After the Socialist upset in the Spanish elections, which can only be interpreted as a terrorist victory, a bit of pessimism about the course of Civilization seemed warranted. The incoming Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, immediately announced his intention to pull all 1,300 Spanish troops out of Iraq, an act of appeasement that greatly increases the likelihood of more terrorist attacks before elections — and doesn’t necessarily make Spain any safer. As comedian-reporter Stephen Colbert put it on The Daily Show Monday night, there’s one more country that al Qaeda would like the Spanish to withdraw from: Spain.
Still, all is not well for the forces of evil.
In Syria, Kurds began rioting Friday in Qamishli, near the Turkish border, after a soccer game between Arab and Kurdish teams turned violent. Demonstrations, often met with gunfire by Bashar Assad’s thugs, spread to several cities in Syrian Kurdistan throughout the weekend — you can see pictures here — and some Kurdish militias in Northern Iraq favored sending forces to support their fellow Kurds. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, an American delegation, including intelligence officers, traveled in secret from Iraq to Qamishli to assist in negotiations with local leaders, though the latest reports suggest that the violence tapered off in the Ba’athist manner, with thousands of Kurdish men rounded up and arrested. Civil unrest among the Kurds is not by itself a fatal problem for the regime, but Bashar Assad must be at least a little nervous.
Meanwhile in Iran, in the Northern city of Fereydoon-Kenar, riots erupted this weekend, and apparently continued for at least three days, over a parliamentary election in which reformist ballots were nullified; the home of the regime’s local Friday sermon preacher was defaced, and Meghdad Najaf-Nejad, the hardliner who won the rigged election, has resigned. Dissident Iranian websites (like this one) report that demonstrations spread to neighboring cities, and that the celebration of Chaharashanbeh Suri, the Persian fire festival (non-religious, though of Zoroastrian origin) which the mullahs don’t approve of and in the past have tried to stop (though they grudgingly allowed celebration in designated areas this year), has become an occasion for pro-democracy protests and clashes with police. This isn’t the first time the dissidents have proclaimed demonstrations as the beginning of the end for the Islamic Republic, but it’s not unreasonable to suppose that one of these days the world’s biggest supporters of Islamist terror really might fall. If they do, the Spanish election might not seem quite so calamitous, in context.
Unless you read blogs regularly, you probably haven’t heard much about the above. The biases of the media mitigate against good reporting of the full picture in the Middle East. Reporters prefer bad news — if it bleeds, it leads, goes the saying — so it’s no surprise that, up until yesterday’s car bombing at the Mount Lebanon Hotel, reports out of Iraq had gotten scarcer as news (like this poll showing optimism among Iraqis) had gotten better. More sinisterly, foreign correspondents may sanitize their reports from totalitarian countries to appease their hosts, as producer Eason Jordan admitted that CNN did in Iraq. Consider this Reuters report on the Chaharshanbeh Suri, which entirely whitewashes the violence that accompanied the celebration.
The fourth estate might be a bit embarrassed when a terror state falls and, from their reporting, it seems to come out of the blue. Of course, their complicity with totalitarian governments’ attempts to control the flow of information does make such a surprise somewhat less likely.
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