Facebook Slider
Get News Alerts!
Monday, 21 August 2006 01:53

World Media Watch for August 21, 2006

  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print
  • Email

WORLD MEDIA WATCH

1//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong--‘MISUNDERESTIMATING' BUSH'S IRAQ (... Amid all these problems, there is the danger of the "Hezbollah model" being adopted in Iraq. Muqtada, who has been a nightmare for the Americans since they invaded, has all the credentials to create such an organization in Iraq, modeling himself after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Muqtada is young. He is well connected in the religious establishment, he hails from a prominent Shi'ite family and he has a large following among Iraqis. Like Nasrallah, he is opposed to both the US and Israel. Like Nasrallah, he is an Arab nationalist at heart who does not want to see Iraq divided. The only difference is that Muqtada wants to establish a theocracy in Iraq. He lacks Nasrallah's charisma, however, and the flow of money and arms from Iran. If he pulls the right strings, though, and makes wise alliances, he could receive strong support from the mullahs of Tehran - something that the Americans wish to avoid at any cost. If it happens, and Muqtada decides to end all restraint, he could immediately bring down the Maliki cabinet. Or he could withdraw his ministers from the government and replace them with non-entities, and transform the cabinet into a political dwarf unable to make any real decisions. In this event, what would govern the state of affairs under Muqtada would be the power of the sword on the Iraqi street. ... The Americans want to control his rapidly rising popularity. They see the bitter reality that now they have to deal with Lebanon's Hezbollah. ... And with Iraq in such civil strife, it could in all likelihood become a battleground for the entire Persian and Arab neighborhood. The Saudis would support the Sunnis. Iran - and Lebanon's Hezbollah - would support the Shi'ites. The United States would be trapped in the middle. It would be unable to side with any one party against the other. Supporting the Sunnis would mean supporting former Ba'athists. Supporting the Shi'ites would mean allying with Iran. And the Kurds, with whom the US gets on, are not very strong anyway and do not represent large numbers in Iraq.)

2//Azzaman in English, Iraq--DEMONSTRATORS URGE END TO IRANIAN MEDDLING IN IRAQI AFFAIRS IN SOUTH (Many Iraqis are wary of Tehran's growing influence in southern Iraq and demonstrations are reported in several cities urging the authorities to take immediate measures to halt Iranian meddlings. Since the U.S. 2003 invasion, Iran has established a firm foot in the region, bolstering its allies and their militias with money and arms. Iranian influence so conspicuous that in several cities such as Najaf, Kerbala and Basra Persian is steadily replacing Arabic as the official language. Major Shiite political factions and their powerful militias are pro-Iran. So are several senior Shiite clerics, particularly those of Iranian origin. But despite Tehran's increasing influence, there are still many, among them a few high-ranking clergy, who now publicly show their discontent with the Iranian presence in the south. Some of these clerics have large following in Baghdad and other southern cities and are apparently coordinating efforts to counter-balance the pro-Iran camp. Their supporters went to the streets last week, accusing Iran of fomenting sectarian strife and using its agents to stifle opposition to its presence in the country. One of the organizers, Abdulzahra al-Maamouri, said there was "an atmosphere of terror" in southern Iraq.)

3//The Toronto Star, Canada--THE MUSLIM MALAISE (... One of the strangest aspects of the post-9/11 world is that, despite all the talk about Muslim terrorism, there is hardly any exploration of the complex causes of Muslim rage. Muslims are in a state of crisis, but their most daunting problems are not religious. They are geopolitical, economic and social -- problems that have caused widespread Muslim despair and, in some cases, militancy, both of which are expressed in the religious terminology that Muslim masses relate to. ... While the past casts a long shadow over Muslims, it is the present that haunts them. Hundreds of millions live in zones of conflict, precisely in the areas of European and American meddling, past and present -- U.S.-occupied Iraq, U.S.-controlled Afghanistan, the Israeli Occupied Territories, and Kashmir, the disputed Muslim state on the border of India and Pakistan in the foothills of the Himalayas. Only the Russian war on Muslim Chechnya is not related to the history of Western machinations, but even that has had the tacit support of the Bush administration. These conflicts, along with the economic sanctions on Iraq, have killed an estimated 1.3 million Muslims in the last 15 years alone. Why are we surprised that Muslims are up in arms? In addition, nearly 400 million Muslims live under authoritarian despots, many of them Western puppets, whose corruption and incompetence have left their people in economic and social shambles. It is against this backdrop that one must look at the current malaise of Muslims and their increasing emotional reliance on their faith.)

4//The Daily Times, Pakistan--PAKISTAN TO GET F-16s, BUT WITH A DIFFERENCE (Pakistan, according to a senior US official, has agreed to an "unprecedented" security plan, including an "enhanced and end-use monitoring programme", which obliges Islamabad to "comply" with conditions laid down by Washington for F-16-related bases and facilities before the equipment is supplied. While Pakistan has made no comment on the July 20 testimony of John Hillen, assistant secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs in the State Department, before the House International Relations Committee, the conditions Islamabad has accepted would appear to have reduced Pakistan's ability to use the advanced air defence and assault systems only under given conditions.)

5//The Moscow Times, Russia--15 YEARS ON, COUP IS A DIM MEMORY (Fifteen years ago Saturday, tens of thousands of people rallied in Moscow to defend democracy and resist a hard-line coup attempt against Mikhail Gorbachev. Today, most would have stayed at home. The marked change in attitude toward an event that sped up the disintegration of the Soviet Union appears to be due to disillusionment, nostalgia and a lot of apathy. President Vladimir Putin, who in his 2005 state-of-the-nation address called the Soviet collapse the greatest tragedy of the 20th century, and the government have no special plans for the Aug. 19-21 anniversary. The only commemorations will be staged by the Communists and the Union of Right Forces. ... A Levada poll released Thursday indicated that only 12 percent of today's Russians would support Boris Yeltsin in resisting the communist hard-liners, a group of a dozen men who called themselves the State Committee for a State of Emergency, or GKChP. Slightly more, 13 percent, would support the GKChP attempt to seize power from Soviet President Gorbachev by placing him under house arrest and sending hundreds of armed vehicles to occupy the streets of Moscow on Aug. 19. An overwhelming 52 percent, however, said they would not take sides. Twenty-three percent were undecided. No margin of error was given for the national poll of 1,600 people. ... Sergei Mitrokhin, the deputy head of Yabloko who was working in the Moscow city legislature 15 years ago, likened the mass protests to Ukraine's Orange Revolution in 2004. "The August 1991 events were a victory of spontaneous democracy, similar to the Orange revolution in Ukraine," he said. This is what the Kremlin fears the most, so there is nothing for them to celebrate.")

* * *

1//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong Aug 19, 2006

‘MISUNDERESTIMATING' BUSH'S IRAQ
By Sami Moubayed
(Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst.)

DAMASCUS - This summer former US ambassador Peter Galbraith released a groundbreaking book called The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End. One of the most interesting facts presented by Galbraith was that two months before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, President George W Bush was unaware that there were two branches of Islam (Sunni and Shi'ite). Bush once also famously said, "They are misunderestimating me."

Now, with the war in Lebanon having overshadowed events in Iraq, perhaps it is the US that is "misunderestimating" the situation there, where July was the bloodiest month in terms of deaths since the invasion of March 2003.

Iraq and its people have probably been the greatest losers in the Israeli war with Hezbollah. For a month, the world's attention was completely fixated on Israel, Lebanon and Hezbollah. The rising sectarian violence in Iraq, until a ceasefire came into effect in Lebanon this Monday, was ignored.

Before the Lebanon war started, it seemed that Iraq was already on the verge of civil war, due to the brutality of death squads and the visible helplessness of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

A month later, Iraq is at civil war. Just look at the figures. In July, the number of Iraqis killed in sectarian violence - and what else can one call it? - was a staggering 3,438 - two times the number of Lebanese civilians killed during the 30 days of daily air raids by Israel, and more than 100 deaths a day.

This is a 9% increase over the death toll for June. And this is not Iraqis being killed by Americans. It is Iraqis killing one another. Last month, an average of 110 Iraqis were dying per day in Iraq. Despite all the denials both of US officials and of members of the Maliki cabinet, this is war, and it is a war that was started by the Bush administration.

These numbers mean many things. First, it is clear evidence that the Baghdad Security Plan of the Iraqi prime minister (started on June 14) has completely failed. It was a plan much trumpeted by Bush and Maliki because it called for the creation of more Iraq-run checkpoints to search for arms, explosives and gunmen.

Second, the staggering Iraqi death toll means that the Sunni insurgency has not been broken - or even weakened - by the death of its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

And third, the transfer of full responsibility for security to the Iraqi government seems as far away as it has ever been since the invasion of 2003.

The Americans have already started "Operation Together Forward" to reclaim parts of the Iraqi capital from warring militias. Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has called for the creation of "people's committees" to provide local security. In effect, he is saying that the Shi'ites should protect Shi'ite districts, the Sunnis should protect their own neighborhoods, and mixed areas should be patrolled by joint Sunni-Shi'ite militias.

He has every reason to lose faith in both Iraqi security and the US military. A glimpse at some events over the past few days provides tragic confirmation of the widespread chaos across the country and the war that has engulfed it.

(SNIP)

Amid all these problems, there is the danger of the "Hezbollah model" being adopted in Iraq. Muqtada, who has been a nightmare for the Americans since they invaded, has all the credentials to create such an organization in Iraq, modeling himself after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Muqtada is young. He is well connected in the religious establishment, he hails from a prominent Shi'ite family and he has a large following among Iraqis. Like Nasrallah, he is opposed to both the US and Israel. Like Nasrallah, he is an Arab nationalist at heart who does not want to see Iraq divided. The only difference is that Muqtada wants to establish a theocracy in Iraq.

He lacks Nasrallah's charisma, however, and the flow of money and arms from Iran. If he pulls the right strings, though, and makes wise alliances, he could receive strong support from the mullahs of Tehran - something that the Americans wish to avoid at any cost.

If it happens, and Muqtada decides to end all restraint, he could immediately bring down the Maliki cabinet. Or he could withdraw his ministers from the government and replace them with non-entities, and transform the cabinet into a political dwarf unable to make any real decisions. In this event, what would govern the state of affairs under Muqtada would be the power of the sword on the Iraqi street.

One of the things cemented in the minds of the Americans after the war in Lebanon - because of the stunning strength of Hezbollah - is that they do not want an Iraqi Hezbollah. Muqtada already has ministers in the Maliki cabinet and deputies in parliament. He has strong veto power by virtue of his constituency and popularity among Shi'ites.

The Americans want to control his rapidly rising popularity. They see the bitter reality that now they have to deal with Lebanon's Hezbollah. They truly wish that it was not there, but have not been able to defeat it or destroy it, neither with United Nations resolutions, nor through domestic Lebanese dialogue, nor through the military might of the Israeli army.

And with Iraq in such civil strife, it could in all likelihood become a battleground for the entire Persian and Arab neighborhood. The Saudis would support the Sunnis. Iran - and Lebanon's Hezbollah - would support the Shi'ites.

The United States would be trapped in the middle. It would be unable to side with any one party against the other. Supporting the Sunnis would mean supporting former Ba'athists. Supporting the Shi'ites would mean allying with Iran. And the Kurds, with whom the US gets on, are not very strong anyway and do not represent large numbers in Iraq.

The United States stands in a helpless situation. If only Bush had had a better idea of Sunnis and Shi'ites before he invaded.

2//Azzaman in English, Iraq August 20, 2006

DEMONSTRATORS URGE END TO IRANIAN MEDDLING IN IRAQI AFFAIRS IN SOUTH
By Ali Allak

Many Iraqis are wary of Tehran's growing influence in southern Iraq and demonstrations are reported in several cities urging the authorities to take immediate measures to halt Iranian meddlings.

Since the U.S. 2003 invasion, Iran has established a firm foot in the region, bolstering its allies and their militias with money and arms.

Iranian influence so conspicuous that in several cities such as Najaf, Kerbala and Basra Persian is steadily replacing Arabic as the official language.

Major Shiite political factions and their powerful militias are pro-Iran. So are several senior Shiite clerics, particularly those of Iranian origin.

But despite Tehran's increasing influence, there are still many, among them a few high-ranking clergy, who now publicly show their discontent with the Iranian presence in the south.

Some of these clerics have large following in Baghdad and other southern cities and are apparently coordinating efforts to counter-balance the pro-Iran camp.

Their supporters went to the streets last week, accusing Iran of fomenting sectarian strife and using its agents to stifle opposition to its presence in the country.

One of the organizers, Abdulzahra al-Maamouri, said there was "an atmosphere of terror" in southern Iraq.

"We are always under threat. Iranian intelligence agents are in full control and would like everybody including clerics opposing them to shut up.

"But we are not going to remain silent. As followers of Arab Shiite clerics we insist on our identity as Arabs and would resist Persian influence," said Maamouri.

The demonstrations erupted when Iraqi police stormed the offices of cleric Mahmoud al-Hassani. The incident resulted in the killing or injury of at least 50 people.

Hassani is a leading figure in what has become to be known in Iraq as al-Hawza al-Natiqa (the vocal Shiite seminary) which consists mainly of clergy of Iraqi origin.

This college opposes the so-called silent Shiite seminary whose members are of foreign descent.

Police forces in southern Iraq, said to be infiltrated with pro-Iran elements, are accused of acting against Hassani on Iranian orders.

(MORE)

3//The Toronto Star, Canada Aug. 20, 2006. 07:03 AM

THE MUSLIM MALAISE
Haroon Siddiqui
(The author's book "Being Muslim" is scheduled to be released Sept. 15. For more information, visit http://www.groundwoodbooks.com .)

Contrary to the popular belief that the West is under siege from Muslim terrorists, it is Muslims who have become the biggest victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001, as inconceivable as that would have seemed in the aftermath of the murder of 2,900 Americans. Since then, between 34,000 and 100,000 Iraqis have been killed by the Americans or the insurgents. Nobody knows how many have been killed in Afghanistan. In the spots hit by terrorists - from London and Madrid to Amman, Istanbul, Riyadh and Jeddah, through Karachi to Bali and Jakarta - more Muslims have been killed and injured than non-Muslims.

None of this is to say that Muslims do not have problems that they must address. They do. But the problems are not quite what many in the West make them out to be.

One of the strangest aspects of the post-9/11 world is that, despite all the talk about Muslim terrorism, there is hardly any exploration of the complex causes of Muslim rage. Muslims are in a state of crisis, but their most daunting problems are not religious. They are geopolitical, economic and social - problems that have caused widespread Muslim despair and, in some cases, militancy, both of which are expressed in the religious terminology that Muslim masses relate to.

Most Muslims live in the developing world, much of it colonized by Western powers as recently as 50 years ago. Not all Muslim shortcomings emanate from colonialism and neo-imperialism, but several do.

As part of the spoils of the First World War, Britain and France helped themselves to much of the Ottoman Empire, including Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and what is now Israel, Jordan and the Palestine Authority. In later years, they and other European colonial powers created artificial states such as Kuwait and Nigeria. Or they divided peoples and nations along sectarian lines, such as bifurcating India in 1947 into Muslim Pakistan and largely Hindu India. In more recent years, the United States has maintained repressive proxy regimes in the Middle East to stifle public anti-Israeli sentiments, keep control of oil and maintain a captive market for armaments.

While the past casts a long shadow over Muslims, it is the present that haunts them. Hundreds of millions live in zones of conflict, precisely in the areas of European and American meddling, past and present - U.S.-occupied Iraq, U.S.-controlled Afghanistan, the Israeli Occupied Territories, and Kashmir, the disputed Muslim state on the border of India and Pakistan in the foothills of the Himalayas. Only the Russian war on Muslim Chechnya is not related to the history of Western machinations, but even that has had the tacit support of the Bush administration. These conflicts, along with the economic sanctions on Iraq, have killed an estimated 1.3 million Muslims in the last 15 years alone. Why are we surprised that Muslims are up in arms?

In addition, nearly 400 million Muslims live under authoritarian despots, many of them Western puppets, whose corruption and incompetence have left their people in economic and social shambles.

It is against this backdrop that one must look at the current malaise of Muslims and their increasing emotional reliance on their faith.

(MORE)

4//The Daily Times, Pakistan Sunday, August 20, 2006


PAKISTAN TO GET F-16s, BUT WITH A DIFFERENCE
By Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: Pakistan, according to a senior US official, has agreed to an "unprecedented" security plan, including an "enhanced and end-use monitoring programme", which obliges Islamabad to "comply" with conditions laid down by Washington for F-16-related bases and facilities before the equipment is supplied.

While Pakistan has made no comment on the July 20 testimony of John Hillen, assistant secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs in the State Department, before the House International Relations Committee, the conditions Islamabad has accepted would appear to have reduced Pakistan's ability to use the advanced air defence and assault systems only under given conditions.

Hillen told the House committee, "We, of course, have had a US government security survey of their bases and facilities. We've put into the deal that they must comply with the approved security plans for their F-16-related bases and facilities before we'll release any systems in the sale. We will have a US presence to monitor compliance with the security plan requirements, a very enhanced and end-use monitoring programme. Routine access to F-16 aircraft equipment and munitions is in restricted areas and limited to Pakistan air force personnel that are pre-approved for such. There is a two-man rule, so to speak, for access to this equipment and restricted areas, and F-16 flights outside of Pakistan ... must be approved in advance by the United States government."

(SNIP)

He added, "We place all sorts of conditionality onto getting arms sales from the United States that protects American security interests and that protects exactly the sort of proliferation problem you alluded to. So I think this (F-16) sale works to exactly the opposite."

He added, "I think it will give us access and influence in a country and in which we'll be able to see if there are any dynamics of that sort and be able to be involved in a leadership position, rather than just standing by if this happens."

5//The Moscow Times, Russia Friday, August 18, 2006. Issue 3478. Page 1.

15 YEARS ON, COUP IS A DIM MEMORY
By Oksana Yablokova, Staff Writer

Fifteen years ago Saturday, tens of thousands of people rallied in Moscow to defend democracy and resist a hard-line coup attempt against Mikhail Gorbachev. Today, most would have stayed at home.

The marked change in attitude toward an event that sped up the disintegration of the Soviet Union appears to be due to disillusionment, nostalgia and a lot of apathy.

President Vladimir Putin, who in his 2005 state-of-the-nation address called the Soviet collapse the greatest tragedy of the 20th century, and the government have no special plans for the Aug. 19-21 anniversary. The only commemorations will be staged by the Communists and the Union of Right Forces.

"People, being more interested in recent events, no longer consider the August 1991 coup an important political event," said Alexei Grazhdankin, a senior sociologist with the Levada Center, an independent polling agency.

A Levada poll released Thursday indicated that only 12 percent of today's Russians would support Boris Yeltsin in resisting the communist hard-liners, a group of a dozen men who called themselves the State Committee for a State of Emergency, or GKChP. Slightly more, 13 percent, would support the GKChP attempt to seize power from Soviet President Gorbachev by placing him under house arrest and sending hundreds of armed vehicles to occupy the streets of Moscow on Aug. 19.

An overwhelming 52 percent, however, said they would not take sides. Twenty-three percent were undecided. No margin of error was given for the national poll of 1,600 people.

Surveys conducted in recent years by another leading pollster, the state-run VTsIOM, indicated a similar lack of interest in the coup attempt.

"All the recent surveys on this subject have shown that most Russians tend to view the coup as an episode in the fight for power among the country's leadership," VTsIOM head Valery Fyodorov said.

VTsiOM decided not to conduct a poll ahead of the 15th anniversary due to the lack of interest.

The coup attempt failed amid huge street protests on Aug. 21, 1991. Also crucial were the defection of a company of tanks to the coup opponents, led by newly elected President Yeltsin, and the deaths of three men who attempted to stop an armored vehicle on the night of Aug. 20. Public outrage over the deaths fed the collapse of the coup.

Fifteen years later, only the Communists and liberals are gearing up to remember the anniversary.

(SNIP)

Sergei Mitrokhin, the deputy head of Yabloko who was working in the Moscow city legislature 15 years ago, likened the mass protests to Ukraine's Orange Revolution in 2004.

"The August 1991 events were a victory of spontaneous democracy, similar to the Orange revolution in Ukraine," he said. This is what the Kremlin fears the most, so there is nothing for them to celebrate."

(SNIP)

One of the coup plotters, Valentin Varennikov, had no apologies this week. "Gorbachev's policy of betrayal led the Soviet Union to the brink of catastrophe, and the leadership's opposition to that policy was the right thing to do. There was no other way," said Varennikov, who is a State Duma deputy with Rodina, Interfax reported.

In 1991, Varennikov was the commander of the ground troops and a deputy defense minister. After the coup failed, he was arrested with six other GKChP members. Yeltsin granted him amnesty in 1994, and he never went on trial.

Gorbachev will not mark the anniversary, and he is vacationing abroad until Aug. 27, his spokesman Ruslan Palazhchenko said. Gorbachev participated in commemorations for the 10th anniversary.

A half dozen people interviewed on the street Thursday said they only dimly recalled the coup. "All I remember of the coup was that it took place the last year I was an Oktyabryonok," said Yulia Novikova, a student. "I'm glad it was defeated because it signaled the last moments of communism."

Oktyabryata was a club for first and second graders.

Nikolai Fonyatin, a middle-aged driver, expressed regret over the violence. "It was a black day for the people," he said. "But who were the people? Still nobody really knows, I suppose."

Copyright 2006, Gloria R. Lalumia

WORLD MEDIA WATCH