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Tunisia, Egypt, Libya... Arab Countries in Revolt


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So, some world-changing events taking place.

Interesting comparisons with the Iranian revolution (western puppet regime falls, no Plan B, uncertain response); China's Tianenman Square demo (demonstrators facing down armoured vehicles, uncertainty on the part of the armed forces about what to do); perhaps some aspects of the eastern European stuff from 20 years back, with the slow shift of popular opinion creating a mass that the established repression and torture apparatus just couldn't cope with.

But crucially, this could reshape the politics of the entire region, and right now no-one knows what's going to happen.

Bet the Israelis are shitting themselves.

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Interesting post Pete and a very interesting subject, I was watching the coverage earlier with a chap getting in the way of a big water cannon/truck thing and it made me think of Tianenman Square.

I think this is going to keep on spreading throughout the region as you say, world changing events heaven knows where it will lead.

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I daresay a fair amount of the Arab world's leaders are shitting themselves rather more.

Oh yes, them too.

But in terms of the regional power balance, does any one country have more to lose from this than Israel, I wonder?

(I mean countries in that area, not us or the US finding our time-honoured tributes being less forthcoming).

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Were this to spread to the Middle East proper (a bit of a 'Domino Effect' if you will) it could all get markedly interesting. The Middle East holds itself together, just, in a kind of unstable tension, making any change to the balance there have potentially widespread affect.

Which could well happen as the Middle East pretty much across the board has a young population that is increasingly disenfranchised.

I'm not sure we're quite at the level of the Islamic Revolution. But if it snowballs, while no individual change would match 1979, together it could dwarf it.

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I daresay a fair amount of the Arab world's leaders are shitting themselves rather more.

Oh yes, them too.

But in terms of the regional power balance, does any one country have more to lose from this than Israel, I wonder?

(I mean countries in that area, not us or the US finding our time-honoured tributes being less forthcoming).

In power balance terms, I doubt Israel will worry. In terms of power it dominates, it's effectively a Western country that finds itself in the middle of a bunch of countries that are developed but not quite on that level of might.

What may worry it is that it'll chuck the dynamic of the region out of whack, as I said above the whole region balances on tension. Currently Egypt (and Jordan) get on rather well with Israel, a change to that may worry them.

I suppose what I'm trying to say here is that Israel stands on top of a pyramid that holds itself together against the odds. This could change the odds, but Israel will still be on top barring a complete catastrophy... it just may not like the state of that position when the odds change.

If Jordan goes pop that could raise some very interesting questions in the Holy Land. It's part of Eretz Yisrael, and a part that as they've become friendly they've given up on. I do wonder if Jordan collapses or finds itself heavily in turmoil, the Eretz Yisrael popular rhetoric changes...

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Were this to spread to the Middle East proper (a bit of a 'Domino Effect' if you will) it could all get markedly interesting. The Middle East holds itself together, just, in a kind of unstable tension, making any change to the balance there have potentially widespread affect.

Which could well happen as the Middle East pretty much across the board has a young population that is increasingly disenfranchised.

I'm not sure we're quite at the level of the Islamic Revolution. But if it snowballs, while no individual change would match 1979, together it could dwarf it.

The Middle East, after China, is perhaps the most interesting area in the world right now.

Your point about unstable tension is spot on. It's a completely mad grouping of states which have little or nothing in common other than Arab lineage. Some of them have deeply felt religious beliefs, some purport to have because it suits them, some are clearly secular. Some are obvious client states of the US, some are diehard opponents, some are just plutocrats out to get what they can before the fate of Mubarak befalls them.

The key point is your comment about young and disenfranchised. What is striking about tonight's tv coverage is the way they seem able to stop almost anyone in the street and get a lucid, compelling analysis in a second language, at about the same level of intellect they pay the chief Beeb reporters for. If you educate a generation, make sure you have jobs for them. A lesson Mr Cameron has clearly learned. Only it would be better to provide the jobs than remove the education, I would think.

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Torygraph cites Wikileaks indicating US orchestration of the uprising

The American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police.

On his return to Cairo in December 2008, the activist told US diplomats that an alliance of opposition groups had drawn up a plan to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and install a democratic government in 2011.

He has already been arrested by Egyptian security in connection with the demonstrations and his identity is being protected by The Daily Telegraph.

The crisis in Egypt follows the toppling of Tunisian president Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali, who fled the country after widespread protests forced him from office.

The disclosures, contained in previously secret US diplomatic dispatches released by the WikiLeaks website, show American officials pressed the Egyptian government to release other dissidents who had been detained by the police.

The US government has previously been a supporter of Mr Mubarak’s regime. But the leaked documents show the extent to which America was offering support to pro-democracy activists in Egypt while publicly praising Mr Mubarak as an important ally in the Middle East.

In a secret diplomatic dispatch, sent on December 30 2008, Margaret Scobey, the US Ambassador to Cairo, recorded that opposition groups had allegedly drawn up secret plans for “regime change” to take place before elections, scheduled for September this year.

The memo, which Ambassador Scobey sent to the US Secretary of State in Washington DC, was marked “confidential” and headed: “April 6 activist on his US visit and regime change in Egypt.”

It said the activist claimed “several opposition forces” had “agreed to support an unwritten plan for a transition to a parliamentary democracy, involving a weakened presidency and an empowered prime minister and parliament, before the scheduled 2011 presidential elections”. The embassy’s source said the plan was “so sensitive it cannot be written down”.

Ambassador Scobey questioned whether such an “unrealistic” plot could work, or ever even existed. However, the documents showed that the activist had been approached by US diplomats and received extensive support for his pro-democracy campaign from officials in Washington. The embassy helped the campaigner attend a “summit” for youth activists in New York, which was organised by the US State Department.

Cairo embassy officials warned Washington that the activist’s identity must be kept secret because he could face “retribution” when he returned to Egypt. He had already allegedly been tortured for three days by Egyptian state security after he was arrested for taking part in a protest some years earlier.

The protests in Egypt are being driven by the April 6 youth movement, a group on Facebook that has attracted mainly young and educated members opposed to Mr Mubarak. The group has about 70,000 members and uses social networking sites to orchestrate protests and report on their activities.

The documents released by WikiLeaks reveal US Embassy officials were in regular contact with the activist throughout 2008 and 2009, considering him one of their most reliable sources for information about human rights abuses.

Once again, Wikileaks makes the US look better than official pronouncements do...

Reports seem to indicate that the Muslim Brotherhood is not organizing/directing the street protests, though that has little to do with whether they form a post-Mubarak government.

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I daresay a fair amount of the Arab world's leaders are shitting themselves rather more.

Oh yes, them too.

But in terms of the regional power balance, does any one country have more to lose from this than Israel, I wonder?

(I mean countries in that area, not us or the US finding our time-honoured tributes being less forthcoming).

In power balance terms, I doubt Israel will worry. In terms of power it dominates, it's effectively a Western country that finds itself in the middle of a bunch of countries that are developed but not quite on that level of might.

What may worry it is that it'll chuck the dynamic of the region out of whack, as I said above the whole region balances on tension. Currently Egypt (and Jordan) get on rather well with Israel, a change to that may worry them.

I suppose what I'm trying to say here is that Israel stands on top of a pyramid that holds itself together against the odds. This could change the odds, but Israel will still be on top barring a complete catastrophy... it just may not like the state of that position when the odds change.

If Jordan goes pop that could raise some very interesting questions in the Holy Land. It's part of Eretz Yisrael, and a part that as they've become friendly they've given up on. I do wonder if Jordan collapses or finds itself heavily in turmoil, the Eretz Yisrael popular rhetoric changes...

I can't see Jordan collapsing, it's pretty stable. But Lebanon was already on the verge of failed state status, Yemen, too. What a mess.

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Yemen basically already is a 'failed' state (avoiding the talk of whatever one of those is...), the country's already a mess. It's hard for a country that undeveloped and facing that many problems not to be. It's a almost comical that a country that poor is surrounded by the Saudis to the north and Oman to the East.

Jordan is indeed largely stable but has quietly been gaining civil unrest, which could grow quite easily, especially if this feeling spreads further through the region. With Jordan the worry isn't quite so much the kind of thing we've seen in Tunisia and Egypt, but rather that the poltical outlook of the nation will change and lend more power to groups that are less known quantities than those currently empowered.

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Once again, Wikileaks makes the US look better than official pronouncements do...

Reports seem to indicate that the Muslim Brotherhood is not organizing/directing the street protests, though that has little to do with whether they form a post-Mubarak government.

Bizarre. The report seems to suggest either

a) the US doesn't know its arse from its elbow

B) the reporter doesn't know his arse from his elbow, or

c) the situation is fluid and the US haven't yet chosen who to back, but want to back whoever emerges with his head above water, as long as he's not some **** commie muslim who might interfere with global profit-taking

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Reports seem to indicate that the Muslim Brotherhood is not organizing/directing the street protests, though that has little to do with whether they form a post-Mubarak government.

Perhaps waiting to take advantage of any vacuum.

I think that the West (led by the US) has to carefully consider its positioning in all of this. If they keep on trying to eat their cake and still have it by both supporting and distancing themselves from each side (in Egypt especially but, perhaps, elsewhere, too) then it will make it possible for any radical (perhaps islamist, perhaps just anti-Western) agenda to say that the West were less concerned with the interests of the various peoples in terms of democracy, freedom and economic well being and more concerned with their own national interests (to the extent of implicitly supporting a 'stable' ally).

On the subject of the protests and uprisings, though, good on the people.

Bread and freedom.

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I think that the West (led by the US) has to carefully consider its positioning in all of this. If they keep on trying to eat their cake and still have it by both supporting and distancing themselves from each side (in Egypt especially but, perhaps, elsewhere, too) then it will make it possible for any radical (perhaps islamist, perhaps just anti-Western) agenda to say that the West were less concerned with the interests of the various peoples in terms of democracy, freedom and economic well being and more concerned with their own national interests (to the extent of implicitly supporting a 'stable' ally).

Is there any serious argument that can be made that the West isn't more concerned with its own diverse interests than in democracy, freedom, and economic well-being of those in the Middle East?

(not that the latter are necessarily not aligned with the former)

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Reports seem to indicate that the Muslim Brotherhood is not organizing/directing the street protests, though that has little to do with whether they form a post-Mubarak government.

Perhaps waiting to take advantage of any vacuum.

I think that the West (led by the US) has to carefully consider its positioning in all of this. If they keep on trying to eat their cake and still have it by both supporting and distancing themselves from each side (in Egypt especially but, perhaps, elsewhere, too) then it will make it possible for any radical (perhaps islamist, perhaps just anti-Western) agenda to say that the West were less concerned with the interests of the various peoples in terms of democracy, freedom and economic well being and more concerned with their own national interests (to the extent of implicitly supporting a 'stable' ally).

On the subject of the protests and uprisings, though, good on the people.

Bread and freedom.

Agree with this 100%.

As for Egypt, on a personal note, it's had me distraught.

Now I know 2 months isn't a long time in the whole scheme of things but I was there for that long and I absolutely fell in love with the country and it's people. They are soo **** warm and generous! It's the only Muslim country I've been to, I don't really count Tanzania even though it is. I imagine that most Muslim countries are like Egypt, all men act like brothers to each other, treat foreigners very well and make sure they are welcomed. (I don't think a day went by in Egypt where I wasn't shouted to on the street "Welcome to Egypt!"). That said I was robbed in Alexandria my first day there (long story but my fault for trusting an old man after spending 6 hours with him and being shown around the city). And I did get slapped by a hostel owner in Dahab, but that again was cause I don't put up with assholes.

Anyways, I'm not afraid to admit it but I cried a bit today watching the live Al-Jazeera. I couldn't believe it myself that I did, and I really can't explain it, but I had so many Egyptians care about my well being while I lived in Alexandria for a month, that seeing the images, (especially of places I had been in Alex and Cairo) just really started the water works. I can name at least 10 Mohameds, Ahmeds, and Mahmouds that were genuinely concerned that I was enjoying my time in Egypt, so to see such young men in the protests I felt like I was looking at my friends. In my head I could see them on the streets, I could picture them throwing rocks, I am 100% certain they were. Even two Egyptian birds who I got involved with romantically, I am certain they were on the streets. What made the emotions run high for me as well was not being able to communicate with them, it really got me down in the dumps. I hope they are all doing well.

Last I heard Dina was at the protests in Cairo on Tuesday, let me tell you this girl is a lion, a **** lion. Her is one of her last status updates on FB:

"To everybody sitting at home in their comfy couchs watching cooking TV shows and losing weight product commercials on the Egyptian TV channels, you are not helping, you are making it worse, we need each and everyone of you to come down to Tahrir square to replace the hurt and even dead people and fight for our freedom and for the right to be treated like human beings."

That same day she was hit by a rock and she even threw a tear gas canister back to the police before it started dispersing the fumes.

As for as the reasons behind the protests, there is a long list. For women especially but alot of that boils down to religious laws of the Islam world. Most women these days cover their hair and many most of their skin. But 25-35 years ago it was the opposite. Women these days feel oppressed and they have every reason to be. They are looked down upon a lot, and if they are seen with a man that isnt there husband then they had better be related. It was difficult for Maha and I, and Dina and I to spend time together, even after I had my own apartment neighbors would question our motives, **** ridiculous. But obviously that's not why they are protesting, they're protesting because the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. Mubarak has done fuckall for the country and they want him out, his plan to replace the cabinet is not what they want. They want his head on a platter. I think he is the poster boy for a society that wants equality, they want what I would consider something impossible and that's a something close to socialism.

Another thing about all this is that Egyptians are like the Brazilians of Africa. And if you have ever talked to a Brazilian you know what I am talking about. They think they are the best, they really think they have the best of everything. Best food, best music, (Egypt is considered the Hollywood of Muslim/Arab films), they have the Pyramids and ancient relics form the pharoahs. They are a very proud people, so to have a country like Tunisia "show them how it's done", I don't think they could let that fly. I'm not saying they started this in spite of Tunisia but it definitely wasn't just about getting Mubarak out but also "that they can do it as well". Almost like they want to "one up" the Tunisians, but also they had good reason to what with the corruption (witnessed it myself almost every day on the lower level).

I really side with them if that isn't obvious and I'm sorry for such a long post but it has helped me get my thoughts written down about it all. I hope that the violence stops but I'm afraid this is just the beginning. I pray (to Allah?) :P that they get internet back and I can find out how my friends are doing.

Inshallah.

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It's a very fluid situation obviously but I don't think we're looking at the beginning of the end for autocracy in the Middle East as a whole.

North Africa and Arabia share a religion but are fundamentally different in their outlook. Tunisia, Egypt (and maybe Algeria and Libya to come?) are likely to replace dictatorship with democracy. The populations are highly educated and progressive in their outlook. Saudi Arabia has a population that is barely educated outside of Quranic study and is far less infulenced by the West. If that regime falls over the result is likely to be something similar to the Taliban taking power and the implications of that globally could barely be guessed at, but, like the banks, for Western interests Saudi is simply too big to fail.

The smaller Gulf States are likely to remain stable regardless because the populations are small and enough of the oil/gas wealth trickles down to keep everyone happy - for now.

I can't see this this following a similar domino effect that went from Poland to Moscow (via the Berlin Wall) but we might see the likes of Jordan and Syria go the way of Egypt/Tunisia - although that seems unlikely imo. Even so our internet mysteriously went down for hours after Friday prayers yesterday so I think a few well placed arses are twitching and it's a very interesting time to be living in the region.

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