Three weeks after General Pervez Musharraf hit Pakistan's crumbling political system on November 3 by declaring a “state of emergency”, the Supreme Court, stacked with loyalist judges, handed him the verdict he wanted. His questionable “election” as president on October 6 was declared valid on November 22: the judges simply dismissed the last of six petitions challenging its legality.
When the Bush administration first let it be known that it was planning a major “peace conference” between Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmood Abbas, administration sources told journalists that it would be a Middle Eastern equivalent of the Dayton conference that ended the Bosnian war in 1994.
There was a time, not so long ago, when Egypt and Jordan were the poster-countries of political reform and democratisation in the Middle East. In those days, parliamentary elections like those held in Jordan last month would have been hailed as massive progress and a model for all Arab states, especially as the country’s Islamic party lost considerable ground. And even Husni Mubarak, so long the US’s main ally in the Arab world, would have been gently chided for his persecution of opposition journalists, even if his treatment of the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen, Egypt’s main Islamic movement and most popular opposition party, was quietly ignored.
Western imperialists have a number of strategies that they use to impose their will on others. Brute military force is one such weapon, of course, but the language used to justify it is just as important; in fact, often more important, if the victims of imperialism can be persuaded to consent to their own exploitation. The resort to force is often a tacit admission that the moral argument has been lost.
Alan Greenspan’s recently published memoirs cut through a great deal of the official American bluster about the US involvement in Iraq, going straight to the heart of the matter. “I am saddened,” he wrote, “that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”
The main factor exacerbating the situation of Pakistan and Pakistanis is the state of the local Islamic movement there. The Jama‘at-e Islami is in no position to show anyone the way out of the morass that Pakistan has become. Likewise the Ikhwan – the Jama‘at's analogue in the Arab world – are running around in circles in Egypt.
Just when prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was basking in glory after the usual praises poured on him at the end of the ruling UMNO's general assembly, he was jolted by a mammoth opposition-backed rally in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, on November 10. That tens of thousands of protesters heeded the silent invitation to join the rally calling for major reforms in the way elections are conducted, after countless threats and warnings from the prime minister and police chiefs, sends a signal that the people's resentment of the UMNO is even more than it was thought to be.
Suddenly in September this year, Burma found itself centre-stage in the western media, despite the fact that reports from the country are vague and not in accordance with generally-used definitions of news authenticity. Three months after reports about a “bloodbath” and “massive protests” in the capital, it now seems that the status quo in Burma is going to survive. The demonstrations reported around the world, most of which are being coordinated by western NGOs and human-rights activists, appear to have changed nothing at all.
The long-simmering crisis over the election of a new president for Lebanon refuses to go away. As President Emile Lahoud's term came to an end without an elected successor at midnight on November 23, Lebanon stared into a power vacuum unprecedented in its history. Months of intense international mediation and backroom negotiation between rival politicians from the two main opposing factions – the Western-backed March 14 coalition, which holds a narrow parliamentary majority, and the opposition spearheaded by Hizbullah – failed to break a tense stand-off over the choice of a compromise presidential candidate.
A country that has been looking down the precipice of sectarian and ethnic strife for the past few years can certainly do without more violent intra-communal rivalry. Yet it was exactly such a dangerous scenario that seemed to be unfolding when 3,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen, supported by military tanks, aircraft and hundreds of US and Polish troops, on November 17 launched Operation Lion's Leap in the Iraqi city of Diwaniyyah, the capital of the south-central province of Qadisiyyah. The assault was supposed to flush out armed militiamen loyal to Shi’a alim Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr from the city, which has been the ground of a turf-war between Sadr's faction and its Shi’a archrival, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) led by Sayyid Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim.
The year 2007 has turned out to be one of the costliest in blood and lives since the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan by the US in October 2001. On November 19 a bomb-explosion killed seven people but missed Ghulam Dastagir Azad, governor of Nimroz province, the intended target in the town of Zaranj. On the same day an attack on a military bus in Kabul was thwarted when the bomber was prevented from boarding. Two days earlier a roadside bomb near Qandahar had killed two Canadian soldiers and wounded three others, bringing the Canadian death toll to 73.
Almost six years after the deaths of over 3,000 Muslims in a genocidal operation by Hindu fundamentalists in the state of Gujarat that began on 28 February, 2002, new information has emerged about the incident that began it. At the end of October two major Indian television channels, seen around the world by cable and satellite, broadcast the findings of a six-month investigation by Tehelka, a weekly news magazine: journalists secretly recorded senior members of Hindu organisations speaking about their roles in the attacks, as well as the role of the state government of the time, led by chief minister Narendra Modi.