The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Archive for the ‘Obama’ Category

How American Drone Strikes are Devastating Yemen

Posted by vmsalama on April 14, 2014

Anyone who knows me, knows Yemen holds a special place in my heart. Its diverse landscape is breathtaking and its rich history is virtually untouched after centuries. But what I love most about Yemen is, hands down, its people (its food comes in a distant second!) They smile from inside, even though they face a great deal of adversity, militants roam freely by land and foreign drones hover above them. This report, from my latest visit to Yemen, explores that latter phenomenon — U.S. drones — and argues that the their existence alone is causing profound psychological detriment to a nation. (photos in the piece are also by me)

How American Drone Strikes are Devastating Yemen

On the ground in a country where unmanned missile attacks are a terrifyingly regular occurrence

By Vivian Salama
April 14, 2014


….As the sun began to set on that fateful winter day, the line of SUVs and pick-ups, decorated with simple ribbons and bows for the [wedding], set off for its 22-mile trip. But as the procession came to a standstill to wait on some lagging vehicles, some of the tribesmen claim the faint humming sound they typically heard from planes overhead fell silent.The emptiness was soon filled with the unthinkable. “Missiles showered on our heads,” Abdullah says, moving his hands frenetically. “I started to scream and shout for my cousins. Anyone who was still alive jumped out of their cars.”

Four hellfires, striking seconds apart, pierced the sky, tearing through the fourth vehicle in the procession. When it was over, 12 men were dead, Saleh among them. At least 15 others were wounded according to survivors and activists, including Warda, whose eye was grazed by shrapnel and whose wedding dress was torn to shreds.

The blast was so intense that it reverberated all the way to al-Abusereema, where the groom’s brother Aziz waited for the guests. “I called some people to ask what was that explosion and somebody told me it was the drone,” Aziz recalls. “It was the most awful feeling.”

“As we were driving to the site,” he continues, “I felt myself going deeper and deeper into darkness. That is the feeling of a person who sees his brothers, cousins, relatives and friends dead by one strike, without reason.”

“We are just poor Bedouins,” says Abdullah, now pounding his hands against his chest. “We know nothing about Al Qaeda. But the people are so scared now. Whenever they hear a car or truck, they think of the drones and the strike. They feel awful whenever they see a plane.”…. (Click here to read more)

The wedding of Abdullah Mabkhut al-Amri to Warda last December made headlines around the world after it ended in tragedy./By Vivian Salama

The wedding of Abdullah Mabkhut al-Amri to Warda last December made headlines around the world after it ended in tragedy./By Vivian Salama

Oum Salim sits in her home majlis in Khawlan holding a photo of her late son Salim Hussein Ahmed Jamil, her daughter Asmaa, 7, by her side. /By Vivian Salama

Oum Salim sits in her home majlis in Khawlan holding a photo of her late son Salim Hussein Ahmed Jamil, her daughter Asmaa, 7, by her side. /By Vivian Salama

Posted in Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda, American, Arab, Arab Spring, Awlaki, C.I.A., dictatorship, Drones, Economy, Education, Elections, Employment, Environment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Insurgency, Intervention, Islam, Jihad, Middle East, military, niqab, Obama, Pakistan, Politics, Poverty, PTSD, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Signature Strikes, Social Media, Somalia, South Yemen, Terrorism, Warda, Yemen | 8 Comments »

Hillary Clinton Meets Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi

Posted by vmsalama on July 16, 2012

Back in Egypt now and picking up where I left off in the never-ending political tornado (whether it’s  genuine or  theatre, that is the question). A rather telling (and somewhat hilarious) photo is making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter, showing Hillary Clinton in a wedding dress alongside Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, head of the Egyptian military, the couple looking smitten alongside one another as they enter a room to join several other men in uniform. In fact, both sides of the political tug-of-war in Egypt creates great uncertainty for the US as it attempts to safe keep its interests in the region while hedging its bets against the unknown. Only time will tell whether Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s newly elected president and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, will become a friend or foe. In all likelihood, so long as the United States is cutting a check for billions of dollars annually, it is hard to imagine that Egypt will see a drastic departure from the status quo. Here’s my article:

The Daily Beast
By Vivian Salama
July 15, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrapped up a two-day visit to Cairo on Sunday, the first since Egypt’s historic presidential election won by an Islamist candidate, potentially reshaping ties between these old allies against the backdrop of a rapidly changing Arab world.Clinton cautiously reaffirmed America’s commitment to Egypt’s power transfer as a recent tug of war between newly elected President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and the country’s top generals seemed to lodge the transition in limbo. On Sunday, she urged the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to fully support a handover to civilian rule while pressing Morsi to maintain his commitment to establishing a democratic state.

“Egyptians are in the midst of complex negotiations about the transition, from the composition of your Parliament to the writing of a new constitution to the powers of the president,” Clinton said at the joint conference with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr. “Only Egyptians can answer these questions, but I have come to Cairo to reaffirm the strong support of the United States for the Egyptian people and for your democratic transition.”

Morsi, who was officially named Egypt’s first post-revolution president on June 24, has pledged to empower the Egyptian people, taking on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has served as the interim ruler since former president Hosni Mubarak’s resignation last year. Days after assuming office, he reinstated the Islamist-dominated Parliament dissolved by the high court only days before the presidential election. The court overrode the decision, but Morsi defied the order, calling on Parliament to convene, heightening tensions in a country frail from unrelenting disquiet.

A staunch ally of Mubarak’s, the United States has been impelled to evolve with the Arab world, engaging with Islamist groups it once shunned and hedging its bets with governments that bear no track record. Clinton highlighted that despite America’s support of the Mubarak regime, it was consistent in advocating human rights and calling for an end to Egypt’s oppressive emergency law. In a meeting with Morsi on Saturday, she urged the president to take minority groups into consideration amid fears that the Muslim Brotherhood and hardline Salafi Islamists would clamp down on civil rights and restrict religious freedoms in the country of 82 million people.

Prominent members of the Coptic and Evangelical churches, including billionaire Naguib Sawiris, declined an invitation to meet with Clinton, rejecting a perceived interference by the U.S. in Egypt’s internal affairs.

“Things are still very fluid,” Paul Sullivan, a North Africa expert at National Defense University, said from Cairo. The United States “needs to keep the good relations with the military. That relationship is the cement of the overall relationship with Egypt. Muslim Brotherhood relations are still putty rather than clay and potentially volatile.”Egypt is among the top five recipients of U.S. foreign assistance, receiving about $1.3 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic aid—a check America has cut annually since the signing of the Camp David accords with Israel in 1978. Clinton said the U.S. is focused on boosting trade and investment in Egypt, as well as job creation, and is prepared to commit $250 million in loan guarantees to Egypt’s small and medium-size businesses. A high-level business delegation is scheduled to visit Cairo in September to create the U.S.-Egypt Enterprise Fund, with $60 million in capital in the first year. Economic activity in Egypt has languished since antigovernment protests began in January 2011, following an exodus of investors, a drop in foreign reserves to well below half prerevolution levels, and the stunting of tourism and retail sectors. (click here to read more)

Posted in Arab, Arab League, Arab Spring, Christian, Christianity, Clinton, discrimination, Economy, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Islam, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Obama, Persian Gulf, Politics, Saudi Arabia, State of Emergency, United States | Leave a Comment »

Mohamed Morsi’s Bittersweet Egypt Victory

Posted by vmsalama on June 24, 2012


Jun 24, 2012

Daily Beast (click here for original link)

Cairo erupted in cheers for Egypt’s first-ever president-elect—but the country is still fractured. Vivian Salama on the tough road ahead for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi.

In a victory 84 years in the making, Mohamed Morsi, a U.S.-educated engineer and head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm in Egypt, was officially named the country’s first-ever president-elect, 16 months after Egyptians ousted their president of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, in a popular revolt. The victory positions Islamists to lead renewed calls for revolution against the military rulers, accused by many of hatching a soft coup to monopolize power.

Morsi clenched the presidency with 51.73 percent of the vote, while his opponent Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak,  earned 48.24 percent, according to Farouq Sultan, head of the election  commission and chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt.  Euphoria instantly erupted in Tahrir Square as tens of thousands of Morsi  supporters and pro-revolutionaries shot off fireworks, waved flags, and cheered  in a frenzied celebration. Drivers honked car horns, and people ran through the  streets shouting “God is great!”

“This is the happiest day of my life,” said Salah El-Din, 28, a Morsi supporter celebrating in Tahrir Square. “Dr. Morsi will defeat the military, and the power will belong to the people again.”

Celebrations extended to the neighboring Gaza Strip as well, where supporters of Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, rejoiced at news of an Islamist Egyptian president.

Morsi, who earned a doctorate in engineering from the University of Southern California, is considered a soft power in the Muslim Brotherhood and has long been overshadowed by more conservative members of the group. He has run on a free-market platform, but with a heavy emphasis on improving social services. While his official platform does not mention the military, he has repeatedly said that no institution will be above the Constitution once he is sworn in July 1. He has vowed to support the Palestinian people in their struggle for statehood, and while he has made provocative comments about Israel, once calling it a “vampire” state, he has repeatedly promised that the Camp David accords will remain untouched.  (more….)

Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Gaza, Hamas, Hosni Mubarak, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Muslim Brotherhood, Obama, Politics, Protests, Salafi, State of Emergency | Leave a Comment »

Egypt’s Historic Vote is Underway!

Posted by vmsalama on May 24, 2012

At long last, voting is underway in Egypt!!! Citizens queued from early hours to vote for the first president since overthrowing Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. It’s been a tumultuous road to get to this day, but even from thousands of miles away I can sense the excitement of my Egyptian friends and family, many of whom voted today for the first time in their lives. I happen to be a junkie of political cartoons and have been collecting many along the way to Election Day.

Here are a couple I wanted to share. (I will be writing an editorial on the election in a few days when we have a better indication of how the people voted).

Which one is your favorite?!! (I think the one of Obama is my favorite!)


Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Bahrain, Bloggers, burqa, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Freedom of Speech, halal, Human Rights, Internet, Islam, Lebanon, Libya, Media, Middle East, military, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Obama, Persian Gulf, Politics, Protests, Religion, Salafi, Saudi Arabia, State of Emergency, Succession, Syria, Television, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates | Leave a Comment »

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Woos Washington

Posted by vmsalama on April 6, 2012

Look who’s visiting Washington!!

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Woos Washington

By Vivian Salama

The Daily Beast

Click here for original story

There was once a time when U.S. officials shunned Arab Islamist parties, frowned on their election victories, and denied them U.S. visas. But times are changing.

Delegates from Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party, a group affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, are in   Washington for their first official visit since Hosni Mubarak was toppled last year. Only days after announcing their party’s candidate in the first presidential election since the revolution, the visiting delegates have met with members of Congress and White House officials and held public discussions at Georgetown University and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Outlawed under the Mubarak regime, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and more hard-line Salafist parties have emerged, not surprisingly, as a powerful force in the Egyptian elections, thwarting the secular groups that are believed to have been the drivers of last year’s revolution. As a group that founded itself on the principles of grassroots activism, the Muslim Brotherhood has long resonated with the people of Egypt, where at many as 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the United Nations.

The delegates sent to Washington were all articulate English speakers, two of whom hold doctorates from U.S. institutions. They were non-evasive, answering impassioned questions from the Georgetown audience about religious persecution and Sharia law. The message was not specifically linked to Islam. They did not criticize—or even mention—Israel. They stressed that Egypt is open for business and encouraged free trade and foreign direct investment. (more…)

Posted in Allies, American, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Christian, Christianity, Coptic, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Flip-Flops, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Gaza, Hamas, Hosni Mubarak, Human Rights, Islam, Israel, Jihad, Libya, Middle East, military, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Newsweek, Obama, Politics, Tunisia, United States | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

“The Protester”: A Photo Journal of the Egyptian Revolution

Posted by vmsalama on December 15, 2011

Thanks to TIME Magazine for recognizing the revolutionaries all over the world… I’ve been meaning to write this for quite some time but only finding the chance to do it now.

A year ago when Mohammed Bouazizi, a fruit vendor in Tunisia, burned himself out of frustration from a political system that neglected him, I was en route to Beirut ahead of the Christmas holiday and writing, mainly, about the credit crunch in the Arab Gulf states and mounting concerns that the banking system would not soon recover from the blow. Days after I returned from Beirut, my host, Rania Abouzeid, came to stay with me in Dubai in a desperate attempt to fly to Tunisia, where flights were almost entirely grounded amid an uprising across the country. It was hard to imagine then that the desperate act of this young man not only set in motion a revolution in his country, but around across the region.

Jan. 27, 2011: me and Rania Abouzeid heading to Cairo (at 3am -- ughhh!!!)

On January 14, 2011, following a month of violent protests against his rule, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali – Tunisia’s president since 1987 — was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia along with his wife and their three children.  A week later, Rania and I were on a flight to Cairo where calls for a revolution had begun to circulate on social media websites. They were days I will never forget, and with TIME Magazine’s 2011 Person of the Year issue being dedicated this year to The Protester, I want to share with you all a few memories and photos of the protesters I met in Cairo this year. (Click here to read some of my stories on the Arab Spring)

On January 27, two days after the protests officially begun, Internet and mobile phone service was completely cut off in Egypt and we were left guessing where crowds were gathering. After trying a few spots around town, Rania and I decided to go toward the Mohendiseen neighborhood near the Moustafa Mahmoud mosque. It was a good guess! About 500 protesters had gathered after Friday prayers where they came face to face with riot police chanting slogans like “The people want the end of the regime” and “Hosni Mubarak: illegitimate.”

We began to march, with the intention of going toward Tahrir Square. (Rania and I were quickly separated in the crowd and were each forced to continue reporting on our own). Weaving through side streets and alleys in the Cairo neighborhood, people watched us from balconies, throwing bottles of water, garlic and onions, and bottles of vinegar – all simply remedies for tear gas inhalation, because everyone knew what lie ahead.  The longer we marched, the more the crowd swelled, with protesters called on those people in their homes not to be afraid.
Photo by Vivian Salama

Cairo, January 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

photo by Vivian Salama

Cairo, January 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama
Jan 27: Protesters Near Moustafa Mahmoud Mosque/Photo by Vivian SalamaS

Sure enough, we were quickly confronted by tanks and soldiers firing tear gas at the crowd. I’ve never seen so much camaraderie in my life. Soldiers at a nearby military hospital threw medical masks at the protesters and pharmacists handed them out to the crowds. At one point I felt quite ill from the tear gas. A man approached from behind me and pressed a vinegar-covered mask against my mouth and nose. A nearby vendor (who probably struggles to feed his own family with the pennies he earns) emptied his refrigerator, handing out water bottles and cans of soda to the fatigued protesters.

Every where I looked, people were helping each other, helping strangers tie their masks, sharing water bottles, aiding those who were most affected by the gas.

There was one point, marching with the crowd from Mohendiseen, when we approached a major intersection and I heard roaring cheers. I jumped up on a car to see what had happened and was personally overcome by emotion. From three different directions, massive groups of protesters were approaching the intersection – the other groups coming from as far as Giza and the Nasr City. They did this without Internet or mobile phones.

Photo by Vivian Salama

Cairo, January 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

Groups of young men pushed to the front of the crowd and began to battle riot police, taking over their vehicles and chasing them away. Our group, now numbered in the hundreds of thousands, pushed slowly across the historic Qasr El Nil bridge in an attempt to move into Tahrir. There were moments when I worried that an attack by the military would trigger a stampede – we were stuffed tightly onto the bridge. But every time protesters began to push back, the young men in the crowd would grab the women in the crowd and push them against the bridge railing so to protect them from being knocked down.

photo by Vivian Salama

Some were more prepared than others!! Cairo Jan. 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

It was a long night with protesters burning the ruling National Democratic Party headquarters and battling with soldiers in Tahrir. Riot police trucks were set on fire (and the Semiramis Hotel, where many journalists took refuge) was partially on fire for part of the evening. I was trapped in Tahrir for the night and forced to take a last minute room at the Semiramis. I woke up early the next morning to a different Cairo, where charred military tanks stood in the middle of Tahrir Square and smoke billowed from the NDP headquarters and, sadly, from the adjacent National Museum. It would take another two weeks (only!) to overthrow Hosni Mubarak but that first Friday was by far the most memorable. There is an Arabic expression that often refers to the Egyptian people as being “light blooded” (light hearted/good senses of humor). They definitely showed their spirit throughout the frustrating 19 days (and 30 years) it took to shake up their political system.

Photo by Vivian Salama

Tahrir Square, January 28, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama

Tahrir Square, January 28, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

me in Tahrir (late January 2011)

I visited Bahrain in the weeks that followed and I spent a lot of time covering the uprisings in Yemen and, less so, the ongoing crisis in Syria. After years of battling misguided stereotypes of terrorism and violence, these protesters have showed the world that they desire freedom and a decent standard of living and they have the right to demand it just as those in Europe and the US demand of their governments.

The Tunisians, Egyptians and all the other citizens around the world fighting for democracy have a very long and bumpy road ahead.  The TIME Magazine Person of the Year issue questions whether there is a global tipping point for frustration. I believe what happened this year is, in large part, because of overpopulation and because of the global economic slowdown touched societies rich and poor – but toppled those that were already on the brink before markets crash. The world is smaller than ever thanks to the Internet and various technologies that allow us to share experiences with people on opposite corners of the world. As we continue to get closer, and the world, smaller, it will become impossible to distance ourselves from even the most seemingly remote events.

Photo by Vivian Salama

Cairo, January 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

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Al-Qaeda’s American-Born Agent Al-Awlaki Killed in Yemen

Posted by vmsalama on September 30, 2011

The bad guys are dropping like flies this year…!!

By Mohammed Hatem and Vivian Salama

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) — Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born Islamic cleric who masterminded the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airplane in 2009 with explosives hidden in underwear, has been killed in Yemen, the Defense Ministry said.

A U.S. government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed al-Awlaki’s death. Al-Awlaki was targeted and killed 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the town of Khashef in the province of Jawf, the Yemeni foreign press office said in an e-mailed statement today. Intelligence services say he inspired a shooting rampage that killed 13 people last year at an army base in Fort Hood, Texas.

Al-Awlaki is identified by the Office of Foreign Assets Control list of “specially designated nationals” as a 40-year- old native of Las Cruces, New Mexico, with dual U.S. and Yemeni citizenship. Last year, President Barack Obama approved an order making him the first American ever to be placed on the Central Intelligence Agency’s hit list.

“He is an excellent role model for what al-Qaeda wants its recruits to be in terms of English language, having exposure to the United States or the West, and adhering to the doctrine of al-Qaeda,” said Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.

Yemen’s government is under considerable strain following almost nine months of anti-government protests aimed at toppling President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Karasik said.

‘International Fame’

Al-Awlaki reportedly survived an attack by a U.S. drone in Yemen in May, according to Arabiya television, which cited a member of his tribe. He was an avid blogger and used the Internet to communicate with followers around the world, something that “propelled him to international fame,” IHS Global Insight analysts Gala Riani and Jeremy Binnie said today.

Obama, speaking at the start of a swearing-in ceremony for the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey, in Fort Meyer, Virginia, called al-Awlaki’s death a “major blow” against al-Qaeda that “marks another significant milestone in the effort to defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates.”

U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said in an e-mailed statement that countries must “keep up the pressure on Al-Qaeda and its allies and remain vigilant to the threat we face.”

Boost for Obama

Al-Awlaki’s death follows that of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, killed on May 2 in a U.S. raid on an Islamabad, Pakistan suburb.

“If an unmanned vehicle killed the militant, it will have offered an immediate return on Obama’s recent decision to increase the use of UAV’s in Yemen,” Riani and Binnie wrote in an e-mailed report. “These foreign and security credentials are likely to boost Obama’s bid of re-election next year.”

Pakistani-American Samir Khan, an al-Qaeda militant living in Yemen, died in the same attack that killed al-Awlaki, Yemeni state-run Saba news agency reported, citing an unidentified security official.

Yemen, bin Laden’s ancestral home, was the site of a 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 U.S. sailors. Since the start of anti-government protests inspired by uprisings that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia this year, concerns about the deterioration of security in Yemen have grown. Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in April that he saw Saleh’s possible fall as a “real problem.”

Al-Qaeda Offshoots

In the decade since the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. that killed almost 3,000 people at the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon just outside Washington and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, al-Qaeda offshoots have sprung up around the Islamic world, from the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa to Iraq and the Arabian peninsula.

An Obama administration official said al-Awlaki directed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is accused of trying to blow up a U.S. jetliner in December 2009 with explosives hidden in his underpants. Al-Awlaki instructed Abdulmutallab to detonate the device over U.S. airspace to maximize casualties, the official said. He also sought to use weapons of mass destruction, including cyanide and ricin, to attack Westerners, the U.S. official said.

The threat posed by al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch was further highlighted last October when two parcel bombs sent from the country to U.S. synagogues were seized in the U.K. and Dubai. The bombing attempts, in which devices were concealed in printer cartridges, prompted the U.S. and European countries to bar flights or cargo from Yemen.

Body Bombs

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based group, has been examining how to develop body bombs stitched into a terrorist’s belly, breasts or buttocks, Seth Jones, a senior political scientist for the RAND Corp., a Santa Monica, California-based policy research organization, said in a July 18 interview.

Yemen, which gets about $300 million a year in security and humanitarian assistance from the U.S., stepped up operations against al-Qaeda after the parcel-bomb attempts, including air strikes targeting the group’s camps. Military aid to Yemen includes Huey helicopters, Hummer vehicles and night-vision goggles, the Pentagon said in August 2010.

Given al-Awlaki’s popularity, revenge attacks may be carried out in the U.S. and Yemen, IHS analysts Riani and Binnie wrote. “His death will likely be considered a victory for both governments,” they said.

–With assistance from Massoud A. Derhally in Beirut, Lebanon, and Margaret Talev and Roger Runningen in Washington. Editors: Jennifer M. Freedman, Karl Maier

Posted in Al-Qaeda, Arab, Arab Spring, Jihad, Middle East, Obama, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »

U.S. Joins Egyptian Protesters in Criticizing Suleiman’s Offers

Posted by vmsalama on February 9, 2011

By Alaa Shahine, Vivian Salama and Maram Mazen

Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) — Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman said negotiations he has opened with opposition movements are the only alternative to the “chaos” of regime change, as the government’s limited concessions drew criticism from protesters and the Obama administration.

Omar Suleiman

Omar Suleiman

“There will be no overthrow of the regime because this will lead to chaos, which will take the country into the unknown,” Suleiman told local media chiefs yesterday, the official Middle East News Agency reported. The talks that began this week, involving the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups, “are the first way to achieve stability in the country and to get out of the current crisis peacefully.”

In Washington, the Obama administration echoed the criticism of the protesters that Suleiman isn’t responding quickly enough. The Egyptian government has yet to reach the “minimum threshold” of accomodating demands of the country’s citizens, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. Egyptian authorities must make “immediate and irreversible progress” toward a transition of power and expand the scope of negotiations, Gibbs said at today’s briefing.

Tens of thousands filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square yesterday in what may have been the largest turnout in two weeks of protests. Today’s was smaller. Another major gathering is scheduled for Feb. 11, dubbed by protesters as a “Friday of Defiance.” (click here to read more….)

–With assistance from Mariam Fam in Cairo, Gregory Viscusi in Paris and Thomas Penny in London. Editors: Terry Atlas, Steven Komarow

Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Obama, United States | Leave a Comment »

Pakistan ushers in new political era with caution

Posted by vmsalama on January 21, 2009

Vivian Salama

LAHORE – There is little fanfare amongst many Pakistanis this week as they watch America prepare to usher in a new era of professed hope and change. 

On Lahore’s main platform for political expression, known here as the Mall, dozens of banners were erected this week reading “America and Israel: dogs of hell.” Protestors marched through Pakistan’s cultural capital yesterday calling on Barack Obama to put an end to policies that stifle the Muslim world.

“Israelis are killing us in Gaza, and Americans killing us in Iraq and Afghanistan and Indians are killing us in Kashmir so we have the right to explain our part,” shouted Fayez Khuraz, an Islamic preacher who joined hundreds of others in protest.  “If Barack Obama is an human being, he will bring an end to these policies that make the Muslim people suffer.”


Many in Pakistan say there is great cause for concern as the Washington transition period nears its end.  Since the early days of the US election campaign, the now-President Barack Obama said that he would not sit quietly and allow Pakistan to serve as a sanctuary for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants fleeing US forces in Afghanistan. 

Since August 2008, the tribal border between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been the target of repeated air strikes as US forces look to weed out radical Islamists from the lawless mountain region. Pakistani officials have insisted that the attacks are not only unwarranted, but can compromise its domestic security. 

“I think [the Americans] in Afghanistan have made the situation worse for Pakistan,” said Rasul Bakhsh Rais, head of the Department of Social Sciences at the Lahore University of Management and Economic Research.

In recent weeks, one of Pakistan’s most scenic tourist cities, the Swat Valley in the Eastern region, has been the scene of a deadly Taliban take over.  Last week, Taliban insurgents forced the closure of all girls’ schools in Swat, forcing at least 50,000 young girls to stay home.  Pakistan’s military has staged an attack on the militants, causing many civilians casualties and a heightened state of alert across the country.

Many US officials maintain that Pakistan’s Inter-services Intelligence (ISI) continues to aid Taliban forces in Afghanistan and the US must therefore have more direct involvement in the fight against extremism on both sides of the border.  However, analysts in Pakistan believe that no one can deal with Pakistan’s militancy problems better than Pakistan.

“We have that capability we can handle the situation on the borders but when you continue pushing these militants inland, it harms our country,” added Rais. “Pakistan’s future security is very much linked to the war in Afghanistan and the larger issue of peace and stability in the region, so we think Obama will be a better president if he rethinks the two wars and pulls troops out.”pak-protest

Pakistanis are equally concerned that lawmakers chosen to be part of Barack Obama’s administration have closer ties with India and may, as a result, fail at brokering any neutral diplomacy.  Relations between the formerly-united South Asian nations have been particularly icy in recent weeks after assailants in the deadly siege on Mumbai last November were suspected of having links to Pakistan.

Earlier this month, India’s foreign secretary, Shiv Shankar Menon, said that investigators had found evidence that ties the gunmen who carried out the attacks to “elements in Pakistan” and added that Islamabad was obliged to extradite those responsible.    Washington has urged Islamabad for full cooperation.

“There are two powers that run Pakistan – the army and America, so whatever happens in America affects Pakistan indirectly,” explained Danish Altaf Mufti, a student at the Lahore School of Economics.  “America would definitely want good relations with India but it should try to keep it in check if it wants balance of power in the region.”

Beyond tensions on the country’s Eastern and Western borders, many Pakistanis say they are eager to see a general upheaval of American foreign policy as it relates to the Muslim world.  From Karachi to Rawalpindi, Pakistanis have been voicing their distress over the violence unfolding in Gaza and calling upon the West to take drastic measures to bring an end to the fighting.

“A very important thing is how he handles the Palestine conflict because every Muslim has been hurt by this,” said Mufti. “I know it is transition phase and he has to be careful with his words, but if he is afraid of the Israel lobby then we will not see the real change that people are talking about.”

Posted in Obama, Pakistan, United States | Leave a Comment »

Open Letter to President-Elect Obama from the Political Council for the Iraqi Resistance

Posted by vmsalama on November 9, 2008

This is an interesting letter from the Political Council for the Iraqi Resistance, an Iraqi insurgent “political” coalition comprising of six major Sunni militant groups.  

It has been interesting to track the various online responses by militant groups to the elections and it is something I will be looking at quite closely in the coming weeks. 


An Open Letter: To Barak Obama the new president of the United States of America 

We should put in front of you some points for the new American administration to benefit from and to use to avoid the mistakes that the old administration fell into: 

I- The reason why you won the presidency is not because the Americans suddenly found out that they should not be racist, it is because of the many mistakes that the Bush administration fell under which didn’t leave for the American citizen any room, not even for a second to think about keeping that administration and the least proof for this is the large numbers of votes against them. 

II- Your campaign promises were built on change and the time for it has come, and we say with that the time has come- the destruction that the previous administration caused for our country from killings, displacement, civil war and racism- has damaged your reputation as American people and it damaged elements of a nation that did not attack you by your own recognition and therefore we ask for change and do not listen to those who tell you that a withdrawal from Iraq is a defeat. We say to you that a withdrawal will mean a triumph of reason and logic. 

III- The vast number of people who have voted for you means that you can take your actions with courage. The disarray of those before you hurt the American people before anyone else, Allah swt has told us in his righteous book that he created man to get to know each other not for one to kill the other O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). 

IV- We are a country known for its courage and generosity and our good treatment to strangers. Whoever is good to us we are good to him more than he is good to us, and whoever attacks us he will find from us no mercy, so what do you think we will do to an invader who tampered with our religion and our country, its destiny, security and unity? 

V- To surround our countries security by making agreements with others around us to accomplish your interests and their interests at the expense of the interests of our people will have serious consequences. It is up to you not to try this and not to solve your problems with others at our expense and you should understand this. 

VI- We will be flexible in dealing with your withdrawal but it must not be as part of a security deal with parties that are traitors or a made up government. You must correct your mistakes and work with courage to pay compensation to all those who you have destroyed, their families or their house or their psychology. And you must release all those you have as prisoners until the last Iraqi of them, and you must order the sectarian government to release all its prisoners and to return the balance of security to Iraq. Without this we will not think that you will be coming with the change that you have promised, and if you do this you will be written down in history as the courageous one. 

And finally we in the resistance are staying on our promise to liberate our country and we will not tear from this, the history of our grandparents is the best witness and we will be the best next of kin to that kin in protecting the sanctity of our nation


Posted in Elections, Iraq, Obama, Terrorism | Leave a Comment »