Friday, 29 February 2008

The Additional Protocol

In his recent report to the Board of Governors, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed ElBaradei states (under item 56) that Iran has expressed its readiness to implement the provisions of the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the modified text of its Subsidiary Arrangements General Part, Code 3.1, “if the nuclear file is returned from the Security Council to the IAEA”.

It is an unprecedented opportunity for the UN Security Council to de-escalate this sensitive standoff, as CASMII states:

“Nuclear inspections by the IAEA have proven to be the best and only non-violent safeguard against nuclear weapons proliferation. No country in the world has been able to develop nuclear weapons while its programme has been under the inspections of the IAEA. In the case of Iraq, nearly the entire weapons program was exposed and neutralized in the 1990s through a rigorous inspection process.”

It’s high time now to take the chances and pursue peace through cooperation. Sanctions do not solve this kind of problems. As a memento, 13 years of UN sanctions led to the killing of half a million Iraqi children.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Happy National Day! Happy Liberation Day!

A well-loved song from the 1960s by the late Kuwaiti singer Saud Al-Rashed about the Kuwaiti flag.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

They’ll Never Forget!

On the 2nd of August 1990, Kuwait, the small country in the corner of the Persian Gulf was invaded by Iraqi troops. The tanks overran the tiny post at Abdaly, about 50 km north of the Al Mutlaa ridge. Saddam Hussein was pretty certain that the US would not interfere. He had enjoyed, for many years, a sort of friendship among rogues, and the handshake with Donald Rumsfeld is unforgotten, when the first war in the region, against America’s arch-enemy Iran, culminated with poison gas on one side and children with little plastic keys sent into the mine fields on the other. Stunningly, both parties, Iraq and Iran, had been eagerly supported by the West. Israel had even sold arms to Iran. It was a worldwide desire that both bastards, Saddam’s and Khomeini’s regimes, should better bleed to death, and vanish. But dictatorships do not vanish easily. One million had died when this war, which saw battles in trenches and usage of mustard gas, 70 years after WWI, ceased in August 1988.

As other Arab states, Kuwait had supported Iraq during the war with Iran. But soon Saddam blamed Kuwait that it had drilled for oil during the war in Iraq’s territory. There were long-standing disputes about the northern borders of Kuwait with Iraq and the tiny Emirate. Britain had configured (apparently with straight edge and compass) the borders in the Middle East. Kuwait’s boundaries were defined in 1922 in the Uqair protocol signed by Percy Cox, the High Commissioner to Baghdad who met his colleague John More, the British Political Agent to Kuwait, and Abdul Aziz ibn Abdur Rahman ibn Saud, the first Saudi monarch.

For Saddam a safe access to the Persian Gulf was of strategic importance. Iraq has a coast line of not more than 40 km with the Shatt al-Arab defining the boundary to Iran. But there are two muddy islands, Warbah and Bubiyan, which are just located in the northern offshore sands of the Gulf without providing Iraq with any reasonable harbor. An impressive, 2400 m long concrete girder bridge links the Kuwaiti mainland with Bubiyan Island. It had been constructed in 1983. The wonderful “Bridge to Nowhere” (in fact, the road ends at the small Bubyian post in the swamps of the marshland), spanning the shallow Khawr as Sabiyah, was heavily damaged in the events which follow but quickly restored in the aftermath of the war. The shores are very muddy here. Chalets in small villages are used, as everywhere on Kuwait’s seaside, as getaways. But there is still a lot of rubble, remains from the war.

In the beginning of August temperatures usually reach their annual highs, 50 degrees Celsius (122 F). Saddam’s Iraqi Republican Guards came early in the morning, at 2 am. The Amir of Kuwait, HH Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, had fled already to the neighbouring Saudi Arabian deserts. His half-brother Sheikh Fahad, was shot and killed in the Royal residence Dasman Palace by the invaders. Kuwait became what Saddam has always claimed: Iraq's 19th province.

Tired of the ongoing bad news from the Middle East, the international community at first only shrugged it off. Of course, Saudi Arabia was alarmed. And so were the USA. Saddam was suspected of going ahead with invading the oil fields in the eastern provinces of the weak monarchy, too.

How persistent lies and war-time propaganda may lead to a change in the World’s public opinion has been better learned 12 years later, in the preparation of the next, the 3rd Gulf War. In 1990, after Saddam had ruthlessly invaded the tiny Emirate in the corner of the Persian Gulf, it was not about weapons of mass destruction what finally led to Kuwait’s liberation by a broad coalition force. There was a bizarre story which suddenly found its way to the mass media: the incubator lie. A 15-year old Kuwaiti nurse reported atrocities of Iraqis in hospitals. In verbal testimony to the US Congress she alleged that she had witnessed that infants were taken out of incubators (which were taken to Baghdad later-on).

The contentious Californian Representative, Democrat Tom Lantos (who died 2 weeks ago of cancer) put forward, as a co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, this story. Later it turned out that ‘Nurse Nayirah’ was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US and her allegations baseless propaganda. Lantos played, by the way, a similar sinister role on the eve of the next Gulf war in 2002.

There were other liars involved in the incubator case. A Kuwaiti dentist, Dr. Ibraheem Behbehani, who was at that time head of the Kuwaiti Red Crescent, testified (as a “Dr. Issah Ibrahim”) that he had supervised the burial of 120 newborn babies after the Iraqi invasion, and personally buried 40 newborn babies "that had been taken from their incubators by (Iraqi) soldiers.” He later had to admit that he had never seen babies taken from the incubators. Dr. Behbehani is now an Assistant Professor at Kuwait University working in the Department of Diagnostic Sciences of the Faculty of Dentistry.

“Truth is always the first casualty”, as Alexander Cockburn wrote in the Los Angeles Times on January 17, 1991:

“Just how rapidly this happens can be illustrated by the case of the premature Kuwait babies, supposedly left to die last August by Iraqis who then removed the incubators to Baghdad. It has become the tale used by the Kuwait government in exile, as well as by President Bush, who invoked Iraqi horrors inflicted upon the innocent children of Kuwait in his speech. It should be said right away that there are thousands of examples of such Iraqi brutality and denial of elementary human rights, not just in Kuwait but in Iraq. But the story of baby mass murder is untrue.”

Anyway, an international coalition force (of the keen and willing) launched Operation Desert Storm, which lasted from January 17 until February 26, 1991. Iraqi troops were wiped out of Kuwait within a couple of weeks. Kuwait was freed, and the Kuwaiti will never forget, grateful and humble. Saddam then showed the World another unbelievable escalation of war when finally setting the oil wells on fire. An ecological warfare which has never been seen before. He was hung for his crimes against Humanity on December 30, 2006.

The day of Liberation, February 26, is celebrated in Kuwait every year together with its National Day on February 25.

Congratulations, people of Kuwait! And may God bless you!

When I asked one of my students at Kuwait University, what event is celebrated on National Day, she responded: “Oh, we became independent in 1961. But, actually, we have never been dependent!”

Monday, 18 February 2008

Lunheim, Nord-Norge, February 10, 2008

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Spring in the Desert

The fragrance of the desert flowers is in any case a sudden and unexpected sensation in late spring. Temperatures are still in the thirties and air is fresh after a few thunderstorms and showers. This is the season for breeding, and the Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus), larks and other migrating birds are attracted by the cliffs of Jal Az Zor. They may inhabit the tiny holes and caves within the strata of limestone. Shrikes rest in Kuwait on their way to the wintering areas in tropical and southern Africa. The silence of the desert (if not trucks pass by), the serene sounds of the blowing wind, which is usually coming from the Northwest and is called the Shamal, and the mellow twitter of larks; all of this may contribute to a grand and deep feeling of peace, and unity with Nature.

Pillows and carpets of Purple Wall Rocket (Diplotaxis), wild mustard, will fill the foothills of Jal Az Zor in late springtime. They usually assemble with the yellow Desert Daisy (Rantherium). Blooming of the desert is a brief spectacle and a true wonder. Then Nature explodes knowing well that the burning sun and scorching winds from the North will soon make further life rather difficult.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

The Land of Dhub

In late March, the flower head of the Broomrape, or Desert Hyazinthe (Cistanche lutea), erects from the sand. It is a root parasite hosted by the salt bush in front of it. The blossoms (male and female) are visited by the plenty of insects which feed on its nectar. The days of the Broomrape are numbered as temperatures dramatically rise within weeks.

In springtime, reptiles have their season. The attentive and curious visitor will soon stumble over plenty of anxious sand-runners, such as the Sand and Fringe-toed Lizards (Acathodactylus), or Short-nosed ones (Mesalina).

There is the Land of the Dhub, far east of Jal Az Zor, where plenty of grass and herbs will grow in April after a rainy winter providing enough food for this herbivore, prehistoric monster-like looking creature. It is a Spiny-tailed Agamid (Uromastix microlepis) which lives in burrows but loves lying in the sun in the middle of the day when it changes its color from grayish to bright yellow.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Al Buraq

A Giant Leap Forward, a just wonderful commercial of Saudi Arabian Airlines

When Night Suddenly Turned Into Day

"The attack was especially dramatic because the Israelis used bright magnesium illumination flares to light up the target before the bombing. Night suddenly turned into day." Seymour Hersh has given an interview to Al Jazeera about his investigation of the September 6, 2007 Israeli bombing of a Syrian site long suspected of being nuclear. On Monday next week, his article will be published in The New Yorker.

What was actually the meaning of that air strike doesn’t become clear at all. IAEA DG Mohamed ElBaradei expressed his frustration after the strike, saying:

“If a country has any information about a nuclear activity in another country, it should inform the I.A.E.A.—not bomb first and ask questions later.”

But there wasn’t a nuclear facility to be built. There wasn’t any construction site for producing chemical warfare. There were North Korean workers, but most probably they were engaged in constructing missiles. One possible reason for Bashar al-Assad better keeping pretty calm after the raid.

The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was published three months later. According to Hersh, some reports about the forthcoming NIE and its general conclusion had already appeared at the time of the raid. Cheney’s office had resisted its implications for at least one year. It is Hersh’s speculation, but rear cover for the raid might have been given by Cheney himself, possibly even overriding the chain of command.

It is conceivable that the timely publication of the NIE has in fact prevented similar adventures regarding Iran. During his recent Middle East trip, Bush consistently stressed that the Iranian nuclear-weapons threat has not vanished from the scene. So, it is not over. Will it ever be?

See also this article in The Economist from January 31, 2008.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Mosques in Kuwait

Kuwait’s Masjed Al Kabeer, the Grand Mosque, boasts a 74 meters high minaret and can accommodate almost 12000 worshippers in the main hall and courtyard. The dome is 26 meters in diameter and 43 meters high. Asma’ Allah Al-Husná, the 99 Names of God, will decorate it. The mosque is not far from the Sief Palace of the Amir of Kuwait, and Sharq’s old dhow harbour and fish market

There are so many different mosques in Kuwait, and many of them are quite small and charming.

The Shi’a branch of Islam is observed by about 30 per cent of the Kuwaiti population. One beautiful example of a Shi’a mosque can be found in Jabriya. It resembles in some way the mosques in Iran.