Absurd Mideast News, 6/26/11

I’m a big fan of using Google Alerts to get my news on the Middle East, because it scours a huge array of media outlets and sorts (by no obvious algorithm) them into a short list of important stories. One downside is that it picks up a lot of propaganda pieces–my Iran alert, for instance, is usually 50% stories from the very state-run Fars News Agency. The upside of this is getting exposed to some pretty absurd news, like the claim I recently mentioned by Iran to have powerful missiles that could target aircraft flying in space. Anyway, here are a few of the more ridiculous stories:

CNN, “Hezbollah Leader Alleges CIA Infiltration

Was Nasrallah right on this one? Were some of his organization’s members really working for the CIA? I have no idea. Still, there’s something a bit rich about the leader of an organization that at times is like a proxy of Iranian and Syrian intelligence services to complain that members of his organization are spies. Two of your members are CIA? Two hundred are probably IRGC. The comedy, though, is here:

“When Israel failed to infiltrate Hezbollah, it asked the help of the CIA,” Nasrallah said, according to NNA.

That’s just ridiculous. Mossad has a very well-known ability to penetrate even the most sensitive circles of the Arab world. Recall, for instance, the story of Eli Cohen, who was the Syrian Defense Minister’s top adviser. It’s my understanding that Mossad’s HUMINT (human intelligence) capability is superior to the CIA’s by a long shot, and that this is a key reason the two organizations are (at times) so close. The notion, then, that Israel couldn’t infiltrate Hezbollah, and that it would use the CIA as its next-best option, is comical.

Earlier in the week, there was a kerfuffle about Saudi Arabian Airlines joining the Star Alliance, of which Delta is a member. According to rumor, by which I mean the Huffington Post, SAA has a policy of not allowing Jews on its aircraft. While Saudi Arabia is hardly the Philosemitic Kingdom, and indeed has had antisemitism crop up in their visa sections before, the policy simply doesn’t exist, and Jewish travelers have from time to time been able to visit Saudi Arabia, let alone fly on its airplanes. The rumor is a throwback to the 1950s, when the just-established United States Military Training Mission (USMTM) was reportedly instructed to not send Jewish personnel, at the request of the Saudis. Anyway, in typical Huffpo style, the next day’s article talking about how this nasty rumor had been going around made no mention of the fact that it had started the day before on that same website. Bravo!

There was also the bizarre decision by the US and the International Energy Agency to release a combined 90 million barrels of oil from their reserves into the market in an apparent bid to lower gas prices. The US alone would breeze through that much oil in four and a half days; the world consumes that much in around 26 hours. It’s not clear exactly what was intended with this release, as it is a drop in a bucket. Crude prices fell by about 4 bucks, but they’ll go back up as the release ends (the strategic reserves take time to pump that much oil out). The decision spits in the eye of the Saudis, who defied OPEC and unilaterally increased their production two weeks ago.

The old head of Egypt’s Bank of Alexandria apparently didn’t hear the firestorm over Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and did pretty much exactly the same thing, with pretty much exactly the same result.

The piece de resistance of this wild week, however, was an international anti-terrorist convention hosted by Iran. The Islamic Republic’s batty (and battered) President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad predictably blamed terrorism on the West and Israel. (One can hope he at least stepped out of the room before calling the IRGC to order another shipment of arms to Hamas.) The conference also featured appearances by Sudan’s bloodthirsty Omar al Bashir and a delegation from Pakistan. One must wonder whether bin Laden himself would have appeared, had he not been killed!

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