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Category: Middle East (page 4 of 19)

News from the Middle East and around the Mediterranean.

Osama Bin Laden’s Wives Detained in Pakistan

A lawyer has confirmed that Osama Bin Laden’s three wives and two of his daughters have been detained and charged for illegally crossing Pakistan. The sentence for the women includes a 45 day jail sentence and a fine of 10,000 rupees each. They have been in custody ever since a U.S. Navy Seal team killed Bin Laden last May.

The widows have been held with their children in Islamabad in what has been described as a “sub-jail.” Two of the wives are from Saudi Arabia while the third and youngest wife is a citizen of Yemen. Upon their release, each woman will be deported back to their country of citizenship and be reunited with their families.

While it is unclear exactly how many children Bin Laden fathered, he is believed to have at least 10 between the three wives. Bin Laden’s wives and children were scattered across the region, and he would meet up with them during his travels.

After nearly a 10 year man hunt, Bin Laden was finally located and killed by Seal Team 6 back in May of last year. He was originally believed to be taking refuge in a cave along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border. Intelligence eventually pinpointed his location at a compound in Abbottabad.

Osama Bin Laden is believed to have a total of five wives and was living with three of them at the time of the raid. It was reported that there was some bickering among them, especially between his oldest and youngest wife. Some of his close aides were also concerned that his eldest wife was plotting to betray him, though Bin Laden brushed aside any concerns of a double-cross.

Whatever the situation was in the Bin Laden household, all that is certain is that the guy is dead and that leaves one less terrorist for the world to worry about.

United Arab Emirates Forces the Closure of U.S-Backed Organizations


The United Arab Emirates have long been an ally of the United States, which made it all the more baffling when they made the move to shutter the National Democratic Institute. Their actions came amidst the public outcry of what many Egyptians believed to be foreign interference.

The Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at a conference in Saudi Arabia to address the issue publicly. Egypt’s decision to take action against multiple non-profit U.S. institutes has prompted a debate in Washington over whether foreign aid should be withheld. The Obama administration eventually permitted an arms sale between the two nations to move forward after Egypt allowed staff members of the American organizations to safely exit the country. A German organization was also targeted and forced to close its doors.

The forced closures of the organizations created tensions during Clinton’s visit to the Persian Gulf. The original purpose of the visit was to strengthen the alliance between the U.S. and the Gulf Cooperation Council and address issues concerning anti-terrorism and nuclear proliferation. However, Clinton also found herself addressing Egypt’s action against the U.S. led organizations.

Despite the dismay over Egypt’s decision against the American groups, the U.S. hopes to continue to strengthen military relations with the gulf nations. The aim is to forge a military stronghold that includes a military defense system, which would serve as the main point of defense against military aggression from Iran.

Despite amicable relations between the two nations, The U.S. has blasted the gulf nations for human rights violations. The criticisms occurred right after the gulf council dispatched military forces to quell protestors in Bahrain who were in opposition against the region’s suppressive government policy.

Organizations like the National Democratic Institute have mainly provided programs in support of women’s role in the country. At this point, it is still unclear why Egypt made the decision to shut them down.

Chechen First Lady Brings Fashion Show to Dubai

Medni Kadyrova, the first lady of Chechnya, walks down the catwalk donning a beautiful traditional Islamic dress in front of an audience in Dubai. 20 more veiled models soon follow behind her clad in their own custom, silk wardrobe. Each model was covered from top to bottom; yet, the outfit still manages to provide an outline of their slender figures. Traditional wedding garments were also displayed.

The event was organized by Firdaws Fashion House, which was launched by Kaydrova three years ago. It is the first show to take place outside of Chechnya. Kaydrova founded Firdaws in 2009, which was inspired by her desire to bring a new sense of fashion based on customary dresses of Islamic fashion.

According to Zeina Habib, a public relations agency who helped put the show together, stated that Dubai was selected for the event due to the friendly relation between Chechnya and the emirates. Dubai has also been long known as a fashion hub and was the ideal spot for such a show to make its debut outside of Chechnya.

Kaydrova stated that her inspirations for the designs are inspired by the grace of Arab women. She further added that the fashion show in Dubai is just the first in a series of shows that she hoped would soon follow in other regions.

Kadyrov and her husband, Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, have been harshly criticized for favoring Islamic law and regarding it as superior to the laws of the Russian federations. Furthermore, the Kadyrov’s insistence that all women wear headscarves and veils has also been met with intense backlash. Nevertheless, the controversy does not take away from the Dubai fashion show, which is nonpolitical and strictly about promoting a more modest style of wardrobe for women. There is no reason to bring politics into a fashion show that is merely displaying an alternative sense of fashion.

Crime and Punishment Part Five – Life in Gaza

Life in Gaza through the eyes of Vice News, the final part of a 5 part series.

Russia’s Human Interest in Syria


According to a new report released this week, it appears that the import of foreign weapons to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad increased dramatically in recent years, just before the revolution began in Syria. Compared to the previous five years, the shipments of foreign arms were much higher, and most of them came from Russia. The report, prepared by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) show some impressive numbers as to what the state of military weapons appeared to be.

Since the revolution started last year, an estimated 9,000 people died so far, most of them civilians, including many children. The SIPRI reports comes just as the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, was travelling to Moscow in order to meet with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to help negotiate with the Syrian government so that aid could be brought in the most affected regions of the country. Mr Kellenberger said that the humanitarian situation in the country was most likely to get worse.

Meanwhile the report itself found that Syria’s most important weapons import went up 580% between 2006 and 2011. Their most important seller was Russia with 78% of the arms provided to the regime. These Russian weapons included surface to air missiles, coastal defense missiles, and other small arms. Moscow acknowledged in the past selling arms to Assad, despite a UN arms embargo proposal. How many weapons were delivered however remained unclear.

In a speech to Russia’s parliament last week, Mr. Lavrov claimed that the weapons sent to Rysia were for external threats only, and had not been used against civilians or demonstrators. However, many humanitarian organizations such as Human Rights Watch believe otherwise. For example, Russian-made mines were used extensively to block the traffic of people between Turkey and Lebanon, including many fleeing refugees. Nearly $1 billion worth of Russian missiles and airplanes were apparently sold to Syria in 2011 alone. These included some modern Mig planes along with weapons able to take down any invading aircraft.

Meanwhile, Russia is trying to keep its business relationship with the country intact, and has been supporting the Assad regime all this time, which prompted a lot of worldwide criticism. Moscow wants to prevent an outside intervention in Syria like the one that happened in Libya, where Nato countries used a UN resolution to support rebels against Muammar Gaddafi. Despite calling for Mr. Assad to step down, the western powers have been hesitant to provide arms to rebels, fearing an escalation of the war. The EU has banned arms exports to Syria last year.

Crime and Punishment Part Four – Life in Gaza

Part 4 of the series by Vice.com showing the life in Gaza under Hamas rule.

UN Human Rights Council Finds Syria is Complying with International Conventions

This is the so called “UN Human Rights Council” – A pathetic joke!

Crime and Punishment Part Three – Life in Gaza

Part 3 of the five part series about life in Gaza under Hamas rule – by Vice News

Who’s Responsible for the One Country for Two Nations Campaign in the PA?

Billboards of Palestinian and Israeli flags were raised recently in the Palestinian authority with the slogan: “One country for 5 million Arabs and 6 million Jews”. The Palestinians are speculating it to be a Fatah spin targeted to put pressure on Israel. Or are the Israelis themselves are responsible?

During the political deadlock between Israel and the Palestinian authority, a campaign calling to forsake the idea of two countries and suggests the groundbreaking notion of one federation, has recently appeared in the Palestinian authority. Behind it stands a mysterious group that refers to itself as “el-tachmul” – integration. The group’s campaign is echoed all over the Palestinian authority through billboards displaying the slogan: “One democratic country for 5 million Arabs and 6 million Jews”.

The vague campaign has generated rumors in the Palestinian Authority as to the people responsible; From the Fatah trying to do a political spin that will pressure Israel, to Israel itself that is rumored to plan to append most of the west bank and to civilianize the Palestinians that live there.

“It is unclear who is responsible for the campaign and there is no specific group that declared it as its own, it is believed that the people standing behind it are Palestinians academics and intellectuals” said Sammar Machluf, CEO of the “One Voice” organization, which supports the two separate countries solution.

Machluf also said that the Palestinian public is most curious regarding the existence of Israeli cooperation with the group behind the campaign. The mentioned billboards, however, have quickly been removed by Palestinian activists that oppose the Israeli flag being posted on the billboards and mere idea that stands behind it.

If said cooperation exists between the mysterious “el-tachmul” group and a similar organization in Israel, the same billboards are soon to be displayed within the state of Israel. One must wonder whether the Israeli publics accept the slogan “One democratic country for 5 million Arabs and 6 million Jews”.

Israel Offers Assistance to Syrian Civilians

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs approached the Red Cross and offered to send assistance to the Syrian people. Lieberman: “The Jewish nation cannot sit by and do nothing while citizens of our neighboring country are being slaughtered”.

As the Syrian people flee Syria by the thousands and make their way to Lebanon, Israel’s foreign affairs minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that Israel is willing to send humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people. Under Lieberman’s orders, Evyatar Manor, CEO of international organizations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, approached the Red Cross and suggested that Israel will send the assistance. Red Cross representatives in Israel replied that they will examine the Syrian people’s needs and will inform Jerusalem with the requirements forth with.

Lieberman said in regards to the humanitarian assistance:

“the Jewish nation cannot sit by and do nothing while our neighbor country is being slaughtered and people are losing their world. We cannot interfere due to lack of diplomatic relations, but we will at least offer our hand with humanitarian assistance as it is our moral duty to awaken the world and stop the massacre”.

Earlier this week official representatives of the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that approximately 1,000 to 2,000 Syrian refugees fled Syria and are now making their way to Lebanon. The report is consistent with other reports that reached news agencies earlier this morning. According to which, refugees are fleeing Syria by foot from the town of Qusair that has been bombard under the orders of President Assad, the refugees mainly consist of women and children.

Eye witnesses report the shelling began suddenly and that they had to flee their homes immediately. The Syrian army has been reported to bombard rebel camps all over Syria. The number of refugees is predicted to rise unless serious action will be taken to stop this genocide.

Crime and Punishment Part 2 – Life in Gaza

Part two from Vice.com:

Stratfor Files Discuss Israeli Commandos Destroying Iran Nuclear Facility

Last December, the global intelligence company Strategic Forecast, referred to as Stratfor, was hacked by members of the Anonymous group. Among the files gathered were a very large number of internal emails, showing how the private intelligence gathering company conducted its business around the world, and include a lot of revelations that are only now becoming public. One such email for example hints at the fact that Israeli commandos and Kurdish fighters may have destroyed an Iran nuclear facility. If true, this could have wide repercussions in the middle east.

The email is just one of five millions that the firm sent and that was hacked in the December attack. In it, Stratfor analysts apparently obtained information that would indicate an Israeli commando wiped out an Iranian nuclear facility. Some of the company staff discuss how likely that is, and come to the conclusion that it could be true if the Israeli forces cooperated with Kurdish fighters. The explosion at the Iranian facility was seen as possibly being caused by such an attack: “[He] was asked what he thought of reports that the Israelis were preparing a military offensive against Iran. Response: I think this is a diversion. The Israelis already destroyed all the Iranian nuclear infrastructure on the ground weeks ago.” Thanks to the series of emails that followed, the company comes to the conclusion that it may well have happened the way their informant says it did.

But this is just one of many revelations that are already starting to come out from these massive files. In its press release, WikiLeaks portrayed Stratfor as a private intelligence agency, a shadow CIA bribing people to obtain their intelligence through a series of hidden Swiss bank accounts, working with large corporations, executives, government agencies and the military to get the best intelligence they could through money exchanges or extortion, and then turning this into a money making business. Their latest fund StratCap aims at profiting financially from getting this early access to facts and rumors from around the world. Meanwhile, a select few individuals and corporations are allowed to pay the company to get early access to this information.

Meanwhile, Stratfor has posted a statement on its web site, saying the hack and subsequent release of private emails is a deplorable and illegal act, something they did not authorize, and warn that some of the emails may be altered or faked. They claim that their internal systems are now more secure and that such a hacking attempt would not happen again. Still, there’s no doubt that the emails released will more than likely bring us more facts about powerful world figures in the weeks to come.

Crime and Punishment Part One – Life in Gaza

This is Vice.com’s version of life in Gaza under Hamas rule…

US & Israel Consulting on Iran

Some great new quotes from the US starting with State Department Deputy spokesman Mark Toner regarding the Iran Nuclear time bomb and the failure of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s to Tehran:

“This is a disappointment. It wasn’t all that surprising, frankly. But, you know, we’re going to look at the totality of the issue here and the letter and what we think is the best course of action moving forward”.

“let’s be very clear that we consult very closely with Israel on these issues,” he added. “We are very clear that we are working on this two-track approach. We believe, and are conveying to our partners, both Israel and elsewhere, that this is having an effect.”

Then, White House spokesman Jay Carney:

“We regret the failure of Iran to reach an agreement this week with the IAEA that would permit the agency to fully investigate the serious allegation raised allegations, rather, raised in its November report…”

“Unfortunately this is another demonstration of Iran’s refusal to abide by its international obligations..”

In a blatant F U finger gesture Iran raised the hopes of the world nations that still believe in Santa Clause, when it sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton last week, raising hopes for the prospects of renewed talks with world powers. To this Carney said the United States was continuing to evaluate Iran’s intentions and that

“This particular action by Iran suggest that they have not changed their behavior when it comes to abiding by their international obligations..”

Please try and understand. Iran is building a nuclear bomb and nothing and no one will stop it. As soon as it has the weapon it will use it to change the balance of power in the Middle East and around the world. If nothing is done by force it will continue to piss on the world community. The best proof is the response Ahmadinejad gave a few days ago to Hilary Clinton’s remark “that all options are still being examined and are on the table” – to which he answered “those options can stay on the table and rot there”.

Just a little background on the Iranian mentality – Iran fought Iraq for eight years in the First Gulf War (1980-1988) – the longest Conventional War in history. And not only it did not give in, it rejected attempts for cease fire by Iraq’s Sadam Hussein: “On 21 June 1982 Khomeni rejected the Iraqi peace offer in a speech and proclaimed that Iran would invade Iraq and would not stop until the Ba’ath regime was replaced by an Islamic Shia republic. Given that Saddam’s offer of 1982 served as the basis of the 1988 ceasefire, Khomeini’s decision extended the war for the next six years”.

According to journalist Robin Wright:

“During the Fateh offensive [in February 1987], I toured the southwest front on the Iranian side and saw scores of boys, aged anywhere from nine to sixteen, who said with staggering and seemingly genuine enthusiasm that they had volunteered to become martyrs. Regular army troops, the paramilitary Revolutionary Guards and mullahs all lauded these youths, known as baseeji, for having played the most dangerous role in breaking through Iraqi lines. They had led the way, running over fields of mines to clear the ground for the Iranian ground assault. Wearing white headbands to signify the embracing of death, and shouting “Shaheed, shaheed” (Martyr, martyr) they literally blew their way into heaven. Their numbers were never disclosed. But a walk through the residential suburbs of Iranian cities provided a clue. Window after window, block after block, displayed black-bordered photographs of teenage or preteen youths.”

The Iran–Iraq War was horribly costly, it is considered one of the deadliest wars since World War II. It cost Iran an estimated 1 million casualties, killed or wounded, and Iranians continued to suffer and die as a consequence of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons. And still, not all was negative according to the Iranian government-owned Etelaat newspaper who had this to say:

“There is not a single school or town that is excluded from the happiness of “holy defence” of the nation, from drinking the exquisite elixir of martyrdom, or from the sweet death of the martyr, who dies in order to live forever in paradise.”

Get the picture?

Syrian Violence Continues After Referendum Offer

Almost a full year after the violence and clashes in Syria began, things seem to be moving very slowly. Again this week violence erupted in the region of Deraa, a city housing several rebel strongholds. This comes just a day after the country’s president Bashar Assad made an offer to hold a referendum about a new constitution, and bring new elections within 90 days. The offer drew a lot of criticism, and was rejected but by the rebel leaders and other countries. Meanwhile, it seems like the violence isn’t slowing down, and civilians remain trapped in the cross fire.

This is all happening while a recent UN Security Council resolution was rejected by Russia, and while France is said to be negotiating with the world power to bring a new resolution forward. One of the goals of that new resolution would be to create corridors so that civilians can flee the violence. Meanwhile however, it seems like Assad isn’t slowing down in trying to uproot the rebellion, with weapons mostly supplied from countries like Russia and China. This latest country published an opinion article in the newspaper People’s Daily, a government sponsored paper often used as mouth piece by the communist party, saying that Middle East conflicts need to be handled in a realistic manner. The paper said “The Middle East is the world’s most important fuel depot. If gripped by chaos, oil prices would skyrocket, shocking the stock market, financial systems and economies.”

Meanwhile on the ground, it’s hard to know exactly what goes on since Syria tightly restrict media access. The authorities there have no comments, but reports from another recent attack by the Syrian military against civilians in the region of Hama produced over 5 dead and 50 wounded within 36 hours due to heavy shelling and sniper fire. The military has been using artillery against the city for the 13th day in a row, attempting to drive out rebels. At the UN however, things seem to still be at a deadlock, with France arguing for a resolution that would call for humanitarian action, and Russia worried that the Security Council would call for a regime change, saying “If the plan is to use the Security Council and United Nations to adopt some language to help legitimize regime change, then I’m afraid international law does not allow this and we cannot support such an approach.” The Arab League wants a UN backed peacekeeper force on the ground, but that is also unlikely to happen until Russia and China change their minds.

There’s no question that a human tragedy is happening on the ground in Syria, and while the government in power there kills civilians by the thousands, very little is done from other countries, who spend most of their times in arguments and discussions, with national interests often blocking any progress towards a resolution. Meanwhile, people will keep dying.

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