October 2011

Yemeni students involved in the protests in Change Square have put out a video in English about their peaceful attempt to affect change in the government and military. You can watch the video on Youtube.

As readers of Tabsir can easily see, I am no friend of dictators or military rulers masquerading as democratic demagogues. The fall of Ben Ali, Mubarak and Qaddafi is a welcome sign, even though it is not clear that the people will be able to achieve the kind of government most want. In Yemen the handwriting and a smatter of twittering is on the wall for Ali Abdullah Salih. He has held on to power far too long, allowing for an ugly power grab that could have been avoided if he had done the noble thing and stepped aside earlier, when given ample chance. But Salih is not Asad and Yemen is not Syria. The swell of the Arab Spring has somehow thrown all the dictators into one soup, one overly ladled with self-righteous indignation. Hatred for the man at the top is clouding the pragmatic need for effective political reform.

Yesterday the recent Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Tawakkul Karman, came to New York and demonstrated outside the U.N. It should be noted that her efforts in Yemen, as one among many individuals organizing the widespread protests, have not yet resulted in the exit of Salih or the emergence of a new viable government. Since she is now center stage as a symbol of peaceful protest, it is strange that she would leave Yemen and vow to stay in New York until Salih’s assets are frozen and he is put on trial in The Hague. Does she really think that this is a bargaining point? Receiving a peace prize is indeed a great honor, but it hardly makes someone into an effective powerbroker. The last thing Yemen needs at this time is for the United Nations or the United States to meddle into the political mess by dictating rather than working with the various Yemeni parties in negotiation. Karman is opposed to the GCC transition proposal because it grants immunity to Salih, but is it really so important to seek revenge on the man at the top when the entire governmental system has been corrupt and military men like Ali Muhsin have as much blood on their hands as the president? (more…)

Manssor Arbabsiar is shown in this courtroom sketch during an appearance in a Manhattan courtroom in New York on October 11, 2011

by Pepe Escobar, Al Jazeera, October 12, 2011

No one ever lost money betting on the dull predictability of the US government. Just as Occupy Wall Street is firing imaginations all across the spectrum – piercing the noxious revolving door between government and casino capitalism – Washington brought us all down to earth, sensationally advertising an Iranian cum Mexican cartel terror plot straight out of The Fast and the Furious movie franchise. The potential victim: Adel al-Jubeir, the ambassador in the US of that lovely counter-revolutionary Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

FBI Director Robert Mueller insisted the Iran-masterminded terror plot “reads like the pages of a Hollywood script”. It does. And quite a sloppy script at that. Fast and Furious duo Paul Walker/Vin Diesel wouldn’t be caught dead near it.

The good guys in this Washington production are the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). In the words of Attorney General Eric Holder, they uncovered “a deadly plot directed by factions of the Iranian government to assassinate a foreign Ambassador on US soil with explosives.”

Holder added that the bombing of the Saudi embassy in Washington was also part of the plan. Subsequent spinning amplified that to planned bombings of the Israeli embassy in Washington, as well as the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Buenos Aires. (more…)

Violence, scandal and sex: the media feed us a daily diet and we lap it up like faithful mutts willing to chase any sensationalized bone thrown our way. So when an Iranian cleric says something ludicrous to our sectarian ears, it is all the more newsworthy because it is so entertaining. But after the recent loss of life in Haiti, Chile and China, is it really a laughing matter when a far-off cleric blames natural disasters on God’s wrath over human behavior? Consider an AP story which broke on April 19 and was submitted, ironically, by a reporter with the first name of Scheherezade (her namesake could spin a tale almost to death). Here is the bait:

Iranian cleric: Promiscuous women cause quakes


BEIRUT — A senior Iranian cleric says women who wear revealing clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes.

Iran is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, and the cleric’s unusual explanation for why the earth shakes follows a prediction by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that a quake is certain to hit Tehran and that many of its 12 million inhabitants should relocate.

“Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. (more…)

signature of the Rasulid king al-Malik al-Afdal

I have recently published a biographical portrait of a Rasulid king who ruled Yemen in the mid 14th century. This is al-Malik al-Afdal al-‘Abbas, who penned a few manuscripts, including a major treatise on agriculture. To read this biography, go to filaha.org.

The “very scary” Iranian Terror plot
by Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com, October 12, 2011

The most difficult challenge in writing about the Iranian Terror Plot unveiled yesterday is to take it seriously enough to analyze it. Iranian Muslims in the Quds Force sending marauding bands of Mexican drug cartel assassins onto sacred American soil to commit Terrorism — against Saudi Arabia and possibly Israel — is what Bill Kristol and John Bolton would feverishly dream up while dropping acid and madly cackling at the possibility that they could get someone to believe it. But since the U.S. Government rolled out its Most Serious Officials with Very Serious Faces to make these accusations, many people (therefore) do believe it; after all, U.S. government accusations = Truth. All Serious people know that. And in the ensuing reaction one finds virtually every dynamic typically shaping discussions of Terrorism and U.S. foreign policy.

To begin with, this episode continues the FBI’s record-setting undefeated streak of heroically saving us from the plots they enable. From all appearances, this is, at best, yet another spectacular “plot” hatched by some hapless loser with delusions of grandeur but without any means to put it into action except with the able assistance of the FBI, which yet again provided it through its own (paid, criminal) sources posing as Terrorist enablers. The Terrorist Mastermind at the center of the plot is a failed used car salesman in Texas with a history of pedestrian money problems. Dive under your bed. “For the entire operation, the government’s confidential sources were monitored and guided by federal law enforcement agents,” explained U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, and “no explosives were actually ever placed anywhere and no one was actually ever in any danger.’”

The Guardian has an interactive and updated timeline on the events labeled the “Arab Spring,” with links to articles in The Guardian. You can choose the time period and the country and the type of event or issue. It is current through September 26, 2011.

The Saudi ambassador to the US Adel al-Jubeir speaks during Middle East peace conference in Maryland in 2007

The news dominating coverage of the Middle East today catapults Iran and the Palestinians over the ongoing Arab Spring. Even the fact that tens of thousands of Syrians turned out in Damascus to support the Asad regime pales in relation to the James Bond scenario of Iranians, drinking tequila with Mexican drug runners in order to set up the assassination of the Saudi ambassador in Washington. It sounds like a movie plot, but then so does the whole Arab spring since February. American officials are acting as though they have slam-dunk proof, which is a dangerous sign when no one has seen even an iota of that proof apart from the allegations given by Attorney General Holder. And it seems the culprit has confessed, so what more needs to be said? The plot is plausible to most Americans, I suspect, because one expects Iran to engage in terrorism and the government officials in Iran despise the Saudis as much as they do the United States. It sure makes Eric Holder, who has come under blistering attack by Republican hawks, smell like a rose.

Also headlining the news today is the agreement between Israel and Hamas in which some 1,027 Palestinians being held in Israel jails will be exchanged for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, captured some five years ago. And the plot thickens, because the exchange of 1000/1 is taken as a victory by both sides. The dark side is that such a deal reinforces the notion that Israel lives are more valuable than Palestinian lives at the same time as individuals are being freed rather than blown up. Given previous hard-line rhetoric of Netanyahu, the idea of such a trade also seems something dreamed up in a novel.

There are serious plots in which people die every day, such as more bombs in Iraq. And there are, in biblical terms, rumors of plots. These two events today would be earth-shaking on any day, but are especially ripe for punditry at this juncture in the region. What will the impact of this release mean on the Palestinian quest for statehood in the U.N.? What new sanctions can be brought out against Iran? And if the Saudi ambassador had been killed, along with a number of Americans, what would have been the response of the Obama administration? I can only imagine the re-election landslide if Obama and the Israelis were to successfully launch an attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear plant. He would be drinking tea all the way to a second term in the White House.

Let’s see what new plot unfolds tomorrow…

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