Tag Archive: Saudi Arabia


Islamists claim win in Tunisia’s Arab Spring vote

http://news.yahoo.com/tunisia-counts-votes-first-arab-spring-election-011055438.html

TUNIS (Reuters) – Moderate Islamists claimed victory on Monday in Tunisia’s first democratic election, sending a message to other states in the region that long-sidelined Islamists are challenging for power after the “Arab Spring.”

Official results have not been announced, but the Ennahda party said its workers had tallied the results posted at polling stations after Sunday’s vote, the first since the uprisings which began in Tunisia and spread through the region.

“The first confirmed results show that Ennahda has obtained first place,” campaign manager Abdelhamid Jlazzi said outside party headquarters in the center of the Tunisian capital.

As he spoke, a crowd of more than 300 in the street shouted “Allahu Akbar!” or “God is great!” Other people started singing the Tunisian national anthem.

Mindful that some people in Tunisia and elsewhere see the resurgence of Islamists as a threat to modern, liberal values, party officials said they were prepared to form an alliance with two secularist parties, Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol.

“We will spare no effort to create a stable political alliance … We reassure the investors and international economic partners,” Jlazzi said.

Sunday’s vote was for an assembly which will sit for one year to draft a new constitution. It will also appoint a new interim president and government to run the country until fresh elections late next year or early in 2013.

The voting system has built-in checks and balances which make it nearly impossible for any one party to have a majority, compelling Ennahda to seek alliances with secularist parties, which will dilute its influence.

“This is an historic moment,” said Zeinab Omri, a young woman in a hijab, or Islamic head scarf, who was outside the Ennahda headquarters when party officials claimed victory.

“No one can doubt this result. This result shows very clearly that the Tunisian people is a people attached to its Islamic identity,” she said.

REVOLUTION INSPIRED UPRISINGS

Tunisia became the birthplace of the “Arab Spring” when Mohamed Bouazizi, a vegetable seller in a provincial town, set fire to himself in protest at poverty and government repression.

His suicide provoked a wave of protests which, weeks later, forced autocratic president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia.

The revolution in Tunisia, a former French colony, in turn inspired uprisings which forced out entrenched leaders in Egypt and Libya, and convulsed Yemen and Syria — re-shaping the political landscape of the Middle East.

Ennahda is led by Rachid Ghannouchi, forced into exile in Britain for 22 years because of harassment by Ben Ali’s police.

A softly spoken scholar, he dresses in suits and open-necked shirts while his wife and daughter wear the hijab.

Ghannouchi is at pains to stress his party will not enforce any code of morality on Tunisian society, or the millions of Western tourists who holiday on its beaches.

He models his approach on the moderate Islamism of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

The party’s rise has been met with ambivalence by some people in Tunisia. The country’s strong secularist traditions go back to the first post-independence president, Habiba Bourguiba, who called the hijab an “odious rag.”

Outside the offices of the commission which organized the election, about 50 people staged a sit-in demanding an investigation into what they said were irregularities committed by Ennahda. Election officials said any problems were minor.

“I really feel a lot of fear and concern after this result,” said Meriam Othmani, a 28-year-old journalist. “Women’s rights will be eroded,” she said. “Also, you’ll see the return of dictatorship once Ennahda achieves a majority in the constituent assembly.”

Ennahda’s preferred coalition partners may reassure some opponents. Ali Larayd, a member of the party’s executive committee, said it was ready to form an alliance with the Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol, both secularist groups respected by Tunisia’s intelligentsia.

 

The Congress is led by Moncef Marzouki, a doctor and human rights activist who spent years in exile in France. Ettakatol is a socialist party led by Mustafa Ben Jaafar, another doctor and veteran Ben Ali opponent.

The only official results released were from polling stations abroad, because they voted early.

The election commission said that out of 18 seats in the 217-seat assembly allocated to the Tunisian diaspora, 9 went to Ennahda. Its closest rivals were Marzouki’s Congress on four seats and Ettakatol, which won three.

The highest-profile secularist challenger to Ennahda, the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) conceded defeat. It had warned voters that modern, liberal values would be threatened if the Islamists won.

“The PDP respects the democratic game. The people gave their trust to those it considers worthy of that trust. We congratulate the winner and we will be in the ranks of the opposition,” a party statement sent to Reuters said.

Ennahda’s win was a remarkable turnaround for a party which just 10 months ago had to operate underground because of a government ban and which had hundreds of followers in prison.

In a slick and well-funded campaign, the party tapped into a desire among ordinary Tunisians to be able to express their faith freely after years of aggressively enforced secularism.

It also sought to show it could represent all Tunisians, including the large number who take a laissez-faire view of Islam’s strictures, drink alcohol, wear revealing clothes and rarely visit the mosque.

Secularist opponents say they believe this is just a cleverly constructed front that conceals more radical views, especially among Ennahda’s rank and file in the provinces.

The party’s final election rally last week was addressed by one of Ennahda’s candidates, a glamorous woman who does not wear a hijab.

On the fringes of the same rally, stalls sold books by Salafist authors, followers of a strict interpretation of Islam who believe women should be covered up and that the sexes should be segregated in public.

(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by  Tim Pearce)

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Arab strongman: With Gadhafi death, an era passes

FILE - This undated photo shows Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. A U.S. official says Libya's new government has told the United States that Gadhafi, 69, is dead. The official said Libya's Transitional National Council informed U.S. officials in Libya of the development Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011. His death on Thursday, confirmed by Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, came as Libyan fighters defeated Gadhafi's last holdouts in his hometown of Sirte, the last major site of resistance in the country. (AP Photo/File)http://news.yahoo.com/arab-strongman-gadhafi-death-era-passes-151535237.html

CAIRO (AP) — He often looked like a comical buffoon, standing before audiences, bedecked in colorful robes, spouting words that most of the world considered nonsense.

Yet the death of Moammar Gadhafi was a milestone in modern Arab history, in some ways more significant than the overthrow of lesser autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt.

Gadhafi was the last of the old-style Arab strongmen — the charismatic, nationalist revolutionaries who rose to power in the 1950s and 1960s, promising to liberate the masses from the shackles of European colonialism and the stultifying rule of the Arab elite that the foreigners left behind after World War II.

He was swept aside by a new brand of revolutionary — the leaderless crowds organized by social media, fed up with the oppressive past, keenly aware that the rest of the world has left them behind and convinced that they can build a better society even if at the moment, they aren’t sure how.

Gadhafi was the last of a generation of Arab leaders such as Gamal Abdel-Nasser of Egypt, Hafez Assad of Syria and Saddam Hussein of Iraq who emerged from poverty, rising to the pinnacle of power either through the ranks of the military or the disciplined, conspiratorial world of underground political organizations.

None of the latter crop of Arab autocrats, including Assad’s son Bashar, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh and even Egypt’s colorless, ousted president Hosni Mubarak, could rival them in their heyday in terms of charisma, flair, stature and power.

Their model was Nasser, the towering champion of Arab unity who ousted Western-backed King Farouk in 1952 and inspired Arab peoples with fiery speeches broadcast by Egyptian radio from Iraq to Mauritania.

But Nasser’s dreams of Arab unity and social revival crumbled in defeat in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when Israel seized East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights from Syria and the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt. Nasser died three years later, and the fellow strongmen left behind led their countries instead into a political swamp of corruption, cronyism and dictatorship now challenged by the Arab Spring.

The hallmark of the Arab strongman was unquestioned power, the use of state media to promote a larger than life image and a ruthless security network that stifled even a whiff of dissent. That worked in an age before the Internet and global satellite television which opened the eyes of the strongman’s followers to a world without secret police and economic systems run by the leader’s family and cronies.

The Arab political transformation is far from complete. Autocratic rulers are facing challenges from their own people in Yemen and Syria. Bahrain’s Shiite majority is pressing the Sunni monarchy for reform. Rulers in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are maneuvering to contain the Arab Spring.

Iraq is struggling to build a democracy eight years after American-led arms brought down Saddam’s rule.

With Gadhafi’s passing, however, a milestone has been passed. The future belongs to a different style of ruler, whoever it may be.

It may be difficult to imagine that the Gadhafi of his final years — with his flamboyant robes, dark and curly wigs and sagging, surgically altered face — was a trim, handsome, vigorous 27-year-old when he came to power as a strong and vigorous leader. Over the years he had become a caricature figure associated with grandiose dreams such as a “United States of Africa” or seizing all of Israel and sending Jews “back to Europe.”

Even when he was younger, eccentricity was the mark of Gadhafi’s public persona.

A generation ago, President Ronald Reagan described him as the “mad dog of the Middle East,” and his fellow Arab leaders such as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat considered him a dangerous megalomaniac.

Journalists covered his speeches and international visits primarily for amusement.

Images of Gadhafi’s final moments — toupee gone, terrified, confused, powerless in the grip of men who may be about to kill him — make the ousted tyrant appear more pitiable than powerful.

All that was far from his image when he and his comrades toppled a Western-backed monarchy in 1969 in a bloodless coup, promising to transform his poor, backwater country into a modern state.

Promising a new era for his people, Gadhafi closed a U.S. air base, forced international oil companies to hand over most of their profits from Libyan oil to the Libyan state and shook the world with his unabashed support for terrorist or insurgent movements in Northern Ireland, Palestine, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Oil gave him a reach beyond his sparsely populated desert land and enabled him to pursue his revolutionary dreams.

In the 1980s, the lobbies of Tripoli’s few hotels were populated by representatives of what the West considered the most dangerous groups on Earth — stiff North Koreans wearing lapel buttons of their leader Kim Il-Sung, Palestinian extremists huddled over cups of sweet tea, European anarchists and revolutionaries — all come to town to seek the oil-fueled largesse of the “Brother Leader.”

While insisting that Libya was the freest nation on Earth, Gadhafi ruthlessly suppressed dissent, dispatched agents to assassinate his opponents abroad and drove thousands of Libyans into exile.

It all came crashing down in the final battle in his hometown of Sirte. A man who came to power as an Arab revolutionary and self-styled leader of the oppressed and downtrodden died a brutal and inglorious death at the hands of the people he purported to lead.

___

Eds: Robert H. Reid is Middle East regional editor for The Associated Press and has reported from the Middle East since 1978.

Yemen says it foils planned Qaeda attack in Aden

A school door is painted with the colours of Yemen's national flag in Sanaa

Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a demonstration to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Saleh in Taizhttp://beta.news.yahoo.com/yemen-says-foils-planned-qaeda-attack-aden-151214704.html

ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) – Yemen said on Monday its security forces had foiled a planned al Qaeda attack in the southern province of Aden.

The announcement came three days after a suicide bomber killed four soldiers and a civilian and wounded 16 people in Aden. A local newspaper said on Monday that investigators had identified the suicide bomber as a Saudi national.

Yemen’s state news agency Saba quoted a security source as saying six people “among some of the most dangerous elements” of al Qaeda were captured while trying to infiltrate into the province, which includes a port and oil refinery.

The report described the intended target of the thwarted attack as “vital and economic installations,” giving no further details.

Months of popular protests demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh end his 33 years in power have brought near chaos to Yemen, which is home to al Qaeda’s potent regional wing and also faces a separatist revolt in its south and a tenuous peace with Shi’ite rebels in its north.

The Yemeni army has been battling hundreds of Islamist militants affiliated to al Qaeda who seized control of the southern city of Zinjibar and smaller towns in the province of Abyan. The United States and Saudi Arabia fear that al Qaeda will exploit the country’s chaos to launch attacks.

The security source said the arrested militants, all bomb experts, were carrying detonators and wireless communications equipment.

The state news agency, which frequently plays up the threat from al Qaeda, gave no further details and the report could not be independently verified.

Saba said five al Qaeda militants have been killed and seven Yemeni soldiers were injured in clashes in Abyan.

(Reporting by Mohammed Mokhashaf; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Peter Graff)

 

 

http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20110423/wl_time/08599206696000

By ABIGAIL HAUSLOHNER / CAIRO Abigail Hauslohner / Cairo Sat Apr 23, 1:15 am ET

Reports of a thaw in Egyptian-Iranian diplomatic ties has created a stir in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt and its neighbor, Israel. Indeed, even as Egypt struggles to iron out its own emerging political system after the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak, Cairo’s foreign policy is also undergoing a sea change. “If you look at Egypt over the last 20 years, it just hasn’t played a very serious role in the foreign affairs of the region,” says Gary Sick a Persian Gulf expert at Columbia University, who served on the National Security Council under three U.S. presidents. For decades, in fact, the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak acted as little more than a “foreign policy cardboard standup” to its powerful ally and benefactor, the United States. But all that is about to change, he says. “Many of the countries that now have new leaders are going to reset their foreign affairs,” Sick predicts. “And the United States is going to have to get used to that.”

For post-revolutionary Egypt’s new leaders and politicians, forging a new foreign policy means pushing back against much of what Mubarak stood for. That clearly includes Egypt’s perceived puppet-like status to the United States, Europe, and Israel. “Let us eat the way we want, dress the way we want. Let us organize ourselves the way we want to,” says Kamal Habib, a Salafi politician, who was jailed for a decade under Mubarak for his affiliation with a violent jihadist organization. “We don’t want to repeat the Mubarak-American relationship again.” (See pictures of the mass demonstrations in Egypt.)

Habib’s opinion applies to more than just his Salafist cohorts. Many Egyptians want to hit the reset button on their country’s stance on Palestinian statehood, as well as its posture toward the Gaza Strip, where it has helped to enforce an Israeli-led blockade for four years. Most recently, it also includes re-thinking a decades-old enmity with Iran.

Earlier this month, Egypt’s new Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi called for a normalization of relations between the two countries. Tehran and Cairo cut off diplomatic ties following the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel and the Islamic Revolution in Iran, both of which occured in 1979. Earlier this week, reports filtered out that Iran had appointed an ambassador to Cairo, sparking a flurry of speculation on the future of the relationship. Both countries later denied that the step had been taken. But Egyptian state media reported that Iran’s foreign minister has been invited to visit Cairo. And on Thursday Iran’s state-run Press TV announced that Iranian tourism agencies had signed a deal with Egypt to facilitate tourism between the two countries.

For western policy-makers and the Israeli government, the newfound warmth has set off alarm bells. At the very least, they say, it’s not a positive sign for the countries seeking to isolate Iran in an effort to halt its suspected work to build nuclear weapons.

See TIME’s most influential people of 2011.

See TIME’s exclusive photos in “Uprising in Cairo.”

But it may not be a such bad sign either – at least as far as the U.S., Europe, and other countries in the Middle East are concerned. Other Arab states that have normalized relations with Iran, like Qatar and Oman, have proven useful intermediaries at times between the rogue republic and its western adversaries. In tandem with Brazil, Turkey, the largest non-Arab Muslim nation in the area, independently negotiated a nuclear agreement with Iran when Western efforts at coercion failed. (The agreement did not stick because Western officials declared that it did not meet conditions set by the U.N.) But, while Turkey’s success may have proven embarrassing to U.S. leadership because Washington wasn’t responsible for the deal, Sick says, “the opportunity to actually have a valuable interlocutor between the United States and Iran, I know from personal experience, was immensely useful.”

Whether Egypt aims to become an interlocutor is unclear, and perhaps even unlikely at this point. It is more likely that Egypt’s leaders want to set an agenda that’s independent from the U.S. and Europe. And just because Egypt is trying to regain some of the regional prominence that it enjoyed in the 1950s and 60s when it was a vocal leader of pan-Arab nationalism, doesn’t mean it’s going to be Iran’s new best friend either. “The new Middle East may end up being defined as it was in the past by that triangle of ancient states – Egypt, Turkey and Iran,” says Sick. “And I don’t think that they will necessarily become allies of each other. Rather they’re more likely to be rivals on many different issues.” (See TIME’s complete coverage in “The Middle East in Revolt.”)

One of those issues is a lingering suspicion of Iran’s Shi’ite theocracy and Tehran’s ambitions to “export” its Islamic revolution. Most of the region is dominated by Sunni Muslims; and religious conservatives sometimes view the Shi’a brand of Islam practiced by Iran’s majority as heretical. The rise of a Shi’ite government in Iraq has put other Arab states on edge, and an Egypt friendly to Iran is likely to come under a lot of pressure from some of its Arab allies, particularly Saudi Arabia. Regional analysts also say that Arabs have a tendency to exaggerate fears of Iranian influence. “The really active days of exporting the revolution ended in about 1982,” says Sick. But psychologically, it may still represent a sizable obstacle to normalization of Egyptian-Iranian relations.

At the same time, it’s worth considering who’s really in power in post-Mubarak Egypt. Egypt’s revolutionaries may indeed start flexing their foreign policy muscles against Mubarak’s legacy, but the generals who are temporarily in control of the country may have little interest in bending back the old policies. Mubarak’s number two man, the intensely anti-Iran intelligence chief Omar Suleiman has been removed from power. But in his place is Mourad Mwafi, the former head of Egyptian military intelligence, and the governor of North Sinai who held a hard-line on Gaza and Iran-backed Hamas. “I don’t know what his politics are, but I think he has a very healthy and realistic sense of the threats that Egypt still faces,” says one Western diplomat in Cairo. “I think he is highly skeptical of Iranian intentions – not only the nuclear stuff, but Hamas and Hezbollah and other malign influences in the region. So I think they haven’t lost their antennae on these issues.”

Indeed, Iran may be eager for a new ally in an international community where it remains highly unpopular. Ambassadors may even be exchanged. But Egypt is likely to proceed with caution. At the end of the day, the Western official adds, Egypt’s stance on Iran may not be so threatening after all: “There is no intention at this point, I’m told, to immediately move toward changing the nature of the relationship. It’s not there yet. I think the security services still have some concerns.”

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110306/ap_on_re_us/us_muslim_hearings

By EILEEN SULLIVAN and LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Eileen Sullivan And Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press Sun Mar 6, 6:54 pm ET

STERLING, Va. – Muslim Americans are not part of the terrorism problem facing the U.S. — they are part of the solution, a top White House official said Sunday at a Washington-area mosque.

Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough set the Obama administration’s tone for discussions as tensions escalate before the first in a series of congressional hearings on Islamic radicalization. The hearings, chaired by New York Republican Peter King, will focus on the level of cooperation from the Muslim community to help law enforcement combat radicalization.

The majority of the recent terror plots and attempts against the U.S. have involved people espousing a radical and violent view of Islam. Just a few weeks ago a college student from Saudi Arabia who studied chemical engineering in Texas was arrested after he bought explosive chemicals online. It was part of a plan to hide bomb materials inside dolls and baby carriages and blow up dams, nuclear plants or the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush.

King said the Muslim community could and should do more to work with law enforcement to stop its members from radicalizing and recruiting others to commit violence.

“I don’t believe there is sufficient cooperation” by American Muslims with law enforcement, King said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Certainly my dealings with the police in New York and FBI and others say they do not believe they get the same — they do not give the level of cooperation that they need.”

In New York City on Sunday, about 300 protestors gathered in Times Square to speak out against King’s hearing, criticizing it as xenophobic and saying that singling out Muslims, rather than extremists, is unfair.

McDonough said that instead of condemning whole communities, the U.S. needs to protect them from intimidation.

McDonough spoke to an interfaith forum at a Northern Virginia mosque known for its longtime relationship and cooperation with the FBI. The executive director of the center, Imam Mohamed Magid, also spoke, as did speakers from a local synagogue and a Presbyterian church.

The administration has tried to strike a balance on the thorny issue, working to go after homegrown Islamic extremists without appearing to be at war with the Muslim world. There has been an effort to build stronger relationships with Muslims — internationally and in the United States.

During his remarks Sunday, McDonough called the mosque a “typically American place” and said it reminded him of his Catholic parish where he grew up in Minnesota.

“Being religious is never un-American. Being religious is quintessentially American,” he said.

He commended the mosque’s members for taking “an unequivocal stand against terrorism.”

“You’ve sent a message that those who perpetrate such horrific attacks do not represent you or your faith, and that they will not succeed in pitting believers of different faiths against one another,” McDonough said.

The White House is close to finalizing a strategy for countering violent extremism. McDonough leads a working group of 13 federal agencies and offices — including the National Counterterrorism Center and the departments of Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice and State — focused on finding ways to confront the problem.

“No community can be expected to meet a challenge as complex as this alone,” McDonough said. “No one community can be expected to become experts in terrorist organizations, how they are evolving, how they are using new tools and technology to reach our young people.”

___

Baldor reported from Washington.

So, I was looking on Yahoo and found this. Now, I think that we, not just Muslims, should work with law enforcement to try to stop all this voilence from happening. I want to know what ya’ll think so please comment and tell me.

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