Saturday, October 29, 2005

Venezuela and Cuba: United Marxist Republic

A scary hypothesis by Ana Faya, senior analyst at the Canadian Foundation for the Americas (Focal) in Ottawa.

She thinks that, to ensure the survival of the revolution, and not trusting his brother Raul for his "softness" on capitalism to succeed him, Castro might think seriously about uniting Cuba to Venezuela under his younger disciple Hugo Chavez.

Chavez is Venezuelan, not Cuban, but that may not be as big a problem as it seems. Many people on the left in Latin America, including "Bolivarians" like Chavez and most of the Marxists, have always seen the division of the region into more than a dozen Spanish-speaking countries as a misfortune, not a law of nature.

She has listened closely to the two dictators' public statements looking for signs:

On October 5, at the signing of the 6th Joint Commission on the Comprehensive Cooperation Agreement between Cuba and Venezuela, Cuban vice-president Carlos Lage Dávila said: "Our country has been accused of not having a democracy, but in events like this one we realise that we are one of the most democratic countries of the world, because we have two presidents, Fidel and Chávez."

And Chavez replied: "Cuba and Venezuela have joined together, and at this point, the world should know that our fate is sealed, that these two homelands, which deep down are one, are opening a new road at whatever cost."

They could stay in power as co-presidents until Castro feels the time has come to retire and pass the scepter to Chavez.

Where would Castro have got such a radical idea? One of his political idols as a young man was the Egyptian revolutionary Gamal Abdel Nasser whom he met soon after taking power on his famous trip to New York in 1960. And at that time, Nasser was busy uniting Egypt and Syria in the United Arab Republic.

I wouldn't be surprised if the two "locos" came up with such a ridiculous scheme. They would sell it to the public as a defense against "imperialist" forces led by a hostile United States, but I think the result would be a very quick popular revolt in both countries.

Surprisingly the article goes on to speculate on the positive effects of such a move (read it all, it is interesting nevertheless) on Cuba's economy and democratic prospects in the long term.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

Backtracking like hell: Syria

An official Syrian newspaper on Thursday called for dialogue with the United States as Washington was pushing for sanctions against Syria following a UN report which implicated Syrian involvement in the assassination of ex- Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri.

"This is not the time for the use of force, which has proved a failure in other parts of the world but the time for dialogue... because Syrians and Americans have a lot in common and the American people are a friendly people," said an editorial in the Al-Thawra daily.

Come on, baby Assad, another little step and you might see old age.

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Zimbabwe options update

Zimpundit is expanding on a very interesting discussion started here (see comments), regarding the possible advantages of some MDC members to be elected to the new Senate. Green Leader disagrees; I have serious doubts. Zimpundit concludes:

Ethnicity does matter. And yes while I may entertain the idea that "we've all suffered," it is true that some have suffered more than others. The senate presents an opportunity to gain lost ground for some however flawed may seem.

I agree that ethnicity matters (just look at the Zezuru-Karanga "war" - Mugabe is a Zezuru - within the same Zanu PF party), especially in Zimbabwe. I also agree that the Ndebele have suffered more than others. So much so that some years ago I wondered how much more neglect and oppression the Ndebele were going to take from Mugabe before rebelling or attempting to secede; but that was a long time ago.

What I have doubts about is this: is it worth splitting the opposition for the doubtful prospect of being able to express yourselves and be heard (and if you read the comments linked above, it seems very doubtful)? Is it worth to legitimize another Mugabe-rigged election and therefore validate an inevitably flawed institution? Isn't the price to high?

I have a feeling there is more. Perhaps Zimpundit is trying to say that the Ndebele have been marginalized within the MDC despite their contribution. Is he hoping for a "Third Force"? Is this his "silent hope"?


Backtracking like hell: Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwean government does not intend chasing all white farmers out of the country, Zimbabwe's Herald Online reported on Friday. It quoted vice-president Joseph Msika as saying: "Our policy is not to drive all whites out of their farms."

A bit too late, though.

The policy of "one-man one-farm" should not be used against legally settled productive white commercial farmers, he told a farmers union congress in Bulawayo. It was unfortunate that the social and economic justice programme was being wrongly interpreted by some people to justify displacing white commercial farmers.

Very unfortunate; hmm...did you check with your boss or you are just committing suicide?

One obviously cannot just wake up a good farmer, you need to learn," Msika said.



Indonesia's lenience

The Indonesian government has confirmed that al-Qaeda linked Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI)'s alleged spiritual leader, Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, will have his jail term cut further to mark the Idul Fitri Islamic holiday next week, despite a request by Australia's government. Prosecutors had asked for an eight-year prison term for Bashir, for inciting the 2002 bombings of a Bali nightclub that killed 202 including 88 Australians.
Indonesia's justice and human rights minister Hamid Awaluddin would not reveal the length of the remission, but said that like other prisoners, Bashir was entitled to have his jail term cut owing to his good conduct while serving his 30-month imprisonment for conspiracy in the 2002 Bali bombings.

They can't even begin to imagine how much these cowardly sentences will cost them.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Oil for Food (updated)

More than half of the 4500 companies involved with the Oil for Food program paid kickbacks to Saddam. Guess what countries are more represented? Russia and France. Did you think they opposed the liberation war in Iraq because of moral considerations? Sorry guys...

And for once, despite all the whitewashing he did to save Annan's backside, Volcker is right:

"There must be countries that feel deeply committed to the UN that have to realize that, if they are committed to the UN and supportive of the UN, they'd better support reform or they're not going to have an organization that's strong enough to do what they want it to do."

Fausta has an excellent analysis and round up on the latest installment of the report.

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There is a time for fighting, and a time for politics

Any way you look at it, the constitutional referendum in Iraq, paving the way for next December parliamentary elections, was a resounding success, even according to the Arab press.

The excellent Captain's Quarters - no relation ;-) - talks about the transformation of the Sunni attitude following the approval of the constitution.

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Iran’s Third Reich

Nazi president Ahmadinejad's candid statement "Israel must be wiped off the map" should be welcomed. The Teheran government is now officially a terrorist organization and should be treated as such.

Ahmadinejad, in one shot, has achieved much more than we could have hoped for. He has:

1) strengthened the hand of France, Britain and Germany in dealing with the nuclear issue

2) strengthened the hand of the US by admitting they are terrorists

3) threw off Palestinians and Arab League efforts towards implementing the Road Map

4) weakened the position of moderate Israelis who now cannot claim Israel is not under immediate threat

5) weakened the hand of those preaching "negotiations and moderation" in dealing with Iran

5) alienated more of the Iranian public

6) rendered more plausible the allegation of Iran harboring high-ranking Al Qaeda members

The question now is: are Iran's new conservatives so inexperienced to be completely out of place in the modern world of international relations or are they really trying to provoke the final chaos in order to invoke the 12th Imam who will then rise from the bottom of the Jamkaran well in Isfahan?

Furthermore, this escapes me completely: why would Ahmadinejad want to eliminate 210 journalists (“deserve to be executed”). What more could they possibly say to damage him than he doesn't say himself?

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Zimbawe options

The observant Zimpundit disagrees with my take over the participation of MDC to the next Senate elections in Zimbabwe. The way he sees it, the Senate will give voice to the opposition:

Our hope is manifest in the 26 MDC candidates who've filed their papers for the elections. In them we find an alternative. In them is our opportunity to express what we've been saying an feeling for the past ten years. They are the symbols of our silent hope to oust the Mugabe regime.

What Zimpundit hopes for would have a chance to work in a democratic country, not in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. Mugabe will never give the opposition a voice because he cannot. Like all dictators with bloody hands, his only worry is to save his skin by staying in power. In fact, that’s all he has done since losing the referendum in February 1998.

The lack of a decisive leadership has crippled the MDC more than Mugabe's tricks. At this point, the MDC can only try to weather out the crisis and hope that the deterioration of the economy will anger people enough to react to Mugabe's devastations.


Galloway again

My previous post on Galloway hasn't convinced Gert, who comments:

Mr Galloway in December was awarded £150,000 in libel damages from the Daily Telegraph, for similar allegations of accepting money from the Baath regime. Doesn't that tell you something?

Not really, and since I believe there might be others with your same doubts, I'll tell you why:

First, the libel verdict won by Saddam-supporter George Galloway does not depend on the notion that Galloway's ties to Saddam were disproven. They haven't been. Nor was this case decided by a jury. The case was won because, in the judge's view, the Telegraph had not given Galloway sufficient time or space to respond to the charges.

Second, corroborated by the testimony of Tareq Aziz and other baathist officials and relevant bank statements, this is in short what the subcommittee has found:

1) Between 1999 and 2003, Galloway personally solicited and received eight oil "allocations" totaling 23 million barrels, which went either to him or to a politicized "charity" of his named the Mariam Appeal.

2) In connection with just one of these allocations, Galloway's wife, Amineh Abu-Zayyad, received about $150,000 directly.

3) A minimum of $446,000 was directed to the Mariam Appeal, which campaigned against the very sanctions from which it was secretly benefiting.

4) Through the connections established by the Galloway and "Mariam" allocations, the Saddam Hussein regime was enabled to reap $1,642,000 in kickbacks or "surcharge" payments.

Galloway should know that you can only sell snake oil in the same place for so much time, then you should change town.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Problems with Atom

I have been struggling with the site feed all day. Finally I removed some funny looking code (see pic; editor will not accept it typed) from each post by hand, and now it is working. That wasn’t funny at all.

I switched to feedburner to have more RSS compatibility and it looks neat; you should be able to subscribe to the feed (link below the amazon and google stuff, just before the blogroll) from any reader.

You might have gathered that I am no expert. If you know what I was doing wrong I would be happy to receive your comments (no insults, please).

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Zimbabwe falling apart

Mugabe might be gloating over the MDC split and infighting but even Zanu PF is heading for collapse.

The only moderately sane voice of the party in power, Gideon Gono, head of Zimbabwe Reserve Bank, is screaming his head off against land invasions and corruption and smuggling in the mining sector, Mugabe’s own nephew is trying to make another buck before the end by smuggling flour to Mozambique, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called him an “outrage.

The biggest mistake Tsvangirai made was to participate in last April elections. He had only two options: mobilize the masses for an “orange” revolution, after finding some kind of agreement with the Army, or delegitimize the regime by not participating in the elections which, he must have known, were never supposed to be free and fair.

He chose neither and it’s two late now. So late in fact, that MDC members are squabbling over seats in the Senate to be elected next month: a new trick by Mugabe to keep more of his cronies happy and sow disunity in the opposition.

The only hope, in Zimbabwe current barren political scene, is for Mugabe to hang himself (figuratively) through his mad policies; fortunately he seems to be well advanced along this road.

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Iraq's new constitution has been approved

Electoral commission officials told a news conference that overall, 78% of voters backed the charter and 21% opposed it in the vote on 15 October.



American deaths in Iraq reach 2000

The BBC has just announced that American military losses in Iraq have reached 2000. For some strange reason, this represents a magic number for the moonbats.

Anyone capitalizing on this is, of course, a ghoul, a parasite and, unarguably, an idiot.

In fact, MSM will make a big thing out of this.

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Galloway the fraud

Everybody knew it and now there is proof. The raffish George Galloway, a cross between a haberdasher and a second hand car dealer, has finally been cornered:

Sen. Norm Coleman said his investigative subcommittee has found the "smoking gun" in its case against British Parliament member George Galloway: money from the U.N. oil-for-food program that went to his wife's bank account and into an account controlled by his political campaign.

The report contains documents, including bank account information and wire transfers, that conclude Fawaz Zureikat, a Jordanian businessman and Galloway confidante, was the filter through which money was transferred to the Mariam Appeal and Abu-Zayyad.

After his theatrics at the US Senate committee on 17 May, where the windbag lied about his deals with Iraq, it looks like payback time:

Coleman said the subcommittee would forward the evidence to the Justice Department and to authorities in Britain. Galloway could be charged with perjury, making false statements and obstructing a congressional proceeding. Each offense carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In the end, it was only a matter of discovering if he was stupid, greedy or both.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Imagine You're a Woman

Via MEMRI, a splendid article by Saudi author Badriyya Al-Bishr, a lecturer in social sciences at King Saud University, published in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.

"Imagine you're a woman. You always need your guardian's approval, not only regarding your first marriage, as maintained by the Islamic legal scholars, but regarding each and every matter. You cannot study without your guardian's approval, even if you reach a doctorate level. You cannot get a job and earn a living without your guardian's approval. Moreover, there are people who are not ashamed to say that a woman must have permission to work even in the private sector.

"Imagine you're a woman, and the guardian who must accompany you wherever [you go] is your 15-year-old son or your brother, who scratches his chin before giving his approval, saying: 'What do you think, guys, should I give her my permission?' Sometimes he asks for... a bribe [in return], heaven forbid! [But] your brother avoids taking such a bribe in 'cash' because his self-respect prevents him from touching a woman's money. So he prefers the bribe to be a car, a fridge, or an assurance of money that you will pay in installments [for him], until Allah gets him out of his financial straits...

"Imagine you're a woman whose husband breaks her nose, arm, or leg, and you go to the Qadi to lodge a complaint. When the Qadi asks you about your complaint, and you say, 'He beat me,' he responds reproachfully 'That's all?!' In other words, [for the Qadi], beating is a technical situation that exists among all couples and lovers, [as the saying goes]: 'Beating the beloved is like eating raisins.'

"Imagine you're a woman in the 21st century, and you see fatwas [issued] by some contemporary experts in Islamic law dealing with the rules regarding taking the women of the enemy prisoner and having sexual intercourse with them. Moreover, you find someone issuing a fatwa about the rules of taking the women of the enemy prisoner even in times of peace, and you don't know to which enemy women it refers.

"Imagine you're a woman who writes in a newspaper, and every time you write about your [women's] concerns, problems, poverty, unemployment, and legal status, they say about you: 'Never mind her, it's all women's talk.'"


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Syria: a state rally in support of Assad


Tens of thousands of Syrians have marched through the capital Damascus to protest against the United Nations probe which they say unfairly blames Syria for the death of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Carrying photos of president Bashar al-Assad and Syrian flags, the demonstrators shouted slogans against the US and against the author of the UN report, German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis.

Do you remember one of the opening lines of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?

Barman: Do you really think the world's about to end?
Ford: Yes, in just over 3 minutes and 5 seconds.
Barman: Well, isn't there anything we can do?
Ford: No. Nothing.
Barman: I thought we were supposed to lie down, put a paper bag over our head or something...?
Ford: Yes, if you like.
Barman: Will that help?
Ford: No. Excuse me, I've got to go.
Barman: Ah, well. Last orders please."

Assad is putting a paper bag over his head, and it won’t help.

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The new Zimbabwe currency will be called …

Zimbabwe's central bank governor Gideon Gono said on state radio last Thursday the currency would be replaced "at a date to be announced".

He did not specify whether it would be replaced by an entirely new monetary unit, but given the Zimbabwe dollar's link to the white regime of pre-liberation Zimbabwe, where it began life as the Rhodesian dollar, it is likely the currency will be rebranded and given a new, ethnic identity.

If you link the above paragraph with the one below, the temptation to make a joke (in bad taste) is almost unbearable.

The Zimbabwe dollar is unlikely to be missed, suffering a disastrous decline against other currencies as it bore the brunt of President Robert Mugabe's
economic reform. Inflation is running at 360per cent a year, although it has been as high as 600per cent.
This has led to such iniquities as a roll of toilet paper that costs $Z3000, but because it is not always available at any price
, Zimbabweans have occasionally found it economical to use the $10 note instead.

Let’s leave it at that.

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Back to the dark ages

An angry mob of insurgents attacked a convoy of American contractors last month when they got lost in a town north of Baghdad, killing four and wounding two, the U.S. military said on Sunday.

The Telegraph reported that two of the contractors not killed in the initial attack were dragged alive from their vehicle, which had been badly shot up. They were forced to kneel in the road before being killed.
"Killing one of the men with a rifle round fired into the back of his head, they doused the other with petrol and set him alight," the paper reported.
"Barefoot children, yelping in delight, piled straw on to the screaming man's body to stoke the flames."
The crowd then "dragged their corpses through the street, chanting anti-U.S. slogans," the report said.

This episode reminded me of many similar ones. People, often kids, swarming around burned humvees, two fingers in the air in the victory sign. That these episodes are spontaneous, set up by reporters, or organized by terrorists, it matters little.

What is important is that Iraqis realize that one is either a terrorist or a human being; there is no middle way, as it has become increasingly clear. Self-exclusion from the global community will not lead them anywhere, as the Palestinians have learnt.


Barroso has vision

As I mentioned before, in the EU mess the president of the European Commission Barroso represents a sliver of hope.

In an interview to The Times, ahead of a summit at Hampton Court Palace on Thursday, he made some surprising statements:

EUROPE will become “nothing” if it fails to meet the challenge of globalisation and succumbs instead to the demands for protectionism and xenophobia that are sweeping the Continent, José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, has said.

In terms that will be seen as strong backing for the British stance and condemnation of French protectionist policies, Senhor Barroso called on all “civilised and rational” people to fight the kind of populism that is opposed to free markets and to embrace globalisation rather than turn Europe into a fortress.

No doubt Chirac will have another fit and will call Chavez on the phone for consolation.

Senhor Barroso will present a paper that he describes as a wake-up call. “If the signal we give to our children is ‘Protect yourself — hide under the table because there is globalisation, resist it’ — then we are nothing,” he said in his offices on the top floor of the European Commission’s headquarters in Brussels.

I look forward to next Thursday’s summit; this could signal that the tide is shifting and that Britain’s six months presidency will leave its mark.

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Italian Mafia and Al Qaeda

Disturbing news:

Italian media recently revealed that hundreds of Al Qaeda operatives coming from North Africa are being sent to Northern Europe though a maze of safe houses belonging to the Neapolitan Camorra, a Naples-based criminal network akin to the Mafia.

The internationally connected Camorra organization specializes in drug trafficking, prostitution, gambling and human and arms trafficking. Historically, the Camorra has worked with terrorist groups from all latitudes and political persuasions.

Practically brothers in arms.

According to a report by DIGOS, Italy's political crime unit, the number of Al Qaeda operatives who have chosen to seek refuge in Naples or have passed through the city on their way to Northern Europe may exceed 1,000. Many of them come from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. Il Roma, Naples's second-largest daily, estimates their numbers could be as high as 5,000. "Nothing new here," affirms Giacomo Serafini, a Neapolitan political consultant. "The usefulness of these escape routes was tested during the years when the Camorra collaborated with domestic terrorists, red and black (Communist and Fascist) alike. Al-Qaeda doesn't even have to sweat. Not even the apparent absentmindedness of the police when it comes to apprehending Al Qaeda operatives should surprise. In the end it was a covert agreement between the state and the terrorists that spared Italy most of the carnage that was taking place in Europe during the 1970s." Serafini refers to a secret pact during the 1970s forged by Giulio Andreotti, one of modern Italy's founding fathers. In exchange for the safe passage of operatives and weapons, Arab terrorist groups -- mainly the Palestinian group Al Fatah -- agreed to refrain from attacking Italy.

I hope the Italians will not rehash the revolting policies of the past.

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Soft on Syria

Ok, I am an idiot and I apologize. On Thursday, I said:

…it is to be hoped that Annan won’t interfere with this report.

It now appears that, not only the version of the report to be distributed to Security Council members was watered down on the express request of Kofi Annan, but thanks to the incompetent idiots running the UN show, the document released included the corrections!

THE United Nations withheld some of the most damaging allegations against Syria in its report on the murder of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, it emerged yesterday.

The earlier version says two weeks after the adoption of the resolution, “Maher Assad, Assef Shawkat, Hassan Khalil, Bahjat Suleiman and Jamil Al-Sayyed decided to assassinate Rafik Hariri.'' Khalil is Shawkat's predecessor as chief of military intelligence, Suleiman was the head of internal security and was removed about two months ago, and Sayyed is chief of the General Security Department.

Unless…(long shot) this was done with a US nod, a sort of “treading softly” to promote consensus at the Security Council…

To be fair, the justification for editing the report seems reasonable:

From the introduction: "In producing this report the Commission has endeavored to ensure that nothing it does or says undermines the ongoing criminal investigation and any trials that may follow. The Commission, at this juncture cannot disclose all the detailed elements and facts it has in its possession, beyond sharing them with the Lebanese authorities."

Syrian dismissal of the report as "political gossip" signals either an underestimation of its implications (which would be a big mistake) or a state of total confusion.

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Syria and the Mehlis report

The report confirms that Syria and Lebanon security officials planned and executed the terrorist act that led to the Rafik Hariri murder.

You can find the full report here or, if you are lazy, an executive summary here:

8. Building on the findings of the Commission and Lebanese investigations to date and on the basis of the material and documentary evidence collected, and the leads pursued until now, there is converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in this terrorist act. It is a well known fact that Syrian Military Intelligence had a pervasive presence in Lebanon at the least until the withdrawal of the Syrian forces pursuant to resolution 1559. The former senior security officials of Lebanon were their appointees. Given the infiltration of Lebanese institutions and society by the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services working in tandem, it would be difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge.

It is going to be interesting to watch Assad wriggle out of this one. As I said yesterday, he can either use the report to eliminate all those who present a danger to him if he complies with US requests or, if he is not in charge anymore, succumb.

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Hugo’s bet

Now Chavez, fresh from consultations with his friend Mugabe, is accusing the US of planning to invade Venezuela and topple him: boooring…

While I was asking myself what he could possibly gain by repeating these tired idiocies, I came across a very good post by Publius that gives a convincing interpretation:

Investor’s Business Daily has an amazing editorial today suggesting that oil prices have probably peaked.

If this reading is correct, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is finally in for some very bad times. Right now he has held onto power not through popularity but through the high price of oil. Those oil earnings have been his tyrant’s premium, enabling him to oppress, wreck and ruin his once-vibrant country, as well as spread his influence abroad, with no apparent consequences. He’s flung money all over the hemisphere, and supported the moribund government of Cuba as well.

Read it all.

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Syria: day of reckoning

Mehlis is going to submit his report on the Hariri assassination to Annan today. Tomorrow it will be presented to the UN Security Council.

Annan stressed that Mehlis would produce a purely “technical” report and warned against trying to politicize it. He also appealed for calm and restraint in anticipation of the inevitable political fallout in the Middle East.

It takes some creative power to issue such an idiotic statement; however, it is to be hoped that Annan won’t interfere with this report.

A brother-in-law of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, Assef Shawkat, has been questioned in Europe on suspicion of involvement in the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, a German magazine reported.

Detlev Mehlis, the German judge heading the UN investigation into the murder, said Shawkat, the current chief of Syrian military intelligence, had been questioned “not as a witness, but as a suspect”, according to an advance extract from Stern magazine’s Thursday edition.

These were prophetic words (a little background on the man):

Ultimately, however, Shawkat's power is derived from the Assad family. He has no power base of his own. Since he is not an Alawite notable, he cannot rely on the larger Alawite community to support him (indeed, there are no doubt some who resent his rapid advancement within the regime). His only chance for political survival is his alliance with the new president. As Bashar's right-hand-man, Shawkat will be at the center of future political developments in Syria.

Is Assad smart enough to use this opportunity to put his house in order and eliminate or render inoffensive those could pose a threat to him if he choses to pull a “qaddafi”? Does he realize that his best friends today are the US?

Yasir Sabhawi Ibrahim, son of Saddam's half brother Sabhawi Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, was arrested in a Baghdad apartment, several days after Syrian authorities forced him to return to Iraq, the officials told The Associated Press in Cairo in a telephone interview.

The Syrians were aware of his whereabouts in Baghdad and informed U.S. authorities, who then passed the information to Iraq security forces who carried out a "fast, easy" raid on the fugitive's apartment, the Defense Ministry official said.

Is he slowly getting there?

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Leo Mugabe: family values

A nephew of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has been arrested on suspicion of illegally exporting flour to Mozambique, say the police.

Illegal exports are among the reasons given for food shortages that leaves a third of people dependent on food aid.

Leo has always acted as front for his uncle’s illegal activities, financial havens and scams of various nature. He was kicked out of the Zimbabwe Football Association in 2002 for misappropriation of funds but quickly cleared.

It is interesting to note that The Herald (a government mouthpiece) has had to publish the news; of course it conveniently omitted to mention family ties.

Would it be too optimistic to think that, this time, someone is trying to hit Mugabe by proxy?


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Good news in the midst of tragedy

Via the excellent IRIS blog, an estimate of terrorists killed in the quake:

Intelligence sources have confirmed that over 3,000 terrorists who were waiting for an opportunity to cross into India from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir were killed in the October 8 earthquake.
A top intelligence officer told that while hundreds of terrorists were killed because of the huge buildings crumbling, most others were killed due to massive explosions that took place because of fire breaking out in their ammunition dumps.

According to him, the figure of 3,000 was tentative and the number of militants killed could be much more.

This seems a bit too much to hope for; however, earlier reports, although more conservative, seem consistent with this latest information:

Two hardcore militant outfits Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) have suffered major losses in the October 8 killer earthquake in terror camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir but militancy has continued in Jammu and Kashmir with the Army today saying it has killed 29 militants in the last one week.

Latest intelligence reports, collated almost a week after the killer earthquake hit Pakistan, hold that as many as 1,500 cadres of militant outfits in Pakistan perished in the disaster.
Though most militant outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) , Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) , Al-Badr and Tehrik-e-Mujahideen took a hit, Hizbul Mujahideen alone lost around 400 men.
At least a third of the 1,500 killed were hardcore jehadis, say intelligence officials, basing their assessment on a combination of human and electronic intelligence obtained from across the border.

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Zimbabwe food security crisis

While Mugabe enjoys his escapade to Rome, ranting against Blair and Bush instead of governing (that would be a first!), Zimbabwe is starving. This is the technical assessment of the current famine situation by the Famine Early Warning System Network:

In Zimbabwe, general economic collapse, severe food and fuel shortages, hyperinflation, destruction of illegal settlements, and the effects of HIV/AIDS make the situation unlike any other food insecure country in Africa, with the highest potential to deteriorate into famine conditions.

Soaring prices, near macro-economic collapse, the return of hyperinflation and the effects of “Operation Restore Order” are expected to increase the number of people requiring food assistance in urban and rural areas to at least 4.9 million. The WFP PPRO program estimates that 258,801 MT of food aid assistance is required, but only 96,981 MT have been pledged, and so far, very little has been delivered.

Unless commercial imports and relief efforts are accelerated in the two most affected countries (Zimbabwe and Malawi), the most at risk among the vulnerable, the aged, chronically ill, widows, orphans and children could face starvation before the new harvest in May 2006.

Maize seed, fertilizers, fuel and spare parts are all in serious short supply. No more than 26,000 MT of maize seed are available to meet a requirement of 56,000 MT. Even the existing limited supply of maize seed is not being released on the market, with only a month to go before the rains, as the government and seed companies have yet to agree on prices. With virtually no fertilizer available in a country that used to use 450,000 MT annually, and fuel in extremely short supply, Zimbabwe's preparedness for the 2005/06 cropping season is probably the worst ever.

What are we waiting for to refer Zimbabwe to the UN Security Council for starters? Mbeki’s permission? A few millions deaths? The UN to agree on the definition of genocide?

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Al Zarqawi ready for retirement

Take the knife from his hand and he starts fidgeting. Al Zarqawi, after being reprimanded by his mentor’s deputy for his showmanship, doesn’t know what to do anymore to attract the masses to his cause(s). Now he is saying: “forget the Americans, we are not fighting the US occupation of Iraq, but to create "an Islamic state which is part of the caliphate and the Muslim territory."

He must have hired a consultant to improve his audience numbers.

"We are not fighting to chase out the occupier or to save national unity and keep the borders outlined by the infidels intact," the statement continues. "We are fighting because it is a religious duty to do it, just as it is a duty to take the Sharia [Islamic law] to the government and create an Islamic state."

I doubt very much that this last statement will draw “martyrs” in their thousands to fight for Al Qaeda in Iraq. I can visualize Al Zawahiri, hiding his face in his hands and muttering: “this guy just doesn’t get it! I even put it in writing but he just doesn’t get it!”

Change management doesn’t sit well with Al Zarqawi; perhaps he should say that they are fighting to introduce free love, whisky and rock&roll, next time.

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Trade not aid (update)

At the recent UN World Summit Bush, among other important things, said:

We must work together in the Doha negotiations to eliminate agricultural subsidies that distort trade and stunt development, and to eliminate tariffs and other barriers to open markets for farmers around the world. Today I broaden the challenge by making this pledge: The United States is ready to eliminate all tariffs, subsidies and other barriers to free flow of goods and services as other nations do the same. This is key to overcoming poverty in the world's poorest nations.

It is a fact that trade and not indiscriminate financial aid will eventually help the developing nations to improve their economies and Bush has made the first step. Naturally, agricultural supports cannot be eliminated at once or unilaterally, so the United States has made a concrete and generous offer expecting Europe, who spends an enormous amount on subsidies, to reciprocate.

America has offered to cut by 60% the $19.1 billion (£10.8 billion) it spends on agricultural subsidies if the EU will cut its $75 billion of permitted subsidies by 80%. Moreover, America is proposing sharp reductions in tariffs on imported agricultural products, with the aim of eventually eliminating these tariffs and, indeed, all trade-distorting measures.

The eternal Janus, France, while pretending to be concerned about third world development and always quick to echo UN appeals to combat hunger and poverty, is furiously opposing it.

The European Union will test its commitment to reviving global trade talks instead of protecting its own farmers as France tries to keep the EU trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, from giving away the store.

With global trade talks at a critical juncture, France has corralled European foreign ministers to a gathering here in a bid to block further cuts to European Union farm aid - a sticking point in the discussions. But the angry French reaction to Mandelson's proposal - which the United States has rejected as not ambitious enough - shows that a deal is far from assured.

Which is exactly what the French want:

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said a French proposal to have all of his new negotiating initiatives vetted by a team of technical experts would halt the current round of WTO trade negotiations.
'If taken literally, that procedure would stop the Doha talks in their tracks,' Mandelson said at a press conference during an emergency ministerial meeting here.

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Mugabe’s lies exposed

I am glad that an expert, Craig Richardson, Associate Professor of Economics at Salem College, has published a very convincing and thorough study that, as often pointed out in this and other blogs, destroys once and for all the myth - so actively promoted and repeated ad nauseam by Mugabe - of drought being responsible for the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy.

As everyone knows, Mugabe illegal land reform that involved forcibly taking over white-owned commercial farms, was the primary driver of Zimbabwe’s sudden collapse, not the lack of rainfall.

The main point of the study is summarized in this sentence:

Property titles, which once served as a key insurance mechanism for guaranteeing bank lending, no longer were recognized by the Mugabe government.

Nevertheless, the UN and its various agencies continue to pretend that Mugabe’s excuses are true:

The reasons for this are obvious: a much better case for aid can be made if a country is seen as being down on its luck, and in an economic tailspin due to factors outside its control.

Read it all (link to the report at bottom of linked page).


Black Hawk Down

A Somali suspected of being a militia leader during the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" battle that left 18 Americans dead was arrested Monday on suspicion of war crimes while attending a conference in Sweden, police and organizers said.

News of Awale's capture was welcomed by Somalis living in the United States.

"We were joyous to hear this," said Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy center in St. Paul, Minnesota. "It sends a loud and clear message to all the other Somali war criminals."

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Monday, October 17, 2005

The Vote for Food scandal

Dr Jaques Diouf has taken another step towards ensuring his third term confirmation as Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations by inviting Mugabe to the FAO 60th anniversary celebration. Diouf took office on 1 January 1994 for a term of six years as head of the organization and was reelected for a second term in 2000. In the UN, the Secretary General may serve two terms of 5 years, but in FAO, it seems, this is “optional” (Edouard Saouma gave the first bad example by serving from 1976 to 1993).

The DG should leave at the end of his second term, but he doesn’t want to; so he needs to convince as many member states as possible to vote for him again. This has been easily and extensively done through selective recruitment: an organization that used to employ excellently qualified people on the basis of merit to better serve the world’s needs, has now become a political entity whose selection criteria are based on race “quotas”.

There is also another way, cheaper but effective: African and Caribbean countries whose governments have often chosen to praise Mugabe’s policies for obvious reasons, can be appealed to by showing sympathy and understanding to Mugabe, Castro (a habitué of FAO ceremonies), Chavez and the like.

In today’s speech, Diouf stressed the importance of FAO as "a neutral forum in which nations come together to address food and agricultural issues."

So neutral in fact, that food and agriculture were the only issues discussed:

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on Monday railed against U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, calling them "international terrorists" bent on world domination like Adolf Hitler.

Mugabe departed from his text at a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to accuse Bush and Blair of illegally invading Iraq and looking to unseat governments elsewhere.

"Must we allow these men, the two unholy men of our millennium, who in the same way as Hitler and Mussolini formed (an) unholy alliance, formed an alliance to attack an innocent country?" he said.

In the meantime the BBC sees fit to write an article about the event but doesn’t even know the name of the agency:

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Freezing Castro

Via the excellent Counterterrorism, this article highlights another front of the war against terror often conveniently overlooked by MSM: money.

It all really started when in April 2003 American troops found $762 million in US dollars banknotes belonging to Saddam Hussein. They were able to trace these notes to UBS and consequently the Swiss bank was fined $100 million by Swiss and US banking authorities. Additionally to the $762 million, UBS provided Cuba with $3.9 billion in US notes, $1 billion for Iran and $30 million for Libya.

Congressional investigators probing whether the world's largest "wealth management" firm, UBS, may have laundered $5 billion in American currency for state sponsors of terrorism are pushing for the American government to block or seize any assets that may be held by the Castro regime at the Swiss bank's vault in Zurich, according to correspondence obtained by The New York Sun.

According to congressional staff familiar with discussions between UBS and investigating congressmen, the Swiss bank has yet to indicate that the Cuban account - fed by monthly shipments of American banknotes flown from Havana to Zurich on a jet designated by the Castro regime specifically for that purpose, according to congressional investigators - has been closed.

On October 22, 2004, six months after UBS paid the $100 million fine, the International Financial Action Task Force Against Money Laundering adopted Resolution IX, which, according to a Task Force press release, "calls on countries to stop cross-border movements of currency and monetary instruments related to terrorist financing and money laundering and confiscate such funds."

Three days later, on October 25, Mr. Castro announced that he was ending the use of American dollars as the currency of the Cuban economy, encouraging the use of Euros, Swiss francs, and other foreign banknotes instead.

Perhaps Zapatero infatuation with the Lider Maximo is not so platonic, after all.

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Saturday, October 15, 2005

The FAO invites Mugabe

The United States has expressed "amazement" at a United Nations invitation to Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe to address a hunger conference in Rome on Monday to mark the 60th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). "I find it amazing they've invited Mr Mugabe to speak at the 60th anniversary, who in a way has done so much to hurt the hungry, and who has absolutely turned his back on the poor," said Tony Hall, US ambassador to the UN food agencies in Rome. "I find it amazing. What can he possibly say to us at the conference, when he has done so much to hurt his own people? Food has been used as a weapon against his own people," Hall said late on Friday.

Why should anyone be surprised? Dictators who starve their people are the United Nations agencies’ lifeline!

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Iraq referendum

If you want to follow today’s vote in Iraq, these guys are liveblogging it:

Good reading and best wishes to the Iraqis.


Zawahiri Letter to Zarqawi confirmed authentic

The famous letter has been validated as authentic and having been written by al Zawahiri by two irrefutable proofs:

1) Al Qaeda in Iraq dismisses the letter as a fabrication of the Black (White) House

2) Middle East “expert” professor Juan Cole suspects it is a forgery

What more evidence do you want?

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Friday, October 14, 2005

Too much chibuku

The Zimbabwean government has sent a formal protest letter to the United States embassy here, accusing ambassador Christopher Dell of trespassing in a restricted security area near President Robert Mugabe's residence. A broadcast on state radio late on Thursday said Dell was detained for half an hour on Monday before being released. It accused him of "trying to provoke an unwarranted diplomatic incident" by approaching a viewpoint guarded by armed troops at Hartmann Hill in Harare's national botanical gardens, 2km from the downtown residence.

This article struck me because I know the Harare Botanical Gardens like the back of my hand and I am sure this is a stupid excuse. The official tone of the protest probably serves to mask the acute embarrassment of the Zimbabwe government in the face of another blunder by a drunk soldier or something similar; don’t read too much in it.

The Gardens used to be very beautiful, lovingly cared for, with an impressive variety of flora; in the last years though, they have been neglected, pumps have been stolen and not replaced, rubbish accumulates, &c.

You could spend a lovely day there, strolling, feeding the ducks in the pond, studying plants and trees. In a couple of places, usually on top of a hill, you could see a military tent and some soldiers going about, cooking, or sleeping. If you knew Zimbabwe and its paranoid president, you would walk around them, perhaps smile or say hello, and be on your way. Even so, a couple of times, absorbed in my thoughts I got too close and was simply told to go away.

The radio report said the spot was a "restricted security area".

Sounds very efficient, doesn’t it? Not really:

It is not fenced off, but scrawled messages on rocks warn visitors "Save your life - do not come up here".

It is easy to understand how, if you are not familiar with the place, walking your dog could cost you your life.

The Botanical Gardens, as you can see from the map, border with Mugabe’s Presidential Palace and S. George’s College; if one really wanted to look into Mugabe’s windows, one could climb up to the pseudo-gothic turret of the College main building (were they used to shoot vampire movies with Vincent Price) and enjoy the green, lush sprawl of Harare’s northern suburbs from high up.

To those “politically correct” journalists that feel morally bound to refer to “the cruel Smith regime” before they come around to criticize Mugabe, I’d like to tell that when Ian Smith was Prime Minister of Rhodesia, the Residence had no fence or guard (even during the war), and around midday he would drive (himself) his Mini Morris to the nearby TM Supermarket to do his shopping. Even now, if you come across him in Harare, you will see that people smile at him and shake his hand and the women clap their hands and curtsey in the customary Shona greeting.

This respect and mutual trust has all but disappeared since Mugabe took power:

Good to know when you visit Harare is that some parts around the President's residence are off-limits from 6pm till 6am. You can be shot if you pass this street after hours, even when the boom is raised. When the President passes in his cavalcade, you are required by law to stop and pull over. You may also be shot if you fail to do this.

No wonder that Mugabe confuses a stroll in the park with "trying to provoke an unwarranted diplomatic incident".

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Pakistan accepts help from Israel

Pakistan has signaled its willingness to accept aid from both Israel and American Jewish groups, Chairman of the American Jewish Congress Jack Rosen said Wednesday, days after a massive earthquake in in the Indian subcontinent killed at least 30,000 people.

It is almost ridiculous that is has to be spelled out, but after the arrogant and thankless postures of other Muslim countries affected by natural disasters, it is a breath of fresh air.

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Gono knows something we don’t

The governor of Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank has criticised the latest wave of land invasions targeting commercial farms. Gideon Gono told the state-owned Herald newspaper that the seizure of commercial land was contributing to the country's high inflation rate.

"When a nation chooses to be fed by other nations even in times when drought is not an issue it should not complain when inflation starts biting"

For the second time, Gideon Gono has stuck his head out and thrashed at Mugabe’s policies. Any ZANU PF internal divisions should be welcome; however, he is risking a lot. Does he know something we don’t?


Bye bye Gerhard

Nothing’s worse than a bad loser. Stefania gives him a lashing.


Assad II

I have just finished watching the Assad interview on CNN, given before the news of Kanaan suicide leaked. This man is not in charge of anything. I’ll leave it to Condoleezza to hammer out the details.


I love Bolton!

John Bolton has blocked a UN envoy from briefing the Security Council on possible human rights violations in Sudan's Darfur region, saying the council had to act against atrocities and not just talk about them.

"How many officials from the secretariat does it take to give a briefing?" he said, noting the council had just concluded a briefing on Darfur from Hedi Annabi, assistant secretary general for peacekeeping operations.

As many as it takes to change a light bulb, I guess.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The waning influence of the NYT Times columnists

From Kos, of all places. Makes you wonder.


Syrian Interior Minister has been “suicided”

Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan committed suicide at his office on Wednesday, the official Syrian News Agency SANA said.

Kanaan, who was Syria's top official in Lebanon for two decades until 2002, had been interviewed two weeks earlier by U.N. investigators probing the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

"The minister of interior died in his office this afternoon after committing suicide and the authorities are investigating the incident," SANA said in a report.

Hours before the news broke, Kanaan spoke to a Lebanese radio station, denying reports in Lebanese media that he showed the U.N. investigators checks paid to him by the late Hariri.

"I think this is the last statement I might give," Kanaan said at the end of the phone interview with Voice of Lebanon.

My bet is that the UN investigation will reveal that Kanaan was behind the Hariri assassination. What remains to be seen is what price will Assad have to pay for the US to pretend he was not involved in the Beirut bombing. I hope it is high.

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Mugabe admits he is an idiot

Mugabe’s racism, thirst for power and limited intellectual capacity are well known, but is always pleasant to see them confirmed. Imagine the faces of those who keep hailing him as a liberator and someone who cares about his people:

China has turned down an offer by President Robert Mugabe’s government to take over farms seized from whites apparently because Beijing feared there was no guarantee that such an investment would be secure in the long term, authoritative sources said.

Zimbabwe has since last April attempted to hammer a joint-venture deal with China that would enable resource-rich farmers from the Asian giant to enter into partnerships with the Harare government to farm land seized from whites and help resuscitate the southern African country’s collapsed agricultural sector.

But sources said China has developed cold feet on the planned deal worried by Harare’s ever shifting land laws and policies in particular a controversial constitutional amendment last month that virtually nationalises all agricultural land.

It is easy to conclude from this that:

1) Mugabe’s land reform was, is and will be a failure

2) The land reform was not only an excuse to appeal to the rural masses before the elections, but a costly exercise in revenge against the whites who were exposing Mugabe’s bankrupt policies

3) Even the Chinese get cold feet in light of land nationalization

4) Hopefully (but I doubt it) it will set an example for South Africa and Namibia who are increasingly playing with this disastrous ideology

5) Trying to attract Chinese peasants to farm the land stolen from their rightful owners, is tantamount to admit that the land reform has failed

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UNSCAM update

These are the guys who strongly opposed the liberation of Iraq at the Security Council:

The former French ambassador to the U.N. security council, Jean-Bernard Merimee, has been ordered jailed by the magistrate investigating French involvement in the oil-for-food scandal, judicial sources said Tuesday.
Judge Philippe Courroye suspects the 68-year-old Merimee of having received bribes from the regime of former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein in the form of oil purchase vouchers or "allocations" of crude oil between 1996 and 2003.

Five people have already been placed under judicial investigation by judge Philippe Courroye in connection with the "oil-for-food" affair.
They are Serge Boidevaix, former secretary-general at the French foreign ministry; businessman Claude Kaspereit; Bernard Guillet, an adviser to former French interior minister Charles Pasqua; Gilles Munier, head of an Iraqi-French friendship society; and Palestinian journalist Hamida Nana.

But that’s not all; belatedly, Kofi’s deputy now admits UN corruption and amateurishness:

KOFI Annan's deputy -- who many believe will become the scapegoat for the UN Secretary-General over the oil-for-food debacle -- has admitted the international body was "not equipped" to manage the controversial program.

Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette, in Melbourne yesterday for a global philanthropy conference hosted by Melbourne University, said the problems that allowed bribery and corruption to infect the UN program were much wider than oil-for-food.

Let's shut down the bloody thing and start from scratch.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

They can’t organize a piss up in a brewery and they want to control the Internet?

The Internet is the best thing that has happened to the world in a long time. And it is so because it is free. Now the UN, who has transformed in tragedy and corruption everything it has touched, want to control it!

At the forefront of this (still-born) project, of course, are Iran, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, Tunisia; all countries interested in suppressing free information. The EU was quick to join them.


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