Category Archives: Al-Qaeda

Nein! 11

It’s eleven September. The American presidentials are heating up. I’m in a street-side coffee shop in Fez, Morocco where your humble host will be residing for the coming three weeks. Means I pretty much have to write something. Anything. How many years has it been now? One forgets. Move on. Time to get a life, America. Something along those lines. Yes, yes, evil never sleeps. Remain vigilant and all that. Of course. Ask Norway. Get it?

Perhaps, for once, I’ll forgo my feeble attempts at analysis. It behooves one to take a breather every so and again. Every now and often. See what I just did there? Neat. I’ll just look at the donkeys cart past laden with cardamon and animal hides, kids and their iPhones, and the ubiquitous CCTV eyes dotting the medina. Interesting times, my friends. Interesting times. “Tanneries this way!” “Thank you.” Visited one yesterday. I’ve never seen such a terrible thing.

Guy selling ostrich eggs to guys, promising easier access to tits

Meanwhile the coffee shop is filling up. Not sure how long I can impose my big-ass laptop on these smallish tables. Then again, whatever. I’m sure there’s a swell juxtaposition here, albeit I wouldn’t be doing justice to all the other poetic whathaveyou’s. Tradition meets computer. Good old coffee meets Power Horse and this huge can-shaped RedBull fridge cramping twelve hundred years of history. Ample-chested, deep-cut-dressed Moroccan anchor lady explains a French industrialist’s shameful tax evasion -to Belgium if my Fusha serves me right, half-naked Israeli teenagers huddled around a single gas mask ready to pounce should Iran or Hezbollah do the uber-likely unthinkable. Update: they switched to bikini beach shots now. Cars, soap, global affairs. Nothing sells that shit like tits. Lots of them. Big ones, small ones. Covered from the nose down, or fully exposed. It does not matter. Man-kind will be hanging from that teet for some time to come. While that may be unavoidable like hair on three week-old yoghurt, guys, let’s not forget they’re not ours. Behave a little. Chill on the war against women. From the streets of Cairo to the US Republican party, back to the souq in Fez where, needless to say, your authors is having the time of his life.

Nobody is free until everybody is free. Nobody is safe until everybody is safe. Oh, and everybody is poor until nobody is poor. Perhaps that’s more slogan than analysis. I sure as shit hope so, because I wasn’t going to analyze, compare, or lecture. And that worked out well, didn’t it. Now a moment of silence, please, in respect for the dead. All of them.

Bush lied. Blair lied. There, I said it. Our generation will see the likes of you in court. Let’s not forget that Saddam, although not the type to fuck you in the asshole and do you the courtesy of reaching around to help a feller’ out as they say, had nothing to do with them towers coming down. A million souls will haunt you. Analyze that.


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Filed under Al-Qaeda, Arab Spring, Cairo, democracy, Sinai

Salafists R us

Make that; salafist! Even as I write this my faithful WordPress spelling minder suggests I write ‘falsify’ in stead. As in; they are out to make you believe muhammadan fruitcakes are taking over the whole goddamn place. Your place or my place? From Sinai to the shittier neighborhoods of Brussels. In Egypt they are the ghosts of the tortured let out the box after the demise of Hosni -at least he was our kind of dictator- Mubarak. Disappointed in the Muslim Brotherhood, who are fast becoming a Muslim-Democrat version of Angela Merkel’s CDU, salafists seem to espouse ideas about women comparable to the American Republican Party.

In Belgium, salafists are called Sharia for Belgium, and are represented by a wheeler-dealer car mechanic with a penchant for mixing a thick Antwerp accent with Koranic catch phrases. In one memorable Youtube video the bearded, long-robed clown stood in front of the Atomium, a fifty year-old building that consists of nine giant aluminum balls connected by stiff rods, calling it un-islamic and hoping, in sh’Allah, it would some day crumble spontaneously. Belgians; Christian, Muslim, and non-believer alike all had a good chuckle about that. And by chuckle I mean, irresponsible politicians facing municipal elections later in the year lined up to call for the zealot’s expulsion to a country his parents were born in shortly after World War II. Special laws were mulled to, well, out-law Sharia for Belgium and the kind of burlesque exaggerations a Flemish party representing twenty-five percent of voters gets away with every day.

Salafism is a problem indeed. Every country has them in some or other manifestation. With the good comes the bad they say, and Egypt’s going through some bad shit right now. They; the country, its democrats, women, middle class, poor and unemployed, its youth will deal with these newly-unleashed conservative forces or be consumed by them. Europe has a pretty good idea of what that looks like, however much it chooses to forget. Salafists ‘r us, bearded, with a little mustache, or suited up like, say, the CEO of FN Herstal.

In ‘Sinai’, what appears to be an attack by religious wackos is exactly that, or rather, something else entirely. 

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Filed under Al-Qaeda, Arab Spring, Belgium, Brussels, Cairo, democracy, Egypt, Islam, Middle East, Revolution, seismic changes

The Arab Spring… some awkward questions

If Al-Qaeda supports the Syrian armed opposition, as Iraqi journalist and writer Hamid Alkifaey asserts in a Bitter Lemons op-ed, have they in fact, unlike the abstemious western powers, achieved the moral high ground, reminiscent of international jihadi fighters supporting Bosnian Muslims against Serb atrocities in the nineties? Or was it never that black and white? Is it today?

Was Bin Laden’s aim really to strike at the American freedoms he so despised, or did he in fact mean to destroy the Saudi-American duopoly holding back the freedoms Arabs have had to live without ever since the rise of the global petro-economy? Concomitant to that question, do Arab revolutions form the apogee of political islam or the beginning? If political islam is a problem for western observers, why have western observers and actors to this day condoned and supported the worst examples of such regimes like Wahhabi Saudi-Arabia, ever-regressing Pakistan and pre-9/11 Taliban?

Did the American invasion of Iraq, the rhetoric of which at least was premised on Arabs’ readiness for western-style democracy, augur the Arab spring, or delay it? As bloody as the Syrian uprising is and undoubtedly will be, will it ever be as costly in human lives as the American wars against Iraq and the American-sparked Iraqi civil war was?

When the Arab spring arrives in Palestine, and it seems finally to be doing just that, which regime will it topple? The glorified municipal committee called the Palestinian Authority, or the real determinant of Palestinians’ everyday lives? Will Arabs living inside Israel stay on the sidelines? In other words, will the revolution transcend the multiple administrative strata imposed on Palestinians, to wit: Palestinians inside Israel -almost the same rights as Jewish Israelis, Palestinians in annexed East-Jerusalem -significantly less rights than Jewish Israelis, Palestinians in the West Bank -right to receive foreign aid, Gaza Palestinians -full rights to do whatever they please except to leave the 360 square kilometer ghetto by sea, land, or air? Have fears regarding the coming storm played a role in the surprise shaping of Netanyahu’s national-unity government?

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Filed under Al-Qaeda, Arab Spring, democracy, Islam, Middle East, Revolution, seismic changes, Sinai

Conspiracy of convenience

I just love me a conspiracy. Don’t you? I bet you do. I bet people who believe in conspiracies make up the vast majority of any population. Something THEY don’t want you to know. And if you don’t believe me, well, that just proves my point exactly, doesn’t it? Kanye West says “I know the government administers AIDS”. Just prove the man wrong if you can. In ‘Sinai’ wily old generals plot to take over from a democratically elected Egyptian government. Israelis scheme to get Moses’s old stomping grounds back while American evangelicals sing Haleluja to the Rapture. Far-fetched, right? Perhaps I’ve eaten too much humus in my life. On the other hand, as a man more eloquent than myself put it, the question is not are you paranoid, it’s are you paranoid enough?

Welcome to the Middle East, where nothing is as it seems. Conspiracy, by definition a secret action by at least two people to produce a tangible outcome, rules supreme. In this world Bin Laden is CIA, 911 was an inside job and all the Jews had mysteriously taken that day off. Fiction often sits on a comfy couch holding hands with fact. Sometimes one or the other even gets to second base. Of course, Bush and Blair did lie about Saddam’s nukes. Bin Laden really was on an American payroll at some point. And we don’t know why the American military was holding an exercise on that sunny September morning simulating an attack by means of hijacked airliners. I mean, what are the odds?

But sometimes another principle might be at work. Call it ‘laziness’, or ‘inertia’. I like to call it ‘convenience’. “As the Arab Spring remakes the fabric of the Middle East, Israel has been torn between support for democratic change and a surprising comfort with the established order,” write Josef Federman and Karin Laub for Associated Press. The Assads, while terrible tyrants, former hosts to Hamas and keeping Syria in an official state of war with the Jewish state, never fired a shot for close to forty years. Arab dictators were a known quantity, mostly weak and controllable. Again, that last word, ‘controllable’, implies evil schemers subverting the sovereign will of the people. And of course, governments wield all the instruments of power and rarely -I mean never- tell everyone about everything they’re doing.

Misanthropists simply deny that people are capable of dreaming up complex new arrangements and at the same time keeping everyone else in the dark. And yes, history more or less confirms this. At least partly. For instance, yes, American neocons toppled Saddam, but the place is a stinking mess today, oil has never been more dear, and U.S. oomph is on the fritz. The world is a dynamic system, and long-term change unpredictable as ever. It’s just a terrible place for even the ablest of conspirators.

However, people are very adept at coping with adverse situations. In other words, we make the best of things. Governments conspire after the fact. They don’t invent the new, larger constellations. They just deal with them. Israel’s coming into existence was fought tooth and nail by inept Arab governments. When the latter realized they were unable to change this new fact, not only did they accept it, they worked the ‘Zionist entity’ to their benefit. Domestic opposition was muzzled thanks to the external enemy. In turn the Israeli nation was forged -in the metallurgic sense- in the crucible of Arab hostility. During the latter half of the twentieth century a precarious power balance came to be. The setup turned out to be very beneficial to and in time actively nurtured by oil-consuming America and Europe. The conspiracy, in short, arose after the fact. Israel was not created to help bring about cheap oil. European anti-Semitism was not created to one day bring about Israel. But they did more or less.

Arab populations took so long to revolt against horrible leaders because revolting is a serious drag, and I for one can think of a million zestier afternoons than getting shot in the face by gas-masked shock troops. The revolution wasn’t planned. It took a single man to set himself on fire to ignite the hearts of millions, the outcome of which everyone is still grappling with, including said millions. Israelis sure weren’t looking forward to dealing with a bunch of angry revolutionaries in stead of the predictable pashas of yore. Western ‘security architects’ surely didn’t come up with the idea. Why spend an entire day doing serious thinking when you can copy-paste in the morning, and play racket ball in the afternoon. To put it more succinctly, people are lazy cunts. Prove me wrong why don’t you.

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Filed under Al-Qaeda, Arab Spring, democracy, end of oil, Middle East, seismic changes

The drums of war.

Tensions are running high in the region. Tautology aside, a volatile mix of lawlessness, the festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and wider geopolitical rumblings keep everyone guessing on what’s next. The draw of milk and honey keep Ethiopian Jews flocking to the North, up through the Sinai like Mo’, as friends called him, once did, promised the end of the bondage of hunger and poverty. And so the demand for people smugglers, and the dough to be made undermines law and order on all sides of the border.

It isn’t a giant leap from a bit of moneymaking to politics. If you can smuggle people, you can smuggle weapons – exactly what some Palestinians groups in Gaza think they require to throw off their yoke. To be fair, it’s hard to envisage a successful sit-in against living in an open-air prison, staring at mainly unmanned gun turrets on all sides, if even fishing beyond 3 nautical miles is prohibited. An as good as hermetically sealed area no bigger than 360 square kilometers can and should be called a ghetto. But the best analogy for Gaza in 2012 is Guantanamo Bay, times 14.000. If you box in 1.4 million people, something’s gotta give. And the weakest link in the chain penning in the 99% unarmed, un-convicted and innocent civilians, is Sinai.

As the high-tech fence around Gaza extends southwards between the Israeli Negev and Egyptian Sinai deserts, that avenue too will close. The root causes meanwhile remain unaddressed. Sinai Bedouins stay marginalized, and Gaza’s population suffers from the Israeli-Egyptian blockade. Will the Sinai, as so many observers predict, become a failed peninsula, home to Al-Qaeda offshoots and assorted scofflaws? Will Israel become tempted to quell rocket launchers and production facilities on the Egyptian side of the border, sparking what might be the end of the Camp David peace accords between both states? Could a kidnapping of Israeli tourists ignite an ever-shrinking fuse?

Sinai, the Egyptian thriller for all, explores just such a scenario. 

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Filed under Al-Qaeda, Arab Spring, Cairo, Egypt, Indigenous Rights, Islam, Judaism, Middle East, minorities, seismic changes

Revolution and the imagination deficit

Another week, and another house-hold name added to our library of fears. Mohammad Merah, a.k.a. the shooter of Toulouse, Al-Qaeda member, lone wolf, disenchanted youth, anti-Semite, Fox News’ Buddhist madman of Toolooz. Read all about it. Chances are you have come across some foaming-at-the-mouth tabloid bullshit-mongering, as well as the odd intellectual we-feel-for-the-victims-and-nothing-excuses-violence-but investigation into the social marginalization of France’s Muslim minority. Not to mention the cluster-fuck that is NATO’s occupation of Afghanistan. And all that jazz… At times I find it hard not to grow cynical to the point where I want to shut myself in a room and watch Star Trek reruns until my eyes bleed. This is one of those times.

There must be something we can do. There must be something we can agree on. ‘We’ as in ‘everyone from Mohammad Merah to Anders Breivik to Baruch Goldstein’. Right? Like, killing leads to more killing. Every time. I’m not saying that. History does. There are no mathematical equations to back this up, which can lead some to revel in implausible denial. “Sometimes killing can be a good thing. Like, if they would have, like, killed Hitler when he was a little toddler.” Pubescent fantasies aside, we can back up with mathematical equations the fact that killing is big business. Something close to two thousand billion government dollars a year worldwide, and rising -economic crisis be damned. We’re still on the same page, right? Mohammad? Anders? Baruch?

Perhaps cynicism isn’t such a bad thing after all. So much injustice, so many killings every day. Perhaps the only sane reaction, if somewhat lacking in imagination, is to go after ‘the others’. The guys who did this -whatever ‘this’ is. And there you have it: your two options. Rise up in anger, or resign to your Playstations, Kardashians or Klingons. Either way, business will go on as usual. Trillions are turned over, and millions die. That’s not an exaggeration by the way. Google it. That’s what it’s there for.

Unless… there is a middle way. Something to do with the Arab spring, education, and peaceful activism. Standing up to the global Mubarak that is the international arms trade. But that’s not for today. I currently lack the imagination, and the sun is out. I could do with a breath of fresh air. To be continued…

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Filed under Al-Qaeda, Arab Spring, Christianity, Egypt, Islam, Judaism, Middle East, minorities, Revolution, seismic changes

The Usual Suspects

If you are an armed group of any extrapolation, Sinai is the place to go. Everybody and their AK-47 toting moms go there. It’s what the kids do nowadays. The place is hot. Or so they say. And who are they, you may ask? Well, everybody and their mom, give or take. About 1000 Egyptian troops are currently engaged in Operation Eagle, aptly named, for if said bird of prey is known for one thing it’s reestablishing state control over rugged lands by means of checkpoints, tanks, helicopters and intensified ID controls.

Al-Qaeda has taken up residence in the Sinai. Or so media-security pundits say. A bunch of dudes in pickup trucks attacked a police station, passing out Al-Qaeda flyers and destroying a statue of Anwar Sadat, Mubarak’s predecessor and signatory to the Israeli-Egyptian treaty that returned the peninsula to its rightful owner. Some point to the Bedouin, but the Bedouin point to former regime thugs smuggling drugs, weapons and other mischief. No, not Al-Qaeda, say others. These are merely Takfir Wal Hijra groups, folks who believe everyone but themselves are full of shit, Islam-wise, and hence subject to violent and, needless to say, righteous retribution.

Recently a mysterious suicide bomber blew himself up, along with three soldiers manning a checkpoint. No one has claimed the attack. Perhaps a case of very spontaneous human combustion. After an attack on Israeli security forces in Eilat last year, Israel has blamed Palestinians tunneling in and out of Sinai from Gaza. Some mused of establishing a security perimeter on Egyptian turf to ward off future shenanigans. Sources in Al-Arish suggest Muhammad Dahlan, security bigwig in Gaza prior to the Hamas takeover, in addition fallen out with his Fatah chums in the West Bank, might be roaming the area. Or at least some of his buddies.

And then we’re back to the Bedouins, whose brethren are currently being uprooted en masse from the Israeli Negev, and have always gotten a raw deal from the Egyptians. Plenty of reasons to be pissed off. Before the Israeli invasion in 1967 they had legal authority to maintain security within their own tribes in the Sinai. After Camp David all they got from the state was the baton and touristic development the benefits of which are largely siphoned off to Cairo. Will the new regime take their rightful demands for at least a piece of the cake into account? What role are they to play in the security architecture of the ‘new’ Sinai? Will the new regime countenance at least a semblance of indigenous rights like some generals have intimated they might?

In ‘Sinai’ the usual suspects are not quite what they seem. The hardcore Muslims are far from hardcore. Nor, strictly spoken, very Muslim. The new old regime is back to the bad old ways, or are they? And who is paying for those gleaming new hummers? Last but not least, the Bedouin find themselves in thrall to a native from another epoch. 

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Filed under Al-Qaeda, Arab Spring, Cairo, democracy, Egypt, Indigenous Rights, Middle East, Revolution, seismic changes