The story so far, in case you missed it, is that US authorities have announced that an Iranian-American car salesman, Manssor Arbabsiar, tried to enlist a DEA informant to commit mass murder in the mistaken belief that he was a hitman working for a Mexican drug cartel. One of the crimes Arbabsiar is alleged to have had in mind was the murder of the Saudi envoy in Washington, Adel al-Jubeir.
Pressure is building on the Saudi regime as opposition forces inside and outside the country are planning a Day of Rage on Friday. Precise details haven't been released, for obvious reasons, but demonstrations are likely to start around 4 p.m. in cities across the Kingdom. Opposition activity on the internet is at fever pitch and widespread civil disturbances are expected. In recent days at least three different public statements calling for reform have been issued, each with hundreds of influential signatories. Several new political movements have been launched including the Islamic Umma party, led by ten well-known clerics; the National Declaration of Reform, headed by the well-known reformer Mohammed Sayed Tayib, with Islamist, liberal, Shia and Sunni members; Dawlaty, an amorphous online movement with several thousand signatories and thousands more accumulating every day; and the Al Dustorieen movement of lawyers, linked to Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz, who are calling for a response from the king on a petition they submitted in 2005.
Information is patchy as communication networks are down, but reports from Libya all indicate that after 42 years in power, Colonel Gaddafi’s time is up. The tribes are heading to the capital en masse, soldiers still answering to the regime are trying to stop them, and the violence is escalating. According to the latest reports the regime has deployed helicopters and jets to crush the uprising, allegedly flown by mercenaries from Eastern Europe, Cuba and elsewhere. Meanwhile, former regime stalwarts have been defecting in growing numbers. The head of Afriqiya Airways, the head of the Libyan Chamber of Commerce and several ambassadors are among those who have resigned or relocated. Many of them are reportedly now in Dubai. Islamic scholars in Libya spoke up today for the first time to rule that fighting Gaddafi was legitimate jihad. The demonstrators are calling for a million people to march tomorrow on Bab al-Aziziya, the fortified military compound where Gaddafi lives in Tripoli. But no one knows where he is now.
Demonstrations by hundreds of people in Libya’s second city of Benghazi yesterday were met with rubber bullets and water cannon: at least one person died and around 14 were injured, including 10 police officers, according to media reports. Yesterday also saw the first mass demonstrations by Libyan women against the regime. 'No one is clear what is going to happen or what is being planned,' a Libyan opposition figure told me. 'There are no opposition movements inside Libya but many young people have had enough of the regime.'
The US ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, may be the first senior diplomat to fall victim to the release of confidential embassy cables on WikiLeaks. ‘Ambassador (Gene A.) Cretz is in Washington for consultations... The question of when Ambassador Cretz returns to Libya will be one of the many subjects of his consultations,’ a spokesman said last week. Appointed in 2007, Cretz was the first US ambassador to Libya since 1972. Last month Colonel Qadhafi praised WikiLeaks for exposing US hypocrisy. ‘The true face of US diplomacy has been revealed through the confidential documents,’ he said. This ‘proved that America is not what it has led allies and friends to believe it to be’. Most of the stories from Tripoli that were picked up in the western media were old news in Libya, where few are unaware, for example, that Qadhafi suffers from phobias about flying, travelling over water and staying on upper floors. Many elderly desert bedouin feel the same way and no one thinks that Qadhafi travelled 7000 miles around Africa by land because of his love for African unity.
US embassy cables released yesterday by Wikileaks describe al-Jazeera as ‘a useful tool for the station's political masters’ and claim that the channel altered its output to suit the interests of Qatar’s foreign policy. These allegations, which al-Jazeera has denied, are neither new nor surprising, even if they’ve never come from such an authoritative source before. A confidential cable sent from the US Embassy in Doha to Washington in February this year quotes a conversation between the Qatari prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim (HBJ) al-Thani, and US senator John Kerry, in which HBJ says that he told the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, that Qatar would stop al-Jazeera broadcasting if Cairo would change its position on Israel-Palestinian negotiations:
The UK supplies Israel with a steady stream of arms on a 'case-by-case basis', although none of them are supposed to be used inside the Occupied Territories. In practice there is no way of knowing what Israel does with the kit it buys, so British companies are restricted from selling things, including fighter parts and missile systems, that have been used in the Occupied Territories in the past. But under the current rules the US can still tranship this kind of hardware to Israel through the UK.
On 9 June a letter appeared on the internet purportedly written by Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. It warned of a coup within the Saudi armed forces and said that if the royal family does not step down soon they risk ending up like Nicolae Ceauşescu or the Shah of Iran. The note had no letterhead, was unsigned and there was no accompanying press release. But it quickly spread across the internet, and is the subject of much discussion on Facebook and other sites.">http://www.wagze.com/talik3.html" target="_blank">a letter appeared on the internet purportedly written by Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. It warned of a coup within the Saudi armed forces and said that if the royal family does not step down soon they risk ending up like Nicolae Ceauşescu or the Shah of Iran. The note had no letterhead, was unsigned and there was no accompanying press release. But it quickly spread across the internet, and is the subject of much discussion on Facebook and other sites.
Relatively speaking Africa may not have been as badly hit by the credit crisis as other parts of the world but champagne imports are nevertheless down across the continent. Except in Congo Brazzaville, that is, where sales last year sharply increased – even though it is one of the poorest and most indebted countries in the world, where two-thirds of the population live on less than a dollar a day and life expectancy is 45.
Since the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, a stream of evidence has emerged suggesting that BP's attitude to risk may have contributed to the disaster. At Tony Hayward's congressional inquisition on 17 June, the CEO of BP was accused of choosing risky procedures in order to reduce costs and save time, and Anadarko Petroleum Corp, BP's former partner which owns a quarter of the blown-out well, went even further, accusing BP of 'behaviour and actions [that] likely represent gross negligence or wilful misconduct'. BP denies all charges.