Publius Pundit

Have the Swiss Become Racist, Or...?

Filed under: Europe

I've written an article over at Pajamas Media about yesterday's parliamentary election in Switzerland, where the press has heaped on the scorn over what it perceives as a Nazi-like campaign by the country's biggest party. I take the time to throw that notion in the trash. If you know about the controversy surrounding this issue then I think you'll be interested in the article for sure.

"Do the election results show the Swiss have become racist?"

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Brand Spanking New Articles

Filed under: Site Updates

We have several new articles posted up to the "Articles" section of the site which I'm sure you'll all find very interesting.

The first is, "The End of Democracy?" written by Kim Zigfeld, who responds to an article in the Economist which states that the words "democracy" and "western" themselves no longer correctly define what they actually are. Also, in "Annals of Neo-Soviet Self-Destruction," she points out that Russia is incredibly setting up a commission to monitor the human rights situation in the West! One must wonder if it's all a joke.

The latest article is a commentary written by my friend Adam Goodman of The BEING HAD Times blog, which he writes from Pinsk, Belarus. His article is in response to recent anti-Semitic remarks made by the authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenka. He notes that anti-Semitism is on the rise in many corners, and whether or not such comments were intentional, they make him very, very nervous when the president of the country makes them.

So, enjoy! And as always feel free to leave your comments!

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Burma's Destroyed Opposition

Filed under: Asia ~ Myanmar

Pro-democracy writer Bo Nyein pens a extremely quality article over at Pajamas Media telling of the completely disorganized Burmese opposition -- and how that amounted in large part to its failure to overthrow the military junta a couple weeks ago. If you found my article "When People Power Fails" insightful, then you will enjoy this. Whereas I focused on the strengths of the military-business regime, Bo Nyein focuses on the abhorrent weaknesses of the democratic opposition, which includes both those in the country as well as the organized expat NGOs and Western government. There is no cohesive strategy or connection between that outside and the actual, on the ground reality.

What astounds me is how the optimists believe the opposition had every chance of actually succeeding in overthrowing the military junta while in such a disorganized state. Of course, much of this can be blamed on the strength of the regime itself, but nonetheless certain comparisons should be made to other people power revolutions since the end of the USSR.

For one, the regimes in Central and Eastern Europe were much less cohesive, much less savvy, and much less oppressive than the Burmese military junta. As far as we can tell right now, the U.S. barely has its foot in the door with an American embassy in Burma, but is under such surveillance that little can be done to help. However, from the mid-'90s through the present, some independent media (radio and television) as well as native NGOs were able to set up in Central and Eastern Europe. The U.S. government, through pro-democracy institutions such as NDI, NED, and IRI -- not to mention George Soros' Open Society Institute above all -- were able to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cash, equipment, technical/logistical support, training, and advice that was able to organize the opposition in countries from Slovakia to Serbia to Georgia to Ukraine.

And while in these countries, sure, the democratic opposition would rally around a single charismatic leader, Bo Nyein points out that perhaps this is the wrong strategy in Burma. In Central/Eastern Europe, these leaders had an extremely strong organized support behind them. In Burma, however, Aung San Suu Kyi has been made into a golden idol who cannot possibly achieve democracy for her country alone when there is no organized, cohesive strategy behind supporting the people who support her.

One other point of Bo Nyein's that I would like to point out which I found very interesting is the extreme disconnect between the expat NGOs operating around the world for a free Burma and the situation with the domestic opposition. While these NGOs work tirelessly to promote awareness and influence foreign governments, very little has been done in terms of actually organizing the domestic opposition to deal with its struggle. Believe it or not, there are classes you can take at universities about democratization, and one of the things you will learn is that foreign influence is almost always second or third tier when it comes to a regime transition. Many of the NGOs and independent media that these foreign NGOs helped out and trained were native organizations that were simply given the boost they needed. Burma has very little of this.

Now, I'm not going to quote any of the article itself. I highly recommend that you click the link though if you're interested in Burma. Just keep these thoughts in mind as you read!

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I'm Coming Out of the Closet

Filed under: Humor

I was just informed that two days ago was International Coming Out Day, how dare I forget?

I've got one for you Publius readers though. I'm coming out of the closet, right here, right now, on the world wide web. Everyone will know and it will forever be available to public scrutiny. And if, some day, I am put into the horrible position where I am in some sort of political office, my opponents will forever use this against me.

That's right. I'm a former hardcore Marxist. I loved reading boring books written in the 70s about Soviet and Chinese economic models. I carried The Communist Manifesto with me wherever I went. Camo was in style. Revolution could be pretty sweet.

Did I mention that this wasn't the '60s or '70s, but up until about 2003? Let me just say, that 30 years later than I should have had a phase like that, such a thing does not work so well with the ladies.

Who knew coming out of the closet could be so much fun? Any readers who want to take a crack at this, and share their deepest, darkest secrets about former political affiliations? Dumbest things, in retrospect, you've ever said about an issue? What you had for breakfast this morning?

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Battleground Che

Filed under: Americas

Needless to say, I am popping open a bottle of champagne. The 40th anniversary of the death of Che Guevara is a cause for celebration. Doing so, and on other days like this, are sure to keep you pretty drunk 365 days a year (all the more reason to do so). The biggest problem I have with this day though is that, for every one person like myself celebrating his death, there is at least one person out there celebrating his life. I divide us into three groups: people who knows the truth, idealist idiots who don't, and blind intellectuals. We all see a different side of who Che was, though obviously the latter two see simply half-truths.

The idealistic idiots are the college students who hang banners emblazoned with his face up in their dorm rooms, wear the t-shirts, and generally feed the ironic Che money making machine. I had a friend from college back in Boston who had one of those flags hanging above his bed. Underneath the caricature of Che were the words, "Hasta la victoria siempre." Very strange, given that he's a white, upper-class Bolivian guy, but nonetheless very idealistic and perhaps just not knowledgeable.

It really made me want to puke sometimes. Not only is Marxist revolutionary rhetoric nauseating to me, but to be so close to it makes me asthmatic.

I remember asking him about it. He did know the background of Che, as he well should, where most people did not. But fully knowing this, he said that he looked up to him not for what he was, but for what he represents. Notice the change from past tense to present -- what he was, but for what he represents today. And what does he represent? Fearlessness, bravery, a desire to change the world. These are the things every college kid, among others, sees in Che without bothering to look any further into his story. In reality, these are in many ways true. Yet it is not the whole truth, simply an exaggerated single side of this personality cult exaggerated by the marketing of his face.

The latter, the blind intellectual, is called so because he is a smart man who knows what he sees in front of him, but turns a blind eye to it perhaps unconsciously in favor of the better traits that he sees. The French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre once called Che "the most complete human being of our age." He was completely enamored of the Cuban revolution from the very beginning, and as history goes, fell in love with the intellect and actions of Che Guevara that so surpassed his own. The hundreds of executions committed alongside his brother in arms Raul Castro could be overlooked. In fact, they were not noteworthy, because they lacked the sparkle of his testaments, poetry, and words. Sartre latched on to one side of Che because that's the side he liked; his humanity, supposed desire for justice and equality for all, is hard to reconcile with his absolute disdain for black Cubans when considered. He had obviously never seen the writings where Che writes of his lust for blood either.

Just like anyone who believes in the promises of Marxism, Sartre was enamored by the words rather than the inherent contradictions present in the actions taken to achieve the ongoing victory. The blind intellectual sees a godlike figure where really there is a beast that can speak.

The truth about Che is more complicated than either of these views, but we cannot deny them completely. Even before he was put on t-shirts, the very base of his actions -- fighting for what he believed in, regardless of your agreement with it -- inspired people all over the world. And while he is not personally inspiring to me, I have met people working for democracy in their countries who are, in that very base amount, inspired simply by the bravery of fighting for ones beliefs rather than the beliefs Che actually had.

And even while the atrocities committed are well-known, some still to this day find beauty in his words. This essay I found on the internet is written by someone who, fully knowledgeable, is able to find beauty and truth in the words of a man he knows to have not lived up to them.

So who is Che Guevara? The question is almost pointless to answer, because regardless of the constant dissemination of whole information, people will continue to choose which pieces to filter out in order to fit their views regardless of the truth. One can can that he is a people person, a racist, a demagogue, an idealist, a revolutionary, a mass murderer, a poet, a beast, "the most complete human of our age," or a cold-hearted bastard. More than anything, though, the word that may best describe him is contradiction.

However, I cannot subscribe to such a soft word. While the latter two groups may see all of these good qualities as mitigating factors, a true humanist cannot mitigate the horrible things he did to others based on perceived personal good qualities. I will go with the phrase "racist demagogue mass murderer beast cold-hearted bastard." To me, this best describes the truth of the real Che Guevara, based not on any perceptions about him, but simply based on his lasting impact on other people and the world.

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When People Power Fails

Filed under: Asia ~ Myanmar

I have posted a new article to the site, entitled "When People Power Fails." It has to do with regards to the current situation in Burma, but draws more broadly on some of the particular reasons why a people power revolution may fail. For those following the story, it should be pretty interesting.

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Burmese vs. Chinese

Filed under: Asia ~ Myanmar

The unexpectedly enormous demonstrations in Burma that have been ongoing for over a week now have surprised the world. It has been nearly two decades since such an uprising has occurred, and as Richard Fernandez at Pajamas Media points out, the entire episode is reminiscient of the "people power" uprisings in both the Philippines and Indonesia. He also makes the astute observation, repeated in this Opinion Journal article, that the state of China has to some degree supported the military dictatorship in Burma.

Surely, the scene is familiar. Tens or hundreds of thousands of people in the streets demonstrating against a ruthless dictatorship is one that has been repeated the world over. Yet when these revolutions occur, the people have another target: those on the periphery supporting the regime. In this case, though, I am not simply talking about the state of China itself, but the ethnic Chinese population in Burma itself.

A huge reason this scene is familiar to me, aside from the people protesting in the streets, is the fact that Burma has, like at the time of the Philippines' and Indonesia's revolutions, an incredibly strong "market-dominant" ethnic Chinese population.

It is well-known in the Philippines, back then as well as now, that the ethnic Chinese minority, despite its incredibly small numbers, controlled the vast majority of the economy, from big business to retail. Their economic strength was granted through the cronyism of the Marcos dictatorship, which produced a comfortable symbiotic relationship in which they were able to thrive while Marcos could stay in power while pocketing a truckload of cash as well. The pro-democracy People Power Revolution had an interesting anti-Chinese tint to it.

Same story in Indonesia. General Suharto pocketed more than a billion dollars through corrupt deals with ethnic Chinese. It is no wonder that when Suharto was forced to resign in the chaos of mass protests in 1998, that thousands of ethnic Chinese were slaughtered, with their homes and storefronts ransacked. Afterward, mass nationalizations occurred in the name of the "native people," predominantly Chinese-owned, causing over $40 billion in capital flight from which Indonesia has yet to recover.

The situation is not all that different in Burma. General Ne Win encouraged anti-Chinese policies; but following the crushing of pro-democracy protests and the subsequent military coup, the junta found a very cozy relationship with the Chinese minority. Since then, they have become the supreme economic minority. They have the most education, hold the most professional jobs, and control all of the middle and big businesses in the country in conjunction with the government. They deal in mining, illicit drug trades, and even human trafficking. In return for this, they support the military junta, from which this native autocracy profits highly.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Burmese wonder why they're so damn poor and can't do anything about it. Gas and food prices are skyrocketing, putting them on the edge of survival, while they see that their own government and a bunch of "outsiders" are doing very well for themselves despite the widespread poverty all around. When these people are taking to the streets, not only are they protesting for democracy, but they are protesting in large part due to their current economic conditions, which many are largely blaming on the collusion between the government and ethnic Chinese businessmen.

Every government feels the need to protect the interests of its citizens abroad, especially the incredibly wealthy and well-connected ones. The government of China does use its influence to protect the Burmese military junta to some degree, but it is doing so because of the huge investments and interests of its powerful citizens there. The Chinese, both the businessmen and the government, know that their minority population is in a very precarious situation. The junta knows this as well. Because of this symbiotic relationship, in which one cannot possibly survive without the other, the Chinese continue to support the junta with money and development from the contracts given them, while the junta must apply force at all possible times so that these people and their assets are protected so that, in the end, they remain in power!

China's position is extremely precarious right now. Unless these protestors and their leaders are particularly high-minded, it would not be at all surprising to see a slew of renationalizations of Chinese-owned industries should the junta be completely swept out of power. More than likely, with the arms that the military possesses, along with the entrenched interests of the Chinese businessmen and military autocracy with each other, the only way the pro-democracy opposition will be allowed to have power to formulate policy is if they take a tone of reconciliation and extreme moderation. If anything comes out of their camp talking about confiscation of all that wealth, no matter how corruptly it was obtained, then they are going to have a hard time ever beating the junta.

While we see a lot of similarities between this demonstration in Burma and the people power revolutions elsewhere in Asia, one of the big ones is the cronyism present between the dictatorship and the Chinese businessmen. Given the strength of the military junta, though, we may not see this dictatorship simply swept away, and if we do, it could be with even more disastrous economic consequences than they already suffer. The country cannot afford to see what capital it has leave completely.

Yet this does not mean that change is impossible. Most democratic transitions occur slowly; in fact, most people power movements fail relatively soon afterward. If the pro-democracy opposition can prove to the military that it won't try to persecute them and confiscate Chinese wealth, the possibility of a slow transition with greater economic liberalization, the growth of civil society, and the removal of international sanctions should become possible.

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Best way to learn a language?

Filed under: Technology

I have lived in Latin America and Spain for a few years, and as such have "learned" Spanish through immersion without any formal education whatsoever. However, because of this, I have never been able to perfect my grammar, tenses, vocabulary, and all that good stuff. I can shoot off the slang like it's no one's business, but using the subjuctive will throw me off base.

I am looking for a way to do this without having to take classes in an actual classroom.

People talk a lot about the Rosetta Stone software, but from what I've read, it mostly teaches you words through association with images. This would be really useful for someone who is just starting a language, but it appears that at no time does Rosetta Stone really indoctrinate the formal grammar into you, or even the alphabet! It is these technical aspects that i need to master rather than simply more trial-and-error.

Given that Publius has a very international and internationally-minded audience, I'm sure many of you have learned a second language. What I'd like to know is, first, how did you do it? Second, if you used any kind of software, CDs, online courses, anything, what was it and how well did it work for you?

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Pentagon three-day blitz plan for Iran

Filed under: Middle East

A ranking Swiss official, speaking privately, said, "Anyone with a modicum of experience in the Middle East knows that any bombing of Iran would touch off at the very least regional instability and what could be an unmitigated disaster for Western interests." True. But what other more peaceful alternative is there? The Europeans tried for years and accomplished nothing. Plus Iran is working towards becoming nuclear and taking over the region since 1979 through various channels. Stepping away from the political correctness speech we should look at what Iran is doing in Lebanon through HizbAllah, in Iraq through Al Sadr and Hakim's militias (to name only two of the most important militias), in Palestine through Hamas (it is plain stupid to say that since Iran is Shiia and Palestinians Sunni they cannot possible cooperate; of course they work together as long as they have a common enemy - the enemy of my enemy is my friend aka Zionists, British&American imperialists and the sort of mambo jambo) What is clear is that the war must be fought on all fronts.

"The Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive air strikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians military capability in three days"

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HizbAllah to sue Israel

Filed under:

Ibrahim Awada head of HizbAllah's legal department, revealed the plan last week on a Syrian television program devoted to "Zionist crimes against Lebanon." He said that each plaintiff will hire a lawyer in the country where he files suit, and HizbAllah will pay the lawyers fees.

So, let me get this straight, HizbAllah kidnaps Israeli soldiers yet HizbAllah is the victim. Instead of playing silly games the party should apologize to its fellow citizens that it brought war upon Lebanon. Shame on them!

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Abd al Bari Atwan: I will dance if Iran hits Israel

Filed under: Middle East

Abd Al-Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper told a Lebanese TV station that "If the Iranian missiles strike Israel, by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight." Finally an honest Arab Muslim! It should not be a secret anymore that (some) Muslims use religion as a shield to justify murder especially when those targeted are Jews. Their real oppressor is not Israel. Palestinians should look at their own government (s) and the 'elite' that keeps them in misery and hide behind religion to achieve power&money.

"If Iran is able to retaliate, it will burn the oil wells, block the Strait of Hormuz, attack the American bases in the Gulf and, Allah willing, it will attack Israel, as well."

Bari Atwan founded the pan-Arab daily in London in 1989, and today the paper has a circulation of around 50,000. He is also a regular commentator on Sky News and BBC News 24.

As soon as we accept that terrorism is nihilistic rage unconnected with, and not a reaction to, any actions or policies on Jews/American part the better.

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EU way: Talk to Hamas

Filed under: Middle East

Representatives of three EU intelligence services have met with top Hamas leaders JPost reports. Why try to defeat Hamas (which is Muslim Brotherhood armed wing in Palestine) when you can talk to them?! EU is more and more like UN. And that's not a compliment. EU failed to convince Iran in three years to give up the nuclear project so how is this any different? It isn't. The fact that EU is willing to talk&negotiate with Hamas can only reinforce Islamists belief that all they have to do is scare us shitless and we'll beg (read: bribe) them to be nice again with us. The problem with EU strategy is that terrorists never abandon their goals. They might slow down for a while but not relinquish.

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Gul is Turkey's new President

Filed under: Europe

Abdullah Gul is elected as Turkey's 11th President amid warnings from the military over undermining country's secular constitution. In the third round of the election Gul received his own party AKP's 339 votes out of the 448 MPs present. The main opposition party CHP did not participate. Gul will take over the presidency tonight in Cankaya (the presidential palace) from Ahmet Necdet Sezer with a modest ceremony.

While massive celebrations are planned in Abdullah Gul's hometown Kayseri and other places, not all Turks are happy.

Read more about it here and here

update: Chief of Staff Yasar Buyukanit said that "our nation has been watching the behavior of centers of evil who systematically try to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic". That means the army is not happy at all with Gul as President. We did not expect any less from the guardians of secular Turkey. "The military will, just as it has so far, keep its determination to guard social, democratic and secular Turkey." Glad to see the army is not about to surrender.

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Life in UK is unbearable for some

Filed under: Europe

England is Vanishing says Cal Thomas.

"Between June 2005 and June 2006 nearly 200,000 British citizens chose to leave the country for a new life elsewhere. During the same period, at least 574,000 immigrants came to Britain. This number does not include the people who broke the law to get there, or the thousands unknown to the government."

Why the exodus?

"They fear lawlessness and the threat of more terrorism from a growing Muslim population and the loss of a sense of Britishness, exacerbated by the growing refusal of public schools to teach the history and culture of the nation to the next generation. What it means to be British has been watered down in a plague of political correctness that has swept the country faster than hoof-and-mouth disease. Officials say they do not wish to "offend" others."

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Iran shuts "Western" barber shops

Filed under: Iran

Iranian police closed more than 20 barbers shops in the capital Tehran. At least 700 barber shops were inspected during the two-week crackdown, according to BBC. I'll be damned! The mullahs now see men coiffure as anti-Islamic and pro-West!! Mullahs acts are getting stranger, repressive (demented actually) by the day.

If you want to read&see how women are treated by the mad Mullahs check here. And here you can see how a woman is dragged into the police car by men of Allah.

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Dr Rice to visit Libya in October

Filed under: Africa

For the first time since 1953, the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit Libya. Dr Rice is to visit the country in October. The last US Secretary of State to visit Libya was John Foster Dulles.

US State Department sources explained that the visit, which had been planned for an earlier date, had been postponed for reasons connected to the progress of political reform in Libya.

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The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) the Asian NATO?

Filed under: Asia

"The Iranian weekly Sobh-e Sadeq, the mouthpiece of Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei circulated among the Revolutionary Guards, called on Shanghai Alliance member countries to accept Iran as a member. Iran's membership, the paper said, would create a new regional strategic axis, to include Iran, Russia, and China - and this could reduce the West's political, security, and economic maneuvering ability in the region as well as in Asia." Trapped in the Middle East (basically America had a poor understanding of the tribal/feudal/religious type of conducting business of the Arab Muslims) the United States lost its stamina and to a certain extent lost direction. The result is that the Russian bear roars, Iran and Syria adopts the well known expression: "We must, indeed, all hang together or most assuredly we shall all hang separately" (Benjamin Franklin ); Venezuela and China will most likely take any opportunity to prove the United States that they too have the capacity of leading and changing the world. Which side will India and Pakistan eventually choose?

If you have the time I recommend an exceptional piece by Tony Corn, The Revolution in Transatlantic Affairs

More on SCO

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Suffering from thirst in Egypt

Filed under: Egypt

Life in Egypt is hard for most people. Lower middle class families have to live on $50, $70 per month. They cannot afford Evian! Egypt's economy seems to be on the right track (rising exports, real estate investors) but the beneficiary of this boom is the elite. The rich get richer and the poor poorer. There are few things that best describe Mubarak's government: martial law since 1967, institutionalized corruption, repressive security forces, poverty, unemployment and the restless run to jail the MB (Muslim Brotherhood) members&supporters. Accountability, social responsibility, political openness are not of interest for the current leadership.

Add to thirst hunger. People that get out of prison ask to be jailed again; not because they love to be tortured and imprisoned but because they cannot provide for themselves and their families.

In an interview with Al Dr Najeh Ibrahim, a member of the Islamic Group Shura Council explained the situation as:"Some came out of detention forty or fifty years old. They hold high degrees but found life to be very difficult and discovered they had no job opportunities. None in the private sector agreed to higher them and some jobs require bribes. This has reached a point where it would cost 10, 000 Egyptian pounds (approx $1, 800) to get a job as a janitor in a mosque." Excuse me?? One needs to bribe to be a janitor?! What a great country Egypt is!

Five out of 26 governorates are currently suffering from thirst. For the first time in the history of Egypt people have taken to the streets to ask for water and have protested in front of the state's main directorates.

Read more about the water problems here, here and here.

Update: Mahdi Akef, General Guide of the MB told the Lebanese As Safir this week that the number of the MB detainees reached 550 people

P.S. I stand corrected (thanks Cynic) - Mubarak come to power in 1981. But since 1967 the emergency laws have been in effect almost continuously. After Saddat was assassinated (October 1981) the martial law took again effect in Egypt.

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Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me

Filed under: Palestine

EU decided to cease payment ($8.5 million/month) for fuel for Gaza's electricity supply, until Hamas confirms that funds will not be diverted to its administration in Gaza. There has been no electricity generated by the Gaza power station since Sunday. Of course we can trust Hamas because thus far it has been completely honest with the EU. The European Union realized that while Hamas did collect the money for the electricity instead of paying it, Hamas used the money for other purposes. After all why providing the community with electricity and not weapons?! Where is the outrage of the Gazans? They rejected Fatah because of its institutionalized corruption, then why not reject Hamas because of its ineptitude to deliver?

Hurrying to get to the maximum level of EU stupidity, the United States "will begin training Palestinian guards to protect officials visiting the Palestinian territories. As part of an $80 million American effort to improve security services in the Palestinian Authority, the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security will train members of Mahmoud Abbas Palestinian Presidential Guard, the primary aim of which is to improve VIP protection. " (The Media Line)

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Ahmadinejad: Israel Is Bearer of Satan

Filed under: Iran

From AP TEHRAN "Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Saturday that Israel was the standard bearer of Satan and the Jewish state would soon fall apart"

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IRGC under close scrutiny

Filed under: Iran

In Iran as elsewhere the struggle between ĂĽberradicals and radicals is for money and power. The religious discourse is mainly used for the masses. That is not to say that some of the mullahs do not believe themselves in Mahdi, apocalypse etc IRGC is involved in oil business in Iran, banking business in North Iraq and it helps HizbAllah in the South. They sure are busy. If the US will manage to designate IRGC as a terrorist entity all the foreign companies that may want to do business with it will think twice. It might look as a small step but its better than nothing. The civil unrest in Tehran (due to petrol rationing, poor economic development, lack of jobs etc) and in the provinces are a proof that people are far from being content with the present political leadership. The martyrdom speech still works for the most ignorant but not all are like that. If a military strike against Iran is unlikely (though not impossible) then the policy of small steps is the only available alternative. Read more about it here.

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France calls for the UNIFIL mandate extension

Filed under: Middle East

France has circulated a draft at the UN Security Council calling for the extension of the UNIFIL mandate in Lebanon and call for a permanent cease-fire and long-term solution to last summer's Israel-Hezbollah war. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the council to extend the UNIFIL mandate after Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora had sent a letter demanding for the renewal of the UN forces’ mandate for a year. "The swift and effective deployment of UNIFIL has helped establish a new strategic military and security environment in South Lebanon," Ban said.

The current mandate of the force comprising 11,428 ground troops, 2,000 maritime personnel, 185 staff officers and 20 local staffers expires on 31 August. UNIFIL troops along with 15,000 Lebanese troops were deployed along Lebanon's border with Israel in order to enforce the UN 1701 resolution.

Read more on UNIFIL here.

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Skill to create solutions needed badly in Lebanon

Filed under: Middle East

Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Sfeir announced yesterday that he is not against amending the constitution if the purpose was to rescue Lebanon. He told As Safir, "We are living in the heart of the danger, and when we talk about two governments, two presidents and two Lebanons, then we are in danger." He also said that if General Suleiman is the only available solution then he is all for it.

Meanwhile, the member of the Future coalition minister Ahmad Fatfat expects that a new president will be elected in November before the end of the term of president Emile Lahoud which ends on 24 November. Fatfat said "I believe we will have a new president in November. Maybe the elections will not take place on the 25 September but it will be a great achievement if the elections take place then."

The Lebanese parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri told Asharq Al Awsat that dialog and consensus are a must if a solution is to be found for the current stalemate situation. He said "the two thirds quorum is a reality now. All those who think of electing a president without the participation of the other faction, whether in the opposition or the majority team, are mistaken. This issue has been bypassed by history". He added, "in any case, no one knows who possesses the majority of 65 seats in the parliament any more". In what seemed to be a response to MP Walid Jumblatt statements, Berri replied without naming him that "those who went back to the quorum of a normal majority are weakening their own positions and trying to get reborn again"

Whether it will be the normal quorum of half plus one to elect a President as Jumblatt suggests or the two thirds quorum as Berri, Sheikh Nasrallah et comp want as long as the leaders are still meeting and speaking to each other there is hope. If and when that door closes we should expect to see worst coming to life in Lebanon.

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Truth or propaganda?

Filed under: Iran

Yahya Rahim Safavi, commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday that Iran has "surface to sea missile systems that can cover the length and breadth of the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman."

Safavi also said Iran's missiles with a range of 2,000 km (1,250 miles) were fitted with equipment that enabled them to be remote controlled, an apparent reference to the Shahab-3 missile, although he did not name it. That missile could hit Israel. Apparently the Revolutionary Guards ground forces had missiles in its arsenal that could penetrate the armor plating which he said was fitted to Israeli Merkava tanks and the US Abrams tanks. (YNet news&

The mullahs regime said that the US publicly declared intention to designate the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist entity is merely a PR stupid stunt. Perhaps not.

Update:In an interview with the international Jam-e Jam network on 16 August, referring to the power and capabilities of the Guards Corps in different fields, Gen Safavi said that "the Basij Resistance Force has mobilized and trained 12 million Basij forces, which are active within 2,500 Ashura battalions. In Iran, we have also organized flat or mosaic defense. In other words, every village, every city and every place that has a number of people living in it, members of the Basij of that city or that location can defend their own territory."

"(...) we are in contact with all the Basij forces through five layers of electrical and electronic communications."

"At the moment, both in the field of ground-to-ground ballistic missiles with 2,000 km range, they have been equipped with the most advanced long-range guided weapons with multiple firing platforms. Safavi continued: "In the field of air defense weapons too, we have one of the most advanced defensive ground-to-air missile systems, known as Taur M1 missiles"

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Syria announced its choice for the Presidential chair in Lebanon

Filed under: Middle East

Surprised? Hardly!

Army Commander General Michel Suleiman expressed his willingness to head a transitional government if parliament failed to elect a new head of state before President Emile Lahoud term in office runs out in November, provided all sides accept his nomination.

A general who for years was a close ally and friend of the Syrian elite that ruled Lebanon groomed for Presidency? That is far from being a solution to the Lebanese political deadlock.

What good could he bring to the country? A military regime? He is not a compromise candidate; he is simply put a bad idea candidate. HizbAllah may very well accept him since he continues to be a distant (due to new circumstances) friend of Syria. He will not try or even bring the question of HizbAllah's weapons so whats not to like about him? Aoun and FPM cornered by its proSyrian (HizbAllah, Marada etc) allies will have little if anything to say about it.

March 14 will not happy at all but under a certain context might be persuaded to go ahead with this alternative because: 1) they would accept almost anyone expect Aoun, 2) HizbAllah proved to be a tough cookie and Sheikh Nasrallah will wittingly say, 'lets face it a military man looks better than two parallel governments' 3) going in circle - if they refuse this alternative and others that HizbAllah and Amal will come up with then it will be an open shooting season on all sides

The truth is that no one wants to go after HizbAllah the hard way as they should. For decades the mantra was - The hell with the laws and constitution! We don't want to upset HizbAllah. Fear of HizbAllah's weapons seem to have paralyzed the minds of March 14

Just to make it clear. If Suleiman will be President that means ALL Lebanese parties pro-Syrian, anti-Syrian or otherwise will trespass the Constitution which stipulates that "should the Presidency become vacant for any reason whatsoever, the Council of Ministers exercises the powers of the President by delegation". (hat tip Beirut Beltway)

And to top it all- Suleiman visited the Maronite Patriarch last week. Of course the visit took hyperbolic significance now that the General said he is the man for a coup d'etat.

Suleiman said that Fatah al Islam is linked only to al Qaeda not with Syria. Of course he failed to back up his comments with profs. Further more he ignored the fact that this terrorist group had a huge amount of heavy weaponry in the camp. Where did the arms come from? I think it is safe for now to rule out: 1) Hizb Allah 2) the army

The only logical conclusion is that the weapons come from Syria. But a good soldier is a loyal soldier. Taken in consideration that he made a career under Syrian occupation guess to whom is he loyal to? In the end, why not let the people choose the President they want? The Constitution has been amended before to suit Syrian interest so why not modify it to suit Lebanese interest for a change?

For more read Michael Young's brilliant piece here

Update: An interesting connection between Suleiman and HizbAllah here.

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HizbAllah celebrates (again) its "divine" victory

Filed under: Middle East

The July 2006 war HizbAllah started with Israel has only emphasized the fact that most of the rural, less educated, religious and largely ignored by the state Southern Shiias believe that their only objective in life is to fight till death Israel. HizbAllah is setting a dangerous precedent.The party ideologues (the most senior is Ayatollah Khomeini and in Lebanon Ayatollah Fadlallah) admitted long ago that the fight against Israel - the "enemy" will never be over. First the struggle was to protect those whom the state has forgotten; then it was about strengthening the Shiia sect position in Lebanon, later on it was the Shebaa farms argument and it did not stop here. The party claimed it cannot rest till there will be Palestine which implies that Israel will stop to exist. Perhaps no Jews either, but that the party did not openly admit, yet.

This mandate Sheikh Nasrallah is giving the Shiias to fight till the last breath the Israelis, the Americans, the Israeli-Americans allies in the region will bring to destruction the sect. It is true that Shiism is on the rise and taken in consideration the stupid policies employed by the West it has good chances to rise and shine for a while. But not for long. Sheikh Nasrallah should ask himself what comes after the "divine" victory?

Update: Read about HizbAllah's new video game.

HizbAllah is buying land from Christians surely for a good reason - can you guess it?

Ayatollah Fadllalah's wise thoughts on the Islamic Revolution. "Politically my primary objective is to see the Islamic revolution in Lebanon brought to fruition."

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Netanyahu won

Filed under: Middle East

Former prime minister and current Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected to the leadership of the party on 14 August 2007. Two other candidates stood in the election, Moshe Feiglin, of the far right Jewish Leadership group, and Danny Danon, who heads the World Likud movement. As expected, Netanyahu's victory was decisive. The former prime minister received 73.5% of the vote, compared to 23.4% for Feiglin and 3.4% for Danon. Voter turnout was relatively low, with only 39.4% of Likud members choosing to cast ballots.

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Hezbollah's Youth

Filed under: Middle East

I stumbled upon one of the many articles on Hizbullah. This one is pretty interesting. I observed during the years that young men and women (though I personally met only few) that are part of one of HA structures always speak with great passion and conviction about the party ideology, what they think is their duty etc. Those whom I have met were all intelligent, well mannered persuasive and passionate individuals. Entering into a debate with any of them was a challenge. The idea is that not all are as some think a bunch of stupid, crazy people. I am not discussing here about the masses. If I say this, and I am not a fan imagine the impact HA has on Muslims. If we want to succeed we should keep ourselves well informed.

"My problem with Israel, says Bashar, is not only that it marched into Lebanon uninvited and stole parts of our land but is that we cannot survive as long as Israel exists. It is a foul entity that is consistently ever-ready to attack. I believe it to be the cause of all conflict in the Middle East."

Realizing that he said something the party will not admit (publicly) he backs down: "I may aspire to wipe Israel off the map, but I realize that this is not our responsibility. My responsibility as a young Lebanese is to liberate my land, and bring our prisoners of war back home."

Read the whole piece here.

: You can read here and here, Sheikh Nasrallah's latest interview with Al Jazeera.

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Jihad on Horseback

Filed under: Africa

"Two years ago, Al Arabiya producer Nabil Kassem was asked to put together a documentary film on Darfur. What he witnessed there, and recorded in this film, were scenes of unspeakable brutality and untold suffering, scenes he thought would surely wake up an Arab public all too willing to let Darfur pass by. But Jihad on Horseback never made it across the airwaves. Watch the film to see perhaps the most provocative Arab documentary ever made." ( Atlas Shrugs)

You can see the video here.

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Has the government gone mad?

Filed under: Middle East

The Education Ministry has authorized Arab schools to use a history book featuring the establishment of the State of Israel as being disastrous (Nabka) for the Palestinians, Israel Radio reported Sunday. Read more about it here

It is not only that the current Israeli government is weak, it seems they are stupid too!

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