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A blog on terrorism, democracy and international politics

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Going to America 

I will be in the United States for the next couple of weeks, and therefore will probably not post for some time.

Any American readers of the blog interested in organising a meeting can view my itinerary online

I will periodically check my e-mail at the trevor@pwhce.org address.

Mullah Krekar's Passport on al-Qaeda's Hard Drive 

One of my first posts on this blog was about Mullah Krekar, the leader of Kurdish Ansar al-Islam who now lives in Norway as a refugee. Krekar has spent years posing as a victim of the CIA and the Norwegian security services, both of which claim he is a terrorist. Krekar is particularly adept at spreading confusion, continually contradicting himself. He has managed to convince a significant slice of the Norwegian intelligentsiya that his intolerant views were simply manifestations of an alien but nonetheless legitimate culture, and that his detractors were simply bigots.

In my original post, I quoted from a long-forgotten 1997 interview with Krekar published in Nida'ul Islam, demonstrating that Krekar was firmly in the Jihadi-Salafi mould - he even named his children after Islamic radicals and their books.

Recently, while reading an excellent article in the Atlantic Monthly, Inside al-Qaeda's Hard Drive (Alan Cullison), I saw something that caught my attention.

The article revealed a treasure trove of documents found on a computer hard drive abandoned by al-Qaeda leaders as they fled their Kabul office before advancing Northern Alliance troops. Amongst the article's illustrations was a passport featuring an unmistakable photograph of Mullah Krekar. The name on the passport was one of Krekar's aliases. The caption revealed only that Krekar was a Kurdish militant.

I have now written and uploaded a biographical profile of Krekar, the enigmatic Norwegian Islamic terrorist.

[ Update: Since writing the above, further information has come to light. The identity document is not a passport, but a membership card for the (now defunct) Islamic Movement for Kurdistan (IMK) issued in 1999. The name on the card, Aso Muhamad Hasan, is also not a known alias of Krekar, but is very similar to an alias of another Ansar al-Islam figure, Aso Hawleri ('of Irbil') who was arrested in Iraq last year. However, two Kurdish sources (including intelligence sources in Sulimaniya) have now said that the picture is Krekar. I am updating my Krekar bio as information comes to hand. Thanks to Kurdo, Michael Rubin and Bjørn Stærk blog for assistance. 19/04/2005 ]

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Winds of Change blowing a gale in Egypt 

In my last post, I talked about democratic developments in the Middle East.

One takes a risk when attempting to identify an historical trend. It can turn out that the events described were simply a blip, and the trend can be proven illusory by subsequent developments. If, however, major historical developments take place that follow the identified trend, this is an indication that one may just be onto something.

One country I left out of my Winds of Change: Democracy and Security Outlook in the Middle East article was Egypt - because nothing in particular had changed. Since the Free Officers' Coup of 1952, all Opposition political parties have been banned, and although elections take place, only the (until now mis-named) National Democratic Party can run.

However, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak recently announced democratic reforms for Egypt (article), involving a referendum to change the constitution so that multiple parties could stand in the upcoming Presidential Election, which had hitherto been expected to serve merely as a rubber stamp.

A number of caveats must be provided here.
  • The elections still have not happened, and observers wonder whether any steps will be taken to impede the normal freedoms of the opposition parties, foremost among which is the Wafd Party.
  • Given the period of time that opposition parties have been banned, it must be wondered whether they will be capable of competing fairly against the ruling 'National Democratic Party'.
  • This step still will not provide the democratic election of representatives to the Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council, Assembly), and therefore can only be seen as a first step to democracy, albeit a very significant one.
  • One of the most important political groupings in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, with the goal of establishing an Islamic State. Breakaways from the Muslim Brotherhood include Muhammad Abd Us-Salam Faraj, whose group assassinated President Sadat, as well as Ayman al-Zawahiri's and Usama bin Laden's al-Qaeda. One wonders what electoral response the Muslim Brotherhood would command today. It is probable that its more moderate core would maintain the most electoral support and be best positioned to contest democratic elections, given that many moderates have already been allowed into the political system.

    Despite the above caveats, it must be reiterated that this is an historic move. Mubarak specifically stated that this reform was conducted in keeping with the times. Let's hope that other countries - such as Syria and Iran - give way to the current of history in the Middle East, so that we can have a happier, freer and ultimately a safer world.

    (Originally via Jan Haugland, who is now reporting on calls for democracy in the UAE)

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