News roundup — April 25

Poll: Over half of Egypt wants end to Israel peace

More than half of all Egyptians would like to see the 1979 peace treaty with Israel annulled, according to results of a poll conducted by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center released Monday.

The poll highlights the deep unpopularity of the three-decade-old treaty, which is central to U.S. policy in the region and was scrupulously adhered to by former President Hosni Mubarak, until his Feb. 11 ouster.

The poll also revealed that most Egyptians are optimistic about where the country is headed following the 18-day popular uprising that brought down the president, and they look forward to greater democracy in their country.

The fall of Egypt’s autocratic leader and the rise of a more democratic system, however, could threaten relations with neighboring Israel.

According to the poll results, only 36 percent of Egyptians are in favor of maintaining the treaty, compared with 54 percent who would like to see it scrapped. (Associated Press)

Iraq’s own Arab spring

Stretched close to the limit by combat in Afghanistan and determined not to get into a ground war in Libya, the Pentagon is stepping up the pressure to maintain a huge US troop presence in today’s largely peaceful Iraq. What might seem at first sight strange and unnecessary is in fact fully in line with the ambitions of those who planned the invasion eight years ago. Whether neocons or “realists”, they always wanted to have a long-term political and military footprint in the northern sector of the Middle East, strategically placed between Syria and Iran.

As with so many elements of the geopolitical strategy he inherited from George Bush, Barack Obama has gone along with it. So it should be no surprise that Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chief of staffs, was in Baghdad on Friday urging the government to amend the agreement under which all US forces have to leave Iraq by the end of this year. Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, was in the Iraqi capital on a similar mission a few weeks earlier.

Both Sunni and Shia protesters were on the streets last week to denounce the US plans, united by a common sense of nationalism that has not been seen since the first year of the US occupation, before sectarian divisions were artificially inflamed. In Mosul around 5,000 people, including provincial council members and tribal leaders, rallied against any extension of the US presence, while supporters of the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr marched in Baghdad. (Jonathan Steele)

Protesters in Saudi Arabia: “Down with the Khalifas, Down with America, Down with Israel, Down with Wahhabism!”

More Syrians are missing, hinting at a wider crackdown

Dozens of residents have disappeared in Syria since Friday, many of them from the restive city of Homs and towns on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, human rights activists said Sunday, amid signs that the Syrian government may widen its crackdown on a five-week uprising that has already killed hundreds.

The disappearances were yet another indication that the government’s decision to lift emergency rule, in place since 1963, might prove more rhetoric than reform. Though the government has proclaimed the law’s repeal on Thursday as a sweeping step, the past few days have proven some of the bloodiest and most repressive since the uprising began.

On Friday, at least 109 people were killed, as security forces fired on protesters in 14 towns and cities. At least 12 more were killed Saturday, when mourners sought to bury the dead from the day before. Another person was reported killed Sunday in Jabla, where security forces fired on residents after the visit of the governor. “We don’t trust this regime anymore,” one protester there said. “We’re sick of it.”

Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations to set up an international inquiry into the deaths and urged the United States and Europe to impose sanctions on officials responsible for the shootings and the detentions of hundreds of protesters. (New York Times)

Iran ‘targeted by new computer virus’

Iran has been targeted by a new computer virus in a “cyber war” waged by its enemies, according to a senior military official of the Islamic republic.

Gholam Reza Jalali, commander of civil defence, told the semi-official Mehr news agency on Monday that the new virus, called Stars, was being investigated by experts.

“Certain characteristics about the Stars virus have been identified, including that it is compatible with the [targeted] system,” he said.

He said that Iranian experts were still investigating the full scope of the malware’s abilities. (Al Jazeera)

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