Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Back to Iraq - are you confused yet?

PressTV takes another look at the latest developments in Iraq during a sometimes heated debate first broadcast on Tuesday, May 27th 2008.

At least once a week, Middle East Today will turn its attention to the latest developments in Iraq .

And given the chaos, confusion and uncertainty about the country’s future, there is always plenty of material.

Unfortunately, there are so many conflicting views and opinions about what or what isn’t happening there, so many accusations and denials, groups changing sides and then changing sides again. It is actually quite fair to ask, are you confused yet?

Among many issues to be addressed on this edition is the proposed Status of Forces Agreement that President George Bush hopes to seal with Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki – an agreement that top Shia cleric Seyyid Ali Al-Sistani has vowed to oppose as long as he lives.

We’ll also be looking at a major security operation against al-Qaeda in the northern city of Mosul , and asking if the group has been significantly weakened.

We are also waiting to see if the main Sunni political alliance, the Iraqi Accordance Front will make good on its pledge to return to the government of al-Maliki.

There are also reports that some Iraqi groups are now asking for a delay to the provincial elections due to be held in October.

Joining PressTV to discuss these issues were in London, Sabah Jawad, Director of Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation.

In Washintgon, the program was joined by David Pollock, Visiting Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near Near East Policy.

And from Damascus, a Middle East Today regular, political analyst Thabet Salem.

Informed sources, divergent views, and lively debate. Watch the full program here.



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Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Iran in Iraq - Benign or Belligerent?

PressTV's Middle East Today takes a look at the Iranian presence in Iraq from both sides of the political divide.


An attack by unidentified gunmen on a well-marked Iranian diplomatic vehicle in Baghdad last week again raised the question of security in the country’s capital.

As one of the few foreign government’s to maintain a full diplomatic mission to the country – Iran says its presence in Iraq is a positive one, aimed at helping restore law and order; rebuild the devastated infrastructure and economy; and serve as an example to Iraq’s Arab neighbors to take a more proactive role in promoting the country’s recovery.

Washington, however, takes a very different view of Iran’s presence. Accusing Tehran of attempting to destabilize the country, of arming special groups to mount attacks on US and coalition interests, including the government of Nouri al-Maliki.

Tehran, meanwhile, accuses the United States of manipulating the chaos in Iraq, using the confusion to hide its own efforts to establish, train and generally support anti-Iranian groups to launch destabilizing attacks of their own inside Iran.

The government in Tehran say they’ve already uncovered links between US and British intelligence and the recent bomb attack on a mosque in the southern city of Shiraz.

Elsewhere in Iraq, a US soldier has been sent home after using a copy of the Holy Koran for target practice; the Americans were forced at the last minute to cancel a briefing where they were supposed to display evidence of or Iran’s military involvement in Iraq – they problem was, the evidence proved to be false.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government is continuing an offensive against al-Qaeda, while violence in Baghdad’s Sadr City appears to have abated.

The Sadr ceasefire was brokered with the assistance of Iran, and doubtless led to a reduction in violence and loss of life.

Iran shares a long border and a lot of history with Iraq, so it is inevitable they will be involved in one way or another with what is happening there. But the question we’ll be trying to answer on this edition of Middle East Today: Is Iran’s involvement benign or belligerent?

Joining us on this edition of Middle East Today were:

In London, Andrew Burgin, National Officer of Stop the War

In New York, was Stewart Stogel, UN Correspondent for Newsmax Magazine

In Tehran, we had the pleasure to welcome Doctor Mohammad Marandi, Head of North American Studies Department at Tehran University

And on the phone from Canada, Kamran Bokhari, director of Middle East Analysis of Strategic Forecasting Incorporated.


Here's what they had to say on Iran's involvement in Iraq, and some of their answers may surprise you.


Middle East Today, 20th May, 2008 "Iran in Iraq - Benign or Belligerent"



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Sunday, 18 May 2008

Al-Nakba - Flip side of Israel's celebration coin

As Israel celebrated its 60th anniversary on Wednesday May 14th - Palestinians marked the day as al-Nakba, or the "catasrophe."

PressTV's Middle East Today took a look at the legacy of the al-Nakba, 60 years on.

With high profile guests from around the world participating in the glittering and well choreographed Israeli celebrations, Palestinian Caretaker Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad bitterly asked "How can they celebrate while the Palestinian people are crying out in pain?"

Israel announced its independence on 14th May 1948, three years after the end of World War II, and in line with a United Nations resolution calling for the end of the British Mandate in Palestine and the creation of two independent states – one Jewish the other Palestinian Arab.

Under the terms of the partition, the Jewish state would receive 56 percent of the land, with the Palestinians just 43 percent. Jerusalem was to be placed under international supervision.

The deal was made by gentlemen in New York without consulting local Arab residents, without fully understanding their rights to land ownership in the areas to be handed over to the new Jewish state, and it was done over the objections of regional Arab powers.

War was inevitable.

The treaty to end the first round of bloodletting in 1949 left the new state of Israel with 78 percent of the former British mandate and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their traditional homeland.

Six decades after the occupation of their lands, the Palestinians are still seeking an independent state, with the fate of 1948 refugees and their descendants, living scattered in camps and settlements around the region, remaining one of the thorniest issues in the so-called Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israeli historian, Dr. Ilan Pappe, says most Israeli Jews believe that the Palestinians left voluntarily in 1948. Pappe says the Israeli Jews are not aware, or do not want to be aware of the fact that an ethnic cleansing took place in 1948.

There is a commonly held myth about the creation of Israel, that a people without a land were going to settle in a land without people.

The suggestion that Palestine was a largely deserted, unpopulated area could not be further from the truth, but the myth persists.

Meanwhile, speaking on Wednesday at Israel's 60th anniversary, US President George W. Bush repeated his belief that Israel and the Palestinians can strike a deal to bring about a Palestinian state by the end of the year.

Despite repeated visits by the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, few, in the region are optimistic that tangible progress is being made in the talks.

The US president's comments came as 14 people were injured when a rocket fired from Gaza hit the city of Ashkelon. Earlier in the day, seven people were killed in Israeli military operations in Gaza.


Joining the Middle East Today debate were Chris Doyle, Director of the Council for Arab-British understanding in London.

In New York, we were joined by Edward Seigel, Member of the Executive Committee, Zionist Organization of America.


In the Tehran studio, Mohammad Reza Karimi, Associate Editor of Iran Daily was on hand to offer his opinions.

And speaking by phone from Jerusalem - al-Quds was Eyal Niv, from the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions.


I put my first question to Chris Doyle:


"The 1947 UN resolution called for the creation of two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian. It took less than a year for the first state to be established. Sixty years later we are still waiting for the second. Why is that?"


Chris' reply and the entire, sometimes quite heated debate, can be found here on the PressTV archive.


For more on this issue, watch Gaza and Beirut - A Tale of Two Cities









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Amazing Egypt

Not much activity on the blog recently because we've been away on the most amazing trip to Egypt.

Alexandria, Cairo/Giza, and Luxor.

Mixed a little business with the leisure.

Had the opportunity to meet with a raft of academics and political analysts and gained a broad insight into other aspects of the broader Middle East imbroglio.

An educational and enjoyable trip on just about every level.

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