Iran | Syria | Libya | Egypt | Saudi Arabia | Yemen | Arab Spring
Published November 8, 2011
The ministry says it has a committee in charge of reviewing university curricula, according to a report by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA,) and its work will continue beyond the 36 fields affected in this round.Over the past two years, Islamic Republic officials and specifically the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei have called for the review of university subjects to make them more compatible with Islamic principles.The officials have expressed greater concern about arts and humanities courses, which they claim are heavily influenced by “Western teachings.”The review of university curricula has been coupled with a widespread purging from academia of professors and lecturers whom the establishment has come to regard as not being aligned with “Islamic principles.”MirHosein Mousavi, the Iranian opposition leader who is currently under house arrest for rallying demonstrators in support of the recent Arab uprisings, reacted to the government assaults on academia last summer. He said the moves betrayed similarities to the totalitarian policies of Stalin’s regime in the old Soviet republic, maintaining: “The fate and methods of all autocratic regimes are the same all over the world.”
Published November 8, 2011
A landmark report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will detail how specialists from Pakistan and North Korea have also helped to take the Islamic regime to the threshold of full nuclear capability.
Tension has risen in the Middle East in anticipation of the report, amid suggestions that Israel may use it to justify a pre-emptive military strike against Iran.
Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, warned Israel on Monday that such action would be a “very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences”.
Russia and China are also likely to oppose new, tougher UN Security Council sanctions against Iran, despite the IAEA making clear the extent of the regime’s nuclear ambitions.
Its report will disclose that North Korea has provided mathematical formulas and codes involved in designing a nuclear device and that Abdul Khan the “father” of Pakistan’s atom bomb, has handed over plans for a neuron initiator, a key element in a bomb.
It will also say that the Iranians were aided for at least five years by a former Soviet scientist, alleged by The Washington Post to be Vyacheslav Danilenko. He was allegedly contracted in the mid-1990s by Iran’s Physics Research Centre, a facility linked to its nuclear programme. There is no evidence that Moscow knew.
According to intelligence sources and documents provided by the Iranians, he helped to design a so-called R265 generator, a high-explosive device used to trigger a nuclear chain reaction. The West also believes that Tehran has a blueprint for a nuclear device small enough to fit into a warhead, and has completed a steel container the size of a double decker bus in which the high-explosive element of such a device could be tested.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog will detail how the regime plans to triple its capacity to enrich uranium to weapons grade at a facility deep inside a mountain near Qom and is experimenting with detonators and neutron physics in a way that can only be for military purposes.
Published November 8, 2011
Gaddafi was fond of insisting on the links between his republic and sub-Saharan Africa. He was less interested, however, in celebrating the black African civilisation that flourished for more than 1,500 years within what are now Libya’s borders, and that was barely acknowledged in the Gaddafi-era curriculum.
Now, however, researchers into the Garamantes - a “lost” Saharan civilization – are hoping that Libya’s new government can restore the warrior culture, mentioned by Herodotus in his Histories, to its rightful place in Libya’s history.
It has been prompted by new research – including through the use of satellite imaging – which suggests that the Garamantes built more extensively and spread their culture more widely than previously thought.
The research has confirmed the view of Herodotus that the Garmantes were a “very great nation”.
Describing the recent finds as “extraordinary” in a paper, Professor David Mattingly of the University of Leicester argues that the discoveries demonstrate that substantial trade across the Sahara long pre-dated the Islamic era.
Published November 8, 2011
Secretary of State Clinton declared Monday that the Obama administration would work with ascendant Islamist parties of the Muslim world, answering one of the central U.S. policy questions resulting from the Arab Spring.
Delivering an address at the National Democratic Institute, Clinton offered a forthright embrace of the democratic changes enveloping North Africa and the Middle East at a time when the euphoria of the successful revolutions from Egypt to Libya is giving way to the hard and unprecedented work of creating stable democracies.
After decades of partnering dictators throughout the region, her message was that the U.S. would approach the new political landscape with an open mind and the understanding that long-term support for democracy trumps any short-term advantages through alliances with authoritarian regimes.
While she reached out to the religious-rooted parties expected to gain power in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere, she said nothing about changing U.S. policies toward Hezbollah and Hamas, which have performed well in Lebanese and Palestinian elections but are considered foreign terrorist organizations by the United States.
“For years, dictators told their people they had to accept the autocrats they knew to avoid the extremists they feared,” Clinton told an audience that included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. “Too often, we accepted that narrative ourselves.”
After almost a year of protests and crackdowns, armed rebellion and civil war, the Arab world’s upheaval has left a jumbled mosaic of liberals and Islamists, military rulers and loose coalitions of reformers. No country appears unalterably on a path toward democratic governance, and for the people of the region and the United States the stakes of long-term instability are high.
U.S. interests, including the security of oil supplies, military relations and Israel’s defense, have forced the Obama administration to engage in flexible diplomacy, with different messages for different countries.
The one-size-does-not-fit-all approach has meant U.S. support for an imperfect military stewardship over Egypt ahead of elections for a new parliament and president, and largely overlooking ally Bahrain’s rough response to protests earlier this year. Washington helped a military effort that ultimately deposed Libyan strongman Gaddafi. It also demanded that leaders in Syria and Yemen leave power, without any real means to make them do so.
“There will be times when not all of our interests align,” Clinton said. “That is just reality.”
Published November 7, 2011
The weekend’s Islamic holiday, which centres on sacrifice and feeding the poor, offered the Muslim Brotherhood a golden opportunity.
For the first time, Egypt’s Islamist powerhouse is able to campaign openly under a new party banner, and it is using its long-standing charity networks to gain an edge over more liberal and secular candidates before parliamentary elections scheduled to begin in two weeks.
Across the country last week, the movement’s political and charitable machine was selling discounted meat and vegetables to families who otherwise could not afford the traditional rituals for Eid al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice.
Critics call it vote-buying, but the Brotherhood says social services are its historic conduit to the people.
In a poor district of Cairo on Friday, families crowded outside the neighbourhood mosque as volunteers for the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party yelled out prices on discounted potatoes, lemons, green beans and other vegetables. Sewage ran through potholed streets, and garbage was piled high. Many families in the neighbourhood share one-room dwellings that serve as their kitchen, bedroom and living room.
Nawal Sleem, 40, pushed through the crowd to order vegetables. Potatoes were about half price compared with the regular market she goes to.
Ms Sleem’s husband makes just $US50 a month to support her and her two sons, who cannot find jobs as Egypt’s economy limps along. Eid al-Adha usually includes the sacrifice of a sheep, but the family would have to settle for vegetables.
Unemployment has risen since the winter protests that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak and empowered the nation’s military. Food prices have doubled, she said.
Mr Mubarak had banned the Muslim Brotherhood but allowed it to field candidates as independents. Now, members are eagerly campaigning under the Freedom and Justice party banner.
Because of the discounted produce, Ms Sleem said she was likely to vote for the party.
”They seem good,” she said of the Brotherhood. ”They help with expensive things.”
Maha Abdel Salem, 30, questioned the Brotherhood’s motives as she also left the stall with only vegetables.
She walked back to her haphazardly built apartment, where her son slept on the bed she shares with her four children and husband. Flies buzzed around her sleeping child’s face. When it rains, the roof leaks.
”What is a kilo of vegetables going to do for me when I live like this?” she asked. ”We live with sewage in broken-down houses. We’ll vote for someone who can solve this.”
The Brotherhood’s party has also been trying to address the issues of the poor, selling lower-priced notebooks, pens and other stationery before the school year started, for example. It has also set up mobile health clinics in areas without hospitals and deployed tens of thousands of volunteers to mobilise their programs.
Via Washington Post
Published November 7, 2011
Mohammed ElBaradei’s Egyptian presidential campaign suffered a blow on Saturday as campaigners quit in protest at the handling of his election race, saying the former U.N. nuclear watchdog head has become isolated from his grassroots base.
Campaigners in one of Egypt’s biggest electoral blocs walked out and nine other provinces froze their activities, blaming flawed campaign management for ElBaradei’s decreasing popularity, charges his central office has denied.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner is no longer seen as one of the front runners in the election race and the internal dispute could further weaken his prospects ahead of presidential elections expected at the end of 2012.
One survey has placed the former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head seventh in the running as he struggles to navigate the country’s internal politics.
Independent analysts and Western diplomats, while praising ElBaradei’s integrity and diplomatic skills, have questioned whether he has the broad appeal to attract votes from many ordinary Egyptians concerned with local issues rather than his international achievements.
ElBaradei could not be reached for comment but the central office said he was keen on meeting campaigners and had met with “over 1,500 volunteers” recently.
Volunteers in Sharqiya, a province with a voting power of 3.4 million, said they resigned after their campaign leader was dismissed in an “arbitrary decision” by the directors.
“ElBaradei’s campaign office in Sharqiya has collectively resigned to protest the maltreatment the Cairo-based administration has shown to the volunteers and for blocking access between ElBaradei and the grassroots base working for him on the ground,” the statement added.
‘GAP WITH ORDINARY EGYPTIANS’
The Cairo office denied there was a collective resignation, and said it removed three coordinators to “obtain harmony and improve the performance of the campaign,” insisting volunteers and their efforts were respected.
“This campaign is failing because there is a gap between Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei who ordinary Egyptians consider distant and cut off from them,” said Mohammed Gouda, who headed the Sharqiya campaign. Two other campaigners, Saad Bahar and Ahmed Hassan, were dismissed for backing Gouda.
Campaigners in the city of Port Said also quit, while leaders in nine other provinces said in a joint statement they had halted activities until ElBaradei meets them. They also demanded a “transparent and just” probe over the dismissals.
“Volunteers work independently and without integration, like isolated islands. This will be a problem during presidential polls,” said Saad Bahar, one of those dismissed. Bahar was responsible for coordinating field work across the country.
Others said the campaign’s central office had too many business executives and not enough people with local knowledge.
After his return to Egypt in February 19 2010, ElBaradei led a reform movement, saying Egyptians would rise up against 30 years of authoritarian rule under President Hosni Mubarak. A year later, Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising on February 11.
Published November 6, 2011
A conspiracy is underway against Syria but the country has powerfully resisted the US plots, Head of Hezbollah Sharia Board Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek said on Sunday. He also lauded Syria’s wise decision to accept the Arab League initiative and its call for dialogue, and added that the move has thwarted conspiracies. Yazbek further referred to the popular uprisings in the Arab and Islamic states in recent months, and added that Arab Spring means spring of resistance and uniting efforts against the US plots. Earlier this month, Syria and the Arab League agreed on a roadmap to end the violence in the Arab country. “Syria and the Arab League are in agreement over the final paper concerning the situation in Syria,” Syrian state television and SANA news agency said. Syria signed the pact to pull its armed forces from the streets, release political prisoners and engage with opposition groups after seven months of unrest. Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March with organized attacks by well-armed gangs against Syrian police forces and border guards being reported across the country. Hundreds of people, including members of the security forces, have been killed, when some protest rallies turned into armed clashes. The government blames outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorist groups for the deaths, stressing that the unrest is being orchestrated from abroad. But, calm was eventually restored in the Arab state after President Assad started a reform initiative in the country.
Published November 6, 2011
At least 11 people have been killed in Syria as a major Muslim holiday began to the sound of explosions and gunfire, residents and activists said.
The violence on the first day of Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, added to fears that a peace plan brokered by the Arab League last week was unravelling.
Activists said government forces killed at least nine people on Sunday in the central Homs province, which has turned into one of the main centres of protest and reprisal during the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
Qatar’s prime minister has called for an emergency meeting to discuss the Syrian government’s failure to abide by its commitments.
Egypt’s official news agency MENA reported that Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani called for the meeting “in light of the continuing acts of violence and the Syrian government’s noncompliance” with the Arab plan.
Violence has continued unabated, although Damascus agreed to halt its crackdown on the seven-month uprising that the UN says has left around 3,000 people dead.
“It is a very painful situation here in Homs,” said one resident reached by telephone and speaking on condition of anonymity. “The holiday will come for us only when we are free from this regime.”
Bloodshed linked to the military crackdown and what appears to be sectarian revenge killings have engulfed Homs in recent weeks, killing scores of people in the country’s third-largest city.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops killed one person in Hama during raids there and another in the northern Idlib province.
Majd Amer, a local Homs activist, said people took morning prayers to the sound of explosions that sometimes shook the mosques. “Nobody can tell what the explosions are, it’s been like this for days now,” he said of the ongoing military assault on the city.
He said the shooting did not stop people from holding brief protests after emerging from the city’s mosques on Sunday, shouting for the downfall of the regime. There were no casualties from the protests in Homs.
Elsewhere, troops fired live ammunition to disperse protesters near Damascus and in the country’s north as worshippers emerged from prayers to stage protests calling for Assad’s to quit. There were no immediate reports of deaths but activists said several people were wounded in the northern province of Idlib.
Assad, who is trying to fend off the greatest challenge to his family’s 40-year-old regime, held Eid prayers at the al-Nour Mosque in the northern town of Raqqa, according to the official Sana agency.
The location marked a divergence from the past few years when Assad held prayers in the capital, Damascus. The choice of Raqqa, which has seen some anti-government protests, appeared to be an attempt by the regime to show it remains in control there.
The Observatory said security forces conducted raids in Raqqa after Eid prayers.
The government has pushed ahead with its bloody offensive against protesters despite the peace plan brokered by the Arab League on Wednesday in which Damascus agreed to halt its crackdown and start a dialogue with the opposition.
The head of the opposition Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun, addressed the Syrian people on Saturday evening, pledging not to be deceived by Assad’s promises.
“We will not negotiate on the blood of the victims and martyrs … we will not be deceived. The National Council will not allow the regime to bide for time,” he said in a televised speech broadcast on the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera satellite channel.
The head of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, has warned the failure of the plan would have disastrous consequences. On Saturday, he expressed “deep worries and regret for the continuation of violence all around Syria” despite the deal in Cairo.
Regime opponents have continued to stage protests to test the government’s sincerity, and have been met by gunfire. At least 15 people were killed on Friday, and activists reported that tanks were shelling Homs a day later.
Under the Arab plan, Syria’s government also agreed to pull tanks and armoured vehicles out of cities, release political prisoners and allow journalists and rights groups into the country.
Published November 6, 2011
Despite weeks of tough warnings, the Obama administration has backed away from its calls to impose new and potentially crippling economic sanctions on Iran in retaliation for an alleged plot to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador on U.S. soil, according to diplomats and American officials.
Though U.S. officials had declared that they would “hold Iran accountable” for a purported plot, they now have decided that a proposed move against Iran’s central bank could disrupt international oil markets and further damage the reeling American and world economies.
The pivot to more limited tactics has surprised some other governments that expected bold action after the administration warned that it would not tolerate Iranian terrorist plots on American soil. Some diplomats said it may be difficult for U.S. officials to persuade other governments to scale back their business with Iran when the United States was being so reticent.
“The others are asking: ‘Why should we take on the Iranians, when the U.S. isn’t doing so much?’ ” one diplomat said.
Rather than pursue sanctions against central bank, U.S. officials now say they will seek to persuade some of Tehran’s key trading partners — including the Persian Gulf states, South Korea and Japan — to join the U.S. in enforcing existing sanctions. The U.S. will also add a few more narrowly focused sanctions, they said.
Federal officials three weeks ago said an Iranian American car dealer in Texas sought to enlist a man he believed to be a Mexican drug dealer to assassinate, the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
U.S. officials contend the plot was put in motion by the Quds Force, a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and that they have evidence that money was transferred from Iran to pay for the assassination.
The administration’s decision to back off the toughest sanctions comes at a moment of growing Western concern about both Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons programs and the apparently increasing pace of its covert military activities, especially those of the Quds Force. Next week, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, is expected to release a report that will provide unprecedented detail about Iran’s alleged effort to gain nuclear weapons know-how.
The sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran would have aimed to isolate it from the world economy by barring any firm that does business with it from transactions with U.S. financial institutions. That would make it much tougher for Iran to sell crude oil, the top source of government revenue.
VIA LA Times
Published November 6, 2011
Officials from the United States reported that they would be “satisfied” if the Muslim Brotherhood(MB) comes out ahead in upcoming parliamentary elections in Egypt, set to begin at the end of November.
“I think the answer is yes, I think we will be satisfied, if it is a free and fair election,” said the administration’s special coordinator for Middle East transitions, William Taylor, who visited Cairo last week and met with several of the country’s interim military rulers.
Taylor, however, was not able to meet with officials from the MB. He would have, given the opportunity, he reportedly said to AFP.
“As long as parties, entities do not espouse or conduct violence, we’ll talk to them,” he explained, marking a significant shift in US foreign policy towards the MB.
In June, the US administration changed its policy about engaging with the Brotherhood, easing restrictions that once mandated that the US could only speak with MB members who were independent members of Parliament.
“What we need to do is judge people and parties and movements on what they do, not what they’re called,” Taylor told a forum at the Atlantic Council.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with Egypt’s al-Hayat in October, touching upon the administration’s hopes for Egypt’s next government.
“We hope that anyone who runs for election, and certainly anyone who’s elected and joins the parliament, joins the government, will be committed to making Egypt work and be open to all Egyptians no matter who you might be,” she explained.
“We will be willing to and open to working with a government that has representatives who are committed to non-violence, who are committed to human rights, who are committed to the democracy that I think was hoped for in Tahrir Square,” she added.
Observers of Egyptian politics expect the Muslim Brotherhood’s affiliated Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) to win significant gains in the upcoming Parliamentary elections.
Some analysts have made broad comparisons between the Brotherhood and Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda Party, who took the largest number of seats in recent the country’s recent assembly elections.
“This is something that we are used to, and should not be afraid of. We should deal with them,” said Taylor, speaking to the ascent of Islamist parties in the region in the wake of the Arab Spring.
The United States gives $2 billion annually to Egypt in military and economic aid in exchange for its peace treaty with Israel.
Published November 6, 2011
This marked the first El-Adha Eid celebration after the outbreak of the January 25 revolution and the ousting of Hosni Mubarak from power.
A year ago, the press in Egypt marked Eid, as they did for thirty years, by reporting on where Mubarak performed the morning prayer and which high-level public figures stood by his side as he did so.
In fact, the ousted president celebrated the previous Eid ritual at the Police Mosque in Cairo with Field Marshall and a slew of top government ministers and National Democratic Party (NDP) officials.
Mubarak and a host of his men performed what was to be their last public prayer together just weeks before the January uprising swept them from power, and eventually sent many to prison.
On Sunday, Field Marshal Tantawi, who assumed power from Mubarak on 11 February, was the leading Muslim man in the country facing east to Mecca in order to pray to Allah, as believers do when they reconfirm their Islamic faith five times a day.
The field marshal performed the Eid prayers along with a number of generals from his ruling military council and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar at the Army mosque in Cairo.
Interestingly, both the Eid celebrations in 2010 and 2010 fell just weeks from two sets of parliamentary elections which represented milestones, though in disparate ways, in the contemporary history of Egypt.
The 2010 elections were, by independent accounts, the most rigged elections that took place during Mubarak’s 30-year dictatorship; and anger that resulted from widespread fraud that favoured his NDP played a key role in pushing public hatred of the regime to boiling point, hastening its demise in January.
Meanwhile, the 2011 contest stand to be the first in modern Egyptian history to pass without systematic and widespread fraud, vote-rigging and state sponsored violence against opposition candidates.
Last year, as Eid approached, Mubarak’s State Security Intelligence (SSI) was busy rounding up political opponents in a campaign of public intimidation. During those holy days, the SSI focused its wrath and repression, as it did time and again for most of Mubarak’s tenure, on the mass-basedMuslim Brotherhood
organisation who were the largest political opposition force to his rule in the country.
Egyptians who are sympathetic to the group’s politics had to walk through government checkpoints if they wanted to pray at Eid in a mosque or a venue that was led by Brotherhood activists and preachers.
This year, the tables have turned.
Published November 4, 2011
Jordan releases Islamists
A military court yesterday released on bail 15 hardline Islamists out of 150 people charged with terrorism-related offences after clashes with police during a protest in April.
The violence erupted during a rally in Zarqa to free fellow Salafis held in prisons since the late 1990s.More than 80 people were injured during the clashes. At the first court hearing in August, the charge sheet accused the men of being armed with swords and clubs and threatening to kill police officers.
They were also accused of adopting the takfiri ideology, which is banned in the country. If convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison. On Tuesday the court in Marka, Amman, began hearing bail applications, raising expectation that all those being held for the violence would be pardoned before the Eid holiday.
The 15 released are members of the Salafi movement, which calls for the implementation of rigid teachings of Islam.
The Salafi jihadist movement has attracted rootless and or committed internationalist militants. They fight for the jihad, seeking to re-create the Muslim ummah and shariat to build an Islamic community. Simultaneously conservatives and radical, they form a global network that has attracted Muslims from around the world to fight jihad in Kashmir, Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, and the Philippines. The salafi-jihadist movement in Central Asia and the Caucasus is more localized — an expression of identity in areas such as Ferghana, villages in Daghestan, and upper Gharm valley. In Central Asia, the term “Wahabi” refers to fundamentalists who come from Pakistan or Afghanistan, but they are not necessarily a political movement. For example, Wahabis in Tajikistan do not recognize themselves as a political alignment. However, most Central Asian regimes use the term Wahabi more broadly to describe Islamic religious movements outside the states’ control.
None of the movement’s leading figures were released yesterday.
Majed Liftawi, a lawyer for some of the accused, said he was told by the court that others charged in the case will “be released in batches”.
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