Archive | May 19th, 2011

Zionist Regime of Bahrain solidifies its Orwellian system

NOVANEWS

 

“Bahrain has set up new units within its Information Affairs Authority to monitor the output of foreign news services and social media, it was announced on Wednesday.   Nawaf Mohammed Al Mawadh, the IAA’s director of publication and publishing and acting director of foreign media, said the move was part of a new strategic plan for 2011-15.   Al Mawadh said that the IAA had restructured its directorates and created new ones to “further help project the kingdom’s achievements and respond to false information that some channels broadcast”.  He said in comments published by state news agency BPA that new directorates included one for media monitoring, another for media relations and one for social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.”

Bahrain sets up new units to monitor media output

Bahrain has set up new units within its Information Affairs Authority to monitor the output of foreign news services and social media, it was announced on Wednesday.

Nawaf Mohammed Al Mawadh, the IAA’s director of publication and publishing and acting director of foreign media, said the move was part of a new strategic plan for 2011-15.

Al Mawadh said that the IAA had restructured its directorates and created new ones to “further help project the kingdom’s achievements and respond to false information that some channels broadcast”.

He said in comments published by state news agency BPA that new directorates included one for media monitoring, another for media relations and one for social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Al Mawadh said there were “several procedures” that would be undertaken to correct inaccurate stories about Bahrain, without elaborating.

The IAA statement comes just days after Bahrain said it was expelling the Reuters correspondent in the Gulf kingdom.

Frederik Richter, who has been based in the capital Manama since 2008, was told to leave within a week after officials complained Reuters had lacked balance in its reporting during the recent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

In Bahrain, several journalists have been detained since protests began in February which have pitched Shi’ite Muslims, who form a majority of the island’s population, against the Sunni monarchy, which accused Shi’ite Iran of fomenting unrest.

Separately, four journalists from Bahrain’s only opposition newspaper pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of fabricating news about the security forces’ crackdown on anti-government protests in the Gulf island kingdom.

Al Wasat’s former editor-in-chief Mansoor al-Jamri, one of the four, told Reuters a judge had added to the charge of fabricating news “the intention of causing instability in Bahrain”, punishable by up to two years in jail.

Jamri said that under Bahraini law, the judge can impose a fine instead of a jail sentence on a defendant found guilty of the new charge.

“My response to the charges is that Al Wasat was targeted by a campaign of misinformation and it was attacked,” he told Reuters by telephone.

The case was adjourned until June 15 to give defence lawyers time to review the prosecution’s evidence, journalists and colleagues who attended the court session said.

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A Saudi crude propagandist explains Saudi counter revolution

NOVANEWS

Enjoy his reference to Saudi Arabia “leading” the Arab world.  This is like saying that Fouad Ajami speaks for Arabs.   “Saudi Arabia will not allow the political unrest in the region to destabilize the Arab monarchies — the Gulf states, Jordan and Morocco. In Yemen, the Saudis are insisting on an orderly transition of power and a dignified exit for President Ali Abdullah Saleh (a courtesy that was not extended to Hosni Mubarak, despite the former Egyptian president’s many years as a strong U.S. ally). To facilitate this handover, Riyadh is leading a diplomatic effort under the auspices of the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council. In Iraq, the Saudi government will continue to pursue a hard-line stance against the Maliki government, which it regards as little more than an Iranian puppet. In Lebanon, Saudi Arabia will act to check the growth of Hezbollah and to ensure that this Iranian proxy does not dominate the country’s political life. Regarding the widespread upheaval in Syria, the Saudis will work to ensure that any potential transition to a post-Assad era is as peaceful and as free of Iranian meddling as possible.”

Amid the Arab Spring, a U.S.-Saudi split

By Nawaf Obaid,

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA

A tectonic shift has occurred in the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Despite significant pressure from the Obama administration to remain on the sidelines, Saudi leaders sent troops into Manama in March to defend Bahrain’s monarchy and quell the unrest that has shaken that country since February. For more than 60 years, Saudi Arabia has been bound by an unwritten bargain: oil for security. Riyadh has often protested but ultimately acquiesced to what it saw as misguided U.S. policies. But American missteps in the region since Sept. 11, an ill-conceived response to the Arab protest movements and an unconscionable refusal to hold Israel accountable for its illegal settlement building have brought this arrangement to an end. As the Saudis recalibrate the partnership, Riyadh intends to pursue a much more assertive foreign policy, at times conflicting with American interests.

The backdrop for this change are the rise of Iranian meddling in the region and the counterproductive policies that the United States has pursued here since Sept. 11. The most significant blunder may have been the invasion of Iraq, which resulted in enormous loss of life and provided Iran an opening to expand its sphere of influence. For years, Iran’s leadership has aimed to foment discord while furthering its geopolitical ambitions. Tehran has long funded Hamas and Hezbollah; recently, its scope of attempted interference has broadened to include the affairs of Arab states from Yemen to Morocco. This month the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Gen. Hasan Firouzabadi, harshly criticized Riyadh over its intervention in Bahrain, claiming this act would spark massive domestic uprisings.

Such remarks are based more on wishful thinking than fact, but Iran’s efforts to destabilize its neighbors are tireless. As Riyadh fights a cold war with Tehran, Washington has shown itself in recent months to be an unwilling and unreliable partner against this threat. The emerging political reality is a Saudi-led Arab world facing off against the aggression of Iran and its non-state proxies.

Saudi Arabia will not allow the political unrest in the region to destabilize the Arab monarchies — the Gulf states, Jordan and Morocco. In Yemen, the Saudis are insisting on an orderly transition of power and a dignified exit for President Ali Abdullah Saleh (a courtesy that was not extended to Hosni Mubarak, despite the former Egyptian president’s many years as a strong U.S. ally). To facilitate this handover, Riyadh is leading a diplomatic effort under the auspices of the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council. In Iraq, the Saudi government will continue to pursue a hard-line stance against the Maliki government, which it regards as little more than an Iranian puppet. In Lebanon, Saudi Arabia will act to check the growth of Hezbollah and to ensure that this Iranian proxy does not dominate the country’s political life. Regarding the widespread upheaval in Syria, the Saudis will work to ensure that any potential transition to a post-Assad era is as peaceful and as free of Iranian meddling as possible.

Regarding Israel, Riyadh is adamant that a just settlement, based on King Abdullah’s proposed peace plan, be implemented. This includes a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. The United States has lost all credibility on this issue; after casting the sole vote in the U.N. Security Council against censuring Israel for its illegal settlement building, it can no longer act as an objective mediator. This act was a watershed in U.S.-Saudi relations, guaranteeing that Saudi leaders will not push for further compromise from the Palestinians, despite American pressure.

Saudi Arabia remains strong and stable, lending muscle to its invigorated foreign policy. Spiritually, the kingdom plays a unique role for the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims — more than 1 billion of whom are Sunni — as the birthplace of Islam and home of the two holiest cities. Politically, its leaders enjoy broad domestic support, and a growing nationalism has knitted the historically tribal country more closely together. This is largely why widespread protests, much anticipated by Western media in March, never materialized. As the world’s sole energy superpower and the de facto central banker of the global energy markets, Riyadh is the economic powerhouse of the Middle East, representing 25 percent of the combined gross domestic product of the Arab world. The kingdom has amassed more than $550 billion in foreign reserves and is spending more than $150 billion to improve infrastructure, public education, social services and health care.

To counter the threats posed by Iran and transnational terrorist networks, the Saudi leadership is authorizing more than $100 billion of additional military spending to modernize ground forces, upgrade naval capabilities and more. The kingdom is doubling its number of high-quality combat aircraft and adding 60,000 security personnel to the Interior Ministry forces. Plans are underway to create a “Special Forces Command,” based on the U.S. model, to unify the kingdom’s various special forces if needed for rapid deployment abroad.

Saudi Arabia has the will and the means to meet its expanded global responsibilities. In some issues, such as counterterrorism and efforts to fight money laundering, the Saudis will continue to be a strong U.S. partner. In areas in which Saudi national security or strategic interests are at stake, the kingdom will pursue its own agenda. With Iran working tirelessly to dominate the region, the Muslim Brotherhood rising in Egypt and unrest on nearly every border, there is simply too much at stake for the kingdom to rely on a security policy written in Washington, which has backfired more often than not and spread instability. The special relationship may never be the same, but from this transformation a more stable and secure Middle East can be born.

The writer is a senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research & Islamic Studies.

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Bahrain hosts the Fifth Feet so who cares what royal Zionist family does

NOVANEWS

 

“In Bahrain doctors and nurses who treated protesters injured by security forces have vanished. Also in Bahrain, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the former head of the Centre for Human Rights and a fierce critic of the regime, was seized by armed men in the middle of the night. A month later he reappeared, tortured and is now facing trial.”

Human-rights abuses

Nothing new under the sun

Some dictators may have fallen, but human-rights abuses continue

The economist

Tunisian plainclothes back in action

THE world really can become a better place—that seemed to be the belief of the protesters who have thronged streets in the Middle East. Sadly, those who spoke this week at the Oslo Freedom Forum, a glittering gathering of veterans of human-rights struggles, instead attested to the wisdom of Ecclesiastes: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done.”

Take the impact of technology. Facebook and other social media services have created opportunities for dissidents and revolutionaries to organise and voice their opposition. But those in power have discovered that they, too, can use the internet, in their case to stifle freedom of speech. The dream of all dictators is to know as much about you as Google does, says Jacob Mchangama, a Danish human-rights lawyer.

Authoritarian states have also learned how to use the language of human rights to legitimise their oppressive tactics, for instance by claiming to defend religious groups. But their tools of abuse—violence, torture and censorship—remain depressingly familiar. The grand tradition of making opponents “disappear,” perfected by the military dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s, is still flourishing today. In Bahrain doctors and nurses who treated protesters injured by security forces have vanished. Also in Bahrain, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the former head of the Centre for Human Rights and a fierce critic of the regime, was seized by armed men in the middle of the night. A month later he reappeared, tortured and is now facing trial.

Post-revolutionary leaders can find it all too easy to slip into the abusive habits of their predecessors. In Oslo Lina Ben Mhenni, a Tunisian blogger, talked of her fear that the transitional government will use the methods of the ousted regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. When fresh demonstrations broke out in Tunisia in early May, police used tear gas and live ammunition. Journalists were beaten and had their equipment seized.

Nor do governments have a monopoly on violence. From Jamaica to South Africa, gays and lesbians continue to be the victims of vicious intolerance. Lesbians are raped in an effort to “correct” their sexuality. At the Oslo conference the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, the first group of its kind on the Caribbean island, said it was remarkable that only one of its founders had been murdered in the past decade, such is the violence typically directed at its people.

Yet there was also brighter news in Oslo. As those in power become more inventive in their clampdowns, so do their opponents. Some have started to help victims make their experiences public. In Malawi children who have been raped or forced into marriage are encouraged to write letters to Radio Timweni, a national news programme, which then interviews them. In the age of Facebook and Google, the truth remains the most powerful weapon of all.

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Sectarian agenda of the Arab counter-revolution

NOVANEWS

Comrade Joseph:  “The ongoing uprisings in the Arab world today, as is clear to all observers, do not distinguish between republics and monarchies. Indeed, in addition to the republics, demonstrations have been ongoing in Morocco, Jordan, Oman, and Saudi Arabia (and more modestly in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates), despite the brutal suppression of the major Bahraini uprising by a combined mercenary force dispatched by the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council led by Saudi Arabia.   The situation in Arab countries today is characterised as much by the counter-revolution sponsored by the Saudi regime and the United States as it is by the uprisings of the Arab peoples against US-sponsored dictatorial regimes.

While the US-Saudi axis was caught unprepared for the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, they quickly made contingency plans to counter the uprisings elsewhere, especially in Bahrain and Oman, but also in Jordan and Yemen, as well as take control of the uprisings in Libya (at first) and later in Syria. Attempts to take control of the Yemeni uprising have had mixed results so far.

Part of the US-Saudi strategy has been to strengthen religious sectarianism, especially hostility to shiism, in the hope of stemming the tide of the uprisings.   This sectarianism targets not only Iran but also Arab shias in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and even in Oman and Syria, while simultaneously encouraging anti-Christian zealotry in Egypt. The Sadat and Mubarak regimes encouraged anti-Christian zealots for decades. Part of the ongoing counter-revolutionary efforts is to resuscitate these sectarian forces to break Egyptian unity and bring about chaos.

The future of the Arab uprisings

The US, with its allies, has already begun plans to subvert the Arab Spring to save its own regional hegemony.

The US and its Arab allies are scrambling to control the outcome of the Arab Spring in a way that will prolong their regional dominance [GALLO/GETTY]

A specter is haunting the Arab world – the specter of democratic revolution. All the powers of the old Arab world have entered into a holy alliance with each other and the United States to exorcise this specter: king and sultan, emir and president, neoliberals and zionists.

While Marx and Engels used similar words in 1848 in reference to European regimes and the impending communist revolutions that were defeated in the Europe of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there is much hope in the Arab world that these words would apply more successfully to the ongoing democratic Arab uprisings.

In the case of Europe, Marx ended up having to write the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon in 1852 to analyse the defeat of the 1848 revolution in France. He explained how revolutions could overthrow an existing ruling class but would not necessarily lead to the rule of the oppressed. He analysed the process by which Louis Napoleon was able to hijack the revolution and proclaim himself emperor, restoring monarchy to republican and revolutionary France, as his uncle Napoleon Bonaparte had done before him to the glorious French Revolution of 1789.

Since the end of World War I, European powers and the United States have appointed and removed Arab kings at will. Their actions were always taken to ensure the persistence of these dictatorial monarchies, rather than their removal, and to strengthen Euro-American control and hegemony over the region.

The only seeming exception to this rule was the French removal of King Faisal from the throne of Syria in 1919, ending the short-lived Syrian independence, only for the British to extend to him the throne of Iraq, which he assumed that same year, with the inauguration of British rule in that country.

This Euro-American power would include the granting of Abdullah the throne of Jordan in 1921 and the removal of his son King Talal from it, replacing him with his own son Hussein in 1952-53. The French would dethrone Mohammed V of Morocco in 1953 but would restore him again in 1955 when opposition to his removal weakened their control.

The British would remove Sultan Said bin Taymur in 1970 and replace him with his son Sultan Qabus, who was better able, with the help of the Iranian Shah, the Jordanian King, British and American military support, to quell the republican revolution in Dhofar.

Even the palace coup of 1995 by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani of Qatar to oust his father, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al Thani, and replace him, received American support and enthusiasm, as it was carried out to strengthen, rather than weaken, the Qatari monarchy.

Imperialism and orientalism

Since World War II, but more diligently since the mid 1950s, the United States has followed two simultaneous strategies to exercise its control over the Arab peoples across Arab countries. The first, and the one most relevant to Arabs, was based on the early US recognition and realisation (like Britain, France, and Italy before it) that Arabs, like all other peoples worldwide, wanted democracy and freedom and would struggle for them in every possible way.

For the United States, this necessitated the establishment of security and repressive apparatuses in Arab countries, which the US would train, fund, and direct in order to suppress these democratic desires and efforts in support of dictatorial regimes whose purpose has always been and continues to be the defense of US security and business interests in the region.

These interests consist principally in securing and maintaining US control of the oil resources of the region, ensuring profits for American business, and strengthening the Israeli settler-colony.

Much of this was of course propelled by the beginning of the Cold War and the US strategy to suppress all forms of real and imagined communist-leaning forces around the world, which included any and all democratic demands for change in the region.

This strategy, which was formalised in the Eisenhower Doctrine issued in 1957, continues through the present. The Eisenhower Doctrine, issued on 5 January 1957, as a speech by the US president, declared the Soviet Union, not Israel or Western-supported regional dictatorships, as the enemy of the people of the Middle East.

To neutralise president Gamal Abd al Nasir’s wide appeal across the Arab world, Eisenhower authorised the US military “to secure and protect the territorial integrity and political independence of such nations, requesting such aid against overt armed aggression from any nation controlled by international communism.”

In contrast with its actual anti-democratic policies around the world, the US has always insisted on marketing itself as a force for global democracy. In line with this public relations campaign, the second strategy the US used to advance its anti-democratic policies in the Arab World was the importation of European orientalism, which acquired a central place in post-war US academia.

State Department funding assisted by funding from private foundations would solidify orientalist research that asserted that Arabs and Muslims were incompatible with democracy and that more often than not they love and prefer dictatorial rule and that it would be culturally imperialist for the US to impose democracy on them, leading to the conclusion that it would be best to uphold their dictatorial rulers whose repressive policies, we are told, are inspired by Islam and Arab culture.

Between the billions spent on repressing the Arab peoples and the millions spent to explain academically and in the American media the need to repress them, this two-pronged US strategy in the region since World War II has been coming apart at an accelerated rate since January 2011, a development that continues to cause panic in the Obama White House and manifests in the incessant fumbling of his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, who is much despised across the Arab world.

If president Jimmy Carter infamously declared on the eve of the Iranian Revolution in December 1977 that the Iran of the Shah was “an island of stability in one of the most troubled areas of the world”, Hillary Clinton would declare Mubarak’s Egypt as “stable” days before he was overthrown.

Subverting democracy

The anti-democratic US campaign in the region started with the first coup d’état the US sponsored when it overthrew democratic rule in Syria in 1949 and was soon followed by the restoration of the Shah in neighbouring Iran in 1953 in a CIA-sponsored coup that overthrew the government of prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh and suppressed the democratic movement in Iran.

As the US was following similar strategies elsewhere in its expanding empire, especially in Guatemala where it sponsored an anti-democratic coup against the reform government of Jacobo Arbenz and unleashed a wave of terror that murdered hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans for the next four decades, it formalised its new strategy in the Arab world through the Eisenhower Doctrine.

Soon after, the US went into high gear suppressing democracy in the region, starting with intervention in Lebanon on the side of right-wing sectarian forces in 1957, moving to engineer the palace coup launched by the young King Hussein against the democratically elected parliament the same year in Jordan, and proceeding to help the Baath party assume power in 1963 in Iraq and massacre thousands in the process.

The defeat of Nasir in the 1967 war was followed by US support for the most repressive Sudanese regime ever under Jafar Numeiri and the suppression of the revolution across the Arabian Gulf in the early seventies with the assistance of the Shah’s forces and the Jordanian army, which stabilised the region for US oil profits and began the road to secure Israel’s supremacy.

In the meantime, the removal of Arab monarchies from power and replacing them with republics would take place through the mechanism of military coups, which, unlike Euro-American interventions, had much popular support. Beginning with the removal of King Farouk of Egypt in 1952 by the Free Officers, the removal of Arab monarchies would proceed with the overthrow of the Iraqi King and the Hashemite royal family in 1958, the Yemeni monarchy in 1962, and ended with the overthrow of the Libyan monarchy in 1969 by Gaddafi.

All other Arab monarchies have persisted, with massive American, French, and British financial, economic, military, and security support, despite a number of threats to these thrones over the decades. While only two monarchies survive outside the Arabian Peninsula, which only managed to lose its Yemeni monarch, all other Arab regimes have a republican form of government.

The US-Saudi axis

The ongoing uprisings in the Arab world today, as is clear to all observers, do not distinguish between republics and monarchies. Indeed, in addition to the republics, demonstrations have been ongoing in Morocco, Jordan, Oman, and Saudi Arabia (and more modestly in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates), despite the brutal suppression of the major Bahraini uprising by a combined mercenary force dispatched by the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council led by Saudi Arabia.

The situation in Arab countries today is characterised as much by the counter-revolution sponsored by the Saudi regime and the United States as it is by the uprisings of the Arab peoples against US-sponsored dictatorial regimes.

While the US-Saudi axis was caught unprepared for the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, they quickly made contingency plans to counter the uprisings elsewhere, especially in Bahrain and Oman, but also in Jordan and Yemen, as well as take control of the uprisings in Libya (at first) and later in Syria. Attempts to take control of the Yemeni uprising have had mixed results so far.

Part of the US-Saudi strategy has been to strengthen religious sectarianism, especially hostility to shiism, in the hope of stemming the tide of the uprisings.

This sectarianism targets not only Iran but also Arab shias in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and even in Oman and Syria, while simultaneously encouraging anti-Christian zealotry in Egypt. The Sadat and Mubarak regimes encouraged anti-Christian zealots for decades. Part of the ongoing counter-revolutionary efforts is to resuscitate these sectarian forces to break Egyptian unity and bring about chaos.

If the Eisenhower Doctrine insisted in 1957 that the Soviets, not Israel, were the main enemy of the Arab peoples, today the US insists that it is Iran and shiism who are their main enemy. With the US and Saudi-led suppression of the people of Bahrain, the hope is that this American-sponsored sectarian hatred and encouragement of sunni Arab chauvinism would in one swoop render Iran (and not the Arab dictators, their Israeli ally, or their US sponsor) the enemy of Arabs, if not the only enemy of Arabs, and delegitimise at the same time the uprisings in countries with a substantial number of Arab shiites.

The US sponsored this project several years ago with limited success. It would be best articulated by Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who warned in 2004 of a “shia crescent” threatening the region. The US and the Saudis are hoping that it could be more successful today.

The French and the British have continued to play important neo-colonial roles in the region, economically, militarily, and in the realm of security “cooperation”. They have strengthened their position by increasing their security and diplomatic “assistance” to their allies among Arab dictators.

The US-supported repression in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, and in the United Arab Emirates goes hand in hand with the Euro-American-Qatari intervention in Libya to safeguard the oil wells for Western companies once a new government is in place.

The hijacking of the Libyan uprising and the defection of Gaddafi’s governing elite of politicians overnight to the side of the “revolutionaries” not only casts more than one shadow of suspicion on those claiming to lead the Libyan uprising against Gaddafi’s horrific dictatorship, but also on the Western powers who were Gaddafi’s major allies in the last decade until their recent defection.

The situation today is one of a struggle between the formidable US-Saudi axis, which is the main anti-democratic force in the region, and the pro-democracy uprisings.

The US-Saudi strategy is two-fold: massive repression of those Arab uprisings that can be defeated, and co-optation of those that could not be. How successful the second part will be depends on how co-optable the pro-democracy forces prove to be.

While it is true that revolutionaries make their own history, as Karl Marx famously put it, “they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.”

Guarding against the co-optation of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions is the hope of all Arabs today.

The US-Saudi axis will use every mechanism at its disposal to do so, not least of which will be the forthcoming elections in Egypt and Tunisia. The great Arab hope is that Tunisia and Egypt will write a new Revolutionary and Democratic Manifesto for the Arab peoples.

The concern and the fear remain, however, that we may end up with less of a Communist Manifesto and more of an Eighteenth Brumaire.

Joseph Massad is Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University in New York.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

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Not on Aljazeera: A Qatari diplomat

NOVANEWS

 

“On March 25, four former cooks and housekeepers for Essa Mohammed Al Manai, a senior Qatari diplomat, filed a civil lawsuit alleging they were paid less than 70 cents per hour and “forced to work around the clock” at Al Manai’s six-bedroom home in Bethesda, Maryland. The suit also claimed that Al Manai sexually assaulted one of the women.  Al Manai could not be reached for comment, and the Embassy of Qatar did not respond to a request for comment.”

Strauss-Kahn case raises issue of diplomat abuse in U.S.


International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn appears in Manhattan Criminal Court during his arraignment in New York May 16, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By Brian Grow

(Reuters) – The case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is an extreme example of alleged sexual assault by an elite member of the international community. But the charges against him also shine a light on how diplomats and international officials have been accused of abusing maids or nannies in the United States, and have largely escaped prosecution.

Foreign diplomats have been the subject of at least 11 civil lawsuits and one criminal prosecution related to abuse of domestic workers in the last five years, according to a Reuters review of U.S. federal court records. The allegations range from slave-like work conditions to rape, and the vast majority of the diplomats in these cases avoided prison terms and financial penalties.

Strauss-Kahn, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, was charged on Sunday with sexually assaulting a hotel maid. He does not have full diplomatic immunity, but IMF rules grant him immunity limited to acts performed in his “official capacity.” He was denied bail Monday and sent to jail in New York. He did not enter a plea, and his lawyer said he intends to plead not guilty.

A common theme in many of the incidents involving alleged abuse of maids and nannies is the elevated legal status of the foreign officials, which some experts say can lead to an improper sense of superiority and make them believe they are unaccountable. Also, most of the alleged victims come from countries where women have few rights, making them easy prey. “In short, diplomatic immunity means diplomatic impunity,” says Mark Lagon, former head of the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Even when judges in the United States have ruled against diplomats, the officials have recourse to another option most other defendants do not: They can simply leave the country.

And in many cases, despite pleas from the State Department for action, government officials in the diplomats’ home countries do not pursue sanctions. “There’s no accountability,” said Janie Chuang, an assistant professor at the Washington College of Law at American University in Washington. “You can totally get away with it.”

The IMF said its immunity provisions are not applicable in Strauss-Kahn’s case because he was visiting New York on personal business. Had he been able to leave the United States and fly to his native France, his fate likely would have turned on a different issue — extradition. The two countries do not have an extradition treaty, and there is some troubled recent history between the United States and France.

“Two words: Roman Polanski,” said Martina Vandenberg, a partner with law firm Jenner & Block in Washington and an expert in abuse cases involving foreign diplomats. She was referring to Polish-French film director Roman Polanski, who has avoided prosecution in the United States for more than 20 years on charges of having sex with a minor.

FORESHADOWING STRAUSS-KAHN

In July, 2008, a lawsuit was filed against an attache in the Embassy of Kuwait, Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al Naser, and his family, parts of which foreshadowed the allegations against Strauss-Kahn. Their former maid, Regina Leo, an Indian immigrant, alleged that she was forced to work as much as 18 hours per day and was sexually abused. According to court documents, on one occasion in 2005, Leo said that Al Naser “forcibly embraced and pinned (Leo), twisting her arm to control her, and then began kissing and fondling her … Despite (Leo’s) resistance, (Al Naser) forced himself upon her and raped her.”

Al Naser did not respond to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, and is believed to have left the United States. He could not be reached, and a spokesman for the Embassy of Kuwait declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

Another case, filed in April 2007 by a Tanzanian maid against Alan Mzengi, a minister-counselor at the Tanzanian Embassy, and his wife, Stella, helped spark an inquiry into alleged abuse by foreign diplomats in the United States. A July, 2008, study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that 42 employees of foreign diplomats alleged they had been abused. The actual number was probably higher, the GAO found, because domestic workers are often fearful of reporting abuse.

The maid in the Tanzanian case, Zipora Mazengo, alleged that the Mzengis held her as “a virtual prisoner in their residence, stripping her of her passport, refusing to permit her to leave the house unaccompanied.” According to the suit, which was filed in federal court in Washington, they paid her nothing for four years and forced her to work in their catering business. She claimed she escaped after making a desperate plea for help to a customer of the catering business, who provided cab fare.

A U.S. magistrate judge awarded Mazengo more than $1 million in back pay and attorneys’ fees. Alan Mzengi moved to cancel the award, arguing “it was not necessary to respond because he was a diplomat” with immunity under the Vienna Convention. In April 2008, a federal judge denied the motion in part, finding that the Mzengis’ catering business was exempt from diplomatic immunity. But instead of paying the award, the Mzengis left the country.

A December 2009 State Department cable made available by Wiki Leaks, and provided to Reuters by a third party, shows the U.S. government has asked the Tanzanian government to investigate the case. “While payment of the lost wages to Ms. Mazengo is our first priority, we also hope that any diplomat who has treated his domestic staff in such an abusive manner would face appropriate sanction upon his return home,” the cable said. In an e-mail, a State Department official said discussions with the Tanzanian government are ongoing. The Tanzanian Embassy did not respond to a request for comment.

The State Department has said it plans to get tough on alleged abuse of domestic workers by foreign diplomats. “Whether they’re diplomats or national emissaries of whatever kind, we all must be accountable for the treatment of the people that we employ,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a speech on February 1 to the Interagency Taskforce to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

EXEMPTION FROM IMMUNITY

The Vienna Convention, ratified by the United States in 1972, contains an exemption from immunity for “action relating to any professional or commercial activity exercised by the diplomatic agent in the receiving State outside his official functions.” But that exemption did not protect Araceli Montuya, a former maid in the household of Lebanese Ambassador Antoine Chedid. On April 26, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington threw out a case in which Montuya alleged that Chedid and his wife underpaid and verbally abused her. The judge’s decision relied, in part, on a State Department filing in a separate case, which found that when diplomats hire domestic workers, “they are not engaging in ‘commercial activity’ as that term is used in the Diplomatic Relations Convention.”

In a rare criminal case that began as an FBI investigation into alleged domestic worker abuse, a World Bank economist from Tanzania — who, like Strauss-Kahn, qualifies for only limited immunity related to official duties — pleaded guilty in March, 2010, to two counts of making false statements. The economist, Anne Margreth Bakilana, hired a Tanzanian woman, Sophia Kiwanuka, to work in her home in Falls Church, Virginia, and improperly withheld Kiwanuka’s wages and threatened to send her back to Tanzania, according to court records. Unaware that she had been taped by Kiwanuka at the request of the FBI, Bakilana then lied to federal investigators about her statements. She was sentenced to two years probation and fined $9,400. A civil case is ongoing in federal court in Washington. Jonathan Simms, an attorney for Bakilana, said he believed she was not longer in the United States. A World Bank spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Domestic workers continue to allege abuse by foreign diplomats. On March 25, four former cooks and housekeepers for Essa Mohammed Al Manai, a senior Qatari diplomat, filed a civil lawsuit alleging they were paid less than 70 cents per hour and “forced to work around the clock” at Al Manai’s six-bedroom home in Bethesda, Maryland. The suit also claimed that Al Manai sexually assaulted one of the women.

Al Manai could not be reached for comment, and the Embassy of Qatar did not respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Brian Grow; Editing by Amy Stevens and Eddie Evans)

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Fatwawaws: having sex with dead bodies

NOVANEWS

 

“”The Imam, whose name is Zamzami Abdelbari, said that marriage remains valid even after death, which does not cancel the marriage link. He took as evidence a Koranic verse which says that Muslims believers will go to Paradise with their wives…Sheikh Zamzami said that the husband has the right to have sex with his dead wife. He added that the husband may wash the body of his dead wife and have sex with her.   He said that the woman also has the same right but failed to explain how a woman can manage to perform sex with the corps of her dead husband.””

FATWA: NECROPHILIA IS AN ACCEPTABLE PRACTICE IN ISLAM

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Washington  / Morocco Board News—An Imam in Morocco issued a fatwa stating that necrophilia is “Halal” or religiously acceptable practice in Islam.  He said that a husband has the right to have sex with his dead wife.
The Imam, whose name is Zamzami Abdelbari, said that marriage remains valid even after death, which does not cancel the marriage link. He took as evidence a Koranic verse which says that Muslims believers will go to Paradise with their wives…

Sheikh Zamzami  said that the husband has the right to have sex with his dead wife. He added that the husband may wash the body of his dead wife and have sex with her.
He said that the woman also has the same right but failed to explain how a woman can manage to perform sex with the corps of her dead husband. 

However, cheikh Zamzami, tempered his most unusual fatwa by stating that necrophilia, though Halal is a disgusting act that would be best avoided.

 

See: www.maroccoboard.com

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BAHRAIN: This is a reform that Obama would praise

NOVANEWS

“Students at the state-funded University of Bahrain say they have been forced this week to either sign a pledge of allegaiance to the government promising not to speak out against the Persian Gulf kingdom’s monarchy or faceexpulsion.”

BAHRAIN: Student details, speaks out against government pledge

Pledgephoto

 

Students at the state-funded University of Bahrain say they have been forced this week to either sign a pledge of allegaiance to the government promising not to speak out against the Persian Gulf kingdom’s monarchy or face expulsion.

The pledge was apparently distributed to students by campus police and security officials as they returned to classes Sunday. It comes after anti-government protests in February, mass arrests and charges against opposition activists. At least four activists have been sentenced to death for killing two officers during the protests, while others weresentenced earlier this week to one- to three-year terms in connection with the demonstrations. Many of those who oppose the Sunni-led monarchy, including those in detention, belong to the Shiite majority.

Timeline: Repression in Bahrain

Bahraini government spokesmen did not return calls concerning the pledge Wednesday. The Bahrain News Agency previously reported that hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis allegedly volunteered to sign similar pledges to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa earlier this year.

Babylon & Beyond spoke with a student at the university and obtained a copy of the pledge distributed by this week in Arabic, which says:

“In accordance to this document I, the signatory below, confirm that I am a student attending the University of Bahrain, that my full allegiance is with the leadership of the Kingdom of Bahrain represented in His Majesty The King Hamad Bin Essa Al Khalifa, the King of the country may God guard and bless him and the wise government.

I pledge to respect the laws and regulations of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and the laws, regulations and the provisions of the University of Bahrain, that I have read (List of Misconduct for the students of the University of Bahrain), and pledge not to organize or participate in any event or activity that is not permitted or does not solely relate to the students or to their academic interests, inside or outside of the university campus, events and activities that would harm the reputation of The Kingdom of Bahrain domestically or internationally.I am also fully aware that I only bear 6% of my total educational expenses, about 200 Dinars annually, while the country bears 94% of my total educational expenses, about 4000 Dinars annually. Based on this, I acknowledge that not signing this document means I do not wish to continue my education at the University of Bahrain. If I do sign, I fully understand that if I commit any action that contradicts any of the provisions of this document, the administration of the University of Bahrain will have the right to take any disciplinary action they deem suitable against me including and up to final and immediate suspension from the University of Bahrain.” 

An 18-year-old Shiite student at the univesrity who asked not to be named for fear he might face arrest or punishment for speaking out, said he was asked to sign the pledge Tuesday. He talked with Babylon & Beyond on Wednesday about what he plans to do.

Q: What will happen if you do not sign the pledge?

A: The boss of the university, he told all of us you have to sign it or you can’t study here.

Q: What are you studying?

A: Banking and finance.

Q: Did you sign it?

A: I have not signed it yet, but I have tomorrow to sign it or they will kick me out of the university.

Q: What does your family say?

A: My family wants me to sign it. There are no other universities who will accept me if they kick me out.

Q: What happens if you do not sign it?

A: If we decide to not sign it, they call us to go to the police station and we can’t get out from there except if we sign it. That has happened to some other students, they were at the police station seven hours until they signed, then they told them to go.

Q: Did you participate in the anti-government protests in February?

A: yes, I was at the (Pearl Square) roundabout.

Q: Did you have any trouble with the university after that, or for posting anti-government information on Facebook or Twitter?

A: No.

Q: What happens if you sign it?

A: After you sign it, you can’t talk about the king or anything about the government. In the library you can’t use computers for anything against the government. You can’t even talk about it. They put cameras in there to see and hear anybody who talks about the government. They want to show the world that the students are with the government. We are forced to accept this because we want to study and we want to work.

— Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo

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Why They *Still* Hate Us

NOVANEWS

 

John Glaser

Pew Research Center today:

As President Obama prepares to make a major address on the tumultuous changes spreading throughout the Middle East, a new survey finds that the rise of pro-democracy movements has not led to an improvement in America’s image in the region. Instead, in key Arab nations and in other predominantly Muslim countries, views of the U.S. remain negative, as they have been for nearly a decade. Indeed, in Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan, views are even more negative than they were one year ago.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Here are millions of people standing up against their tyrannical governments, and the major force blocking their success in all but a few cases is vigorous U.S. support for authoritarianism. “And in countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Pakistan,” the report specifies, “most say their own governments cooperate too much with the U.S.”

About a year ago, in a Brookings Institution poll of opinion in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates, results were quite similar. It showed that Arab populations view the U.S. as the greatest threat to their region, and when asked what policy changes would most improve their opinion of the U.S., the top four responses were an Israel-Palestine peace agreement, withdrawal from Iraq, stopping aid to Israel, and withdrawal from the Arabian Peninsula.

To boot, Reuters reported yesterday that “Almost 90 percent of men polled in contested districts in southern Afghanistan believe foreign military operations are bad for them, according to research by the International Council on Security and Development, or ICOS.” The air of confusion and consternation at this is even more noticeable in the Reuters report than in the Pew report. “Despite battlefield gains against insurgents,” it says, “the U.S. is failing to win over Afghans.” Translation: despite the reign of constant horror, abuse, and embarrassment the U.S. has unleashed on this virtually defenseless country, they still refuse to admire us!

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Ron Paul: U.S. Occupation of Pakistan Is Next

NOVANEWS

 

Eric Garris

Ron Paul, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, said we are moving toward war and occupation in Pakistan.

 

 

 

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Farewell, Alan Bock

NOVANEWS

 

Matt Barganier

 

Though my interaction with Alan Bock was fairly limited and strictly virtual—emailing occasional editorial queries or kudos after particularly strong pieces—I was a longtime admirer of his. I knew Mr. Bock’s work before I had ever heard of Antiwar.com, as I had a (Koch-subsidized!!!) subscription to Liberty back in the late ’90s. My views on foreign policy, drug laws, and other matters were undoubtedly shaped by his understated yet forceful commentaries for that magazine and, later, this Web site. And though it must be difficult for even optimists to keep their cool, much less their high spirits, while chronicling injustice and idiocy every day, he seemed to pull it off. Treat yourself to a stroll through his archives, then try finding another author who was so consistently and prolifically correct about the American empire.

One surprising thing I’ve learned from various tributes is that our late columnist wrote a book on Hank Williams, a fact that warms the heart of this Alabamian. Here’s to you, Mr. Bock:

 

 

Justin Raimondo

Alan Bock, editorial writer and opion page editor at the Orange County Register’seditorial page,  and a longtime columnist for Antiwar.com — died today, shortly after entering a hospice. He was 67.

Alan was the author of four books: Ecology Action Guide (1970), The Gospel Life of Hank Williams (1976), Ambush at Ruby Ridge (1995) and Waiting to Inhale: The Politics of Medical Marijuana (2000).

Alan  was a very personable guy: easygoing, he exuded an aura of benevolence and good will. He was such a nice guy that, back when we were just starting out, he agreed to write a column for us for no payment: he was the longest-running columnist second only to myself, with his first piece posted in 1999.

He worked at the Register for nearly 30 years, and his was a respected voice in the editorial department: a hardcore libertarian, he was nevertheless very far from a humorless ideologue concerned only with politics. As he wrote in his farewell columnfor the Register:

“There are plenty of things more important than politics: your family and friends and treating them right, the search for spiritual meaning in an often confusing and ambiguous world, art, music, science, simple enjoyment of the good things in life, struggling to make good choices rather than destructive ones, and supporting your children in their intellectual endeavors and at soccer and softball games. All these challenges, however, can be handled better – not necessarily easily, but better – in an atmosphere of personal liberty and freedom to make one’s own choices than in a repressive regime that makes choices for you and forces them on you.”

Alan’s Antiwar.com columns combine a reportorial respect for the facts with a thoroughgoing application of the libertarian principle of nonintervention in the affairs of other nations. His constancy (he was never late with his column), and his devotion to the idea that peace is not only desirable but possible, made him one of our most valued contributors.

He will be greatly missed.

 

James Bovard

Following up on Justin’s post on Alan Bock going into a hospice –

Alan Bock has done great work for freedom. His jovial good nature is rare in this biz. He can be a hardliner without being abrasive or bitter. In the waning days of the last century (12/27/2000), shortly after the Bush legal team had hustled a victory out of the Supreme Court, he sent me an email: “Dubya will make us free, right? — Alan.” This was typical of how he relied on irony instead of wrath.

The last time I saw Alan, he was visiting DC for a freedom-oriented conference in 2007 or 2008. He and I caught up for dinner at a hamburger joint in Arlington. The beer was better than the burgers, so I put away a few. At one point, Alan casually tossed out the smartest quote I ever heard from a monarch – King Edward’s quip that “a man should never miss a chance to hit the loo.”

Alan did the best book on Ruby Ridge – his 1995 classic, Ambush at Ruby Ridge book – subtitled How Govt Agents Set Randy Weaver Up and Took his Family Down. His 1993 articles were far better than anything else I saw on the subject that year. Alan provided the philosophical and legal framework – as well as the damning facts. Alan never hemmed or hawed or made excuse for killer feds. His work and his courage helped Americans recognize the outrage that had occurred in the mountains of northern Idaho.

I hope things can go as well as possible for he and his wife and family in the time remaining.

 

Alan Bock Enters Hospice

 

Justin Raimondo

Our good friend Alan Bock, a senior editorial writer and former editorial page editor for the Orange County Register. and a regular columnist for Antiwar.com, hasentered a hospice: he has been ill with cancer for some time.

Our prayers go out to him and his wife Jenn.

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