Posted by Joshua on Monday, December 15th, 2008
Alistair Lyon captures the zibdeh of the Bush shoe story: ANALYSIS-Iraqi shoe-thrower captures Mideast rage at Bush: Reuters, Alistair Lyon
The hurling of shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush on his farewell visit to Iraq strikes many in the Middle East as a fittingly furious comment on what they see as his calamitous legacy in the region.
Arab and Iranian TV stations have gleefully replayed the clip, sometimes in slow motion, of an Iraqi reporter calling Bush a “dog” and throwing his shoes at him — the Middle East’s tastiest insults — at a Baghdad news conference on Sunday.
The affront was a twisted echo of the triumphal moment for Bush when joyous Iraqis used their footwear to beat a statue of Saddam Hussein toppled by U.S. invading troops in 2003.
“It indicates how much antagonism he’s been able to create in the whole region,” former Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told Reuters, adding that the incident was regrettable.
Bush had harmed America’s reputation and the friendship many had felt for it. “Despite past mistakes in its policies, there was always a redeeming factor. In this particular case, there doesn’t seem to have ever been a redeeming factor,” Maher said.
Muntazer al-Zaidi, who works for independent al-Baghdadiya television, has shot to local stardom for his attack on Bush and his cry: “This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog.”….
Some Palestinians, whose hopes of independent statehood have withered in the eight-year Bush era, relished the moment.
“A shoe company in Hebron claimed the attack on Bush and they will give the attacker shoes all his life,” runs one joke being exchanged on mobile telephones in the Gaza Strip…
“We had one meal today – khobbeizeh,” said Abu Amra, 43, showing the leaves of a plant that grows along the streets of Gaza. “Every day, I wake up and start looking for wood and plastic to burn for fuel and I beg. When I find nothing, we eat this grass.”
PRESS FREEDOM IN JORDAN: A gift from the king
By Tim Sebastian Published: December 12, 2008 in the IHT
AMMAN: An odd thing happened the other day in the Arab world. …. King Abdullah of Jordan gathered together the chief editors of Jordan’s main newspapers and told them: “Detention of journalists is prohibited.”… “I do not see a reason for detaining a journalist because he/she wrote something or for expressing a view.”
And yet it’s hardly surprising that local journalists were unimpressed. …More than 20 laws continue to govern media conduct in Jordan… No single statement from the royal palace can airbrush away years of harassment and interference. Besides, the king’s statement comes in the same year that his country has been downgraded by the Paris-based organization “Reporters without Borders” in its 2008 Worldwide Press Freedom Index. Jordan now stands at 128th position out of 173 countries – six places lower than last year…..So was the king serious about pushing through improvements?….
Syrian Court Overrules Release Of Dissidents, Dow Jones, 2008-12-15
DAMASCUS (AFP)–A Syrian court has ordered two leading dissidents to remain behind bars after accepting a prosecutor’s appeal against a lower court order for their release, a human rights lawyer said Monday. “The Court of Cassation upheld the application of the Damascus prosecutor general for the release of (Michel) Kilo and (Mahmud) Issa to be stayed,” Khalil Maatouk told AFP.
Kilo, a journalist, and Issa, a translator, were among seven activists arrested in May, 2006, and jailed for three years a year later for signing a petition calling for Syrian recognition of Lebanon’s independence. They ought to have benefited from a law providing for the early release of all prisoners who have served three-quarters of their sentences and been freed on Nov. 2. But the prosecution appealed against an order by the court of appeal for their release under the law. They will now serve their prison sentences in full.
Kilo and Issa were convicted in May 2007 on charges of having “weakened national sentiment” and for “undermining the image of the state.” They were also accused of fomenting sectarian strife.
Carter Visit to Beirut and Damascus:
See Borzou Daragahi’s coverage in the LA Times. It is excellent as usual.
“Carter was in Beirut over the last few days meeting with Lebanese officials and other luminaries. He also appeared before an overflow crowd at AUB.”
Arabs concerned that Hillary Clinton will tilt the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama strongly toward Israel need not worry, says Jimmy Carter.
The future secretary of State’s pro-Israel stance will be balanced out by Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. Jim Jones, who Carter said will adopt a more nuanced view toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jones helped train Palestinian security forces, leading to one of the most successful recent experiments in Palestinian autonomy.
From Reuters: Dec. 12
Carter said that while Obama had picked Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and Rahm Emmanuel as White House chief of staff, there was hope in his choice of retired Marine Gen. James Jones as national security advisor.
“As far as Rahm Emmanuel is concerned, yes, he is closely affiliated with Israel… But I think that another hopeful sign is that General Jim Jones will be his national security advisor,” Carter said.
Clinton had “been quite close to AIPAC’s position in the past,” Carter added, in reference to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby group.
“But I think that Jim Jones is thoroughly familiar with the situation in Palestine,” Carter said. Diplomats say Jones was critical of Israel in a confidential report this year on how Israelis and Palestinians had met security commitments.
Obama to base his Middle East policy on army of envoys
By Barak Ravid, Dec 14, 2008, Haaretz
Jerusalem has received various reports in recent weeks indicating that American foreign policy in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia after president-elect Barack Obama takes office will operate on the basis of special envoys who will report directly to Obama and his designated secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.
Obama and Clinton’s transition teams are maintaining secrecy and minimal ties with Israeli diplomats. Obama and Clinton also directed their people not to take part in the policy debates of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center forum, attended by Israeli politicians and officials, which took place earlier this month in Washington, D.C.
However, senior government sources in Jerusalem said that the information they have received indicates that the new administration is planning a hierarchy of about five special envoys to various regions, overseen by a kind of “super coordinator,” who would answer directly to the president and the secretary of state.
The sources said that the new policy is part of Obama’s and Clinton’s understanding that all the conflicts in the Middle East and Southeast Asia are to some extent connected to the Iranian nuclear program and withdrawal from Iraq. Therefore, it is important to operate in a number of parallel but coordinated channels to attain achievements on all fronts.
The most prominent name in consideration for the top coordinator post is Dennis Ross, who served as President Bill Clinton’s special envoy to the Middle East. Ross’ name has also come up as a possible senior adviser to Hillary Clinton.
The envoy to the Middle East would oversee the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, negotiations between Syria and Israel and the situation in Lebanon.
Short-listed for this job are Colin Powell, who was President George W. Bush’s secretary of state during his first term; Dan Kurtzer, U.S. ambassador to Israel from 2001 to 2005; and Martin Indyk, who is close to Hillary Clinton and who served as U.S. ambassador to Israel from 1995 to 1997 and from 2000 to 2001.
The other four envoys would be: to Iraq to liaise with the Iraqi government on U.S. troop withdrawal; to Iran to oversee the beginning of dialogue and participate in international discussions on an incentive package; to Afghanistan and Pakistan to stabilize the security situation; and to North Korea to watch over denuclearization and the lifting of international sanctions.
Israeli Uncensored News explains that the US quarrel with Syria over nuclear inspections is welcome because it may prevent progress on peace negotiations and stall possibility of the Golan’s return. Their editor writes:
“On a positive note, any international confrontation with Syria freezes the Syrian-Israeli peace talks which would cost Israel the Golan Heights and half the Lake Kineret, her only significant water source.”
Iraq urges Obama to talk to Iran, Syria
AFP, 11 December 2008
US president-elect Barack Obama and his future administration must open dialogue with Iran and Syria to “solve” long-standing issues plaguing the Middle East, the Iraqi government said Thursday.
“I call on the new administration to open a dialogue with Iran to resolve the exceptional problems which are affecting stability in the region,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement released at the outset of an international conference in Washington….”Whether the US would like Iraq to initiate that dialogue with Syria, we are ready.”
But the outgoing administration of President George W. Bush has cut nearly all diplomatic ties with Damascus,….”Without having that dialogue between Iraq and its neighbors, between the US and the region, I think we will not solve the problems between Iraq and its neighbors,” Dabbagh said.
In a televised interview Sunday, Obama confirmed he wants to hold talks with Iran, stating his readiness to end a 30-year stand-off between Washington and Tehran.
“We need to ratchet up tough but direct diplomacy with Iran,” Obama said, promising a “set of carrots and sticks.”Despite security improvements in Iraq this year, some US officials continue to accuse Iran of financing, arming and training Iraqi Shiite militias — a claim Tehran denies.
But the number of Iranian-made explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) in Iraq has decreased appreciably in recent months, indicating Tehran’s support for Iraqi insurgents is waning, according to US Army Lieutenant General Thomas Metz.
EFP attacks, which can penetrate heavy armor, are down to “a dozen, 20 in Iraq in a month from maybe 60, 80,” Metz told reporters …
A Syrian embassy in Beirut – the Syrian embassy would be located in the Beirut area of Ramlet al-Baida and the Lebanese embassy in the Damascus neighborhood of Abu Rummaneh…
ENEMY MINE, the National
For years, Gilles Kepel has risen above the patter of news-hour terrorism experts. Max Rodenbeck reads the French scholar’s latest book, in which he observes the violent symbiosis between jihadists and their foes