A Hindu Sees The Light in Between the Muslims Fighting Each Other in Syria – and he is obviously right – it is not nice! Neither is the US above blame – in effect it is with US acts that the spread of Islamicism in its various forms took place. Could one now hope for India and China Diplomacy? We add – Could the Saudis come out of the Israeli Closet?
Syrian rebels or international terrorists?
Vijay Prashad* – The Hindu
*Vijay Prashad is the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.
With Bashar Assad arguing that this is a war against terrorism, and the rebels arguing that this is a war against authoritarianism, no agreement can come of the peace talks on Syria.
Geneva 2’s mood mirrored the sound of mortar and despair on the ground in Syria. Not much of substance came of the former, as the U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi tiredly indicated that diplomacy continued despite the lack of a breakthrough. He hoped that the United States and the Russians would pressure their clients to remain at the table, from where, for three weeks, little of value has emerged. No agreement can come of these peace talks for at least two reasons. First, the government of Bashar Assad and the rebel coalition do not agree on the interpretation of the conflict. Mr. Assad argues that this is a war against terrorism (Al-Qaeda), while the rebels argue that this is a war against authoritarianism (the Assad government). Second, the rebels themselves are deeply fractured, with the Islamists in Syria who are doing the brunt of the fighting indisposed to any peace talks.
Mr. Brahimi hoped that humanitarian relief would be the glue to hold the two sides together. Residents in the old city of Homs and in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Yarmouk in Damascus have been under siege for two years. It was hoped that safe passage could be provided for food and medicine, but this was not accomplished. U.N. and Islamic Red Cross workers bravely avoided snipers and shells to transport food and medicines to the Syrians; children among them stared at fresh fruit, unsure of what to do with it. Absent momentum from Geneva, the options for a regional solution are back on the table.
Role for India, China?
In 2012, Egypt convened the Syria Contact Group that comprised Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — unlikely partners. Pressure from the U.S. and Russia at that time closed down the Group. Today, the regional partners seek an exit from their exaggerated postures over Syria, but there is no diplomatic space for them to act. It falls to powers that are untainted by the war, perhaps China and India, to call for a meeting — a Beijing or New Delhi summit — to craft a serious agenda to pressure all sides to a ceasefire and a credible political process.
The war is now fought less on the ground and more over its interpretation. Expectations of a hasty collapse of the government withdraw as the Syrian Army takes Jarajir, along the Lebanon border. Islamists groups continue to fight against each other in the north, weakening their firepower as the Syrian army watches from the sidelines. The emboldened Syrian government has now stepped up its rhetoric about this war being essentially one against terrorists with affiliation to al-Qaeda. Ears that once rejected this narrative in the West and Turkey are now increasingly sympathetic to it. As the Islamists suffocate the rebellion, it becomes hard to champion them against the government. Focus has moved away from the prisons and barrel bombs of the government to the executions and social policies of the Islamists.
A year ago, the West and Turkey would have scoffed at talk of terrorism as the fantasy of the Assad government. The West and the Gulf Arabs had opened their coffers to the rebels, knowing full well that they were incubating the growth of the Islamist factions at the expense of the secular opposition. Turkey’s government of Recep Tayyip Erdog?an micromanaged the opposition, provided bases in Turkey and allowed well-armed fighters to slip across the border into Syria. By early 2012, it had become a common sight to see well-armed Islamist fighters in the streets of Antakya and in the refugee camps in Hatay Province. The seeds of what was to come — the entry of al-Qaeda into Syria — was set by an opportunistic and poorly conceived policy by Erdog?an’s government. It did not help that his otherwise well-spoken and highly-regarded Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutog?lu began to refer to Syria’s Alawites (Mr. Assad’s community) as Nusayri, a derogatory sectarian term. Turkey joined U.S., Europe and Gulf Arab calls for Mr. Assad’s departure well before the numbers of those dead climbed above the thousands. Nervousness about the spread of al-Qaeda to Syria has made the rebels’ patrons edge closer to the Damascus narrative. The U.S. government wishes to arm the Iraqi government with Hellfire missiles and drones to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq’s Anbar Province. Britain has said that any fighter who comes back from Syria will be arrested (last week, a Sussex man — Abu Suleiman al-Britani — conducted a suicide operation in Aleppo). The Saudi Royal Court decreed that any Saudi found to have waged jihad abroad could spend up to 20 years in prison.
General Mansour al-Turki of the Saudi Interior Ministry said: “We are trying to stop everyone who wants to go to Syria, but we can’t stop leaks.” The Turkish Armed Forces fired on an ISIS convoy on January 28 inside Syria, and told the government in a report prepared jointly with the Turkish National Intelligence agency that al-Qaeda had made credible threats on Turkey.
Mr. Erdog?an hastened to Tehran to meet the new Iranian leadership — their public comments were on trade, but their private meetings were all on Syria and the need to combat the rise of terrorism. What Mr. Assad had warned about in 2012 came to pass — for whatever reason — and led to a loss of confidence among the rebels’ patrons for their future. Even al-Qaeda’s putative leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has sought to distance himself from ISIS. These signs indicate that on Syria, the “terrorism narrative” has come to dominate over the “authoritarian regime narrative.”
The fractious Syrian opposition that came to Geneva does not represent the main columns of rebel fighters on the ground. These are mainly Islamists — with the al-Qaeda wing represented by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and the rest represented by the Islamic Front. They have no appetite for negotiation. Mr. Abu Omar of the Islamic Front said that Syria’s future would be created “here on the ground of heroism, and signed with blood on the frontlines, not in hollow conferences attended by those who don’t even represent themselves.” A U.S. intelligence official told me that when the U.S. went into Afghanistan in 2001, “We smashed the mercury and watched it spread out slowly in the area.” Al-Qaeda was not demolished in Kandahar and Tora Bora. Its hardened cadre slipped across to Pakistan and then onwards to their homelands. There they regrouped, reviving the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, al-Qaeda in Yemen, Ansar al-Sharia, Ansar Dine, and ISIS. The latter slipped into Syria from an Iraq broken by the U.S. occupation and the sectarian governance of the current government. There they worked with Jabhat al-Nusra and fought alongside other Islamist currents such as Ahrar ash-Sham. It was inevitable that these battle-tested Islamists would overrun the peaceful protesters and the defectors from the Syrian Army — the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — who scattered to the wind in 2012.
The FSA troops either joined up with the Islamists, continued to fight in small detachments, or linger precariously as twice defectors who are now homeless. The barbarism of the ISIS pushed other Islamists — with Gulf Arab support — to form the Islamic Front. The hope was that this group would run ISIS back to Iraq and remove the stigma of “al-Qaeda” from the Syrian rebellion. The problem is that one of the constituents of the Islamic Front — Jabhat al-Nusra, arguably the most effective of its fighting forces — sees itself as the Syrian franchise of al-Qaeda and has largely abjured the fight against ISIS. Another problem is that the in-fighting on the ground seems to have tapered off — one of the Islamist groups, Suqour al-Sham signed a truce with ISIS and pledged to work together.
By early 2014, these groups found their supply lines cut off. Iraq’s attack on ISIS began to seal the porous border that runs through the Great Syrian Desert. Jordan had already tried to close its border since early 2013, having arrested over a hundred fighters who have tried to cross into Syria. Lebanon’s border has become almost inaccessible for the rebels as the Syrian Army takes the roadway that runs along the boundary line. Last year, Turkey closed the Azaz crossing once it was taken over by the radical Islamists.
On January 20, the rebels attacked the Turkish post at Cilvegözü-Bab al-Hawa, killing 16. This is what spurred the Turkish Army to attack the ISIS convoy a week later.
As the Islamists saw their supply lines closed off, the U.S. announced that it would restart its aid to the rebel fighters. On February 5, the Syrian Coalition chief Ahmad Jabra told Future TV that his rebels would get “advanced weapons” — likely from the U.S. The FSA announced the formation of the Southern Front – with assistance from the West — to revive the dormant fight in Syria’s south-west. All this took place during Geneva 2, signalling confusion in U.S. policy. Does Washington still want to overthrow the Syrian government? Would it live with an Islamist government on Israel’s borders? Or, perhaps, the U.S. is eager for a stalemate, as pointed out by former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, “The rebels lack the organization and weapons to defeat Assad. The regime lacks the loyal manpower to suppress the rebellion. Both sides’ external allies are ready to supply enough money and arms to fuel the stalemate for the foreseeable future.” This is a cruel strategy.
It offers no hope of peace for the Syrian people.
Road ahead for Syria group:
A senior military official in West Asia told me that one of the most overlooked aspects of West Asia and North Africa is that the military leaderships of each country maintain close contacts with each other. During Turkey’s war against the Kurdish rebellion in its eastern provinces, the military coordinated their operations with the Syrian armed forces. These links have been maintained. When it became clear that Mr. Erdog?an’s exaggerated hopes for Syria failed, and with the growth of the Islamists on Turkey’s borders and the Kurds in Syria having declared their independence, the Turkish military exerted its views. The Iraqi armed forces had already begun their operations against ISIS. Additionally, Egypt’s new Field Marshal Sisi overthrew the government of Mohamed Morsi when the latter encouraged jihadis to go to Syria. This was anathema to the Egyptian military who acted for this and other reasons to depose Mr. Morsi. The military view of the political situation leans naturally toward the terrorism narrative.
It appears now that the regional states are no longer agreed that their primary mission is the removal of Mr. Assad.This view — shared by the militaries — is evident in the political leadership in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.With Egypt, these three states would be the core of a rejuvenated Syria Contact Group.
The 2012 group also had Saudi Arabia, which might be enjoined to come back to the table if they see that their outside allies — notably the U.S. — are averse to a policy that would mean Jabhat al-Nusra in power in Damascus.
Without Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even Qatar, the Syria Contact Group would be less effective.
If the Syria Contact Group is to re-emerge, it would need to be incubated by pressure from China and India, two countries that are sympathetic to multipolar regionalism.
Thus far, neither China nor India has taken an active role in the Syrian conflict, content to work within the United Nations and to make statements as part of the BRICS group.
But the failure of the U.S. and Russia and the paralysis of the U.N. alongside the continued brutality in Syria require an alternative path to be opened up.
Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have indicated willingness for a dialogue — China and India need to offer them the table.
When the Lid is Taken-Off Arab States – What Now? Contemplate that The Nation-State is a European/Foreign Idea Brought in by Christians – that Might Have No Place in the Divine-States Followed by Muslim Middle-Easterners.
Arab societies must build ‘citizen-states’
The primary danger facing the Arab world in the wake of successive revolutions is not a wave of political Islam, but rather the state of violent chaos that has resulted from the breakup of former regimes, which had imposed security through repression and violence. This danger comes as a result of the absence of alternative ruling systems to both maintain security and guarantee the participation of various segments of society.
What the Arab world is witnessing today is the emergence of Islamist movements that were formerly repressed. This is not a deep-rooted revolution — similar to the Iranian Revolution — that relies on a doctrine with clear features, such as that of Velayat-e Faqih. Political Islam movements in Egypt, and likewise in Tunisia, are divided among themselves. They competed for power within the framework of elections, and did not hesitate to forge alliances with civil forces and movements. Moreover, their experiences in power — and Egypt is the best example of this — have been marked by failure. This is no surprise, given that these movements did not have a program for governance that relied on political, economic and social choices that had been tested on the ground. It is ironic that the army, or some army leaders, have been the ones to save these countries, by transforming themselves into the victim.
In short, the Arab world today is facing a crisis when it comes to the project of building a state. Herein lies the danger and the opportunity at the same time. It is an opportunity for Christians and the other groups opposed to the former regimes and that fear Islamists coming to power to reclaim their role. This can be done through these groups presenting a project for governance to fill that vacuum that occurred as a result of the fall of former regimes, and the Brotherhood’s failure in Egypt and stumbling in Tunisia.
Christians in Lebanon adopted a nation-state project, and they — along with their Muslim compatriots — turned this project into a system of governance to implement the National Pact of 1943. Under this pact, Muslims rejected the idea of becoming part of Syria, while Christians also rejected the existing French protection provided by the mandate. In fact, the idea of a nation state was the prevailing idea in Europe, which maintained wide cultural influence in the Levant and Arab Maghreb. “Nation-state,” in and of itself, is a term that originated and evolved over a full century in the aftermath of the French Revolution. The term was adopted by the Age of Enlightenment, an era which adopted ideas and values that established conceptions of ”modernity” and formed a cultural and political system in the face of “divine law.” This latter system resulted in various political and social institutions.
In other words, the nation-state was established to confront the “divine state” — i.e., a state that is based on divine law. The term “nation-state” was brought to the Levant during the Arab Renaissance (Al-Nahda), at the beginning of the 20th century. Levantine Christians were among the most prominent pioneers of this renaissance, and contributed in reviving Arabic language and culture, which had been obliterated by more than four centuries of Ottoman rule.
Notable figures from this period included authors and intellectuals such as Gibran Khalil Gibran, Mikhail Naima and Ilyas Abu Shabaki, among others. In fact, the Arab Renaissance was an extension of the European Age of Enlightenment, as it adopted ideas of modernity and entered them into the Arabic language. At the political level, these ideas were translated through nationalist projects that formed the basis of various political parties. The latter include the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party — founded by a Christian, Antoun Saada — and the Arab Baath Party, founded by Salah al-Din al-Bitar, a Sunni Muslim, and Michel Aflaq, a Christian. Even the right-wing Kataeb Party, which was founded by Christian leader Pierre Gemayel, was based on the idea of nationalism.
Thus, Christians adopted the project of a nation-state, and presented it as a model to be implemented in the numerous Levantine societies, which are ethnically and culturally diverse. It is worth mentioning that the idea of the nation-state came together with and blended with the theory of socialist governance and its promises of a fair distribution of wealth, as happened in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century in the wake of the First World War. No one denies that nationalist theory ignited Europe and led to two consecutive wars. Moreover, the theory of socialism — which supported nationalism — collapsed itself with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Even the theory of a sponsor state, which was inherited from socialism, is crumbling under the pressures of globalization and the European structure. It is no surprise that the Arab revolutions are confronting this system that has collapsed in developed countries, and that has fulfilled its function in a certain stage. It goes without saying that the Arab nationalist projects, and the countries that emerged from them, have failed on all levels. They have not been able to achieve widespread participation of all segments of society through moving toward democracy. Likewise, these systems have not fulfilled their promises in terms of economic development. Even at the military level, they have lost all the wars that were waged to recover usurped Arab rights.
The challenge today for Christians and non-Christians who believe in democracy and are eager for modernity, is to present a project that serves as a substitute for the nation-state. It should likewise serve as an alternate for projects that call for a return to religious origins, yet in actuality do not go beyond mere slogans and opposition. The most important thing to come from Christian literature and documents for decades, is the contents of the Synod for Lebanon Charter of 1996. This was issued during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Lebanon, and included subsequent work under the title of the Maronite Patriarchal Synod. These documents are devoted to the principle of a civil state as a model for administration in Arab societies, and presented the idea of “Lebanon the Message,” which is based on interfaith dialogue. These documents not only were met with consensus among all spectra of Lebanon, but also resonated throughout the Muslim World, particularly in the wake of the painful events of Sept. 11, 2001. These documents led to Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s initiative for interfaith dialogue, which culminated in the Riyadh Declaration in 2008, aimed at founding a culture of peace. A civil state has become necessary to save Arab societies from the specter of a camouflaged return to the old regimes, or the risk of being dragged back to obsolete ideologies as a result of poverty, oppression and deprivation.
In short, it is time to present the idea of a “citizen state” as an alternative for the nation-state. The former should be based on individual freedoms, even if at the expense of nationalist fantasies.
Sami Nader is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Lebanon Pulse. He is an economist, Middle Eastern affairs analyst and communications expert with extensive expertise in corporate strategy and risk management. He currently directs the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs, focusing on economics and geopolitics of the Levant, and is a professor for USJ University in Beirut. On Twitter: @saminader
Israel has not celebrated the day but for months there is an on-going soul-searching activity in Israel that on the one hand blames itself and the US advise at the time of not to seem to be those that start a war. Yes, Israel starts to see publicly now that it was a pawn in a global chess game. But what is more important – Israel sees it did not take advantage of the outcome of that war in order to solve the Palestinian problem. Simply said it could have been the liberator of the Palestinians from their unfaithful brothers, but opted to become their new oppressors.
The oil games created and paid for Al-Qaeda. The Jinny unleashed from the Saudi Arabian oil-barrels turned against the US, and the US now, while Washington is under siege by the army of an extremist Republican Congress, it is the newer Al Shabab that carries the torch of Al-Qaeda with other tentacles in Yemen and all over else. Will the Republicans see that they act in cohoots with the oil interests and are stabbing the US in the back?
Abu Anas al Libi was being detained by the U.S. military in a “secure location outside of Libya,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said late Saturday night.
Al Libi is an al Qaeda leader wanted for his role in the deadly 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
He was captured in one of two raids nearly 3,000 miles apart this weekend.
U.S. forces captured al Libi in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. In the second raid, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs in southern Somalia targeted a leader of Al-Shabaab, which was behind last month’s mall attack in Kenya. The SEALs came under fire and had to withdraw before they could confirm whether the leader was dead, a senior U.S. official said.
In Tripoli, American forces captured a Libyan militant who had been indicted in 2000 for his role in the 1998 bombings of the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The militant, born Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai and known by his nom de guerre, Abu Anas al-Liby, had a $5 million bounty on his head; his capture at dawn ended a 15-year manhunt.
In Somalia, the Navy SEAL team emerged before sunrise from the Indian Ocean and exchanged gunfire with militants at the home of a senior leader of the Shabab, the Somali militant group. The raid was planned more than a week ago, officials said, after a massacre by the Shabab at a Nairobi shopping mall that killed more than 60 people two weeks ago.
The New York Times writes: “With President Obama locked in a standoff with Congressional Republicans and his leadership criticized for a policy reversal in Syria, the raids could fuel accusations among his critics that the administration was eager for a showy foreign policy victory.”
Are we supposed to see in the Republicans’ digging under the US might something positive rather then the un-American activity that they perpetuate? We rather congratulate the President, the FBI, and the CIA, for picking the coincidental date of October 5-th and see in this a sign that the US is learning lessons from events 40 years old.
His capture was the latest blow to what remains of the original Al-Qaeda organization after a 12-year American campaign to capture or kill its leadership, including the killing two years ago of its founder, Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan.
Despite his presence in Libya, Abu Anas was not believed to have played any role in the 2012 attack on the United States diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, senior officials briefed on that investigation have said, but he may have sought to build networks connecting what remains of the Qaeda organization to like-minded militants in Libya.
His brother, Nabih, told The Associated Press that just after dawn prayers, three vehicles full of armed men had approached Abu Anas’s home and surrounded him as he parked his car. The men smashed his window, seized his gun and sped away with him, the brother said.
A senior American official said the Libyan government had been apprised of the operation and provided assistance, but it was unclear in what capacity. An assistant to the prime minister of the Libyan transitional government said the government had been unaware of any operation or of Abu Anas’s capture. Asked if American forces had ever conducted raids inside Libya or collaborated with Libyan forces, Mehmoud Abu Bahia, assistant to the defense minister, replied, “Absolutely not.”
Disclosure of the raid is likely to inflame anxieties among many Libyans about their national sovereignty, putting a new strain on the transitional government’s fragile authority. Many Libyan Islamists already accuse their interim prime Minister, Ali Zeidan, who previously lived in Geneva as part of the exiled opposition to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, of collaborating too closely with the West.
Abu Anas, 49, was born in Tripoli and joined Bin Laden’s organization as early as the early 1990s, when it was based in Sudan. He later moved to Britain, where he was granted political asylum as a Libyan dissident. United States prosecutors in New York charged him in a 2000 indictment with helping to conduct “visual and photographic surveillance” of the United States Embassy in Nairobi in 1993 and again in 1995. Prosecutors said in the indictment that Abu Anas had discussed with another senior Qaeda figure the idea of attacking an American target in retaliation for the United States peacekeeping operation in Somalia.
After the 1998 bombing, the British police raided his apartment and found an 18-chapter terrorist training manual. Written in Arabic and titled “Military Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants,” it included advice on car bombing, torture, sabotage and disguise.
Since the overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi, Tripoli has slid steadily into lawlessness, with no strong central government or police presence. It has become a safe haven for militants seeking to avoid detection elsewhere, and United States government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information, have acknowledged in recent months that Abu Anas and other wanted terrorists had been seen moving freely around the capital.
The operation to capture Abu Anas was several weeks in the making, a United States official said, and President Obama was regularly briefed as the suspect was tracked in Tripoli. Mr. Obama had to approve the capture. He had often promised there would be “no boots on the ground” in Libya when the United States intervened there in March 2011, so the decision to send in Special Operations forces was a risky one.
Coal, tar sands and their pipelines, and fracked shale gas, just do not mix with wind, solar and water. At 400ppm, Reverend Billy and his choir will lead the green children in a protest when Obama is in New York Town Monday May 13, 2013 so he notes that 350ppm is the acceptable limit.
United Against Pipelines, Forward on Climate! Tomorrow, Monday May 13th, New Yorkers will march and rally to greet President Obama when he attends a fundraiser in NYC––his first visit since his post-Sandy inspection. In his Inaugural Address just a few months ago, Obama promised “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
Join us if you stand against fossil fuel pipelines, against fracking, against tar sands, and FOR a country powered by wind, water and solar.
Gather in Bryant Park starting at 5 (meet near the fountain off 6th avenue at 41st Street). Reverend Billy and his choir will lead us off with a rousing blessing and song. We’ll begin to march at , then rally in front of the Waldorf Astoria at .
If you can, please wear yellow and orange (the colors of Occupy Sandy) to demonstrate your support for a clean energy future.
Event Partners: 350 NYC, 350 NJ, 350.org, Brooklyn For Peace, Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline (CARP), CREDO, CUNY Divest, Food & Water Watch, Global Kids Inc., Green Party of NY, Human Impacts Institute, NYC Friends of Clearwater, NYU Divest, Occupy the Pipeline, Occupy Sandy, Restore the Rock, Sane Energy Project, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Sierra Club National, United for Action, World Can’t Wait, WESPAC, YANA (You Are Never Alone).
Chasing Islamists in the Mountains of Mali, or is it the Dunes? What goes on in Sahelistan – Is this a new Islamistan? Is it a fight for resources? A World of Multi-Partnerships? Will there be an AZAWAD?
Back at the end of January 2013 we posted – based on an article in “Der Spiegel” – that reached us via the UN Wire – that there was in the making an Islamistan, much more dangerous to the West then the AfPak (Afghanistan & Pakistan) region. This will be a Sahelistan ranging from Mauritania to Somalia, right there as a second southern complete layer to the Mediterranean shore Arab States that stretch from Morocco to Egypt. We call this the SAHELISTAN. Its front line is in Mali, Niger, and Chad.
This layer of Islamism is a combination of conservative Islam used as mortar to bind together locally inspired aspirations to free themselves of the Arab century old imposed rulers and like in the Maghreb States and Libya and Egypt, is supported by the religious leaders out of pure opportunism.
Our old posting is:
Now, in Vienna, I realize further the influence of this newly evolving threat and the reality that Europe is happy to let France, the former Colonial power in that region, shoulder the problem by itself. Further, it is France that running its National energy network on nuclear power, is totally depended on the Uranium they get from those countries, while other Members of the EU have no such dependence.
Further, as we noted last month, at the time of the Vienna Conference of the “Alliance of Civilizations” – as shown by the regional division among the Workshops in that meeting, the Central European States have sort of distanced themselves from the Mediterranean States by showing their economic interest as an extension from Central Europe to Central Asia – that is the Black Sea – Caspian Sea and beyond to the other smaller Muslim States that were part of the former Soviet Union. This leaves the Southern EU States to worry about the Muslim MENA region (Middle East – North Africa) and Turkey – if it has to be.
We also suggested a third tier – the Northern tier – and that is the line that connects the Scandinavian countries – Germany – Poland – with Russia.
But that is not where Vienna left this part of the world.
In March I participated further at two wide scope events:
(1) March 11, 2013, the Austrian Institute for International Politics (OIIP) where Editor Walter Haemmerle of the Wiener Zeitung, was the moderator between three Members of OIIP – all Professors at the University but coming from different areas of interest – Prof. Heinz Gaertner – a political Scientist, Prof. Jan Pospisil for the Arab Space – in particular North Africa, and Prof. Cengiz Guenay, for the Near East/ Middle East Space.
The topic was USA – Near East – Mali – in context of Changes of International Applications of Power.
(2) March 21, 2013, the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC) - www.VIDC.org – using the space at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialog – dealt with a more limited topic – and therefore could go down to quite some depth – “Mali: Perspectives for the Political Come-Back.”
The two Malians were – Ismaeel Sory Maiega, Director of the study Center of Languages and African Cultures, and the European Representative of the Tuareg-organized Insurgency MNLA – Mouvement National de Liberation de l’Azawad – National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, Mr. Moussa Assarid.
Ms. Biloa is also the President “Club Millennium” in Paris – an African Think Tank and training place for leadership.
From the OIIP event:
The issue is the US – it is retrenching from the Reagan – G.W. Bush (the son) days of overextended global involvements – so issues like the insurgency in Mali and other Islamization aspects of North Africa, are to be from now on pure European problems. Even the Middle East will have to take care of itself – the most the US will do is to express encouragement for others to act. Professor Gaertner studied the US elections and his view of the Obama II Administration is very similar to what we wrote on our website. The US is readjusting to the Trans-Pacific Partnership – with China its main focus, so much of what goes on in the Muslim Space will have to be filled in by others. Europeans will have to look across the Mediterranean for their own sake.
Dr. Jan Pospisil did his PhD thesis on US-German military cooperation and then looked at East Africa and Sri-Lanka. Like Prof. Gaertner he sees in Syria the biggest problem for the topic of human rights and both think that this is an area that Austria will pay attention as well. With this background it becomes interesting to note that the Austrian participation in Mali is with 9 people.
Dr. Cengiz Guenay wrote his PhD thesis on “Islam as a political factor in Turkey” and found Libya, Egypt, and now Syria as his main fields of interest and he is called in quite often to explain the situation to the media.
The two main points I marked myself from this discussion were:
A. that Turkey is now a TRADING STATE and will do whatever Mr. Erdogan finds opportune for the literal moment.
B. The World – Instead of Multi-polarity – now it will be MULTI-PARTNERSHIPS.
Then at the VIDC/Bruno Kreisky Forum event we got to know Mr. Assarid a full blooded Tuareg, dressed to prove it, who speaks about the Azawad State they want to carve out from the Northern half of Mali – the five towns – Timbuktu, Lere, Hombori, Gao, and Kidal. His bio says he is a writer, journalist and comedian – living in Paris since 1999. He has appeared on TV in several series as actor. He was saying that the Tuaregs have a National movement that is secular. They are not part of an Islamic uprising and their problem is rather that the other side – the present government in Bamako – that took over from an elected government by military coup – is the one that may help the North Africa Al-Qaeda – not the Tuaregs.
Listening to him, and to his opponent, Professor. Maiega, who is an intellectual – head of a Bamako Institute to promote indigenous languages and African Civilizations, it seems that in effect both of them are more interested in traditional African culture then in Islam, and in effect it is France’s interest in holding on to its previous Colony that is the most problematic aspect of this entanglement. Is it all because of the Uranium, coal, and other natural resources found in Mali? Will this move on to Niger and Chad? What would happen if Mali is allowed to split amicably into two States? Could this be worse then seeing it unravel in fighting that allows other groups to mix the boiling pot?
The French say they want to bring down their fighting troops from 4,000 to 1,000 by the end of April, and have by that time trained the Mali government troops, and the West African troops, that offered to help. I say – Do not hold your breath – I say.
The problem with the desert people maybe much more complicated then what was presented. There is money to be made from those natural resources, and from kidnapping people for ransom. The desert is big and people rather unemployed – so the few can muster the rest, and bamboozle with religion cooked up with social, ethnic, tribal arguments to boot – this works in a world that thinks very little of terrorism, as an accepted tool for those that feel downtroden, and the passage to the world here-after as a move to step up an imagined personalized ladder.
Recent History as reported today – April 1, 2013: The fighting reflected the difficulty of securing Mali after a French intervention in January that pushed the rebels out of their northern strongholds.
“Things are quiet this morning. The markets are open, traffic is on the streets, and people are out of their houses,” Timbuktu resident Garba Maiga said by telephone.
Malian military sources said soldiers were sweeping parts of the town to ensure there were no remaining rebel fighters.
At least one Malian soldier was killed in the clashes, along with more than 20 insurgents, according to a government statement on Sunday night. Residents said at least five civilians were killed in the crossfire.
An army spokesman said that groups of rebels had entered the town after setting off a suicide car bomb at a checkpoint, diverting the military’s attention.
Paris is keen to reduce its current 4,000-strong troop presence to 1,000 by the end of the year as it hands over its mission to a regional African force.
By coincidence – the following arrived in our Inbox and I find this relevant as it stresses US-Senegal relations. Senegal is a Muslim State.
04/01/2013 03:58 PM EDT
Remarks at Luncheon in Honor of Four African Democratic Partners.
William J. Burns
Martin Van Buren Dining Room
March 29, 2013
Good afternoon. It is truly an honor to be here today with all of you. I want to thank Assistant Secretary Carson for hosting this luncheon. As you know, despite our best efforts to change his mind, Johnnie is leaving the State Department after a nearly four decades of exemplary public service. We are all deeply indebted to Johnnie for his leadership and stewardship of the U.S.-Africa relationship.
I would like to welcome President Banda of Malawi, Prime Minister Neves of Cape Verde, Foreign Minister Ndiaye of Senegal, and Foreign Minister Kamara of Sierra Leone. It is a pleasure to host you here at the Department of State.
Like Johnnie, I am an Africa optimist. I am an optimist because the tide of wars and civil strife is receding. I am an optimist because the continent continues to make steady progress in political reform — more than half of the countries in Africa have embraced democratic, multiparty rule and elections and term limits are now widely accepted norms. And I am an optimist because Africa’s growth rate will soon surpass Asia’s and seven of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are African.
The credit for this transformation belongs to leaders like you and courageous citizens across the continent. Looking back over the past two decades, the United States is proud of its modest contribution and steady support.
President Clinton worked with Congress to pass the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region. President George W. Bush created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, programs that saved millions of lives and brought hundreds of thousands of Africans out of poverty. Over the last four years, President Obama has built on this foundation by forming partnerships based on mutual respect and responsibility with governments, entrepreneurs, youth, women, and the private sector to strengthen democratic institutions, spur economic growth, promote opportunity and development, and advance peace and security.
Each of you illustrates the potential of these partnerships.
President Banda – in one year, you led Malawi out of a deep abyss, moving swiftly to stabilize the economy and elevate human rights. And as you did, the United States was pleased to restore its partnership with your government, including lifting the suspension of our $350 million MCC Compact. We look forward to continuing to work together further to strengthen Malawi democracy, address hunger and improve food security.
Prime Minister Neves – under your leadership, Cape Verde reached middle-income country status, joined the WTO, attracted significant foreign investment, and solidified its social safety net. We value our cooperation on maritime security and in countering narcotrafficking and are pleased to launch a second five-year MCC compact to accelerate economic growth.
Senegal is one of the United States’ strongest partners and a leading democracy in Africa. We applaud the Senegalese government’s commitment to improve governance, regional security, and bilateral cooperation. We deeply appreciate President Sall’s efforts for peace in the Casamance and his leadership on peacekeeping and regional security.
Last year, Sierra Leone held fair, free, and credible elections. We thank President Koroma and his government for their commitment to strengthening Sierra Leone’s democratic institutions. Predictably, the economy responded to your efforts, expanding by 30% in 2012. Let me also note our deep appreciation for your government’s troop contribution to the Somalia peacekeeping force.
There is no doubt that we face many challenges in the coming years – from the Horn to the Great Lakes, and the Sahel. This is why our partnership has never been more important. Fortunately, it has never been stronger.
Thank you very much.
According to the Scottish explorer and scientist Robert Brown, Azawad is an Arabic corruption of the Berber word Azawagh, referring to a dry river basin that covers western Niger, northeastern Mali, and southern Algeria. The name translates to “land of transhumance“.
On 6 April 2012, in a statement posted to its website, the MNLA declared the independence of Azawad from Mali. In this Azawad Declaration of Independence, the name Independent State of Azawad was used (French: État indépendant de l’Azawad, Arabic: Dawlat Azaw?d al-Mustaqillah).
On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine – an Islamist group linked to Al-Qaeda – announced a pact in which they would merge to form an Islamist state; according to the media the new long name of Azawad was used in this pact. But this new name is not clear – sources list few variants of it: the Islamic Republic of Azawad (French: République islamique de l’Azawad), the Islamic State of Azawad (French: État islamique de l’Azawad), the Republic of Azawad. Azawad authorities did not officially confirm any change of name.
The MNLA has unveiled the list of 28 members of the Transitional Council of the State of Azawad (Conseil de Transition de l’Etat de l’Azawad, CTEA) serving as a provisional government with President Bilal Ag Acherif to manage the new State of Azawad.
The Economic Community of West African States, which refused to recognise Azawad and called the declaration of its independence “null and void”, has said it may send troops into the disputed region in support of the Malian claim.
Ansar Dine later declared that they rejected the idea of Azawad independence. The MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash, culminating in the Battle of Gao on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of the city, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of all the cities of northern Mali.
On 14 February 2013 the MNLA renounced their claim of independence for Azawad; it asked the Malian government to start negotiations on its future status.
All of this points at a very confusing situation that in effect backs what we heard at the meeting of March 21, 2013 here in Vienna.
Above map suggests that the presence of Tuaregs which were nomads, is not limited to the north of Mali alone, but they are found in neighboring States as well. The history of the region involved wars that extended to Algeria and to larger Morocco. The area was part of empires that existed in Timbuktu and Gao.
Under French rule
After European powers formalized the scramble for Africa in the Berlin Conference, the French assumed control of the land between the 14th meridian and Miltou, South-West Chad, bounded in the south by a line running from Say, Niger to Baroua. Although the Azawad region was French in name, the principle of effectivity required France to hold power in those areas assigned, e.g. by signing agreements with local chiefs, setting up a government, and making use of the area economically, before the claim would be definitive. On 15 December 1893, Timbuktu, by then long past its prime, was annexed by a small group of French soldiers, led by Lieutenant Gaston Boiteux. The region became part of French Sudan (Soudan Français), a colony of France. The colony was reorganised and the name changed several times during the French colonial period. In 1899 the French Sudan was subdivided and the Azawad became part of Upper Senegal and Middle Niger (Haut-Sénégal et Moyen Niger). In 1902 it was renamed as Senegambia and Niger (Sénégambie et Niger), and in 1904 this was changed again to Upper Senegal and Niger (Haut-Sénégal et Niger). This name was used until 1920 when it became French Sudan again.
French Sudan became the autonomous state of Mali within the French Community in 1958, and Mali became independent from France in 1960. Four major Tuareg rebellions took place against Malian rule: the First Tuareg Rebellion (1962–64), the rebellion of 1990–1995, the rebellion of 2007–2009, and a 2012 rebellion. This alone should tell the world that the situation is not stable and that it can be adjusted only if autonomy is granted the Tuareg region.
In the early twenty-first century, the region became notorious for banditry and drug smuggling. The area has been reported to contain great potential mineral wealth, including petroleum and uranium.
On 17 January 2012, the MNLA announced the start of an insurrection in Azawad against the government of Mali, declaring that it “will continue so long as Bamako does not recognise this territory as a separate entity”.On 24 January, the MNLA won control of the town of Aguelhok, killing around 160 Malian soldiers and capturing dozens of heavy weapons and military vehicles. In March 2012, the MNLA and Ansar Dine took control of the regional capitals of Kidal and Gao along with their military bases. On 1 April, Timbuktu was captured. After the seizure of Timbuktu on 1 April, the MNLA gained effective control of most of the territory they claim for an independent Azawad. In a statement released on the occasion, the MNLA invited all Azawadis abroad to return home and join in constructing institutions in the new state.
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) declared Azawad an independent state on 6 April 2012 and pledged to draft a constitution establishing it as a democracy. Their statement acknowledged the United Nations charter and said the new state would uphold its principles.
In an interview with France 24, an MNLA spokesman declared the independence of Azawad:
In the same interview, Assarid promised that Azawad would respect the colonial frontiers that separate Azawad from its neighbours; he insisted that Azawad’s declaration of independence had international legality.
No foreign entity recognised Azawad. The MNLA’s declaration was immediately rejected by the African Union, who declared it “null and no value whatsoever”. The French Foreign Ministry said it would not recognise the unilateral partition of Mali, but it called for negotiations between the two entities to address “the demands of the northern Tuareg population [which] are old and for too long had not received adequate and necessary responses”. The United States also rejected the declaration of independence.
The MNLA is estimated to have up to 3,000 soldiers. ECOWAS declared Azawad “null and void”, and said that Mali is “one and [an] indivisible entity”. ECOWAS has said that it would use force, if necessary, to put down the rebellion. The French government indicated it could provide logistical support.
On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine announced a pact to merge to form an Islamist state. Later reports indicated the MNLA withdrew from the pact, distancing itself from Ansar Dine. MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash, culminating in the Battle of Gao and Timbuktu on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of Gao, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of Timbuktu and Kidal, the three biggest cities of northern Mali. Ansar Dine continued its offensive against MNLA positions and overran all remaining MNLA held towns by 12 July with the fall of Ansogo.
In December 2012, the MNLA agreed on Mali’s national unity and territorial integrity in talks with both the central government and Ansar Dine.
Most are Muslims, of the Sunni or Sufi orientations. Most popular in the Tuareg movement and northern Mali as a whole is the Maliki branch of Sunnism, in which traditional opinions and analogical reasoning by later Muslim scholars are often used instead of a strict reliance on ?adith (coming directly from the Mohammed’s life and utterances) as a basis for legal judgment.
Ansar Dine follows the Salafi branch of Sunni Islam, which rejects the existence of Islamic holy men (other than Mohammed) and their teachings. They strongly object to praying around the graves of Malikite ‘holymen’, and burned down an ancient Sufi shrine in Timbuktu, which had been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The people living in the central and northern Sahelian and Sahelo-Saharan areas of Mali are the country’s poorest, according to an International Fund for Agricultural Development report. Most are pastoralists and farmers practicing subsistence agriculture on dry land with poor and increasingly degraded soils. The northern part of Mali suffers from a critical shortage of food and lack of health care. Starvation has prompted about 200,000 inhabitants to leave the region.
Refugees in the 92,000-person refugee camp at Mbera, Mauritania, describe the Islamists as “intent on imposing an Islam of lash and gun on Malian Muslims.” The Islamists in Timbuktu have destroyed about a half-dozen historic above-ground tombs of revered holy men, proclaiming the tombs contrary to Shariah. One refugee in the camp spoke of encountering Afghans, Pakistanis and Nigerians among the invading forces.
The Independent (UK) – Revealed: inside story of US envoy’s assassination.
by Kim Sengupta – Friday, September 14, 2012
In short – the movie was the excuse, the attack was planned as a reminder to 9/11. The action is all over the Islamic world and the movie harks back to old religious enmities as the alleged movie-maker is a Coptic Christian. This might be seen as a film-short or preview of what the Islamic World has to contend with when lid of the freedom of expression deniers of the dictatorial kind has been removed.
The killings of the US ambassador to Libya and three of his staff were likely to have been the result of a serious and continuing security breach, The Independent can reveal.
American officials believe the attack was planned, but Chris Stevens had been back in the country only a short while and the details of his visit to Benghazi, where he and his staff died, were meant to be confidential.
The US administration is now facing a crisis in Libya. Sensitive documents have gone missing from the consulate in Benghazi and the supposedly secret location of the “safe house” in the city, where the staff had retreated, came under sustained mortar attack. Other such refuges across the country are no longer deemed “safe”.
Some of the missing papers from the consulate are said to list names of Libyans who are working with Americans, putting them potentially at risk from extremist groups, while some of the other documents are said to relate to oil contracts.
According to senior diplomatic sources, the US State Department had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and “lockdown”, under which movement is severely restricted.
Mr Stevens had been on a visit to Germany, Austria and Sweden and had just returned to Libya when the Benghazi trip took place with the US embassy’s security staff deciding that the trip could be undertaken safely.
Eight Americans, some from the military, were wounded in the attack which claimed the lives of Mr Stevens, Sean Smith, an information officer, and two US Marines. All staff from Benghazi have now been moved to the capital, Tripoli, and those whose work is deemed to be non-essential may be flown out of Libya.
In the meantime a Marine Corps FAST Anti-Terrorism Reaction Team has already arrived in the country from a base in Spain and other personnel are believed to be on the way. Additional units have been put on standby to move to other states where their presence may be needed in the outbreak of anti-American fury triggered by publicity about a film which demeaned the Prophet Mohamed.
A mob of several hundred stormed the US embassy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa yesterday. Other missions which have been put on special alert include almost all those in the Middle East, as well as in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Burundi and Zambia.
Senior officials are increasingly convinced, however, that the ferocious nature of the Benghazi attack, in which rocket-propelled grenades were used, indicated it was not the result of spontaneous anger due to the video, called Innocence of Muslims. Patrick Kennedy, Under-Secretary at the State Department, said he was convinced the assault was planned due to its extensive nature and the proliferation of weapons.
There is growing belief that the attack was in revenge for the killing in a drone strike in Pakistan of Mohammed Hassan Qaed, an al-Qa’ida operative who was, as his nom-de-guerre Abu Yahya al-Libi suggests, from Libya, and timed for the anniversary of the 11 September attacks.
Senator Bill Nelson, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said: “I am asking my colleagues on the committee to immediately investigate what role al-Qa’ida or its affiliates may have played in the attack and to take appropriate action.”
According to security sources the consulate had been given a “health check” in preparation for any violence connected to the 9/11 anniversary. In the event, the perimeter was breached within 15 minutes of an angry crowd starting to attack it at around 10pm on Tuesday night. There was, according to witnesses, little defence put up by the 30 or more local guards meant to protect the staff. Ali Fetori, a 59-year-old accountant who lives near by, said: “The security people just all ran away and the people in charge were the young men with guns and bombs.”
Wissam Buhmeid, the commander of the Tripoli government-sanctioned Libya’s Shield Brigade, effectively a police force for Benghazi, maintained that it was anger over the Mohamed video which made the guards abandon their post. “There were definitely people from the security forces who let the attack happen because they were themselves offended by the film; they would absolutely put their loyalty to the Prophet over the consulate. The deaths are all nothing compared to insulting the Prophet.”
Mr Stevens, it is believed, was left in the building by the rest of the staff after they failed to find him in dense smoke caused by a blaze which had engulfed the building. He was discovered lying unconscious by local people and taken to a hospital, the Benghazi Medical Centre, where, according to a doctor, Ziad Abu Ziad, he died from smoke inhalation.
An eight-strong American rescue team was sent from Tripoli and taken by troops under Captain Fathi al- Obeidi, of the February 17 Brigade, to the secret safe house to extract around 40 US staff. The building then came under fire from heavy weapons. “I don’t know how they found the place to carry out the attack. It was planned, the accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any ordinary revolutionaries,” said Captain Obeidi. “It began to rain down on us, about six mortars fell directly on the path to the villa.”
Libyan reinforcements eventually arrived, and the attack ended. News had arrived of Mr Stevens, and his body was picked up from the hospital and taken back to Tripoli with the other dead and the survivors.
Mr Stevens’ mother, Mary Commanday, spoke of her son yesterday. “He did love what he did, and he did a very good job with it. He could have done a lot of other things, but this was his passion. I have a hole in my heart,” she said.
Global anger: The protests spread
The furore across the Middle East over the controversial film about the Prophet Mohamed is now threatening to get out of control. In Sana’a, the Yemeni capital, yesterday around 5,000 demonstrators attacked the US embassy, leaving at least 15 people injured. Young protesters, shouted: “We sacrifice ourselves for you, Messenger of God,” smashed windows of the security offices and burned at least five cars, witnesses said.
Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi yesterday condemned the attack in Benghazi that killed the US ambassador. In a speech in Brussels, Mr Morsi said he had spoken to President Obama and condemned “in the clearest terms” the Tuesday attacks. Despite this, and possibly playing to a domestic audience, President Obama said yesterday that “I don’t think we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy”.
Demonstrators in Cairo attacked the mission on Tuesday evening and protests have continued since.
Militants said the anti-Islamic film “will put all the American interests Iraq in danger” and called on Muslims everywhere to “face our joint enemy”, as protesters in Baghdad burned American flags yesterday. The warning from the Iranian-backed group Asaib Ahl al-Haq came as demonstrators demanded the closure of the US embassy in the capital.
Islamists warned they may “besiege” the US embassy in Dhaka after security forces stopped around 1,000 protesters marching to the building. The Khelafat Andolon group called for bigger protests as demonstrators threw their fists in the air, burned the flag and chanted anti-US slogans.
There was a Hamas-organised protest in Gaza City, and as many as 100 Arab Israelis took to the streets in Tel Aviv. In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai postponed a trip to Norway, fearing violence. Officials in Pakistan said they “expected protests”. Protesters in Tunis burnt US flags.
QUOTATION OF THE DAY of the New York Times: “The weak job market should concern every American.” – Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, who announced that the central bank would buy large quantities of mortgage bonds, and potentially other assets, until the job market improves substantially.
and The NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL:
Belated Response From Egypt – Is this friendship? President Morsi of Egypt waited until Thursday before condemning the deaths of 4 Americans in Libya and promising to protect embassies in Cairo.
We were incensed when in Afghanistan Bamiyan world heritage monuments were raised, now similar forces destroy world heritage in Timbuktu, Mali, and I heard no whimper so far.
And 2012 – ongoing in Timbuktu, Mali:
Mali coup: The story so far.
Mali Tuareg and Islamist rebels agree on Islamist state.
www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-1… - BBC – May 27, 2012
Two rebel groups that seized northern Mali two months ago have agreed to merge and turn their territory into an Islamist state, both sides say.
The Tuareg MNLA, a secular rebel group, and the Islamist group Ansar Dine signed the deal in the town of Gao, spokespeople said.
Ansar Dine, which has ties to al-Qaeda, has already begun to impose Sharia, or Islamic law, in towns such as Timbuktu.
The groups took advantage of a coup in March to seize the territory.
West Africa’s chief mediator for the Mali crisis told the AFP news agency that he hoped the merger would simplify negotiations with the rebels.
Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibrill Bassole also called on both groups to renounce terror.
Mali’s Communications Minister Hamadoun Toure told the BBC that other countries should help Mali tackle al-Qaeda in the region.
Capt Amadou Sanogo seized power in March after claiming the then president, Amadou Toumani Toure, was not doing enough to quash the rebellion.
Faced with mounting international pressure and sanctions, he was forced to step down only three weeks later, but is still thought to wield power behind the scenes.
“It is true that an accord has been signed,” Col Bouna Ag Attayoub, a MNLA commander in Timbuktu, told the BBC. “The Islamic Republic of Azawad is now an independent sovereign state.”
Previously, the MNLA had remained secular, resisting Ansar Dine’s efforts to impose Islamic law in towns. Meanwhile, Ansar Dine had rejected the MNLA’s call for an independent state.
Residents said there was celebratory gunfire in Gao and Timbuktu after the agreement.
More than 300,000 people have fled northern Mali since the rebels took the territory in the days following the coup.
Regional bloc Ecowas has said it is preparing to send 3,000 troops to Mali to help the country reclaim its northern territory, but no date has been set for the force to arrive.
Mali’s interim president, Dioncounda Traore, is receiving medical tests in France after being beaten unconscious by protesters who supported the coup.
It is thought that soldiers allowed the demonstrators into Mr Traore’s office, which is next to the presidential palace. Ecowas has warned of sanctions if the military are found to be involved.
“The Other Arab Spring” – The Government Officials were and are the WATER WELL DIGGERS, not only the oil-well owners – so it is not only that in the Arab World the ruler-religion combo owned the economy to the point that there was no civil society, but they also raped the common good of the environment.
Let us start first with a Thomas Friedman article-conclusion first!
If you ask “what are the real threats to our security today,” said Lester Brown of The Earth Policy Institute, “at the top of the list would be climate change, population growth, water shortages, rising food prices and the number of failing states in the world.
As that list grows, how many failed states before we have a failing global civilization, and everything begins to unravel?”
Hopefully, we won’t go there. But, then -
we should all remember that quote attributed to Leon Trotsky: “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” —- Well, you may not be interested in climate change, but climate change is interested in you.
Folks, this is not a hoax. We and the Arabs need to figure out — and fast — more ways to partner to mitigate the environmental threats where we can and to build greater resiliency against those where we can’t. Twenty years from now, this could be all that we’re talking about.
Please go to the link for a very interesting article that tells us that the Arab Spring did happen in part because of the lack of attention to climate change on the part of government officials that were racking it all in to themselves – those official rapists of their countries.
Thomas Friedman is not the only one asking why Arab Spring now, and why the Arab World has not produced any democracies like other Islamic Countries – non-Arabs – actually did. Why is there no Arab State like Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, or Bangladesh? This last version of the Question was posed by Fareed Zakaria on today’s CNN/GPS show.
Seemingly – all Arab States that are within the huge North-Africa Middle-East area of the Arab conquests in the 12th and 13th Centuries have no real Civil Society. In all these States the economy is run by the people of the ruling Monarchy or by those close to the Government.
To above obervation by Fareed Zakaria we see the add-on by Thomas Friedman: “The Arab awakening was driven not only by political and economic stresses, but, less visibly, by environmental, population and climate stresses as well. If we focus only on the former and not the latter, we will never be able to help stabilize these societies.”
Thomas Friedman tells us of draught in Syria and North Africa and how this draught pushed the societal lid and was part of the reason for this present day upheaval.
And a Warning – 12 of the world’s 15 most water-scarce countries — Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Israel and Palestine — are in the Middle East, and after three decades of explosive population growth these countries are “set to dramatically worsen their predicament.
Then think also about the observatio – “Alot more mouths to feed with less water than ever. As Lester Brown, the president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of “World on the Edge,” notes, 20 years ago, using oil-drilling technology, the Saudis tapped into an aquifer far below the desert to produce irrigated wheat, making themselves self-sufficient. But now almost all that water is gone, and Saudi wheat production is, too. So the Saudis are investing in farm land in Ethiopia and Sudan, but that means they will draw more Nile water for irrigation away from Egypt, whose agriculture-rich Nile Delta is already vulnerable to any sea level rise and saltwater intrusion.
by Thomas Fuchs
The Other Arab Spring.
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, Published in The New York Times April 7, 2012 as an OP-ED Column.
ISN’T it interesting that the Arab awakening began in Tunisia with a fruit vendor who was harassed by police for not having a permit to sell food — just at the moment when world food prices hit record highs? And that it began in Syria with farmers in the southern village of Dara’a, who were demanding the right to buy and sell land near the border, without having to get permission from corrupt security officials? And that it was spurred on in Yemen — the first country in the world expected to run out of water — by a list of grievances against an incompetent government, among the biggest of which was that top officials were digging water wells in their own backyards at a time when the government was supposed to be preventing such water wildcatting? As Abdelsalam Razzaz, the minister of water in Yemen’s new government, told Reuters last week: “The officials themselves have traditionally been the most aggressive well diggers. Nearly every minister had a well dug in his house.”
“IT IS EASY TO REMOVE A DICTATOR BUT NOT TO FLUSH OUT HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF THE OLD SYSTEM” – that is what Mohamed Nasheed, the ousted President of the Maldives, said in New York, but was not heard by the day-long meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations Symposium on the Arab Uprising.
In the Maldives, an Islands-State former monarchy, that was a late convert to Islam (only 12th century while Indian sub-continent regions already had Muslims 500 years earlier, it was Arab merchant-seafarers that converted the last Buddhist king of the Maldives), a republic since 1965, and after the totalitarian rules of Presidents Ibrahim Nasir and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a true democracy was established in rather clean elections in 2008, it existed only for three and a half years, and was ended by a coup January 2012.
Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik, the new ruler, was sworn in as President of the Maldives on 7 February 2012, in connection to the forced resignation of President Nasheed amidst weeks of protests and demonstrations led by local police dissidents who supposedly opposed Nasheed’s 16 January order for the military to arrest Abdulla Mohamed, the Chief Justice of the Criminal Court. Dr. Waheed came out against the arrest order and supported the opposition that forced Mohamed Nasheed to resign by telling him that if he resigns there will be no further violence. Nevertheless, since then prisons for the opposition have been reopened, and Mr. Nasheed claims that it is a return to the Gayoom – Nasir competition days when Nasheed himself was imprisoned.
It seems that economic issues are behind the upheaval, and as we heard from Mr. Nasheed he proposes that the US and India recognized Mr. Waheed in an attempt to acknowledge a new status quo that they like.
We bring this up here because of Mr. Nasheed’s global fame as supporter of global action to halt climate change which obviously pitted him against fossil fuels interests – world-wide but pin-pointed against the Arab Oil-States as well.
Interesting that there is now talk of building a coal fired power plant, like in India, while under Nasheed there was an effort to go for renewable energy – solar and wind power – in these blue paradise islands still blessed with clean air and clean water and open for tourism.
Mr. Nasheed predicts that by 2030 16 of the Maldive Islands will go under if the world continues on the path of business as usual – “we always can relocate as persons but not as a civilization,” he says.
Mr. Nasheed, post-Copenhagen meeting of 2009, where he became a global leader just one year after taking office in his own State, back home arranged for his cabinet to have an “under-water” government cabinet meeting for the sake of the global media. This is part of the documentary film ‘The Island President’ that was released this week in New York City, and the film tour brought him also to a Columbia University event where he met students including backers of his from 2009. Mr. Nasheed, when asked about the road to RIO+20 said that the UN cannot do it because they will pick always the lowest common denominator among Nations – and this is not enough.
He said that in the end the US will have to act it alone like Germany started to do it. To my question about a government’s responsibility to protect its citizens he answered that the Maldive military behind the coup is interested in business projects and not in the future of the islands. His interest is in replenishing coral reefs and fish stock.
ON POLITICS IN GENERAL MR. NASHEED REMARKED THAT IT IS EASY TO REMOVE A DICTATOR BUT NOT TO FLUSH OUT HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF THE OLD SYSTEM. WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN THE MALDIVES IS WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN THE MIDDLE EAST, he said. THE COME-BACK OF DICTATORSHIP MUST BE AVOIDED, he said.
Now that brings me to the major part of this posting which deals with a major full day event at the New York based Council on Foreign Relations’ (CFR) cooperative effort with the St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford and the Conservative Middle East Council (MEC) of the UK.
The Event started in the evening of Thursday March 29th with the introductory “THE ARAB UPRISING: HOW DID WE GET HERE?” presented by Professor Margaret MacMillan, Warden, St.Antony’s College and Professor of History, University of Toronto. Her full presentation can be found on the website of the CFR as are all other presentations of this meeting. I must confess that I did not stay for the presentation because I left before Professor MacMillan started as I wanted to listen across town to Mr. Nasheed. This cost me dearly the following day, when at lunch I did not recognize Professor MacMillan who sat at my table and I stated my point of view that we are forced to deal with the Arab World, that we created, by our insistence to make them our oil suppliers. I also said that there are no US National interests in Foreign Policy except for Oil Interests – and I was rebuked strongly – in an effort to put me back in my place. Now I say that I deserved it as I did not know what she said the evening before the full meeting. Also, as my history of the Middle East starts with the 1945 Roosevelt-Churchill-Stalin meeting at Yalta, the stop at Port Said on the way home, and President Roosevelt striking the deal with King Ibn Saud, I did not know that after finishing her book on the causes that led to World War I, Professor MacMillan turns to the resulting WWII new world order as established at Yalta -
Had the oil-men of Texas not told President Roosevelt that the US oil reserves are not sufficient to fight again a war of liberation in Europe, then I felt Yalta’s division of the World that gave the Soviets East Europe, Britain Iran, and the US Saudi Arabia, might not have taken place, and global warfare may have evolved differently – perhaps not the cold way.
Friday, March 30, 2012 the CFR Conference sessions were: (1) Prospects for Democracy, (2) Monarchies, (3) Islam and Politics, (4) Regional Consequences – The Geopolitics of the Changing Middle East, (5) Policy Responses for the United States and Europe.
It was clear that the pre-lunch three panels were intended to provide the background for the after-lunch two up-date panels about the changing Middle East and the place of the non-Arab States of the larger Middle East – specifically Turkey, Israel and Iran. Interesting, in the morning sessions were present also Ambassadors of Arab States – I did not see them in the afternoon. Did their presence in the morning session somehow make for reduced forwardness on the part of the speakers? I did not hear the word oil from the speakers while the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the UN was present, neither were there complete answers to questions. Nevertheless, the picture came out clearly thanks also to the ample time allowed for questions.
Going to the last two sessions first – let us say that Turkey is now a main player in the Arab Middle East.
The November 3, 2002 elections in Turkey brought a landslide victory for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) – a party with an Islamic pedigree – which received almost two-thirds’ of the parliamentary seats with 34.2 percent of the vote.
These elections ushered in a major realignment of the Turkish political landscape, bringing in the AKP — winning 363 of the 550 seats in the Turkish parliament. Of the eighteen parties running in the elections, the social democrat Republican People’s Party (CHP) was the only other party to win parliamentary representation, garnering 19.4 percent of the vote and 178 seats (the remaining 9 seats went to independent candidates).
On the other hand, the major parties that ran the country in the 1990s, the center-left Democratic Left Party (DSP) of outgoing Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), and former President Turgut Ozal’s centrist Motherland Party (ANAP) failed to pass the ten percent threshold needed to enter the parliament. Islamist opposition Felicity (previously Welfare) Party (SP), and former Prime Minister Tansu Ciller’s center-right True Path Party (DYP) were also unsuccessful in winning representation in the parliament.
Looking back at material from 2002 I found:
Although the AKP is an offshoot of the Islamist Welfare Party (RP), which was banned in 1997 for Islamist activities, the electorate sees the party as a new force and not necessarily Islamist.
Various secular parties, courts, media outlets, and nongovernmental organizations view the party with suspicion due to its leaders’ past affiliation with RP. Yet, AKP’s moderate, non-confrontational rhetoric over the last year has made it attractive to a diverse array of voters ranging from Islamists to rural nationalists and moderate urban voters.
A second factor explaining AKP’s success is that the party has been able to channel some of the profound anger that characterized the November 3 elections.
AKP appealed to middle and working class voters, who were unsatisfied with the economic plans of the outgoing government that were backed by the International Monetary Fund. Such anger in Turkey has traditionally been concentrated at the lower ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. After the February 2001 economic meltdown, however, even the middle classes became angry.
Accordingly, AKP attracted many moderate urban voters, who were appalled by the inefficient and corruption-ridden governments of the 1990s, as well as by the political instability and economic downturns that characterized this decade. Many voters turned to AKP, which marketed itself as new and untainted by the legacy of the 1990s. AKP promised to deliver growth and stability, as in the Turgut Ozal years of the 1980s, a decade to which most Turks now look back with nostalgia.
What above evaluation did not say in 2002 is that many Turks were hurt by the way the EU did not accept Turkey for its membership, and these Turks decided to retreat to what they consider closer to Turkey’s background – away from European secularism back to Islamic heritage of the Arab Middle East or Central Asia. That is how AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan looked at making common cause with the Arab Middle East/North Africa. With Egypt – the Central State that sits on the Suez Canal – facing problems – Turkey is now the natural leader of this potential bloc. Only Saudi Arabia has the possibility to interfere, and that was settled by now with having a Turk as head of the Saudi Arabia based OIC ( Organization of Islamic Cooperation.) So Turkey plays to win. I tried to introduce this as a question but it was not picked up.
Israel seemingly played to lose. With the role of the Global powers playing in the region being diminished, the Israelis did not move ahead to recognize an opportunity to welcome the regimes that are borne in the ashes of the Arab Spring. The Israelis saw only the potential dangers and ignored any possible benefits from the Arab Spring. This because Israel, perhaps by necessity, regarded itself as belonging to the West and ignored the possibility to belong to the neighborhood of the East. Real Politik was the relationship with the winter dictators for regional Security, and for their own security. Mubarak was the enforcer of an unpopular Sadat agreement that favored Israel, and Israel was ready to shelter Mubarak before his forced resignation.
The Syrian revolution is about Syria and not about Israel – but the occupied territories cloud is in the background. Egypt cooperated with Israel in blocking Gaza, the Turks opposed this – so the Turks are now the big winners Marwa Daoudy from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, and Avi Schlain, Emeritus Fellow at St Antony College, U. of Oxford, agree that it was not a bright idea for Ehud Barak saying that Israel is a “Villa in the Jungle” – this did not leave much hope for rapprochement.
In Egypt it is now about “National Dignity” and the perception that Mubarak was an Israeli stugge – when the revolution started the military and government crushed CDs and shreded government documents – we will never know the truth.
Syria started out in as a democracy but a 1949 coup by the CIA ended this. Nasser talked about Positive Neutralism” in order to get money from all sides, but I did not get a full answer about the fate of Nasserism that was Pan-Arabism.
The consensus after this panel was that if the Arabs don’t want us there – the best we can do is step out.
For the future – Hamas is now residing in Egypt and after listening to Egypt in forming a National Government, the Palestinians will be able to declare a cease fire with Israel and push for negotiations. The Egyptians will continue the agreements with Israel but declare they will not repeat the mistake of being one sided in favor of Israel.
The Last panel was about Policy Responses for the United States and Europe and here the cat came out from hiding, and it was that the war in Libya was easy for the West because it promised large riches of Oil – and as always, those that get involved will also bring in their oil corporations in tow. Eugene Rogan of St. Antony said YES-BUT – in Libya case it was also a military consideration because we (the US) could not afford another Sarajevo. Yes, but what about Syria? All right – they do not have oil in such quantities. So What?
Gideon Rose, Editor Foreign Affairs, said Reve Back the rhetoric or Increase Policy? We must make clear what kind of friends we are and what red lines we have. We should not be ashamed of promoting democracy added Robert Danin the Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies. He continued – it has to be indigenous and we should be able to support it via institutions like Freedom House.
There is a lot of Unemployment and Underemployment in the Arab lands, and there is a lot of money in the Gulf States. Things went worse during this last year of upheaval. The extreme haves must support the extreme have-nots in the region he said. I told myself that this will be the day.
Asked what are the three major problems in the White House after November? The Answer was Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia
Eugene Rogan, Faculty Fellow and University Lecturer in the Modern History of the Middle East, St. Antony, addressing the UN, said that the Kofi Annan Moral Mission to Syria has no chance to succeed. What is needed is a UNIFIL operation to make space between the fighting sides in Syria. Only then can start negotiations.
Other speakers included:
Elliott Abrams from CFR and Michael J. Willis from St. Antony on PROSPECTS FOR DEMOCRACY — James M. Lindsay, Director of Studies at CFR – presider of that panel;
Mohamad Bazzi, CFR and NYU, and Columnist Raghida Dergham as Presider at the panel on MONARCHIES.
Isobel Coleman of CFR, Ed Husain of CFR, and Michael J. Willis of St Antony with Deborah J. Amos of National Public Radio on the panel on ISLAM AND POLITICS.
One last comment – The Monarchies fared better then the secular Dictatorships because they have some sort of legitimacy. On the other hand, the secular politicians were viewed as corrupt thieves and treated accordingly when people decided finally to hit the streets.
UPDATED: Kofi Annan – the best man for Syria and the worst man for Syria. It was under him that the UN passed a basic Global Law – THE RESPONSIBILITY OF GOVERNMENTS TO PROTECT THEIR CITIZENS yet the Syrian Government Shoots at its Own Citizens.
The UPDATE is for two reasons:
1, on March 13th we had looked at the appointment of former UN Secretary Kofi Annan with hope that his persona could influence events, then we realized that the UN Department of Political Affairs burdened him with a very bad team that we called tainted because all its members were tainted one way or the other. Among them was also Mr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, former UN representative of Palestine and former Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority.
2. We had also personal misgivings with the inclusion of retired UN employee Ahmad Fawzi who seemingly had a close contact to politically active UN Arab partisans. Mr. Nasser Al-Kidwah was not let in by the Syrians.
Today we learned that though al-Kidwah was appointed as Deputy to Mr. Annan, now someone who was not an Arab, but part of The Kofi Annan UN Administration – his Under-Secretary-General for Peace-Keeping Operation during the whole eight years two terms – 2000-2008, Columbia University Professor and Frenchman, Jean-Mariw Buehenno, got to be a second Deputy Special Envoy to this Joint Mission of the UN and the Arab League.
Otherwise, it is clear that nothing has been done todate by the UN to help the Syrian citizens who are under siege from their own Government.
We posted earlier:
Kofi Annan was UN Secretary General 1997-2006. Under him the UN put forward the concept of the “RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT” – which means that it is a Government´s responsibility to protect its citizens – the most revolutionary idea at the UN since the days of Eleanor Roosevelt championing the concept of HUMAN RIGHTS and her managing the UN Declaration on the subject. Just think of the many dictatorships that are UN member governments and their treatment of their own citizens.
Kofi Annan, among other interests, was also a champion of issues of the Environment and the neeed to do something about air pollution from burning fossil carbons and the resulting effects on the Climate.
The Students of the class of 2011 of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna recognized the visions of UNSG Kofi Annan by deciding to name the 2011 class after Kofi Annan. We see in this a recognition of the truth, that with with good people on the top, the UN can provide leadership even in the present world condition.
That was BEFORE the UN appointment of Mr. Kofi Annan as negotiator in the Syria internal conflict that bares worries in other UN Member States were governments do not want to lose out to an uprising of their own people like Hosni Mubarak lost out to the people of Egypt. In the case of Libya it was the people plus external intervention by France and Britain that cleared the country of its leading pest, that is why China and Russia do not want any part in international intervention in case of internal strife – they just think of their own regimes – would you expect them to allow external involvement in what they consider their own affairs? How far can you indeed push the idea that democracy ought to be the way of government? Do you expect them to adhere to the two UN niceties of The Declaration on Human Rights and The Responsibility to Protect (R2P).
In the case of Syria these issues come to the forefront and it was Mr. Kofi Annan who was chosen to be the UN standard bearer to confront Mr. Bashar al-Assad with his responsibilities to his own citizens who rightfully detest him.
We liked Mr Annan when he was UN Secretary General, and indeed think he was the best Secretary General since Dag Hammarskjold. We also agree that with his understanding of R2P he is the best man to confront the Syrian establishment, but is he the best negotiator when coming in with a 100% understanding of the truth? Can he reach the needed compromise that stops the shooting? We know he is a skilled negotiator – but here he comes in with all the cards open on the table and this just cannot convince the Syrian regime that time has come to find a way out – something like assuring Mr. al-Assad a datcha in the Caucasus and ranches in Brazil to his Alawite henchmen.
With fighting going on – who will chase out whom? Syria has become home to Sunnis that escaped Iraq, but Syrian Sunnis are now themselves an endangered species even that they are in the majority and not like in iraq where the Sunnis were the minority. If they lose will it mean a strengthening of an anti-Sunni situation or rather a continuation of a secular situation where religious extremes from both ends – Sunni and Shi’a - present danger to the rest of Islamic Western Asia? Is Saudi Arabia really interested in clearing out the Alawites who are sort of a secular Shi’a group that held Syria together until now?
With above thoughts in mind we read our friend – Anne Barnard’s report from the Middle East and decided to post our doubts that Mr. Kofi Annan can pull it off, and our feeling that he was sent there not with the intent to succeed, but rather as a way to allow the UN to continue to sit on its hands, while the Syrians go on killing their own, and eventually force more people to flee – this as the only way to attempt to quiet down this pesky event – the peace of the dead and gone.
Anne Barnard writes from Beirut for the New York Times:
Massacre Is Reported in Homs, Raising Pressure for Intervention in Syria.
BEIRUT, Lebanon, March 12, 2012 — Syrian opposition activists said on Monday that soldiers and pro-government thugs had rounded up scores of civilians in the devastated central city of Homs overnight, assaulted men and women, then killed dozens of them, including children, and set some bodies on fire. Syria immediately denied responsibility.
The attacks prompted a major exile opposition group to sharpen its calls for international military action and arming of the rebels. Some activists called the killings a new phase of the crackdown that appeared aimed at frightening people into fleeing Homs, an epicenter of the rebellion that the Syrian government had claimed just a few weeks ago it had already pacified after a month of shelling and shootings.
The government reported the killings as well but attributed them to “terrorist armed groups,” a description it routinely uses for opponents, including armed men, army defectors and protesters in the year-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria’s restrictions on outside press access made it impossible to reconcile the contradictory accounts of the killings, which appeared to be one of the worst atrocities in the conflict. But accounts of witnesses and images posted on YouTube gave some credence to the opposition’s claims that government operatives were responsible.
An activist in Homs, Wael al-Homsi, said in a telephone interview that he had counted dozens of bodies, including those of women and children, in the Karm el-Zeitoun neighborhood of Homs while helping move them to a rebel-controlled area in cars and pickup trucks. He said residents had told him that about 500 athletically built armed men, in civilian clothes and military uniforms, had killed members of nine families and burned their houses, adding, “There are still bodies under the wreckage.
“I’ve seen a lot of bodies but today it was a different sight, especially dismembered children,” Mr. Homsi said.
In a video posted on YouTube, a man being treated for what appeared to be bullet wounds in his back said he had escaped the killings in Karm al-Zeitoun. “We were arrested by the army, then handed over to the shabiha,” he said, using a common word for pro-government thugs. After two hours of beating, he said: “They poured fuel over us. They shot us — 30 or 40 persons.”
Both activists and the Syrian government described the attacks as “a massacre,” a day after a special emissary of the United Nations and the Arab League, Kofi Annan, a former United Nations secretary general, left the country without reaching a deal to end the fighting.
News of the killings came as the United Nations Security Council debated in New York, where the United States and Russia, Syria’s main international backer, tangled over how to address the Syria crisis.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on Russia and China, which have vetoed previous resolutions aimed at holding Mr. Assad accountable and beginning a political transition, to join international “humanitarian and political efforts” to end the crisis, which she attributed directly to Mr. Assad.
Mrs. Clinton added, referring to shelling and other government military action in Syrian cities over the weekend, “How cynical that, even as Assad was receiving former Secretary General Kofi Annan, the Syrian Army was conducting a fresh assault on Idlib and continuing its aggression in Hama, Homs and Rastan.”
Her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, agreed that any solution in Syria “requires an immediate end of violence.” But he said armed elements of the opposition in Syria were also responsible for the crisis there, and that the Security Council must act “without imposing any prejudged solutions.”
Mrs. Clinton had a separate meeting with Mr. Lavrov, calling it “constructive.” She told reporters he would deliver to Moscow her “very strong view that the alternative to our unity on these points will be bloody internal conflict with dangerous consequences for the whole region.”
The Syrian National Council, the main expatriate opposition group, held a news conference in Istanbul and issued a statement that intensified longstanding calls by some of its members for outside military action. George Sabra, an executive board member and a spokesman for the council, told reporters that it was a moral imperative for the international community to stop the killing and to arm the opposition Free Syrian Army.
“Words are no longer enough to satisfy the Syrian people. Therefore, we call for practical decisions and actions against the gangs of Assad. We demand Arab and international military intervention,” he said. The council, however, does not represent the entire opposition, which has struggled to agree on a unified message and includes people who oppose further militarizing the uprising, which has come to resemble a civil war.
From the UN:
Toll of Syrian conflict: 8,000 deaths, 230,000 displaced
The ongoing conflict in Syria has claimed the lives of more than 8,000 people, according to UN officials, and forced at least 230,000 Syrians to flee their homes.
Kofi Annan, the United Nations-Arab League envoy to the country, said he was expecting a response today from the regime of President Bashar al-Assad that included “concrete proposals” to end the violence.
From the Turkish Ambassador:
His estimate is that more then 10,000 is the number of the dead.
On an Arab Business site, Arabs suggest to Veto the Vetoers and mean to VETO the USA because it vetoed more votes against Israel then the post-Soviet Russia Vetoes, this while fellow Arabs are being killed. Our readers can judge this perversion that costs Arab lives. They call it VETOING THE VETO. Will Arab States beside Jordan and Tunisia join the International Criminal Court – ICC?
MENA – FN ARAB NEWS is ready to cut the Arabs noses in order to spite
They have today two articles following the Russia and China VETO of
The first article is about people sitting in glass houses that should
Also, the writer of that article does not know much about the UN
The other article is even more to the point -
“Saudi – We are all under Tel Aviv’s Feet” that was reported also in
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE EDITORIAL FEBRUARY &, 2012
Killing in Syria
Published: February 6, 2012
Two days after Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a peaceful transfer of power in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad continued his killing spree.
On Monday, government forces using tanks and machine guns shelled a makeshift medical clinic and residential areas in Homs, a major center of protests. Since Friday, an estimated 240 people have been killed in perhaps the bloodiest episode in the 11-month-old uprising. Moscow and Beijing now have the blood of Syria’s valiant people on their hands as well.
Both argued that the resolution, endorsing an Arab League initiative, would expand the conflict. That is nonsense. The real explanation is that these two authoritarian governments fear any popular movement and, after the ouster of Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, are determined to deny the West another perceived victory.
While the resolution failed, the support at the Council was strong: 13 nations — including India and South Africa, which had abstained on an earlier vote in October — voted in favor. It is a sign of Syria’s increasing isolation and the repugnance that all responsible governments should feel toward Mr. Assad’s murderous ways.
If Russia and China are determined to obstruct the Security Council, the United States is right to look for a way to press for new sanctions and greater isolation of Syria. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has proposed a “friends of democratic Syria” group to support the opposition and work for a democratic political transition.
Mr. Assad has made clear that there is no compromise or deal to be had. But he is not immune to pressure. The “friends” group should use all the diplomatic and economic levers they can muster to encourage his ouster. That includes strictly adopting and implementing sanctions on Syria like those imposed by the European Union, the United States and the Arab League.
Washington on Monday withdrew its ambassador from Damascus, and other countries should do the same. In time, the business and military elite will come to realize that sticking by the Assad government is a losing proposition. There is growing talk in Washington and elsewhere of arming the Free Syrian Army, a coalition of military defectors and opposition members. It is understandable that many Syrians want to fight back against the brutal regime, which is believed to have already killed as many as 6,000 people since pro-democracy protests began. But we fear that that will make things worse.
An all-out civil war would be even more damaging to civilians — Assad’s army has 200,000 troops — and increase the chances that the fight will spill over into the broader region or become a proxy war.
Russia unconscionably refuses to halt its arms sales to the Assad government. The United States and its allies should publicly expose every shipment. Russians are growing tired of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and frequent public reminders of his responsibility for the killings in Syria will only further tarnish his image.
On Tuesday, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, is supposed to visit Damascus. The message he should be carrying is clear: It is time for Mr. Assad to go. If Russia chooses, instead, to enable more killing, it will find itself increasingly isolated. The world is watching, finally.
“120 states have now acceded to or ratified the Rome treaty for the International Criminal Court.
To date, the Arab League, consisting of 22 states, has only 4 states parties to the Rome Statute – Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Jordan and Tunisia.”
For instance – Accession to the treaty would allow Libya to participate as a state party in the Assembly of States Parties to the ICC and go after its fugitive killers – Saif Al Islam Al Gaddafi and Abdullah Al Senussi. Wil they look at Tunisia’s example and cut away from the Arab dictatorial past?
Hugo Dixon is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist – a new kind of analysis-by-blogger at the news agency – writes that since the Lech Walesa & Vaclav Havel year 1989 there was no such Gandhian-style year like 2011.
Gandhian-style tactics still relevant in Arab Spring times.
By Reuters, Thursday, 22 December 2011, posted by Arab Business News.
The most electrifying event of the year, for me, was the Egyptian revolution. I’d long had an interest in Gandhian-style struggles. Here was a nonviolent struggle unfolding in real-time against Hosni Mubarak’s repressive regime. Tens of millions of people were gaining their freedom.
The media coverage of the events in Tahrir Square focused on the Facebook revolution. But when I went to Cairo shortly after, I discovered that the use of social media was only part of the reason why the dictator had been toppled. Behind the protests was a cadre of activists who had been trained in the techniques of nonviolent struggle. This realisation was a eureka moment. If it was possible to overthrow dictators with comparatively little bloodshed – less than a thousand died in Egypt’s revolution – many millions more elsewhere might be able to gain their freedom given proper planning and training.
2011 was a banner year for nonviolent struggle. Not only did it witness the successful Arab Spring revolutions against dictators in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen; it also saw three Arab kings – in Morocco, Jordan and Kuwait – liberalise their political systems to head off similar protests. And the brave people of Syria went out on the streets again and again, despite being arrested, tortured and killed in their thousands.
Further afield, the Burmese regime started to reach an accommodation with pro-democracy activist, Aung San Suu Kyi, after two decades of nonviolent opposition; China experienced increasing stirrings of protest, for example when citizens posted nude photos of themselves on the internet after the authorities ruled that a photo of Ai Weiwei, the dissident artist, was pornographic; and even Vladimir Putin had to face demonstrations after seemingly widespread vote-rigging in Russia’s parliamentary elections.
The techniques of nonviolent struggle have also been used for purposes other than bringing down dictatorships. A man called Anna Hazare led a successful campaign against corruption in India. Meanwhile, the West had to contend with the Indignant anti-austerity movements in Spain, Greece and Italy as well as the anti-banker Occupy movements in the United States and Britain.
And don’t forget Leymah Gbowee, one of the winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. She helped end Liberia’s civil war in 2003.
2011 was the most successful year for nonviolent struggle since 1989 when peaceful revolutions led by the likes of Poland’s Lech Walesa and Czechoslovakia’s Vaclav Havel, who died at the weekend, swept away the old communist regimes of Eastern Europe. But nonviolent struggle hasn’t mown down everything in its path this year. The Occupy movements haven’t achieved much apart from raising consciousness. The transition to democracy in Egypt is still uncertain. Pro-democracy protests in Bahrain were snuffed out with the help of Saudi tanks. Bashar Assad is still in power in Damascus. And Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was brought down by a bloody civil war and foreign military intervention, not by unarmed protesters.
Over the past year, whenever I could tear myself away from the unfolding drama in the euro zone, I turned my attention to nonviolent struggle. How were these movements organised? Did they draw inspiration from common sources? And what were the ingredients of success?
The trail began in early January, several weeks before the Tahrir Square demonstrations. I was in Delhi meeting Kiran Bedi, a key member of Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign. I wanted to know whether Mohandas Gandhi, the leader of India’s independence struggle against the British in the first half of the 20th Century, was still relevant today. Of course, she replied, explaining that they had chosen January 30, the anniversary of Gandhi’s assassination, to hold their anti-corruption demonstration.
It wasn’t until August, though, that the campaign gathered momentum. The decisive moment came when Hazare announced he would go on a public hunger strike, a classic Gandhian technique, until the government agreed to create a tough anti-corruption watchdog. This posed a dilemma for the authorities. Either they would let the 74-year-old man go on strike and they would look weak; or they wouldn’t and they would look brutal. The police chose the latter option, arresting Hazare and over a thousand of his supporters on the grounds that they were holding an illegal demonstration. Indians came out in their millions in protest. Some kids in an orphanage even staged a hunger strike in sympathy.
The so-called dilemma action was perfected by Gandhi in his salt march in 1930. At the time, salt-making was a British government monopoly. Gandhi declared he was going to march to the sea and make his own salt, daring the authorities either to arrest him or display their impotence. After weeks of dithering, the British arrested Gandhi – triggering a massive civil disobedience campaign which led to over 80,000 people being put behind bars and paved the way for the end of British rule. Today’s Indian authorities made the same mistake as their British predecessors.
But this is moving too fast. Long before Hazare’s victory, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had fled Tunisia and Mubarak had resigned in Egypt. When I went to Cairo a month later, I met Saad Bahaar, a former engineer who had been training activists in the techniques of nonviolent struggle for six years. I was stunned. How had he learned what to do? He pointed, among other things, to the work of Gene Sharp, a frail 83-year-old Boston-based academic who has been studying and proselytising this type of warfare for about 60 years.
I’d never heard of Sharp, who runs a small think-tank called the Albert Einstein Institution. But I sought him out and devoured a clutch of his books, including his classic treatise, The Politics of Nonviolent Action. Sharp had analyzed how the pillars on which dictators’ power rests could be undermined systematically by nonviolent struggle. He also listed 198 tactics that could be used. Sharp had taken the insights of Gandhi and others and developed them into a quasi-science.
One of Sharp’s concepts – political jujitsu – is particularly powerful. This is the idea that violence inflicted by a dictatorship on peaceful protesters could boomerang on the regime and destroy it. Bystanders would abandon their neutrality; the regime’s pillars of support would become shaky; if the activists had the courage to maintain their struggle, the tyrant would ultimately collapse. But – and this was a crucial “but” – the revolutionaries had to maintain their nonviolent discipline, according to Sharp. Otherwise, they would lose the active support of the masses and, in a trial of strength, the regime would overwhelm them.
Boston is one node in a loose network of activists involved in nonviolent struggle. Another is Belgrade, home of Srdja Popovic, a 38-year-old Serb who was a founder of the resistance movement which helped bring down Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Popovic now runs Canvas, a group that trains activists around the world in nonviolent struggle. The tall angular Serb has simplified and popularised Sharp’s work, adding a huge dose of energy and humor as well as real-life experience.
Then there are academics who have helped refine the techniques of nonviolent warfare by studying past campaigns. For example, Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan studied 323 liberation struggles between 1900 and 2006 in their new book Why Civil Resistance Works. They discovered that 53 percent of the nonviolent campaigns succeeded in bringing about regime change, roughly double the 26 percent success rate for violent ones. The nonviolent struggles were also faster – taking on average three years to reach their goal rather than nine. And such campaigns had a good chance of ushering in democracies whereas regime changes brought about through violence tended to lead to new dictatorships.
The overall message of these activists and academics can be boiled down to several simple points. Success comes from having a clear and powerful goal, unity among the opposition, good strategic planning, tactical innovation and nonviolent discipline.
The first point can be illustrated by comparing Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign to the less successful Occupy movements. Hazare had a precise goal that resonated with a huge swathe of Indian society. The Occupy movements and their close relations, the Indignant movements, haven’t yet articulated clear goals nor have they yet achieved anything concrete.
The perils of abandoning nonviolent discipline are also shown by Italy’s Indignati and Greece’s Aganaktismenoi. In the former case, protests were hijacked by a group of anarchists called the Black Bloc; in the latter by demonstrators throwing Molotov cocktails. Almost all the media coverage focused on the fringe violent elements rather than the peaceful masses.
Colonel Gaddafi’s bloody overthrow is, of course, the supposed counter-example from 2011 to the merits of pursuing a nonviolent struggle. It seems to suggest that violence pays. As such, some members of the Syrian opposition are advocating it as a model they should follow – although the main umbrella body, the Syrian National Council, is still pushing the nonviolent approach.
But the lessons from the Libyan revolution aren’t clear-cut. For a start, it’s unknowable what would have happened if the people had pursued a nonviolent campaign: they might eventually have got their way with less bloodshed. Although estimates of the Libyan death toll vary widely, the Transitional National Council has used a number of 25,000. If the same proportion of Syria’s larger population was killed in a conflict, its death toll would be 89,000 – much higher than the 5,000 so far estimated by the United Nations.
The Libyan campaign also relied on France, Britain, America and other countries attacking Gaddafi’s forces from the air. That can’t easily be repeated in Syria. Foreign powers aren’t always willing to play the role of global policeman – and, when they are, they typically want something in return such as control of a country’s natural resources.
How the Syrian conflict plays out will determine many people’s perceptions of the value of nonviolent struggle. At the moment, it looks like there is a significant risk of it descending into civil war. But even if such a tragedy unfolds this won’t prove that Gandhian-style campaigns are worthless. 2011 has already shown the power of the technique in other countries. As more people learn the strategy and tactics of nonviolent struggle, it will become more powerful still.
(Hugo Dixon is a Reuters Breakingviews colunist. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Updated: An Editorial Note – The US builds a new global position with a Trans-Pacific arch spanning from NAFTA to Indonesia and Australia without including China. This market starts from being 1.6 times the EU Free Trade zone.
The papers wrote today, November 18th, on the small Asian Scene but missed the much bigger significance. After years of playing big power economic politics on the side of China and a mumbling and stumbling EU – the US did a reset, as per the following and most recent, news.
“BALI, Indonesia — Hours before Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Myanmar’s most prominent democracy campaigner, announced her return to formal politics on Friday, President Obama disclosed that he was sending Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on a visit there next month, the first by a secretary of state in more than 50 years.
The twin events underscored the remarkable and sudden pace of change in Myanmar, which has stunned observers inside and outside the country, analysts said.”
Actually what happened these last three weeks is that Obama’s Administration is distancing itself from the troubles of the EU and in an effort to decrease its dependence on China financing, the US has moved to use the Asian-Pacific region minus China, but in in alliance with Australia, to forge a new FREE MARKET from an enlarged NAFTA (Canada, Mexico, Columbia) to embrace some of the countries of the old APEC. This market is 1.6 times larger then the EU and will have a military base in Darwin, Australia, so China takes notice of a massive new US interest in Asia.
This is just a small reaction to the news and we intend to return to this new and intriguing situation that is clearly intended as well to show the American people that this Administration is still capable of doing great novel things. We say BRAVO.
Europe will take advantage of this RESET by trying to increase its activities in the Arab World – i.e. Austria readies a new mission to Qatar where it will open December 11-12, 2011 a new Embassy in Doha with a visit by Austria’s Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer who travels at the head of a business delegation as it was done these weeks as well by Austrian interests going to Iraq, Libya and Turkmenistan. Please note that the new Embassy in Doha is being opened while Austria is busy saving money by closing up to 30 Consulates and Embassies elsewhere i.e. in Chicago!
We posted the above on November 18th, then on November 19th we found on the CNN/GPS the following, and we realize that our AMERICA IN A NEW ASIA RESET editorial note was our correct reading of the news. Again – we expect to enlarge on this very soon.
President Obama is focused on East Asia and the Pacific this week. After attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hawaii last weekend, Obama traveled to Australia where, on Thursday, he addressed the parliament. His message: “In the Asia Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in.”
Later that day, President Obama traveled to the city of Darwin along the northern coast, where the U.S. announced it will station 2,500 Marines. The summit and travel, which also include a stop in Indonesia, are seen as the U.S. shifting attention to the Pacific – and to a rising China – as troops withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan. Here are some of the international responses to what Secretary of State Clinton recently dubbed “America’s Pacific Century.”
Australia – “Despite the rising economic, diplomatic and military reach of China, U.S. supremacy is the bedrock of security in the region,” says an editorial in the Sydney-based Australian.
Indonesia – NIMBY, or “not in my backyard,” says an editorial in the Jakarta Postof stationing U.S. troops in northern Australia.
China – “Is there any country in the region that wants the United States to be its leader?” asks Wei Jianhua in China’s state-run Xinhua news. The provided answer: “No.”
Japan – “Tokyo and Washington are concerned about how to respond to Beijing,” says an editorial in the Tokyo-based Yomiuri Shimbun.
Saudi Arabia — “Really?” asks an editorial in the Jeddah-based Arab News of President Obama saying the Pacific is the top priority.
Australia – A Sydney Morning Herald editorial says stationing U.S. Marines in Australia is “a significant turn in the direction of Australia’s foreign policy.” While Australia “had been negotiating a potentially tricky course part-way between” the U.S. and China, the “helm has now been turned decisively to one side.”
China— “Americans should realize that neither side would win in a trade war and must prevent the Obama administration from taking any rash decision,” writes Deng Yuwen in the China Daily. President Obama, the U.S. Congress and Republican Presidential candidates have in recent weeks sought to pressure China over its currency policy, claiming the yuan is undervalued.
Early in his term, President Obama was too deferential to China. On his Asia trip last week, he sent a clear message that this country is not ceding anything in the Pacific. That is good news.
New York Times EDITORIAL Published November 19th, printed in the November 20, 2011, paper.
President Obama in Asia.
Like President George W. Bush, Mr. Obama’s preference is to engage Beijing in international organizations and agreements in hopes that will encourage China’s leaders to behave more responsibly. It is a sound long-range strategy. But China has made clear that without serious and sustained push-back, it will use its economic and military clout to bully and intimidate its neighbors.
The most brazen example is its broad claim to energy reserves in the South China Sea that are also claimed by five other countries. On Friday, Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, said at an Asian summit meeting that “outside forces” had no right to get involved in the dispute.
On his trip, Mr. Obama insisted he would “seek more opportunities for cooperation with Beijing.” But he also made clear that his patience has limits, at one point saying that China has now “grown up” and should act responsibly in its trade and currency practices.
In Australia, he announced an agreement to deploy 2,500 Marines plus naval ships and aircraft to a base in Darwin starting next year. That is not a huge number, but it is a pointed symbol of America’s interest.
At the same time, we were concerned by Mr. Obama’s declaration to Australia’s Parliament that budget reductions “will not — I repeat, will not — come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific.” Allies, of course, need to hear that. But any new mission in Asia cannot become another excuse for Pentagon planners to avoid making needed cuts.
On his trip, the president also rightly championed the benefits of freer trade — a position made more credible after Congress finally passed the trade deal with South Korea. His push to negotiate a trade deal with eight other Pacific Rim countries is important. He must keep reminding Beijing that it is welcome to join if it makes the necessary economic reforms.
What the United States should not do is overreach. Beijing already suspects that the real American goal is to “contain” its power. Washington must be transparent about its dealings and consult and include China when possible. American and Chinese political leaders have a regular dialogue. The Pentagon needs to do more to cultivate relationships with its resistant counterparts.
Dealing with a rising China requires a deft hand and a willingness to push back when Beijing oversteps. Being there is a big part of it.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying that the US has a role in democracy movements that continue to roil the Middle East, urged Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to embrace reform and Syria to accept protesters’ demands. “These revolutions are not ours – they are not by us, for us, or against us – but we do have a role.”
Bahrain Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Clinton urges Saudi, Bahrain to embrace Arab Spring.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying that the US has a role in democracy movements that continue to roil the Middle East, urged Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to embrace reform and Syria to accept protesters’ demands.
“These revolutions are not ours – they are not by us, for us, or against us, but we do have a role,” Clinton said in remarks to the National Democratic Institute, a democracy support organization based in Washington. “Fundamentally, there is a right side of history. We want to be on it. And without exception, we want our partners in the region to reform so that they are on it as well.”
Clinton addressed skepticism in both the Arab world and at home about US motives and commitments since the Arab Spring began with a Tunisian fruit vendor’s protest self-immolation in December 2010.
Developments in the months since then have raised the possibility of Islamic groups gaining political power in Egypt, highlighted differences in the way the US has approached protest movements in places like Bahrain and Syria and drawn questions about US opposition to unilateral Palestinian attempts to gain recognition.
While there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to democracy in the Arab world, such a movement is firmly in US interests and is a strategic necessity, Clinton declared.
“The greatest single source of instability in today’s Middle East is not the demand for change,” she said, “It is the refusal to change.”
Clinton said that held true for allies as well as others. She warned that, if the most powerful political force in Egypt remains a roomful of unelected officials, there will be future unrest.
She decried Iranian hypocrisy, saying that contrary to its claims to support democracy abroad, the gulf between rulers and the ruled is greater in Iran than anywhere else in the region. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and others “trying to hold back the future at the point of a gun should know their days are numbered,” Clinton said.
To the king of Bahrain, where the US Fifth Fleet is based as a bulwark against Iranian aggression in the Gulf, Clinton said that reform was in the kingdom’s interest.
Officials there have used mass arrests to counter protests by majority Shiites demanding greater rights in the Sunni-led nation. Members of Congress have demanded an inquiry into human rights abuses before a planned arms sale to the kingdom goes through.
The US will hold Bahrain to its commitments to allow peaceful protest and release political prisoners, Clinton said.
While reforms and equality are “in Bahrain’s interests, in the region’s interest and in ours,” Clinton said, “endless unrest benefits Iran.”
Palestinians also “deserve dignity, liberty and the right to decide their own future,” Clinton said. The only way to achieve that is through negotiations with Israel, Clinton said.
The Middle East’s protest movements may bring to power groups and parties that the US disagrees with, Clinton acknowledged. She said she is asked about this most often in the context of Islamic political parties. “The suggestion that faithful Muslims cannot thrive in a democracy is insulting, dangerous and wrong,” she said.
While “reasonable people can disagree on a lot,” Clinton said the crucial factor will be adherence to basic democratic principles. Parties must reject violence, abide by the rule of law and respect freedom of speech, association and assembly, as well as the rights of women and minorities, she said. “In other words, what parties call themselves is less important than what they do,” Clinton said.
The US has the resources, capabilities and expertise to support those trying to make the transition to democracy, Clinton said. Groups like National Democratic Institute can help with the nuts and bolts of democracy, teaching people how to form a political party, how to ensure women participate in government and how to foster civil society.
Mindful of the economic roots of the unrest, the Obama administration is also promoting trade, investment and regional integration, Clinton said.
“With so much that can go wrong and so much that can go right, support for emerging Arab democracies is an investment we can’t afford not to make,” she said.
Sitting in Tel Aviv like in a Villa in the middle of an Arab jungle and praising the Arab Spring while watching the lynching of Gaddafi – Uri Avnery reminds us that Benito Mussolini, in Italy, got even worse treatment. Avnery does not see sense in squirming leftists that never understood the difference between Vietnam, Kosovo, Libya and Syria. Chances are that an Arab style democracy will evolve, that is much more a boon to humanity then Putin’s new one man rule. Avnery finds no difference between oil interests, and though he does not mention the UN, we feel he might also see the lack of a need to respect that institution’s leaders either, as it does not obey to the will of the Peoples mentioned in its Charter.
October 29, 2011
A View from the Villa.
THE KILLING of Muammar Gaddafi and his son Muatasim was not a pretty sight. After seeing it once, I looked away when it was shown again and again on TV – literally ad nauseam.
Commercial TV exists, of course, to make money for the tycoons by appealing to the basest instincts and tastes of the masses. There seems to be an insatiable appetite for gruesome sights.
But in Israel there was another motive for showing these lynch scenes repeatedly, as the commentators made abundantly clear. These scenes proved, to their mind, the primitive, barbaric, murderous nature of the Arab peoples, and, indeed, of Islam as such.
Ehud Barak likes to describe Israel as a “villa in the middle of a jungle”. By now this is accepted by the great majority of our media people. They never miss an opportunity to point out that we live in a “dangerous neighborhood” – making it clear that Israel does not really belong to this neighborhood. We are a civilized Western people, sadly surrounded by these primitive savages.
(As I have mentioned many times, this goes right back to the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, who wrote that the future Zionist state would be a part of “the wall of civilization against Asiatic barbarism”.)
Since this attitude has far-reaching mental and political implications, let’s have a closer look.
I AM against the death penalty, in all its forms. Executions, whether in Texas or in China, disgust me. I would have much preferred Gaddafi to be tried in a proper court.
But my first reaction to the sight was: My God, how much a people must hate its ruler if they treat him like that! Obviously, the decades of abominable terror inflicted on the Libyan people by this half-crazy despot have destroyed any remnants of mercy they may have felt. (His fanatical defenders to the last, members of his tribe, seem to be a tiny minority.)
His clownish appearance and foreign adventures diverted the attention of world opinion from the murderous aspects of his rule. From time to time, on a whim, he let loose waves of horror, torturing and killing anyone who had so much as voiced a hint of criticism, trying them in football stadiums, where the roar of the maddened crowds drowned out the pitiful pleading for mercy of the condemned. On one occasion, his thugs shot all the 1200 inmates of Abu Salim prison in Tripoli.
True, he spent some money on building schools and hospitals, but that was a tiny part of the huge amounts of oil revenue squandered on his bizarre adventures or stolen by his family. This immensely rich country has a poor population, a singe narrow road from Egypt through to Tunisia and a standard of living that is a third of ours.
You did not have to be an Arab barbarian or Muslim arch-terrorist to do what was done to him. Actually, the highly civilized Italians (Libya’s former colonial masters) did exactly the same in 1945. When the partisans caught the fleeing Benito Mussolini, he pleaded piteously for his life, but they killed him on the spot together with his mistress. Their bodies were thrown into the street, kicked and spat upon by the crowd, and then hanged by their feet from meat hooks from the roof of a gas station, where the public threw stones at them for days on end. I don’t remember anybody in civilized Europe protesting.
Contrary to Mussolini and Gaddafi, Adolf Hitler was not caught while ignominiously trying to escape. He chose a much more dignified exit. But during his last weeks Gaddafi rather resembled Hitler, living in a world of crazy delusion, moving nonexistent troops around on the map, sure to the end of the boundless love of his people.
Nicolae Ceausescu, another bloody tyrant, had his day – or hour – in court. It was a charade, as such trials are bound to be. The kangaroo court condemned him to death and he was shot forthwith, together with his wife.
GADDAFI’S DEMISE puts an end to the debate that started months ago.
There can be no doubt any more that the vast majority of the Libyan people detested Gaddafi and welcomed the NATO campaign that helped to remove him. It was an important contribution, but the actual heavy fighting was done by the ragtag people’s army. Libya liberated itself. Even in Tripoli, it was the people who put an end to the tyranny.
I was sharply attacked by some well-meaning European leftists for blessing the awful monster called NATO. Now, in retrospect, it is quite obvious that the overwhelming – if not unanimous – opinion of the Libyans themselves welcomed the intervention.
Where did I differ from these leftists? I think that they have sewn themselves into a kind of ideological straightjacket. During the Vietnam war they arrived at a world view that was appropriate for that particular situation: there were good guys and bad guys. The good guys were the Vietnamese Communists and their allies. The bad guys were the US and its puppets. Since then, they have applied this schema to every situation around the world: South Africa, Yugoslavia, Palestine.
But every situation is different. Vietnam is not Libya, the South African problem was much more simple than ours. Great power politics may remain constant, and very unattractive at that, but there are huge differences between the various situations. I was very much against the US wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and very much in favor of the NATO campaigns in Kosovo and Libya.
For me, the starting point of every analysis is what the people concerned want and need, and only after that do I wonder how the international schema applies to them. Working from the inside out, so to speak, not from the outside in.
Also, I have never quite understood the dogma which seems to answer all questions: “it’s all about oil”. Gaddafi sold his oil on the world market, and so will his successors, on the same terms. International oil corporations are all the same to me. Is there much of a difference between the Russian Gazprom and the American Esso?
Some former Communists seem to have a kind of inherited attachment to Russia, almost automatically supporting its international positions, from Afghanistan to Serbia to Syria. Why? What is the similarity between Vladimir Putin and the Soviets? Putin does not subscribe to the dictatorship of the proletariat, he is quite satisfied with a dictatorship of himself.
IF GADDAFI’S savage end has reinforced all the Islamophobic obsessions in the West, the elections in Tunisia have made matters worse.
Help! The Islamists have won the elections! The Muslim Brotherhood will win the elections in Egypt! The Arab Spring will turn the whole region into one vast hotbed of Jihad! Israel and The West are in mortal danger!
This is all nonsense. And dangerous nonsense at that, because it may derail any sensible American and European policy towards the Arab world.
Sure, Islam is on the rise. Islamic parties have resisted the Arab dictatorships and were persecuted by them, and therefore are popular in the aftermath of their downfall – much as European Communists were very popular in France and Italy after the defeat of Fascism. From there on, support for these parties declined.
Islam is an important part of Arab civilization. Many Arabs are sincere believers. Islamic parties will certainly play an important role in any democratic Arab order, much as Jewish religious parties play – alas – an important role in Israeli politics. Most of these Arab parties are moderate, like the governing Islamic party in Turkey.
It is certainly desirable that these parties become a part of the democratic order, rather than turning into its enemy. They must be inside the tent, otherwise the tent may collapse. I believe that this is in the best interest of Israel, too. That’s why my friends and I favor Fatah-Hamas reconciliation and advocate direct negotiations between Israel and Hamas, and not only for prisoner exchanges.
Our media are outraged: the interim Prime Minister of Libya has announced that Islamic law – the sharia – will guide the enactment of new laws in his country. It seems our journalists are ignorant of the existence of an Israeli law that says that if there are legal questions for which there are no ready answers, the religious Jewish law – the Halakha – will fill the void. Moreover, there is a new bill before the Knesset that states unequivocally that the Halakha will decide legal disputes.
The outcome of the Tunisian elections was, to my mind, very positive. As expected, the moderate Islamic party won a plurality, but not a majority. It must form a coalition with secular parties and is willing to do so. These parties, totally new and practically unknown, need time to establish their identity and structure.
To add a personal note, Rachel and I went to Tunisia many times to meet Yasser Arafat, and rather liked the people. We were especially taken by the many men we saw in the streets wearing a jasmine flower behind the ear. No wonder that such people could make an almost bloodless “jasmine revolution”.
If elections in other Arab countries follow this pattern, as seems probable, it will be all for the best.
THE OBAMA administration was clever enough to jump on the bandwagon of the Arab revolutions, though at the very last moment. We Israelis did not have this sense. Our Islamophobia has caused us to miss a golden opportunity for a new image among the young Arab revolutionaries.
Instead, we contrast our goodness with the barbarism of the Libyans, who have once again shown the true nature of the jungle surrounding our villa.