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     Although many of the events currently taking place in the Middle East and Central Asia are deeply interrelated, we have added separate sections for countries from which the most volatile events are now taking place. Therefore, you will find general news of the region on this page and news from Palestine, Israel, and Afghanistan by clicking the buttons on the menu on the left side of this page.

Middle East & Central Asia News

Arab Boycott Campaign Worries US Business
(Lachlan Carmichael, Palestine Chronicle.com, May 01 2002)
A campaign by the Arab masses to boycott US brand names is intensifying amid growing rage over Israel's invasion of Palestinian land and alleged US corporate donations to the Jewish state. . . . It is especially hurting business at fast food franchises, but also sales of soft drinks, as well as a range of supermarket and pharmaceutical products in Egypt and other Arab countries, industry sources said. . . . Lists are circulating with hundreds of brand names to be boycotted, including McDonald's and Burger King outlets, Tide and Ariel detergents, Pampers, Coca Cola and Pepsi, Marlboro cigarettes, and Heinz ketchup. . . . "Boycott a product, save a Muslim," reads a statement in a leaflet obtained in Cairo. . . . "Why should I help the economy of what I see as an enemy when it is destroying the social structure of a fellow Arab nation (Palestinians)?" . . . Boycott the dollar in your operations for the sake of Palestine. Whenever possible, opt for the euro," it said. . . . Cigarettes are another important target. . . . "We are not selling American products anymore, we have cleared our shelves (of one million dollars in) US products and returned them to the importers," . . . Arab countries can influence US decision-making "if they unite through economic interests, not political," he stressed. "We have to be logical and understand that the US administration is subject to US public opinion," he said.

(Lachlan Carmichael, Palestine Chronicle.com, May 01 2002)
A campaign by the Arab masses to boycott US brand names is intensifying amid growing rage over Israel's invasion of Palestinian land and alleged US corporate donations to the Jewish state. . . . It is especially hurting business at fast food franchises, but also sales of soft drinks, as well as a range of supermarket and pharmaceutical products in Egypt and other Arab countries, industry sources said. . . . Lists are circulating with hundreds of brand names to be boycotted, including McDonald's and Burger King outlets, Tide and Ariel detergents, Pampers, Coca Cola and Pepsi, Marlboro cigarettes, and Heinz ketchup. . . . "Boycott a product, save a Muslim," reads a statement in a leaflet obtained in Cairo. . . . "Why should I help the economy of what I see as an enemy when it is destroying the social structure of a fellow Arab nation (Palestinians)?" . . . Boycott the dollar in your operations for the sake of Palestine. Whenever possible, opt for the euro," it said. . . . Cigarettes are another important target. . . . "We are not selling American products anymore, we have cleared our shelves (of one million dollars in) US products and returned them to the importers," . . . Arab countries can influence US decision-making "if they unite through economic interests, not political," he stressed. "We have to be logical and understand that the US administration is subject to US public opinion," he said.

 

Due to boycott "Made in Israel" is hard to sell
(Ora Coren, Ha'aretz, April 11, 2002)
Chairman of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, Dan Gillerman, said importers and exporters are having particular problems selling Israeli-made goods in Europe. He said that with the threat of an arms embargo against Israel, Italy has stopped sending guns used with police robots. Spain has stopped a shipment of fireworks that were to be used on Independence Day on the grounds that they can be used for military purposes, Gillerman said. . . . The Manufacturers' Association said it had received 10 complaints from exporters who are having trouble selling Israeli goods in Scandinavia. All of them reported they had received letters from their buyers saying they are having an increasingly-difficult time marketing Israeli goods due to anti-Israel public sentiment. Exporters fear the Scandinavian market may dry up completely.

 

Powell Meets Criticism on His First Stop, Delay in Going to Jerusalem Questioned by Moroccan King
(Alan Sipress and Howard Schneider, Washington Post, April 9, 2002)
Even as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel pressed his invasion of West Bank cities, Powell planned to make at least five stops for discussions with Arab and European leaders before arriving in Jerusalem late this week. . . . But Powell's itinerary has fueled Arab suspicion that the United States is continuing to give Israel wide latitude to wage its military offensive. That frustration surfaced in Mohammed's remarks, which came as television cameras began to record the opening of his meeting with Powell. . . . "Don't you think it would be more important to go to Jerusalem first?" Mohammed asked just after Powell and his delegation arrived . . . The awkward reception in Agadir could be the first of several difficult encounters awaiting Powell . . . On the eve of Powell's arrival in Morocco, at least a half-million people took to the streets of the capital, Rabat, to protest Israel's military operations and U.S. backing for the Sharon government.

Gulf War Foes Make New Start with Handshakes, Hugs
(Ashraf Fouad, Rueters, March 28, 2002)
Iraqi, Kuwaiti and Saudi leaders exchanged handshakes and hugs at an Arab summit on Thursday, symbolically setting aside enmities dating back to the 1990-91 Gulf crisis. . . . The big surprise of the Beirut summit came at the start of the final session, when Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and Iraq's Izzat Ibrahim hugged and kissed on live television. . . . Delegates said the two men had earlier embraced behind closed doors but decided to make the rapprochement public. . . . The conference hall erupted in applause at the first such high-level public contact between the two countries' officials since the 1991 Gulf war. . . . The personal contacts between Iraqi, Kuwaiti and Saudi officials was followed by the first formal agreement on a summit document tackling the bitter disputes between them. . . . Arab leaders welcomed Iraq's agreement to respect the independence, sovereignty and security of Kuwait and guarantee its safety and unity to avoid a repetition of 1990. . . . The summit firmly rejected all threats to attack Iraq, which Washington says poses a danger to its national security in the context of the war on terrorism launched after the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities.

Arab summit lies in ruins as Arafat is fenced in
(Robert Fisk, The Independent, 27 March 2002)
When the Egyptian President decided last night he would not attend the summit, the word was out. Stay away. Yasser Arafat - even if the Israelis were generous enough to allow him to travel to Lebanon at the 11th hour - was told by his cronies to remain in his office in Ramallah. . . . Colonel Gaddafi would not come. Nor would Saddam Hussein. Not even the ruler of the United Arab Emirates deigned to come. Nor the Emir of Qatar. They call this an Arab summit? . . . Many Palestinians believed for Mr Arafat to accept Israel's "permission" to attend would amount to a shameful humiliation. Since Mr Sharon told Mr Arafat he must not "incite violence" in any Beirut speech, the Palestinian leader would be a prisoner of the Israelis.

 

Arab League Summit May Impact Bush
(The Guardian, March 26, 2002)
President Bush's ability to aggressively push his anti-terrorism strategy in the Middle East - including possible action against Iraq - may hinge on what happens at an Arab League summit. . . . The violence in the Mideast already is threatening to undermine fragile Islamic support for Bush's anti-terrorism war. It has stiffened Arab resistance to U.S. plans in Iraq. . . . At stake at Wednesday's summit is much more than the future of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking: The White House's regional strategy also is on the line. . . . the Bush administration has dramatically increased high-level efforts to stop the Palestinian-Israeli fighting in recent weeks. . . . In recent days, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had publicly pushed Israel to let Arafat go to the summit. . . . everywhere the vice president went, Arab leaders wanted instead to talk about the Palestinian-Israeli violence that grabs the headlines in their countries, and leads their citizens to sharply criticize U.S. support for Israel. . . . At the same time, European allies were pressing the United States to use its influence with Israel to scale back the violence and also opposing a major expansion of the U.S. war on terrorism . . . Arab nations blame Israel for the violence, saying its military operations have enraged Palestinians.

 

If Bush is having 'visions', America must need Arab support for another war
(Robert Fisk, The Independent, 14 March 2002)
It is the "vision" thing again. When President George Bush wanted Arab support for the US bombing of Afghanistan in September, he suddenly announced he had a "vision" of a Palestinian state. Then it disappeared off his radar screen. . . . Yet now it's back in a watered-down, US-framed UN resolution that affirms "a vision of a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side..." Could it be that Mr Bush has another war in mind for the region, that perhaps Vice-President Dick Cheney, now touring the Arab world and Israel, wants Arab support for an attack on Iraq? . . . As always, the Arabs - anxious not to alienate the Americans - had to clap their hands at the "vision" bit, as if it contained the seeds of Palestinian sovereignty.

 

Countdown to a dangerous war game: War fever heightens as Britain and US see options crystallise this spring
(Ewen MacAskill, Richard Norton-Taylor and John Hooper, The Guardian, March 16, 2002)
The implication of "not in the next few months" is that there could be military action before the end of the year. "The odds are about 50-50," said a Whitehall adviser. . . . the cries of the war lobby in Washington are daily becoming louder . . . Mr Blair has come to take the support of his government for granted. He was disabused of that in cabinet last week. A cabinet minister said that going to war with Iraq was not what he had gone into politics to do and he had no enthusiasm for it, a mood shared by those around the table. Mr Blair was apparently surprised by the reaction. . . . The US has declared its objective is "regime change" - the toppling of Saddam. . . . The British hope is that, in spite of the war fever in Washington, when Mr Bush comes to look at the military options available he will decide the risks are too high. . . . Military options are under consideration in spite of official denials, and will become increasingly detailed in the coming months. . . . "Where would American troops invade from?" asks a senior defence official adding that only Kuwait would be willing to provide a land base, and even it would be reluctant to do so. . . . "Anyone talking now about a land invasion is talking out of the back of the head," a senior British defence official said. . . . The danger at that point is that Saddam, cornered and with nothing to lose, smuggles biological or chemical weapons into Israel or fires missiles at it, as he did during the Gulf war.

 

Saudis to take hard line with Cheney against war on Iraq
(Brian Whitaker, Ewen MacAskill and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, March 15, 2002)
Saudi Arabia is to deliver an uncompromising message to the US vice-president Dick Cheney that it opposes attacking Iraq and will not cooperate in military efforts to remove Saddam Hussein. . . . The Saudi move - which represents a huge groundswell of Arab opinion against a looming war with Iraq - will be a blow for Mr Cheney, who is touring the Middle East to drum up support for an extended "war on terrorism". . . . Saudi support proved vital in the 1991 war to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation and the kingdom has been used as one of several bases for US-British patrols of the southern no-fly zone over Iraq. . . . Saudi Arabia last year refused to let the US use its territory as a base for the war in Afghanistan.

 

Arabs don't want war on Iraq. They want America to change its policy
(Robert Fisk, The Independent, 13 March 2002)
President George Bush may believe Iraq is part of an "axis of evil" but it was clear from their reactions to Mr Cheney's mission that there will be no chance of an Arab "coalition" against Saddam Hussein of the kind that Mr Bush's father rallied 12 years ago. Most Arabs would prefer Mr Cheney to deal with the Arab-Israeli war . . . Jordan was far more pointed in its remarks. King Abdullah, whose father, Hussain, was forced by public opinion to stay away from the last anti-Iraqi coalition, said a war against Saddam would have a "catastrophic effect" on the Middle East. "Striking Iraq represents a catastrophe for Iraq, and threatens the security and stability of the region," he said. The Saudis are just as unenthusiastic and even Kuwait, rescued by America and its allies in 1991, has serious reservations. . . . Put simply, the Arabs don't want the Americans to package a new war for them; they want Washington to re-examine its entire policy in the Middle East. They want Mr Cheney to glance over his shoulder at the bloodbath in Israel and "Palestine".

 

[NOTE: The link below will take you to a RealPlayer audio of this interview.]
The CIA, Saudi Arabia, and the Bushes deep ties to the Bin Ladens and the Carlyle Group
Just days after the hijackers took off from Boston aiming for the Twin Towers, a special charter flight out of the same airport whisked 11 members of Osama Bin Laden's family off to Saudi Arabia. [Editor's Note: Private aircraft were used by the bin Laden's in U.S. airspace ( to pick up family family members) during the time that no private aricraft were allowed to fly over this country. Isn't it interesting that the bin Laden family have more stroke to make things happen over here than do even the biggest names in business or Hollywood, whose private planes weren't flying then.] That did not concern the White House. . . . Their official line is that the Bin Ladens are above suspicion - apart from Osama, the black sheep, who they say hijacked the family name. That's fortunate for the Bush family and the Saudi royal household, whose links with the Bin Ladens could otherwise prove embarrassing. But Newsnight has obtained evidence that the FBI was on the trail of other members of the] Bin Laden family for links to terrorist organisations before and after September 11th. . . . Does the Bush family also have to worry about political blow-back? The younger Bush made his first million 20 years ago with an oil company partly funded by Salem Bin Laden's chief US representative. Young George also received fees as director of a subsidiary of Carlyle Corporation, a little known private company which has, in just a few years of its founding, become one of Americas biggest defence contractors. His father, Bush Senior, is also a paid advisor. And what became embarrassing was the revelation that the Bin Ladens held a stake in Carlyle, sold just after September 11. . . . You have a key relationship between the Saudis and the former President of the US who happens to be the father of the current President of the US. And you have all sorts of questions about where does policy begin and where does good business and good profits for the company, Carlyle, end?

More about the Carlyle Group

 

How the U.S. Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water Supply
Thomas J. Nagy, The Progressive)
The U.S. government intentionally used sanctions against Iraq to degrade the country's water supply after the Gulf War. The United States knew the cost that civilian Iraqis, mostly children, would pay, and it went ahead anyway. . . . The primary document, 'Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities,' is dated January 22, 1991. It spells out how sanctions will prevent Iraq from supplying clean water to its citizens. . . . Food and medicine will also be affected, the document states. 'Food processing, electronic, and, particularly, pharmaceutical plants require extremely pure water that is free from biological contaminants,' it says. . . . In cold language, the document spells out what is in store: 'Iraq will suffer increasing shortages of purified water because of the lack of required chemicals and desalination membranes. Incidences of disease, including possible epidemics, will become probable unless the population were careful to boil water.' . . . This document, which was partially declassified but unpublicized in 1995, can be found on the Pentagon's web site at www.gulflink.osd.mil. . . . The document proceeds to itemize the likely outbreaks. It mentions 'acute diarrhea' brought on by bacteria such as E. coli, shigella, and salmonella, or by protozoa such as giardia, which will affect 'particularly children,' or by rotavirus, which will also affect 'particularly children,' a phrase it puts in parentheses. And it cites the possibilities of typhoid and cholera outbreaks. . . . As these documents illustrate, the United States knew sanctions had the capacity to devastate the water treatment system of Iraq. It knew what the consequences would be: increased outbreaks of disease and high rates of child mortality. . . . The sanctions, imposed for a decade largely at the insistence of the United States, constitute a violation of the Geneva Convention. They amount to a systematic effort to, in the DIA's own words, 'fully degrade' Iraq's water sources. . . . For more than ten years, the United States has deliberately pursued a policy of destroying the water treatment system of Iraq, knowing full well the cost in Iraqi lives. The United Nations has estimated that more than 500,000 Iraqi children have died as a result of sanctions, and that 5,000 Iraqi children continue to die every month for this reason. . . . No one can say that the United States didn't know what it was doing.

Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Canada (Aida Warah, Ph. D.)
“Let's not repeat the mistakes and atrocities of World War II when many, simply watched while millions got killed innocently. We are all responsible one hundred percent. Please act.”

 

A discreet way of doing business with Iraq (Carola Hoyos, Financial Times; Nov 3, 2000)
Though legal, leading US oil service companies such as Halliburton, Baker Hughes, Schlumberger, Flowserve, Fisher-Rosemount and others, have used subsidiaries and joint venture companies for this lucrative business, so as to avoid straining relations with Washington and jeopardising their ties with President Saddam Hussein's government in Baghdad.
US companies have in fact submitted contracts worth at least $100m to the UN for approval to supply Iraq with oil industry spare parts, through their foreign subsidiaries. Some informed estimates put that value as high as $170m. Halliburton, the largest US oil services company, is among a significant number of US companies that have sold oil industry equipment to Iraq since the UN relaxed sanctions two years ago. From 1995 until August this year [2000] Halliburton's chief executive officer was Dick Cheney . . .
"Washington doesn't want to enable the Iraqi economy to recover, therefore it keeps the infrastructure very weak," a UN diplomat said. However, Iraq is the US's second biggest Middle Eastern oil supplier after Saudi Arabia, making Washington uneasily dependent on Iraq's steady oil flow.

News items about the culture and history of the Middle East


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