Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Farewell to democracy

by Soumaya Ghannoushi from Webglobe

The occupation of Iraq and toppling of its president did not unleash the era of affluence and prosperity prophesied by Bush and his neocons. Iraq did not exactly turn into the envy of the Arab world ... Instead, it was the “hardliners”, the nationalists and Islamists, who are more responsive to the interests, demands and aspirations of their people than to those of the White House, who got the lion’s share of the votes ... A shift in priorities occurred in Washington. Confronting the Iranian “threat” shot up to the top, while reform sank downwards. Instead of tyrannies and democracies, the region became divided into “moderates” lined up against the “Shia crescent”, and “extremists” favourably disposed to it. Along with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, which had until recently been dismissed as a Wahhabi terrorism incubator, found itself rehabilitated and promoted to the ranks of friendly moderates.

Saudi says Israel future hangs on Palestinian state

from Reuters

Unusually strong comments from the Muslim kingdom, which has traditionally close ties to Washington, came as the region awaits a U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference expected to take place in November. "The cabinet reviewed the developments in the region and the Israeli practices that are increasing tensions and obstruct any serious effort to achieving peace and stability in the region," Information and Culture Minister Iyad Madani told the official SPA news agency after a cabinet meeting chaired by King Abdullah, without specifying details. "The future of Israel hinges on its recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people to a state and to dignity." ... Israel warned against expecting any rapid progress in the run-up to the U.S.-led conference tentatively planned for the second half of November in the Washington area.

Criticism of U.S.-Gulf Arms Deal in Gulf Press

by I. Rapoport from MEMRI

Kuwaiti MP Dr. 'Abd Al-Muhsin Yousef Jamal wrote in the Kuwaiti weekly Al-Tali'a: Whenever oil prices go up, they immediately try to take [the money] out of [our] bank accounts, in any way that serves the [interests of] the American economy, even though we have no need to arm ourselves in this fashion. The most infuriating thing is that America [not only] sells us arms but also determines for us who our enemy should be!

Hassan Al-'Attar wrote in the Bahraini daily Akhbar Al-Khalij: I believe that the reasons cited by [U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice were merely a cover for [the U.S.'s] real motivation [for the arms deal], which is to get back the large sums that the Gulf states received in the last four years due to the rise in oil prices.

Dr. Tareq Seif wrote in the UAE daily Al-Ittihad: The American administration did not consider the special character of the commercial, economic and financial relations between Iran and the Gulf states, nor did it consider the vital strategic interests of these countries when it adopted a policy of coercion towards Iran...

Radhi Al-Sammak wrote in the Bahraini daily Akhbar Al-Khaleej: None of the GCC states [actually] made a clear statement regarding the nature of this deal and their part in it... and not one of these states justified the deal in terms of confronting the Iranian nuclear threat. [In fact], the GCC states all declare their friendship with Iran...

Saudi-like oil monopoly 'ultimate goal' for Nigeria

from Thomson Financial

Odein Ajumogobia, the new energy minister of Nigeria, stressed a 'misalignment' between the objectives of private, foreign oil companies and the aspirations of the country. 'Saudi Aramco is perhaps the ultimate goal of where we would like to be, but we are a long way from that,' he said, referring to the Saudi kingdom's oil monopoly, the biggest in the world. His comments indicate the desire of the new Nigerian government to tighten control over production in the oil-rich African state, whose industry is dominated by joint ventures with foreign groups such as US giants ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco, Britain's Shell, France's Total or Italy's Eni.

Jordan launches national project to curb violence against women

from The Associated Press

Jordan launched a U.S.-funded project Monday to curb violence and other forms of abuse against women under the auspices of the country's Queen Rania. A 2002 study, "Jordan Demographic and Health Survey," found that 87% of women here believe their husbands are justified in using physical or verbal abuse ... Women make up roughly half of the population of nearly 6 million people. But decision-making authority is largely held by men in this conservative tribal-based society. An average of 20 women are killed each year by male relatives in so-called "honor crimes," in which male relatives murder them for simply having a relationship with a male. Still, many women in Jordan enjoy more freedom than their counterparts in other Arab countries, like Saudi Arabia. They can drive cars, divorce their husbands, hold prominent positions in government and business and can travel abroad without the consent of male relatives.

Kuwaiti PM seeks to axe 'derogatory' Shiite TV serial

from AFP

The serial entitled "Sins Have A Price" is due to air on the Dubai-based and Saudi owned Arab MBC station during Ramadan, which is expected to start on Thursday ... The serial highlights a form of marriage, known as "temporary marriage", particular to Shiite Islam under which a man and a woman may wed for any period of time from just an hour to 99 years. This form of marriage is banned under the Sunni branch of Islam. In this Gulf emirate, which is Sunni-ruled but has a significant Shiite minority, Sunni and Shiite activists and lawmakers in this have called for the programme to be banned as an insult to Shiites. "The serial includes a total distortion of Shiism. It deals with faith issues in a distorted manner. It also incites sectarianism," between the two major branches of Islam, said leading Shiite MP Adnan Abdulsamad.

It Will All Fall Down: A Conversation with Seymour Hersh

Seymour Hersh interviewed by Deborah Campbell from Adbusters

Q: With your story on Lebanon about the US and Saudi Arabia supporting Sunni jihadists, including Fatah al-Islam, we then see the Lebanese army start to fight Fatah al-Islam in a refugee camp in Lebanon. What happened there? Look, I’m not being querulous but it doesn’t matter what I think. What obviously happened is that, assuming I was right, there’s a pattern here. If you go back two decades, when the war against Russia was being fought in Afghanistan, the Saudis convinced us that they could control the Salafis – Osama Bin Laden, etc. – and we overtly and knowingly aided them and it ended up biting our ass. So it’s not illogical to conclude that one of the things that happened is that people we thought we could control, we could not control. So, right now we are helping the Lebanese army fight people that we indirectly helped support. As usual, it’s complete madness.