Friday, June 15, 2007

Tory attempts to secure religious minority vote

by Tarek Fatah and Salma Siddiqui from the Toronto Star

If Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory has his way, this is what a school system of the future will look like in the riding of Don Valley West, where he plans to unseat Education Minister Kathleen Wynne: Imagine an intersection, say Thorncliffe Park Dr. and Overlea Blvd., with a Hindu school on one corner, a Sikh school on another, a Greek Orthodox school on a third corner and, of course, a Shia or Saudi-funded Wahhabi school on the fourth ... Let us ensure that the public education system stays as it is meant to be – a system of equal opportunity for all. Now is the time to talk of a single public school board, where all of Ontario's children would be free to meet, befriend and know children of other religions, irrespective of whether they are Catholic, Protestant, Shia, Sunni, Jewish, Hindu or even atheist.

Crooked Bank May Be Tie Between Prince Bandar, Big Defense Contractor

by Last week, the BBC and the Guardian reported that BAE Systems, the world's fourth-largest defense company, paid approximately $2 billion to an Saudi account in the now-defunct Riggs Bank controlled by Bandar as part of Britain's largest-ever defense deal. That purchase, known as al-Yamamah, brought Britain over $80 billion in Saudi money in return for BAE-manufactured aircrat in 1985, and has been a fruitful target for UK scandal-watchers ever since. Tony Blair personally scotched an investigation by his government's Serious Fraud Office into the alleged kickbacks in December, and he reaffirmed that decision last week when the Bandar allegations broke, saying, "I don't believe the investigation would have led to anywhere except to the complete wreckage of a vital interest to our country."

The bigger bang

From The Economist

National security and the fight against terrorism would be imperilled if Britain's valued Middle Eastern ally were annoyed, the official version ran ... But detailed new allegations in the media have made things look even worse. Payments of more than £1 billion have allegedly been traced to Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a member of the Saudi royal family. Worse still, it seems that the British government (which under Margaret Thatcher signed the agreement) was an integral part of the payments chain ... the decision to suspend the Serious Fraud Office's investigation in December looks even more pig-headed and plain wrong now than it did then. But what of the extenuating “national interest” circumstances offered by Mr Blair—the idea that further investigation would be bad for the war on terror and bad for defence jobs? And what price is it worth paying to have a defence industry?

Baker's Theory of 'Stability' Rears Its Ugly Head Again

by Caroline Glick from The Jerusalem Post

Yet like Fatah, the Saudis aren't simply vulnerable; they are culpable. In addition to being the creators of Al Qaeda and Hamas' largest fiscal backers, the Saudis themselves directly threaten Israel. The Bush administration is not just asking Israel to facilitate the arming of its enemies. It is also placing restrictions on Israel's ability to arm itself. The Pentagon recently voiced its objection to Israel's plan to install Israeli technology in the jets that are to be supplied starting in 2014. Israel's installation of its own electronic warfare systems in its F-16s, and F-15s is what has allowed the Israeli Air Force to maintain its qualitative edge over Arab states that have also purchased the aircraft.

North Lebanon fertile ground for Sunni militants

by Tom Perry from Reuters

The Fatah al-Islam militant group is reviled by many Lebanese, but its ideas resonate with hardline Sunni Islamists, raising the possibility of more violence. Fathi Yakan, leader of the Islamic Action Front (one of the biggest Sunni Islamist groups in Lebanon), said hardliners may take up arms against the state "out of fear that their turn will come" after Fatah al-Islam. "If they find that Fatah al-Islam is in trouble now, then these might act, perhaps they will cooperate with it, or even support it," said Yakan. "For this reason, the situation is getting more serious," said Yakan, listing the full range of Sunni Islamist schools of thought in Tripoli. They include the Salafi school that is linked to the Wahhabi beliefs followed by Osama bin Laden. Salafi Muslims believe they must follow strictly the practices of the Prophet Mohammad and his closest companions.

Iraq's Curse

by Edward Wong writes from The New York Times

I first met Fakhri al-Qaisi, a Sunni Arab dentist turned hard-line politician, in 2003 at a Salafi mosque in western Baghdad, when the Sunni Arab insurgency was gaining momentum. He articulated the Sunnis' simmering anger at being ousted from power. That fury has blossomed and is likely only to grow, as religious Shiite leaders and their militias become more entrenched in the government and as Kurds in the north push to expand their region and secede in all but name ... As long as I have known him, Mr. Qaisi has rejected the idea that Sunni Arabs are the minority in this country. To him and many other Sunnis, the borders of Iraq do not delineate the boundaries of the war. The conflict is set, instead, against the backdrop of the entire Islamic world, in which demography and history have always favored the Sunnis.

Feeding disenchantment

by Lucy Fielder from Al-Ahram Weekly

Lebanese officials have also talked about using Nahr Al-Bared, a camp north of Tripoli where the army is besieging the militant Sunni organisation, Fatah Al-Islam, as a "model", says Mohamed Ali Khalidi, a philosophy professor at the American University of Beirut and researcher for the Institute of Palestine Studies. The battle has killed at least 140 people, more than 60 of them soldiers, and shelling has destroyed parts of the camp, once home to about 40,000 refugees. An army source said the siege would continue until the militants surrendered ... Fatah Al-Islam is not considered to be a Palestinian group, with most of its members being Lebanese and other Arab nationalities, with some Palestinians. Radical Salafi ideology and Al-Qaeda inspire the group rather than Palestinian resistance.