Seeking hosting solution

OK. This has gotten out of hand. I’m hoping some of you dear readers can point me in the right direction. I’m on Yahoo’s Small Business plan for hosting this blog and it’s less than optimal. It’s slow, and I often can’t get into the blog because of 500 Internal Server Error messages, preventing me from combating comment spam or rebuilding individual archives.
So if anyone can recommend a good host provider, who can make the transfer of files to their servers easy, I’d be most grateful. The provider should understand and support Moveable Type blogs installations and it would be ideal if it supports dynamic publishing. (You bloggy types know what I’m talking about.)
Please drop me a line or leave a comment if you have any ideas on hosting.
The Management

Escape from Iraq

A story I wrote appeared Monday in the Newark Star-Ledger, a great smaller paper that cares about foreign news. The story dealt with the plight of the Iraqi refugees in Jordan.

Lives suspended by war
AMMAN, Jordan — Rana crosses her legs on the threadbare carpet in her living room in this poor Palestinian section of town and watches as her three children light a candle. The kids are having a pretend birthday party without a cake or presents, but their faces are painted a magnificent shade of gold by the candlelight.

Across town, Hasa and his family sit in their richly-appointed apartment, with all the modern conveniences and bedrooms for everyone. The kitchen is especially bright and clean.

Rana and Hasa live in separate worlds, but have much in common.

Both families are Iraqi refugees facing an uncertain future in a foreign country. Both want to return to their shattered country. And both agreed to be interviewed and photographed for this story only if their real names would not be used because they fear deportation from Jordan and retribution in Iraq.
Driven from their homes by violence and threats of death, Rana and Hasa also provide rare portraits of the refugee life facing many Iraqis. The two families are among the 750,000 Iraqi refugees estimated to be living in Jordan, a country about the size of Pennsylvania and choking on the staggering burden of its new population. (The Iraqis account for about 15 percent of the people living in Jordan.)

Rana’s family is struggling to fit in and faces discrimination from other Iraqis, Jordanians and Palestinians. Jordanians, Rana says, complain to her that “you’re not wearing a hijab, you’re wearing tight jeans, you’re leaving the house.” Palestinians, meanwhile, say, “You killed Saddam.”
Hasa’s family, while well off, faces difficult circumstances as well. From their plush perch overlooking the local mosque, they made a comfortable life here after arriving in 2003.

Things have changed, though.

Hasa now complains government regulations make it impossible for him to run his businesses here or in Iraq, and his life savings is being bled dry.
At the same time, he rages at the U.S. government.

“We are in such a state that we who welcomed America now hate it, and hate the people as much as we hate the politics,” he says. “This isn’t the freedom we expected. This isn’t what we wanted.”

Two families in a country where they don’t want to be.

Two families in a country that really doesn’t want them.

“Please read the whole thing”: It should be noted that two days after the story appeared, the UNHCR raised the number of Iraqis who are displaced or refugees to 4.4 million — almost twice the numbers that were available to me at the time of my reporting. That’s 16 percent of the entire Iraqi population, making it the largest human catastrophe to hit the Middle East in recorded history. It dwarfs the Palestinian displacements in 1948 and 1967. If something isn’t done about this, it will further destabilize an already volatile region.

By the way, can someone recommend a good server host? Yahoo! is terrible and I keep getting 500 Server Errors preventing me from getting into the blog, rebuilding it, etc.

New authors at B2I

I’d like to take a moment an introduce B2I’s newest writer, Johannes Koch, who will be blogging from London and the U.S. on American policy and media analysis for the site.
Johannes is a German/Indian journalist who has been living, studying and working in London for the past five years. After graduating with a BA in journalism and politics went on to complete a masters of international studies/politics at the Universities of Birmingham and Melbourne. He’s moving to New York in August where he will continue to freelance and hopefully write for us!
His political interests include U.S. foreign policy (especially in the Middle East), international law and peacekeeping.
His first entry will be coming later today and will look at the implications of any Turkish actions across the Iraqi border for US policy as well as what it might mean for the U.S.-Turkish relationship.
*UPDATE:* It’s up.
I will be doing minimal editing once he gets the hang of B2I, except for perhaps little style issues, such as blockquotes, italics and the like.
Secondly, another writer will soon be joining us, a top-notch journalist based here in Lebanon with me. She’s Lebanese and brings a unique perspective to B2I. Also, if any of my journo friends from Iraq and elsewhere — and I know you guys read this — want to contribute as a “guest poster” basis, please drop me a line.

Turkish incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan?

OK. This is odd. My new go-to site on Iraq,, is reporting conflicting “reports of a Turkish incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan/Northern Iraq”: in hot pursuit of PKK fighters.
AP has been reporting that “thousands” of Turkish troops have crossed the border, but various officials are denying it.

Several thousand Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq early Wednesday to chase Kurdish guerrillas who operate from bases there, two “senior security officials” told the AP.

“It is not a major offensive and the number of troops is not in the tens of thousands,” one of the officials, based in southeast Turkey, told The Associated Press by telephone. The officials did not say where the Turkish force was operating in northern Iraq, nor did he say how long they would be there.

The AP has scaled back its estimate, and now says “hundreds” of troops.
DEBKA (grain of salt required) says “50,000 Turkish troops have invaded.”: The Kurds, obviously, are not pleased.

Massoud Barzani, had sent a personal emissary, Safin Dizai, to Ankara with an urgent warning. Turkish tanks would not be allowed to cross into northern Iraq, he said. The Kurdish peshmerga would repel them. “The people of Kurdistan,” said the messenger, “would not stand by as spectators if Turkish tanks and panzers entered Kirkuk.”

Is this true? I can’t tell yet, but I’ve got some emails and calls out to friends in Kurdistan and I’m waiting to hear. Will let you know if I can find out more.
In the meantime, some thoughts on this: If this report is true — a big “if” at this point — it’s a marked escalation in the region, obviously. As with most things in the Middle East, there are many, many threads and few things are so clear-cut as many in the West would imagine them to be. (“If A happens, then B must result.”)
But, with that caveat, if the Turks really have crossed with hundreds of troops or more, I believe it’s a response to the Kurds’ threats of pulling out of Iraq because of the oil law, rather than any pretense of chasing the PKK. It’s also likely tied up somehow with the current dispute between the military and ErdoÄŸan’s soft-Islamist government in Ankara.
But could the US have approved this? If so, the only reason might be to persuade the Kurds to buckle under to Iraq’s new oil law. However, If the US agreed to this, they’re playing with fire. Like the Iranians next door, who think they can carefully stoke the civil war as a means of bogging down the US, the Americans likely believe they can keep the Turks in check and the Kurds from attacking Turkish forces. But I know the peshmerga, and they’re not going to take a few hundred Turkish soldiers in a “security zone” lightly. It will get ugly and out of control quickly.
* If the US didn’t agree to this, it’s a nightmare scenario. Who to ally with? Turkey as a NATO ally fighting terrorism? The Kurds, who are the only real success story in the Iraqi narrative? If the US takes no side and instead diverts forces to the north to stand between the two sides, where will these troops come from? Baghdad? Anbar? What happens when the US troops leave those areas?
* I expect another Kurdish insurgency in Turkey is in the works. We all know how well that worked out last time.
* I don’t think the Turkish government will collapse or a military coup will result. I think instead, the Turkish population will rally around whatever action the Turks take and the government led by ErdoÄŸan will follow the lead and lend its full-throated support.
*UPDATE June 7, 11:03:44 AM +0200 GMT:* Spencer at TPMmuckracker doesn’t buy it, and blames DEBKAfile, which is fair enough. But AP is still sticking to its, er, guns and now characterizes the operation as “hundreds” of Turkish troops in “raids.” Curiouser and curiouser.
So many implications. And so little information.
Also, donations are working again, and covering this place ain’t cheap. Fixers, rented cars, hotel rooms, etc. all cost money and freelancing for newspapers only covers part of it. If you’d like me to keep blogging the developments in Lebanon’s latest crisis, please consider dropping some coin in the donate link below and to the right. Thanks.

Calling Middle East bloggers

BEIRUT — Taking a break from all the news, I’d like to throw something out there and see what gets picked up.
Would you like to be part of the B2I team? (Which, at the moment, is me.) Would you like to blog on Iraq, Syria, Egypt and the rest of the Middle East? Would you like to make some cash while you’re doing it? (Assuming people donate, of course.)
I’m looking for one or two people who can help me out here with covering Iraq, Syria and Egypt, although I’ll entertain other locales or if you move around. Someone to blog from Washington or New York about how news in the Middle East is playing would be great, too.
The ideal candidates should be energetic, hungry and have some journalism training. Fluency in English is a must, as well as the ability to look at things as objectively as possible. I want to continue to give observations and news as it’s seen, not as how most people want it to be seen. No left- or right-wing true believers need apply.
If you’re a freelance journalist in the region and want to have a wider outlet than some of the trade journals might offer, please consider signing up. I’m working out out a donations-sharing system, by which you would reap rewards for your work. It’s not much, but it can help.
Best of all, you get to be part of a blog that single-handedly started the the idea of reader-funded conflict reporting. B2I is still a strong brand and people in the journalism world know it. It’s still read at newspapers and magazines in New York, Washington and elsewhere. Here’s your chance to get some exposure, if you need it.
If you’re interested, please email me with a CV, a cover letter and three writing samples.
Thanks very much,
The Management

The never-ending crisis

BEIRUT — This is a never-ending story.
The siege of Nahr el-Bared by thousands of Lebanese army troops has entered its third week now, and it may be metastasizing. “Clashes broke out at the Ein el-Helweh camp south of Sidon”:;_ylt=AsuRIirk3._W3HQk8Liy4WDagGIB yesterday between the Lebanese army and Jund al-Sham overnight and two soldiers were killed. Two militants were also killed.
The fighting erupted just hours after Abu Riyadh, who had previously belonged to Jund al-Sham, was killed in Nahr al-Bared.
“Jund al-Sham”: is yet another Salafist/Islamist group that has found a haven in the squalid and miserable Palestinian camps in Lebanon, thanks in no small part because the Lebanese have let the Palestinians stew rather than integrate them into the greater society. This policy has created fetid breeding grounds for extremist ideologies in tune with al Qaeda’s, ideologies which are in marked contrast to the more laid back and sophisticated Mediterranean outlook of most of Lebanon.
However, there is likely little coordination between the group responsible for yesterday’s and this morning’s clashes in the south and Fatah al-Islam up north in Nahr el-Bared. More likely, members of Jund al-Sham decided it was time to help their brothers in Islam and raised a ruckus. Shaker al-Absssi, the leader of Fatah al-Islam up north, even told a colleague of mine when she spoke with him this morning that there were no operational links between Fatah al-Islam and Jund al-Sham.
Another theory, popular in the government circles, is that yesterday’s outburst in the south was yet another Syrian plot to sow chaos in Lebanon, although I have my doubts about that. While Syria is active here and Fatah al-Islam is without a doubt (in my mind) a Syrian asset, Jund al-Sham looks to be more independent. Not everything in Lebanon is made in Syria.
I don’t think the incident in Ein el-Helweh will grow larger than it has. Already, other Palestinian groups have stepped in and, in effect, told the Jund al-Sham boys to sit down and shut up. The fighters reportedly turned over some of their positions to other Islamist groups in the camp.
Sorry for the lack of postings over the last three days. Yahoo!’s servers are crap, and I’m often having trouble getting into them. I hope to have this resolved soon. I’m also going to be making a major announcement regarding syndication in the coming days, hopefully.
Also, donations are working again, and covering this place ain’t cheap. Fixers, rented cars, hotel rooms, etc. all cost money and freelancing for newspapers only covers part of it. If you’d like me to keep blogging the developments in Lebanon’s latest crisis, please consider dropping some coin in the donate link below and to the right. Thanks.

Lebanese Army on the Move

BEIRUT — The Lebanese army is on the move toward Nahr el-Bared. For the last three hours, the army has been pounding Fatah al-Islam positions with artillery, tanks and mortars. Some believe this is a softening up of position before a full-scale assault on the camp, which would break a 37-year-old precedent keeping Lebanese troops out of the Palestinian camps.
Or it might be another one of the exchanges of fire that have peppered the almost two week stand-off. Although this one looks pretty big.