Syria’s Currency Sags Under Weight of Unrest

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

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Black smoke is seen from Homs refinery (in the background) after a pipeline carrying oil from the east of the country to the refinery was blown up, in this December 8, 2011 file handout photograph released by Syria’s national news agency SANA. Long queues to get heating oil and petrol, along with bread shortages, even in areas of the country that have not witnessed months of protests are adding to the discomfort and misery, Syrians say. Picture taken December 8, 2011.

REUTERS/SANA/Handout/ Files

AMMAN, Dec 14 (Reuters) – Syrian trader Ghaith Jawhar goes daily to the old Damascus market looking for illegal money dealers hiding in the alleyways. He sells them small amounts of Syrian pounds in exchange for hard currency that has become scarcer and more expensive in the last few weeks.

“My profits and savings are now threatened. I cannot find anyone who can give me enough dollars, and those who are offering me some are giving me prohibitive rates,” Jawhar, 62, said by telephone from his small clothing shop in the Salhia commercial district of the capital.

The Syrian pound’s depreciation has accelerated in the past week as the nine-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad takes its toll on the economy, after months of relative stability when the central bank managed to support the exchange rate by supplying foreign currency.

The official rate has fallen from 47 pounds to the U.S. dollar, where it stood when pro-democracy protests began in March, to around 54 pounds as authorities lowered the rate to narrow the differential with the black market. The biggest single adjustment, from 50 pounds, occurred on Dec. 5.

On the black market, the pound has slipped even further, with the rate now hovering around 59 pounds. A low of 62 pounds was hit briefly just after the Arab League slapped economic sanctions on Syria last month.

The violence in Syria is shrinking the economy and disrupting exports. Syrians’ worries about their local currency savings are compounded by lack of confidence in a tightly regulated financial sector, where even depositors in the country’s 12 privately held banks can find it hard to withdraw foreign currency holdings without encountering hefty withdrawal fees and central bank limits on foreign exchange transactions.

“There are a lot of people that want dollars because they are panicking…There is speculation and there are a lot of people taking advantage of this, and exchange dealers who are quoting high margins which is creating additional deprecation,” said a senior commercial banker in Damascus, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Bankers in Damascus, Beirut and the Gulf say the flow of funds into dollars has accelerated in the last several weeks as a Syrian insurgency, with attacks on government facilities, has begun to overshadow street protests.

Tough controls reminiscent of Syria’s past as a Soviet-style command economy force companies to convert hard currency into Syrian pounds at the official rate. Such measures make it difficult for ordinary Syrians and traders to get enough dollars from banks.

The flight to safety has pushed wealthy Syrian businessmen, most of whose wealth was already abroad, to send their remaining dollar savings in cash across borders to neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan, banking sources in the two countries said.

Some bankers said concern about the stability of the economy and banks was moving the country slowly towards a cash-based economy, with more cash hoarded at home.

“People have not withdrawn their savings, but they now prefer to take everyday spending for the month in one go and keep it at home, rather than drawing their salaries over the course of the month,” said a banker in Aleppo.

He added that the closure of banks for several days in the city of Hama during widescale protests in July had rattled depositors and undermined confidence in the banking sector.

RESERVES

Syria’s foreign currency reserves were estimated at over $17 billion before the unrest began. Up-to-date official figures are not available, but bankers believe the reserves have have now declined by at least several billion dollars, putting the central bank in a dilemma.

Between March and September, the central bank supplied dollars relatively freely to keep the exchange rate largely stable; bankers estimated it spent an average $500 million every month.

But this depleted reserves, and if they fall too far — perhaps, judging by the experience of Egypt this year, to near three months’ worth of imports — the market may worry that the central bank is running out of money and increase the pressure on the currency. Syria’s monthly imports of goods and services this year are expected to average about $1.9 billion, according to the International Monetary Fund.

“There is a limit to the intervention of the central bank. You have reserves that you cannot sacrifice,” said a Damascus-based banker at the subsidiary of a foreign bank, who is in regular contact with central bank officials.

This month’s move to align the official exchange rate closer to the black market rate appears due to a recognition that reserves could no longer be run down so rapidly to defend the currency, bankers said.

“It’s the right policy to move the official rate closer to the black market because who is going to replenish our foreign reserves?” said one banking source familiar with current thinking within Syria’s central bank management.

“The central bank has now resigned itself to the fact that it was futile to keep running to maintain the rate at around 50 pounds, and they are letting go.”

Now there are expectations in the black market for the pound to slip even further around the end of this year, and for authorities to lower the official rate accordingly.

“If things get worse, most of us expect the dollar rate could reach the 70 pounds psychological barrier, especially since there is no light at the end of the tunnel,” said a prominent Syrian economist who declined to be named.

Other economists and bankers said they still expected the central bank to spend heavily to prevent such a level being reached, partly because massive depreciation could cause a big rise of inflation.

“They cannot afford to leave the market because the moment the currency collapses it will be a tipping point once and for all, and nothing will restore confidence in it,” said Ibrahim Saif, an economist with Carnegie Middle East, a U.S. think tank.

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Shooting Erupts in Hama Before Arab Visit

December 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mariam Karouny

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Men pray next to the coffins of people killed at security sites on Friday in two car bomb attacks, at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus December 24,2011 in this handout photograph released by Syria’s national news agency SANA. The United Nations expressed grave concern about twin suicide car bombings in Damascus and condemned the attacks that killed 44 people and lent a grim new face to the uprising in Syria.

REUTERS/Sana/Handout

BEIRUT (Reuters) – At least seven people were wounded on Wednesday in the Syrian city of Hama when security forces used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse a protest against President Bashar al-Assad, just a day before a visit by Arab peace monitors, a rights group said.

Live pictures on al Jazeera television showed gunfire and black smoke rising above a street in Hama as dozens of protesters chanted: “Where are the Arab monitors?”

Arab League monitors checking if Syria is ending its violent crackdown on popular unrest are due to visit Hama on Thursday. In its footage, al Jazeera showed one man bleeding from the neck as others shouted in the background.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the protesters were heading towards Orontes square in the city centre for a sit-in at the symbolic location where demonstrations were crushed earlier this year.

Security forces were not visible in the Jazeera footage. Unarmed protesters, some masked, were heard shouting “Assad forces are shooting us.” The protesters then began chanting: “Freedom for ever” and “We will have our revenge on you Bashar.”

Reuters could not verify the details as Syria has banned most foreign media from the country.

Hama, 240 km (150 miles) north of Damascus, has particular resonance for Syrians. The city was the site of the biggest massacre in the country’s modern history.

Troops overran Hama in 1982 to put down the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which made its last stand there. Up to 30,000 people were killed, many of them killed in an army bombardment or executed in the streets by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s’ father, the late Hafez al-Assad. Parts of its old city were razed to the ground.

Twenty-nine years later Hama demonstrators demanding the overthrow of Bashar still revile the memory of his father, who died in 2000 after ruling Syria for three decades.

FREEDOM CALL

In the Jazeera footage, the protesters began cursing Hafez’s soul immediately after the gunfire was heard, before rushing to hide in alleyways.

A few looked out to shout a defiant freedom call before disappearing into hiding again. The shooting intensified, then one man shouted out that snipers were now operating in the area. Dozens of men squeezed themselves in an alley, chanting anti-Assad slogans.

“There is no turning back from the revolution,” they shouted.

Hama was among the hardest hit cities in an escalation of military attacks against urban centers where anti-Assad protests had been held.

In August, tanks attacked Hama for ten days, provoking Arab and Western outrage, after weeks of protests that drew hundreds of thousands of people to Orontes Square. Authorities said the operation was necessary to cleanse the city of “terrorists” according to the wishes of Hama inhabitants.

On Wednesday, part of an Arab League team went to a flashpoint area in the city of Homs but some of their planned tour was blocked when gunfire erupted, activists said.

Residents of Homs’s Baba Amr neighborhood initially refused to cooperate when the monitors arrived with an army escort and the team withdrew. But activists said a smaller group of monitors returned without the officer and were escorted by residents and activists on a tour of the turbulent district.

But the monitors could not enter an area where residents said they believed detainees were being hidden because gunfire erupted. It was not clear where the shooting came from.

“Residents were accompanying the team to the area to show them where they believe detainees are being held when suddenly there was gunfire near the checkpoint,” said Rami Abdelrahman, of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

(Editing by Giles Elgood)

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Activists: 111 Killed in Syria’s “Bloodiest Day”

December 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dominic Evans

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian forces killed 111 people ahead of the start of a mission to monitor President Bashar al-Assad’s implementation of an Arab League peace plan, activists said on Wednesday, and France branded the killings an “unprecedented massacre.”

Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 111 civilians and activists were killed on Tuesday when Assad’s forces surrounded them in the foothills of the northern Jabal al-Zawiyah region in Idlib province and unleashed two hours of bombardment and heavy gunfire.

Another 100 army deserters were either wounded or killed, making it the “bloodiest day of the Syrian revolution,” he said.

“There was a massacre of unprecedented scale in Syria on Tuesday,” said French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. “It is urgent that the U.N. Security Council issues a firm resolution that calls for an end to the repression.”

The United States said it was deeply disturbed by reports of indiscriminate killing and warned Assad the violence must stop. Britain said it was shocked by the reports and urged Syria to “end immediately its brutal violence against civilians.”

Events in Syria are hard to verify because authorities, who say they are battling terrorists who have killed more than 1,100 soldiers and police, have banned most independent reporting.

Tuesday’s bloodshed brought the death toll reported by activists in the last 48 hours to over 200.

The main opposition Syrian National Council said “gruesome murders” were carried out, including the beheading of a local imam, and demanded international action to protect civilians.

The escalating death toll in nine months of popular unrest has raised the specter of civil war in Syria with Assad, 46, still trying to stamp out protests with troops and tanks despite international sanctions imposed to push him onto a reform path.

Idlib, a northwestern province bordering Turkey, has been a hotbed of protest during the revolt, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world this year, and has also seen increasing attacks by armed insurgents against his forces.

The Observatory said rebels had damaged or destroyed 17 military vehicles in Idlib since Sunday while in the southern province of Deraa violence continued on Wednesday.

Tanks entered the town of Dael, the British-based group said, leading to clashes in which 15 security force members were killed. Six army defectors and a civilian also died and dozens of civilians were wounded, it said.

ARAB PEACE MONITORS

The Syrian National Council said 250 people had been killed on Monday and Tuesday in “bloody massacres,” and that the Arab League and United Nations must protect civilians.

It demanded “an emergency U.N. Security Council session to discuss the (Assad) regime’s massacres in Jabal al-Zawiyah, Idlib and Homs, in particular” and called for “safe zones” to be set up under international protection.

It also said those regions should be declared disaster areas and urged the International Red Crescent and other relief organizations to provide humanitarian aid.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said unless Damascus complied fully with the Arab League plan to end the violence, “additional steps” would be taken against it. Washington and the European Union have already imposed sanctions on Syria.

“Bashar al-Assad should have no doubt that the world is watching, and neither the international community no the Syria people accept his legitimacy,” he said.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said on Tuesday that an advance observer team would go to Syria on Thursday to prepare the way for 150 monitors due to arrive by end-December.

Syria stalled for weeks before signing a protocol on Monday to admit the monitors, who will check its compliance with the plan mandating an end to violence, withdrawal of troops from the streets, release of prisoners and dialogue with the opposition.

Syrian officials say over 1,000 prisoners have been freed since the plan was agreed six weeks ago and that the army has pulled out of cities. The government promised a parliamentary election early next year as well as constitutional reform which might loosen the ruling Baath Party’s grip on power.

Syrian pro-democracy activists are deeply skeptical about Assad’s commitment to the plan, which, if implemented, could embolden demonstrators demanding an end to his 11-year rule, which followed three decades of domination by his father.

Assad is from Syria’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, and Alawites hold many senior posts in the army which he has deployed to crush the mainly Sunni Muslim protests.

In recent months, peaceful protests have increasingly given way to armed confrontations, often led by army deserters.

In a show of military power, state television broadcast footage of live-fire exercises held by the navy and air force, which it said aimed at deterring any attack on Syria.

U.N. TOLL

The United Nations has said more than 5,000 people have been killed in Syria since anti-Assad protests broke out in March.

Arab, U.S. and European sanctions combined with the unrest have sent the economy into sharp decline. The Syrian pound fell nearly 2 percent on Tuesday to more than 55 pounds per dollar, 17 percent down from the official rate before the unrest.

Arab rulers are keen to prevent a descent into civil war in Syria that could affect a region already riven by rivalry between non-Arab Shi’ite Muslim power Iran and Sunni Muslim Arab heavyweights such as Saudi Arabia.

(Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris and Alister Bull in Washington; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Peter Millership)

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On the Verge of Transition

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

– The Syrian Expatriate

By Laura Fawaz

IMG_0007

Livonia, MI–“I think what happened in Syria is exactly what happened in the rest of the Arab World.  It’s the results of long term torture and oppression by the current regime,” said Ammar Ghanem, of Indiana, with the Syrian National Council, when speaking about the effect of the Arab Spring on Syria.

Last Saturday, the Syrian Expatriate, along with the Syrian National Council, held a seminar called “On The Verge of Transition, a Meeting With The Syrian National Council, at Burton Manor in Livonia.” 
The seminar focused on the Syrian National Council’s (SNC) integration within Syrian Communities across the world.  The SNC’s focus was for the Syrian community, especially in Metro-Detroit, to meet the SNC and the Syrian Expatiate. 

SNC board member Louay Sakka of Canada explained that they are hoping “for an exchange of ideas, and to discuss the future of Syria.”

Ghanem added, “The main objective is trying to help the people inside Syria, and to help drive forward the Syrian Revolution.”

Attendees were asking questions and exploring options for Syria with the SNC, as part of the seminar that was divided into four topics: The structure and the way the SNC is currently working, the economics of the Syrian Revolution and options to weaken the regime, discussing the political work being done, and lastly, international protection and interaction to protect civilians in Syria.

Ghanem explained that the plans for this event have been in the works for five weeks, and were necessary because “the people of Syria couldn’t take it anymore, and they want to up rise and want to get rid of the current regime.  Who doesn’t want freedom?”

Asked if most Metro-Detroit Syrians feel the same way about the current Syrian political party, Sakaa replied, “most of the people in general already get to a point where they are completely against the regime.  Having said that, it doesn’t mean that everyone is on the same page.  You still have people who get some type of benefit from this regime, directly or indirectly.” 

According to Sakaa, since the rest of the world is primary against the current political Syrian party, the Arab League has just removed Syria.  After this, it seems as though most Syrians are feeling the isolation, and is why less people are working with the Syrian government. 

Some of course still support the current Syrian regime. So the SNC when asked whether anyone came out and showed disagreement with this event, they explained that Burton Manor received anonymous threatening phone calls. 

The SNC took extra precautions, including having the Livonia Police Department all around the building, as well as having their own security on board.

As the rest of the Arab World has shown this past year, we truly cannot know what is happening inside country lines until it all unravels.  So for now, attending events such as this will be our closest entry point. 

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Al Jazeera’s Cal Perry Reports on the Latest from Syria

April 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Israel-Iran War Game Scenario Predicts Disaster:

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Translated by Didi Remez

Israel’s leading columnist, Nahum Barnea, published a column this week about an academic war game exercise conducted at Bar Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center Strategic Studies.  In a paper published last September, Prof. Moshe Vered considered under what conditions the two nations might enter a war, how long it might last and how it might end.  The results were alarming even to the Israeli intelligence community.  Here is how Barnea summarizes the research (thanks to Didi Remez for translating the article):

2010-03-17T153723Z_01_BTRE62G17EF00_RTROPTP_3_INTERNATIONAL-US-IRAN-NUCLEAR-CHINA

Workers move a fuels rod at the Fuel Manufacturing plant at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility 440 Km (273 miles) south of Tehran April 9, 2009.  

REUTERS/Caren Firouz 

“The war could be long,” Vered warns, “its length could be measured in years.”  The cost that the war will exact from Israel raises a question mark as to the decision to go to war.

The relatively light scenario speaks about an Israeli bombing, after which Iran will fire several volleys of surface-to-surface missiles at Israel.  Due to the limited number of missiles and their high cost, the war will end within a short time.  The missiles may run out, the study states, but the war will only be getting started.
“The means that may be most effective for the Iranians is war by proxies—Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas,” Vered writes.  “(There will be) ongoing and massive rocket fire (and in the Syrian case, also various types of Scud missiles), which will cover most of the area of the country, disrupt the course of everyday life and cause casualties and property damage.  The effect of such fire will greatly increase if the enemy fires chemical, biological or radiological ordnance… massive Iranian support, by money and weapons, will help the organizations continue the fire over a period of indeterminate length… due to the long-range of the rockets held by Hizbullah, Israel will have to occupy most of the territory of Lebanon, and hold the territory for a long time.  But then the IDF will enter a guerrilla war, a war the end of which is hard to predict, unless we evacuate the territory, and then the rocket fire will return…”

This is not all.  “Another possibility,” Vered writes, “is the activation of Iranian expeditionary forces that will be located in Syria as part of a defense pact between the two countries, or sending large amounts of infantry forces to participate in the war alongside Hizbullah or Syria.  Iran’s ability to do so will increase after the United States evacuates its troops from Iraq.  If the current tension between Turkey and Israel rises, Turkey may also permit, or turn a blind eye to, arms shipments and Iranian volunteers that will pass to Syria through its territory and airspace.  Israel will find it very difficult, politically and militarily, to intercept the passage of forces through Iraq or Turkey.  The participation of Iranian forces will make it very difficult for the IDF to occupy areas from which rockets are being fired.

“Along with these steps, Iran may launch a massive terror campaign against Israeli targets within Israel and abroad (diplomatic missions, El Al planes and more) and against Jewish targets.”

Iran will not attack immediately, Vered’s scenario states.  First it will launch intensive diplomatic activity, which could lead to an American embargo on spare parts to Israel.  Along with this, the Iranians will secretly move troops to Syria.  Israel will not attack the troops, for fear of international pressure.  The IDF will have to mobilize a large reserve force to defend the Golan Heights.  After the Iranians complete the buildup of their force, Hizbullah and Hamas will launch massive rocket fire against all population centers.  The IDF will try to occupy Lebanon and will engage in a guerrilla war with multiple casualties.  Hamas will renew the suicide bombings and Iran will target Israel’s sea and air routes by terrorism.  The Iranians will fire missiles at population centers in Israel, and will rebuild the nuclear facilities that were bombed, in such a way that will make it very difficult to bomb them again.

Vered bases his assessment mainly on the regime’s ideology and on the lessons of the Iran-Iraq War, which lasted from 1980 to 1988.  He writes: “Half a million dead, a million wounded, two million refugees and displaced persons, economic damage estimated by the Iranian government at about $1-trillion—more than twice the value of all Iranian oil production in 70 years of pumping oil—none of this was sufficient to persuade Iran to stop the war.  Only the fear of the regime’s fall led the leadership to accept the cease-fire.

“The ramifications are clear and harsh—like the war against Iraq, the war against Israel will also be perceived by the Iranians as a war intended to right a wrong and bring justice to the world by destroying the State of Israel.  Only a threat to the regime will be able to make the Iranian leadership stop.  It is difficult to see how Israel could create such a threat.”

The United States would be able to shorten the war if it were to join it alongside Israel.  Vered does not observe American willingness to do so.  He predicts the possibility of pressure in the opposite direction, by the US on Israel….

The military card

…The game is now approaching the critical stage, the “money time.”  Netanyahu and Barak are waving the military card.  “All the options are on the table,” they say, accompanying the sentence with a meaningful look.  There are Israelis, in uniform and civilian clothes, who take them seriously…

The following is perhaps the most important portion of this column since Barnea posits a startling theory to explain Bibi’s posturing and bellicosity concerning Iran.  If he is right then I would feel a whole lot more confident that war is not in the offing.  But if he is wrong…

I find it difficult to believe that Netanyahu will undertake such a weighty and dangerous decision.  It is more reasonable to assume that he and Barak are playing “hold me back.”  On the day they will be called upon to explain why Iran attained nuclear weapons, they will say, each on his own, what do you want from me, I prepared a daring, deadly, amazing operation, but they—the US administration, the top IDF brass, the forum of three, the forum of seven, the forum of ten—tripped me up.  They are to blame.

Netanyahu and Barak know: there is no military operation more successful, more perfect, than an operation that did not take place.

Netanyahu has upgraded Ahmadinejad to the dimensions of a Hitler.  Against Hitler, one fights to the last bunker.  This is what Churchill did, and Netanyahu wants so badly to be like Churchill.  His credibility—a sensitive issue—is on the table.  If he retreats, the voters will turn their back on him.  Where will he go?  In his distress, he may run forward.

Below, Barnea continues with his entirely reasonable, pragmatic and even cynical theories that the Israeli public neither believes, nor wants Bibi to go to war.  While he may be right, I’m afraid that many polls of Israeli opinion show a population resigned to confrontation and possible war. So who do you believe?

The fascinating side of this story is that very few Israelis would appear to believe their prime minister.  If they believed him, they would not run in a frenzy to buy apartments in the towers sprouting like mushrooms around the Kirya.  In the event that Iran should be bombed, the residents of the towers would be the first to get it.  If they believed [Netanyahu], the real estate prices in Tel Aviv would drop to a quarter of their current value, and long lines of people applying for passports would extend outside the foreign embassies.  What do the Israelis know about Netanyahu that Ahmadinejad does not know, what is it that they know.
Of course, this eminently reasonable interpretation omits the fact that many other pragmatic Israeli leaders, equally cynical in their way, have been sucked into disastrous wars for far less reason.  Most recently Ehud Olmert in Lebanon and Gaza.  Menachem Begin in Lebanon.  Do we really believe that even if he doesn’t mean to go to war that something could not suck him into it against his better judgment?  History is full of examples of precisely such things, World War I being perhaps the foremost example.

Returning to Vered’s war game, there will be Iran haters in Israel who read this who pooh-pooh this scenario claiming it overstates the negatives and overlooks Israel’s prowess and past success in similar ventures like Osirak and the alleged Syrian nuclear reactor.  But I say if even 1/10 of the complications Vered outlines happen, that disaster may be in the offing for Israel.  Israelis tend to have a “can do” attitude towards wars with their Arab neighbors.  As such, they often overestimate themselves and underestimate their adversary.  Iran, once provoked, will make a much more formidable adversary than most Israelis imagine.  Israelis should remember, but won’t, that the IDF is no longer the vaunted invincible force it was after the 1967 War.  It cannot work miracles.  Think Lebanon, 2006.  Think Gaza, 2008.  To delude yourself that bombing Iranian nuclear plants will be a surgical operation with short-term consequences alone is beyond foolish.  That is why Vered’s exercise, no matter how accurate it turns out to be, is salient.

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Danish Newspaper Apologizes in Cartoons Row

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A Danish newspaper apologised today to eight Muslim organisations for the offence it caused by reprinting controversial cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, in exchange for their dropping legal action against the newspaper.

Politiken reached a settlement with the groups, which represent 94,923 of Muhammad’s descendants, in which it agreed to print an apology for the affront the cartoons caused. The newspaper has not given up its right to publish the cartoons and has not apologised for having printed them as part of its news coverage.

In a joint statement, the two sides said they wanted to “express their satisfaction with this amicable understanding and settlement, and express the hope that it may in some degree contribute to defusing the present tense situation.”

The decision to issue an apology for the offence caused has been met, however, by widespread condemnation from the Danish media and political parties.

The editor of Jyllands-Posten, which originally printed the cartoons in 2005 and is published by the same media company as Politiken, said that its sister paper had failed in the fight for freedom of speech and called it a “sad day” for the Danish press.

Kurt Westergaard, one of the cartoonists, who earlier this year was the subject of an attempted attack at his home, said the newspaper had betrayed its duty to freedom of speech. “In Denmark we play by a set of rules, which we don’t deviate from, and that’s freedom of speech,” he told the newspaper Berlingske Tidende. “Politiken is afraid of terror. That’s unfortunate and I fully understand that.”

The leader of the rightwing Danish People’s party, Pia Kjærsgaard, called the situation absurd, and said that Politiken had sold out. She urged Danish newspapers to reprint the cartoons as a protest against Politiken’s settlement. “It is deeply, deeply embarrassing that [Politiken’s editor] Tøger Seidenfaden has sold out of Denmark’s and the west’s freedom of speech. I cannot distance myself enough from this total sellout to this doctrine,” Kjærsgaard said.

The leader of the Social Democrats, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, also criticised Politiken’s decision: “It’s crazy. The media carries offensive material every day. That is what freedom of speech is about.”

The prime minister and the newly appointed foreign secretary have not commented on the settlement.

Last year 11 Danish newspapers were contacted by the Saudi lawyer Faisal Yamani, who demanded that the Muhammad cartoons were removed from their websites, that the newspapers print an apology and that they promise not to use the cartoons again.

Seidenfaden initially refused Yamani’s request for an apology, saying it was the paper’s duty to print the cartoons as part of its news coverage after Westergaard became the subject of an alleged murder plot.

Yamani, the lawyer who negotiated the settlement on behalf of the descendants, said: “This is a good settlement. It would be wrong to speak of a victory. Both parties have reached the point where they understand the background to what has happened. Politiken is courageous in apologising, even though its was not their intention to offend anyone.”

In September 2005 the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a series of cartoons depicting Muhammad (s), in what it described as an attempt to promote freedom of expression. The cartoons initially had little impact, but when they were reprinted by Norwegian newspapers a storm erupted, with violent protests across the Middle East.

In February 2006 the violence escalated as newspapers in France, Germany, Spain and Italy reprinted the caricatures. The offices of Jyllands-Posten had to be evacuated several times after security threats.

Protests spread to other Arab countries and Danish goods including Lego and Bang & Olufsen were boycotted by Saudi Arabia, Libya and Syria. The Danish embassy in Damascus was burned down in 2006, others were attacked and death threats forced Westergaard into hiding.

Westergaard’s caricature of a bearded man with a bomb in his turban became the most talked about of the cartoons, but he has said the man in the drawing didn’t “necessarily” depict Muhammad (s).

According to Islamic tradition, it is blasphemous to make or show an image of the Prophet (s).

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China Accuses US of Online Warfare in Iran

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Iran election unrest an example of US ‘naked political scheming’ behind free speech facade, says Communist party editorial

A protest over the Iranian election in Washington last June. Photograph: Molly Riley/Reuters

The United States used “online warfare” to stir up unrest in Iran after last year’s elections, the Chinese Communist party newspaper claimed today, hitting back at Hillary Clinton’s speech last week about internet freedom.

An editorial in the People’s Daily accused the US of launching a “hacker brigade” and said it had used social media such as Twitter to spread rumours and create trouble.

“Behind what America calls free speech is naked political scheming. How did the unrest after the Iranian election come about?” said the editorial, signed by Wang Xiaoyang. “It was because online warfare launched by America, via YouTube video and Twitter microblogging, spread rumours, created splits, stirred up and sowed discord between the followers of conservative reformist factions.”

Washington said at the time of the unrest that it had asked Twitter, which was embraced by Iranian anti-government protesters, to remain open. Several social media sites, including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, have been blocked in China in the last year.

The editorial asked rhetorically whether obscenity or activities promoting terrorism would be allowed on the net in the US. “We’re afraid that in the eyes of American politicians, only information controlled by America is free information, only news acknowledged by America is free news, only speech approved by America is free speech, and only information flow that suits American interests is free information flow,” it added.

It attacked the decision to cut off of Microsoft’s instant messaging services to nations covered by US sanctions, including Cuba, Iran, Syria, Sudan and North Korea, as violating America’s stated desire for free information flow. Washington later said that such services fostered democracy and encouraged their restoration.

China initially gave a low-key response to Google’s announcement that it was no longer willing to censor google.cn. The internet giant said it had reached its decision following a Chinese-originated cyber attack targeting the email accounts of human rights activists, and in light of increasing online censorship.

Clinton’s direct challenge to China, in a speech that had echoes of the cold war with its references to the Berlin wall and an “information curtain”, led Beijing to warn that US criticism could damage bilateral relations. Clinton called on China to hold a full and open investigation into the December attack on Google.

In an interview carried by several Chinese newspapers today, Zhou Yonglin, deputy operations director of the national computer network emergency response technical team, said: “Everyone with technical knowledge of computers knows that just because a hacker used an IP address in China, the attack was not necessarily launched by a Chinese hacker.”

US diplomats sought to reach out to the Chinese public by briefing bloggers in China on Friday. They held a similar meeting during Barack Obama’s visit in November.

12-10

Iran, Syria Leaders Brush Aside US Call to Weaken Ties

March 4, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Two countries scrap visa requirements

By Roueida Mabardi, Agence France Presse (AFP)

2010-02-25T152444Z_95987295_GM1E62P1T0201_RTRMADP_3_SYRIA-IRAN

DAMASCUS: The presidents of Syria and Iran signed a visa-scrapping accord on Thursday, signaling even closer ties and brushing aside United States efforts to drive a wedge between the two allies.

“I am surprised by their call to keep a distance between the countries … when they raise the issue of stability and peace in the Middle East, and all the other beautiful principles,” Syrian President Bashar Assad told a news conference in Damascus with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“We need to further reinforce relations if the true objective is stability. We do not want others to give us lessons on our region, our history,” the Syrian president said.

Ahmadinejad, who flew in to Damascus earlier in the day and later met exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, stressed that ties between the two Muslim states, both outspoken critics of US ally Israel, were as “solid” as ever. “Nothing can damage these relations,” he said.

On the same day in occupied Jerusalem, the United States and Israel resumed an annual “strategic dialogue” for the first time since US President Barack Obama assumed office in 2009, with Iran prominent on the agenda.

US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg met Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

Assad said his country was always on the alert against Israel.

“We are always preparing ourselves for an Israeli aggression whether it is small or big scale,” he said.

Afterward, Ahmadinejad met Meshaal, Ahmed Jibril – leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – and other Palestinian leaders critical of the peace process for talks focused on “the Israeli threats made against Syria, Iran, the Palestinians and Lebanon,” a participant in the meeting said.

Ahmadinejad told the Palestinian leaders that “Iran places itself solidly beside the Palestinian people, until their land is liberated,” the participant said, and that resistance was the “likeliest path to liberation.”

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington has been pressing Damascus to move away from Iran

Questioned on Clinton, Assad adopted an ironic tone.

“We met today to sign a ‘separation accord’ between Syria and Iran, but because of a bad translation we ended up signing an accord on scrapping visas,” he quipped.

Assad said the agreement would serve “to further reinforce relations in all fields and at all levels” between the two countries, which have been close allies for the past three decades.

In the face of US-led efforts to slap new sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its controversial nuclear program, he also defended Iran’s right to pursue uranium enrichment.

“To forbid an independent state the right to enrichment amounts to a new colonialist process in the region,” he said.

The visit came after Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Syria was determined to help Iran and the West engage in a “constructive” dialogue over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Western governments suspect that the program in Iran is cover for a drive to produce a bomb.

Tehran vehemently denies the allegation.

On the eve of Ahmadinejad’s visit, Clinton was blunter than ever about the bid to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran.

Testifying in the Senate, she said William Burns, the third-ranking US diplomat, “had very intense, substantive talks in Damascus” last week on what was the highest-level US mission to the Syrian capital in five years.

Syria is being asked “generally to begin to move away from the relationship with Iran, which is so deeply troubling to the region as well as to the United States,” Clinton said.

12-10

Dubai Now Seeking 26 Suspects in Hamas Killing

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Raissa Kasolowsky and Cynthia Johnston

DUBAI (Reuters) – Dubai is hunting for at least 26 people over the killing of a Hamas commander in a Dubai hotel in a suspected Israeli operation that has caused a diplomatic furor.

Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed last month in his hotel room in what Dubai police say they are near certain was a hit by Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

Dubai police added 15 new names on Wednesday to a list of suspects wanted over the killing. Six carried British passports, three held Irish documents, three were Australian, and three French, the Dubai government said in a statement.

Israeli media reported on Wednesday the new list could involve further cases of identity theft.

Dubai authorities had earlier named 11 suspects, who they said travelled on fraudulent British, Irish, French and German passports to kill Mabhouh. Six were Britons living in Israel who deny involvement and say their identities were stolen.

“Dubai investigators are not ruling out the possibility of involvement of other people in the murder,” the statement said.

The suspected killers’ use of passports from countries including Britain and France has drawn criticism from the European Union. Some of the governments involved have summoned their Israeli ambassadors.

“We will not be silent on this matter. It is a matter of deep concern. It really goes to the integrity and fabric of the use of state documents, which passports are, for other purposes,” Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said, as his government summoned Israel’s ambassador.

The Dubai statement said: “Friendly governments (which) have been assisting in this investigation have indicated to the police in Dubai that the passports were issued in an illegal and fraudulent manner.”

It said pictures on the passports did not correspond to their original owners.

In a statement on Monday that European diplomats said was intended as a rebuke to Israel, EU foreign ministers said that the assassination was “profoundly disturbing.”

Israel has not denied or confirmed it played any role but its foreign minister said there was nothing to link it to the killing. The United States, Israel’s main ally, has kept silent about the affair.

Mabhouh, born in the Gaza Strip, had lived in Syria since 1989 and Israeli and Palestinian sources have said he played a key role in smuggling Iranian-funded arms to militants in Gaza.

A Hamas official and Israel have also said he masterminded the capture and killing of two Israeli soldiers during a Palestinian uprising in the 1980s.

Like last week, Dubai police released passport photos and closed-circuit television footage of the new suspects, who police said arrived from cities including Zurich, Paris, Rome, Milan and Hong Kong.

“This was to take the camouflage and deception to its utmost level and to guarantee the avoidance of any security supervision or observation of their movements,” the statement said.

Once their part in the operation was completed, the suspects again dispersed to different parts of the world, with two suspects leaving Dubai by boat for Iran, it said.

Dubai police also released credit card details of some of the suspects. At least 13 credit cards used to book hotel rooms and pay for air travel were issued by the same small U.S. lender, MetaBank. The bank declined comment.

“MetaBank is declining comment pending a factual review of this matter,” it said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

Israel’s Ynet news website said it had tracked down a person with the same name as one of the suspects living in Tel Aviv.

“I am in shock from what I just heard. This is an identity theft. I cannot believe it,” Adam Marcus Korman, an Australian-born Israeli, told the website.

Several other names listed as suspects by Dubai police were similar to those of people listed in the Israeli telephone directory, including two named as British passport holders. Reuters was not immediately able to contact any of those people.

Two Palestinians suspected of providing logistical support were in detention and Dubai’s police chief has said he believes the operation could not have been carried out without information from inside Hamas on Mabhouh’s travel details.

An official from the movement was quoted as saying last week that Hamas had launched an investigation to try to discover “how the Mossad was able to carry out the operation.

Mossad is believed to have stepped up covert missions against Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia as well as Iran’s nuclear project.

Mabhouh’s killing was the third high profile murder in less than two years in trade and tourism hub Dubai, one of seven emirates in the UAE federation, where violent crime is rare.

(Additional reporting by Rania Oteify in Dubai, Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Alastair Macdonald in Jerusalem, Daniel Wilchins in New York and Rob Taylor in Canberra, Writing by Raissa Kasolowsky; Editing by Matthew Jones)

12-9

Dr. Abd A. Alghanem Elected Unanimously

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Dr. Abd A. Alghanem was elected by the Michigan Board of Medicine to be Vice Chair of the board.  He has served on the Michigan Board of Medicine for seven years.   The board oversees the licenses of about 10,000 MD’s in Michigan.  Dr. Alghanem graduated from Damascus University, Syria, and has been practicing Plastic Surgery in Michigan for more than 20 years.

12-6

Israel Apologizes to Turkey

January 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Zerin Elci and Allyn Fisher-Ilan

2010-01-11T102005Z_118425324_GM1E61B1EY301_RTRMADP_3_TURKEY

Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan arrives at a welcoming ceremony in Ankara January 11, 2010.

REUTERS/Umit Bektas

ANKARA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel apologized to Turkey on Wednesday for publicly dressing down Ankara’s ambassador in a dispute that has strained the once good ties between the Jewish state and the Muslim regional power.

Turkey had demanded a formal apology for Ambassador Oguz Celikkol’s treatment on Monday and threatened to recall him.

But after receiving the letter of apology on Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan threw a new barb at Israel, saying it should do more for peace in the region.

Turkey, as a Muslim country, is an important ally of Israel and in the past has helped forge contacts between the Jewish state and the Arab world.

But relations have deteriorated following criticism by Erdogan of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip last year.

The latest row broke out after Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon summoned Celikkol on Monday to protest against a Turkish television drama that portrayed Israeli diplomats as masterminds of a child abduction ring.

Ayalon invited media crews to the beginning of the meeting in Jerusalem and pointed out there was no Turkish flag on the table. He also said he was deliberately avoiding a handshake with the ambassador.

In television images broadcast in Turkey, Celikkol was seen seated on a low couch, accentuating the sense of a slight.

Ayalon later conceded his behavior toward the envoy had been inappropriate. But Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who is scheduled to host Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday, said that was insufficient and demanded a full apology.

Israel sent a formal letter of apology to Celikkol on Thursday.

“I had no intention to humiliate you personally and apologize for the way the demarche was handled and perceived, Ayalon said in the letter, released by the Israeli government.

“Please convey this to the Turkish people for whom we have great respect. I hope that both Israel and Turkey will seek diplomatic and courteous channels to convey messages as two allies should.”

In response, Erdogan said the Turkish foreign ministry had received “the expected, desired answer.”

But he added more criticism of Israel, telling a news conference: “Israel must put itself in order and it must be more just and more on the side of peace in the region.”

Ayalon had said earlier that his protest against the Turkish criticism of Israel remained valid. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamim Netanyahu also said thought the protest was correct but handled badly, according to his office.

As a predominantly Muslim nation, albeit with a secular constitution, as well as a NATO military power, Turkey is a key ally for Israel in the Middle East. As well as providing security cooperation, Ankara has offered Israel diplomatic help in the past, notably mediating with Syria in 2008.

But ties have become frosty since Israel’s war in the Palestinian Islamist-ruled Gaza Strip a year ago, which drew frequent public censure from Erdogan, whose AK Party’s roots lie in political Islam.

Netanyahu has said Turkey was aligning itself with Muslim countries hostile to Israel like Iran since before the Gaza war.

There was similar outrage last year over a Turkish series which featured Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian children.

On Tuesday in London, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu renewed his country’s criticism of Israel over Gaza.

He said its 2008 invasion of the territory had marked the turning point in Turkish-Israeli relations.

Despite the row, a Turkish delegation is currently in Israel to wrap up the purchase of 10 Heron drones in a deal worth $180 million, Turkish defense officials said.

Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Darren Butler in Ankara, and Michele Kambas in Nicosia; Editing by Angus MacSwan

12-3

An-Nawawi’s 40 Hadith

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

 

 

 

 

Tomb of Imam-Al-Nawawi ra in Bosra- Nawa Town- Syria
Imam Nawawi complete names is Abu Zakaria Mohiuddin Yahya, son of Sharaf AnÄNawawi, and from the family of Imam Hassan and Hussain and Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him.)
Nawawi refers to Nawa, a place near Damascus, in the suburb of the city of Howran.
Imam Nawawi (ra) was born at Nawa in the year 631 A.H. His father, a virtuous and pious man, resolved to arrange for proper and befitting education as he had discovered the symptoms of heavenly intelligence and wisdom in his promising child at an early stage.
Imam’s Simplicity and Niceness of Manners:
The learned persons, elite of the society and the public greatly respected the Imam on account of his piety, learning and excellent character.
He used simple dress and ate simple food. Devout scholars do not care about worldly chattels, they give preference to religious and academic pursuits, propagation of Faith etc.
They experience more heavenly delight and joy in such activities than those who seek satisfaction in luxurious foods, precious clothes and other worldly things. Imam Nawawi had a prominent place among the erudite notables of his age.
He was God-fearing person having illustrious and glorious aims regarding propagation of Faith. Celebrated Sheikh Mohiuddin expresses his impression about Imam Nawawi as thus:
"Imam Nawawi had three distinctive commendable qualities in his person. If anybody have only one out of these three, people return to him in abundance for guidance. First, having knowledge and its dissemination.
Second, to evade completely from the worldly inclinations, and the third, inviting to all that is good (Islam) enjoining Al-Ma’ruf [i.e., Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do] and forbidding Al-Munkar [polytheism and disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden]. Imam Nawawi had all three in him."
http://www.shadpurshareef.com

Swiss Vote Betrays Enlightenment Ideals

December 3, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Juan Cole

swiss miss This campaign poster was banned for being racist, but apparently the goal of the poster, now that is all right.

Swissinfo surveys the headlines in Switzerland Monday morning and finds that the press there universally condemned and expressed dismay at Sunday’s vote. Editors expressed consternation at the inevitable tarnishing of Switzerland’s image and worried about the consequences. Will there be boycotts? Sanctions? Appeals to the European Court of Human Rights?

I can anticipate right now arguments to excuse this outbreak of bigotry in the Alps that will be advanced by our own fringe Right, of Neoconservatives and those who think, without daring saying it, that “white culture” is superior to all other world civilizations and deserves to dominate or wipe the others out.

The first is that it is only natural that white, Christian Europeans should be afraid of being swamped by people adhering to an alien, non-European religion.

Switzerland is said to be 5 percent Muslim, and of course this proportion is a recent phenomenon there and so unsettling to some. But Islam is not new to Europe. Parts of what is now Spain were Muslim for 700 years, and much of the eastern stretches of what is now the European Union were ruled by Muslims for centuries and had significant Muslim populations. Cordoba and Sarajevo are not in Asia or Latin America. They are in Europe. And they are cities formed in the bosom of Muslim civilization.

The European city of Cordoba in the medieval period has been described thusly:

‘ For centuries, Cordoba used to be the jewel of Europe, which dazzled visitors from the North. Visitors marveled at what seemed to them an extraordinary general prosperity; one could travel for ten miles by the light of street lamps, and along an uninterrupted series of buildings. The city is said to have had then 200,000 houses, 600 mosques, and 900 public baths. Over the quiet Guadalquivir Arab engineers threw a great stone bridge of seventeen arches, each fifty spans in width. One of the earliest undertakings of Abd al-Rahman I was an aqueduct that brought to Cordova an abundance of fresh water for homes, gardens, fountains, and baths.’

So if the Swiss think that Islam is alien to Europe, then they are thinking of a rather small Europe, not the Europe that now actually exists. Minarets dotted Cordoba. The Arnaudia mosque in Banja Luca dates back to the 1400s; it was destroyed along with dozens of others by fanatics in the civil war that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

As for the likely comeback,that Muslims came to Europe from the 700s of the Common Era as conquerors, unlike Christianity, actually both were conquering state religions. It was the conversion of an emperor that gave a favored position to Christianity in Europe, which was a small minority on the continent at the time. And Charlemagne forcibly imposed Christianity on the German tribes up to the Elbe. In the cases both of European Christianity and European Islam, there were many willing converts among the ordinary folk, who thrilled to itinerant preachers or beautiful chanting.

Others will allege that Muslims do not grant freedom of religion to Christians in their midst. First of all, this allegation is not true if we look at the full range of the countries where the 1.5 billion Muslims live. Among the nearly 60 Muslim-majority states in the world, only one, Saudi Arabia, forbids the building of churches. Does Switzerland really want to be like Saudi Arabia?

Here is a Western Christian description of the situation of Christians in Syria:

‘In Syria, as in all other Arab countries of the Middle East except Saudi Arabia, freedom of religion is guaranteed in law . . . We should like to point out too that in Syria and in several other countries of the region, Christian churches benefit from free water and electricity supplies, are exempt from several types of tax and can seek building permission for new churches (in Syria, land for these buildings are granted by the State) or repair existing ones.

It should be noted too that there are Christian members of Parliament and of government in Syria and other countries, sometimes in a fixed number (as in Lebanon and Jordan.)

Finally, we note that a new personal statute was promulgated on 18 June 2006 for the various Christian Churches found in Syria, which purposely and verbatim repeats most of the rules of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches promulgated by Pope John Paul II.

That is, in Muslim-majority Syria, the government actually grants land to Christians for the building of churches, along with free water and electricity. Christians have their own personal status legal code, straight from the Vatican. (It is because Christians have their own law in the Middle East, backed by the state, that Muslims in the West are puzzled as to why they cannot practice their personal status code.) Christians have freedom of religion, though there are sensitivities about attempts to convert others (as there are everywhere in the Middle East, including Israel). And Christians are represented in the legislature. With Switzerland’s 5 percent Muslim population, how many Muslim members of parliament does it have?

It will also be alleged that in Egypt some clergymen gave fatwas or legal opinions that building churches is a sin, and it will be argued that Christians have been attacked by Muslims in Upper Egypt.

These arguments are fallacies. You cannot compare the behavior of some Muslim fanatics in rural Egypt to the laws and ideals of the Swiss Republic. We have to look at Egyptian law and policy.

The Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar Seminary, the foremost center of Sunni Muslim learning, ‘added in statements carried by Egyptian newspaper Youm al-Saba’a that Muslims can make voluntary contributions to build churches, pointing out that the church is a house for “worshipping and tolerance.” ‘ He condemned the fundamentalist Muslims for saying church-building is sinful. And Egypt has lots of churches, including new Presbyterian ones, following John Calvin who I believe lived in . . . Geneva. Aout 6 percent of the population is Christian.

The other problem with excusing Switzerland with reference to Muslims’ own imperfect adherence to human rights ideals is that two wrongs don’t make a right. The bigotted Right doesn’t even have the moral insight of kindergartners if that is the sort of argument they advance. The International Declaration of Human Rights was crafted with the participation of Pakistan, a Muslim country; the global contemporary rights regime is imperfectly adhered to by all countries– it is a claim on the world’s behavior, something we must all strive for. If the Swiss stepped back from it, they stepped back in absolute terms. It doesn’t help us get to global human rights to say that is o.k. because others are also failing to live up to the Declaration.

The other Wahhabi state besides Saudi Arabia, Qatar, has allowed churches. But they are not allowed to have steeples or bells. This policy is a mirror image to that of the Swiss.

So Switzerland, after centuries of striving for civilization and enlightenment, has just about reached the same level of tolerance as that exhibited by a small Gulf Wahhabi country, the people of which were mostly Bedouins only a hundred years ago.

11-50

Israel Lost Ally Turkey

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

World Tribune

2009-10-22T080428Z_902822751_GM1E5AM18O201_RTRMADP_3_TURKEY-KAZAKHSTAN TEL AVIV — Turkey was said to have suspended up to $1 billion in proposed Israeli defense projects after canceling a major air exercise with Israel.

A leading Israeli defense analyst said the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has decided to end defense and military cooperation with Israel. Analyst Ron Ben-Yishai said the Turkish Defense Ministry has shelved a range of proposed Israeli projects.

“New deals worth tens and hundreds of millions of dollars offered by Israel’s defense industries to the Turkish Army, as well as cooperation with Turkish colleagues, are being put on hold or cancelled altogether,” Ben-Yishai said in a report.

The report warned that Israel has lost Turkey as a strategic ally. Ben-Yishai said the government and military were seeking a substitute for Ankara, a task that would prove difficult.

[In Ankara, Turkish industry sources said Ankara has ruled out awarding Israel any major defense contracts. The sources said the Defense Industry Undersecretariat was expected to significantly reduce Israel’s presence after at least one key contract was scheduled to conclude in 2010.]

In many cases, Ben-Yishai said, Turkey has selected inferior and more expensive systems than those offered by Israel. He cited an Italian reconnaissance satellite, which was chosen over an offer of Israel’s Ofeq-class spy satellite.

“Only recently, officials in Ankara preferred to purchase a spy satellite from Italy, even though it is inferior in quality and more expensive than the Israeli product offered to Turkey,” Ben-Yishai said.

“Israel has indeed embarked on a process of seeking substitutes to the strategic advantages offered by the relationship with Turkey,” Ben-Yishai said on Oct. 14. “However, this process is difficult and complex, and it is doubtful whether it will compensate us for the lost ties with Ankara.”

The report said the loss of Turkey as a strategic ally has harmed Israel’s deterrence, particularly toward Iran and Syria. But Ben-Yishai said the Israel Air Force would not be significantly affected by Turkey’s decision to ban the Jewish state from the Anatolian Eagle exercise.

“Turkey is not the only region where the IAF can hold drills simulating various combat scenarios — long-range missions, operations in unknown territory, and cooperation with foreign forces,” the report said.

“Nonetheless, the decision to cancel Israel’s participation in NATO’s aerial drill in Turkey must serve as a glowing warning sign in respect to the strategic and economic implications that may follow our growing diplomatic isolation.”

11-45

The Shoe Thrown ‘Round the World

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) Middle East Correspondent

shoes1 In one single gesture, Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi summed up the sentiments that had been swelling in the hearts of Iraqi’s and Muslims from all over the world ever since former President George W. Bush indulged in his own ‘Axis of Evil’ and went to war with Iraq. With the throw of a pair of size 10 loafers, al-Zaidi unleashed a wave of discontent that Iraqi’s had grappled with ever since their country was unlawfully invaded.

Many Muslims from all over the world cheered, as scenes of adults and children alike rejoicing in the streets of Baghdad waving their own shoes in the air played out on TV. Copycat shoe throwers also emerged in the days following the incident, most notably in India and China where at least two diplomats found themselves also dodging footwear.

However, news about the man behind the shoes was hard to come by. Following the incident, he was rushed away by Iraqi security personnel and imprisoned. Family members later revealed that al-Zaidi was severely beaten and tortured in prison. He was originally sentenced to spend three years in prison, but served only nine months of that sentence as he was recently released.

Finally, al-Zaidi is able to speak for himself and tell the world the reasons behind his actions. In a column recently appearing in the British-based ‘The Guardian’ newspaper, al-Zaidi writes, “When I threw the shoe in the face of the criminal, George Bush, I wanted to express my rejection of his lies, his occupation of my country, my rejection of his killing my people. My rejection of his plundering the wealth of my country, and destroying its infrastructure. And casting out its sons into a diasporas.”

Further al-Zaidi denies that he is a hero and writes, “It humiliated me to see my country humiliated; and to see my Baghdad burned, my people killed. Thousands of tragic pictures remained in my head, pushing me towards the path of confrontation. The scandal of Abu Ghraib, the massacres of Falluja, Najaf, Haditha, Sadr City, Basra, Diyala, Mosul, Tal Afar, and every inch of our wounded land. I traveled through my burning land and saw with my own eyes the pain of the victims, and heard with my own ears the screams of the orphans and the bereaved. And a feeling of shame haunted me like an ugly name because I was powerless.”

After his release, al-Zaidi was reunited with his family in a tearful and long-awaited reunion. According to his employer Al-Baghdadia TV, al-Zaidi has left Iraq and will travel to Syria and later Greece to receive medical care. Al-Zaidi suffered greatly at the hands of Iraqi security personnel who beat him with melt bars, electrocuted him with live wires and engaged in ‘water boarding’ to make him feel like he was drowning. The state of al-Zaidi’s health is unknown at the present time.

In a recent development, al-Zaidi also revealed his future plans in a TV interview conducted by TSR television. He hopes to rally Iraqis together to lodge a complaint against former President Bush and put him on trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity. “I really want to go to Switzerland because it is a neutral country and because it is a country that did not support the occupation of Iraq,” al-Zaidi said, “Switzerland hosts many international organizations, including some that fight for children, and Switzerland is a country that has a great democratic tradition. It is an example for the world,”

While the man himself may resist being touted as a hero for his actions. At least one artist has forever immortalized the shoes that were ‘thrown’ around the world. Based in London, artist P Waniewski has created a pair of size 10 shoes identical to the ones al-Zaidi threw, since U.S. security personnel purportedly destroyed the original pair following the incident. So named, ‘Proud Shoes’ the tribute is made of 21 kilograms of bronze and dipped in 24 KT. gold. The artist recently revealed in an interview his reasons for creating the tribute to al-Zaidi, “When I heard this story I was moved by the passion and fearlessness of Mr al-Zaidi’s actions. The shoe that he threw was destroyed by the US authorities, so I felt it was a fitting way of marking this emotive event.”

11-40

Elements of US Peace Plan Revealed

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Palestine Center Blog

An elected Palestinian official unveiled details of a US peace plan for a “permanent peaceful solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict” drafted by Pres. Obama, who intends to officially declare it soon, according to Hassan Khraisha, deputy speaker of the Palestinian parliament.

Xinhua reported Khraisha said the plan includes:

* Statehood: the establishment of Palestinian statehood first in the West Bank by 2011. Later, the Gaza Strip will be integrated.

* No Authority Over East Jerusalem: “The plan puts parts of East Jerusalem under the full Israeli sovereignty without any actual Palestinian control on it. But the holy sites will be under Arab and Islamic administration,” said Khraisha.

* Palestinian Foreign Policy: It prevents the Palestinian state from making any foreign military alliances in the region, according to Khraisha.

* Limited Refugee Resettlement: Resettling “a limited number of Palestinian refugees in the Jordan valley and other areas in the West Bank” between Nablus and Ramallah, Khraisha said.

* Not Clear on Refugees in Arab World: The “plan did not show what would be the fate of the Palestinian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and other Arab and foreign countries.”

* Settlements: the plan talks about keeping big settlements in the West Bank, and to start negotiations on smaller settlements within three months.

* Demilitarization: The Palestinian state would be demilitarized.

* Airspace: Israel exercises control of the airspace above the Palestinian state.

* Factions as Parties: “The new U.S. plan calls for turning the different armed Palestinian factions into political parties which condemn the use of violence against Israel,” said Khraisha.

* Palestinian prisoners: The plan includes an Israeli release of a number of prisoners from its jails as soon as a permanent peace agreement is signed between Israel and the PNA. The prisoners’ release would take three years.

Khraisha, who declined to say from where he got the draft, said that the U.S. administration had finalized the plan with the assistance of some Jewish figures specialized in the Israeli-Palestinian affairs.

Khraisha opposes the U.S. plan, saying “it means to dwarf the Palestinian political project and smashes the legitimate rights of the Palestinians in two basic issues, Jerusalem and the refugees return.”

“The plans and declarations of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to start building up the establishments and the institutions of the future Palestinian statehood might be made in accordance with the U.S. peace plan,” said Khraisha.

He said that the PNA “might deal with the plan, which is very dangerous and it comes in a status of Palestinian weakness due to the current political rift between Hamas and Fatah.”

11-39

Did Hitler Want War?

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Patrick J. Buchanan

poland 1933 polemap
   
Poland, 1930 German map of Poland, 1942

 

On Sept. 1, 1939, 70 years ago, the German Army crossed the Polish frontier. On Sept. 3, Britain declared war.

Six years later, 50 million Christians and Jews had perished. Britain was broken and bankrupt, Germany a smoldering ruin. Europe had served as the site of the most murderous combat known to man, and civilians had suffered worse horrors than the soldiers.

By May 1945, Red Army hordes occupied all the great capitals of Central Europe: Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Berlin. A hundred million Christians were under the heel of the most barbarous tyranny in history: the Bolshevik regime of the greatest terrorist of them all, Joseph Stalin.

What cause could justify such sacrifices?

The German-Polish war had come out of a quarrel over a town the size of Ocean City, Md., in summer. Danzig, 95 percent German, had been severed from Germany at Versailles in violation of Woodrow Wilson’s principle of self-determination. Even British leaders thought Danzig should be returned.

Why did Warsaw not negotiate with Berlin, which was hinting at an offer of compensatory territory in Slovakia? Because the Poles had a war guarantee from Britain that, should Germany attack, Britain and her empire would come to Poland’s rescue.

But why would Britain hand an unsolicited war guarantee to a junta of Polish colonels, giving them the power to drag Britain into a second war with the most powerful nation in Europe?

Was Danzig worth a war? Unlike the 7 million Hong Kongese whom the British surrendered to Beijing, who didn’t want to go, the Danzigers were clamoring to return to Germany.

Comes the response: The war guarantee was not about Danzig, or even about Poland. It was about the moral and strategic imperative “to stop Hitler” after he showed, by tearing up the Munich pact and Czechoslovakia with it, that he was out to conquer the world. And this Nazi beast could not be allowed to do that.

If true, a fair point. Americans, after all, were prepared to use atom bombs to keep the Red Army from the Channel. But where is the evidence that Adolf Hitler, whose victims as of March 1939 were a fraction of Gen. Pinochet’s, or Fidel Castro’s, was out to conquer the world?

After Munich in 1938, Czechoslovakia did indeed crumble and come apart. Yet consider what became of its parts.

The Sudeten Germans were returned to German rule, as they wished. Poland had annexed the tiny disputed region of Teschen, where thousands of Poles lived. Hungary’s ancestral lands in the south of Slovakia had been returned to her. The Slovaks had their full independence guaranteed by Germany. As for the Czechs, they came to Berlin for the same deal as the Slovaks, but Hitler insisted they accept a protectorate.

Now one may despise what was done, but how did this partition of Czechoslovakia manifest a Hitlerian drive for world conquest?

Comes the reply: If Britain had not given the war guarantee and gone to war, after Czechoslovakia would have come Poland’s turn, then Russia’s, then France’s, then Britain’s, then the United States.

We would all be speaking German now.

But if Hitler was out to conquer the world — Britain, Africa, the Middle East, the United States, Canada, South America, India, Asia, Australia — why did he spend three years building that hugely expensive Siegfried Line to protect Germany from France? Why did he start the war with no surface fleet, no troop transports and only 29 oceangoing submarines? How do you conquer the world with a navy that can’t get out of the Baltic Sea?

If Hitler wanted the world, why did he not build strategic bombers, instead of two-engine Dorniers and Heinkels that could not even reach Britain from Germany?

Why did he let the British army go at Dunkirk?

Why did he offer the British peace, twice, after Poland fell, and again after France fell?

Why, when Paris fell, did Hitler not demand the French fleet, as the Allies demanded and got the Kaiser’s fleet? Why did he not demand bases in French-controlled Syria to attack Suez? Why did he beg Benito Mussolini not to attack Greece?

Because Hitler wanted to end the war in 1940, almost two years before the trains began to roll to the camps.

Hitler had never wanted war with Poland, but an alliance with Poland such as he had with Francisco Franco’s Spain, Mussolini’s Italy, Miklos Horthy’s Hungary and Father Jozef Tiso’s Slovakia.

Indeed, why would he want war when, by 1939, he was surrounded by allied, friendly or neutral neighbors, save France. And he had written off Alsace, because reconquering Alsace meant war with France, and that meant war with Britain, whose empire he admired and whom he had always sought as an ally.

As of March 1939, Hitler did not even have a border with Russia. How then could he invade Russia?

Winston Churchill was right when he called it “The Unnecessary War” — the war that may yet prove the mortal blow to our civilization.

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Ottoman Palestine Pictures

August 13, 2009 by · 3 Comments 

From ottomanpalestine.com:

“Until 9 December 1917 for more 400 years the city and Palestine lived peacefully under Pax Ottomana. Despite this 400 year long rule of Turks in Jerusalem there are not many visible Turkish Architectural Works. No slender minarets or Royal Mosque as in Balkans was build. The reason for this was respect for the local traditions and because there was a congregational Mosque of Masjid el-Aqsa. No other Mosque could be built that could surpass the holy shrine. Never the less, the City of Jerusalem has still a visible Turkish Presence. ”

Suleiman had a special relationship with Jerusalem. Evliya Çelebi describes Sultan Suleiman’s special relationship with Jerusalem as follows:

“In the year 926/1520 Sultan Suleiman acceded to the throne and conquered the fortress of Belgrade 927/1521 and later on the island of Rhodes 928/1522 and accumulated thereby intense wealth. The Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w) appeared to him in a blessed night and told him: “O Suleiman you will make many conquests You should spend these spoils on embellishing Mecca and Medina, and for the fortification of the citadel of Jerusalem in order to repulse the unbelievers, when they attempt to take possession during the reign of your followers. You should also embellish its sanctuary with a water basin and offer annual money gift to the dervishes there, and also embellish the Rock of Allah and rebuild Jerusalem.”

“Such being the order of the Prophet (S), Suleiman sends from his spoils one thousand purses to Medina and another thousand purses to Jerusalem. Together with required material he dispatched the master architect Koca Sinan and transferred Lala Mustafa Pasha from the governorship of Egypt to that of Syria, this latter having been ordered to carry out the restoration of Jerusalem, gathered all the master builders, architects and sculptors available in Cairo, Damascus and Aleppo and send them to Jerusalem to rebuild it and to embellish the Holy Rock.”

89-OTTOMAN SOLDIERS (by ottomanpalestine2)

Ottoman Soldiers in Palestine

4-OTTOMAN LOCAL PASSPORT (TEZKEREH) IN PALESTINE (by ottomanpalestine2)

Ottoman Passport Palestine

9-PALESTINIAN WEDDING PROCESSION 1904 (by ottomanpalestine2)

39-PALESTINIAN WEDDING PROCESSION 1904 (2) (by ottomanpalestine2)

Palestinian Wedding Procession 1904

8-THE VISITING OF GERMANY KING TO OTTOMAN JERUSALEM 1898  (2) (by ottomanpalestine2)

44-THE VISITING OF GERMANY KING TO OTTOMAN JERUSALEM 1898 (13) (by ottomanpalestine2)

Visiting of King of Germany to Ottoman Palestine 1898

55- OTTOMAN RAILWAY   FIRST TRAIN TO BI'RšSSEBA BETWEEN HAIFA DER'A (by ottomanpalestine2)

Ottoman Railway, First Train to BI’RšSSEBA BETWEEN HAIFA DER’A

54- OTTOMAN RAILWAY HAIFA TRAIN STATION, WITH THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE 1905 PRAYER (by ottomanpalestine2)

Ottoman Railway Haifa Train Station, Opening Prayer 1905

26-OTTOMAN JERUSALEM EL-KOUDS  1898-1914 (49) (by ottomanpalestine2)

Ottoman Jerusulem 1898

11-OTTOMAN PALESTINE  [BETWEEN 1898 AND 1917] SQUARE FACING DAVID'S TOWER (by ottomanpalestine2)

OTTOMAN PALESTINE [BETWEEN 1898 AND 1917] SQUARE FACING DAVID’S TOWER

Modern Palestine:

The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund Fundraiser

August 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) will hold its yearly banquet and fundraiser October 17th at the Anaheim Hilton Hotel in Anaheim, Ca. The event will feature Ralph Nader, presidential candidate, peace worker and consumer advocate as the keynote speaker. The event will begin at 6:00pm.

The gala will also be a tribute and a memorial to the late Huda El Masri Sosebee, wife of PCRF’s CEO, Steve Sosebee. Huda died on July 15 of this year after a courageous battle against Leukemia. While she held the title of Director of Social Work, her contribution to the PCRF defied parameters. She was a courageous and proud Arab Palestinian who fought for the health and well being of children even in her last weeks of life.

Featured also will be one or more of the children that the PCRF has sponsored for treatment..

The PCRF was founded in 1991 to address the medical and humanitarian needs of children in Palestine. The venue has been expanded to include Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The PCRF often brings children out of Palestine if their needs cannot successfully be met in their home city. While undergoing treatment the child is placed in an Arabic speaking home until his return. There is no charge for the child’s treatment.

The group sends medical missions to Palestine with specialties to treat young patients in local hospitals, and, at the same time, to provide teaching tools to local doctors.

In addition, the PCRF has implemented a program for wheelchair distribution, providing mobility for young people who otherwise would be homebound. A program of eye glass distribution has also been instituted, allowing the young people of the oPt a higher quality of life and an opportunity to optimize their school years.

The PCRF has a Women’s Empowerment Program which provides start-up economic grants to women in Gaza and the West Bank

A summer camp for disabled children is yet another project of this organization.

Makassad Hospital in East Jerusalem has the first Intensive Care United for pediatric heart patients in Palestine due to the efforts of the PCRF.

The PCRF has (501)(c)(3) status and is the only charity permitted by the Department of Homeland Security to have access to Gaza.

Tickets are $100 per person and may be obtained by calling: (562) 432-0005 or writing to: PCRFsc, P. O. Box 791, Palos Verdes Estates, Ca. 90274.

It is suggested that tickets be purchased if possible in advance of the event.

The above mentioned successes of the PCRF are but a small portion of the totality of their work. For more information about the PCRF, please access the web site at: www.pcrf.net.

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