Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

And the spy wars continue…

5, December, 2011

A thorough treatment of all the Israeli stooges caught in Lebanon over the past three years is here. It is written by Nour Samaha, who poses the obvious question: if Lebanon’s telecom operators have been infiltrated by Israeli henchmen to the level where they had access to passwords and software enabling them to change data, including ttrack records of calls and names associated with phones, where does that leave the STL investigation? The STL has accused first Syria and then Hizbullah of being behind Hariri’s murder, but all their evidence – besides being circumstantial and inconclusive even in  their own admission – is based on telecom data… unless you count the paid false witnesses which have already been discarded.

Meanwhile, the Iranians have apparently captured a US drone – presumably using the same hacking techniques employed by Hizbullah and the Mahdi Army of Muqtada Al Sadr since at least 2004, and the Israelis were forced (again!) to blow up one of their eavesdropping devices after it was discovered by Hizbullah. An “Iranian military official quoted on Iranian state television claimed that an Iranian military cyber-warfare unit “managed to take over controls of the drone and bring it down”. This on top of the CIA being forced to close down its Beirut station (or at least pretend to do so). Seems the powers that (used to) be are getting seriously sloppy and complacent these days… Only question is: if HA can control the Israeli drones, why did they allow them to blow up their telecoms toy? Or are they playing on US/Israeli hubris and reserving the big surprise for a more appropriate occasion?

PS On HA’s technical capabilities, see also Abu Muqawama (aka Andrew Exum)’s interview with Nick Blanford here – although regardless of Exum’s praise for Blanford, I maintain that he should not be taken at face value, as he has been employed by the Hariri faction and wrote a entire hagiographic, biased and totally flawed book about Hariri;s murder which was literally paid for and distributed by Saad Hariri.

PS2 Rumours are doing the rounds that the Iranians downed the Lockheed-Boeing drone using the ‘special Russian-made radio-electronic warfare system ‘Avtobaza’ delivered to Iranians few weeks ago’. This, incidentally, points to the greater war games going on behind the Iran/Syria/HA vs US/Israel- screen, and which involve Russia and China on the former side – still covertly and timidly now, but I would not be surprised if the Chinese were to announce soon that they had placed nuclear missiles in Iran – just in case anybody would stop barking and think of actually biting… I have said it before: whenever capitalism faces a structural and systemic global crisis, it needs to start a global war to save its skin. Whether the coming exercise in global slaughter will be won by neo-liberal capitalism or by state capitalism remains to be seen, however…

Hizbullah’s technical prowess

25, November, 2011

Several articles have appeared recently in the US which finally have the CIA acknowledging that their Lebanese station and network of informers have been virtually dismantled by Hizbullah, closely on the heels of HA finishing off the Israeli network of spies in 2009. See here and here, as well as here for a Lebanese perspective. That basically means that the Israel/US combine has lost a lot of its ability to independently assess HA’s military and will now have to rely on its Lebanese M14 partners, who are not only notoriously unreliable and prone to exaggerate or belittle facts as it suits them, but also have very little inside information on HA themselves. In a separate article, Nicholas Blanford also discusses HA’s military capabilities and its possible reaction to a potential Israeli and/or US attack on Iran. Now, Blanford is himself virtually a mouthpiece of the M14/Hariri camp and certainly not likely to have access to HA insiders, but much of what he argues in the article is common knowledge in Lebanon anyway, or can be deduced by simple common sense. Obviously, in a climate of constant warmongering of Israel and the US (and even the UK recently has joined the chorus) against Iran, HA will work out a contingency plan – they did that a long time ago already, and Blanford’s suggestion of dramaticvally expanded recruitment into HA’s military is just for propaganda purposes – neatly coinciding with the CIA’s admission – and why now, after months of official denial, as many ask – of its failure in Lebanon.

But the real question is: will the ‘western’ side actually be as foolishly suicidal to actually attack Iran militarily? Rationally speaking, they don’t stand a chance to achieve any military objective in doing so – not even taking out the ‘nuclear capabilities’ of Iran, if indeed any capabilities beyond energy generation are present, which has never been proven yet. The new IAEA report does not offer a single new fact or shred of evidence, its new chief has just rewritten and re-interpreted old known data to suit the US and Israel’s purposes. On the other hand, as an overwhelming majority of analysts and commentators keep pointing out, Iran has enormous capabilities of more conventional retaliation, starting with closing off the street of Hormuz and with it 40% of the world’s oil supply (and a far greater percentage of the ‘west’s oil supply), continuing with HA and Hamas attacking and possibly invading Israel and possibly even escalating to the point where China, Russia and India decide that they cannot afford to have an important business partner undergo the fate of Iraq or Afghanistan.

Then again, at times when capitalism is undergoing a major global crisis – as it must in its perpetual boom-and-bust cycle – the way out has historically involved starting a major global war. As anti-capitalist protests are growing in size around the globe, and most threateningly in the core areas of the capitalist system, this is becoming an increasingly attractive possibility for the elite. Additionally, Israel and the US may decide that, having lost what eyes and ears they had inside HA, this might be the last opportunity to have a go at destroying it with any chance – however slim – of succeeding. In any case, if the ‘west’ is foolish enough to actually start that war, the outcome will be the end of Israel as we know it – and the end of a lot more of the world as we know it…

Update: 12 more CIA assets have reportedly been arrested in Iran. Here is a debunking of what seems to be a desparate damage control effort of the Mossad, who have not realised yet that their carefully crafted Hollywood glamour image is no longer fooling anyone…

In the middle of the west

12, November, 2011

Since I returned to Belgium last September, my blogging activity has sort of moved to my facebook account – somehow, I never really succeeded to make a satisfactory link in my mind between blogging about Lebanon and blogging about Belgium/Europe. I have also been very busy professionally and with our new family. And yet all the time – at least from the birth of our daughter on the very  first day of the Tunisian uprising on December 18th last year, the connexion has been staring me in the face. As Juan Cole puts it very eloquently on Tomdispatch:

‘If we focus on economic trends, then the neoliberal state looks eerily similar, whether it is a democracy or a dictatorship, whether the government is nominally right of center or left of center.  As a package, deregulation, the privatization of public resources and firms, corruption and forms of insider trading, and interference in the ability of workers to organize or engage in collective bargaining have allowed the top 1% in Israel, just as in Tunisia or the United States, to capture the lion’s share of profits from the growth of the last decades.

Observers were puzzled by the huge crowds that turned out in both Tunis and Tel Aviv in 2011, especially given that economic growth in those countries had been running at a seemingly healthy 5% per annum. “Growth,” defined generally and without regard to its distribution, is the answer to a neoliberal question.  The question of the 99% percent, however, is: Who is getting the increased wealth?  In both of those countries, as in the United States and other neoliberal lands, the answer is: disproportionately the 1%.

If you were wondering why outraged young people around the globe are chanting such similar slogans and using such similar tactics (including Facebook “flash mobs”), it is because they have seen more clearly than their elders through the neoliberal shell game.’

As Cole puts it: the focus of our corporate mass media in the ‘west’ on the emergence of islamist parties in ‘democratized’ Middle East is a conscious orientalisation intended to divert attention from the obvious similarities between the elites and their imposed economic system in east and west alike. The Muslim Brotherhood coming to (some) power is in no way different from the christian parties who have dominated or participated in European governments for over a hundred years. And Ben Ali’s family dominating the banking system and economy of Tunisia is not different from, say, Dehaene, Schouppe, Daems and all these neoliberal corrupt Belgian politicians selling public assets to their cronies for ridiculously cheap prices, then going on to sit on the boards of the corporations who benefited. The point is that our financial and political elites share all the wealth between them that was created by generations of tax payers, and then leaving those tax payers to pay for the resulting loss of income and debts incurred by ‘their’ state. Odious debts here as in Egypt, Greece or the US.

And the same protest movements are springing up here as there. The 99% are finally opening their eyes and this will have a serious effect globally in the next few years. Even if capitalism succeeds in plunging the world into another world war – which is what happens after every serious ‘crisis’, and is fully part of the cycle of the capitalist system – people might still succeed in toppling the oppressive government systems. Both the revolutions of 1789 and 1917 happened as a result of disastrous wars. It is time to get on with the unfinished business of 1789 in particular. Separating the executive, legislative and judicial powers was a step in the right direction, but neglecting to also separate and strictly regulate the economic and information powers (i.e. education and media) has rendered this separation practically meaningless, as wealthy individuals still have the power to buy the officials – whether elected or appointed – manning our  legislative, executive and judicial institutions.

The power – and subservience to the 1% – of the media becomes obvious just by observing how the only country that has managed to resolve its financial problems in a truly democratic way – i.e. Iceland – is totally blacked out from the news, while the mere proposal of Greek prime minister Papandreou of submitting the ‘solution’ of austerity measures to the people was enough to get him dismissed, while all of our ‘democratic’ European leaders were shouting and screaming about such a ‘disastrous’ proposal. While the new government of Iceland has issued international arrest warrants for its own banksters, our own governments continue to sacrifice their sovereignty and our democracy to unelected and privately owned ratings agencies and banksters.

How long until the guillotine makes its glorious return to decapitate the nouveau ancien regime?

 

The monarchs are getting restless…

23, January, 2009

In a telltale sign of how serious the repercussions of the Gaza massacre – and the complicity of the ‘moderate’ Arab regimes in it – are becoming, read this plea annex threat written by prince Turki al-Faisal (high up in the Saudi royal family and former head of the Saudi intelligence services) in the Financial Times: ‘Last week, President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad of Iran wrote a letter to King Abdullah, explicitly recognising Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds and calling on him to take a more confrontational role over “this obvious atrocity and killing of your own children” in Gaza. The communiqué is significant because the de facto recognition of the kingdom’s primacy from one of its most ardent foes reveals the extent that the war has united an entire region, both Shia and Sunni. Further, Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s call for Saudi Arabia to lead a jihad against Israel would, if pursued, create unprecedented chaos and bloodshed in the region. So far, the kingdom has resisted these calls, but every day this restraint becomes more difficult to maintain. When Israel deliberately kills Palestinians, appropriates their lands, destroys their homes, uproots their farms and imposes an inhuman blockade on them; and as the world laments once again the suffering of the Palestinians, people of conscience from every corner of the world are clamouring for action. Eventually, the kingdom will not be able to prevent its citizens from joining the worldwide revolt against Israel. Today, every Saudi is a Gazan, and we remember well the words of our late King Faisal: “I hope you will forgive my outpouring of emotions, but when I think that our Holy Mosque in Jerusalem is being invaded and desecrated, I ask God that if I am unable to undertake Holy Jihad, then I should not live a moment more.”
Let us all pray that Mr Obama possesses the foresight, fairness, and resolve to rein in the murderous Israeli regime and open a new chapter in this most intractable of conflicts.

Arab hero

16, December, 2008

Muntazer az-Zaidi has achieved more for the Arab world by simply throwing his shoes at Bush than all the Arafats, Abbases, Malikis, Abdullahs and Mubaraks combined. He’s enlisted more worldwide sympathy and understanding for the Arabs than all the Muqtada as-Sadrs, al-Zawahiris and al-Sistanis combined. And let nobody tell you he’s an islamist or a even a religious shia. He’s a leftist secular Iraqi. What am I saying, he’s a full-blooded anarchist. I salute him and so should you.

Oops…drunk salafists?

21, November, 2008

Naharnet has completely changed its version of this morning’s shootout in Bab al-Tabbaneh: turns out the incident started with three men in a car ignoring a checkpoint and subsequently being shot at by the soldiers. One of the men was wounded. A little later a crowd of neighbourhood inhabitants came and attacked the checkpoint. It is in this firefight that two men were killed and 8 others wounded, including 3 soldiers… The crowd also blocked the Tripoli-Akkar highway with burning tires (a longstanding Lebanese custom) and, for some unfathomable reason, set fire to the car which the men were driving – which, Incidentally, was not a white Mitsubishi van but a Renault 18. Its colour was not mentioned in the article. It is unclear whether the drunk men were salafists…

Beirut to Beijing (and beyond)

17, November, 2008

A friend of mine is currently traveling overland to China from Beirut via Syria, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. She has been writing a prolific blog diary that is both amusing and insightful, shedding some light not only on the countries and cultures she traverses, but also on the tribulations, surprises and dilemmas facing a self-defined ‘vegetarian deconstructionist with liberal-humanist tendencies’ confronted with Central Asian life and culture. She’s about to leave Kazakhstan and enter China at the moment. Check it out here: ‘I concluded that the dynamic of the celebration was very different from the way that we have large-scale parties in Europe. There, festivities are an industry: one rents a space, one hires caterers, waiters, photographers, entertainers… Whereas in Sentap, I think that the only person who might have been receiving a fee was the singer. Everybody else was just assuming their part of the responsibility that accompanies the festivity. These were the ethics of community that have been largely lost in the way we celebrate in urban centres around the world, where solidarity is replaced with convenience. I think that in the first major shindig I have in my life, I will take inspiration from that village party in the mountains of Uzbekistan instead of bowing to the weight of my own social conventions; not as an appropriation of some romanticised exotic, rural purity, but as a reclaiming of a set of communal values that, in many places, I feel have been forgotten.’
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Debunking the myths of zionism

3, September, 2008

‘Sixty years after its foundation, Israel refuses to accept that it should exist for the sake of its citizens. For almost a quarter of the population, who are not regarded as Jews, this is not their state legally. At the same time, Israel presents itself as the homeland of Jews throughout the world, even if these are no longer persecuted refugees, but the full and equal citizens of other countries.’

Schlomo Sand, professor of history at Tel Aviv university and author of Comment le people juif fut inventé (Fayard, Paris, 2008) is writing in Le Monde Diplomatique: Israel deliberately forgets its history’
‘(…)Then there is the question of the exile of 70 AD. There has been no real research into this turning point in Jewish history, the cause of the diaspora. And for a simple reason: the Romans never exiled any nation from anywhere on the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean. Apart from enslaved prisoners, the population of Judea continued to live on their lands, even after the destruction of the second temple. Some converted to Christianity in the 4th century, while the majority embraced Islam during the 7th century Arab conquest.
Most Zionist thinkers were aware of this: Yitzhak Ben Zvi, later president of Israel, and David Ben Gurion, its first prime minister, accepted it as late as 1929, the year of the great Palestinian revolt. Both stated on several occasions that the peasants of Palestine were the descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Judea.
But if there was no exile after 70 AD, where did all the Jews who have populated the Mediterranean since antiquity come from? The smokescreen of national historiography hides an astonishing reality. From the Maccabean revolt of the mid-2nd century BC to the Bar Kokhba revolt of the 2nd century AD, Judaism was the most actively proselytising religion. The Judeo-Hellenic Hasmoneans forcibly converted the Idumeans of southern Judea and the Itureans of Galilee and incorporated them into the people of Israel. Judaism spread across the Middle East and round the Mediterranean. The 1st century AD saw the emergence in modern Kurdistan of the Jewish kingdom of Adiabene, just one of many that converted.
The writings of Flavius Josephus are not the only evidence of the proselytising zeal of the Jews. Horace, Seneca, Juvenal and Tacitus were among the Roman writers who feared it. The Mishnah and the Talmud (authorised conversion, even if the wise men of the Talmudic tradition expressed reservations in the face of the mounting pressure from Christianity.
Although the early 4th century triumph of Christianity did not mark the end of Jewish expansion, it relegated Jewish proselytism to the margins of the Christian cultural world. During the 5th century, in modern Yemen, a vigorous Jewish kingdom emerged in Himyar, whose descendants preserved their faith through the Islamic conquest and down to the present day. Arab chronicles tell of the existence, during the 7th century, of Judaised Berber tribes; and at the end of the century the legendary Jewish queen Dihya contested the Arab advance into northwest Africa. Jewish Berbers participated in the conquest of the Iberian peninsula and helped establish the unique symbiosis between Jews and Muslims that characterised Hispano-Arabic culture.
The most significant mass conversion occurred in the 8th century, in the massive Khazar kingdom between the Black and Caspian seas. The expansion of Judaism from the Caucasus into modern Ukraine created a multiplicity of communities, many of which retreated from the 13th century Mongol invasions into eastern Europe. There, with Jews from the Slavic lands to the south and from what is now modern Germany, they formed the basis of Yiddish culture.’

Technical announcement 4

6, September, 2007

That’s right, brothers and siters, from now on, and on general demand, I will continue this blog in english, so that my Lebanese and international friends can enjoy my ramblings too. I use the occasion to announce the uploading of a few new sets of pictures onto my flickr site: the set ‘From Israel with love’ documents (a tiny part of) the incredible destruction of the southern shiite suburbs of Dahiyyeh. ‘Nahr al-Bared RIP’ features the pix I took on the one-but-last day of the LAF siege of the Palestinian refugee camp. ‘Mount Lebanon’ contains views on a recent trip through the Maronite part of the Lebanon range, including a shot of the pitiful remnants of the once mighty cedar forests. Let me remind you again that I am not (at all) a professional photographer an use a cheapo little camera. I also take this occasion to link to HARRYZZZ, the blog of Harald Doornbos, Middle East correspondent for the Dutch newspaper group GDP and for NOS television. His site famously features a video of ‘the flying terrorist’ – an explosion during the Nahr al-Bared siege which hurls into the air a Fatah al-Islam gunman (or something looking like a human being at least).

Technische mededeling 3bis – Mailing list

5, September, 2007

OK, de link in de eerste aankondiging werkte blijkbaar niet, dus hier het emailadres waarop je je kan inschrijven op de mailing list: middeninhetoosten-subscribe@yahoogroups.com


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