October 26, 2006

I don't have a title today

Just wanted to give a little update since I haven't blogged in what feels like ages. Many things came up over the last week that pushed me away from my dear blog, mainly the last few days of Ramadan as well as Eid which was Monday-Wednesday. I took Monday and Tuesday off so this week feels like it really flew by (which is not always a good thing).

I wanted to post about Eid around the Muslim world and in my neck of the woods, but I really could not get myself to do that. This Eid was indeed bittersweet because of what seems to be the never ending bloodshed in Iraq and Palestine. I couldn't post anything really jolly about Eid, nor did I want to post bloody pictures from the car bombs in Iraq or Gaza on Eid day.

Needless to say, Iraq is tearing at my heart in what is an increasingly obvious and undeniable civil war that is ravaging many parts of the country. I pray night and day for the Iraqi people who have suffered more than enough under Saddam's tyrannical regime, and now under the horrors of the post-Bush-invasion. Injustice is something I cannot bear to watch.

So as Ramadan and Eid have ended, I should expect to be back to my regular schedule, but that is not the case this time around. I am facing an uphill personal battle with various forces that I cannot begin to describe. Over the next week, I will be facing two very difficult exams--academic and personal. As I pray for patience and strength, my hardships seem utterly incomparable to what others in our world have to face on a daily basis, from war to famine to oppression and occupation. I am indeed blessed.

May God have mercy on us all.

I hope to be back to blogging more regularly in the next week or so. Thank you for continuing to check up on me.

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October 17, 2006

A Journalist in Guantanamo: The Story of Sami al-Haj

Nicholas Kristof's writes an excellent op-ed in the New York Times today shedding light on the story of Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj who has been imprisoned by the US for the past five years. The article speaks for itself, and you can read the full text below as it is only available on the web for NYT Select members.

More details about Sami's ordeal can be found in this report by the Committee to Protect Journalists as well as Reporters Without Borders. I first learned about Sami's case through Al-Jazeera which occasionally shows a short piece quoting letters from Sami in prison and images of his son which are truly heartbreaking.

Freedom of the press, huh? Just goes to prove that the US and UK are guilty of intentionally targeting Al-Jazeera headquarters in Iraq and killing their reporter Tariq Ayub.

Sami's Shame, and Ours

by Nicholas D. Kristof

October 17, 2006

There is no public evidence that Sami al-Hajj committed any crime other than journalism for a television network the Bush administration doesn't like.

But the U.S. has been holding Mr. Hajj, a cameraman for Al Jazeera, for nearly five years without trial, mostly at Guantanamo Bay. With the jailing of Mr. Hajj and of four journalists in Iraq, the U.S. ranked No. 6 in the world in the number of journalists it imprisoned last year, just behind Uzbekistan and tied with Burma, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

This week, President Bush is expected to sign the Military Commissions Act concerning prisoners at Guantanamo, and he has hailed the law as ''a strong signal to the terrorists.'' But the closer you look at Guantanamo the more you feel that it will be remembered mostly as a national disgrace.

Mr. Hajj is the only journalist known to be there, and, of course, it's possible that he is guilty of terrorist-related crimes. If so, he should be tried, convicted and sentenced.

But so far, the evidence turned up by his lawyers and by the Committee to Protect Journalists -- which published an excellent report on Mr. Hajj's case this month -- suggests that the U.S. military may be keeping him in hopes of forcing him to become a spy.

Mr. Hajj, 37, who attended university and speaks English, joined Al Jazeera as a cameraman in April 2000 and covered the war in Afghanistan. He was detained on Dec. 15, 2001, and taken to the American military prison in Bagram, Afghanistan.

''They were the longest days of my life,'' Mr. Hajj's lawyers quoted him as saying. He told them he was repeatedly beaten, kicked, starved, left out in the freezing cold and subjected to anal cavity searches in public ''just to humiliate me.''

In June 2002, Mr. Hajj was flown to Guantanamo, where he says the beatings initially were brutal but have since subsided somewhat.

At first, interrogators said Mr. Hajj had shot video of Osama bin Laden during an Al Jazeera interview, but it turned out that they may have mixed him up with another cameraman of a similar name. When that assertion fell apart, the authorities offered accusations that he had ferried a large sum of money to a suspicious Islamic charity, that he had supported Chechen rebels, and that he had once given a car ride and other assistance to an official of Al Qaeda.

One indication that even our government may not take those accusations so seriously is that the interrogations barely touched on them, Mr. Hajj's lawyers say.

''About 95 percent of the interrogations he went through were about Al Jazeera,'' said one of the lawyers, Zachary Katznelson of London. ''Sami would say, 'What about me? Will you ask about me?' ''

He added, ''It really does seem that the focus of the inquiry is about his employer, Al Jazeera, and not about him or any actions he may have taken.''

Mr. Katznelson also says that interrogators told Mr. Hajj they would free him immediately if he would agree to go back to Al Jazeera and spy on it. He once asked what would happen if he backed out of the deal after he was free.

''You would not do that,'' Mr. Hajj quoted his interrogator as saying, ''because it would endanger your child.''

The Defense Department declined to comment on Mr. Hajj's case, saying that in general, it does not comment on specific detainees at Guantanamo.

While Mr. Hajj is unknown in the U.S., his case has received wide attention in the Arab world. The Bush administration is thus doing long-term damage to American interests.

Mr. Hajj's lawyers say he has two torn ligaments in his knee from abuse in his first weeks in custody, making it exceptionally painful for him to use the squat toilet in his cell. The lawyers say he has been offered treatment for his knee and a sitting toilet that would be less painful to use -- but only if he spills dirt on Al Jazeera. And he says he has none to spill.

And while Defense Department documents indicate that he has been a model inmate at Guantanamo, he protests that he has been called racial epithets (he is black) and that he has seen guards desecrate the Koran.

When Sudan detained an American journalist, Paul Salopek, in August in Darfur, journalists and human rights groups reacted with outrage until he was freed a month later. We should be just as offended when it is our own government that is sinking to Sudanese standards of justice.

This doesn't look like a war on terrorism, but a war on our own values.
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October 12, 2006

And in the Occupied Palestinian Territories...

The Israeli Occupying Forces took the lives of eight Palestinians and wounded at least ten others Thursday morning. Three of the dead were Hamas activists while the rest were unarmed innocent bystanders. A teenage boy and his father were killed in the attack. Later in the evening, an Israeli missile killed an unidentified 13 year old girl and another man in the Shijaia neighborhood in Gaza City.
[Aljazeera, Maan News, Reuters]

Clearly, Dr. Rice's visit to Israel was a step in the right direction.

A wounded Palestinian woman reacts after her son was killed by an Israeli missile in the Shijaia neighbourhood in Gaza October 12, 2006. An Israeli missile fired from an unmanned drone killed two Palestinians including a young girl and wounded more than 10 others in the Shijaia neighbourhood in Gaza City on Thursday, local residents and hospital staff said. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem (GAZA)

A Palestinian woman carries a child wounded by an Israeli missile strike in the Shijaia neighbourhood in Gaza October 12, 2006. An Israeli missile fired from an unmanned drone killed two Palestinians including a young girl and wounded more than 10 others in the Shijaia neighbourhood in Gaza City on Thursday, local residents and hospital staff said. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem (GAZA)

Palestinians gather round the debris of destroyed houses targeted by an Israeli missile attack in the Jabalia refugee camp, north of Gaza City. Six Palestinians, including a teenage boy and three Hamas militants, have been killed by Israeli fire in the Gaza Strip as troops mounted a fresh incursion as part of a four-month offensive.(AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Relatives of Palestinian boy Sohaeb Qdeh, 13, mourn near his body following an Israeli air strike in Abbassan, near Khan Yunis, in the Gaza Strip. Five Palestinians, including the 13-year-old boy, were killed in an air strike supporting an Israeli army incursion into the Gaza Strip(AFP/Said Khatib)

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October 11, 2006

Meanwhile in Iraq...

The threat letters are everywhere...
"Warning.. Warning.. Warning. To the worshippers of the Sajjad mosque: Beware of coming near this mosque, or your fate will be death. Woe to the unjust. Death to transgressors. Damn you, lackeys of the occupiers."

"Warning. Warning. Warning. To the Palestinian traitors who allied themselves with Wahhabis, Takfiris, Nawasib and Ba’athist Saddamists, especially those who inhabit the Dar Al-Shu’oun area: We warn you that we will eliminate you all if you do not leave this area entirely within 10 days."

"As a result of the criminal and sectarian behaviour of what is called (the disgraceful) Jaish Al-Mahdi and (the treacherous) Badr forces by killing, kidnapping and deporting the Sunni community (at Mahmoudiya, Rashidiya, Sha’ab, Shu’la and Hurriya), as well as violating the honour of Sunnis and plundering their possessions, the organisation has decided, Inshallah, to return the strike twofold and treat them the same (an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth). It has been decided to deport you from Sunni areas, including Ghazaliya, within 24 hours, or otherwise your heads will be cut off, the same as your militias act with members of the Sunni community. He who has warned is henceforth excused." [Healing Iraq]
The "secterian violence" continues...
Iraqi police found 60 bodies dumped across Baghdad in the 24 hours until Tuesday morning, all apparent victims of sectarian death squads, a grim reminder of the spiraling communal bloodshed that has killed thousands.

A bomb placed under a car near a Sunni mosque in the southern Baghdad district of Doura exploded at midday, killing 10 people, police said. [Reuters]

Yet another Republican Senator on Iraq:

It seems to me the situation is simply drifting sideways," Warner told reporters after completing his eighth trip to Iraq. "It was a markedly different trip from ones before. We just did not have the freedom and ability to travel where I have been before." [Chicago Tribune]
While our young Americans are dying for Bush...
The US military is suffering one of its worst weeks since the invasion. Fourteen US troops have been killed since Monday. The military says that's the highest three-day total so far. A military spokesperson attributed the deaths to a record number of bomb attacks on US troops. Meanwhile a new poll by the veteran advocacy group VoteVets.org has found nearly two thirds of troops who've fought in Iraq and Afghanistan believe the military is overextended. [Democracy Now]
In Iraq, school is out...
Iraq's school and university system is in danger of collapse in large areas of the country as pupils and teachers take flight in the face of threats of violence.

Professors and parents have told the Guardian they no longer feel safe to attend their educational institutions. In some schools and colleges, up to half the staff have fled abroad, resigned or applied to go on prolonged vacation, and class sizes have also dropped by up to half in the areas that are the worst affected. [Guardian Unlimited]

In Baghdad, no family is spared...

The brother of Iraq's Sunni Arab vice president was assassinated yesterday by gunmen who broke into his home, the third of the politician's four siblings to be slain this year. Sunnis blamed Shi'ite militias and demanded a crackdown to stop the sectarian violence raging in the capital.

Iraqi authorities, meanwhile, arrested the head of the mess hall at a base where as many as 400 mainly Shi'ite policemen suffered food poisoning during a Ramadan meal in what may have been the first known attempt by insurgents to carry out a mass poisoning against police. [Boston Globe]
But in Washington, a "Day of Celebration" is in the works...

Tucked away in fine print in the military spending bill for this past year was a lump sum of $20 million to pay for a celebration in the nation’s capital “for commemoration of success” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not surprisingly, the money was not spent.

Now Congressional Republicans are saying, in effect, maybe next year. A paragraph written into spending legislation and approved by the Senate and House allows the $20 million to be rolled over into 2007.

The original legislation empowered the president to designate “a day of celebration” to commemorate the success of the armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to “issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe that day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.” [NYTimes]

And there you have it folks. This is Iraq. Not Condi's Iraq. Not Rumsfeld's Iraq. Not Bush's Iraq. Not Fox News' Iraq.

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October 8, 2006

Remember the Victims, Help the Survivors

It got a little cold over the past few days in the DC metro area. People started pulling out their wool coats, leather gloves, and cozy scarves as they cranked up the heaters in their homes and offices to stay warm in the near 50 degree weather. (Yeah, it's lame, I know, we're like that over here; we freak out when we get an inch of snow.) As people here and in many places in the northern hemisphere bundle up for the beginning of chilly weather, hundreds of thousands of people in are still living in tents one year after the tragic earthquake that hit Pakistan and Kashmir.

October 8th marks the 1st anniversary of the death of 75,000 human beings after a 7.6 magnitude quake struck the region. Millions of people were left homeless last winter, and this year again many thousands are still living in temporary shelters and tents.
The tremor occurred as the school day was beginning - 18,000 children died in schools alone, yet more were killed at home.

The BBC's Barbara Plett has visited the area and found that children are still being taught in tents and in the open air.

In one mountain village in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where 49 children died, students told our correspondent that they are no longer afraid to go back into school thanks to encouragement from their teachers - although a school has yet to be built. [BBC]

This comes at a time when many of us are reflecting upon the many bounties we have that we nonetheless take for granted everyday. Whether it's during Ramadan, Yom Kippur, or Thanksgiving and Christmas, many of us will remember those who are less fortunate and attempt to ease their suffering to the best of our abilities.

Not only in Pakistan and Kashmir are people in dire need of assistance, but also in Indonesia where people are still reeling from the tragedy of the tsunami, and in Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine where hunger, disease, and war plague the beleaguered peoples of those regions. Wherever you turn, there are people that need a helping hand, and with a simple click of a mouse, we can put food on their table, clothe their children, and help them find some peace of mind, however illusive that goal might seem.

Every little bit helps. And each of us surely has a "little bit".

Islamic Relief
UN World Food Programme
ICRCA survivor of the October 8, 2005 earthquake offers prayer at the grave of his father who died in the quake in Poonch, about 250 km (156 miles) northwest of the Indian city of Jammu October 7, 2006. REUTERS/Amit Gupta (INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR)

A survivor of the October 8, 2005 earthquake prepares food for the iftar during Ramadan at a refuge camp in the devastated city of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir October 6, 2006. Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf asked the international aid community on Thursday for an extra $800 million to cover reconstruction costs after a devastating earthquake a year ago. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood (PAKISTAN ADMINISTERED KASHMIR)

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October 6, 2006

Weird Searches

It's really fun to monitor the way people get to your blog, particularly when they search for key words in search engines. Of course nobody will end up on my blog if they search for "politics", "middle east", "occupation", or any other topic that I would normally discuss here. Those are simply too general. Today, however, I noticed many hits on my blog after people searched the words "sniper hit" which led them to a post about my experience when a sniper scare hit the Washington DC region (the 2nd hit on a Google search). I thought to myself, why would people be looking for something about the old sniper story? It must be something else.

I always run into really weird key word searches that have led people to my blog, but this one caught my attention because more than 20 people today came here all looking for the same thing: "sniper hit". One of them, however, searched for "sniper hit Google video" which I then used to search in Google and found a more likely result for their queries. What's even more interesting is that many of them are from Brazil and a few from Vietnam, Spain, Portugal and Germany!

Apparently there is a new game and/or video being posted on Google Video and YouTube called Sniper Hit which is purportedly a "jihadi" video depicting snipers shooting American soldiers in Iraq that has received a lot of attention. A quick search on YouTube showed the first result which seemed to match the news hype, but when you click on it, you get this message: "This video has been removed due to terms of use violation."
Many of the videos, showing sniper attacks against Americans and roadside bombs exploding under American military vehicles, have been posted not by insurgents or their official supporters but apparently by Internet users in the United States and other countries, who have passed along videos found elsewhere.

In a game "Sniper Hit" which is posted on YouTube by a user named 69souljah, a serviceman is knocked down by a shot but then gets up to seek cover.
Why would people want to watch such a thing? Curiosity, I guess, which killed the cat.

Other funny/weird keywords that apparently lead to this blog:
awlad shawari3 (sorry, none here)
"egyptian women" veil gloves
"ellen knickmeyer" genetics (whaaa?)
"one terrorist attack away from a police state" (hmmm)
al sayed hassan youtube
amman call
antiperspirant fasting ramadan (LOL)
britain news anchor wear hijab
bush's reality (or lack thereof?)
cause nine eleven
fady my space (sorry no fady here)
female dress hijab photo talking by phone
google video "sniper hit"
guantanamo extraordinary renditions (yes, we've got that!)
hanan turk pictures after hijab (this common one leads to this post)
hanan turk wearing islamic hijab
hanan turk website
hijab of egyptian actresses
if i break my fast young muslim (umm, then you go to hell...jk)
jordan egregious abuses
living conditions in sharjah
military blog israel
mohammed al-durrah video
mona news presenter lbc
muslim prayer chair (haha, you wish)
occupied territory syria
pictures of hanan turk in her new tv series
pictures of the mabahith
pictures showing how to wash for wudu (instead they got this)
sharing with people who speak your own langguage or different languages
torture slogans (you mean ANTI-torture slogans?)
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October 4, 2006

LA Times: Jordanian King's Proximity to US is Risky

It's interesting to note all the criticism being directed at Jordan recently, including allegations of mistreatment of laborers as well as involvement in the American policy of "extraordinary rendition". An article in Sunday's Los Angeles Times added to this 'bad publicity', so to speak, and sheds light on the increasing proximity of the Jordanian monarchy and intelligence community to their counterparts in the US.

The article notes an increased detachment between the "too modernized" king and most members of the Jordanian populace. The writer goes as far as saying that the fate of the King Abdullah II may be similar to that of the infamous Shah Pahlavi in Iran. I won't try to summarize the article, but do have a look for yourself. This is an excerpt:
[C]ritics on both sides of the Jordanian divide say the 44-year-old king has failed to garner popular support. Descendants of the tribes that are the monarchy's base criticize the king for failing to abide by tribal customs and losing touch with his supporters. They whisper the name of Abdullah's popular younger brother, Hamzeh. Palestinian groups and activists fear that the government in Amman has gotten too close to Washington, has adopted the Bush administration's with-us-or-against-us worldview too thoroughly and is sliding on human rights and democracy.
As a Jordanian who doesn't live in Jordan, but visits frequently, I, like many others who visit it, would not be able to tell that such a rift exists between the monarchy and the people. In the streets of Amman, Irbid, and other cities, one can barely walk two blocks without seeing the picture of the king plastered on mini-markets and corporate billboards. Talking to Jordanians would not get you to think twice about their loyalty to the king either as direct criticism of the royal family would land you at least a few nights in jail. This is not to say that Jordanian policies are not questioned by the local media and scrutinized by members of parliament. Despite recent developments and initiatives by the King to promote free trade and a new "national agenda" for reform, not much has taken place on the ground that has impacted the lives of the average Jordanians.

I wonder how Jordanians would react to this idea, if they would even want to have any reaction at all. It's interesting to note that the Jordanian blogosphere which usually catches on to any Jordan-related article or story (especially in major American newspapers) hasn't picked up on this one...

In case you don't have access to the article through the LAT website, here it is in full:

Jordan's King Risks Shah's Fate, Critics Warn

By Borzou Daragahi

October 1, 2006

AMMAN, Jordan — A politically inexperienced king takes control of a Middle Eastern monarchy from his powerful father, surrounds himself with U.S. military hardware and spies, loses touch with his people and is finally ejected in a popular uprising.
That was the tale of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, the pro-American ruler of Iran whose ouster ushered in the reign of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and three decades of Islamic rule.
Now many in this Arab country of more than 5 million people fear that a similar fate could befall King Abdullah II, the Jordanian monarch who assumed power after his charismatic father died in 1999.
"Until now in Amman we don't have a Khomeini," said one mid-ranking official serving the Jordanian Cabinet. "If there was a Khomeini, then this family would be in trouble."
The king's father, Hussein, deftly balanced his country's contradictory pressures. He paid respects to the conservative East Bank tribes' demands for stability while also attending to calls from the nation's more cosmopolitan majority Palestinians for democratic change.
But critics on both sides of the Jordanian divide say the 44-year-old king has failed to garner popular support. Descendants of the tribes that are the monarchy's base criticize the king for failing to abide by tribal customs and losing touch with his supporters. They whisper the name of Abdullah's popular younger brother, Hamzeh. Palestinian groups and activists fear that the government in Amman has gotten too close to Washington, has adopted the Bush administration's with-us-or-against-us worldview too thoroughly and is sliding on human rights and democracy.
"King Hussein was an artist," said Ivan Eland, for 17 years a staff member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and now an analyst at the Oakland-based Independent Institute, a think tank. "He was roundly criticized for supporting Saddam [Hussein] in the first Gulf War. But in retrospect, he looked pretty smart.
"The son has gotten more in bed with the United States," he added. "He hasn't been distancing himself from American policy. That has put him in a hole he hasn't been able" to get out of.
Numerous parallels exist between the shah's rule and that of Abdullah. Like the shah's SAVAK security and intelligence service, Jordan's General Intelligence Department, now in a new hilltop complex in an Amman suburb, operates as a "subdivision" of the CIA, said Alexis Debat, a former French Defense Ministry official who is a counter-terrorism consultant and a senior fellow at the Nixon Center in Washington.
By Debat's estimates, the Jordanian intelligence agency receives at least $20 million a year in U.S. funding for operations and liaison work. "They're doing all the legwork for the CIA," he said.
The Jordanians have become one of Washington's closest allies in the intelligence-gathering business, second only to Britain's MI6, counter-intelligence experts say. They are closer to the CIA than the Mossad, Israel's much-touted intelligence agency, which is considered to have too much of an agenda of its own to be completely reliable, Debat said.
Like the Iran of the 1970s, Jordan has become a receptacle of U.S. interests and trade. American aid to the kingdom has totaled $3.59 billion over the last five years, compared with $1.36 billion during the previous five years, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Like the shah's regime, the Jordanian monarchy has surrounded itself with American hardware. Just before Hussein's death, Amman took delivery of 16 advanced F-16 fighter jets. "That was a sort of threshold that Jordan crossed," said Michael R. Fischbach, a professor of history at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. "They got truly advanced weaponry. It made Jordan have aircraft on par with Israel."
U.S.-made military hardware abounds on Jordan's streets. Jordanian soldiers carrying American-made M-16 assault rifles and riding in olive-green U.S.-made Humvees watch over sensitive military and political sites in Amman, the capital. Convoys of U.S. military transport trucks move in and out of the country.
Perhaps most controversially, say Amnesty International and other human rights groups, Jordan has become an important nexus in U.S. intelligence's subterranean "renditions" network, in which terrorism suspects are secretly detained and interrogated in countries with blemished human rights records. Jordanian officials deny participation in the program.
Many worry that bolstering Jordanian security forces amid widespread reports of abuses against detainees has hampered the country's baby steps toward democratization.
"The security forces are improving at the cost of democracy," said Hamzeh Mansur, a leader of the Islamic Action Front, the main Islamist parliamentary bloc.
Jordanian officials say the security apparatus has been ramped up and civil liberties laws tightened out of fear the country will become a staging ground for secretive cells plotting violent operations in Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Jordan has also been victimized by terrorism, including the Nov. 9, 2005, bombings of three Amman hotels that killed dozens.
"You have to combat terrorism while it's in its planning stage," said Nasser Joudeh, a government spokesman. "We will not allow Jordan to be used as a scene for any activity relating to non-Jordanian problems. We will not allow anyone to bring militant or extremist ideas into Jordan or export them elsewhere."
But the Hashemite kingdom's evident close ties with Washington and its leap into the U.S.-declared war on terrorism threaten to put the government on what some call a collision course with many of its people, especially in light of a sharp increase in anti-American sentiment after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and Israel's recent bombing of Lebanon in the Jewish state's war against Shiite Muslim militants.
"Being darlings of the U.S. is considered bad, bad, bad," said a Western analyst based in Jordan who requested anonymity.
Jordanian government officials say the security forces have become less heavy-handed in their approach. "I am liberal-minded," said Maj. Gen. Mohammed Dahabi, the chief of Jordanian intelligence, who says he was appointed in December with a mandate to clean up the service's reputation as well as confront the growing threat of Islamic militants in neighboring Iraq and the West Bank.
However, confronted by the recent allegations of torture, the officials acknowledge that the past casts a long shadow on the country.
"Old habits die hard," said Dahabi, who represents a segment of the tribal-dominated security forces that strongly supports the king.
Few publicly speak out against the king because of a law that can be used to prosecute those who do. "Criticisms of the king and the intelligence forces are strictly taboo and carry serious penalties," says a January 2006 Human Rights Watch report. "Articles of the penal code criminalize speech slandering public officials, criticizing the king and his family, and harming relations with other states."
But Abdullah has emboldened a legion of critics among the country's tradition-minded tribes that are the backbone of the monarchy.
"He talks about information technology and foreign investment, but he doesn't really know his own people," said the government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of his sensitive position within the Cabinet.
"The tribes are very upset with him," said the Western analyst in Amman.
"The impression is that he's too Westernized."
Many critics say the monarch has been too busy pursuing a Western agenda instead of forging ahead with a vision for uniting the country, which remains divided between the powerful tribes and the numerous Jordanian nationals of Palestinian descent.
"He has ambitions to make Jordan a modern country," said Jean-Robert Leguey-Feilleux, a scholar of Middle East politics, diplomacy and terrorism at St. Louis University. "You can't do that without the support of the people."

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October 2, 2006

Just testing...

to see if this post shows up on the aggregators I'm on. Blogger beta messed up my feed so my previous posts haven't been showing up.