Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

A Five Gun Salute to the Origins of Coffee

March 11, 2021

Coffee, red coffee cherries, originate in the cloud forests of Ethiopia.

It brings to the drinker a sprightliness of spirit and a sense of mental well-being. — Ibn ‘Abd al-Ghaffar

Within the coffee cherry, two seeds or beans (one if a peaberry, en español caracolillo), roasted, has spread around the world to become one of the most valuable traded commodities. We may pay three dollars for a cappuccino, the price paid for green coffee beans is determined by commodity markets in London and New York, the grower, if commodity coffee, lucky to see three cents a kilo of green beans.

When I visit my friend’s farm, we are in the cloud forests of El Teide. I have thought, why not coffee? But if we planted, it would be ten years before we see a crop. Coffee is grown on Gran Canaria.

The cloud forests, the trees scrub water out of the clouds, it drips from their branches. Magical to pass through.

In the podcast the arrival of coffee in Arabia quickly glossed over, too quickly. Brought in by the Sufis from Yemen in the mid-15th century as part of their religious devotions.  It would though have needed more to penetrate society. Merchants saw an opportunity, but it would not have been enough to simply bring in coffee, pile sacks of coffee in the market, no demand, what to do with it. Kiosks were established in markets to serve coffee, then coffee shops and more luxurious coffee houses, with fountains, shade of trees, often by a river.

In Arabia, coffee effected cultural change. It provided a meeting place, in addition to the mosque and the market, it was a place to socialise. Also a place to hatch plots.

Two Syrians took coffee to Istanbul, as a ready made off-the-shelf package, opened coffee shops.

According to the Ottoman chronicler Ibrahim Pecevi: (1574-1560) coffee and the coffee house was introduced to Istanbul by two Syrians Hakm and Shams around 1556.

Mocha became wealthy on coffee, in essence they held a monopoly.

In Turkey, drinking of coffee elevated almost to an art form.

In its introduction into the Middle East, coffee was never a mere beverage. It was the subject of fatwas, legal treatise, edicts, a psychoactive substance, an affront to the Koran, a commodity to speculate upon, coffee houses, places to socialise, hatch plots, exchange news, coffee shops to be closed, burnt to the ground.

I agree Dark Woods an excellent roastery but for their single origins, not their espresso blends, for espresso blends I would look elsewhere. In Sheffield they have something of a local monopoly, South Street Kitchen, Motore Coffee, Union Street.

Dark Woods is located in an old Victorian Mill, on a canal in the Pennines in the middle of nowhere.

The podcast needs an accompanying blog for each episode. With sound, one can only visualise the internal structure of a coffee cherry, a cloud forest, the terraces in Yemen.

A recent news item of Saudi genocide in Yemen (UK supplies the weapons), showed a town perched on a mountain top, cascading terraces.

Coffee from Yemen nigh impossible to obtain and until recently, no one wanted, as poor quality.

The terraces are used for growing qat (Catha edulis), a narcotic close relative of coffee, far more profitable than growing coffee, qat even has its own UN designation.

I am curious the terraces. In Tenerife, similar terrace system, water tanks store the water, channels run along the walls, distribute the water to the terraces. A stalk from banana tree used to close a channel. A complex cooperative scheme for water distribution.

Ethiopia, from where coffee originated.

Contemporary writers in Medieval Arabia saw coffee as coming from Yemen. It may also have come from Ethiopia and one writer did mention Ethiopia. Trade routes passed through Ethiopia. To reach Arabia, the coffee passed through Mocha.

One of the most influential 16th century writers on coffee, Abd al-Qadir al-Jaziri (fl 1558), after speaking of the introduction of coffee to Yemen, cautions his readers:

We say [that this account pertains to] the Yemen alone [lit not anywhere else] because the appearance of coffee [was] in the land of Ibn Sa’d al-Din and the country of Abyssinians and of the Jabart, and of other places of the land of the Ajam, but the land of its first [use] is unknown, nor do we know the reason.

Of consideration to contemporary writers, was not the origin of coffee, their main focus was to establish when and where coffee came into Arabia, and equally important, by whom and for what reason it was introduced.

Contemporary Arab writers have no myth of dancing goats (introduced later by Europeans as an embellishment), they do though have a myth and treat as a myth, of Solomon using coffee for medicinal use on the command of the angel Gabriel.

Contemporary accounts agree on two points:

  • coffee came from Yemen
  • coffee used by Sufis as part of their religious devotions

Carolus Linnaeus attributed coffee to Arabia, Coffea arabica.

The mountainous terraces of Yemen where coffee was grown, were remote then, are remote today, were not the centre of the Medieval Arab Islamic world. It is thus not inconceivable coffee would have been consumed for centuries before word of coffee spread to Arabia.

Sufis were not a monastic order, they were members of the local community, part of wider society, had day jobs.  If coffee was of use in the dhikr as a psychoactive drug, would it not have its use getting through the tedium of the day, the wife or servants asked to brew a pot of coffee?

Writing in the early 16th century Fakhr al-Din ibn Abi Yazid al-Makki writes:

And as for us, qishr reached us in Rey in Mecca and other places twenty or more years ago, but qahwa made from it did not spread until the end of the ninth [fifteenth] century.

Coffee was on sale in the streets outside the mosque.

  • qishr:  husks of the coffee bean or a beverage made exclusively from the husks.
  • qahwa: coffee; more precisely stimulating beverage made from the fruit of Coffee arabica.
  • qahwa bunniya: beverage made from the kernels (bunn) or from the husks and kernels.
  • qahwa qishriya: beverage made exclusively from the husks.
  • bunn: coffee beans; specifically the kernel as opposed to the husk.

Coffee was on sale in the streets outside the mosques.

The spread of coffee from Yemen into Arabia, from the Sufis, to the streets outside the mosque, to the home, in public, two decades, maybe a mere decade.

Jaziri tells us:

[After the spread of coffee to Egypt and its brisk consumption in the precincts of the Azhar] the situation continued along these lines: much coffee was drunk in the quarter of the mosque; it was sold openly in a multitude of places. In spite of the long time [that it had been drunk], not a soul gave a thought of interfering with coffee drinkers nor did anyone find fault with the drink either in itself or because of factors [associate with but] external to it, such as passing the cup around and the like. All this was in spite of the fact that it had become widespread in Mecca, and was drunk in the Sacred Mosque itself, so that there was scarcely a dhikr or observance of the Prophet’s birthday (mawlid) where coffee was not present.

We know coffee was well established in Mecca by 1511 due to an edict issued by a local governor regarding  suspicious characters gathered to drink coffee. Kha’ir Beg, pasha of of the Malmuks in Mecca and muhtasib of the town, happened upon a group one night drinking coffee. As he approached they extinguished their lanterns and ran away. He called a meeting the following day of scholars and jurists to rule on gatherings to drink coffee and of coffee itself.

I may care to drink craft beer but I may object to the drunken scum in binge-drinking bars.

The activities coffee drinkers were permitting were like taverns where consumption of wine took place. Coffee was not forbidden by the Koran, unlike wine, indeed, if created by God, who was Man to decide it could not be consumed? Coffee though a grey area, not explicitly forbidden, on the other hand, if a psychoactive substance, should it not be treated as alcohol?

Such distinctions and controversies were not restricted to Mecca in 1511, coffee periodically forbidden, the prohibitions ignored, then rescinded.

The arrival of coffee and especially the coffee shop and coffee house, was to have great impact on society and economic life.

Were the clientele of a specialty coffee shop today to hop on a H G Wells time machine and pedal back to a coffee shop or coffee house in Medieval Arabia they would not find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings. The main difference being the serving of undrinkable coffee.

Please obtain Coffee: A Global History from Blackwell’s. Support independent bookshops not Amazon. Or, with indie bookshops closed, order Coffee: A Global History via Bookshop.Org an on-line portal for indie bookshops. But please note on-line service by Blackwell’s appalling, long wait for book to arrive.

Checking out the farms, a good idea, but please do not direct to or promote Instagram, more data for facebook to steal and abuse.

To enjoy your coffee, need to buy fresh roasted coffee from specialty coffee shop or reputable coffee roastery. Always buy coffee beans, freshly grind each time brew.

Invest in a quality hand grinder or electric grinder, cheap grinders a waste of money.

Hand grinders in ascending price range: Rhino, CrushGrind, Knock, Comandante.

Electric grinder: Niche Zero.

To brew filter coffee: V60, swan-neck kettle, digital scales, or an Origami.

To brew espresso: 9Barista, cheap domestic machines a waste of money, unreliable, cheapest semi-pro machine La Marzocco linea mini.

Water: Cannot brew coffee with tap water, use bottled spring water or a water filter. Minimum, Brita water filter, or better and designed for coffee Peak water filter.

Once indie coffee shops reopen, please support. And please show respect for the coffee, relax with served in glass or ceramic. And if not busy, have  a chat with the barista.


  • The Devil’s Cup
  • Where the Wild Coffee Grows
  • The Monk of Mocha
  • Coffee and Coffee Houses
  • The World Atlas of Coffee


A History of Coffee a collaboration between James Harper of Filter Stories podcast and Jonathan Morris, Professor of History and author of Coffee: A Global History.

London Bridge terrorist attack

June 5, 2017

As a proud and patriotic British Muslim I say this: you do not commit these disgusting acts in my name. — Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Saturday night, a van ploughed into pedestrians on London Bridge, then three men leapt out of the van and attacked with knives people in nearby Borough Market. Within eight minutes, armed police arrived on the scene and the terrorists were cut down in a hail of bullets.

Seven killed, 48 injured.

Prior to the police arrival, ordinary people, unarmed, attacked the terrorists and probably saved more people from being killed or injured.

In many ways a copycat of what happened on Westminster Bridge in March.

The attack less than two weeks after the suicide bomb attack at a concert in Manchester leaving 22 dead, and on the eve of a  benefit concert in Manchester.

A sobering and informative account by Paul Mason in an interview for Democracy Now.

A lesson for the BBC which has become a national embarrassment.

Countries across the world, mayors across the world, have pledged support for Sadiq KhanMayor of London, but not Donald Trump who has once again shown himself to be an ignorant ill-informed arsehole.

Yes, we have to clamp down on Muslim extremists in UK, a view backed by Muslims I talked to today.

That Theresa May has cut the number of police officers by 20,000 officers does not help.  When the Police Federation at the time warned of the consequences, they were accused by Theresa May of scaremongering.  Local police, bobbies on the beat, are the eyes and ears in the community.

Often the terrorists are not known. In these last three attacks, they were known.

We also have to tackle countries like Saudi Arabia, a country that funds ISIS, exports a perversion of Islam, is waging genocide in Yemen, and is now waging a war of words with Qatar.  We must stop supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia. We must stop buying their oil and move to a  Green New Deal where we move very rapidly to renewable sources of energy. We must see publication of the government report that links corrupt House of Saud to terrorism.

Only a few days ago, at a hustings in Thanet, a candidate was cut off for highlighting these links.

As the ISIS Caliphate is destroyed, their ideology not.

Three attacks this year.  At least five attacks thwarted.

No man is an island

July 16, 2016


No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

— John Donne ‪

Chilcot Report

July 7, 2016

Jeremy Corbyn made his first assessment of the Chilcot Inquiry in Parliament on Wednesday, a statesman-like address to the House of Commons. It was damning, yet touching, in equal measure – and without vindictiveness.

The Labour leader was one of the most prominent voices of opposition against the Iraq War at the time, leading protests and actively raising his grave concerns in Parliament.

Concerns that were shared by millions of people around the world, but tragically fell on deaf ears.

Corbyn opened by saying that:

I would like to remember and honour the 179 British service men and women killed, and the thousands maimed and injured during the Iraq war and their families, as well as the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died as a result of the invasion and occupation launched by the US and UK governments 13 years ago.

He then began his assessment by giving cool criticism of what he called “the extraordinary time it has taken for the report to see the light”, saying it “is frankly, clearly a matter for regret”. But when it came to the subject of the decision to invade Iraq itself. He did not mince his words:

The decision to invade and occupy Iraq […] was the most significant foreign policy decision taken by a British government in modern times. It divided this house, and set the government of the day against the majority of the British people.

Corbyn’s criticism became even more overarching. Directly attacking Tony Blair’s government …

the war was not in any way […] a last resort; frankly it was an act of military aggression launched on a false pretext, as the inquiry accepts, and has long been regarded as illegal by the overwhelming weight of international legal opinion.

Questioning the legality provoked a furious reaction from some MPs. However Corbyn continued with his criticisms:

it led to the deaths of 100,000 people […] it devastated Iraq’s infrastructure and society; it fostered a lethal sectarianism […] that turned into a civil war. Instead of protecting security at home and abroad, the war fuelled and spread terrorism across the region.

He cited Sunday’s suicide bombing in Baghdad, which killed 250 people and was the worst terrorist attack since the US/UK invasion in 2003 – implying that Daesh (Isis/Isil), which claimed responsibility, was a group that had come into existence as a result of the Iraq war. “By any measure”, Corbyn said, “the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been, for many, a catastrophe”.

He continued:

the decision to invade Iraq on what was clearly flawed intelligence about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) […] has led to a fundamental breakdown of trust in politics and in our institutions of government […] while the governing classes got it so horrifically wrong, many people got it right.

More jeering from backbenchers ensued, one of whom ITV’s political editor Robert Peston identified as Labour’s Ian Austin MP – who can be heard saying “sit down and shut up”, and “you’re a disgrace”.

But Corbyn seemed undeterred. He cited the protests against the Iraq war in February 2003 as being “the biggest ever demonstration in British history”. Amid more continuous heckling, he fired criticism at both Margaret Thatcher’s and John Major’s Tory administrations, implying that while many people protested about Hussein our governments had basically cosied up to him.

Turning his attention back to Blair, he recalled:

we could see that this state posed no military threat and the WMD evidence was flimsy […] If only this house would have listened to many of its own people […] the course of events might have been different. There are members here today who voted against the war […] but none of us such take any satisfaction from this report.

Corbyn briefly paid tribute to the late Robin Cook, Blair’s foreign secretary who resigned over the war. Cook warned at the time of his grave concerns, saying that “I can’t accept collective responsibility for the decision to commit Britain now to military action in Iraq without international agreement or domestic support”.

The Labour leader then rounded on the decision of Blair’s administration to go to war, saying:

the Chilcot report has rightly dug deep into the litany of failures […] but the reality is it was the original decision to follow the US president into this war, in the most volatile region in the world, and impose a colonial-style occupation, that has led to every other disaster.

He summed up by echoing what surely most people who remember the Iraq war must feel. Firing a parting salvo at Blair and the other members of the government who took the UK to war, Corbyn starkly said:

those laid bare in the Chilcot report must face up to the consequences of their actions. Whatever they may be. We make decisions that […] go on for decades and decades […] we need to reflect very seriously before taking any decisions again to take military action without realising the consequence of those we will live with all of us for many decades to come, and will often have incalculable consequences as a result.

While Corbyn’s detractors are often quick to criticise the leader’s soft-touch approach to his speeches in Parliament, no such criticism could be levelled on Wednesday.

Having been at the forefront of the campaign against the Iraq War, his stance at the time has now been wholly vindicated. His speech in Parliament must have been uncomfortable listening for many on his own backbenches, as there were countless MPs sitting there who voted for military action. He defied his party to stand on the right side of history in 2003. Some might say he is doing the same today.

In his address to Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn made clear his position: the choice of New Labour and the House of Commons to invade Iraq was one of the gravest mistakes in modern history. One which cannot be allowed to happen again.

Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised by the coup plotters, most of who backed the Iraq War, for voting against Party. But what would we rather have, an automaton that follows party orders (in which case install a robot and save on expenses) of someone who thinks and  votes according to his conscience?

Contrast the address by Jeremy Corbyn on Chilcot to the House of Commons with the contrived response from war criminal Tony Blair.

Blair cannot see he has done anything wrong, Iraq is a better place as a result of his actions, he would do it all over again.

The tragic bomb blast at the weekend, killed more innocent people, than all the British military who lost their lives during this illegal war.

Warnings were given not only by the intelligence services, but also by Canon Andrew White, of the chaos into which Iraq would descend. These warning were ignored.

Cannot be  a coincidence that the Charity Commission launches an investigation into Andrew White aka Vicar of Baghdad, any more than a coup is launched against Jeremy Corbyn, days before the Chilcot Report is published?

Iraqis used to tell you they were Iraqis, now they are Christian, Shia, Sunni, Kurd.

Terrorism has spread across the region, has given rise to ISIS, has spread to Europe.

Blair has since devoted his life to the Middle East. Most people would be forgiven into believing he was promoting the interests of Saudi Arabia and Israel, whilst at the same time lining his own pocket.

On Wato, we had paid liar Alistair Campbell justify the action taken by Tony Blair.

Chilcot is a damning indictment of Tony Blair, but still he cannot see he did anything wrong.

A deafening silence from the Blairite coup plotters, who have every day been calling for Jeremy Corbyn to go. One of who was Angela Eagle, who not only supported the Iraq War, but also tried to block an Inquiry into the Iraq War. Can we imagine Angela Eagle, even less Hilary Benn, giving the speech Jeremy Corbyn gave?

The noise and abuse, which can be heard in the background as Jeremy Corbtn was addressing Parliament, was not coming from the Tory benches, it was coming from the Labour benches.

One of those shouting abuse was identified by ITN political editor Robert Peston as Labour MP Ian Austin – who can be heard shouting “sit down and shut up”, and “you’re a disgrace”.

The only disgrace was Ian Austin. Please sign the petition calling for him to be suspended from the Labour Party. His own local party should do the right thing, Vote of No Confidence and move that he be de-selected.

It is easy to see why the coup plotters were so keen to remove Jeremy Cobyn before the Chilcot Report was published. Jeremy Cobyn opposed the Iraq War, as did John McDonnell, which is more than they did. They were the war cheerleaders, their hands are as soaked in blood as that of Tony Blair.

Since the coop plotters outed themselves, Labour has seen a 100,000 increase in membership.

Tony Blair, Jack Straw, Alistair Campbell, should be put on trial at The Hague for war crimes. At the very least Tony Blair should be charged with Misconduct in Public Office.

Is there no dictator Blair will not act for, so long of course his palm is greased?

If the gassing of the Kurds had happened today, Blair would be doing the whitewash.

Intelligence was flawed. The executive wanted war, and the intelligence was tailored accordingly.

It was known, there were people in Iraq peddling dodgy intelligence for money or a visa to the west. It should have been verified, by satellite pictures, signal intelligence, via other sources.

When reliable, well placed sources said Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, those sources were ignored.

The weapons inspectors said there were no weapons. They were ignored.

We should not forget David Kelly, the man who was probably killed to silence him.

David Kelly was a weapons inspector. He was also a double agent working for the British. It was he who leaked to the BBC  that the Dodgy Dossier had been ‘enhanced’ at the behest of Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell.

Andrew Gilligan, the journalist at the centre of the ‘dodgy dossier’ row, writing in The Telegraph on evidence submitted to the Chilcot Inquiry:

What we now know is that, according to an MI6 officer working on the dossier, the 45-minute claim was “based in part on wishful thinking” and was not “fully validated”. Another MI6 officer said that “there were from the outset concerns” in the intelligence services about “the extent to which the intelligence could support some of the judgments that were being made”.

What we now know is that on September 17 and 18 2002, a week before the dossier was published, Alastair Campbell sent memos to its author, Sir John Scarlett, saying that he and Tony Blair were “worried” that on Saddam’s nuclear capability the dossier gave the (accurate) impression that “there’s nothing much to worry about”. On September 19, Campbell emailed Scarlett again, suggesting the insertion of a totally false claim that, in certain circumstances, Saddam could produce nuclear weapons in as little as a year. This fabrication duly appeared in the dossier.

What we now know is that in his September 17 memo, Campbell suggested 15 other changes to the text of the dossier. Most were accepted; their effect was to harden the document’s language from possibility to probability, or probability to certainty. Campbell lied to Parliament about the content of this memo, giving the Foreign Affairs Committee an altered copy which omitted his comments on the 45-minute claim and played down his interventions on most of the other issues.

And what we now know is that, contrary to his campaigning certainty at the time, Blair admits in his memoirs that he privately saw the case for war against Iraq as “finely balanced”. No wonder a little tipping of the scales was needed – or, as Blair also put it in his book, “politicians are obliged from time to time to conceal the full truth, to bend it and even distort it, where the interests of the bigger strategic goal demand that it be done”.

We knew nothing of this then. Indeed, in his evidence to the Hutton inquiry, Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, described the 45-minute claim, straight-faced, as “a piece of well-sourced intelligence”, two months after his own service had discredited it. Despite his key role as Dearlove’s military counterpart, General Laurie was never called to Hutton at all; his explosive statement, and that of the two MI6 people, emerged only in 2011, at the Chilcot inquiry.

I don’t blame you if you knew nothing of all this until now; most of it, by happy coincidence, came out only long after public attention had moved on, and the government could no longer be damaged.

But the government knew – and this is what makes its behaviour towards the BBC and David Kelly so incredible. He came forward to his bosses as my source under a promise that his identity would be kept secret, but was effectively given up to the world after Campbell, in his words, decided to “open a flank on the BBC” to distract attention from his difficulties over the dossier.

Yesterday, on Wato, liar Alistair Campbell said pressure had not been exerted, and put the blame on faulty intelligence, as did Tony Blair.

David Kelly was found dead in woods, his wrists slashed.

He had withstood the pressure in Iraq, confronting Iraqis. Was he likely to succumb to a couple of hours questioning by Commons Select Committee?

The summary by Peter Oborne demonstrates how damning the Chilcot Report is on Tony Blair.  Unlike many such reports, it does not pull its punches, and is not as many feared, an Establishment Whitewash.

War criminal Tony Blair, a liar, delusional, and seems to be possessed of a Messiah Complex.

Only last weekend, Blair was putting himself forward as the man to negotiate with the EU over Brexit.

Criticism of the Israeli government is not anti-Semitism

May 2, 2016
criticism of the Israeli government is not anti-Semitism

criticism of the Israeli government is not anti-Semitism

When Bernie Sanders attacked Israel and a video of that attack was posted on the internet, the person who posted was subjected to attack by Zionists and labelled anti-Semitic.

Another Angry Voice:

In April 2016 I was accused of having anti-Semitic views after posting a clip of the Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders talking about Israel.

This is the standard knee-jerk reaction of the Jewish lobby, scream anti-Semite and shut down discourse.

Bernie Sanders was not labelled anti-Semitic. Why, because he is a Jew. For Jews who dare criticise Israel there is a special term of abuse, self-hating Jew.

Another Angry Voice:

The sheer irony of getting accused of anti-Semitism by an Israel apologist for daring to share a clip of a Jewish man (Bernie Sanders) criticising Israel’s deadly bombardment of Gaza in 2014 is quite staggering.

When John Pilger produced an excellent documentary on the Israeli-Palestine conflict, he and his team were subjected to a torrent of abuse, coordinated from New York.

It is all par for the course, any criticism Israel is met with a a knee-jerk reaction.

It is therefore no surpise, the smears aimed at Ken Livingstone for daring to mention a historical fact, that Zionists discussed with Adolf Hitler shipping Jews to Palestine to take land that was not theirs.  In the event, the Final Solution proved more expedient.

Ken Livingstone stated simple historical fact, Hitler was in negotiations with Zionists to ship Jews to Israel.

Haavara Agreement: Hitler worked with Zionists to ship Jews to Palestine, to occupy land that was not theirs.

Nazi Palestine medal

Nazi Palestine medal

This was explored further, even  medals were issued.

The British were prepared to ship Jews to Africa.

Israel was created through terrorism, seizure of land that was not theirs.

Hysteria has been whipped up by embittered Blairites and the Jewish Lobby, who have found common course.

Last night, continuing the BBC bias, presenter of the awful Westminster Hour claimed Ken Livingstone had said Hitler was a Zionist. This followed by a LibDem and and Tory to continue the Ken Livingstone smears.

Of course no coincidence, Israel appointed a new Ambassador to London only a few days ago. An ambassador with a reputation as vile as Lynton Crosby advising Zac Goldsmith in London Mayoral elections.

The Arabian Nights

January 3, 2016
One Thousand and One Nights

One Thousand and One Nights

Your fortune lies in Cairo. Go seek it there.

A modern retelling of The Arabian Nights.

Ata Madri, an expert in Mediaeval Arabic and The Arabian Nights receives an e-mail with an attachment. When she opens the attachment, it alludes to The Arabian Nights.

She has a dream:

Your fortune lies in Cairo. Go seek it there.

She is led to a bookshop in Caro, where believes she will find a Medieval manuscript of The Arabian Nights containing a long lost tale.

A wonderful re-telling of The Arabian Nights, tales within tales.

The ending of this BBC Radio 4 dramatisation is remarkably similar to The Alchemist by Paul Coelho.

Rise of Isis

December 5, 2015


Across the Arab world, the Arab Spring filled the people with hope.

Those dreams have not been met, instead they were met by brutal repression.

The rise of Isis has been a response to that repression.

in Iraq, the country was destroyed by war criminals George W Bush and Tony Blair. Iran financed Shia death squads targeted Sunnis. Any person who had been a member of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party was summarily dismissed from their job, denied public-sector employment, and barred from accessing their pensions.

As with membership of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union Ba’ath Party membership was a requirement any state job, so the policy led to the mass dismissal of thousands of teachers, doctors, police, and low-ranking civil servants. By destroying the mechanics of the state in this way, the United States virtually guaranteed the collapse of the state — a catastrophic prospect for a society emerging from over two decades of sanctions and war.

Out of the marginalisation of Sunnis rose Isis. When you have nothing, you turn to violence

Abu Ghraib detention facility, which exploded into Western consciousness in 2003 following the release of photographs showing US military personnel torturing prisoners. In the wake of this scandal, many detainees were transferred out of Abu Ghraib to another prison, Camp Bucca. It was here that one detainee, later known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, came to establish a strong relationship with a coterie of former Ba’athist military officers who had spent time in Abu Ghraib.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the leader of Isis, and those same Ba’athist officers now serve as his closest deputies and advisers.

In Syria, seven years of drought forced people off the land and into the cities. Protest followed, repression followed protest. Out of the repression  rose Isis.

In his speech calling for bombs to be dropped on Syria, a speech that was low on substance and high on waffle, Hilary Benn spoke of idealistic young men going to fight Franco in Spain. In the same vein, idealised  young Muslims go to Syria to join Isis. They are self-radicalised. If they cannot join Isis they will carry out their terrorist attacks at home. Isis is recruiting in Muslim enclaves. Support for Isis is not restricted to a tiny minority.

In Syria there are competing groups, they hate Assad, hate Isis, hate each other and hate the West,

Assad has killed hundreds of thousands of his own people, millions have been displaced. Any call to accommodate Assad must be rejected. It would be a betrayal of Syrian people to reach any accommodation with him. It would also be to ignore he was the cause of the rise of Isis in Syria.

Isis offers a purity of revolution, pure in the sense of its fanaticism that it is to return to a pure form of Islam.

Isis controls significant territory, a de facto state that straddles Iraq and Syria, that is if state has any meaning, in what is essentially stateless region, populated by warring factions.

Taliban in Afghanistan rejected technology (unless it was a weapon) Isis on the other hand embraces technology,  makes extensive use of internet and social media. On the one hand, they may not wish to talk to the outside world, on the other hand that make extensive effort to communicate with the outside world.

Brutality spreads fear. When Isis took Mosul, the Iraqi Army melted away, leaving their weapons behind.

To its supporters Isis projects a Muslim Utopia. water flows, electricity flows, bread gets baked, grapes grow, the people are fed.

Isis functions as a state. A fighter, for example, is estimated to be paid around $300 to $400 per month, more than double that provided by the Iraqi army.

Isis controls core infrastructure, oil fields, electricity and water.

For an insurgency, Isis is wealthy. Oil revenue, taxes, extortion, people trafficking, kidnapping. It is self-funding and not reliant upon external funding from Gulf States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Hilary Benn talked of the International Brigade going off to fight Isis. That is the role fundamentalists see themselves in when they go off to fight with Isis.

Bombing in cloud cuckoo land

December 2, 2015
Less than half of voters back airstrikes on Syria

Less than half of voters back airstrikes on Syria

Today MPs debate whether or not to bomb Syria.

David Cameron has refused a two day debate, refused to grant his MPs a free vote, refused to apologise for his disgraceful remark last night that those who oppose bombing of Syria are sympathisers of terrorists.

Meanwhile public support is melting away as people wake up to the lies they are being told.

Speaking on Wato lunchtime today, a Tory MP claimed British air strikes would degrade Isis.


So what has over a month of Russian air strikes, over a year of American air strikes done?

David Cameron has a point, if forces in Iraq are threatened by Isis over the border, we should not let an arbitrary line deter us, but that is a different matter.

We are not re-enacting WWII, easily defined targets, airfields, command posts, railway lines, sidings, power stations, factories, where the enemy is seriously degraded.

The myth of forces on the ground has been exposed as just that, a  myth.

There are forces on the ground, many are as bad as Isis, if not worse. Their interest is holding on to their existing territory. They are  not going to take the fight to Isis, neither are the Kurds.

If there are forces on the ground, attacking Isis or under attack by Isis, call for air support, that is a different matter.

David Cameron says we are already under threat from Isis. Bombing will increase that threat. That is not an argument against effective action, any action would increase that threat, but effective action would reduce in the long term.

Opposition to bombing of Syria

December 1, 2015
#DontBombSyria John McDonnell

#DontBombSyria John McDonnell

I am opposed to the bombing and I know the argument has been brought forward that this will be very clinical, very precise, etc. but I’m concerned that any collateral damage will be used by ISIS as a recruitment tool to be frank and I think it will possibly endanger us even more. — John McDonnell MP

#DontBombSyria Jeremy Corbyn

#DontBombSyria Jeremy Corbyn

The media report that the conditions in the Labour Party resolution passed by Conference in September have been met as fact. In fact, it’s an awful lot more complicated than that. Reporters gloss over this, as if it’s a mere irrelevance, or a footnote at best. Today Jeremy answered that point in detail. Even on the first part of that resolution (the UN resolution), Cameron’s reassurances fell short:

Andrew Marr: Right, now I put myself through the brief piece of homework of reading the Labour Party resolution, which I think in party terms is the kind of foundation for everything that follows. And in that, you know, there was a call for a UN resolution, which has happened, there was a call for a better plan for refugees, which is being put together now, and there were various other calls for things, many of which the Prime Minister would say he has delivered. You set a high bar, he might say, Mr Corbyn, and I have got over that bar, and you’re still saying you’re against it. So you’re against this under all circumstances whatever the Prime Minister says. There’s nothing that he can pick up – if he could pick up a phone to you now and said, ‘ah, Mr Corbyn, I have got a new thing to say to you’, is there anything he could say to you that would change your mind?

Jeremy Corbyn: I’d obviously listen to what he has to say, because that’s the responsibility of every MP to do that. But the point is …

Andrew Marr: Of course, but if anything could change your mind –

Jeremy Corbyn: – the resolution talks about a UN resolution to be carried, indeed one was carried. This is not a UN-inspired attack, this is an attack on Isil groupings, whatever you want to call them, in Raqqa, which is actually a coalition between Britain, France and the USA. Other countries such as Australia and Canada have already withdrawn from this. This is not a UN–organised thing, this is not a Chapter 7 resolution which is mandatory on member states.

Andrew Marr: Because you see, you know, the Shadow Cabinet members who disagree with you have gone through those resolutions passed at conference and said by and large we think it’s been met, and that therefore the hurdles have been covered. But the trouble with Jeremy Corbyn is, in his heart he’s there on the streets with the Stop the War coalition and there’s nothing that can be said that’s going to change his mind.

Jeremy Corbyn: There’s nothing wrong with my heart, except wanting a peaceful world and wanting the best for my country.

Andrew Marr: It’s on the left, I suspect.

Jeremy Corbyn: Well, it’s a socialist heart as well, but let’s go back to the issue of how we deal with the problems of the region. Surely it is much better to pursue the political option which will eventually bring about a ceasefire, hopefully quickly, in the Syrian civil war. Hundreds of thousands of people have already died in the Syrian civil war. Millions have been driven into exile. This is a crisis of unimaginable proportions for the whole region, and it’s now affecting Europe more and more. Surely it’s the political process that’s the key thing. This is in effect a distraction from the political process.

Don’t Bomb Syria

November 29, 2015
#DontBombSyria twitterstorm 1800 GMT Sunday 29 November 2015

#DontBombSyria twitterstorm 1800 GMT Sunday 29 November 2015

Bombing will not rid the world of Isis. It will increase the threat of terrorism, as did bombing Iraq, which led to a doubling of MI5 budget. It will kill civilians, which will lead to more joining Isis as they seek revenge.

We appear to have leant nothing from the bombing of Iraq and Libya. Both countries have been destroyed. Both countries are now training grounds for terrorists.  We have triggered a wave of migrants into Europe, the like of which we have never seen. Terrorists are using this migrant flow to enter Europe.

We have home-grown terrorists, supporters of Isis are not a tiny minority within Muslim enclaves. In the slums of Brussels, from which two of the Paris terrorists came, there is active recruiting for Isis.

We bombed Iraq on a lie. We bombed Libya with very little critical analysis in Parliament.  Why is there a rush to make the same mistakes?

Disagreements within the Parliamentary Party, on foreign policy, on military issues are nothing new. I remember when 139 Labour MPs broke the whip after Tony Blair, with no consultation with Labour Party members, with no consultation with Labour MPs, ordered Labour MPs to vote for the disastrous and illegal war in Iraq…Many of the people attacking Jeremy Corbyn got it gravely wrong on Iraq…Jeremy Corbyn got it correct…and I do believe if we ask ourselves the question of whether or not the UK bombing in Syria is in the interests of the Syrian people, in the interests of the wider region and in the interests of British security, I think Jeremy Corbyn’s got it correct again.

The onus is on those who wish to rain bombs down on Syria, to show what is different this time, how will it remove Isis?

Isis has already change tactic. They are no longer driving around in convoys.

What of the civilians?

No coherent strategy has been put forward by David Cameron.

Avenging the atrocities in Paris by dropping bombs, is not a strategy.

Russia has been bombing Isis for over a month. It has made not an iota of difference.

US has been bombing Isis for at least a year. During this period, Isis has been able to expand the territory they hold.

The forces on the ground Cameron alludes to, do not exist.

Kurds are the only effective fighting force. They are only interested in defending Kurdistan, not liberating Syria

The men the Americans trained, can be counted on one hand, what is left of them.

Money and weapons from from Turkey and Saudi Arabia has to be cut off.

Cutting off money is a necessary but not sufficient condition. Isis is self-funding. Taxes, sale of slaves, money from people trafficking, sale of oil.

Turkey is buying oil from Isis.

But ultimately, there would have to be ground troops, if we wish to defeat Isis, and an occupation of ten years or more, to re-build the country.

Jeremy Corbyn has raised serious questions. For doing so, attacked by his own MPs.

What is sickening are the Labour MPs who will vote for war to stab Jeremy Corbyn in the back. . They will vote for bombing, the killing of civilians, increase risk of terrorism, purely out of their hatred of Jeremy Corbyn.

We must force vote of No Confidence on the MPs, and have them de-selected. They are a disgrace.

There must be a free vote. MPs cannot be told by Party to vote on a matter of war.

Jeremy Corbyn must grant a free vote, and call upon other parties to do likewise.

Yesterday saw demonstrations and marches across the UK opposing the bombing of Syria.

This evening at 1800 GMT Sunday 29 November 2015 a twitterstorm. Please use the hashtag #DontBombSyria with a personal message explaining why you are against the bombing of Syria.

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