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March 17, 2005

PostCards From The Arab Spring

From a speech by the CG of the 1st Cavalry Division--recently returned from Iraq--at Fort Hood.

6. Said that not tending to a dead body in the Muslim culture never happens. On election day, after suicide bombers blew themselves up trying to take out polling places, voters would step up to the body lying there, spit on it, and move up in the line to vote.

7. Pointed out that we all heard from the media about the 100 Iraqis killed as they were lined up to enlist in the police and security service. What the media didn't point out was that the next day there 300 lined up in the same place.

8. Said bin Laden and Zarqawi made a HUGE mistake when bin laden went public with naming Zarqawi the "prince" of al Quaeda in Iraq. Said that what the Iraqis saw and heard was a Saudi telling a Jordainan that his job was to kill Iraqis. HUGE mistake. It was one of the biggest factors in getting Iraqis who were on the "fence" to jump off on the side of the coalition and the new gov't.

JENNINGS: Excuse me for interrupting. Who decides democratic maturity? Who is —.

ABDULLAH: The people.

JENNINGS: — as of now, you decide democratic maturity?

ABDULLAH: Well in this particular position, we formed the government, that the parliament is elected by the people. But to encourage that, I mean, I have been in discussions with parliamentarians that would it be stronger for you to create where you stand on issues of education, social services, et cetera, et cetera, so that you can create a political party so that in the future, the people actually pick you for where you stand, and not because you happen to be a cousin or a tribal member?

JENNINGS: Would you be happy to be the head of a constitutional monarchy, as well …

ABDULLAH: Well, eventually … (Overlap)

JENNINGS: … than an absolute monarchy?

ABDULLAH: … eventually that's what we're trying to do, and by creating, decentralization, by trying to get these three regions, with their own elected parliaments, that will be the end game.

An Egyptian opposition leader has declared his candidacy in this year's presidential elections, a few days after being released from prison.

Ayman Nur's statement of intent on Wednesday makes him the first person to challenge the governing National Democratic Party (NDP) in nearly 24 years of rule by President Husni Mubarak.

Nur made the announcement at the doorstep of the charity he runs in his constituency in Islamic Cairo. He addressed a crowd of more than 1000 people in the street.

The building was surrounded by a heavy contingent of riot police who tussled with the crowd before Nur's arrival.

"With thanks to God, the party, to you and to your love, I announce here that we are going to participate in the upcoming election for the presidency of the republic against the National Democratic Party. And this party will fall," Nur said.

Negotiations have begun between the US and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman towards a free trade agreement (FTA), starting a new set of bilateral FTA talks in the Middle East.
The US push for FTAs among members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC, a customs union comprising the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait), however, has raised the hackles of the Saudi government, which is anxious about the effect that the FTAs will have on the group's common external tariff once they come into force, fearing that the FTA countries will become a gateway for US goods to flood the customs union.

Saudi officials have also expressed "alarm" over the decision of some GCC members' decision to negotiate with the US bilaterally, rather than as a trade bloc. Saudi Arabia is not a WTO Member, and has no plans at the moment to negotiate an FTA with the US.

Intellectuals, businessmen and working class people alike can be caught these days lauding Bush’s hard-edged posture on democracy in Arab lands, cheering his irreverent handling of Middle Eastern rulers who are US allies as he puts pressure on them to hold free elections, release political prisoners and open trade.

And, it is very much an open secret that millions of ordinary Arabs openly embrace Bush’s unvarnished threats against Syria should it fail to pull its soldiers and spies out of Lebanon before the elections there next month.

It may not add up to a love fest for Bush in Arabia as much as it is a celebration by exponentially growing numbers of Arabs of their own liberation.

From Casablanca to Kuwait City, what Bush says mirrors, reinforces and, in fact, reflects what has long been in the heart: A yearning for human rights, justice, freedom, rule of law, transparency, limits on power and women’s rights. In short civilisation as we know it today in the 21st century.

Yemen, Osama bin Laden's ancestral home, has shut down nearly 1,400 unlicensed religious schools in the last two months for promoting militant ideology and hatred towards the West.

Sheikh Yahya al-Najar, an official at the Religious Guidance and Endowments Ministry, said on Wednesday that a government committee had investigated 4,000 religious schools and centres and found that 65 percent of them violated education laws.

He said authorities had shut down around 1,400 of them over the last two months and would carry out more closures.

Posted by Bigwig at March 17, 2005 10:38 AM | TrackBack
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