Monday, November 23, 2009

Iran Plans Protests in Mecca, Freeing Gilad Shalit, Ahmadinejad in Brazil

Paul Krugman
Leslie Gelb

"The reigning doctrine in Washington appears to be “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” - Paul Krugman
"The message for Mr. Obama should be clear: He should stare hard at the skills of his foreign-policy team and, more so, at his own dominant role in decision-making. Something is awry somewhere, and he’s got to fix it." - Leslie Gelb

This is the season to perform the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that over 3 million Muslims perform each year. It gets quite crowded, and this year there is the added fear of the swine flu, where several cases already have been reported.

But it is also the time of year for Shias and Sunnis to come together, though there are the usual clashes. The worst was in 1987 when guards ended up firing into the crowd, leaving 402 dead. This year may top that mark, as Iran promises to agitate it up a notch: "On Oct. 26, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, met with officials from the Iranian hajj organizing committee and seized the occasion to rail against alleged past mistreatment of his compatriots during the pilgrimage.

"Such acts are against the unity of Muslims and contribute to the goals and wishes of the U.S. and foreign intelligence services," he said. "The Saudi government should fulfill its duty in confronting these acts." He received immediate support from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who warned on his Web site that the government in Tehran would respond with a "necessary decision" to defend the dignity of Iranian pilgrims..."
This year's Iranian pilgrims are planning to stage a "peaceful demonstration" calling for "Death to Israel, Death to America."

Mix in the civil war in Yemen, and the fact that an Iranian nuclear scientist  defected to Saudi Arabia during a pilgrimage, then throw in the current problems Iran has trying to intimidate its population into submission by sentencing protesters to death and its childish tantrums to the international community, then yes, Houston, we may have a problem... The Saudis have their own problems with extremists in their midst,  and want to remain the dominant player in the region.

The people on the losing end are the innocent, who just want to perform the one major, life transforming journey in their lives without all of the bs... "Sadly, all the talk of political intrigue tends to hide the salient fact that, for the vast majority of hajjis, the pilgrimage is a life-transforming event that emphasizes peace, tolerance, and the equality of all believers despite racial, political, and national differences." 

confusion in cairo...
There are conflicting and muddled reports coming out of Egypt, Gaza, and Israel over the next steps being taken towards talks together. First, Hamas declares that it convinced the groups that were firing missiles into Israel to stop. Then, messengers from the groups say no, we're just not going to stop, try and make us; which caused Israel to bomb some more smuggling tunnels they said housed munitions factories making the missiles. Ouch.

Second, is the top secret negotiations in Cairo between Germany, Israel, and Hamas over the exchange of prisoners for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whom Hamas captured in an over the border raid in 2006. The deal is supposed to happen this coming weekend, but leaks to the public may make the deal go south. The official leak came this morning from Israeli President Shimon Peres, causing the office of the Prime Minister to go into an uproar. Mr Netanyahu stated:"There is no deal yet, and when there will be, it will be brought for debate in the Knesset and voted on in the cabinet." Other Hamas officials said screw it, any deal is off, so who knows what will happen.

Public reaction is mixed, no-one wants to see the release of any terrorists who have been hardened in jail and will fight twice as hard next time. My favorite reaction comes from Benjamin Netanyahu's brother-in-law, which the Jerusalem Post so kindly published: "Such a deal will lead to a vicious wave of terror. The results are very clear, and out of a great love for Bibi, I call on him not to take responsibility for the possible deaths of hundreds or thousands of Israelis on his shoulders... If he signs the deal, it will prove he has no spine." The Prime Minister had previously written that he will never deal with terrorists... Hope the're treating you well, Gilad...

pele for peace...

Brazil wants to be recognized as a major player, with international influence. Winning the next bid for the Olympics may have gone to Lula's head, as he has been hosting guests like Israeli President Shimon Peres, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and now Iran's own Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He reasoned on his weekly radio show: You don’t move forward by leaving Iran isolated. If Iran is an important actor in this discord, then it is important that someone sits with Iran, talks with Iran and tries to establish a balancing point, so that society returns to a certain normality in the Middle East.”

One of the solutions that he sees, and at first I thought he was daft, but then I realized that I'd love to see: "... a soccer “match for peace” pitting a team of Israeli and Palestinian players against the Brazilian national team. He said he had dreamed of hosting the soccer match for three years, and would hold it in a “neutral” stadium.

“I think it would be an extraordinary coup for Brazil and, above all, a very important signal for peace,” Mr. da Silva said. “Those people are tired of war, they are tired of death, they are tired of attacks.” I'd also like to see Mahmoud bust a move and dance the samba, or maybe have a Carnaval in Tehran, get those women out of those burqas and into something more festive... oba! oba!

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