Saturday, February 6, 2010

Yemeni Ceasefire? Irish Assassins in Dubai? Sweet Home Alabama

Fareed Zakaria
Dana Milbank
John Avlon

On Friday the UN cited lack of funds in its relief program, and that it was going to cut back sending food to Yemen, by at least one million rations. Today, the Yemeni government sent its ceasefire proposal to the Houthi rebels: "The security committee has drawn up a timetable ... and it has been handed over to (rebel leader Abdul-Malik) al-Houthi through mediators," Abdul-Karim al-Iryani told reporters."If he signs it, the war will stop.

The rebels have said they would accept conditions set by Sanaa for a ceasefire that include the removal of rebel checkpoints, withdrawal of forces and clarification of the fate of kidnapped foreigners.

The government says the rebels must also return captured military and civilian equipment, stay out of local politics and end border hostilities with forces of neighbouring Saudi Arabia."

So, if the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels can stop fighting and killing each other, they can band together to figure out how to stop hundreds of thousands of citizens dying of hunger, a much more formidable task. Of course, the way that politics is played out in this part of the world,  each side has to beat their breast and shout defiance to save face first, then negotiations can take place behind closed doors. If the Saudis can help stop this war by their influence behind those doors, then they will have much better street cred when they step up to the plate in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And all of the parties involved would rather have a Muslim solution than one imposed by the US...

a pint of irish...
I was going to use the situation in Irelandas an example of what might happen in Iraq after the US military leaves. It's taken them over 40 years to finally negotiate the transference of police and judicial powers over to the local level, and there is still violence on the streets of Northern Ireland. It's taken eight months of wrangling to finally get the current agreement, with Hillary Clinton constantly bringing the parties back to the negotiating table. Don't retire, Hillary, you are needed elsewhere, too. It's a good example of how patience, and persistent diplomacy can work. Hopefully, Yemen and Iraq won't require another 40 years, they can prove to be less obstinate.

Unfortunately, the Irish have also entered into Middle Eastern politics, and not in a good way. Four of the team of seven people who killed senior Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in an expensive hotel in Dubai, all had Irish passports. Ireland is checking to see if these people are actually in Ireland, whereupon Interpol will extradite them. Should be interesting.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouth was labeled by Israel as being the link that smuggled arms from Iran to Hamas through a taped interview he had given. He had originally given an interview to al Jazeera in a stocking mask, but you could make out his features in the film footage. Hamas leaders then sent him unwillingly to Dubai to do another interview: "Although the Hamas operative appeared masked in the interview and was only identified by his nom de guerre, Abu Abed, Israeli security authorities were able to identify him and later track him down, according to the report. The interview was part of a documentary that was recently aired by the popular Arab network. The film focused on Izzadin Kassam and its past operations, particularly the abduction and killing of IDF soldiers.

Palpress suggested that senior Hamas officials Musa Abu Marzouk and Izat al-Risheq were the ones who exerted heavy pressure on the slain Hamas operative to appear on television. It said that when Mabhouh learned that he was supposed to give a second interview, he responded with fury and asked about the fate of the original tape and whether it had been copied. But he was finally persuaded to give another interview under pressure from senior Hamas leaders in Damascus, the agency claimed.

Several weeks ago, the Hamas leadership received a secret letter from an unidentified party who specializes in arms smuggling and money laundering, requesting that Mabhouh be dispatched to Dubai, the agency said. Carrying a fake passport issued by the Hamas Ministry of Interior in the Gaza Strip under the name Mahmoud Abdel Rauf Muhammad Hassan, Mabhouh is said to have arrived in Dubai on January 19, one day before he was found dead in his hotel room. The fake passport identified his profession as a merchant. Mabhouh, according to the agency and other reports in Arab newspapers, was received at the Dubai airport by members of Hamas’s secret security apparatus, who drove him to Rotana Hotel."

Reads like a spy novel, doesn't it? His armed escort were gone when he got back to the hotel after his second interview with al Jazeera, he knew that something was up, and it could easily have been his own superiors that had set up the kill because he had been compromised. Or it could have been the Mossad, with Hamas's blessings. Or it could have been arms smugglers who had a large convoy of arms from Iran busted by Israel about a year ago, and Mabhouh was the coordinator... Whatever the outcome, Dubai is trying to get over its tarnished reputation where foreigners come to die. Good thing they have room service...

sweet home, alabama...
Tomorrow there will be hundreds of columns written about Sarah Palin's first major paid political speech at the tea party convention, I hope to watch it and include my thoughts. The next few months are going to be a lot of fun. There's going to be finger pointing, accusations made, and a lot of embarrassed moments when the Democrats start calling the Republican's bluffs on legislation. For example, this from Talking Points Memo: "House Democrats are going to force their Republican colleagues to vote on a resolution opposing the privatization of Social Security. The move shows Democrats are putting their full political muscle into painting the Republicans as enemies of Social Security and using the chief GOP budget writer Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to cut benefits as evidence." Not to mention a lot of elections, oh yeah, time to create some more drinking games! Which reminds me, I have to change my voting registration from Republican to Independent...

A story of stubborn resistance comes from Alabama, where Republican Senator Richard Shelby is holding up as many as 70 of Obama's low level appointees because he wants a couple of pork barrel earmarks, which were cancelled by the Department of Defense, put back into the budget. Oh, yeah, and he's holding his breath and won't clean his room.

Senator Shelby's office has mistakenly put the blame on Obama when they should be complaining about Robert Gates: "Sen. Shelby has placed holds on several pending nominees due to unaddressed national security concerns," Shelby spokesperson Jonathan Graffeo said in a statement. "Among his concerns" are the progress on multi-billion dollar defense contract that would see planes built in Mobile, AL and Obama's decision to scrap a $45 million FBI improvised explosive device lab Shelby secured an earmark for in 2008."

And he is using terrorism as the excuse: "If this administration were as worried about hunting down terrorists as it is about the confirmation of low-level political nominations, America would be a safer place." It used to be that whenever someone talked about what "the American people" wanted, they were engaging in demagoguery. Now it looks like the hot button to try and press is "keeping america safe from terrorism." Whenever you hear your local politicians use either of the previous phrases, you have my permission to whack them upside their head, hopefully to either knock some sense into them or hit the reset button... Richard Shelby, after being thoroughly called out and embarrassed over his earmarks and attempt at monkey-wrenching for Alabama's profit, is now saying that he is open to negotiate.

from jay leno's monologue:

"Have you heard the new slogan? 'Toyota, just try and stop us.'" –Jay Leno

"Toyota recalling 2.3 million cars because of two problems — unintended acceleration and possible brake problems. Things are not looking good for Toyota. In fact, today, two crash test dummies refused to get in the car." –Jay Leno

"And just two weeks before he is scheduled to go to Nevada to campaign for Harry Reid, President Obama said Las Vegas is a place of excess that people should not visit during hard times. I guess the president feels if you want to see people cavorting with prostitutes and wasting your money, go to Washington." –Jay Leno

"Here's something pretty unbelievable. The only living World War I veteran, a man named Frank Buckles, just turned 109 years old. What's even more amazing, he just finished his fourth tour in Afghanistan." –Jay Leno

"And a number of high-ranking officials in the military have come forward to say they feel gays should be allowed to serve in the armed forces. I think gay people should be allowed to serve. I mean, think about it. What are we defending here in America? Lady Gaga, 'Dancing with the Stars,' 'American Idol,' the TV show 'Glee.' Hello, look around, people." –Jay Leno

"The wife of Gov. Mark Sanford — you know the guy who snuck off to Argentina to see his mistress? You know this moron, this idiot? Well, now the wife says in the book, when they got married, Mark Sanford insisted on taking the part about being faithful out of the wedding vows. Now, I'm no marriage counselor, but ladies, isn't that a red flag?" –Jay Leno

"And then when he went on the honeymoon with someone else, that should have told her!" –Jay Leno

"And in Japan, they've developed a new green machine that turns regular paper into toilet paper. You know, kind of what Wall Street did with the dollar. It's the same thing." –Jay Leno

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