Archive for October, 2007

News and Analysis (10/31/07)

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Mukasey continues his ambiguities as he states in a letter to Congressmen and women that waterboarding “is repugnant” but fails to clarify his legal stance on the matter:

NY Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman slams neo-conservatives and some presidential candidates for letting fear substitute for facts when discussing foreign policy and terrorism matters:

“In a time when we are inundated with the daily rhetoric of ideologues, exclusivists, and merchants of fear, we are in dire need of engaged academics and public intellectuals who can write and speak authoritatively on the topics of the day and who also provide visible public models for ethics of citizenship.”—Tariq Ramadan, Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University

Marred by distrust and a lack of success against terrorists, billions of dollars in US military aid, most of which is irrelevant for effective counterterrorism and addressing root causes of political violence, has failed to strengthen US-Pakistan relations, while public opinion polls reveal divisions among urban Pakistanis on whether or not committing more army troops to fighting terrorists will achieve the desired results:

Basra police chief declares the city to be in the grip of militias and says that his forces lack the firepower and loyalties to curb their illegal and deadly activities:

News and Analysis (10/30/07)

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Washington Post editorial agrees that some Senators are right to push attorney general nominee Mike Mukasey to clarify his stance on waterboarding and other forms of torture, but also argues that the Bush administration and Congress share the blame because the former “condoned torture” and the latter “did too little to stop it”:

US watchdog group in Iraq says that dam in Mosul is on the verge of collapse with potentially catastrophic costs to life and property, due to mismanagement and corruption involved in $27 million contract meant to repair the “fundamentally flawed” structure:

In spite of the perils and restrictions presented by Israeli occupation and Palestinian infighting, the latest census of the Palestinian population in West Bank and Gaza is expected to draw ever closer to Israel’s Jewish population, but some experts say it is highly unlikely for Palestinians to leverage their demographic “threat” against Israel in negotiations…

…meanwhile Israel suspends it collective punishment of Gazan Palestinians by at least temporarily suspending cuts to the Strip’s electricity supplies:

“The US engages Iran only when it desperately needs to; otherwise, it resorts to coercion. Washington’s unilateral sanctions last week have the immediate implication of clogging up opportunities for any meaningful US-Iran security dialogue.”—Kaveh Afrasiabi, Bentley College international relations professor and Iran expert

Suicide assassination attempts against prominent Pakistani officials continue as an attacker kills himself a mile away from President Musharraf’s compound and within feet of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee chairman’s residence:

News and Analysis (10/27-29/07)

Monday, October 29th, 2007

“This was not only about demanding justice as an outcome, but more importantly, justice as a process. American Muslims increasingly worry that the word ‘terrorism,’ even when uttered as an allegation, is sufficient to trump the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ axiom that is a cornerstone of our justice system.”—Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director CAIR-Chicago

FFF policy advisor James Bovard examines an early post 9/11 case of FBI abuse and cover up an of agent threatening to torture Egyptian foreign exchange student Abdallah Higazy’s family to extract a false confession:

Disputes between the President and Prime Minister of Somalia’s transitional government come to a head as PM Ali Mohamed Gedi announces his resignation:

As UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohammed ElBaradei tells US to “stop spinning and hyping the Iranian issue” in order to avoid a global “conflagration”, and saber rattling continues between Iraqi Kurdish militants and Turkish troops, world oil prices continue to rise due in part to Mid East instability:

All 21 female candidates vying for 84 spots in Omani legislative council with no formal powers fail to win a single seat in latest election:

Columnist Robert Novak examines the recent attempted assassination against Benazir Bhutto and the current political context in Pakistan and sees the relationship between Musharraf and Bhutto as one of mutual necessity for survival:

News and Analysis (10/26/07)

Friday, October 26th, 2007

In what was expected to be a near automatic confirmation for attorney general nominee Mike Mukasey, is now becoming less clear as some Senators are becoming concerned over his lack of explicit denunciation of torture interrogations currently used by the Bush administration:

As Ankara rejects Iraqi offers to contain violence from the Kurdish rebel group PKK because they would “take a long time to put into action”, it continues its air bombardments against the militant organization:

President Bush continues his saber rattling against Iran with fresh sanctions against leaders of the Iran Revolutionary Guards, while oil industry analysts predict extreme market volatility if Tehran is attack as prices already reach an all-time high at $90:

King Abdullah seeks to pursue ambitious modern graduate education institution project by keeping the Education Ministry out of the loop and creating a massive financial endowment for the new university:

News and Analysis (10/25/07)

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

New US sanctions against Iran will hit ordinary Iranians: ““These banks that are being designated are major banks that pay the monthly wages of Iranian workers…”

Rather than recognizing already existing communities’ record system, India requires all marriages to be registered with the State putting rural residents at a disadvantage.

Egypt continues support for election fraud and abusing those willing to stand up against it:

Islamophobia in America:

Co-worker is found guilty of sending note to Muslim woman threatening ‘”Remember 9/11”’ “’You and your kids will pay’”

State Representative returns Qur’an saying “Most Oklahomans do not endorse the idea of killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology”

Number of individuals put on terror watch list soars – “They are quickly galloping towards the million mark — a mark of real distinction because the list is already cumbersome and is approaching absolutely useless.”

News and Analysis (10/24/07)

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

“The president has asserted the power to designate any organization or individual he chooses, here or abroad, without formal charges, a trial or hearing of any kind; without a statement of reasons; and on the basis of secret evidence. While full-scale criminal protections are not necessary, surely groups should be afforded a meaningful opportunity to defend themselves before they are shut down.”—David Cole, Georgetown law professor

Afghan women are tapped to enter into the national police force, however security concerns, cultural pressure and corrupt mismanagement are significant barriers to expanding female presence within the force:

Three years after the massacre of Muslim protesters in southern Thailand that ignited a bloody ethno-nationalist insurgency, the Thai government has failed to bring any of the perpetrators to justice:

Israel announces its plan to collectively punish Gazan Palestinians by gradually cutting off its electricity and fuel supply:

While Blackwater and other mercenaries will be held to new rules demanding greater transparency and accountability, a State Department report finds that there are far too few officials in charge to provide adequate oversight of such firms, in spite of the ballooning number of contracts:

“The suicide bombers who attacked Benazir Bhutto’s convoy as it traveled through Karachi managed to kill 140 people and injure more than 550. But their real targets were free and fair elections… The bombers failed to kill Bhutto, but they may have succeeded in paralyzing Pakistan’s political process.”—Ahmed Rashid, Pakistani journalist

News and Analysis (10/23/07)

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Federal prosecutors fail to convict members of Palestinian charity Holy Land Foundation because, in the words of one juror, the case “was strung together with macaroni noodles. There was so little evidence.”

Members of Congress slam the White House for allowing Intelligence Committee members to see crucial documents on NSA spying, but not the Judiciary Committee, allegedly in exchange for granting telecoms legal immunity:

Ignorance and fear drives some people in a small Maryland town to attempt blocking construction plans for a heterodox Muslim sect’s mosque:

After some bloody saber-rattling between PKK militants and Turkey, Iraq offers to provide support to Turkey against the militant organization while the PKK themselves offer a truce to Ankara in return for dropping threats of a cross-border raid into Kurdish Iraq:

Taliban-like militants in Northwest Pakistan violate Islamic values of “no compulsion in religion” and education as “an obligation upon every man and woman” by imposing a decree that forces women to wear a burqa in public, resulting in a massive drop in female school attendance as poor families who cannot afford the garment are unable to comply:

News and Analysis (10/22/07)

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Ankara braces itself for the possibility of a large cross-border raid after as 12 Turkish soldiers are killed and an unknown number are taken hostage along the Turkish/Iraqi Kurdish border in retaliation for an earlier raid killed at least 32 Kurdish militants:

DespitIn the face of repeated denials from Iran about developing a nuclear weapon, Vice President Cheney issues vague threat to Tehran saying, “the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences”:

Kyrgyz leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev dissolves parliament and seeks to start fresh with a new legislature and constitution that includes a proportional all party list and raises the number of MPs, however opposition members criticize him for contradictions and loopholes in the new constitution and see the parliament’s dissolution “as a step towards authoritarianism”:

Political deadlock between pro-government March 14 forces and the Hizballah and Aounist-led opposition delays Lebanon’s presidential election:

Muslim-American activist and former member of Virginia Commission on Immigration argues that his resignation from the Commission was “so as to not allow partisan politics and a drummed-up controversy to derail the commission or to undermine the good work of the governor to bring some sanity to a General Assembly bent on creating a police state in Virginia for immigrants”:

In the wake of the recent attacks against Bhutto’s convoy, analysts find that the Pakistani army has neither the political will, nor the capability to fight Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants in the outlying tribal regions, while Musharraf and the military use the incident to justify a ban a street rallies that have been the bread and butter of the former PM’s means of rallying support:

    News and Analysis (10/20-1/07)

    Sunday, October 21st, 2007

    After years of unethical and ineffective torture interrogations by the CIA against 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other Al-Qaeda operatives, the FBI is slowly building its own cases against the militants because the CIA’s interrogations would be inadmissible in a US court:

    The New York Times Magazine takes a look at Gitmo military lawyer and whistleblower Matthew Diaz’s moral and legal troubles for publicly revealing the list of detainees’ names back in 2004:

    Former top Iran nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani resigns from his post allegedly over disputes with President Ahmadinejad and is replaced with a hardline diplomat; however, Larijani will be present at upcoming talks in Rome as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei’s representative:

    “Between 2003, the year I started working for The Post, and the summer of 2006, when I left Baghdad, about 93 journalists were killed; 85 percent of them were Iraqis, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The total number of journalists killed in this war has now reached 119.”—Bassam Sebti, former Iraqi Washington Post correspondent

    In a bid to keep Turkey on the path of EU-inspired reform and away from political obstructionism, the AK party makes another major political throw-down as Turks vote in a national referendum on whether to elect their president directly, or to keep it within the hands of parliament:

    Bombings of Bhutto convoy in Pakistan “where Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and nuclear weapons are all in play” raise the possibility of a nightmare scenario because of over-reliance on Musharraf’s supposedly American-friendly authoritarianism:

    “Far from “draining the swamp” of terrorism, as U.S. architects of the war had hoped, the new Iraq imports suicide terrorists and exports bombing techniques, most notably to Afghanistan, where insurgents are now copying the improvised explosive devices that have proved so devastating to U.S. forces in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle.”—Fawaz Gerges, professor of international affairs at Sarah Lawrence College

    Benazir Bhutto’s Return to Pakistan

    Friday, October 19th, 2007

    We were recently interviewed by Javier Mendez of Chile’s El Mercurio on Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan. Here are the answers Alejandro Beutel and I gave to his questions.
    1) What are the expectation for the return Benazir Bhutto to Pakistan?

    Musharraf and his supporters, who are in an embattled position, politically against popular sentiment and opposition activists, are expecting support from Bhutto with the new power sharing deal. Many ordinary Pakistanis are weary over past allegations of corruption, which were also the pretext used by two different military juntas to force her removal from power. Pakistanis appear to be somewhat skeptical of Bhutto’s rhetoric of restoring civilian rule and promoting the rule of law and democracy while making a power sharing deal with the current authoritarian-leaning government. A recent poll by the International Republican Institute showed only 35% of Pakistanis favored Bhutto’s deal with Musharraf.

    The U.S. government would not mind the power sharing deal because it could bring at least greater political stability and shore up support within the country against religious extremists.

    2) Which role could she play in the domestic political of Pakistan. Could she be a Prime Minister again?

    Bhutto professes an interest restoring democracy and civilian rule and fighting the Taliban and religious extremism. It is unclear how effective she could be on any of these. It is also unclear whether or not she will be Prime Minister again. Maintaining popular support in the wake of the power sharing deal will be an obastcle as will unresolved questions over the legality of her corruption amnesty. Finally, there is the possibility certain elements of the military and intelligence, who she strongly opposes in public, will try to undermine her.

    3) What are the strengths and weaknesses of Benazir Bhutto?

    Her strength is her opposition to Musharraf and self-portrait as the only person able to rescue Pakistan from another failed military junta. Her promises to restore democracy and civilian rule are welcome by the majority of Pakistanis.

    Her weaknesses are a history of alleged corruption as well as strong opposition within certain sectors of the military and intelligence. After all, she was deposed on two different occasions by military juntas under the pretext of corruption. Her power sharing deal with Musharraf has also thrown into question her previously stated commitments to civilian rule of law and democracy.

    4) Her governments were hounded by charges of mismanagement and corruption… Was she, in any way, responsible for these acts?

    This is unclear. Pakistani courts have not proven any of the charges thrown at Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari. The illegal and undemocratic means by which the juntas took power and leveled charges against her and her husband, suggests that the charges are politically motivated. Nonetheless, there is a significant body of evidence, not just from Pakistan, but also from Poland, Switzerland, the Middle East and France tying them to massive corruption. Mr. Zardari has been popularly labeled “Mister 10%” (a reference to his alleged skimming of government contracts). There is a great deal of irony, if not hypocrisy, when Bhutto levels allegations of corruption against Musharraf and claims to fight cultural “feudalism” in the name of socialist principles. In all fairness, corruption is endemic within the entire political system, especially as military continues its influence in public and private institutions. One must also remember that Pakistan ranks 138 out of 179, Transparency International’s “Corruption Perception Index”.

    5) Do you think that Bhutto will continue a position about a modern Muslim nation and a rhetoric on fighting Al Qaeda and The Taliban?

    Yes. She will certainly continue that rhetoric because it is in line with party’s ideology. Furthermore, it is in her interests because it appeals both to US and other nations with strong regional interests as well as the majority Pakistanis who are very troubled by growing lawlessness and bloody attacks from the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. It is uncertain whether or not she is truly willing and able to do so because of the above stated reasons.

    6) What are the main platforms of her Liberal Party?

    Bhutto’s platform is socialist. However she and her right-leaning counterpart Nawaz Sharif have agreed to a series of principles concerning on Pakistan’s political system within a document called the “Charter of Democracy.” In it, independence of the judiciary, restoration of the 1973 Constitution, and reduced military influence in civilian politics are emphasized. Of particular interest in the Charter, which she has also stated in news interviews, is the extension of political representation to tribal regions, which are currently directly run by the federal government. She views tribal regions’ lack of political representation and economic underdevelopment as the core causes of the Taliban’s popularity in those parts of the country. There are also vague references to women’s and minority rights in the document. Despite her advocacy of these issues when in power, she had great difficulty trying to get support for these issues due to entrenched political and culturally conservative interests. These issues will be of less pressing concern to her due to the current political and security climate within Pakistan and its effect on her political clout.