Thursday, February 24, 2005
24 February 2005
There is a spiralling debate occuring on the following weblog about Australia's additional military committment to Iraq. http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2005/02/23/wading-back-into-the-big-muddy/#comments
Read how opponents to promoting democracy in Iraq are quoting Heath Ledger of all people!
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Monday, February 21, 2005
Thank you for all the people who have read and of course continue to read this blog.
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The response to the blog has been much appreciated, and continues to grow.
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WHO ARE YOU GOING TO CALL?
Stephen Barton at http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=3021 writes that "... midwife and godparent is the United States."
Alexander Deane at http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=3041 ends his think piece to US critics: "You may sit in the comparative luxury of your home and smugly condemn America’s attempts to spread a way of life you take for granted. You live in a society fortunate enough not to need its help. Spare a thought for those that do."
Both writers have made very brave attempts, and despite their efforts they are going to find that they will be howled down.
The US is in an in enviable position. If the US acts, it's acting imperially and out of ('corporate') self interest. If the US does not act, then the rants and squeals follow about the US not acting and not behaving as the world's policeman!
At the end of the day, the US is the world's only real super power, both economically and military - the PRC is still a long way off. At the end of the day, when there is a crisis, who are you going to call?
Thursday, February 17, 2005
HISTORY LESSON: SYRIA & LEBANON
Daniel Engber in Slate.com prepared a short, but concise history of the relationship between Lebanon and Syria. This is particuarly pertinent given the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Read the article at: http://slate.msn.com/id/2113567/
COUNTER-TERRORISM INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE: 'RIYADH DECLARATION'
COUNTER-TERRORISM INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE: 'RIYADH DECLARATION'
On the 8th of February 2005, the Counter-Terrorism International Conference released its communiqué titled the 'Riyadh Declaration'.
And the main output of the communiqué. To quote: “A task force has been formed to crystallize this proposal.” And what is that proposal? Well, it's for the establishment of an international center for combating terrorism.
If you read the communiqué, its reads as if all the delegates had a great time, and came away full of warmth for humanity. Nice!
So what is this Centre of Combating Terrorism? What will it exactly do? Who will fund it? How will it be managed? What are its scope and terms of reference? Is it policy focussed, advisory? Can it recommend police and or military actions? Where will it be based?
Some of the questions are answered at http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=12635
The article states: “The "Riyadh Declaration" did not say where the center would be based, but the head of one delegation at the four-day meeting in the Saudi capital had earlier said it would be set up in Switzerland. … The center, staffed by counter-terrorism experts, would exchange and pass information instantly in a manner compatible with the speed of events and prevent them (terror attacks) before they occur.” But doesn’t this happen anyway, through Interpol, and state spy agenies?
The Declaration formally ends with: “The Declaration emphasized the importance of spreading virtuous human values and the spirit of tolerance and coexistence, urging the media to refrain from publishing information materials that call for extremism and violence.” So it calls for censorship!
In all, the reader is left with nothing more than a warm inner glow and not much more substance to work with. It is a pity that the Declaration was not more imminent and forthright.
A full copy of the declaration is provided below:
Counter-Terrorism International Conference: 'Riyadh Declaration'
The Counter-Terrorism International Conference held in Riyadh February 5-8, 2005, issued a final communiqué on February 8, to be known as the 'Riyadh Declaration'.
The Riyadh Declaration stresses that no international effort will be capable of effective confrontation with the phenomenon of terrorism unless there is cooperation and a comprehensive strategic perspective to deal with it. Within this framework, the countries and organizations support and adopt the proposal of Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, referred to in his opening address to the Conference, for the establishment of an international center for combating terrorism. A task force has been formed to crystallize this proposal.
The communiqué praised the spirit of understanding and cooperation that prevailed during the conference, and the unanimity of vision and stance concerning the danger of the phenomenon of terrorism and the necessity of confronting it by long-term, united, and organized international efforts. These efforts must respect the principles of the United Nations, particularly those regulations governing human rights that enhance its inherent role, in adopting a comprehensive and multilateral approach. The Conference affirmed that terrorism constantly threatens peace, security and stability, and that there is no justification whatsoever for terrorist acts, which are always condemned whatever their circumstances or alleged motives might be.
The Declaration emphasized the importance of enhancing the values of understanding, tolerance, dialogue, and multilateralism, becoming acquainted with other peoples, bringing cultures together, rejecting any clash of civilizations, and combating any ideology that calls for hatred, instigates violence, or justifies the terrorist crimes that are denounced by all religions and laws.
The Conference affirmed that terrorism has no particular religion, race, nationality or geographical area. In this context, it stressed that any attempt to link terrorism with any religion is helpful only to the terrorists.
The countries and organizations participating in the Conference emphasized their commitment to the United Nations resolutions that relate to combating terrorism, calling on the international community to condemn terrorism, combat it by all means available, and confront it in every way in accordance with the United Nations Charter, since terrorist acts threaten international peace and security.
The Declaration stressed that the United Nations is the basic platform for the enhancement of international cooperation against terrorism, that the relevant UN Security Council resolutions form a firm and comprehensive basis for combating terrorism internationally, and that all countries should fully comply with these resolutions. It called on all countries to join, ratify and implement the twelve international treaties on combating terrorism.
The Declaration called for the promotion of self-effort aimed at expanding political participation, achieving sustainable development, meeting the requirements of the social equilibrium, and activating the role of civil institutions, in order to confront the circumstances that are conducive to the spread of violence and deviant ideas. It emphasized the role of the mass media, civil institutions and educational systems in forging strategies to confront terrorist allegations and encouraging the press to set down guidelines for information and news reports.
The Conference demanded that the United Nations develop criteria to facilitate non-profit, charitable and humanitarian organizations in carrying out their roles organizing relief work, and to prevent their exploitation in illegal activities.
The Declaration called for cooperation at national, bilateral, and regional level among specializing bodies for in the fight against not only terrorism, but money laundering, trafficking in weapons and explosives, and smuggling drugs, in order to exchange their expertise and experience, including training, and ensure their effectiveness in confronting terrorist links to organized crime. It stressed the need to strengthen international measures aimed at preventing terrorists from possessing weapons of mass destruction, and to support the role of the United Nations in this respect, including full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1540. It called for supporting and assisting countries, upon their request, in the field of combating terrorism particularly in providing equipment and training and building up their capabilities.
The countries and organizations participating in the Conference called for the development of legislation and measures to prevent terrorists from exploiting the laws of asylum and immigration in order to obtain a safe haven in certain countries or use the territories of these countries as bases for recruitment or training, or for planning, instigating or launching acts of terrorism against other countries.
The Declaration emphasized the importance of spreading virtuous human values and the spirit of tolerance and coexistence, urging the media to refrain from publishing information materials that call for extremism and violence.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Dr. Muqtedar Khan
Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Director of International Studies and Chair, Political Science Department at Adrian College in Michigan, and is a noted expert on the Middle East and Islamic affairs.
He has his own website at http://www.ijtihad.org/Iraqi%20Elections.htm
While I think he may be too pessimistic in his assessment, I recommend his site to you. We were drawn to his following commentary.
"While the Sunnis of Iraq are fighting a violent Jihad against US occupation and opposing democratization to prevent Shiite hegemony over Iraq, the Shiites are engaged in their own silent Jihad. It is quite possible that the US led invasion of Iraq has replaced an overt and brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein with a covert and subtle dictatorship by Marja-e-Taqleed [Role Model for Emulation] Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani who is the highest-ranking Shiite authority on the planet."
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
DEALING IN PEACE (2), IRAQI ELECTIONS AND THE LEBANON
DEALING IN PEACE (2)
As if the peace process could not be any more difficult, reports are circulating that Hezbollah have published a threat to assassinate Palestinian President Abbas if he continues with the peace negotiations with Israel. (http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2005/02/13/1108229853462.html)
Hamas on the other hand are playing their cards close to their chest, by adhering at least to the initial requests for a cease-fire, with the active provision that if Israel ‘attacks’ Hamas will respond.
The Iraqi Electoral Commission released figures concerning the results of the national elections. The final tallies are still to be tabulated, but as expected, the Shias and the Kurds were the most represented ethnic groups. How those arrangements play out with or without the Sunnis is still to be tested, the most interesting finding is that approximately 60% of all Iraqis or 8.5 million people cast their votes. The total registered voter number was just over 14 million. (http://afr.com/premium/articles/2005/02/14/1108229928871.html)
IN THE LEBANON
The brutal assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was a tragic return to bestial politics, ‘Lebanon style’.
The country has made continual and steady progress (as commented before on this blog) towards normalcy. Not only the assassination, but also the manner and style it was undertaken suggests that not is all well below the surface.
There have been suggestions mooted that Hariri was killed because he was leading the move to call on the Syrian army to finally leave Lebanon. Syrian occupation of the country forced an end to the tribal civil war that ravaged the country. And during occupation, Lebanon reclaimed its economic independence and was fast tracking itself towards becoming a successful emerging economy in the region.
However, the Syrians had never made public their ‘exit timeframe’ from Lebanon. The Syrians have for centuries viewed Lebanon as part of greater Syria, and it has been further mooted that Syria may have had a roll in the assassination of Hariri in order to reduce the internal political movement towards liberation.
MAMDOUH HABIB'S INTERVIEW ON AUSTRALIAN 60 MINUTES
Follow the discussion on John Quiggin's blog about Mr HABIB'S Interview on Australian televisions' 60 Minutes programme.
Monday, February 14, 2005
DEALING IN PEACE, BACKGROUND NOISE, & READINGS
DEALING IN PEACE
Well, the peace process is back on again!
After an immediate rocky start immediately following the Palestinian election, in which the Israeli government indicated that Abbas was not controlling the actions and rhetoric of Hamas and other similar groups, the Israeli’s appeared to have ‘re-warmed’ to Abbas; well at least for now.
A good synopsis of developments can be found at http://www.economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3643056
The success and I guess the failure of the peace process rests with not so much with whether the Israelis will give ‘diplomatic’ ground. The tipping point is whether Abbas can hold the Palestinian side together. There are a number of issues Abbas faces.
1. He is following in Arafat’s political and, too a degree ideological, wake. A tough ask for anyone, particularly as Arafat was such an all consuming political and larger than life figure in the Palestinian mindset, who consumed as much political oxygen as possible, leaving very little breathable air for a future successor, or rival. Abbas will find the rush of oxygen very challenging.
2. Abbas is a committed secularist. Hamas and Al Qaeda are committed not just to confronting Western secularist ideals and governance, but are equally odious of Arabic secular regimes.
3. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah have effectively been let off the leash for so long by the Palestinian Authority, that it will be near impossible to reign them in, and at least to comply with any prospective peace deal. A peace deal with an accommodating cease-fire will mean a reduction in political power for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. Ultimately, despite whatever concessions Israel affords, the militant groups ultimately will view them cynically, after all the destruction of Israel is non-negotiable.
But at least, the agreement struck between the Israeli’s with Palestine, supported by Jordan and Egypt offer a key structure to work with, rather than empty rhetoric. But time will of course be the judge, as history shows peace deals in the Middle East are not very elastic or durable – unfortunately. The details of the recent agreement include:
“1. Ceasefire: Abbas said Palestinians will halt all violence against Israelis. Sharon said Israel will stop military activity against all Palestinians. Israel would also stop its controversial targeted killing operations against wanted Palestinians, as long as the Palestinians kept militants under control.
After Sharon's declaration of an end to military operations, the two sides would go back to operating as they did before the 2000 outbreak of fighting: In Palestinian-controlled areas, including most of Gaza and eventually most West Bank towns, the Israelis would coordinate with Palestinian security forces if they wanted to arrest someone.
2. Prisoners: Israel will immediately release 500 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture, with another 400 to be freed later.
3. Cooperation: They agreed to establish joint committees - one to determine criteria for the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, and the other to oversee the gradual withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
4. Ambassadors: Egypt and Jordan say they will return their ambassadors to Israel. The diplomats were recalled following the outbreak of violence in late 2000.” (source: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2005/02/09/1107890234982.html)
A number of reports have been circulating, at its worth spending some time reviewing them, and letting the reader determine how unpredictable extremists are.
- A report appeared that the insurgents in Iraq continue to target innocent civilians in their bombing and assassination campaign. This link records the details of a young barber that was murdered, for theological reasons!
- More reports have continued on Amar Ahmed Mohammed, a young man with down syndrome who was unwittingly sent to his death by the insurgents who strapped explosives to his body. http://www.smh.com.au/news/After-Saddam/Seduction-of-an-unwitting-suicide-bomber/2005/02/08/1107625213466.html
We have received requests for book recommendations we suggest readers obtain in order to get an understanding of the Middle East.
There are many books we could recommend. And over the next few weeks we will provide an inclusive list. To start off with, the following are useful
1. Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror, by Rohan Gunaratna. Probably, the most current, digestible, and detailed account of the entire operations and mindset of Al Qaeda.
2. The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold by Robert D. Kaplan. Kaplan is an authority on the Middle East, and this book provides a serious, and at times confronting sense of violence that groups such as Al Qaeda invest in.
3. Why Terrorism Works by Alan M. Dershowitz. The book details the history of terrorist movements, particularly that of the PLO, and clearly suggests that violence and politically driven terrorist acts has worked in achieving the aims and ambitions of terrorists. However sobering, Dershowitz does progress a number of enlightened and clever strategies to overcome the threats.
More to come in the next few weeks.