More on Sayyid Imam…….

A loyal reader sent in this long piece from  The_NATIONAL which  takes a long look at the new book and concludes that its not going to have any signifigant effect on Al-Qaeda.  Read the article to find out why. 

Another reader sent in a tip that the latest epdisode of Al-Arabiya’s “The Death Industry” featured Imam’s new book and comes to the same conclusions or goes even further.  Interviewed were Egypt’s Montaser Al-Zayat and  Jordan’s Mohamed Abu Rumman and both agreed that the book was not going to have any effects on Al-Qaeda.  In fact, Sayyid Imam’s jail-house slander of Zawahiri may make the Al-Qaeda #2 look like the victim of some kind of government-sponsored character assassination in the eyes of jihadists around the region and actually improve his image.  

 I haven’t seen the Al-Arabiya program and the transcript is not yet posted on the site but apparently there is a rerun on Tuesday.

On the Iraq Security Treaty…

From Angry Arab.  If this is  true then……

I read the text of American eternal occupation treaty with Iraq: I compared the English and Arabic texts. The translation in Arabic is accurate but it is abundantly clear that this was written in English and then translated into Arabic, not vice versa. But the language is ambiguous and vague enough (especially in reference to those American civilians attached to the mission), to allow a whole army or elephant to pass through.

…. it raises some interesting questions.

Implications of Mumbai

A week or so ago I posted an article  on Bruce Reidel, Obama’s top adviser on Pakistan.  One of his central ideas is: 

But in doing so, Mr Riedel does not emphasise the need to restoring the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir. Instead, he advocates finding a solution that satisfies India and ends Pakistan’s excuse for lingering the dispute.

A major part of Mr Riedel’s theory for ending conflicts in South Asia deals with persuading Pakistan to accept India’s influence in the region and stop its efforts to counter India by promoting its own interests in places like Afghanistan.

By persuading India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute, Mr Riedel also hopes to refocus the Pakistani military on fighting militants within its border, a point Mr Obama also stressed in his interview to CNN last week. But this over-emphasis on the military option is already worrying experts on the Afghan conflict.

I can’t help but think that the Mumbai attack is going to have major negative implications on India-Pakistan relations and make such ideas very difficult to achieve, at least in the short-term.

Stop the Press……

Ibn Yacoub Al-Amriki is moving his headquarters from Blogspot to WordPress.  Check out his new site here.

On Vacation

Rob is on vacation.   Full blogging will resume next Monday.

Why did the Piracy Start?

One big story in the media lately is Piracy in Somalia which in the big picture is a small problem and can be solved easily- send a few powerful ships to track them down.  A more interesting question is why did it start in the first place?  Semi-Expert brings up a good point:

After US withdrawal, things pretty much reverted to the state they had been before the US came. Then a group calling itself the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) began to assert its authority. Effectively the only law in Somalia since the mid nineties, the group began as loosely affiliated local Islamic courts. The courts soon began also to provide social services (here we go again), and eventually coalesced into a government, which managed to impose peace on most of the country. For a while, a certain prosperity began to emerge as well. But the United States, having developed an allergy to anything calling itself Islamic, set up anti-terrorism special-forces bases in Djibouti (on Somalia’s norther border and home to large Somali populations), and – all very secretive mind you – began providing support to the rival (and unpopular) claimants to the government, and funding Ethiopia, which lies to the west (some of whose regions are also home to significant Somali populations), which invaded and remains in occupation.

The ICU were ousted in 2006 and their more radical factions called the shabab ‘youths’ have as a direct result gained legitimacy while the more moderate faction has been forced into retreat. Since then, lawlessness has broken out of an even more severe nature than had heretofore reigned, including piracy on the high seas. Piracy! The ICU had put an end to all kinds of banditry, on the principle that thievery of any sort is un-Islamic.

This is one of the best explanations I’ve seen for WHY this recent piracy crisis has broken out.  What’s more important in Somalia: Order or having your ideological allies in power?   For the US and, probably we could say any country that has any interests in the region, order should be the top priority.

The Seven Villages

Most of us following Middle East news or Lebanon news know a few things about Hezbollah: it emerged in the early 1980’s during the heyday of the Lebanese civil war; its external allies are Iran and Syria; it is likely the strongest and best-trained armed group in Lebanon right now, on par or surpassing the Lebanese army itself; and because of this, it claims to be Lebanon’s stalwart and necessary defender against Israeli aggressions. Many of us are also aware that Hezbollah has established several conditions in order for it to voluntarily disarm its military wing.   Briefly, until 2000, the main condition for its military existence was the occupation of southern Lebanon by Israel.   Following Israel’s redeployment outside of southern Lebanon, Hezbollah emphasized the fact that it had to maintain its military character as the Shebaa Farms, a fertile parcel of land of about 22 km² (8 sq mi) remained occupied by Israel.  (For the sake of a more complete picture, I should also add that Hezbollah cites the regular violations of Lebanon’s airspace by Israeli fighter jets as  another reason for it to keep its arms). 

In the past few months, Hezbollah officials have begun citing if not an entirely new demand, then certainly a less frequently-branded one.  I’m talking about the territorial claim over “The Seven Villages”.  Heard about it? I hadn’t.  It seems that there are seven villages and twenty farms lying just within Israel’s northern border, and which Lebanon has historically claimed as Lebanese, albeit with much less fanfare than its other grievances against Israel.   Nicholas Blanford, a Beirut-based journalist and author of a book on the Hariri assassination that I haven’t quite finished_reading_yet , has a 17-page  study posted on the Now Lebanon website in which he explains the “Seven Villages” demand.

The study is quite an intriguing historical review of the events, negotiations, communications and most crucially, cartography, done by the British and French in the early 1920’s, along with a description of the Zionists’ involvement in these interactions. I highly recommend reading Blanford’s paper, but for those who are eager for the punch line of the story, Blanford concludes that the Seven Villages should have been included in the Lebanese state created by the French.  However, he predicts that raising this issue of re-drawing the borders of northern Israel/southern Lebanon might open the door for Israel to make demands of its own regarding territory it thinks should be part of Israel.   Although Blanford does not expressly say it, his implicit suggestion here seems to be that Lebanon should drop any claims it might have on the Seven Villages because this would complicate any peace talks with Israel.  He specifies that because Lebanon’s past behaviour suggests that it has tacitly accepted its present borders, Israel is unlikely to concede the concerned territories. 

I might be incorrect in interpreting Blanford’s last paragraphs as I have, however, I cannot help but think of two of the most elementary rules of any negotiation:  1)  if you don’t ask for something, you’re no likely to get it; and 2) always ask for more than what you think you will or can get.  In this vein, although I recognize that the idea of incorporating the Seven Villages into Lebanon is quite illusory,  I would never recommend that a party relinquish some of its demands before negotiations even begin simply because it might complicate the bargaining, or because the other party might retaliate with its own demands.  Why not keep the Seven Villages on the list of items to be negotiated with Israel, and use them as bargaining chips for obtaining something that might be more of a priority to Lebanon, like the Shebaa Farms?   For the time being though, it’s safest to say that the Seven Villages are just an added element to what Blanford aptly calls the “psychological warfare” between Hezbollah and Israel.