Tweet a changing world 7

America’s magnificent technology, not its dwindling political power, is helping to set oppressed nations free.

Western governments – in particular the Obama administration, obsessively and weirdly convinced that peace and joy would prevail on earth if it could only stop Israel building houses for its citizens in its capital city – have been so blinded by their own misguided assumptions that they are overtaken with surprise by what is happening in  North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and at a loss to know what to do.

The Arab rulers themselves are astonished and shaken. They found it very useful to blame Israel and America for the miseries of those they oppressed, but now the people aren’t buying the excuse, and the rulers fear not just overthrow but the loss of their lives.

It was never true that what happened in and round Israel mattered to the ordinary Arab man and woman (beyond lip-service to the Palestinian cause when they were asked). What matters to them is the struggle to live. A steep rise in the price of food has brought them to furious revolt.

The greater part of the Arab world is in turmoil. The revolution in Tunisia has sent its autocratic ruler scuttling for asylum in Saudi Arabia.

In Egypt, tens (some reports say hundreds) of thousands are out in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. Hundreds have been arrested, but the protests continue. The son of the president has fled to Britain, having sneaked out of Egypt from a military airfield in West Cairo, with his family and an immense quantity of baggage – which suggests that he has a long stay abroad in mind. President Mubarak, now 82 and ailing, has been in power for 30 years. If he was expecting his son Gamal to succeed him, as was generally supposed, that  hope has now been dashed. In any case there were strong forces opposed to Gamal’s succession, chiefly the military – which is probably why they helped him on his way. (In Tunisia, it was the military switching sides from the government to the people that ensured the success of the revolution.)

In Mauritania, Algeria, MoroccoJordan crowds are marching, and the monsters of corruption that keep them hungry are afraid.

They had to wonder, how did it come about that so many appeared on the streets at the same time on the same days, with the same banners in their hands, the same slogans on their lips? How were the protests organized?

The answer is: Twitter, Facebook, and cell phones. When the Egyptian authorities realized this, they tried to block both Twitter and Facebook in a feeble gesture against the overwhelming tide of progress that is suddenly transforming the Arab world. They managed to do it for a short time only. Then they issued banning orders which were not obeyed. They used tear gas, water cannon and beatings to try and disperse the demonstrators. Official reports admitted that three people were killed, two demonstrators and a policeman. An unofficial figure is some 150 dead. But still thousands continue to protest.

The Muslim Brotherhood, however, hovers in the wings to seize power if it can. And if it does, Egypt will no longer be a secular state; diplomatic relations with Israel will almost certainly be broken off; and relations with the US will change for the worse.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah is in the process of putting its own choice of prime minister into power. It is a Shia organization and the prime minister of Lebanon must (by the terms of a 1943 unwritten agreement called the National Pact) be a Sunni. The man designated for the office, Najib Miqati, is a Sunni who is sympathetic to Hezbollah’s demand that the government refuse all co-operation with the International Court at the Hague in its efforts to bring the murderers of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri to trial. As a result, the Lebanese Christians rioted yesterday in many parts of the country. They know  that under Miqati’s leadership, Lebanon will become a proxy for Iran, which created, finances, and arms Hezbollah. The threat Iran already poses to Israel will be greatly enhanced.

What did the president of the United States say that touched on any of this in his State of the Union address last night? Just two sentences:

And we saw that same desire to be free [as in Southern Sudan, recently seceded from the North] in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: The United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.

And Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State? She declared yesterday that the government of Egypt is “stable”.

Jillian Becker   January 26, 2011

More a stench than a fragrance 2

The popular rising in Tunisia – sweetly dubbed (by whom and why?) the “Jasmine Revolution” – is very unlikely to herald the democratization of Tunisia itself or a widespread democratizing movement in the wider Arab world as optimists in the West are quickly assuming it might do.

It is far more likely to bring Tunisia under a strict Islamic regime.

Robert Spencer is of this opinion. He writes at his website Jihad Watch:

The great unacknowledged truth about Tunisia and the rest of the Islamic world is that Islamic jihadists and pro-Sharia forces, far from being the “tiny minority of extremists” of media myth, actually enjoy broad popular support. Any genuine democratic uprising is likely to install them in power. That’s why jihadists are hailing events in Tunisia, and why all lovers of freedom should view those events with extreme reserve — for a Sharia government in Tunisia is unlikely to be any kind of friend to the United States, and if the “Jasmine Revolution” does indeed spread and other Arab and Muslim dictators are toppled, an already hostile anti-American environment could become much, much worse.

The news media in the United States are not concerning themselves much with the upheavals varying in intensity from angry demonstrations to revolution in Arab states. Young men immolating themselves in Tunisia, Egypt and Mauritania induce pensive theorizing in the West rather than close attention.

The US government doesn’t seem to believe that the turmoil has any importance for America. If so, it’s making a serious mistake. The jihad against the West will be intensified if religious parties come to power in North Africa.

Robert Spencer does not expect the administration to grasp the significance of what is happening or – therefore – to prepare for the probably grave consequences. He writes almost despairingly:

The events in Tunisia also show yet again the crying need for realistic analysis in Washington of the jihad threat, rather than the fantasy-based analysis that prevails there now. But that is even less likely than the flowering of a pluralistic, secular democracy in Tunisia.

It is not the scent of jasmine but of blood and burnt flesh that permeates the air over North Africa, more a stench than a fragrance.

Eastern explosions 2

The Arab world on both the Asian and the North African sides of the Red Sea, and Iran, and Pakistan, are heating up internally to the point of explosion.

Lebanon

On Wednesday last, January 12, 2010, the rickety “unity government” of Lebanon collapsed when the 10 Hezbollah members (out of 30 members in all) left it.

Why? Hezbollah fears the indictments soon to be issued by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, sitting at the Hague, for the murder in 2005 of then Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a truck-bombing in Beirut, in which 22 others were also killed. The tribunal has hard evidence that Hezbollah was responsible for it.

This terrorist organization – “The Party of God” is what its name means – is backed (which is to say is manipulated; is subject to the orders of) Syria and – chiefly – Iran. President Assad of Syria may be indicted too, so he’s as frightened of the tribunal as is the Hezbollah leadership. And now there are rumors that the mighty Ayatollah Khamenei – Iran’s head of state – may also be on the indictment list.

The Hezbollah members of the government demanded that the present prime minister, Saad Hariri, the murdered Rafik’s son, should declare that his government rejected whatever the findings of the Tribunal might be, now, before the indictments are issued.

Saad Hariri refused, so the Hezbollah members walked out and the government fell.

Hezbollah is very likely to try to deflect attention from the crisis within Lebanon by attacking Israel. Israel is prepared for the onslaught if and when it comes.

Tunisia

In Tunisia, the explosion came this week. A popular uprising erupted – the Arabs call it an intifada – which unseated the dictator Zine al-Abideen Bin Ali. He fled the country with wife Laila Tarabulsi. The couple have been in power, luxuriating in corruption, for 24 years.

Reaction among influential Arab commentators has been enthusiastically on the side of the revolutionaries. They hope the idea of violent rebellion will spread and unseat other despots, such as those who rule over Morocco and Libya.

The despots themselves are frightened. Some moved quickly to placate their populations.

Jordan

The King of Jordan, reacting to demonstrations in his own country, and spurred on by the events in Tunisia, hoped to subdue discontent by hastily setting controls on food prices.

Algeria

The repressive Algerian government, experiencing the same sort of internal unrest as Jordan – but worse -, and seriously disturbed by the Tunisian upheaval, took similar measures to keep prices down. But there it may be too late; the regime may fall.

Egypt

President Mubarak is ill and may die soon. There is a huge amount of political unrest in his country. He has harshly suppressed his chief opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood (action which, taken on its own, the rest of the world should probably be grateful for). Recent violent attacks on the persecuted Coptic Christians gave rise to demonstrations and have intensified the crisis. Chaos threatens.

Gaza

Hamas has warned that the leadership in the West Bank – headed by Abou Abbas – should expect the same fate as Bin Ali of Tunis. But Hamas itself could soon be at war if the region is ignited by a Hezbollah attack on Israel.

Iraq

On January 5, the Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr, a close ally of Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, returned from Iran to Iraq. On the same day, the Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi arrived on an official visit to Baghdad. Civil war could break out at any time between the Shias and Sunnis of Iraq.

Saudi Arabia

The Saudi regime is constantly targeted by al-Qaeda. In this conflict, two brands of Islamic fundamentalism are pitted against each other. But more than al-Qaeda, the Saudis fear a nuclear-armed Iran.

Iran

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hold on power is increasingly precarious. He is protected at present by the head of state, Ayatollah Khamenei. But as we noted under the heading of Lebanon, Khamenei’s own position may not be secure.

Pakistan

As Pakistan has nuclear weapons, the prospect of a take-over of power by the Taliban and al-Qaeda, both of which are constantly and violently trying to topple the government, is extremely threatening not just to the region but to the world.

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What does all this instability, revolution, and threat of war mean for the United States?

Is there any chance that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have an answer to that question?