Sunday, March 1, 2015

Archive: November, 2011

POSTED: Tuesday, November 22, 2011, 8:06 PM
Pakistan's talented ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani. (AP Photo/B.K.Bangash)

Once again Pakistan has undermined its own security interests – and that of its supposed American ally – by using a bizarre scandal to force the resignation of Pakistan’s talented ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani.

The supposed "memogate" scandal revolves around accusations that Haqqani colluded with Pakistan-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz in drafting a memo to then Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen after the killing of Osama bin Laden. The memo supposedly offered to replace Pakistan's "military-intelligence establishment" with a team that would break off ties with radical Islamists; in return, Washington was asked to preempt a Pakistani military coup.

There are so many weird elements to this story it's impossible to take seriously. For one thing, President Asif Ali Zardari had tried once and failed miserably to gain control of the ISI, and Haqqani would hardly be likely to court another such failure.  Moreover, a coup was most unlikely after the bin Laden episode, which left the Pakistani military weakened. And if Haqqani wanted to deliver a message to Mullen, he didn't need to use an unreliable cutout such as Ijaz.

POSTED: Sunday, November 6, 2011, 6:23 AM

The first free Egyptian election season will get seriously underway only after the feast of Eid Al Adha on Nov. 6-8.  Voting will begin on Nov. 28 and continue through February, in three phases.  Islamist parties are favored to get a plurality.

I spoke about the elections to residents of the Imbaba district – known for it political activism – as they shopped for the feast.  The Imbaba marketplace was a cacophony of food and clothing stalls, butchers selling whole skinned lambs for the feats, with motorbikes and minicabs weaving precariously through the stalls and the crowd.

Many shoppers said they didn’t know who their candidates are – the election regulations are quite confusing and, except for the well-organized Muslim Brotherhood – most parties have yet to get their message out.

POSTED: Sunday, November 6, 2011, 5:23 AM
Mohammed Nour, spokesman for the Salafi Nour party

One of the most unsettling developments of Egypt’s Arab Spring has been the surge of activity by ultraconservative Salafist Muslims, who used to denounce conventional politics.

Salafism is a puritanical form of Sunni Islam that aims to emulate the faith as it was practiced during the Prophet Muhammad's time.  Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, which has long tried to engage in politics, when it was not being repressed by past Egyptian governments, the Salafis concentrated on preaching and social work.  Some veered into violence.

But today – in the midst of Egypt’s open political season – Salafis have formed two political parties, and a Salafi, Hazem Saleh Abu Ismail, is running for president.

POSTED: Wednesday, November 2, 2011, 8:24 PM

    Cairo, Egypt.  Even as it continues to kill protesters, Syria accepted an Arab League plan today that calls on Damascus to end the fighting, and start talking to the Syrian opposition.

     The plan requires Syria to implement an immediate ceasefire, withdraw its military forces from all cities; release thousands of opposition detainees and permit Arab media and independent observers to enter the country.  If these conditions are met, the plan calls for a dialogue to begin within two weeks, at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, between Syrian officials and Syrian opposition leaders.  Syria initially resisted the Cairo venue, but Arab League officials insisted that a neutral location was required.

     I asked Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari,  who was in Cairo for Wednesday’s Arab League meeting, whether he thought the Syrians  were serious. Zebari, who helped persuade the Syrians to sign on, admits that “many believe the Syrians are buying time to relieve the pressures on them.”

POSTED: Wednesday, November 2, 2011, 8:08 PM
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari works to get Syria on board. (Trudy Rubin / Staff)

Cairo, Egypt. Even as it continues to kill protesters, Syria accepted an Arab League plan today that calls on Damascus to end the fighting, and start talking to the Syrian opposition.

The plan requires Syria to implement an immediate ceasefire, withdraw its military forces from all cities; release thousands of opposition detainees and permit Arab media and independent observers to enter the country. If these conditions are met, the plan calls for a dialogue to begin within two weeks, at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, between Syrian officials and Syrian opposition leaders, including those inside the country and the recently formed Syrian National Council of leaders-in-exile.

Syria initially resisted the Cairo venue, but Arab League officials insisted that a neutral location was required. I asked Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who was in Cairo for Wednesday’s Arab League meeting, whether he thought the Syrians were serious.

About this blog

Trudy Rubin’s Worldview column runs on Thursdays and Sundays. Over the past decade she has made multiple trips to Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey, Israel and the West Bank and also written from Syria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Iran, Russia, Ukraine, South Korea and China. She is the author of Willful Blindness: the Bush Administration and Iraq, a book of her columns from 2002-2004. In 2001 she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in commentary and in 2008 she was awarded the Edward Weintal prize for international reporting. In 2010 she won the Arthur Ross award for international commentary from the Academy of American Diplomacy.

Reach Trudy at trubin@phillynews.com.

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