Their situation being precarious at the best of times, last month was even worse than usual for President Hamid Karzai and the foreign occupation forces in Afghanistan. A day after Kabulreceived pledges of $20 billion in aid from donors at the Paris conference, the Taliban carried out a spectacular raid on the Sarposa prison in Qandahar, releasing nearly 1,200 prisoners, among them 400 Taliban fighters, on June 13.
The great political circus otherwise known as the US presidential election campaign is an expensive affair. It will cost nearly $1 billion—no mean sum in a country with 45 million people without health insurance and another 40 million living in absolute poverty, even if it boasts the largest economy in the world.
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency – the UN’s anti-nuclear watchdog – left Syria on June 25 after spending three days collecting samples and other materials from the al-Kibar site bombed by Israel in September last year.
The US is facing two deadlines in its dealings with the government in Iraq over the proposed “security treaty” by which it hopes to legitimise its continued occupation of the country. The first is the expiry of the UN mandate to remain in the country, which expires on December 31.
The last couple of months have seen a sudden increase in Western attention on Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons programme. The campaign is being led by Israel, whose politicians have openly threatened military action against Iran if the UN agencies fail to pressurise it into stopping its nuclear programme.
It has become a political tradition for the performance of a government to be evaluated once it has been in power for a period of some three months or a hundred days. This is usually taken as the time required for the new administration to bed itself in; problems encountered before this time has elapsed can often be conveniently attributed to the previous regime.
The United States of America, the sole superpower in the world, or the so-called “hyper-power”, the one with the most advanced armed forces, with satellites in the air and spies everywhere, is getting its nose bloodied in Afghanistan and suffering military defeat in Iraq. And who is inflicting these humiliations? Mujahideen armed with little more than iron determination to expel the occupiers from their homelands.
There has been a significant increase in militant activities by Chechen forces in recent months, at a time when both the Kremlin and Ramzan Kadyrov, its pawn in Chechnya, insist that the situation has been “normalised”, the war is over and that the rebel forces have been “fully defeated”.
That, in most cases, the UN merely goes through the motions of mediating an end to conflicts is widely known and generally resented. Consequently, the inevitable failure of most of its efforts comes as no surprise to most. Its mishandling of the conflict in Somalia – culminating in the bogus ‘peace-deal’ signed by the weak interim government and nominal insurgents on June 9 is typical.
Hopes that the persecution of hijabi women in Turkey – a substantial majority of the population – might soon be eased were dashed on June 5, when the Turkish constitutional court overturned the decision announced by the government February to relax the hijab ban in universities. The Court ruled that the government decision was unlawful because it was anti-secularist and unconstitutional.
The US supreme court verdict on June 12 that detainees at Guantanamo Bay are entitled to habeas corpus (the right to be free from illegal detention and, if held without charge, to challenge it in a civilian court) was welcome to human-rights activists and lawyers, but so far appears to have left the US government unmoved.
In recent months, politics in the UK has been dominated by debate over how long the authorities should be allowed to hold suspected terrorist before they are charged or released. Fahad Ansari points out that in fact many Muslims are already held for years in British jails without trial.
While Muslims everywhere are concerned with the attacks on Islam and Muslims by our external enemies, particularly the US and its allies, far less attention is paid to the fact that Islamic history and culture are under attack from those who claim to be their guardians. ZAFAR BANGASH, the Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT), discusses the Saudi authorities’ destruction of historical sites in the Hijaz.1
Ideological blinders often lead ideologues to stumble into serious blunders. That US president George W. Bush’s Iraq adventure has gone awry has escaped no one but the warmongering neo-conservative cabal dominating the Bush White House and the stalwart intellectuals who blithely rationalized the irrational war.