Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Gdeim Izzeik camp and its significance

The recent crackdown by Moroccan security forces on the Gdeim Izzeik protest camp in the Western Sahara and its political ramifications, from The Moor Next Door:

‘This is without a doubt a very significant moment for Sahrawi nationalism. Exactly how things will play out remains to be seen, but the violent nature of the crackdown and the protests, and the scale of public protest, is unprecedented. I believe this will become as significant an internal turning point for Sahrawi nationalism as the May 2005 Sahrawi “intifada” in el-Aaiun. While that event passed unnoticed in the larger world, it was the starting point of the recurrent Sahrawi protests and human rights lobbying that has since dominated the nationalist side of the argument, and it has seriously affected the parameters of the conflict…

…In addition, the riots are a damning declaration of non-confidence in the official structures of governance in the territory, in particular the CORCAS, Morocco’s only officially sanctioned political entity for Sahrawis. CORCAS was already widely scorned as a powerless puppet body of corrupt local businessmen and pawns for palace and army interests, but it contained several influential local powerbrokers of Sahrawi or related provenance. The political significance of this should not be understated, since the CORCAS was long portrayed by the palace as the cornerstone of the whole autonomy project. The riots will certainly affect the plans to reform CORCAS (which have been long in the offing)…

…In this mix POLISARIO and its exile republic, the RASD, have remained the guiding framework, but events such as those at Gdeim Izzeik may in the long term undermine its near-monopoly on channeling social discontent among Sahrawis. Because, what did POLISARIO actually do during these protests? It propagated their cause, sure, and gave verbal support – but at the end of the day, it couldn’t move from its exile in Algeria, and local leaders were the people who mattered.’

The whole thing is worth reading.


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Hekmatyar on German TV

Thomas Ruttig, on the subject of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s recent German TV interview, asks why now and why to Germans?

‘In the ZDF interview, it became very obvious that Hekmatyar tried to walk on a political tight-rope. He apparently felt that he had to positively address different audiences. To the West, he projected himself as someone who might be willing to talk peace under certain circumstances although his Palestine remark might not earn him much credibility. To the Taliban who recently criticized him and fought his fighters, he presented himself as a good co-Mujahid with Islamic principles who is not soft at all vis-a-vis the “occupying forces” and Karzai. A HIG delegation, led by one of his sons-in-law and his deputy Ghairat Bahir had visited Kabul earlier this year and was even granted a meeting with the president himself — a remarkable gesture given that the talks were later declared “unsuccessful” (by HIG)…

…HIG is known for good connections to Germany from the 1980s when many mujahedin supporters found political asylum there. Amongst them, there were many HIG sympathizers, and HIG had an (unofficial) office in Bonn, in the form of an Afghan refugee association. HIG fighters were involved in a training programme for cameramen in Germany, to accompany the Stinger missiles newly acquired from the U.S. (see Charlie Wilson’s War) and to show how effective they were. (I met one of them by chance during a walk in Paghman a few years ago.) This was part of a larger programme called “Gläsernes Afghanistan” (something like “Transparent Afghanistan”) pushed by Wilson’s German equivalent, MP Jürgen Todenhöfer, a former right-winger (Brezhnev’s spokesman wanted to “flog and shoot” him) who turned into an opponent of the current war in Afghanistan (“Bin Laden killed less people than Bush”). Also, some journalists and aid workers maintain connections with Hekmatyar. As a result, leading HIG figures on their rounds though Kabul’s embassies and political offices during the drawn-out registration process of the legal wing of their party during 2005-2006, leading HIG figures radiated a lot of pro-German sympathy whenever they met a German.’

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Yemen is not a terrorist factory

Good analysis on how Yemen’s problems are more than a couple of hundred al-Qaeda fighters:

‘Despite the poverty, the main reason Yemen is not becoming a major international terrorist base is that the Yemeni people have their own internal problems to resolve.

Yemen is currently being torn apart by two major indigenous rebellions. In the South there is widespread unrest tied to unending poverty and discrimination that emerged after the two Yemens, one socialist in the South and the other republican in the North, united in 1990. Hundreds of people have died in clashes that have nothing to do with America being the Great Satan.

In the North, the so-called Houthi rebellion has embroiled the Yemeni government in a protracted conflict, which not long ago spilled over the border into Saudi Arabia. Hussein al-Houthi, a member of parliament and tribal leader, was an outspoken critic of the government’s reliance on American military aid and of the foreign influence of Saudi Arabia. After he was killed in 2004, the dissatisfaction escalated into a war between local tribesmen in the North and the central government. The issue driving the conflict is resentment of both Yemeni government and Saudi interference in local affairs, not a war against the West.’

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Jordanian election posters

The excellent new Jadaliyya blog presents a montage of Jordanian election posters in order to shed some light on the issues at stake:

‘The goal of this posting is not so much an in-depth analysis of the elections but rather a montage of election slogans and posters within the context outlined above. Any engagement with the issue of elections would benefit from contextualizing it within the context of an authoritarian system of rule and varried programs of economic and political liberalization/deliberalization that have been implemented over the past two decades (for example, see Jadaliyya articles by Bassam Haddad on “The Predicament of Independent Opposition). Ultimately though, elections (regardless of the specificities of laws that govern districting, candidacy, and other issues) are an extremely limited exercise in political rights by virture of the fact that the monarch has the power to suspend, disolve, shorten, and/or lengthen any parliamentary session. In fact, one has to question the utility and effectiveness of a parliament in whose absense the passage of laws, the running of ministries, and the maintenance of order coninutes unabated as if the “elected” legislature were not summarily dismissed and a parliamentary vaccum left for over a year (this time around).

The below photos are not representative of the diversity of candidates, slogans, and posters decorating the streets of Amman. They do, however, offer a glimps the nature of the discourse within the election realm.’

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When democracy goes bad

Steven Cook on the parallels and inconsistencies of democracy promotion and its outcomes in Turkey and Egypt:

‘Anyway, it seems we may now have a country that can teach us something about transitions in the Middle East—Turkey.  Ankara has been giving Washington fits on the Balkans, Arab-Israeli conflict, and Iran among other issues precisely because it is more democratic than ever before.  To be sure, there are loads of problems in Turkey ranging from the conspiracy within a conspiracy that is the Ergenekon investigation, the punitive tax levy on the Dogan media group, and the constitutional changes that pave the way for court packing to name just a few. My neo-conservative friends argue that Turkey needs more democracy.  I agree, though I do not believe that Turkey needs more democracy because Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is either in the thrall of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.  Rather, Turkey is in the intermediate stage of a transition to democracy, which means that it will more often than not manifest both democratic and authoritarian tendencies. As an aside, the irony of the neoconservative argument is stunning:  The neoconservatives were, after all, in the thrall of Ankara when Turkey was decidedly not democratic and firmly under military tutelage.  Also, it strikes me as odd that when a democracy does begin to emerge in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey, they don’t like it.  I smell a logical flaw. [Word…]

In the end, Egypt is vastly different from Turkey.  Ankara is of far greater strategic importance than Cairo, making a Turkish transition potentially costly to the United States.  So it may very well be that pushing President Hosni Mubarak on democracy is relatively cost free .  I hope so, but I get nervous when people tell me I can have something, especially something as hard as promoting democracy, without gaining a good understanding of what might go wrong.  There’s been too much of that in Washington over the last decade.’

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Geert Wilders and the Israeli far-right

Via Coteret, who points out that support for Wilders in Israel goes beyond the National Union party to other leading Israeli neocons.

‘Cooperation between the extreme right wing in Holland and Israel: Dutch anti-Muslim nationalist Geert Wilders will come to Israel in order to support the idea that “Jordan is the Palestinian nation state,” which is being promoted by MK Arieh Eldad (National Union).

Eldad, chairman of the Hatikva party, one of the constituent parties of the National Union, is convening a special conference of his party in order to discuss an “alternative foreign policy plan,” which mainly consists of recognition of the fact that Jordan is the Palestinian state, while only one state will exist between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea—the State of Israel.

MK Eldad will present the main points of his idea at the conference, which will be held in Tel Aviv at the beginning of next month.  Eldad will be followed by a guest speech by the Dutch nationalist Wilders, in which he will voice support for the idea of establishing a Palestinian state in Jordan.  Former defense minister Moshe Arens and former GSS director Ami Ayalon were invited to the conference in order to respond to the speeches.’

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More STL rumours: Hizbullah names

From the WSJ:

‘Among those being looked at in the U.N. probe, according to the people briefed on it, is Mustafa Badreddine, a senior Hezbollah military commander and brother-in-law of Imad Mugniyah, who was among the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most-wanted men before his death nearly three years ago.

Mr. Mugniyah is alleged by U.S. officials to have overseen a string of terrorist attacks against American interests in the 1980s, including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut that killed 241 servicemen. Mr. Mugniyah, who was killed in a 2008 car bombing in Damascus, Syria, is also believed by U.N. investigators to have played a role, along with his brother-in-law, in the car bombing in downtown Beirut that killed Mr. Hariri and 22 others, according to the people briefed on the probe.’

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