Here are some stories on the region worth checking out:
- “As Algeria grows more Islamic, nightlife suffers,” 8 August, 2009. The premise of the article is somewhat wrongheaded, as its title suggests. Algeria has been Islamic for some time. That its nightlife is struggling is only slightly newsworthy but does show, as the author intends, that “reconciliation” has meant acquiescing to demands of popular Islamist (not “Islamic”) sentiments.
- “France’s Algerian shadow,” Aljazeera English, Veterans, August, 2009. An interesting segment on the memory of the Algerian War of Independence and its post-war maltreatment of Muslim harkis (Algerians who fought for the French; who were relentlessly driven from their homes, hacked up, or forced into dreary exile in France, or quiet shame within Algeria; the term is taken to mean “traitor,” the opposite of a patriot, the moral antithesis of the moudjahid or chahid). The program is interesting, interviewing harkis, Algerians, French vets and the like. French and Algerian viewers may take issue with its framing.
- “Qadhafi’s Time in the Limelight: Impact on U.S. Interests,” Dana Moss (WINEP), 28 August, 2009. Interesting summation of Qadhafi’s 40th anniversary, his upcoming visit to the United Nations (and his desire to pitch a tent in New Jersey), the release of Meghrahi, and so on and so forth. According to Moss, the Brother Leader heads “an opportunistic regime,” that “may no longer be an enemy, but it is a very unreliable friend.” She notes that the US has little to offer Qadhafi, though he may embarrass his hosts with typically ridiculous speech-making, or work contra US efforts in Africa should he feel that American engagement does not sufficiently match his liking.
- “Libya Marks 40-Years of Qaddafi,” Aljazeera English, 1 September, 2009. Describes the ghoulish glitz and kitch of Qadhafi’s anniversary celebrations, asking few tough questions, quoting planners who compare the endeavor in relation to an “Olympic opening ceremony” and outsiders who remark on how little Libya’s massive oil wealth has benefited its puny population of but 6 million. An homage to misrule.
- “Gaddafi coup celebrations expose Moroccan land dispute,” Jerusalem Post, 2 September, 2009. The Moroccan delegation stormed away from Qadhafi’s party because Mohamed Abdelaziz, president of the Saharawi SADR, was present. A set from Morocco’s security forces was to participate in the processions, but apparently no more. This mini-row is a wonderful illustration of the whole escapade’s stupendous stupidity. The celebration was also attended by Mauritania’s Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, his first foreign trip since the elections.
- “Moines de Tibéhirine : « une affaire franco-française », selon Ouyahia,” TSA, 2 September, 2o09. I received an email asking why I was not writing more about the controversy around the killing of the monks at Tiberhirine. The reason is that it is of great real consequence in the region. It holds significance in Franco-Algerian relations, and represents an effort from the French end to influence things on the Algerian side, but has more meaning for the French than the Algerians. Algerians very much see it as an attempt to undermine Ahmed Ouyahia, whom the French are said to dislike and who is thought to be a likely follow up to Bouteflika.
- “Larbi Belkheir hospitalisé à l’hôpital du Val-de-Grâce en France,” TSA, 2 September, 2009. Larbi Belkheir, once a major player in the generals’ regime during the 1990’s, before being shipped off to obscurity as Ambassador to Morocco, has suffered from complications from lung cancer for some time. This week he was sent of to the Val-de Grâce military hospital in Paris, after returning to Algiers earlier. Since his return to Algeria in 2008, his responsibilities were taken up by Boumediene Guenadi, the Deputy Ambassador. He has been dropped in a recent shuffle of Algerian diplomatic postings and the post in Rabat has yet to be filled.
- “La France et les USA rapatrient les familles des employés du pétrole,” Taqadoumy, 2 September, 2009. US and France bring home the families employees of oil companies in Mali and Niger. The State Department Reavel Warnings and Travel Alterts for Mali, and Mauritania have been updated with greater urgency. Numerous American aid and development projects (including the Peace Corps) are being scaled back or brought home from the Sahel, a reaction to increasing AQIM activity.
- Going back a few months, the Algerian-American community in Washington, D.C. has been grumpy since the new Algerian Ambassador, Abdallah Baali, failed to put on 5 July (Independence Day) celebrations for the Algerian community in the area, as per tradition. Local Algerians complain that while the embassy put on 4 July celebrations to mark American independence, it failed to mark its own national holiday, and that the two events could have been merged, if finances, time or whatever other possibilities were the concern. At the same time some feel disconnected from the new Ambassador, whose “style” they see as being rather different from the more personalized one of his predecessor. At the same time, personal feuds splintered celebrations elsewhere on the east coast, where multiple celebrations went on in the same city (in more than one city). In some places, communities economized and celebrated American and Algerian independence on one day, simultaneously. It said the embassy has taken note of the Washington Algerians’ concerns.
More meaningful blogging will soon commence.