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Archive for the 'democratic revolution' Category
by Damakant Jayshi
Kathmandu, February 9, 2014
Reconciling their differences over power-sharing that was beginning to deepen the political impasse, the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML signed a seven-point agreement on Sunday paving the way for Sushil Koirala as the new Prime Minister.
Soon after, NC President Koirala filed his nomination in the Parliament for Monday’s election and thanked the UML for its support. “The responsibility to draft a democratic Constitution is on the shoulders of the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML,” Mr. Koirala told media persons after filing his nomination.
“We will prepare the draft of the Constitution in six months and promulgate in a year.”
With this expression of support, Mr. Koirala is assured of getting elected unopposed. He would still need to enter the election process as per the Interim Constitution, since the election is being held under majority provision.
NC vice-president Ram Chandra Paudel is set to propose his name and the CPN-UML’s newly elected Parliamentary Party leader K.P. Oli would second the proposal.
As per the agreement between the two parties, there would be no election for the post of President and Vice-President for now, a demand that UML had insisted upon until the last moment.
The election for these two posts — and for the Prime Minister and Speaker of the House — would be held after the Constitution is made public (in a year) but before it comes into effect.
However, the NC agreed to the UML’s suggestion of having the President and the Vice-President endorsed by the Parliament. The parties agreed to amend the Interim Constitution incorporating this provision.
They also agreed to draft the Constitution according to the spirit of all the agreements reached in the past — right from the 12-point agreement reached in New Delhi in 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the Interim Constitution and the mandate expressed by the people in the November election.
As a sop to Unified CPN (Maoist) and Madhesi parties, the deal says it would own the agreements reached by the last Constituent Assembly, a move likely to be challenged by the fourth largest party, the RPP (Nepal). The pro-monarchy party has opposed any adoption of pacts of the last CA, arguing that it would be a violation of the mandate of the recent election.
The NC also agreed to support the UML nominee as chairman of the Constituent Assembly (who will also function as Speaker of the Legislature-Parliament).
This point was added to an earlier draft agreement.
Within a week of government formation, the Cabinet would announce a common minimum programme and a code of conduct for cabinet members.
The deal was signed after the CPN-UML decided on Sunday to support an NC-led government.
The highest decision-making body of the CPN-UML, the standing committee, took the decision to support Mr. Koirala.
“The UML has decided to support an NC-led government,” CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal told mediapersons after the meeting of the party’s Standing Committee.
Keywords: Nepali Congress, Sushil Koirala, Nepal politics, Jhala Nath Khanal
Nepal Prime Minister poll set for February 10February 5, 2014
Nepal leaders promise timely Constitution January 27, 2014
Living dangerously in the ‘new’ Egypt
by Ruth Pollard
It doesn’t take long for a crowd to turn on you on the streets of Egypt these days.
A finger pointed, an accusation levelled, and you are literally running for your life.
For months now I have been hesitant to even pull my notebook from my bag when I am reporting from the street, such is the animosity against, and suspicion of, foreign journalists.
But I am lucky – I can usually move through a crowd, observe the mood, chat to a few people and leave quickly before drawing too much attention.
Not so photographers, whose cameras have become a magnet for angry crowds and security services who smash, grab and detain.
Two weeks ago I was a few blocks from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, interviewing stallholders and passers-by about the constitutional referendum due to begin the next day.
I had identified myself as an Australian newspaper journalist. As people began to speak, I took out my notebook.
A middle-aged man suddenly began paying close attention to my questions – simple inquiries about what people thought of the constitution, was it better than the last one they had voted in a little over a year ago?
“You are from TV?” he asked.
“No, a newspaper,” I replied, acutely alert to where the conversation was going.
“You are from Jazeera,” he shouted.
“No,” I insisted. “A newspaper – look,” I said, gesturing around me: “I have no camera crew.”
“You are a spy,” he yelled, as people crowded around us and began repeating his accusations as if they were facts. And again: “You are from Jazeera.”
The mood darkened. There was no possibility of negotiation, no hope of discussion. It was time to run.
I dashed through the all-but-stationary traffic, turned down a side street to avoid police gathered on one corner in case they grabbed me, and in a few short minutes I came to a roundabout where the cars were moving, flagged down a cab and went home.
It was an incident hardly worth mentioning. Unlike so many of my colleagues, I was not beaten by the crowd or detained by security forces.
It was just another day trying to report on the extraordinary wave of revolution and crackdown, fledgling democracy and repression that Egyptians are riding.
And it was another reporting exercise cut short by an angry crowd, encouraged by an interim government, backed by a powerful security establishment and fuelled by the country’s media which are loudly feeding a tide of xenophobia that threatens to spill over at the slightest provocation. Like taking out a notebook, or interviewing the other side of politics.
The threat of arrest is ever-present. The detention of our colleagues from al-Jazeera – Australian Peter Greste, dual Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, along with Egyptians Baher Mohamed, Abdullah al-Shami and Mohamed Bader – weighs heavily on our minds.
The media have always had a difficult relationship with the powerful in Egypt. Repression was rife during President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule and the Muslim Brotherhood-backed government of Mohamed Mursi sought to quash criticism of his short-lived, dysfunctional administration.
But the targeting of journalists from al-Jazeera English over the network’s alleged pro-Muslim Brotherhood stance – a charge denied by al-Jazeera executives – has spilt over to encompass all foreign media. I will no longer answer “sahafia” – the feminine form of ”journalist” in Arabic – when I am asked what I do. Not since a taxi driver took a journalist straight to a police station after he revealed his profession.
Soon after the incident downtown I travelled with a photographer to Fayoum, two hours from Cairo, to report on the second day of voting in the constitutional referendum.
Groups of soldiers backed by local plain-clothes police armed with shotguns were in control of every polling booth. A judge oversaw the voting inside.
At many points during the day our every move – interviewing voters, taking photos or seeking a judge’s permission to enter the room – was filmed by a soldier on his mobile phone. Our local driver was also filmed, his identity now inextricably linked to the small crew of foreign journalists he takes with extreme care from point A to point B.
During an earlier visit to the site of a bomb blast in Cairo’s Nasr City, my colleague and I lasted just over seven minutes on the street observing and photographing the wreckage before police challenged our presence and it seemed the crowd could turn on us.
Only a month ago I worried that a quick visit to a protest or bomb blast site was not enough to do a decent reporting job. Now I wonder if I should go at all.
At least 12 journalists were detained and several were wounded as they tried to cover the third anniversary of the overthrow of Mubarak. Almost every journalist and photographer I know has been detained, and those of us who haven’t regularly run for cover, hiding in residential buildings, ducking into cafes, talking our way into the safety of a big hotel.
The threat of being detained, or a crowd turning on us, versus the need to cover the story, is a constant debate among those of us covering Egypt.
Every day we hope we have the right answer, because one wrong move can be devastating.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/living-dangerously-in-the-new-egypt-20140131-31sjk.html#ixzz2s0yJ0Zq2
Ed. note Australian journalist Peter Greste is detained, with 4 other al-Jazeera crew accused of spreading false news and having links to the Muslim Brotherhood. These are obviously false accusations by anti-democratic forces. I also note that this article didn’t comment on the recent ‘crowd rapes’ that have occurred to female protesters and journalists who become obvious to the crowd. I hope these people are returned safely to their family in the very near future. Just how many foreign journalists did Morsi lock up?
by Patrick Muldowney
Over in Ukraine ‘Christmas gifts’ are being unwrapped and all sorts of stuff is coming out from under the shiny paper that everyone wraps things up in. Hard to tell the real value of the ‘gift’ even when out of the paper, but it’s virtually impossible while it’s still wrapped up in paper. What’s the value of a V8 ute to a 18yr old high school student compared to a 36yr old builder?
Christmas only comes once a year, but wise people acquire gifts all through the year and they are put away for that one special day. When the day approaches a tree is set aside and decorated in the current fashion. The hidden gifts are then wrapped up in that shiny paper and left under the tree for anyone to wonder about.
By Christmas Eve most of the gifts have arrived and the pile sits there overnight in unseen beauty. The mystery of the decorated packages is only solved in the frenzy of opening and sometimes not even then. ‘Have I got what I asked for?’ is the unspoken thought from the children.
The kids get to the task of unwrapping the gifts, even if a beloved grandmother that bought some of them during the year has been dead and buried for months. They unwrap what is there and then make of it as they will!
They may have received blank paper and paints. It may be a model; or a flag; or a history book written by somebody with an ‘interest in promoting human rights’; or even a book written by a person keen on free and fair elections for a proportionately representative parliament that are IMV the foundation of those human rights. It maybe a Crucifix the old woman had thought a sacred object and when it’s unwrapped a discussion might start that leads all the young people into a more solid understanding that they just don’t share the old ideas. On the other hand it might get put up on the mantle piece and everyone begin a fervent prayer just to get the old girl out of Purgatory. Who knows what the naked apes of Ukraine are making of the 21st C. What is evident is that they are divided over how the country ought to orient it’s form of capitalism. I think the majority favor a western lean away from what many see as ‘the old foe’ and half of the remainder would want to get more distance between themselves and Putin types generally.
We all know from experience that just as people change so do the organisations that they set up. It’s only in Neverland where people don’t change. Self evidently many Ukrainians understand (even better than Syrians) that Putin is their enemy and that any political leadership that draws their country closer to Putin is to be opposed and struggled against.
The Irish up against the English is the best example of how a national movement of the Ukrainians against the Russians ought to be thought about, right down to the massive loyalist presence in a concentrated part of the country. The National question is still being resolved in Ukraine and Georgia and right across that big slab of territory north of the Caucuses that Putin has been waging his ruthless city smashing wars in for years.
Al Qaeda sorts thrive in the swamp that Putin is maintaining. Putin has not changed course and is not part of the solution to the national questions; or the struggle for democracy; nor women’s rights; or gay rights; and so on. His nonsense is a blockage to the swamp draining that extends right up into the Ukraine and beyond that. East European development is way behind Norway and the rest of the exemplar Scandinavian countries – even if the Norwegians have to deal with rightwing terrorists.
Putin keeps Assad’s air power going and democrats want to see that it gets smashed to bits.
Because the strategic grand plan is to fight oppression by uniting the many to defeat the few, we look to the current demands of the Ukrainians as Steve directed our attention with respect to the Sunni demands in Iraq.
Whatever the past role of Ukrainian nationalism way back at the time Stalin was coping with his problems, the current struggle is a no-brainer because the Ukrainian people are against Putin’s Russia. I guess that the largest block of Ukrainian people want their government to resign and they want new elections to form a new government to lead their country away from Russia and towards greater connections with western Europe. If they got that outcome it won’t solve all their problems anymore than the problems are solved in Ireland, Spain or Greece and I suppose that is obvious to them as they can see for themselves how bad things are in those Euro countries; but at least they will be that much further away from the system that Putin is running!
As with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt there are more than just a few “very conservative” democrats in the Ukrainian context, and just as there are Salafi parties that are more reactionary (and less democratic) in Egypt there are the equivalent in this part of the swamp.
As Arthur said re Egypt;
‘Anyone democratic is inherently less reactionary and conservative than the various “progressive” parties of the secular opposition who actually want to go BACKWARDS towards the Mubarak era. So emphasizing the conservative or reactionary character of the brotherhood is likely to give a misleading impression to people who are unaware of how bad the opposition to the brotherhood is.’
My view is that issues that blow up this big ought to have been brought before the people in Referenda. The situation is well beyond that now and new elections are now how the issues of the Ukraine can be resolved. There is that, or a reasonably quick descent into the civil war scenario. I think the police and the army would ‘quickly’ shatter and the country then divide along the two ethnic lines. The Russian dominated regions – absent Putin meddling – would after a few months or whatever time it takes would lose out to the Ukrainian nationalist forces but Putin would/will meddle. Eventually we could then see Putin’s tanks cross the border in the manner that he did with Georgia a couple of years back.
It is a little different to Georgia, but the resolution of the national question is at the heart of the issue and these are both historically ‘Promethean’ movement inspired countries.
Anyway the new Pinochet in Egypt has more support I’d bet than does the current friend of Putin running the show in Ukraine, where I’m sure ‘it isn’t just the disgusting liberals and “left” that have faith in the army’ [but like Egypt] ‘if a Syrian situation can be avoided (as has been successful in Tunisia) then it is well worth trying to avoid it.’
Nations do want liberation and Putin works against them. Countries do want independence and Putin won’t let them have it, and as far as I can see the peoples’ do want a revolutionary change in the way they are governed by the knuckle-dragging-ruling-classes, and their increasingly inbred ruling-elites. Oh and Putin backs the Assad sorts!
Supporting the fight for democracy I have endorsed the COW liberation of Iraq. I don’t pretend there is a fight for socialism in regions threatened by Putin, but there is a struggle for national liberation and democracy. I have no trouble working out where to stand. As in the Syrian case there are unsavory sorts all over the place, but that was the way it was with the struggle for national liberation in Vietnam, and in Ireland as well for that matter.
Where is Turkey Going?
by Veli Sirin
January 3, 2014 at 5:00 am
The unraveling of relations between Erdoğan and Gülen has begun to overshadow the details of the corruption scandal that brought it about.
As the crisis of Turkey’s government and the country’s competing Islamists is deepening, the attitude of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, known as AKP, is hardening – as are the positions of his opponents.
With new developments emerging daily, Erdoğan was confronted on January 1, 2014 with a petition by the former army general staff chief, Gen. İlker Başbuğ, that Başbuğ be released from a life sentence handed down against him on August 5, 2013, in the “Ergenekon” conspiracy trials, in which the Islamist government accused members of the secular military of supposedly trying to bring the government down. As described in the leading national media platform, the Hürriyet Daily News, Başbuğ was one of 275 suspects charged in the “Ergenekon” affair; other high military officials, journalists and academics were subjected to “aggravated life sentences,” which replaced death sentences, in the “Ergenekon” proceedings.
As noted in the same Hürriyet article, Başbuğ based his demand for exoneration on Erdoğan’s claim that “gangs within the state” and “members of the parallel state” had penetrated the judiciary, police, and other official structures. Erdoğan’s chief advisor, Yalçin Akdoğan, implied that members of the judiciary had “framed” military officers in the “Ergenekon” case.
Senior AKP legislator Mustafa Elitaş, told Hürriyet Daily News that Turkey could change laws to allow a retrial of the military officers convicted of plotting to overthrow Erdoğan. According to that Hürriyet Daily News account, Elitaş said of the army defendants, “We will, if necessary, make new legal arrangements to stop people’s unjust treatment.”
At the same time, and as reflected in the same Hürriyet Daily News post of December 31, former army General Çetin Doğan, accused and convicted of a similar plot in the “Sledgehammer” trial of military leaders, which ended in 2012, is preparing a complaint against a 20-year prison term imposed on him.
Erdoğan’s chief advisor, Akdoğan, then reversed course. In a press statement quoted by Today’s Zaman, another major Turkish newspaper, Akdoğan declared, “It is wrong to the utmost degree to use my previous writings to say that I have called some trials ‘false,’ ‘baseless,’ ’empty’ and ‘fabricated.’ Just as prosecutors need evidence to issue criminal charges, the defense, believing the evidence presented is false, needs to provide its own evidence to support its argument.”
Ironies abound in the current Turkish turmoil. Erdoğan and AKP were widely reported to have mounted the “Sledgehammer” and “Ergenekon” proceedings in a long-term Islamist bid to cut down the influence of the secularist military. London Guardian correspondent Simon Tisdall, noted on September 25, 2012 that Turkish military commanders had carried out three coups, between 1960 and 1980 (including a full-fledged takeover in 1971), and had forced AKP out of power in 1997.
Tisdall continued, “Tensions between the AKP and the military, proud guardians of [Turkey]’s secularist legacy, were at times acute. It is not difficult to imagine the generals wanted rid of Erdoğan.”
The AKP seems caught between its desire to defend the two anti-military trials and to rein in a process that has escaped its control, with the judiciary turning on Erdoğan’s party leaders. A December 31, 2013 Reuters news agency wire ascribed to AKP deputy prime minister Ali Babacan a claim that subversion of the AKP administration was the motive for a “graft inquiry [that] became public on 17 December with a series of raids and detentions of senior businessmen close to Erdoğan, and of the sons of three ministers.”
The same Reuters account pointed out that “Erdoğan has, without naming it, accused a movement led by the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen of creating a ‘state within a state,’ using influence in the police and judiciary in a campaign to discredit the government. The [Gülen-led] Hizmet (Service) movement controls a global network of schools and businesses. Tensions have grown between the two former allies over elements of foreign and domestic policy and moves to close Gülen’s private schools in Turkey.”
Fethullah Gülen was born in Turkey in 1941 near the city of Erzurum but since 1999 has lived in rural Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, according to a profile of him by Alexander Christie-Miller posted by The Christian Science Monitor Gülen came to the U.S., Christie-Miller wrote, “after fleeing Turkey over charges of seeking to topple the country’s secular government.” London Financial Times writer Daniel Dombey, however, stated that Gülen had moved to America for “medical treatment.”
Gülen was portrayed as “soft-spoken,” “modest,” and tolerant of Turkey’s non-Muslim religious minorities, including “Nestorian Christians, Protestants [and] Jews,” in an article about him by Brian Knowlton of The New York Times. The newspaper Today’s Zaman, quoted above, is owned by the Gülen movement.
Erdoğan, for his part, has become known for conspiratorial claims. When the corruption scandal struck the AKP government in December, the prime minister was cited by Emre Peker in The Wall Street Journal.
Erdoğan claimed, according to Peker, that the investigation of financial crimes in his administration was “the work of foreign powers uncomfortable with Turkey’s rising economic and political clout. ‘If we don’t respond to these operations in the harshest, most decisive manner today, rest assured that these conspiracies will continue to engineer our national will in the future,’ he said.”
Prime Minister Erdoğan further used an idiom flavored with aggression. Hürriyet Daily News reported that Erdoğan said in a speech in Ordu, a northern Turkish city, “Those who want to establish a parallel structure alongside the state, those who have infiltrated into the state institutions … we will come into your lairs and we will lay out these organizations within the state.”
Gülen, in reaction to the implication by Erdoğan and his supporters that Gülen, and his followers in the judiciary and police had turned against the AKP, burst out with rhetoric that belied his long-cultivated image of unruffled tranquility. Gülen issued a video sermon, rebroadcast widely on Turkish television channels, in which he denounced “Those who don’t see the thief but go after those who chase the thief … May Allah bring fire to their homes.”
Erdoğan replied in a subdued manner, on December 22, before leaving on a trip to Pakistan: “We pray for Muslims to reach the right way, not for their damnation. Cursing is such a trick among Muslims it will return to one who did this like a boomerang.”
The unraveling of relations between Erdoğan and Gülen has begun to overshadow the details of the corruption scandal that brought it about. On December 17, fifty individuals were arrested in Istanbul and Ankara. The focal point of the investigation was a deal between Turkey and Iran for Turkey to provide gold in payment for Iranian oil, circumventing international financial sanctions against Tehran.
Charges in the case included money laundering, bribery and fraud. The accused include the sons of three members of Erdoğan’s cabinet, who resigned on December 25: Interior Minister Muammer Güler, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, and Environment Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar. Hürriyet Daily News reported that Bayraktar complained of pressure to quit, and gave up his AKP parliamentary seat as well as his ministry. Bayraktar concluded, “For the sake of the well-being of this nation and country, I believe the prime minister should resign.”
Others under arrest include Süleyman Aslan, chief executive officer of Halkbank, a state institution, and an Iranian-Azerbaijani businessman, Reza Zarrab, according to Isobel Finkel of Bloomberg News.
Hürriyet Daily News said police “reportedly have found $4.5 million in cash stored in shoe boxes in Aslan’s home.” The cash-laden shoeboxes were shown repeatedly on Turkish television.
The Bloomberg News article of December 23 asserted “the next target of investigation [could involve] construction contracts with an NGO [non-governmental organization] that allegedly has connections to Erdoğan’s son Bilal.” The Bloomberg reportage also noted that the “government purged at least 60 police chiefs,” aggravating the conflict with Gülen, whom the Bloomberg reporter stated “has a wide following in the police and judiciary.”
A December 26 Deutsche Welle report announced the latest turning point in the case, when “The attorney responsible for corruption investigations in Istanbul, Muammer Akkaş, was removed from the case after allegations of leaking information to the media.”
Erdoğan “appeared to threaten Akkaş,” according to Daniel Dombey of the Financial Times. Dombey wrote, “‘What kind of prosecutor is this?’ Mr Erdoğan asked his audience. ‘The chief prosecutor takes the file from him and this gentleman gets up and screams. Just wait – we have business to settle with you.’ “
Hürriyet Daily News described Erdoğan as continuing “vitriolic attacks” in a speech he delivered in Akhisar, a neighborhood in the western Turkish town of Manisa that day.
The anti-Erdoğan portion of the Turkish public has contributed in its own distinctive manner to the crisis of Islamist power. When Erdoğan appeared in Manisa on December 29, Nurhan Gül, a female pensioner, waved a shoe-box, symbolizing the corruption at Halkbank, from her balcony to express her discontent with Erdoğan during his speech. She was detained by the Prime Minister’s security guards, taken to a police station, and questioned for four hours, then released. But Erdoğan was apparently irritated to learn that Nurhan Gül had become a national hero immediately, and that Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the secular opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), had called her with congratulations.
Hürriyet Daily News columnist Serkan Demirtaş, noted the arrest of the shoebox-waving pensioner and concluded, “This is [the] time for President Abdullah Gül, who is only watching developments so far, as the head of the nation, to step in and assign the State Audit Board (DDK) to study whether claims of a parallel state or gangs within the state are accurate. The problem is about the functions of the state and it is Gül’s constitutional duty to deal with this growing crisis.”
Egypt: the coup the world forgot
The shallowness of Western politicians’ commitment to democracy lies exposed.
by Tim Black
23 January 2014
What has happened in Egypt over the past seven months ought to chill the democratic blood. It ought to command the attention of anyone who claims to care about defending freedom.
Think back to 3 July 2013: the Egyptian military, under the leadership of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, deposed the Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi. Despite the reluctance of Western politicians to use the phrase at the time, this was a coup d’état.
Morsi, a leading member of the conservative Muslim Brotherhood and chairman of its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, had become, just over a year earlier, Egypt’s first-ever democratically elected head of state, winning 52 per cent of the vote. This ought to have been a historical moment to savour; this ought to have been the time when Egyptians began finally to enjoy some of the democratic freedom we have long exercised in the West; this ought to have been the time to bid an unfond farewell to the years of Hosni Mubarak’s military dictatorship. But in July last year, just like that, it was over: the democratic flame had been extinguished.
After a few days of unrest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, during which anti-government protesters expressed their anger at Morsi’s Islamist tendencies and economic inaction, the army, the tanks and the jets moved in, and switched the whole thing off. Over the following weeks, as supporters of Morsi rallied and set up protest camps in and around Cairo, al-Sisi’s ‘interim’ government declared a state of emergency and began a crackdown on the protesters. By the end of August, the beatings and killings served up by the army, alongside the revived, reviled secret police, had enforced some semblance of order.
As the months have passed, General al-Sisi has furnished this naked display of might with the veneer of right. In September, the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters banned the Muslim Brotherhood, the political and religious movement that, just a few months earlier, had formed the basis for Egypt’s first-ever democratically elected power; the arrest, torture and killing of Morsi supporters now had a legal sanction. And Morsi himself – alongside many of the Brotherhood’s leading figures – was left potentially facing the death penalty on trumped-up charges.
And then, in late 2013, al-Sisi published a new constitution for the Egyptian state, drawn up by a 50-strong committee of coup supporters. Unsurprisingly, it preserved the military’s privileged position, guaranteeing the secrecy of its budget, permitting it to try civilians in military courts, and stipulating that, for the next eight years, Egypt’s defence minister must be approved by the military.
When the new constitution was put to the Egyptian electorate last week in a referendum, over 98 per cent voted in favour. Given the palpable absence of a ‘no’ campaign, the outlawing of political opposition, and the deployment of 160,000 soldiers and 200,000 policemen to ‘oversee’ voting, the fact that al-Sisi won was less a democratic triumph than a fait accompli. Indeed, it has since emerged that over 60 per cent of the electorate either didn’t vote or refused to vote.
Not that al-Sisi seems to care. With his uniformed image adorning everything from cupcakes to pyjamas, and his each and every public appearance prompting a carefully managed wave of euphoria from the select throng of supporters, al-Sisi is now said to be considering whether to do what his handpicked public is demanding and stand for president. His opponents, meanwhile, both secular and Muslim Brotherhood, continue to be rounded up and thrown in jail.
Yet where is the international outrage? Where are the leaders of the nominally free world issuing sharply worded condemnations of this authoritarian turn? If this was Zimbabwe, with Robert Mugabe beating and rigging his way to near unanimous electoral victories, no doubt Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague would be pontificating from on high. If this was Colonel Gadaffi’s Libya, no doubt the self-righteous guffawing from the White House would have been audible in Tripoli.
But this is not Libya or Zimbabwe or one of those other easy stages for Western political posturing. This is Egypt, a place where the hypocrisy and double standards of Western leaders and the political punditariat lay so shamelessly exposed last summer. The problem, in short, is that despite the likes of the US president, Barack Obama, or the great and the good of the EU, seemingly championing the striving for freedom evident during the Arab Spring, as soon as the Egyptian people began to realise that freedom, and voted for what were perceived to be the wrong guys, the less-than-PC Muslim Brotherhood, the cheerleading from the West ceased. In its place was a willingness to approve the overthrowing of a democratically elected government on the basis that the Egyptian people had proved their immaturity, their inability to exercise their democratic rights correctly.
Little wonder, then, that the military coup was given such prominent international backing right from the start: it was seen as a necessary correction to a democratic error, a righting of the Egyptian people’s mistake. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, even went so far as to call General al-Sisi’s military government a regime for ‘restoring democracy’. And Baroness Ashton, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, spent much of last year meeting with al-Sisi and praising him for continuing on the ‘journey [towards] a stable, prosperous and democratic Egypt’.
That support, that moral bolstering of al-Sisi’s military dictatorship, has continued throughout the crackdown, throughout the transformation of Egypt into something that looks very much like an autocracy – indeed, something that looks very much like Mubarak’s regime. So in November, amid the arrests and the passing of oppressive anti-protest laws, Kerry said that the ‘road map’ to democracy was ‘being carried out to the best of our perception’.
There are none so blind, it seems, as those who see only what they want. Last week, speaking of a referendum so biased that even North Korea’s erstwhile dictator Kim Jong-il would have blushed, Kerry continued in his mission to twist reality in accordance with his prejudices: ‘[General al-Sisi’s] government has committed repeatedly to a transition process that expands democratic rights and leads to a civilian-led, inclusive government through free and fair elections.’ While Kerry was tying himself in knots, Ashton seemed content to praise ‘the Egyptian people and the authorities responsible for organising the vote in a largely orderly manner’. Orderly is one way of describing the pre-emptive arrest of opposition activists.
As for the broadsheet supporters of the Arab Spring, and later the military coup, their position seems to have become a little more critical. So having praised the military for bringing down an elected government and, in the words of the New York Times columnist David Brooks, pointing out that Morsi’s election showed that the Egyptian people ‘lack the mental equipment to govern’, many pundits have changed their tune. The news that ‘the military-backed government has shifted its attention to secular activists’ and that ‘the most genuine and committed supporters of a secular liberal order in Egypt [are now] sitting in Cairo’s Tora prison’ has led to a growing willingness to point out that Emperor al-Sisi is wearing dictator’s clothes.
But again, the double standards are still at work. It’s striking that it is only since the Egyptian authorities started arresting the secular, liberal-ish activists Westerners approve of – the likes of Ahmed Maher, Mohammed Adel, Ahmed Douma and Alaa Abdel Fattah – that al-Sisi’s regime has started to look like the authoritarian military dictatorship it always was. When it was massacring Muslim Brotherhood supporters, when it was rounding up and arresting supporters of Morsi, those currently up in arms about the crackdown on secular types could barely raise an eyebrow, let alone lift a pen in condemnation.
So, yes, what has happened in Egypt ought to chill us. It ought to command the attention of anyone who cares about defending freedom, even if – no, especially if – it’s the freedom of those like the Muslim Brotherhood we might not like. Yet so superficial and so selective is the democratic commitment of Western pundits and politicians, so illiberal and freedom-doubting are their basic impulses, that what has happened in Egypt has barely been recognised for the oppressive military coup d’état that it is. It seems that democracy for these one-time champions of the Arab Spring has nothing to do with freedom, the chance for people to determine collectively their own future. Rather, it is seen as little more than a means to what Western leaders and media supporters hoped would be the right end. And if they don’t like the end, if they don’t like who the Egyptians vote for, then, just like a tap, their support for democracy can be turned off.
Tim Black is deputy editor of spiked.
Egypt’s ongoing crisis in letters
Three letters written by prominent Egyptians — two from inside jail — are making the rounds on social media, punctuating the fallout of government crackdowns in a politically charged climate that appears far from reconciliation, despite calls to end polarization on the third anniversary of the revolution.
Summary⎙ Print Letters released by an activist, a journalist from prison and an Islamic scholar reveal the depth of the polarization in Egyptian society.
Author Shadi Rahimi Posted January 23, 2014
One of two letters released from jail was written by activist Alaa Abdel Fattah in late December inside Tura Prison. It reappeared this week after being translated into English and shared on social media. The second was written by Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah Elshamy, jailed for five months without charges.
See more here
The third letter was written by Emad Shahin, a scholar of political Islam, who is now being charged along with ousted President Mohammed Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood leaders with conspiring to undermine national security.
Fattah and Shahin have both been critical of the military leaders who ousted Morsi in July and of Morsi and the Brotherhood while they were in power. Elshamy was one of hundreds rounded up Aug. 14 in a bloody crackdown on sit-ins protesting Morsi’s ouster that left up to 1,000 dead. He is one of several Al Jazeera journalists behind bars in Egypt.
Shahin’s letter is a strongly worded defense, calling claims against him “baseless and politically motivated.” His seven charges include espionage, leading an illegal organization, preventing state institutions and authorities from performing their functions and attempting to change the government by force.
“I categorically and emphatically deny all the charges,” Shahin wrote, challenging the state security prosecutor to present evidence substantiating the charges.
He has never been a member of the Brotherhood, Shahin continued, but he has been a fervent critic of authoritarian rule in Egypt and has expressed strong support for peaceful protests and the main objectives of the January 25 Revolution, “namely freedom, dignity and social justice,” he wrote.
It appears his critique of events since Morsi’s ouster, including the violent storming of sit-ins in August, “is my true offense,” Shahin wrote, vowing to continue advocating for the right to protest “that is enshrined in Egyptian law.”
Elshamy’s letter was shared from the Facebook accounts of his wife and brother Jan. 23. The Al Jazeera reporter wrote of laying in a 12-meter space with 16 other prisoners, and spending 160 days in jail without being charged.
The Al Jazeera network and its journalists have come under attack since Morsi’s ouster, accused of siding with the Brotherhood and the ousted president.
Elshamy’s letter highlighted a polarized climate in Egypt that has led to the quashing of press freedom. He criticized journalist colleagues who “consent to be mouthpieces and witnesses to the violation of the freedom of media,” and spoke of a lack of regret for his jailing, defending with pride his work with Al Jazeera.
“I do not belong to any faction or ideology. I belong to my conscience and my humanity, and I do not take interest in what has been said in the local media about me or my colleagues. History doesn’t forget; we are going strong,” Elshamy wrote.
He mentioned his jailed Al Jazeera colleagues Mohamed Badr (also held for five months without charge), Mohammad Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste, who have been in custody since Dec. 29, accused of spreading lies harmful to state security and joining a terrorist organization.
Elshamy wrote that he has chosen a hunger strike to send two messages: “One to journalists who choose to falsify the facts and cover up the violations of freedoms and media, the other to the Egyptian junta that I do not mind to die for my freedom. Nothing will restrict my freedom or break my will and dignity.”
While Shahin and Elshamy’s letters struck defiant tones, Fattah’s month-old letter was shared with sadness by supporters, also on Jan. 23. An English translation is available in a Google document.
Fattah was arrested at his home last November after prosecutors accused him of breaking a new law banning spontaneous protest. He has been in detention since, awaiting a trial. In his letter, he wrote of the physical discomforts of prison in a measured tone, drawing parallels to the plight of the homeless, and focused his reflections mostly on sadness over the loss of time with family.
Life in prison is a series of negotiations, he wrote, and conditions are improving. At the same time, his improving access to newspapers has meant reading biased editorials about how the three-year sentence for activists Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel are due to hostility toward their April 6 youth movement, “as if the man arrested is just a theoretical notion named April 6 and not a human being who has a 5-year-old daughter,” Fattah wrote.
Maher, Douma and Adel were convicted of calling for a demonstration without a permit and assaulting security forces. They are appealing from Tura Prison.
Fattah, who has a young son, said that this time — after being imprisoned under the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak and again by the military rulers who replaced him — he finds his imprisonment “is serving no purpose.”
“It is not resistance, and there is no revolution,” Fattah wrote. “The previous imprisonments had meaning because I felt that I was in jail by choice and it was for a positive gain. Right now, I feel that I can’t bear people or this country, and there is no meaning for my imprisonment other than freeing me from the guilt I would feel being unable to combat the immense oppression and injustice that is ongoing.”
In sharing his letter two days before the anniversary of the revolution, prominent blogger and reporter Sarah Carr wrote, “It really is game over.”
The April 6 Youth Movement continues to demand the release of the jailed activists, and this week published a reconciliatory initiative on its Facebook page, asking Egyptians to refrain from polarization and acts of violence during the anniversary. The group was among the organizers of the protests culminating in Mubarak’s toppling in 2011.
Supporters of Morsi and Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah al-Sisi have both called for demonstrations on Jan. 25, leading to concerns over violence. During commemorations of Egypt’s 1973 war with Israel on Oct. 6, more than 50 were killed when Brotherhood and army supporters took to the streets.
“The revolution has been reduced to narrow struggles over power,” the April 6 Youth Movement said in a statement.
Contributor, Egypt Pulse
Shadi Rahimi is a journalist and photographer based in Cairo, Egypt. She is filming a documentary about several friends who fought in the 2011 clashes on Mohamed Mahmoud Street entitled, “Boys of the Bullet.”
On Twitter: @shadirahimi
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Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/01/egypt-crisis-letters.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=7640220ef5-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-7640220ef5-93145129#ixzz2rMXTFz00
Once more the people of Earth are calling planet peace movement!
by Patrick Muldowney
The first batch of chemical weapons (CW) recently left port in Syria and given there is a large scale civil war in progress (with all the life and death logistical problems that implies) the compelled program for their destruction is virtually right on schedule! If this continues and there is no reason to think it won’t – the Syrian CW disarmament will be completed in the next 6 months and so a question arises; what manner of progressive would not agree that disarmament is a very good thing?
This good result, is unambiguously not thanks to the efforts of any western ‘peace movement’ or ‘anti-imperialist left’. Indeed not one organized grouping identifying as radically left has made any positive contribution to this part of the process of disarming the Assad regime. All of the ‘3 letter’ groups opposed (even if they verbally or theoretically denounce the Baathist / Alawite regime of the Assad dynasty, and naturally they mostly do so) the very real military threats – when they were made by the reluctant Obama and were imminent – that brought about this capitulation of the Assad regime.
But the reality – and everyone knows this – is that no cruise missile threat no good outcome!
The chemical weapons disarmament now in progress, is the direct result of the aggressive placement of military forces and the clear understanding by the Assad tyranny that these forces would be used in a very substantial way to destroy his air power, command and control and seriously and quite unpredictably disrupt his regime’s war effort against the democratically minded Syrian peoples’ and others that oppose him.
The exact military force that ‘cruise missile Marxists’ like me have advocated the use of, since the earliest stages of this struggle for democratic rights, has been put before the regime and this threat of force has brought about this good result.
If I, as a revolutionary democrat complain now it’s because this military force could just as well have been used much earlier, after for example the more minor use of these chemical weapons. Or when we ‘cruise missile Marxists’ first called for NATO intervention in the NFZ style manner of war that liberated the Libyan people!
In retrospect, it’s plain to see that such an intervention would have spared the lives of a great many Syrians, so it would qualify as a humanitarian intervention; as well as an intervention for the furtherance of the obvious revolutionary goals of transforming this tyranny into another garden variety (by ME standards) bourgeois democracy.
We might all note in passing that sparing Syrian lives is clearly of no real concern to the current POTUS and ditherer in chief Barack Obama. This ‘historical blockage’ of a political leader, is hardly much more than a shameless, self-promoting waste of eight years, as has been demonstrated often enough by comparison to the Syrian policy proposals put forward in contrast by his rival, and the once alternate candidate for POTUS – John McCain. As is now being revealed by the once insider people like Defence Sec., Robert Gates. Gates had to cope with this Administration’s lack of commitment to any war of liberation!
Anyway, it is a reasonable estimate that 120,000 plus casualties have been inflicted on Syrians as a direct result of the resistance to their peaceful democratic demands. The war and its casualties are the result of the intransigence of the regime. That tyrannical regime is well known to be a less murderous tyranny than the Saddam Hussein variety was. Everyone knows Saddam got away with the Halabja mass-murder with nary a threat to his CW back in 1988! How the world has changed.
Right across the western world confused left’s, and the pseudoleftists are currently peculiarly silent while they understand, or ought to, that this disarmament, AFTER the attack that killed perhaps 100th of the total 120,000 is NOT IN THEIR NAME.
The chemical weapons are being destroyed as a result of a threatened and more than credibly imminent ‘cruise missile’ response, which Obama belatedly was shamed into ordering. There was a way to prevent that attack and that was to comply with the U.S. demands for the orderly and verifiable CW disarmament now underway. Having overreached with the attack, Assad had no better choice available than to preserve his Air Force etc..
This ‘cruise missile’ Marxist really does believe that all political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
I accept that not only is the struggle to rid the world of tyrannies necessarily protracted (and political unit by political unit variable in the how and when) I think it reasonable to remind people that by the time this CW disarmament task is completed, it is likely that a further 20-30,000 Syrians will be dead from the continuation of the conventional methods used. At that point absolute casualty numbers may well be running neck and neck with those sustained over eleven years in the warfare required to liberate and launch the bourgeois democratic revolution for the peoples’ of Iraq.
That number in Syria will have been achieved in ⅓ the time required for the more difficult task in the larger country of Iraq! Events in Iraq may unfold altering that trajectory, but what are the political demands that could bring the fighting to a stop in either country? What politics ought to be sought by radical democrats to win the war and stop the killing in both of these countries?
In six months time, there still won’t be an end in sight to the protracted war in either country, but in Iraq the democratic forces have been fighting off the front foot for years, while in Syria the regime still has all its ‘toys’ – except the chemical one’s responsible for only 100th of the casualties anyway. This is progress. Unfortunately, Assad got a pretty good deal as he continues to ethnically cleanse and cut out and try to build a holdable enclave.
When this issue came to a head last August, The North Star (TNS) a site deliberately set up to foster real debate among leftists after the events of Libya demonstrated to the site’s founder Pham Binh, (PB) that such a site was required, the site imploded.
TNS essentially collapsed under the strain and was ‘re-launched’ after some not so behind the scenes numbers crunch. The relaunched project was essentially a fraud. There is no longer debate to be had at TNS, more on that later.
Specifically, TNS 2, after a dishonest play against PB and quite blatant repudiation of its original raison d’etre for a broadly inclusive site for discussion and debate has imploded in the dishonest repudiation of that required debate and many people have been censored and banned etc., by the new owners.
To be frank, TNS fell into a madness of juvenile pseudoleftism and the bog standard censorship, found across the spectrum at Neverland ‘socialist’ sites, again unfolded with the boringly predictable results that saw the site abandoned by anyone worth a cracker. The new owners can now talk to themselves and the usual no-hopers in the usual echo chamber manner. The behaviour and consequent numbers are now on record to tell the tale. But as I said I will return to that topic later.
Back in the Middle East next ‘door’ to Syria, the Iraqi army is currently surrounding Fallujah, and the Sunni ‘tribe’ irregular troops are assisting the elected government to retake the city and capture or kill as many Al Qaeda forces they can get hold of.
Back over the border up in Aleppo, the FSA type elements are also taking on Al Qaeda types. Further north, the Turkish government;
‘…has removed 350 police officers from their posts in the capital Ankara, following a corruption probe targeting people close to the government.’
and Turkish politicians are fist fighting in the parliament.
John Kerry is doing his best to put pressure on Netanyahu, eight years after Sharon actually left the scene, and less than a decade after the Zionist state led by him pulled all it’s settlers and troops out of the Gaza strip.
So all troops and settlers are finally out of Sinai, Gaza and Lebanon (invaded under ‘defence’ minister Sharon back in 1982). The war for greater Israel goes on with the Syrian Golan Heights still occupied; Palestinian East Jerusalem; and the West Bank still occupied – BUT these days the U.S. President – since GWB – no longer calls these areas ‘disputed territory’ but occupied territories!
Clearly U.S. interests are not served in continuing the failed war for Greater Israel. Clearly the U.S. even under Obama, is putting pressure on the Israeli government, and the embarrassing ‘settlement’ project. The blatant racism of Zionism has slowly united world opinion against the project for greater Israel launched in 1967.
For my money, a complicated circle of revolutionary transformation has now closed and western political and military power led by the U.S. has played a leading role in the process. U.S., and other NATO forces are busy in Jordan, both training and equipping ‘FSA’, or equivalent fighters and the bloody war launched by Assad grinds on.
The casualties mount right across the region but provided the U.S. and NATO don’t threaten to destroy Assad’s airpower, the western ‘peace’ movement will stay quiet about the arms and training provided to the FSA. In other words – provided this war is conducted in the most incompetent and costly (in terms of casualties to the Syrian democratic peoples’) manner – as a slow burn against a well supplied tyranny – the pseudoleft will stay in Neverland.
Obama may yet get the Netanyahu government to finalize the defeat and his supporters will delude themselves with his great achievements, but whatever unfolds US interests spelt out under GWB when he declared the territories occupied and not disputed are now clear enough. The general direction is not going to change, and the general pressure will continue to grow!
Some links to information with photos and videos about the recent turmoil in Egypt. Please add your thoughts and analysis in comments.
Two iconic images among many: the Institut d’Egypt/Scientific Society building burning, taking with it priceless documents dating to the Napoleonic expedition, and a woman demonstrator being beaten and partly stripped to reveal her bra in the street by military police
Military Police beat protestors, strip woman to her bra and burn tents
(uploaded to You Tube Dec 17th)
December 20: secretary-clinton-denounces-systematic degradation of women in egypt
Secretary of State Clinton yesterday:
“This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonors the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform, and is not worthy of a great people.”
December 20: egypt-womens-march
Today, some 10,000 women of all ages and background marched in downtown Cairo to protest military violence directed at women, including the now famous woman beaten and stripped by the military police in what Secretary of State Clinton called the “systematic degradation of women.” The photos confirm the presence of young and old, clad in Western garb, hijab, or even niqab, many of them carrying the photo that went around the world.
Egyptian Women Send a Message to SCAF
(uploaded to You Tube Dec 20th)
Ending Baathism in Syria requires a major war.
Syria has a population of 22million that is massively divided along religious and ethnic lines (10% Kurds). It has a Baathist tyranny better supported among that population than was Gadaffi who had considerable support and so a big war is in the very early stages of developing. The tyranny is very well armed and trained, and has ‘undegraded’ command and control, with massive numbers of police thugs, spies, and so forth. So, this will take some time and will involve Turkey for sure. Turkey is being quite open about being the regional power that will act if it must, and the Kurdish issue and PKK is clearly central to this.
Syria also has had a national conscription system that now leaves a great legacy of trained men who are now willing and partly able to take on the lawful tyranny in a civil war. Both sides have just observed what happened over 9mths in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt etc., in this year of continuous spring. So soldiers who are thinking about mutiny will be encouraged as the situation develops and the core forces of repression will be somewhat shaken by the visions they have just been witness to.
Fortunately for the masses of people in revolt, the Islamic cultural reality of Friday prayers and mass gatherings throughout the country to mobilize around, and the egged on or ‘shame’ factor of not being left behind when others have been brave and fought and grabbed their freedom ought not be underestimated. Confidence really ought to be up on the side of the revolution and down a bit at least among the tyranny despite its large support and vast quantities of military assets. Large scale mutiny is the most hopeful start to the next stage of ridding Syria of Baathists, but from at least the Turkish side, I can’t see how this fight can be left alone to develop as a ‘pure’ civil war for very much longer.
As I see this the Syrian army becomes muscle bound very quickly in most of the larger cities that have had the big demonstrations against Assad, and is quickly exhausted in the smaller towns especially near all the borders, and no doubt along the Euphrates river and Nth. East of that line. They are effectively an army of occupation and can obviously be spread too thin trying to hold everything so they currently are running around trying to appear to be everywhere. But spying and the in and out arresting duties of the secret police and so forth is the only way this regime can even continue to exist in huge parts of the country.
The young fighting men can and will be pissed off and fight back, as well as leave and cross the border into Turkey as we have seen in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. They will be greeted by the soldiers that have deserted and already there as a determined rebellious armed force planning for either a long war, or rapid growth if the situation changes. This force will in the face of almost weekly reports of mass slaughter start to mount reply attacks deliberately to gain greater recognition and further stimulate recruitment. They are not refugees but a fighting force already trained and intent on overthrowing the people that they have fled from and who are still systematically killing their friends and family members, so they will find ways to fight right now and that keeps some of this fighting near the Turkish border.
The Turks are already permitting the establishment of an insurgent force and the Syrian tyranny can’t hit across the border as the Turks would respond immediately and massively. Turkey will remain the most important country able to impose the military action (similar to the NATO effort in Libya) and no other country has the stomach for this IMV. Turkey’s leadership has a vital interest identified and seems determined to advance its democratic reform program within Turkey that requires dealing with Kurdish liberation issues, and simultaneously with the current PKK that has been and still are hosted in all the neighbours.
Turkey has no territorial ambitions but regularly has crossed its borders and beat up on the PKK and is still doing so right now so it looks like the perfect storm for a war to develop.
The Syrian tyranny is continuing to systematically murder the Syrian people and can’t stop this brutality. They can’t undo the way they rule with terror police as the core to their control across a vast part of the country. They can only now exist by holding guns over the people of very many towns and villages and cities of Syria. The Syrian army is now an army of occupation that fears intervention from the far larger Turkey. The army has too much to do and is rotting so it has no prospect of stopping the small fights and the constant flight that the activities of the secret police etc., ensure will continue. Eventually it will be unable to patrol near the border for fear of hit and run, then hit and advance attacks that will be mounted near population centres. They will not be able to use air power against the freedom fighters.
No doubt if war breaks out the western international community would turn a blind eye and hope for the end of the Assad regime as one aspect of the outcomes that in some cases would happen in days of a mass Turkish incursion. The Turkish armed forces would not have to liberate large Syrian population centers, all they have to do is prevent the Syrian forces from surrounding and suppressing the people they are currently intimidating near the Turkish border and then allowing the rebel force that they currently protect in Turkish territory to return and be protected in very much larger form in Syrian territory. They would then hand over all the arms required by the new Syrian regime that they recognize and try to continue to take steps back over time as the Syrian civil war is fought. Seems straight forward but wars don’t work to plan, let alone time-tables, and other sides usually have a bit to say. What we have here in abundance is other sides.
But though I feel sure that a large war is coming and how it gets going won’t matter much this is too complex for me to get a handle on. What follows from the current suppression of the Syrian masses by the Baathists is that a war of liberation must breakout if democracy is part of the demands that are thrown on the table. These demands are on the table and Turkey must comply with the international body that approves of the end of the war. The UN determines when the end is and the new government is given the UN seat. Given that 3,000 are already dead and lots more are disappeared the war is going in one sense already.
Once Turkey gets involved then the NFZ and or destruction of the Syrian air forces in a big war comes up and NATO naval forces would also get drawn in with blockade work and U.S. spy assets etc.. The Syrian army would be rapidly isolated in large areas of Syria and then systematically destroyed if it lacks air power. If this war were to eventuate Turkey is bound to follow through and cut up the army that is spread too thin trying to hold down large population centres. That will end the period of secret police activities and see heavy arms rapidly distributed to the population that is more than willing to put them to use. That is I suppose the ideal first stage for putting a stop to the way the Baathists run Syria.
The Baathists can now enter population centers unopposed, but provided the opposition run around and avoid much fighting they can’t stay and comfortably regain control everywhere at once. Neither can they do what the Russians have done in Grozny because that will bring on the required intervention. If they can’t use heavy weapons and can’t avoid continuous small arms skirmishing then they will over time be driven from the bigger cities that are in revolt. The soldiers cant stay in their tanks and can’t avoid snipers and so the insurgents will be able to organise and grow. IMV Turkey wants to intervene and will intervene if the Baathists use air power, or they start to use the heavy weapons.
Without air power the Syrian army eventually won’t be able to enter some of the larger cities without being defeated because the supply of anti-tank weapons etc., will flood in from Turkey with the blessing of the whole world. Then the civil war will unfold and finally ought to draw in the U.S. from the Mediterranean. NATO ought to be redeploying from the Libyan theatre now. There will be much work for the A10′s.
I can’t see a ‘cheaper’ way of ending the Syrian Baathist tyranny as they are far too strong at the moment, just like the Libyan tyranny was before they were seen to be about to defeat the rebels in Benghazi and the intervention was launched. That was when I hoped for Egyptian intervention. It would have sped the liberation that has now come to Libya even without that intervention and with all the costs to the libyan people.
The demand for an international No Fly Zone over Syria has been raised by protestors there. Yesterday, another 29 people were killed for taking to the streets to protest against the dictatorial Assad regime and for democracy. The toll in Syria stands at around 3,000 dead, since the people’s movement began its current phase in late January this year. Local coordinating committees exist in many parts of Syria and these grass-roots organisations organise the protests, which are invariably met with violent suppression by the state, including the use of snipers.
I don’t know enough about the circumstances to have an opinion about the No Fly Zone. My impression has been that the regime uses ground troops to suppress resistance. I’m not aware of any Gaddafi-style strafing from the air. But what I do like is the people’s call for international support of a practical military nature, not just ‘moral support’.
The protestors know how the NFZ was effective in helping to bring down Gaddafi’s regime, and they know it involved an invasion of Libyan sovereignty (air space) and an effective naval blockade on the part of the British Navy. I’d be surprised if they are not aware, too, that the NFZ over Libya involved much more than mere protecting the people from the Libyan Air Force, though that was its pretext. The US and NATO used the NFZ (read: more than a hundred Tomahawk missiles) to destroy the Gaddafi regime’s facilities and forces on the ground. And the French went further with direct hardware assistance to the rebels, including air-drops of assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades and launchers. A NFZ over Syria would make sense if used in that way: namely, to weaken the military capabilities of the regime on the ground (especially its tanks) and demoralize it. And, of course, military hardware should be supplied to the Free Syria Army, which consists at this stage of regular Army defectors. As in any democratic revolution, the people need to defeat the regime militarily.
The Syrian protestors’ call for a No Fly Zone is essentially a call for international support of a military interventionist nature on the part of foreign governments to weaken the Assad regime militarily and support the people’s democratic aspirations.
In Syria, as in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, etc., you do not see the protestors burning the US flag but rather seeking, and supporting, imperialist intervention when it serves their (the peoples) strategic objective.
Since the victory in Iraq, those who prefer to leave oppressed people to their own devices, even if it means massacre and the likelihood of regional conflagration, have been unable to mobilize anything resembling an “anti-war” mass movement. Some of the prominent activists who opposed the Iraq War even supported the No Fly Zone over Libya. (Yes, ‘the times they are a-changin’). And the anti-war mass movement against the Iraq War collapsed in a heap as soon as millions of Iraqis went to the polls to actually vote for a parliament and government of their choice – much to the anger, fear and chagrin of just about every dictator in the region.
Those sections – or sects – of what passes for the Left who advocated defence of Libya against US imperialism couldn’t mobilize anyone other than themselves. At this site, we called for a NFZ over Libya immediately after the first strafing took place there.
Now, with Syrians demanding a NFZ, does anyone have enough knowledge of the situation there to know whether that is the best way to go?
At the 2008 Arab League summit, following the execution of Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi saw the writing on the wall. He told them: “In the future it’s going to be your turn too” and “America may approve our hanging one day”.
The tyrants of the region certainly understood that the political space that was opened up in the region by the Iraqi people and their allies was not in their (the tyrants’) interests.
The Gaddafi clip becomes interesting at 1:30. Note Assad’s smirk. He won’t be grinning for much longer.
Old Yobbo said:
‘Come to think of it, yes, the situation isn’t that different from Saddam’s Iraq, just on a more compressed time-frame. Which, if anything, makes me a bit more disposed towards the US invasion of Iraq (Christ, I never thought I would ever think that) …..’
September 11th 2011 ought to focus left-wing minds on what has become of the internationalist left, that ten years ago stood gob-smacked with everyone else, as humanity watched the unimaginable horror of those attacks.
Naturally all the old categories of leftists are still around and plenty of the recognized leaders too, but via the twists and turns of the intervening years those that started as self declared leftists and internationalists have reached a destination that is, as is usual for all political journeys, places that none of us really set out for. The numbers have dramatically changed after all that experience and it’s worth looking at the how, the why and the what of it.
Early in 2011 a small number of leftists joined in the call for the U.S. and the rest to impose a No Fly Zone (NFZ) on the Libyan tyranny, with the clear understanding that this meant starting with bombing. Most of these leftists then went quiet when it was blindingly obvious that NATO was not imposing a NFZ on the basis of any doctrine of the responsibility to protect, (R2P) but rather acting as the artillery (that conquers) for the Libyan revolutionaries who would occupy. This is a huge leap forward from a decade ago. These leftists in their silence were advocating war. They were only hiding behind R2P, and the pseudo-left didn’t hesitate to point this out. Those that went silent as the war was fought and won wanted more than just the democratic revolutionaries protected against their heavily armed tyrannical opponent. They wanted results. They wanted victory for the rebels across the entire country.
The previous decade ending at 9/11 was one of obvious collapse for the left and that requires no discussion here. But IMV a significant genuine left is now capable of arising from the fresh shoots now emerging from this last decade.
Going back to late 2002 we said that the US had altered their policy by 180 degrees from supporting dictatorship in the Mjddle East to supporting democracy in the Middle East.
The following six sub-periods provide some structure as to how peoples thinking has changed over those past 10years:
2001-2003: 9/11 atrocity; US invades Afghanistan; Iraq invasion / liberation.
This represented a disaster for the realists who wanted to maintain stability in the Middle East. This was the end of business as usual. The invasion and liberation of Iraq from the fascist minority Sunni based Baathists was an indirect but strategically vital response to the 9/11 attack. This response surprised Al Quaeda.
2003- 2005: US policy has good and bad features but three elections demonstrate their policy of supporting democracy
2005- 2007: The going gets tough.
2007- 2009: Bush initiates The Surge. Iraq proceeds to a normal election cycle
2009- 2010: Elections result in a delayed formation of an Iraqi Proportional Representation government
2011: The glorious Arab Spring breaks out
Incidentally, I also think that nothing potent remains of the former completely dominant political thinking of the U.S. ruling establishment from 2001. Realist policies of maintaining the status quo of autocracies are effectively dead in 2011, and for those that carry on as the zombies of that defeated school of thinking there is essentially nowhere in the ME to deploy their policy prescriptions. Anyway only governments do things and oppositions of all descriptions are free to talk and offer opinions that like assholes are common to all but no future U.S. government can revert to the old policies.
Support for the ending of the Libyan tyranny was widespread across the spectrum of what is known as the left but opposition to any ‘imperialist’ intervention was also almost exclusively to be found in this milieu as well, so a great debate was had this year and the pseudo-left was one issue that received great ventilation. Those who are stuck in the old ‘hard left’ paradigm that imperialism is the main enemy actually stand for all things conservative when it comes to ridding the ME of tyranny. They have been wonderfully exposed as useless dogmatists throughout this year of the Arab Spring and once more on the wrong side of a fire fight with the tyrants. Who is the main enemy then? All those who oppose the democratic revolution in the autocratic regimes.
The forces that had been involved in the anti-war movement in relation to the looming war in Iraq back in 2002 essentially divided in the lead-up to the war that is now concluding in Libya. My view is that at least 2 out of 3 and possibly 3 out of 4 supported action over Libya or went silent and took no stand or are now on reflection glad it happened. This group wanted western governments to do something to save the imperiled democratic revolution rather than allow Gaddafi to crush it with his superior firepower. I guess the figure for Iraq was more like 5%
But the action in the lead-up period was framed in a manner that sounded very different to just taking sides in a civil war. The reality was taking sides in a civil war. The reality was unity with western bourgeois governments who could supply the effective ‘artillery’.
Concerning the western imposition of a NFZ and other measures under the rubric of an international responsibility to protect civilians (R2P), before the actual war was launched, Guy Rundle said:
“All that matters is whether the request comes from legitimate leadership, is strategically viable, and can be limited in scope. Those conditions appear to have been met.”
What a joke. The rebels were being defeated by the tyranny until they united with various western governments and war was declared on the tyranny! There was never only a NFZ and R2P civilians ‘limited scope’ and the appearance of one was created as a deliberate lie to conceal the war fighting scope of the intervention. Guy Rundle was happy to be lied to.
The Libyan tyranny has now been all but ended with the two last towns hopefully surrendering to the rebels this very weekend. The Rebel leadership is clearly going to hold the elections that it has sought and promised
Well, those same factors have been met in the case of ending the Iraq tyranny! The Coalition Of the Willing (COW) is going home and leaving behind a democratically elected government. Eight years is all it took to smash the reactionary heart of the ME and set the region wide revolution running.
Happy birthday America!
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Pretty good stuff, I’ve always thought.
During the Vietnam war it was in the spirit of 1776 to celebrate July 4 by taking to the streets in support of the revolutionary struggle of the Vietnamese people.
Now it’s in the spirit of 1776, to demand that the US and its allies stay in Afghanistan, that they continue to back the revolution in Libya, and that they get serious about outlawing dictatorship everywhere.
The UN Security Council has voted for military intervention to facilitate regime change in Libya!
When Bush was president this was illegal
UN Resolution 1973 which authorizes “all necessary measures” to protect the Libyan people from being crushed by Gaddafi’s army is an historic event. It’s been put in terms of a humanitarian intervention aimed at preventing atrocities against civilians (which it is, on one level), but in reality it goes far further than that. It’s actually a resolution aimed at ensuring the success of the democratic revolution in Libya.
No way is it just a No Fly Zone, already the new COW has begun destroying Gaddafi’s military infrastructure, and the resolution has clearly been worded to allow attacks on ground troops, if required. And although it rules out occupation, it doesn’t specifically rule out on-the-ground operations.
As I write this I’m listening to interviews with Egyptians who are at this very moment casting their votes in a referendum on constitutional reform. The euphoria is palpable. Democratic revolution really is sweeping the Middle East . The tyrants and autocrats of the region are all under threat now.
With the passing of UN resolution 1970, suddenly “regime change” is ok , is becoming legitimate. So far in all the interviews I’ve heard, the question “Is this really about regime change”? has been dodged. Instead the talk is all about Gaddafi “killing his own people” and the need to stop this. But it’s pretty easy to join the dots.
And it was France which spearheaded the push in the UN. What a change from 2003!
Alain Juppe’s speech prior to the resolution talked of “a wave of great revolutions that would change the course of history” .
But it was under the dreaded Bush regime that the “democracy agenda” was actually launched.