Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Qaddafi's Wife and Sons Flee to Algeria

Gaddafi's Family Escape Libya Net to Cross into Algeria

Libya's new rulers left frustrated by Algerian reports of Gaddafi's wife and three of his children arriving across the border.

By Luke Harding and Martin Chulov in Tripoli, Chris Stephen in Misrata
The Guardian
Monday 29 August 2011

Efforts by Libya's new rulers to bring the Gaddafi clan to justice received a blow on Monday night as it emerged that several family members had managed to flee the country for neighbouring Algeria.

The Algerian foreign ministry said Gaddafi's wife Safiya, daughter Aisha and sons Hannibal and Mohammed and their children had entered Algeria at 8.45am on Monday, according to the state-run APS news agency.

Their fate remains unclear. Rebels have said that if any Gaddafi relatives escape to Algeria they will seek their extradition. But the outcome of such a move would be uncertain. Algeria has refused to recognise the authority of Libya's new governing authority, the National Transitional Council (NTC), and has watched with alarm as autocratic regimes have fallen across the region over the past six months.

Algerian authorities earlier this year crushed an attempt to create a Tunisian-style uprising in Algiers.

Libya's new governing authority says it has no credible information about Muammar Gaddafi's whereabouts. Several of his sons are thought to still be in Tripoli. There were reports on Monday night that another of his sons, Khamis, had been killed in an airstrike south of Tripoli, but this could not be immediately confirmed.

Earlier the NTC justice minister, Mohammed al-Alagi, said the new leadership in Tripoli wanted to try Gaddafi in Libya if he is caught, rather than hand him over to the international criminal court. Alagi said the demands of national justice took precedence over the indictment issued at the end of June by the Hague-based court, seeking the arrest of Gaddafi for crimes against humanity.

The court also issued warrants for two of Gaddafi's top aides – his son and heir apparent Saif al-Islam and his intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanussi. The warrant refers to the early weeks of the conflict in February.

"We consider that the national court and justice system has priority over international justice," the minister said. Asked if he knew where Gaddafi might be hiding, he replied: "We don't comment on security issues, or where he might be."

The whereabouts of Gaddafi's other sons, Saif, Mutassim and Saadi, remain unknown along with that of his second daughter, Hannah, who was thought to have been killed in a US air strike in 1986, but was last week found to be alive and working in a Tripoli hospital.

The director of the Sharwa Zarwa hospital in the centre of the capital told the Guardian that Hannah Gaddafi had ordered staff not to treat wounded rebels during the past six months. "She also stayed here sometimes during the night," said Dr Ghassem Barouni.

Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Arab is thought to have been killed by a Nato strike in April. However, the reappearance of his second daughter after 25 years has left some members of the NTC sceptical about the claim.

The escape to Algeria came after the Egyptian news agency Mena, quoting unidentified rebel fighters, reported that six armoured Mercedes sedans, possibly carrying top regime figures, had crossed the border at the south-western Libyan town of Ghadamis into Algeria. Algeria's foreign ministry denied that report.

Ahmed Jibril, an aide to NTC head Mustafa Abdul Jalil, said if the Gaddafi relatives were in Algeria, "we will demand Algerian authorities hand them over to Libya to be tried before Libyan courts."

Meanwhile, the standoff over the last coastal city still in loyalist hands, Sirte, intensifiedon Monday as the NTC said it was seeking a peaceful solution to the confrontation.

Despite speculation that a battle for Sirte was imminent, the NTC said that it was still attempting to negotiate to avoid bloodshed. It said that similar talks were under way in Sabha, Gaddafi's southern desert stronghold. Together the two cities are the most significant still under the control of Libya's ousted regime. Speaking in Tripoli, Mahmood Shammam, the NTC's information minister, dismissed claims that major military offensives against Sirte and Sabha were about to start.

"We don't know that these two cities are revolting against us. We are negotiating to enter these cities peacefully. We will continue to do so," he said.

He stressed, however, that the rebels would attack the cities – already the target of multiple recent Nato air strikes – if the talks broke down. "If these negotiations fail we will use other means," he warned. Any offensive is unlikely to begin before the end of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan, which starts today. The Misrata brigade – likely to lead any fighting – is currently still in Tripoli.

The rebel leadership has a formidable task ahead in restoring vital services in Tripoli and elsewhere and uniting a disparate nation that has been through six months of turmoil. On Monday the first signs of cracks emerged when protests erupted in Misrata against the NTC's decision to appoint a former Gaddafi henchman as security boss of Tripoli.

Media reports said the NTC prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, was poised to appoint Albarrani Shkal, a former army general, as the capital's head of security.

Protests erupted in the early hours in Misrata's Martyr's Square, with about 500 protesters shouting that the "blood of the martyrs" would be betrayed by the appointment.

Misrata's ruling council lodged a formal protest with the NTC, saying if the appointment were confirmed Misratan rebel units on security duties in Tripoli would refuse to follow NTC orders. Misratans blame Shkal for commanding units that battered their way into the city in the spring, terrorising and murdering civilians.

Jibril says he wants to build an inclusive administration. He appears to have the tacit support of London, with the defence secretary, Liam Fox, telling al-Jazeera it was important the NTC avoided excluding members of the former regime. London is believed to be keen to avoid a rerun of Iraq, where a de-Ba'athification programme saw the ruling administration removed and chaos follow the US-led invasion in 2003.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Israeli Abuse of Palestinian Children

How Israel Takes its Revenge on Boys who Throw Stones

Video seen by Catrina Stewart reveals the brutal interrogation of young Palestinians.

The Independent
Friday, 26 August 2011

The boy, small and frail, is struggling to stay awake. His head lolls to the side, at one point slumping on to his chest. "Lift up your head! Lift it up!" shouts one of his interrogators, slapping him. But the boy by now is past caring, for he has been awake for at least 12 hours since he was separated at gunpoint from his parents at two that morning. "I wish you'd let me go," the boy whimpers, "just so I can get some sleep."

During the nearly six-hour video, 14-year-old Palestinian Islam Tamimi, exhausted and scared, is steadily broken to the point where he starts to incriminate men from his village and weave fantastic tales that he believes his tormentors want to hear.

This rarely seen footage seen by The Independent offers a glimpse into an Israeli interrogation, almost a rite of passage that hundreds of Palestinian children accused of throwing stones undergo every year.

Israel has robustly defended its record, arguing that the treatment of minors has vastly improved with the creation of a military juvenile court two years ago. But the children who have faced the rough justice of the occupation tell a very different story.

"The problems start long before the child is brought to court, it starts with their arrest," says Naomi Lalo, an activist with No Legal Frontiers, an Israeli group that monitors the military courts. It is during their interrogation where their "fate is doomed", she says.

Sameer Shilu, 12, was asleep when the soldiers smashed in the front door of his house one night. He and his older brother emerged bleary-eyed from their bedroom to find six masked soldiers in their living room.

Checking the boy's name on his father's identity card, the officer looked "shocked" when he saw he had to arrest a boy, says Sameer's father, Saher. "I said, 'He's too young; why do you want him?' 'I don't know,' he said". Blindfolded, and his hands tied painfully behind his back with plastic cords, Sameer was bundled into a Jeep, his father calling out to him not to be afraid. "We cried, all of us," his father says. "I know my sons; they don't throw stones."

In the hours before his interrogation, Sameer was kept blindfolded and handcuffed, and prevented from sleeping. Eventually taken for interrogation without a lawyer or parent present, a man accused him of being in a demonstration, and showed him footage of a boy throwing stones, claiming it was him.

"He said, 'This is you', and I said it wasn't me. Then he asked me, 'Who are they?' And I said that I didn't know," Sameer says. "At one point, the man started shouting at me, and grabbed me by the collar, and said, 'I'll throw you out of the window and beat you with a stick if you don't confess'."

Sameer, who protested his innocence, was fortunate; he was released a few hours later. But most children are frightened into signing a confession, cowed by threats of physical violence, or threats against their families, such as the withdrawal of work permits.

When a confession is signed, lawyers usually advise children to accept a plea bargain and serve a fixed jail sentence even if not guilty. Pleading innocent is to invite lengthy court proceedings, during which the child is almost always remanded in prison. Acquittals are rare. "In a military court, you have to know that you're not looking for justice," says Gabi Lasky, an Israeli lawyer who has represented many children.

There are many Palestinian children in the West Bank villages in the shadow of Israel's separation wall and Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands. Where largely non-violent protests have sprung up as a form of resistance, there are children who throw stones, and raids by Israel are common. But lawyers and human rights groups have decried Israel's arrest policy of targeting children in villages that resist the occupation.

In most cases, children as young as 12 are hauled from their beds at night, handcuffed and blindfolded, deprived of sleep and food, subjected to lengthy interrogations, then forced to sign a confession in Hebrew, a language few of them read.

Israeli rights group B'Tselem concluded that, "the rights of minors are severely violated, that the law almost completely fails to protect their rights, and that the few rights granted by the law are not implemented".

Israel claims to treat Palestinian minors in the spirit of its own law for juveniles but, in practice, it is rarely the case. For instance, children should not be arrested at night, lawyers and parents should be present during interrogations, and the children must be read their rights. But these are treated as guidelines, rather than a legal requirement, and are frequently flouted. And Israel regards Israeli youngsters as children until 18, while Palestinians are viewed as adults from 16.

Lawyers and activists say more than 200 Palestinian children are in Israeli jails. "You want to arrest these kids, you want to try them," Ms Lalo says. "Fine, but do it according to Israeli law. Give them their rights."

In the case of Islam, the boy in the video, his lawyer, Ms Lasky, believes the video provides the first hard proof of serious irregularities in interrogation.

In particular, the interrogator failed to inform Islam of his right to remain silent, even as his lawyer begged to no avail to see him. Instead, the interrogator urged Islam to tell him and his colleagues everything, hinting that if he did so, he would be released. One interrogator suggestively smacked a balled fist into the palm of his hand.

By the end of the interrogation Islam, breaking down in sobs, has succumbed to his interrogators, appearing to give them what they want to hear. Shown a page of photographs, his hand moves dully over it, identifying men from his village, all of whom will be arrested for protesting.

Ms Lasky hopes this footage will change the way children are treated in the occupied territories, in particular, getting them to incriminate others, which lawyers claim is the primary aim of interrogations. The video helped gain Islam's release from jail into house arrest, and may even lead to a full acquittal of charges of throwing stones. But right now, a hunched and silent Islam doesn't feel lucky. Yards from his house in Nabi Saleh is the home of his cousin, whose husband is in jail awaiting trial along with a dozen others on the strength of Islam's confession.

The cousin is magnanimous. "He is a victim, he is just a child," says Nariman Tamimi, 35, whose husband, Bassem, 45, is in jail. "We shouldn't blame him for what happened. He was under enormous pressure."

Israel's policy has been successful in one sense, sowing fear among children and deterring them from future demonstrations. But the children are left traumatised, prone to nightmares and bed-wetting. Most have to miss a year of school, or even drop out.

Israel's critics say its policy is creating a generation of new activists with hearts filled with hatred against Israel. Others say it is staining the country's character. "Israel has no business arresting these children, trying them, oppressing them," Ms Lalo says, her eyes glistening. "They're not our children. My country is doing so many wrongs and justifying them. We should be an example, but we have become an oppressive state."

Child detention figures

7,000 The estimated number of Palestinian children detained and prosecuted in Israeli military courts since 2000, shows a report by Defence for Children International Palestine (DCIP).

87 The percentage of children subjected to some form of physical violence while in custody. About 91 per cent are also believed to be blindfolded at some point during their detention.

12 The minimum age of criminal responsibility, as stipulated in the Military Order 1651.

62 The percentage of children arrested between 12am and 5am.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Al Quds Day in Lebanon

Today was the annual commemoration of al Quds Day, which saw twin gatherings of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. One demonstration was held in the north of the country and the other in the south. Al Quds Day was originally conceived of by Ayatollah Khomeini after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and it is commemorated on the last Friday of Ramadan every year. The objective of al Quds Day is to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and oppose Zionism, as well as Israel's occupation and control of Jerusalem.

The commemoration of al Quds Days in Lebanon is particularly significant this year, because next month the Palestinian Authority will attempt to gain recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations. Many critics argue that this legal effort will undermine two key demands of the Palestinian people: the claim to Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, and the right of return for all Palestinian refugees.

I attended the commemoration in the south in the city of Saida with my friend Ali from Burj al Barajneh camp in Beirut, where thousands gathered for a parade. Here are some of the pictures.







Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chaos Overcomes Tripoli

Terror in Tripoli as Loyalists Fight to the Death

Heavy fighting continues in battle to control the capital.

By Kim Sengupta in Abu Salim, Tripoli
The Independent
Thursday, 25 August 2011

The missile smashed into the top floor of the house, punching a jagged hole. It sprayed the terrified people on the street below with shrapnel, shattered glass and jagged masonry. Libya's revolutionaries were mounting their assault on the last stronghold of Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli.

There was no escape for the residents of Abu Salim, trapped as the fighting spread all around them. In the corner of a street, a man who was shot in the crossfire, the back of his blue shirt soaked in blood, was being carried away by three others. "I know that man, he is a shopkeeper," said Sama Abdessalam Bashti, who had just run across the road to reach his home. "The rebels are attacking our homes. This should not be happening.

"The rebels are saying they are fighting government troops here, but all those getting hurt are ordinary people, the only buildings being damaged are those of local people. There has also been looting by the rebels, they have gone into houses to search for people and taken away things. Why are they doing this? They should be looking for Gaddafi, he is not here."

Abu Salim is the location of a prison which inspired fear among Libyans for generations. In 1996, after a riot by inmates, more than 12,000 of them were slaughtered; the bodies of many of them are yet to be found. Many of the dead were political prisoners accused of being Islamists. Most came from the east of the country and "the martyrs" has become a rallying cry for the uprising that has driven Colonel Gaddafi from power.

But Abu Salim is also deemed to be an area loyal to the regime and it has been one of the districts where the Gaddafi acolytes have distributed arms for the continuing resistance. That was certainly happening here yesterday with mortar and rocket fire being directed from behind nearby blocks on to Bab al-Aziziya, Colonel Gaddafi's fortress, which was stormed by the revolutionaries on Tuesday evening. Two "technicals", gun-mounted flat-bed and pickup trucks, drove into a side road 50 yards away, the men at the back wearing civilian clothes, with no official markings, making them indistinguishable from the opposition fighters. Soon afterwards two gunmen appeared on a sixth-floor balcony and fired off a burst, then disappeared.

"Some of them came from outside a few days ago, they do not live around here, but others are local," said Mohammed Selim Mohammed, a 38-year-old engineer. "Muammar has supporters here and for sure the government gave out guns. They also gave out money. But I don't think people are fighting for that. What good is money if you end up dead?

"Maybe they just do not like the rebels. Why are people from outside Tripoli coming and arresting our men? I did not get any money, but I was given a gun. It was an AK-47, made in Ukraine. I have kept it for the protection of my family; we do not know what is going to happen. They say Muammar is defeated, but if that is the case, why is he not in prison?"

As the battle unfolded at the district of Abu Salim, another drama was continuing in the nearby Rixos Hotel where 40 foreign journalists had been held hostage by regime troops. Three of them, including David Kirkpatrick of The New York Times, were seized and dragged inside when they went to report on the situation in a car flying the revolutionary banner. By yesterday afternoon the members of the media had been let out under the auspices of the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross), and went to the Corinthia, another hotel in the city centre, where they said they were in good health and relieved to be out.

Meanwhile four Italian journalists were kidnapped by suspected regime loyalists on the road to Tripoli from Zawiyah, 30 miles west.

In London there were reports that British SAS troops had been on the ground in Libya for several weeks helping to co-ordinate the assault on the capital. The Daily Telegraph reported defence sources confirming the soldiers from 22 SAS regiment had been ordered to stay on to help track Colonel Gaddafi down.

The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said "Gaddafi must accept defeat," and in Paris, President Nicolas Sarkozy stressed "Gaddafi's time has run out".

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of the opposition administration, the TNC (Transitional National Council), authorised a bounty of two million Libyan dinars (£1m) for anyone handing over Colonel Gaddafi "dead or alive". He also offered an amnesty to any of his entourage who would "kill or capture him".

Colonel Gaddafi's response was to appear on a local television channel, Al-Oruba TV, saying he had made a tactical retreat from Bab al-Aziziya. He vowed to fight on "until victory or martyrdom" and urged "loyal Libyans" to rise up and free the nation from the "devils and traitors" who have overrun it.

Rumours had swept through Tripoli that Saif al-Islam, Colonel Gaddafi's son, whom the TNC had claimed to have captured before his appearance at the Rixos Hotel two days ago, was travelling through the city organising ambushes.

Repeatedly failing to force their way into Abu Salim, the rebels returned to Bab al-Aziziya to load up from the stockpiles of weapons abandoned by the regime troops. But their next assault was also rebuffed by what appeared to be a handful of gunmen on high vantage points. The rebels responded with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine-gun fire, which halted the sniping – but only temporarily.

Getting back to the rebel positions involved crossing checkpoints of frustrated and jittery fighters. Frustration at the failure to crush the loyalists has also led to recriminations about failings within their own ranks.

"We keep on hearing that Gaddafi's sons are leading the attacks," complained Ahmed Jawad Ibadullah, a volunteer fighter, from Zawiyah. "What happened there? We were told by the people in Benghazi that the whole family of bastards has been finished. Now we get this. I am a pharmacist. I have been away from my home, from my job for five months now. Even now we are not getting proper direction and leadership."

Ashraf Zain Ali, loading ammunition boxes into a truck, nodded. "We have been doing all the fighting," he said. "Our leaders are flying around the world. We have been told for days that the leadership is coming over from Benghazi. Where are they?"

A little further down the road, Amr Mohammed Bahudin called for more reflection among the revolutionaries. "We have the overwhelming number of our people supporting us. We have had the support of Nato. Many of Gaddafi's generals have left him. So why are there civilians in Abu Salim supporting him and fighting us? We need to find the answer or we will be fighting for a very long time."

Requesting the Whereabouts of Imam Musa al-Sadr

Lebanon and Iran Urge Libyan Rebels to Probe 33-year-old Mystery

Shia across Middle East eager to find out whether Moussa al-Sadr, a cleric who disappeared in 1978, is still alive.

By Saeed Kamali Dehghan
The Guardian
Wednesday 24 August 2011

Lebanon and Iran have appealed to the Libyan rebels to investigate the fate of Moussa al-Sadr, a Shia religious leader who went missing after a flight to Tripoli in August 1978.

With Gaddafi's regime on the brink of collapse, officials in Iran and Lebanon have expressed hope that the mystery surrounding the charismatic Iranian-born Lebanese scholar might finally be brought to an end.

Sadr, a moderate philosopher who would be 83 if still alive, disappeared along with his two companions after they went to Libya for a meeting with government officials. Iran and Lebanon have long blamed Sadr's disappearance on the Libyan leader.

Libya denied any responsibility over their disappearance and claimed that Sadr departed for Italy after the Libyan visit. Italian officials denied they ever arrived. There has been no news of Sadr since then, although his family have always believed that the Shia figure is still alive in a Libyan prison.

However, Abdel Moneim al-Houni, a former Libyan ambassador to the Arab League who joined the rebels, said in a recent interview with the London-based Arabian newspaper, Al-Hayat, that Sadr had been killed by Gaddafi's regime and buried in southern Libya.

Since he went missing, Sadr, who is known as Imam Moussa Sadr in Iran and founded Lebanon's first prominent Shia political movement, has become a revered icon for Shia communities in both Iran and Lebanon, especially among supporters of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

His family issued a statement this week on the anniversary of his disappearance. "We appeal to those who will take over in Libya after the collapse of the tyrant to give special attention to this case," Sadr's family said in a statement addressed to the rebels.

Lebanon's English-language newspaper, the Daily Star, also quoted the Lebanese foreign minister as saying: "When things become clear, we will make relentless efforts with relevant people in Libya to reveal the fate of Imam Sadr and his companions."

He added: "Lebanon has never abandoned efforts for one moment to determine his fate and that of his companions and there is a chance now to discover new things."

Hezbollah have also issued a separate statement. It said: "We are full of hope that they will be freed by your hands and returned to their families."

In Iran, government-sponsored media organisations and even opposition newspapers have called on Libyan rebels to uncover Sadr's fate.

The speaker of the parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policies, Kazem Jalali, told the Iranian reformist newspaper Etemaad: "We believe that [Sadr] is still alive and is held captive by Gaddafi's government. Gaddafi has repeatedly lied about his case to the international community… We hope to see him in good health in the next days and we hope he joins his family once again."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Qaddafi Loyalists Strike Back

Gaddafi Son Vows to Crush Rebels

The Associated Press
Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The son and heir apparent of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam, resurfaced free and defiant early today a day after rebels claimed to have captured him, boasting in a bizarre reappearance that his father's loyalists still control parts of Tripoli and would crush the rebellion.

Saif al-Islam's sudden - even surreal - arrival at a Tripoli hotel where foreign journalists are staying threw the situation in the capital into confusion.

It underlined the potential for Gaddafi, whose whereabouts remain unknown, to lash back even as his grip on power seemed to be slipping fast.

Rebels say they control the large majority of Tripoli, but yesterday they were still fighting pockets of fierce resistance from regime loyalists firing mortars and anti-aircraft guns.

Rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Rahman, who was in Tripoli, said the "danger is still there" as long as the elder Gaddafi remains on the run.

He warned that pro-Gaddafi brigades are positioned on Tripoli's outskirts and could "be in the middle of the city in half an hour".

The rebel leadership seemed stunned that Saif al-Islam was free. The leadership's spokesman, Sadeq al-Kabir, had no explanation and could only say: "This could be all lies."

He could not confirm whether Saif al-Islam escaped rebel custody, but he did say that another captured Gaddafi son, Mohammed, had escaped the home arrest that rebels had placed him in a day earlier.

Yesterday, the rebels had said Saif al-Islam was captured, but did not give details on where he was held.

The Netherlands-based International Criminal Court - which indicted Saif al-Islam and his father - had confirmed his capture.

Saif al-Islam, with a full beard and wearing an olive-green T-shirt and camouflage trousers, turned up early this morning at the Rixos hotel, where about 30 foreign journalists are staying in Tripoli under the close watch of regime minders.

Riding in a white limousine amid a convoy of armoured SUVs, he took reporters on a drive through parts of the city still under the regime's control, saying: "We are going to hit the hottest spots in Tripoli."

The tour covered mainly the area that was known to still be under the regime's control - the district around the Rixos hotel and nearby Bab al-Aziziya, Gaddafi's residential compound and military barracks.

The tour went through streets full of armed Gaddafi backers, controlled by roadblocks, and into the Gaddafi stronghold neighbourhood Bu Slim.

At Bab al-Aziziya, at least a hundred men were waiting in lines for guns being distributed to volunteers to defend the regime.

Saif al-Islam shook hands with supporters, beaming and flashing the V for victory sign.

"We are here. This is our country. This is our people, and we live here, and we die here," he told AP Television News. "And we are going to win, because the people are with us. That's why were are going to win. Look at them - look at them, in the streets, everywhere!"

When asked about the ICC's claim that he was arrested by rebels, he told reporters: "The ICC can go to hell", and added: "We are going to break the backbone of the rebels."

In Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital hundreds of miles east of Tripoli, the head of the rebel National Transitional Council said the rebels have no idea where Gaddafi is or whether he is even in Tripoli.

"The real moment of victory is when Gaddafi is captured," Mustafa Abdel-Jalil said. An Obama administration official said the US had no indication that Gaddafi had left Libya.

President Barack Obama said the situation in Libya reached a tipping point in recent days after a five month Nato-led bombing campaign. However, he acknowledged that the situation remained fluid and that elements of the regime remained a threat.

The Obama administration official said the US believes 90% of the capital is under rebel control, while regime loyalists still control Sirte and the southern city of Sebha.

Gaddafi's forces remained active, firing off a short-range Scud missile near Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown and one of the few remaining cities still under his control, said US military officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.

It was unclear where the missile landed or if anyone was hurt.

It was only the second Scud missile fired during this year's conflict. On August 15, Libyan government forces launched one near Sirte that landed in the desert outside Brega, injuring no one.

Nato vowed to keep up its air campaign until all pro-Gaddafi forces surrender or return to their barracks.

The alliance's warplanes have hit at least 40 targets in and around Tripoli in the past two days - the highest number on a single geographic location since the bombing started in March, Nato said.

A day after the rebels rode into the city of two million, the situation remained volatile.

Even though rebels claimed they were in control of most of Tripoli, they still appeared to be on the defensive, ducking for cover during frequent clashes with regime fighters.

Stores were shuttered and large areas were lifeless, including the old gold market, in the past a draw for tourists.

Throughout the day, the rebels sent reinforcements to the city from the north, south and south east, and a rebel field commander said more than 4,000 fighters were part of the final push to bring down the regime.

Rebels manned checkpoints on the western approaches to the city, handing out sweets to motorists and inquiring about their destinations.

Intense gun battles erupted throughout the day. At Bab al-Aziziya compound, government tanks emerged from the complex and opened fire at rebels trying to get in, according to the rebel spokesman Mr Abdel-Rahman and a neighbour.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Beginning of the End in Libya?

Today the news is abuzz with reports that the rebels have captured parts of Tripoli. I may be wrong but I still fear that the fight is not yet over. Here is the latest from the BBC.

Scenes of Joy as Libya Rebels Enter Central Tripoli

BBC News
22 August 2011

A convoy of Libyan rebels has rolled into central Tripoli past celebrating crowds after a day of heavy fighting in and around the capital.

Crowds on Green Square cheered them, waving flags and firing salutes.

President Obama said the Gaddafi regime had reached a "tipping point". The UK said the end was near for the Libyan leader, and urged him to go.

The rebels reportedly captured Col Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, as the Colonel himself vowed to fight on.

International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he had been informed of the arrest. The court has indicted Saif al-Islam for torturing and killing civilians.

Another of Col Gaddafi's sons, Muhammad, was speaking on the phone to al-Jazeera TV when he said the rebels were surrounding his home. Gunfire was heard before the line cut off.

The hotel where we and other foreign journalists are staying is still under the control of pro-Gaddafi guards, and we believe that they are now preparing to defend it from opposition forces.

There's been an awful lot of firing going on in recent hours in the area.

We believe there will be some sort of rebel attempt to take the hotel because it's the place from which the Libyan information minister has been broadcasting his take on the conflict - it's also the place from where Libyan TV has recently been broadcasting its nightly shows from.

So it's one of the targets of the opposition forces. What's happening here is in sharp contrast to what's happening three miles - or 5km - down the road in Green Square, where there are jubilant scenes.

Fighting continued into the night in some districts while the rebels and their supporters celebrated on Green Square - which they renamed Martyrs' Square.

Government forces still control parts of the city - including the areas around Col Gaddafi's Bab al-Azizia compound and near the hotel where foreign journalists are staying, south of the city centre.

The Libyan leader is believed to have thousands of armed followers in the capital although reports suggest a number of them have surrendered to the rebels.

The chairman of the rebel National Transition Council Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil said early on Monday: "I warn you, there are still pockets of resistance in and around Tripoli."

Libyan Information Minister Moussa Ibrahim said fighting in the city since noon (10:00 GMT) on Sunday had left 1,300 people dead and 5,000 wounded, and added that hospitals could not cope with the casualties.

Rebel forces advanced from the east and west in recent days, backed by Nato aircraft enforcing a UN resolution to protect civilians. (Blogger's note: this is the supposed mission. Obviously Nato is waging a war against Qaddafi and his regime).

In Washington, President Obama said in a statement: "Tonight, the momentum against the Gaddafi regime has reached a tipping point. Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant."

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said it was clear "that the end is near for Gaddafi".

Mr Cameron said the Libyan leader had "committed appalling crimes against the people of Libya and he must go now to avoid any further suffering for his own people".

Safe passage offer

TV footage showed Libyans kneeling and kissing the ground of Tripoli in gratitude for what some called a "blessed day".

During the day, one group of rebels had pushed in from the west while another set up checkpoints on the eastern outskirts.

It is clear there have been bloody battles in parts of Tripoli, the BBC's Matthew Price reports from the city.

The Libyan information minister insisted the government was "very resilient". "We have thousands and thousands of fighters," he said.

He accused Nato of backing "armed gangs" with air power, and added that a further 376 people had been killed and almost 900 injured in fighting on Saturday. The figures could not be verified independently.

Mr Ibrahim added that the Gaddafi government was prepared to negotiate directly with the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) but later on Sunday, Col Gaddafi issued a call on state TV for his supporters to "cleanse" Tripoli of rebels.

"How come you allow Tripoli, the capital, to be under occupation once again?" he asked. "The traitors are paving the way for the occupation forces to be deployed in Tripoli."

Mr Jalil said the rebels would halt their offensive if Col Gaddafi announced his departure.

Speaking about Saif al-Islam Gaddafi's capture, he said he was "being kept in a secure place under close guard until he is handed over to the judiciary".

He added that rebel forces would give Col Gaddafi and his sons safe passage out of the country.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Update on the Conflict in Libya

According the the BBC, rebel forces in Libya are now pushing towards the "capital, Tripoli, where there was heavy overnight gunfire and several explosions on Sunday morning... The rebels who took Zawiya on Saturday say they have now taken Jaddayim, the first town en route to Tripoli, 40km (25 miles) east." However contrary to other mainstream media reports, the violence in Tripoli "appeared to peak late on Saturday night and there is still much support for Colonel Gaddafi in the city." Thus it is unlikely that the conflict will end any time soon as those in the Libyan capital will not surrender easily and instead will fight until the end for their beliefs. In the meantime, the government under siege has requested for the United Nations to investigate NATO atrocities in Libya.

Libya asks U.N. to Probe NATO "Abuses"

Reuters
Saturday August 20, 2011

RABAT - Libya has asked United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to form a "high-level commission" to investigate alleged abuses by NATO, state news agency JANA reported Saturday.

NATO warplanes have been hitting the Libyan government's military infrastructure, backing up rebels who have launched a six-month uprising against the rule of Muammar Gaddafi.

Libyan Prime Minister Al Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi spoke to Ban by telephone Saturday and Ban promised to study the proposal, the agency said.

Mahmoudi asked for "a high-level delegation ... to visit Libya as soon as possible and look closely at (NATO) abuses and what is happening in Libya and discuss a solution between Libyans themselves without foreign interference," JANA reported.

Mahmoudi asked Ban and African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping to join the commission, the agency added.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Times Review of Iranian Film "Circumstance"

Below is a review of the new Iranian film "Circumstance". The review is problematic and perhaps so is the film. I am often frustrated with the Western fascination of anything that seemingly challenges or undermines the Islamic Republic. This political agenda has exaggerated the size and importance of the so-called underground in Iran. Of course Iranian countercultures exist—as they do everywhere else in the world—however I know dozens of politicized young people in Iran, none of whom drink or do drugs or engage in casual sex. But that does not mean that nothing goes on behind their closed doors. All Iranians have to wear many masks, and they do so with an amazing adeptness, which often results in the kind of schizophrenia that filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz remarks upon below.

However the fact that her target audience is Iranian exiles is not only a matter of censorship but also of substance. And despite her declaration to the contrary, this kind of film was always going to be political. The cast and crew lied about the content of the film in order to be able to film in Lebanon and yet they dare to complain when Lebanese authorities are suspect of the project and investigate onset. Huh?

Nevertheless I do applaud normalizing homosexuality in all societies and so with some hesitancy I will likely watch this film as soon as I can.

Living and Loving Underground in Iran

By Larry Rohter
The New York Times
August 19, 2011

SHORTLY before she began shooting the film “Circumstance,” her first experience in front of a camera, the law student and soon-to-be actress Sarah Kazemy flew from her home in France to visit relatives in Iran. She anticipated that the movie, which focuses on the lesbian romance of two Tehran teenagers rebelling against a puritanical Islamic theocracy, would make it difficult for her to return there for the foreseeable future, and she wanted to say her farewells to people and a country that she loves.

The director Maryam Keshavarz, foreground; Nikohl Boosheri, left; Sarah Kazemy; and Reza Sixo Safai.

“I’m proud that this movie shows a bit of the underground life there,” even if it offends the mullahs, “because people have no idea that such a thing even exists, and it’s bigger than what you can imagine,” Ms. Kazemy said during a recent interview in Manhattan. “I used to go to Iran every summer until I was 17,” she added, “so I had to go there one last time.”

In “Circumstance,” which opens in New York, Los Angeles on Friday, Ms. Kazemy, 22, plays Shireen, whose friendship with her privileged classmate Atafeh, (Nikohl Boosheri), turns erotic as they navigate a circuit of illicit parties offering drink, drugs, dancing, loud Western music and banned films. The situation becomes even more complicated when Atafeh’s troubled older brother, Mehran (Reza Sixo Safai), also falls in love with Shireen.

That baroque story line, which led the film’s production team to scour the Middle East for a place where they could film in safety, may seem more like something out of Jean Genet or Tennessee Williams than contemporary Iran. But that’s precisely one of the points that Maryam Keshavarz, who wrote and directed “Circumstance” on a budget of less than $1 million, was trying to make. As an Iranian-American she has always had to confront stereotypes, one of the most pernicious of which, she said, was the notion that nothing goes on behind closed doors in Iranian society in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution in which the Ayatollah Khomeini’s supporters overthrew Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

“I wanted to make this film because I’ve always seen myself as a translator of culture between Iran and the United States, and my whole life has been about going back and forth,” Ms. Keshavarz, 36, said. “With any family in Iran there is this duality, their true face and what’s under the surface, and so a kind of schizophrenia is created. There’s a whole underground world that happens in Iranian society, and that’s what I wanted to explore.”

Some elements of the film draw on Ms. Keshavarz’s own experience and observations. Though she grew up in Brooklyn, Staten Island and New Jersey, she spent summers with cousins in Shiraz, a city of 1.5 million in southern Iran. The party sequences are based on things she witnessed as a teenager, as are some of the scenes showing harsh treatment by the morality police, she said, mentioning one cousin who was subjected to a lashing after he was caught playing music on his car stereo.

For the film’s three main roles Ms. Keshavarz turned to other members of the Iranian diaspora. Ms. Boosheri grew up in Vancouver, Ms. Kazemy in Paris and Mr. Safai in California, but all are children of parents who left the country around the time of the Iranian revolution, and all still have family in Iran. Only Ms. Boosheri, 23, whose parents were military officers who fled to Pakistan, has not spent time visiting relatives there.

Except for a few phrases in English, “Circumstance,” which is Ms. Keshavarz’s first feature-length fictional film, is in Persian. Ms. Keshavarz said that she wanted to reach the vast group of exiles created by the Iranian revolution, and that even inside Iran, where the film will probably be banned, citizens are likely to see smuggled copies. Therefore, “authenticity is important,” she said, “and that begins with language.”

But for her cast, that was something of a challenge. Though the main actors are all fluent in Persian, it is of a variety “frozen in time,” as Ms. Kazemy put it, from the era of the shah, and so a dialogue coach was brought in.

To update her vocabulary, “I would hang out with Iranians in my town, many of whom are recent immigrants,” Ms. Boosheri recalled, “and I couldn’t keep up with them. They call each other ‘bro,’ and they would laugh when I talked. They would say, ‘You speak so by the book,’ or ‘You speak like an old person’.”

Ms. Keshavarz said that she did not set out to make a movie that was political, at least in any overt or conventional sense. Yet as one of her characters remarks during a droll scene in which four young people dub an episode of “Sex and the City” and Sean Penn’s performance in “Milk” for clandestine distribution, “in this place, everything that’s illegal is subversive.” That reality gives “Circumstance,” which won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival in January, an especially seditious tone, Ms. Keshavarz acknowledged.

“When the state controls every part of your personal life, your personal life is political,” she said, “down to what you dress, who you love, or how you interact with the same sex or different sexes.”

With filming in Iran obviously out of the question, Ms. Keshavarz and the film’s producers scouted other locations in the Middle East and ended up choosing Beirut. Lebanon, of course, has its own troubled history, including civil war and religious strife, but Ms. Keshavarz thought, correctly, that Beirut’s physical resemblance to Tehran and its high level of energy would inspire her cast.

“It was the right Middle Eastern feeling, it had the essence,” Ms. Boosheri said. “And in Iran we wouldn’t have had the freedom to do what we did.”

At times, though, that verisimilitude proved to be a liability. Hezbollah, the powerful Shia armed force and political party that the United States classifies as a terrorist group, is based in Lebanon and receives support from the theocracy in Iran, so the filmmakers feared that word of the nature of their project might leak out and bring retribution.

“It was so hard, probably the most challenging shoot in my career, and for multiple reasons,” said Karin Chien, one of the film’s producers. “The political terrain was constantly shifting while we were there. We didn’t know who was in charge, and there were all these competing factions, of which Hezbollah was one. We went in thinking that explicit sexuality was the thing we were going to have to work around most, but it was the Iranian content, the fact that this was set in Iran, that we had to downplay.”

As a result a modified script was submitted to the Lebanese authorities, who were also told that the project was merely Ms. Keshavarz’s thesis film, not a commercial feature. “The word Iran was never mentioned, and the script was in English,” Ms. Keshavarz said. In addition, cast members and the hand-picked crew members were told not to talk about the film in public or mention it on their Facebook pages.

Even so, the filming led to several uncomfortable brushes with the authorities. On the last day of production the police nearly shut down the shoot, under the impression that the cast was making a pornographic film. Several earlier scenes were shot in an apartment building across the street from a military command post, which led to regular visits from the authorities.

“They thought we were turning the cameras on them, spying on them, so they came on the set” one day as a birthday party scene was being filmed, Mr. Safai, 38, recalled. “I was in makeup, and someone came in and said, ‘Reza, forget about the lines, we’re doing it in English.’ It was one more thing we always had to be concerned about.”

In the end, Mr. Safai and other cast members agreed, that sense of constant anxiety and dread actually helped strengthen their performances. And they also recognize that they are beneficiaries of “Circumstance” and circumstance, that their own experience making the film pales beside the harsh reality that Iranians living under the mullahs must confront daily.

“The struggle of any family in that kind of repressive atmosphere, where both the family and the individual are always under siege, is to create a safe space and sanctuary,” Ms. Keshavarz said. “To me that is what this film is evaluating. It celebrates love, but a love that is tragic, because on every level every kind of love is under assault and ultimately compromised.”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Turning the Golan into a Killing Field

Israel Army Plants New Mines along Syria Border

By Diaa Hadid
The Associated Press
13 August, 2011

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's army is planting new land mines along its border with Syria in an attempt to dissuade protesters from rushing into the Golan Heights, according to a report in an Israeli military magazine.

The preparations come as part of Israel's beefed-up measures ahead of rallies that Palestinians are planning to hold in September, the magazine Ba'mahaneh reported over the weekend.

Israel came under heavy international criticism earlier this year after its troops opened fire on Syrians and Palestinians who broke through the fenced border into the Golan Heights during a pair of demonstrations. Around 35 protesters were killed.

Israel worries that the planned Palestinian demonstrations in September around their U.N. bid for independence could also see a new attempt to breach the Golan frontier.

The army decided to go ahead with the move after older mines failed to detonate when the Syrians crossed in June, the magazine reported. The mountainous plateau is heavily sown with minefields, which are marked. Military officials have said they are also preparing non-lethal methods for controlling any Golan protests.

"The activities are intended to thicken landed mines and strengthen obstacles," said Maj. Ariel Iluz of the engineering corps, according to the magazine.

"Combined with our military forces and snipers, these are supposed to delay or even prevent a lot of people from crossing the border," Iluz said.

A June demonstration protested Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights, a territory it seized in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed. The international community does not recognize its annexation.

Palestinians also staged a demonstration a month earlier to commemorate the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Arabs during the war surrounding Israel's 1948 creation, an event Palestinians refer to as the nakba, or catastrophe.

The magazine did not say how many mines the army's engineering corps have planted so far, only saying the operation had been continuing for several weeks. An army spokesman was not available for comment.

The magazine reported that the military was taking other measures, including reinforcing fences along the Golan border, increasing infantry troop numbers, posting more snipers and digging trenches.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Unarmed Resistance Requires Rocks

Throwing Rocks at the Occupation – and Western Prejudice Too

By Linah Alsaafin
The Electronic Intifada
11 August 2011

I had denied it for too long now but for a Palestinian, my rock throwing is abysmal.

On one of the Fridays I spent in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, I had grumbled out loud at this particular incompetence of mine and I suddenly found myself surrounded by eager teachers.

It was the Friday that demonstrators marched with a model of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. That day was mostly spent indoors as after the first couple of hours of the protest, the Israeli army aimed and fired tear gas at whoever poked his or her head out the door.

During the late afternoon the jeeps made signs that they were leaving and I jumped at the chance of being outside again. Along with two other girls, we casually sauntered forward until we reached the jeeps and stood next to local activist Nariman Tamimi and her video camera, where other village children joined us.The other activists tried venturing out but because they were a larger number they were promptly shot at. From the rooftops, others started cursing the soldiers in a humorous way, and they also were fired upon. One of the tear gas canisters rolled back toward the soldier who fired it and he had to scramble comically out of the way, which made us all whoop and cheer, the younger children laughing openly. The soldier stomped menacingly towards our group, his pride hurt, his eyes flashing angrily — and threw a sound bomb at us. We scampered.

The village was surrounded by soldiers. The hills were crawling with them, the orchards teeming. As we watched one troop making its way down from behind the olive trees, we didn’t bother to conceal the condescension on our faces. One soldier raised his hand in farewell. My throat constricted with a thousand incendiary words to say at this supposedly friendly gesture. The girl’s face next to me mirrored my own: dangerously-narrowed eyes that almost made us look cross-eyed.

One by one, the jeeps took off. A hail of stones began raining down on them, with whistles and cheering whenever a rock made contact with the armored vehicles. The infectious excitement made me pick up a rock, throw it, and then swiftly I buried my head in the ground as the rock traveled heavily in the air for a couple of meters before dropping dully. Next to me, a kid half my size threw his rock and narrowly missed the end of the jeep, which was now about two hundred meters away.

Two basic lessons

There are two basic lessons: how to hold a rock and how to throw a rock. The village was now empty of the occupying force, the street littered with sound bombs and canisters. My lesson took place across from a small empty lot with the sun dipping in the background.

“This is how you hold a rock,” said one of the shabab (youth). “No, not like that, like this. OK, you’re doing it wrong. No, look at my fingers! Imagine your thumb and forefinger as a pair of tweezers. Hold them up like this. The rock should fit comfortably.” He gave up on his theoretical talk, grabbed my fingers and molded them into the correct shape.

One kid tapped my arm. “Let the rock rest against your middle finger. That’s it, you got it.”

“Now stretch your arm out, away from your body,” the same shab continued. “No, not like a stick figure. Bend your elbow slightly. Move your arm backwards a little. When you throw, don’t let your shoulder move. The rock travels longer based on the follow through movement of your arm. OK, throw.” I threw. The rock felt lighter as it whizzed through the air. I yelled out in joy. “Did you see that!” My teachers nodded absentmindedly and threw their rocks. The distance covered was still longer than mine.

“OK, good, but you need to refine your technique a bit more. Try again. Wait, remember to keep this finger like that. OK throw again — wait, what are you doing, aiming for the driver? Let the car pass before you start. Now watch out for the kids. Hey!” he yelled out good-naturedly, “Get out of the way!”

I threw again, a broad smile breaking out across my face. I knew better than to say I don’t throw like a girl anymore — one of the last classes I took at university was women’s studies, which had a lasting effect on me. The kids showed just how good they are with rocks and were eager to offer me tips regarding size and target.

Israeli ignorance

Earlier that day, as activists were cooped up in the home of Bilal and Manal Tamimi — activists who are also involved in documenting the protests — one Israeli activist, a first-timer here, was standing in the middle of the room drawing attention to himself as he loudly asserted that throwing rocks automatically cancelled out a “nonviolent protest.” Another activist was arguing with him, pointing out that the rocks were barely the source of bodily harm, but to me they both were missing the point completely.

One of the Tamimi men was leaning against the wall on a mattress, staring at the Israeli with scornful displeasure. “As long as the soldiers are here, as long as our land is being encroached upon, as long as their jeeps take over our village, and as long as they continue to fire tear gas, our shabab won’t stop throwing rocks,” he declared.

“Fine, but you can’t call it a nonviolent protest,” the Israeli countered. He looked warily around the room. “Look, I realize most of you don’t agree with me, but in my opinion a nonviolent protest shouldn’t engage in any tactics of violence, and to me throwing stones is an act of violence.”

“An act of violence!” the other activist almost sneered. “In response to what, the tear gas fired? The live ammunition sometimes used? The storming of houses and the subsequent arrests and beatings? You can’t equate the tactics of the Israeli army to rock-“

“I’m not equating them! Definitely I’m not! But to me, a nonviolent protest —” “Listen,” I interjected. “This is the first mistake you’re making. Don’t say ‘nonviolent;’ the more correct term is ‘unarmed.’”

The Israeli first-timer has obviously fallen victim to the western discourse that dictates what it regards as the appropriate way for Palestinians to resist the occupation. It seems more apparent that for the West, the term “nonviolent” protest would mean that one should retreat meekly in the face of aggression once chanting, singing and sticking flowers into the barrel ends of guns result in exacerbated aggression on the Israeli army’s part. There are all sorts of implications that come with that term, and it is important not to be ensnared by the western mindset. Definitions should come with context.

A symbolic gesture

Last month, Ibrahim Shikaki, a Ramallah-based youth organizer and economic researcher, wrote a highly important article for Al Jazeera English on Palestinian resistance. Shikaki pointed out that media coverage shapes Palestinian resistance in the western narrative of nonviolence, and he challenged the West’s diktats on how Palestinians should resist (“What is the ‘right’ type of resistance?,” 6 July 2011).

“The fact is, facing a brutal war machine with stones is but a symbolic gesture,” Shikaki wrote. “It is a symbol of the vast discrepancy in power between the Palestinian people and Israel’s war machine. Stones aimed at Israeli tanks or other armed vehicles were a means for the unarmed indigenous people of Palestine to demonstrate their refusal of occupation and oppression. Youth, women, the elderly and all sectors of society participated in this form of resistance.”

So where does the history of rock throwing, the action that captured the hearts of millions around the world during the first intifada and inspired other people, like the new generation of Kashmiris, come from? Bassem Tamimi, a prominent activist now in Israeli detention, explained in an interview with The Electronic Intifada that rocks were traditionally thrown to warn or frighten off bears or snakes. “When a soldier comes into our village and shoots tear gas we won’t just sit there like a victim. They are protected from live bullets so we’re clearly not trying to take a life. With stones we are simply saying, ‘We don’t accept you here as an occupier. We don’t welcome you as a conqueror.’”

It is for this reason that to even consider throwing rocks as a violent act is absurd. The message is very clear: rocks are thrown at the enemy as a way of underscoring the Palestinians’ disapproval of a foreign occupier from intruding and expropriating their lands and homes. At the risk of insulting their intelligence and losing their respect at such a dim question, I asked a few Nabi Saleh children why they throw rocks. Their responses were simple: We don’t want the army here. This is our village. They are occupying us.

Overcoming propaganda

The Israeli hasbara (propaganda) machine excels in depicting the Israeli army, with its Merkava tanks, F-16 missiles, Uzi submachine guns, assault rifles and rubber-coated metal bullets as the true victims, while painting the Palestinian youth, armed with rocks, as a disturbing image of bloodthirsty emotional Jew-hating Arabs who loathe the white man’s economic, social and political accomplishments.

The David versus Goliath analogy is lost on those well-meaning “nonviolent” folks. Truth be told, the literal Arabic translation of “nonviolent” isn’t used widely. We use the term muthahara silmiya which means “peaceful protest.” It is especially cringe-worthy to remember how I used to look down on those who threw rocks in Bilin and Nilin, something I now attribute to my ignorance and inexperience. I used to think — as a victim the propaganda pumped out by western media — that throwing rocks was a thing of the past, and that we needed new ways to resist, not quite the Gandhi way but something along those lines. Thank God for Nabi Saleh.

Recently, someone told me the story of how the Spiderman of that village, little four-year-old Samer, had succeeded in breaking off a rear-view mirror of one of the Israeli jeeps with his rock. Spiderman picked up his prized possession, and wouldn’t let go of it. He probably slept with it next to him. This isn’t a case of young children being taught to hate Jews and therefore grow up to be suicide bombers. It’s a case of a young child who is forced to deal with the presence of his brutal occupier in his village.

I picked up another rock, positioning it in my right hand. My teachers looked on approvingly. “When you go home, line up everything you own on a shelf and start knocking them over with a rock,” they told me, grinning. “Give it a week and you’ll be a pro.”

Linah Alsaafin is a recent graduate of Birzeit University in the West Bank. She was born in Cardiff, Wales and was raised in England, the United States and Palestine. Her website is http://lifeonbirzeitcampus.blogspot.com/.

Egypt Pulls the Plug on Live Trial

Judge Deprives Egyptians of Mubarak Trial TV Broadcasts

By Alastair Beach in Cairo
The Independent
Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Egyptian revolution may well have been televised, but the trial of Hosni Mubarak, whose downfall it secured, is about to go off the airwaves.

Presiding judge Ahmed Rifaat's ruling that live courtroom coverage of proceedings will no longer be permitted means that millions of Egyptians, some of whom have been glued to the images of their previously untouchable leader lying caged in the dock of a makeshift courtroom, will no longer be able to watch justice being done from the comfort of their living rooms. Perhaps more troubling are accusations from some activists and relatives of those who died during the 25 January uprising that the decision could obscure justice.

Egypt's ruling military council, which took power after Mubarak was toppled in February, has received harsh criticism from people who believe it has been too sluggish in prosecuting former regime officials. When generals announced last month that Mubarak's trial would be televised, many saw it as an olive branch to protesters worried about a lack of transparency.

Mohammad Quessy, who attended the former president's first hearing earlier this month, said: "By showing the trial on TV it calmed the people. Why are they not showing it again? It doesn't make sense. I honestly think it's a bad idea."

Yet yesterday's announcement, during Mubarak's second preliminary appearance, was met with widespread support from lawyers and other relatives of those who died. Scenes during the trial have often been unedifying, with scores of lawyers shouting across the courtroom. The frenetic scenes have led to accusations that many of the lawyers are simply vying to make a name for themselves; posturing for the cameras in the knowledge the world is watching. Mostafa Hussein, a 26-year-old whose brother Mahmoud was allegedly killed by police during the uprising, said he would be happy to see the cameras go. "The lawyers are using the trial to become famous," he said. "They don't want anything else."

Mubarak, 83, who now claims to be suffering from cancer, stands accused of ordering the killing of protesters, along with his former interior minister, Habib al-Adly, who will be tried alongside him when proceedings resume on 5 September. Mubarak's two sons, Gamal and Alaa, who yesterday tried to shield their father from the TV cameras as they stood in the dock alongside him, are charged with corruption.

Defence lawyers for the former president have demanded that Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, who currently leads the country as head of its military council, must testify in court. Other observers worry whether Mubarak can even get a fair trial. "It is more about pleasing public opinion," said human rights lawyer Adel Ramadan.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

An Update on the Libyan Fiasco

Tribal Rifts Threaten to Undermine Libya Uprising

By David D. Kirkpatrick and C. J. Chivers
The New York Times
August 13, 2011

TRIPOLI, Libya — Saddled with infighting and undermined by the occasionally ruthless and undisciplined behavior of its fighters, the six-month-old rebel uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi is showing signs of sliding from a struggle to overthrow an autocrat into a murkier contest between factions and tribes.

In a tribal dispute, rebels set fire to a home in Yafran, Libya, last month after they seized the town from pro-Qaddafi loyalists. More Photos »

The increase in discord and factionalism is undermining the effort to overthrow Colonel Qaddafi, and it comes immediately after recognition of the rebel government by the Western powers, including the United States, potentially giving the rebels access to billions of dollars in frozen Libyan assets, and the chance to purchase more modern weaponry.

The infighting could also erode support for the rebels among members of the NATO alliance, which faces a September deadline for renewing its air campaign amid growing unease about the war’s costs and direction. That air support has been a factor in every significant rebel military goal, including fighting on Saturday in which rebel forces were challenging pro-Qaddafi forces in or near three critical towns: Brega, an oil port in the east, Zawiya, on the outskirts of Tripoli, and Gharyan, an important gateway to southern Libya. There were also clashes a few miles from the main border crossing into neighboring Tunisia, residents told Reuters.

While the rebels have sought to maintain a clean image and to portray themselves as fighting to establish a secular democracy, several recent acts of revenge have cast their ranks in a less favorable light. They have also raised the possibility that any rebel victory over Colonel Qaddafi could disintegrate into the sort of tribal tensions that have plagued Libya for centuries.

In recent weeks, rebel fighters in Libya’s western mountains and around the coastal city of Misurata have lashed out at civilians because their tribes supported Colonel Qaddafi, looting mountain villages and emptying a civilian neighborhood. In the rebels’ provisional capital, Benghazi, renegade fighters assassinated their top military commander, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, apparently in revenge for his previous role as Colonel Qaddafi’s security chief.

In response, the chief of General Younes’s powerful tribe threatened to retaliate against those responsible, setting off a crisis in the rebels’ governing council, whose members were dismissed en masse last week.

The rebels’ Western backers have become alarmed at the growing rift between supporters of a group of rebels who have coalesced into a relatively unified army and the others who effectively remain a civilian band of militia fighters.

In the short term, the retaliation can serve to fortify Colonel Qaddafi’s power by reinforcing the fear that a rebel victory would bring reprisals against the many who participated in the colonel’s political machine and enjoyed his patronage. More broadly, the moral clarity of six months ago, when Colonel Qaddafi’s forces were bearing down on Benghazi and he was threatening to wipe out anyone who dared oppose him there, has been muddied.

In an interview, Jeffrey D. Feltman, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said that concerns about the rebels might be overblown. He acknowledged that there were some “disturbing reports” from Benghazi and the rebel front lines but credited the rebels’ governing Transitional National Council with swift steps to address the concerns. He noted that the rebel leadership — itself a heterodox mix of recent defectors and their former longtime foes — had ordered an end to abuses against loyalist tribes in the mountains, and he characterized the shake-up of the council as a move to establish a level of transparency and accountability without precedent in Libya.

After some initial gunfire by fighters from the family of General Younes, the council appeared to have persuaded his tribe, the Obeidi, to put their faith in an investigation by the rebel authorities, Mr. Feltman said. “They were able to avert a real cycle of violence,” he said. “I would give them a passing grade, given where they are starting from.” He added, “They have made commitments to us that you would never get out of Qaddafi.”

Still, questions remain about the rebel leadership’s control over its fighters. “I think that is a question they are asking themselves,” Mr. Feltman said, noting recent moves by the council to rein in various freewheeling rebel militias, which often are formed along town, neighborhood or tribal lines.

But an Obama administration official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the subject, acknowledged some doubts. “I think the jury is out on how unified the command will be,” the official said.

Just two weeks before the mysterious assassination of General Younes raised those questions, the United States formally recognized the rebels’ Transitional National Council as Libya’s legitimate government, potentially allowing it to tap about $3.5 billion in liquid assets and, over the long term, the rest of the $30 billion of the Qaddafi government’s frozen investments.

United States officials say that rebel leaders have pledged to allocate the money in a way that is “transparent” and “inclusive,” and that the United States is encouraging its use for health care, electricity and other services in rebel-held territory. But some funds could also be used to buy weapons for the poorly trained and equipped rebel forces.

Libya before the revolt was in many ways a social tinderbox. The country, a former Italian colony long dominated by rural Bedouin tribes, had little experience of national unity before Colonel Qaddafi came to power 42 years ago. Many Libyans relied on tribal connections more than civil law for justice and security.

Colonel Qaddafi’s centralized state and oil economy deepened many divisions, rewarding or punishing both individuals and tribes primarily on the basis of their loyalty to the government.

The uprising initially broke out across the country, even driving the police from the streets of the capital, Tripoli. But Colonel Qaddafi and one of his sons, Seif al-Islam, immediately vowed to stamp out the “rats” they held responsible, predicting from the first nights that the rebellion would become “a civil war.” Then militias commanded by two other Qaddafi sons, Muatassim and Khamis, re-established control of the capital by firing live ammunition into unarmed crowds, as the International Criminal Court attested, the first steps toward fulfilling the Qaddafis’ prophecy of a civil war pitting east against west.

Many supporters of the rebels now speak of exacting their own revenge against Colonel Qaddafi’s clan.

Outside Tripoli, the Qaddafi stronghold, about 500 civilian refugees from the rebel advance have gathered in a makeshift camp that formerly housed Chinese construction workers. “If you love Qaddafi in Yafran, they will kill you,” said Abdel Kareem Omar, 25, a dental student from a village of the Mashaashia tribe near that rebel city in the western mountains.

“The rebels stole our furniture, our food, our animals and burned our homes,” he said, vowing that he, too, would take up arms. “To protect my people,” he said.

In a recent conversation with two journalists, one man in the western mountains said his neighbors often spoke of capturing Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi alive, so they could chop off his fingers. And low-level rebel leaders talk openly of forbidding Colonel Qaddafi’s supporters from returning to their homes in rebel-held ground.

Bands of rebel fighters hunted people suspected of being Qaddafi loyalists around Benghazi for months before the killing of General Younes. And on the front lines, rebels in the coastal city of Misurata have vowed to take revenge on the black-skinned Libyans from Tawergha, accusing them of committing atrocities and driving them out of their neighborhood.

In the mountains in western Libya, local men have ransacked and burned homes in at least five villages or cities where residents had supported Colonel Qaddafi or his troops. Many of the victims were members of the pro-Qaddafi Mashaashia tribe, which the rebels openly loathe.

The fear holding together the pro-Qaddafi side is palpable. Asked in an unguarded moment about his plans, Musa Ibrahim, a member of Colonel Qaddafi’s tribe and a spokesman for his government, blurted out, “If I am alive, you mean?”

The rebel leadership in Benghazi continues to insist that it can reconcile the differences among Libyan factions and tribes. The governing council calls itself “transitional,” and it has pledged to form a new broadly representative unity government based in Tripoli if Colonel Qaddafi leaves power.

Part of the challenge facing the rebels is the pervasive reach of the Qaddafi political machine.

“In a dictatorship that lasts 42 years, it is almost inevitable that almost everyone to some extent needed to participate in the ‘revolution’ — how else could you raise a family, have a job, etc.?” Diederik Vandewalle, a Libya expert at Dartmouth College wrote in an e-mail. “That in a sense is the real tragedy of the way the Qaddafi system implicated everyone. And so it leaves virtually everyone open to retribution.”

Members of the tribes close to Colonel Qaddafi — like his own tribe, the Qaddafa, or the larger Maghraha, and small tribes associated with them — may face the greatest danger from “tribal revenge,” George Joffe, a Libya expert at the University of Cambridge, wrote in another e-mail. “And, of course, the longer this struggle continues, the more likely and bitter that will become.”

David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Tripoli, and C. J. Chivers from Zintan, Libya.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Zionist Colonization of East Jerusalem

Israel Approves New Housing in East Jerusalem

By Rick Gladstone
The New York Times
August 11, 2011

Israel’s Interior Ministry gave final approval on Thursday to construction of a contentious 1,600-apartment complex in East Jerusalem and said it would soon approve an additional 2,700 housing units there, a move that infuriated the Palestinians and could undercut American efforts to salvage long-stalled Middle East peace talks.

The announcement also provoked an angry reaction from Israeli groups opposed to housing construction on land conquered by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The opposition groups denounced it as an opportunistic way for the Israeli government to exploit a housing shortage that has led to unaffordable rents and mass protests in Israel. Peace Now, the leading antisettlement group in Israel, condemned what it called the Interior Ministry’s “cynical use” of the housing crisis.

The Interior Ministry announcement came a month before the annual United Nations General Assembly, where Palestinian Authority officials have said they may unilaterally declare statehood, a move that is opposed by both Israel and Israel’s strongest ally, the United States. They favor resuming peace talks, which remain stalled partly because of Palestinian objections to Israeli construction on disputed lands. The housing announcement could strengthen Palestinian resolve to proceed with the statehood declaration.

The issue of Israeli housing construction in disputed territory is particularly explosive in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after capturing it from Jordan in the 1967 war. Israel’s government has said it regards all of Jerusalem as its capital. But the Palestinians have said they consider East Jerusalem part of a future Palestinian state.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, called the Israeli housing announcement “an assault on international legitimacy and the prospect of the two-state solution.” He also said it was “further proof that this government is committed to investing in occupation rather than peace.”

In Washington, the Obama administration reiterated its longstanding criticism of Israel over such housing construction. The latest development was announced a day after President Obama spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel by telephone, though it is not clear whether the two directly discussed the issue.

“Unilateral action of this kind works against our efforts to get folks back to the table” for peace talks, the State Department’s spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said. She declined to discuss the timing of the announcement.

The United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, said the housing announcement “undermines ongoing efforts by the international community to bring the parties back to negotiations and shape a positive agenda for September.”

An Israeli Interior Ministry spokesman, Roi Lachmanovich, told reporters in Israel that Mr. Netanyahu’s office had been aware that the construction plans for the 1,600-unit complex, called Ramat Shlomo, were moving ahead, and said that the additional 2,700 units were needed to satisfy demand.

Asked about the politically fraught timing of the approvals, Mr. Lachmanovich was quoted by The Associated Press as saying, “There’s always something pending.”

The Ramat Shlomo complex has a special significance because it was first announced during a March 2010 friendship visit to Israel by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. The announcement, which caught Washington off guard, angered Mr. Biden and Mr. Obama, who had been pressuring Israeli officials to freeze such construction as a way to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

Israel has argued that any two-state solution with the Palestinians will involve holding on to areas like Ramat Shlomo, so that in its view, building more housing there for its citizens should not affect talks.

Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting from Washington.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

US Wages a Secret War in Somalia

Before the United States supported the 2006 Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, Mogadishu was on the way to becoming a safe and functional city. The Islamic Court Union (ICU) may have been a conservative coalition but at long last Somalia had the chance to succeed as a state. There was no failure in the political process, but instead an imperialist war and occupation that disrupted Somali society from sorting out its own problems. It should be no surprise then that parts of the coalition have since become radicalized.

The ongoing private war this article details is only making the situation worse. And now there is a devastating famine in Somalia that is killing many who have previously been spared being hit by bullets. Why should any Somali party trust foreign aid agencies when those same governments are sponsoring drones and promoting guerilla war? Some advice to my dear country:

Privatized war and occupation is still war and occupation. Please stop.

U.S. Relies on Contractors in Somalia Conflict

By Jeffrey Gettleman, Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt
The New York Times
August 10, 2011

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Richard Rouget,  a gun for hire over two decades of bloody African conflict, is the unlikely face of the American campaign against militants in Somalia.

A husky former French Army officer, Mr. Rouget, 51, commanded a group of foreign fighters during Ivory Coast’s civil war in 2003, was convicted by a South African court of selling his military services and did a stint in the presidential guard of the Comoros Islands, an archipelago plagued by political tumult and coup attempts.

Now Mr. Rouget works for Bancroft Global Development, an American private security company that the State Department has indirectly financed to train African troops who have fought a pitched urban battle in the ruins of this city against the Shabab, the Somali militant group allied with Al Qaeda.

The company plays a vital part in the conflict now raging inside Somalia, a country that has been effectively ungoverned and mired in chaos for years. The fight against the Shabab, a group that United States officials fear could someday carry out strikes against the West, has mostly been outsourced to African soldiers and private companies out of reluctance to send American troops back into a country they hastily exited nearly two decades ago.

“We do not want an American footprint or boot on the ground,” said Johnnie Carson, the Obama administration’s top State Department official for Africa.

A visible United States military presence would be provocative, he said, partly because of Somalia’s history as a graveyard for American missions — including the “Black Hawk Down” episode in 1993, when Somali militiamen killed 18 American service members.

Still, over the past year, the United States has quietly stepped up operations inside Somalia, American officials acknowledge. The Central Intelligence Agency, which largely finances the country’s spy agency, has covertly trained Somali intelligence operatives, helped build a large base at Mogadishu’s airport — Somalis call it “the Pink House” for the reddish hue of its buildings or “Guant├ínamo” for its ties to the United States — and carried out joint interrogations of suspected terrorists with their counterparts in a ramshackle Somali prison.

The Pentagon has turned to strikes by armed drone aircraft to kill Shabab militants and recently approved $45 million in arms shipments to African troops fighting in Somalia.

But this is a piecemeal approach that many American officials believe will not be enough to suppress the Shabab over the long run. In interviews, more than a dozen current and former United States officials and experts described an overall American strategy in Somalia that has been troubled by a lack of focus and internal battles over the past decade. While the United States has significantly stepped up clandestine operations in Pakistan and Yemen, American officials are deeply worried about Somalia but cannot agree on the risks versus the rewards of escalating military strikes here.

“I think that neither the international community in general nor the U.S. government in particular really knows what to do with the failure of the political process in Somalia,” said J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa program at the Atlantic Council, a Washington research institution.

For months, officials said, the State Department has been at odds with some military and intelligence officials about whether striking sites suspected of being militant camps in Somalia’s southern territories or carrying out American commando raids to kill militant leaders would significantly weaken the Shabab — or instead bolster its ranks by allowing the group to present itself as the underdog against a foreign power.

Lauren Ploch, an East Africa expert at the Congressional Research Service, said that the Obama administration was confronted with many of the same problems that had vexed its predecessors — “balancing the risks of an on-the-ground presence” against the risks of using “third parties” to carry out the American strategy in Somalia.

Teaching Fighting Skills

The Shabab has already shown its ability to strike beyond Somalia, killing dozens of Ugandans last summer in a suicide attack that many believe was a reprisal for the Ugandan government’s decision to send troops to Somalia. Now, though, thanks in part to Bancroft, the private security company, the militants have been forced into retreat. Several United Nations and African Union officials credit the work of Bancroft with improving the fighting skills of the African troops in Somalia, who this past weekend forced Shabab militants to withdraw from Mogadishu, the capital, for the first time in years.

Like other security companies in Somalia, Bancroft has thrived as a proxy of sorts for the American government. Based in a mansion along Embassy Row in Washington, Bancroft is a nonprofit enterprise run by Michael Stock, a 34-year-old Virginia native who founded the company not long after graduating from Princeton in 1999. He used some of his family’s banking fortune to set up Bancroft as a small land-mine clearing operation.

In recent years, the company has expanded its mission in Somalia and now runs one of the only fortified camps in Mogadishu — a warren of prefabricated buildings rimmed with sand bags a stone’s throw from the city’s decrepit, seaside airport.

The Bancroft camp operates as a spartan hotel for visiting aid workers, diplomats and journalists. But the company’s real income has come from the United States government, albeit circuitously. The governments of Uganda and Burundi pay Bancroft millions of dollars to train their soldiers for counterinsurgency missions in Somalia under an African Union banner, money that the State Department then reimburses to the two African nations. Since 2010, Bancroft has collected about $7 million through this arrangement.

Both American and United Nations officials said that Bancroft’s team in Mogadishu — a mixture of about 40 former South African, French and Scandinavian soldiers who call themselves “mentors” — has steadily improved the skills of the African troops and cut down on civilian casualties by persuading the troops to stop lobbing artillery shells into crowded parts of Mogadishu. One Western consultant who works with the African Union credits Bancroft with helping “turn a bush army into an urban fighting force.”

The advisers typically work from the front lines — showing the troops how to build sniper pits or smash holes in walls to move between houses.

“Urban fighting is a war of attrition, you nibble, nibble, nibble,” said Mr. Rouget, the Bancroft contractor. Last year, he was wounded in Mogadishu when a piece of shrapnel from a Shabab rocket explosion sliced through his thigh.

Still, he seems to thoroughly enjoy his work. “Give me some technicals” — a term for heavily armed pickup trucks — “and some savages and I’m happy,” he joked.

Privatizing War

Some critics view the role played by Mr. Rouget and other contractors as a troubling trend: relying on private companies to fight the battles that nations have no stomach for. Some American Congressional officials investigating the money being spent for operations in Somalia said that opaque arrangements like those for Bancroft — where money is passed through foreign governments — made it difficult to properly track how the funds were spent.

It also makes it harder for American officials to monitor who is being hired for the Somalia mission. In Bancroft’s case, some trainers are veterans of Africa’s bush wars who sometimes use aliases in the countries where they fought. Mr. Rouget, for example, used the name Colonel Sanders.

He denies that he is a mercenary, and said that his conviction in a South African court was “political,” more a “regulatory infraction” than a crime. He added that the French government, which sent peacekeeping troops to Ivory Coast, was well aware of his activities there.

Mr. Stock, Bancroft’s president, also flatly rejects the idea that his employees are mercenaries, insisting that the trainers do not participate in direct combat with Shabab fighters and are supported by legitimate governments.

“Mercenary activity is antithetical to the fundamental purposes for which Bancroft exists,” he said, adding that the company “does not engage in covert, clandestine or otherwise secret activities.”

He did say, though, that there is only a small pool of people Bancroft can hire who have experience fighting in African wars.

In recent years, according to a United Nations report, many companies have waded into Somalia’s chaos with contracts to protect Somali politicians, train African troops and build a combat force to battle armed Somali pirates.

The report provides new details about an operation by the South African firm Saracen International to train a 1,000-member antipiracy militia for the government of Puntland, a semiautonomous region in northern Somalia, effectively creating “the best-equipped indigenous military force anywhere in Somalia.” Using shell companies, some of which the United Nations report links to Erik Prince, who founded the Blackwater Worldwide security company, Saracen secretly shipped military equipment — which the report says violated an arms embargo — into northern Somalia on cargo planes leaving from Uganda and the United Arab Emirates. Several American officials have said that the Emirates, concerned about the piracy epidemic, have been secretly financing the Saracen operation.

Aid From the Pentagon

The Pentagon has recently told Congress that it plans to send nearly $45 million worth of military equipment to bolster the Ugandan and Burundian troops. The arms package includes transport trucks, body armor, night vision goggles and even four small drone aircraft that the African troops can use to spy on Shabab positions.

Unlike regular Somali government troops, the C.I.A.-trained Somali commandos are outfitted with new weapons and flak jackets, and are given sunglasses and ski masks to conceal their identities. They are part of the Somali National Security Agency — an intelligence organization financed largely by the C.I.A. — which answers to Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government. Many in Mogadishu, though, believe that the Somali intelligence service is building a power base independent of the weak government.

One Somali official, speaking only on the condition of anonymity, said that the spy service was becoming a “government within a government.”

“No one, not even the president, knows what the N.S.A. is doing,” he said. “The Americans are creating a monster.”

The C.I.A. Plays a Role

The C.I.A. has also occasionally joined Somali operatives in interrogating prisoners, including Ahmed Abdullahi Hassan, a Kenyan arrested in Nairobi in 2009 on an American intelligence tip and handed over to Somalia by the Kenyans. The C.I.A. operations in Somalia were first reported last month by the magazine The Nation.

An American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of restrictions against discussing relationships with foreign intelligence services, said that agency officers had questioned Mr. Hassan in a Somali prison under strict interrogation rules.

“The host country must give credible assurances that suspects will be treated humanely,” the official said, and intelligence officials “must be convinced that the individual in custody has time-sensitive information about terrorist operations targeting U.S. interests.”

A C.I.A. spokeswoman said that the spy agency was not holding suspects in secret American prisons, as it did in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“The C.I.A. does not run prisons in Somalia or anywhere else, period,” said the spokeswoman, Marie Harf. “The C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program ended over two and a half years ago.”

In Washington, American officials said debates were under way about just how much the United States should rely on clandestine militia training and armed drone strikes to fight the Shabab. Over the past year, the American Embassy in Nairobi, according to one American official, has  become a hive of military and intelligence operatives who are “chomping at the bit” to escalate operations in Somalia. But Mr. Carson, the State Department official, has opposed the drone strikes because of the risk of turning more Somalis toward the Shabab, according to several officials.

In a telephone interview, he played down any bureaucratic disagreements and rejected criticism that America’s approach toward Somalia had been ad hoc. It is a country with historically difficult problems, he said, and the American support to the African peacekeepers has helped beat back the Shabab’s forces.

And as for the rest of southern Somalia, still firmly in the Shabab’s hands?

“One step at a time, he said. “One step at a time.”

Mr. Stock, Bancroft’s president, said that bickering in Washington about how to contain the Shabab threat had made the American government even more dependent on companies like his.

As he put it, “We’re the only game in town.”

Jeffrey Gettleman reported from Mogadishu, and Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt from Washington.