Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110503

Financial Crisis
»Jordan Calls for EU Financial Assistance
»Backgrounder on Operation Geronimo
»Bin Laden: Turning Point for Obama’s Presidency
»Maine Mosque Vandalized Following Bin Laden Death
»Mosque Leaders Speak About Bin Laden’s Death
»NY Imam: Bin Laden Death Paves Way for Healing
»Portland Muslim Event Canceled for Threats
Europe and the EU
»Denmark: Free Speech Advocate Guilty of Racism
»Meanwhile: Back in Copenhagen …
»The Amanda Knox Factor: U.S. Students Shy Away From Study Abroad in Italy After Perugia Murder Case
»UK Arrests 5 in Terror Alert Near Nuclear Site
North Africa
»Al Azhar: Killing Bin Laden Will Not Stop Terrorism
»Bin Laden: Young Tunisian Revolutionaries Divided
»Egypt Shakes Up Middle Eastern Order
»Lega-PDL Motion on Libya Wants Deadline, No Tax Hikes
»Libya: Rebels Want 3 Billion Dollar Loan
»The Triumph of Sectarianism in Upper Egypt
»‘We’ll Try to Set an End to Libya Operations’ Says Frattini
Middle East
»“Bin Laden Killing Draws Mixed ‘Reactions’ From Kuwaiti MPs Big Blow to Al-Qaeda: Dr Ghabra
»Bin Laden: Al Qaeda Leaders on the Rise, Haaretz
»UAE: Uprisings: Government Breaks Up Teachers Association
South Asia
»Courier Who Led U.S. To Osama Bin Laden’s Hideout Identified
»The Osama Bin Laden I Knew
»Denmark Debates the Cost of Immigrants
»Greece: Anti-Immigrant Protest in Igoumenitsa

Financial Crisis

Jordan Calls for EU Financial Assistance

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MAY 3 — Aid dependent Jordan has urged the EU to increase its financial assistance to meet economic challenges following regional uprisings that threaten the kingdom’s economy.

The poor kingdom, which heavily relies on foreign aid to keep its anaemic economy alive, has been faced with unprecedented deficit in the state budget over the past year and an ever increasing oil prices.

State revenues also took a nose dive as tourism suffers from the impact of regional turmoil, let alone recent decision by Egypt to increase gas prices exported to the kingdom. Minister of planning and international cooperation Jafar Abu Hassan made the plea during a meeting with visiting EC senior official Stevan Folley who held talks with Jordanian officials over possible improved relations.

Abu Hassan has urged the EU to provide assistance to micro-rojects that could help impoverished families in rural areas and main cities in light of increased unemployment and lack of working opportunities.

The Jordanian side also called for cash assistance to trim the budget difficit, which reached a staggering two billion dollars this year. Jordan depends on aid from the US, the oil rich gulf states and regular contributions from the EU and its member states.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Backgrounder on Operation Geronimo

In this purported backgrounder on Operation Geronimo, President Obama is portrayed as henpecked by Valerie Jarrett and outmaneuvered by Leon Panetta, Hillary Clinton, and other underlings. If this is fiction, the author sure has a talent for verisimilitude, including such touches as “President Obama was literally pulled from a golf outing and escorted back to the White House to be informed of the mission.” I didn’t notice it before, but he is indeed wearing golfing togs in that now-famous “situation room” photo.

We’ll know the full story in four to eight years, by which time the relevant participants will have written their memoirs.

           — Hat tip: MS[Return to headlines]

Bin Laden: Turning Point for Obama’s Presidency

(ANSAmed) — ROME — History is made in the corridors of the White House, where the presidency of the young Barack Obama, the President of “hope” sees the light at the end of the tunnel growing somewhat larger after a period of growing difficulties. Only a few days ago the young president was forced to go on television showing his birth certificate to rebuff claims that he had been born outside the USA or that he was a Muslim. But today nobody can now doubt the patriotic pulse in his veins.

Following long and exhausting wars and undercover work by the country’s intelligence agencies, with many mistakes and false-positives along the way, Obama has come full circle and completed the job started by George W. Bush by winning the personal war against Osama bin Laden, the man who caused the deaths of three thousand US citizens on September 11 a decade ago.

This is not to say, however, that the war against Al Qaeda has been won: its myriad terrorist cells will continue to strike across the world from Yemen, to Morocco, from Somalia to Pakistan — cells that have long been able to operate autonomously against the hated West. And they will soon make themselves heard. A promise of revenge has already arrived today, saying that while Bin Laden has died, his ideas live on — if ‘ideas’ are the right word for the legacy left by the founder of Al Qaeda.

But victory against the symbolic figurehead is today Obama’s: victory against the ideological point of reference for Jihadists and Islamic extremists. Nobody considers the war on terrorism a closed chapter and the White House is preparing for fresh challenges on this front.

As from today, Obama will go down in history as the President who unearthed and gave the order to kill the mastermind behind the hardest blow to hit mainland USA. The President showed he was capable of acting ruthlessly: giving the go-ahead for a mission whose remit was the elimination of Bin Laden.

Tonight, talk in the United States is not so much about deficit and national debt, unemployment and bleak prospects, of unending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and of other wars they are wary of becoming enmeshed in, such as that in Libya. Tomorrow the minds of many Americans will be on Ground Zero, looking to the flag, singing the national anthem and maybe even remembering a slogan that many had forgotten: “Yes, we can”. And even the electoral campaign is destined to change from today: having set off at a slow creeping pace, campaigning had taken on tough and bitter tones of late. But with the killing of the global terrorist figurehead, Obama has scored a lot of points in his own favour and extended his lead on his Republican rivals.

There is still a long road ahead and a great deal could still happen in a year and a half, but today Obama can permit himself to smile because his opponents will have to struggle to persuade Americans not to re-elect the man who got the upper hand on Osama bin Laden.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Maine Mosque Vandalized Following Bin Laden Death

On Monday in Portland, ME the walls of the largest mosque in town were spray-painted with “Osama today, Islam tomorow [sic]” and other phrases, sometime following morning prayers on the day after American forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

The police chief is calling the incident at the Maine Muslims Community Center a hate crime.

The Portland Press-Herald reported “Long live the West” and “Free Cyprus” was also spray-painted on the mosque.

Portland has a relatively sizable Muslim population thanks in part to a large population of immigrants from Somalia and Sudan, Police Chief James Craig told TPM in an interview. The city of about 66,000 has three mosques.

Hate crimes are uncommon in the Portland, Craig said, and crimes targeting Muslims almost unheard of.

“This is the first [hate crime] targeting religion,” in 2011, he said.

The department has no leads so far in the case of the mosque vandalism, which has already been painted over. Craig said he’s reached out to the FBI and informed the agency of the incident though whether federal agents will get involved is unclear. The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The hate crime designation means that if and when someone is caught, they would face what Craig called “an enhancement” on what would likely be vandalism charges.

Craig was due to meet with Muslim leaders later in the day, and said that the hate crime was a shock in a city known for being “outwardly supportive” to its immigrant population.

“This is not reflective of the Portland community,” he said. “Absolutely not. In fact, this is an anomaly.”

Members of the mosque told local press in Portland that the vandalism was jarring.

“It makes me feel like I’m not welcome,” mosque Treasurer Abdiaziz Mohamed told the Press-Herald.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Mosque Leaders Speak About Bin Laden’s Death

Leaders Say Justice Has Been Served

Murfreesboro, TN—For the first time, the leaders of the controversial mosque that’s being built in Murfreesboro are speaking out about the death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

They spoke with Channel 4 News about how they hope this closes a dark chapter in U.S. history and that they can move forward peacefully with the community.

“We don’t celebrate the death of any human being, but in this case, I believe justice has been served,” said Saleh Sbenaty of the Islamic Center of Nashville.

Islamic Center of Murfreesboro Planning Board member Sbenaty took time out for noonday prayer. At the same time, he is still digesting the news that bin Laden is dead.

“It was a sense of undescribable (sic) relief,” Sbenaty said.

Sbenaty said Muslims in Murfreesboro have been waiting on this day, but he wishes bin Laden wasn’t killed.

“We were hoping he would be captured alive because we need to know more about al-Qaida and his collaborators so we can dismantle this terrorist organization,” Sbenaty said.

He said bin Laden has many radical followers. He hopes other leaders of that terrorist organization are captured, too.

“We feel that’s a dark chapter in our history is closed, and we feel that also any radical or perpetrator will be brought to justice,” said Sbenaty.

“It’s hard to ever find any pleasure in the death of any individual, but when you look at the number of men, women and children that lost their lives at the hands of Sharia law and bin Laden, it was pleasing to hear,” said attorney Joe Brandon, who represents the plaintiffs hoping to stop construction of the new mosque in Murfreesboro.

Brandon said the death of one terrorist leader doesn’t change his approach at all in the way he’s tackling this lawsuit.

“Osama bin Laden appears to be the head of al-Qaida,” said Brandon. “What we are fighting here in Murfreesboro is the Muslim brotherhood.”

Islamic Center leaders said they’re hoping the death of bin Laden will help build relationships between the Muslim community in Murfreesboro and those who are opposed to them being there.

“The feeling after 9/11 was ‘We were united,’ and now we are also united because of this,” Sbenaty said.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

NY Imam: Bin Laden Death Paves Way for Healing

NEW YORK (AP) — The Muslim leader behind plans for a controversial mosque near the World Trade Center site is praising President Barack Obama after the death of Osama bin Laden.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (rah-OOF’) said Monday that Obama’s actions help support “people in the Arab world who are also fighting against terrorism by their own rulers.”

Rauf said bin Laden’s death can bring “closure and healing around 9/11.”

In March, Rauf and his wife, activist Daisy Khan, said they were pursuing other avenues for an Islamic community center and mosque following a rift with the project’s developer.

He said Monday that discussions with people interested in a multi-faith center were continuing. He’s not sure where it will be.

The developer says he still plans a center near ground zero.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Portland Muslim Event Canceled for Threats

PORTLAND [Oregon] — Local Muslims had planned to celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death at Pioneer Courthouse Square downtown Monday evening. But they canceled the event for safety reasons.

The Islamic Society of Greater Portland wanted to gather with all citizens at the Square at 6 p.m. but after receiving threatening emails, organizers decided to call it off.

Organizers say the news of bin Laden’s death was a relief to their Muslim community. bin Laden had claimed himself to be a Muslim, but as a mass-murderer, they say, he was clearly not a representative of their non-violent beliefs.

Spokesperson Saba Ahmed says after receiving what she describes as hateful, extremist emails, her local group made a tough decision to cancel the gathering.

“I think right now it’s too soon we don’t want to incite” she said. Pioneer Courthouse Square is “an open area. Muslims have always been fearful and bringing them out here at this time it’s not the best choice for us.”

Ahmed says it might be more appropriate to have a peaceful healing gathering at the Square on the anniversary of September 11th.

She is now headed to Washington DC for two months to help lobby for an end to US military involvement in Afghanistan.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Denmark: Free Speech Advocate Guilty of Racism

High court overrules district court in case about comments about Muslim men

The Eastern High Court today fined Lars Hedegaard, the president of the Free Press Society, 5,000 kroner for making racially offensive comments in December 2009.

“Girls in Muslim families are raped by their uncles, their cousins, or their fathers,” and “When a Muslim man rapes a woman, it is in his right to do so,” were among the comments Hedegaard made during a 35-minute interview at a Christmas party with the author of the blog, who subsequently published the comments on the blog.

Today’s decision overturns a decision in January by the Frederiksberg District Court, which stated that while it found Hedegaard’s comments to be insulting, Hedegaard did not know that his controversial comments would be made public.

Last week Hedegaard published a book titled “Muhammeds Piger” (Mohammed’s Girls), in which he writes about issues such as discrimination in Islam and that the belief in predestination.

“Everyone is subject to Allah’s will, but he treats them differently — without stating any other criteria for the discrimination other than his own will,” the book reads.

Women are the main focus of the book, in which the author also expresses his joy over the victory of free speech, referring to the district court’s acquittal in January.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Meanwhile: Back in Copenhagen …

by Diana West

It never rains but it pours. No sooner had Geert Wilders made his final appeal for the continued existence of free speech in the Netherlands, my good friend and colleague Lars Hedegaard, journalist, author, president of the Danish Free Press Society and the International Free Society, was declared guilty by a Danish court of violating a deeply pernicious point of the nation’s penal code known as 266b. Specifically, Lars was convicted of “[issuing] a pronouncement or other communication by which a group of persons are threatened, insulted or denigrated due to their race, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation.” That he committed this “crime” in the privacy of his own home during a Christmas Day luncheon conversation is an extra icicle on this completely chilling verdict.

Unbeknownst to Hedegaard and without his permission, his remarks, which concerned the incidence of family rape in Islam, were recorded and later uploaded to the Internet. This saved him from a guilty verdict in his first trial in a lower court because 266b also requires intent to make “pronouncements” public. But, as his Danish Free Press Society colleague, Katrine Winkel Holm writes in an email today, “The prosecutor appealed the verdict to the Eastern Regional Court, which today claimed that Hedegaard knew his statements would be published.”

In other words, unphased by a lack of evidence, the prosecutor brought out a crystal ball to support a preordained guilty verdict. Like past show trials, it worked…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

The Amanda Knox Factor: U.S. Students Shy Away From Study Abroad in Italy After Perugia Murder Case

A new study asks U.S. students about the high-profile case of the American visiting student convicted of murder in Perugia. A surprisingly high number say they consider Amanda Knox’s fate when weighing whether to study abroad in Italy

Francesco Semprini

Study in Italy? No grazie. Young Americans seem to have grown less attracted by the opportunity to spend a semester or two at an Italian university. And according to a new study the Amanda Knox case is partly to blame.

Conducted by the Rome campus of Loyola University and the Italy-USA Foundation, the study “American Students’ Thoughts on Italy” looked into overall attitudes of potential young visitors to Italy. But the poll also specifically tried to gauge the effect on prospective exchange students of the high-profile case of the Seattle native convicted for the murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher, while the two were part of a study abroad program in the Italian city of Perugia.

A sampling of 800 American students were asked if the Knox case would affect their decision of whether to study in Italy. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said that it wouldn’t affect their choice at all, 13% thought it would, and 47% said that it would have some impact, but would not be a determining factor.

The case has been a blow to the image of foreign study in Italy, historically one of the preferred destinations for American university students, drawn by the country’s lifestyle and cultural heritage. But ill will has apparently been spread by the December 2009 conviction of Knox for the murder committed two years earlier, for which her Italian boyfriend and fellow student Raffaele Sollecito and a Perugia resident, Rudy Guede, were also found guilty.

In the United States a so-called “Party of Amanda,” has formed around the convicted co-ed, including family, friends, judges, politicians and businessmen who see her as a “victim” of the Italian judicial system and of a media lynching. Supporters have asked for the intervention of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and even Donald Trump has proposed a boycott of Italy until Knox is freed from jail.

The new study finds that attitudes about Italy have suffered because of the comments by Trump, who has recently indicated a desire to run for president in 2012. The billionaire’s call for a boycott feeds negative attitudes about the U.S., as a place where “innocent Americans are persecuted,” with 24% of respondents saying their view on Italy has been affected by the comments.

More generally, the study shows a recent overall decline in Italy’s share of the US travel dollars. In 2007, Italy had a market share of 19.3% of all American tourism abroad; in 2009, it fell to 17.5%. The main reasons cited are neither Knox nor Trump, but the weak U.S. economy and strong euro. For those who have decided not to come to Italy for vacation or study abroad, the strength of the euro is given as the main reason (16%), with others citing the threat of terrorism in Europe (6%), and political instability (5%).

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

UK Arrests 5 in Terror Alert Near Nuclear Site

(Reuters) — British police said on Tuesday they had arrested five men close to a nuclear reprocessing plant in northwest England under counter-terrorism laws.

The arrests were made after Prime Minister David Cameron urged Britain to remain vigilant against potential reprisals following the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by U.S. forces.

Police said they were unaware of any link between the arrests and bin Laden’s death.

The men were arrested on Monday after officers conducted a stop check on a vehicle near the Sellafield site in Cumbria.

The men are all aged in their 20s and from London.

A spokesman for the police’s North West Counter Terrorism Unit declined to comment on media reports the men had been filming the site.

“There were suspicions from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary that led to some arrests. There were some suspicions about them near to the perimeter fence,” he said.

A police counter terrorism source said the arrests were not preplanned.. “The local officers felt there was enough to arrest them. It’s a case of seeing if there is anything to it.”

Police held the men under section 41 of the Terrorism Act, which allows officers to arrest people suspected of terrorist offences and hold them for 48 hours without charge.

The men were being transferred to the northern English city of Manchester to be questioned by counter-terrorism officers.

Local police were alerted by officers from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, a specialist force which provides protection for civil nuclear licensed sites.

Fifty-two people were killed in London in 2005 when al-Qaeda inspired suicide bombers blew up underground trains and a bus.

The Sellafield site, in operation since the 1940s, includes a number of nuclear fuel reprocesssing facilities and waste treatment plants.

Sellafield is owned by Nuclear Management Partners, a consortium of American engineering company URS, British engineering firm Amec and French nuclear reactor maker Areva. It was operating as normal on Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Al Azhar: Killing Bin Laden Will Not Stop Terrorism

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MAY 3 — The killing of Osama Bin Laden will not end terrorism, a practice that above all stems from “excessive” Israeli practices. This is according to the Great Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed El Tayyib, who was speaking this morning during his first meeting with the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie.

The solution to international problems will be found with justice and when the West stops operating double standards, said the Imam of the prestigious Sunni institution.

During the meeting, Tayyib underlined the need to coordinate with the Muslim Brotherhood to spread an approach of moderate and tolerant Islam. Badie shared this view, saying that the Brotherhood would work alongside Al Azhar towards this objective. Badie also repeated his rejection of violence and terrorism, saying that his organisation is in favour of moderate Islam.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Bin Laden: Young Tunisian Revolutionaries Divided

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MAY 3 — The young Tunisians who brought about the revolution in their country never had their own version of Tahrir Square, a single physical place in which to carry out their protests. This means that when they need to talk, they choose a virtual forum, one that in the last few hours has been animated by debate over the death of Osama Bin Laden and on how the world might change as a result. There is no common vision shared by young Tunisians regarding the event, with people divided between condemnation of a terrorist and partial absolution for the man who stood up to the United States, which itself was guilty of creating him and raising him to the status of public enemy number one.

One young Tunisian on the Businessnews website called Bin Laden a “purely American” creation, adding that it now remained to be seen how the United States would implement its plan to replace dictators in North Africa with figures they will be able to use in the next 10 or 20 years. But with Bin Laden dead, George W.

Bush must now answer for his actions, for “lying in order to start war against Iraq and kill thousands of civilians”, according to another Tunisian. Another contributor added that Ariel Sharon should stand trial alongside him.

A user called Hech writes “Bin Laden is not dead. He leaves behind thousands of clones, of little Bin Ladens”. This is a reference to protests held in the centre of Tunis in the last couple of days by Islamic fundamentalists. “They had the same beard, the same clothes and the exact same hatred in their eyes”. Some, like Fih W Alih, justify the aims of Bin Laden’s action, though not the instruments he chose to beat the “Israeli-American dictatorship”: “bombs around the world against innocent people will not break up this dictatorship”. Meanwhile, Asma notes ironically: “Well, now Americans will create another sworn enemy to continue their war on ‘terror’. Albeit implicitly, young Tunisians are still asking how Bin Laden managed to become the figure that he was for more than ten years. “He’s another poor wretch, no white horse like our deposed President. How did he manage [to do what he did], for who or what?”. Hatem C shows disdain for the Al Qaeda leader and uses a mafioso turn of phrase: “It is just as well that he is now sleeping with the fishes”. Yet some do not believe that Bin Laden is dead, calling it a hoax “staged by America”.

Some young Tunisians, though, are pleased with the violent end met by Bin Laden — “A victory for freedom and democracy,” writes one. “This scoundrel who terrorised the world should rot in hell” — while others make painful confessions. Bargleh writes: “I loved him on September 11 and hated him when he attacked our beautiful island of Djerba”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt Shakes Up Middle Eastern Order

By M K Bhadrakumar

The thesis was just about gaining ground that the bitter legacy of the Arab spring is going to be the reawakening of the rough beast of sectarianism in the Muslim Middle East. Sectarian strife, it was prophesied, would lead to a Sunni-Shi’ite confrontation involving Saudi Arabia and Iran.

That specter helped deflect attention momentarily from the existential threat posed by the Arab spring to the authoritarian regimes of the Middle East. It also helped the United States to distract the Arab street while Western intervention is under way in another oil-rich Muslim country, and to reinvent the containment strategy toward Iran. Most important, it gave the Barack Obama administration in Washington a fig-leaf with which to cover up the comprehensive failure of the Middle East peace process.

Arab spring is for real

However, Riyadh and Washington didn’t factor in that in the shadows of the Egyptian pyramids the Sphinx was bestirring, expounding visions of the shaking up of the established order in the Middle East. The interim agreement between the Palestinian groups brokered by the “new Egypt” in tacit collaboration with Iran and Syria threatens to become the leitmotif of the Arab spring.

Saudi Arabia in principle ought to be celebrating that its Palestinian brothers are forging unity at a historic moment, but are instead stunned into silence. President Obama quickly postponed his “historic” Middle East policy speech, originally scheduled for this week, in order to read the tea leaves.

As things stand, the rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas will sign an agreement in Cairo on Wednesday to form an interim government leading to fresh elections in a reconciliation deal brokered by the Egyptian military leadership. The deal provides for an interim government of “neutrals” approved by the rival factions, which will set the stage for elections within a year to form a “unity” government.

The agreement apparently finds a way around the five sticking points that have so far thwarted political unity between Gaza and the West Bank — a date for elections, an acceptable supervisory body for overseeing polls, formation of a unity government, resuming talks on reforming the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and security issues. The presidential and parliamentary elections will be held simultaneously and Fatah and Hamas would form a committee to oversee them.

The unity government would comprise technocrats and will be headed by a prime minister acceptable to both Fatah and Hamas. The political prisoners in Gaza and the West Bank will be released and a “social reconciliation” programme initiated. Reform of the PLO has been a key demand by Hamas, which Fatah now accepts. An interim committee will lead the PLO until it is “reformed” and its decisions will be binding. Security issues, another tricky item, are also sought to be resolved by a joint committee of Fatah and Hamas.

Needless to say, it is too early to express optimism. But, as Massimo Calabresi of Time Magazine wrote, “The most important marriage of the week was in Palestine, not London. True, the odds of a lasting relationship between the internationally recognized leaders of the Palestinians, Fatah, and the internationally designated terrorist group, Hamas, aren’t great — it’s not clear whether the union will actually be consummated. But even a short fling has the potential to upturn Arab-Israeli affairs, shift US interests in the Middle East and play a role in the 2012 [US presidential] election.”

The Sphinx is stirring

The upheaval in the Middle East provided the backdrop for this reconciliation and, evidently, something has changed in the scheme of things. Both Fatah and Hamas understood the need to be responsive to popular opinion that favors Palestinian unity. The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas, in particular, saw the writing on the wall as throngs of young people in the West Bank borrowed the chants of the Egyptian revolution to demand Palestinian unity.

On February 17, Obama strongly pressed Abbas during a 55-minute phone call to withdraw the resolution in the United Nations General Assembly demanding that Israel stop its settlement activities. Obama said the move jeopardized America’s US$475 million assistance for the PNA. But Abbas was undeterred and in a subsequent interview with Newsweek slammed the vulnerability and impotence of Obama’s policy.

As for Hamas, put simply, developments in Syria are extremely worrisome…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Lega-PDL Motion on Libya Wants Deadline, No Tax Hikes

(AGI) Rome — Italian troops won’t be involved in ground operations in Libya and a deadline will be set for their participation. A “firm and strong political action at the international level”, no involvement of Italian troops in ground operations, a defined deadline “to be notified to the Parliament, for actions against specific military targets identified in Libya”, no tax increase and a “gradual and agreed reduction of our country’s efforts” worldwide. These are the main points of a motion on the military operation in Libya signed by the leaders of the parties in the ruling coalition (Marco Reguzzoni for the Lega Nord, Fabrizio Cicchitto for the PDL, and Luciano Sardelli for IR).

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: Rebels Want 3 Billion Dollar Loan

(ANSAmed) — BENGHAZI (LIBYA), MAY 3 — Libyan rebels have today warned that their economy could collapse in the next few months if France, Italy and the United States do not provide loans worth three billion dollars guaranteed by the frozen funds of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

“The liquidity we have in the country will probably be enough for three months, four at most,” said Ali Tarhouni, the economy and oil “minister” for the National Transitional Council (NTC), the political organ of the rebels controlling the east of the country.

“I think that if we can obtain credit lines from our friends in France, Italy and the United States, we will be fine,” he said in Benghazi, adding that the rebel movement needed “two or three billion dollars”. Tarhouni said that the rebels had struck a deal with foreign powers, with whom they will hold talks next Thursday in Rome as part of a meeting of the contact group, over the launch of the mechanism of opening credit lines.

The leaders of the uprising are no longer asking for Gaddafi’s funds to be unfrozen and made available to the NTC, but hope that the countries in which these assets are frozen will agree to provide credits.

“The consensus is that there will be credit lines guaranteed by these funds,” Tarhouni said, though he did not specify whether the three countries in question had accepted the demand from rebels for a three billion dollar loan (around 2,030,000 euros), but said that Gaddafi had a total of 165 billion dollars (almost 112 billion euros) in frozen assets around the world.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Triumph of Sectarianism in Upper Egypt

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Between the April 14 appointment of the Christian Major General Emad Mikhail as governor of the southern province of Qena and the Prime Minister’s decision on April 25 to suspend his appointment for a three months period, “Egypt lived through the biggest and most dangerous political and sectarian crisis in its modern history. Although no blood was shed and no clashes between Muslims and Christians took place, the ‘civil state’ was put to a difficult test — which it failed miserably,” wrote journalist Mohamed Hamdy in an article for the daily newspaper Youm7.

The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi leaders managed to bring thousands of protesters from inside and outside Qena, who after Friday prayers on April 15 staged an 11-day sit-in in front of the governorate building, demanding the removal of the new governor. Muslim protesters vowed to bar Major General Mikhail, who replaced the former Christian governor Magdi Ayoub, not only from entering the governorate building to carry out his functions as Governor but from the whole province, with some vowing to kill him.

The Muslim protests against the new Christian governor escalated in time.. At first, the Muslim Brotherhood announced the reason for refusing Gen. Mikhail was only because he was an ex-policeman who worked for the State Security and was involved in the killing of the demonstrators in Tahrir Square in Cairo during the January 25 Revolution. This was refuted by Major General elNomany, minister of local development. The Muslims said that Christians joined them in refusing the Christian governor. This was refuted by the church, stating that Christians did not participate in any protests.

The Salafis, who control the majority of mosques in Qena, recruited the Imams to preach and issue Fatwas (religious edicts) saying the rule of non-Muslims over Muslims in not admissible, as per ‘Allah will not give access to the infidels (i.e. Christians) to have authority over believers (Muslims) [Koran 4:141].

The demonstrators openly demanded a “Muslim governor in a Muslim country,” walking the streets chanting “Mikhail is an infidel pig,”, “There is no god but Allah and Christians are the enemies of Allah” and “Muslim, Muslim, will govern us” (video of Muslims chanting “we will never be ruled by a Christian governor”).

Protesters declared their rejection of any negotiation with the ruling military governor and commander of the southern region before the dismissal of governor Mikhail. The minister of interior and the minister of local development also failed in their mission to end the protests and open the railway routes, and went back to Cairo with the same message: “no negotiations before the dismissal of the Christian governor.”

The protesters called for the establishment of an Islamic state under the slogan “No god but Allah — Islamic — God willing,” provoking a state of fear among many Christians. They waved the Saudi Arabian flag. The protesters then blocked the railroad track and highways between Cairo and Aswan for 8 consecutive days, completely paralyzing railway stations in Aswan, Luxor and Qena and causing the suspension of rail services for 8 days (video).

The armed forces did not intervene to stop the demonstrators from blocking the highway.

On April 21 27 renowned Egyptian human rights organizations sent a letter to Field Marshal Tantawi, head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and to the Prime Minsiter Dr. Essam Sharaf, expressing their deep concern over the events in Qena. The letter said “There were reports of raising the Saudi Arabian flag and the declaration of Qena as an ‘Islamic Emirate,’ and in this context, all roads leading to the province were cut off, including the railways.” It went on to say that the Salafis removed students out of schools and shut them down, closed the Dandara Bridge which connects the west and east of the Nile, offloaded female passengers from busses to separate them from the male passengers in public transport, attempted to cut off the water supply from the province of the Red Sea, and prevented Christians from celebrating Palm Sunday.

The letter blamed the attitude of the military council and the government for the escalation of the objections posed by the Islamists groups to the appointment of governor Mikhail from being an ex-policemen to being a Christian. According to the letter, “They were encouraged because of the lenient attitude of the State represented by the military council and the government to past violations, such as the demolition of the church in Soul (AINA 3-5-2011) and the cutting off of the ear of citizen Ayman Anwar Mitry in Qena (AINA 3-26-2011), with the State only sponsoring reconciliation sessions between the two parties which are humiliating to the Christians and a way of trying to go around non-application of the law. “They even used at these meetings Salafi clergy who have always incited against the native Christians, which has encouraged these groups to ignite the fire of sectarian strife.”

Egyptian Coptic female activist Hala el Masry, who lives in Qena, said the Salafis were the main players and when the Muslim Brotherhood saw matters got out of control, they pulled out of the protests. She stressed that the Salafis were collecting signatures for the appointment of one of the Salafi clerics as Amir (leader) of the faithful and governor of Qena. On April 28 the Salafis raised the Saudi Arabian flag for the second time, and staged a sit-in in front of the mosque of Sheikh Abdelrehim el-Qenawi, demanding the appointment of Sheikh el Qurashi as Amir of the faithful and governor of Qena, reported Coptic activist Mariam Ragi.

The position of the army was incomprehensible to many Egyptians and dozens of articles appeared criticizing the inaction of the military towards the radical Muslims in Qena in blocking off the railway connecting Qena with Cairo, as well as several other main highways. The articles called on the military to force the Salafis to respect the authority of the State.

When all efforts failed to dissuade the Muslims in Qena to end their protest and accept the new Christian governor, the government suspended the governor’s appointment for three months, giving sectarianism the final word.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

‘We’ll Try to Set an End to Libya Operations’ Says Frattini

Contact Group meeting will provide ‘much clearer picture’

(ANSA) — Rome, May 3 — Italy will try to set a date for the end of operations in Libya with its international partners, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Tuesday.

Speaking ahead of a Libya Contact Group meeting in Rome Thursday, Frattini said Italy would “seek to set a term, with international organisations like NATO,” for an end to the mission.

Earlier Tuesday NATO said the mission would last “as long as necessary”. There is “much more than one plan” to end the Libya crisis, Frattini added, referring to proposals mooted by Turkish Premier Tayyip Erdogan. Frattini said the Contact Group meeting would provide “a much clearer picture”.

This would include, he said, “the coordination of a political initiative, a strong decision on economic support, in particular for the (anti-Gaddafi) Libyan National Council, and a road map for a ceasefire and a constitutional assembly for Libyan reconciliation”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

“Bin Laden Killing Draws Mixed ‘Reactions’ From Kuwaiti MPs Big Blow to Al-Qaeda: Dr Ghabra

[Not that it is unexpected, but the reaction of Kuwaiti Members of Parliament to the news regarding bin Laden’s execution are very telling. Telling about the mindset of democratically elected Parlamentarians in a country considered USA’s prviileged ally and so on and so forth. — RR]

KUWAIT CITY, May 2: Reports on the killing of al-Qaeda Group leader Osama bin Laden by US forces in Pakistan have drawn mixed reactions from the Kuwaiti lawmakers.

Although they acknowledge the fact that bin Laden committed heinous crimes against humanity, some lawmakers think the main terrorist is Israel and accused it of murdering a number of Arabs. They also criticized the US for using double standards in its war against terrorism.

MP Khalid Al-Adwa said the US is happy over the death of bin Laden, but it has not realized that it fueled terrorism in the Arab and Islamic world when it disregarded the resolutions of the United Nations (UN) and the Security Council on Israel. He pointed out the Zionist nation has destroyed the lives of the people in the occupied territories and desecrated the holy places, such as those of the Arabs and Muslims in Jerusalem.


He said Israel has waged racial wars that caused the death of thousands of Arabs and Muslims. He urged the US to review its policies and refrain from being biased towards the Zionists if it is really keen on maintaining peace in the Islamic world.

MP Hussein Al-Huraiti called on the international community to take harsh measures against Israel, which he considers a terrorist regime. He alleged the Zionist entity has been supporting terrorist activities against the Arabs and the neighboring countries, especially the Palestinians. He appealed to the international community to take decisive steps against Israel.

Commenting on the death of bin Laden, Al-Huraiti asserted, “We want nothing but stability. We do not accept any justification for terrorist acts, even those committed by Muslims, considering terrorism does not discriminate between people. Some larger countries are also engaged in terrorist activities; hence, the need for everybody to strictly abide by the international resolution on combating all forms of terrorism. Today we say bin Laden was a terrorist and there are many others like him. However, even terrorists deserve to be treated according to the law before resorting to assassination or any other step.”


MP Dr Aseel Al-Awadhi stated in her Twitter account that the killing of bin Laden is a chance for the Arab and Islamic world to regain the lost glory of the Islamic identity, which has been tarnished due to false accusations that Muslims are engaged in terrorism.

Even though MP Dr Waleed Al-Tabtabaei does not share the ideologies of bin Laden, he believes the latter and his group have good intentions. “May God Almighty forgive them,” he added.

MP Mohammed Hayef said, “As Muslims, we ask God Almighty to have mercy on bin Laden even if he committed a lot of sins.”…

           — Hat tip: RR[Return to headlines]

Bin Laden: Al Qaeda Leaders on the Rise, Haaretz

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MAY 3 — The day after the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the battle has begun to replace him. In addition to the second in command of the organisation, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, other leaders are coming to the fore at his side and may aspire to taking Bin Laden’s place, according to an analysis of the situation published in the Israeli daily Haaretz. Haaretz reports that Al Zawahiri excels in his role as spiritual and ideological leader but does not have the pronounced organisational qualities of Bin Laden, and so it is necessary to look at a number of other “new faces” who may be taking the latter’s place.

Among the possible replacements Haaretz named Seif Al-Adel, a former Egyptian armed forces colonel suspected of having organised the attacks against the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. It seems that he commands the “military committee” of Al Qaeda, reports the daily, and that he coordinates military activities in Somalia and Yemen. Another figure rapidly rising in the ranks is Saliman Jassem Al-Gheith, a 46-year-old Kuwaiti veteran of campaigns in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Other figures mentioned include Anwar Al-Awaleki — a Yemenite-US preacher who is not officially part of Al Qaeda but who is believed to be the ideologist of the new generation — and Abdallah Ahmed Abdallah, an Egyptian highly active in the African continent. According to Haaretz, it is possible that — in part due to the political upheaval underway in a number of Arab countries — the local cells of Al Qaeda will be concentrating more on domestic scenarios, and therefore not focusing as much on highly visible international attacks.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UAE: Uprisings: Government Breaks Up Teachers Association

(ANSA) — DUBAI, MAY 3 — The United Arab Emirates has broken up the board of directors of the Association of Teachers over political interference, Human Rights Watch has announced today.

“This attack on civil society is further proof that the ruling class sees anyone demanding reform as a legitimate target,” said Joe Stork, the deputy director for the Middle East, calling on the country’s authorities to review their “hostile attitude”.

The association, which was founded in 1980 and has around 300 members, signed a petition on April 6 addressed to Sheikh Khalifa Al Nayan demanding greater democratisation of the country and effective legislative powers for the country’s parliament.

The decision to dissolve the association, which was signed by the Social Affairs Minister, was justified with reference to the regulation on NGOs which “forbids its members from interfering in policy or in issues that threaten the security of the country or of those who govern it”.

The members dismissed from their positions on the association’s board have been replaced by figures appointed by the Ministry.

The great wealth of the country, and the generous distribution of its riches to citizens have meant that the UAE has so far not suffered the knock-on effects of the Arab Spring in the same way as some its neighbours in the Gulf, chiefly Bahrain and Oman. However, open criticism of government policy is still not tolerated.

In recent weeks, the Emirati government has arrested five activists, including Ahmad Al Mansur, who was also among the signatories of the April petition.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Courier Who Led U.S. To Osama Bin Laden’s Hideout Identified

A diplomatic source told CNN that the courier who was in close contact with Osama bin Laden and who eventually led the United States to him was a Kuwaiti named Abu Ahmad.

U.S. officials have said that when the identity of the courier — who they have not named — was established in 2007 the U.S. began a path to the house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where the al Qaeda leader was living.

Analysis of assessments of detainees held at the U.S. Navy’s detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, include several mentions of a man by the name of Abu Ahmad al Kuwaiti, who was reportedly close to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — also a Kuwaiti.

The information on the detainee assessments came from U.S. Defense Department documents published by WikiLeaks.

Since the operation that killed bin Laden, U.S. officials have described the courier they were tracking as a protege of Mohammed and another senior member of al Qaeda, Abu Faraj al Libi, a Libyan detainee who was named as al Qaeda’s third most senior leader when he was captured in May 2005.

Bin Laden killing caps decade-long manhunt

One assessment — compiled in October 2008 — concerns a Saudi citizen called Maad al Qathani, the man who was intended to be the “20th hijacker” on 9/11 but who failed to gain entry to the United States.

It said: “Detainee is associated with other key al-Qaida members including senior operations planners Khalid Shaykh Muhammad.”

The document later said that al Qathani “received computer training from al-Qaida member Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti in preparation for his mission to the U.S.”

Al Kuwaiti was then “a senior al Qaeda facilitator and subordinate” of Mohammed. The assessment added: “Al-Kuwaiti worked in the al-Qaida media house operated by KU-10024 (Mohammed) in Kandahar and served as a courier.”

No obvious replacement to succeed bin Laden as al Qaeda’s leader

Al Qathani reportedly spent about three months in basic training with al Qaeda from December 2000 to February 2001 when he was introduced to bin Laden.

Establishing al Qathani’s association with Mohammed, the assessment continued: “Detainee stated UBL told him that since he (detainee) loved to serve his religion, he must go to KU-10024, who will ask him to “do things.” It was the first of several encounters with the al Qaeda leader, to whom al Qathani swore a personal oath of allegiance.

The document established that al Kuwaiti was close to bin Laden and traveled with him.

“Al-Kuwaiti was seen in Tora Bora and it is possible al-Kuwaiti was one of the individuals detainee reported accompanying UBL in Tora Bora prior to UBL’s disappearance,” it says.

In an assessment of al Qathani’s intelligence value, the document noted that he “had access to the inner circles of al-Qaida through his interactions with senior al-Qaida members including UBL, (Ayman al-) Zawahiri, KU-10024 (Mohammed) and others.”

Al-Zawahiri was al Qaeda’s No. 2 man under bin Laden.

Another detainee assessment also mentioned al Kuwaiti. It was of an Indonesian member of al Qaeda called Riduan Isomuddin, who had spent nearly two years in the 1980s fighting jihad in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

He also knew Mohammed, according to the assessment, which said that “in November 2001, detainee and his wife left Kandahar for Karachi. They stayed at the Abu Ahmad al Kuwaiti guest house for two weeks.”

Al Qaeda operated a network of guest houses (or safehouses) in Afghanistan and Pakistan before and immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

Isomuddin was captured in August 2003 in Thailand by a joint Thai-U.S. operation and is described in the assessment as a “high-value detainee.”

CNN has been unable to confirm with U.S. officials the identity of the courier, but several factors point to al Kuwaiti as the courier who inadvertently led the United States to bin Laden’s hiding place: al Kuwaiti’s reported history with the organization, his access to senior leaders, his description in the Guantanamo assessment as a courier, and the fact that he was never captured.

CNN has been unable to establish whether he was at the compound when U.S. forces staged their raid or whether he was killed in the operation.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

The Osama Bin Laden I Knew

by Hamid Mir

“I am son of a rich father, I could have spent my life in luxury in Europe and America, like many other wealthy Saudis. Instead I took up arms and headed for the mountains of Afghanistan. Was it personal interest that drove me to spend each moment of my life in the shadow of death? No! I was merely discharging a religious obligation by waging Jihad against those who attacked Muslims. It does not matter if I die in the course of fulfilling this responsibility; my death and the death of others like me will one day awaken millions of Muslims from apathy”.

These were the words of Osama bin Laden, which he spoke to me one morning during March 1997, in the cave of Tora Bora mountains of eastern Afghanistan. I was the first Pakistani journalist to interview Osama bin Laden. In May 1998, I encountered him for the second time in a hideout near the Kandahar Airport for many hours. He mentioned his possible death again and again to me in that long conversation and said: “Yes, I know that my enemy is very powerful but let me assure you, they can kill me but they cannot arrest me alive”. I received his messenger within a few hours after the 9/11 attacks and he praised all those who conducted these attacks but he never accepted the responsibility of the 9/11 attacks. It confused me. I tried to meet him again. I took the risk of entering Afghanistan in November 2001 when American warplanes were targeting Al Qaeda and Taliban from Jalalabad to Kabul.

I was lucky to meet him for the third time on the morning of November 8, 2001. I was the first and the last journalist to interview him after 9/11. Intense bombing was going on inside and outside the city of Kabul. He welcomed me with a smile on his face and said: “I told you last time that the enemy can kill me but they cannot capture me alive, I am still alive”. After the interview, he again said: “Mark my words, Hamid Mir, they can kill me anytime but they cannot capture me alive; they can claim victory only if they get me alive but if they will just capture my dead body, it will be a defeat, the war against Americans will not be over even after my death, I will fight till the last bullet in my gun, martyrdom is my biggest dream and my martyrdom will create more Osama bin Ladens”.

Osama fulfilled his promise. He never surrendered…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Denmark Debates the Cost of Immigrants

The controversy has been stirring Denmark for some days. “The economists behind the report on the cost of immigration oppose the government,” writes Information, accusing the government and its majority of exploiting the economists’ work for political ends. Drawn up at the government’s request, their report is now being used by the Danish People’s Party — the far-right party supporting the Liberal-Conservative majority in parliament — and the integration minister to call for further restrictions on immigration. Denmark is already applying the most restrictive immigration laws in Europe.

The conservative daily Jyllands-Posten revealed this report on April 28 under the headline “Restrictions on foreigners saves billions”. According to the liberal daily, the annual cost to Danish society of non-Western immigrants is put at 15.7 billion kroner (2.1 billion euros), and since the right came to power in 2001 the kingdom has saved 5.1 billion kroner (nearly 684 million euros) every year.

In Information, the economists deny this interpretation of their report, explaining that it cannot be known how non-Western immigrants affect the economy of the kingdom. While the figures are correct, the economists explain, they do not capture the cost of immigrants. For example, their study does not distinguish between refugees and immigrants whose situations and journey to Denmark differ. And as the proportion of children and youth is higher among immigrants than in Danish society in general, immigrants do currently contribute far less than others in society through taxes, but that will probably change over time. That is why, says Marianne Frank Hansen, one of the leaders of the group of economists behind the report, calling for tougher immigration law “is a somewhat exaggerated conclusion to be drawn from the report.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Greece: Anti-Immigrant Protest in Igoumenitsa

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 3 — The port and shops of the Greek city Igoumenitsa in the Epirus region will be closed from 5 pm local time today due to a protest by citizens against problems which have arisen due to the presence of illegal immigrants in the city, according to mayor George Katsinos speaking to the radio station Skai, adding that during the protest cars would not be allowed to embark or disembark for or to Italy. The town council and other official bodies of the city which organised the protest say that hundreds of illegal immigrants who live in Igoumenitsa and especially in the area around the port awaiting the chance to clandestinely get on ships heading for Italy create numerous public order problems and give rise to angry reactions from the population. “The problems due to the presence of illegal immigrants in our city,” reads a statement released by the organisers of the protest, “renders in vain all past efforts as well as those which will be made in the future concerning development of our province. Our province is isolated and the advantages expected of such large-scale works as the Egnatia superhighway and the port have been entirely wiped out.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]