Daily Report

Lebanon deadlocked, closer to brink

The opposition is threatening a new wave of protests in Lebanon, with the country still in political deadlock. Parliament has refused to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Omar Karami (which had been a key victory of the protests), and now Karami is accused of procrastinating on calling new elections, as pledged. (Lebanon Daily Star, April 6)

Saudi petro-producers still can't get it down

Reports the Chinese news agency Xinhua April 6:

Saudi Arabia might increase its crude reserves by 200 billion barrels, Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ali bin Ibrahim al-Nuaimi was quoted by the SPA news agency as saying on Tuesday.

"There is a possibility that the kingdom will increase its reserves by around 200 billion barrels, either through new finds or by increasing what it produces from existing fields," al-Nuaimisaid at an annual meeting of graduates of the Saudi Branch of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The official said Saudi Arabia currently holds 261 billion barrels of oil reserves, which is the largest in the world.

Internecine Wahhabi violence in Saudi Arabia

By any objective standard, the wave of deadly gunplay in Saudi Arabia in recent days is an internecine dispute between rival Wahhabi fundamentalist factions—although that is not how it is being portrayed in the media. Today's claims by Saudi authorities that two al-Qaeda bigwigs are among the 15 killed in three days of fierce gun-battles in Riyadh and al-Qassim will doubtless grab big headlines in tommorrow's papers—although al-Qaeda commander for Saudi Arabia, Saleh al-Oufi, is said to remain at large.

Kurdistan travelogue

Last week I spent three days traveling in Turkish Kurdistan, in southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border. I spent time in four towns, Diyarbakir, Marden, Sanliurfa, and Harran.

Like everywhere in Turkey, huge signs in Turkish adorn the hillsides. From 1984-99, this was the epicenter of violence and fighting between the Marxist-Leninist Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) and the Turkish government that claimed 37,000 lives, mostly Kurdish civilians. The fighting has mostly abated since then, with a ceasefire ordered by the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. The Kurds were fighting for language and political rights. Kurdish was forbidden to be taught in schools, posted on signs or used on the airwaves. In the last year, a half hour of Kurdish-language programming started up on Turkish state radio. 90% of Kurds favor EU entry. The Turkish National News reported Apr. 5 that 62% of male Turkish University students favor ascension. Oddly, only half that many female students favor it. EU ascension will impel Turkey to guarantee minority rights, and recognize the Armenian genocide. As a result, there is a Turkish nationalist backlash to EU entry. Officially, Turkey considers Kurds to be "mountain Turks," but their language is Indo-European, and not Turco-Altaic. The Kurds migrated to the area from northern Iran in the last millenium. Now Kurds are allowed to take Kurdish language lessons, but only in private classes, which are not widely affordable. A Kurd I met in Diyarkabir notes it makes little sense that someone has to pay to learn one's mother tongue. Kurdish is taught in the home, but in the public sphere, Turkish is widely used. One Kurdish boy I meet speaks only Turkish, his parents have not taught him Kurdish.

New party aligned with David Duke has Ukrainian Jews concerned

A new party in Ukraine allegedly aligned with US-based neo-Nazi, former Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard and Louisiana state representative David Duke has Ukrainian Jews concerned. The Ukranian Conservative Party was registered with the country's Justice Ministry last month and espouses "anti-fascist" and "anti-Zionist" views. But it also calls for re-inserting the ethnic identity of Ukrainian citizens in their passports, a practice which led in the past to discrimination against Jews. According to AP, the party's leaders is Heorhiy Shchyokin, chief of the Kiev-based International Academy of Personnel Management, which teaches some 35,000 students. The Moscow-based Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union has accused Shchyokin in the past of turning his academy "into the leading publishing center of anti-Semitic literature in Ukraine." Shchyokin has been widely criticized in the Ukrainian media for his reported links to Duke, with his party being labeled the "Ukrainian Klu Klux Klan." AP does not say which materials Shychyokin has been publishing, but Duke has been making inroads in the last decade into the former Soviet Union and India. His book "Jewish Supremacism" is billed as a "world-wide bestseller" on his website, and is sold in front of the Russian Duma. On his website he decries the "Jewish Oligarchs who have stolen approximately 65 percent of the natural wealth of Russia," and applauds the Duma for trying to pass blatantly anti-Semitic legislation recently. Approximately 100,000 Jews live in Ukraine.

More Terror in Thailand

More attacks are reported in Thailand as the country braces for the first anniversary of the April 28, 2004 massacre of 32 Islamic militants by security forces at Krue Se mosque in the restive south of the country. An all-too-typical dialectic of state-versus-insurgent terror is at play here. The massacre came just weeks after the still-unexplained disappearance of Somchai Neelapaichit, a human rights worker who had been reporting on abuses in the region. Local Muslims are also outraged over the death of 85 peaceful prostesters in custody last October—most suffocated to death after their arrest at the village of Tak Bai. Security has been beefed up as the Krue Se anniversary nears. Over the past three days, bomb and grenade attacks on Hat Yai airport, a police station and hotel have left two dead and scores injured. Ten days earlier, an army commander, a Buddhist abbot and his police escort were injured in bomb blasts in Yala province. Four Buddhist monks were killed in the region last year, and attacks on local Buddhists continue. (UK Guardian, April 5)

Kyrgyzstan: pawn in the new Great Game?

As Kyrgyzstan's Tulip Revolution is being consolidated, with a modicum of order returning to Bishkek, the capital, ousted president Askar Akayev has emerged in Moscow, and formally resigned--after having pledged from hiding that he wouldn't. He said that he hopes to return to Kyrgyzstan to participate in new presidential elections now slated for June--but just as a voter, not a candidate. (Pakistan Daily Times, April 4)

Pope leaves mixed legacy—will successor be Black?

Pope John Paul II, who died April 2, leaves a mixed legacy. In his native Poland, and elsewhere in the Communist world, he was a catalyst of revolutionary change in the '80s, but this same anti-Communism caused him to ally with Reagan and the U.S. in the Cold War, and move against the Liberation Theology current in Latin America. Few eulogies recall the bitter dispute between the Vatican and Nicaraguan priests serving in the revolutionary Sandinista regime. Recounted the Haitian writer Jean-Pierre Cloutier in a 1987 essay, Theologies: Liberation vs. Submission:

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