Monday, May 31, 2010

Answering or not?

I agree it was a deliberate acte of provocation. But, once they were let in, there were possible repetition of the action and so on and so forth. They acted aiming for exactly the results they were expecting. It is no surprise or wonder. As it is not a wonder that by this, the possibilities for a peace discussion is again very very far away. Otherwise, with peace in the Middle East, dictatorial countries from the Middle East will not have any other arguments to deliver for their lack of coherence and arbitrary.

And, the rules are the rules. In democracy. Not in tribal arrangements.

This idea expressed in Jewlicious reminded me of the movie I saw yesterday night - Checkpoint, by Yoav Shamir. A movie I consider biased and unequal. Many people of Arab origin who wanted to cross, but lacking proper documents, were tempted to bargain with the soldiers, waiting for small / not legal arrangements. With such a behavior you will never be able to get anything but corruption and the lack of any rule of law.

Destination Gaza

Here is the conversation between the "peace" navy and the Israeli authorities. There are procedures already in place - as the aid was usually delivered via Ashdod. Everybody was aware and warned about the situation. The answer: "Destination Gaza".

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Massacre in Lahore

(May 29, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Eighty persons were killed and over 120 others injured in two acts of terrorism directed against Ahmadi worshippers in two mosques belonging to their community in Lahore on May 28,2010. Among those killed were former sessions judge Ameer Ahmad Sheikh, the Amir of the Ahmadia community in Lahore Ejazul Haq, and Major General (retd) Nasir Ahmad.

Though the Ahmadis had been subjected in the past to persecution and atrocities by the Sunni extremists, these were the most brutal acts of terrorism directed against them since Pakistan was born in 1947. There had been worse acts of terrorism directed against the Shias, who are in a much larger number and much more influential politically and economically in the Pakistani society, but the Ahmadis, who are a marginalized community with no political or economic power, had been spared such acts of terrorism till now.

The two commando-style terrorist attacks were staged at the time of Friday prayers in the two Ahmadi mosques located in the Garhi Shahu and Model Town areas of Lahore. Since the Ahmadis are treated as non-Muslims in Pakistan because they do not recognize Prophet Mohammad as the only Prophet of Islam, their places of worship are not recognized as mosques.

These attacks have, therefore, been described by the Pakistani officials and media as attacks on places of worship and not mosques. The Ahmadis, who regard themselves as Muslims despite their reverence for the founder of their community as another Prophet, look upon their places of worship as mosques no different from other mosques. Thus, the two incidents were two more instances of brutal attacks by Sunni extremists on another group of Muslims worshipping in mosques. However, in Pakistan, to describe the Ahmadis as Muslims and their places of worship as mosques would be considered blasphemous. There are five million Ahmadis in Pakistan’s total population of about 180 million.

Seven heavily armed terrorists throwing hand-grenades into the packed gathering of worshippers and opening fire with assault rifles forced their way into the Garhi Shahu mosque. Two terrorists raided the Model Town mosque. While the worshippers in the Model Town mosque beat back the raiding terrorists before the police intervened, the worshippers in the Garhi Shahu mosque were kept hostage for nearly three hours by the terrorists before they were rescued by the security forces.

The security forces are reported to have captured two of the nine terrorists involved in the two attacks. Three allegedly blew themselves up and the remaining four were killed in the exchange of fire. According to the “Daily Times” of Lahore, the attackers also fired shots and hurled a hand grenade at a nearby mosque of Ahl-e-Hadees, adjacent to the City Law College.

A TV channel quoted the Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah as saying that one of the captured terrorists belonged to Rahim Yar Khan district and used to be a student of a madrassa in Karachi and that the other terrorist captured is a Pashtun.

On March 8, a suicide bomber had rammed his car packed with explosives into a Federal Investigation Agency building in Lahore, killing 11 people. On March 12, two suicide bombers had attacked Pakistani Army vehicles in a military cantonment in the city, killing more than 50 people. There were no major terrorist incidents in Lahore in April.

A statement disseminated from London through the Internet on behalf of the international Ahmadiya community said: “The attacks are the culmination of years of un-policed persecution of the Ahmadiya Muslim Jamaat, which is a minority sect in Pakistan. In 1974 legislation was passed that declared Ahmadis to be ‘non-Muslim’ and in 1984 further legislation was passed in which the practice of the faith was outlawed. At regular intervals since then Ahmadis have been attacked but today’s attack is the most cruel and barbaric. All Ahmadis, who are based in 195 countries, are peace loving and tolerant people and yet they are continually targeted by extremist factions. During his Friday Sermon at 1pm today (May 28) the Head of the Ahmadiya Muslim Jamaat, His Holiness Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, said: “Today two of our mosques in Lahore were attacked by extremists. At the moment we do not have full details of what has happened. It is clear though that a number of our Ahmadis have been killed and many others have been injured. These people had merely come to the mosques to offer their Friday prayers and yet became victims of a heinous terrorist attack. May God grant patience to the bereaved and elevate the status of those who have been martyred.”

A report disseminated from Lahore by the Associated Press said: “Ahmadis are reviled as heretics by mainstream Muslims for their belief that their sect’s founder was a savior foretold by the Quran, Islam’s holy book. The group has experienced years of state-sanctioned discrimination and occasional attacks by radical Sunni Muslims in Pakistan, but never before in such a large and coordinated fashion.” The AP report further said that before the attacks the suspect from Rahim Yar Khan had stayed at a center belonging to the Tableeghi Jamaat.

Geo TV reported that the Punjab province branch of the Pakistani Taliban had claimed responsibility, but the authenticity of the claim is yet to be established.

On April 17, 2010, “Dawn” of Karachi had reported an increase in kidnappings for ransom and murderous attacks on members of the Ahmadiya community in the industrial town of Faislabad in the Punjab. A member of the local Ahmadiya community had alleged that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD) headed by Prof.Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed, which is the political wing of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), was responsible for these incidents and that the local police were not taking action against those involved. Faislabad is a stronghjold of the LET. Abu Zubaidah of Al Qaeda, now held in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, was captured in 2002 from the house of an LET activist in Faislabad. The Ahmadis have been alleging that the JUD and some members of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) of Mr.Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister, have been acting in tandem in attacking the members of the community in Punjab. In this connection, they have named Syed Saqlain Shah, a member of the National Assembly, his uncle Syed Iqbal Shah, a former member of the Punjab Provincial Assembly, and Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, senior Vice-President of PML (N).

The LET, which is close to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), never indulges in acts of terrorism in Pakistani territory. It is doubtful whether it would have carried out the terrorist attacks on the Ahmadis despite its past acts of atrocities and intimidation against them. A strong suspect is the Sunni extremist Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), which has been involved in acts of terrorism in Pakistani territory for many years. Like the LET, it too is close to Al Qaeda and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

Two other suspects are the Jaish-e-Mohammad, whose leader Maulana Masood Azhar, had served for some years in the LEJ, and an organization mysteriously calling itself the Asian Tigers with no allusions to Islam or the Holy Koran, which looks upon the Ahmadis as American agents. The Asian Tigers were allegedly responsible for the recent kidnapping and execution of Sq.Leader Khalid Khawaja, a retired officer of the Pakistan Air Force, who had served for some years in the ISI. After his retirement, he used to hobnob with a number of jihadi terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, the TTP, the JEM, the LET and the LEJ, and had come under suspicion in connection with the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist in the beginning of 2002. The Asian Tigers had accused him of being an agent of the US and the Ahmadis. Not much is known about its origin and background. It is possible that the LET or Ilyas Kashmiri’s 313 Brigade also operate under the name Asian Tigers in order to avoid attracting the suspicion of the ISI and the US.

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:

Israel MFA Legal Expert on Gaza

It is a regular procedure and there are rules to be respected. "Gaza is no more under Israeli control" - so, what do they want to "free"? But, it is a state of conflict and attacks against civilians. Blockade is a legitimate tool used in the international law. Under international humanitarian law, Israel is having the obligation to supply the humanitarian good and medicine.

Israeli Forces Attack Aid Flotilla, 10 Killed

Forces board Gaza-bound ship from helicopter

Voice of America

31 May 2010

Palestinian fishermen prepare their boat ahead of the expected arrival of a flotilla of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists trying to sail into the Gaza Strip, in Gaza city, 28 May 2010
Photo: AP

Palestinian fishermen prepare their boat ahead of the expected arrival of a flotilla of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists trying to sail into the Gaza Strip, in Gaza city, 28 May 2010

Organizers from the Free Gaza Movement and a Turkish human rights group say the convoy, which includes three cargo ships and three passenger boats, is carrying medical supplies as well as cement and other building materials, which Israel has banned from entering Gaza due to security concerns.
Israeli media say Israel's navy has attacked a six-ship aid convoy carrying pro-Palestinian activists to the Gaza Strip, killing at least 10 people.

A private Israeli television station said Israeli forces intercepted the flotilla early Monday and fired on at least one of the vessels.

Turkey's NTV television aired images from the ships of several people who were said to be wounded.

Israel has warned it will not allow the flotilla to reach Gaza, which has been under a blockade by Israel and Egypt since 2007 when Palestinian militant group Hamas seized control of the territory.

Three Israeli missile boats left their base in Haifa late Sunday to prevent the ships from entering the 32-kilometer exclusion zone Israel enforces along Gaza's Mediterranean Sea coast.

The aid ships, carrying more than 600 pro-Palestinian activists and 10,000 tons of supplies, left for Gaza on Sunday and defied a radio warning from the Israeli navy not to approach the region. An Israeli official said the navy told them they were approaching a blockaded area and asked them to go to the Israeli port of Ashdod or turn back.

The activists say the construction supplies are intended to help Gazans rebuild homes destroyed during Israel's military offensive in the Islamist-controlled territory early last year.

U.N. officials and international aid groups say Israel's three-year blockade on Gaza has devastated the local economy and failed to weaken Hamas grip on power.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

For the moment, only the news. And a very short comment:

Israel is a sovereign country. Entering its space when the permission denied is provocation. Will it change somehow the situation from the area, eventually leading to the end of the blockade?

A simple question: What Turkey will do if a Kurdish illegal party will win - democratically - the elections?

Al-Akhbar: Syria Will Not Deny Arms to Hizbullah

The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to Hizbullah, stated that "Syria has not closed and will not close any arsenal" to this organization. It also estimated that Hizbullah is interested in missiles that are short-range and easy to use (unlike the Scud missile), such as upgraded Grad missiles. Citing sources close to the organization, the daily added that, in the case of a war against Lebanon, Syria would be more than just a rear base for Hizbullah.

Source: Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), May 28, 2010, via

Friday, May 21, 2010

The crackdown in Bangkok

Photo-feature from Boston Globe.

We are on Twitter!!!!

Finally entered the 2.0 world we are so much talking about!

Found us here: ForeignPolFocus

Let's continue the conversation.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Israel launches overnight air raids on Gaza


GAZA CITY — The Israeli military launched aerial raids overnight in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, but no one was injured or killed in the sorties, witnesses and officials said Friday.

Israeli officials said the three raids, targeting a residential area in the north of the Palestinian enclave and two in the south, were in response to an earlier missile attack by Palestinian militants.

"Our planes attacked terrorist installations in the north of the region and two tunnels located in the south which could serve for attacks against Israel," an Israeli defence spokesman said, confirming the raids.

On Thursday evening, "a rocket fired from the north of the Gaza Strip fell in the Ashkelon region without causing any injuries," south of Tel Aviv, the spokesman told AFP.

The Ansar al Sunna group claimed responsibility for the attack, in a statement.

Israel launched a devastating assault on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in December 2008 aimed at halting rocket fire. Some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the 22-day war.

A possible answer for latest anti-terrorist incoherences

Obama's top intelligence adviser resigns.

Grassroot terrorism needs a reply from the grassroot involved citizens

It sounds very militant, idealistic and revolutionary, but in fact many of these terrorist actions and activities are taking place in usual open environments, counting on the ignorance and the indifference of us, the daily serious tax-paying citizens. The Stratfor analysis made a round-up of the latest cases from the US, including regarding the dirty bombs.

The profile of Faisal Shahzad, involved in the Times Square incident, is offering an example of a failure. A failure of integration - not necessarily a political failure - the absence of offering to the immigrants a different way to insert into the society. And a failure of the security policies of various US agencies in mapping preventively security threats.

Will the eurozone collapse?

Germany, Greece and exiting the Eurozone, a Stratfor analysis.

Trying to understand the current ups and downs of the markets, beyond the urban-journalistic mythologies.

A look at kidnapping

the latest Stratfor analysis.

A mixt between the risk of ignoring the risks, living in dangerous environments and exposure. The meeting point with terrorist activities is obvious.

About media, with Israeli journalists

I just attended a couple of minutes ago a very interesting conversation on ShalomLife about media in and about Israel. Part of the conversation: David Horowitz, editor-in-chief Jerusalem Post, Arad Nir, from Channel 2 News and Marcus Sheff, executive director, The Israeli Project. Moderator: Leah Stern, IDC Herzliya faculty member.

The focus was more on the way in which the foreign media is reflecting - very often in a biased and stereotypical way - the situation from Israel, preponderently interested in the conflictual aspects, with a black (Israel)-and-white (Palestinians) perspective. But, as well aspects related of the challenges of the Israli journalists, the local answer from the authorities from the point of view of the "hasbara"/efforts of public diplomacy or the influence of social media on traditional ways of reporting, with a special emphasis on the current evolution. A moderate discussion with moderate accents, but with lots of contextual information.

One is related to the problems the Israeli journalists (Arad Nir): restricted access to events from the Arab world (meetings of the Arab League, for example), ignored questions addressed to various officials (as the Iranian ones), ignored requests for interviews (he mentioned the case of El-Baradei). How can you report accurately when the other side is refusing any kind of dialogue? And, in addition, without a personal contact with other journalists, including from the Arab world, it is very hard to advance in creating professional bridges , as a first step to a better understanding.

Another issue related to the lack of knowledge of the local context, given equally the lack of access to the local sources, because of the language. What Jerusalem Post did was to offer a window to a wider audience getting various hints about the context. It is a step ahead, needed to be supported by other media tools as well. From the point of view of the current state-of-arts of the Israeli authorities, the participants outlined the failure to give the appropriate soundsbytes to change an ovewhelming negative image. Lack of resources, interest, other priorities. Hence, the predominant focus on the conflict, as a "good" versus "bad guys" positioning.

More is to be said, more is to be done.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The dark side

of cricket.

Iran to resume uranium enrichment despite Turkey deal

(CNN) -- Iran will continue to enrich uranium to 20 percent, it said Monday, despite agreeing to ship its low-enriched uranium to Turkey.

Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told the Islamic Republic News Agency that Iran will not stop making the highly enriched uranium, which is a source of consternation among many Western nations.

Iran said it needs to enrich uranium from its current 3.5 percent to 20 percent because a research reactor that produces isotopes for cancer patients is running out of fuel.

But 20-percent enriched uranium is the threshold for uranium capable of setting off a nuclear reaction. And Western leaders have alleged that Iran is trying to create nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian energy program.

On Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced he was heading to Iran to join nuclear talks in Tehran involving Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The meeting in Tehran sought to reach a breakthrough in the showdown over Iran's nuclear program, according to Erdogan.

The last-minute trip followed a "signal" from the talks, which are intended to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear energy program, Erdogan told reporters before departing. Erdogan indicated the signal involved Iran's agreement to swap its low-enriched uranium for nuclear fuel, CNN Turk reported.

Erdogan said he hoped an agreement in Tehran would stop the U.N. Security Council from its negotiations on tougher sanctions on Iran.

"The Security Council was contemplating a step in the direction of sanctions as of yesterday," Erdogan said. "As a part of our talks, this has been postponed. Now with this step we are going to take, I hope that we will have the opportunity to overcome these problems."

Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency made no mention of the nuclear issue in reporting earlier that Lula was sitting down with Ahmadinejad. But French President Nicolas Sarkozy and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia both have said they back Lula's efforts to resolve the long-running, high-stakes stalemate.

"This could be the last chance before the U.N. Security Council makes the already known decisions," Medvedev said, referring to the U.N. decision on imposing sanctions against Iran.

Sarkozy said earlier that he had spoken with Lula by phone to assure him that Paris supports his efforts to resolve the impasse.

The United States and many other countries believe that Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu left for Tehran to join the Iran-Brazil talks. Erdogan said Sunday the anticipated signal from Iran was received and he was changing his schedule to travel to Tehran, postponing a planned visit to Azerbaijan.

Erdogan's statement indicated an agreement in which Iran would send most of its low-enriched uranium to be turned into fuel rods suitable for Turkey's nuclear power reactor that makes medical isotopes.

"After our high-level meeting in Tehran, I believe we will have the opportunity to start the process regarding the swap," Erdogan said. "We said that we will go to Tehran if the swap takes place in Turkey, and we received news that the text includes a reference to this. That's why we are going. Otherwise we wouldn't have gone."

Turkey and Brazil have been working on a joint offer based on the nuclear swap deal offered previously to Tehran. Both countries are temporary members of the U.N. Security Council and have been working toward a diplomatic solution that does not involve sanctions.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Communications for Humanitarian Intervention

I attended recently a webinar organized by the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research from Harvard University about the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on humanitarian action. The participants were professionals belonging to various NGOs and organisations with a record of activity in conflict and emergency situations, as for example the recent Haiti earthquake.

Even we are fully aware of the tremendous impact of the ICT (cell phones, Skype, Twitter) on the humanitarian relief operations and consequently on saving lives, there are still lots of questions regarding the general reliability and the risks involved. But still, it is a great potential regarding the possibility to create and mobilize communities - mostly on a volunteering basis - for gathering support in crisis humanitarian situations. You have the opportunity to map a certain situation on the ground, for example, and to identify people able to intervene. The technical background is very important, including from the point of view of selecting the messages according to a guaranteed reliability. Even, as one of the speakers outlined, "Facebook and Twitter are ungouvernable", the sense of responsability is the first step to increase the sense of community and the general responsability for what we do and how we act in supporting people in need.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Arctic Policy?

Questions of a more than ever actuality.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Rashid Khalidi on the new US policies in the Middle East

The interview is enforcing and outlining several old or less old perspectives:
- it is coming from one of the few proeminent Palestinian intellectuals, but it failing to address from an intellectual and critical - of all parts involved - including the one he is belonging to
- it is expressing a certain sense of hope - wishful thinking - for a relative reshaping process of the US interests in the Middle East. He is having a certain tone of telling things from the source.
- in many respects it is reflecting some changes already in process regarding the relationship between US and Israel, and the question is if this change is the result of a certain Palestinian lobby at the level of the current administration.
- it is not too much - or almost nothing - about the possibilities of a certain cooperation on the ground between Israelis and Palestinians.
- he is insisting of the end of the Cold War understanding of the Middle East, but his ideas are tributary to this kind of logic, with third-world accents and the attitude of asking the help and support only because it is assumed belonging to the good side of the story.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Some hints about the vote in UK

An interesting aspect is the introduction - not here for the first time, of course, but I noticed the sense of emergency induced - of the environmental priorities. Franny Armstrong's movie The Age of Stupid was distributed with free access two days before the elections, to make people aware of the necessity to turn their vote in favor of those supporting anti-climate change policies. The movie is designed to convince not to charm: fragments of global warming episodes - including Katrina - are mixed with real-time interviews and various testimonies, taking place in a futuristic, end-of-the world setting. I hope to have one day the appropriate time to dedicate a longer article to the problematic of global warming translated at the level of international affairs. As for now, I am trully preoccupied by all these issues, but in the same time I cannot stop observing various ideological arguments associated to the very beginning of this ecologist movement, in the 60s-70s, during the Cold War, under the close surveillance and generous funding of some Soviet connections.

But, beyond any doubts, introducing environmental issues on the political agenda is a very interesting fact and it would be interesting to find possible quantitative evaluations of the impact of these issues on the general public.

A couple of other news about the elections: