Category: Middle East

Master of the Jinn


prologue Man is a witness unto his deeds. —The Qur’an, LXXV: 14 In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. I, ishaq, named the scribe, am commanded by my Master to set forth the tale of the journey, from which, by the Mercy of God, I alone of my companions have returned. Ali and Rami are no more. I saw them enter the fire. And Jasus also, that diviner of hearts, leaped into the flames. What became of the Hebrew sage and his daughter, or of the great Captain, I do not know. They would not leave when I bid them go.

But of this I am certain: The demon waits there still. Baalzeboul—Lord of the Jinn.

We show them the signs, on the horizons and in themselves. —The Qur’an, XLI: 53

At the first light of dawn over the middle desert, the black scarab-beetles come out of the sand and scurry up the face of the dunes to pray. Standing in line after endless line along ridge and crest, they face the rising sun and bow, as if in the prostration of obeisance; lifting their hindquarters to the warmth, gathering the morning dew of the cool desert night into droplets of water that role down the hard shell into the waiting mouth.

I wept at the sight of them. My last tears.

Here is a living mirror of the Merciful, I thought, prayer that is answered each morning with the sustenance of life.Would that my own heart reflected such devotion, that such unguarded surety filled my own breast instead of this wary beat that is man’s lot; this accursed confluence of doubt and desire. Even wonders beyond measure devolve into worldly reason as the mind seeks desperately its own level, its diminishing order.

Rightly did the Master command these words. Well he knew both my doubt and my desire. Even at the beginning, on that day now long ago, each was evident to that unclouded eye.

I had walked all night again without water, bearing west and north across the erg, the great sand sea of the Tenere, hoping to cut the road that led to Agadez. My strength was nearly spent. Three hours before first light I fell exhausted beside the slipface of a small, crescent-shaped dune, half-digging into the barchan to find what warmth I could against the desert night.

The wind had eased and I could see the stars in the moonless sky. Strangely I felt no fear, though I knew I could not live another day. My mind was calm and clear and distant as the stars. The desperation and sorrow that had overwhelmed me was nearly spent, ebbed away with my body’s moisture, lost in the days and nights of my wandering. I could not explain it. Perhaps I had been given some small measure of sakina, that tranquility of heart that comes only with submission to the will of Allah, or perhaps I was mad, delirious from sun and thirst, but as my eyes closed I feared neither snake nor scorpion, nor any wild beast, nor death. Empty and dreamless, I drifted without thought or knowledge into dawn.

When the light woke me I thought for a moment that I was still dreaming. My dulled consciousness could barely comprehend the beetles suddenly rising by the thousands around me, swarming like huge black spots before my startled eyes. I had never seen the like of them, and my first thought was that they had come to devour me. I quickly pulled myself out of the sand and crawled away, but to my surprise they regarded me not at all, hurrying up the dunes to form their lines toward the sun, called by that most ancient of muezzins to prayer.

Tears welled in my eyes as I saw the first droplets of water roll down their carapaces in answer, and so I struggled my own aching shell to kneel toward the dawn, and touched my own forehead to the sand.

The Tuaregs came upon me then, even as I invoked the All Merciful; advancing toward me in answer no less swift than to my insect brothers. Like spectres they came, riding slowly, suspicion narrowing their eyes above veiled faces; uncertain whether they had come upon a madman in the sand or a demon.

They had been following the old salt trail West, guided by the star they call Hajuj, and surely had never found any more unlikely game on a morning’s hunt. I shook my head when they made warding signs at me, but remained silent when they spoke. I could only understand a few words of Tamashek, their language, though I also wore a blue gandura robe, and so not knowing what to make of me they led me to their caravan’s encampment.

There I was given water from a leather flask as we waited for their modougou, their caravan boss, to return. And I thanked the Almighty with every sip, and with every breath I praised Him for my deliverance. Slowly I felt a little better. After some time, the modougou rode in. He wore a long broadsword in a red scabbard and a black turban wrapped to veil all but his eyes; yet by his eyes I knew him. It was Afarnou.

We have met before, Afarnou and I.

“Pah!” he exclaimed, without dismounting. “I had given you all up for dead by now. Where are the others?”

He spoke French well and Arabic badly, but when I did not answer to either he dismounted and looked at me more closely. What he saw I could only guess, for he then explained slowly, as if to one gone simple-minded, that his camels were heavily laden with cones of salt from the mines at Tisemt and bound for Damergu in Niger to be exchanged for millet. Yet he would grudgingly spare one man and two camels to bring me to his father, the Amenukal of the noble people.

A camel litter was prepared and, without farewell, my guide and I crossed the Tenere. In two days we were in Agadez, and here I am still, tended by the Amenukal’s wife and an elderly woman servant in a small room of their modest home.

The Amenukal, I have learned, wields authority over three tribes of the Kel Ahaggar in a loose federation, and is also the amrar, the ‘Drum Chief ’ of his own tribe. What better symbol of a chief ’s authority among the once war-like Tuareg. But that was long ago. The long years of French occupation had changed nearly everything of the old ways.

In courtesy, the Amenukal wears his small kingdom as if it were a robe of honor. He is an old man of impeccable hospitality and courtly manners, who carries himself with such quiet dignity that it ennobles the household.

He stood by my bedside and considered me gravely, but asked no questions at my condition, taking the note I had written without comment. Perhaps I am not the first fool to be found wandering in the desert, or perhaps he expects some reward, but he is a kind and generous host nonetheless, following the Arab admonition, “Do good, and do not speak of it, and assuredly thy kindness will be recompensed thee.”

The two women, however, sit each day by the door outside my room, their whispers full of concern and uncertainty, wondering if I have been struck dumb by hardship and desert sun, or sorcery;

whether I am addled or cursed.

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Well might they wonder.

Now my pens are before me, and white paper and ink. The body is restored, yet the silence continues. I have not spoken since fleeing into the desert; mute to all now save the scribe’s trust. Useless are any words but the full telling of the tale. Allah grant me clear memory.


 Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran


Global, August 5, 2005

Title: “Halliburton Secretly Doing Business With Key Member of Iran’s Nuclear Team”

Author: Jason Leopold

Faculty Evaluator: Catherine Nelson

Student Researchers: Kristine Medeiros and Pla Herr


According to journalist Jason Leopold, sources at former Cheney company Halliburton allege that, as recently as January of 2005, Halliburton sold key components for a nuclear reactor to an Iranian oil development company. Leopold says his Halliburton sources have intimate knowledge of the business dealings of both Halliburton and Oriental Oil Kish, one of Iran’s largest private oil companies.


Additionally, throughout 2004 and 2005, Halliburton worked closely with Cyrus Nasseri, the vice chairman of the board of directors of Iran-based Oriental Oil Kish, to develop oil projects in Iran. Nasseri is also a key member of Iran’s nuclear development team. Nasseri was interrogated by Iranian authorities in late July 2005 for allegedly providing Halliburton with Iran’s nuclear secrets. Iranian government officials charged Nasseri with accepting as much as $1 million in bribes from Halliburton for this information.

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by Noam Chomsky
February 23, 2004


It is a virtual reflex for governments to plead security concerns when they undertake any controversial action, often as a pretext for something else. Careful scrutiny is always in order. Israel’s so-called security fence, which is the subject of hearings starting today at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, is a case in point.

Few would question Israel’s right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks like the one yesterday, even to build a security wall if that were an appropriate means. It is also clear where such a wall would be built if security were the guiding concern: inside Israel, within the internationally recognized border, the Green Line established after the 1948-49 war. The wall could then be as forbidding as the authorities chose: patrolled by the army on both sides, heavily mined, impenetrable. Such a wall would maximize security, and there would be no international protest or violation of international law.

This observation is well understood. While Britain supports America’s opposition to The Hague hearings, its foreign minister, Jack Straw, has written that the wall is “unlawful.” Another ministry official, who inspected the “security fence,” said it should be on the Green Line or “indeed on the Israeli side of the line.” A British parliamentary investigative commission also called for the wall to be built on Israeli land, condemning the barrier as part of a “deliberate” Israeli “strategy of bringing the population to heel.” Continue reading

Iran’s Saudi Counterweight

Iran’s Saudi CounterweightDespite a recent summit meeting, tensions are brewing between the two regional powers. (AP/Saudi Press Agency)

March 15, 2007

Prepared by:

Lionel Beehner

Iran is not the only ascendant power in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, its regional rival, has also seen its fortunes rise. Thanks to high oil prices, the country’s gross domestic product has doubled to $350 billion over the past four years. Saudi leaders also face easing pressures from Washington on democracy promotion, due to the Bush administration’s troubles democratizing Iraq, not to mention elections in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories that brought Islamist parties to power. Emboldened, the House of Saud has taken “on the long-abandoned mantle of Arab leadership,” argues the Economist, particularly on issues like the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Sunni Arab fears of a rising Shiite Iran have only strengthened Saudi Arabia’s position. It has also helped lessen the tension Saudis feel toward Israel. With Iran now the “evil empire,” writes Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “Israel almost stops being an enemy and perhaps becomes an ally.” On Lebanon, the Saudis have angled for position to ensure that Iranian-backed Hezbollah does not oust Fouad Siniora’s government in Beirut. And on the Palestinian issue, Riyadh has spearheaded a new power sharing arrangement that draws new borders (to reflect pre-1967 realities) and addresses the Palestinian refugee situation. The peace proposal will get hashed out at the Arab League summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia, on March 28. Continue reading