Revolution is in the Air: 6/27/11: Beheading maids in Saudi Arabia

INDEX (stories follow)

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Monday, June 27

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell
EVENTS

Beheading maids in Saudi Arabia

Fear and repression in GCC countries (these happen to be US favorite despotic models)

Reforms in Bahrain:

The new Egypt: really does not heart House of Saud

Negative stories about Egypt in Saudi media

Aljazeera is aghast: how could anyone not cheer NATO bombing?

Sensible assessment of Syrian stiuation

Che

IMPERIALISM IN WORD & DEED

Congress and the Libya war: Orwellian logic on both sides

from World War 4 Report blogs by Bill Weinberg

House votes to criticize Obama on Libyan war

Colonial times

I mean, do you still doubt that the US invaded Afghanistan to liberate the people (putting aside the racism of the occupiers)?

US and Syrian Muslim Brotherhood

Saudi money and Western academe

Nasrallah and CIA spying

BBC News’ Zionism

HISTORY & ANALYSIS

Notar: Syria and the Palestine Card

from Informed Comment by Juan

Headlines for March 17, 2011

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

1 person liked this

Beheading maids in Saudi Arabia

“Indonesia will prohibit its citizens from working as domestic servants in Saudi Arabia after the beheading of a maid convicted of murdering her Saudi employer last week.  As the AFP is reporting, the suspension will take effect Aug. 1 and remain in place until the Saudi government agrees to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to protect Indonesian workers’ rights, officials said. “We will set up a special task force whose job is to make sure there are no Indonesian workers heading for Saudi when the moratorium is in place,” Indonesian Labor Ministry spokeswoman Dita Indah Sari is quoted by the BBC as saying. “We do not want to see any illegal recruitments during this period.“”

Fear and repression in GCC countries (these happen to be US favorite despotic models)

“Many Persian Gulf Arabs are frightened and pessimistic about the uprisings and revolutions that are sweeping the Middle East and are too afraid to speak out against their rulers.  According to a new opinion poll commissioned by the Qatar-based public forum The Doha Debates, that’s the current mood among many gulf Arabs.  The online study, conducted by YouGov in June in which over 1,000 respondents were polled in 17 different Arab states, said an increasing number of gulf Arabs view the so-called Arab Spring with pessimism and fear.  And more than more half of those polled in countries in the Arabian Peninsula said they would be be “too scared” to go out in the streets and protest against their leaders.”

Reforms in Bahrain:

“Joseph Stalin introduced “the show trial” – secretive military tribunals that bypass the judiciary – during the Great Purge of the 1930s. It appears that Bahrain has taken a chapter straight out of Stalin’s textbook, in which verdicts are predetermined and then justified through the use of coerced confessions, obtained through torture and threats against defendents’ families. The only new addition to this chapter is that the government of Bahrain has insisted, since the 1980s, on airing these filmed confessions on state TV – often with the defendant apologising to the king. Ayat al Qurmuzi, a poet sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for reading a poem critical of the king, had one such confession aired, possibly to pave the way for some kind of royal pardon.   Credible reports from now-free detainees who were held with Ayat have said how a toilet brush was forced into her mouth. All those on trial are “traitors to the state”, says the relentless propaganda of hate speech, spewed on state media – a chapter in the Arab Tyrant’s manual that could have been written by Goebbels. The media has described protestors as “termites” and Shia as “the evil group”; they have dehumanised “the other”, who deserve treatment worse than animals.   Since March, hundreds have shared a similar experience to mine. There are several stages to the ordeal that are particularly distressing for all involved. The first stage is the sudden arrest, in a dawn raid or at a checkpoint, or in some cases, at work, and then they are taken away to an unknown location by unknown forces and for long periods of time. In Ghazi’s case, 48 days.” (thanks Matthew)

The new Egypt: really does not heart House of Saud

“The announcement of new rules governing foreign labor in Saudi Arabia has caused consternation about the fate of Egyptian migrant workers there.  The notaqat (zones) program was announced in May by Saudi Labor Minister Adel Fakieh. It divides private sector companies into four categories, according to the number of Saudis employed. In companies where 10 percent or less of the workforce is Saudi, foreign workers who have been with the company for more than six years will not have their contracts renewed. The program excludes workers in domestic service.  Notaqat is a response to increasing unemployment in the kingdom, which currently stands at roughly 15 percent of the country’s 25 million population according to the country’s Labor Ministry website.  The Egyptian media was quick to condemn the policy as an attack on Egyptian migrant workers, who make up one third of the oil-rich kingdom’s total expatriate worker population. Some described it as a political move.   In an opinion piece published in Al-Masry Al-Youm earlier this month, for example, Hassan Nafea suggested that the policy change has political dimensions.”

Negative stories about Egypt in Saudi media

One notices a trend: a quiet war is going on between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, although the Military Council does not want it to get out of hand, and tries to contain it.  But Egyptian media relish stories that are damaging to House of Saud, and Saudi propaganda outlets are regularly printing stories that are very negative about Egypt after the overthrow of Mubarak.  I mean, there is this ridiculous story in Al-Arabiyyah (the news station of King Fahd’s brother-in-law) which maintains that Egyptian media AFTER THE FALL OF MUBARAK are lacking professional standards.   I kid you not.

Aljazeera is aghast: how could anyone not cheer NATO bombing?

“Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has complained about Al Jazeera coverage over Turkey’s Libya policy during a meeting with the emir of Qatar, a Turkish news report published on Sunday said.
“We are disturbed by Al Jazeera reporting about Turkey. We cannot understand why there is this hostility against Turkey,” Erdoğan said during a Friday meeting with Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, according to the Sabah daily.   Al Jazeera, owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has been critical of Turkey’s policies in Libya, questioning its failure to offer help to Libyan opposition groups fighting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Erdoğan reportedly told al-Thani that the Al Jazeera reporting could have effects on safety of Turkish investors and workers in Libya.” (thanks Sultan)

Sensible assessment of Syrian stiuation

Thus spoke comrade Bassam:  ““The more deaths and killing, the more the labyrinth of sectarian and social divisions is mended, and the more likely we are to see broader collective action against the regime,” said Bassam Haddad, director of the Middle East Studies Program at George Mason University, near Washington. “At that point, the regime’s security forces would have to be stretched too critically thin to contain the situation.””

Che

Do you know that the most common and visible picture carried by protesters all over Yemen is the portrait of Che Guevera.  That is quite interesting.
IMPERIALISM IN WORD & DEED

Congress and the Libya war: Orwellian logic on both sides

from World War 4 Report blogs by Bill Weinberg

The House of Representatives on June 24 voted 295-123 against a resolution authorizing US participation in the NATO campaign in Libya, dealing a blow to President Barack Obama’s decision to wage war without congressional approval. In the face of opposition from conservative Republicans and anti-war Democrats alike, the White House has maintained the Orwellian position that the bombing campaign does not constitute “hostilities” and therefore does not fall under the purview of the War Powers Resolution.

read more

House votes to criticize Obama on Libyan war

As much as I support the criticism, it would have been nice to see the GOP show such sentiment when Bush was invading countries and sending hundreds of thousands of troops into wars that we didn’t need. What a bunch of frauds.

The House of Representatives has voted down a measure that would have granted congressional consent for American involvement in military action in Libya.

But the House also rejected a subsequent bill, which threatened to halt US air strikes in the embattled country by cutting off funds for military operations.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed the House’s decision not to cut the funding.

“We are gratified that the House has decisively rejected efforts to limit funding for the Libyan mission,” Clinton told reporters at the State Department.

While the first vote is unlikely to affect US involvement in the NATO-led campaign, the rejection of congressional approval represents a symbolic blow to US President Barack Obama.

Colonial times

The scene is unprecedented if you think about it.  Jeffrey Feltman goes to Yemen to arrange for the transfer of power and to offer instructions to government and opposition alike.  It reminds me of the 4th of February (1942) in Egypt, which undid the legitimacy of King Faruq.  There are so many 4th of February incidents in Arab politics today, and one wishes that they are used by the public to undermine the legitimacy of regimes and to topple all governments.   Nothing is worth preserving in Arab politics: only the medals of Field Marshall Tantawi and of the Jordanian King to mock them for years to come.

I mean, do you still doubt that the US invaded Afghanistan to liberate the people (putting aside the racism of the occupiers)?

“And American forces often characterized their Afghan counterparts as drug abusers and thieves who were also incompetent, corrupt and lazy with “repulsive hygiene.“”

US and Syrian Muslim Brotherhood

I can report to you that the US government has been in contact with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.  In a recent conference held in London, US and British official representatives met with the former (and still actual) leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, `Ali Al-Bayanuni.

Saudi money and Western academe

I was discussing this with the courageous Saudi scholar, Madawi Rasheed.  We were discussing the extent to which Saudi money is going around US and European universities.  She shared with me information about various Saudi funding in European universities.  I told her: we need somebody to do a study or a book about Saudi financial roles in various Western academic institutions.  This really is crucial.  Can you imagine if the Taliban had oil and went about funding Western research centers?

Nasrallah and CIA spying

Did you see the categorical denial by the US embassy in Beirut regarding the claims by Hasan Nasrallah yesterday that CIA operatives in Beirut tried to recruit two members of Hizbullah?  It was such a clear and categorical denial that it left you with the impression that CIA is not in the business of spying and that it does not at all care about infiltrating Hizbullah.  For a second, I thought that the US government is a charitable organization that only occasionally (daily) drops bombs on people from Libya to Afghanistan.

BBC News’ Zionism

I wake up here in London and watch the BBC News.  They had an emotional special feature about that Israeli terrorist occupation soldier who was captured in Gaza.  The anchor and the correspondent are almost in tears about him.  How much the BBC has changed, just like the Canadian media.  They follow the shifts toward (more) Zionism of their governments.
HISTORY & ANALYSIS

Notar: Syria and the Palestine Card

from Informed Comment by Juan

1 person liked this

Paul Notar writes a guest column for Informed Comment:

Palestine: Bashar Assad’s Ace in the Hole?

by Paul Notar

There has been much speculation in the media that the Assad regime in Syria will be the next to fall in what has been called the “Arab Spring”. Many analysts conclude that Sunni elements in the country, which make up about 70% of the population, will rally against the ruling Alawis, who have controlled the country for the past 41 years. A transfer of power, it is claimed, will only be expedited by worsening economic conditions for most Syrians, Western sanctions against the country, and a heavy crackdown that is beginning to invigorate the heretofore quiescent Sunni middle classes of Aleppo and Damascus. But Syrian domestic politics (or lack thereof) has always been a function of regional dynamics. The unanswered question is whether Assad’s foreign policy vis-a-vis Israel will allow him to weather this storm. Until now, the Arab League has not called for Assad to step down.

After the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt, western analysts pointed to the similar circumstances that Syria finds itself in: high youth unemployment, pervasive corruption, and a ruling elite that has lost domestic legitimacy. But these analysts, often American- and European-based reporters, neglect some important facts that make Syria a truly unique animal in Middle Eastern geopolitics. Most significantly, Palestine remains a hot-button issue. Assad may have decided that his defensive maneuvers — preventing (or preempting) defections within his Army and preventing momentum from swinging towards the rebels — may be enhanced by actively provoking Israel and constantly raising it as an issue. Defected Syrian soldiers in Turkey have told journalists that they are being ordered by their officers to fire on the protesters (sometimes people from their own villages) to prevent a weakened Syria from falling prey to (as they call them) “the hostile Zionists.”

Despite the quickening pace of developments in Syria, it remains unclear whether the Arab street’s sensitivity to the Palestine issue is actually helping to hold the Syrian regime together, or working to tear it apart. Bashar Assad’s Syria, unlike its other neighbors, consistently refused to sign a treaty with Israel. The regime’s policies reflected, more accurately than any other Arab country, the sentiments of the Arab street toward Israel: resistance, perseverance, and Arab cooperation.

As the last Arab state to afford the Palestinian cause considerable support (if only rhetorical at times), it almost always sided with regional popular opinion in spite of considerable Western pressure to do otherwise. The Palestine issue allowed Assad to maintain his street credibility at little or no cost to his regime. And through his state-sponsored media machine and sophisticated PR moves, Assad publicized his alliance withthe popular leader of Hezbullah in Lebanon, Hassan Nassrallah, a thorn in Israel’s side.

But as more Arab publics are finding their collective political voices and choosing to shrug off western-backed despots, Assad is finding it increasingly difficult to claim the Palestine issue as his own. The Egyptian interim government, under the direction of General Muhamed Tantawi, has opened the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, allowing some freedom of movement for Gazans who had been living in an Israeli-imposed outdoor prison since 2006.

This gesture toward the Palestinian people must not go underestimated: Egypt’s new-found support for the Palestinian cause — initially as a broker in the unity talks between the Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas — will inevitably weaken the Assad narrative that suggests that the leadership of the resistance to Israeli hegemony lies in Damascus. This will in turn reveal (or just reaffirm) to the Arab street Assad’s manipulation of the Palestine issue in order to choke off dissent in his own country. The only Arab support that Assad seems to have now is lukewarm support from Hezbollah, which is anyhow at the financial mercy of the Assads. Rumors that Khaled Meshaal, a leader of Hamas, will leave Damascus at some point for Qatar may be further proof that the resistance is decentralizing while not necessarily weakening.

But the Assads have mastered the use of the Palestine issue to suit their own interests, and it would be irresponsible to count them out now. After the failure of its strategy of appeasement (the regime sought to appease protesters with highly public but largely symbolic gestures such as increases in fuel subsidies and public sector salaries, lifting of the emergency law, etc.), a major component of the regime’s new strategy is to deflect attention away from domestic problems with astute use of the Palestine issue, while at the same time portraying the protests as foreign, tribal, and not emanating from any structural deficiencies.

On Nakba Day (commemorating the1948 defeat and expulsion of the Palestinians), the Syrian government reminded its citizens that they faced greater problems than a lack of transparency and corruption in government. By allowing Palestinian refugees to storm the border fence with Israel at Quneitra, the regime once again put the Palestine issue front and center, using it as a vent for the multitude of anxieties in Syrian civic life. And on Naksa Day, the day that commemorates the beginning of the 1967 war (Naksa is an Arabic word meaning setback), armed men could be seen on the Syrian side of the border, probably trying to draw fire from the Israeli Defense Forces, as more Palestinian refugees stormed the border with Israel. Syrian state TV reported 18 deaths and 227 hurt, probably an exaggeration.

Such astute use of the Palestine issue for domestic political purposes suggests that Assad could endure well longer than most analysts would like to admit. Yet, the Syrian rebel movement(s) may not be far from reaching a critical mass. At one point it seemed that Syria might have its equivalent of Muhammad Bouazizi, the Tunisian vegetable vendor who set himself ablaze in a last-ditch effort to attract attention to the dire circumstances that many Tunisians find themselves in. The tragic story of Hamza Alkhateeb, a 13 year old Syrian boy who was brutally tortured by the Syrian authorities, prompted a series of violent demonstrations in the southern city of Dera’a. The information section of the Facebook page entitled “We are all Hamza Alkhateeb” notes that “Hamza was one of hundreds of people who were detained, & his tortured body was later returned to his family with his genitals cut & bruises all over his body. We will never be silent. We are all Hamza Alkhateeb.”

Aside from the importance of this story as a rallying cry for Syria’s protesters, the ubiquity of such stories in the regional press will almost certainly grab the attention of the Arab street. The street will not fail to notice that abductions, torture, and indiscriminate firing on civilians are now routine. If the Arab League’s support for NATO airstrikes in Libya demonstrated the importance of Arab public opinion in that conflict, it does not bode well for Assad that his violent suppression of democracy protesters has all of the trappings of the Israeli Defense Forces’ expedients during the first and second intafadas.

——–
Paul Notar is pursuing graduate studies at the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan.

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This entry was posted in Bahrain, Human Rights, Imperialism, Libya, Saudi Arabia, US Foreign Policy, Yemen. Bookmark the permalink.

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