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French & US Embassy in Damascus attacked 11, July 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Syria.
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Reports are emerging that pro-Assad protestors have been attacking the US and French Embassies in Damascus, Syria.

Guards at the French Embassy apparently had to shoot into the air to drive back the crowds.

I cannot see how the US Embassy in Damascus could possibly have been ‘stormed’ as some of the more incorrigible reports have been claiming. Countless security assessments would have been carried out in recent weeks on this exact topic and it’s not like the US don’t have a rather bitter recent-ish memory of such incidents. Moreover, from what I remember, the US Embassy in Damascus is a fortress in a cage: it would take a lot more than some protestors to break it, methinks.

Still, attacking the Embassy and damaging it in some way, shape or form will likely have serious repercussions for Assad, despite the fact that he will surely claim it as a spontaneous reaction of loyal Syrians.


Reuters notes that the attackers have now left the Embassy complex. In other words, they perhaps got through the outermost layer of security. I’d venture to guess that they stood no chance of getting through any more layers. Apparently, the Syrian police response was “slow and insufficient’. Shocking.

US London Embassy to cost $1bn 24, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations.
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Plans have finally been announced for America’s new embassy in South West London in an area currently famous for an old coal-fired power station and for its gay clubs. The huge new project is expected to be the most expensive Embassy ever constructed, surpassing even the new behemoth Embassy in Iraq at around $1billion. As the picture illustrates, the Embassy will be surrounded by a moat for extra protection.

The desire to leave its current plush location in Mayfair comes after local residents bitterly complained that new security measures since 9/11 made their houses and properties more vulnerable.

I make two quick predictions. Firstly, that the costs will sail majestically over the $1billion mark. Secondly, that the moat will become something of a magnet for anti-US/capitalism/Iraq/Afghanistan/Bush/Monsanto/Walmart/McDonalds hippies that currently picket Grosvenor Square. At least this way they’ll get a wash.

Kuwait’s labour problems and the US Embassy in Iraq 25, October 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Kuwait.
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One of the Foreign Policy blogs and now The Times of London have picked up on a story about the shoddy workmanship of a Kuwaiti firm hired to build parts of the behemoth US Embassy in Baghdad. Both articles lament that the poor construction means that the work will essentially have to be done again at great expense.

The $130 million repair bill is, for me, of little interest being from the UK where all projects run over budget and need large repair bills after the fact. Instead, the Foreign Policy blog – The Cable – discusses some of the working practices employed by the Kuwaiti firm in undertaking this project. It quotes the former American foreman of the project, John Owens, who quit the project after witnessing exactly what doing manual work for a Kuwaiti firm entails: i.e. “sub-human living conditions” and the workers having their passports taken away. “I’ve never seen a project more fucked up,” is how he eloquently sums it up.

There should be no surprise about this at all. There is a good reason that Kuwait is on the third and worst tier in the America ranking of human trafficking violators.* What this highlights, to me at least, is that if a Kuwaiti firm that gets such a prime, lucrative, important and prestigious contract as building America’s largest ever Embassy in such a critical location, and yet they still employ disgusting tactics of near-slave labor standards, what on earth does this say about the rest of the workers back in Kuwait? For those working out in Jahra, the ‘slummy’ bit of Kuwait, building a nondescript block of flats with no international intrigue or renown, how are their conditions?

* Don’t be fooled by Kuwait’s apparent improvement under Bush’s premiership: that was done as a political gesture and did not reflect any changes on the ground whatsoever. See the 2004 report where Kuwait and Saudi Arabia(!) were moved up to tier 2 (and not even the tier 2 watch list) in a truly appalling example of political interference and naked self-interest.

Christofacism? 27, February 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random, Western-Muslim Relations.
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Juan Cole, President of the Global Americana Institute, made a brief but excellent point last Friday. He was commenting on the attack on the American Embassy in Belgrade by angry (Christian) Serbians and compared this act of violence to similar situations but involving Muslims. He quotes the neoconservative argument that “there was something deeply wrong with Muslims for protesting when they were kicked or expelled, saying that look, the Serbs have been harmed by US policies but they don’t go around attacking US embassies. ” As Cole succinctly puts it, “I guess they’ll have to find a new argument.” He goes on to sagely ask whether Fox news and the Republican Party will now start vociferously complaining about “Christofascism” – I some how doubt they will.