Sign in to follow this  

Tunisian Revolution and the Middle East

Recommended Posts

Al-Shabab retakes key Somalia port city of Merca


Islamist militant group al-Shabab has taken control of the port city Merca, residents say.


Merca, some 70km (45 miles) south-west of Mogadishu, is now the biggest town under al-Shabab control.


African Union forces who had held the port city for three-and-a-half years withdrew earlier on Friday morning.


The loss is one of the biggest setbacks for the African Union force in its decade-long battle against al-Shabab, analysts say.


The governor of Somalia's Lower Shabelle region Ibrahim Adam told the AFP news agency that al-Shabab secured control without fighting.

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Obama Proposes Removing Human Rights Conditions on Aid to Egypt


The budget proposal released by the Obama administration Tuesday seeks to roll back restrictions Congress has placed on foreign aid to Egypt’s military regime and the sale of crowd control weapons to “emerging democracies.”


Under current law, 15 percent of aid to Egypt is subject to being withheld based on human rights conditions — although even that can be waived if it is deemed to be in the national security interest of the United States, as it was last year.


Cole Bockenfeld, deputy director for policy at the Project on Middle East Democracy, says the administration probably doesn’t want to go to the trouble of justifying its waiver this year. “They had to basically do an assessment. … Here’s how they’re doing on political prisoners, here’s how they’re doing on freedom of assembly, and so on,” Bockenfeld explains. Last year’s report “infuriated the Egyptians … it was a pretty honest assessment of how things had deteriorated in Egypt.”


The assessment, for instance, took the Egyptians to task for the “impunity” their security forces operate under and restrictions on due process.


“I think what they’re trying to do is avoid a repeat of that scenario,” concludes Bockenfeld. “Because that upset the Egyptians as much as it did, we’d rather handle those things privately.”

A Cambridge University Student Savagely Killed in Egypt, But By Whom?


“Don’t go to downtown Cairo on January 25,” was the warning that echoed throughout Egypt’s capital in the nervous buildup to the fifth anniversary of the 2011 revolution that unfurled in Tahrir Square and took the world by storm.


Fearing unrest, the authorities arrested journalists, rights activists and Facebook administrators of pages that had called for protests to mark the day. Some 5,000 flats around the downtown square were raided by the police and 180,000 troops deployed to the streets.


Masked men wielding rifles guarded the iconic rallying point on the day, as regime supporters danced, draped in Egyptian flags and posters of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Everyone feared violent confrontations with Islamist protesters—many stayed home, others moved to quieter parts of the city.


Across town in the middle-class district of Dokki, a young Cambridge University Ph.D student messaged one friend to say he was setting off to meet another near Bab el-Louq, just off Tahrir. They would then go on to small birthday gathering in Giza.


Giuilo Regeni, 28, from Italy, had been in the country since September researching—and secretly reporting on—independent trade unions whose development was a victory of the 2011 Revolution, but now represented, controversially, one of the last vanguards of dissent.


The former Arabic language undergraduate, described as fiercely intelligent and very kind by those who knew him, expressed fears to friends in Cairo about going out on the difficult day, but they thought he was “over-worrying.”


“He sent me a text message saying he was going to this gathering and asking if I wanted to come,” his friend Amr Assad told The Daily Beast. “When I called him back around 7:50 p.m. his phone was off. The next day... I knew from the friend who was waiting for him downtown that he never arrived."

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Egypt: Dead Cambridge student Giulio Regeni 'picked up by police in Cairo' before torture ordeal


An Italian student tortured and killed in Cairo was picked up by police minutes from his home the day he vanished, witnesses have claimed, as it emerged that the chief Egyptian investigator on the case is a convicted torturer.


A Cairo street vendor told Italian detectives leading an independent probe he saw plain-clothed officers detaining Giulio Regeni outside a metro station in the Dokki district on 25 January, Il Corriere Della Sera reported.


The half-naked body of the University of Cambridge PhD student was found nine days later off a suburban road with cigarettes burns, stab wounds and signs of torture over his body. Italian media have been supporting the hypothesis that he had been targeted by Egyptian security forces due to his ties to independent trade union and local dissidents.


The suspect was reinforced by the revelation that the one of leading detectives on the case, who initially dismissed Regeni's death as a road accident, had been handed a rare conviction for torturing a detainee to death more than 10 years ago.


In 2003 Khaled Shalaby, the director of investigations in Cairo's twin city of Giza, and two other policemen, were given a one-year suspended sentence in Alexandria over the detainee's demise and for fabricating the related police report, according to an Egyptian rights group, the Nadeem Centre.


Regeni had both his ears chopped off, numerous bones broken and two nails tore off from a finger and a toe, according to an autopsy carried out by Italian forensics. His body was also covered in stab wounds, including some to the sole, consistent with an object similar to an ice pick.


He was killed by heavy blow to the neck or a violent twisting of the head that snapped a vertebra. The day he went missing, Egypt marked the anniversary of the 2011 Arab Spring revolution amid high security measures, a circumstance that led many to immediately suspect he had had been caught up in a police swoop on demonstrators.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Italian student showed signs of electrocution - Egypt forensic source


Egypt's forensics authority handed over to the prosecutor general's office on Saturday its final autopsy report on the Italian student who was tortured and found dead in Cairo last week.


Giulio Regeni, 28, had been researching independent trade unions in Egypt and had written articles critical of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government - prompting speculation that he was killed at the hands of Egypt's security forces.


Egypt's interior and foreign ministers both dismissed the notion of security forces being behind Regeni's murder.


The prosecutor general's office said it would not publicly disclose the contents of the report as the investigation was ongoing. Reuters was not able to obtain a copy to verify the contents.


However, a senior source at the forensics authority told Reuters Regeni, a graduate student at Britain's Cambridge University, had seven broken ribs, signs of electrocution on his penis, traumatic injuries all over his body, and a brain haemorrhage.


His body also bore signs of cuts from a sharp instrument suspected to be a razor, abrasions, and bruises. He was likely assaulted using a stick as well as being punched and kicked, the source added.


A second autopsy in Italy "confronted us with something inhuman, something animal", Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told Sky News 24 television last week.


Egypt's initial autopsy report showed Regeni had been hit on the back of the head with a sharp instrument.


Rights groups say police often detain Egyptians on scant evidence and that they are beaten or coerced. Scores have disappeared since 2013, the groups say. Egypt denies allegations of police brutality.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Iraqi PM ready to resign as part of cabinet reshuffle


Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has said he is ready to resign as part of a comprehensive reshuffle of his cabinet aimed at scrapping key governing posts based on sectarian lines.


Abadi's announcement on Iraqi state TV on Monday comes amid a political struggle with his opponents who seek to keep the country's sectarian-quota system in place.


"I am ready to leave my post, and I am not holding on to it, but at the same time I am not evading my responsibilities, therefore if they want change, then I am ready for it," Abadi said on Monday.


The announcement comes a week after Abadi said he wanted to appoint technocrats and reshuffle his cabinet, which was formed in 2014 and distributed posts based loosely on political blocs' representation in parliament.


Abadi said on Monday that a cabinet reshuffle is necessary, and warned against political opponents refusing his call to make a comprehensive change within the government - the parliament must approve ministerial changes and has blocked earlier reform efforts.


Abadi said some political groups, which he did not name, are obstructing the work of Iraqi ministers who are not affiliated with any political or sectarian group.


The current Iraqi political structure is a quota-based system where each ethnic and religious group - such as Shia, Sunni, Christians Arabs, Kurds and others - is assigned its own specific representation in the parliament, government, and military.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here’s Why Any Intervention In Libya Will Be A Huge Mess


Five years after the uprising against Qaddafi, there are three competing governments, but none of them has any real control across Libya. BuzzFeed News’ Borzou Daragahi reports from the city of Bani Walid, which has taken control of its own affairs.

The third one is really more of a UN proposed idea than a government so far.

Is the U.S. Military Propping Up Uganda’s ‘Elected’ Autocrat?


Ugandan forces have used U.S. aid to fight terrorists. Will they also use it to crush opponents of the president?


The chief of police warns anti-government demonstrators to prepare for “war.” A top official in the ruling party says the state will “kill your children” if they protest the results of the upcoming presidential poll. And the chairman of the election commission tells participants in a human-rights forum that he would authorize a military deployment against supporters of a leading opposition candidate.


Welcome to Uganda, where security forces routinely disregard human rights and democratic rules. Welcome also to one of America’s most important military allies in Africa.


Under President Yoweri Museveni, Uganda has become a key counterterrorism partner of the United States, working hand-in-glove with U.S. forces to defeat al-Shabab in Somalia and to hunt down the notorious warlord Joseph Kony in neighboring Central African Republic. The country is now among the top recipients of U.S. security assistance on the continent. But as Museveni seeks to extend his 30-year rule in presidential elections scheduled for Feb. 18, there are fears that Ugandan security forces will intimidate voters or crack down on opposition protesters. That is raising questions about whether Washington is capable of balancing its security objectives in the region with its stated goals for democratization and good governance.

Compared to the billions of dollars Washington lavishes on its Middle Eastern allies, the Ugandan partnership comes with a bargain price tag of roughly $170 million per year in military cooperation and assistance, according to Ugandan military officials. Some argue it has also advanced important U.S. interests, including the degradation of al-Shabab in Somalia and the cheap bolstering of the continent’s peacekeeping capabilities. (Uganda has committed troops to the Eastern Africa Standby Force, a new regional force designed for rapid intervention.)


“The U.S. has gotten its money’s worth in the short term at least,” said J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington D.C. “We’ve got boots on the ground, literally, in Somalia that have reversed a bad situation. It’s still bad, but it’s a lot better than it was. And the peacekeeping capabilities have come a long way. So it’s benefited in the short term, but I’d say the jury is still out on the behavior of Uganda’s military in the domestic political process.”

Museveni Eyes Fifth Term as Uganda Votes for President


Ugandans began voting Thursday in presidential and parliamentary polls, with veteran leader Yoweri Museveni widely expected to extend his power into a fourth decade.


"Uganda Decides," the New Vision newspaper headline read. "Your vote counts," the Daily Monitor front-page said.


Voting was due to begin at 07:00 am (0400GMT), but despite queues forming outside polling booths, many were delayed opening for over an hour waiting for ballot papers.


Social media, including Facebook and Twitter, were inaccessible on voting day although Internet-savvy Ugandans dodged the apparent shutdown using virtual private networks (VPNs). 


Museveni faces a challenge from seven candidates, but is widely predicted to win a fifth term, with the 71-year-old former rebel fighter who seized power in 1986 entering his fourth decade in power.

Elections in 2006 and 2011 were marred by violent, and occasionally deadly, street protests and the liberal use of tear gas by heavy-handed police. However, apart from an outbreak of violent protests in which one person died on Monday, campaigning has been relatively peaceful.


"Whoever will try to bring violence, you will see what we shall do to him. Those who want violence should play somewhere else, not Uganda," Museveni told thousands of supporters in his final rally on Tuesday.


Besigye, a three-time loser whose brief detention by police triggered Monday's protests, said he is confident of a first-round win despite saying he believes the vote will not be free or fair.


Voter turnout has followed a downward trajectory in recent elections with nearly three-quarters of eligible voters casting a ballot in 1996, during the country's first-ever competitive election, but only three-fifths bothering to turn out in 2011.


Museveni's share of those votes has also declined but most 2016 polls give him more than the 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off. He won his last five-year term in 2011 with 68 percent.

Egyptian authorities move to shut down torture watchdog


An Egyptian human rights organisation that documents complaints of torture in custody has said it is being shut down by the country’s authorities.


Amnesty International said that moves to close down the Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence “appear to mark an expansion of the ongoing crackdown on human rights activists in Egypt”.


The centre, headquartered in central Cairo, documents allegations of torture, death and medical negligence inside police stations and prisons.


“Two policemen … turned up today at the centre with an administrative decision from the health ministry to close [it],” said Aida Seif el-Dawla, one of its founders.


“The decision did not give any reasons,” she said. “We managed to persuade them to postpone the closure until we went to the health ministry on Monday to understand the reasons.”

Libya must lead anti-Islamic State effort, Egypt's foreign minister says


Libya needs to form a unified government before the United States and European allies opt for any military intervention against thousands of Islamic State fighters in the chaotic North African country, Egypt's foreign minister said on Tuesday.


"This has to be a Libyan-led process," Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Reuters in an interview, while acknowledging that efforts to forge a single government from two rivals in neighbouring Libya have been "difficult."


U.S. counter-terrorism officials have been alarmed at the growth of an Islamic State affiliate in Libya, where it has amassed thousands of fighters, seized a coastal strip that includes the city of Sirte and attacked oil infrastructure.


The Arab country plunged into chaos in the aftermath of the uprising against longtime dictator Muammar Gadaffi, whose fall was helped by a NATO-led air campaign in 2011.


Speaking to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Islamic State's Libya affiliate is "one of its most developed branches outside Syria and Iraq." The affiliate, he said, "is well positioned to expand territory under its control in 2016."


U.S. officials have debated increasing air strikes in Libya or deploying U.S. Special Operations Forces, but they say any military campaign is still weeks or even months away.

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Reports that civilians in Cairo have lynched two police officers after one of the officers killed a cab driver. 

2:58 PM


More here: The police officer refused to pay the cab fare, fight broke out, killed the driver
3:01 PM


Video from in front of police station: "Filthy government, you sons of ****es"

3:03 PM


People surround central police station in Cairo

3:14 PM

Hundreds protesting Interior Ministry in Cairo after policeman kills tok-tok driver. Anti-police sentiment is high

4:49 PM

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Egypt Struggles to Get Subsidized Food to Poor Amid Dollar Crisis


"Any rice?" says the woman, leaning into a shop in Cairo and brandishing a green smartcard that carries her family's food credits. The shopkeeper shakes his head: "Only sugar."


Behind him, more than half the shelves are empty. Rice and cooking oil are nowhere to be seen.


Tens of millions of Egyptians rely on state subsidies provided as credits on smartcards they redeem against household staples each month. But in recent weeks, imported commodities like cooking oil have been in short supply as a dollar shortage makes it harder for state importers to secure regular supplies.


Shortages persist across the capital and in cities from Alexandria in the north to Minya in the south.


"When we ask the grocer he says there's nothing but sugar.


Every day he says, tomorrow, tomorrow, but we are halfway through the month now and it's not resolved," said Samia Mohamed, a housewife, at a grocery in southern Cairo. "Prices elsewhere are expensive. We don't know what to do."

Hundreds protest in Cairo over police shooting


Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the Cairo security directorate on Thursday night after a policeman shot dead a man in the street, in the latest outburst of anger over alleged police brutality in Egypt.


A statement from the Cairo security directorate said the policeman had shot dead a driver after an argument and was forced to flee a mob of local people who attempted to catch and kill him. Police later found the policeman.


Footage posted on social media showed hundreds of people massing outside the security directorate to protest the death.


The incident comes amid mounting public anger over alleged police brutality. Last week, thousands of doctors held a rare protest against police they say beat two doctors at a Cairo hospital for refusing to falsify medical records.

Police disperse crowd outside security HQ in Cairo. Slowly but surely anger will test limits of repression

4:51 PM

Police statement: “The policeman pulled his gun to end the fight but a bullet came out of the gun by mistake”

5:07 PM

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Father cries injustice as 4-year-old son convicted of sabotage, rioting


The father of a four-year-old boy convicted of violence and sentenced to 28 years in prison has cried injustice, saying he had been remanded into custody for refusing to hand over his young boy to police,


"Police officers knocked on my door and asked to hand over my four-year-old son. When I refused, they took me to the police station and referred me the other day to the prosecution, where I was remanded into custody for 15 days pending investigations,” Mansour Qurani, the father of Ahmed, told Dream satellite channel’s Wael al-Ibrashi late on Saturday.


The conviction of little Qurani by the Western Cairo Military Court was related to incidents of violence at Fayoum back in 2014, when the boy was actually one and a half years old. The boy, who lawyers say was mistakenly included on the list of defendants, was convicted along with 115 others of violence related to assaults on military intelligence and health ministry facilities.


Press reports quoted Qurani’s lawyers as saying that the court refused to consider the boy’s birth certificate, which they submitted as evidence that he could not logically had been involved in the violence. They said the mistake poses questions around whether the case was thoroughly considered by the judges.

Americans tortured by an American ally


Amal Eldarat, a 28-year-old U.S.-born, London-educated woman who until recently worked for Deloitte consulting in Dubai, visited me last week to recount the horrific story of her father and brother, both also U.S. citizens, who were abducted by United Arab Emirates security forces 18 months ago and then tortured into false confessions of supporting terrorism.


It was a sadly familiar tale. Kamal Eldarat and his son Momed were, according to U.N. human rights authorities, unjustly detained in August 2014, held incommunicado for three months at an undisclosed location and subjected to extensive torture, including waterboarding, electric shocks, beatings and hangings. They were denied access to a lawyer and regular family visits and were not informed of the allegations against them until they were abruptly brought before a court last month. Charged under a law that went into effect only after their arrests, they could be sentenced to life in prison or death, with no possibility of appeal, when their trial resumes on Feb. 29.


As Amal Eldarat plausibly described it, her father and brother, both successful businessmen, were targeted because of the family’s Libyan roots and their participation in aid efforts during and after the 2011 Arab Spring. The elder Eldarat had sought political asylum in the United States from the dictatorship of Moammar Gaddafi; when the country rebelled against Gaddafi, the family pitched in to help their ancestral city, Misrata, which was at the center of the fighting.


Years later, the Misrata forces were on one side of Libya’s civil war, while the Emirati government backed the other. Days after UAE warplanes intervened in the fighting, security forces at home rounded up 10 men of Libyan ancestry, whom they accused of supporting “terrorist” groups. The American Eldarats, with no connections to radical Islamists, were nevertheless swept up. “They were tortured nonstop,” Amal told me. When she was finally allowed a visit, six months after the arrests, she found her father stooped with back pains, while her brother had lost hearing in one ear.

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Lots of happiness and celebrations today in Benghazi after most ISIS elements have been cleared from the city and nearby areas.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Bomb plot vs Saudi Arabian plane in ‘advanced stage’


An alleged terrorist plot to hijack or bomb a passenger plane from the Saudi Arabian air fleet has reached an ”advanced stage” of implementation, according to a reliable airport source.


The airport source on Saturday cited the threat of terrorist attack that would be carried out somewhere in Southeast Asia after Iran warned of “divine revenge” against Saudi Arabia over Riyadh’s recent execution of a religious leader, a prominent cleric.


The source confirmed that the Saudi Arabian Embassy in the Philippines has informed the Department of Foreign Affairs that its government intelligence had received information that “Iranian Revolutionary Guards” are allegedly preparing to mount the attack.


The Manila Times has obtained a copy of that confidential communication written by a retired admiral in behalf of the Foreign Affairs secretary, dated January this year, indicating that the plan has reached the “advanced stage.”


The dispatch revealed that the “implementing and planning team is said to consist of 10 persons and six of them are Yemeni nationals tasked to execute the plan, and some of them have already been identified.”


The names of the suspects have been withheld although it is believed that they have already left Iran for Southeast Asian countries through Turkey on two separate flights to execute the plan.

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Iran executed all adult men in one village for drug offences, official reveals


The entire adult male population of a village in southern Iran has been executed for drug offences, according to Iran’s vice-president for women and family affairs.

The matter came to light earlier this week after Shahindokht Molaverdi revealed it during an interview with the semi-official Mehr news agency in rare comments from a senior government official highlighting the country’s high rate of executions of drug traffickers.


“We have a village in Sistan and Baluchestan province where every single man has been executed,” she said, without naming the place or clarifying whether the executions took place at the same time or over a longer period. “Their children are potential drug traffickers as they would want to seek revenge and provide money for their families. There is no support for these people.”


Molaverdi said the administration of President Hassan Rouhani has brought back previously axed family support programmes as part of the country’s national development plan. “We believe that if we do not support these people, they will be prone to crime, that’s why the society is responsible for the families of those executed,” she said.


According to Amnesty International, Iran remains a prolific executioner, second only to China. In 2014, at least 753 people were hanged in Iran, of whom more than half were drug offenders. In 2015, Amnesty said it had recorded “a staggering execution rate” in the Islamic republic, “with nearly 700 people put to death in the first half of the year alone”.


Maya Foa, from the anti-death penalty campaigning group Reprieve, said: “The apparent hanging of every man in one Iranian village demonstrates the astonishing scale of Iran’s execution spree. These executions – often based on juvenile arrests, torture, and unfair or nonexistent trials – show total contempt for the rule of law, and it is shameful that the UN and its funders are supporting the police forces responsible.”

Amid Iraqi Chaos, Moktada al-Sadr, an Old Provocateur, Returns


They came from the slums of this city’s underclass, the alleyways and the simple halls of the seminary in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, and the outer reaches of the rural south.


They waved Iraqi flags and demanded change. The crowd packed Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on Friday morning, chanting by the tens of thousands against corruption and for decisive reforms in how politics is conducted here, as they waited for their man to appear.


“No, no to thieves! Yes, yes to reforms!”


Then Moktada al-Sadr, the cleric and political provocateur whose command of the Iraqi Shiite street is unmatched, stepped up to the rail of a makeshift stage on the rooftop of an old girls school and appealed to the people’s grievances in terms at once revolutionary and patriotic.


“After today, the prime minister has to act!” he said. Referring to the barricaded heart of the central government, he said, “Today we are at the door of the Green Zone, and tomorrow the people will be inside!”


The time is ripe for demagogues again in Iraq, where the public is seething with anger over corruption, a grinding war and a collapse in oil prices that has shaken the economy. With an ineffective political class unable to rise above internal scheming, Iraq is struggling to face its most pressing concerns, the primary one being winning the war with the Islamic State and reuniting the country.

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

BREAKING: Rouhani allies win all Tehran seats after 90% of votes counted: state TV

1:16 AM

Hopefully this leads to a shift in foreign policy away from bloody regional imperialism, and leads to releasing political detainees, and less executions for minor offenses (mostly drug related).  But we'll see.  It could have the opposite effect.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I see my old battalion assigned to Helmand again and I wonder: What is the point?


The Pentagon recently announced that an undisclosed number of U.S. soldiers will be sent to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan in a “force protection” role. It’s a minor story, perhaps, considering the overall number of troops deployed to Afghanistan is not expected to increase beyond 9,800 and the troops will replace a unit already there. But it’s a shift at the tail end of a war most Americans do not even remember is happening anymore. The war is over, President Barack Obama said. Who cares about a lousy transfer of what’s been reported to be about 500 U.S. troops?


The soldiers in question are with the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division, which is the unit I served with during two tours in Afghanistan. And they are heading towards one of the deadliest battlefields NATO endured in its never-ending mission in Afghanistan. U.S. Marines and the British military, in particular, paid a terrible price against intransigent locals and Taliban fighting hard to hold onto what they consider their homeland.


Nearly a thousand coalition troops lost their lives in Helmand, including hundreds of U.S. Marines. Now, after declaring a specious victory and leaving Helmand to the tender mercies of a corrupt government and the Taliban, the Pentagon is worried about the province, after pulling out and declaring victory. What kind of farce is this supposed to be? And remember, we’re not entirely sure just how many troops are heading there, or exactly what they’ll be doing. “Force protection” covers so much ground that it could mean practically anything.

A New Libya, With ‘Very Little Time Left’
Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Iran’s Moderates Appear To Have Expanded Control After Elections


Iranian moderates significantly expanded their control over major government bodies in elections, delivering a victory for President Hassan Rouhani and his allies, as well as a measure of vindication for those in the Obama administration who argued the nuclear deal with Tehran could weaken hardliners.


Results of Friday’s election for parliament and the Assembly of Experts, which oversees the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, are not final and continue to be tabulated (the official results will be announced Tuesday). But early results reported in local media suggested that moderates had at least quadrupled their share of 20 seats, while state television said reformists and moderates had won 44% of seats that are not subject to runoff elections, compared to 50% for conservatives and 6% for independent candidates. According to the Associated Press, none of Iran’s factions appeared likely to receive a majority.


“Pragmatists will be at least four times stronger and have a considerable weighty faction within the parliament,” Hossein Rassam, a former adviser to the U.K. foreign office on Iran and a London-based independent consultant, told BuzzFeed News.


Iran’s 290-member parliament allocates seats for each province roughly proportionate with their populations. Early results suggested that a coalition of moderates allied to Rouhani had won all of Tehran’s 30 parliamentary seats and 15 of 16 Assembly of Experts seats.


What’s more, they managed to oust some of the most prominent hardliners from parliament and the Assembly of Experts, including Ayatollah Mohammed Yazdi and Ayatollah Mohammed-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, the cleric who served as ex-firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s spiritual guru. As results came in, reformist media gloated over the defeat of hardline lawmakers who had insulted or threatened moderate politicians over the years.


The results came even after the powerful Guardian Council, a panel of clergy and jurists that vets all national political candidates and laws, rejected thousands of prominent reformist candidates. Iran’s reformists sought to change Iran’s course in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Many of the movement’s brightest stars and intellects are in jail or exile.

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Egypt's justice minister to step down after comments criticised as blasphemous


Egypt's justice minister was asked to resign by the prime minister on Sunday, judicial sources said, after being criticised for saying he would jail Islam's Prophet Mohammad himself if he broke the law.


Ahmed al-Zend's comments came in a televised interview on Friday. He immediately said "God forgive me", and on Saturday issued an apology in another interview. It was not immediately clear who would replace him.


His predecessor was also forced to resign last May after saying the son of a garbage collector would be ineligible to serve as a judge.

Reports that Minister of Justice Al-Zend was sacked after refusing to resign.

2:13 PM

Good riddance to bad garbage. Al-Zend's term was a stain upon the history of justice in modern Egypt. @minafayek
2:15 PM

Egypt's justice minister to resign, not after tacitly supporting mass killing but after saying he'd jail the prophet

2:16 PM

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sisi’s US Army War College thesis: 10 years later


Ten years ago, Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi was a foreign student at the US Army War College. In writing a short report entitled “Democracy in the Middle East” that was critical of both the US and Egyptian governments, he exercised his right to freedom of expression. As foreign academics in Egypt today, we deserve the same.

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

At least 60 reported killed in explosion in Pakistan’s Lahore


At least 44 people were killed in an explosion in a crowded public park in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Sunday evening, media reports said, quoting security officials.


The attack appeared to have been carried out by a suicide bomber in the parking area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, where families were picnicking for the Easter holiday, a senior police official told the Associated Press. More than 100 people were injured.


“Most of the dead and injured are women and children,” said Mustansar Feroz, superintendent of police for the area, according to the news agency Reuters.

Death toll from suicide bombing at Lahore park rises to at least 69 with more than 300 others injured, police say - The News
1:08 PM

BREAKING: Jamaatul Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack in Lahore - Dawn
1:42 PM
Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Revolutionary Guards commander demands that Iran annex Bahrain


General Qasemi, a crony of Iran's supreme leader, urged the annexation of Bahrain to Iran, explaining that "Bahrain is an Iranian province that was detached from Iran due to the colonialism."


Revolutionary Guards commander and the commander of Ansar Hezbollah, a paramilitary conservative Islamic group in Iran, has demanded that Iran annex Bahrain, the Revolutionary Guard-affiliated news agency Tasnim reported Sunday.


Speaking at a forum in the city of Bushehr, Qasemi urged the annexation of Bahrain to Iran, explaining that "Bahrain is an Iranian province that was detached from the Islamic Republic of Iran due to the Western colonialism."


"Iran must make efforts to bring Bahrain back into Iranian territory and transform it into a part of Bushehr province," Qasemi further stated.


General Qasemi was a senior commander during the Iran-Iraq war that erupted in September 1980, and is also considered a crony of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


Similar declarations regarding the dire need to annex Bahrain to Iran are recurrently voiced by senior Iranian officials. While Sunni-ruled Bahrain specifically, and Iran's opponents in the Arab world generally, consider such declarations as evidence of Iran’s expansionist policy, Iranians view them merely as "historic justice."


In November 1957, while Bahrain was under pro-Britain Al-Khalifa rule, Iran declared Bahrain to be its 14th province. However, Britain was not ready to forgo its hold on this strategic province, and in order to resolve their dispute, Iran and Britain agreed on a UN referendum to decide whether the state would remain part of Iran or gain independence.


Bahrain won its independence in the referendum conducted in August 1971. It was a result of a British de-Iranization policy aimed at emptying Bahrain of its Shi'ite population by changing the demographic features of the province and importing British settlers into Bahrain.

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Iraqi PM given ultimatum on cabinet reshuffle


Iraq's parliament has given Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi until Thursday to present a new non-party cabinet to fight corruption or potentially face a no-confidence vote amid street protests piling on the pressure for action.


A flash on state television called on Thursday the "final deadline" for Abadi, who said more than six weeks ago that he would replace ministers with technocrats unaffiliated with political parties.


Yet other politicians, including some within his own party, have pushed back against a reshuffle, fearing it could weaken the political patronage networks that have sustained their wealth and influence for more than a decade.


Powerful Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Sunday launched a personal sit-in inside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, after previously setting but later canceling Monday as the deadline.


The green zone houses embassies and government offices.


His supporters extended a week-old sit-in just outside the district's gates, huddling in tents and under umbrellas in heavy rain. They also demonstrated in the southern city of Basra.

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Libya’s U.N.-Backed Government Ventures Farther Into Tripoli


The leaders of Libya’s fragile new unity government cautiously expanded their authority in Tripoli on Friday, venturing from their fortified base in the city port to make public appearances in a downtown mosque and square, while political factions from nearby towns pledged their allegiance.


The unity government, which landed in Tripoli by boat on Wednesday in defiance of warnings and an air blockade imposed by hostile armed groups, is seeking to establish its own authority.


Although formed under United Nations auspices in December, and enjoying strong backing from the United States and its European allies, it has faced bitter opposition from rival Libyan factions that, until this week, left it languishing in five-star hotels in neighboring Tunisia.


Worries that the sudden arrival of Prime Minister Fayez Serraj and six others from the unity government’s nine-member Presidency Council would plunge the capital into violence dissipated somewhat on Friday, amid signs that the unity government was gaining momentum.


Key militias in Tripoli sided with the new administration and 10 coastal towns near Tripoli, including Sabratha, where American warplanes in February bombed an Islamic State training camp, pledged their fealty to the new administration.


At lunchtime on Friday, Mr. Serraj, a businessman previously little-known in Libyan politics, ventured a few miles from his base at Tripoli’s naval base to attend prayers at a downtown mosque, and to shake hands with security officials and well-wishers in Martyr’s Square, a central landmark where Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi gave defiant speeches before his ouster in 2011.


Mr. Serraj’s confident thrust appeared to soften the bellicosity of Tripoli’s self-declared government. In a statement on Thursday, the Tripoli leader, Khalifa al-Ghwail, who had earlier issued warnings against Mr. Serraj, pledged to offer “peaceful resistance.”

On Friday the European Union imposed sanctions on three leaders from the country’s two other parliaments, one in Tripoli and the other in the eastern city of Tobruk. Mr. Ghwail, the prime minister of the unrecognized Tripoli government, was among those named.


The United Nations Security Council, meanwhile, focused on the oil sector in a resolution on Thursday that called the unity government Libya’s sole legitimate authority and condemned efforts by “parallel institutions” to export the country’s oil.


That resolution appeared to have an effect on Friday, when the militia that guards many of the country’s oil terminals pledged loyalty to Mr. Serraj’s government.


Analysts and diplomats say the real test is likely to come in the days ahead, when Mr. Serraj’s ministers are expected to try and establish control of key ministries across Tripoli. Mr. Serraj has already started talks with the Central Bank, which controls foreign reserves estimated at up to $85 billion, and the national oil company, which is the source of the country’s dwindling wealth.


Officials at several ministries, contacted by phone, said there has been deep uncertainty in recent days, with little sense of who is in charge.

I think it will be interesting in the coming months to see how people in Libya and Libyans abroad react to this new 'government'.

So far I've yet to see anyone (other than UN and officials from different countries) praising them, and most Libyans I follow seem to consider them UN puppets forced on the country with little actual support.

That said...there is a sense of frustration and weariness among a lot of Libyans, so it is possible that if the government calms things down and is somehow able to unify the different factions, people may come around to supporting them.  

But there may be a longstanding sense of unease and wariness about them, if the people don't feel like they have a say in the matter.  

Of course all bets are off if things get ugly and war breaks out between this new government and the other two.

Libya’s Deep State Is Back And Wants You To Know It

Libyan spies emerge from the shadows to talk about what it’s like to fight a secret war against ISIS. Borzou Daragahi travelled to the Mediterranean island of Malta for a rare meeting with the men who run the feared mukhabarat.


A pudgy, graying middle-aged man in a brown sweater vest sat quietly sipping tea in the hotel lobby. If you noticed him at all, you might have thought he was a businessman, or an engineer, maybe a mid-ranking civil servant. He frowned occasionally as he contemplated the messages on his smartphone.


He allowed a smile as two men approached. They greeted each other as old friends, exchanging embraces, asking after relatives. One of the men complained a little about the state of business in the region, and warned he might have to head off at some point: “My daughter has a ballet recital.”


The entourage moved to a darkly lit corner of the hotel, their voices dropping, sometimes to a whisper. They looked up with paranoid glares each time a waiter or hotel guest walked by. The three men knew they could never be too careful.


The newcomers were retired colleagues; the first, a balding man in his sixties, works for a charity that helps African migrants in Libya; the second, in his late forties, is a real estate developer, dividing his time between the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and Europe.

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Big news out of Libya!
Islamist Tripoli-based unofficial (and somewhat self-appointed) government is reportedly resigning.

France wants to reopen embassy in Libya to help unity government


France hopes to reopen its embassy in Tripoli as a sign of support for Libya's new unity government, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Tuesday, in what would be the first reopening of a Western diplomatic mission there.


Western governments are growing increasingly concerned about Islamic State's success in establishing a firm foothold in Libya while two rival factions operating two governments fought for power.


The West is now backing a U.N.-brokered national unity government, which arrived in Tripoli from Tunisia last week and has been operating from a naval base as it seeks to establish its authority.

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Everyone says the Libya intervention was a failure. They’re wrong.


Libya and the 2011 NATO intervention there have become synonymous with failure, disaster, and the Middle East being a "**** show" (to use President Obama’s colorful descriptor). It has perhaps never been more important to question this prevailing wisdom, because how we interpret Libya affects how we interpret Syria and, importantly, how we assess Obama’s foreign policy legacy.


Of course, Libya, as anyone can see, is a mess, and Americans are reasonably asking if the intervention was a mistake. But just because it’s reasonable doesn’t make it right.


Most criticisms of the intervention, even with the benefit of hindsight, fall short. It is certainly true that the intervention didn’t produce something resembling a stable democracy. This, however, was never the goal. The goal was to protect civilians and prevent a massacre.


Critics erroneously compare Libya today to any number of false ideals, but this is not the correct way to evaluate the success or failure of the intervention. To do that, we should compare Libya today to what Libya would have looked like if we hadn’t intervened. By that standard, the Libya intervention was successful: The country is better off today than it would have been had the international community allowed dictator Muammar Qaddafi to continue his rampage across the country.


Critics further assert that the intervention caused, created, or somehow led to civil war. In fact, the civil war had already started before the intervention began. As for today’s chaos, violence, and general instability, these are more plausibly tied not to the original intervention but to the international community’s failures after intervention.


The very fact that the Libya intervention and its legacy have been either distorted or misunderstood is itself evidence of a warped foreign policy discourse in the US, where anything short of success — in this case, Libya quickly becoming a stable, relatively democratic country — is viewed as a failure.

Erdoğan: Supporters of terrorism should be stripped of their Turkish citizenship


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for considering steps to strip citizenship of terrorist organization supporters.


In remarks made during a meeting with attorneys at the presidential complex in the capital Ankara to mark the Lawyers' Day Tuesday, Erdoğan said there is a need to annihilate adherents of terrorism through forceful measures.


"We need to be decisive to take all necessary measures, including stripping citizenship to deactivate terrorist organization supporters," he said, adding: "They are not even our citizens."


"We are not obliged to carry anyone engaged in the betrayal of their state and their people."


"Supporters (of terror) who pose as academics, spies who identify themselves as journalists, an activist disguised as a politician ... are no different from the terrorists who throw bombs," Erdoğan said.


"But like a wolf in sheep's clothing, they serve the same purpose as the members of the terror organisation. As a nation we need to be careful. No one must commit treachery against the state and the nation behind our backs."


But Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the government was not planning "for the moment" to strip PKK supporters of their nationality.

The Regeni Case: What to Expect at the Rome Meeting


Egyptian investigators are heading to Rome on Wednesday to hand over evidence in the investigation into the murder of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni. The postponement of the meeting, originally scheduled for Tuesday, has led to further criticisms of Egypt’s handling of the case by Italian officials.


Regeni disappeared in Cairo on January 25, and his body was found over a week later. Rights activists blame the security apparatus for Regeni’s death, saying that his torture and murder fit the modus operandi of Egypt’s secret service. Egyptian authorities have continued to deny this accusation, emphasizing the fact that the investigation is ongoing. Italian authorities have been dissatisfied with the pace and results of the Egyptian investigation, most recently dismissing a claim by the Interior Ministry that a criminal gang targeting foreigners in Egypt was behind Regeni’s murder.

Who killed Giulio Regeni, the Italian PhD student at Cambridge who died in Egypt?

Wael Ghonim, Egyptian Activist


I believe that it's likely that one of the Egyptian security agencies was behind his death or at least they know who is behind it.

Here is how I came to this conclusion:


1) Giulio disappeared on January 25th, 2016. During that day, there was very tight security measurements as thousands of police officers and soldiers were all over the streets of Cairo. It's unlikely that any gang would dare to abduct a foreigner  a few miles away from Tahrir square.


2) Regeni's body was found on a Cairo road a few days after an international media outcry.  The Italian investigators confirmed that he was subjected to inhumane torture.  [1]


3) There is no evidence that his death was motivated by robbery. Regeni was not rich nor did anyone contact his family or friends for a ransom.


4) He was a researcher who spoke fluent Arabic, roams the streets, and he was conducting research on the state of workers and unions post the January 25 revolution. A politically sensitive topic in Egypt. That would make him very suspicious to the Egyptian authorities who has been constantly spreading xenophobia among Egyptian citizens for the past few years.


5) A false witness claimed on public TV that he saw Regeni fighting with one of his Italian friends by the Italian embassy on 24th of January and it's likely that his Italian friend was involved in his death. Later, we found out that the witness was lying and that state security asked him to appear on TV to make that claim.  [2]


6) Most Importantly: A few days following this fabricated story, the police claimed  that they found Regeni's belongings in a house owned by a member of a gang group that were all killed in an exchange of fire with the policy. [3] After mounting criticism, the Egyptian authorities denied the link between the gang and the death of Regeni. [4]

Update: Italian newspaper publishes unverified claims by anonymous security source on Regeni's death


An email sent to Italian newspaper La Repubblica by an anonymous "Egyptian security source" claims Italian researcher Giulio Regeni was tortured to death by Egyptian Military Intelligence for refusing to answer questions relating to his work on labor unions in Egypt.

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Dictators don’t stabilize the Middle East. They just create more terrorists.


Lately, I’ve noticed an increased number of American politicians suggesting that the Arab Spring was a disaster and that the region needs strongmen to stabilize it. Ted Cruz famously insisted that the Middle East was safer when Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gaddafi were in power. Rand Paul said the current chaos stems from the toppling of dictators. Even Bernie Sanders argued on “Meet the Press” that while our ultimate goal is democracy, the region would be more stable under dictators.


But when I worked on Middle East policy at the State Department, I saw just how destabilizing dictators in the region are. I worked on Egypt and human rights as a human rights-focused country desk officer from 2010 to 2012. There, I saw the brutal tactics of President Hosni Mubarak’s government destabilize the country.


On the desk, I watched Mubarak’s government undermine and dismantle the very institutions that could have paved the way to a more stable and peaceful country. By restricting which new political parties could be established, controlling what they could say and engaging in election fraud, it prevented Egypt’s political opposition parties from gaining experience. And by attempting to control the activities and funding of organizations such as the National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, it diminished Egyptians’ access to important political training in democratic processes.


At times, it resorted to a more direct approach. I met with liberal Egyptian activists who were arrested for their political beliefs, journalists who were jailed for their writing and others who had suffered violence at the hands of Egypt’s security forces. Most genuinely wanted to improve their government and help build bridges between their government and its people. They could have been partners for helping their government to address grievances, but too often they were met with harassment or worse. I will never forget my meeting with one brave blogger who had been threatened and detained by security forces. He told me his heart was broken because the country he loved and wanted to help was the same one persecuting him. Nor could I forget the politician who longed to run as a candidate on liberal democratic values but was a member of one of the many political parties denied the right to form under Mubarak’s government.


These are the people and groups that would have helped prepare Egypt for a rigorous electoral process. Egypt’s talented opposition candidates, if given the opportunity to practice, could have waged stronger campaigns. Its civil society, if given the chance to flourish, could have paved the way to more issue-based politics. But they never had the opportunity to practice.


Mubarak’s fierce restriction of Egypt’s political scene set the stage for Egypt’s 2011 revolution. The November 2010 elections that preceded the revolution were considered to be among the most fraudulent in Egypt’s modern history. Egyptians became convinced that the Mubarak government was willing to take any measure to preserve its power, even brutality against its own citizens. The beating to death by police of 28-year-old Egyptian Khaled Said in 2010, whose image was widely circulated, was a trigger for Egyptians’ discontent to boil over into a demand for change. Or as one Egyptian friend put it to me, “we couldn’t get that picture out of our heads.” With little prospect for reform, the government’s legitimacy crumbled


In other words: Mubarak created the chaos that ensued when he was ousted.

Saudi Arabia strips religious police of arresting power


Saudi Arabia has stripped its religious forces of their powers to arrest, urging them to act "kindly and gently" in enforcing Islamic rules.


Under changes approved by the Saudi cabinet on Wednesday, religious officers will no longer be allowed to detain people and instead must report violators to police or drug squad officers, the official Saudi Press Agency said.


Officers of the Haia force, also known as the Mutawaa, must "carry out the duties of encouraging virtue and forbidding vice by advising kindly and gently" under the new rules, it reported.


"Neither the heads nor members of the Haia are to stop or arrest or chase people or ask for their IDs or follow them - that is considered the jurisdiction of the police or the drug unit," the regulations say.


Saudi Arabia's religious police enforce the country's interpretation of Islamic law including segregation of the sexes, ensuring that women cover themselves from head-to-toe when in public.

Formally known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, its members also patrol shops to make sure they are shuttered during time prayers.


Prior to the new regulations, officers were allowed to arrest people using alcohol or drugs and committing certain other offences including witchcraft.

Edited by visionary

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.