Thursday, July 20, 2017

How did the Economist document its statement that Hizbullah is involved in drug smuggling? I will tell you.

Of course, the journalism of the Economist, especially on the Middle East, has been steadily deteriorating over the years.  Its correspondent in Beirut is now indistinguishable form other Western correspondents in Beirut (which was not the case a decade or more ago).  Look at this article which blames the drug smuggling of Captagon to Hizbullah: "But an investigation by the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University concluded in 2015 that the only faction systematically involved in producing the drug was Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Lebanese militia." Investigation, here is the paper cry the GWU's Institute of Middle East Studies.  There is no investigating whatsoever, and the paper merely cites previously published material, which in turn did not "inevestigate" the matter and did not cite one credible source.  Here is what the Institute of Middle East Studies cite: "Elizabeth Picard’s chapter on the political economy of Lebanon during and post-civil war provide a relatively clear and concise background on the relationship between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government, as well as a description of Hezbollah’s record of involvement with the drug economy.57 A joint article by Boaz Ganor and Miri Wernli takes this history and brings it to the present issue of Captagon, connecting Hezbollah’s activities in the Bekaa Valley with production of the drug in the region following the 2006 war with Israel."  Picard does not in turn one source of her chapter the book edited by Steve Hydemann, War, Institutions, and Social Change in the Middle East.  She cites the pro-Saudi newspaper, Al-Hayat, and rumors.  And I never understand why and how do scholars "investigate" financing of terrorism or matters of drug trade and such.  These are issue for lousy journalism and lousy journalism are better suited for this type of writing.    And Picard, whose previous work on Lebanon I have respected, talks about some weird association of Hizbullah being involved with a `Alawite party in Tripoli in drug, when that party was closer to Amal Movemnet.But what about the second source cited by the Institute?  What about The article by Ganor and Wernli? Here is what the article says about it: "While no direct connection between Hezbollah and Captagon within Syria has been uncovered, there is enough correlated evidence to say there is a high probability that Hezbollah is one of the major Captagon producers and traffickers. Although Hezbollah likely is the major producer and distributor in the area, there is significant evidence suggesting that other actors in the region are producing smaller quantities.  Hezbollah has a long history of actively participating in the production and sale of illicit drugs. Hezbollah’s home state, Lebanon, has been both a transit point for drugs moving from the eastern to western markets, as well as a source location for hashish and opium.47...This, combined with their prolific involvement in the country’s civil war, suggests a correlation between this past activity and the current production out of Syria. Additionally, Hezbollah has an established global network and experience in managing the logistics necessary to maintain not only its fighting forces, but its fundraising and humanitarian efforts. Hezbollah’s experience and resources make it the ideal organization to set up and manage the operations necessary for a Captagon enterprise to be successful."  With this we now can know something not only about documentation by the journalism of the Economist but also about the research standards of the George Washington University's Institute of Middle East Studies.   Also, what is striking about this genre of writing about the topic of Hizbullah and drugs is that NONE OF THOSE SOURCES EVER MENTION that Nasrallah personally made speeches against the proliferation of drugs in Shi`ite areas and against Captagon.  Furthermore, those article politically conveniently leave out a major fact about the topic: that many of the drug dealers of the Biqa` Valley are in fact politically aligned with Amal and not with Hizbullah. But what the hell: Saudi and Israeli propaganda want to drag Hizbullah into it.  Having said all that: I am not denying or asserting but merely stating that I have not seen evidence, and I encountered before how lousy Israeli propaganda used to make unfounded allegation that Arafat and the PLO were involved in drugs in Lebanon (when it was the Syrian regime and its intelligence and army who were involved).  For a sobering treatment of this issue, read the (journalistic) book by Jonathan V Marshall, The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War, and the International Drug Traffic, " published by Stanford UP.

PS The sources for Picard and all the rest on this is clear: the propaganda apparatus of Hariri family in Lebanon and the Saudi regime media. They have been claiming this along with Israeli and Zionist media. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

And now for a sobering analysis from Istanbul in...the Washington Times

"“They want to convert all of Syria to Shiism".  That pretty much sums up the situation. Thanks for listening.  

US State Department report on terrorism: its section on Hizbullah

So the report (in chapter 2, the section on Lebanon) calls Hizbullah the biggest terrorist threat in Lebanon and is listed as the first terrorist threat to Israel (in the section on the Israeli occupation state), and yet: look what it lists as terrorist incidents in Lebanon in the last year:
"2016 Terrorist Incidents: Lebanon suffered from a number of terrorist incidents in 2016, ranging in type and alleged perpetrator. Five of the most significant events are listed below:
  • On January 8, Syrian militants affiliated with ISIS conducted a drive-by shooting at the house of an ISF Information Branch officer near the town of Aarsal. The killing was reportedly in retaliation for the officer’s undercover work against ISIS in Aarsal.
  • On April 12, unknown militants assassinated a senior Fatah official with a bomb outside Ain el-Helweh, Lebanon’s largest and most volatile Palestinian camp.
  • On June 12, a bomb exploded outside a Blom Bank location in downtown Beirut, damaging the bank’s structure, but causing no injuries. The bomb was widely considered to be a message from Hizballah to the banking sector over implementation of Central Bank circulars focused on Hizballah.
  • On June 27, a series of eight suicide bombings killed five people and wounded at least 28 others in the Christian village of al Qaa in the Bekaa valley. It is unknown who perpetrated the bombings.
  • On August 31, a bomb outside Zahle killed one person and injured several others in the Bekaa Valley. The bombing was thought to be targeting Shia participants traveling to an Ashura celebration event in Southern Lebanon."
PS And not that the bulk of terrorism is by groups opposed to Hizbullah.

NYT's Ben Hubbard's propaganda work for Muhammad bin Salman

He has determined (based on anecdotal evidence in an article in the Times about cellphones) that Muhammad bin Salman is wildly popular: "His programs, including increasing entertainment opportunitiesinside the hyperconservative kingdom, have won him fans among the two-thirds of Saudis who are younger than 30."  He does not qualify his statement by saying that not being a fan will get you a jail sentence in the kingdom.

U.S. President wanted to chop-off Syrian demonstrators' heads

" “We need to cut their heads off, ” then-President George Bush said of violent anti-western protests in Syria in 2006, former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni said last month in Washington."

U.S. kills 12 Iraqi & Syrian civilians daily

"Airwars researchers estimate that at least 2,300 civilians likely died from Coalition strikes overseen by the Obama White House—roughly 80 each month in Iraq and Syria. As of July 13, more than 2,200 additional civilians appear to have been killed by Coalition raids since Trump was inaugurated—upwards of 360 per month, or 12 or more civilians killed for every single day of his administration.” "

Playing in Israel is whitewashing Apartheid

" “As the lights go out in Gaza and Palestinian cancer patients die because they are denied travel permits by Israel, while a Palestinian poet in Israel lives under house arrest for a poem she wrote on Facebook, while a young circus performer from the West Bank languishes in administrative detention without charge or trial – Thom Yorke speaks loftily about ‘crossing borders’ and ‘freedom of expression,’” Leigh said, adding, “One has to ask, freedom for whom exactly?” " (thanks Amir)

The sect of Al-Jazeera journalists is apparently relevant

"Mehi Hasan, a Shia, told the ABC terrorists killed fewer people than traffic accidents or domestic violence." (thanks Basim)

Meet Bruce Ridel: an analyst by day and a medical doctor by night

"“The weight of the evidence I have seen is that he was more injured in the assassination attempt than was admitted and that he then got onto a pain killer routine that was very addictive,” said Bruce Riedel, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution. “I think that problem got progressively worse.”"  I started to notice this guy back in the 1990s, when in an interview with Middle East Quarterly he said that the Arab people are not bothered by the US-impoised sanctioned on Iraq.  I said to myself: this is a clueless analyst and you need to pay attention to him.  Here, he is using his medical training to offer a medical opinion on a purely medical case: on whether Bin Nayif was or is addicted to painkillers.  When he says he has "seen" the evidence, what does that mean? Was he made to watch as Bin Nayif popped pills? Or was he offered a video in which Bin Nayif was seen buying a large amount of drugs?  DC Punditry is now worse on many levels (professional and ethical) than US journalism.  At least Reuters in the report on the succession today was reserved and said that it could not judge whether bin Nayif was addicted or not.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Saudi version of Islamic reform: `Adnan Al-`Ar`ur

By the way, this clerical kook is Saudi regime's answer to ISIS.  He once called for "mincing" Alawites.

Monday, July 17, 2017

George Will, the conservative, is saying what American liberals are not saying: the slow-motion US invasion of Syria

"Hundreds of Marines are manningfire bases in northern Syria. This intervention resembles a slow-motion invasion."

Is the Israeli occupation army a defense army?

Let Moshe Dayan vomit the answer (from an article he wrote back in April 1967):
"...although the Israeli Army's official title is "the Israeli Defense Forces," it is not a defensive force...the most visual manifestation of the new approach...is the lack of fortifications and fences along the borders...simply put, the Israeli Defense Forces are an aggressive offensive-minded fighting force.  The Israeli military implements this approach in its thinking, planning, and Modus Operandi.  [The offensive values] run in [the military's] DNA and [are] inscribed in the marrow of its bones."  Cited in the lousy book, Laron, Guy, The Six-Day of War: the Breaking of the Middle East, Yale UP, p. 275).

While Western governments condemn statements that Israel fabricate about Arab leaders, it ignores Israeli threats against Arabs

"'If there is a war, we will annihilate Lebanon's infrastructure'.  Former Defense Minister Ya'alon says Iran runs Lebanon, promises Israel will destroy Lebanon completely if war breaks out." Can you imagine if this horrific threat was made by an Arab against Israel?

When are Western Zionist media sympathetic to Palestinians as victims?

Western Zionist media are only sympathetic to Palestinians as victims in two cases: 1) if the Palestinians happen to be collaborators with Israeli occupation and terrorism; 2) if the Palestinians happen to be killed by other Palestinians.  When Palestinians are killed by Israelis (which is the norm and not the exception), Zionist media could care less.

David Ignatius: firmly placed between Saudi, UAE, and Jordanian interests

"Is there a role for political Islam in the modern world? Qatar says yes. The UAE counters that Islamist agitators are the enemy of tolerance and modernity." He talks about UAE and Saudi Arabia as if they are enlighten secular republics and as if they are models of tolerance themselves. Also, notice his reference to "reform" in Saudi Arabia.  Only he can see it.

Israeli universities in China

I asked an Arab colleague/comrade who is an expert on China to comment on this story. He wrote: "There is an interesting side story here not on the radar: alot of Chinese are coming to realize that Israeli innovation claims have been exaggerated and that the technological gap between the two sides is not as big as the Israelis make it seem. I suspect in a decade or so even this Israeli "selling point" as a start-up nation will be moot for the Chinese. I heard this repeated in different contexts in Beijing during my last visit - intentionally and inadvertently. Additionally, Israel cant escape from the specter of its conjoinment with the United States, and given the trajectory of Sino-American relations (and to a lesser extent, Sino-Indian relations) are taking, they wont be able to build up the influence they seek.   There is, weirdly enough, an undercurrent of anti-semitism at play (which bounces off the equally weird philo-semitism you see among some elites) in China. "

We are back to the tale of "moderate Syrian rebels"

"Moderate rebel groups make up the bulk of the militants operating in the Syria-Lebanon border region with around 800 fighters linked to the Free Syrian Army camped out in the mountainous region." (thanks Basim)

Tim Arango

I recommend that Tim Arango be made Iraqi TV critic. Sure, he does not know any Arabic but he comments on contents of Iraqi TV stations.

Michael Stipe: losing his...moral compass

"In a post on Instagram, which doesn't actually mention Israel by name, Stipe wrote: "I stand with Radiohead and their decision to perform. Let's hope a dialogue continues, helping to bring the occupation to an end and lead to a peaceful solution. Sincerely, Michael Stipe."

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Avi Shlaim's apologia for Oslo accords

Avi Shlaim, a huge fan of King Husayn (and also of Rabin, of course), betrays more than a tinge of colonial racism in this line: "a modest experiment in Palestinian self-government".  So the Palestinians are not a mature people and thus it is required that they go through an experimental period of self-government? Also, notice that he believes that Palestinian "violence" was a "contributing factor" to the collapse of Oslo, but says not a word about Israeli terrorism.  And this is considered Zionist revisionism.  If this is Zionist historiographer revisionism please bring me back classical Zionist historiography: at least it makes no pretenses.  His only criticisms of Oslo is that bad faith of Netanyahu--one person in Israel.

PS The article is from 2013, and it was terrible then as it is terrible now.

These kinds of reforms make Jordan a favorite for the West


MENA RightsCable (@RightsCable)
Jordan Blocks Access to “Namdi.Net” Democracy and Rights Petition Website rightscable.com/2017/07/15/jor… pic.twitter.com/K0PbSQ38N1

Charles Lister comes clean: Netanyahu speaks for him on Syria


Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister)
Entirely predictable.

#Israel realizing that #Moscow lacks the leverage/will to secure a neutral ceasefire.

When will US realize this too? twitter.com/barakravid/sta…

This should be the slogans of US correspondents in Arabic

I don't need to know Arabic because the Israeli objective website, MEMRI translates Arabic media for me.

The fall of Mosul and American self-congratulations

What is amazing is that despite the sacrifices of many Iraqis--Sunnis and Shi`ites, Kurds and Arabs, Christians and Muslims--in the fight against ISIS, the US media and politicians are engaged in self-congratulations convinced that the difference in the fight against ISIS was not made by the tens of thousands of Iraqi fighters but by the 5000 US soldiers in Iraq.  Notice that the role of Russian bombing in Syria aghast the economic infrastructure of ISIS (which really started the process of the demise of ISIS) is always obscured.  Personally, I am not a fan of the way the fight against ISIS in Mosul or in Syria has been managed.  Both US and Russia have been careless in respecting the lives of civilians.

Tim Arango does not know any Arabic but it does not stop him from commenting on contents of Iraqi TV stations

"Turn on the television and channel after channel broadcasts programs sympathetic to Iran."  And how were you able to understand the channel broadcasts in Arabic, Mr. Arango?  Also, there is a big flaw in the premise of the article: that Iranian influence in Iraq is a matter of conspiracy and devious machinations.  He (and most Western journalists) can't understand that many Iraqi Shi`ites (if not most) genuinely identify with Iran for political--and even religious--reasons.  This is the way also in Lebanon, whether you--Western journalists--like it or not.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Tim Arango finally found the reason why George W. Bush invaded Iraq

"it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East".

Stop the presses: Tim Arango says that Hizbullah threatens nuclear-armed Israel

You read this and think: poor Israel.  "Hezbollah, the military and political force that dominates Lebanon and threatens Israel."

If Iranian construction workers in Iraq are killed, you can blame Tim Arango of the New York Times

He irresponsibly refers to tens of thousands of Iranian construction workers in Iraq as "spies": "Iranian construction workers — many of whom are viewed as Iranian spies by Iraqi officials".  Can you imagine the uproar if someone were to say that "Americans in UAE are thought to be spies" or that "Israelis in Europe are thought to be spies"? Can you imagine the uproar?  What evidence is there to make that case? Just because some Iraqi politicians on Saudi regime payrolls said this? This is so dangerous because the pro-US March 14 Movement in Lebanon said the same about Syrian workers in Lebanon back in 2005, and that led to hundreds of cases of workers being lynched and stabbed and attacked throughout the country.  

The lies of Tim Arango's article on Iraq: so why was Hoshyar Zebari fired as Finance Minister?

Hoshyar Zebari tells Tim Arango that he was fired as Finance Minister because Iran wanted to get rid of him because he is close to the US.  In fact, the liar Zebari never ever accused Iran in Arabic being behind his ouster.  Tim Arango, who knows about the Arab world and has studied the Arab world as much as I know and studied Belgium politics, believes whatever he is told, provided those who are speaking are pro-Saudi Arab politicians.  In all Arab media, including this Saudi regime medium, all told details about the massive corruption, and mansions (notice he mentions his mansion in the article), and his bodyguards and travel using public money.  The corruption of Zebari occupied Iraqi media before he was fired.  Tim Arango makes no mention of that anywhere in his lousy article.

PS Also, if Iran wanted to get rid of him, how come it never did when he was foreign minister?

Tim Arango covering Iranian hegemony in Iraq for the New York Times: let the ignorance and propaganda begin

Several things about the article:
1) Tim Arango does not know Arabic, and has never studied the Middle East in his life.  He has a degree in "American studies".   Yet, Mr. Arango tells you in the article what Iraqi TV stations are saying in Arabic.  Let me guess: his degree in American studies required him to take courses in Arabic.
2) Tim Arango has no journalistic background in the Middle East: he started his career covering Wall Street.
3) Tim Arango only interviews pro-Saudi and pro-US politicians for the article and is willing to believe anything he is told.
4) Tim Arango does not shy away from reporting rumors if they fit into his propaganda take. More examples of his reporting above this.

Michigan official stands by call for killing of all Muslims

"Sieting had shared a post in November titled “Kill Them All — Every Last One,” which branded Muslims “dangerously destructive to society” and argued “there is simply no place for them in our world.” The post — apparently cribbed from the blog “NC Renegade” and since removed — went on to liken Islam to a “flesh-eating bacteria” and call for “nukes” to be used on the 10 largest majority-Muslim cities." (thanks Amir)

Guy Laron's book on the 1967 war: my second part critical review of the book

My weekly article in Al-Akhbar: "Was the 1967 Defeat a Destiny?  Zionist Historiography and Schadenfreude (2)".

A new phenomenon in Arab social media

This is unprecedented.  Usamah Fawzi has become the star of Arab social media.  Fawzi is the publisher and editor of Houston's based, Arab Times, which is a scandal political tabloid which has been publishing for years.  It is widely read in the US and mostly in the Arab world because it publishes details of scandals (some real and some less real) about the Arab world especially its rulers.  The political orientations of the fellow are not very clear: he is opposed to Arab regimes and is bitterly opposed to Arafat; he attacks the rulers of Jordan but he is soft on the King and his father.  He seems closer to the Syrian regime than its opponents and is very opposed to the sons of Zayid (he worked and lived for years in the UAE).  Two weeks ago, he started a youtube channel and posts several videos (sometimes per day) on various aspects of Arab politics and even society.  I was astonished how successful it has become and how popular.  Within days, some Arab intelligence services (he suspects the Saudis) produced this guy to refute what Fawzi says.  But the guy is so boring and has nothing to offer, and yet lists tens of thousands of views, which strains reason.  Fawzi, on the other hand, while crude and vulgar at times, can be a good story teller and is amusing even if the stories are not necessarily credible (his post about Tall Az-Za`tar for example is not accurate as he places Arab Deterrent Forces in the camp when they came to Lebanon months after the fall of the camp).  It is clear that Arab intelligence services are very unhappy about this and will try to silence him--probably in the name of "fighting terrorism".  He is always impeccably dressed in the videos and wears a different hat.  He is most informed about the UAE and Jordan, but less informed about other places.

PS He also believes that the Jordanian monarchy should stay.

Friday, July 14, 2017

This is classic: Son of King Fahd threatens Netanyahu

He says: "I ask God to let me loose on you Netanyahu (he uses the spelling of his name which many Arabs use, which split the name of Netanyahu to add the word "rotten" to it), Amen".

Every so-called dissident championed by Western governments and media is typically a lousy human being: Liu Xiaobo

"If Liu's politics were well-known, most people would not favour him for a prize, because he is a champion of war, not peace. He has endorsed the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and he applauded the Vietnam and Korean wars retrospectively in a 2001 essay. All these conflicts have entailed massive violations of human rights. Yet in his article Lessons from the Cold War, Liu argues that "The free world led by the US fought almost all regimes that trampled on human rights … The major wars that the US became involved in are all ethically defensible." During the 2004 US presidential election, Liu warmly praised George Bush for his war effort against Iraq and condemned Democratic party candidate John Kerry for not sufficiently supporting the US's wars:
[T]he outstanding achievement made by Bush in anti-terrorism absolutely cannot be erased by Kerry's slandering … However much risk must be endured in striking down Saddam Hussein, know that no action would lead to a greater risk. This has been proven by the second world war and September 11! No matter what, the war against Saddam Hussein is just! The decision by President Bush is right!
Liu has also one-sidedly praised Israel's stance in the Middle East conflict. He places the blame for the Israel/Palestine conflict on Palestinians, who he regards as "often the provocateurs".
Liu has also advocated the total westernisation of China. In a 1988 interview he stated that "to choose westernisation is to choose to be human". He also faulted a television documentary, He Shang, or River Elegy, for not thoroughly criticising Chinese culture and not advocating westernisation enthusiastically enough: "If I were to make this I would show just how wimpy, spineless and fucked-up [weisuo, ruanruo, caodan] the Chinese really are". Liu considered it most unfortunate that his monolingualism bound him in a dialogue with something "very benighted [yumei] and philistine [yongsu]," the Chinese cultural sphere. Harvard researcher Lin Tongqi noted that an early 1990s book by Liu contains "pungent attacks on the Chinese national character". In a well-known statement of 1988, Liu said:"

Thursday, July 13, 2017

This is insane: imagine if such a measure is passed regarding Judaism or Christianity?

"The House is set to vote Friday on a controversial GOP proposal identifying “Islamic religious doctrines, concepts or schools of thought” that could be used by terrorist groups — something opponents say is unconstitutional and will lead to the targeting of Muslims. The amendment, drafted by conservative Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), also calls for the Pentagon to identify Islamic leaders who preach peaceful beliefs versus those who espouse extremist views." (thanks Michele)

Zionists fabricated a saying ("throwing Jews into the sea") and attributed to Ahmad Shuqayri but...

In reality, he never said. But here is a fact: The official order issued by Israeli Air Force Commander in 1967, Motti Hod, to his men: "...Fly, soar at the enemy, destroy him and scatter him throughout the dessert"--cited in Michael Oren, Six Days of War, p. 170)

Nobel Prizes for Peace--my potato

There were Soviet and Chinese dissidents who won the Nobel Prizes for Peace even though some supported US and other Western wars.  Take Noam Chomsky: he devoted his life to oppose US and Western wars around the world.  Do you think he will ever receive the Nobel Prize for peace?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Judging Israel

Israel can kill, massacre, and mistreat Arabs (Christians, Muslims, and atheists) throughout the region and that would never cause any opposition in the US.  But only when Israeli rabbinical decisions affect American Jews, alarm is raised.  

My article on Ghassan Kanafani

My article on Ghassan Kanafani in Electronic Intifada.

Trump in the Oval Office: the Secular West

I never missed Enver Hoxa like today.  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The veil

I said it on social media in Arabic yesterday and I will say it here in English: the veil is not a problem for those who wear it but for those who oppose it.

Jack Shaheen is dead

In 1974, Jack Shaheen saw his little kids watching Saturday morning TV and talking about "Bad Arabs" on TV.  Shaheen was furious.  This triggered a new career for him.  He started a life devoted to the study of images of Arabs and Muslims in US TV and film.  His first book, the TV Arab, was published back in the mid-1980s, and he was very involved in the Arab-American community and its organizations (before they were bought off and transformed into arms lobbies by Gulf regimes in the wake of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait).  His mother used to work (outside of Pittsburg) as a cashier in a movie theatre, and he developed a love for film at an early age.  He wrote a lot and lectured a lot about the images of Arabs and Muslims in US TV and film.  He had tremendous energy and what struck me about him the most early on was his kindness, decency, and warmth.  He is truly one of the nicest people you meet.  He always spoke about his wife, Bernice, and how much support she gave him in his career. His film library is now deposited at NYU Middle East Center.  Shaheen was a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause and always detected and deconstructed Zionist themes in film.  After Sep. 11, he found the series "24" to be most damaging for the images of Arabs and Muslims. Condolences to his family and friends.

If it was confirmed that Russia actually killed Baghdadi, will the US offer congratulations?

Can you imagine the celebratory atmosphere and self-congratulations that would have prevailed had Baghdadi been killed by US bombs? Yet, because it seems--and I don't know for sure--that Russian bombs actually killed Baghdadi, there is barely a mention of that or celebration in US media.  

Monday, July 10, 2017

The speech by Hadyar Abadi

He was keen to thank Sisistani but did not thanks US or Iran, and did not thank Hashd by name but referred to them obliquely.