Politics - Local Archives
March 11, 2011
USA: The Muslim Hearings
I haven't much to say on this other than King is a clown and a terrorist supporter (his support for the IRA), but Ellison was in good form however much I don't particularly care for this general politics: Terror Hearing Puts Lawmakers in Harsh Light - NYTimes.com
But some opponents in Congress who are not committee members chose to warn those who are, notably Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, who is one of two Muslims in Congress. Mr. Ellison, who spoke as a witness, tearfully described the sacrifice of Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a volunteer medical technician who died trying to help rescue victims in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 — pointing out that Mr. Hamdani was wrongly suspected of being part of the plot until his remains were discovered. After he spoke, Mr. Ellison pulled his statement up in front of his face to compose himself.
July 04, 2010
Muslim Periphery: Guinea Conakry (Elections and opportunities)
On the fringe of the MENA world but increasingly of interest to the Maghreb from a business point of view (and having long historical connections, if not entirely profound), West Africa is of increasing interest to folks like me. Interestingly I was speaking with a Senior US diplo in the Maghreb a few days before he disappeared into 4 July vacation land, and he noted that the US policy on Maghreb was awkward as it worked (from a Washington DC end) from the presumption that the most important ties and issues were East (Mashreq) - West, but he'd found after several tours, that they're moving more North - Maghreb - South. I found it an interesting comment from such a person as I have made similar observations (here even).
FT.com / Africa - Guinea election set for run-off
Guineau is a place that if they get a modicum of stability can bloody well take off.
Guinea election set for run-off
By Tom Burgis in Lagos
Published: July 3 2010 17:57 | Last updated: July 3 2010 17:57
The race for the presidency of mineral-rich Guinea is set for a second round after no candidate won a decisive victory in Sunday’s elections.
The poll is the first free ballot in 52 years of dictatorship and penury since the west African nation’s independence from France, as the military prepares to hand power to a civilian ruler.
It comes as mining investors tussle for Guinea’s bauxite, used to make aluminium, and iron ore, used to make steel.
Cellou Dalein Diallo, a former prime minister, won nearly 40 per cent of the vote, election officials said.
That was well ahead of his nearest rival but not enough to win outright at the first attempt with a simple majority.
Alpha Conde, a veteran opposition leader, came second with 20 per cent.
Subject to verification by the supreme court, the two men will go to a run-off scheduled for July 18 but which is widely expected to face delays.
Foreign observers praised the spirit of the polls but warned that logistical flaws risked undermining the process. ....
Here's hoping the elections wrap well and they don't take Cote d'Iviorian turns. That would be a bloody shame.
March 22, 2010
Interesting if confirmed: Obama to visiting Morocco
Front page news in the Moroccan daily Le Soir, normally a decent paper. Apparently that was the word of the US Amb. Moroccan gov't must be doing back flips.
March 20, 2010
The Moroccan missionary explusions
A brief note on this subject, Morocco expels Christian missionaries
Morocco expels Christian evangelists
Foster parents deported in move that appears to be tough new stance on foreign Christians.
It's a pity the journalist used the last phrase, for the expulsions really have fuck all to do with "foreign Christians" in any ordinary sense. Missionary, and in particular evangalists are not synonymous to Christian. Having had the regretable occasion some ten years ago in the same locality as the missionary run orphanages (which raises some suspiciouns in my mind), I immediately recalled meeting roughly ten years ago a bunch of Americans who were installing themselves.
They confided, incorrectly believing I had some sympathy it seemed, that they were creating a covert mission to convert the Moroccans “to the love of Christ” I believe they put it. I rather had an urge to report them, but business called.
I can’t help wonder if such characters were involved in this, and in any case, such shenanigans give others a bad name. Local law merely forbids proselytizing, and from what I have seen, one has to really try in order to run afoul.
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September 16, 2009
Entertaining Algerian Scandals: Or speaking too bluntly in confidential memos
One has to take this online news source's articles with no small pinches of salt, but this is an amusing article even allowing for shoddy journalistic standards (some things don't read quite right for a DG of a private company, some seem rather Algerian...): Le DG français du concessionnaire Diamal compare Bouteflika à un parrain et accuse Ouyahia d'être «maqué» avec Sovac (The French Director General of the Diamal concession compares Boutflika to a Godfather and accuses Ouyahia to be pasted on Sovac.)
Ah this is fun.
Serge Gurvil est le directeur général de Diamal, un concessionnaire automobile algérien filiale du groupe français CFAO. Dans ses notes internes adressées régulièrement à sa hiérarchie à Paris, il ne se contente pas de commenter les résultats financiers de sa société florissante - 146 millions d'euros au premier semestre 2009. Ce directeur commente également la situation politique en Algérie et émet des commentaires sur les personnages clé de l'Etat algérien, notamment le président Bouteflika.
Dans une note datée du 15 avril, dont TSA s'est procurée une copie, Serge Gurvil commente les résultats du premier semestre de Diamal. Mais la première partie du document est consacrée à l'évolution de la situation politique en Algérie au lendemain de la réélection du président Bouteflika pour un troisième mandat, le 9 avril dernier.
« La crise n'est pas encore officiellement arrivée en Algérie, puisque la confiance est là, traduite par 74% de votants et 90,24% de pro-Bouteflika. Le monde continue donc de tourner autour de la planète Algérie et ceux qui nous gouvernent de se faire la guerre sur leur console Nintendo, absolument pas préoccupés des dommages collatéraux - augmentation terrible du coût de la vie résultant de la dévaluation du dinar et de l'absence de contrôle des prix, renforcement des tracasseries bureaucratiques pour les sociétés organisées et en même temps embellie de l'informel et de la corruption à tous niveaux (à commencer par l'Etat), malaise social profond ... De nombreux partisans du Président sont amers, considérant que c'est le mandat de trop », écrit-il à l'adresse de ses responsables à Paris.
Et de poursuivre, plus dur à l'égard du pouvoir algérien et du président Bouteflika : « Le fait est, que l'homme (ndlr : le président Bouteflika) est de plus en plus isolé (et fragile ?) et que dans son ombre les règlements de compte saignent l'économie, le personnel politique et les cadres, avec un arbitraire sidérant (certains magistrats sont aux ordres). Le Président est devenu ventriloque, en Juillet 2008, disant le contraire de ce qu'il affirmait précédemment : depuis, le Chef du Gouvernement se prend pour lui, assenant l'exécutif de directives assassines trop riches (et trop pauvres de contenu) pour être mises en oeuvre. Et maintenant : « same player shoots again » ? En l'attente du changement de gouvernement annoncé, impossible de se faire une idée sur la ligne à venir - s'il y en a une. »
Mais, dès le 1er août, Serge Gurvil récidive dans une autre note. Il compare le président Bouteflika à Don Carleone, le personnage du célèbre film « Le Parrain ». « Nous sommes dans une période, où l'Algérie peut imploser - Don Corleone semble dépassé, dans son entourage chacun est armé, pourtant on entend tirer pas très loin (recrudescence du terrorisme dur depuis Mai) ! la chorba n'a plus de goût, à force de cuire et recuire ; où est passée la mama ? », écrit-il.
TSA a tenté de faire réagir l'intéressé, mais il n'a pas répondu à nos appels téléphoniques.
Les propos de Serge Gurvil ne constituent pas le premier dérapage du patron d'un concessionnaire automobile français en Algérie. En mai dernier, le DG de la filiale algérienne du groupe GBH (représentant de Citroën) était au coeur d'une polémique après avoir traité les agents algériens de sa marque de « terroristes » et de « moutons ». Quatre mois après les faits, l'homme est toujours en poste.
I'll just translate the juicy and amusing parts of the supposed document (as bolded above):
"The crisis hasn't yet officially arrived in Algeria, insofar as confidence is in place, translate by 74% of voters [voting] and 90.24% of [tehm] pro Bouteflika. [i.e. in the elections] The world continues to turn around Planet Algeria, and those who govern us continue making war on their Nitendos, absolutely not at all concerned by collateral damage - terrible increase in the cost of living resulting from the devaluatin of the dinar and absence of price controls, reinforced by the bureaucratic bother for formal sector companies, at the same time making the informal sector and corruptoin more attractive, at all levels (starting with the State), profound social malaise ... Numerous partisans of the President are bitter, considering the [pres.] term one too many.Actually, in my read, while not diplomatic, this is pretty much spot on. I have serious doubts, however, this note is (a) real and (b) if real, not "augmented" from the actual original.
... "The fact is, the Man ... is increasingly isolated (and fragile?) and that in his shadow the score settling is bloodying the economy, policy staff and managers, in staggering arbitrariness ... Waiting for the announced change in goverment, impossible to have an idea on the [political] line coming - if there is one.
August 15, 2009
Algeria & Chinese in Algeria: the riot & fallout
I was somewhat bemused to find Global Voices Online post on Algeria & the Chinese incident although the choice of contrasting blogs was.... interesting (insofar as one is just an ignoramus blithering on without a bloody clue and the other was Moor Next Door). The summary notes
The influx of Chinese immigrants to Algeria ignited a face off between the immigrants and locals in the Algerian capital Algiers. About 100 residents and migrants clashed, using knives and bludgeons, sparking a debate over whether this incident would impact Chinese investments in the North African country
Leaving aside the first blog cited, which is merely stupid, Kal's commentary deserves some further thought. I am going to leave aside the geopolitical relations side of this - which deserve comment as Kal's characterisation's has a slightly .... well I think too much focus on the macropolitics, which in most respects is not the interesting angle.
Also picked up in French:Global Voices en Français » Algérie : Après les affrontements entre Chinois et Algériens
L'opinion algérienne semble considérer que les chinois sont responsables des tensions : ils « ne respectent pas les mœurs locales », ils « boivent de l'alcool », et si l'on en croit Kimo, drogue et prostitution ne tarderont pas à arriver avec les « chinetoques ».
Au-delà de ces réactions, cet incident fait se poser la question de savoir s'il aura un impact sur les nombreux investissements chinois [en anglais] en Algérie.
August 20, 2008
Sunny & Bomby Algeria,: Al Qaeda's Club Med tourist destination
Algeria sadly seems to be taking a turn for the worse, with Iraq style car bombs targeting - Iraq style once again - police stations and recruiting stations and doing so in a series. (Perhaps Emaar may wish to revise its plans for its Tourism City at Cite Colonel Abbas to something focused perhaps on AQIM personal development centres?
This follows earlier this month more Iraq style suicide car bombings; sadly the Americans seem to have actually been able to export some of Iraq's political culture.... just not the part they thought (although certainly the part I've expected). (Also from NY Times: this not useless overview on Al Qaeda fil Maghreb al Islami
July 12, 2008
Al Qaeda fil Maghreb Al Islami: The Franchising Concept Gains new ground....
Although the translation of the interview feels a bit awkward it is a moderately interesting read.
April 23, 2007
I would observe that my hotel room is very, very big - clearly made for the Saudi visitors - and to date the only interesting thing on my mind is being startled in seeing a picture of Elmer himself, head of Hizbullah (Lebanon) and the fronting display of a cell phone shop in es-Seef area. That was unexpected (of course plenty of Shia around, but odd choice in my mind for the front display of a cell phone shop.....).
April 15, 2007
Dar Fur: Finally a decent article in the US press
I do not have much comment, other than to say that this is easily one of the more well-informed articles published in English (although the faux racialisation of Arab versus non-Arab remains in the background) on Dar Fur. In reading this, I should think it clear wny I take a dim view indeed of Western intervention in such conflicts, givent he penchant for White Hat Black Hat thinking, and the utter ignorance that comes with it. Like the Tuareg - Mali Bambara conflict of the early 90s, this is something best left to the locals to settle. Foreign intervention by gullible dupes rarely goes well. And yes, I do not exclude Rwanda from this. The best resolution for Rwanda was not foreign intervention, but rather what occured, except earlier.
[16 April 9:00 GMT: Link fixed]
April 13, 2007
Terror & Opposition: Mohammed Faiz - Casablanca Bombing encores
Returning to a proposition I raised a month ago, but have sadly been too busy to act on, that of Mohammed Faiz, I noted that the weekly MarocHebdo International has a cover story on the man, the leader is Mohamed Faïz, héros de l'attentat terroriste du cybercafé de Sidi Moumen, se dit abandonné à son sort or "heros of the terrorist attack on the Sidi Moumen internet cafe, thinks he's been left to his own devices."
I picked up the hard copy in the airport today, (3 euro is really an absurd price I may add), and in reading I have to say obviously my proposition for a fund to support him and the victims is more necessary than I though.
However, one has to find the vehicle to do so. Obviously I have to try to move ahead on this. I would hope that any Maghrebine readers who might be able to facilitate actions might email the collounsbury yahoo address with thoughts.
March 07, 2007
Imperial America: Iran & Sanctions on 3rd Party Hydrocarbon Sector Investment
The Financial Times has an interesting, if infuriating (from its content, not writing) article on the Imperial American pretension to regulate other's investment in Iran. What irritates here especially is that I know from experience the slightest hint of similar actions by EU or similar parties touching on American interests provokes paroxysms of incoherent rage on the part of Americans. I confess readily knowledge of this, as well as my conviction that the US efforts here are posturing and will end up merely alienating without any real achievement, adds to my deep sense of irritation.
Now, mind you, the concept of the effort does not offend, and my snide swipe at Imperial America is most explicitly not from your usual Lefty whinging "evil capitalist America" tripe sort of point of view. No, It's about over-reaching, and clumsy over-reaching. I am a strong believer in avoiding too much obvious hypocrisy. One reason the overdone language the Americans and the French tends to engage in in their precious self-fellating rhetoric over their respective civilisations irritates.
Operationally, for many of the same reasons I predict that it will be the Chinese and similar parties that will reap the Iraqi hydrocarbons windfall, I strongly believe the US sanctions are an example of cutting off your nose to spite your face, which for some reason the current American administration seems to find to be a queerly enjoyable activity.
March 06, 2007
I just had an amusing, even hilarious for me, lunch with my attorney who was ranting on about how his local clients have to be brow-beaten (and we're talking corporates, name brand even) into conveying timely information, to him, their attorney, for work they've demanded.
I actually have the exact same experience. It's amazing, really, what it takes to get the simplest fucking things done in this region. Efficiency. What's most irritating and yet in some ways puzzling (in others not when you think about internal organisational structures and incentives) is the foot dragging raises their costs as much as mine (or the attorney's). Of course the constant whinging on about costs etc when they sit down with a bill makes this even more infuriating.
But there are clear organisation incentives to non-performance in the typical MENA company, nothing shocking that doesn't exist in the West of course - see Dilbert. But as always, these things are a question of degree, and indeed the weakness of countervailing incentives.
In some ways it's a good way to look at the failures of Iraq, since the American decision makers innocently assumed the exact same incentive structures, decisional processes and worst yet, reactivity. And being arrogantly blinded to the sometimes (indeed often) subtle differences - any one of which may be individually trivial, but cumulatively is fatal - were unable to react, to adjust and change at once tactics and conceptual strategy in ways that actually responded to the real incentive structures.
I've noted in places like our fool Andrew Sullivan (and even more egregiously chez the Moustache of Understanding) comments tending to indicate that Arabs (or Muslims, en grosso modo) don't value / want / desire Liberty, etc. etc. That's bollocks - but the operational incentives for making changes to achieve those things require different approaches, and realisation that the near term incentive structure is weighted towards avoidance of decisions etc. - nails get pounded down - unless one has a means to control - as in guns.
January 20, 2007
The Talabani Al Hayat Interview
The article Cole worked off referred to an accompanying article of the interview w al-Hayat (what appears to be a partial transcript of the interview).
In that interview he responds to a question w respect to Iran and Syria:
January 07, 2007
Parisian Serving Soup un-Kosher, un-Halal
A queer little article from the Financial Times on the Conseil d'Etat of France decision forbiding Solidarité des Français from distributing its soup containing pig ears, feet and tails to Parisian homeless
I have to say it has an only in France air to it, but gives one a moment to reflect on French approaches to "integration" and a tendecy to favour form over substance. It will surely be an occasion for the Phobics to rail on about "Eurabia" and their fevered imaginings regarding an Islamic threat in Europe.
October 07, 2006
A quick note on some recent items from FT regarding investment flows, which will be of interest to some readers. Fund to invest $100m in African real estate, on the CDC fund for Africa (North and sub-Saharan) which is intersting as there are now also relatively substantial Gulf funds heading into real estate in North Africa as well.
And then Algeria, where supposed reforms seem to be going nowhere: Algiers turns up nationalist heat in oil and gas industry, one step back after a half step feint forward.
Algiers is reasserting control over its oil and natural gas fields barely a year after the North African country wooed international energy groups with friendlier investment terms.
Mr Straw & The Niqab
It appears that For. Sec. Straw's comments on the Niqab, the face veil, have set off a bit of a storm. From The Financial Times to The Times coverage of his original comments regarding prefering women not wear the face veil as divisive through to coverage of The Poodle's craven and inconsistent pandering and on to coverage (the sooner he is gone the better, I await with impatience The New York Times (but British official, I am come on, how about Brit For. Sec.?).
I am not sure if that is good or bad, but it bears some commenting on. First, when I first saw the comments I wasn't sure if he meant the hijab, which would have been annoyingly tedious, or the niqab, which I agree with. I am pleased to see it is about the covering of the face. There is a vast and important difference between the ninja get-ups that are so very Saudi Wahhabite neo-Islamic rot, and a woman covering her hair with a scarf.
August 24, 2006
Real Challenges - Competing With Hezbullah
I had another convo with the American group on the US Gov propo regarding Lebanon reconstruction.
The thinking is going in the right direction, they realise on reflection that rushing in to compete with Hezbullah is a great way to do CPA bis, but now the question is "How do you compete with Hezbullah to mitigate its wins?"
Regardless of American stupidity in regards to its FP, the question is a real one.
How indeed does the US compete with Hezbullah?
August 13, 2006
And a short echo on cluelessness and navel-gazing
While were I not obliged to spend my time this weekend working on investment performance whanking (obliged meaning, choosing to as the said performance is not in any way related to me Titanic), I would have some amplifications on this note by Billmon with respect to a fine Op Ed in The Washington wondering why US military can't achieve the same street cred as Hezbullah on the ground.
May 22, 2006
The Wisdom of the Egyptians: US & Egypt
While many 'Aqoul readers likely are aware that Egypt is passing through some rather severe political tensions at present, as disgust with the vampiric Mubarek regime seems to be bubbling up like a half-suppressed urge to vomit, I thought I would depart from my normal Egypt aversion and comment on The Financial Times's piece on PM Ahmed Nazif's Wisdom, Egypt ‘not under US pressure’ over political freedom (reporting by Mr Wallis paired with the esteemed Roula Khalaf who hopefully can impart some street smarts to the man so my precious FT space for MENA is not taken up with announcements that Egypt supports "Arab Unity").
April 25, 2006
On Iraq and funny little investments.
Since the deal fell through and now is pushing up the daisies, I thought I might take a moment to illustrate and reflect on some recent news out of Iraq, notably the move of Shia militias into Kirkouk and the overall rise in tensions with the Kurds.
As longer term readers knew, I grew tired of commenting on the Iraq war after it reached the stage of what I named "no escape from the Lebanese logic."
I should say that my calling the development just about two years was not particularly prescient, all one had to do was be familiar with Lebanese style civil wars and the perverse incentives that drive factions towards escalating violence, as well as assess the ability of the security forces to stop the evolution. In terms of Iraq, if one was not being willfully blind, it was painfully clear as of early to mid 2004.
September 05, 2005
On Sex & MENA: The Local Porn Industry
I have a longish reflection on this very subject, and on the issue of prostitution, general dress and the like. It needs editing (and has for months), but this week's report in La Gazette, a mainstream weekly, and some observations I made this weekend while shopping in my tres chic office-shopping mall complex provoke me to a small interim observation:
First, of course, I am not surprised that the article I cited, entitled "L’industrie du film X au Maroc" was published, given recent scandals in Agadir and hints of the same in Marrakech. Poverty combined with lack of opportunity combined with vast wealth differences always produces these kinds of things (although that has nothing perhaps to do with the Euro porn stars cited as having come to Marrakech).
I should note that the physical version of this article is rather more graphic and rather longer.
August 17, 2005
Tel Quel, Maghrebine Media and the Fine
My dear Bou Araadvrak, to use a Maghrebine form, has bring [edit: ahem brought, I of course meant to write brought, maybe brings.... well no matter, self corrected, defending my reputation for some marginal level of literacy] attention to something breaking in the fine Moroccan kingdon, the fining of the outre French language publication, Tel Quel.
Well, what do I think?
(update with further thoughts)
July 12, 2005
Lebanon: The Lebanon II Scenario
No substantive commentary, but I draw attention to this:
Lebanon Deputy Premier Wounded in Blast
The target, a pro-Syrian politician.
I opined months back that I did not like the US supporting a maximalist approach to opposition politics because of the chances of playing into returned inter (and intra) communal violence.
The overall analysis behind this is that while, yes, a majority of Lebanese do not want a return to civil war, as in Iraq, and as in Lebanon - it is not the majority that makes these things happen. One simply needs enough hard men on either side who can make a profit in some manner, via power or money, to push it, and enough weakness on public authority side to be unable to choke the trend off.
Lebanon probably can choke the trend off, but the state is just weak enough that this can't be dismissed.
I also note the potential for a currency crisis which could help precipitate serious tensions.