Thursday, December 08, 2011

Iraq and Syria

Bi Mingxin (Xinhua) reports, "Arab League (AL) chief Nabil al- Arabi arrived in Baghdad on an official visit to hold talks with Iraqi leaders over sanctions against Syria, an official at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said Thursday." He's already met with Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. While the media is placing the emphasis of the meeting on a potential March Arab summit, that's a smokescreen. Regardless of whether the summit takes place in March (it was repeatedly postponed in 2010), the reality is that al-Arabi is visiting due to concern over Iraq's position regarding Syria. Dar Addustour notes al-Arabi is also scheduled to meet with President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi today while in Iraq. In addition, Al Sabaah adds that he's supposed to meet with unnamed Iraqi officials.

Sabrina M. Peterson (International Affairs Review) explores the decision of the Iraqi government to stand with the Syrian government:

Today, while other Arab states have condemned Syria and called for the regime to step down, Iraq has demonstrated its support. Iraq has not called for Assad to relinquish power, but instead has advocated gradual reform. The Maliki government has made moves to strengthen its economic ties with Syria since before the violence broke out this year and has been strengthening those ties since. This past summer, Iraq hosted a tour of Syria’s top government and business leaders, a visit that led to a new pact to increase bilateral trade. Iraq is now Syria’s biggest trading partner.

The Iraqi government also supports Syria because it fears that if the Assad regime collapses, violence could spill over into Iraq and cause further instability. Sectarianism is another important reason: Maliki is a Shia Muslim who spent years in exile in Syria before returning to post-Saddam Iraq. Quite probably Maliki feels a sectarian affinity for Assad, a member of the Alawite sect of Shia Islam. Maliki and the Assad family both share a common fear of Sunni-led insurgencies.

Meanwhile things get snippy at the Guardian where little Fares Chamseddine (Guardian) huffs, "Barbara Walters might think she has landed another scoop by interviewing Syria's beleaguered president, but Bashar al-Assad is desperate for the attention. With its usual, dreadful regularity, the regime's PR machine is once again in action." Actually, Chamsey, Walters did land a scoop.

If she hadn't, you wouldn't be writing about it.

Regardless of your opinion of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Barbara Walters did get a major scoop and deserves tremendous applause.

AP's covering it, the Globe and Mail's covering it, the Washington Post's covering it, CBC's covering it, CNN's covering it, the Sydney Morning Herald's covering it, the Los Angles Times' Alexandra Zavis' is covering it and NOW Lebanon's covering it, and we could go on and on. Barbara Walters did get a scoop. That interview is a major news event.

If you missed it, click here for video and transcript. Good for Barbara Walters, her interview deserves wide attention.

The following community sites -- plus the Bat Segundo Show,, Adam Kokesh and Cindy Sheehan -- updated last night and this morning:

We'll close with this from the Feminist Majority Foundation:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Francesca Tarant, 703.522.2214,
Annie Shields, 310.556.2500,

Feminist Majority Foundation Applauds FBI Advisory Board's Decision to Change Definition of Rape
Change follows grassroots activism in "Rape is Rape" campaign

Late yesterday afternoon, the FBI Criminal Justice Advisory Board voted unanimously to update the archaic definition of rape in the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

"It's a great victory," said Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority Foundation. "This new definition will mean that, at long last, we will begin to see the full scope of this horrific violence, and that understanding will carry through to increased attention and resources for prevention and action."

Following a massive grassroots feminist activism campaign, Senate hearings, and many meetings with various levels of the FBI, as well as over 160,000 emails to the Department of Justice and FBI, the FBI's Criminal Justice Advisory Policy Board voted this afternoon in Albuquerque, NM, to recommend that the FBI update its 82-year-old definition of "forcible rape" in the Uniform Crime Report. The recommendation will go to FBI Director Robert Mueller, who is expected to adopt the proposal. "This will represent a major policy change and one that will dramatically impact the way rape is tracked and reported nationwide," said Kim Gandy, Vice President and General Counsel of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "It is a great day for women and law enforcement because the police can more accurately know what is going on as far as the crime of rape in their communities," observed Margaret Moore, Director of the National Center for Women and Policing of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

The "Rape is Rape" campaign, launched by the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. magazine, went viral on the petition website, generating tens of thousands emails to the FBI and the Department of Justice urging this change. The update to the definition comes after years of urging by feminist organizations, spearheaded for more than a decade by the Pennsylvania-based Women's Law Project. "Ultimately, accurate data is a fundamental starting point to improving police response to sex crimes and improved practice should led to increased victim confidence in police and reporting," said Carol E. Tracy, Executive Director of the Women's Law Project.

The current definition, adopted 82 years ago, has been extensively criticized for leading to widespread underreporting of rape. Defined as "the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will," it excludes rapes involving forced anal sex and/or oral sex, vaginal or anal fisting, rape with an object (even if serious injuries result), rapes of men, and was interpreted by some to exclude rapes where the victim was incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, or otherwise unable to give consent.

Yesterday's unanimous vote recommends a new, more inclusive definition of rape in the UCR: "Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina, or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim."

The Obama Administration, led by Vice President Joe Biden, who has long been a leader in the fight to end violence against women, actively supported the change. Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, pursued it vigorously, as did Hon. Susan B. Carbon, director of the Office on Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice, who also sought this historic change and participated in every hearing to advocate for a new definition.

Available for interview on the change in definition, its significance and the campaign leading up to it are Feminist Majority Foundation President/Ms. Magazine publisher Eleanor Smeal, FMF Vice President and General Counsel Kim Gandy, Executive Editor of Ms. Katherine Spillar, Women's Law Project Executive Director Carol E. Tracy and Margaret Moore, director of the National Center for Women and Policing.

For more information about the campaign, visit or


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