Scores die in Israeli air strikes

Israeli F-16 bombers have launched a series of air strikes against key targets in the Gaza Strip, killing at least 155 people, medical chiefs say.

Gaza officials and the Hamas militant group said about 200 others were hurt as missiles hit security compounds and militant bases across the territory.

The strikes, the most intense Israeli attacks on Gaza for decades, come days after a truce with Hamas expired. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — What will Obama have to say? I expect that as a matter of political convenience he’ll rattle off the “Israel has the right to defend itself” line — yet again — and beyond that, it’ll be back to the one-president-at-a-time barricade.

At the same time, one message will go out for the millionth time across the Middle East: the political leadership across the region is impotent and their Western allies largely indifferent when it comes to the misery inflicted on Palestinians. Europeans will frown and say that the Israeli response is disproporationate, while Americans won’t even go that far. Another few thousand young men will be radicalized and the foundation of their conviction will be that institutionalized political power is indifferent to their plight.

Abbas in ‘urgent contact’ with other states over Gaza strikes

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said on Saturday that he was in “urgent contact” with numerous countries over the deadly Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

“We have carried out urgent contacts with numerous Arab countries and other nations to stop the cowardly aggressions and massacres in the Gaza Strip,” Abbas told AFP from Saudi Arabia which he is currently visiting. [continued…]

Hezbollah calls for urgent steps on Gaza among Arab leaders

Hezbollah’s head of international relations Nawaf Mousawi said Saturday that Arab leaders should take urgent steps against Israel’s attack on Gaza.

Mousawi criticized the Arab “suspicious silence” which will have its impact on the whole Arab nations by losing Jerusalem and Palestine.

He urged Arab people to resent the collaboration of their leaders, and go to the streets to pressure their leaders for urgent steps. [continued…]

Protests call for Palestinian unity

Palestinians in the West Bank have demonstrated for unity between the rival factions, Fatah and Hamas, after Israeli air attacks on the Gaza Strip killed more than 155 people and wounded 200 others.

Hundreds of Palestinians gathered in the centre of Ramallah in the West Bank on Saturday, some carrying banners reading: “We will not forget you, Gaza.”

The Israeli bombardment also sparked rallies across the Arab world, including in Amman, the capital of Jordan, and Damascus in Syria. [continued…]

How can anyone believe there is ‘progress’ in the Middle East?

If reporting is, as I suspect, a record of mankind’s folly, then the end of 2008 is proving my point.

Let’s kick off with the man who is not going to change the Middle East, Barack Obama, who last week, with infinite predictability, became Time’s “person of the year”. But buried in a long and immensely tedious interview inside the magazine, Obama devotes just one sentence to the Arab-Israeli conflict: “And seeing if we can build on some of the progress, at least in conversation, that’s been made around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be a priority.”

What is this man talking about? “Building on progress?” What progress? On the verge of another civil war between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, with Benjamin Netanyahu a contender for Israeli prime minister, with Israel’s monstrous wall and its Jewish colonies still taking more Arab land, and Palestinians still firing rockets at Sderot, and Obama thinks there’s “progress” to build on? [continued…]

Peace for the Mideast

President-elect Barack Obama is about to inherit not just a nation entrenched in two wars but a world of instability and an entire Middle East that is sick with discord. While disputes in this region may seem eternal, there are reasons to be optimistic. If Obama joins with forces for peace and stability and acts boldly, his presidency could have a marked impact on world affairs.

The best medicine yet formulated for the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the Arab peace initiative of 2002. One must consider the prospect of “peace” in context.

In May, Israel celebrated the 60th anniversary of its creation. For Palestinians and their Arab and Muslim brethren, Israel’s founding is “al-Naqba,” or “the Catastrophe.” It is the day the dream of an independent, Arab-Palestinian state was shattered; a day when the idea of a world built on equality, freedom and self-determination died. [continued…]

Pakistan moves troops amid tension with India

Pakistan has begun moving some troops away from its western border with Afghanistan and has stopped soldiers from going on leave amid rising tensions with India, Pakistani officials said Friday.

Two of the officials said the troops were headed to the border with India in the east.

The move is likely to frustrate the United States, which has been pressing Pakistan to battle militants in its lawless northwest territories and working hard to cool tempers in the two nuclear-armed countries, following terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, last month. Indian officials have blamed a Pakistani militant group for the attacks.

By late Friday there was little to indicate that the troop movements constituted a major redeployment. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — It’s a bit early for the planners of the Mumbai attacks to start unfurling banners that say “Mission Accomplished”, but events are clearly moving in the direction that they wanted.

Every time a government engages in a military response to terrorism, the message rings out across the world: terrorism works. It accomplishes its intended strategic goals — ironically, with much greater frequency than armies do!

‘Little blue pills among the ways CIA wins friends in Afghanistan

The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

“Take one of these. You’ll love it,” the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes — followed by a request for more pills. [continued…]

The shoe-thrower becomes an issue in Iraq election

Iraqis go to the polls next month in provincial elections that promise to be the most fiercely contested thus far, as the post-Saddam era moves to open a post-U.S. chapter. And one major issue will undoubtedly be case of shoe-tossing journalist Muntader al-Zaidi, who became a hero on the streets of Iraq and much of the Arab world after his failed attempt to bean President Bush at a press conference. Zaidi is to stand trial on New Year’s Eve, Abdul Satar Birqadr, the spokesman for Iraq’s High Judicial Council said Monday, on charges of “assaulting a foreign head of state visiting Iraq.” Even if putting Zaidi on trial appears to risk igniting public hostility, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki may yet seek to make the case work to his a political advantage ahead of next month’s poll, for which some 17.5 million are registered to vote. [continued…]

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5 thoughts on “NEWS & VIEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENTS: December 27

  1. Ritu Chaudhry

    Every time a government engages in a military response to terrorism, the message rings out across the world: terrorism works.

    Umm, I fail to see how this says terrorism works – all it says to me is that the Pakistani govt is deploying troops on the Indo-Pak border. After all, Pakistan is the country from where the terrorist attack on Mumbai was launched, not the country that suffered from the attack. So all this redeployment says is that this is how Pakistan is reacting…

  2. Paul Woodward

    Sometimes my comments can be a little too condensed — as in this case.

    There is clearly still evidence that needs to be gathered, but so far the indications point strongly towards a very clear strategic aim behind the Mumbai attack: to elevate tensions between India and Pakistan to a point where Pakistan would scale down or end its operations in the NWFP and tribal areas, and move troops across to the Indian border. Now that is what is happening.

  3. Ritu Chaudhry

    Hmm, I will not argue with the aim you state – that may well be the case, though I am annoyed that we have to suffer to affect Pakistani policy – but there is another fact as well. Pakistan has a new govt in, and J&K have had elections. As it is, this then becomes the ‘traditional’ time for ratcheting up tensions.

    I see this as typical Pakistani drama – there were promises of co-operation, then backtracking, then total disavowal of the men concerned, then whining about the big bully India, then troop movement and talk of war. So basically, a refusal to make any significant change, and something that plays to the West’s worst fears – either a nuke war, or troops moved away from Afghanistan border and the Waziristan areas…

    Next will come an apparent willingness to listen to the world leaders, for the good of the mankind, then their inability to do anything while they are worried about India [and this is when India has *never* initiated a war with Pakistan], then their inability to make serious changes while they are so poor…so what will happen is that the wrold opinion will tell India to calm down, Pakistan will be given a hefty package instead of a reckoning, and things will ‘calm’ down for a while… 🙂

  4. Paul Woodward

    In the aftermath of event as horrific as the Mumbai attack, it’s natural that many Indians would want a ‘solution’. We have to solve this terrorism problem once and for all, everyone agrees.

    But this is just an emotional response – a fantasy that, understandably, many want to indulge in. Indeed, as a psychological mechanism through which a sense of control can be established in the aftermath of a trauma, it may have some therapeutic effect.

    After a while though, looking through cool eyes of rationality, it becomes clearer that a solution will in reality be a complex and quite possibly open-ended process.

    But while some nations are cursed with an impatient temperament that demands everything now, India’s greatest virtue is a very expansive view of time.

  5. Ritu Chaudhry

    Your last line makes me think of something that happens to me ever so often. I show non-Indian friends around Delhi and a few other North Indian cities. History crops up, as does politics..and sometimes when I say ‘Recently, this changed…’, I am asked if I am talking about the last few years, the last few decades, or the last few centuries…

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