Arab League

Murder in Paris, revolution in Egypt

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By Herbert London, contributor

The former headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo w...
The former headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo weekly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The blood on the streets of Paris caused by Islamist gunmen is shocking and disturbing, but not surprising. Jihadists engaged in several prior attempts to shut down the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, a newspaper that lampoons Islam, among others. In fact, Charlie Hebdo was an equal opportunity satirist.

Most significant is the fact that this murderous act is consistent with Islamic law and the tenets of sharia, notwithstanding public commentary that denies this reality. What Charlie Hebdo printed, which led to the bloodshed, is the savage truth.

Curiously, the week before this incident, the president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, speaking before Al-Azhar University officials on the occasion of the prophet Mohammed’s upcoming birthday, offered a renewed vision of Islam, one that he insisted is necessary for Islam to coexist with the West and different traditions. In a sense, his words take on a certain poignancy because of the violence perpetrated against the Paris paper. Read the rest of this entry »

Syria – to break the downward spiral

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syria (Photo credit: themua)
March 7th, 2012

It is necessary to consider what role NGOs might now play in Syria– particularly to support the mediation efforts of former UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan – in order to break what seems to be a continual downward spiral, with real dangers of civil war.

By Rene Wadlow

Mid-March 2011 in Syria, nonviolent protests and demands for limited reforms began and then were increasingly met by government violence.  Discussions on what the United Nations could do to help the Syrian people and to speed up necessary reforms started quickly in both New York and Geneva. The appointment of the former UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, as a joint UN-League of Arab States moderator at the end of February 2012 is the most recent efforts as we mark this one-year anniversary.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also been concerned, some acting directly – such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – others as members of the Observer Mission of the League of Arab States. Other NGOs, both Syrian, such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and international have provided information and have proposed mediation.

It is worth while to analyse these efforts, to outline some of the strengths and weaknesses and to consider what role NGOs might play now to break what seems to be a continual downward spiral with real dangers of civil war, as fighting with heavy weapons continues and flows of arms from outside Syria to the opposition seems to be growing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Iran Daily Brief February 20, 2012 – Full Report

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English: Balance of trade, Iran (2000-2007). H...

International Affairs

Ahmadinejad in Islamabad for a trilateral Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran summit – The three leaders stressed the need for economic cooperation and completion of all projects, especially gas pipelines, one to import gas from Iran and the second from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan and will be extended to India.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman: Military intervention in Syria will be “very dangerous” – Ramin Mehmanparast said that a military intervention in Syria will be “very dangerous” to regional security and stability. He added that the legitimate demands of the Syrian people should be met, and reforms should be made in Syria. He added that Bashar al-Assad’s government has so far implemented considerable reforms. Hossein Amir Abdollahian, Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs, praised the Syrian government for planning a referendum on Syria’s new constitution, and urged the Arab League, Europe and the UN to support the Syrian government’s bid. He also called on the Arab League to fulfill its duty to prevent any foreign interference in Syria.

Intelligence Minister: There is an ongoing all-out war against the Islamic Republic IranHeidar Moslehi stated that “Based on accurate information, Iran is currently in a ‘heavy soft war’ situation.” He added that the enemy has hatched different plots in almost all fields and that the Ministry of Intelligence has so far countered enemies’ countless plots. Moslehi noted that the plots have caused many threats, but have also created opportunities. He stressed the importance of crafting new strategies to face the new threats that have changed in nature etched against Iran.

Strong criticism of the Iranian chargé d’affaires in Egypt and Iranian policy towards Egypt in general – An editorial in Asr Iran directed sharp criticism at the positions taken by Mojtaba Amani on the chargé d’affaires of Iran on Egypt. Under the headline, “Are you protecting the interests of Iran or Egypt?!” Asr Iran comments on an interview Amani gave to Al-Ahram in which he expressed Iran’s immediate willingness to strengthen diplomatic ties with Egypt and provide urgent economic assistance to the Egyptian people as they face pressure and threats from the US. He also noted that Iranians are eager to visit Egypt. This is not the first time that senior Iranian officials express such positions towards Egypt. He remarked that Iranians have not forgotten that President Ahmadinejad announced at a press conference in 2008, “I declare emphatically that if the Egyptian government expresses readiness, by the end of the day I will open an Iranian Embassy in Egypt.” Egyptian officials at the time received his words with apathy and disregard, in Iran with surprise and shock. After the Egyptian revolutionaries won, they received a similar message from Iran, and they continued to ignore them, claiming that now is the time for a transitional government, and these matters should wait until later.

Now representatives from Iran’s Interest Section in Egypt are making statements, saying that the Iranian people are even willing to pay for renewing diplomatic ties with Egypt. They also promised that if the US stops financial aid to Egypt, Iran is ready to immediately provide alternative assistance to Egypt. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Questions and Answers: What the U.S. Should Do About Syria

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Morgan Roach February 16, 2012 at 4:08 pm

 

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An armed Free Syrian Army rebel stands inside a house in the north Syrian city of Binnish on February 15, 2012.

As the violent government crackdown continues in Syria, the United States is faced with a series of questions about what role it should play in the international response. Here are ten questions and answers about the road forward:

Does the U.S. have an interest in the Syrian uprising?

The Assad regime has supported numerous Palestinian, Lebanese, Iraqi, and Kurdish terrorist groups in attacks on Americans and U.S. allies. Furthermore, it has subverted Lebanon’s independence, assassinated its leaders, and blocked Arab peace efforts with Israel, and it remains both a state sponsor of terrorism and Iran’s most important ally. The United States has a strong interest in reducing terrorist threats to Americans and U.S. allies, containing Iran, and shoring up regional stability.

Should the U.S. participate in U.N. peacekeeping?

Earlier this week, the Arab League issued a vague proposal for a joint Arab League/United Nations peacekeeping force to be deployed to Syria. However, there is little peace to keep. As long as the Assad regime and the myriad of opposition groups that it has spawned are locked in a power struggle, no outside force is likely to bring peace. Rather, any outside peacekeeping force would become embroiled in the conflict as a combatant and thereby increase the suffering of the Syrian people.

Read the rest of this entry »

Syria violence spreads to Aleppo as bomb blasts kill 28

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English: President Bashar al-Assad, Aleppo, Ab...
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Further 175 hurt in security compound blasts but opposition blames attacks on security forces aiming to disrupt protests

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor guardian.co.uk, Friday 10 February 2012 17.07 GMT Article history

One of two bomb blasts sites in Syria‘s northern city of Aleppo. Photograph: Sana/Reuters

Violence spread to Syria‘s largest city, Aleppo, on Friday with two blasts outside security compounds that left 28 people dead.

The explosions outside military intelligence and police compounds were blamed on terrorists by the state media. Some 175 people were injured, the worst day Aleppo has seen since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began last year. The northern city and economic hub has been largely quiet, but protests had been planned for Friday. Anti-Assad activists accused the regime of setting off the blasts to discredit the opposition and disrupt demonstrations.

In Homs, government forces continued their siege of rebel-held districts and other opposition areas, going house to house arresting people in the Insha’at district and keeping up an artillery and tank barrage on Baba Amr.

The intensified campaign began with the failure of the UN security council to agree on a common position last weekend, when Russia and China vetoed a resolution backing an Arab League peace plan and calling on Assad to step down. Moscow and Beijing stuck to their positions on Friday, dashing any residual hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough in the security council. Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabkov, accused the west of arming the rebel Free Syrian Army. Read the rest of this entry »

Talks explore prospects for al-Assad exile

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Assad Pictures (Photo credit: upyernoz)”]Assad Pictures[gallery]

03/02/2012– Source
By Caroline Akoum and Sawsan Abo-Husain
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Following news reports that the US, European and
Arab states have begun discussing the possibility of exile for Bashar al-Assad, Syrian National Council [SNC] Executive Committee member, Ahmed
Ramadan, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that such talks are nothing new, but that
the timing of these talks now – with large parts of the country outside of
al-Assad regime control – will ensure they have a greater impact upon the
Syrian regime and Bashar al-Assad personally.Ramadan told Asharq Al-Awsat that “during the first months of the
revolution, there were at least two countries – one Arab country and one
European country– in talks with al-Assad, and they put forward the idea of
him handing over power and leaving the country. This proposal was previously
discussed by the military leadership affiliated to the regime, most
importantly Maher al-Assad and Assef Shawkat, who opposed this proposal.”
Ramadan added that it is therefore not surprising that similar proposals
should be put forward to the Syrian regime today, particularly as al-Assad
is seeing his forces retreat day after day.
The SNC Executive Committee member also revealed that the SNC has received

Read the rest of this entry »

Activists report ‘terrifying massacre’ in Syria

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It’s racial cleansing … They are killing people because of their sect,’ one resident of Homs claims

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Str  /  AP

Syrian army defectors celebrate after they joined anti-government protesters in Khalidiya, Homs province, on Thursday.

msnbc.com staff and news service reports — updated 15 minutes ago

BEIRUTUpdated at 3:15 a.m. ET: Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, describes the killings of at least 35 people in the city of Homs as a “terrifying massacre.”

Videos posted online from activists showed the bodies of children wrapped in plastic bags lined up next to each other. Another video shows women and children with bloodied faces and clothes and in a house, with the narrator saying an entire family with its children had been “slaughtered.”

The videos could not be independently verified.

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Factbox: Syria’s city of Hama, site of new assault

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Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...
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Fri, 30 Dec, 2011

(Reuters) – Arab League monitors head to more cities in Syria on Thursday, including Hama which has a particular resonance to Syrians opposed to President Bashar al Assad‘s rule.

Here are some details about the city, the site of a bloody massacre in 1982:

* 1982:

— In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood sought to destabilize and unseat President Hafez al-Assad and his government through political assassinations and urban guerilla warfare. In February 1982, the Muslim Brotherhood ambushed government forces searching for dissidents in Hama.

— Syrian government forces attacked the city, razing the old quarters of Hama to crush the armed uprising by Brotherhood fighters who had taken refuge there.

— Estimates of the death toll in the three weeks of operations in Hama vary from 10,000 to more than 30,000 out of a population of 350,000. Syria then imprisoned much of the membership of the local Islamist group.

— Syrian human rights groups said women, children and the elderly were among those killed in the crackdown and thousands were forced to flee the city.

* 2011:

— Nearly 30 years on Hama demonstrators demanding Assad’s overthrow still revile the memory of his father, who died in 2000 after ruling Syria for three decades.

— In June, activists said Syrian forces killed at least 60 protesters in the city. Residents said security forces and snipers had fired on crowds of demonstrators. Read the rest of this entry »

The World’s Worst Human Rights Observer

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As Arab League monitors work to expose President Bashar al-Assad‘s crackdown, the head of the mission is a Sudanese general accused of creating the fearsome “janjaweed,” which was responsible for the worst atrocities during the Darfur genocide.

BY DAVID KENNER DECEMBER 27, 2011

For the first time in Syria’s nine-month-old uprising, there are witnesses to President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown, which according to the United Nations has claimed more than 5,000 lives. Arab League observers arrived in the country on Dec. 26, and traveled to the city of Homs — the epicenter of the revolt, where the daily death toll regularly runs into the dozens, according to activist groups — on Dec. 27. Thousands of people took to the streets to protest against Assad upon the observers’ arrival, while activists said Syrian tanks withdrew from the streets only hours before the Arab League team entered the city.

“I am going to Homs,” insisted Sudanese Gen. Mohammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, the head of the Arab League observer mission, telling reporters that so far the Assad regime had been “very cooperative.”

But Dabi may be the unlikeliest leader of a humanitarian mission the world has ever seen. He is a staunch loyalist of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity for his government’s policies in Darfur. And Dabi’s own record in the restive Sudanese region, where he stands accused of presiding over the creation of the feared Arab militias known as the “janjaweed,” is enough to make any human rights activist blanch.

Dabi’s involvement in Darfur began in 1999, four years before the region would explode in the violence that Secretary of State Colin Powell labeled as “genocide.” Darfur was descending into war between the Arab and Masalit communities — the same fault line that would widen into a bloodier interethnic war in a few years’ time. As the situation escalated out of control, Bashir sent Dabi to Darfur to restore order.

According to Julie Flint and Alex De Waal’s Darfur: A New History of a Long War, Dabi arrived in Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, on Feb. 9, 1999, with two helicopter gunships and 120 soldiers. He would stay until the end of June. During this time, he would make an enemy of the Masalit governor of West Sudan. Flint and De Waal write:

Governor Ibrahim Yahya describes the period as ‘the beginning of the organization of the Janjawiid‘, with [Arab] militia leaders like Hamid Dawai and Shineibat receiving money from the government for the first time. ‘The army would search and disarm villages, and two days later the Janjawiid would go in.They would attack and loot from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., only ten minutes away from the army. By this process all of Dar Masalit was burned.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Spotlight on Iran

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Highlights of the week

  • Iran’s NPT withdrawal threats resume following IAEA report
  • Debate on Syrian regime’s future resumes as Syria is suspended from Arab League
  • Iran denies any link between explosion on Revolutionary Guards base and military build-up program
  • More and more Iranians watch foreign satellite broadcasts despite authorities’ fight against satellite dishes
  • President expands his supporters’ online activity, launches new social network for young people

Highlights of the week

Iran’s NPT withdrawal threats resume following IAEA report

Iran once again threatens to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) following the release of the IAEA secretary-general’s report on the Iranian nuclear program last week.

Majles Speaker Ali Larijani said this week that the Majles intends to reexamine Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA since it’s now clear that cooperation, or lack thereof, has no influence on the “unprofessional decisions” of the agency. In addition, Kazem Jalali, spokesman for the Majles National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, reported that the committee began discussing Iran’s further cooperation with the IAEA. He said that committee members doubt whether there is any point in continuing to cooperate with the agency, which doesn’t help Iran achieve its right for nuclear technology. He did clarify, however, that at this point, the discussion is not indicative of a demand to withdraw from the NPT.

Meanwhile, student organizations in Iran called on Majles Speaker Ali Larijani to pass a bill stipulating that Iran has to withdraw from the NPT in protest of the IAEA secretary-general’s report.

While some called for considering the possibility of withdrawing from the NPT, different views were published by the Fararu website. An editorial titled “What should be done with this agency?” argued that withdrawing from the NPT is unreasonable and even dangerous, since it could serve the interests of Iran’s enemies and help them justify their claim that Iran is working to achieve nuclear weapons. Iran needs to gain an understanding of how committed IAEA leaders are to fulfill their responsibility towards it as member of the organization, and even suspend cooperation with the IAEA, but no good will come to Iran as a result of withdrawing from the NPT.

International affairs expert Hassan Beheshti-Pour also argued that it makes no sense for Iran to withdraw from the NPT after years of claiming that it is not interested in nuclear weapons. He noted that Iran should warn the IAEA about the impact of the report on Iran’s willingness to continue cooperating with the agency, but not withdraw from the NPT, which could give the West a new excuse to act against Iran.

In the past, there have been similar calls to withdraw from the NPT in response to mounting pressure and escalating sanctions against Iran.

 Debate on Syrian regime’s future resumes as Syria is suspended from Arab League

The Arab League’s decision to suspend Syria’s membership in the organization has reignited the debate in Iran over developments in that country and the future of the Syrian regime. While the official stance of Iran, which supports the Syrian regime, hasn’t changed so far, a growing number of voices in the Iranian media are stressing the gravity of the internal situation in Syria and casting doubts over the ability of the Syrian regime to successfully negotiate the crisis.

In response to the Arab League’s decision, earlier this week members of the Majles National Security and Foreign Policy Committee released a statement supporting Syria as the main axis of resistance in the region. Speaking at his weekly press conference, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that the decision made by the Arab League does not help resolve the crisis in Syria, and that President Assad should be allowed to implement the reforms in his country without foreign intervention in Syria’s internal affairs.

Some conservative media also continued to express support for President Assad’s regime. The daily Qods strongly criticized the Arab League’s decision, claiming it was dictated by the West and contradicted the league’s charter, which stipulates that it has no right to intervene in the internal affairs of its members. The Arab League’s decision proves, according to the daily, that it has a two-faced approach to developments in the Arab world. While it ignores the suppression of human rights and killing of civilians in Bahrain and Yemen, it is setting the stage for the escalation of international pressure on Syria. The daily warned that the league’s current policy can result in the withdrawal of several Arab countries from the organization and even to its disbandment.

The daily Tehran Emrouz also criticized the Arab League’s decision, accusing it of serving the interests of the United States and Israel and weakening the most powerful Islamic front faced by Israel and compromising the interests of the Islamic world. Read the rest of this entry »