In an e-interview with the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat, Qari Mohammed Yusuf Ahmadi, the Taliban spokesman, said the movement has control over three quarters of Afghanistan and rules Kabul at night, adding that Nato allies would vouch for that. "Our fighters number 24 million; in other words, all the Afghan people except those few thousands who work for the collaborationist government and the occupation forces," Mr Ahmadi said, denying US reports of peace talks having taken place between the Taliban and the Karzai government abroad, namely in the Maldives.
Asked about the Nato raids targeting civilians, the Taliban spokesman said most of Nato attacks are "deliberately" aimed at civilians in a bid to break the bond between the civilians and the jihadists. "Civilians were the ones to incur the most losses in the war; they've lost their lives, property, goods, homes and crops," he said. "The US has gone bankrupt in Afghanistan and is now seeking an exit scenario. Of course it needs a hook to peg its failure on," he added, answering a question about Washington's allegations that Iran provides the Taliban with training and explosive-making tips. On the question of Taliban's funding, Mr Ahmadi said: "Not only the people of the Gulf, but compassionate people around the Islamic world help us. "
"Israel's importance was greater when there was conflict between the US and Soviet blocs, while this year there has been a decrease in Israel's importance. It is possible to see that during the last few years there has been less cooperation in the political arena between Israel and the US." This is not a paragraph from an Arab analyst's report, wrote Saad Mehio, a columnist with the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej. "This is a speech delivered by Meir Dagan, the chief of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, before the foreign affairs and security committee in the Knesset last Tuesday."
This report may be the most serious on US-Israeli relations since the Suez War in 1956, when the US took over the French-British imperial legacy in the Middle East. Now, the conclusion that can be drawn from Mr Dagan's speech is: with economic crises compounding overstretched military resources, the US's ability to handle regional conflicts is on the decline. And that inevitably affects the status of Israel.
"The relative weakening of the US immediately leads to Israel's loss of its standing as Washington's strategic treasure in the region." The way the two allies have diverged over how to cope with Iran's nuclear programme explains Israel's "hysterical behaviour" since Barack Obama came into office.
Conflicting reports are coming in from Cairo regarding the National Front for Change that was founded by the former IAEA chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, in his home country Egypt, wrote Mansour al Jamri, the editor-in-chief of the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat. Some say the new political body has merely been "a castle of sand that fell apart" without carrying through any item on its agenda as a number of its major figures have backed out. News agencies, on the other hand, reported just two days ago that thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members have gathered around the prospective candidate for the 2011 presidential elections during a campaign for his democratic reform programme.
"The Muslim Brotherhood's tie-up with Mr ElBaradei - should it last - would be the most critical turning point in this march for 'change' that he is trying to instigate in the most important Arab country." The Muslim Brotherhood have always been linked to major transformations in Egypt. They have been active enough to be banned from the local political scene on more than one occasion. Mr ElBaradei said on Friday: "We second the Muslim Brotherhood's call for the abolition of the state of emergency and the invalidation of laws restricting freedom." That's quite an alliance in the making.
"When the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was ready to consider alleviating the sea embargo on Gaza, he was basically starting to capitulate to various forms of pressure - some of it from the US, which opposes the way the blockade is currently enforced, and some from Turkey following the Israeli commandos' aggression against the Freedom Flotilla last week," commented Mazen Hammad in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.
During his recent meeting with the Quartet envoy, Tony Blair, Mr Netanyahu laid out the new Israeli position, one that is open to collaboration with international parties in carrying out an easing of blockade measures and revisiting the policy of the closures of land crossings. "So, while it still maintains that the Gaza blockade was originally meant to stop arm shipments going to Hamas, Israel is now prepared to let the international community play a role in the supervision, inspection and escort of Gaza-bound cargos."
Turkey's role was pivotal in this development. Ankara has formally announced conditions for the normalisation of relations with Israel, and breaking the siege on Gaza was one of them. "Indeed, Ankara's role now exceeds by far that of any Arab state." * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi firstname.lastname@example.org