Arab Spring Reality

Heat-Seeking Missiles Are Missing From Libyan Arms Stockpile

Among the missiles taken away were 480 Russian-built SA-24s, designed for use against modern warplanes, which the US had been attempting to block from falling into Iranian hands, and the older SA-7s and 9s, capable of bringing down commercial airliners, which al-Qa’ida has been striving to obtain.

As Libya’s bloody civil war reaches its conclusion, myriad bunkers and barracks containing the regime’s weaponry, from Kalashnikovs to missiles, armoured cars and tanks, have been left unguarded, many to be stripped bare by militia fighters and the public.

The downfall of Muammar Khaddafi’s autorcratic regime can be considered the apogee of the Arab Spring, until the fall Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator, which is unlikely. So far, the aspirations of the Arab Street have been largely unrealized.

“The accommodation of the Islamist-orientated An-Nahda (the renaissance) movement in Tunisia’s new coalition government has been achieved without jeopardising the foundations of the country’s secular constitution. Even so, only last weekend hundreds of Islamist rioters went on the rampage, attacking bars and shops that sell alcohol, a turn of events that is unlikely to boost Tunisia’s attractiveness to Western holidaymakers.

Elsewhere, the omens are even less encouraging. Eight months after Colonel Gaddafi’s brutal murder, Libya remains in thrall to the warring bands of militias – some of them al-Qaeda acolytes – who are determined to hold on to their independent fiefdoms, rather than embrace the cause of democratic reform Libyans were promised if they supported the dictator’s overthrow.

In neighbouring Egypt, meanwhile, where the defiant protests in Tahrir Square last year fostered the belief that wholesale democratic reform was about to sweep the Arab world, the choice for 50 million voters is between the military and the Islamists, two groups not renowned for their commitment to democracy.

This depressing pattern is repeated throughout the region. The political instability in Yemen following President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s retirement has resulted in a dramatic upgrade in al-Qaeda’s terrorist capabilities, while attempts by Bahrain’s ruling family to reconcile their differences with Shia Muslim dissenters have been undermined by the pernicious involvement of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, whose long term ambition is to achieve the overthrow of the country’s Sunni Muslim monarchy.

So much, then, for the “Arab Spring”, which, as I have consistently argued, is an intellectually flawed concept dreamt up by those conveniently overlook the forces at play in Arab countries.”

Added 6/1/12

The following articles describe the new/old reality in Arab lands, especially the developing dynamic between Israel and Egypt.

Tripoli Divided as Rebels Jostle to Fill Power Vacuum

TRIPOLI, Libya — Fighters from the western mountain city of Zintan control the airport. The fighters from Misurata guard the central bank, the port and the prime minister’s office, where their graffiti has relabeled the historic plaza “Misurata Square.” Berbers from the mountain town Yafran took charge of the city’s central square, where they spray-painted “Yafran Revolutionaries.”

A week after rebels broke into Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s former stronghold, much of its territory remains divided into fiefs, each controlled by quasi-independent brigades representing different geographic areas of the country. And the spray paint they use to mark their territory tells the story of a looming leadership crisis in the capital, Tripoli

Israel mulls ties with a changed Egypt

Egyptian Parliamentarians Want

by Gavriel Queenann

In the wake of recent reports of a joint Israeli-Jordanian plan to link the Red Sea on the Israeli side and the Dead Sea on the Jordanian Side, parliamentarians in Egypt are agitating for the nation’s caretaker junta to demand Israel surrender the port-city of Eilat.

Egypt has insisted it has a claim to the city of Eilat since it lost the city to the nascent state of Israel in the wake of the Egyptian army’s defeat in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, but after the 1979 the claim was officially dropped. Or so it seemed.

The reassertion of the claim comes as members of parliament (MPs) in Egypt decry the “Israeli plot to choke the Suez Canal to death.”

The control of trade routes has been a principle source of conflict in human history. The 1967 Six-Day War broke out after Egypt closed the straits of Tiran and strangled the trade from Israel’s southern port city of Eliat.

In exploring the ‘claim,’ which has been hotly debated in Egypt’s parliament this week, Abed el-Aziz Sayef a-Nasser, an aide to the Egyptian foreign minister, was called as an expert witness. A-Nasser is the director of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s legal department.

“Eilat, or by its former name Umm Rashrash, belongs to the Palestinians,” he said on behalf of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

His predecessor, Dr. Nabil el-Arabi, was the head of the Foreign Ministry’s legal department and headed the delegation for negotiations at Taba. He also emphatically maintained: “Eilat belongs to the Palestinians.”

A-Nasser’s response was presumably meant to calm tempers in the rowdy debate in the Egyptian parliament, after dozens of opposition representatives demanded holding negotiations to have Eilat returned to Egyptian sovereignty. They contend that the Egyptian negotiating team to Taba conceded Eilat to Israel 20 years ago “in the framework of the wish to build confidence and to display Egyptian good will in the spirit of the peace agreement.”

Two days ago opposition MP Mohammed el-Aadali produced a document from 1906 which states, in the name of the Ottoman sultan: Umm Rashrash belongs to Egypt. In this spot – said the Egyptian experts on topography and geography – Egyptian pilgrims would stop and rest on their way to the holy cities in Saudi Arabia.

El-Aadali made no attempt to explain away the fact that, when Egypt formally drew borders with Israel in 1979, it did cede Eilat to Israel thereby terminating its claim to the city. Israel had give up the Sinai, destroying the city of Yamit. Nor did he explain how a 1906 document from an Ottoman Sultan bears any contemporary relevance in light of the Camp David Accords.

Of note is that amidst the debate between Egyptian MP and Foreign Ministry officials, no mention is made of possible legitimate Israeli sovereignty of Eilat. The debate in Cairo has two camps: the Foreign Ministry which claims that Eilat belongs to the Palestinians, and the opposition MPs who claim that Eilat belongs to Egypt.

The opposition Egyptian MPs threatened on Thursday to relay their demand for an Israeli withdrawal from Eilat to the Arab League to handle. Despite Israel’s 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, the Arab League’s 1948 declaration of war to liquidate the state of Israel remains in force.

Egypt’s 2011 revolution has brought a wave of radical anti-Israel sentiment to the country. Egypt has already sought to re-militarize the Sinai, ostensibly to control the Bedouin, with Israeli approval and the masses are demanding Israel’s ambassador in Cairo be ejected from the country – a qualitative first step to the cessation of peaceful relations.

The once touted Camp David Accords seem to have been cast into Cairo’s dustbin.

In terms of relations between Jerusalem and Cairo, it is increasingly looking like a return to the strategic reality of October 5, 1973.

After Arab Revolts, Reigns of Uncertainty

Published: August 24, 2011

DJERBA, Tunisia — The idealism of the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, where the power of the street revealed the frailty of authority, revived an Arab world anticipating change. But Libya’s unfinished revolution, as inspiring as it is unsettling, illustrates how perilous that change has become as it unfolds in this phase of the Arab Spring.

Though the rebels’ flag has gone up in Tripoli, their leadership is fractured and opaque; the intentions and influence of Islamists in their ranks are uncertain; Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi remains at large in a flight reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s; and foreigners have been involved in the fight in the kind of intervention that has long been toxic to the Arab world.

Not to mention, of course, that a lot of young men have a lot of guns.

No uprising is alike, but Libya’s complexities echo in the revolts in  Bahrain, Syria and, most of all, Yemen, suggesting that the prolonged transition of Arab countries to a new order may prove as tumultuous to the region as Egypt’s moment was stirring.

Unlike at the start of the year, when the revolutionary momentum seemed unstoppable, uncertainty is far more pronounced today, as several countries face the prospect of stalemate, sustained conflict or power vacuums that may render them ungovernable. Already in Yemen, militant Islamists have found a haven. Across the region, the repercussions of the uprisings are colliding with the assumptions of the older, American-backed system: control of oil, the influence of a reactionary Saudi Arabia, an Arab-Israeli truce, and the maintenance of order at the expense of freedom in a region that for decades has been, at least superficially, one of the world’s most stable.

In just the past week, Colonel Qaddafi lost his capital, Tripoli; the United States and European countries called on President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to step down; the president of Yemen, still recovering from burns suffered in an attack, has promised to return; and the relationship between Egypt and Israel descended into crisis, to the jubilation of many Egyptians who saw a more assertive government as a windfall of Mr. Mubarak’s fall.

“There is going to be a transfer of power in our societies, and a new order has begun to take shape in the region,” said Michel Kilo, an opposition figure in Damascus, Syria.

Already, Israel has begun to face what it feared the revolts might unleash: foreign policies in the Arab world that reflect deep popular resentment over the plight of Palestinians. The most puritanical Islamists, known by their shorthand as Salafists, have emerged as a force in Egypt, Libya, Syria and elsewhere, with suspicions that Saudi Arabia has encouraged and financed them. Alliances have begun to be redrawn: Turkey and Syria’s growing partnership ruptured over Mr. Assad’s ferocious crackdown, which has provoked international condemnation but shows no signs of ending.

As with all the revolutions, the fall of the leaders will be seen as the easiest step in a long, rocky and wrenching struggle to build anew.

“The question of the successor government in Libya is going to prove far more difficult than ousting the old government,” said M. Cherif Bassiouni, an expert in international law who has led human rights commissions in Bahrain and Libya.

Nothing feels certain these days, not least in Egypt and Tunisia, and conversations about the uprisings often mention the French Revolution, which required long years to usher in a new order. No one talks in terms of months about these revolts, given the seismic forces at play, from the empowerment of Islamists to the economic trauma.

“We’re heading toward the unknown,” said Talal Atrissi, a political analyst in Lebanon. “The next era will witness battles and conflicts between actors inside countries bent on crushing each other and proving their existence on the political scene.”

“It will be full of challenges, large and severe,” he added.

As unpredictable as Libya’s revolution may prove, it still unleashed jubilation across the region. Yemen’s beleaguered government flooded the capital with troops over the weekend to stanch more demonstrations inspired by Colonel Qaddafi’s fall. On Al Jazeera, images of the Libyan leader were interspersed with lines from a song played during Egypt and Tunisia’s revolts: “I am the people, the people of honor and struggle,” sang Um Kalthoum, an Egyptian diva of another era. In Damascus, an activist saw the intertwined fates of Mr. Assad and Colonel Qaddafi, who in a defiant message broadcast Wednesday called the people who overthrew him rats and traitors.

“We don’t want a merciful end for Qaddafi and his sons,” said Aziz al-Arabi, a 30-year-old Syrian. “Please keep him alive. We’d love to see them humiliated.”

Across the region, young people who have driven the revolts have shared vocabulary as well as tactics. “Irhal,” or leave, has skipped from Egypt to Yemen and Bahrain, where in the streets of Sitra, strewn with rocks from nightly clashes with the police, protesters have made it plural — not only must the king go, but his family as well. Walls there read “silmiya,” or peaceful, recalling similar slogans in Syria. Residents there have imported the Egyptian term “baltagiya” to describe the state-sponsored thugs they face.

Iran’s revolution a generation ago was followed by a grinding war with Iraq, the birth of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the politicization of Shiite Muslims across the Persian Gulf. The Arab world is now embroiled in three revolutions (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya) and three full-fledged revolts (Syria, Yemen, Bahrain).

“Sometimes instability is a necessary evil, and you need it to have stability,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center, a project of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and that is based in Qatar. “To dislodge a brutal dictator is going to require bloodshed.”

So far, Libya’s revolution seems the most uncertain. Even now, parallels are being drawn to the fall of Mr. Hussein, who cast a long shadow before he was captured over a country whose divisions deepened, then erupted into civil war. The remnants of his regime were long underestimated, by Americans and others, until they contributed to an insurgency that remains a searing lesson in imperial folly.

“Some compare ,” wrote Bashir al-Bakr in the leftist Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar. “The Libyans, according to that view, will not be in charge of their own decisions. They will find themselves shackled by heavy commitments, and they will lack the ability to escape them at the present.”

For many in the region, foreign intervention has deprived Libya’s revolt of the luster enjoyed by Egypt and Tunisia, inspiring suspicions, as in Iraq, that the West simply covets its oil. As Sateh Noureddine, a columnist, put it in another Lebanese newspaper, Al-Safir, NATO’s support “will not be for free, and Libya will pay for it.”

In that, he captured the ambiguity over what represents opposition these days in the Arab world, old labels defying their old assumptions. Syrian rebels denounce Hezbollah, which prides itself on its resistance to Israel. Bahrain withdrew its ambassador from Damascus as it carried out a crackdown on its Shiite majority that smacks of apartheid. And Colonel Qaddafi, in his message, praised his loyalists as revolutionary youths.

“Forward, forward,” he cried, his trademark refrain for never-ending struggle.

Bothaina Kamel is standing for Egyptian president

Bothaina Kamel: Egypt’s first female presidential candidate

Celebrity broadcaster apparently stands little chance of replacing Hosni Mubarak. Why then does she so worry the establishment

Jack Shenker in Cairo Friday 5 August 2011 15.02 BST

Back when she was a cub reporter, Bothaina Kamel worked on a radio show called The Egypt We Don’t Know.

“I travelled all over the country collecting various songs, community traditions, local ideas about the Nile or the desert,” says the 49-year-old. “On reflection, I think it was the most important programme I’ve ever been involved in.”

Kamel’s latest project – a bid to become president of the Arab world’s most populous country – does not have a formal title yet, but if it did, The Egypt We Don’t Know might be appropriate.

The celebrity broadcaster turned political warrior may be the first woman in modern Egyptian history to run for the country’s leadership, but it is Egypt’s other marginalised groups – from Coptic Christians to Nubians and Bedouins, those who struggle to find a voice in the bellicose arena of national politics – who Kamel believes will benefit most from her run for office.

“By putting myself forward I am making this democratic right – the right of a woman to be president – a concrete reality, and that alters expectations,” she says of her candidacy.

“No one expected a revolution would topple Mubarak, but it happened. We can win, but even if we don’t we are winning every day just by being out here, changing people’s perspectives.”

It has been a week of changing perspectives in Egypt. The sight of Hosni Mubarak, the man Kamel hopes to replace being wheeled into a metal cage in a prison uniform, a man who at the beginning of this year counted among the most omnipotent and entrenched dictators in the world, has the potential to transform the patriarchal relationship between ruler and ruled that has long dominated much of the region.

“The moment Mubarak received his legal summons, officially accusing him of said crimes, the most important nail in the coffin of Middle Eastern cult-of-personality and leader-worship was finally hammered,” wrote Egyptian blogger Bassem Sabry in a widely circulated post calling time on the Middle East‘s oppressive autocrats.

“All those men knew that the end of life as they were used to it has finally come, forever. Governments are for the people, not the other way around; the people own their countries, not the regimes.”

That sentiment resonates strongly with Kamel, a former presenter of an early-hours radio show called Night-time Confessions who went on to work for a Saudi-owned satellite network before being unceremoniously dumped earlier this year.

Since she announced back in April her intention to compete in Egypt’s first ever democratic presidential elections, her efforts to recalibrate the balance between state and society have come under sustained attack from many directions, not least the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) whom Kamel accuses of being an enemy of the revolution.

“At Abbasiya [an anti-SCAF demonstration in Cairo last month which came under attack by armed civilians] they almost killed me – people told me afterwards that some of the baltagiyya [paid thugs] were asking for me by name,” she claims.

“The army stood by and watched it happen, and then later that night [Egypt's de facto interim leader] Field Marshal Tantawi appeared on national television thanking the ‘brave people’ of Abbasiya who stopped the outlaws. We are not outlaws, we are revolutionaries! They are the outlaws and thugs, they are Mubarak’s regime, and they are as low and dirty as ever.”

That kind of language is bold, even among reformist activists who have turned against the military in recent weeks and opened up a volatile legitimacy gap at the heart of Egypt’s post-Mubarak transition. But Kamel’s bombastic tone – “victor or martyr” is how she views herself when stepping out each day on to the streets – dovetails with her personal engagement with potential voters and an attention to specifics, from suspected abuses by intelligence agents in the north Cairo neighbourhood of Shubra to obscure links between particular security generals and high-flying businessmen. She may have barely 1,000 supporters on her Facebook site (presidential rival Mohamed ElBaradei boasts a quarter of a million), but there is something about Kamel that seems to spook Egypt’s powers-that-be – and it involves a lot more than her gender.

“Unlike every single time an unknown activist or some adjunct professor decides to make a ‘symbolic run’ in some Arab country, Kamel’s candidacy carries more weight than many observe – even though she has no realistic chance of winning,” says Sabry.

He believes that her high-profile public persona as a TV star coupled with impeccable opposition credentials have put her in a unique position – Kamel was involved in the Kefaya (Enough) movement for political reform from its early days in 2005 and is the first presidential hopeful to break the taboo on criticising Egypt’s armed forces. “At a time when political and social values are being rewritten … the shockwaves of a legitimate female candidacy could be massive,” he says.

Fundamentally, Kamel views herself as a challenge to the culture of secrecy that permeates the top brass of the military, an institution which was closely invested in the regime of its former commander-in-chief Mubarak, and whose material interests could be threatened by any radical reform. The sensitivity of this issue was highlighted at the dramatic trial opening of Mubarak and his one-time interior minister Habib el-Adly, when state TV cameras inadvertently captured army officers seemingly bowing and scraping to the defendants as they left the courtroom. “I’m transparent,” says Kamel, “and although I’m now a politician I still think that value is more important than anything else.”

Like most of her rivals for Mubarak’s job, Kamel has yet to outline a concrete policy framework, preferring to deal in either grand sweeping rhetoric or micro-detail, with very little in between. Her strength, she contends, lies in personal connections; her biggest criticism of Mubarak personally is his “arrogance and disrespect for the Egyptians all around him”, and even ElBaradei is dismissed by Kamel as someone who deals with ordinary people avec des gants (with gloves on).

The road ahead will not be easy; while her status as the first female presidential candidate earned news coverage abroad, her campaign remains almost invisible at home when set alongside those of frontrunners such as former Arab League chief Amr Moussa or Islamic scholar Mohammad Salim al-Awa.

Officials have thrown every smear they can in her direction, from claims that she was buying up land in the desert oasis of Fayyoum to carry out illegal excavations for valuable antiquities (Kamel says she was actually in Fayyoum for an anti-poverty initiative) to suggestions that she hands out “fistfuls of dollars” to participants at reformist demonstrations.

“I don’t expect anything,” she says when asked to rate her chances of success in the presidential poll, which is likely to take place next year. “If you have no expectations, then you will find the good in whatever transpires.”

She tells a story about a recent trip to the city of Suez, the site of violent crashes between civilians and police over the past few months. “I just came and listened and tried to help, and by the end of it people were chanting, ‘Long live the woman!’ It doesn’t matter to Egyptians whether someone is a woman or a man, what’s important is whether it’s someone who can understand and help them. The revolution has made Egyptians feel free, and that’s why I’m running for president.”

Discontent in Egypt’s heart
Murders may grab the headlines, but the enmity that the public feels for its corrupt leaders is the real talking point in Cairo

Jack Shenker, Tuesday 2 June 2009 10.00 BST

Khairy Ramadan is living in a constant state of fear. “I’m afraid,” explained the popular Egyptian TV presenter in his weekly newspaper column. “When going to work or when coming back. When I wake up or when I’m sleeping. When my kids are late at school or the club. Throughout the day, I’m really afraid.”

When an adult man with decently broad shoulders is suffering from such a severe bout of unreconstructed terror, it’s always worth inquiring into the cause. In this case the culprit is Egypt‘s latest crimewave, a gory spate of murders sweeping the country – or at least its newspaper front pages – with grim determination. “The danger is everywhere, and killing has been taking place lately for the most trivial reasons,” observed Ramadan. “It’s not only in the street, but it can reach you at home … killing has become a daily routine” Has it? Well, violence has certainly been in the news a lot in recently; there was the man killed on an Alexandria street in front of shocked passers-by, a father who threw his two children down a well to spite his wife, another who murdered his ex after learning she was about to remarry and, perhaps most disturbingly, a boy who killed his two young cousins to “burn the heart of my uncle” (the latter had just fired him from a job). And all of this in the shadow of the most high-profile murder case in a generation – the trial of mega tycoon and political insider Hisham Talaat Mustafa, who was sentenced to death by hanging last month for ordering the killing of a former love interest, Lebanese pop diva Suzanne Tamim.

All of this has prompted a great deal of soul-searching amongst the Egyptian chattering classes. The state-affiliated National Council for Human Rights has labelled the homicides “barbarous” and “unprecedented”, whilst newspaper pundits like Tarek Abbas argue that they are evidence of a fundamental shift in the Egyptian psyche. The murders, insist Abbas, are part of a new and different Egypt, “as if I woke up to find myself not by the Nile I know, but instead breathing different air and dealing with different people, becoming scared of things that didn’t use to frighten me.”

Yet despite the media frenzy, Egypt in general remains a strikingly safe place. From swindles on the street to fraud in the boardroom there’s certainly no shortage of people being conned, corrupted or creatively relieved of their money and sexual harassment is also a serious issue for women, but violent crime itself is a genuine rarity – which partly explains why it grabs so many headlines when it does rear its ugly head. Cairo is one of the very few cities in the world where I feel comfortable walking alone in pretty much any neighbourhood at any time of night, content in the knowledge that strangers in dark alleys are more likely to corral me into sharing a few cups of sweet tea than they are to pull out a knife.

Now it’s possible that, having grown up in east London, my perception of what constitutes “normal” urban crime levels is slightly skewed. However the figures bear me out; according to the latest UN development report, Egypt has the lowest annual murder rate in the world with a distinctly underwhelming 0.4 homicides per 100,000 of the population (that’s compared to 2.03 in Britain and 5.8 in the US). El-Dostour reports gravely that no less than 150 murders have been committed in Egypt since the start of this year, yet amongst a nation of over 80 million people that’s hardly remarkable. Statistically the same time period will have seen almost two hundred murders carried out in Jordan, Egypt’s stable regional neighbour – and Jordan’s population is 13 times smaller.

All of which suggests that Khairy Ramadan’s perpetual state of alarm is somewhat unjustified, and Egypt’s “unprecedented” crimewave – tragic exceptions aside – exists chiefly in the minds of prominent columnists and tabloid editors rather than the real world. What’s interesting is why the moral panic is spreading now; this spate of murders may not be out of the ordinary, but the prominence they have received does reveal something else about Egypt, something both Ramadan and Tarek Abbas were close to putting their finger on. It is that Egypt is a country with a fundamental disconnect between the state and its people, a legitimacy gap that affects not just individuals’ attitudes towards government itself but also its official organs of authority, right down to street level. And when people no longer trust the state to look after them, they take the law into their own hands.

Flick past the lurid murder coverage in Egypt’s newspapers and, buried on the inside pages, you can see why. A investigation into popular attitudes towards officialdom reported its findings last month; 50% of those interviewed had been the personal victims of injustice at the hands of officials, 83% said such corruption was becoming more endemic. Half said they felt desperate in the absence of any official instrument to remedy corruption, and unsurprisingly 40% admitted to resorting to personal connections to secure jobs or basic social rights. “Egyptians have reached a stage where nepotism and bribery are seen as the only reliable defence mechanism in the absence of social justice,” commented one academic on the report. Over two-thirds of the 2,000 respondents identified themselves as poor; not a single one of them cited “qualifications” or “recourse to the law” as effective ways to improve their position.

It’s no surprise that in a society where money and wasta (influence) prevail over hard work and honesty, families and communities often prefer to deal with disputes on their own terms rather than getting the bureaucratic apparatus of the state involved. And if the middle-ranking police officers and civil servants of this country are more interested in lining their own pockets than treating those who rely on them fairly, it’s only because of a corrosive culture of greed and venality instilled from the very top, starting with the president, Hosni Mubarak. His regime has done its utmost to subvert the rule of law in the interest of protecting its wealthy friends (the guilty verdict for Hisham Talaat Mousafa was an interesting exception) while promoting a headlong rush into neoliberalism that has venerated wealth creation for an elite minority over the basic safety and security of its citizens – most of whom, in the survey, listed the gap between rich and poor as a primary cause of frustration.

Some local community activists are now stepping in where the state has failed; one programme, run by a former actor named Tarek Ramadan, seeks to train local conflict mediators who are elected from their neighbourhoods and are endowed with the credibility and respect which are conspicuously absent within the police force and security services. Ramadan’s mediators step into that chasm between the state and its people and try and resolve local and family disputes at an early stage, before they get violent. As long as the present government remains in place with its brazen lack of popular legitimacy, demand for Tarek’s work will keep on growing. A government minister recently conceded that Egypt’s government was hated by its people, “as if we belong to an enemy state”. Murders may grab the headlines, but that enmity is the real talking point in Egypt – something Barack Obama may want to consider as he makes his way to Cairo for Thursday’s speech.

DE BORCHGRAVE: Black swans galore
As U.S. superpower status fades, ‘Arab Spring’ gives way to global chaos

By Arnaud de Borchgrave The Washington Times Thursday, August 11, 2011

A midsummer poll in six Arab nations (Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) by the Arab- American Institute found the “Arab Spring” is not good news for the United States. Sample Zogby poll results:

c The United States’ and President Obama ’s favorable ratings are at an all-time low.

c Mr. Obama is less popular in the Middle East than Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

c Capturing and killing Osama bin Laden has not improved U.S. relations with the region.

c Far from seeing the United States as a leader of the post-Arab Spring movement, the countries surveyed viewed “U.S. interference in the Arab world” as the greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East.

c Top concern is the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict; Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine is blamed on the United States.

c In five of the six countries surveyed, the United States was viewed less favorably than Turkey, China, France and Iran.

cIran ’s policies are viewed more favorably than America’s.

The U.S. Administration’s ability to influence events in the Arab world in the wake of the Arab Spring is severely curtailed by the widely held view in Congress that the strategic interests of the United States and of Israel are identical.

The Israeli presence in the West Bank and the yet-to-materialize Palestinian state is the common leitmotif of Islamist terrorist groups.

The Middle East peace process is moribund, with no early hope of progress, which reinforces the extremists. For a Palestinian state to be recognized at the United Nations next month, it would have to be voted by the Security Council, where the U.S. wields a veto. The latest plan to bypass the veto is to submit a “nonstate” Palestinian state to the General Assembly, where it would be approved 192-2 (Israel and the U.S. Opposing).

One of Egypt’s most prominent liberal voices, speaking privately, sent this reporter a message that said, “Those who for weeks kept saying all will be well are either naive fools or have their own power play and agenda.

“But those of us who can still focus on Egypt objectively and analyze what is happening,” the message continued, see the following:

c The rise of political, militant Islam (not religious Islam) in its different forms.

c The chaotic debacle of the liberals.

c A weak and ineffectual government with personal agendas that are chiefly the work of wannabes.

c A mob mentality and a media frenzy.

c Is any of this to Egypt’s benefit? A loud no.

c The question is: Can there be a strong third way, one in which realistic Egyptians take the political process away from political Islam and chaotic liberals to a realistic center that is credible for Egypt’s future? A center that is wise and prudent that puts Egypt on the map as an example of a successful and sustainable change to benefit the people – and not a slice of interested zealots?

This prominent Egyptian liberal concluded, “We are at the abyss staring at Zimbabwe.”

Shortly after this message was sent, the man who had been head of the Egyptian air force, vice president to President Anwar Sadat for six years and then president for 30 years was wheeled into a cage on a gurney, followed by two sons, to be charged with corruption and the killing of demonstrators when he ordered the revolution suppressed. The trial was postponed to Aug. 15.

Egypt is at a crossroads. One road looks to the future with vision, leadership, courage and the ability to promote the changes demanded by the overwhelming majority. The other road looks to the past with hatred and vengeance and to the future by seizing power to redefine Egypt as a political Islamic state.

For Islamist extremists, Osama bin Laden’s death is not the loss of a hero but the ascension of a martyr who gained a place in paradise.

Al Qaeda’s capo dei capi since June 16, Ayman al-Zawahri is the son of an aristocratic Egyptian family who was arrested as a suspect in the 1981 assassination of Sadat. He was tortured but would not confess to any wrongdoing and was released after three years. A medical doctor, he then made his way to Peshawar, Pakistan, with a medical team for the mujahideen guerrillas fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan.

Like bin Laden, al-Zawahribelieves they defeated the Soviet empire and can do the same to the United States.

To avoid perceptions of a weakening movement, any direct attack on the United States would have to be more devastating than Sept. 11, 2001, and there is no indication he has that kind of capability.

The oil-rich Arab states of the Persian Gulf are the most likely priority targets. Millions of poor laborers, many from Pakistan, provide the bulk of the heavy-lifting labor throughout the Gulf states.

The image of the United States as the planet’s sole superpower is beginning to fade. The Iraq, Afghan and Libyan wars, costing so far $1.5 trillion, and the perception that the conflicts are partly to blame for the current world economic and financial chaos, have turned U.S. public attention to more pressing domestic priorities.

Because perceptions are the new reality, the 27-member European Union teeters on the edge of collapse as individual members such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland blend budgetary profligacy with political dysfunction.

The resulting geopolitical chaos can only spawn extremism. China, with almost 6 million workers building projects and developing future markets in Latin America; Africa; the Middle East; and South, Central and Southeast Asia; and Australia, while bringing its military up to 21st-century standards, keeps making magazine covers all over the world as the “Next Superpower” – followed by a question mark.

Unemployed youth in Sidi Bouzid, where little has changed since Tunisia’s revolution

In Tunisian Town of Arab Spring Martyr, Disillusionment Seeps In

Published: August 5, 2011

SIDI BOUZID, Tunisia — It is hard to say for sure who took down the portrait of the revolution’s most famous martyr, Mohamed Bouazizi, from its perch atop a garish gold statue on the street where he set himself on fire, touching off a season of revolt across the Arab world. One man said unnamed counterrevolutionaries did it, and another man said it was damaged by rain.

Mr. Bouazizi’s neighbors say it was taken down in disgust, several weeks ago, after his mother, uncle and siblings left Sidi Bouzid, an act the neighbors considered a betrayal. Their anger stemmed from rumors that the family had accepted large sums of money to move to a fancy villa in Tunis. But more than that, they said they were furious at being left behind, in a place with no jobs, money or hope, without the famous Bouazizis to give voice to their despair.

“She abandoned us, and nothing here changed,” said Seif Amri, 18, a neighbor, speaking of Mr. Bouazizi’s mother, Mannoubia Bouazizi.

It is a measure of the deep frustration in Sidi Bouzid that a few people have lashed out at the town’s favorite son. That anger is misplaced, most residents say, blaming the lack of progress here on the transitional government, which has moved slowly to address one of the revolution’s central complaints — youth unemployment — especially here in the towns of central Tunisia, where the uprising began.

The bitterness here stands in stark contrast to a guarded optimism elsewhere in Tunisia about the progress of the revolution, and it threatens to undermine the gains: Several times in the last few months, disputes over jobs have led to deadly episodes of violence.

Analysts say the government’s response has been inadequate, consisting mainly of a cash handout scheme. They also say some ministers have resisted pushing for large-scale government projects that would create short-term jobs, waiting instead for the market to correct the problems.

“There hasn’t been enough provided or offered,” said Mongi Boughzala, an economics professor at the University of Tunis. “The few programs that came were late or insufficient. Young people expected something immediately. They expected that after taking this revolutionary step, there would be some return, in terms of jobs but also recognition.”

“A young person who says ‘I want a job, I am fed up with being marginalized, and this is not something I can bear anymore,’ does not care whether it’s the fault of the government or the market,” he added.

In Tunisia, as in Egypt, the optimism fueled by a popular uprising has crashed into the cold reality that life has not quickly improved, and in many cases has even grown more challenging as economies stall and interim leaders struggle to build a new system.

Youth unemployment was high in Tunisia even before the revolution — as high as 30 percent, and more than 40 percent in towns like Sidi Bouzid, economists say. But Tunisia’s economy was badly hit in the months after the uprising and is expected to eke out only modestly positive growth this year. A crippled tourism industry and the burdens of coping with refugees from the war in neighboring Libya have worsened the country’s financial picture and its employment problems.

In recent weeks, Tunisia’s interim prime minister, Beji Caid Essebsi, has spoken several times about the country’s 700,000 unemployed people, more than 15 percent of the work force, including 170,000 university graduates. Mr. Essebsi has said that new government programs can provide positions for 60,000 people, but he also acknowledged that there was no quick fix, appealing instead to businessmen and investors to focus on Tunisia’s depressed inland areas.

Young people in the region say the government has responded with empty pledges of help and deaf ears. Nabil Hajbi, a local business owner who runs a youth association called Karama, said eight ministers visited Sidi Bouzid about two months ago and ignored a plan presented by area leaders that contained possible solutions to the unemployment problem, including ideas for fixing the region’s infrastructure and for new factories.

Saudi beheading fuels backlash in Indonesia
By Andrew Higgins, Published: August 8

JAKARTA, Indonesia — As leader of Indonesia’s — and the world’s — largest Muslim organization, Said Aqil Siraj used to get pelted with angry e-mails and text messages whenever he questioned Saudi Arabia’s rigid, ultra-puritanical take on Islam.

But the often menacing messages recently stopped — cut off by a single stroke from a Saudi executioner’s sword to the neck of an Indonesian maid in Mecca.

“Now I don’t get sent anything,” Siraj said. He is glad to be out of the firing line, at least for the moment, but is appalled that it took the beheading of a 54-year-old Indonesian grandmother to quiet abuse by supporters of Saudi-style Islam.

The beheading of Ruyati binti Satubi —executed in June  for the killing of an allegedly abusive Saudi employer — stirred such revulsion here that even the most strictly observant Indonesian Muslims now ask how the guardians of Islam’s most sacred sites can be so heedless of their faith’s call for compassion.

At least 20 Indonesians, nearly all women, are on death row in the Persian Gulf kingdom.
While few doubt that Satubi stabbed her boss, the mother of three is widely viewed as a martyr — the victim of a harsh and often xenophobic justice and social system rooted in Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi creed, a highly dogmatic and intolerant strand of Islam that, in its most extreme forms, helped provide the theological underpinnings for jihadi militants.

“Some Indonesians began to think that Wahhabism is the true teaching of Islam, but thanks to God, there has been a change of thinking,” said Siraj, who heads Nahdlatul Ulama, an organization with about 50 million members and 28,000 Islamic boarding schools.

The beheading, which triggered protests outside the Saudi Embassy and elsewhere, “has had a good influence” by accelerating a backlash against harsh imported strains of Islam, Siraj said.

“Mecca is a holy place, but the people who live there are very uncivilized,” said the executed maid’s daughter, Een Nuraeni, who prays regularly and wears a veil pulled tightly over her hair. “There is nothing in Islamic law that says you can torture or rape your housemaid.”

Her mother, desperate for money, had worked for three families in Saudi Arabia since taking her first job there in 1998. On trips home, Nuraeni said, she complained of being spat at in the face, beaten, deprived of food and other mistreatment, but kept going back “for the sake of her children.”

Migrant Care, an Indonesian group that lobbies on behalf of workers abroad, said it has this year already received 6,500 reports of violence, sexual harassment, rape and other abuses against Indonesians in Saudi Arabia. Eighty percent of the more than 1.2 million Indonesians working there are women, mostly maids.

Indonesia’s government, complaining that it received no advance notice of Satubi’s execution, recalled its ambassador from Riyadh and announced a moratorium from Aug. 1 on labor exports to the Gulf kingdom. Police set up a special unit at Jakarta’s main airport to enforce the order.

Arab Spring Reality

About Jerry Frey

Born 1953. Vietnam Veteran. Graduated Ohio State 1980. Have 5 published books. In the Woods Before Dawn; Grandpa's Gone; Longstreet's Assault; Pioneer of Salvation; Three Quarter Cadillac
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