* Who said the Saudi regime weren’t feminists?
* Education but no jobs
* German troops gun down Afghan civilians, including children, but few seem to care
1. Saudi Arabia opens world’s largest women’s university
2. UAE hires American firm to set up private army
3. Life-saving surgery in Israel for Indonesian toddler
4. Brutal Bahrain set to end its state of emergency
5. German troops gun down civilians, kill children, but few seem to care
6. Kuwait elected to UNHRC after Syria withdraws application
7. Student priorities
8. Two thirds of Arab-Israelis think Jews are “foreign” to the Mideast, poll finds
9. 55% of Americans think Arab world protests make Israel less safe
10. “Palestine may join Gulf Cooperation Council”
11. A coming Iranian-American-Venezuelan missile crisis?
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
SAUDI ARABIA OPENS WORLD’S LARGEST WOMEN’S UNIVERSITY
Who said the Saudi regime weren’t feminists?
Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz last week inaugurated the world’s largest women’s university. The campus of the Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University on the outskirts of the Saudi capital Riyadh covers eight million square meters (20,000 acres) and cost over 20 billion riyals ($5.3 billion) to build. As many as 40,000 female students are expected to enroll.
“The King realizes his Dream, Inaugurating the Gate of Knowledge for the Saudi Woman,” ran the headline in the Saudi daily Al-Watan last week.
But many women are asking if the skills they acquire will ever be put to use. Many Saudi women have already graduated college but few are allowed to enter the national labor force.
UAE HIRES AMERICAN FIRM TO SET UP PRIVATE ARMY
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has confirmed American media reports that it has hired an American firm owned by Erik Prince, the founder of the controversial Blackwater private security company. The UAE’s official news agency said that Prince’s company, Reflex Response, would provide training to its military and would be “compliant with international law and relevant conventions.”
But former Reflex employees and U.S. officials said Reflex had been retained to recruit and train a foreign battalion for internal security policing. It said hundreds of Colombian, South African and other foreign troops were already training at a UAE military base.
The UAE’s deal with Reflex is reportedly worth over half a billion dollars.
LIFE-SAVING SURGERY IN ISRAEL FOR INDONESIAN TODDLER
While the likes of Jimmy Carter and Thomas Friedman continue to compare Israel to an apartheid state (in fact there is much more de facto segregation in the Washington DC area where both men have lived) Israeli hospitals continue to save the lives not just of many Palestinian children, but of children from countries throughout the Muslim world.
In the latest example, Israeli doctors at Tel Aviv’s Wolfson hospital performed life-saving surgery and saved the heart of an 18-month-old boy from Indonesia. The boy is now recovering in hospital in Israel. The boy’s flight to Israel (together with the flight tickets for his family) and the cost of the operation was paid for by private Israeli charities. (Israel has some of the leading doctors in the world.)
BRUTAL BAHRAIN SET TO END ITS STATE OF EMERGENCY
King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa has announced that Bahrain’s 3-month old state of emergency will end on June 1.
This follows the brutal and “successful” crackdown against the country’s majority Shia population. Bahrain was aided in this by 2,000 Sunni soldiers that Saudi Arabia sent to help quell the protests, as well as by Pakistani Sunni mercenaries hired by Bahrain.
The Saudis are said to have been particularly brutal in Bahrain, even entering hospitals to torture and shoot dead Shia doctors who were treating the injured.
In recent weeks, a number of Bahraini opposition leaders and bloggers have reportedly been tried in secret, and others have simply disappeared.
Naturally, there have not been many moralising New York Times editorials, enraged letters to The Guardian, or one-sided BBC reports on this subject, as these media have been too busy continuing in their sport of undermining Israel on an almost daily basis.
GERMAN TROOPS GUN DOWN CIVILIANS, KILL CHILDREN, BUT FEW SEEM TO CARE
Most international media outlets have also barely shown any concern that last week German troops in the northern Afghan town of Taloqan shot dead 12 people. Those killed had been protesting the previous killing of Afghan civilians (including four children) by U.S. troops a few days earlier.
Germany, one of the largest troop-contributing nations in the U.S.-led coalition, heads the regional command for northern Afghanistan.
Takhar Gov. Abdul Jabar Taqwa has complained to both German and American authorities. German defense ministry spokesman Christian Dienst said the troops had been defending themselves and two German soldiers had been wounded in the incident.
Germany’s deployment in Afghanistan is its first major combat mission since World War II. In September 2009, a German officer requested a U.S. airstrike on two fuel tankers, which then exploded killing 140 Afghans, mainly civilians. Except in Germany and Afghanistan, few media and human rights groups seem to care about this.
KUWAIT ELECTED TO UNHRC AFTER SYRIA WITHDRAWS APPLICATION
In a secret ballot on Friday, the UN General Assembly in New York elected another Arab dictatorship (Kuwait) as a new member of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, in place of the Syrian government, which withdrew its candidacy because it has been too busy murdering civilians in over 40 Syrian towns in recent weeks.
In addition to Kuwait, other countries with appalling human rights records, such as Congo, were elected on Friday to the Human Rights Council. There they will join Bahrain, China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia, who already have seats on the Human Rights Council. The Council spends most of its time and considerable amounts of tax payers’ money in reports and resolutions condemning one country only: Israel. The most notorious of these was the so-called Goldstone report.
U.S. funding of the UN reached over $6 billion in the fiscal year 2009.
Meanwhile (two months after Syria began gunning down scores of unarmed pro-democracy protestors), the U.S. has finally imposed financial sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and six of his top officials. European governments are considering doing the same.
On Saturday Syrian troops even sprayed bullets on mourners at a funeral, killing at least 11 and injuring many more. The funeral services were for ten of the 54 people killed by Assad’s forces the day before.
Western university students are still holding protests against Israel – where Jewish and Arab men and women study together – but seem to have nothing to say about last week’s attacks on protesting university students in Syria’s second-largest city, Aleppo. Many of the students there were chased by security forces into their dormitories and badly beaten, and some were killed.
They haven’t got much to say about Yemen either, where people are continuing to be shot dead by government snipers on a daily basis, and hundreds of civilians have been killed and thousands seriously injured in the last three months.
Incidentally, I have added an additional video to yesterday’s dispatch and would urge you to watch it, by refreshing the page and viewing the third video here.
It shows detainees who have survived Syrian torture. France 24 (which has been much better in covering the situation in Syria than other international networks like the BBC and CNN) showed the video and reported that these tortured detainees were deliberately released by the regime in an effort to dissuade other citizens from participating in anti-government protests.
TWO THIRDS OF ARAB-ISRAELIS THINK JEWS ARE “FOREIGN” TO THE MIDDLE EAST, POLL FINDS
According to a new survey by Haifa University, nearly two thirds of the Arab citizens of Israel believe Jews are a foreign implant in the Middle East – this despite the fact that about half of the Jewish population of Israel are Jews who fled Arab countries and have lived continuously in the Middle East for over a thousand years before Islam was even founded.
In addition, 38 percent of Arabs polled in the survey said they did not believe that millions of Jews had died in the Holocaust.
55% OF AMERICANS THINK ARAB WORLD PROTESTS MAKE ISRAEL LESS SAFE
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey has found that 55% of “likely U.S. voters” believe the recent unrest in the Middle East will make Israel less safe in the short term. Only five percent say the political protests in the region have made the Jewish state safer, while others said it had no impact on Israel’s security.
“PALESTINE MAY JOIN GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL”
The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reports that “Palestine may join the Gulf Cooperation Council when it establishes its statehood.”
The agency noted that years of Palestinian presence in the Gulf had built up strong economic, political and social ties.
The GCC was formed in 1981. On May 10, the council said it may admit Jordan and Morocco into the six-member group.
A COMING IRANIAN-AMERICAN-VENEZUELAN MISSILE CRISIS?
According to a report last week in the leading German daily, Die Welt, Iran is moving ahead with plans to build intermediate-range missile launch bases on Venezuela’s Paraguaná Peninsula. This follows an earlier report by Die Welt last November that Iran and Venezuela signed an agreement to establish a military base in Venezuela, to be jointly operated by Iranian and Venezuelan missile officers as well as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The agreement reportedly calls for Iranian Shahab 3, Scud-B, and Scud-C missiles to be deployed on the base – missiles with a trajectory range of 177 to 932 miles. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez are close allies.
If such Iranian military bases come to fruition in Venezuela, it would drastically increase America’s vulnerability to attack from its south.
Die Welt is one of Germany’s leading papers. Its editor and foreign editor are both longtime subscribers to this email list.
There is an opinion article about this here in English from a former Iranian-based CIA agent.
[All notes above by Tom Gross]