Revolution is in the Air: 6/11/11: Obama Hides Meeting with Top Bahraini Leader — And Mutes Criticism of Ongoing Crackdown

INDEX (stories follow)


What do the Yemeni people want?

House of Saud and Egyptian Salafites




Arab Spring Turns Deadly Again

from Informed Comment by Juan
Thousands of Syrians demonstrated all over the country on Friday, especially in smaller cities and rural towns. Some 7000 came out in downtown Homs. Troops fired on crowds and responded with brutality against protesters. Aljazeera English reports:


As the Syrian military headed into the town of Jisr , where 120 members of the security forces died in internecine fighting a few days ago, many Syrians fled across the border to Turkey:


Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, a friend of Bashar al-Asad, seemed to begin breaking with him in comments on Friday in which he complained of the latter’s propensity for dealing with protests violently and disproportionately. Turkey is afraid of the Syrian unrest spilling on to it.

In Yemen, an enormous crowd of 100,000 marched in the capital of Sanaa to demand that President Ali Abdullah Saleh not return to the country. The remnants of his regime arranged for a much smaller counter-demonstration elsewhere in the capital, which went off peacefully. McClatchy reports that the Saleh clan has moved behind the scenes to strengthen its control of key security units, and that Saleh’s son, Ahmad Ali, has moved into the presidential palace.

In Libya, the people of Zlitan near Misrata rose up against Qaddafi’s forces, and heavy fighting ensued in the city. It is a key to opening Tripoli to an advance from the West, and so if it fell to the Free Libya forces, it would hasten the end of the war. Also on Friday, Qaddafi brigades continued their attacks on the city of Misrata, killing over twenty persons with indiscriminate fire. Qaddafi brigades also bombarded Gadamis, in the southwest near Tunisia. The Free Libya forces are puzzled as to why NATO does not attack the forces besieging Misrata, and I share their puzzlement. NATO has been intensively bombarding Tripoli, which may or may not actually be useful (no one seems to be explaining the rationale for these tactics), but Qaddafi forces appear to be able to roll around through the desert at will. My guess is that French and British air forces lack the precision capabilities of the American, and that there is still poor coordination between the Free Libya forces and their air protectors, which could lead to unfortunate friendly fire incidents, and NATO is being cautious. As for Tripoli, given that Qaddafi continues to order attacks on civilian cities who are protesting him, I think it is within the UNSC mandate to attack his command and control centers (how else would you protect the populations being assaulted?) But i know of no instance where ‘shock and awe’ worked to produce a military victory, and suspect that NATO is over-doing this tactic.

Yemen hangs in the balance; CIA chief pledges “continued operations”

 from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report
 Rival rallies were held in Yemen’s capital Sanaa on Friday June 10, as supporters and opponents of President Ali Abdullah Saleh gathered by the thousands just a few kilometers away from each other. Loyalists converged at Sabbeen Square to celebrate the news that Yemen’s president was out of intensive care in Riyadh after treatment for bomb blast wounds. Opponents demanding that Saleh turn power over to a civilian transitional council simultaneoulsy converged on University Square—the symbolic heart of the protest movement, which has been renamed “Change Square” by the demonstrators who amass there each Friday. (Middle East Online,AlJazeeraRFE/RL, June 10) The previous day, fighting between Saleh-loyalist troops and tribesmen who have thrown in their lot with the protest movement in the southern city of Taez left seven dead. (Middle East Online, June 9) In Washington meanwhile, CIA director Leon Panetta said that the US has not halted cooperation with the embattled Yemeni regime. “While obviously it’s a scary and uncertain situation, with regards to counterterrorism we’re still very much continuing our operations,” Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee. (Middle East Online, June 10)

What do the Yemeni people want?

“They deeply oppose the political solution advocated by Saudi Arabia and the United States, which grants Mr. Saleh and his family immunity from prosecution and is likely to preserve more of the status quo.”

The new ruler of Yemen is the US ambassador

 “”Concerned that support for the campaign could wane if the government of Yemen.s authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, were to fall, the United States ambassador in Yemen has met recently with leaders of the
opposition, partly to make the case for continuing American operations. “” (thanks Laleh)

Thousands Protest in Bahrain

 from Informed Comment by Juan
 The Shiite Wifaq Party succeeded in staging a demonstration some 10,000 strong in the town of Sar, Bahrain,on Saturday. Movement leader Sheikh Ali Salman called a “big lie” the charge that Wifaq wanted an Iran-style theocracy, countering that it just wanted a civil state.

The Wifaq demands for a constitutional monarchy in the small Sunni-ruled island kingdom had been met with a brutal crackdown that left 28 dead and hundreds imprisoned, and the declaration of a state of emergency, which was lifted at the end of May. King Hamad at that time called for resumption of dialogue with the opposition, which Wifaq welcomed. The authorities appeared to have OK’d the Sar demonstrations.

Saturday’s large rally signalled that the reform movement has not been crushed and that a will exists among the Shiite majority to challenge. the hegemony of Sunni near-absolute monarchy.

Aljazeera English has video:

The Saudi-supported crackdown angered Shiite-ruled Iraq and Iran. Ahmad Chalabi, the Shiite political operator who provided faulty intelligence to the US in hopes of provoking the American invasion of Iraq, attempted to lead a Mavi Marmara-style aid convoy to Bahrain from Basra recently, but was blocked by the government of PM Nouri al-Maliki. Iranian political figures have also spoken of getting up aid convoys, and have warned the king of Bahrain of reprisals.

The monarchy’s attempt to return quickly to business as usual by hosting the Grand Prix formula 1 race was scotched when many teams declined to participate in Manama in the wake of the crackdown.

 Obama Hides Meeting with Top Bahraini Leader — And Mutes Criticism of Ongoing Crackdown

 from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by (Democracy Now!)
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Bahrain_crackdownAmidst an intensifying crackdown on anti-government protesters in the tiny Gulf island kingdom of Bahrain, President Obama met Tuesday with Crown Prince Salman bin Isa al-Khalifa, a visit that was not announced beforehand. We speak with Nabeel Rajab, president of Bahrain’s Center for Human Rights, based in Manama. “On the ground, we don’t see anything, any signal, that makes us optimistic that the government has the willingness to go for a dialogue with the opposition and to listen to the grievances and the demands of the people,” says Rajab, noting that soldiers from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Bahrain continue to arrest protesters and the doctors treating those injured during pro-democracy demonstrations. [includes rush transcript]

Propaganda for Bahrain Crown Prince

“But several analysts warn that even if Prince Salman is sincere, he is only one member of a family that includes hard-liners like his uncle, Prince Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, the long-serving prime minister. With his mild manner and fluent English, Prince Salman may be merely the monarchy’s friendly face, skeptical analysts say.  The prince is on “a world tour to convince people that Bahrain is turning over a new leaf when in fact the hard-liners are conducting business-as-usual at home,” said Leslie Campbell, regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at the National Democratic Institute, which is active in Bahrain.

State Department officials are alarmed that in recent weeks Bahrain’s state-owned media mounted a virulent anti-American campaign against the embassy, accusing it of colluding with Shiite groups. An American diplomat involved in human rights issues recently left Bahrain after receiving threats, including from a blogger, who referred to the diplomat’s wife as being Jewish.  Despite this, Mr. Campbell supports the outreach to the prince, saying that it makes sense to strengthen the hand of someone “who is at least by inclination moderate and fair-minded.””

A question about Bahrain

A regular and reliable source on Bahrain sent me this:  “So after the crown prince went on a PR tour and was praised by Obama and Cameron, it turns out he won’t even lead the national dialogue that is set to begin in July. Instead, the sectarian idiot MP Khalifa Al Dhahrani will be leading the dialogue. This is like having dialogue between Israel and the PA with Netenyahu being the moderator. What a joke. Al Dhahrani has been responsible for the sham investigations against many prominent figures that are seen to be sympathetic to the opposition.  The government couldn’t have sent a clearer message that it wasn’t serious about dialogue (for those who still had hope. I definitely didn’t). My question to you though is, what the hell was the point of the meeting with the crown prince though? From the press releases, it seems that the US assumed that the Crown Prince would be heading the dialogue. So either the US didn’t know that he will not be heading the dialogue which means that its puppet is out of control, or the US knew and thus is in complete support of the regime.” My answer: the US does not give a damn about what happens in Bahrain and how many are killed and whether dialogue is replaced with beheadings or not.

This is reform that impresses the hell out of Washington, DC

“A 20-year-old woman who recited poems critical of Bahrain’s rulers — and later claimed she was beaten in jail — was sentenced Sunday to a year in prison as part of the kingdom’s crackdown on Shiite protesters calling for greater rights.” (thanks Farah)

Why can’t all Arab governments adopt those reforms, asked the Obama administration

“Bahraini security forces beat the detained poet Ayat al-Gormezi across the face with electric cable and forced her to clean with her bare hands lavatories just used by police, members of her family said yesterday in a graphic account of the torture and humiliation suffered by those rounded up in the Gulf nation’s crackdown on dissent.  The 20-year-old trainee teacher, who spent nine days in a tiny cell with the air conditioning turned to freezing, is due back in court this weekend on charges of inciting hatred, insulting the king and illegal assembly, and her family fear she may suffer further mistreatment in custody amid threats of another round of interrogation.”

Thus spoke the Bahrain royal buffoon

“For the Egyptian people, the matter of who is president is a purely Egyptian matter. But when it comes to the treatment of Hosni Mubarak, we feel that he deserves better.
Did you express your views to the Egyptians?
A lot of countries in the Gulf did express that view to the Egyptians. What worries me in Egypt is that whatever direction it takes, I hope it doesn’t veer from the direction and line drawn by the late president Anwar Sadat.” (thanks Ahmet)

Saudi counter-revolution

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

“The kingdom is spending $130 billion to pump up salaries, build housing and finance religious organizations, among other outlays, effectively neutralizing most opposition. King Abdullah began wielding his checkbook right after leaders in Tunisia and Egypt fell, seeking to placate the public and reward a loyal religious establishment. The king’s reserves, swollen by more than $214 billion in oil revenue last year, have insulated the royal family from widespread demands for change even while some discontent simmers.  Saudi Arabia has also relied on its unusually close alliance with the religious establishment that has long helped preserve the power of the royal family. The grand mufti, the highest religious official in the kingdom, rolled out a fatwa saying Islam forbade street protests, and clerics hammered at that message in their Friday sermons.  But the first line of defense in this case was the public aid package. King Abdullah paid an extra two months’ salary to government employees and spent $70 billion alone for 500,000 units of low-income housing. As a reward to the religious establishment, he allocated about $200 million to their organizations, including the religious police. Clerics opposed to democratic changes crowed that they had won a great victory over liberal intellectuals.”

Saudi dilemmas

“”Yet the Saudis are themselves a problem. As Arabs everywhere thirst for democracy—or at least for a bigger say in running their lives—Saudi Arabia’s ageing ruling princes face a succession crisis, disdain women’s rights, wink at corruption, pander to the forces of religious intolerance, and swat their own and neighbouringdemocrats.”” (thanks “Ibn Rushd”)

Rise in beheadings in Saudi Arabia: Obama administration hails that as progress in reform

“Amnesty International is condemning what it says is a sharp rise in beheadings in Saudi Arabia and is urging authorities in the kingdom to halt executions.  Amnesty said in a Friday statement that the kingdom has executed at least 27 people this year. That’s equal to the total number put to death in all of 2010. The rights group says more than 100 others are on death row. Many of them are foreigners.”

Crackdown on Labor in Egypt

“After the International Labor Organization rewarded Essam Sharaf‘s cabinet by removing Egypt’s name from its black list, the government continues its crackdown on the labor movement. Police is trying to smash the Bani Sueif Cement workers strike, detaining three workers and tearing down the tents set up by the strikers. And in Cairo, the public prosecutor has ordered 10 protesters (five farmers, three auto workers and two students) to remain in police custody for 15 days, following their arrest last Wednesday during their sit ins in downtown Cairo.” (thanks Hossam)

Saudi Arabia and Tantawi

The pressures on Egypt from Saudi Arabia has only been increasing.  There was the cash payment of $4 billion but there were also pressures.  Saudi Arabia suddenly announced 10 days ago that all labor contracts in Saudi Arabia that are older than more than 5 or so years, won’t be renewed.   That was a threat to expel more than a million Egyptian workers in the kingdom of horrors.  The announcement is typical from the polygamous Gulf countries: they always threaten (or blackmail) countries regarding the presence of their nationals in those countries. This has been a typical Saudi tactic, in Lebanon.   What is funny in Lebanon is that supporters of March 14 (who shout about democracy) blatantly call on Lebanese to never criticize Gulf countries for fear of expulsion of the Lebanese in the Gulf.  So is it surprising that those governments that still behead citizens in public squares resort to blackmail?  Shortly after Saudi cash payments and threats, Tantawi ordered the “discovery” of an Iranian espionage network featuring one person.

House of Saud and Egyptian Salafites

“Five weeks after the fall of the Egyptian regime, Ayman Anwar Mitri’s apartment was torched. When he showed up to investigate, he was bundled inside by bearded Islamists….Inside the burnt apartment, they beat him with the charred remains of his furniture. Then, one of them produced a box cutter and performed what he considered an appropriate punishment under Islam: He amputated Mr. Mitri’s right ear. “When they were beating me, they kept saying: ‘We won’t leave any Christians in this country,'” Mr. Mitri recalled in a recent interview,…Some protestors raised the Saudi flag, which Egyptian Salafis have adopted as their own. Though Egyptian Salafi leaders deny receiving financial support from Saudi Arabia, liberal Egyptians charge that the movement is backed by the kingdom’s deep-pocketed Islamic charities. While Egyptian Salafis often criticize the Saudi government system as un-Islamic, they usually hold its Wahhabi religious establishment in high esteem. They admire Saudi Arabia’s prohibitions on alcohol, the mixing of sexes, and Christian worship.” (thanks Khelil)

This Saudi propagandist is bragging about Saudi military strength

A bunch of Hawthi rebels with primitive weapons chased Saudi elite forces who can still be seen on Youtube running for their lives:  “The foundation for this more robust strategic posture is Saudi Arabia’s investment of around $150 billion in its military. This includes a potential expansion of the National Guard and Armed Forces by at least 120,000 troops, and a further 60,000 troops for the security services at the Interior Ministry, notably in the special and various police forces. A portion of these will join units that could be deployed beyond the Kingdom’s borders.  In addition, approximately 1,000 new state-of-the-art combat tanks may be added to the Army, and the Air Force will see its capabilities significantly improve with the doubling of its high quality combat airplanes to about 500 advanced aircraft.  A massive new missile defense system is in the works. Finally, the two main fleets of the Navy will undergo extensive expansion and a complete refurbishment of existing assets.  As part of this new defense doctrine, the leadership has decided to meet the country’s growing needs for new equipment by diversifying among American, European and Asian military suppliers.” (thanks Khelil)

Pakistan security forces execute young man while being filmed

The fact that this has even been shown in TV suggests something is changing in Pakistan. The Guardian:

Pakistan’s security forces are facing criticism after paramilitary troops were caught on camera apparently shooting dead a teenager at point-blank range.

The footage, broadcast repeatedly on local television, is likely to further undermine faith in the country’s powerful security establishment, which is already facing allegations it helped conceal Osama bin Laden.

The video, captured by a cameraman from Pakistan’s Awaz television channel, shows a youth, identified as Sarfaraz Shah, arguing with paramilitary rangers in Karachi. The 18-year-old appears to plead for mercy before being shot at close quarters. He then falls to the ground and screams in pain as blood pools beneath his legs.

Syria: thousands of refugees cross into Turkey as army besieges rebel town

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report

Nearly 3,000 have crossed the border from Syria into Turkey in recent days as the Syrian army has moved to put down an uprising in the northern town of Jisr al-Shughur. The government alleges 120 of its soldiers were killed in the town last weekend, and it has since been flooded with 5,000 troops, backed up with several tanks. Large tent villages have been set up by refugees across the Turkish border. Meanwhile, Friday protests were held in over 50 cities and towns across the country June 10, according to a count by the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an umbrella opposition organization. In Deraa, security forces fired on protesters, wounding at least eight people, while in the town of Busra al-Harir government forces killed two protesters. (Foreign PolicyThe Telegraph, June 10)

read more

What if Qirdahah falls?

A Syrian comrade, Dirar, sent me this (I use with his permission):  “that will be the day when the regime will definitely fall.    according to my brother, some people on facebook and it seems through fliers, asked people to go the na’esah mosque to commemorate hafez al-assasd’s death anniversary tomorrow (6/10). as a precaution (suspecting it could be a plot to have people gather there to start  something) the ministry of interior issued that statement. that would be a really dumb thing to try, as you wouldn’t need any army or security forces; i’m sure the people there will more than “take care” of anyone who tries to start any sort of protest. i was telling bassam the other day, my parents are living in qirdaha  now, and for the time being, it’s probably the safest place in syria, but could turn into the most dangerous place if things escalate beyond a certain point. i’ll be calling them tomorrow, and if i find out anything
news worthy, i’ll send you and email.”

Syrian opposition website exposes the lies and fabrications of the Saudi media

A Syrian opposition websites exposes the lies and fabrications of Saudi media (Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat–mouthpiece of Prince Salman and his sons–in particular) regarding Syria. (thanks Zaki)

Syrian opposition

Today, with the declaration of “Day of the Clans”, it becomes obligatory for one to distance oneself from the dominant reactionary forces within the Syrian opposition.  It is clear that the same reactionary forces that have been at the heart of the Iraqi opposition under occupation, are there in the Syrian opposition.  What about the leftists in the Syrian opposition? They are clearly a minority, as evidenced by the celebration of the clans and tribes.  It also signals a role for Gulf countries in dispensing cash payments to tribal elders.  In Middle East societies, there is no group in society that is more bribably than tribal elders.  I expect that Syrian opposition will call for a day of “sects and sectarian tensions” next week.   Similarly, Ba`thist rule in Syria and Iraq have also used and manipulated tribes and sects in Syria and Iraq.

Pay us for invading you, damn it

“A U.S. congressman visiting Baghdad Friday suggested that Iraq pay back the United States for the money it has spent in the eight years since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.  Rep. Dana Rohrabacher spoke during a one-day visit by a group of six U.S. congressman. The California Republican said he raised the suggestion during a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that some day when Iraq is a “prosperous” nation it pay back the U.S. for everything that it has done here.” (thanks Sarah)

Qaddafi Accused of Systematic Rape, War Crimes by ICC, UN

from Informed Comment by Juan

The International Criminal Court not only has evidence that Libyan soldiers have been using rape as a way of punishing and humiliating rebel populations, it has credible evidence that the policy was ordered by Muammar Qadhafi himself, and that the soldiers were provided with viagra to make them better rapists. The state provision of such drugs for this purpose is unprecedented, though rape as a tool of war and repression is common.

UN Human Rights commission headed by Cherif Bassiouni has found the Qadhafi regime guilty of war crimes. Fighting, mainly consisting of attacks by Qadhafi forces on dissident populations, may have killed 10,000 to 15,000. Qadhafi forces have used heavy weapons against civilian noncombatants, have made people disappear, have engaged in torture. The commission also found war crimes on a lesser scale among the rebel forces. The report recommends that Qaddafi be referred for prosecution at the International Criminal Court.

Aljazeera English reports on the UN findings:


China has had direct contact with the TNC, and is offering itself as an intermediary between Tripoli and Benghazi.

Meanwhile, the Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero newly recognized the Transitional National Council in Benghazi, as did Australia. Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez attended the Contact Group meeting of some 20 nations in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, where the TNC picked up nearly $1 bn. in pledges of aid, $600 mn. from Italy alone. Details are given here.

Spain put forward some enlightened principles about how to go forward, and since it had its own democratic transition only three decades ago, it has a lot of experience to offer the Libyans. The emphasis on including former regime figures, and on partnership rather than a Western leading role, would be all to the good. The USG Open Source Center translates from the semi-official Spanish account:

‘ Spain proposes political, economic, security aid plan for Libya
Thursday, June 9, 2011 …
Document Type: OSC Translated Excerpt…

Excerpt from report by Spanish news agency Efe

Abu Dhabi, 9 June: Today Spain proposed implementing an aid plan for Libya, once Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi has been overthrown, with the aim of giving the country democratic institutions and training a new army in collaboration with the Interim National Council which groups the rebels together.

Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez made this proposal at the meeting of the Contact Group on Libya held in Abu Dhabi today.

At a news conference before the session began, Jimenez said that this proposal of a “pact” between the international community and the Libyan opposition will be put into effect once Al-Qadhafi leaves power.

In her view it is difficult to make predictions concerning the fall of the dictator, but the allied countries believe that it will take place “within a short period of time”.

“We have seen that diplomatic, political, economic and military pressure is leaving Al-Qadhafi more isolated every day,” she said.

Jimenez explained that the aid plan which Spain is proposing, which would complement the road map set out by the Interim National Council, would incorporate three spheres: political, economic and security.

In the first, the goal would be to draft a constitution and establish new institutions to build a “democratic, united, independent” state.

According to Jimenez, the European Union “could lead this task” and the economic one, which would be a matter of cooperating to ensure that the wealth generated by Libya’s natural resources, mainly gas and oil, benefit the Libyan people.

The third goal, bound up with security, would mean setting in progress a programme to train the Libyan police and army so that they serve “the principles of the law-based state”.

In each of the three spheres, the 20 or so countries participating in the Contact Group on Libya would contribute their experience and knowledge, although Jimenez emphasized the particular contribution which could be made by the EU.

The minister explained that it is not a plan for “tutelage”, but for collaboration between the allies and the Interim National Council to enable the Libyan people to decide their future.

She also specified that it is not intended to copy the model applied in other countries, such as Afghanistan. ”
We are working in a totally new way,” she added.

As she did yesterday during her visit to Benghazi, the de facto capital of the rebels, Jimenez emphasized that the Interim National Council is the legitimate representative of the Libyan people and that it must lead the process of reconciliation without Al-Qadhafi.

The Spanish foreign minister said that the “post-Al-Qadhafi” stage should involve the participation of Libyan representatives of “all currents of thinking”, including those of “people who have belonged to the circle” of the dictator.

Jimenez praised the “serious, solid” work by the Interim National Council since the civil conflict began last February.

With regard to Spain’s participation in the financial mechanism to help the rebels, Jimenez said she trusted that the allied countries will reach agreement today on how it should be implemented…

(Description of Source: Madrid EFE in Spanish — Spanish semi-official independent news agency)


Flash: US supports arms reforms in Bahrain

“A government report says the U.S. approved $200 million in military sales from American companies to Bahrain in 2010, months before the pivotal Persian Gulf ally began a harsh crackdown on protesters.
The yearly State Department report provides totals of U.S.-authorized arms sale agreements between U.S. defense companies and foreign governments. The latest tally showed a $112 million rise in licensed defense sales to Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, between the 2009 and 2010 budget years.”

Libya: mercenaries fighting on both sides?

from World War 4 Report blogs by Bill Weinberg

We’ve already noted claims that mercenaries recruited by an Israeli firm are fighting for the embattled regime of Moammar Qaddafi in Libya. Now a Reuters report of June 3 cites unnamed officials saying that “private contractors” are hiring mercenaries for the rebels. Although the officials asserted that no actual US government funds are involved, the report cites a classified “covert action finding” signed by President Barack Obama earlier this year as authorizing the CIA to conduct a wide spectrum of operations in support of the rebels. From the report:

read more

Hillary and stability

Hillary Clinton said the other day that Syria has become a source of instability in the Middle East.  There is no doubt that every–every single–Arab regime has been a source of instability, and that includes the 90% of Arab dictatorships which are sponsored by the US.  But has there been a state that is more a source of instability in the Middle East than the terrorist state of Israel?

US Secretary of Defense can determine whether any leader in the world has legitimacy or not

“And whether Assad still has the legitimacy to govern in his own country after this kind of a slaughter I think is a question that everybody needs to consider.”

The hoax of Amina: Abe Foxman is not the gay girl in Damascus

“We have gathered compelling new evidence regarding the “Gay Girl in Damascus” blogger hoax.

Those responsible for this hoax have caused a great deal of concern and anguish by posting information alleging that “Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari” the supposed “Gay Girl” blogger had been kidnapped from the streets of Damascus, possibly by Syrian authorities, and was likely in grave danger.  A measure of the concern that this story has caused is the formation of a Facebook group calling to “Free Amina Arraf” with more than 15,000 members, as well as numerous action alerts and stories in international media.
We believe the story of Amina to be totally baseless and the doubts expressed by other observers, such as Liz Henry and Andy Carvin, to be entirely founded.   We also believe that whoever is responsible for the hoax is attempting to conceal their responsibility and continues to disseminate false information. They have previously engaged in such behavior as taking photographs from the Facebook page of a totally uninvolved individual and deceptively presenting them as being images of Amina and members of her family.”  (thanks Electronic Ali)

U.S. helping to create a “shadow Internet” capability for countries with “repressive governments”

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Gaius Publius

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As Glenn Greenwald almost said, the irony writes itself. NY Times (my emphasis throughout):

The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy “shadow” Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks.

The effort includes secretive projects to create independent cellphone networks inside foreign countries, as well as one operation out of a spy novel in a fifth-floor shop on L Street in Washington, where a group of young entrepreneurs who look as if they could be in a garage band are fitting deceptively innocent-looking hardware into a prototype “Internet in a suitcase.”

Financed with a $2 million State Department grant, the suitcase could be secreted across a border and quickly set up to allow wireless communication over a wide area with a link to the global Internet.

There’s more in the article.

About that “Internet in a suitcase,” do you think the thing will have a secret listening port for NSA ears only, or a backdoor kill-switch, just in case the thing comes home?

With reports of Egypt’s government completing shutting down the Internet in the country, talk aboutan “Internet kill switch” bill in the U.S. has reemerged. Could it happen here?

The bill in question is the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010, a cyber-security measure introduced in June by Sen. Joseph Lieberman. It was an over-arching cyber-security measure that, among other things, would create an office of cyberspace policy within the White House and a new cyber-security center within the Homeland Security Department.

A provision that got the most attention, however, was one that gave the president the power to “authorize emergency measures to protect the nation’s most critical infrastructure if a cyber vulnerability is being exploited or is about to be exploited.”

Some interpreted that to mean that the president would have the authority to shut off the Internet at random.

With my little mind, I’d settle for some of that “foolish consistency.” At some point, the liar convinces only himself.

Shadow Internet Story Fishy

from Informed Comment by Juan

Sunday’s report by the NYT on the ‘shadow internet’ being funded by (a paltry) $2 mn. in State Dept. money iis either a psy-ops plant or another sign that the US government can’t help but undermine itself.

Joe Lieberman has advocated an internet kill switch. Members of the Senate keep introducing bills to censor the Internet, pushed by the entertainment industry. Luckily, a few, like Oregon’s Ron Wyden, care about freedom of speech. The NSA and other spy agencies keep trying to expand their access to your private mail.

So either State doesn’t realize that the techniques they are developing for dissidents can be deployed in the US, or the small program is being trumpeted in a desperate attempt to mollify groups such as Anonymous.


Post-Tahrir Cairo, Day 1

Bill the spouse and I had an informative, short conversation today with the longtime MB spokesman Dr. Esam El-Erian, who is also the deputy head of the newly emerging, MB-backed Freedom and Justice Party. (You can find descriptions of interviews I conducted with Dr. El-Erian in early 2007 and early 2009, and a lot of other useful background on the Muslim Brotherhood and other aspects of Egyptian politics, here.)

The Muslim brotherhood were major participants in the democratic uprising that toppled Egypt’s 30-year president, Hosni Mubarak, from power back in February. From 1954 until the end of last February the MB was banned from operating as a political movement. Sometimes its people were “allowed” by Mubarak to run in the notably constrained “elections” he staged– but they had to do so as independents or in the framework of another party. Meanwhile, his regime launched successive waves of arrests, financial expropriation, and other grossly abusive and intimidating acts against the MB. Dr. El-Erian is one of many MB leaders who spent many years in Mubarak’s prisons– that, though the movement definitely renounced the use of violence back in 1982.

The most intriguing points in today’s conversation were:

~ Some of his observations on Egyptian political developments in the run-up to September’s parliamentary elections:

    “We’re hoping to go into the elections with a broad coalition of the forces from the revolution… Yesterday we had a good meeting with the leader of the Wafd Party…

“We face a number of very big challenges. The role of the military is a big one, but we are delaying dealing with it because they were our partners in the revolution. Secondly, there’s the role of the police, who were the main supporters of Mubarak for the past ten years. We have to figure out how to establish a new form of policing appropriate to a democracy. The first challenge that we’re able to deal with is to get all the politicians together in a new coalition. It’s true, we will need to discuss this with the military. Currently, they hold the presidential powers, but they’re going to have to step back and allow a new face in… And we need to find a better balance between the presidency and the parliament…

“Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gul, was the first head of state to come and visit us after the revolution. He told us in a meeting I was in that he thought Egypt could have an even better democracy than the one they have in Turkey– because, he said, at least in Egypt the military was with the popular movement, not against it…

“I have not had much contact with the military leaders here– there was just one meeting I was invited to. But on the ground, out around the country, the brotherhood has good relations with the military. For example, right now, the tawgihi (school-leaving) exams are being held nationwide and with the collapse of much of the police, security would have been a big concern, except that we and other parts of the popular movement cooperated with the military to keep the whole process safe.”
~ A degree of opposition to the policies of the Saudi government that I found surprising:

      “Without a change in the policies of Saudi Arabia, these current revolutions won’t succeed… In Egypt, Saudi Arabia is


       main force of counter-revolution. They’ve been pushing and pushing to keep Mubarak out of prison. He was a pillar of their policy. But Mubarak


       go to prison…”

~ A nuanced form of outreach to Western countries:

    “I am asking Europe and America for an apology. For the last 150 years they have blocked any development in this area… We believe that we have a lot to contribute to world civilization in terms of spirituality and values, but we want the help of the west in allowing our democracy to flourish. We want an apology that they supported dictatorship here for so many years, and then when the revolutions challenged the dictators, they tried to find a safe exit for some of the dictators…

“So please don’t intervene in ways that corrupt our new politicians. Westerners corrupted so many of our local NGO’s and even human-rights organizations in the past. (But I want to note that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch did a great job! They are my friends!)”
El-Erian said the Brotherhood, which has long been shunned by many Western countries, has started since the revolution of January-February to have some contacts with European parliamentarians, diplomats, and business executives. But he was eager to strengthen its contacts with Americans, too, and made a special pitch for American tourists to return to Egypt in large numbers.

Social Justice in Egypt: from Jadaliyya

“However, some of the more recent literature in political economy circles, sometimes emanating from the World Bank itself, or it employees (current and former), has been emphasizing that sustainable growth is itself a pipedream in some cases in the absence of equity. This finding or claim is rather recent for some in the center or center-right as opposed to many on the left, and it was triggered (or evidenced) by the experience of “trickle-down economics” (in Latin America and elsewhere, including the Middle East) that are largely associated with neoliberal economics. The caveat that is often put forth is that these experiences were distorted by the context: that the implementation of neoliberal prescriptions was filtered through the corrupt, authoritarian governments and their cronies. Fair enough, except that these observations about the context must have been evident to International Financial Institutions (IFIs) before their prescriptions, loans, funding, conditionalities, support were given/offered to the same crony actors that are blamed for the misapplication in retrospect. Hello.*   So, there must be something else going on. The prescriptions themselves are based on axioms that require serious revision in light of actual experiences and developmental busts–not to mention their performance globally in relation to social justice. This claim of ours holds with or without considering the politics behind IFI’s, which muddles the scene further as it reveals some (and sometimes strong) affinity between authoritarian rule, neoliberalism, and sponsor countries.” (thanks Bassam)

A theory on Qatari’s shift of foreign policy

Comrade Amer wrote me this yesterday (I cite with his permission):  “The regime gets stronger by the day. The violence is in its favor. You should always remember not to believe the media mood, it is very different from the mood in Syria. Al-jazeera seems to believe that they brought down Mubarak and that they can bring down Assad by doing the same coverage. Their entire coverage has changed 180 degrees, even on Iraq and America and Israel.  I know what happened: Saudi told them that if they do not step up and control the situation and rule the region themselves, the poor Arabs will take away their oil. This is the real war As`ad, everything else is fluff.”

Who is behind the violence in Syria?

Now this is the key question.  I have been asking and talking and thinking and here are my conclusions: 1) The regime is the major and primary culprit of violence in Syria. There is no question about it.  The notion that there are “criminal gangs” roaming the country and killing protesters and soldiers alike is a clear fabrication.  It does not even make sense. Why would they do that? Who are they, and how did the regime allow them go grow and spread?  There are civilians who are shooting and killing but they belong to the people.  But the regime bears double responsibility for all the killing in Syria: this oppressive regime drew its legitimacy from its bragging about its ability to provide security to the people of Syria, and thus they are responsible for killing by opponents of the regime (if they are directed at the people as regime propaganda claims) too.  2) Why do you assume that the Muslim Brotherhood is a peaceful organization?  The rebellion of the Brothers back in the late 70s and early 80s was not peaceful and I dont expect them to have stumbled on the theories of the funny guy, Gene Sharp (who the New York Times believes inspired the Arab uprisings), and decided to suddenly shun violence.  The Jordanian regime admitted in the early 80s that they have armed the Brothers and they also got weapons from Israel (through the Phalanges).   Back then, the Brothers not only targeted regime armed men, but they went indiscriminate on innocent `Alawites.  Their sectarian violent campaign only solidified `Alawite ranks and turned even those `Alawites who were opposed to the regime in its favor.  3)  There are from what I am hearing Wahhabi and Salafite groups with money and weapons who have been active in Syria.  I won’t be surprised if the Harirites are involved too.  I find it very likely, in the service of Hariri agenda.  A reliable informant of this blog in Syria tells me (I am translating from Arabic):  “Yes, there are professional, trained, and organized gangs which are controlled by clerics who all have lived in Saudi Arabia, like `Adnan Al-`Ar`ur, and they kill and use violence against other sects…In Latakia, there are professional elements which used to live a normal life like sleeper cells and they perpetrated acts of sabotage and sectarian sedition and I saw that myself as i was there then…In Tell Kalakh, there are splinter groups from Fath-Islam which are moved by Hariri money, and not Hariri men as spread by Syrian media.  In Banyas, it is said that there are officers from Saudi Arabia and UAE and a Mossad element who are now in custody of the security service.  There were booby traps there because it has a generator and an oil refinery and a pipe line from Iraq.  In Homs, there are extremist pockets from prior to Ba`th and it has been reactivated and is still strong with Saudi money.  Now Idlib is all in flame and Turkey is supplying all with weapons and with fighters.  Army is facing difficulty advancing because all passages and bridges have been booby trapped.”  This last passage is from my informant and I have no way of verifying the information.  And as they used to end books of Islamic theology, I say: And Karl Marx is the all-knowing.

PS Nir Rosen added this:  “there is also the iraq and zarqawi factor syria was a key staging area for zarqawi types, they had safe houses in damascus and allepo, they had a network of facilitators, as the americans like to say and i’d love to know whats happening in the border area with iraq’s anbar where families have close ties on both sides and where zarqawi people had safe houses. the town of abu kamal for example, which borders the iraqi town of husseiba in al qaim. the americans raided abu kamal a couple of years ago and killed some key al qaeda guy. abu kamal had an uprising against the regime a couple of weeks ago. i think the zarqawi factor is an important one. these people always spoke about how the final battle will be in Sham”.

This entry was posted in Background & Analysis, Bahrain, Counterinsurgency, Events, Imperialist Interference & Views, Libya, Military, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, US Foreign Policy, Yemen. Bookmark the permalink.

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