Archive for the ‘United States’ Category
Posted by vmsalama on April 30, 2014
By Vivian Salama
In some ways, it was not unlike many local elections in the United States. For weeks, Iraqis have been inundated by campaign posters, commercials, political talk shows and more.
In some cities, it was hard to look anywhere without seeing the face of a parliamentary hopeful — some whose names will soon disappear, while others will linger. But war-weary Iraqis also face the daily nightmare of suicide and car bombings, where the mere proximity to political offices or police barracks puts them at grave risk.
This is Iraq in 2014.
Two years after the U.S. government withdrew combat troops, citizens went to the polls Wednesday to select a new parliament. Observers in Washington are watching the action with bated breath amid accusations that the United States made a mess of Iraq, then left it to its own demise.
Voters braved extreme violence to cast their ballots and, ultimately, to play some role in determining their future this week amid increasing sectarian strife and growing tensions between political rivals. Will it make a difference? Most observers believe Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will clinch a third term in office but not without months of political wrangling and uncertainty. He has fallen out of favor with many across this vast nation, and a deteriorating security situation has left many fearful that al-Maliki has all but lost control.
Has America forgotten its role in getting Iraq to where it is — for better or for worse? Iraq may, arguably, need the help of its allies now more than ever. Have we turned our back on it for good?
Regardless of the turnout of this week’s vote, it is an important milestone since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. And yet, much of the mainstream U.S. television media has turned a blind eye. As Iraqi-American journalist Yasmeen Sami Alamiri tweets: “Good God. CNN has covered everything under the sun (w/ non-stop coverage of the Sterling “scandal”), but no decent Iraq election coverage.” (click here to read more)
Posted in American, Arab, Arab League, Arab Spring, Arabic, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Insurgency, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Jihad, Maliki, Middle East, military, United States, Washington | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on July 11, 2013
by Vivian Salama
A year ago, as stragglers in the streets of Cairo continued to celebrate Mohamed Morsi’s presidential inauguration, Dubai’s Chief of Police, Dahi Khalfan, lashed out at Egypt’s president and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters, calling them “thugs” who had threatened his life.
“The number of phone threats I have received demonstrates that we are facing a criminal organization,” Khalfan tweeted, claiming in separate posts that he had received as many as 2,000 calls over a 72-hour period. “[Morsi] will come crawling to the Gulf, and we will not receive him on a red carpet.”
Fast forward to the present, and roughly a week after the Egyptian military deposed Morsi in a controversial coup that was precipitated by mass protests, both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have, figuratively at least, rolled out the red carpet for the new Egyptian government. This week, as the military engaged in a bloody face off with thousands of Morsi supporters looking to reinstate the fallen leader, the U.A.E pledged to give $3 billion in grants and loans to the cash-strapped country, while Saudi Arabia committed $2 billion in central bank deposits, $2 billion in energy products, and $1 billion in cash—a significant jump from the $2 billion promised last year when Morsi was elected president.
“The U.A.E. intended to send a…signal that it will not accommodate the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, be it at home or abroad,” said Ayham Kamel, Persian Gulf analyst for the Eurasia Group, a New York-based research and consulting firm.
The reasons go well beyond the alleged threats made to Khalfan. The rocky relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the two Gulf states dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser cracked down on political dissent, forcing a number of Islamists to flee. Many settled in Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., where they found jobs and assimilated, but along the way, imparted their religious ideologies on the surrounding community. (click here to read more)
Posted in Abu Dhabi, Al Jazeera, al-Sisi, Arab, Arab League, Bahrain, Constitution, Coptic, corruption, Coup, dictatorship, Dubai, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Islam, Kuwait, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, North Africa, Oman, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Salafi, Saudi Arabia, State of Emergency, Terrorism, United Arab Emirates, United States, Washington | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on July 5, 2013
By Vivian Salama
June 4, 2013
The air was thick with jubilation and irony on Wednesday as Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, was removed from power by the very man whom he appointed to protect the country: General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Soft spoken, devout and little-known before he became the head of the Egyptian military last summer, al-Sisi, 59, is now a national hero to many, but whether he can stay that way is the question mark hanging over Egypt’s fragile democracy—or at least what’s left of it.
On Wednesday, as millions cheered in the streets from Alexandria to Aswan, al-Sisi suspended the country’s highly contentious constitution and named Adly Mansour, the newly-appointed head of the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court, as Egypt’s interim president. “He [al-Sisi] saved Egypt!” said Raja Kabil, an interior designer from Cairo. “He should be man of the year!”
Ironically, choosing al-Sisi to lead the military was one of Morsi’s most celebrated decisions as president. Last year, the military’s previous head, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, aroused the public’s ire after 16 months as Egypt’s de facto leader in the aftermath of the 2011 protests that brought down Hosni Mubarak. Among other things, Tantawi, the country’s longtime defense minister, dissolved Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliament just hours before the country’s presidential election, which sparked outrage in the streets. Protesters from all political parties cried foul, and some in the secular opposition suspected that the Muslim Brotherhood had formed an alliance with the military for a chance to claim the presidency. (click here to read more…)
Posted in al-Sisi, Arab, Arab Spring, Coup, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Hosni Mubarak, Human Rights, Intervention, June 30, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics, United States | 1 Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on June 4, 2013
By Vivian Salama
The Daily Beast
After a yearlong trial, an Egyptian court has convicted 43 foreign NGO workers—including 16 Americans—of operating without a proper license, handing down jail terms ranging from one to five years.
The court also declared the closure of five foreign nonprofit organizations operating in Egypt and ordered the confiscation of their funds. They are the U.S.-based Freedom House, the International Center for Journalists, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Twenty-seven of the 43 defendants, including all but one of the Americans, were tried in absentia.
Among the Americans to receive a five-year sentence and be fined 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($143) is Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Calls to his office in Washington, D.C., were not immediately returned.
Robert Becker, an organizer with the Tanzeem Group and the only American to stand before the court, was sentenced to two years in prison. “Maintaining my innocence on charges of starting NGO six years before I actually arrived in Egypt,” he wrote on Twitter following the verdict. Becker has refused to leave Egypt in solidarity with his Egyptian colleagues who could not leave. He wrote on his blog Monday night: “I was told it would be best for me to go home, so that is exactly where I will be… home, in Cairo.”
Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Constitution, corruption, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, foreign workers, Freedom of Speech, Hosni Mubarak, Intervention, Middle East, Mohamed Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood, non-profit, United States | Leave a Comment »
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 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 20, 2013
While Algeria has fallen below the radar of the US government for quite some time, it has been a growing concern for many countries in Europe — particularly France, which has heavy interests — financial and otherwise — in the North African nation. I had the pleasure of visiting Algeria last summer during their parliamentary elections. During my visit, I had quite a number of discussions with people about the growing influence of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Meghrib — particularly as law in order in neighboring Mali deteriorated. Most security officials there felt that Algeria is highly skilled at handling the problem, especially since it had experience dealing with extremism during its brutal civil war in the 1990s. I remember visiting Berber villages some two hours outside the capital. Many of them still remain without power since the days of the civil war, because the government suspected those villages of being safe houses for many extremist groups.
The recent hostage crisis will undoubtedly catapult Algeria back on the international stage as a potential hotspot for extremism. the vast and hidden pockets of the Sahara Desert are a growing concern for security experts who question whether local governments have what it takes to fight extremism (some even speculate that senior members in many of these groups have contacts within the governments of countries in which they operate). Algeria’s government, traditionally very reluctant to cooperation on issues relating to its security, must work with its neighbors to share intelligence and resources to put down the rise of extremism. With increasing volatility along its borders with Mali and Libya, it is opening itself up to a massive problem. This latest incident in Illizi was only the beginning.
Posted in Al-Qaeda, Algeria, Foreign Policy, France, Mali, Politics, Terrorism, United Kingdom, United States | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on January 16, 2013
Jan 16, 2013
By Vivian Salama
The Daily Beast (click here for original link)
An offshoot of al Qaeda in the Islamist Maghreb is claiming responsibility for the kidnapping of 41 foreign nationals at a gas field Wednesday, as the violence in northern Mali spread across the border. Vivian Salama reports.
As French troops step up their air campaign against Islamist rebels in Mali, a new kidnapping is intensifying fears that jihadists affiliated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have already penetrated parts of the vast Sahara Desert.
At least seven Americans were among the 41 foreign nationals taken hostage Wednesday at the In Amenas gas field in the remote province of Illizi, Algerian state media reported, citing unnamed rebel leaders. A group known as Katibat Moulathamine—or the Masked Brigade, an offshoot of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb—reportedly contacted the Mauritanian news outlet ANI and claimed responsibility for the attack.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed on Wednesday that Americans are among the captives but declined to give further details in an effort to protect their lives. “By all indications, this is a terrorist act,” said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at a meeting with Italian government officials in Rome.
Algerian officials said the attackers threatened to blow up the site and kill the foreigners if their demands were not met. Japanese, British, Norwegian, and French nationals were among the kidnapped, and at least one Briton has been killed, according to state media. Some 300 Algerian workers also were captured but have since been released, according to the state-run Algérie Presse Service.
Algeria “will not meet the demands of terrorists and refuses any negotiation,” Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia said in a nationally televised address.
Just over Algeria’s southern border, French and Malian troops have been targeting Islamist positions in northern Mali since Jan. 11, attempting to win back territory seized by rebels in April. Turmoil in Mali has intensified in recent years, after a handful of militant groups linking themselves to the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, an ethnic nationalist group linked to the Tuareg tribe, made considerable gains against the government following a short-lived coup. Amid the confusion and chaos, the MNLA declared the independence of three of Mali’s northern regions, considered the Tuareg homeland, and declared sharia the official law of the land.
According to local reports, the militants have sent child soldiers to reinforce their positions in northern Mali, as well as using the local population as human shields from the French-Malian raids.
“The situation in Mali is in part driven by poverty and extremism, but also by weapons flows from Libya,” said Paul Sullivan, a North Africa expert and professor at the National Defense University. “The Tuareg and others who fought in Libya and then moved back to Mali are a hardened bunch and fairly well-trained. The Algerian government warned the French that it may spill over. It has.”
While Algeria has refused to take part in military action against Mali or any other foreign nation, it has taken precautions to protect its vast border with Mali, sending troops to guard against any cross-border incursions. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African affiliate of the terrorist network, initially emerged as a radical opposition group in the days of the Algerian civil war of the 1990s but has since expanded its foothold in Mali’s vast ungoverned northern region. Its initial goal was to overthrow Algeria’s government and establish an Islamic state, but experts say its regional ambitions have since expanded to target much of North Africa, as well as Europe and the United States.
“AQIM exists in Algeria and in Libya,” said Sullivan. “They are looking for a safe zone. Mali looks most likely. Libya is pretty much the Wild West in the desert regions. Huge swaths of Algeria are open desert. The borders are porous.”
“The Obama administration needs to have a clear and focused policy on eliminating the threats that diverse, al Qaeda-affiliated groups pose to the United States and to Americans working abroad off of the usual battlefields,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The report in Mauritania’s ANI links Wednesday’s attack to Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the Algerian-born radical jihadist who has been linked to some of the most dramatic and high-profile kidnappings of the past decade. In 2002, French intelligence called him “uncatchable.” In 2008, Algerian media reported that Belmokhtar and 15 of his men had surrendered to authorities, a claim later disputed by the group. Belmokhtar, who lost an eye in combat, also has been reported dead on more than one occasion. Experts on jihad note that Belmokhtar maintains allies in the Malian government and has won the support of various extremist elements in the region.
“Algeria is also home to Tuaregs, and any fire erupting in one corner of the Sahara involving a Tuareg tribe could ignite a reaction elsewhere,” said Arezki Daoud, an Algerian political analyst and editor of the North Africa Journal. “This is dream come true for al Qaeda. They want that regional instability.”
The In Amenas field is a joint venture of the Algerian national oil company Sonatrach, BP, and Statoil. In a statement on its website Wednesday, BP said that “contact with the site is extremely difficult, but we understand that armed individuals are still occupying the In Amenas operations site,” adding that there is no confirmed information available on the status of the workers.
—With reporting from Eli Lake
Posted in Al-Qaeda, Algeria, Egypt, Foreign Policy, France, Insurgency, Intervention, Islam, Jihad, Mali, Middle East, Negotiation, North Africa, Politics, Terrorism, United Kingdom, United States | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on December 30, 2012
Dec 30, 2012
By Vivian Salama
The Daily Beast (Click here for original link)
The cell’s Arabian branch is offering $160,000 in gold for anyone who kills the U.S. ambassador to Yemen. Vivian Salama on what’s feeding the region’s extremism.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has offered a bounty to anyone who kills America’s ambassador to Yemen, calling it a move to “inspire and encourage our Muslim nation for jihad.” It’s the first such threat made publicly against an American diplomat since assailants killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Benghazi consulate employees in September.
The reward, announced in an audio message via Al-Malahem Foundation, the group’s media arm, and circulated on extremist Web forums, would be paid in the form of three kilograms of gold—worth about $160,000—the message said, without providing details on where and how the payment would be delivered. The recording included mention of a 5 million Yemeni riyal ($23,000) reward to anyone who kills an American soldier on Yemeni soil.
Gerald Feierstein has served as ambassador to Yemen since September 2010, according to the embassy website. Prior to his appointment, he served as deputy chief of mission in Islamabad. A Yemeni government official who spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity said Ambassador Feierstein is “very well protected” and added that the “threats are taken seriously, and he is the most secured diplomat in Yemen.”
Yemen, the ancestral home of the late Osama bin Laden, was the site of an attack on the USS Cole in 2000 that killed 17 American sailors. It was also the home of the late Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born Islamic cleric who plotted the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airplane in 2009, now notorious for using an underwear bomb.
Yemeni protesters, inspired by popular uprisings across the Arab world, successfully ousted their president of 33 years, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in February. However, like many other countries in the region, security forces were stretched thin during the yearlong revolution, and law and order and political and economic stability have since declined. Yemen ranked eighth on Foreign Policy’s 2012 Failed States Index, scoring almost on par with Haiti. (click here to read more…)
Posted in Al-Qaeda, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Drones, Foreign Policy, Insurgency, Libya, Middle East, Salafi, Terrorism, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »