Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tunisian Style Unrest Spreads To Yemen And Algeria, Al-Jazeera Leaked “Palestine Papers” Are A Bomb Shell!

Tunisian Style Unrest Spreads To Yemen And Algeria, Al-Jazeera Leaked “Palestine Papers” Are A Bomb Shell!

ADEN, Yemen – Drawing inspiration from the revolt in Tunisia, thousands of Yemenis fed up with their president's 32-year rule demanded his ouster Saturday in a noisy demonstration that appeared to be the first large-scale public challenge to the strongman.

Clashes also broke out Saturday in Algeria, as opposition activists there tried to copy the tactics of their Tunisian neighbors, who forced their longtime leader to flee the country more than a week ago.

The protests in Yemen appeared to be the first of their kind. The nation's 23 million citizens have many grievances: they are the poorest people in the Arab world, the government is widely seen as corrupt and is reviled for its alliance with the United States in fighting al-Qaida, there are few political freedoms and the country is rapidly running out of water.

Still, calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down had been a red line that few dissenters dared to test.

In a reflection of the tight grip Saleh's government and its forces have in the capital — outside the city, that control thins dramatically — Saturday's demonstration did not take place in the streets, but was confined to the grounds of the University of Sanaa.

Around 2,500 students, activists and opposition groups gathered there and chanted slogans against the president, comparing him to Tunisia's ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, whose people were similarly enraged by economic woes and government corruption.

"Get out get out, Ali. Join your friend Ben Ali," the crowds chanted.

One of the organizers, Fouad Dahaba, said the demonstration was only a beginning and they will not stop until their demands are met.
"We will march the streets of Sanaa, to the heart of Sanaa and to the presidential palace. The coming days will witness an escalation," said Dahaba, an Islamist lawmaker and head of the teachers' union.

Making good on that pledge will be difficult. Like other entrenched regimes in the Arab world, Yemen's government shows little tolerance for dissent and the security forces — bolstered by U.S. military aid intended for fighting the country's virulent al-Qaida offshoot — are quick to crack down.

Police fired tear gas at the demonstrators, whose grievances include proposed constitutional changes that would allow the president to rule for a lifetime. Around 30 protesters were detained, a security official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Since the Tunisian turmoil, Saleh has ordered income taxes slashed in half and has instructed his government to control prices. He also ordered a heavy deployment of anti-riot police and soldiers to several key areas in the capital and its surroundings to prevent any riots.

Nearly half the population lives below the poverty line of $2 a day and doesn't have access to proper sanitation. Less than a tenth of the roads are paved. Tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes by conflict, flooding the cities.

The government is riddled with corruption, has little control outside the capital, and its main source of income — oil — could run dry in a decade.
Protests were also held in the southern port city of Aden, where calls for Saleh to step down were heard along with the more familiar slogans for southern secession. Police fired on demonstrators, injuring four, and detained 22 others in heavy clashes.

Military forces responded harshly to two similar protests a day earlier in four cities in the nearby southern province of Lahj, even firing mortar shells that killed one woman. The response forced residents to flee.

Besides the battle with al-Qaida's local franchise, which has taken root in the country's remote and lawless mountains, Yemen's government is also trying to suppress the secessionist movement and a separate on-and-off rebellion in the north.

Adding popular street unrest to that mix could present the government with a new challenge, though it has shown itself to be resilient even to the occasional al-Qaida attacks to penetrate the capital's defenses.

In Algeria, meanwhile, helmeted riot police armed with batons and shields clashed with rock- and chair-throwing protesters who tried to march in the capital in defiance of a ban on public gatherings.

At least 19 people were injured, the government said, but an opposition party official put the figure at more than 40.

Protest organizers at the democratic opposition party RCD draped a Tunisian flag next to the Algerian flag on a balcony of the party headquarters where the march was to begin in the capital, Algiers.

Riot police, backed by a helicopter and crowd-control trucks, ringed the exit to ensure marchers couldn't leave the building — and striking those who tried to come out to take part. Outside, some young men waved the national flag and chanted "Assassin Power!"

"I am a prisoner in the party's headquarters," said Said Sadi, a former presidential candidate who leads the Rally for Culture and Democracy party, said through a megaphone from a balcony window.

Analysts Downplay Fears Of Tunisia Political Contagion


Investors have been quick to try to dampen fears of political contagion across the Middle East and North Africa region following the Jasmine Revolution that overthrew Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali on January 14. Markets across the region saw widespread selling in the immediate aftermath.

The preconditions for the Tunisian uprising appear to be replicated across the Maghreb and Levant: high unemployment among a youthful, well-educated population; a lack of political space; and overt corruption and nepotism among a ruling elite headed by an ageing autocrat.

High inflation and rising food prices have put pressure on governments across the region. Wheat prices in particular re-main high following supply constraints caused by a drought and subsequent export ban in Russia in the summer of 2009. Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat and in recent years has experienced civil unrest when retail prices of food have spiked.
While Algeria, Libya, Syria and Jordan are all exposed to food prices and have variations on the social and civil dynamics that led to Tunisia’s uprising, their hydrocarbon wealth means their governments are able to deploy subsidies to mitigate inflation.

Egypt has no such resource and has a political process that is already under strain, following parliamentary elections in December that cut out opposition candidates from the Muslim Brotherhood and were widely acknowledged to be rigged. The ongoing suggestion that the presidency could be handed from incumbent Hosni Mubarak to his son, Gamal, smacks of the same nepotism that so aggrieved Tunisians. Even so, Egypt’s experience of dealing with opposition, popular or otherwise, is entirely different from Tunisia’s.

“There is a contagion effect,” says Faysal Itani, a regional analyst at political risk consultants Exclusive Analysis. “What has happened in Tunisia has resonated with a lot of aggrieved populations all around the Middle East, particularly in North Africa, as well as the Levant.”

However, he cautions, despite Egypt’s negative indicators, the government is simply better at dealing with or mitigating instability. “They do have political parties, they do have an opposition, as suppressed as that may be. They do have extensive experience in dealing with commodity-related unrest and they’ve prioritised keeping food prices down. Last, and perhaps most importantly, the regime has the support of the army,” he says.

Tunisia’s small size and high levels of urbanisation allowed the revolt to spread rapidly. Paradoxically, the lack of a single organised opposition may have increased the protesters’ chances for success, as a large and disaggregated group without identifiable leaders was harder to quash. Unlike neighbouring countries, it also lacked geopolitical significance and an Islamist movement. Egypt’s administration, at the US’s vanguard against Middle Eastern instability and Islamic fundamentalism, would not so quickly be allowed to fail.

“Nobody would dare to save Ben Ali. Nobody extended a hand, financial, military or otherwise. I think that’s partly because there wasn’t really a threat of an Islamist regime coming to power,” Mr Itani adds. “That’s not likely to be the case in Egypt or Jordan, which geographically have a critical location – one controls the Suez Canal, both of them border Israel – and have strong and vibrant Islamist movements.”

Egypt has become a major part of Mena (Middle East and North Africa) and broader emerging market portfolios, as annual GDP growth of between 4.5 and 7 per cent since 2005 buoys its capital markets. After events in Tunisia, global investors headed for the exit door, but local and longer-term frontier markets players are trying to find an upside.

“If you ask me is it more nervous now? Definitely. Is it less stable after what happened in Tunis? Definitely. Will it lead to the same consequences? I doubt it,” says Fadi Al Said at ING In-vestment Management in Dubai. “We started the year with Egypt being close to fairly valued and on occasions richly valued... [the sell off] is already creating some interesting buys there.”
Mr Al Said says the reformist mood in the region will have been boosted by the Jasmine Revolution, but it is more likely to lead to a gradual transition towards democracy and reform, rather than repeats of the violent spasm that ousted Mr Ben Ali.

Zin Bekkali, chief executive of Silk Invest, concurs: “Longer term, I think this is a part of the growing up and the maturing of these countries,” he says. “The countries have a level of GDP per capita and a level of economic development that is not at par with the maturity of their political systems, which is good and bad. The bad thing about it is that you will see friction between the two. The good thing is that because they are economically rather developed, it should give them enough stability to go through it.”

1/2 Al Jazeera seems to be recipient of #palestinepapers (not Wikileaks) & has shared with Guardian. #Wikileaks cables play only small part


Over the last several months, Al Jazeera has been given unhindered access to the largest-ever leak of confidential documents related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are nearly 1,700 files, thousands of pages of diplomatic correspondence detailing the inner workings of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. These documents – memos, e-mails, maps, minutes from private meetings, accounts of high level exchanges, strategy papers and even power point presentations – date from 1999 to 2010.

The material is voluminous and detailed; it provides an unprecedented look inside the continuing negotiations involving high-level American, Israeli, and Palestinian Authority officials.

  • the Palestinian Authority’s willingness to concede illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, and to be “creative” about the status of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount;

  • the compromises the Palestinian Authority was prepared to make on refugees and the right of return;

  • details of the PA’s security cooperation with Israel;

  • and private exchanges between Palestinian and American negotiators in late 2009, when the Goldstone Report was being discussed at the United Nations.

Because of the sensitive nature of these documents, Al Jazeera will not reveal the source(s) or detail how they came into our possession. We have taken great care over an extended period of time to assure ourselves of their authenticity.

We believe this material will prove to be of inestimable value to journalists, scholars, historians, policymakers and the general public.

We know that some of what is presented here will prove controversial, but it is our intention to inform, not harm, to spark debate and reflection – not dampen it. Our readers and viewers will note that we have provided a comments section in which to express opinions. In keeping with our editorial policies, we reserve the right to excise comments that we deem inappropriate, but all civil voices will be heard, all opinions respected.

We present these papers as a service to our viewers and readers as a reflection of our fundamental belief – that public debate and public policies grow, flourish and endure when given air and light.

PA: Al-Jazeera Has Declared War On Palestinians

Erekat: This is part of campaign targeting PA, Abbas refused to make far-reaching concessions on Jerusalem; Abbas: We have nothing to hide.

A senior Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah on Sunday strongly condemned the Al-Jazeera TV network for publishing hundreds of documents concerning the peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis.

"Al-Jazeera has declared war on the Palestinians," the official told The Jerusalem Post. "This station serves the interests of the enemies of the Palestinians."

Asked if the PA was now considering measures against Al-Jazeera, the official said he did not see how a TV station that "incites" against the Palestinians would be able to continue operating in the West Bank. However, he said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is currently in Cairo, would decided on the PA's response to the exposure of the documents in the coming hours.

In his first response to the documents that were revealed by Al-Jazeera, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that he did not know how the TV network had obtained secret documents.

"We don't hide anything from our Arab brothers," Abbas told editors of Egyptian newspapers in Cairo. "We have been briefing our Arab brothers about all our activities with the Israelis and Americans."

PLO Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat denied that the PA had agreed to make far-reaching concessions on Jerusalem.

Erekat criticized Al-Jazeera for reporting about the documents. “This is a theater,” he said. “This is part of a campaign targeting President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA at a time when we are going to the UN Security Council regarding the settlements.”

Erekat confirmed, however, that the Palestinians and Israelis had talked about land swaps in Jerusalem and the West Bank. “Yes, we talked about land swaps,” he told Al-Jazeera. “Olmert presented us with a map about the land swap. The swap is part of international law.”

Erekat said that Abbas, like his predecessor Yasser Arafat, refused to make far-reaching territorial concessions to Israel in Jerusalem. “East Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state,” he stated. “All of east Jerusalem.”

Erekat also strongly denied that former PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei [Abu Ala] had agreed to give up parts of Sheikh Jarrah, in east Jerusalem, to Israel. He also denied that the PA had voiced opposition to giving Jordan any role in east Jerusalem. 

“We are now facing a battle with [Prime Minister] Binyamin Netanyahu and we are facing threats and pressures,” Erekat complained. “I don’t know where these documents came from and I would like to know who gave them to Al-Jazeera.”

Erekat also denied that the PA had agreed to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He said that when he was asked by Israel to accept this demand, he replied that it was tantamount to asking a Palestinian to join the Zionist movement.

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, responded angrily: “Who gave the PLO the right to make concessions on Jerusalem? The PLO does not represent the Palestinians.”

Atwan said it was outrageous that four Palestinian offcials were negotiating on behalf of all Palestinians and making concessions without being authorized to do so. He named the officials as Saeb Erekat, Salam Fayyad, Mahmoud Abbas and Yasser Abed Rabbo.

I Have Been Waiting For The Right Moment To Post The Article Below Article!

We face wrenching budget cutting in the years ahead, but there’s one huge area of government spending that Democrats and Republicans alike have so far treated as sacrosanct.
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF : Published: December 25, 2010
Go to Columnist Page »

It’s the military/security world, and it’s time to bust that taboo. A few facts:

• The United States spends nearly as much on military power as every other country in the world combined, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It says that we spend more than six times as much as the country with the next highest budget, China.

• The United States maintains troops at more than 560 bases and other sites abroad, many of them a legacy of a world war that ended 65 years ago. Do we fear that if we pull our bases from Germany, Russia might invade?

• The intelligence community is so vast that more people have “top secret” clearance than live in Washington, D.C.

• The U.S. will spend more on the war in Afghanistan this year, adjusting for inflation, than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War combined.

This is the one area where elections scarcely matter. President Obama, a Democrat who symbolized new directions, requested about 6 percent more for the military this year than at the peak of the Bush administration.

“Republicans think banging the war drums wins them votes, and Democrats think if they don’t chime in, they’ll lose votes,” said Andrew Bacevich, an ex-military officer who now is a historian at Boston University. He is author of a thoughtful recent book, “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.”

The costs of excessive reliance on military force are not just financial, of course, as Professor Bacevich knows well. His son, Andrew Jr., an Army first lieutenant, was killed in Iraq in 2007.

Let me be clear: I’m a believer in a robust military, which is essential for backing up diplomacy. But the implication is that we need a balanced tool chest of diplomatic and military tools alike. Instead, we have a billionaire military and a pauper diplomacy. The U.S. military now has more people in its marching bands than the State Department has in its foreign service — and that’s preposterous.

What’s more, if you’re carrying an armload of hammers, every problem looks like a nail. The truth is that military power often isn’t very effective at solving modern problems, like a nuclear North Korea or an Iran that is on the nuclear path. Indeed, in an age of nationalism, our military force is often counterproductive.

After the first gulf war, the United States retained bases in Saudi Arabia on the assumption that they would enhance American security. Instead, they appear to have provoked fundamentalists like Osama bin Laden into attacking the U.S. In other words, hugely expensive bases undermined American security (and we later closed them anyway). Wouldn’t our money have been better spent helping American kids get a college education?

Paradoxically, it’s often people with experience in the military who lead the way in warning against overinvestment in arms. It was President Dwight Eisenhower who gave the strongest warning: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” And in the Obama administration, it is Defense Secretary Robert Gates who has argued that military spending on things large and small can and should expect closer, harsher scrutiny; it is Secretary Gates who has argued most eloquently for more investment in diplomacy and development aid.

American troops in Afghanistan are among the strongest advocates of investing more in schools there because they see firsthand that education fights extremism far more effectively than bombs. And here’s the trade-off: For the cost of one American soldier in Afghanistan for one year, you could build about 20 schools.

There are a few signs of hope in the air. The Simpson-Bowles deficit commission proposes cutting money for armaments, along with other spending. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled a signature project, the quadrennial diplomacy and development review, which calls for more emphasis on aid and diplomacy in foreign policy.

“Leading through civilian power saves lives and money,” Mrs. Clinton noted, and she’s exactly right. The review is a great document, but we’ll see if it can be implemented — especially because House Republicans are proposing cuts in the State Department budget.

They should remind themselves that in the 21st century, our government can protect its citizens in many ways: financing research against disease, providing early childhood programs that reduce crime later, boosting support for community colleges, investing in diplomacy that prevents costly wars.

As we cut budgets, let’s remember that these steps would, on balance, do far more for the security of Americans than a military base in Germany.

I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

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