Greater Middle East

Jihad against the phantom menace hits Sinai

The jihad against a non-existent "film" produced by non-existent "Jews" continues to claim lives, with the most recent attack Sept. 23 launched by militants in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Israeli troops guarding the border, killing one and wounding another. AFP informs us that an outfit calling itself Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem) took credit for the attack, calling it a "Disciplinary Invasion Against those who Dared Against the Beloved Prophet." The statement posted on Islamist websites read: "As the defence of the honour of the Messenger of Allah is one of our duties and responsibilities, your brothers...carried their weapons and became determined to discipline the Jews for their heinous acts." Hey, read the small print, willya Ansar Bait al-Maqdis? "The Jews" had nothing to do with this one—the non-existent "film" (really just a "trailer" on YouTube) was produced by a Coptic Christian who cynically assumed the fabricated identity of an Israeli-American, and falsely claimed to have Jewish financial backers. Talk about "Anti-Semitism without Jews."

Bahrain: police charged with torturing protesters

Seven police officers in Bahrain have been charged with torturing and mistreating medical professionals who were detained during opposition protests held in March 2011, authorities said Sept. 17. The police officers were trying to coerce the medical professionals into confessing that they committed misdemeanor assault and slander. The police officers' trial is scheduled to start on Oct. 1. The two police officers who are accused of committing the most serious infractions will be tried in the High Criminal Court, while the others will be tried in the Lower Criminal Court. Ten other officers remain under investigation.

Oman blogger imprisoned, fined for slander

An Omani blogger was sentenced to one year of imprisonment by a Muscat court on Sept. 16 and must pay a fine of 1,000 Omani Rials ($2,600). The blogger, Mukhtar bin Mohammed bin Saif al-Hinai, was convicted on charges of slander and violating the country's information technology laws. Al-Hinai is employed by Azzaman newspaper, which has been under government scrutiny recently after publishing critical material. In the wake of the Arab Spring, authorities in Oman have been working to stifle dissent and criticism of the country's leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said.

Will provocateur film derail Arab Spring?

Our hopes that with this eleventh anniversary of 9-11 the world was finally moving on from the dystopian dialectic of jihad-versus-GWOT have sure been dashed over the past few days. Since the 11th itself saw twin clashes at the US embassy in Cairo and the US consulate Benghazi, violence and protests ostensibly sparked by the Islamophobic "film trailer" (for a film that likely doesn't even exist) have now spread to Yemen, Tunisia, Iraq and Iran. The US has dispatched two destroyers armed with Cruise missiles to the coast of Libya, as well as a special Marines unit called the Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) to protect the diplomatic corps there, and an FBI team to investigate the Benghazi attack that left dead the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, two Navy SEALS and a computer technician. The affair has notoriously become a political football at home, with Romney baiting Obama for "apologizing" for American power, even as Obama wields ultra-nationalist rhetoric about how "We are the one indispensible power in the world." (Pretty out of wack, eh?) The White House even officially disavowed a perfectly sensible statement issued by the embassy in Cairo condemning the film as the work of "misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." The capitulation came after Charles Krauthammer baited on Fox News: "That's a hostage statement. That's a mob of al-Qaeda sympathizers in Egypt, forcing the United States into making a statement essentially of apology, on 9-11 of all days, for something of which we are not responsible." This despite the fact (although its is unclear that Krauthammer knew it) that the statement was issued before the embassy was mobbed. Oh well, so much for moving on. (Al Jazeera, WP, CNN, Sept. 13; CBS, ABC Political PunchPolitiFact, Sept. 12)

Yemen drone war: 29 dead in eight days

Noah Shachtman, writing for Wired magazine's Danger Room national security blog Sept. 5, notes that while the Democrats are partying in Charlotte, and patting themselves on the back for the death of Osama bin Laden, the drone war in Yemen has gone into "overdrive"—to little notice in the US media.

29 dead in a little over a week. Nearly 200 gone this year. The White House is stepping up its campaign of drone attacks in Yemen, with four strikes in eight days. And not even the slaying of 10 civilians over the weekend seems to have slowed the pace in the United States' secretive, undeclared war...

Syria: 1.2 million displaced, 3 million face hunger

This week's media headlines about the Syrian crisis have focused on a walk-out by the Syrian delegation at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran, after Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi called the regime "oppressive"; and a TV interview in which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he needed more time to win the war. But the humanitarian situation of hundreds of thousands of people in need of assistance inside Syria has been—as usual, aid workers would say—largely neglected. As violence spreads to previously unaffected areas, internal displacement has reached unprecedented levels. Three million people are in need of food assistance or agricultural support. Many more have been affected by a crumbling economy and a lack of social services, especially health care. Meanwhile, funding for humanitarian aid has not matched the strong rhetoric on Syria in the international community.

Aleppo archbishop flees as Syria slips towards sectarian war

AFP on Aug. 27 cites Vatican Radio as reporting that the Melkite Greek Catholic archbishop of Aleppo, Jean-Clement Jeanbart, has fled to Lebanon after his offices in the war-ravaged city were ransacked by what a source in the local Christian community called "unidentified groups who want to start a religious war and drag the Syrian people into a sectarian conflict." Jeanbart told Vatican Radio that he is concerned about the presence of foreign fighters and "jihadists" in Syria. The Telegraph meanwhile reports that the US State Department's Office of Syrian Opposition Support (OSOS) and the UK Foreign Office have established joint control over an apartment block in Istanbul to coordinate aid to those resisting Bashar Assad's regime. The US has reportedly set aside $25 million to support the Syrian opposition, while Britain is putting up £5 million. 

Pro-democracy protest (or 'terror'?) rocks Bahrain

We've noted before how the oppressive monarchy in Bahrain is intent on blaming all internal protest on external Iranian subversion. Now take a look at how the Bahraini and Iranian official media portray the latest upsurge of unrest (which has gone practically unreported elsewhere). First this, from Bahrain News Agency, Aug. 25:

Terror Attack on Sitra Police Station Foiled
The General Director of Central Governorate Police has announced that the police succeeded in foiling a terror attack on Sitra Police Station on Saturday...

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