Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category
Posted by vmsalama on April 29, 2013
Children fear “planes that shoot” as communities grieve lost loved ones.
APR 29 2013
A small house, once made of large cement blocks, is reduced to rubble in a sea of untouched homes and shops in Jaar, a town in South Yemen’s Abyaan governorate. There are no signs of life where that house once stood — no photos, furniture, and certainly no people left behind. In May 2011, the house was struck by a drone — American, the locals say. Some believe the sole occupant, a man named Anwar Al-Arshani, may have been linked to Al Qaeda, although he kept to himself, so no one knows for sure. As Al-Arshani’s house smoldered from the powerful blow, townspeople frantically rushed to inspect the damage and look for survivors. And then, just as the crowd swelled, a second missile fired. Locals say 24 people were killed that day, all of them allegedly innocent civilians.
Eighteen-year-old Muneer Al-Asy was among them. His mother Loul says she knows nothing about America — not of its democracy or politics or people or values. All she knows is that it killed her son. She cannot read and does not own a television. Like many in her village, she says Al-Qaeda is “very bad,” but the thought of her youngest son being killed by an American missile haunts her dreams at night. She screams in fury at the people who took her son: “criminals!” She rocks anxiously back and forth on her sole piece of furniture — a long cushion in her single-room home — recalling the day her son was “martyred” by a U.S. drone. “I am like a blind person now,” says Loul. “Muneer was my eyes.”
Anwar Al-Arshani’s home/Photo by Vivian Salama
Thousands of miles from Washington, where the debate rages on over the moral and legal implications of using unmanned aerial vehicles for lethal targeting, the names and faces of many of the victims paints a somber picture. Some are fathers who can no longer buy food and medicine for their children. Some are kids whose only crime in life was skipping out on studies to play soccer with friends. Some are expectant mothers who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the U.S. focuses attention on the successful targeting of names on the notorious “kill list,” the number of innocent civilians killed by U.S. drones on the rise — threatening to destroy families, spark resentment, and fuel Al-Qaeda recruitment.
While strikes in Pakistan have been recorded since at least June 2004, drones have become more common in Yemen in recent years, used to weed out and eliminate members of Al Qaeda’s notorious Arabian Peninsula network (AQAP). AQAP has been linked to recent schemes including the foiled 2012 underwear bomb plot, as well as for parcel bombs intercepted before reaching synagogues in Chicago in 2010. The drone program has seen some successes, including strikes on high-profile targets like Saeed al-Shihri, a Saudi citizen who co-founded AQAP, and senior operatives Samir Khan and Anwar al-Awlaki. The latter was a preacher who often delivered his provocative sermons in English and, like Khan, was at one time an American citizen.
However, with the growing use of so-called “signature strikes” — attacks against suspected but unidentified targets — there have been increasingly troubling signs that many victims are deemed guilty by association. Having committed no crime, their names not part of any list and in some cases, not even known. (click here to read more….)
Posted in Abyaan, Al-Qaeda, American, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Awlaki, C.I.A., corruption, Drones, Economy, Elections, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Guantanamo Bay, Human Rights, Insurgency, Islam, Jihad, Ma'rib, Middle East, military, Politics, PTSD, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Signature Strikes, South Yemen, Terrorism, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on March 17, 2013
(I LOVE the photo linked to this article — courtesy: Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty)
By Vivian Salama
Mar 17, 2013
The Daily Beast (click here for original link)
Two years after the Arab Spring’s protests and Saudi intervention, opposition groups are again clashing with security forces in the fragile kingdom. Are the king’s reforms too little too late?
Pearl Roundabout was once the pulse of the Bahraini opposition—like Cairo’s Tahrir Square or Mohammad Bouazizi Square in Tunis. In the earliest days of the Arab Spring uprisings, it was a vibrant center for self-expression, and saw a wave of protests—and bloodshed—as Bahrainis joined in a regional call for democracy and freedom.
Two years later, Bahrain’s iconic square is lifeless—sealed off by security forces and torn apart by bulldozers. The pearl monument that once stood majestically at its center is gone, demolished and paved over, with the government saying it was “desecrated” by “vile” protesters. It was even renamed Al Farooq Junction—a tribute to Omar ibn Al Khattab, a historical figure viewed negatively by Shias, the sect of Islam to which the majority of Bahrainis belong.
Despite efforts by the government to erase evidence of any challenge to its authority, Bahrainis spilled into the streets to mark the second anniversary of Saudi-led Gulf forces entering Bahrain to help their ally, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah, suppress a wave of dissent. Dozens were reportedly injured in clashes with security forces Thursday, according to Al Wefaq, the country’s leading opposition party. Police fired tear gas at protesters as a group of youths confronted them with Molotov cocktails. Protests dubbed “Never Surrender” kicked off again Friday.
The government described the unrest as “acts of domestic terror, including the theft and torching of cars, and the street blockades,” according to an Interior Ministry statement. Several policemen were injured in the clashes, the government said.
Bahrain, a staunch American ally and home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has lent a unique story in the Arab Spring narrative. King Hamad, a Sunni in the Arab Gulf’s only Shia-majority nation, maintains his authority, often through harsh crackdowns, with the solid support of the West and surrounding Gulf states, which assert that Iran is using Bahraini Shias to infiltrate the Arab world. Saudi Arabia, which is connected to Bahrain via a causeway, has been especially fearful, as it is home to a restive Shia population in its Eastern province. Bahrain, a tiny island in the Persian Gulf, is not wealthy from natural resources like fellow Gulf Cooperation Council nations Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates; it has had to rely on aid from its neighbors since turmoil began in 2011. (click here to read more…)
Posted in Allies, Arab, Arab Spring, Bahrain, discrimination, Dubai, Economy, Education, Employment, Foreign Policy, Iran, Islam, Middle East, military, Mohamed Bouazizi, Politics, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Shi'ite, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on March 1, 2013
by Vivian Salama
Al-Monitor (click here for original link)
March 1, 2013
ADEN, Yemen — With two weeks to go until Yemen’s crucial national dialogue, aimed to set in motion transitional imperatives like writing a new constitution and scheduling parliamentary elections, tensions are rising between North and South Yemen as Southern separatists renew their calls for secession.
Separatists in Aden, the capital of South Yemen, engaged in deadly clashes with security forces and pro-unification protesters, mainly from the Islamist Islah party, claiming that the state has — and will continue to — ignore their pleas for basic rights. Tents returned this past year to Martyrs Square in the Mansoura section of Aden, and the Southern flag has grown increasingly visible on the streets and in graffiti art. Slogans spray-painted on the walls of government buildings read “Freedom for the South.”
Separatist demands have long been a major facet of Yemeni politics, however the popular uprising that ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh last year ignited a wave of protests among Southerners who previously faced persecution for expressing sentiments that undermined the country’s delicate unification. Yemen’s new president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi — a Southerner himself — made a surprise visit to Aden this week to hold talks with the leaders of various factions. However, Hiraaki [Southern Separatist Movement] activists dismissed the visit as political theater, pointing to visits Hadi made to the United States, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States in his first year in office, before ever visiting the Southern capital.
Sensitivities over Southern secession were particularly apparent during Hadi’s visit as police checkpoints erected large Yemeni flags and Southern flag graffiti was partly painted over to show only the red-white-and-black colors that represent the unified Yemen flag.
Separatist graffiti in Aden, Yemen (photo by Vivian Salama)
“We were expecting things will change with President Hadi’s visit, but it didn’t calm anything,” Maged Mohsen Fareed, 22, a college student and Hiraak member who has been jailed repeatedly for his activism. “It is as if he gave security forces green light” to attack.
Originally scheduled for mid-November, Yemen’s National Dialogue has been repeatedly delayed, more significantly due to differences Southerners had over the proposed groundwork. Some leaders with the Southern Separatist Movement, known as Hiraak, have said they are willing to join the talks from the start, but more hardline factions, led by Ali Salem al-Baidh, have refused to engage, saying that their demands have not — and will not — be met by Sanaa. The talks are now scheduled for March 18, however, the recent tensions in Aden have raised concerns that even those who are willing to take part in the talks will be swayed against it.“To us, there is no dialogue with murderers and we will not talk with murderers,” said Abdulhameed Darwish, a Hiraaki activist whose brother Ahmed was gruesomely tortured to death in police custody in 2010, sparking fury across the South. “Until today, my brother’s case is still on hold in the courts. Nothing has changed. The situation is going from bad to worse.” (click here to read more….)
Aden, Yemen (Photo by Vivian Salama)
Posted in Aden, Al-Qaeda, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Arab, Arab Spring, corruption, dictatorship, discrimination, Economy, Education, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Middle East, South Yemen, Terrorism, Yemen | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on February 25, 2013
Of all the Arab Spring dictators who met their match in popular uprisings, only one came out a winner. Vivian Salama on why Yemenis can’t shake their clingy ex-president.
by Vivian Salama
The Daily Beast (click here for original link)
February 25, 2013
When the sun goes down on the ancient city of Sana, the capital of Yemen, the pillars and domes on the country’s largest mosque shine tall and bright in a sea of near darkness. The massive complex, known simply as Saleh’s Mosque, was commissioned by Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country’s former dictator, then named in his honor.
In one of the mosque’s backrooms, a new, rather peculiar exhibit is set to open, filled with items seemingly out of place in a house of God. It includes a pair of eyeglasses, engraved guns, golden swords, and—the most unusual item of all—a pair of charred pants torn to bits by shrapnel. These items belong to none other than Saleh himself, and the exhibit—described by one local paper as a “journey into a land of dreams”—was envisioned by him, too.
Of all the Arab Spring dictators who met their match in popular uprisings, only one came out a winner. Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak is serving a life sentence. Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is in exile. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is cut off from most of the international community. Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi is dead. Yet Saleh, who narrowly escaped death during an attack on his palace in 2011, has managed to avoid the worst of fates and is, instead, living peacefully in Sana, opening museums and brash self-tributes in what many fear is the early groundwork for a political comeback.
“Saleh is just like this guy Putin in Russia,” said Yahya Al-Hajj, an apolitical Sana resident. “We wish he goes away, but the more we wish, the more he is sticking to us.” (click here to read more…)
Posted in Ali Abdullah Saleh, Arab, Arab League, Arab Spring, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Hosni Mubarak, Libya, Middle East, Mubarak, Politics, Qaddafi, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on January 30, 2013
Jan 30, 2013
By Vivian Salama
Daily Beast (click here for original link)
As Egypt’s chaos worsens amid protests against President Mohamed Morsi, masked assailants raided the Semiramis Intercontinental.
As the faceoff between Egyptian protesters and security forces escalated for a sixth day on Tuesday, masked assailants ransacked the Semiramis Intercontinental Hotel in Tahrir Square, looting money and sending dozens of guests there and at neighboring hotels fleeing for cover.
There were no injuries in the hotel siege but the incident exacerbated an increasingly hostile situation in Egypt as many protesters turned to violence as a means for voicing frustration over failing efforts to achieve a political consensus for the country. Cars burned and smoke plumes colored the sky around Cairo on Tuesday, as security forces intensified tear gas attacks to disperse the crowds in and around Tahrir Square. Egypt’s army chief, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, warned that the deterioration of law and order “could lead to the collapse of the state and threaten future generations.”
The public prosecutor, meanwhile, ordered the arrest of the enigmatic “Black Bloc” protesters—a group that recently emerged in Egypt and are characterized by their uniform black masks—accusing them of participating in “terrorist attacks,” state-run media reported. The group denied its involvement in any violent or destructive protests.
Several opposition groups met with President Mohamed Morsi in the presidential palace late Monday, but the country’s secular coalition, the National Salvation Front, headed by Mohamed ElBaradei, shunned the talks. Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, ElBaradei warned that unless urgent measures are taken to uphold justice and achieve a balance of power, the political stalemate would continue.
“Without accepting his responsibility as a president for the latest bloody events, promising to form a government of national salvation and commissioning a balanced committee to amend the constitution, any dialogue will be a waste of time,” ElBaradei said. (click here to read more)
Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Islam, Middle East, Mohamed Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood, Negotiation, Politics, Protests | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on January 27, 2013
Some brief thoughts on the unrest in Port Said this week…. While the verdict against a group of soccer hooligans (who many allege to have been innocent) sparked the riots, there are a great many underlying economic and political issues that may have driven people in the canal cities to spill out into the streets this week.
The Porto World resort in the northern Egyptian city of Ain El Sokhna appears suddenly in the desert like a magnificent mirage. Miles of rolling sand dunes come to an end where this colossal complex begins, with pristine swimming pools and fountains and luxury villas imbedded in the sandy hills. It was one of the pet projects of the Hosni Mubarak administration, which had vowed to invest billions on tourism and real estate development as a means for boosting economic activity, embarking on projects that often involved intricate planning and engineering to get water and other resources to manmade oases like this one.
Some 55 kilometers away, the canal cities of Port Said and Suez offer a shockingly contradicting reality. Homes are dilapidated and roads unkept. Water supplies at nearby wells are filthy from dust and pollution continues to pile in the streets. Government neglect is part and partial of life in these cities — home to more than one million residents — and resentment has grown in recent years as many watched the government pour its resources into the country’s sprawling tourism resorts, while leaving its own citizens begging for the most basic services.
At least 50 people were killed in Port Said over the weekend following death sentences against 21 soccer fans in connection with the death of 73 soccer fans in a post-game riot last year. The verdict sparked an uproar as family and friends raided the prison in Port Said where the defendants were being held, claiming that the true perpetrators have gone free and that security forces rounded up a bunch of innocent boys to save face. The upheaval prompted President Mohamed Morsi to declare a state of emergency in the three canal cities — Port Said, Suez and Ismailia.
Port Said was the sight of a 1999 attempted assassination on former President Hosni Mubarak. Since then, many residents I’ve spoken with claim that they were cut off — alienated from the many basic services that their fellow Egyptians in Cairo or Alexandria may have enjoyed. What’s more, one of Egypt’s most frequented Free Zones sits in Port Said. While it had the potential to bring a great deal of commerce-driven-business to the canal cities, many claim it was neglected and poorly promoted, and residents could not reap the benefits. Residents of Port Said and Suez who are old enough to have lived through the wars with Israel in the 1950s and 60s feel they did a great deal for their country. These cities were regarded as a frontline in those wars, sine the Suez Canal was greatly at the heart of tensions after then-President Gamal Abdel Nasser declared it a nationalized asset of Egypt. Much was lost in those wars and many had hoped that the government would repay them for their sacrifices. They are still waiting.
Indeed, events of the past two years have caused many economic and social issues to surface, but the grievances of the canal cities run deep and residents there say their fight for justice and equality has lasted the greater part of the past 50 years.
Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, dictatorship, discrimination, Economy, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Hosni Mubarak, Israel, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood, Port Said, State of Emergency, Suez, Tourism | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on January 27, 2013
Jan 27, 2013
By Vivian Salama
Daily Beast (click here for original link)
Egypt’s president has set a curfew and declared a state of emergency amid nationwide violence sparked by an Egyptian court ruling against ‘ultra’ soccer fans. Vivian Salama on the rising power of the young group of men.
Egyptian demonstrators hurled rocks and clashed with security forces in the early hours Monday, many in defiance of a 30-day state of emergency issued by President Mohamed Morsi in three governorates amid escalating violence following the sentencing of soccer fans in the Mediterranean city of Port Said.
The Egyptian courts handed down a ruling against almost two dozen soccer fans Saturday—known locally as the “ultras”—igniting a wave of chaos in the streets nationwide and opening a new chapter in Egypt’s volatile revolution. A day after the two-year anniversary of Egypt’s popular uprising, the courts announced the first in a series of verdicts in Egypt’s deadliest-ever soccer riots, sentencing 21 fans of the Port Said team to death.
The response nationwide was instantaneous. Family members and devout soccer fans, outraged by the sentences, stormed the prison holding the defendants and set fire to buildings and cars around Port Said. Ultras rushed the Suez Canal port, threatening to shut down the waterway. They set fire to local Muslim Brotherhood offices—a slight to the president who is a member of the group. The death toll has topped 50 in two days of violence mainly in Port Said, according to the Health Ministry.
The curfew is effective from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., in the governorates of Port Said, Ismailiya, and Suez. “I always said I’m against any exceptional measures, but I also said I might resort to such measures if I had to. I may even do more for the sake of Egypt—it’s my duty,” Morsi said in a late-night televised address Sunday. “There is no going back on freedom, democracy, and the supremacy of the law.” (click here to read more…)
Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Economy, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics, Port Said, Religion, Salafi, State of Emergency, Suez, United States | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on January 25, 2013
Newsweek Magazine (click here for original link)
January 25, 2013
Ismail Ahmed passes much of the day sitting on a small wooden chair outside his grocery–cum–souvenir shop in Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, watching the cars drive by while smoking Cleopatra cigarettes, which crackle loudly with each drag. Gone are the days when busloads of tourists would pour into his shop near the Pyramids to pick up bottled water and $3 statues of the Sphinx. Since his fellow countrymen rose up against President Hosni Mubarak in January 2011, Ahmed’s business has dwindled. Gone are his hopeful expansion plans for the tiny shop, and his son Mohammed, who used to work alongside him, is looking for other jobs, because income from the store has become but a trickle. “Now if I see two tourists in a day, it means it’s a good day,” Ahmed says as he lights another cigarette. “The tourists are too scared to come to Egypt now. My store is not receiving enough income to support the family.”
Two years after revolutions unsettled and redrew the political map of the Arab world, the hope that inspired so many has not brought the desired change. Across the region, economies are unraveling, opposition groups splintering, and promises for establishing democratic secular governments now seem like a pipe dream.
War rages on in Syria, with more than 60,000 people killed so far. On one single day recently, more than 100 people were shot, killed, stabbed, or burned to death by the brutal security forces taking orders from President Bashar al-Assad. Many Syrians lucky enough to have survived the fighting are on the run, and with no end in sight, the 22-month-old conflict threatens to reshape the region. Some 2 million people—more than half of them children—have already fled Syria for Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and beyond. Already there has been trouble in Lebanon, which has its own bloody history, easily recalled and ignited, and regional observers fear political and sectarian grievances will follow the flow of refugees.
Gomaa, a 35-year-old restaurant owner who prefers to go by one name for security reasons, believes his country was better off before the uprising, and certainly his family was. His hometown of Idlib, an opposition stronghold, has been battered hard by the government, and after snipers moved into his apartment building, his family’s life turned into a nightmare punctuated by volleys of gunshots. Fleeing to Egypt with his wife and two young boys, he found that work was scarce and impossible to come by for a foreigner, though eventually he found a lead on a job as a restaurant busboy in Morocco, where he’ll be living with a large group of men in an apartment in Rabat. With little money to his name, he has arranged for his wife and kids to stay for free with family friends in Algeria. “Of course, I wish to be with my family, but I thank Allah that we are alive.”
In Tunisia, where, in despair over government injustice, vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself, inspiring the wave of protests that came to be known as the Arab Spring, demonstrators flooded into the streets earlier this month. Marking the two-year anniversary of the ouster of former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, this was no celebratory gathering, but rather a show of frustration by people who fear their new government is corrupt, religious, and self-serving. “Where is the constitution? Where is democracy?” they chanted, as police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds. Tunisia has recently been rocked by a scandal dubbed Sheratongate, which centers on allegations that Tunisia’s foreign minister, Rafik Abdessalem, abused public funds to pay for rooms at the five-star Sheraton hotel in Tunis, where he would meet his mistress for illicit trysts. “There are fewer jobs, and corruption and crime is worse than before,” complained Yazid Ouerfelli, 19, a university student from Tunis. “The country is also more divided now because of religion—it didn’t used to be like that.” (click here to read more…)
Posted in Algeria, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Arab, Arab Spring, Bashar Al Assad, corruption, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Europe, Foreign Policy, Hosni Mubarak, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Jihad, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Bouazizi, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Newsweek, North Africa, Oman, Persian Gulf, Politics, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Salafi, Saudi Arabia, State of Emergency, Succession, Syria, Tourism, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Nations, War, Yemen, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali | Leave a Comment »