Thursday, May 25, 2006

Suggested Reading on the Middle East


From the CSM, a report on extremism on the rise in Egyptian Bedouin tribes.

EL-ARISH, EGYPT - As Egypt's security forces complete their massive manhunt for suspects in three suicide bombings in the Sinai resort of Dahab last month, experts and residents say it's clear that this city and the sprawling desert and craggy mountains around North Sinai have become a new breeding ground for violent Islamic extremism in Egypt.

One issue with this statement: this is not "new". The bedouin of the Sinai have always been more conservative in their practices and religion than the rest of Egypt. In fact, the Sinai Bedouin have harbored members of the Muslim Brotherhood back before the Sadat assassination. They have smuggled weapons and people for the Palestinian terrorist groups. They've done a lot of things. The difference is, now their activities are directed back at the government of Egypt in full.

Not "NEW".

It is here in this vast and isolated region, traditionally known for smuggling, that extremists have planned high-profile attacks on nearby resorts, officials say.

But experts and residents agree that the reason behind growing Islamic extremism is not only Sinai's expanse and isolation. Also responsible are the desperate living conditions among many of North Sinai's residents, which have made young men angry enough to commit recent terrorist attacks, including three at tourist resorts and two against international peacekeepers since October 2004, killing about 120 people in all.

The Sinai Bedouin have always been nomadic and "desperate", but blaming terrorist actions on this condition is, as usual, the least likely; a "desparate" attempt to explain something people don't want to understand. At least this "desparation" has a solution: give them jobs and money. The Bedouin have been paid off before and they may be bribed again to limit their continued activity with "extremist terrorists". However, "desparate explanations" will not help resolve the real issues of "growing extremism".

The statement also said that Palestinians helped finance and train this group, the first time Egyptian authorities have so specifically linked Gaza militants to the Sinai bombings. El-Arish is just 30 miles from the Gaza border.

Interior Ministry officials say that most of the Dahab bombing suspects are Bedouins, formerly nomadic tribes with distinct tribal laws and traditions. Security forces have also suspected North Sinai's Bedouin and non-Bedouin residents in other Sinai attacks, including bombings at the Sinai resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh last summer, and Taba in 2004.

Residents and experts say that Egypt's new generation of Islamic militants is drawn mostly from 18- to 30-year-old men; some are educated, some not; many are unemployed. Living in and around El-Arish, North Sinai's capital, and the surrounding mountains, many become isolated from their families, shunning the community of "nonbelievers" or being disowned by them first.

Read the rest.

In the meantime, the secular and the MB may be coming together in Egypt to press for further reform on the part of the government. Sandmonkey is reporting the details. He reported yesterday that the air in Egypt seems very tense and it's not just about the bombings. One thing about authoritarian or totalitarian governments: they get most of their power because of the perception that they are strong and invincible. So, when a group comes along and bombs them several times and protesters are in the street, the government is shown to be less than invincible and this often leads to quick collapse. The Egyptian government may have been trying to avoid this total destruction by recent concessions to the MB in the last elections, but it's likely that was barely enough to purge the steam that has been gathering.

Sandmonkey also reports that our friends the bloggers are still under arrest though a few more have been released. He says over 600 protesters have been arrested in the past month. I bet most Americans don't have any idea how many protesters this number means have been on the streets of Egypt.

Finally, Sandmonkey says the Egyptian stockmarket is reacting very badly to the situation or may even be a foretelling of the collapse to come (maybe wishful thinking, but bad economy has been a major problem in Egypt for awhile).


While everyone has been busy watching Almond Head declare the destruction of Israel, write silly letters full of overblown religious rhetoric to the President of the US (like some cult leader that AJ is) and threaten the development of nuclear weapons, you've probably missed reports that riots are continuing against the government. Round up of the news on the Spirity of Man including images and reports from several groups on the situation.


Not in the habit of quoting Al Jazeera, but I was interested to see this article at the top of the "yahoo" list and that it is quoting Iraqi bloggers. Even Al Jazeera is figuring out that, with danger to their reporters by every force, some info from bloggers on the ground can give an interesting view of the populace and situation.

Speaking of operations against different groups, here is a report about a raid on the Ramadi "Prince of IEDs". Video is available on the right.

Coalition forces located and killed six terrorists, detained three, destroyed a safe house and multiple weapons caches during a Ramadi search May 17.

The troops were looking for the “Prince of IEDs,” a wanted terrorist.

They began taking fire immediately upon their arrival at the site where the al-Qaida leader and his associates were allegedly building improvised explosive devices.

The report talks about rescuing an 8 year old boy from the compound:

The troops also discovered an unharmed 8-year-old boy inside the safe house. The child told the Soldiers he was being held against his will by these terrorists who abused and made him conduct minor tasks. They took the boy to their base, provided him care, and then arranged for transportation for the boy’s return to his residence.

The days have been busy for our troops, rescuing young children from the depravity of the terrorists and criminals of Iraq. Here, Centcom reports the rescue of a two year old boy is at Centcom:

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Coalition forces saved a young boy from imminent danger during significant fighting that resulted in the deaths of over 25 terrorists May 14th in Yusifiyah. In one incident during the course of the hours-long operation, several terrorists abandoned a two-year-old boy in an attempt to save themselves.

Upon initiating the attack, the troops immediately killed two terrorists in response to hostile activity emanating from a suspected safe house and an associated vehicle.

Only trying to preserve their own lives, escaping terrorists literally threw a toddler inside a vehicle near a burning van filled with ammunition and anti-aircraft rockets (the safe house and vehicle were previously struck by Coalition forces to neutralize the threat). The troops made the choice to save the child in lieu of pursuing the terrorists, rescuing the boy just before the rockets exploded

Words, words, words. This is what happens when every death in a war zone is considered "bad" and the fault of the occupiers. The subtle imaging is brought forth in the title "Explosions Kill 3 in Baghdad".

Our immediate peripheral response? One more car bomb or IED or suicide bomber kills 3 more innocent civilians or police or troops or somebody who "should not be killed". Even the first parapgraph puts it out there and you don't get the real story until the next paragraph or further.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Gunmen wounded an Iraqi general Thursday in southeast Baghdad and a blast killed three people in the heart of the capital as President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair prepared for a meeting on Iraq strategy now that a new government is in place.

Now you know who you are supposed to blame. Although, the editor very likely thinks or pretends that he is simply trying to give you a round up of the latest news in the first paragraph (knowing also that, if anyone got past the title of the piece, that may be as far as they read). Deliberate or accidental placing still changes the entire gist of the report.

That's if you did more than glance past the title of the story. Something few will dane to do and yet they will consider themselves "informed" of the morning's news.
Had they read further, they would find out that the "3 killed" were indeed three terrorists vying for the Darwin awards:

The blast in central Baghdad occurred in a building on Tahrir Square, killing three and wounding 11, police Lt. Ali Mitaab said. Police suspect the building housed a bomb-making factory.

Of course, journalists see every death in war as a tragedy and hope you see it that way, too. We who enjoy a little schadenfreud over three terrorists blowing themselves up are barbarians.

I would also recommend Iraqi Bloggers Central for ongoing round up of Iraqi bloggers and the current situation. They currently have a series on why the Iraq Bloggers are "blue" over their prospects and a very interesting look at the two Iraqi views of sectarianism in Iraq.


Two reports about an al Qaeda "leader" arrested by Jordan and whose confession has been broadcast on Jordanian TV.

I put "leader" in quotation marks because this fellow is simply a low level cell leader, not a "lieutenant" or anwhere close to the top of the chain of command. He is, in fact, a sub-contractor of sorts.

The man who identified himself as Iraqi national Ziad Khalaf al-Karbuli said during the 15-minute tape that he shot to death Khalid Dassuki "with my personal revolver" in September inside Iraq.

"I fired two shots at his head," Karbuli said.

He also claimed responsibility for the abduction of the two Moroccans in October and said they were later handed over to the Al-Qaeda group in Iraq run by Jordanian-born Islamist fugitive Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

This makes him a member of the criminal "psuedo-militant" groups that operate along the borders smuggling, kidnapping and generally causing havoc for whatever money it can get and from whomever is willing to pay, not an "Al Qaeda leader". This is the difficulty with even those who are close on the ground working through the situation. What is "criminal" activity, what is "terrorist" activity. Of course, criminal activity that workds with or in tandem of terrorist activity could be considered "terrorism" by proxy or conspiring with, but I would still hesitate to call these guys "al qaeda".

One thought, though: since these groups work together and need each other to exist, infiltrating the criminal gangs with undercover officers or informants is one way to work up and through the chain to the actual terrorist organizations.

Saudi Arabia

Free Muslims Against Terrorism sends along this commentary from Kamal Nawash, the leading founder of the organization, about the role of Saudi Arabia in American Mosques.

Since it was discovered that 15 out of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudis, every aspect of Saudi Arabia has come under scrutiny by members of the U.S. government, advocacy organizations and members of the media. Ironically, the increased scrutiny of Saudi Arabia has not brought America any closer to understanding Saudi Arabia.

The confusion about Saudi Arabia is in part due to the credibility of the parties who have made irreconcilable conclusions about whether Saudi Arabia is an ally in the war on terror. On one hand, President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz have argued that Saudi Arabia is a strong ally in the war on terror and a great friend to the United States. On the other hand, certain members of congress, various think tanks and other non-profit organizations have argued passionately that Saudi Arabia is no friend of the United States and a major supporter of extremist ideologies and groups.

Most recently a Washington Post article written by Nina Shea of the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House revealed language from Saudi text books that encourage an ideology of hatred towards Christians, Jews and Muslims who don’t follow the Saudi version of Islam (Wahabism). Nina Shea argued that the disturbing material found in Select Saudi text books “are shaping the views of the next generation of Saudis and Muslims world wide. Unchanged, they will only harden and deepen hatred, intolerance and violence toward other faiths ad cultures.”

So is the Saudi Arabian government a friend of the United States or does Saudi Arabia propagate hate and intolerance among American Muslims and Muslims world wide? The answer to both of these questions is yes.

Please read the rest because he makes some great suggestions:

In the mean time, neither the United States nor any other country has to wait on Saudi Arabia to figure out how to reform 30 years of shortsighted policies. The Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism makes the following recommendations to protect the United States and American Muslims from the propagation of intolerant material from radical elements in Saudi Arabia:

1. THAT U.S government officials reach an unofficial secret agreement with the Saudi government so that neither the Saudi government nor individual Saudis may build Islamic schools or mosques in the United States.
2. THAT the Saudi government immediately stop the distributing of religious books to American Muslims and American Muslim institutions.
3. THAT The Saudi government terminate the payment of salaries for Imams and other religious figures in the United States.
4. THAT the Saudi government prevent Saudi charities and religious organizations from sending books, building mosques, schools or paying the salaries of Imams in the United States or otherwise operate in the United States.
5. THAT the United States impress upon other nations to implement the steps mentioned above.

In conclusion, the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism believes that the building of mosques, Islamic schools and production of religious books must be financed exclusively by American Muslims. By funding their own religious institutions, American Muslims can better protect themselves from the influences of radical groups from abroad.

In reality, out of all these suggestions, the last one regarding American Muslims financing their own institutions and materials is probably the most viable in terms of legal moves (I'm not sure the US government can legally stop religious funding even from outside nations), but the least likely in terms acceptance from the Muslim community in the US.

The religious policeman reports on new "welfare reforms" that are being put forth by King Abdullah; the religious police raid a snuff factory (and no one knows if it is actually prohibited by religious law but is sounds good, not to mention RP suspects some higher up wants to take over the illegal racket).

Cross Roads Arabia reports on what he sees as a postive move in the Saudi judicial system. The only problem I see, while the movement of family violence into "secular" courts is an exceleent move, the real eye opener is the movement of "security courts" under "security courts" which means the direct guidance of the Saudi Rulers. This can be good or bad. For instance, one of the biggest issues with these security courts that are under the "sharia law" system is that they routinely pardon hardened "criminals" and terrorists for "converting" or "re-affirming" their religious beliefs and disavowing their previous behavior. This has led to the release of any number of terrorists who, holding somewhat to their vows, have left Saudi (and a few other nations) to come to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir or any other place where there is fundamentalist struggling against anyone else. There they can do what they want to their hearts content and never be considered breaking the terms of their parole.

I imagine that the Sauds are going to attempt to make this "religious parole" a little harder to obtain. On the otherhand, look out opponents of the regime, secular or otherwise, because you will now be subject to even worse possibilities of eternal imprisonment or execution.

Cross Roads reports that the government is reigning in the religious police [muttawah], or at least making a good appearance of it. This could be window dressing or at least a little warning to the right wing conservative branch of the Saudi government to back off a little (there is always a power struggle between the much more secular Sauds and the more conservative Wahab tribes in government).

I really recommend keeping tabs on John's site, Cross Roads Arabia, if you want good info on the internal workings of Saudi Arabia.

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