Friday, January 22, 2010

Haiti: A View from the Middle East

Seldom does one watch a lead news story on Middle Eastern satellite television that does not offer a steady rotating stream of images of death, destruction, and devastation from places like Gaza, Fallujah, or Kabul. These past few days, however, although the images were familiar, they were from Haiti, and the devastation was not man-made.

Large networks such as Al Jazeera rushed to send their crews to Port-au-Prince, and the vast majority of news satellite networks operating in the region have been competing to update their viewers about the devastation and human agony in this tiny Caribbean country, but à la Middle East had to be about more than just Haiti.

Read more on the Huffington Post

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Jordan: Al-Qaeda Hotbed?

The recent incident of the Jordanian suicide bomber who blew himself up at a Central Intelligence Agency base in Khost Province, Afghanistan, took many Jordanians by surprise, especially when they learned through the media about the depth of the cooperation between their government's intelligence service Mukhabarat and the United States in its "War on Terror." The Jordanian intelligence services recruited Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi and put him in touch with the CIA, and Jordan has since been deeply embarrassed by the fact that Balawi turned out to be a double agent.

Jordanians have also recently been made aware of the fact that an increasing number of their nationals have been volunteering to join the Taliban and al-Qaeda to fight against the United States in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Only days after the funeral of Captain Sharif Ali bin Zeid, the Jordanian Mukhabarat agent killed in the Khost attack, which was televised on Jordanian television and attended by King Abdullah II and other high ranking officials, a memorial took place for a Jordanian al-Qaeda member who was recently killed in a U.S. drone attack along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Bearded men poured into a reception hall in the town of Irbid to offer their condolences to his family.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

CIA: Lost in Translation‎

"The buck stops with me," declared President Obama on Thursday as he spoke about the results of an internal investigation into the failed Christmas Day airline bombing attempt. The president avoided blaming any particular agency or official for the security failures that allowed Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board an American airliner heading from Amsterdam to Detroit wearing explosives in his underpants.

Now, after the fact, this incident has sparked a renewed interest in Yemen, a country I warned about as a "powder keg" back in August, and a slew of new security measures at airports to make our travel experience more miserable than it currently is.

Travelers will soon get used to going through full-body scanners, like they have gotten used to taking off their shoes at security checkpoints at airports, since Richard Reid, a/k/a the shoe-bomber, tried unsuccessfully to take down another airliner in late 2001. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda and other groups will try to find other methods to bypass the new security measures until they succeed.

Read more on the Huffington Post

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Gaza: Forsaken but not Forgotten

EREZ CROSSING, Gaza Border- They came in buses and cars from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and the Galilee: Palestinians, Israelis, and few international activists. They waved Palestinian flags and carried banners chanting in Arabic and Hebrew: "Break the Siege," "Set Gaza Free," and "Down with Netanyahu and Mubarak."

"Welcome to Erez Crossing Point," the sign reads in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. The ultimate irony, as no one is allowed to cross in or out except for a lucky few, such as diplomats and aid workers, or the unlucky ones who suffer from terminal illnesses. The rest of the 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants remain caged in like animals in the largest open air prison on earth, called Gaza.

Eighty-six international activists were allowed to enter the Strip last night from Egypt through Rafah. We were told that they too, accompanied by hundreds of Gazans, were chanting and waving on the other side of the border, but we could not see or hear them. Between them and us were a few hundred meters, a wall, a steel gate, and armed Israeli soldiers.

More than a thousand activists from around 40 countries remained in Cairo after the Egyptian government declined them entry due to the "sensitive situation" in the Palestinian territory. When was it not a "sensitive situation" in Palestine?

More on the Huffington Post