Saturday, April 08, 2006

Yemen Blast

Al-Jazeera (English) is reporting a blast in a Yemeni warehouse of an arms merchant. No word yet on what caused it, but these stories have a way of changing and my bet (yes I'm taking bets on this) would be that withing two or three days this blast is not going to be as innocent as first thought.

For some reason I've been having problems with al-Jazeera's Arabic website for the past few days, so I'm not sure what the Arabic is yet.

Royals Win 2

Despite the best efforts of the mighty al-Zabaniya, the White Sox have dropped their fourth straight. I know I've cursed them, but I really thought they would at least take the series against KC and not lose two straight series. Still, I forgot the cardinal rule of baseball betting: never bet on the ChiSox.

To all those Sox fans out there, I'll do my best tomorrow, and hope the Sox can salavage at least one game in KC.


Here is a good article on Muhammad VI in Morocco from the Economist.

I would also recommend this book by Tahar ben Jelloun: This Blinding Absence of Light.

Saturday Reading

The Sox are on in the background and, in keeping with my prediction, they are winning.

But for all those not interested in America's sport, here is some Saturday reading.

In the TLS there is a review of some of Kipling's letters.

The Guardian has a translated article by Nawadir's favorite literary prankster, Orhan Pamuk.

The NY Times has a review of Saramago's new book, Seeing.

The NY Review of Books has an article by Christopher de Bellaigue, an excellent writer, on Iran and the Bomb.

And finally Robert Kaplan has an article out in the new Atlantic. I've been a fan of Kaplan for a long time, but lately his prose and his ideas seem hurried and lacking a great deal of consideration. In his new article, Colonel Cross of the Gurkhas, (the complete article is only available to subscribers) one line stood out to me as complete crap: "To call them Kiplingesque would be to cheapen them; they were practically out of the Iliad."

In the same paragraph, Kaplan insists on comparing the Gurkhas to the modern Marines that he has met throughout his travels with the military since 2001. Maybe. But I think Kaplan should be wary of trying to link everything together, just because it makes a better transition. Sure they are both warriors, as Kaplan would put it, but not all are alike, and one wouldn't want to cheapen them.

Kaplan at times, when he is patient, is an excellent writer. But when he is working on pushing out books, and only gaining an understanding of history through books published before 1940, he is at best an average writer.

Sheikh Abdullah

(Sheikh Abdullah and former President Ibrahim al-Hamdi)

Given the weekend's news out of Yemen and Saudi regarding Sheikh Abdullah, I thought I would provide a link to the Sheikh's website - something most western observers always get a kick out of: like, he's a tribal sheikh with his own website, like cool - here.

For those just interested in eye-candy, I recommend the photo gallery here.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The President and the Sheikh

(Sheikh Abdullah and the Son, Ahmad Ali Abdullah Salih)

Here is a very intriguing story from al-Wasat, an independent Yemeni weekly, about a tribal delegation that is going to Riyadh to talk with Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar about his son's desire to form a new party. Sheikh Hussein is an MP for the ruling GPC, but has been talking about breaking away and forming a new party.

This story from al-Nass says that Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar has denied saying that he will leave Yemen to President Salih and his sons. The story says that Sarah Phillips' story in MERIP is incorrect (see below). The story was originally broken by al-Rai News, here is a link to the brief.

Khaled al-Hammadi of al-Quds al-Arabi is also discussing the story.

Al-Jazeera, al-Arabiyya, al-Sharq al-Awsat and al-Hayat had nothing on the story nor really anything on Yemen in general.

The dispute, if one can call it that, has been reported on by Sarah Phillips in a decent article for MERIP, although it now appears that Sheikh Abdullah is denying the reports.

Here is a link to a News Yemen story that explains that Sheikh Abdullah is quite upset with Phillips' article.

Sheikh Abdullah and the President have had periodic spats before, and they will likely increase as both men attempt to set the table for their respective sons to take over in the coming years. The current alliance between Hashid and the government - even though it isn't perfect - can't possibly continue for years to come as there is going to be a much smaller pie, as Yemen faces a number of challenges in the coming decade, which could lead to disastorous results.

Friday's Drinking Poem

Well it is Friday night when people like myself usually enjoy a nice drink. Unfortunately, I have much too much work for that, but in honor of all those who are enjoying one - and to start a new Friday trend - here is a short poem:

A Drinking Song

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth
I look at you, and I sigh

-Yeats 1910

Royals Win

Well, I won't say that I'm completely responsible, but I feel like I did have something to do with the White Sox loss to KC tonight. The ChiSox blew a 6-0 lead. Still, I predict that the Sox will take the next two games to get to .500.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

No Sox and No News

Not a whole lot to report, but that won't stop me from blogging: the White Sox are off as they hope to rebound from my curse against the Royals (I predict a ChiSox victory in the series by 2 games to 1). The Arabic papers have little to report on Yemen, and by little I mean almost nothing.

There is a decent amount on Salih's trip to China, none in the big 3-2 (that is now official nawadir code from al-Quds al-Arabi, al-Hayat, al-Sharq al-Awsat - the 3 for those scoring at home - and the websites of al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyya - the two). A very clever system, and one that will be utilized here throughout for those reading this - only two based on someone's comment - you are in on the ground floor.

I had meant to post on Kaplan's new piece in the Atlantic, but have been unable to due to a general sense of exhaustion regarding a number of things I can't possibly post about.

I will say, however, that al-Quds al-Arabi is still tweaking its website - it is now posting dates with articles, but the searchable archives have been rendered unusuable by the changes. Some day boys, some day.

So you'll have to keep checking back to see what the wise al-Zabaniya has to say to you.

Tomorrow is al-Sahwa and al-Thawri - I'm sure there will be loads of links out of that.

English to the Rescue

As is sometimes the case, when the Arabic papers drop the ball the English ones are there to pick it up - you see Huntington was wrong, this is what cooperation is all about.

First, there is a piece about Yemen's plan to try 172 al-Qaeda members. Here is the UPI story. And here is Reuters take on the announcement. There really isn't anything new here, but the announcement comes at a good time for Yemen. It has recently been conducting raids against al-Qaeda to show the US that it is serious about the war on terror, and this announcement folds into the same policy.

There is also a profile of Sheikh Abd al-Majid al-Zindani by Gregory D. Johnsen at Jamestown. I would have liked to have seen him devote more time to al-Zindani's background and time in Afghanistan as well as his ideas on the relationship with science and the Qur'an, but still a decent piece. Check it out here.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Thursday's Papers

Once again a rather slow news day for Yemen in the Arabic papers.

Al-Quds al-Arabi ran a report on Somalian refugees in Yemen, which I can't be bothered to read more than the headline, and so no comment here.

Al-Hayat and al-Arabiyya have nothing new on Yemen.

In an up-date to an earlier post: al-Sharq al-Awsat's correspondent in Yemen, Hussein Jabrani, is reporting that Yemen has refused to turn over the three Iraq intelligence officers to the US.

And al-Jazeera has a story on flooding in Yemen that has killed 14 people. Here is an English story that says the death toll has risen to 25.

Al-Zindani, everyone's favorite sheikh, is providing assistance to Hamas.

The Curse is back

I promise not to do this all year, but I just wanted to say that since my bold prediction that the White Sox won't make the playoffs they have lost two straight games.

Can anyone say: curse?

Wednesday in Yemen

President Salih goes to China, and everyone else in Yemen takes the day off. Nearly all the big boys in the Arabic press ignored Yemen. Al-Quds al-Arabi ran a wire report from the AFP, and a story out of London about Sheikh Muhammad al-Mu'ayyad complaining about his treatment in a maximum security prison in the US. Neither story deserves much of a comment and certainly not from me.

Al-Hayat ran nothing as did al-Sharq al-Awsat and al-Arabiyya's website. Al-Jazeera had a brief story on Yemen and the GCC, which is not even worth linking to in this space.

I guess we'll all have to wait for Thursday and Friday's release of the weekly papers from Yemen - everyone needs something to get them through a Wednesday, and I can't think of anything better than thinking about al-Thawri and al-Sahwa.

Ahh the (past) joys of Smoking

As a reformed smoker myself, I often wonder where all my friends went, why I used to be such better company when I was smoking a pack-and-a-half a day and why cigarettes still taste so good, four months after I've quit the sticks.

I was reminded all over again of my lost joys - lost forever I would imagine - in this review by Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post. It was a bit over the top at the end, but then we aren't up for taking Mr. Yardley to task for his prose, but rather for enjoying a fairly funny review.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Authors & Literary Journals

I've often wondered how authors (especially novelists) feel about giving interviews regarding their own work. This has been brought home to me in some of Rusdhie's interviews as well as, more recently, in an interview given by Orhan Pamuk to the Paris Review.

The interview in question comes from issue 175 (the latest one I have: Note to the Paris Review I'm still waiting for issue 176, which is in all the stores). I picked it up the other day because, despite owning "My Name is Red," and "Istanbul," I had never read any of Pamuk's stuff. I was about to start "Snow," and thought I should introduce myself to Pamuk through this interview (Sorry the full text is not available on-line.)

After reading the interview and then starting Snow, something stood out to me. Pamuk mostly talked only about the first 30 pages of Snow, and he got some of the facts of the book wrong. For instance, take this from Pamuk on page 135 in the Paris Review:

Most of the people and places in the book are based on a real counterpart. For instance, the local newspaper that sells two hundred and fifty-two copies is real.

Now look at this from pages 24 of Snow:

The Border City Gazette was sold at only one outlet, just across from the National Theater, and this outlet sold on average twenty copies of each edition; including subscriptions the paper's circulation was 320, a fact that inspired not a little pride in Serdar Bey.

Why the difference in the numbers of circulation? Did Pahmuk make a mistake about his own work? Doubtful, especially given how recent Snow was completed in relation to the interview.

Was he just having fun with the interviewer, a little game to amuse himself? Quite possible. Or, as I like to think, was he attempting to take the measure of the interviewer, by limiting his discussion of the details of the book to the first 30 pages and then changing them slightly to see how the interviewer would react?

In the text of the Paris Review interview there was no reaction. Pamuk, like myself, must have been disappointed.

I'll leave you with the first question and answer from the Paris Review interview (which was done in two different sittings):

Q: How do you feel about giving interviews?

A: I sometimes feel nervous because I give stupid answers to certain pointless questions.

Pamuk: a literary prankster?

Crystal Ball Gazing

Despite the fact that in the world of sports predictions I have only my beautiful pick of Princeton over UCLA in the NCAA tournament many years ago to hang my hat on, I have no problem stating for the record that Chicago White Sox will not make the playoffs this year. Witness their early season loss to Cleveland today (man do I feel sorry for anyone who shelled out money for tickets to this one-sided affair.) Still, remember this you heard it here first, from the mighty al-zabaniya: The Chicago White Sox will not make the playoffs.

The fact that I have a bottle of spirits on the outcome has not determined my prediction. (Disclaimer: no other bets on this subject will be accepted.)

Jihadi Groups in Yemen

Al-Sharq al-Awsat has finally gotten around to translating an article it ran at the end of March into English. (The original Arabic version is here.)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Tuesday in the News

Khalid al-Hammadi of al-Quds al-Arabi has a piece on the on-going dialogue between President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the opposition parties, six in all.

Faisal Mukarim of al-Hayat has a story on the 6th member of the 23 escapees to turn himself back into to Yemeni authorities. This story is from a couple of days ago - there will be more as soon as al-Hayat puts up tomorrow's paper later tonight.)

Hussein Jarbani of al-Sharq al-Awsat writes about the on-going case of newspaper editors being tried for publishing the now infamous Muhammad cartoons.

Al-Jazeera has a story about Yemen's decision to deport three Iraq intelligence officers.

In non-Middle Eastern news: Granta's new issue appears to be on the way, and I'm anxiously awaiting my copy to show up in the mail. It looks very good - the issue is on "politics of religion" - and has an article by Wendell Steavenson, who has written for Slate, and had an intriguing piece entitled "Osama's War," in a previous Granta. Here is hoping this article is just as good.

The Future of Yemen

Sarah Phillips has a new piece out at MERIP Online on the future of Yemen. It summarize a great many of the difficulties that Yemen will be facing in the coming years, but my worry is that it tends to give more weight to one portion of Yemeni society than it does to others.

Mostly, it seems shaded towards the views of the western-educated liberals, which makes sense - they are after all the easiest people (the people western reseachers are most comfortable with) to get to know. But still I worry that we are missing something by focusing so exclusively on this group to the exclusion of the others.

Only in Yemen

Here are two articles that I've enjoyed lately, and that really makes one shake his/her head and say "Only in Yemen."

The first in an interview Sheikh Abd al-Majid al-Zindani did on 12 March with al-Quds al-Arabi (here is a link, it appears the archive is working again). My favorite part comes when al-Zindani is explaining a meeting between President Salih and US Ambassador Thomas Krajeski: "And the Ambassador said: And the crime that Sheikh al-Mu'yyad carried out was supporting Hamas. And the President answered: We all support Hamas, the Arab people the Islamic people (I really don't know why he didn't say Muslims - must be something to do with rhymes) the Arab governments, the Arab countries, and now Hamas is working with the EU and is working with Russia, and maybe in the future America will work with it."

Beauty, pure beauty.

The other piece is from al-Sharq al-Awsat from a few days ago (in Arabic - but click to see the picture of Khalid Abd al-Nabi, the leader of the Aden-Abyan Army. The article is actually fairly informative, although it is not written by al-Sharq al-Awsat's regular Yemeni correspondent, Hussein Jarbani. Still, it lets on that US investigators are present during security operations aimed at jihadi groups operating in Yemen. Al-Nabi also denies links between the Aden-Abyan Army and Muhsin al-Ahmar, the commander of the 1st Armored division, and al-Sharq al-Awsat says he is close to Salih, which is true in a sense (they are related) but not in the political trustworthy sense that the article seems to imply. Nevertheless a very good (and important story) that al-Quds al-Arabi and al-Hayat have missed so far.

Zarqawi is Out

According to a BBC story, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is out as the head of the jihad in Iraq. The BBC quotes the son of the late Abdullah Azzam, who actually started Matkab al-khidimat, out of which al-Qaeda eventually morphed, before it transformed again into a global ideology. Anyway, the two Zarqawi and Azzam (the younger) have been on the outs for a while, or at least they have been in my mind - which is the perfect place for two jihadis to have a real knock-down-drag-out tussle.

Although the article doesn't mention it, Abdullah Azzam was assassinated in Pakistan in questionable circumstances - are there ever any other kind in an assassination - and for a while many suspected bin Laden.

In my opinion, these titles and who is in "charge" matters more to governments and intelligence agencies that are attempting to put these groups into some sort of structure that can be more easily dissected and analyzed.

The (Post) Weekend Reading

Over the weekend one of the 23 escaped convicts turned himself back into Yemeni authorities, making six of the 23 that are now back in custody. News Yemen has a blurb.

The convicts originally escaped on 3 February by tunneling through the floor of their prison cell into a neighboring mosque. On 26 February in an interview with al-Hayat, President Ali Abdullah Salih said that he was in contact with the men and believed they would be back in custody soon. Soon, of course, is a relative term throughout much of the world, but particularly in a country that claims an "Hour of Solomon."

Also, an enjoyable profile/interview with Rushdie's wife, which Arts & Letters Daily has already linked to, as have I. Here.

And finally, two more things on Yemen. First, 60 Minutes did a lead-off piece on Nasser al-Bahri, bin Laden's former bodyguard, who they insisted on calling Abu Jandal throughout the entire thing. Besides interviewing al-Bahri, they also interviewed a former CIA official, who had worked on the "Bin Laden Team." Neither was very well done, and it looks like the producer didn't do his/her homework - 60 Minutes seemed not to be aware that al-Bahri's brother-in-law is in US custody in Guantanamo. In my opinion one would get much better information out of a 10-part series al-Quds al-Arabi did in March 2005 with al-Bahri. The only thing 60 Minutes brought us was al-Bahri's opinion that bin Laden was determined to attack the US again. Big surprise. But really do read the al-Quds series of interviews, great stuff that should probably be translated into English at some point, as a sort of memoir-through interview of a foot soldier in al-Qaeda. The first of the ten is here. (Ok, I lied, al-Quds al-Arabi seems to be having a problem with their search engine, but as soon as it is up and running I'll link to the interviews.)

And finally, an interview with yet another Yemeni presidential candidate, with Hassan M'awdh of al-Arabiyya. I don't know a lot about the candidate, Rashida al-Qayli - she is usually described as an "Islamic writer," in the Yemeni press for whatever that is worth - and I haven't had a chance to read the interview, but here it is.

New Formats

Over the weekend both the New York Times and al-Quds al-Arabi have re-designed their respective websites. The only good thing out of this desire to have hipper website, is that al-Quds al-Arabi now allows one to search through its archives back to 2001, a big improvement over the earlier website.