julho 30, 2008
por Amir Taheri
On Monday the Iraqi Army launched a large-scale offensive in Diyala north of Baghdad to wipe out al-Qaeda's last remaining hideouts in the country. Since the tide of the war turned last winter, thousands of al-Qaeda jihadists have fled Iraq.
Some returned home and resumed normal life. Others, looking for new places to pursue their holy war against “Zionists and Crusaders”, ended up in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Thailand and helped to reignite the fires of jihad.
However, North Africa appears to have attracted the largest number of returnees. According to the buzz in jihadist circles, confirmed by officials and analysts, a new arc of terror is taking shape in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania - the five countries of the so-called Arab Maghreb in North Africa.
Algeria was first struck by Islamic terror in 1986. Seven years of violence were triggered by the Front for the Islamic Salvation (FIS) in 1992, but by 2000, the Army and groups of armed citizens had crushed the FIS and its more violent offshoots. In 2006 Algerian jihadists announced a merger with al-Qaeda to create al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. Since then they have received huge sums of money and quantities of arms from al-Qaeda sympathisers in the Gulf states, enabling them to make a timid - though no less deadly - comeback.
By all accounts, Algeria may be facing a new round of the War against Terror as it faces mounting political and economic problems. In the first phase of the war, Algerian jihadists never used suicide tactics. In recent months they have carried out at least four such operations, indicating total adoption of al-Qaeda tactics. They have also tried to kill President Bouteflika on at least four occasions. The latest plot was uncovered last week, 24 hours before a provincial visit.
Last month the President invited Ahmed Ouyahya, the architect of Algeria's victory against the terrorists, to assume the premiership again. His return acknowledges that the policy of cuddling the Islamists, preached by the former Premier, Abdulaziz Belkhadem, has failed.
While Algeria is well prepared to face a resurgence of jihadism, Morocco, long recognised as one of the most moderate and peaceful countries in the Muslim world, may prove more vulnerable.
Visitors returning after three or four years would be struck by changes in the urban scenery. The number of al-Qaeda-style beards has grown along with the number of neo-hijab headscarves designed to identify women as partisans of jihad. Women in jeans or mini-skirts have all but disappeared from public, along with all females who favoured the colourful dress of the Berber. One sees countless women draped in black that remind one of Hitchcock's The Birds. Jihadist propaganda is sold on the streets in stalls provided by the municipal authorities.
Fewer and fewer places serve alcohol, and parts of the main cities are becoming no-go areas for foreign tourists. Over the past year, almost 1,000 people have been arrested in connection with terrorism after attacks that claimed at least 60 lives.
Few of the jihadists come from the poor and illiterate slum-dwelling masses. Most of those arrested are graduates, often from well-to-do middle-class families.
More disturbing is that dozens were army, police and security officers. According to a senior official, the jihadists used the Army to obtain military training and the Government had to abolish the conscription system that obliged all male Moroccans to join the Army for two years. The Government has also banned military personnel from attending mosque congregations.
Moroccan Islamists use a more sophisticated strategy than their Algerian counterparts. While preparing for armed action and terrorism, they have also created a range of charities offering services that the Government fails to provide, such as interest-free loans, medical care, scholarships, support for newlyweds and subsidised travel to Mecca. All are handled under the umbrella of the Justice and Benevolence foundation, an old branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Moroccan Islamism has its own political facade, the Justice and Development Party ( PJD) copied from the Turkish model known as the AKP. Hundreds of PJD cadres have been trained in Turkey.
In imitation of the AKP, the PJD has participated in elections and presented itself as an Islamic version of European Christian Democratic parties. It has also worked hard to reassure the US. Its leaders have been invited to Washington and its young cadres employed in Congress. Last year when King Muhammad VI wanted to ban the PJD, the US intervened to dissuade him. Last week the king published a cable of congratulations that he had sent the party for the success of its annual conference. But despite the huge sums it spent in last year's election, the PJD ended up with only 47 of the 325 seats in parliament.
Moroccan Islamism operates through what looks like a set of Russian Matryushka dolls. The smallest and the deadliest, hidden in the others, is the Group of Islamic Moroccan Combatants (GICM), an al-Qaeda affiliate and architect of the Madrid terror attack that claimed 191 lives. Another doll is the contraband network that purchases most of Morocco's production of hashish and smuggles it into Europe. The profits are used to finance jihad.
According to Moroccan officials, an unknown number of jihadists from the Gulf states have settled in the North African kingdom over the past decade or so, creating sleeper cells. “We know they are there,” a senior official told me. “Many have married Moroccans and produced offspring. Thanks to their wealth, they have secured a reputation in the communities they settled in. But they constitute an army of moles, a danger to us and to Europe across the Mediterranean.” While al-Qaeda is being crushed in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, it is building a new life in North Africa without attracting attention from the powers it regards as its ultimate enemies.
julho 28, 2008
Almost three quarters of Irish voters are opposed to the idea of a second vote on the EU's Lisbon treaty, according to a fresh poll.
The survey, revealed on Sunday (27 July), was commissioned by the London-based eurosceptic think-tank Open Europe, and carried out among 1,000 respondents between 21 and 23 July, shortly after a visit by French president Nicolas Sarkozy in Dublin.
The leader of France, which currently hold the EU's six-month rotating presidency, last week proposed to the Irish prime minister, Brian Cowen, that a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty be held on the same day as elections to the European Parliament next June.
But the new poll signals that there is currently not much appetite among Irish voters to be asked about the same document again: 71 percent of respondents said they were against the move, compared to 24 percent who were in favour.
The survey also suggested that in the case of a repeated referendum, even more people would vote No than the first time around: 62 percent of those polled now said they would reject the treaty while just 38 percent would vote Yes.
On 12 June, 53.4 percent of the Irish voted against the Treaty and 46.6 percent in favour, on a 53.1 percent turnout.
Of those who had given their blessings to the EU's reform treaty back then, 17 percent now said they would vote against it, while six percent of former opponents would now vote in favour of the document.
The negative sentiment has also significantly grown among the citizens who did not take part in the first referendum: 57 percent would vote No, while 26 percent would vote Yes.
Juncker backs EU-wide message to the Irish
Since taking on his role as a temporary EU president, French president Sarkozy has been suggesting he would press hard for a solution to the current stalemate over the Lisbon treaty by the end of this year.
On his visit last week to Dublin however, he admitted the solution may not be found during his country's EU presidency while also denying that Ireland must vote again.
Luxembourg's prime minister Jean Claude Juncker - who had previously faced a similar situation when French and Dutch voters rejected a European Constitution during his country's presidency in 2005 - has argued the Irish should vote again after they receive a new message of guarantees on national concerns.
"A unanimous decision from the European Council [representing 27 member states] promising not to interfere with the neutrality, abortion laws and taxation of Ireland" could "make the treaty comprehensible to the Irish," Mr Juncker said in an interview for Austrian paper Kurier, published on Saturday (26 July).
Meanwhile, the Irish government has initiated high-level contact with the two main opposition parties - Fine Gael and Labour - to discuss the formation of an all-party body on the Lisbon treaty, according to the Irish Times.
The new body would gather various opinions on how Dublin should proceed concerning the June referendum defeat, with the findings to be presented to other EU leaders at their top-level gatherings under the French helm in October and December.
Twenty out of 27 EU states have definitively ratified the EU treaty. Spain, Germany and Poland's parliaments have approved the text but the respective heads of state must still sign off on the document, with the German constitutional court still considering a legal challenge.
The Italian lower house is expected to back the text this week. Swedish MPs are set to pass the treaty without serious opposition when they begin their autumn session in September. And Czech deputies are planning to hold a vote in autumn, after the verdict of the country's constitutional court on a legal appeal.
The Lisbon treaty aims to reform the EU's decision-making and institutions as agreed in a basic package of changes already included in the European Constitution adopted in 2004.
julho 23, 2008
‘Acção militar contra o Irão não é opção, dizem os ministros dos negócios estrangeiros da UE‘ in EU Observer, 22 de Julho de 2008
European Union foreign ministers on Tuesday (22 July) called for further diplomacy in dealing with concerns over Iran's nuclear programme and ruled out a military strike as an option.
UK foreign secretary David Miliband said following the meeting: "We are 100 percent focussed on a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian issue."
The EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said there was "no other route" apart from diplomacy.
"The position of the European Union is clear," said Mr Solana according to the AP. "We want to find a diplomatic solution to this, in particular to clarify to the fullest the nature of their nuclear programme."
Mr Solana outlined for the ministers the results of a meeting on Saturday between Iran and diplomats from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and Russia, where Tehran was encouraged to halt its uranium enrichment in return for a package of economic and political carrots.
With the US for the first time sending a high-ranking diplomat to the meeting, expectations were high that better relations between the two main antagonists would bear fruit. However, Iran maintained that its nuclear programme had only peaceful purposes.
American secretary of state Condoleeza Rice described Iran's negotiations following the meeting as "not serious."
Mr Solana on Tuesday however said he hoped to have "to have clear and simple answers" from Tehran within two weeks' time.
The six nations and the EU have given Iran a fortnight to reply to the latest offer. If the response is unsatisfactory, further sanctions could be considered.
"The offer that has been made to Iran on the one hand...and the sanctions on the other, if they refuse to engage and reply, is exactly the right approach," said Mr Miliband following the EU ministers' meeting.
julho 18, 2008
julho 16, 2008
A Sharia no Iémene: menina de 10 anos divorcia-se após maus tratos pelo marido, in CNN 16 de Julho de 2008
Nujood Ali is 10 years old, but she already has been married and divorced. It was an arranged marriage in which she said a husband three times her age routinely beat and raped her.
"When I got married, I was afraid. I didn't want to leave home. I wanted to stay with my brothers and sisters and my mom and dad," she said, speaking to CNN with the permission of her parents.
"I didn't want to sleep with him, but he forced me to. He hit me, insulted me."
As she plays marbles with her brothers and sister, Nujood is a portrait of innocence, with a shy smile and a playful nature.
But what happened evokes anger and shame. Asked if what she went through was torture, she nods quietly. Watch Nujod describe what happened »
Nujood's parents married her off in February to a man in his 30s whom she describes as old and ugly.
Her parents said they thought they were putting her in the care of her husband's family, but Nujood said he would often beat her into submission.
Nujood then turned to her family for mercy.
"When I heard, my heart burned for her; he wasn't supposed to sleep with her," said Nujood's mother, who asked not to be identified.
But, initially, she also told her daughter she could not help her -- that she belonged to her husband now.
Nujood's father, Ali Mohammed Ahdal, said he is angry about what happened to his daughter. "He was a criminal, a criminal. He did hateful things to her," he said. "He didn't keep his promise to me that he wouldn't go near her until she was 20."
When contacted by CNN, the girl's former husband declined to comment.
Nujood's parents, like so many others in Yemen, struck a social bargain when they decided to have their daughter wed. More than half of all Yemeni girls are married off before the age of 18, according to Oxfam International, a nonprofit group that fights global poverty and injustice.
Many times girls are forced to marry older men, including some who already have at least one wife, Oxfam said. According to tribal customs, the girls are no longer viewed as a financial or moral burden to their parents.
"There is always a fear that the girl will do something to dishonor the family: She will run away with a guy, she will have relations with a boy. So this is always the phobia that the families have," said Suha Bashren of Oxfam International.
Bashren calls the tradition of child brides in Yemen a national crisis. She works with young girls to protect them from early marriage, abuse and one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.
The Yemeni government is holding legal and religious workshops to try to deal with the issue of early marriage. But experts say marrying off a young daughter is generally still seen as the right thing to do.
"A lot of people in the public don't think that this is wrong or that what happened to her was abuse," Bashren said.
In Yemen, there is nothing new or extraordinary about Nujood's story because children have been married off for generations. The country's legal minimum age for marriage was 15 till a decade ago, when the law was changed to allow for children even younger to be wed.
But what is most unusual is that this young girl took such an intensely private dispute and went public with it.
Nujood said she made up her mind to escape from her husband, describing how on a visit to her parents' home she broke free and traveled to the central courthouse across town and demanded to speak to a judge.
"He asked me, 'What do you want?' And I said, 'I want a divorce.' And he said, 'You're married?' And I said, 'Yes,'" she recalled.
What unfolded in those few days in April gripped the country on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.
Nujood got her divorce, but based on the principles of Islamic Sharia law, her husband was compensated, not prosecuted. Nujood was ordered to pay him more than $200. The human rights lawyer who represented her donated the money.
But for this determined spirit, it was still a sweet victory.
"I did this so that people would listen and think about not marrying their daughters off as young as I was," she said with a shy smile.
Now back at the family home, she said she won't go outside to play -- that all the attention bothers her. Some still condemn the young girl for speaking out, believing that she shouldn't have challenged convention.
Human rights advocates said it will take more than a generation if this practice is to change in Yemen for other children.
"These girls are living in a misery that no one is talking about," Oxfam's Bashren said.
julho 09, 2008
Irão avisa sobre a sua resposta: ‘Atacaremos a marinha americana e Israel ficará a arder‘ in Guardian, 9 de Julho de 2008
Iran kept up a barrage of conflicting messages over its nuclear programme yesterday, threatening to strike the US navy and "set Israel alight" if it was attacked.
But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president, dismissed the threat of war as a "silly joke", even as he again rejected the idea that Iran halt uranium enrichment - the key demand of the international community repeated at the G8 summit in Japan.
The strongest language came from Ali Shirazi, an aide to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ultimate say over the most sensitive issues.
"The first US shot against Iran would set the United States' vital interests in the world on fire," said Shirazi, a cleric who is Khamenei's representative to the elite Revolutionary Guards naval forces.
"Tel Aviv and the US fleet in the Persian Gulf would be the targets that would be set on fire in Iran's crushing response," he said, the Fars news agency reported.
Analysts said that while Iran has often warned of a crushing response to any aggression, specific warnings of this kind are unusual. The phrase echoed threats made by Saddam Hussein against Israel on the eve of the 1991 Gulf war.
It was the latest in a series of now almost daily exchanges over Iran's nuclear programme including signals from Israel and the US that they would not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. Washington and its allies accuse Iran of secretly working to develop a nuclear weapon. Tehran says it has no military ambitions and is simply seeking to generate power for civil purposes.
Shirazi's remarks came as Revolutionary Guard missile and naval units began war games - codenamed The Great Prophet III - aimed at "improving the combat capability" of the forces. The Guards are responsible for Iran's most significant ballistic missiles including the Shahab-3, whose range puts Israel and US bases in the Gulf within reach.
Ahmadinejad told a news conference in Malaysia that he hoped to see a fresh approach by the next US administration to make up for the "domineering hegemony" of George Bush. "I assure you that there won't be any war in the future," he said, predicting that Israel's "regime" would collapse without the need for Iranian action. He dismissed the idea of war as "a silly joke." The US was no longer in a position to attack Iran. "In the US, his wise scholars will not allow Mr Bush to commit political suicide and of course the economic, political and military situation will not allow Mr Bush to do that," he said.
Ahmadinejad also told the leaders of the G8 that their policies would "accelerate them along the road to a precipice" and reiterated he would not accept demands to stop enriching uranium, which can be used as fuel for nuclear power plants and to make warheads if refined to a higher degree.
Despite these comments, diplomacy is still being actively pursued. Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, is to return to Iran for talks with its top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, before the end of the month, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, told reporters at the G8 summit.
Solana presented Iran with a revised package of economic, technical and political incentives last month on behalf of the five permanent members of the UN security council, plus Germany.
Crucially, the package includes an offer of assistance with civilian nuclear technology that has been widely publicised in the Iranian media and appears to have helped stimulate a lively internal debate among the country's leaders. Solana described Tehran's weekend response as a "complicated and difficult letter that must be thoroughly analysed".
French officials said the Iranian document failed to mention halting uranium enrichment or a reciprocal "freeze for freeze" which would halt sanctions against Iran. "There is no give on the substance whatsoever," said one diplomat.
julho 03, 2008
‘Juiz britânico diz que a Sharia islâmica deve ser usada no Reino Unido‘ in Daily Mail, 3 de Julho de 2008
The most senior judge in England tonight gave his blessing to the use of sharia law to resolve disputes among Muslims.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips said that Islamic legal principles could be employed to deal with family and marital arguments and to regulate finance.
He declared: 'It is possible in this country for those who are entering into a contractual agreement to agree that the agreement shall be governed by a law other than English law.'
In his speech in an East London mosque Lord Phillips signalled approval of sharia principles as a means of settling disputes so long as no punishments that conflict with the established law are involved, and as long as divorces are made to comply with the civil law.
He signal of approval for voluntary sharia tribunals brought protests from lawyers who fear that in some Islamic communities women do not have a full and equal say and that they could be disadvantaged in supposedly voluntary sharia arrangements.
Barrister and human rights specialist John Cooper said: 'There should be one law by which everyone is held to account.
'I have considerable concerns that well-crafted and carefully designed laws in this country, drawn up to protect both parties including the weak and vulnerable party in matrimonial break-ups could be compromised.
'I have concerns over a system of law that may cause one party to be disadvantaged.'
Resolution, the organisation of family law solicitors, said people should govern their lives in accordance with religious principles 'provided that those beliefs and traditions do not contradict the fundamental principle of equality on which this country’s laws are based.'
Spokesman Teresa Richardson said religious law 'must be used to find solutions which are consistent with the basic principles of family law in this country and people must always have redress to the civil courts where they so choose.'
Robert Whelan of the Civitas think tank said: 'Everybody is governed by English law and it is not possible to sign away your legal rights.
'That is why guarantees on consumer products always have to tell customers their statutory rights are not affected.
'There is not much doubt that in traditional Islamic communities women do not enjoy the freedoms that women in this country have had for 100 years or more.
'It is very easy to put pressure on young women in a male-dominated household.
'The English law stands to protect people from intimidation in such circumstances.'
Tories warned that principles of equality under the law must be respected.
Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said: 'The Lord Chief Justice correctly points out that there is a tradition in this country of allowing mediation to take place subject to other legal principles as long as it is voluntary and not subject to coercion, and with outcomes which are not fundamentally incompatible with our own legal principles.
'Any that are incompatible cannot and should never be enforceable.
'One of the key aspects of our free society in Britain is equality under our own laws. It is important that this should be understood and respected by all in our country.'
A spokesman for Jack Straw's Ministry of Justice said: 'English law, which is based on our shared values of equality and a respect for the rule of law, takes precedence over any other legal system.
'The Government has no intention of changing this position. Alongside this it is possible for other dispute resolution systems on matters of civil law to be accommodated, so long as they are not in conflict with the laws of England and Wales and are abided by on a voluntary basis
But his remarks - which give the green light from the highest judicial office to the informal sharia courts already operated by numerous mosques - provoked a storm of criticism.
Lawyers warned that family and marital disputes settled by sharia could leave women or vulnerable people at a serious disadvantage.
Tories said that equality under the law must be respected and warned that outcomes incompatible with English law should never be enforceable.
Lord Phillips spoke five months after Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams surrounded himself in controversy with a lecture in which he suggested Islamic law could have official status and that it could govern marital law, financial transactions and arbitration in disputes.
The Lord Chief Justice said today of the Archbishop's views: 'It was not very radical to advocate embracing sharia law in the context of family disputes.'
He added that there was 'widespread misunderstanding as to the nature of sharia law'.
Lord Phillips said: 'Those who in this country are in dispute as to their respective rights are free to subject that dispute to the mediation of a chosen person, or to agree that the dispute shall be resolved by a chosen arbitrator.
'There is no reason why principles of sharia law or any other religious code should not be the basis for mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution.'
Lord Phillips said that any sanctions must be 'drawn from the laws of England and Wales'. Severe physical punishment - he mentioned stoning, flogging or the cutting off of hands - was 'out of the question' in Britain, he said.
'So far as aspects of matrimonial law are concerned, there is a limited precedent for English law to recognise aspects of religious laws, although when it comes to divorce this can only be effected in accordance with the civil law of this country,' he said.
julho 01, 2008
‘Presidentes da Alemanha e da Polónia recusam assinatura do Tratado de Lisboa‘ in Der Spiegel, 1 de Julho de 2008
Attempts to reform the European Union's institutions, already in disarray following Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty last month, have suffered fresh blows in the last two days with the refusal of the presidents of Germany and Poland to complete the ratification of the treaty.
The presidents of Germany and Poland have said they won't sign the European Union reform treaty for the time being in a new setback following Ireland's rejection of the accord in a referendum last month.
German President Horst Köhler's office announced on Monday he would not sign the ratification documents until the Federal Constitutional Court, the country's highest court, rules on legal challenges to the treaty, which aims to streamline the bloc's institutions following the 2004 accession of central and eastern European countries.
Köhler's role is largely ceremonial but he still has the power to halt legislation. The court had asked him not to sign the treaty, approved by both houses of the German parliament earlier this year, pending its hearing of two challenges brought by the Left Party and by a politician from Bavaria's conservative Christian Social Union party. There is no date set for a ruling by the court, but it may not come until next year.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski followed suit on Tuesday by saying he will not sign the treaty either for the time being because of Ireland's rejection.
Kaczynski told Polish newspaper Dziennik that it was "pointless" to sign the treaty even though Poland's parliament had ratified it in April.
Asked by the newspaper if he would sign the treaty, Kaczynski said: "This is now pointless. But it is difficult to say how this whole thing will end."
The Lisbon Treaty is intended to ensure that the EU's institutions remain workable following the accession of 12 mainly Central and Eastern European countries to the bloc since 2004 which enlarged it to 27 member countries.
It has to be ratified by all member states but Ireland's rejection of it has thrown the reform plans into disarray. Irish voters rejected the treaty for reasons ranging from the fact the text is incomprehensible to concerns it would bring higher taxes or legalized abortion.
"The Bloc Will Go on Functioning"
Kaczynski likened the situation of the EU to that in 2005 when French and Dutch voters rejected a more ambitious EU constitution, which was later revamped into the Lisbon Treaty.
"The bloc functioned, functions and will go on functioning. It's not perfect but such a complicated structure cannot be perfect," he said.
The fresh setback comes as France takes over the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union from Slovenia on Tuesday with French President Nicholas Sarkozy pledging to restore public faith in the EU and get the treaty, which he helped to broker last year, back on track.
In a live televised interview on Monday, Sarkozy said he would address voters' concerns by pushing for tax breaks on products such as gasoline.
"Things are not going well. Things are not going well at all," Sarkozy told France 3 television. "Europe worries people and, worse than that, I find, little by little our fellow citizens are asking themselves if after all the national level isn't better equipped to protect them than the European level," he said, adding that was not the case.
"We have to think about how we can make this Europe a means to protect Europeans in their daily lives ... We must not be afraid of this word -- 'protection'," he said, adding that citizens wanted to be shielded from the risks of globalization.