Jilted Lover Goes to Jail

Too big of a story not to mention here at MediaShack.   About a month ago, Susan Tamim, a Lebanese pop singer, was brutally murdered in Dubia.  From Asharq Al-Awsat:

The indictment says former police officer Muhsen el-Sukkari killed singer Suzanne Tamim on July 28 after tricking her into opening the door of her apartment by posing as a representative of the building owners and bringing her a letter and present.   “He then laid into her with the knife … cutting her main arteries and her trachea,” it said. “This was on the instigation of the second defendant (Moustafa) in return for obtaining from him the sum of $2 million for committing this crime.”

But the guy who ordered the murder was Hisham Talat Mustafa,  a big time Egyptian construction tycoon, and a member of Parliament.  Why?  Grandmasta read someone saying that it was over money and supposedly, she stole a million dollars or something like that.  He doubts that that would be sufficient motive here.  Whats a million bucks when your a billionare?  Grandmasta suspects here that she probaly told him to get lost    She was not by any means a big-time singer, Grandmasta had never heard of her before the news of her killing broke.  He’s no specialist in Arabic pop music, but if she was big, he would have heard of her.  She defintely wasn’t in the same league as  Ruby.… In a super apathetic region, interest in Tamim’s death far outstrips interest in, say, the Democratic or Republican convention.

Al-Itijah Al-Muakis 8/26: Performance is Everything

 This is a bit late, but the 8/26 episode the Al-Jazeera talk show Al-Itijah Al-Muakis on “The Relationships between Military Institutions and the Governing Regimes” was another good one.   The basic debate question was whether Arab military institutions have a positive role to play in Arab governance/ society?    Anyone who can should read or listen to the transcript because there were so many interesting points, but I only have time to mention the basics:

1)  Yes.  Backbone of the Modern State.  Mohamed Ahmed, a Mauritanian journalist,  argued the military institutions play a vital role in  safeguarding the Umma, pointing to their critical role in the development of the modern Arab state over the last 50 years.  His views are heavily influenced by his postive perspective of the recent coup in Mauritania.  He see’s the Arab military regimes having a vital role in stepping in to “correct” (  التصحيح  ) when the government strays away from democracy.

 2)   No.  Bunch of corrupt bums who lose every time they fight.   Anwar Malak, an Algerian journalist and former Algerian army officer residing in Paris (and frequent guest on the show) argued that Arab military regimes do nothing but loot and plunder countries wealth.  They certainly don’t do anything on the battlefield to justify their power. Syria hasn’t shot one bullet towards the Jolan in 30 years and the Iraq army evaporated in minutes in 2003.  Even in Algeria, he points out, the army couldn’t beat the rebel militias in the 1990s.  It had to resort to three things: 1) penetrating the rebels 2) drafting local self-defense militias to do the fighting and 3) letting the militias self-destruct through internal fighting.   Or they help put down the Arab people- isn’t the Egyptian army participating in the blockade of Gaza?   According to Malak, the only people who are actually fighting in the interest of the people are the resistance groups such as Hamas or Hezbollah. 

 Commentary
There is a tendecy in the US counter-terrorism community to try and get inside the “enemy’s head” and ask “what does Al-Qaeda want?, usually by reading speeches of Bin Laden and Zawahiri.    Of course, this is absolutely a good thing.   But there is also a tendency to take it too far and forget how radical their views are in comparison to the rest of Arab societies.  When Bin Laden and Zawahiri rail on about  military regimes being inherently un-Islamic, yes, there are people who agree with that, but they are a minority.  Notice how the debate here is between Malakwhose criticism is based on the regimes alleged corruption/ and bad military performance, not inherent structure and Ahmed who has no problem with them.    Not once was the point raised that they are fundamentally un-Islamic.  In Egypt for example, the Military  (as an institution, not as something you’d want to serve in) has alot of respect and prestige.  To the extent people don’t like the government is because its seen as corrupt and not doing a good job.  If performance improved, very quickly so would the Government’s popularity.    Gamal Abdel Nasser was a military dictator and is the most popular Arab leader of the 20thcentury, both in and outside of Egypt. Why? Because he was seen as performing.   

The Banned-Not Banned Article

Last week Michele Dunne wrote a piece for the National Interest on the  political future of Egypt after President Mubarak entitled “A Post-Pharonic Egypt.”  Apparently, according to Egypt’s opposition Al-Dostor newspaper, the latest issue has been banned/blocked in Egypt because of the article.   So what does Al-Dostor do?  They go ahead and translate the article into Arabic and print in their newspaper.  I can’t find the exact link (here’s the website)  but its on page 4 of the print editition.  Not really sure why it would be blocked because you can probaly count the number of people on one hand in Egypt who would have read the print version of the magazine.

UDPATE: The article was not banned in Egypt.  Grandmasta misread the language- The Al-Dostor article said, using sarcastic language,  that the Security forces may find certain things said in the article  as an excuse/justification to block/prevents its physical distribution in Egypt.

The Iraq Corner – September 2, 2008

Iraq’s Ministry of Interior is feeling pretty confident.  The general manager of operations told A-sharq al-Awsat that intelligence information gathered during recent arrests of suicide bombers (most famously the Iraqi teenager Rania) will enable MOI to permanently disrupt the network of suicide bombers in Diyala province.  He notes that AQ has turned to exploiting women and children and accuses AQI members of marrying teenage girls to gain control over them and force them to execute suicide attacks. 

After tensions between the Iraqi Army and its Kurdish population last week, ASAA reports that things have settled down in the mixed town of Khaniqin.   The Kurds have reached a peaceful agreement with Baghdad, things have returned to normal, and ASAA quotes individuals from Khaniqin’s various ethnicities as saying, at the most, that they support the inclusion of Khaniqin in the region of Kurdistan, and, at the least, that they do not oppose the inclusion of Khaniqin in the region of Kurdistan.  So it seems as though the most potentially destabilizing move would be for Baghdad to declare that Khaniqin was NOT part of Kurdistan. 

But while the situation on the ground has temporarily cleared up, the strategic picture remains muddled.  Comments made to ASAA by both Kurdish and Baghdadi parties demonstrate that the Kurds and Baghdad still have to come to terms on several major issues, such as 1)the legal rights of the Peshmerga* (ie what parts of Iraq they can deploy to) 2)the oil law and revenue sharing and 3)the status of Mosul (is it in Kurdistan or not?).  Granted, these issues will require lots of time to hash out, but the fact that the Iraqi government is not setting a timetable to settle these issues is discouraging.

On September 1, U.S. forces handed over security responsibilities in Anbar Province to the Iraqis.  Al Hayat reports a tense environment there.  Although AQ poses less of a threat then it once did, tensions exist between the Awakening Councils and the central government.  The Sunni political parties resent the Awakening Councils because AC members have started to engage in politics as well as security operations, a development that threatens the Sunni political parties.  The rest of Baghdad worries about the Awakening Councils because they are armed groups which exist outside the structure of the Iraqi government.  Members of the central government oppose absorbing the ACs into the Iraqi Security Forces because a)doing so would dilute the influence of factions currently holding power and 2)elements of the ACs have ties to Saddam’s regime. 

Ultimately, the central government won’t be able to stabilize Anbar without accomodating the Awakening Councils.  It would be near impossible.  The sooner Baghdad realizes this, the better the prospects are for sustainable calm in Anbar province. 

Last, while receiving The People’s Republic of China’s new ambassador, vice president Tariq Hashemi praised China’s decision to write off Iraq’s debt and called for stronger relations between the two countries.  According to as-Sabaah, Iraq is looking to attract investement in exploring and developing oil fields.