Posts to Check Out

1)  History of Jihadi Forums
I’ve always been skeptical about the significance of Jihadi internet forums,  perhaps due to my experience using the Net in the Middle East.   Like spending ten minutes waiting for my AOL account to load at one of those Internet Cafes in Cairo that brags about their “High-Speed Internet”  and then having to spend another ten minutes arguing that “No, I haven’t been here for half an hour when its 8:30 and I clearly entered at 8:20.”  Things like that.  It can’t be any easier for Jihadis right?  However,  I have to admit I haven’t spent alot of time researching the issue in depth, so that’s why I recomend  History_of_the_Jihadi_Forums by Thomas Hegghammer at Jihadica who takes a look at some new research on the topic. 

For readers looking for good blogs,  take note:  I’ve always considered Jihadica MUST-READ even if I disagreed with the previous_owner over the significance of Dr Fadl’s Revisions.   Its MUST-READ because everyone who posts there are doing all of their research in the local language (Arabic) and that in my mind is essential when it comes to anything related to Islam. 

2) A Child Prodigy? 
My friend  Adrian Martin has just published his first_book.  It’s a chapter in a book called Threats_in_the_Age of Obama which looks at how rational people become involved in terrorism and gang violence.   Check out the book and for those who can’t get enough of the author’s wisdom, here’s a  couple of dope posts he has written at MediaShack such as  CT in the South_Sahara and another which looks at whether deterrence can work with Al-Qaeda.  Big ups to my main man Adrian.

3) Shakeup  in Egyptian Media?
The Arabist has a good post on a coming shake-up in Egyptian media.  Mr Egypt told me this story a few weeks ago and had promised a post…..dude what happened to that?  I don’t want to say anything else because I’m not sure how much I am allowed to say.  I’ll say this:  it wouldn’t surprise me if some big names in Egypt switch writing homes in the near future.

More on the Egypt bombings….

Al-Ahram’s Khalil Anani has a good piece at Daily News Egypt on the recent bomb attack in Cairo.   For those who aren’t intricately familiar with Egyptian intelligensia, take note of the source:  Khalil is a respected scholar of political Islam, author of a good book on the Muslim Brotherhood, and from his perch on the 11th floor of  Cairo’s prestigous Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, he hears whatever inside scoops there are to be heard.  What  he says here generally “fits the puzzle”  as I see it:

It seems we are witnessing a new type of terrorism that can best be described as “random individual terrorism.” It is a pattern indicating the absence of a large organization taking responsibility for these operations.

Instead, small extremist cells made up of four or five members sharing a violent ideology and seeking to implement it on the ground could be behind the attacks, making it very difficult for security bodies to track them down.

But the question is: who is behind the Al-Hussein bombing? There can be several explanations: First there has been a large increase in Salafist discourse in Egyptian society over the past three years. I have repeatedly warned of the possibility of a change of thoughtamong the Egyptian Salafist trend, which opts for violence.

It is true that the Salafist movement is not interested in politics, but at a certain point, some of its members may show a desire to express their ideas in a violent way, as was the case in Taba, Dahab and Sharm El-Sheikh which were the target of terrorist bombings between 2004 and 2006. Small fundamentalist groups claimed responsibility for them.

Second, regional tensions, especially after the war on Gaza, and the political ascendancy of the conservative Israeli right, as well as deep Arab division, fan feelings of violence and the radical ideology of some small religious groups who seek revenge on behalf of the Palestinians.

Third, some new jihadists are bent on embarrassing and retaliating against the Egyptian regime as punishment for its regional policies especially during the war on Gaza. Targeting tourism, which is a major source of national income, could be part of this vengeance.

Finally, the bombings may be in response to international attitudes in favor of Israel, and thus increasing the anger of many categories within the Egyptian society, especially the marginalized and the underprivileged.

Blast in Cairo

From Daily News Egypt:

CAIRO: Seventeen people were wounded, including 11 French tourists, three Germans and three Egyptians when a bomb went off in the tourist district of Al Hussein, near the popular Khan Al Khalili market in the heart of Cairo at around 7 pm.

A conflicting report by Reuters, however, claims that four people had died, two of them tourists, but their nationality has not been disclosed. The report said that eleven people were also wounded, six seriously.

The Daily News Egypt correspondent present at the scene shortly after, said that at around 8:10 pm another explosion was heard, but that it did not incur any casualties.

No smoke was visible.

By then at least 1000 riot policemen had filled the area, which was sealed off completely.

Read CNN here and BBC here

I know nothing except what I read at DNE but here’s my preliminary thoughts:  This is consistent with the kind of random violence that commentators have been predicting for a while now and is not likely connected to any organized groups.   The militant Jihadi groups of the 1980s and 1990s have been broken up by the state and, for the most part,  made their own decisions to give up violence.  The other group that comes to mind is Al-Qaeda but they are not thought to have a presence in Egypt.  However, this does not mean violence has disappeared.  Given the horrible socio-economic conditions in Egypt, there are enough reasons why Egyptians would be so pissed off at the world that they resort to violence.   But its random acts, commited by individuals with no connections to organized militant groups (because they don’t exist anymore in Egypt).  Both Ibrahim Eissa and Hussam Tamem have been saying for a while now and based solely on the information that’s available, I think this is what is happening here.  We should probably not read too much into this incident; Unless a pattern starts emerging, its probably not significant. 

Of course, if there are any new developments, expect to read about them here at MediaShack.

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.