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Thursday
Sep292011

Afghanistan Feature: Meet America's Man in Kandahar (Aikins)

Though Raziq has risen in large part through his own skills and ambition, he is also, to a considerable degree, a creation of  the American military intervention in Afghanistan. (Prior to 2001, he had worked in a shop in Pakistan.) As part of a countrywide initiative, his men have been trained by two controversial private military firms, DynCorp and Xe, formerly known as Blackwater, at a U.S.-funded center in Spin Boldak, where they are also provided with weapons, vehicles, and communications equipment. Their salaries are subsequently paid through the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan, a UN-administered international fund, to which the U.S. is the largest contributor. Raziq himself has enjoyed visits in Spin Boldak from such senior U.S. officials as Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Generals Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus.

In public, American officials had until recently been careful to downplay Raziq’s alleged abuses. When I met with the State Department’s Moeling at his Kandahar City office in January, he told me, “I think there is certainly a mythology about Abdul Raziq, where there’s a degree of assumption on some of those things. But I have never seen evidence of private prisons or of extrajudicial killings directly attributable to him.”

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Thursday
Sep292011

Iran Video Feature: Ahmadinejad, Arab Spring, and the Future of the Regime (Slavin and Maloney)

In my opinion, Barbara Slavin and Suzanne Maloney are two of the sharpest US-based observers of Iran. So this discussion, set up by Bloggingheads.tv, offers a lot for consideration from Slavin's first-hand account of an Ahmadinejad press conference to Maloney on the nuclear issue to --- most importantly, in my opinion --- thoughts on the effect of the Arab Spring and the internal stability of the regime.

Thursday
Sep292011

Iran Propaganda Special: What's Wrong with this Photo of the Mighty Iranian Navy?

See also Iran Media Snapshot: Reuters Panics, "The Iranians Are Coming (to the Gulf of Mexico)!"


Continuing this week's theme of the proclamations of the Iranian military that they will soon show the US their might, both in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Mexico --- and of the international media's willingness to spread the message --- we offer this episode where the chest-thumping propaganda did not quite go as planned....

This photo, taken by Ebrahim Norouzi for AFP and Getty, was initially used by CNN to illustrate its story yesterday, "Iran Planning to Send Ships Near US Waters". You could quibble, however, that this is a bit of distortion by CNN: the picture is not from 2011 but from February 2009, when Tehran launched the 'Jamaran', Iran's first domestically-built warship. 

But there may be a bigger reason why the photograph soon disappeared from the story, replaced by the hyperbolic video below: can you, dear reader, spot the comedy glitch in the picture? (Answer later in the day.)

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep282011

US Feature: So What is "Occupy Wall Street"? (Kilkenny)

“My home has been seized, I’m unemployed, there’s no job prospects on the horizon. I have two children and I don’t see a future for them. This is the only way I see to effect change. This isn’t a progressive issue. This is an American issue. We’re here to take our country back from the corporations,” he said, adding he fears for the future of the United States where corporations can now spend unlimited, anonymous dollars to elect the candidates of their choices. After the protest ended for the day, Matthew couldn’t occupy the park because he had to go care for his two children.

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Wednesday
Sep282011

Syria, Bahrain, Yemen (and Beyond) LiveBlog: A Libyan-Style Civil War?

2045 GMT: In Bahrain, five leading opposition parties have announced a mass rally on Friday, begining at 4:30 p.m. local time, " We Demand Democracy":

EA sources report demonstrations across the country tonight including Muhaza, Sufala, Wadian, Sanabis, Aldaih, Karbabad, Dar-Khulaib, Alhamalah, Barbar, Buri, and Al Eker. A photo from Sanabis this evening:

And video from Dar-Khulaib:

Claimed footage last night of a clash in Sufala village in Sitra:

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep282011

Bahrain Video: The Police Attacks on the Women and Men of Sanabis (France 24)

France 24, picking up on the story of the Bahrain demonstrations, offers vivid first-hand testimony and video of attacks by security forces last Friday in Sanabis, near the capital Manama. The incidents occurred as protesters were trying to reach Pearl Roundabout/Martyrs Square, the symbolic centre of the challenge to the regime from mid-February.

Both of the events --- alleged police assaults on chador-clad women and the burning of buildings in Sanabis --- have been covered here on EA, but France 24 has additional video that we have not posted, as the well as the accounts of the woman and man who claim first-hand knowledge.

Wednesday
Sep282011

The Latest from Iran (28 September): And Now to the Real News....

1910 GMT: Where's Esfandiar? The mystery over the whereabout of President Ahmadinejad's right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai continues....

Asr-e Iran asks why Rahim-Mashai has not been seen on Ahmadinejad's return on his overseas tour, either from the US or from Mauritania, where the President stopped on his way back from New York. In a new theory, Asr-e Iran doubts Rahim-Mashai even went to America, calling him a "ghost".

1710 GMT: Oil Watch. Allegations are now coming thick and fast about the Government's misuse of oil revenues (see 1415 GMT). Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, the head of the Supreme Audit Court, has claimed that the Central Bank has not recovered billions of dollars in oil debts from India, that the Ministry of Energy owes $350 million to the private sector, that $2.9 billion in oil income has been spent on support payments for the subsidy cuts programme, and that oil revenues have been illegally transferred to foreign accounts of the National Iranian Oil Company.

Former Minister of Oil Masoud Mir Kazemi has reportedly submitted documents to the judiciary defending himself against accusations of involvement in the "disappearance" of $11.2 billion in oil revenue.

1705 GMT: Claimed footage of the strike, which began last month, by cloth vendors in the Tehran Bazaar:

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep282011

Iran Media Snapshot: Reuters Panics, "The Iranians Are Coming (to the Gulf of Mexico)!"

"The Russians Are Coming" (1966) --- perhaps Reuters could update it with some Iranian accents?


We began yesterday's LiveBlog with Foreign Diversions. Today we start it with some Foreign Silliness.

On Tuesday, when we posted the comment by Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahedi, "The US pursues the policy of provoking conflicts among countries and unleashing terror and crises all over the world, while Iran’s foreign policy is based on peace building experience," we did not so to endorse it as fact. On the other hand, we did not do so to imply that Washington and Tehran were on the verge of war.

Reuters, however, is willing to take the propaganda of the Iranian military and run with it.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Sep272011

US-UK Politics: Scott Lucas with BBC "What is a Great 'Presidential' Speech?"

As Ed Miliband made his first conference address as leader of the opposition Labour Party today, I spoke with BBC West Midlands about the qualities in a "great" speech, looking to the US --- including President Obama --- for examples.

The discussion starts just after the 13:00 mark.

Tuesday
Sep272011

Syria, Bahrain, Yemen (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Blaming the "Foreign"

A protest last night in Bayada, not far from the battle in Rastan in Homs Province in Syria


2025 GMT: One addition to James Miller's outstanding snap analysis below (see 1955 GMT) before we sign off for the day....

Reuters reports sharp rises in the prices of food and consumer goods after a widespread ban on imports imposed by the Syrian regime last week.

Amidst expanding sanctions by the US and the European Union, the regime banned all imports except grain, raw materials, and 51 essential items, in an effort to preserve dwindling foreign reserves.

Traders in Damascus and Aleppo said average prices had risen by up to 30%. Some said they have begun to hide stocks in the hope of selling at still higher prices as shortages take hold.

Damascus residents have complained that the prices of biscuits and potato chips, which have already risen during the six months of unrest, have jumped by more than 20% since last week, while 100-gramme bags of coffee and flour have risen 50%.

Six years ago, Assad lifted the import ban implemented by his father Hafez.

1955 GMT: At the end of the day, there have been very significant developments in Syria.

Today there were three main stories in Syria. The first, a renewed assault by Syrian military against al Rastan, Douma, and even certain areas of Damascus, just to name a few. Though it is early, and video evidence is still trickling in, the violence of these assaults matches some of the most heavy handed tactics the regime has used yet. Though we never saw security opening fire on a large crowd, we saw evidence of widespread use of artillery and tank bombardment, sometimes near schools and mosques.

Click to read more ...