
- Both parties agree to retain their base through conflict over social policy: Religion, education, evolution/creationism, gay rights, abortion, environment, war, terrorism.
- The sustainability of the duopoly depends upon barriers to entry against newcomers via ballot qualification, redistricting/gerrymendering, campaign and advertisement costs, lack of parliamentary system and lack of ranked-order voting.
While I agree on this 'duopoly' description, Ferguson has a few points wrong.
War and terrorism are no longer social issues but are about money making as well as about keeping potential competitors away from the system. Therefore both parties agree on keeping the wars going and on keeping the terrorism bogeyman alive.
That a parliamentary system instead of a presidential one is better in keeping the overwhelming influence of the financial sector and the wealthy away is disproved by the United Kingdom. In economic matters it works just the same way as the United States with the same catastrophic results. Even a parliamentary system like Germany's, which allows new parties to grow and to catch decent shares of votes (the Greens, the Left), is not that much different. After a few years the new parties simply get cooped by the system be that by bribes or other inducement.
A solution could come from a constitution and the judiciary. But at least in the case of the U.S., the judiciary has been bought too.
A widely known and successful alternative system in a different country or bloc of countries could create public demand to adjust the duopoly system and the reign of money. The existence of the example of the Soviet bloc was the reason for some decent social-democratic policies in Western Europe after WWII. The elimination of that example and competition moved the "western" systems to the right.
There are currently three areas where a new better system could grow and set an example which would necessitate the "western" model to be adjusted to better care for its people. One is the bloc of social-democracies in South America. One is the Confucian system in China and potential third candidate could be a system based on Islam.
How much the-powers-that-be of the current "western" systems fear the competition of these other social-system can probably be evaluated by measuring the amount of energy they put into fighting each of them.
Links and Thread
A few links and open thread ...
The Myth of Talqaeda - Alex Strick van Linschoten/Current Intelligence
An Enemy We Created: The Myth of the Taliban / Al-Qaeda Merger in Afghanistan, 1970-2010 - A new book out in April by Alex and Felix, the editors of Zaeef's 'My Life with the Taliban'
The Way Out of Afghanistan - Ahmed Rashid/NYRB
Karzai’s view of the world has undergone a dramatic change and he is bitterly critical of the West and everything it has failed to do in the past nine years. He no longer supports the “war on terror” as defined by Washington, and he sees Petraeus’s surge as unhelpful because it relies too much on body counts of dead Taliban, often killed by US drones with civilian casualties that are resented deeply, and on nighttime raids by US special forces. The alternative, says Karzai, is to seek help from nearby countries like Pakistan and Iran, which he thinks could help him talk to the Taliban and end the war.
Aftermath: Lebanon, May 2008 - Nir Rosen/Current Intelligence
Israel and the Iranian Nuclear Timetable - Paul Pillar/National Interest
Iran's Gasoline Sanctions On U.S.-Afghanistan
Since July 2010 the U.S. is sanctioning companies which sell gasoline to Iran. Iran responded to the long announced sanctions by increasing its gasoline production capacity by some 50% and by lowering end user subsidies. Iran's production capacity will soon be 75 million liters per day while consumption has fallen by 13% and is now about 55 million liters per day. That leaves plenty of reserves and capacity for exports.
In May 2010 Iran still imported some 14 million liters per day. That fell to some 8 million liters per day in July after the U.S. sanction were activated, now Iran is a gasoline exporter. The U.S. gasoline sanctions against Iran failed!
As an exporter of gasoline Iran can now itself play the sanctions game and put pressure on the U.S. via its client state Afghanistan:
The price of fuel has risen sharply in parts of Afghanistan as an Iranian-imposed slowdown on tanker traffic at key border crossings has stretched into its second month, Afghan officials say.
Hundreds of fuel tankers are stranded at the country’s main border crossings with Iran, stopped by Iranian border agents, and the number making it across has slowed to a trickle. About 40 tankers a day are crossing the border at Herat, Farah and Nimruz Provinces, compared with 250 to 330 a day before, according to commerce and customs officials.
Those 300 tankers per day would carry about 6 million liters per day. About 40% of Afghanistan's total civil fuel imports comes from Iran and it is mostly consumed in the south. Officially Iran is concerned that part of that fuel is going to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. It may indeed well be that some of that fuel is going to the U.S. military, but that amount would be too small an amount to be relevant.
According to a Deloitte study a deployed U.S. soldier is using up some 110 liters gasoline per day. Additionally there is one contractor for each soldier who will also need a lot of fuel. With over 100,000 men in Afghanistan, the U.S. military and its contractors must be using some 20,000,000 liters per day at a cost of $100 each (source (pdf)). One or two million liters skimmed off from the Iranian exports would not make a big operational difference (except for the dealers who manage that very lucrative transfer).
Iran will of course know this and I therefore believe that the real reason for this export ban is a different one. While the New York Times piece quoted above does not mention these at all (one wonders why), an earlier RFE/RL points to the more likely reasons:
Afghans affected by the resulting fuel shortages say they believe the crisis is Tehran's retribution for crippling sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security council this past summer. Analysts in Kabul link it to Iranian resentment over being left out of a multibillion-dollar gas-pipeline deal worked out among neighbors Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Tajikistan.
The TAPI pipeline, while now officially signed off on, is unlikely to be build as long as the conflicts in Afghanistan and the one between Pakistan and India are ongoing. For financial reasons it is dubious that it will ever be build at all.
That leaves retribution for U.S. sanction as the most likely motive:
[Kabul-based analyst Waheed] Mozhda says it is difficult to independently establish if any of the fuel may have been destined for use by NATO forces. But by closing the supply routes, he says, Tehran is clearly sending a signal to Washington in response to international sanctions imposed against the country over its controversial nuclear program.
"This is another example of how regional and global rivalries affect Afghanistan and lead to Afghan suffering," he says.
Indeed the Afghans will suffer from these sanctions as they will have to get through the winter with heating fuel and gasoline prices increased by as much as 50%.
But the pressure will also be felt by the Afghan and U.S. governments which will be held responsible by the Afghan people. Resentment against the Karzai government will grow, U.S. sponsored economic projects will not realize any gains and resistance to the occupation will increase. The already stressed U.S. supply routes from the north and from Pakistan will now have to carry additional traffic for civil fuel to the south.
I expect that Iran will keep the slowdown of exports to Afghanistan on for a while. If only to make the point that it is relevent for any solution of the Afghan conflict. It may want to keep the sanctions up at least until the next round of nuclear talks on January 20. Progress in the talks could then be rewarded by lifting the export slowdown. If the U.S. sticks to its hardline position on the 'nuclear issue', Iranian fuel exports to Afghanistan could totally cease.
That would be very bad for the Afghan people. But as Iran has only a few non-military levers it can use against the United States, it may have to use this one to counter the sanctions against itself. As usually, Afghans be damned ...
Giffords And Taseer - Two Countries With Similar Problems
My attempt of Verfremdung in the last post was a not-so-good try to communicate my thoughts. So please let me try to express more clearly the relation I see between the assassination attempt against "liberal" U.S. Rep. Giffords and the successful one against the Pakistani "liberal" Salmaan Taseer.
Londonstani, blogging at Abu Muqawawa, knows Pakistan and the area quite well. I think his analysis of the attack on Taseer somewhat fits to the attack on Giffords:
The rich - the ones who were able to afford the opportunity - often do not share any public space with the poor. The chai khaane (tea houses) are similar to Arab qahwas in that they both serve hot caffeinated beverages. The local area's wealthy and not-so wealthy do not sit in corner cafes reading the same newspaper. In fact, often, the wealthy and poor read newspapers in different languages; the English ones being much more balanced and sophisticated than the Urdu ones. With very few reference points in common; to the wealthy, the poor are to be mistrusted. To the poor, the wealthy (the "elites") are practically aliens.
Those "elites" who don't reflect "real" Pakistani/Muslim values are portrayed in the argument as sellouts and traitors. A much cleverer person than I (Ms Henley-on-Thames) suggested this was economic resentment manifesting itself as cultural resentment. The wealthy in Pakistan, it seems, drew up the drawbridge on the rest of the country many years ago, but in the process left themselves outnumbered and at risk of being overwhelmed.
Doesn't that analysis of the Pakistani society also fit to the United States? Is Lloyd C, Blankfein watching Fox News or does he goes to a local bar? I don't think so.
Add to that commentator Omar at Sepoy's Chapati Mystery blog who says about Pakistan:
There are three sources of violence: one is the element of violence seen in every third world country where a small corrupt elite lords it over the mass of the people. Second is the added layer of violence caused by Islamist fanatics in many different Muslim countries because their ideal society is incompatible with current worldwide trends. The third is absolutely unique to our nation: it is the army’s own arming and training and financing and ideologically supporting the most fanatical and vicious elements in the country in some insane scheme to wrest Kashmir from India and project power into Afghanistan and beyond.
Just replace Islamist fanatics with Evangelical fanatics and the Pakistani army with the U.S. military industrial complex and you end up with just the same.
Two countries where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Two countries where the economic elite only cares for itself, where religious fanatics have free realm and where the military is out of bounce and defines its own lunatic purpose. Such countries seem to breed violence, externally but also internally.
Where is the difference between Pakistan and the United States in that? Is there any?
Assassination Of A Liberal in America
Editorial published in Dawn, Jan. 11, 2011
IT'S EASY to blame America's deepening crisis on its feckless civilian government. President Barack Hussein Obama and his Democratic Party have been ineffectual in managing the country's economy, slow in responding to disasters like last summer's oil spill and unable to attack extremist sanctuaries as the United States has been seeking for years. Having lost its majority in parliament, the Obama government looks as if it may be beyond rescue.
Yet the assassination last week of one of Mr. Obama's allies, Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, was a reminder that America is engaged in a fateful civil war between democratic moderates and extremists - and that the current government is the most reliably liberal force. Mrs. Giffords was an outspoken defender of secular values who had been campaigning to reform America's most odious laws against health care.
There are many good reasons for frustration with Mr. Obama, both among Americans and among foreign allies. But this week's events make plain - if it were not clear enough already - that there is little choice other than to try to support and strengthen his government. Mr. Obama's government needs to implement economic reforms, sponsor development in areas where extremism breeds, and push the Army to go after them. But for now, the priority should be its survival.
Adopted from: Death of a liberal in Pakistan, Editorial, WaPo, Jan. 6, 2011
Still No U.S. Strategy On Afghanistan
On December 21 General Petraeus launched a trial balloon via the New York Times. As his campaign in Afghanistan is failing he presented the great idea to extend the ground war into neighboring Pakistan.
From today's Washington Post we learn that this plan, for now, has thankfully been rejected in favor of more political engagement:
The strategy, determined in last month's White House Afghanistan war review, amounts to an intensifying of existing efforts to overcome widespread suspicion and anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, and build trust and stability.
President Obama and his top national security aides rejected proposals, made by some military commanders and intelligence officials who have lost patience with Pakistan, to allow U.S. ground forces to conduct targeted raids against insurgent safe havens, officials said. They concluded that the United States can ill afford to threaten or further alienate a precarious, nuclear-armed country whose cooperation is essential to the administration on several fronts.
It is unclear from the article what the actual strategy is supposed to be. Biden is flying to Pakistan but what he is supposed to deliver is unclear. It sounds a bit like muddling through like before until something happens or not:
Beginning with Biden's visit, the time may be ripe for a frank exchange of views and priorities between the two sides, another administration official said. The Pakistanis "understand that Afghanistan-Pakistan has become the single most important foreign policy issue to the United States, and their cachet has gone up." But they also realize that they may have reached the point of maximum leverage, this official said, "and things about their region are going to change one way or the other" in the near future, as Congress and the American public grow increasingly disillusioned with the war and a timeline for military withdrawal is set.
"Something is going to give," he said. "There is going to be an end-game scenario and they're trying to guess where we're heading."
There have already been many "frank exchanges" and yes, the Pakistanis, especially General Kiyani, have been asking for a end-game scenario:
"Kayani wants to talk about the end state in South Asia," said one of several Obama administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the sensitive relationship. U.S. generals, the official said, "want to talk about the next drone attacks."
The problem is that the U.S. still does not have a strategy and has no idea what it wants. Waiting until "something is going to give" is neither a strategy nor an end-game.
Repeating what was done before, talking tough with Pakistan, they look at the U.S. logistic lines and laugh about it, and tinkering at the edges of the economic aid policies will change nothing. While it has rejected Petraeus lunatic plans, the White House seems still to be under influence of military operational thinking instead of developing some sane and realistic policy to end the Afghanistan conflict.
Improper Mortgage Documents May Bust Major Banks
The Massachusetts Supreme Court had a great day today. It confirmed that a bank which wants to foreclose on a house has to have proper documentation that shows it has the right to do so. What a novel concept!
During the housing boom mortgages were sold, sold again, bundled up and put in some trust and then sold piecemeal to some dumb investors. Along the chain the proper handling of the ownership documentation was often not done or done in ways that are not legally binding.
Now when the investors, or the servicer of the trust in the name of the investors, want to foreclose on a property because the mortgage is not getting paid back, they find that they are lacking the documentation that they own the borrowers IOU paper, the note, and the deed, the mortgage, on the house.
Some kangaroo foreclosure courts, especially in Florida, have carelessly allowed foreclosures to proceed despite such improper behavior and despite doubts of who actually owns the loan. The Massachusetts Supreme Court today set the old new standard. Unless you prove that you have the proper documentation and you can not foreclose.
The inproper documentation issue may be curable in cases where a chain of ownership can be reconstructed and documented. But many of the original originators of those mortgages do no longer exist. Others have changed ownership. There is also the small issue that the relevant New York trust law does not allow for late assignements or transfers of the relvant papers to the trusts.
This will create a shit-storm in the banking system. Many investors will now try to put the loans back to the banks that sold them. They likely have a right to do so as the contracts assured them that the loans were correctly owned, which seems not to be the case.
This is a several hundred billion must-buy-back problem the banks who bundled and sold the mortgages have. There is likely more money to pay for the buy-backs than the capital of the banks involved in this.
Get ready for the big bank rescue part II, or if the Republicans prevent that, the big banking bust that may actually be needed to clean up the banking system.
For more details check Yves Smith's blog. She has been all over the issues for month and years and now has a copy of the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision.
It may be that this is the sign of an early renaissance, a rebirth, of the rule of law. That would be nice. It has been thouroughly missed.
Less Budget Growth Is Not A Spending Cut
Secretary of Defense Gates is pulling a major stunt by selling a smaller growth in the defense budget as a spending cut. The U.S. media are all too willing to further such propaganda. Headlines the New York Times: Pentagon Seeks Biggest Military Cuts Since Before 9/11.
Please notice that there has not been any cut at all in the defense budget "since before 9/11". The "biggest cut since" rhetoric is thereby nonsense. But its is even worse. There is no cut at all.
The White House ordered the Pentagon to squeeze almost all growth from its spending over the next five years, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said.
To lower the rate of growth is not a cut at all. Still, the article uses "cut" ten times. But instead of cutting Gates will increase defense spending:
The Pentagon’s proposed operating budget for 2012 is expected to be about $553 billion, which would still reflect real growth, even though it is $13 billion less than expected. The Pentagon budget will then begin a decline in its rate of growth for two years, and stay flat — growing only to match inflation — for the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years. (The Pentagon operating budget is separate from a fund that finances the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.)
Additionally to this growth in the defense budget, the separate budgets for veteran care, nuclear weapons and the ongoing wars will also increase.
The whole thing is thereby just the dumbest of propaganda stunt. But predictably the voters will fall for it. The Republican majority in the House will protest against these "cuts" and eliminate some of them. The rhetoric will thereby be used to further grow the budget. And the media by propagandizing Gates moves will again have failed in their basic duty.
Diplomats Not Getting Religion
An intercession, a request to one's god to do something, is certainly not direct action. Asking one's god for another persons health is different from performing open heart surgery on that person. Intercessions are done daily, all over the world, without harming anyone. They are, by definition, spiritual.
But that is something U.S. diplomats in Erbil do not understand. In an embassy cable the diplomats write:
For a four-week period after the Israeli actions against Gaza commenced, certain religious leaders in the Kurdistan Region used their Friday sermons to exhort their congregations to acts of violence against Jews, Israel and the supporters of Israel.
What acts of violence were requested by these religious leaders?
Did they ask their congregations to bomb Israel like Israel bombed Gaza? Did they incite them to personally fight any Jew? Did they ask for suicide bomber volunteers? No. They did nothing like that.
On December 5 an Imam prayed for the Palestinian people and asked God to rain his anger at the Jewish people and destroy them. On December 5, at another mosque, the congregation was prompted to pray that God would destroy Israel and kill all the Jewish people. On January 16 an Imam told his followers "we should pray that God will destroy all the Jewish people." During his prayer, he asked God to kill the Jews one by one until none of them was left alive. He also prayed that God would "kill those who support the country of Israel as well."
An evangelical prayer leader asking his congregation to pray for the soon arrival of the end of times is not exhorting to acts of violence. A shia prayer leader asking his congregation to pray for the soon arrival of the Mahdi is not exhorting to acts of violence. A catholic priest asking to pray to god for the punishment of sinners is not exhorting acts of violence.
But the requests of the Kurdish Imams to pray for god to do something about Israel were taken as dangerous and the U.S. diplomats immediately contacted three different Kurdish ministries to have the Imams silenced. The puppets followed through and the Imams were forbidden to preach.
Such suppression of quite moderate expression of outrage, by requesting prayers for god to act rather than to call for direct action, will likely further more extreme positions and will push the more enraged believers into the political underground.
It is stupid and a mistake. That U.S. diplomats, especially in the Middle East, are unable to understand the basic concept of intercession which is used in most religions is a disgrace. Or maybe not. Maybe they need to do so to keep the "war of terror" alive.
A New Torture Method
The Columbia Journalism Review has a recommendable piece about journalism in Afghanistan. Crossfire in Kandahar. Part of it is a tale of a journalist, Mohammad Nader, captured and interrogated by the U.S. military seemingly for talking on the phone to a Taliban spokesperson. The journalist is raided from his home at night, brought into a prison and gets interrogate every few hours.
Nader looked forward to the interrogations. His questioners seemed like good people, he told me, and the translators they worked with were particularly adept. The sessions also gave him an excuse to leave his cell, a dark room about ten feet long and eight feet wide. The cell disturbed him. Pictures occasionally appeared on the wall. Nader described them as photographs projected from somewhere else by means of a light beam or laser. One image showed a person with two broken legs. Later, a picture of a bloodstain appeared on the wall. Nader wondered if it was the blood of the prisoner who had occupied the cell before him. Another picture showed two dogs fighting. The stomach of one of the dogs was ripped open and puppies spilled out. Nader tried not to look at the images, lest he grow frightened. The doctor gave him sleeping pills, but he spent his three nights in NATO custody wide awake. Unfamiliar music played, and he could hear the voices of children calling, “Baba, baba!”—the Afghan word for father. He was convinced these were the voices of his own children, recorded somehow through his phone or another device the Americans had planted in his house.
Seeing pictures on the wall and hearing voices would be typical for a person who is in solitary confinement for some longer time. But Nader is only there for three days. He is an experienced cameraman and knows about pictures.
Could such things as projected pictures an the prison cell wall be some new method to put people "off balance" before interrogations? This seems like some "simulation" of the effects of solitary confinement in the hope of inducing the same helplessness and mental disturbance that solitary confinement induces. As such I could certainly be defined as torture.
The CJR writer later questions a high ranking U.S. press officer about this.
He declined to comment on Nader’s account of the disturbing pictures projected on the wall of his cell, except to say that NATO forces abide by the Geneva Conventions and by detention rules laid down in a U. S. Army field manual.
As we know the U.S. always says that it abides by the rules, even while it breaks them.
Nader's story sounds quite believable and, as we know, military interrogators have always been creative in their methods. But such methods are unlikely to be secret for long. Such things come home to roost. At latest when their use spills over into the United States as it inevitable will. Therefore, I believe, we will hear much more of this new torture method. Hopefully before someone becomes insane over seeing pictures on a prison wall.
Israel Officials Demanding Bribes From U.S. Companies
Israeli officials demand bribes to let U.S. products through the Karni crossing into Gaza. A U.S. embassy cable from Tel Aviv, published by the Norwegian paper Aftenposten, explains how the system works:
The normal cost of shipping cargo is USD 600-650 to transport a load from the West Bank or the port of Ashdod to Karni and, according to Israeli Airports Authority (IAA, which manages Karni terminal) Deputy Director General Yoram Shapira, the standard processing fee at Karni is NIS 370 (USD 82) for a full trailer, NIS 350 (USD 78) for a semi-trailer, and NIS 250 (USD 56) for a single trailer. Coca Cola distributor Joerg Hartmann (strictly protect) claimed to econoff that the cost of guaranteeing that one,s shipment will cross into Gaza on a certain day increases sharply after a long closure, while the price goes down after the terminal has experienced a long period without any closures. Hartmann also alleged that he has been asked to pay as much as NIS 13,000-15,000 (USD 2,889-USD 3,333) per truckload, which includes a flat fee plus an additional two shekels per case charge, which is not recorded on the invoice. The AmCit Westinghouse general manager supplied FCS with invoices where he was charged NIS 14,000 and NIS 28,000 (USD 3,111 and USD 6,222) per truckload. Caterpillar alleges that it was asked to pay NIS 12,000 (USD 2,667) to move two small caterpillar generators through the passage, which the company refused to pay.
The usual tribal rules apply and Israeli companies therefore have to pay much lower bribes.
What does one get for $3,000 payment to move cargo? Hartmann said that for that price, your truck is promised the first place in line or a spot near the head of the so-called "Israeli line" which does move. Hartmann said that usually two or three lines at Karni are reserved for Israeli companies/shippers, which he speculated pay a much lower amount to get their products across the border. These lines process transfers much more rapidly than the other lines at Karni.
One really wonders. Is there a limit of embarrassment and disgrace the U.S. is willing to take from its "ally"?
Senator Graham Confirms Taliban Propaganda
Senator Lindsey Graham wants permanent bases in Afghanistan:
I hope we can find an enduring relationship with Afghanistan that will make sure that country never goes back in the hands of terrorists. And the idea of putting permanent military bases on the table in 2011, I think would secure our national interest and tell the bad guys and the good guys we're not leaving, we're staying, in a responsible way if the Afghan people want us to stay.
Afghanistan never was "in the hands of terrorists". The Taliban may have had guests that turned out to be "terrorists" but the Taliban movement itself never fought outside of its country.
But that is not the main point - it just shows that Graham does not understand what he is talking about.
The Taliban have claimed all along that the U.S. is occupying Afghanistan to have permanent bases there and to steal its riches. It was one of there main propaganda point, though, up to now, not provable.
Accordingly their response to Graham is somewhat triumphant (though badly translated):
His remarks definitely lifts the curtain from the colonialist motives of America which the Islamic Emirate has been trying in the past decade to draw to them, attention of the people of the world. In fact, the invading America wants to establish her dominance over the region and the world under the so-called war on terror. Thus, they are trying to deprive the masses from their inalienable rights.
Graham has just arranged for a new successful nationalistic recruitment drive by the Taliban and for further support to them from Pakistan. Permanent U.S. bases just across the boarder is not what any of Afghanistan's big neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, want. As the Pakistani Chief of Staff Kayani explained the relation with the U.S.:
The two countries' "frames of reference" regarding regional security "can never be the same," he said, according to news accounts. Calling Pakistan America's "most bullied ally," Kayani said that the "real aim of U.S. strategy is to de-nuclearize Pakistan."
The most interesting points in the response of the Islamic Emirate to Graham's statements are their explanation of U.S. motives, an offer to China to sell natural resources and a bow to and request for support from neighboring countries:
The tempo of economic and industrial progress is going to shift from America and Europe to Asia in the near future. This economic impetus needs raw material. Hence, the invading America wants to bring under her belly the natural resources of Afghanistan, ostensibly, under the name of war on terrorism, thus intending to coerce regional countries to agree to the colonialist objectives and strings of America. Similarly, they want to deprive the Afghan people of access to their natural resources and compel them live in poverty and misery. Therefore, the Mujahid people of Afghanistan will never allow the invading America to plunder their natural resources and take their freedom.
We are ready to enter into transparent bilateral agreements with other countries on the basis of national interests and economic profitability for the extraction of the said natural resources.
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is a responsible force. We assure all regional countries that we will maintain good relations with them in light of the lofty rules of ethics of Islam, following our obtaining independence. Meanwhile, we urge them not to be beguiled by America to give consent to establishment of American permanent bases in Afghanistan under the unjustified name of war on terror.
Whatever one may think about the Taliban and their Islamic Emirate, dumb they are not. That distinguishes them from Graham.
Free Speech Blasphemy
ISLAMABAD: Gunmen killed the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, a senior member of the ruling party, in Islamabad on Tuesday, his spokesman said.
Interior Minister Rahman Malik told reporters that the suspect in the case had surrendered to police and told them he killed Taseer because “the governor described the blasphemy laws as a black law.”
Governor Punjab Salman Taseer killed in gun attack - Dawn
Blasphemy is the defamation of the name of God or the gods, and by extension any display of gross irreverence towards any person or thing deemed worthy of exalted esteem.
There will now be an uproar about those Islamist Pakistani and the idolizers who hold free speech in exalted esteem will now declare how abhorrent, even blasphemic, it is that countries can have a law against blasphemy at all. Especially if those countries have mostly Muslim populations.
Well, many countries have such laws. Wikipedia currently lists some forty and I am sure there are many unlisted ones. Let's take a look at a few not so Islamist ones:
Austria: In Austria, Articles 188, 189 of the penal code relate to blasphemy.
Brazil: Art. 208 of the penal code states that "publicly villifying an act or object of religious worship" is a crime punishable with 1 month to a year of incarceration, or fine.
Greece: Article 199 "Blasphemy Concerning Religions" states: One who publicly and maliciously and by any means blasphemes the Greek Orthodox Church or any other religion tolerable in Greece shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two years
Israel: In Israel, blasphemy is covered by Articles 170 and 173 of the penal code
United Kingdom: Blasphemy laws in the United Kingdom were specific to blasphemy against Christianity. ... The last successful blasphemy prosecution (also a private prosecution) was Whitehouse v. Lemon in 1977, when Denis Lemon, the editor of Gay News, was found guilty.
Blasphemy laws are dangerous if they are not neutral towards all acknowledged believes or when they can be easily abused to accuse anyone out of revenge or other personal motives.
But blasphemy laws make sense. Religion believe is often deeply held and blasphemy laws can prevent provoked strife and heart felt outrage.
That is not to justify the murder of Salman Taeseer. Just to think a bit about the lunatic religion of free speech absolutism and the blasphemy, inherent in the mere existance of any blasphemy law, against the deeply felt believe and exalted esteem for the free speech religion.
Obama Administration Confirms "No Nukes" Iran NIE
The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate which stated that Iran does not have a military nuclear program has, to my best knowledge, never been publicly confirmed by the Obama administration. But two released diplomatic cables indicate that the NIE's conclusions are still considered to be correct.
In November 2007 a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate concluded (pdf):
• We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.
• We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and the NIC assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.)
• We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.
In an embassy cables released by WikiLeaks the Obama administration confirms the NIE conclusion and states that Iran does not have any active military nuclear program. In another cable the Turkish Defense Minister states, undisputed by Secretary of Defense Gates, that there is no evidence at all for any Iranian military nuclear program.
A November 2009 cable with official talking points on U.S. missile defense policy states:
We continue to assess that Iran, at a minimum, is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran could choose at any time to restart its nuclear weapons program and, eventually, arm its missiles with nuclear warheads.
A February 2010 cable reports on a meeting between Secretary of Defense Gates and the Turkish Defense Minister Gonul:
Turning to Iran, Gonul cited the enrichment program and acknowledged that Ankara is "concerned about the Iranian threat," but said that the international community does not yet have evidence that there is a weapons program.
Why Do Threats Always Grow?
Why do threats always grow?
Reading Zaeef: Epilogue - Afghanistan Today
Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:
America made an irreversible mistake in their choice of friends, ignoring their history with Afghanistan. The Afghan allies they chose were often warlords who had returned to Afghanistan in the wake of battle, using America and damaging the very foundations of the new Afghanistan they planned to create. Another strategic mistake was to allow Great Britain to return to the south, or Afghanistan in general.
The British Empire had fought three wars with Afghanistan, and their main battles were with the Pashtun tribes in southern Afghanistan. They were responsible for the split of the tribal lands, establishing the Durand line. Whatever the reality might be, British troops in southern Afghanistan, in particular in Helmand, will be measured not on their current actions but by the history they have, the battles that were fought in past. The local population has not forgotten, and, many believe, neither have the British. Many of the villages that see heavy fighting and casualties today are the same that did so some ninety years ago.
There are even fundamental flaws in the very construction of the Afghan government that show a lack of understanding of Afghanistan and its people. From the very beginning Pashtuns were underrepresented, even though President Karzai is Pashtun; this alone is an inbuilt weakness. Furthermore, the government system and its mechanisms are far too advanced for Afghanistan. There is a lack of control within departments and ministries, with little means of ensuring that subordinate departments and ranks obey the orders of their superiors. Parts of the government appear to be under the control of foreigners and not the President, his ministers or the cabinet. There are government officials and members of the cabinet that are mistrusted by the population. The very structure of the government, the division of the army, the cabinet and the other organs have been decided by foreigners.
Information is key to any conflict. The foreign troops in Afghanistan have poor intelligence, though, and have too often listened to people who provided them with false information, who use the foreigners for their own goals and target their own enemies or competitors. America often admits mistakes, but the public never hears that an informant who provided them with false information that led mistakes is to be punished and held accountable for his action. As long as this is the case, we must assume that America cooperates with them and that military operations, based on false information, are actually planned and executed for other reasons, and are not in fact mistakes after all.
The US and its allies solely rely on force, and even the so-called peace talks are accompanied by threats. It is astonishing that after eight years, with tens of thousands of troops, warplanes and equipment, and a vast national army, facing down some estimated ten thousand insurgents, leaving some two-thirds of the country unstable, that foreign governments still believe that brute force is a solution to the crisis. And still they send more troops. The current conflict is a political conflict and as such cannot be solved by the gun.
The biggest mistake of American policy makers so far might be their profound lack of understanding of their enemy. The US brought an overwhelming force to Afghanistan. They arrived with a superior war machine, trying to swat mosquitoes with sledgehammers, destroying the little that was left of Afghanistan and causing countless casualties on their mission, knocking down many more walls than killing insects. Till this very day it is this lack of understanding and their own prejudices that they still struggle with.
The new Obama administration appears to be making as many mistakes as their predecessors. The decision to bring a special envoy who will diminish the authority of Afghan officials, coupled with the appointment of General McChrystal, a man who was previously responsible for covert operations, are both steps in the wrong direction. The mounting number of civilian casualties together with the ill-made attempts to cover up massacres will doubtless further alienate the Afghan people. America now is at risk of following the same path as the Soviet Union. If America does not wake up from its trance of selfproclaimed omnipotence, Afghanistan will be its demise.
Ever since America invaded Afghanistan, they have come to many junctions in the road and all too often they have made the wrong decisions. They are on unfamiliar territory, and they know little about Afghanistan. Today the situation in my birthplace of Kandahar looks like an unhealthy amalgam of the worst of the Russian times and the civil war that followed. Once again Afghans are fighting each other, and President Obama, who had the option to choose a new path, seems to have made his mind up. And once again foreign troops will arrive in great numbers trying to solve a problem they are part of.
How much longer will foreigners who fail to understand Afghanistan and its culture make decisions for the Afghan nation? How much longer will the Afghan people wait and endure? Only God knows. Once again I pray for peace. Once again I pray for Afghanistan, my home.
Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef
Kabul, June 2009
Some Links And An Open Thread
A few links and an open thread:
- Democracy's failures, 2010 - Guardian
- Why the Rich Are Getting Richer - Foreign Affairs
- End human rights imperialism now - Guardian
- How WikiLeaks Enlightened Us in 2010 - CBSnews
- STOP OPERATION CAST LEAD 2 — A New Year’s Message for 2011 - Richard Falk
- 2001. 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010,
2011 seen as make-or-break year for Afghan mission - LA Times
Found this on the Boston Globe's Big Picture Afghanistan series. The caption to it says:
Taliban fighters man a checkpoint in an undisclosed location in Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan on Dec. 13, 2010. A Taliban commander on the ground said that they were checking the traffic looking for people working for the Afghan government, for non-governmental organizations or who work at the US military bases.
Noticed the machine gun? It is a M 240 widely used by the U.S. military. Funny how that interesting little fact didn't make it into the caption ...
Reading Zaeef: 21. No War To Win
Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:
Afghanistan’s political situation is tied to the international scene, a political game in which the most disparate nations are tied together in one dishonest chain. Things are so confused you cannot tell back from front. Why don’t these people get themselves out of Afghanistan? It is all temporary anyway. Maybe they will leave sooner; maybe they will stay a bit longer. But one thing is clear: Afghanistan has the right to resist invasion. We have the right to save our honour. We have the right to take revenge on those who have spilled our blood.
It is the eighth winter since the invasion, but still the cruelty and dishonour continue. The series of killings, of funerals, of bloodletting, is getting stronger by the day. So what strategy are they working on?
Their brains have atrophied in their skulls. And what empty-headed, selfish Afghans are they listening to?
It would be good if these countries would leave the alternative strategies to the Afghans. We should decide our future by ourselves. We should be making the decisions, the compromises, and the system. These countries should abandon the idea that all of these things can be under the prerogative of just one empty president, who dances according to their tune. The law of the country is disregarded, the ministers are appointed according to their wishes. The judiciary forgets its own decisions, or even takes actions that violate previous decisions. They cannot have an economic monopoly, or try to manipulate Afghan honour for their own ends.
They process governors and parliamentarians through their own filter. And for them killing an Afghan is just like killing a bird. If they kill or injure an Afghan, no one can take them to court; no one can make them answer.
The diabolical United Kingdom and stubborn America will widen the gap between Muslims and other religions. They will create an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion. This satanic policy has gone on for long enough.
Afghans should forget their fear of this paper tiger. They should take back their independence, in such a way that the foreign invaders have no more excuses. Is this possible or not? Perhaps it is too early to say. But if the situation continues as it is now, after this unholy alliance came together for the Afghan elections, it will not benefit either the Afghans or their neighbours.
Afghanistan will survive. It was here long before America was born and will still be here long after the Americans have left. Now our nation is caught in a web woven by our neighbours and the foreigners with the help of a few. But the time will come when the Afghan people find their voice and come together to once again move forward at their own pace and along their own path.
Reading Zaeef: 20. Getting Out
Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:
I was astonished to read the terms listed on this piece of paper. The group of soldiers and some senior officials were recording everything with their video camera as I listened to the translator. They handed me the paper to sign it, but I threw it back at them in anger.
“I am innocent, and not a criminal,” I said. “I never have, nor will I, accept any kind of accusations. And never will I excuse or thank the Americans for releasing me. If I have committed any crime, which tribunal or court has proved me a criminal!?
“Secondly, I was a Talib, I am a Talib and I will always be a Talib, but I have never been a part of Al Qaeda!
“Third, I was accused of terrorist activities, which I have never done. So how could I admit to doing something that I never did to start with? Tell me!
“Fourth, Afghanistan is my home. No one has the right to tell me what to do in my homeland. If I am the owner of my house, how can someone else come and tell me what to do in it?
“Fifth, I am still detained here, innocently detained. I can be arrested again, accused of any crime, so I am not going to sign any kind of paper.”
They insisted that I sign the paper. They told me that I would not be released if I refused, but still I did not sign it. Even if it would have meant that I spend the rest of my life in prison, I could never accept to confess to being a criminal. Many times they left and came back, but I still did not sign.
Finally, they told me to write something myself instead of what was written on the paper. I was obliged to write something, so I took the pen and wrote the following:
I am not a criminal. I am an innocent person. Pakistan and the United States of America have betrayed me. I was detained for four years without specific accusations. I am writing this out of obligation and stating that I am not going to participate in any kind of anti-American activities or military actions. Wasalam.
After that, I signed what I had written and they left me alone. I wondered if they would accept what I had written. After a short while a Red Crescent delegation came and congratulated me on being released.
They became angry. “Why do you hate us?” they asked.
“I do not like you,” I told them. “Just look at what you are doing, and what you did to me and other Muslims. What do you expect?”
They looked at me with bulging eyes and mottled faces.
“Do you want to go back to Guantánamo?” they asked.
“Whatever you do is your business,” I answered. “You kept me in Guantánamo for four years when I had done nothing. If you want to do it again, there is nobody to stop you. But if it’s a question of freedom, then I have the right to tell you to leave me alone. But if it’s a question of power, then do as you wish, for you have all the power. But I don’t want to see you. So throw me in jail or leave me alone, it’s up to you.”
Reading Zaeef: 19. Graveyard of the Living
Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:
Mullah Fazal was punished for forty-one days because he did not answer the questions during an interrogation. During the nights he remained chained up in the interrogation room with the air-conditioning unit on full blast. The soldiers made sure to keep him awake. During the day they forced him to walk around so he wouldn’t fall asleep. Visitors were always brought to Camp Four, and never saw the real Guantánamo, just a few metres away.
Many times the holy Qur’an was abused; the soldiers deliberately used it as a tool to punish us. More than once we collected all the Qur’ans and handed them back to the authorities because we could not protect them. But instead of taking them back, we were punished.
Prisoners are the weakest people in the world. A detainee in Guantánamo, however, is not even a person anymore. He is stripped of his humanity as each day passes.
At the beginning all questions were related to the current situation in Afghanistan, but later this changed completely. Questions were of a general nature or concerned with the country’s economy. Many questions were asked about natural resources or mines and their location. In particular I was asked many questions about oil, gas, chrome, mercury, gold, jade, ruby, iron and other precious stones. I was asked several times about uranium, even though I had previously not heard that there was any in Afghanistan. Often when I said that I did not know or when I had no information, I was punished and put into an isolation cage. There were countless questions about Islam, madrassas, religious institutions, famous scholars and religious conferences.
Several hunger strikes took place in the camp, and were ended only after receiving promises from the Americans, but the one that started at this time lasted until the day of my release on 11 September 2005. Each day the number of participants increased; several became extremely weak and were close to death, fainting in their cages and cells, and being taking to the hospital for treatment. They were forcefed intravenously, but even while in the hospital they still tried to prevent the doctors from feeding them. They could no longer tolerate what was being done to them and chose death over life.
The hospital was filled with starving patients. The doctors were so busy with the emergency cases that other patients had to wait to be treated. The doctor-in-charge refused to force-feed the prisoners, so five other doctors were brought. The problem continued until 19 January 2006.
Where now is the United Nations, which so readily supported sanctions against twenty million Afghans, while now thousands of Muslims are detained, clamouring for justice, law and human rights? And for what?