Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
CBS news reports that “The government of Syria has already reassigned hundreds of niqab-wearing school-teachers to administrative offices where they would not have contact with students.” AP’s Edward Yeranian writes that the recent ban “follows a decision last month to dismiss 1200 Syrian school teachers who wear the face veil in class. Education officials, at the time, stressed that Syria was a “secular society,” and that extremism is “unacceptable.”
Two Syrian women, left, wear the niqab, a face-covering Islamic veil, as they shop in Souk Al-Hamediah, Damascus’ oldest market, Syria, 19 July 2010
Al-Arabiya TV quoted an education ministry official, who argued the niqab was “against academic principles” as well as “campus regulations.” He also called the practice an “ideological invasion.” Syria’s ruling Ba’ath Party denounced niqab-wearing at a recent conference.
Ayman Abdalnour writes that, according to sources he cannot name, the reason behind the new law is the rapid growth of private girls schools which encourage the niqab. Most of the private schools are run by religious organizations. Unofficial statistics reported by Abdalnour suggest that some 25-30% of female primary students are in private schools in Damsacus. There are some “200 private girls schools” in Damascus and “the majority of teachers wear the Niqab,” he insists. [A note of caution. These statistics are very hard to believe. How many elementary schools are there in all Damascus? Probably not more than 200, and that is including all private schools.]
Elizabeth Kennedy in her article, “Syria bans full Islamic face veils at universities” explores the notion that the niqab “is a religious obligation,” or reflection of personal freedom. As one women argued: “Wearing my niqab is a personal decision. It reflects my freedom.”
She also explores the notion of whether extremism is being brought on by the rapid income gap growing in Syria.
In an interview with Der Spiegel, ElBaradei said that if there were “no chance of a fair campaign,” he would call for a boycott.
Reports indicate that the presence of women in the Egyptian workforce “has not translated into any fundamental shift in prevailing attitudes toward women in public life.” According to the World Economic Forum’s 2009 Gender Gap Report (read the full report as a pdf), Egypt ranks 126 out of 134 countries. Syria ranks 121. In the political sphere, Egyptian women currently only occupy 8 out of the 454 parliamentary seats, spurring a new quota system that will guarantee 64 seats for women in the upcoming elections.
Thanks to POMED
The Economist published a new in-depth, 9-part, special report by Max Rodenbeck describing various aspects of Egyptian political, social, and economic life. The report considers the past three decades of “political paralysis” under the rule of Hosni Mubarak, but concludes that due to the looming presidential succession, and signs that Egypt’s “rising generation” may be more politically active than its predecessors, “the expectation of a seismic shift is almost tangible in the air.” Rodenbeck outlines three main possibilities for Egypt’s future: “It could go the way of Russia and be ruled by a new strongman from within the system. It might, just as possibly, go the way of Iran, and see that system swept away in anger. Or it could go the way of Turkey, and evolve into something less brittle and happier for all concerned.” The report also discusses Egypt’s resources and economic advantages; the lack of faith in the electoral process; the political promise of Mohamed ElBaradei; the changing role of Islam in Egyptian society and politics;the weakness of the Egyptian educational system; the implications of the socioeconomic gap; and possible scenarios for presidential succession after Mubarak.
The Economist article, When kings and princes grow old, about the Saudi succession …. paints the following fairly rosy picture: … Its $420 billion economy faces little risk of losing its place as the biggest in the Middle East, given steady oil reserves and production, around $150 billion in annual energy exports and a strengthening world oil market. The country’s net foreign reserves still nearly equal its GDP. Economists expect growth to accelerate slowly from around 4% this year, ensuring steadily rising living standards. These are seemingly impressive figures. Indeed, the Saudi economy is expected to grow 3.8% in 2010, but that is evidently in nominal terms. Since there is inflation of 5%, the economy is actually shrinking as the population grows. (This was copied from an email news letter)
It was a tough act to follow: Hafez al-Assad Hafez was known to be a savvy head of state. He was able to sustain good relations with important Arab nations like Saudi Arabia and Egypt and play on their differences. Where does Syria stand internationally ten years later, after a decade of Bashar al…
Later on in his book, in a chapter entitled “Jewish Power,” Netanyahu assailed Israeli policy makers who had attempted to meet American land-for-peace demands, describing them as weaklings bent over in a “submissive posture.”
“It does not cross the minds of these advocates of capitulation,” Netanyahu wrote, “that the task of Israel’s leaders is to try to convince the American government that it is in the interest of the United States to follow policies that cohere with Israeli interests, not vice versa.”
Meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu last week, President Obama could not have been more effusive. “I believe Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace,” Obama said. “I believe he is ready to take risks for peace.”
Bashar al-Assad’s tightening grip on Syria 10 years on
By Jim Muir BBC News, Beirut
When Bashar al-Assad was sworn in as Syria’s president on 17 July 2000 following his father Hafez al-Assad’s death, few would have bet heavily on the tall, callow-looking young man’s chances of still being in the job ten years later.
He was just 34 years old and the constitution had to be changed to enable him to take over. There was no precedent for power passing from father to son in a supposedly democratic Arab republic. ….. To mark Bashar Assad’s ten years in power, the international advocacy group Human Rights Watch issued a report entitled A Wasted Decade…. the odds on him celebrating a second decade of rule would certainly be a lot stronger than they were in 2000.
Egyptian Leader’s Health on U.S. Radar
By: Eli Lake | The Washington Times
U.S. and Western intelligence agencies assess that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is terminally ill, and the Obama administration is closely watching the expected transition of power in a nation that for decades has been an anchor of stability in the volatile Middle East and a key U.S. ally…. the 82-year-old Egyptian leader is thought by most Western intelligence agencies to be dying from terminal cancer affecting his stomach and pancreas…..An intelligence officer from a Central European service told The Washington Times last week that his service estimates that the Egyptian president will be dead within a year, and before Cairo’s scheduled presidential elections in September 2011….
A senior U.S. intelligence officer said: “We have access to, for lack of a better word, his court. We know he is dying, but we don’t know when he will die. You can be dying for a long time, by the way. Look at [former Cuban President Fidel] Castro.”…
In 2007, Mr. Mubarak pushed a new law through Egypt’s People’s Assembly that would make the speaker of the assembly president for 60 days while he oversaw arrangements for a special election. The new law requires anyone standing for that election to be in the leadership of a political party for at least one year.
While Mr. Mubarak has declined to endorse a successor, the new law on presidential succession provides a major advantage to Mr. Mubarak’s son, Gamal Mubarak, 47. The younger Mr. Mubarak is head of the powerful policy committee of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), the party that has led Egypt’s government for more than 50 years.
Other potential military rivals to Gamal Mubarak, whose nickname is “Jimmy” in U.S. policymaking circles and among the Egyptian elite such as Mr. Suleiman, are not formal members of the NDP.
T_desco writes: What would be the repercussions for Syria of a possible multi-front war in Lebanon (Hariri indictment > civil war > UNIFIL conflict > Israeli attack)?
Sami Moubayed: Tribunal could shake up Lebanon
Gulf News, July 20, 2010
(…) However, Hezbollah officials believe that Israel, with the implicit backing of the US, is lobbying for the tribunal to name Hezbollah officials as the perpetrators of Hariri’s murder.
The Israelis believe that if that were to happen, Lebanon would erupt into chaos and it would become very difficult for the state to function, as Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri could not possibly continue “protecting and embracing” the arms of Hezbollah. The current rapprochement between Lebanese Sunnis and Shiites would collapse, Israelis believe, and Lebanon would become very hostile and unsafe territory for Hezbollah.”
The Israeli plot (courtesy Haaretz): Haaretz, July 19, 2010
“Nasrallah has good reason to sweat over the prosecutor’s apparent findings. They could mark the end of the coalition between Saad Hariri, Rafik Hariri’s son and current Lebanese premier, and Hezbollah. The findings could also make it difficult for Hezbollah to maintain its close alliance with the general Michel Aoun, a Christian, which would threaten Lebanon with a grave political crisis. (…)
In the military sphere, there is no force in Lebanon that poses a great threat to Hezbollah. Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has turned from an enemy of Hezbollah into an ally and General Aoun embraces Hezbollah publicly at every opportunity.
But in the event that information is released that includes proof of Hezbollah’s involvement in the Hariri killing, this support will no doubt be dropped. In its place, calls to disarm and dismantle Hezbollah, the last armed militia in Lebanon, will only grow stronger.”
General Aoun’s “analytical” scenario:
Naharnet, July 17, 2010
“The FPM leader expressed fears that upon issuance of the indictment, Israel would launch a large-scale war on Lebanon, during which the resistance would be hit by “Israeli fire” from one side and “internal strife fire” on the other.
Aoun also warned that given this situation, some Christian parties would seek to impose a new status quo in their regions while fundamentalist groups in Palestinian camps would act the same way.
As Safir said that the FPM leader asked his allies, particularly Hizbullah, to ready themselves to confront such strife and review the current structure of the national unity cabinet, which according to Aoun would be incapable of facing such threats.
“They want to kill you once more,” Aoun reportedly told Nasrallah. “There is still a Lebanese team betting on a new Israeli war, that’s why … I advise you to change the rules of the game.”
A couple of interesting articles by Georges Malbrunot today:
(…) Mais, dans son insistance pour que la résolution 1701 de l’ONU soit appliquée – quitte à heurter les sensibilités de la population -, Paris se retrouve isolé, au moment où le Conseil de sécurité doit reconduire, à la mi-août, le mandat de la Finul.
«Nous ne voulons pas que les Français prennent en otage la Finul pour régler des problèmes face au Hezbollah ou à l’Iran», lâche un diplomate d’un pays européen contributeur, qui soupçonne Paris de vouloir durcir le ton contre le Hezbollah – et son tuteur iranien accusé de fabriquer la bombe. (…)
D’autant que la relation avec la Finul n’est pas au mieux. Le commandant des forces armées, le général Jean Kahwagi, est irrité par les «trop nombreux déplacements de membres de la Finul en Israël». Plusieurs officiers français et italiens seraient visés. Là encore, le Hezbollah n’ignore rien de ces entorses au règlement onusien. (…)
Pour permettre à la Finul d’exercer pleinement son mandat, l’un des projets à l’étude à New York serait de retirer les soldats français de leur zone de déploiement pour leur confier la responsabilité d’une force de réaction rapide, renforcée par rapport à sa version actuelle, c’est-à-dire capable de s’interposer, en cas de problème grave. (…)
“Un attentat est redouté Le Figaro, 19/07/2010
Trois jours avant le déclenchement des manœuvres onusiennes début juillet, à Beyrouth, le ministère de la Défense conseilla à la Finul de ne pas se déployer sur le terrain (so much for Lebanese sovereignty; t_d). «Je répétais aux Français qu’ils devaient faire attention», affirme de son côté Nabil Fawaz, le maire de Tibnine.
L’activisme français dérange le Hezbollah. Certaines de ses armes restent dissimulées sous les mosquées et les terrains de football. Mais, contrairement aux Israéliens, les experts militaires occidentaux ne pensent pas que le Hezbollah ait introduit une quantité importante de munitions au Sud depuis 2006. Sa priorité est au nord de la zone Finul et du fleuve Litani. Le «Parti de Dieu» y a camouflé ses armes les plus sophistiquées, venues d’Iran et de Syrie, y compris dans les zones chrétiennes.
(…) Mais personne n’est dupe. «Si les Français ne changent pas leur comportement, il y aura une autre réaction», assure Hola Ibrahim, de Kirbet Slem. Sous-entendu : un attentat contre le contingent français ne serait pas à exclure.”
Une reconstitution de l’assassinat de Rafic Hariri près de Bordeaux
Une reconstitution de l’assassinat de l’ex premier ministre libanais Rafic Hariri en 2005 à Beyrouth doit avoir lieu cet automne dans une base militaire au sud de Bordeaux, révèle au Figaro une source policière. Un enquêteur s’est rendu récemment sur place. L’organisation de cette reconstitution à huis clos poserait d’importants problèmes de sécurité. (…)
Georges Malbrunot, 19/07/2010
Robert Fisk: They’re all grovelling and you can guess the reason Classic Fisk on Obama.
A top Hillary Clinton aide laid out in unusual detail Friday what he called the Obama administration’s unprecedented security assistance to the Jewish state.
“Our security relationship with Israel is broader, deeper and more intense than ever before,’ Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro told the Brookings Institution Friday.
Shapiro said the Obama administration would honor a 2007 commitment to provide Israel $30 billion in security assistance over the next ten years. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid.
The U.S. also gives Israel something it does not give to any other beneficiary of U.S. foreign military financing, he noted.
“Unlike other beneficiaries of Foreign Military Financing, which are legally required to spend funds in the United States, Israel is the only country authorized to set aside one-quarter of its FMF funding for off-shore procurements,” Shapiro said.
The Obama administration is also continuing to commit itself to preserve Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge – “its ability to counter and defeat credible military threats from any individual state, coalition of states, or non-state actor, while sustaining minimal damages or casualties,” as Shapiro defined it.
That also means that the U.S. will sell Israel defense equipment that it will deny to other U.S. allies in the region.
“This means that as a matter of policy, we will not proceed with any release of military equipment or services that may pose a risk to allies or contribute to regional insecurity in the Middle East,” Shapiro said.
Iraqis to seek torture inquiry in Britain
Agence France-Presse – 17 July, 2010
More than 100 Iraqis who claim they were tortured and abused by British forces after the invasion of Iraq won a key legal battle in London on Friday in their bid to force a public inquiry.
Lawyers for the Iraqis said they had “incontrovertible” evidence the detainees were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment by British soldiers that included hooding, electric shocks and sexual abuse.
Judges Christopher May and Debra Silber ruled the 102 Iraqis should be allowed to bring a High Court action to try to force an inquiry into their allegations against the Ministry of Defence.
“The claimant’s case is sufficiently persuasive for permission purposes,” the judges said at London’s High Court.
“It sufficiently makes the case that the alleged ill-treatment may be seen as systemic and raises questions of its authorisation, or failure to stop it.”
The Democracy Obsession
Posted on July 9th, 2010 by Patrick J. Buchanan
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With the disintegration of the Soviet Empire and the Soviet Union, and Beijing’s abandonment of Maoism, anti-communism necessarily ceased to be the polestar of U.S. foreign policy.
For many, our triumph fairly cried out for a bottom-up review of all the alliances created to fight that Cold War and a return to a policy of non-intervention in foreign quarrels where no vital U.S. interest was imperiled.
This was dismissed as isolationism. Seeking some new cause to give meaning to their lives, our suddenly superfluous foreign policy elites settled upon a crusade for democracy as America’s new mission in the world.
Interventions in Panama, Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia followed, plus wars in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. To further advance the great goal, the National Endowment for Democracy and agencies like Freedom House set out to subvert authoritarian regimes in Belgrade, Caracas, Kiev, Tbilisi, Beirut and Bishkek.
Cold War methods and means were now to be conscripted — for democratic ends.
Yet, considering the high cost in blood, money and lost leadership and prestige since our victory in the Cold War, the democracy crusade scarcely seems worth it. For while we have been bogged down in two wars, China has become the world’s leading manufacturer, steelmaker, auto producer and exporter, and the second largest economy on earth.
Nevertheless, we are ever admonished, we must not flag or fail in our pursuit of global democracy, for only when the world is democratic will our providential mission be accomplished. And only then can we be truly secure…..
From the Mideastwire Blog: “Kurtzer on preventing the next Lebanon war: we can only manage it after the fact”
This piece by former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer is, unfortunately, yet another indication of the poverty of thought in Washington and the US in general when it comes to heading off another devastating war in Lebanon and Israel. It is also instructive of the danger of having high profile figures like Kurtzer comment on situations for which they are not specialists – indeed, Kurtzer’s short piece on US options for preventing the next war – for CFR no less – carries a number of basic errors in regards to Lebanon and Hizbullah that perhaps he would not have made if the piece was only directly related to his apparent specialist field of Egypt and Israel:
Fadlallah death likely starting point for war? The piece starts off with this incredible statement: “There are two plausible scenarios for war in Lebanon. First, Hezbollah could initiate hostilities. The recent passing of Lebanese Shia cleric Muhammad Hussein Fadl’Allah, a spiritual adviser to Hezbollah and a man with many enemies inside and outside Lebanon, could spark strife within Lebanon in which Hezbollah could decide to attack Israel as a means of unifying its supporters.”
There is little explanation offered for what is a baffling FIRST statement of contingency. The scenario he draws here as a first order of business is something I have simply not heard discussed seriously or at all here in Beirut – such that I had to conclude perhaps Kurtzer was confusing Fadlallah with Mughniyeah? In any case, this sort of wild speculation at the beginning of what purports to be a serious treatment of a complex subject immediately calls into question what follows… To read the full post, click here.
Syrian Market too Expensive to Enter, Turkish Bank Says (Syria Report)
The Syrian market is too expensive to enter, the management of Turkish bank Halkbank said in press comments.
Economy: Customs Register 30 percent Increase in H1 Revenues
Revenues generated by Syria’s customs stood at SYP 43 billion in the first half of this year, an annual increase of 30 percent.
The Syrian Business Council, which regroups most of Syria’s new business elite, has issued a rare statement criticising the relevance [accuracy?] of official statistics and their impact on investment and growth.
Finance: Half of Private Sector Banks’ Branches Located in Greater Damascus
The number of branches and offices run by private sector banks in Syria increased by around 13 percent in the first half of this year.
Finance: Central Bank Encourages Lending to SMEs
The Central Bank has issued a decision to encourage local banks to extend loans and other credit facilities to small and medium enterprises as well as to productive sectors.
Tourism: Syria Records Significant Increase in Tourists in H1, 2010
The number of tourists having visited Syria in the first half of this year increased by 63 percent compared to the same period of last year according to the Ministry of Tourism.
Tourism: French Company to Build USD 22 Million Entertainment Centre in Homs
Loftus, a French company specialized in the construction and management of entertainment infrastructures, has signed an agreement to build an amusement centre in Homs. Read