Iraqis Thrilled: Olympic Ban Lifted

Courtesy Selcan Hacaoglu, AP

2008-07-25T132022Z_01_BAG208_RTRMDNP_3_OLYMPICS-IRAQ-BEIJING

Iraqi rowers Hamza Hussein (L) and Haider Nawzad who qualified for the Beijing Olympics row in Tigris river in Baghdad, as they continue training despite decision of the International Olympic Committee to suspend membership of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, July 25, 2008. Wednesday Iraqis were informed the ban had been lifted.

REUTERS/Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s Olympic team was thrilled Wednesday at the news that the International Olympic Committee revoked a ban on its participation in the Beijing games, allowing four of the original seven athletes to compete.

The IOC decision came late Tuesday after last-minute talks during which an Iraqi government delegation pledged to hold free elections for its national Olympic committee under international observation.

IOC officials said Iraq would be able to send two track and field athletes to the games, as the deadline for their entry into competitions had not yet passed.
Iraq missed last week’s deadline to enter athletes for the rowing, judo, archery and weightlifting competitions.

But on Wednesday, the International Rowing Federation announced that the Iraq men’s rowing double will be permitted to participate in Beijing after all.

“We called the IOC and asked if we could have the rowers back and the answer just came through. We’re very happy,” said Matt Smith, the rowing federation’s executive director.

The two rowers, Haidar Nozad and Hamzah Hussein Jebur, were allowed back in the men’s double sculls because their places had not been given to competitors from other countries, Smith said.

“We were overwhelmed with pleasure over the news,” Jebur said.

Dezso Dobor, a spokesman for the International Weightlifting Federation, said an Iraqi competitor might be placed on standby should an athlete from another country drop out.

Ali Adnan, an Iraqi athlete in archery, potentially has a chance to compete as well.

“If someone withdraws from the competition for whatever reason, then Ali will be the first person to get the place,” said Tom Dielen, secretary-general of the International Archery Federation.

Iraq has only one bronze medal since its first appearance at the Summer Olympics in 1948.

But in a country where violence has claimed the lives athletes, coaches and staff, the IOC’s rescinding of the ban amounted to an invaluable gift.

“Yesterday’s decision is an upbeat one. … It brought Iraq back to the international sports gathering,” said Dr. Talib Faisal, head of the Iraqi Track and Field Association. “We are looking forward to take part in the Olympics.”

The IOC suspended Iraq in May citing political interference in the country’s national Olympic committee, which the government had dissolved over allegations of corruption.

“We hope that there will be no more black days for the Iraqi sports,” said Samir Sadiq al-Moussawi, head of the Iraqi Judo Association on Wednesday.

Pere Miro, head of the IOC’s department for relations with national Olympic committees, said Tuesday that Iraq’s national Olympic Committee will hold “fair elections” before the end of November.

Until then, Iraq’s Olympic organization will be run by an interim committee proposed by its national sports federations and approved by the IOC, Miro said.

10-32

Senator Obama’s Folly

By Waheeduddin Ahmed Ph.D.

2008-07-23T104331Z_01_KAB01_RTRMDNP_3_AFGHANISTAN

A destroyed police vehicle is loaded onto a truck after a road side bomb blast in the eastern Nangarhar province July 23, 2008. A remote controlled roadside bomb killed the district police chief on Wednesday in the eastern province of Nangarhar a provincial official said.

REUTERS/Rafiq Shirzad

 

For the first time since JFK, young Americans of all kinds, black, white, rich and poor, were excited about Senator Obama’s candidacy. His slogan of “change” captured their imagination. Even the old were looking forward to a messianic period in the history of America. However, much of that enthusiasm is now fading and the slogan of “change” is beginning to sound hollow.

Obama is proposing ending the war in Iraq—the war is already winding down, thanks to the Iraqi Sunnis’ decision to give peace a chance—but is promising to transfer its focus into Afghanistan and Pakistan with very little thought about the repercussions and the geopolitics of the region. A casual look at history will tell you how different Afghanistan is from Iraq. Afghanistan, throughout history, has proved to be a death trap for foreign soldiers, recently for the British and the Russians.

To understand the situation, one needs to know the history and the culture of the people called Pashtun. There are about 42 million Pashtuns in the world. 13 million live in Afghanistan, forming the largest ethnic group in that country; about 28 million live across the border in Pakistan. They were divided by the Durand Line, drawn by the British in 1893, as they forced the then Amir of Afghanistan Abdur Rahman Khan to cede a big chunk of territory to British India. In 1947, when the British Raj ended, those territories joined Pakistan.

The Pashtuns are fiercely independent and aspire unification. Therefore, they have never accepted the Durand Line, at least not those who live in Afghanistan and the tribes who straddle the border between the two countries. The tribes regard subjection to any outside authority as subjugation and have successfully resisted the British and the Pakistani attempts to bring government to their areas. Conscious of the problem, the Pakistani government has always left the tribes alone to run their own affairs.

Three things describe the Pashtun identity: the Pashto language, the tribal law (Pashtunwali), and Islam. They rigidly adhere to their tribal code of ethics. One element of the Pashtunwali culture is Melmastia, which requires that anyone who seeks the protection of a tribe must be granted that and be protected with blood, regardless of whether he is a friend or a foe. The events around 9/11 must be viewed in that perspective. The fact that the U.S. government is seen by the Pashtuns as a sworn enemy of Muslims does also exacerbate the situation.

The rise of the Taliban is not an anomaly but a historical development in the Hegelian sense. Feudalism, decades of foreign manipulation and exploitation, followed by the post-Soviet destruction and anarchy, gave rise to the energetic and explosive Taliban, which swept away the anarchical mess. As is characteristic of such movements, it was led by men of unshakable convictions, austere though simplistic. The fact that the U.S. and Pakistan governments welcomed this development is indicative of how bad the conditions were and how remote the prospects of tranquility had become. The Taliban were remarkably successful in dealing with their country’s social ills. Under their rule most of the country was united, law and order was firmly established and the drug trade eliminated. Compare that with today’s situation. The central government’s jurisdiction is limited to Kabul. Corruption, even in the high government circle is rampant. Drug cultivation is at its highest. Refer to Carlotta Gall’s report in the New York Times of July 24, 2008. True, from our point of view, there were many deficiencies in their rule but perfection could not have been achieved overnight. Providing a safe haven to those who were planning terrorist acts was undoubtedly their biggest blunder. But in the aftermath of 9/11 when everyone was clamoring for revenge and the drawing of blood, we indulged in the biggest overkill in modern history and destroyed many countries.

The Jihad in Afghanistan was a creation of the C.I.A., so was Osama Bin Laden. We must be searching our souls as the present events unfold in that region. America cannot and must not impose her will on a people, who want to run their country according to their own traditions and culture. We must give up trying to force the graft of democracy on cultures that are inhospitable to it. The arrogance of the Bush years must never be repeated.

Senator Obama’s ill-considered proposal to expand the war in Afghanistan is fraught with great danger to world peace. As mentioned, there are 28 million Pashtun in Pakistan; 1.5 million of them in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, which makes Karachi the largest Pashtun city in the world. The present Pakistani government is weak and fragile. Its military has already been discredited and demoralized due to its involvement in killing fellow countrymen. Any attack on Pakistan by the U.S. will play havoc. The government will collapse. It is unimaginable that the Pakistani military will be psychologically prepared to fight the U.S. military, which is its lifelong patron and benefactor. It will, most likely, disintegrate like in Iraq. Pakistan’s nuclear-tipped missiles will be looking for adoption. The people will take up arms, 160 million of them. A jihad will be declared. There are around 200 million Muslims in India and a similar number in Bangladesh. In fact, more than half of the world’s Muslim population inhabits South Asia. With chaos on its western border, India’s response will be unpredictable. In short, the consequences of a U.S. military action against Pakistan will be cataclysmic. Let us hope that Obama’s utterances are just election rhetoric and not war strategy.

At a time, when the main worry of an average American is to put food on the table, avoid losing his home and to get to work without spending most of his earnings, what both the presidential candidates are talking about is wars, a choice between the old one and finding a new one. Senator Obama himself once said that the continuing the Iraq war would bankrupt America and a bankrupt country could not be a superpower. That was his reason to end the war in Iraq. The same reason applies to Afghanistan.

It is true that the American people want to see the culprits of 9/11 punished and the problem of terrorism dealt with, but this cannot be achieved by invading countries and bombing villages. The problem of “Islamic Extremism” is the direct result of frustrations caused by the occupation of the Palestinian territories and America’s unconditional support for this injustice. No matter how many countries we bomb, the problem will remain in one form or another until we address the key issue. Obama knows it; they know it in the White House; they know it on the Capitol Hill and they know it in Tel Aviv but they cannot do anything about it until courage and honesty manifest themselves in someone’s statesmanship. In American politics that seems to be a rarity.

Senator Obama, as president will be unsuited to courageously and impartially deal with this problem as he will be continuously required to prove his dissociation from his paternal heritage. But the alternative is even worse. So, we the people will have to forget about the change for now.

10-32

Israeli ‘Shooting Video’ Condemned

Courtesy Al-Jazeera 

The video shows a soldier aim and fire his weapon at a Palestinian man’s legs.

The Israeli defence minister has condemned an incident, captured on video, in which an Israeli soldier shoots a Palestinian detainee.

Ehud Barak vowed on Monday that the incident would be investigated, but Sarit Michaela, from rights group B’Tselem, told Al Jazeera that such incidents are usually ignored by the military.

“Generally, there is very little accountability when it comes to Israeli security forces following up on cases we report – cases like the use of weapons, harassment charges, beating up civilians or killing children,” she said.

On Sunday, B’Tselem released a video showing a soldier firing his rifle toward a captive Palestinian man.

The rights group names the Palestinian as 27-year-old Ashraf Abu Rahma.

He was hit in the foot by a rubber-coated steel bullet

Israeli media said the army arrested the soldier involved and that he told investigators his commanding officer, a lieutenant colonel, ordered him to fire.

Even though Abu Rahma was tied up and blindfolded, the officer said he told the soldier who shot the bullet only to shake his rifle to frighten the Palestinian.
According to reports, an Israeli military spokesman, said: “When the investigation is over and the results are in, steps will be taken.”

Barak on Monday insisted the incident would be investigated.

“The Israeli military will investigate the incident, learn its lessons and hold those responsible to account,” he said.

“Warriors do not behave like this.”

‘Whitewashed’

The incident occurred three weeks ago in the Palestinian village of Nilin during protests against the construction of Israel’s barrier in the occupied West Bank.
Michaela told Al Jazeera: “In my four years here, I haven’t seen anything this severe.

“However, the phenomenon of firing rubber coated steel bullets at protesters and the culture of whitewashing a community is very common amongst Israeli army officials.”

Michaela said that high-ranking officials hardly try opening investigations that could potentially charge soldiers who commit such crimes, “and even when reports are made, the government rarely follows up on the charges to punish them through a military tribunal”, she said.

According to Michaela, Israeli military regulations stipulate that rubber coated steel bullets are not permitted to be fired within a 40m radius, and officials are advised to aim for the legs only.

However, B’Tselem reported in a press release that the rifle, which appeared to have been modified to fire rubber-coated metal bullets, was aimed at least 1.5m away from his foot.

“I think the incident wouldn’t have gained media attention had the video not been released and it forced him [Ehud Barak] to react. Otherwise, the incident would have been whitewashed and nobody would have known about it,” Michaela said.

10-32

Mohammed Jahanzeb Joins Leading Cancer Institute

jahanzeb LOS ANGELES,CA–Mohammad Jahanzeb, M.D., F.A.C.P., an internationally recognized expert in the multidisciplinary management of breast and lung cancer, has joined the Aptium Oncology network as National Program Director, Care Guidelines, and Medical Director at the Lynn Cancer Institute West Campus of Boca Raton Community Hospital in Boca Raton, Florida.

Dr. Jahanzeb, who has focused his medical oncology practice on breast and lung cancers since 1995, will oversee Lynn Cancer Institute West Campus’ multidisciplinary programs for breast and lung cancer patients and help facilitate the launch of additional clinical programs. Most recently, Dr. Jahanzeb served as the Van Fleet Endowed Professor in Medical Oncology, Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology and Fellowship Program Director at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, as well as the Research Director at the University of Tennessee Cancer Institute.

“Dr. Jahanzeb’s international stature, combined with his knowledge and expertise in breast and lung cancers, will be tremendous assets to Lynn Cancer Institute West Campus of Boca Raton Community Hospital in taking our treatment programs to the next level,” said John S. Macdonald, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Aptium Oncology. “As a distinguished leader in the treatment and research of breast and lung cancers, Dr. Jahanzeb will play an important role in advancing Aptium’s commitment to comprehensive cancer services and patient care of the highest quality.”

A highly respected practitioner, lecturer and researcher, Dr. Jahanzeb has authored or contributed to more than 100 original reports and abstracts on breast and lung cancer. These have been published in such journals as Cancer Research, the Journal of Clinical Oncology, American Journal of Hematology Oncology, New England Journal of Medicine, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

In addition to serving on the NCCN Board of Directors for 2008, he has also been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, most recently including Best Doctors in America 2007-2008, Castle Connolly Medical Best Doctors 2006 and the 2006 Gold Medal Award from King Edward Medical College Alumni Association of North America (KEMCAANA).

Dr. Jahanzeb received his medical degree with high honors from King Edward Medical College at the University of Punjab in Lahore, Pakistan. He completed his internship and residency at the New Britain General Hospital of the University of Connecticut in New Britain, Connecticut. Dr. Jahanzeb went on to complete his Fellowship in Hematology and Oncology at Washington University, Department of Internal Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, where he later served as an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Oncology for more than two years.

10-32

Islam to Become Russia’s Predominant Religion by 2050?

Courtesy Pravda

Islam is likely to become the primary religion in the Russian Federation by 2050 due to the high birth rate in Muslim republics.

Islam-ru The current Chinese-led conquest of Russia’s Far East already seems to be a matter of immediate concern for the Kremlin. The ethnic birth rate disproportion in different regions of the country is another problem. The Muslim community may become the largest community by the middle of the current century. Therefore, Islam has all chances to become the predominant religion in Russia.

Ukrainian scientists of politics, Valery Chaliy and Mikhail Pashkov, believe that this is not the only challenge, which Russia has to face nowadays.

“The Russian macroeconomic stability is being shattered with the high inflation rate and growing food prices. Considerable funds are being invested in state-run corporations and are being spent on social needs. Corruption restrains the growth of the national economy. Russia dropped from the 120th to the 14th place among 160 countries on Transparency International’s corruption list. Russian found itself in the company of Gambia, Indonesia and Togo at this point. Russia takes the humble 58th place on the list of 131 countries on the integral rating of the competitive ability of the economy for 2007.

Islam is currently the second most widely professed religion in the Russian Federation. It is impossible to provide official statistics of “practicing” adherents of Islam or any other religion in Russia because there is no country-wide census or statistics done on this matter by any governmental organization. Roman Silantyev, a Russian Islamologist has estimated that there are only between 7 and 9 million people who practise Islam in Russia, and that the rest are only Muslims by ethnicity. Muslim communities are concentrated among minority nationalities residing between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea: Adyghe, Balkars, Chechens, Circassians, Ingush, Kabardin, Karachay, and numerous Dagestani peoples. Also, in the middle of the Volga Basin reside populations of Tatars and Bashkirs, many of whom are Muslims.

There was much evidence of official conciliation toward Islam in Russia in the 1990s. The number of Muslims allowed to make pilgrimages to Mecca increased sharply after the embargo of the Soviet era ended in 1990. In 1995 the newly established Union of Muslims of Russia, led by Imam Khatyb Mukaddas of Tatarstan, began organizing a movement aimed at improving inter-ethnic understanding and ending Russians’ lingering misconception of Islam. The Union of Muslims of Russia is the direct successor to the pre-World War I Union of Muslims, which had its own faction in the Russian Duma. The post-Communist union has formed a political party, the Nur All-Russia Muslim Public Movement, which acts in close coordination with Muslim imams to defend the political, economic, and cultural rights of Muslims and other minorities. The Islamic Cultural Center of Russia, which includes a madrassa (religious school), opened in Moscow in 1991.

The majority of Muslims in Russia adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam. About 2% are Shi’a Muslims. In a few areas, notably Chechnya, there is a tradition of Sunni Sufism. The Azeris have also historically and still currently been nominally followers of Shi’a Islam, as their republic split off from the Soviet Union, significant number of Azeris immigrated to Russia in search of work.

Many Muslim citizens, in particular Muslim clerics, often cite instances of arrest and harassment by authorities, as well as ocassional confiscation of Islamic educational sources. The problems have been exacerbated by terrorist attacks linked with Islamic extremism and Chechen independence. Many ordinary Muslims in Russia fear that they have become the victims of a violent backlash.

The rise in the Russian Muslim population, terrorist attacks and the steep decline of the ethnic Russian population have given rise to a greater degree of Xenophobia and Islamophobia in Russia. Violent racist attacks by ethnic Russians, particularly Neo-Nazi skinheads, which used to be mainly conducted against Jews, are becoming increasingly frequent towards Muslims. As such, Muslims bear the brunt of the escalating racist violence in Russia. Racist attacks struck 539 people in 2006, a 17 percent rise over 2005, the Sova analytical center said in a report. Nearly half of the 56 people killed in the attacks were from the overwhelmingly North Caucasus and Central Asia.

10-32

Common Ground on Foreign Policy?

By Dr. Parvez Ahmed

Written before Sen. Barack Obama’s trip to Europe and the Middle East.

2008-07-24T055103Z_01_MB11_RTRMDNP_3_COMICON

The covers of candidates McCain and Obama’s comic biographies  are displayed at the 39th annual Comic Con Convention in San Diego, California 7/23/08.

REUTERS/Blake     

In the latest Washington Post/ABC poll respondents by 16 points favored McCain over Obama in knowledge about world affairs. In an effort to overcome such perceptions Obama will undertake a major international trip later this month. While details of the trip remain vague, it is the expected that Obama, in addition to visiting our traditional allies in Europe will also visit Muslim countries like Jordan, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama is also expected to give a major speech in front of the historic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. After seven years of Bush unilateralism, mending fences with Europe is desirable and understandable. However, the European challenge pales in front of the continued worsening of our relationship with the Muslim world. American troops are engaged in two wars in the Muslim nations of Iraq and Afghanistan and are perhaps poised to invade a third, Iran.

Moreover, ill-advised rhetoric from the Presidential candidates, continue to add fuel to the fire. McCain singing “bomb Iran” and “joking” about exporting American cigarettes to kill Iranians or Obama supporting an “undivided Jerusalem” (which he later backtracked on) and “willing to attack inside Pakistan” are hardening perceptions about20America’s intent in the Muslim world.

Earlier last year, Steven Kull, editor of WorldPublicOpinion.org testifying before House Committee on Foreign Affairs said, “For decades, polls in the Muslim world and the statements of Muslim leaders have shown a variety of resentments about US policies. Muslims share the worldwide view that the US does not live up to its own ideals of international law and democracy. . These attitudes persist.  But now there . now seems to be a perception that the US has entered into a war against Islam itself.” No more than 5 to 10 percent of people living in Muslim majority countries find the United States to be trustworthy, friendly or respectful. Even those Muslims who aspire to better relations with the West remain skeptical of the United States (in “Who Speaks for Islam?” by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed). 

Dotting these ominous clouds are many silver linings promising hope.

A recent Gallup poll, chronicled in Esposito and Mogahed’s book, shows that nearly 9 in 10 Muslims support freedom of speech, defined as allowing all citizens to express their opinions freely on all major issues of the day. Overwhelming majorities support women having the same legal rights as men. Similar numbers hold beliefs that their faith ought to inform and guide them in their politics. Yet most do not want sacred religious texts to be the exclusive source of law in their societies.

The most common aspiration, all across the Muslim world, is to see America help in reducing unemployment, improving economic infrastructure, respecting political rights and promoting freedom.  

Back at home, in a poll conducted by the non-partisan group Public Agenda, overall anxiety about foreign policy remains high. Clear majority of American’s support diplomatic and economic means to resolve conflicts. Nearly half favor the use of such methods to deal with Iran. Mo st respondents want America’s top foreign policy priorities to be humanitarian, such as assisting with clean water supplies, helping poor countries move out of poverty, providing more access to education or controlling the spread of deadly diseases. 

Such convergence of aspiration creates new opportunities for cooperation through sustained intellectual and diplomatic engagement. To his credit, Obama in a July 15 interview with CNN’s Larry King spoke about the need to engage with Pakistan’s newly elected government. He went on to say, “what we need to do is to form an alliance with the Pakistani people, saying that we’re willing to significantly increase aid for humanitarian purposes, for schools, for hospitals, for health care. We want to support democratic efforts in Pakistan.”

In addition, increasing student and scholar exchange programs, spending on anti-poverty programs, opening new opportunities for businesses will do more to help America’s security and image than putting more boots on the ground. It is time to break our foreign policy from20the grips of special interest groups whose ideological bent have dragged us into unnecessary wars fueling dangerous perceptions about America’s neo-imperialistic intentions.

[Parvez Ahmed is associate professor at the University of North Florida.]

10-32

Black Week In India

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS

NEW DELHI: Paradoxically, the past week began on a stormy note and concluded on a disturbing one, with serial blasts in Bangalore (July 25) and Ahmedabad (July 26) sending shock waves across the country. In Bangalore, known as India’s Silicon Valley, nine low-intensity bombs exploded, killing one and injuring at least 15. The serial blasts, beginning from 1 30 PM (IST) occurred within less than 15 minutes of each other, continuing for around 45 minutes. The crude bombs, hidden near refugee camps and roadside, exploded during the busy lunch hour. The areas affected include Nayandahalli, Madivala, Adugodi on the outskirts of Bangalore and near Mallya Hospital, Langford Road and Richmond Circle within the city.

2008-07-30T140924Z_01_DEL24_RTRMDNP_3_INDIA-BOMBS “In all the blasts, low intensity time devices were used. They want to cause damage to human lives,” Bangalore Commissioner of Police Shankar Bidri said. “Explosives have also been used, in quantity equal to one or two grenades.” Describing the blasts as an “act of miscreants” trying to disturb peace in Bangalore, they appear to be “pre-planned,” Bidri said. He asked the people in the city not to panic and continue with their normal activities.

Even before the impact of Bangalore-blasts had fully been assessed, a string of 16 blasts rocked crowded areas in Ahmedabad, killing at least 45 and injuring more than 100 people. Starting at 6 30 PM (IST), all the blasts went off in a span of 30 minutes.

Condemning the blasts, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed to the people to remain calm and not create panic. The President, Vice-President and Congress president Sonia Gandhi also immediately condemned the blasts. Expressing shock at the serial blasts, Vice President Hamid Ansari said that such acts of terrorism, intended to disturb peace and harmony in the country, should be thwarted. Conveying sympathy to the families of those killed and injured in the explosions, Ansari appealed to all sections to maintain calm.

Strongly condemning the blasts, Home Minister Shivraj Patil said: “Anti-national elements have been trying to create panic among the people of our country.” He appealed to the people to remain calm. This was not the time to pass on the blame to each other but to stand together, sharing the sorrow and agony of those affected, Patil said. “This is not a time when we should not allow any one to create more terror or more difficulties. This is the time when we should not feel frightened, we should assess the situation and try and help those who have suffered. We should then plan that this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Patil chaired a high-level meeting to discuss the situation (July 27) and later briefed Prime Minister on it. After meeting the Prime Minister, Patil said: “The most important thing today is to see that peace and tranquility in Gujarat is not disturbed, peace and tranquility in any part of the country is not disturbed. The state government is taking steps to see that no mischief is perpetrated and nothing is done to derail peace.”

The center is likely to move towards having a federal agency to deal with crimes having inter-state and cross border ramifications, sources said. This issue will be focused at a meeting of the chief ministers, expected to be held soon. The government is keen on evolving a consensus on having a federal agency, but many states are not very forthcoming, sources said. At the chief ministers’ meeting, the center is expected to convince them of the necessity of having such a federal agency.

Blaming the government for having made the country more vulnerable because of lack of strict anti-terror laws and weak intelligence machinery, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani said: “It looks like our anti-terror legal framework is not up to the mark and it has got exposed. It has been weakened after repealing of POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act).” Advani also reiterated BJP’s demand for revival of POTA.

Enacted by parliament in 2002, the POTA was repealed when Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) assumed power in 2004. Rejecting BJP’s demand for POTA’s revival, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari described it as “completely ridiculous.” He asked: “When was POTA able to prevent a terror strike?”

Criticizing Ahmedabad blasts as a “conspiracy” to destabilize the country, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said in a statement: “Coming so soon after blasts in Jaipur and Bangalore, it is clear that there is a conspiracy to destabilize the country and create communal disharmony.”

Terror rocked the country this May, when eight bombs mainly strapped to bicycles, exploded in Jaipur, killing 61 people and injuring hundreds. Incidentally, the three states affected by blasts in succession- Rajasthan, Karnataka and Gujarat- are ruled by BJP governments.

The week began on a stormy note, with the two-day special session of Lok Sabha (July 21-22) rocked by pandemonium, with legislators leveling charges against each other. The session was convened with Congress-United Progressive Alliance (UPA) compelled to face a trust vote, following the left bloc’s withdrawal of their support over their being opposed to India-United States civilian nuclear deal. Though initially, UPA was expected to win only marginally, some cross voting and abstentions, helped it secure 275 votes against 256. There were 10 abstentions as per the final tally.

Amid the backdrop of there being allegations and counter-allegations of legislators having been bribed to gain their votes, with less than a year left for general elections, such political mayhem is likely to prevail for sometime. A disturbing note has been added to the same with blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad!

10-32

US to Iraq: You Need Uncle Sam

By Gareth Porter, Interpress Service

2008-07-24T083933Z_01_DSI19_RTRMDNP_3_IRAQ

A U.S. soldier from the Second Stryker Cavalry Regiment holds his weapon next to a villager during a joint operation with Iraqi police near Muqtadiyah in Diyala province July 24, 2008.

REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

WASHINGTON – Instead of moving toward accommodating the demand of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for a timetable for United States military withdrawal, the George W Bush administration and the US military leadership are continuing to pressure their erstwhile client regime to bow to the US demand for a long-term military presence in the country.

The emergence of this defiant US posture toward the Iraqi withdrawal demand underlines just how important long-term access to military bases in Iraq has become to the US military and national security bureaucracy in general.

From the beginning, the Bush administration’s response to the Maliki withdrawal demand has been to treat it as a mere aspiration that the US need not accept.

The counter-message that has been conveyed to Iraq from a multiplicity of US sources, including former Central Command (CENTCOM) commander William Fallon, is that the security objectives of Iraq must include continued dependence on US troops for an indefinite period. The larger, implicit message, however, is that the US is still in control, and that it – not the Iraqi government – will make the final decision.

That point was made initially by State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos, who stated flatly on July 9 that any US decision on withdrawal “will be conditions-based."

In a sign that the US military is also mounting pressure on the Iraqi government to abandon its withdrawal demand, Fallon wrote an op-ed piece published in the New York Times on July 20 that called on Iraqi leaders to accept the US demand for long-term access to military bases.

Fallon, who became something of a folk hero among foes of the Bush administration’s policy in the Middle East for having been forced out of his CENTCOM position for his anti-aggression stance, takes an extremely aggressive line against the Iraqi withdrawal demand in the op-ed. The piece is remarkable not only for its condescending attitude toward the Iraqi government, but for its peremptory tone toward it.

Fallon is dismissive of the idea that Iraq can take care of itself without US troops to maintain ultimate control. “The government of Iraq is eager to exert its sovereignty,” Fallon writes, “but its leaders also recognize that it will be some time before Iraq can take full control of security.”

Fallon insists that “the government of Iraq must recognize its continued, if diminishing reliance on the American military." And in the penultimate paragraph he demands “political posturing in pursuit of short-term gains must cease”.

Fallon, now retired from the military, is obviously serving as a stand-in for US military chiefs for whom the public expression of such a hardline stance against the Iraqi withdrawal demand would have been considered inappropriate.

But the former US military proconsul in the Middle East, like his active-duty colleagues, appears to actually believe that the US can intimidate the Maliki government. The assumption implicit in his op-ed is that the US has both the right and power to preempt Iraq’s national interests to continue to build its military empire in the Middle East.

As CENTCOM chief, Fallon had been planning on the assumption that the US military would continue to have access to military bases in both Iraq and Afghanistan for many years to come. A July 14 story by Washington Post national security and intelligence reporter Walter Pincus said that the army had requested US$184 million to build power plants at its five main bases in Iraq.

The five bases, Pincus reported, are among the “final bases and support locations where troops, aircraft and equipment will be consolidated as the US military presence is reduced."

Funding for the power plants, which would be necessary to support a large US force in Iraq within the five remaining bases, for a longer-term stay, was eliminated from the military construction bill for fiscal year 2008. Pincus quoted a congressional source as noting that the power plants would have taken up to two years to complete.

The plan to keep several major bases in Iraq is just part of a larger plan, on which Fallon himself was working, for permanent US land bases in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Fallon revealed in congressional testimony last year that Bagram air base in Afghanistan is regarded as “the centerpiece for the CENTCOM master plan for future access to and operations in Central Asia."

As Fallon was writing his op-ed, the Bush administration was planning for a video conference between Bush and Maliki, evidently hoping to move the obstreperous Maliki away from his position on withdrawal. Afterward, however, the White House found it necessary to cover up the fact that Maliki had refused to back down in the face of Bush’s pressure.

It issued a statement claiming that the two leaders had agreed to “a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals” but that the goals would include turning over more control to Iraqi security forces and the “further reduction of US combat forces from Iraq” – but not a complete withdrawal.

But that was quickly revealed to be a blatant misrepresentation of Maliki’s position. As Maliki’s spokesman Ali Dabbagh confirmed, the “time horizon” on which Bush and Maliki had agreed not only covered the “full handover of security responsibility to the Iraqi forces in order to decrease American forces” but was to “allow for its [sic] withdrawal from Iraq."

An adviser to Maliki, Sadiq Rikabi, also told the Washington Post that Maliki was insisting on specific timelines for each stage of the US withdrawal, including the complete withdrawal of troops.

The Iraqi prime minister’s July 19 interview with the German magazine Der Speigel, in which he said that Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama’s 16-month timetable “would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes”, was the Iraqi government’s bombshell in response to the Bush administration’s efforts to pressure it on the bases issue.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack emphasized at his briefing on Tuesday that the issue would be determined by “a conclusion that’s mutually acceptable to sovereign nations."

That strongly implied that the Bush administration regarded itself as having a veto power over any demand for withdrawal and signals an intention to try to intimidate Maliki.

Both the Bush administration and the US military appear to harbor the illusion that the US troop presence in Iraq still confers effective political control over its clients in Baghdad.

However, the change in the Maliki regime’s behavior over the past six months, starting with the prime minister’s abrupt refusal to go along with General David Petraeus’ plan for a joint operation in the southern city of Basra in mid-March, strongly suggests that the era of Iraqi dependence on the US has ended.

Given the strong consensus on the issue among Shi’ite political forces of all stripes, as well as Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the Shi’ite spiritual leader, the Maliki administration could not back down to US pressure without igniting a political crisis.

[Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.]

10-32

Kuwait: Up In Arms

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS

This past week in Kuwait, blood flowed freely on at least one city street as Bangladeshi laborers, tired of being exploited and demoralized by their employers, took to the streets in protest for three full days. The reason for the laborers’ anger is a continuation of past complaints including poor, often dangerous, working conditions and low pay. Add to that the soaring prices of food and other commodities in the region and you’ve got a recipe for a riot. The protest, which started peacefully, quickly turned violent as tempers flared in the scorching desert heat.

A Bangladeshi representative of the company in question made a futile attempt to calm the situation and get the workers back to work. He was attacked by the mob, and murdered. Three more representatives were beaten as well and are recovering in the ICU of a local hospital.

According to the State-run news agency KUNA, both Kuwaiti officials and authorities at the Bangladesh Embassy of Kuwait have already met to determine how to handle the situation. The Kuwait Cabinet, at its weekly meeting, discussed the current situation in depth. MP Ali Al-Omair told reporters, “We have agreed in parliament to identify the problems those workers suffer from and to know the rights they have been denied.” Parliament also discussed a proposal to discontinue the current sponsorship law, which requires all non-Kuwaitis wishing to work in the country to have a Kuwaiti sponsor.

However, while the ‘powers that be’ were busy talking, chaos was erupting on the streets of Kuwait. At least 100 laborers descended on the National Assembly in a show of blatant force as they gathered in what some are calling ‘Determination Square’. Other parts of Kuwait also saw workers congregating in anger, and demanding better treatment. Again, the protests turned violent as car windshields were smashed while some cars were either flipped over or set ablaze. Some houses were also damaged in the cities of Jleeb Shuwaikh and Sabhan. The Ministry of Interior has put all security personnel in the country on high alert. This decision came after a 5,000-strong crowd of angry Bangladeshi laborers once again set to the streets wreaking havoc with every step that they took.

The Bangladeshi laborers are an integral part of Kuwait’s infrastructure. Their jobs may be low and menial but the work they do counts tremendously. Several offices of the Ministries were unable to be opened at all as the keys were with the striking Bangladeshi laborer in charge of opening the office for cleaning each day. Many CEOs of major companies have had no choice but to get their own coffee or chase after a specific file themselves since their Bangladeshi office boy is on strike and there is no one else willing to do the job.

It may seem a bit comical to imagine a CEO having to run his own errands but there are very real fears for the security of Kuwait, which is under a considerable threat as the ‘war of words’ continues between Washington and Iran. Many of the Bangladeshi laborers work in high-security facilities, which are vital to the national security of Kuwait. As of press time, the negotiations continue in an attempt to restore civility and ensure that no more blood is shed.

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Ten Years After the Indonesian Reformasi (1998-2008)

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Meeting with The Honorable Nursyahbani Katjasungkana

Two weeks ago ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian States) had their fourteenth Summit (this year their get together began on July 24th in Thailand).  ASEAN is a regional alliance of ten nations that quite prominently includes insular Eastern Southern Asia.  The largest and most powerful of those nations is Indonesia–which nation has the highest population of Muslims in the World.

On the last weekend of April, three different centers at the University of California Berkeley each sponsored programs with important Islamic content.  The two conferences relevant to this report are one on Islamophobia, and another on "Reformasi in Indonesia." I decided to attend and report on the one conference covering Islamophobia. 

Concurrently, another Conference was being held, “Ten Years After:  Reformasi & New Social Movements in Indonesia.”  Fortunately, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Berkeley sent me a podcast of the two most important speakers.  This file was part of a special Forum sponsored by both U.C. Berkeley and U.C.L.A. held in Northern California.  The two individuals speaking were Hilmar Farid, who is an illustrious human rights activist and a celebrated Indonesian historian — I shall explore his comments in a later article — and the political representative Nursyahbahani Katjasungkana. 

The Honorable Ms. Katjasungkana, a member of Jakarta’s Parliament, represented the National Awakening Party (Partal Kebangkitan Bangsa), the Party of the former President Abdurrahman Wahid, 1999-2001.  Wahid had been a reformer even though his presidency was marked by internal impediments–under pressure of the Armed Services, the parliament was compelled to impeach him, denying him three years of his mandate. 

Nursyahbani, before becoming a Parliamentarian, was a prominent human rights lawyer and the founder (1995) of the NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) the Women’s Association for Justice (Lembaga Bantuan Hukum-Asosiasi Perempuan Indonesia untuk Keadilan) established during the reign of the brutal, corrupt dictator Suharto.  Her NGO’s mission is still to promote women’s rights over the islands.  

Her personal journey has taken her from being a human rights activist to a parliamentarian! She defended her course by stating that human rights and policy reform has to be endorsed by the parliament.  She pointed out, “Many scholars believe that Indonesia is a deficit democracy,” but she is working to divert that assessment. 

While, as a parliamentian, she has been fighting to make human rights secure, she is struggling to democratize her own Party.  The democratic system was written into the 1945 Constitution, but under Suharto one of the worst genocides of the 20th Century took place.  Eventually, Suharto was forced to step down from the presidency in 1998 by elements of civil society. 

Suharto’s (Vice) President Josuf Habbie (1998-1999) was sworn in as president.  Katjnasungkana felt Habibi did an excellent, preparing the transition into democracy.  Unfortunately, the Parliament was still highly nationalistic, but Washington insisted on a type of Jefferson Democracy.  The 1945 Constitution was updated through amendment.  Nursyabhani stated, “These [Constitutional] adjustments must be dedicated to those who suffered and were martyred during the Suharto regime.”  In rewriting the 1945 text, a secular document developed, but which was based to some degree on Islamic principles.

Even so, the Shari’ah is enshrined within the limits of a secular state.  (In other words, it is the basis of Indonesia’s legal system, but has to co-exist within a varied federation.)   Her background in managing a feminist Non-Governmental Organization came through in her speech, “Laws based on sexuality [(i.e. gender) regrettably], have been employed to suppress woman” in the Indonesian Republic.

In the new Constitution, the National Defense Forces are separated from the internal police for the first time.  Common crimes are currently sent to the criminal courts – not to military justice.  The Armed Forces owned businesses are being divested with alacrity, and being handed directly over to the state.

Using the latest Charter as her basis, she works on bringing Indonesian law up to International human rights standards.  Still, under the innovative Manuscript, a great deal of the guilty Army officers cannot be prosecuted for past crimes committed during President Suharto’s regime.  Still, “Parliament continues to be riddled with corruption!” The Constitution has de-Centralized the government to prevent an overly pervasive fiscal policy controlled by Jakarta.  She believes this will discourage many economic crimes (i.e., corruption).  Following through on her constant theme, she deems that past human rights violations will be exposed.  (For this type of crime is often perpetrated out of personal greed!).  She is confident that many of these former violators will be brought to justice!

The civil Agreement formed innovative Institutions and Commissions.  The fresh Convention with the Public guarantees the separation of the Executive and the Legislature through the direct election of the President — (like the United States).  Civil Society forced the state to face women issues and education and to place them upon the regime’s budget.  (Eleven percent of Indonesian woman are a victims of domestic violence.)  A regulation was passed through the Legislature that at least thirty percent of each Commission and Department (i.e., Institution) had to have feminine representation.

Nursyahbani Katjasungkana ended her debriefing, “[Indonesia’s] legal and structural form [are quite strong]…I am very optimistic for the Democracy…” Regarding her own plans, “I shall strengthen my [own] position as a Parliamentarian to continue my life’s work!”

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Grateful to ALLAH for Allowing us to Be.

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

Our Rab (Lord) is so magnanimous and merciful that He can give us a fast to deny ourselves to make us stronger; and at the same time make it easy for us to achieve.  As the glorious month of Ramadan ascends on us, many thoughts of gratitude enter our minds – through our hearts.

First of all, how many realize that ALLAH has favored you by just allowing you to be Muslim?  It is no secrete that Islam and being Muslim is the highest level of existence for a human being.  Do you ever notice how even non-Muslims recognize this?  I often hear (and undoubtedly you have too) non-Muslims extol on the virtues of not eating pork (and even going further and eating only Islamically-slaughtered halal meats), not imbibing intoxicants, fasting in Ramadan, dressing modestly, praying at least five times a day, and many more “Islamic” qualities.  Even those of us who were born in Islamic countries to Muslim parents are fortunate that ALLAH allowed them to keep their Islam.  You could have gone astray and become something else.

It is also beautiful for those of us who reverted to Islam (our original nature); and, maybe even more so because we have seen both sides of the fence.  ALLAH says we are all born Muslim (submitters) and through our environment, we become something else.  So it is especially gratifying to return to that nature that allows us to progress by being submissive to the Greater Power (ALLAH swt).  Progress comes in many forms and I believe the best blessing is peace of mind.  I’m talking about the satisfaction of knowing ALLAH is pleased with you because of your attempts to do His Will.

If a Muslim is downhearted and feeling dejected, He or she need only to sincerely give that negative feeling to ALLAH, ask for His guidance, seek His guidance in the Holy Qur’an, and then DO IT, and you will be successful.

ALLAH reminds us Muslims of our superiority when He states that a single Muslim can vanquish ten non-Muslims.  This is not merely talking about physical fighting.  It is also “arguing in the best way”- with the Qur`an and exemplifying the character of the Prophet (s).  In my life, since becoming Muslim, I have seen this played out many times.

Because of the lack of a priest class, many Muslims are not as well-read or prepared scholastically as say, Jews or Catholics.  These guys are trained almost from the cradle to be leaders in their faith and the society.  Nevertheless, a plain person like me can hold his own with anybody (even a room full) by utilizing the Words of ALLAH and having a cool, smooth disposition, imitating Prophet (s).

Finally, with all ALLAH gives us and puts at our disposal, He says if we are grateful “I will give you more.”  This really shows His generosity and His mercy.  ALLAH is so abundantly rich in everything that there is no limit to what He can give us.  All we have to do is sincerely be submissive to his directives.

Be obedient, patient, perseverant, and grateful for the results it brings, and ALLAH will give you more.

As Salaam alaikum
(Al Hajj) Imam Abdullah El-Amin

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Why the Attack at El Dorado?

By Elder George, MMNS

The publicity concerning the polygamous operations at El Dorado has cooled down. The results of the El Dorado raid have approximated those that occurred in Short Creek, Texas in 1953, in which a raid on a polygamous compound created a lot of publicity but resulted in all the families re-uniting within a few years.

The ostensible reason given for the raid at El Dorado had to do with the protection of children, and in particular teenage girls. Was the concern over teenage girls having babies? Teenage motherhood runs rampant in America. I wonder if the enrollment of even one U.S. high school does not include pregnant girls.

Is it because teenage girls have sex? Our government at all levels encourages sexual activity among children. Sex education courses have become sexual education courses. In New York City AIDS education begins in kindergarten. Alternate lifestyles are taught (meaning different sexual unions). The city of New York distributed 2.6 million condoms to public school children. Birth control advertisements abound in the transportation system, meaning it’s all right to engage in premarital sex. Teenage girls having sex represents the norm in America.

Is it because of the marriage of teenage girls? The marriage of young post-menstrual age females has been common in every society in the world for millennia. Cleopatra was only 16 years old when she captivated Marc Anthony.

The issues at El Dorado and Short Creek, were the same. We have a government opposed to patriarchy in general and polygamy in particular. Patriarchy provides armor against government intrusion into the private lives of its people. It maintains freedom from government interference as a result of its development of family values. This area of independence frustrates the ruling powers of Western society. The modest dress of the women in polygamous and patriarchal societies and their attention to the nurturing of the family combined with a lack of adultery, divorce, and lascivious living run counter to the social mores fostered by our government.

When morality moves out government control moves in. Teenage sex and pregnancies spawn birth control clinics, abortions, pre-natal care, after school educational programs for mothers, nurseries, day care, welfare, counseling, and therapy. Government takes control of teenage mothers and their children, who must be raised in accordance with the dictates of government, down to the smallest detail of health care. If these teenage mothers do not comply, their children are removed from them and put into foster care until they are adopted. Government control is complete and uncompromising.

Of course, the government receives the support of most mainline Christian Churches, which unfortunately practice a Europeanized interpretation of Biblical teachings. Most of them seem unaware that the Bible overflows with illustrations of polygamy. All the great patriarchs had multiple wives. Manly responsibility requires the taking care of women—all women—none are to be left out. However, since Western culture has decided that men should no longer have any authority, the State now takes control of all societal functions.

Government control and myopic Christian doctrine (a joining of liberal and conservative thought) are behind the attacks on polygamy in particular and patriarchy in general, which was the true motivation for the raid at El Dorado.

Elder George’s website is www.mensaction.net and he can be reached at 212-874-7900 ext. 1329.

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CIOM Statement on Sunni-Shi’a Relations

Press Release

In response to a statement released by the Council of Shia Muslim Scholars in North America on Tuesday, July 1, 2008, regarding a well known Sunni scholar, Dr. Israr Ahmad, accused of making derogatory and insulting remarks about Imam Ali during a telecast of an 11 year old program, Dars of Qur’an, on QTV on June 12, 2008, the Sunni and Shi’a imams in Michigan under the umbrella organization, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, CIOM, held two meetings (7/8 &7/15, 2008) deliberating on and discussing the issue and its affect on the Muslim community in America. It was concluded that:

1) We reaffirm the Muslim Code of Honor signed by Shia and Sunni imams, on May 10th, 2007. The signed agreement calls for Shia and Sunni communities, led by the imams, to live together peacefully in America acknowledging fundamental differences among madahib . It is imperative, upon signing the Code of Honor, last year; we work towards maintaining and enhancing good relationships among us.

2) Adhering to the Code of Honor, we must encourage respectful language in our institutions and discourage speech or material that engages in rhetoric of takfîr or disrespect of Muslim scholars and leaders – traditional or contemporary.

3) Be aware that there are some who promote discord and fitna. We must not allow such parties to distract us, for the sake of Muslim Americans who live and struggle for a dignified existence for Islam and Muslims. We remember Allah (SWT) commandment: “And hold fast, all together, to the rope of God, and be not divided among yourselves. And remember with gratitude God’s favor upon you, when you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love. Thus by His grace you became brethren. And you were on the brink of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth God make His Signs clear to you, that you may be guided. So let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong. They are the ones to attain felicity. And be not like those who are divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after receiving clear signs. For them is a dreadful penalty.” (3:103-05)

4) We encourage our national organizations, moreover, through the example of our brotherly cooperation in SE Michigan, to honor the terms of the Code of Honor we signed. We stand ready to work with anyone towards this goal to promote true spirit of peaceful coexistence and respect among all. We ask God the Exalted to aid us in this and all our efforts to conduct ourselves in a manner that is most pleasing to Him.

Present at the meeting were:  Sheikh Ali Sulaiman Ali, Muslim Community of Western Suburbs Mosque, Canton; Imam Baqir Berry, Islamic Institute of Knowledge, Dearborn; Imam Muhammad Ali Elahi, Islamic House of Wisdom, Dearborn Heights (HOST); Imam Muhammad Moosa Unity Center, Bloomfield Hills; Imam Mustafa ElTurki, Islamic Organization of Norht America, Warren; Imam Abdullah El-Amin, Muslim Center, Detroit; Imam Aly Lela, Islamic Association of Greater Detroit, Rochester Hills; Sh. Syed Ibrahim Saleh, Islamic House of Wisdom, Dearborn Heights; Imam Cise, Asst. Imam at the Muslim Center, Detroit and the imam of the Gambian Community in Detroit; Imam M. Jowad Al-Ansari, As-Sojood Islamic Center, Auburn Hills; Imam Dawud Walid, CAIR-MI; Imam Hisham Al-Hussainy, Karbala Center, Dearborn;  Imam Qasim Baydoun;  Hajj Ghalib Begg, Chairman of Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan; Contact, the Council of Islamic Organzations of Michigan admin@ciomonline.org.

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More Foreign Fighters Join Taliban in Afghanistan

By Jon Hemming

KABUL (Reuters) – More foreign fighters are joining the ranks of Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan as militants increasingly cross the border from Pakistan to attack Afghan and Western troops, the Afghan Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

Afghanistan has kept up a barrage of criticism against neighbor Pakistan in the last three months, accusing Pakistani agents of being behind a string of high-profile attacks and allowing militants sanctuary along the long and porous border.

“The presence of foreign fighters is increasing, and increasingly the operations of the terrorists are led by foreigners,” Defense Ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zaher Azimi told a news conference.

Afghan, NATO and U.S.-led coalition forces are struggling to contain a sharp surge in violence as the traditional summer fighting season gets into full swing.

Already more U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan in May and June than in Iraq, where there are some four times more American soldiers.

July, usually the peak month for fighting, could well be the worse month yet for violence since U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in 2001. Security analysts predict the number of violent incidents could top 1,000 for the first time.

As well as more violence, Afghan and foreign troops are reporting a greater sophistication in Taliban tactics such as multiple roadside bombs and complex ambushes, factors indicating more training and possibly the presence of foreigners.

Taliban leaders targeted

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, said this month there were indications that al Qaeda was switching its focus from Iraq back to Afghanistan.

Violence has increased by 40 percent in the last two months compared to last year, NATO says, partly due to the improved weather, but also due to ceasefires between troops and militants in Pakistan’s border tribal belt.

Afghanistan believes foreign funding for the Taliban is channeled through Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agency, Azimi said.

Money for the insurgency comes through donors in Gulf countries and a tax on Afghanistan’s booming drug trade, security analysts say.

Afghan security forces have launched a series of operations along the main highway that loops around the south of Afghanistan, killing around 100 militants in the last two weeks, Azimi said.

Meanwhile, Afghan and international troops have killed 20 senior militant leaders, including one from al Qaeda, in the last month and captured another seven, he said.

Western troops in Afghanistan have concentrated on targeting the Taliban leadership in an effort to degrade the insurgent fighting ability.

(Editing by David Fox)

Obama Promotes Wider War in Afghanistan

Another presidential race between pro-war candidates

Courtesy Jerry White, WSWS

It is clear that the presidential campaign of Barack Obama has become the political vehicle for a significant shift in the focus of US military aggression from Iraq to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Obama, who won the Democratic presidential primary by tapping into popular antiwar sentiment and exploiting his chief rival’s vote to authorize the Iraq war, has become the leading spokesman for an escalation of the war in Afghanistan and its possible extension into Pakistan, a policy which is gathering growing support within the political and military establishment.

Once again, a US presidential election will take place in which the broad antiwar sentiment of the population is ignored and the majority of American people who oppose wars of aggression are disenfranchised. Instead, voters will be confronted with two candidates—Barack Obama and his Republican opponent John McCain—whose discernable foreign policy differences reflect tactical disputes over US imperialist policy, centering on where American military violence should be focused.

Obama’s antiwar posturing during the primary campaign was a cynical ploy to delude those looking to end the war in Iraq. It was a calculated effort to conflate and subordinate principled opposition to the war to those sections of the political and military establishment whose opposition to Bush’s war policy had nothing in common with opposition to US militarism or the neo-colonial designs of American imperialism.

Obama was selected and promoted by such figures as Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who considered the invasion of Iraq a strategic blunder that had undermined US influence and weakened its strategic international position. The Bush administration’s fixation on Iraq, they argued, diverted military and financial resources from more important tasks, including consolidating US power in oil-rich Central Asia.

At the same time, their candidate, Obama, made clear—and demonstratively reiterated in his recent trip to Iraq—that he supported the US stooge regime and as president would maintain an indefinite presence of tens of thousands of US troops in Iraq to secure American interests in that country, which holds the second largest proven oil reserves in the world.

The 2008 presidential election is only the latest example of how the Democratic Party and its candidates have subverted and undermined antiwar opposition. In the 2002 congressional elections, the Democratic Party kept the issue of the drive to war against Iraq out of the election campaign while it promoted Bush’s lies about weapons of mass destruction and supplied the necessary votes in Congress to authorize the invasion.

In 2004, Vermont Governor Howard Dean’s campaign for the presidential nomination—initially utilized to channel growing antiwar sentiment behind the Democratic Party—was derailed and shut down by the party leadership and the media. Senator John Kerry, who ran in the primaries as a critic of the war, sidelined the issue once he had secured the nomination. Toward the end of the general election race, with his campaign floundering, Kerry presented himself as a Vietnam War hero who would wage the war in Iraq more effectively than Bush.

In the run-up to the 2006 congressional elections the Democrats again did their best to keep the contest from becoming a referendum on the war. Widespread antiwar sentiment, however, made this impossible. A mass turnout of antiwar voters defeated dozens of incumbent Republican congressmen and senators and put the Democratic Party in control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 1994.

The Democratic Congress then proceeded to vote for every war appropriation requested by Bush, including the funding required to escalate the mass killing in the form of Bush’s troop “surge.” The Democrats also voted to confirm every top military official nominated by Bush, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen.

By such means, the Democrats succeeded in confusing, demoralizing and dissipating any significant organized expression of antiwar sentiment, even as the opposition of the American people to the war continued to grow.

Now the liberal establishment is lining up behind Obama to promote the “right war” in Afghanistan. As Washington Post op-ed columnist Eugene Robinson wrote Tuesday: “Events have conspired to make the strategy advocated by Barack Obama and other leading Democrats—set a timetable for shutting down the sideshow in Iraq; focus attention and resources on the main event in Afghanistan—the only sane way to proceed….”

On Sunday, New York Times columnist Frank Rich chastised McCain for being a year behind Obama in “recognizing Afghanistan as the central front in the war against Al Qaeda.” He added, “Mr. McCain still doesn’t understand that we can’t send troops to Afghanistan unless they’re shifted from Iraq.”

How was this accomplished?

The Democratic Party successfully exploited the political vulnerabilities of a population subjected to decades of right-wing propaganda, media disinformation and the absence of any genuine opposition to political reaction within either of the two parties.

In this cynical and reactionary operation, it was rendered indispensable assistance by the milieu of middle-class protest groups, ex-radicals and left liberals who single-mindedly worked to channel the antiwar movement behind the Democratic Party, insisting that no struggle against the war was permissible or legitimate outside the orbit of the two-party system.

Outfits such as United for Peace and Justice and the Nation magazine opposed any struggle that sought to mobilize mass antiwar sentiment independently of the capitalist parties and link it to a socialist program to unite the working class against attacks on social conditions and democratic rights. By virtue of their boundless political ignorance and opportunism, they undermined the very movement they purported to lead.

Now, many of these “left” groups are wringing their hands and expressing dismay over the Democratic candidate’s war-mongering statements. Katrina Vanden Heuvel, the editor of the Nation writes, “it is troubling that as he shows sound thinking on Iraq, Obama also continues to talk about escalating the US military presence in Afghanistan.” She pleads with the Democratic candidate to “think long and hard” about “extricating the US from one disastrous war and heading into another.”

This statement combines self-delusion with deceit and outright reaction. As Obama himself has insisted, he has been calling for military escalation in Afghanistan for more than a year. Moreover, commending Obama’s policy in Iraq as “sound” constitutes support for an ongoing US military presence and the permanent reduction of the country to the status of a US protectorate.

Such appeals to the Democratic candidate only serve to encourage illusions that he can be shifted by pressure from below to adopt a less militaristic course, and that the Democratic Party or a section of it can serve as a vehicle for peace.

Hostile to Marxism, these elements are incapable of making a class analysis of the Democratic Party, one of the oldest capitalist parties in the world.

It is necessary to draw the lessons of these critical experiences. The Democratic Party has long been the burial ground of movements of popular protest and opposition, from the Populist movement of the 1890s, to the industrial union movement of the 1930s, to the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be ended, and future wars prevented, only through a decisive and irreparable break with the Democratic Party and the independent mobilization of the American and international working class in a struggle against war and the capitalist system that is its root cause.

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Community News (V10-I32)

Islamic Finance Conference in New York

NEW YORK, NY– Organized by Finance IQ, the 2nd Annual Islamic Finance World Summit will be held October 20-22, 2008 in New York, NY. This global forum will discuss the latest trends and solutions needed to overcome entry barriers within Islamic finance. Shari’ah scholars and advisors will be on hand, as well as asset managers, attorneys, and high-level executives to examine the opportunities in the Islamic finance market today.

Dr. Fahad Al-Zumai, a manager of legal affairs and Shari’ah compliance for the Bank of London and The Middle East plc, and also one of the notable speakers at the 2nd Annual Islamic Finance World Summit commented, “One of the main challenges in the Islamic finance industry is dealing with tax laws in Western economies, as Islamic finance is asset-based finance and this always raises a tax liability, which is a disadvantage to the industry in comparison to conventional banking.”

Industry-leading organizations including Ansar Financial, Algebra Capital, UIB Capital, the American Bar Association and the International Islamic University Malasia among others at the summit, will address regulatory hurdles like making distressed debt products compliant with Shari’ah, structuring special purpose vehicles to access Islamic financing and overcoming U.S. taxation and regulatory hurdles.

“Hedge funds are a very sensitive topic in the Islamic finance industry due to their investment tools and mechanics,” Dr. Al-Zumai continued, referring to one of the topics that will be discussed at the summit. “This is despite the fact that some Shari’ah-compliant hedge funds have been introduced, as many of the common tools used by conventional hedge funds will not be available, at least for now, to the Islamic hedge funds, such as stock lending and margin trading.”

The summit speakers will also share their insights on structuring and securitizing Sukuks, identifying emerging opportunities in Islamic retail banking, and using Shari’ah-compliant hedge instruments.

Tariq Khan appointed senior vice-president of ING USA

Windsor,CT–ING announced today that it has hired Tariq Khan as senior vice president to head market development and multicultural initiatives for its U.S. Wealth Management Wholesale Distribution division. In that role, Khan will develop and implement ING’s strategy to expand growing diverse markets, especially multicultural business in its corporate, fixed and variable annuity markets. He will report directly to Bill Lowe, president of the ING U.S. Wealth Management’s Wholesale Distribution division.

Previously, Khan served as vice president for market development and diversity at Nationwide, where he was responsible for enhancing Nationwide’s presence in the diverse markets including overseeing strategic planning, advertising and brand management, market development and recruiting efforts for all multi-channel retail distribution. Prior to Nationwide, Khan was vice president of marketing at MetLife where he was in charge of all multicultural segments including Hispanic, African-American and Asian markets.

“Tariq’s tremendous experience in developing the growing multicultural markets will allow ING to expand our reach to an even broader portion of the overall market,” said Lowe. “The United States is more diverse than it has ever been, and it is critical that we’re thoughtful and deliberate about tapping this fast-growing segment of the market. With the right approach, we can make it easier for individuals to save and prepare for retirement and their other financial goals.”

“I am truly excited to be joining ING, a well-respected global brand in the wealth management arena,” said Tariq Khan. “The face of America is changing and creating huge opportunities for all us and my role will be critical in taking advantage of these opportunities. I’m looking forward to working with ING’s leadership and diverse talent to build an infrastructure that will take our business to a new level.”

Khan earned a bachelor’s degree in international marketing and advertising from Baruch College, and a master’s degree in business administration in marketing and management from St. John’s University. He is an assistant vice chair and director of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, one of the largest U.S. organizations devoted to scholarships for Asian and Pacific Islander American students. He is a frequent speaker at many industry conferences on marketing and diversity.

ING is a global financial institution of Dutch origin offering banking, investments, retirement services and life insurance to over 85 million private, corporate and institutional clients in more than 50 countries. With a diverse workforce of over 130,000 people, ING comprises a broad spectrum of prominent companies that increasingly serve their clients under the ING brand.

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Houstonian Corner (V10-I32)

ICNA-Houston Relief Team Organized Community BBQ in Third Ward Houston

“Why are these gentlemen kneeling down and then putting their foreheads on the ground”: A youthful girl asked this question about the men establishing the Muslims afternoon Zuhar prayers at the Islamic Circle of North America Houston Chapter (ICNA-Houston) ICNA-Relief Community BBQ Program, organized to meet with the Neighbors in the Third Ward area around IH-45 South and Scott. In this part of town, ICNA-Relief has two pieces of lots, which were bought to set-up a human services center. Due to restrictions in the City Ordinance for this area, this services center has not yet been started. However in the mean time ICNA-Houston Relief Team has organized this, the Thirteenth Community BBQ. When this young girl was informed about the five times daily prayers, she felt good about it and said: “That is cool”.

Volunteers of ICNA-Houston went door to door to homes around their land to three blocks, handing out flyers inviting neighbors to come and join in for the BBQ. The response was quite good, as many came to enjoy the food and had light conversation. Many asked about future plans of ICNA Relief in the area.

Last time when ICNA-Houston did this BBQ, a representative from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee came and awarded a certificate of congressional recognition.

ICNA-Houston Relief Team also organizes every Sunday in Downtown Houston at LaBranch and Pierce Feed-The-Hungry Program, for which food is either received from Muslim restaurants or is cooked at home, while some benevolent individuals donate money for this purpose.

At the eve of Ramadhan and throughout the month, ICNA Relief will be providing food items and other ration for the whole month to the less fortunate in the community. If someone wants this ration for themselves and/or some needy people plus if there are fortunate people out there in the community interested in participating in all of these Relief Programs by donating time, resources and money, they can contact Saad Ansari (son of Late Tosiq Ansari) at 281-537.8151 / 281.282.7010 or Javed Sayeed at 713.213.7979 or Umar Farooq at 713.253.4599 or send your contributions to: P.O. Box 572181, Houston, TX 77257-2181. One can also always visit www.icnarelief.org.

More Than Fifty Registered at the “Create A Miracle: Save A Life” Event at HSSF

“My 13 years old daughter Samiah was diagnosed with a rare type of Aplastic Anemia 2 years ago. Her details can be found at http://www.samiahssaviors.com/ Today we are having this event not only to miraculously find something rare for my daughter, but this is also to bring forth a very important matter relevant to the healthcare of our South Asian community. Every year, many South Asian families face a very serious dilemma owing to a loved one suffering from a life threatening disease, such as Leukemia. For many of the patients, their diseases could be treated and cured with a bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant – if a matching donor is found and that is what we are looking for Samiah as well as hundreds of other people, since you can see the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center Staff with us.

"More than seven million people have registered to be donors in the United States. However, minorities, including Asians, Hispanics, and African Americans combined make up less than 2% of the donors. There is an urgent and pressing need for more donors from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, particularly within the South Asian communities like ours. Since a matching donor is most likely to be found within a person’s racial or ethnic community, participation by all communities including South Asian is extremely crucial and urgent. Every day 3,000 people worldwide are hoping and praying to find a donor.

"For many of these patients, time is running out. Every life counts. Every donor counts. God has gifted bone marrow to everyone and modern therapeutic methods can indeed save lives with the Grace of God. Register today with the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) at http://www.nmdp.org/ and you can help the humanity in real need.”

These were the words of Amina Razak and Dr. Razaali Razak of Texas Children’s Pediatric Associates Cinco Ranch Katy, as they organized the Bone Marrow Registration Clinic at the Houston Shifa Clinic behind ISGH Synott Masjid this past Saturday. More than 50 people registered at this Clinic plus five persons offered new locations to organize similar clinics.

Volunteers present on the occasion included Dr. Rizwan Naeem of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani-Descent of North America (APPNA), Dr. Shahzad Hashim from Woodlands, Salim Savani, Ashish Chitale, Amina Razak, and Maha Farooqi. Staff of the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center included Angela Ramirez and Hope Guidry-Groves (Phone: 713-791-6364).

“We are looking for hundreds of people from our community to register. For more information, visit http://www.samiahssaviors.com/ or call my wife Amina at 281-782-5430”: Added Dr. Razak.

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McCain Camp Portrays Obama as Celebrity, not Leader

By Steve Holland

 

2008-07-26T105501Z_01_JEY820_RTRMDNP_3_USA-POLITICS-OBAMA

US Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) waves as he leaves 10 Downing Street in London, July 26, 2008.  

REUTERS/Jim Young

AURORA, Colo. (Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate John McCain opened up a new line of attack on Democratic rival Barack Obama on Wednesday, labeling him a celebrity without the strength to bring change to Washington.

McCain’s campaign launched a new television advertisement to run in key battleground states called “Celeb” that uses images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and Obama’s speech in Berlin last week to accuse Obama of being all talk and little action.

“Is he ready to lead?” it asks.

At the same time, McCain described himself as an independent-minded politician with a history of bucking authority and said Obama has shown little more than strong speaking skills.

“The bottom line is that Senator Obama’s words, for all their eloquence and passion, don’t mean all that much, and that’s the problem with Washington,” McCain said.

McCain took direct aim at Obama’s chief selling point, that he represents change Americans are searching for ahead of the November 4 election.

“Sen. Obama doesn’t have the strength to speak openly and directly about he will address the serious challenges that confront America. How will he be strong enough to really change Washington?” he said.

McCain’s negative turn came as his campaign senses a chink in Obama’s armor following the Democrat’s European tour, which did not appear to give Obama a noticeable bounce in the polls, despite drawing a crowd of 200,000 in Berlin.

It is a strategy that carries some risks with Americans weary of partisan sniping. The Obama campaign has said stepped-up criticism from McCain as not in keeping with his pledges to maintain a civil debate.

“On a day when major news organizations across the country are taking Senator McCain to task for a steady stream of false, negative attacks, his campaign has launched yet another. Or, as some might say, ‘Oops! He did it again,”’ said Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor.

But the McCain camp, frustrated by what it sees as a U.S. news media’s lavish attention on Obama, said it considered the Democrat’s Europe trip fair game.

Campaign manager Rick Davis told reporters on a conference call that Obama’s swing through Europe, with its focus on media, was “much more something you would expect from someone releasing a new movie than running for president.”

“And so I think it’s fair game to say that we’re only focused on representing what we see as an important element of the Obama strategy, which is to create a fan base around the world that allows him to get a lot of media attention and avoids him having to address the important issues of our time,” Davis said.

The McCain camp eagerly directed reporters to an opinion article in The Washington Post that described Obama as acting as if he were already president.

McCain, 71, took pains to promote his own record, saying he had often found himself at odds with the unpopular administration of President George W. Bush, particularly on government spending and the Iraq war.

The latest energy bill in the U.S. Congress, he said, includes “big giveaways to Big Oil but nothing” to free American from its dependence on foreign oil.

“Time and again, I’ve heard politicians, pundits and pollsters warn me that my position on this or that issue would cost me the presidency. But I don’t answer to them,” he said.

(Additional reporting by David Alexander; editing by David Wiessler)

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Riches in the Arctic: the New Oil Race

Courtesy By Michael McCarthy, AP

New geological surveys show as much as a fifth of the world’s undiscovered but exploitable gas and oil reserves lie under the Arctic ice. As the ice melts, the pristine wilderness could become ‘the new Houston’.

It is the increasingly rapid melting of the Arctic sea ice which is opening up the possibility of the once frozen wasteland providing a natural resources and minerals bonanza.

The future of the Arctic will be less white wilderness, more black gold, a new report on oil reserves in the High North has signalled this week. The first-comprehensive assessment of oil and gas resources north of the Arctic Circle, carried out by American geologists, reveals that underneath the ice, the region may contain as much as a fifth of the world’s undiscovered yet recoverable oil and natural gas reserves.

This includes 90 billion barrels of oil, enough to supply the world for three years at current consumption rates, or to supply America for 12, and 1,670 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas, which is equal to about a third of the world’s known gas reserves.

The significance of the report is that it puts firm figures for the first time on the hydrocarbon riches which the five countries surrounding the Arctic – the US, Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark (through its dependency, Greenland) – have been eyeing up for several years.

It is the increasingly rapid melting of the Arctic sea ice, which last September hit a new record summer low, and of land-based ice on Greenland, which is opening up the possibility of the once frozen wasteland providing a natural resources and minerals bonanza, not to mention a major new transport route – last year the fabled North-West Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific along the top of Canada was navigable for the first time.

Scientists consider that global warming is responsible for the melting, with the high latitudes of the Arctic warming twice as fast as the rest of the world.

Environmentalists see this as a massive danger, with the melting of Greenland’s land-based ice adding to sea-level rise, while the melting of the sea ice uncovers a dark ocean surface that absorbs far more of the sun’s heat than the ice did, and thus acts as a “positive feedback” reinforcing warming. The melting of Greenland’s ice sheet has accelerated so dramatically that it is triggering earthquakes for the first time, with movements of gigantic pieces of ice creating shockwaves with a magnitude of up to three.

Conservationists are also concerned about the threat to the Arctic’s unique ecosystems and wildlife.

The Arctic countries’ governments, on the other hand, see it as a massive opportunity, and are already positioning themselves to claim stakes in the seabed of the Arctic Ocean, if – as many climate scientists now believe will happen – it becomes ice-free in summer within a couple of decades.

Just a year ago, to much media fanfare, the Russians planted a flag on the seabed some 2.5 miles beneath the ice at the North Pole, and dispatched a nuclear-powered icebreaker to map a subsea link between the Pole and Siberia, as part of an effort to circumvent a UN convention limiting resource claims beyond 200 miles offshore.

Canada said earlier this month that it plans to counter the Russian overture with “a very strong claim” to Arctic exploration rights.

This week’s oil and gas study, carried out by the US Geological Survey, does not raise the national competitive stakes appreciably as it reveals that most of the reserves are lying close to the shore, within the territorial jurisdiction of the countries concerned. Much of the oil is off Alaska; much of the natural gas off the Russian coastline. There appear to be only small reserves under the unclaimed heart of the Arctic.

However, what the report does do is to indicate a very different future for one of the world’s last remaining pristine and utterly unspoilt regions. If the oil is there, countries which own it will be very likely to seek to extract it, whatever the environmental cost.

“Before we can make decisions about our future use of oil and gas and related decisions about protecting endangered species, native communities and the health of our planet, we need to know what’s out there,” said the US Geological Survey’s (USGS) director, Mark Myers, in releasing the report. “With this assessment, we’re providing the same information to everyone in the world so the global community can make those difficult decisions,” he said.

“Most of the Arctic, especially offshore, is essentially unexplored with respect to petroleum,” said Donald Gautier, the project chief for the assessment. “The extensive Arctic continental shelves may constitute the geographically largest unexplored prospective area for petroleum remaining on Earth.”

The geologists studied maps of subterranean rock formations across the 8.2 million square miles above the Arctic Circle to find areas with characteristics similar to oil and gas finds in other parts of the world. The study also took into account the age, depth and shape of rock formations in judging whether they are likely to contain oil.

More than half of the undiscovered oil resources are estimated to occur in just three geologic provinces: Arctic Alaska (30 billion barrels), the Amerasia Basin (9.7 billion barrels) and the East Greenland Rift Basins (8.9 billion barrels). More than 70 per cent of the undiscovered natural gas is likely to be in three provinces: the West Siberian Basin (651 tcf), the East Barents Basins (318 tcf) and Arctic Alaska (221 tcf), the USGS said. The study took in all areas north of latitude 66.56 degrees north, and included only reserves that could be tapped using existing techniques. Experimental or unconventional prospects such as oil shale, gas hydrates and coal-bed methane were not included in the assessment.

The 90 billion barrels of oil expected to be in the Arctic in total are more than all the known reserves of Nigeria, Kazakhstan and Mexico combined, and could meet current world oil demand of 86.4 million barrels a day for almost three years. But the Arctic’s oil is not intended to replace all the supplies in the rest of world. It would last much longer by boosting available supplies and possibly reducing US reliance on imported crude, if America developed the resources.

The report did not include an estimate for how long it might take to bring the reserves to markets, but it would clearly be a substantial period. Offshore fields in the Gulf of Mexico and west Africa can take a decade or longer to begin pumping oil. But clearly, the massive amount of industrial infrastructure necessary to find the oil, extract it, and transport it to where it is wanted will come with a very considerable environmental cost. Senior US oil executives are urging the relaxation of prohibitions against offshore drilling, including much of Alaska, although Democratic leaders in both houses of Congress rejected President George Bush’s effort on 14 July to end a 25-year moratorium on drilling in most coastal waters. But change may well be coming now.

Frank O’Donnell, president of the US environmental group Clean Air Watch, said not only do polar bears and other wildlife within the Arctic Circle face losing their habitat due to global warming, they would be hurt by companies searching for oil. “On the one hand you may see this region more accessible [for getting energy supplies], but we’re definitely going to pay a different kind of price… you may lose species,” Mr O’Donnell said. “The oil industry goes up there and industrialises what has been a pristine area… suddenly it becomes the new Houston.”

Staking a claim

United States

The last country to formally stake its claim will be the first to start large-scale drilling. Thanks to its vast Alaskan territory the US will be confident of a huge oil bonanza. The White House resisted giving endangered status to the polar bear as long as it could to keep freedom to drill.

Russia

Dramatically upped the stakes in the race for the Arctic last year by planting its flag on the seabed at the magnetic pole with the help of an experimental submarine. The country least likely to baulk at the environmental cost of drilling in the wilderness.

Greenland (Denmark)

The island is financially dependent on its mother country, Denmark. Oil could change all that. Its tiny population of 50,000 fears being over-run by outsiders in a future oil rush. Denmark was the first to stake its claim to the North Pole.

Canada

Canada was affronted by Danish claims to the North Pole and has conducted military exercises over its vast northern territories to strengthen its claim to the Arctic. Ottawa has sent naval vessels and specialist troops to the far north.

Norway

The country does not want to be left out of an Arctic carve-up. But it backs a UN treaty to demilitarise the region and protect its pristine environment.

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