Friday, October 31, 2008

Cazenovia Lake


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Petraeus Blocked

Republicans may talk a lot about listening to the generals, but multiple outlets, and seemingly multiple sources, as well, are claiming the administration wouldn't let General David Petraeus pursue a policy of engagement with Syria:
"Apparently Gen. David Petraeus does not agree with the Bush administration that the road to Damascus is a dead end...

"ABC News has learned, Petraeus proposed visiting Syria shortly after taking over as the top U.S. commander for the Middle East.

"The idea was swiftly rejected by Bush administration officials at the White House, State Department and the Pentagon."

This comes via Joshua Landis, who adds:
"The following “Exclusive” ABC story is not so exclusive. Syria Comment has been writing since August 2008 that Petraeus tried to go to Damascus in the fall of 2007, but was refused permission by the Vice President. It wasn’t the president. (That little bit of info is an SC exclusive told to me by a top intelligence officer.)"

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

Labels: ,

Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University

In a step forward for women's rights in the kingdom, Saudi Arabia is building its first women's university:
"Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz laid the foundation for the Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University, the kingdom’s first women-only university on Wednesday.

"The SR15 billion university, to be built on the eastern suburbs of Riyadh, will have a capacity to enroll about 40,000 students. It will offer courses in subjects that women find difficulty studying at universities where strict gender segregation is enforced."

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

CSM Changes

Via Josh Marshall, I learn that the Christian Science Monitor, one of the best newspapers in the United States, will become a web-focused weekly:
"The Christian Science Monitor, which turns 100 years old this year, is announcing on Tuesday, Oct. 28, that it will cease daily publication next April. The newspaper will shift to a weekly print format while increasing its emphasis on its Web site, says its editor, John Yemma.

"In doing so, the Monitor will become by far the most prominent newspaper to scale back its print edition substantially.

"The Monitor, an independent publication funded by the Christian Science Church, is currently posting net losses of $18.9 million a year on $12.5 million in revenue, say Monitor executives. Cutting print frequency from its current five times a week to once a week is expected to slice those losses to $10.5 million within five years, said a spokesman. The Monitor's current circulation is 56,000. The high-water mark for Monitor circulation was 223,000, a figure the paper hit in 1970."

I'm hoping this means that the web content won't suffer, since that's what I use anyway, and is probably the future of the news business. I'm also glad to see this:
"Yemma stated a desire to protect the Monitor's international coverage—the daily has staffers in nine bureaus outside the U.S. and freelancers covering other major regions—which he described as the paper's 'crown jewels.'"


Monday, October 27, 2008

Russian Karabakh Initiative

Russia is making a major push to resolve the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh:
"Russia has taken the center stage in international efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict, which could yield a breakthrough before the end of this year. President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to host a potentially decisive meeting of his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts next month. Moscow may thus be trying to sideline the OSCE’s so-called Minsk Group on Karabakh, which it has long co-chaired with the United States and France...

"Many analysts in the South Caucasus and the West have long contended that Russia was uninterested in a Karabakh settlement, lest it lose leverage against Azerbaijan and, even more, Armenia, its main ally in the region. Peace with Azerbaijan, they have argued, would reduce the significance for Armenia of maintaining close military ties with Russia and make the Armenian economy less dependent on Russian energy supplies. Medvedev’s desire to host the crucial Aliyev-Sarkisian encounter is, however, a clear indication that Karabakh peace is not necessarily incompatible with Russian goals and interests in the region, especially if Moscow plays a key role in a multinational peace-keeping force that would have to be deployed in the conflict zone.
Armenia is rife with speculation that Moscow is trying to cajole Azerbaijan into agreeing to a Russian troop presence and pursuing a more pro-Russian policy on other issues, notably the transportation of Caspian oil and gas to the West. 'To that end [the Russians] need to force Armenia into making essentially unilateral and absolutely unacceptable concessions on the Karabakh issue,' Yerkir, a Yerevan weekly controlled by the governing Armenian Revolutionary Federation party, wrote on October 24, reflecting the growing opinion among local observers."


(Crossposted to American Footprints)

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Syrian Honor Crimes Laws

Syria's government is working to abolish lenient sentences for honor killings:
"Syrian leaders have recommended reforming laws under which criminals convicted of so-called 'honour crimes' get lenient sentences.

"The commission for family affairs – a government body – proposed the change last week at the end of a state-sponsored forum on honour crimes, the first of its kind in Syria. More than 100 civic, religious and government leaders as well as legal experts attended the conference in Damascus, which also drew support from the ministry of justice and the ministry of religious endowments.

"Under Syrian law, men who catch a female family member engaging in adultery or other 'illegitimate sexual acts', or even in a 'suspicious state', are exempted from the standard punishments for murder and assault. Those convicted of murders deemed to be honour killings face only six months to a year in prison.

"The conference called for the honour crime exemption to be eliminated from the statute books, so that individuals convicted of murder in honour-related crimes would face a minimum of 15 years in prison...

"Women’s groups estimate that close to 300 so-called honour killings are committed every year, most in rural communities."

The article quotes a few legislators as saying they believe the honor crime exemption should stand, as it is part of Islam. They are wrong. This is about local traditions of group honor, not religion, even if Islam shares the opposition to extramarital sex common to monotheistic religions.

Labels: ,

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Salafism in Egypt

Paul Schemm writes about the rise of Salafism as a social movement in Egypt:
"The Muslim call to prayer fills the halls of a Cairo computer shopping center, followed immediately by the click of locking doors as the young, bearded tech salesmen close shop and line up in rows to pray.

"Business grinding to a halt for daily prayers is not unusual in conservative Saudi Arabia, but until recently it was rare in the Egyptian capital, especially in affluent commercial districts like Mohandiseen, where the mall is located.

"But nearly the entire three-story mall is made up of computer stores run by Salafis, an ultraconservative Islamic movement that has grown dramatically across the Middle East in recent years...

"In the broad spectrum of Islamic thought, Salafism is on the extreme conservative end. Saudi Arabia's puritanical Wahhabi interpretation is considered its forerunner, and Saudi preachers on satellite TV and the Internet have been key to its Salafism's spread.

"Salafist groups are gaining in numbers and influence across the Middle East. In Jordan, a Salafist was chosen as head of the old-guard opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood. In Kuwait, Salafists were elected to parliament and are leading the resistance to any change they believe threatens traditional Islamic values.

"The gains for Salafists are part of a trend of turning back to conservatism and religion after nationalism and democratic reform failed to fulfill promises to improve people's lives. Egypt has been at the forefront of change in both directions, toward liberalization in the 1950s and '60s and back to conservatism more recently."

As noted below, saying the Wahhabis were a forerunner of modern Salafism is problematic. The Salafi intellectual lineage actually goes back through Rashid Rida to figures such as Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani who were inspired by community religious revivalist movements in India. The Wahhabis came in during the early 20th century when intellectuals sympathetic to Arab nationalism used Saudi Arabia as an example of strict Islamic law being practiced in part of the Arab nation, which not coincidentally, in their minds, was not occupied by France or Britain. The point that religious warfare can only be authorized by a head of state is also of Wahhabi origin, part of Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Wahhab's deal with the Saudis.

While the vast majority of Salafis will practice it peacefully, however, it is worth some concern that the spread of these ideas will give rise to a small yet dangerous number of militants. In a point I often make to my students, it's hard to make pronouncements about what constitutes true Islam because there is no controlling legal authority, and that's doubly true when you get to a lot of these movements. As I said, almost all will practice the mainstream interpretations of Salafism. A few, however, will decide they agree with those in the tradition of Sayyid Qutb who hold that the current government is too un-Islamic to regard as legitimate, and that violence against it is warranted. Given some of Egypt's social pressures, as illustrated in the novel The Yaqoubian Building, this could definitely cause problems for the regime and Egyptian society down the road.

(Hat tip: Arabist)

Labels: ,

Palin and the Blues

As a St. Louis Blues fan, I now have yet another reason for disliking Sarah Palin:
"When you roll out a blue carpet for a Republican vice presidential nominee, bad things are bound to happen. Sure enough, while Sarah Palin worked the runway without incident – and to only a light smattering of boos – to drop the ceremonial first puck for Friday's Kings-Blues tilt, the carpet tripped up St. Louis goalie Manny Legace, who toughed it out for a period before taking the rest of the night off to nurse an injured hip flexor."

Labels: ,

Friday, October 24, 2008

Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Wahhab in Context

In the early 20th century, Rashid Rida, perhaps the most important figure in the development of Arab Salafism, held up the Wahhabi movement as an example of an Arab community that was strictly implementing Islamic law. Perhaps for this reason, Wahhabism is often covered in general works of Islamic or Middle Eastern history as an example of 18th-century reformist tendencies, along with various Indian movements.

Groups that want to strictly implement Islamic law are, however, a dime a dozen throughout history, as the records of many Anatolian preachers during Ottoman times will attest. What most distinguishes the message of Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Wahhab in its 18th-century context is found in the fouth chapter of his Kitab at-Tawhid, which, commenting on various Qur'an verses, says:
"That it proves that the meaning of Tawheed and the testimony Laa ilaaha illallah is the abandonment of the deeds of the polytheists such as calling upon the Prophets and the Righteous and requesting their intercession with Allah ; and the verbal recitation of the testimony is not sufficient if the worship of all deities besides Allah is not rejected...

"Allah , informs us in this verse that some of mankind set up for themselves deities which they love more than they love Allah , then He, Most Glorified explains that the Believers are stronger in their love for Allah than the polytheists because the Believers are pure and sincere in their love of Allah , Alone, while the polytheists divide their love between Allah and their false gods; and whoever was sincere in loving Allah , Alone, his love would be stronger than that of the polytheist who divides his love. Then Allah , Most Glorified promises those who associate partners with Him that when they see the punishment which He has prepared especially for them on the Day of Resurrection, they will wish that they had not associated others with Allah , either in love, or in anything else. Then they shall know, with certain knowledge that all power belongs to Allah , and that Allah is Stern in enforcing His punishment...

"That it proves that the meaning of Tawheed and the explanation of the shahaadah: Laa ilaaha illallaah are not complete without a categorical rejection of all that is worshipped besides Allah."

As explained clearly by David Commins in his The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia, this sets up the Wahhabi argument, made in specific detail later, the the shahada, or the profession of faith that "There is no God but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God," is incomplete unless one rejects the "worship," which non-Wahhabis would regard as a lesser veneration, of all beings besides God. An example that goes to the heart of traditional Islamic religious practice is found in the first excerpt, as Muslims routinely sought the intercession of Muhammad and various holy figures, and made pilgrimages to their tombs to seek blessings. The Wahhabi claim is, not only that such practices are wrong, but that they are sufficiently wrong that they render the shahada, the act by which one becomes a Muslim, invalid.

This denial of the genuine Islam-ness of those who claim to be Muslims, or takfir, represents a sharp break with the general inclusiveness displayed by mainstream Islam throughout history, and is probably one reason why primary sources from the 18th and early 19th century deride the Wahhabis as Kharijites, who in early Islam also practiced it. The takfiri trend, however, would unfortunately gain steam, and has become a significant marker for today's Salafi militants.

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Iran Election Primer

At Informed Comment: Global Affairs, Farideh Farhi has written a good primer on Iran's upcoming presidential elections.

I'm now going to return to grading my exams.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Koshari Boom

In Egypt, the high price of meat and vegetables is driving an increase in koshari consumption:
"Kushari, often referred to as Egypt's national dish, has become a staple food for many. Usually served in a plastic container, it is layered from the bottom with rice, followed by macaroni, then lentils and chick peas and topped off with a hot sauce, tomato sauce, garlic and fried onions...

"With a kilo of meat costing a minimum of 35 Egyptian pounds -- around seven dollars -- and the daily earnings of millions of Egyptians being little more than one dollar a day, eating meat and vegetables becomes a luxury rather than a daily habit. Kushari, which is meat and vegetable free, has remained reasonably cheap -- the rise in wheat and grain prices has been offset by government subsidies...

"But even with all of the government's subsidies in place, the food crisis has continued to hit Egyptian homes hard. To counter this, the more affluent classes have stepped in to help.

"One such organisation is the Egyptian Food Bank, run by local businessmen and volunteers. It has a large warehouse in Cairo where rice, wheat, sugar and other goods are packaged for distribution to those most in need. The Food Bank also has drivers who pick up sandwiches and food left behind by the rich from hotels to distribute to the poor daily.

"A volunteer, working at a nearby mosque, is busy packaging up free dinners that will be delivered to poor areas of Cairo later. In Islam, charity is a duty among Muslims and so in this predominantly Muslim society, it is common to find people donating their time and money to help others. The volunteer, who wished to remain anonymous in hopes of increasing her good deeds, explains that it is her responsibility as a Muslim to help others in need."

The long-term health effects of this will probably be bad.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Central Wage Regulation

Something else I didn't know was that Bahrain has a national workers' organization, the General Federation of Workers Trade Unions. They want a central organization to regulate salaries in the country, which, of course, the business community is flatly rejecting.


Qalibaf's Comparisons

I hadn't heard this before: According to Meir Javedanfar, Muhammad Baqir Qalibaf, considered one of Ahmadinejad's most formidable rivals in the 2009 presidential election, was hurt in 2005 because he compared himself to Reza Shah:
"He already tried his luck in 2005 as a candidate, but failed to win. Winning 14% of the votes, he came in 5th. One of the reasons is because he described himself as an Islamic version of Reza Shah. Some Iranians have nostalgic feelings for the founder for the Pahlavi dynasty, and the father of Shah. The biggest reason is because he was a nationalist, and that he was a developer. He developed Iran’s roads, railways and telecommunication system. Also he was a no none sense man. He didn’t let bureaucracy (or democracy for that matter) get in his plans to develop Iran and to try and make it in to a modern country. In short, Iranians like Reza Shah, because he was a man of talk and action."


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hajj Permits

Saudi Arabia is cracking down on those of its guest workers who perform the hajj with proper documentation:
"Expatriate workers heading for annual pilgrimage without Haj permits will be deported, according to Makkah Governor Prince Khaled Al Faisal.

"He said teams of security officers would be deployed in Makkah and other holy sites to look for pilgrims who do not possess Haj permits, and added that such illegal pilgrims would be slapped with deterrent fines...

"Prince Khaled called on Saudi sponsors and employers to instruct their workers intending to perform Haj to follow regulations and get Haj permits.

"Thousands of Saudis and expatriates perform Haj every year without obtaining a Haj permit and without contracting with Haj service agents. They sleep in public places, especially in the pedestrian path between Mina and Muzdalifah and around the stoning area of Jamarat in Mina.

"A concerted awareness campaign would be carried out through the media to enlighten Saudis and expatriates on the importance of obtaining Haj permits and following government instructions to ensure smooth operation of the Haj."

In fairness to Saudi Arabia on this point, the hajj is a major circus and logistical nightmare which that government has to control. They have a right to impose regulations necessary to see that they can do so.

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Azerbaijan's Election

In a rigged election, Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliev won a second term:
"Officials in Azerbaijan say President Ilham Aliyev has been reelected to a second five-year term of office in voting on October 15 that was boycotted by the country's main opposition parties.

"None of the six candidates who challenged Aliyev at the polls was a well-known figure in Azerbaijan. The main opposition parties have described those candidates as a 'puppet opposition' who were running only to give the vote the appearance of an electoral competition...

"The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) -- which sent more than 400 election observers into Azerbaijan -- criticized the government for campaign irregularities even before election day. It said it was concerned about a ban on public opposition meetings and apparent efforts to coerce students and government workers into attending pro-Aliyev rallies."


Wednesday, October 15, 2008


The collapsing krona has persuaded me to visit Iceland over Thanksgiving weekend. I haven't done any significant non-Middle East travel since 2002, so I figure I've earned a vacation.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Bazaar Strike

Tehran's bazaaris have been on strike over a value added tax proposed by President Mahmood Ahmadinejad:
"Protests by influential merchants broke out in several cities last week, posing an economic and political challenge to President Mahmud Ahmadinejad before a 2009 presidential election in the world's fourth-largest oil producer.

"It was the first time bazaar traders had closed their shops on such a scale since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when they played a key role in ousting the U.S.-backed shah.

"In the face of the protests, the president on October 10 suspended for two months the 3 percent value added tax that came into force late last month. But Iranian media said shop owners wanted it scrapped altogether and Tehran's sprawling bazaar was virtually closed on October 12."

The merchant class has never been on good terms with Ahmadinejad, and went largely for Rafsanjani during the 2005 presidential run-off.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Karroubi In

Moderate reformist Mehdi Karroubi has become the first declared candidate in Iran's 2009 presidential election:
"The 71-year-old cleric is head of the moderate opposition party Etemad Melli (National Trust) and the party's choice run in the June 12 elections...

"The cleric referred to the president's economic and foreign policies as the main problems of the current administration which should be amended.

"On the controversy over Iran's nuclear programmes, Karroubi said that Iran should insist on its internationally acknowledged right to pursue a civil nuclear programme but at the same also pay attention to Western concern and guarantee the peaceful nature of the nuclear projects. Karroubi served twice as parliament speaker, during 1990-92 and 2000-04. In the 2005 presidential elections, he missed reaching the second round by a few votes.

"Karroubi and his Etemad Melli party, which also runs a newspaper under the same name, have in recent years distanced themselves from reformists close to former president Mohammad Khatami, whom they feel has drifted away from the Islamic system that has ruled the country since the 1979 revolution."

In 2005, Karroubi significantly outpolled the more radical reformist Mustafa Mo'in, who stood out for his lack of charisma. Karroubi also tried to solve the problem of vote-buying in a system that uses the secret ballot by issuing a number of IOU's redeemable only if he won the election.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)


Friday, October 10, 2008

Hilary and Dennis

One of my students writes about her involvement with Arab-Israeli peace efforts and meeting Dennis Ross. I'm a little miffed that Dennis Ross was on campus and I didn't know about it.

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 09, 2008

NATO and the GCC

The outgoing Chairman of the NATO Parliamentary Association says NATO could defend a GCC state from attack:
"'Nato will not remain indifferent if there were to be an aggression or attack on a Gulf country. For example, when Kuwait was attacked in 1990, we were unanimous in condemning this and taking part in the first war. However, we opposed to the second Iraq war and it shows it was not the same situation. Kuwait was attacked and therefore we were in agreement with the war,' Jean-Michel Boucheron, outgoing Chairman of the Nato Parliamentary Association (PA), Mediterranean and Middle East Special Group, told Gulf News.

"Boucheron added there is also a possibility of having a French base in the UAE and it shows how indivisible security is for Nato, the West and the GCC countries. And of course, an attack against a GCC country would be very badly viewed as it would work against the security interests of all."

The article takes this as a statement extending the NATO security umbrella over the Arab Gulf states. Reading Boucheron's statement carefully, however, it definitely stops short of making promises, and later the incoming NPA chair, one Vahir Erdem, is quoted as saying that attacks on the GCC would be a UN affair, and that NATO would only become involved after a UN decision.

NATO-PA is operationally separate from NATO, and seems like an attempt by the legislatures of NATO states to develop at least a consultative role in matters related to their mutual military cooperation. If Boucheron is French, as his name indicates, his comments may be related to France's strong military line on the Gulf. Paris has openly committed to deploying 75,000 troops to the UAE if required and is an important arms supplier to the region's militaries.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

Labels: ,

Acre Riots

Acre is now the scene of riots between Jewish and Arab residents after an Arab violated Yom Kippur:
"The unrest erupted around midnight on Wednesday, hours after Jews began observing Yom Kippur. An Arab resident of the old city of Acre drove his car to a neighborhood in the eastern part of the city, claiming that he owned a residence there and was simply on his way home. Jewish youths at the scene claimed the Arab man was deliberately making excessive noise.

"While allegedly shouting epithets, the youths proceeded to attack the Arab man. Shortly afterward, a group of Arab youths arrived at the scene, igniting a riot.

"News of the incident spread to the surrounding Arab neighborhoods of the town, including the old city, prompting hundreds to take to the streets. A significant crowd began coalescing along Ben Ami Street, which is considered the key commercial avenue in the city. Dozens of cars and shops along the street were vandalized.

"The head of the Acre police station, Chief Superintendent Avi Edri, told Haaretz that the altercation was initially an isolated one that broadened and escalated due to the involvement of Jewish and Arab gangs. Police used force to disperse the crowds and restore order in the city."

If this is in fact primarily gang-related, hopefully the impact in the rest of the country will be minimal aside from the activists on both sides.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Economics of UAE Marriages

While writing about my travels in the Gulf during 2007, I passed on a few rumors about the high dowries of Emirati brides and the large financial payouts the government was alleged to make to ensure Emiratis only married each other, while noting they smacked a bit of legends about the United Arab Emirates's vast wealth. In his Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success, University of Durham scholar Christopher Davidson has some information on the topic:
"In 2002, the UAE's federal government announced a package of subsidies entitled the 'Sheikh Zayed Marriage Fund', and set up an office within the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to administer the aid across federation. Ostensibly this fund was to provide a one-off payment of about $11,000 in order to defray some of the escalating dowry costs faced by young men hoping to marry. However, more subtly the payment satisfied the twin aims of providing a means of wealth distribution by the state while also giving men a financial incentive to choose a national bride - significantly the marriage fund cannot be accessedif the man intends marrying an expatriate. More restrictively, those national women who choose to marry an expatriate man effectively have to give up their nationality, as their children will not be entitled to a UAE passport and therefore neither they nor her husband will be entitled to the benefits of the welfare state.

Incidentally, are there any Arab countries where women can pass along citizenship to their offspring of mixed marriages? That aside, Davidson talks about more efforts to discourage mixed marriages and thus preserve a cohesive rentier elite:
"Other measures are in place to discourage such relationships, with all internet dating website blocked in the UAE for fear of encouraging mixed marriages, with all state-run educational establishments for national females remaining distanced from society, and with separate leisure and beach clubs available exclusively for national women. And if one of the latter marries a non-national man she would effectively be ostracized from both her family and broader society, even if her fiance is a fellow Muslim. This is a relatively recent and state-induced mentality and is connected neither to religion nor local culture, given that in the pre-oil era it was not uncommon for women from Dubai to marry other 'culturally compatible' Muslim Arabs.

I'm a little surprised by his statements about the recent vintage of resistance to exogamy. Was marriage with people from other areas widespread before oil, or limited to certain segments of society, such as traders? Also, how did the state induce this new mentality?


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Khatami's Conditions

Former President Muhammad Khatami has revealed two preconditions for him to enter the 2009 race:
"On October 4, Khatami finally announced two preconditions for running as a candidate in next June's presidential election. He said 'reaching a compromise with the Iranian nation for their requests' and 'receiving assurance for the implementation of his plans' are his two conditions.

"In other words, Khatami wants expanded executive powers, knowing full well that the current conditions prevent the president from implementing his reforms. During his two-term presidency from 1997 to 2005, many of Khatami's proposed reforms were blocked due to his restricted powers and opposition from conservatives."

The only way the second condition gets fulfilled is if the "compromise with the Iranian nation for their requests" is not as sweeping as the agenda Khatami ran on in 1997.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Damascus Bombing Still Mysterious

Nothing new has come to light regarding the recent car bombing in Damascus, but the fact no one has assumed responsibility leads me to believe it isn't a Sunni militant group based in Lebanon, as some claim. I'm also not the only one who reads potential responsibility into the possibility that Brigadier General Abd al-Karim Abbas was around the explosion:
"Some political analysts IWPR spoke to have suggested that the bombing was a consequence of a power struggle between rival Syrian security services.

"One political writer in Damascus argued that the theory will be given even more credence if there’s confirmation of rumours that one of the bomb victims was Syrian general Abdul Kareem Abbas, who was being investigated by the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission in connection with the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. The authorities have so far insisted that only civilians were killed...

"Another political writer points out that the proximity of the explosion to a major security building also gives weight to claims that it was linked to a domestic power struggle."

If Abd al-Karim Abbas is still alive, would he please make himself known to the commentariat?


Saturday, October 04, 2008

Bahrain's Call

Bahrain has called for the inclusion of Israel in a regional diplomatic forum:
"Bahrain's foreign ministry has rejected allegations that its call for the formation of a regional forum that includes Israel implied abandoning Arabs' legitimate rights or giving up the Palestinian cause.

"Defending the proposal put forward last week by Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa before the UN general assembly, the ministry said that several Arab countries have based their negotiations with the Israelis on the Arab peace initiative."

The small Gulf states do have quiet contacts with Israel, and would like the Arab-Israeli conflict to go away sooner rather than later. I've never seen one get this far ahead of the front-line states, however.

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Changing Times

This is an interesting finding:
"A study by the Bahrain Centre for Studies and Research conducted this year revealed that 41 per cent of the people in Bahrain prefer to spend their holidays in shopping complexes and going to the cinema. Parks are the choice of 21 per cent, while game halls are attracted by 12 per cent and coffee shops by 5 per cent.

"Shopping malls have inexorably impacted people's lives in Bahrain, with the cinema as the most crucial vehicle for change.

"In half a generation, the movie-going experience in the country has developed into an outstanding social phenomenon and a huge business."

On a related note, Abu Aardvark calls attention to this article on whether the growth of Arab satellite TV is leading to "affluenza.".

Labels: ,