Revolution is in the Air: 4/7/11: Al-Sadr Threatens Mahdi Army Revival if US Troops Stay


The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Thursday, Day 131

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell




Outside the Israeli enemy embassy in Cairo

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)

Headlines for March 17, 2011

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Thursday, Day 131

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

Bahrain police beat up human rights activist

Proving yet again that the government is a bunch of thugs. Is the US going to keep quiet or will they bother to do something about their partner in the region?

Authorities in Bahrain on Saturday detained and beat a prominent human rights activist in part of widespread crackdown on the opposition in this tiny Gulf nation, a Bahraini human rights group and his relatives said.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights said Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who formerly worked for international human rights organizations, was detained on Saturday in a pre-dawn raid. Al-Khawaja’s daughter, Zainab, confirmed the arrest and said her father was taken from her house in a Shiite village outside the capital, Manama.

She told The Associated Press that armed and masked men, some wearing black police uniforms and carrying riot gear, stormed her house around 2 a.m. on Saturday. They beat her father unconscious before leading him into custody along with her husband and her brother-in-law, she added.

Reforms in Bahrain continue

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
“Two supporters of Bahrain’s anti-government movement died in police custody Saturday after physical abuse at the hands of security officials, activists said.”

arrests in Bahrain

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
” Bahrain authorities should immediately release prominent opposition and rights activist Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja, or bring him before an independent judge and charge him with a recognizable offense, Human Rights Watch said today.”

Reuters: Saudi-US Plan to Nudge Saleh Out as Demonstrators Stage Tsunami of Taiz

from Informed Comment by Juan

Reuters reporters in Dubai are saying that a diplomat with knowledge of the negotiations going on between the Gulf Cooperation Council and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told them that the plan was to have Saleh step down in favor of a transitional ruling council that would prepare for elections. Among those mentioned as potential transitional council members are Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar (millionaire businessman and a leader of the Muslim al-Islah or Reform Party), former Prime Minister Abdulkarim al-Iryani, and another former Prime Minister, Abdulaziz Abdul-Ghani.

(Hmm. Despite what has been alleged by the Wobblies, I don’t actually often hobnob with the powerful. But being an academic I sometimes do meet them at conferences. So I sat next to Mr. al-Iryani last summer at a dinner and asked him a lot of questions about Yemeni history and current events. Since I had been to Sanaa on more than one occasion and know some Yemeni history, he was approachable.)

Saleh has been invited by the GCC ambassadors to go to Riyadh for talks with the opposition, which however has announced that any plan that provides for Saleh to remain in power is a non-starter.

Saleh’s political and diplomatic position has deteriorated rapidly in the wake of massacres committed in Sanaa and in Taizz by his security forces, as local politicians have abandoned him and even old backers like Riyadh and Washington have developed cold feet. On Wednesday, Amnesty International called for decisive action to halt the crimes against humanity being perpetrated by the Saleh regime. People, it reminds us, have a right to protest peacefully. Over a hundred protesters have been killed in Yemen this spring.

In Taizz on Wednesday, tens of thousands of protesters again came out into the streets in what they are calling the ‘Tsunami of Taizz.’ (The Arab press says ‘hundreds of thousands’ rallied, but it is only a city of 450,000, two-thirds of which are probably children, so the latter is probably an exaggeration). They chanted, “Leave, Ali, Leave” and “We want liberty!” According to al-Bayan of Dubai, the protesters were practicing civil disobedience, blocking a main thoroughfare, and they managed to paralyze the city. This was the fourth day of big demonstrations in the country’s second-largest city. On Monday, security forces killed 21 and wounded hundreds by opening fire on them. Taizz is a market city for the coffee grown in the green countryside around it, and it also has some industries, such as jewelry-making, light textiles, and tanning. Aljazeera Arabic is showing pictures of protesters there tearing down huge billboards with Saleh’s face on them.

In past elections, Ta’izz has returned seats for the General People’s Congress, the ruling party with a nationalist and socialist cast, and for the Islah Party (Muslim fundamentalist). Back in the 1980s and early 1990s it had a reputation as a bastion of the Yemeni Socialist Party. It is a major intellectual center.


Thousands of protesters also took to the streets in the Red Sea port of Hodeida. Some 3 million barrels a day of petroleum moves through the Red Sea, and instability in Yemen (which so far produces little petroleum of its own) is viewed by security experts as a threat to global energy supplies.

Aljazeera English has video on the Taiz demonstrations:


OSC: Yemeni Tribes, Movements, Youth, Organizations Decry Regime’s ‘Bloody Massacres’

from Informed Comment by Juan

The USG Open Source Center translates reactions of major political groupings in Yemen to the massacre of protesters in Taiz [Ta’izz] by security forces on Monday and the wounding of some 50 with live fire at al-Hodeida the same day.

Yemeni Tribes, Movements, Youth, Organizations Decry Regime’s ‘Bloody Massacres’…
Wednesday, April 6, 2011 …
Document Type: OSC Summary…

Yemeni newspapers and news websites were observed on 5, 6 April to carry reports highlighting reactions to the unrest in Yemen. The following is a roundup of reports as published by Yemeni papers and websites.


Sanaa. Website of opposition Yemeni Socialist Party … on 5 April carries a 150-word report saying that Shaykh Mujahid Ahmad Haydar, chieftain of Harf Sufyan tribes and head of the National Cohesion Conference, condemned on today the “mass murders” committed against the protestors in Ta’izz and Al-Hudaydah. The report adds that Haydar, a Damascus resident, said that all those who cover up the killing of the protestors an “defend Salih” are involved in “a crime against humanity.”

Sanaa. Al-Masdar …. [Website of independent weekly newspaper, critical of government policies] on 5 April carries a 100-word report saying that the “Khalas” (Salvation) movement condemned the “attacks against the protestors in both Ta’izz and Al-Hudaydah Governorates.” The report adds that the movement also decries the “international silence,” considering it a “real participation in the so-called crimes.” The movement also expressed its “rejection of the initiative of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] in being a mediator between the Yemeni government and the opposition.”

Sanaa. Ray News Online in Arabic … [News website of opposition Sons of Yemen League] . . . on 5 April carries a 100-word report saying that the Council of the Alliance of the Ma’rib and Al-Jawf Tribes, the Tribes for Change, and the Future Movement issued yesterday a statement condemning the “heinous massacres” perpetrated against hundreds of protestors in Ta’izz and Al-Hudaydah. The report adds that the council called on the youth and the opposition called to “consider any understanding at the expense of pure blood an act of treason against the revolutionaries, the revolution, and the homeland.”

Al-Mukalla Dammun Net in Arabic [Independent electronic newspaper with anti-government orientation, focusing on southern governorates] … on 5 April carries an 800-word report saying that Professor Husayn Salim Barbur, official spokesperson for youth of change in Hadramawt, announced that the protestors joined the Revolutionary Forces’ Union that calls for overthrowing Salih’s regime. The report adds that a committee for the union was elected and many objectives were set, namely: building a civil, diverse, and democratic state based on the parliamentary system; developing the state’s supervisory agencies; restructuring the military and security institutions. The report goes on to mention that the union had laid down several conditions, namely: overthrowing the oppressive regime; and forcing Salih, his relatives, and the military and civilian commands to step down, putting all corrupt leaders on trial for all the crimes perpetrated against the Yemeni people, offering compensations to the families of martyrs and the wounded.

Al-Mukalla Dammun Net in Arabic on 5 April carries a report saying that activist Tawakkul Karaman considered that the initiative of the Joint Meeting Parties, JMP, encouraged Salih to commit more crimes and gave him a cover for his crime. The report adds that Karaman said that the JMP “is not to speak on the behalf of the revolution,” without the youth’s approval, otherwise “the revolts will have to dissociate from them.”

Ma’rib Ma’rib Press in Arabic … [Independent news website focusing on Yemeni affairs] … on 5 April carries a 250-word report saying that the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms, HOOD, called on the international community, the Friends of Yemen group, and the international human rights organizations to exert pressure on the Yemeni authorities in order to provide a reasonable level of respect for the people by ending the bloody massacres. The report adds that HOOD released a statement condemning “series of daily criminal acts perpetrated by some military and security units, official and partisan commands, and armed groups against the peaceful protestors.”

Sanaa. Al-Masdar Online in Arabic on 5 April carries a 200-word report saying that the Civilian Alliance of the Youth Revolution declared in a statement that the current events are “crimes against humanity perpetrated by the regime against the peaceful protestors.” The report adds that the Civilian Alliance called on “all male and female citizens to join the peaceful demonstrations and protests.” The report goes on to say that the alliance held “the head of the regime and his relatives who control the security and military agencies” accountable for these “heinous crimes.” The alliance adds that “all the perpetrators” of these crimes “will be brought to justice.”

Sanaa. News Yemen Online in Arabic… [Independent news website focusing on local affairs] on 5 April carries a 1,000-word report saying that the protestors have agreed that the presence of the army brought a better atmosphere in their squares after the withdrawal of the Central Security. The report adds the army personnel talked about “mutual respect between them and the protestors.”

Sanaa. Al-Masdar Online in Arabic on 6 April carries a 300-word report saying that the family of [early twentieth century Zaidi] Imam Yahya Hamid al-Din expressed their solidarity with the peaceful youth revolution in Yemen and against the suppression and murders that they are enduring. The report adds that the youth of Imam Yahya are aspiring for a “new dawn created by the youth of wisdom.”

Sanaa. Al-Masdar Online in Arabic on 6 April carries a 150-word report saying that Iraqi Cleric Imam Shaykh Husayn al-Mu’ayyid considered the crimes against the civilian demonstrators a “smirch” by the Yemeni regime. The report cites Al-Mu’ayyid as saying that these crimes proved “once again the necessity of overthrowing this regime, who has started to swim in the sea in the innocent people’s blood.”

Egyptian military is the enemy–of course

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
“”We are starting to realize that unfortunately the military is our enemy,” said Mohamed Wagdy, a protester and unemployed engineer who witnessed the raid. “They were an integral part of Mubarak’s regime, and now their mask has fallen off. Now we can’t say that the army and the people are one handanymore.“”

Mubarak speaks, worries about hidden wealth allegations

from Jonathan Wright by Jonathan

1 person liked this
The statement that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak released today from house arrest in Sharm el-Sheikh is extraordinary for both its formality and its banality. The old man slips off to the palace that Hussein Salem gave him on the Red Sea coast without so much as a friendly farewell to his people and then pops up two months later with a statement drafted by some libel lawyer! Doesn’t he have anything interesting to say after 60 days ruminating over his 30 years in power? No regrets, no apologies, no philosophical musings? Not our Hosni. That was always his big failing – the lack of vision, the failure to understand that running a country of 40 to 80 million people (yes, the population did double over those 30 years) meant more than making sure that the shipments of imported wheat turned up in time, that any possible troublemakers were carefully monitored and that Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia approved of his performance.
In case you haven’t read his statement in detail (Arabic text here), Mubarak speaks like a retired civil servant who graciously gave up his sinecure for the public good and now insists on defending himself against allegations that he pocketed some public monies now and then. Nothing about the way he ran the country, nothing about the 800 Egyptians his police force and party thugs killed before he graciously agreed to leave, nothing about the way he allowed State Security to torture thousands of people and stick their ignorant noses into everything that moved across the country all those years. He does at least say that he “gave up the presidency” (that’s the first time we’ve heard from him that he agreed to go of his own free will) and has decided to stay out of politics. But after that it’s “all about me” – his reputation and the reputation of his family, and the only affront to their reputation that he can see is the allegations that he had large bank accounts and properties abroad, not that he ran a police state and failed to empower real institutions that might have converted Egypt into a modern functioning democracy. And again, here he is boasting about his service to the country in war and in peace like some old blimp who thinks that wearing a fancy uniform with medals gives him  immunity from criticism by some upstart revolutionaries (more of those troublemakers).
The reactions appeared to be overwhelmingly negative, though no doubt there are many Egyptians willing to sympathize with the man in his dotage. Psychologist Ahmed Okasha was on OTV saying Mubarak continues to treat Egyptians as slaves and subjects, rather than free citizens.
It’s impossible not to see some connection between Mubarak’s statement and the very large rally in Tahrir Square on Friday and the demands that Mubarak face trial or leave the country. The military council is again on the defensive after the heavy-handed and ultimately futile attempt to disperse the crowd in Tahrir by force. I passed through the square this afternoon and it remains in the hands of the protest movement, with barricades on some of the main approaches and no army or police in sight. As long as Mubarak’s fate remains undecided in this way, the political forces that brought him down cannot sleep soundly.

Al-Sadr Threatens Mahdi Army Revival if US Troops Stay

from Informed Comment by Juan

Al-Hayat writing in Arabic reports that nationalist Shiite clergyman Muqtada al-Sadr threatened on Saturday to revive his Mahdi Army militia if US troops tried to stay in Iraq past December 31, 2011. He said his fighters would return to carrying arms.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi protesters, mainly his supporters, gathered beginning early in the morning on Saturday in Beirut Square and along Palestine Street in Baghdad, in a huge rally to both observe and condemn the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. The crowds would likely have been even larger, but Iraqi security forces closed off thoroughfares and bridges leading to the area of the city where the rally was staged. The neighborhood was chosen because a US base is nearby. Protests were also held in other cities in the vicinity of US bases, demanding an immediate departure of the American military.

Iran’s PressTV has video:

Rallies were held at the airport in Ninewa Province; in front of the K-1 Air Force base in Kirkuk, before Imam Ali Base in Dhi Qar, which is used by the US Air Force; in Anbar in front of the al-Asad Base, and in Basra at the international airport. Similar sites were targeted for demonstrations in other provinces.

Muqtada’s threat was a shot across the bow of the Obama administration, which has shown interest in recent weeks in maintaining a US military presence in Iraq past the end of this year. Gareth Porter reports that the Obama team has been spooked by the widespread unrest in the Middle East and have reconsidered their determination to get out of Iraq on a short timetable. With a tense and polarized situation in Bahrain after the Saudis sent in troops to support the Sunni monarchy against his majority-Shiite subjects (most of them demanding a constitutional monarchy), the future of the US headquarters of the Fifth Fleet in the Oil Gulf is in doubt. The Arab Shiites of the Gulf are boiling with anger, which could give Shiite Iran an opening to make a bid for greater influence with them. The Obama team seems to think that for the US to abruptly pick up stakes in Iraq at this juncture would threaten the security architecture of the Eastern Arab world and perhaps even the security of petroleum exports from the region, which holds nearly two-thirds of the world’s proven petroleum reserves.

Thus, Vice President Joe Biden, who has the Iraq portfolio at the White House, called Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Thursday, apparently to pressure him to extend the US troop presence. The Status of Forces Agreement agreed to by the Iraqi parliament and the Bush administration in fall, 2008, stipulates that all US troops should depart the country by the end of 2011, but allows the Iraqis to request an extension. Washington interprets ‘the Iraqis’ to be the Prime Minister (apparently on analogy to the imperial presidency and the way that Congress has been marginalized in international affairs in the US). Iraqi parliamentarians, however, insist that an extension would have to be agreed to by parliament. The Biden phone call was followed by a visit from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, during which he offered to extend the troop presence but pointed to the short time window within which the request would have to be made. (The US is down to 47,000 or so troops in Iraq and would have to start a steep drawdown soon if there is no extension).

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Muhammad Salman, a member of Parliament who belongs to the largely secular and Sunni Iraqiya ticket (the largest single party in parliament, but which was unable to form a coalition yielding 51% of seats), said that his party would insist on a popular referendum on any extension. (Al-Iraqiya in the past at least has been relatively positive toward the US, but it has become more Sunni over time and many Sunnis are Iraqi nationalists uncomfortable with the American presence). The SOFA was supposed to be passed by referendum, but one has never been held.

The problem for the Obama administration is that Iraq still has no Minister of Defense, with PM al-Maliki holding that portfolio himself until he can find a compromise candidate acceptable both to his and the other major parties. Some high-ranking Iraqi generals are Kurds, who desperately want the Americans to stay, but whose views in this regard are distinctly ethnic (Kurds in the north were massacred by Arab troops in 1988, and as non-Arab Iraqis with substantial autonomy from the state, they fear that a complete US departure would leave them vulnerable to being pulled back into Baghdad’s orbit and subordinated to the majority Arabs). There are thus no credible independent voices among the new Arab elite who could give al-Maliki cover if he tried to keep the Americans around.

The situation, Porter says, is further complicated by the Saudi and Gulf Cooperation Council flexing of muscles to assert Sunni privilege over Shiite Islam in the Gulf. The action has angered Iraq’s Shiites, produced big rallies, and pushed al-Maliki closer to Iran. Many Shiite Iraqis, now in power, are afraid of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, accusing them sometimes of having funded Sunni fundamentalist guerrillas to set off vast numbers of bombs and sniping campaigns in 2005-2007 (it is unlikely that the two governments were implicated, though there are a lot of crazy Gulf millionaires who might have sent some money for such purposes). If al-Maliki now needs Iran more to offset a militant pro-Sunni Saudi Arabia and UAE, well, Iran would likely have a price for support, which would be an end to the US presence in Iraq.

Al-Maliki’s increasing willingness to do Iran’s bidding may be behind the strong response on Friday by Iraqi troops to attacks by the Mujahidin-i Khalq members at Camp Ashraf. Iran (indeed, the US State Department) views them as a terrorist organization that has set off many bombs inside Iran. The camp is there because Saddam Hussein was using this political cult, which traditionally combined Marxism and Muslim fundamentalism, to harass Iran.

Given the new frictions between Sunnis and Shiites over Bahrain and Saudi intervention, and given that al-Maliki increasingly needs Iranian support and has since last fall depended heavily on Muqtada al-Sadr for his ruling majority in parliament, the likelihood that al-Maliki can and will try to please the Obama administration by requesting an extension of the American presence is probably low.

Given that Gates is an old-time Realist in the Bush I mold, you wonder whether his heart is even in this sudden quixotic turn of Obama and his officials to wanting to retain a toehold in Iraq. It isn’t practical. Even if al-Maliki acquiesced and tried to implement an extension by fiat, it would likely cause his government to fall, and would also provoke a constitutional crisis with the parliament. With new elections, there would be no guarantee that whoever became prime minister would stand by the request for an extension. And, 20,000 US troops in Iraq are not troops, they are hostages. Their bases would attract on a constant basis the kind of demonstrations we saw in front of the existing ones on Saturday, and might well be a political vehicle whereby the hard line Sadrist trend among Shiites could strengthen itself. It could also throw Iraq back into militia violence.

I’m not sure what the Obama administration thinks it would gain from staying in Iraq, but it is a very, very, bad idea. The vast majority of Iraqis does not want the US there, and nor do the countries of the region, and nor was there ever a legal basis for them to have gone there in the first place. Staying past 2011 without an act of parliament and a national referendum would be illegal, and might well provoke the paroxysm of violence it is said to be an attempt to counter. Iraqi troops can be trained outside the country, and a US air security umbrella, if Iraqis want one, can be provided from al-Udeid Base in Qatar– it doesn’t have to involve bases in Iraq.

Protests against US occupation in Iraq are never a big story

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)

Notice that all you need is to invoke the name of Muqtada as-Sadr and refer to his stay in Iran, to dismiss and discredit the “tens of thousands” who protested:  “A day after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates suggested that American troops could remain here for years, tens of thousands of protesters allied with Moktada al-Sadr, the radical anti-American Shiite cleric, flooded the streets demanding an end to the American military presence.

The protests were scheduled before Mr. Gates’s comments — made on Friday during a visit to troops in northern Iraq — although his statements may have fueled some of the day’s fervor. The protesters were whipped up by comments drafted by Mr. Sadr, who is continuing his religious studies in Iran but who sent a message to the crowd threatening to reconstitute his militia, the Mahdi Army, if the American military did not leave this year.  “The first thing we will do is escalate the military resistance activity and reactivate the Mahdi Army in a new statement which will be published later,” Mr. Sadr’s representative, Salah al-Obaidi, told the crowd. “Second is to escalate the peaceful and public resistance through sit-ins.””

Now there are calls for training Libyan rebels

In other words, the mission is expanding. In the age of austerity, how do we have money for this? Maybe the US might think about unloading a war or two before then even allow such discussions among their coalition partners.

Britain is to urge Arab countries to train the disorganised Libyan rebels, and so strengthen their position on the battlefield before negotiations on a ceasefire, senior British defence sources have indicated.

The sources said they were also looking at hiring private security companies, some of which draw on former SAS members, to aid the rebels. These private soldiers could be paid by Arab countries to train the unstructured rebel army.

In what is seen in effect as the second phase of the battle to oust Muammar Gaddafi, it is now being acknowledged that the disorganised Libyan rebels are not going to make headway on their own. Nato member countries are looking at requesting Arab countries, such as Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, to train the rebels, or to fund the training. Qatar and the UAE are already involved in the Nato-led no-fly zone.

One country under consideration for the training is Jordan. Lovely country but a very poor one that relies heavily on US financial aid from the peace process. So let’s see where the training money will be generated.

Libya: Berber refugees report atrocities in remote Western Mountains

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report

As battles rage for the Libyan coastal cities of Misrata and Ajdabiyah, refugees arriving in Tunisia report atrocities by Moammar Qaddafi’s forces in the remote Western Mountains—including the shelling of homes, poisoning wells with petrol, and threatening women with rape. “The bombardment…is targeting homes, hospitals, schools,” said Mohamed Ouan, from the town of Kalaa, who arrived at Tunisia’s Dehiba border crossing with about 500 other Libyans from the Western Mountains. “No one is interested in this region, which is suffering in silence.” The Western Mountains region, which includes the towns of Nalout, Kalaa, Yafran and Zintan, is populated by Berbers, a group traditionally viewed with suspicion by Qaddafi, and has been the scene of a local civil rebellion. Videos posted on the Internet show crowds in Kalaa waving the green, black and red flag of the anti-Qaddafi rebels and chanting slogans in the Berber language. Another video, from Nalout, showed people at a protest holding up a banner with the words: “The rebels of Nalout are supporting the Benghazi rebels.” (Reuters, April 10)

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Libya: African migrants caught between both sides

from World War 4 Report blogs by Bill Weinberg

AlJazeera on April 9 reports from a refugee camp in Tunisia, where African migrants who have fled Libya tell both of being threatened and expelled from the country by rebel forces—and being press-ganged by Qaddafi’s military and forced to fight under pain of deportation. The interviewed migrants are from Nigeria, Niger, Mali and Ghana. One worker from Ghana said he was abducted by the Libyan military when soldiers stormed his house in Sirte: “They asked us why we were trying to leave the country and that we must stay to fight for when the Americans come.” Some of the interviewed migrants had deserted Qaddafi’s forces, while others were forced to flee by rebels under accusation of being Qaddafi collaborators.

read more

More deadly repression in Syria; Egyptians confront military

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report

Security forces and pro-government gunmen killed four protesters April 10 in Syria’s port city of Banias. The army had sealed off the city as hundreds of protesters gathered. State television reported that nine soldiers were killed in an ambush near the city. (AP, April 10) In Egypt, several hundred protesters staged an overnight vigil in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in defiance of a military crackdown, and say they will not be moved. The protesters, who have barricaded the square with a burnt-out army truck, barbed wire and beams chanted against military chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who has headed the country since president Hosni Mubarak was ousted. One person was killed and several wounded the previous day when the army tried to clear the square, although the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said the shooting was the work of pro-Mubarak provocateurs. (Middle East OnlineCSM, April 10)

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Hundreds of Thousands of Arabs Protest their Governments

from Informed Comment by Juan

On Friday, the US Congress endeavored to decide whether American democracy has irretrievably broken down because the representatives of the Billionaires refused to compromise with the representatives of the People (“cutting spending” while “cutting taxes” means “shifting the cost of running society to the middle class from the filthy rich”). The answer was that it had not, as long as the representatives of the People showed sufficient deference to the Billionaires, shuffling, keeping their eyes down, and obediently emptying their pockets. The middle class, successfully distracted by racial and religious hatreds and by attempts to impose patriarchal fundamentalism, was wreathed in vapid smiles as the billionaires sent movers to their homes to pick up the belongings they had just fleeced from them via their enforcers, the tea baggers.

As Americans rushed to surrender their constitutional rights, the peoples of the Middle East rose up from Libya to Iraq to demand those very rights for themselves– freedom of speech, religion, the press, and assembly, as well as safeguards against a secret police state that engages in routine unreasonable search and seizure and imposes cruel and unusual punishments while keeping prisoners hidden, denied habeas corpus, and often denied a speedy civil trial or even a trial at all.

In Iraq, masses began converging from the south and from Diyala province in the east on Baghdad, heeding the call of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for a million-person demonstration to mark what the Sadrists and many Sunnis see as 8 years of American military occupation. April 9 is commemorated by the pro-American politicians as the day Saddam fell, but the Sadrists and Sunni oppositionists see it as a black day on which Iraq lost its independence to Washington. Small Sunni crowds in Falluja and in Adhamiya in Baghdad got a head start by rallying on Friday, chanting against the United States and saying it had imposed Iranian rule on Iraq (yes). Among the demands of the largely Shiite demonstrators planning to come out on Saturday is that no US troops remain in Iraq after Dec. 31, 2011, and that there be no US bases in that country. Despite falling out of the news in the United States only 6 years after this country was electrified by the parliamentary elections that brought the Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution to power, Iraq has continued to be a hot news story. Just a few days ago, Sunni Arab guerrillas set off a bomb that killed 55 persons in front of the provincial government building in Salahuddin Province, north of Baghdad in the Sunni Arab belt.

In Syria, some 27 demonstrators were killed on Friday by security forces, and the government alleges that 19 police were killed by gunmen wearing ski masks. Rallies were held in Damascus, Douma, Deraa, Homs, Hasika, Qamishli and Banias, among other places. President Bashar al-Asad’s attempts to placate the 2 million Syrian Kurds by restoring citizenship rights to 100,000 of them were not entirely successful, since some 3000 Kurds nevertheless marched on Friday, insisting on a transition to full democracy. Deraa, the southern city which has seen frequent big demonstrations, was active again on Friday. Discontents there have to do in part with the government’s poor management of water resources and consequent lack of water. But Sunni fundamentalism opposed to the secular Arab nationalism of the Baath Party, which is dominated by the folk-Shiite Allawite sect, probably also plays a part.

Aljazeera English has video:


In Yemen, hundreds of thousands marched in cities throughout the country, demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down. He refused. In Taizz security forces killed three persons. In the capital of Sanaa, supporters of Saleh dueled with his detractors in rival demonstrations.

In Egypt, some 100,000 protesters gathered in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, demanding that deposed president Hosni Mubarak be put on trial for corruption. Some also chanted against interim military leader, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, calling for him to step down. Tantawi had been close to dictator Hosni Mubarak. On Saturday morning, the army cleared those still remaining from the square with tear gas and by firing over their heads.

Euronews has video:

A small crowd of 2000 demonstrated in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo against Israeli air strikes on Gaza and the continued blockade of the Gaza Strip. The mainstream of Egyptian politics, however, continues to cling to the Camp David peace accords with Tel Aviv. The air strikes, which killed civilians were provoked in part by the militant party-militia Hamas firing rockets into Israel, including one that hit a school bus and seriously injured an Israeli teenager.

In Libya, the see-saw fighting continued. The forces loyal to the Transitional National Council beat off an attack from the east on the western city of Misrata by forces loyal to dictator Muammar Qaddafi. NATO destroyed an arms depot under the control of the Tripoli government near the rebellious city of Zintan southwest of Tripoli. Aljazeera Arabic is reporting continued fighting at Brega and Ajdabiya.

A man set himself on fire in Amman, Jordan, emulating the action of the Tunisian Mohamed BouAzizi, whose self-immolation helped spark the Arab Spring.


Israeli ambassador out

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
One of the chants:
مصر حتفصل دائما حرة والسفير حيطلع بره
(Egypt will always be free, and the [Israeli] ambassador shall get out) (It rhymes in Arabic)

Outside the Israeli enemy embassy in Cairo

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
Another footage.  (One Egyptian comrade wrote about it: “music to my ears”).

Marching toward the Israeli embassy in Cairo

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
This is how they marched toward the Israeli enemy embassy in Cairo. (thanks Sus)

Waving Palestinian flags from balconies of the building that houses Israeli embassy in Cairo

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
This is beautiful.  Women started waving Palestinian flags from the balconies of the building that shamefully houses the Israeli enemy embassy.

Protest in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo: send that to Thomas Friedman who does not think that Egyptian youth care about foreign policy and to Nicholas Kristof who thinks that Egyptians heart Camp David

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
Here is the video clip. (thanks Joseph)
Among the slogans:
واحد اتنين الجيش العربي فين؟؟ يا فلسطين يا فلسطين، احنا معاكي ليوم الدين!! يا صهيوني يا خسيس، دم الشهداء مش رخيص…يا صهيوني يا خسيس، دم العربي مش رخيص
One two, where is the Arab Army
O Palestine, O Palestine, we are with you till day of judgment
O Zionist, o despicable, blood of martyrs is not cheap
O Zionist, o despicable, Arab blood is not cheap (they all rhyme in Arabic, of course)
Yesterday, my faith in the Egyptian uprising grew.  I knew that they would not forget Palestine, and that the dumb general, Tantawi, would not intimidate them anymore. The era of Sadat-Mubarak is long gone.  Expect the worst, o Zionists.  Keep freaking out.

U.K. government forced to open end-of-empire files

Great news from London, that a landmark court case by elderly Kenyan freedom fighters has now forced the Foreign Office to confess that they have suddenly “found” what are described as “around 8,800 files relating to 37 former British administrations — including those in Palestine, Cyprus, Malaya, Nigeria and Northern Rhodesia”, dating back to the 1950s and 1960s, and that “most of them” will be made public.

(If “Palestine” is among them, that means they must include the 1940s, too, no?)

Hat-tip to Laleh Khalili, by the way. Over on Facebook one of Laleh’s other commenters and I both identified this as a sort of time-warped Wikileaks trove.

That article by AP says,

    Foreign Office minister David Howell said the search for the Mau Mau documents had uncovered around 2,000 boxes of files from the 1950s and 1960s which the office has “decided to regularize.”

Howell said in a statement to lawmakers in Britain’s upper house on Tuesday that although colonial administrators left behind most of their papers after independence, they took certain files “not appropriate to hand onto the successor government” back to Britain.
I don’t like that word “regularize”. It smacks to me of “sanitizing.”

The article includes this:

    The British government will face its first test on whether these new files can be used against it on Thursday, when the four Kenyans — Ndiku Mutua, Paulo Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara — will argue that they were severely beaten and tortured by officers on behalf of the British government trying to suppress the Mau Mau uprising. Two of them have claimed they were castrated.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission believes 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed during the crackdown against the Mau Mau and 160,000 were detained in appalling conditions. Among those detained was President Barack Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama.

All sides declined to reveal detailed contents of the papers ahead of the court case Thursday, but [Oxford University historian David] Anderson said the documents may show evidence that people in all parts of the British government knew that captured Mau Mau fighters were being tortured.

“I’ve heard British officials say that all the abuse was carried out by junior officials, a few bad apples,” said Anderson, whose book “Histories of the Hanged: Britain’s Dirty War in Kenya and the end of Empire” investigates the Mau Mau uprising.

“These documents are critical — we must hope they will reveal who did or did not know about what was going on.”

AU proposes Ceasefire, NATO protects Misrata, Ajdabiya

from Informed Comment by Juan

NATO finally seemed to get its act together on Sunday, striking multiple Qaddafi tanks at Misrata and Ajdabiya and allowing the rebels to hang on in each place.

At Twitter we read, “@feb17voices: LPC #Misrata: No casualties from intense attack by Gaddafi forces but extensive damage to steel factory area, gas storage tanks. #Libya”. I think a lot of people did not know that there is a steel factory in Misrata, nor that a lot of the
‘rebels’ against Qaddafi in that city are workers. And now the regime is spitefully destroying their livelihood and bombarding their families. (@feb17voices is an innovative technology that lets Libyans with telephone access phone in their tweets, run by John Scott-Railton, who did the same thing for Egyptians when the regime cut off their internet.)

At the same time, three leaders from the African Union arrived for talks in Tripoli, and Qaddafi said at least that he accepted their proposals. The AU team will now go on to Benghazi for talks with the Transitional Governing Council, which has in the past rejected any plan that leaves Qaddafi or his sons in power.

Aljazeera English has video

The problem with having the AU mediate is that the leaders chosen are not viewed by the rebels as honest brokers.

While the world has not been paying attention, Qaddafi has been using his oil wealth (and I do mean ‘his’) to peddle influence in Africa, to gain the loyalty of it leaders, and to intervene militarily.

It is so ironic that critics of the UN intervention in Libya keep asking why there was no such humanitarian mission in Darfur in the Sudan, where separatists among the black African Fur people have been massacred by Arabic-speaking black Africans loyal to Khartoum. But it was Qaddafi’s disastrous interventions in Chad and the Sudan that initiated that bloodbath. The contemporary Darfur problem started in 1987 when some Arabic-speaking militiamen from Chad, who had been armed by Qaddafi, established a base over the border in Darfur.They were the precursors of the Janjawid. Qaddafi, ever the regional imperialist and spoiler, had used his oil billions to fill the continent with armed mercenaries and guerrillas, whom he used to widen his control. He spent fruitless years trying to take over his southern neighbor, Chad, the northern part of which his troops brutally occupied for years.

Far away from his own territory, Qaddafi spread terror through his terrorist training camp, the World Revolutionary Center. Out of it came a cadre of coup- and war-makers hungry for blood diamonds, including Charles Taylor of Liberia and Foday Sankoh of Sierra Leone. Qaddafi and Taylor intervened in the Sierra Leone war. Hundreds of thousands were killed in these conflicts provoked in part by Qaddafi’s ambitious attempt to foster a generation of authoritarian, reactionary revolutionaries in his own mold, who would be his clients. Having billions in oil money allowed him to undermine security and to play favorites in West African politics.

Qaddafi pays 15% of the expenses of the African Union and essentially has many African leaders on retainer.

Qaddafi came out strongly against the revolution against Zine El Abedine Ben Ali in Tunisia. It seems certain that if he could get back into power and regain his riches, Qaddafi would try to undermine the outbreak of unwelcome democracy and a rule of law in Tunisia, his neighbor, and he has fingers into Egypt, as well. The terminally naive supporters of this billionaire serial murderer and his billionaire playboy sons who are firing indiscriminately on civilians said that no, Qaddafi would never do anything like that. What do they think he has been up to in Africa for the past 30 years? If he can be gotten out of power and the Benghazi government can establish a parliamentary system, not only Libya but all Africa will have achieved a great step forward.

The headlines are that Qaddafi has accepted the AU offer of a ceasefire and peacekeeping forces. It would be all to the good if he recalled his tanks and artillery and stopped hitting out indiscriminately at civilians in his cities. It is easier to get to peace from a ceasefire than from active war. Qaddafi’s bloodstained past and many murders require that UN allies in NATO and Arab League exercise the utmost vigilance that he is not just using the diplomacy as a cover to expand his territory and kill more people.

This entry was posted in Background & Analysis, Bahrain, Counterinsurgency, Egypt, Events, Human Rights, Imperialism, Imperialist Interference & Views, Iraq, Libya, Revolution, Saudi Arabia, Syria, US Foreign Policy, Yemen. Bookmark the permalink.

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