Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘“Arab Spring”

Tidbits #69

“J’ ai ecrit un nom tout pres du reseau d’ecume, ou’ la dernière onde vient de mourir; les lames successives ont attaqué lentement le nom consolateur; ce n’est qu’au seizième déroulement qu’elles l’ont emporté lettre a lettre et comme a regret: Je sentais qu’elles effacaient ma vie” (Chateaubriand avait écrit le nom de Mrs. Récamier)

Il ne reste plus qu’une foule de gens qui troublent le monde, une petite tache sur le monde. Peut-être qu’une brise planera quand on passera par le Port de Beirut.

A new reality seems created when we adapt our dreams to the previous reality.

We seek a catchy singing rime, a catchy mantra…to summarize our new found purpose in life.

The Druze sect in Lebanon is in a far worse situation than the various “Christian” sects. The Jews in Israel are working on letting the Druze believe they are Half Jews. The various Muslim sects barely believe the Druze are Half Muslims. They created their own paranoia 800 years ago. They still hang to the illusion that England will come to their rescue in bad periods. No political organization is willing to believe in their “allegiance”, even in the short-term

The problem with the Ego, (and it is real), it’s that we identify with it to the extent that we forget there’s other parts of us. We get lost in certain habitual identities and then we stop looking. So we’re learning to be present with the manifestation.

The pleasure of reading history, (and history is more likely to be biased for the victors), like art or music or literature, consists of an expansion of the experience of being alive, which is what education is largely about. (And to give us ground for daydreaming stories and project?)

“Simplicity is the end result of long, hard work; not the starting point.” — Frederick Maitland. (The relevant question is: How simple is simple and how accurate it still describes the phenomena).

The uprisings of the “Arab Spring” in Tunisia and Egypt have so far produced anarchy in Libya, a civil war in Syria, greater autocracy in Bahrain and resumed dictatorial rule in Egypt.  (All these failures thanks to US/Saudi Kingdom/Israel/France ) who don’t want changes and democracy in the region)

Civil disobedience means you decided to adopt the strategy of confronting the system instead of running away from problems to easier alternatives.

Last night I was watching Hezbollah channel Al Manar. It told of the route the Umayyad army travelled with the “sabayat“, the prisoners of what was left of Hussein army. It said that most of the semi-nomadic tribes living in Syria withdrew with the defeated Byzantine army. It failed to say that the barely 7,000 fighters who came from the desert could Not defeat the Byzantine army if the tribes in Syria didn’t join it. A historical decision to ally with an army with No urban laws and civilization. Humanity civilization degraded as it reverted for 1,500 years to Law and Order based on religious dogmatic concepts and absolute monarchies, both Christian and Muslim.

L’Immortalité de l’âme est un problème attachant pour le genre humain. Si on apprend a concevoir une âme a toutes les autres genres qui vient et pullulent la terre, le racism aurait-il pris racines?

Il faut du courage pour oser braver les cris du vulgaire.

Le dernier moment (de la mort) s’arrête toujours pour nous tromper

Ce n’est que dans l’exile qu’on évoque l’enfance et qu’on essaie de restituer la réalité’ perdue. Pas d’autobiographie sans être exilé dans l’espace et le temps.

“Les idéologues du Christianisme n’ont-ils pas voulu en faire un système d’astronomie?” (Napoleon). En fait, toutes les religions antiques relève d’astronomie, même en ce jour des religions des peuple isolés.

Bonaparte a dérangé jusqu’à l’ avenir. L’esclavage que Napoléon avait façonné la société a l’obéissance passive, et son despotisme descendra sur nous en forteresses.

Hazards of Revolutions?

You mean a revolution happens by hazard or the consequences are hazardous?

How the “Arab Spring” manifested in 2011 in Tunisia and Egypt, and how the colonial powers diverted the longing of the people?

Patrick Cockburn wrote on Hazards of Revolutions in 2014. 

Soon after the Libyan capital (Tripoli) fell to the rebels in August 2011 I got to know a 32-year-old man called Ahmed Abdullah al-Ghadamsi.

We met when he tried to evict me from my hotel room, which he said was needed for members of the National Transitional Council, in effect the provisional government of Libya.

I wasn’t happy about being moved because the hotel, the Radisson Blu on Tripoli’s seafront, (The capital is Not on the sea shore, but very far off) was full of journalists and there was nowhere else to stay. But Ahmed promised to find me another room, and he was as good as his word.

He was lending a hand to the provisional government because he was strongly opposed to Gaddafi – as was the rest of his family. He came from the Fornaj district of the city, and was contemptuous of the efforts of government spies to penetrate its network of extended families.

He derided Gaddafi’s absurd personality cult and his fear of subversive ideas: ‘Books used to be more difficult to bring into the country than weapons. You had to leave them at the airport for two or three months so they could be checked.’

He had spent 6 years studying in Norway and spoke Norwegian as well as English.

On returning to Libya he got a job on the staff of the Radisson Blu. One of Gaddafi’s sons, Al-Saadi, had a suite in the hotel, and he watched the ruling family and their friends doing business and enjoying themselves.

Ahmed was a self-confident man, not noticeably intimidated by the sporadic shooting which was keeping most people in Tripoli off the streets. I asked him if he would consider working for me as a guide and assistant and he agreed.

Tripoli had run out of petrol but he quickly found some, along with a car and driver willing to risk the rebel checkpoints. He was adept at talking to the militiamen manning the barricades, and helped me get out of the city when the roads were blocked.

After a few weeks I left Libya; I later heard that he was working for other journalists.

Then in October I got a message saying that he was dead, shot through the head by a pro-Gaddafi sniper in the final round of fighting in Sirte on the coast, far to the east of Tripoli. It turned out that there was a lot that Ahmed hadn’t told me.

When the protests started in Benghazi on 15 February he had been among the first to demonstrate in Fornaj, and he was arrested.

His younger brother Mohammed told me that ‘he was jailed for two hours or less before his friends and the protesters broke into the police station and freed him.’

When Gaddafi’s forces regained control of Tripoli, Ahmed drove to the Nafusa Mountains, a hundred miles south-west of the capital to try to join the rebels there, but they didn’t know or trust him so he had to return.

He smuggled weapons and gelignite into Tripoli and became involved in a plot, never put into action, to blow up Al-Saadi Gaddafi’s suite in the Radisson.

Mohammed said Ahmed felt bad that he’d spent much of the revolution making money and, despite his best efforts, had never actually fought.

He went to Sirte, where Gaddafi’s forces were making a last stand, and joined a militia group from Misrata.

He had no military experience, as far as I know, but he didn’t flinch during bombardments and was stoical when he was caught in an ambush and wounded by shrapnel from a mortar bomb, and the militiamen were impressed.

On 8 October his commander told Ahmed to take a squad of 6 men to hunt for snipers who had killed a number of rebel fighters. He was shot dead by one of them a few hours later.

What would Ahmed think of the Libyan revolution now?

An interim government is nominally in control but the streets of Tripoli and Benghazi have been full of militia checkpoints manned by some of the 225,000 registered militiamen whose loyalty is to their commanders rather than the state that pays them.

When demonstrators appeared outside the headquarters of the Misrata militia in Tripoli on 15 November demanding that they go home, the militiamen opened fire with everything from Kalashnikov to anti-aircraft guns, killing 43 protesters and wounding some 400 others.

This led to popular protests in which many militias were forced out of Tripoli, though it’s not clear whether this is permanent.

Earlier the prime minister, Ali Zeidan, was kidnapped by militia gunmen without a shot being fired by his own guards to protect him. (He was released after a few hours.)

Mutinying militias have closed the oil ports to exports and eastern Libya is threatening to secede.

The Libyan state has collapsed, for the simple reason that the rebels were too weak to fill the vacuum left by the fall of the old regime. After all, it was Nato airstrikes, not rebel strength, that overthrew Gaddafi.

It’s a similar story elsewhere in the Middle East.

The uprisings of the Arab Spring have so far produced anarchy in Libya, a civil war in Syria, greater autocracy in Bahrain and resumed dictatorial rule in Egypt.  (All these failures thanks to US/Saudi Kingdom/Israel/France ) who don’t want changes and democracy in the region)

In Syria, the uprising began in March 2011 with demonstrations against the brutality of Assad’s regime. ‘Peace! Peace!’ protesters chanted. But ‘if there was a fair election in Syria today,’ one commentator said, ‘Assad would probably win it.’

It isn’t only the protesters and insurgents of 2011 whose aspirations are being frustrated or crushed.

In March 2003 the majority of Iraqis from all sects and ethnic groups wanted to see the end of Saddam’s disastrous rule even if they didn’t necessarily support the US invasion.

But the government now in power in Baghdad is as sectarian, corrupt and dysfunctional as Saddam’s ever was. (Not true, even then. Obama dispatched ISIS to occupy Mosul because Maliki PM refused to have US military presence in Iraq)

There may be less state violence, but only because the state is weaker. (just witness what is happening by the end of 2017)

Its methods are equally brutal: Iraqi prisons are full of people who have made false confessions under torture or the threat of it. An Iraqi intellectual who had planned to open a museum in Abu Ghraib prison so that Iraqis would never forget the barbarities of Saddam’s regime (you mean USA occupation?) found that there was no space available because the cells were full of new inmates.

Iraq is still an extraordinarily dangerous place. ‘I never imagined that 10 years after the fall of Saddam you would still be able to get a man killed in Baghdad by paying $100, an Iraqi who’d been involved in the abortive museum project told me. (Isis is now defeated in Iraq and US still claim Iraq needs its military presence) 

Why have oppositions in the Arab world and beyond failed so absolutely, and why have they repeated in power, or in pursuit of it, so many of the faults and crimes of the old regimes? (Simple: still confronting the colonial powers who refuse any change)

The contrast between humanitarian principles expressed at the beginning of revolutions and the bloodbath at the end has many precedents, from the French Revolution on.

But over the last twenty years in the Middle East, the Balkans and the Caucasus the rapid degradation of what started as mass uprisings has been particularly striking.

I was in Moscow at the start of the second Russo-Chechen war in October 1999, and flew with a party of journalists to Chechnya to see the Chechen president, Aslan Maskhadov, in his headquarters in Grozny, where he was desperately trying – and failing – to avert the Russian assault by calling for a ceasefire.

We were housed in a former barracks which seemed worryingly vulnerable to Russian air attack. But it soon became evident that the presidential guard’s greatest anxiety was that we would be abducted by Chechen kidnappers and held for ransom.

The first Chechen revolt in 1994-96 was seen as a heroic popular struggle for independence. (An extremist Islamic regime, as the one ISIS was trying to install?)

Three years later it had been succeeded by a movement that was highly sectarian, criminalized and dominated by warlords.

The war became too dangerous to report and disappeared off the media map. ‘In the first Chechen war,’ one reporter told me, ‘I would have been fired by my agency if I had left Grozny. Now the risk of kidnapping is so great I would be fired for going there.’

The pattern set in Chechnya has been repeated elsewhere with depressing frequency.

The extent of the failure of the uprisings of 2011 to establish better forms of governance has surprised opposition movements, their Western backers (the common people, Not the ruling elites) and what was once a highly sympathetic foreign media.

The surprise is due, in part, to a misunderstanding of what the uprisings were about. Revolutions come into being because of an unpredictable coincidence of forces with different motives targeting a common enemy. (Never confuse long-term causes with instant catalysts)

The political, social and economic roots of the upsurges of 2011 go deep. That this wasn’t obvious to everyone at the time is partly a result of the way foreign commentators exaggerated the role of new information technology. Protesters, skilled in propaganda if nothing else, could see the advantage of presenting the uprisings to the West as non-threatening ‘velvet’ revolutions with English-speaking, well-educated bloggers and tweeters prominently in the vanguard.

The purpose was to convey to Western public that the new revolutionaries were comfortingly similar to themselves, that what was happening in the Middle East in 2011 was similar to the anti-communist and pro-Western uprisings in Eastern Europe after 1989.

Opposition demands were all about personal freedom: social and economic inequality were rarely declared to be issues, even when they were driving popular rage against the status quo. (Wrong. Personal freedom was the slogan, Not the real demands)

The centre of Damascus had recently been taken over by smart shops and restaurants, but the mass of Syrians saw their salaries stagnating while prices rose: farmers ruined by four years of drought were moving into shanty towns on the outskirts of the cities.

The UN said that between two and three million Syrians were living in ‘extreme poverty’; small manufacturing companies were put out of business by cheap imports from Turkey and China; economic liberalization, lauded in foreign capitals, concentrated wealth in the hands of a politically well-connected few.

Even members of the Mukhabarat, the secret police, were trying to survive on $200 a month. ‘When it first came to power, the Assad regime embodied the neglected countryside, its peasants and neglected underclass,’ an International Crisis Group report says. ‘Today’s ruling elite has forgotten its roots. It has inherited power rather than fought for it … and mimicked the ways of the urban upper class.’

The same was true of the quasi-monarchical families and their associates operating in parallel fashion in Egypt, Libya and Iraq.

Confident of their police-state powers, they ignored the hardships of the rest of the population, especially the underemployed, over-educated and very numerous youth, few of whom felt that they had any chance of improving their lives.

The inability of new governments across the Middle East to end the violence can be ascribed to a simple-minded delusion that most problems would vanish once democracies had replaced the old police states. (No delusion here. Cannot construct anything in the presence of extremist violent factions created by the US and its allies)

Opposition movements, persecuted at home and often living a hand to mouth existence in exile, half-believed this and it was easy to sell to foreign sponsors. A great disadvantage of this way of seeing things was that Saddam, Assad and Gaddafi were so demonized it became difficult to engineer anything approaching a compromise or a peaceful transition from the old to a new regime.

In 2003  Iraq former members of the Baath Party were sacked, thus impoverishing a large part of the population, which had no alternative but to fight. The Syrian opposition refuses to attend peace talks in Geneva if Assad is allowed to play a role, even though the areas of Syria under his control are home to most of the population.

In Libya the militias insisted on an official ban on employing anyone who had worked for Gaddafi’s regime, even those who had ended their involvement 30 years before. These exclusion policies were partly a way of guaranteeing jobs for the boys. But they deepen sectarian, ethnic and tribal divisions and provide the ingredients for civil war.

What is the glue that is meant to hold these new post-revolutionary states together?

Nationalism isn’t much in favour in the West, where it is seen as a mask for racism or militarism, supposedly outmoded in an era of globalisation and humanitarian intervention. (everything but capitulation is Not favored by the Western colonial powers, even now)

But intervention in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011 turned out to be very similar to imperial takeover in the 19th century.

There was absurd talk of ‘nation-building’ to be carried out or assisted by foreign powers, who clearly have their own interests in mind just as Britain did when Lloyd George orchestrated the carve-up of the Ottoman Empire.

A justification for the “Arab” leaders who seized power in the late 1960s was that they would create powerful states capable, finally, of giving reality to national independence.

They didn’t wholly fail: Gaddafi played a crucial role in raising the price of oil in 1973 and Hafez al-Assad created a state that could hold its own in a protracted struggle with Israel for predominance in Lebanon.

But to opponents of these regimes nationalism was simply a propaganda ploy on the part of ruthless dictatorships concerned to justify their hold on power. But without nationalism – even where the unity of the nation is something of a historic fiction – states lack an ideology that would enable them to compete as a focus of loyalty with religious sects or ethnic groups.

It’s easy enough to criticise the rebels and reformers in the Arab world for failing to resolve the dilemmas they faced in overturning the status quo. Their actions seem confused and ineffective when compared to the Cuban revolution or the liberation struggle in Vietnam. (Simply because one people  in Syria, one people in the Nile river and one people in north Africa were artificially divided in pseud-States by colonial powers)

But the political terrain in which they have had to operate over the last twenty years has been particularly tricky. The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 meant that the endorsement or tolerance of the US – and the US alone – was crucial for a successful takeover of power.

Nasser was able to turn to Moscow to assert Egyptian independence in the Suez crisis of 1956, but after the Soviet collapse smaller states could no longer find a place for themselves between Moscow and Washington. Saddam said in 1990 that one of the reasons he invaded Kuwait when he did was that in future such a venture would no longer be feasible as Iraq would be faced with unopposed American power.

In the event, he got his diplomatic calculations spectacularly wrong, but his forecast was otherwise realistic – at least until perceptions of American military might were downgraded by Washington’s failure to achieve its aims in Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

So the insurgencies in the Middle East face immense difficulties, and they have faltered, stalled, been thrown on the defensive or apparently defeated. But without the rest of the world noticing, one national revolution in the region is moving from success to success.

In 1990 the Kurds, left without a state after the fall of the Ottomans, were living in their tens of millions as persecuted and divided minorities in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Rebellion in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88 failed disastrously, with at least 180,000 killed by poison gas or executed in the final days of the conflict. (The Shah of Iran and Saddam resolved this conflict in a single day. And the Kurdish army in Iraq deposed its weapons)

In Turkey, guerrilla action by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who combined Marxism-Leninism with Kurdish nationalism, began in 1974 but by the end of the 1990s it had been crushed by the Turkish army.

Kurds were driven into the cities; and 3,000 of their villages were destroyed. (Western media never covered these atrocities)

In north-east Syria, Arab settlers were moved onto Kurdish land and many Kurds denied citizenship; in Iran, the government kept a tight grip on its Kurdish provinces.

How the Kurdish conditions now changed?

In Iraq the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), though it shares power with the central government in Baghdad, is close to becoming an oil-rich independent state, militarily and diplomatically more powerful than many members of the UN States.

Until recently the Turks would impound any freight sent to the KRG if the word ‘Kurdistan’ appeared in the address, but in November the KRG president, Massoud Barzani, gave a speech in the Turkish Kurd capital of Diyarbakir and talked of ‘the brotherhood of Turks and Kurds’.

Standing with him was the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who spoke of ‘Kurdistan’ as if he’d forgotten that a few years ago the name had been enough to land anyone who uttered it in a Turkish jail. (Currently, Erdogan consider the Kurds everywhere as the existential enemies of Turkey)

In Syria meanwhile, the PKK’s local branch has taken control of much of the north-east corner of the country, where two and a half million Kurds live.

The rebellion in the Kurdish heartlands has been ongoing for nearly half a century.

In Iraq the two main Kurdish parties, Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, were expert at manipulating foreign intelligence services – Iranian, Syrian, American and Turkish – without becoming their permanent puppets (Crappy pronouncement on these expertise)

They built up a cadre of well-educated and politically sophisticated leaders and established alliances with non-Kurdish opposition groups. They were lucky that their worst defeat was followed by Saddam’s self-destructive invasion of Kuwait, which enabled them to take control of an enclave protected by US airpower in 1991.

At this point, despite having gained more independence than any previous Kurdish movement, the KDP and PUK embarked on a vicious civil war with the Iraqi state. But then they had another stroke of luck when 9/11 provided the US with the excuse to invade and overthrow Saddam. The Kurdish leaders positioned themselves carefully between the US and Iran without becoming dependent on either.

It isn’t yet clear how the bid of 30 million Kurds for some form of national self-determination will play out, but they have become too powerful to be easily suppressed. Their success has lessons for the movements of the Arab Spring, whose failure isn’t as inevitable as it may seem.

The political, social and economic forces that led to the ruptures of 2011 are as powerful as ever. Had the Arab opposition movements played their cards as skilfully as the Kurds, the uprisings might not have foundered as they have done.

None of the religious parties that took power, whether in Iraq in 2005 or Egypt in 2012, has been able to consolidate its authority.

Rebels everywhere look for support to the foreign enemies of the state they are trying to overthrow, but the Kurds are better at this than anyone else, having learned the lesson of 1975, when Iran betrayed them to Saddam by signing the Algiers Agreement, cutting off their supply of arms. The Syrian opposition, by contrast, can only reflect the policies and divisions of its sponsors.

Resistance to the state was too rapidly militarised in order for opposition movements to develop an experienced national leadership and a political programme. (That is the strategy of the colonial powers of Not letting opposition forces to connect with the existing political system and have open discussions.)

The discrediting of nationalism and communism, combined with the need to say what the US wanted to hear, meant that they were at the mercy of events, lacking any vision of a non-authoritarian nation state capable of competing with the religious fanaticism of the Sunni militants of al-Qaeda, and similar movements financed by the oil states of the Gulf.

But the Middle East is entering a long period of ferment in which counter-revolution may prove as difficult to consolidate as revolution.

Note:  Patrick Cockburn London Review of Books Vol. 36 No. 1 · 9 January 2014. Pages 25-27 | 3282 words

Political Propaganda Handbooks: Israel’s Hasbara, USA Peaceful Upheaval, Soft War handbook…?

Note: A re-edit of 2014 post “Israel (Zionism) propaganda (Hasbara) Handbook”

Hasbara (explanation) is not breaking news, most of our readers are already familiar with Israeli Hasbara .

If you patronize Facebook or Twitter and you posts anything remotely related to pro-Palestine, or work in the media in general, you are probably all too familiar with the persistent Hasbara that floods the comments of every post about Palestine.

It’s a force to be reckoned with: It attempts to control message and kill credibility of articles or commentary that reveal anything negative about Israel.

Wikipedia defines Hasbara as “Public diplomacy in Israel” and refers to it as “public relations efforts to disseminate abroad positive information about Israel.”

That’s true enough but in reality Hasbara is a manipulative propaganda machine.

Students are paid to spread pro-Israel messages online and have been slaving away in the Hasbara War Room to sell the Gaza war in social media.

According to the Hasbara Handbook – their main target audience is USA.

The Israeli Project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary was originally leaked by Newsweek Online.

The link to the document in their original article now leads to a 404-page but you can read the 116 page PDF here.

It’s probably been updated since but the 2009 version is more than enough to understand how it works.

Are you persuadable?

According to the Hasbara Handbook Conservative Republicans and religious fundamentalists in USA are generally easiest to persuade or are already on board with team Israel.

This page has an interesting footnote that their “most favorable audience is white and male voters.

The Handbook refers to religious fundamentalists as Israel’s “Amen Choir” and claims they are “Israel’s strongest friends in the world.”

In general US conservative Republicans and/or religious fundamentalists don’t seem to be a primary target audience for Hasbara, however they dedicate an entire chapter on talking to the American left which appears to be their greatest challenge.

Hasbara propagandists are directed to use empathy – and this word is stressed – as an important factor to use as a tool of persuasion to build credibility.

If you are among the stubborn leftists they may tell you a story to appeal to your sense of empathy.

Hasbara also may target women for persuasion campaigns more than men as their charts seemed to indicate that women were less aware of “the facts” after Operation Cast Lead (pre-emptive war on Gaza that killed over, 2,000 Palestinians and injured many more thousands and destroyed Gaza infrastructure in 2014).

Each chapter of the Hasbara Handbook has helpful boxes outlining the “Words that Work”.

There is even a section praising Obama’s notorious public speaking skills that states:

“President Obama’s language is so similar to what we have recommended for years that he could easily be stealing straight from our playbook.”

Posters that Work

Appendix IV of the Hasbara Handbook is dedicated to “Posters that Work” and lays out a style guide to follow when designing pro-Israel propaganda posters.

Apparently posters featuring Ahmadinejad as Hitler and babies strapped to bombs were epic fails, so now they aim to use “factually based” graphics to spread a positive impression of Israel.

The examples above are from several years ago but we’ve seen this same style of posters circulating during Operation Protective Edge.

Hasbara has it’s own team of graphic artists called the Interactive Media Team from Israel Under Fire which has been hard at work designing high quality, branded graphics to sell the assault on Gaza to western audiences.

The current Hasbara poster campaign features slick graphics, contrasting red and green colors that pop off pro-photographed backgrounds and bold fonts with key words like “rockets” or “tunnels” emphasized for impact. This is a 100% professionally branded media campaign.

The lexicon of the Hasbara Handbook is really impressive as far as manipulation standards go. If you have time to read the whole handbook we definitely recommend it.

Propaganda exists all over the world and perhaps other countries also have official “playbooks” like Israel, but the Israeli Hasbara has mastered the art of persuasion, at least on western audiences.

Note 2: You might have heard of the CIA financed handbook for Peaceful mass upheaval? The USA spread the propaganda that the “Arab Spring” mass demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt adopted and practiced the principles of that handbook (pure myth). The USA was totally taken aback but managed to exploit these upheavals to appoint their dictators.

Note 3: You might have heard of the US new Soft War handbook, meant to impose severe economic sanctions until most people experience hunger and scarcity in medicine and energy and kneel in their negotiations with US diktat.

Sources:
Israeli Project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary
Electronic Intifada – Israel student union sets up “war room” to sell Gaza massacre on Facebook
The Independent – Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
Israel Under Fire

FRACTURED LANDS: HOW THE ARAB WORLD CAME APART

This is a story unlike any we have previously published. It is much longer than the typical New York Times Magazine feature story; in print, it occupies an entire issue.

The product of some 18 months of reporting, it tells the story of the catastrophe that has fractured the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq 13 years ago, leading to the rise of ISIS and the global refugee crisis. (How about supporting Saddam in his 8 years war against Iran?)

The geography of this catastrophe is broad and its causes are many, but its consequences — war and uncertainty throughout the world — are familiar to us all.

Scott Anderson’s story gives the reader a visceral sense of how it all unfolded, through the eyes of six characters in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan.

Accompanying Anderson’s text are 10 portfolios by the photographer Paolo Pellegrin, drawn from his extensive travels across the region over the last 14 years, as well as a landmark virtual-reality experience that embeds the viewer with the Iraqi fighting forces during the battle to retake Falluja. (The same city that US bombed with depleted uranium and caused the birth of thousands of handicapped and deformed children)

It is unprecedented for us to focus so much energy and attention on a single story, and to ask our readers to do the same. We would not do so were we not convinced that what follows is one of the most clear-eyed, powerful and human explanations of what has gone wrong in this region that you will ever read.

Before driving into northern Iraq, Dr. Azar Mirkhan changed from his Western clothes into the traditional dress of a Kurdish pesh merga warrior: a tightfitting short woolen jacket over his shirt, baggy pantaloons and a wide cummerbund. He also thought to bring along certain accessories. These included a combat knife, tucked neatly into the waist of his cummerbund, as well as sniper binoculars and a loaded .45 semiautomatic. Should matters turn particularly ticklish, an M-4 assault rifle lay within easy reach on the back seat, with extra clips in the foot well. The doctor shrugged. “It’s a bad neighborhood.”

Our destination that day in May 2015 was the place of Azar’s greatest sorrow, one that haunted him still. The previous year, ISIS gunmen had cut a murderous swath through northern Iraq, brushing away an Iraqi Army vastly greater in size, and then turning their attention to the Kurds.

Azar had divined precisely where the ISIS killers were about to strike, knew that tens of thousands of civilians stood helpless in their path, but had been unable to get anyone to heed his warnings. In desperation, he had loaded up his car with guns and raced to the scene, only to come to a spot in the road where he saw he was just hours too late. “It was obvious,” Azar said, “so obvious. But no one wanted to listen.”

On that day, we were returning to the place where the fabled Kurdish warriors of northern Iraq had been outmaneuvered and put to flight, where Dr. Azar Mirkhan had failed to avert a colossal tragedy — and where, for many more months to come, he would continue to battle ISIS.

Azar is a practicing urologist, but even without the firepower and warrior get-up, the 41-year-old would exude the aura of a hunter. He walks with a curious loping gait that produces little sound, and in conversation has a tendency to tuck his chin and stare from beneath heavy-lidded eyes, rather as if he were sighting down a gun. With his prominent nose and jet black pompadour, he bears a passing resemblance to a young Johnny Cash.

The weaponry also complemented the doctor’s personal philosophy, as expressed in a scene from one of his favorite movies, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” when a bathing Eli Wallach is caught off guard by a man seeking to kill him. Rather than immediately shoot Wallach, the would-be assassin goes into a triumphant soliloquy, allowing Wallach to kill him first.

“When you have to shoot, shoot; don’t talk,” Azar quoted from the movie. “That is us Kurds now. This is not the time to talk, but to shoot.”

Azar is one of six people whose lives are chronicled in these pages. The six are from different regions, different cities, different tribes, different families, but they share, along with millions of other people in and from the Middle East, an experience of profound unraveling. Their lives have been forever altered by upheavals that began in 2003 with the American invasion of Iraq, and then accelerated with the series of revolutions and insurrections that have collectively become known in the West as the Arab Spring. They continue today with the depredations of ISIS, with terrorist attacks and with failing states.

For each of these six people, the upheavals were crystallized by a specific, singular event. For Azar Mirkhan, it came on the road to Sinjar, when he saw that his worst fears had come true. For Laila Soueif in Egypt, it came when a young man separated from a sprinting mass of protesters to embrace her, and she thought she knew the revolution would succeed.

For Majdi el-Mangoush in Libya, it came as he walked across a deadly no-man’s-land and, overwhelmed by a sudden euphoria, felt free for the first time in his life.

For Khulood al-Zaidi in Iraq, it came when, with just a few menacing words from a former friend, she finally understood that everything she had worked for was gone.

For Majd Ibrahim in Syria, it came when, watching an interrogator search his cellphone for the identity of his “controller,” he knew his own execution was drawing nearer by the moment.

For Wakaz Hassan in Iraq, a young man with no apparent interest in politics or religion, it came on the day ISIS gunmen showed up in his village and offered him a choice.

As disparate as those moments were, for each of these six people they represented a crossing over, passage to a place from which there will never be a return. Such changes, of course — multiplied by millions of lives — are also transforming their homelands, the greater Middle East and, by inevitable extension, the entire world.

History never flows in a predictable way. It is always a result of seemingly random currents and incidents, the significance of which can be determined — or, more often, disputed — only in hindsight. But even accounting for history’s capricious nature, the event credited with setting off the Arab Spring could hardly have been more improbable: the suicide by immolation of a poor Tunisian fruit-and-vegetable seller in protest over government harassment.

By the time Mohamed Bouazizi succumbed to his injuries on Jan. 4, 2011, the protesters who initially took to Tunisia’s streets calling for economic reform were demanding the resignation of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the nation’s strongman president for 23 years. In subsequent days, those demonstrations grew in size and intensity — and then they jumped Tunisia’s border. By the end of January, anti-government protests had erupted in Algeria, Egypt, Oman and Jordan. That was only the beginning.

By November, just 10 months after Bouazizi’s death, four longstanding Middle Eastern dictatorships had been toppled, a half-dozen other suddenly embattled governments had undergone shake-ups or had promised reforms, and anti-government demonstrations — some peaceful, others violent — had spread in an arc across the Arab world from Mauritania to Bahrain.

As a writer with long experience in the Middle East, I initially welcomed the convulsions of the Arab Spring — indeed, I believed they were long overdue. In the early 1970s, I traveled through the region as a young boy with my father, a journey that sparked both my fascination with Islam and my love of the desert. The Middle East was also the site of my first foray into journalism when, in the summer of 1983, I hopped on a plane to the embattled city Beirut in hopes of finding work as a stringer.

Over the subsequent years, I embedded with a platoon of Israeli commandos conducting raids in the West Bank; dined with Janjaweed raiders in Darfur; interviewed the families of suicide bombers. Ultimately, I took a five-year hiatus from magazine journalism to write a book on the historical origins of the modern Middle East.

In my professional travels over the decades, I had found no other region to rival the Arab world in its utter stagnation. While Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya set a record for longevity in the Middle East with his 42-year dictatorship, it was not that different elsewhere; by 2011, any Egyptian younger than 41 — and that was roughly 75% of the population — had only ever known two heads of state, while a Syrian of the same age had lived his or her entire life under the control of the father-and-son Assad dynasty.

Along with political stasis, in many Arab nations most levers of economic power lay in the hands of small oligarchies or aristocratic families; for everyone else, about the only path to financial security was to wrangle a job within fantastically bloated public-sector bureaucracies, government agencies that were often themselves monuments to nepotism and corruption. While the sheer amount of money pouring into oil-rich, sparsely populated nations like Libya or Kuwait might allow for a degree of economic trickle-down prosperity, this was not the case in more populous but resource-poor nations like Egypt or Syria, where poverty and underemployment were severe and — given the ongoing regional population explosion — ever-worsening problems.

I was heartened, in the Arab Spring’s early days, by the focus of the people’s wrath. One of the Arab world’s most prominent and debilitating features, I had long felt, was a culture of grievance that was defined less by what people aspired to than by what they opposed. They were anti-Zionist, anti-West, anti-imperialist. For generations, the region’s dictators had been adroit at channeling public frustration toward these external “enemies” and away from their own misrule. But with the Arab Spring, that old playbook suddenly didn’t work anymore. Instead, and for the first time on such a mass scale, the people of the Middle East were directing their rage squarely at the regimes themselves.

Then it all went horribly wrong. By the summer of 2012, two of the “freed” nations — Libya and Yemen — were sliding into anarchy and factionalism, while the struggle against the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria had descended into vicious civil war. In Egypt the following summer, the nation’s first democratically elected government was overthrown by the military, a coup cheered on by many of the same young activists who took to the streets to demand democracy two years earlier.

The only truly bright spot among the Arab Spring nations was the place where it started, Tunisia, but even there, terrorist attacks and feuding politicians were a constant threat to a fragile government. Amid the chaos, the remnants of Osama bin Laden’s old outfit, Al Qaeda, gained a new lease on life, resurrected the war in Iraq and then spawned an even more severe and murderous offshoot: the Islamic State, or ISIS.

Why did it turn out this way? Why did a movement begun with such high promise go so terribly awry?

The scattershot nature of the Arab Spring makes it hard to provide a single answer. Some nations were radically transformed, even as others right next door were barely touched. Some of the nations in crisis were relatively wealthy (Libya), others crushingly poor (Yemen). Some countries with comparatively benign dictatorships (Tunisia) blew up along with some of the region’s most brutal (Syria). The same range of political and economic disparity is seen in the nations that remained stable.

Yet one pattern does emerge, and it is striking.

While most of the 22 nations that make up the Arab world have been buffeted to some degree by the Arab Spring, the six most profoundly affected — Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen — are all republics, rather than monarchies.

And of these six, the three that have disintegrated so completely as to raise doubt that they will ever again exist as functioning states — Iraq, Syria and Libya — are all members of that small list of Arab countries created by Western imperial powers in the early 20th century. (Jordan, Saudi Kingdom, Israel, Gulf Emirate… were all been created by the colonial powers too. Actually, mandated France gave away to Turkey Syrian land as vast as its actual size)

In each, little thought was given to national coherence, and even less to tribal or sectarian divisions.

Certainly, these same internal divisions exist in many of the region’s other republics, as well as in its monarchies, but it would seem undeniable that those two factors operating in concert — the lack of an intrinsic sense of national identity joined to a form of government that supplanted the traditional organizing principle of society — left Iraq, Syria and Libya especially vulnerable when the storms of change descended.

In fact, all but one of the six people profiled ahead are from these “artificial states,” and their individual stories are rooted in the larger story of how those nations came to be.

The process began at the end of World War I, when two of the victorious allies, Britain and France, carved up the lands of the defeated Ottoman Empire between themselves as spoils of war. In Mesopotamia, the British joined together three largely autonomous Ottoman provinces and named it Iraq.

The southernmost of these provinces was dominated by Shiite Arabs, the central by Sunni Arabs and the northernmost by non-Arab Kurds. To the west of Iraq, the European powers took the opposite approach, carving the vast lands of “greater Syria” into smaller, more manageable parcels. (Like Lebanon)

Falling under French rule was the smaller rump state of Syria — essentially the nation that exists today — and the coastal enclave of Lebanon, while the British took Palestine and Transjordan, a swath of southern Syria that would eventually become Israel and Jordan.

Coming a bit later to the game, in 1934, Italy joined the three ancient North African regions that it had wrested from the Ottomans in 1912 to form the colony of Libya.

To maintain dominion over these fractious territories, the European powers adopted the same divide-and-conquer approach that served them so well in the colonization of sub-Saharan Africa. This consisted of empowering a local ethnic or religious minority to serve as their local administrators, confident that this minority would never rebel against their foreign overseers lest they be engulfed by the disenfranchised majority.

This was only the most overt level of the Europeans’ divide-and-conquer strategy, however, for just beneath the sectarian and regional divisions in these “nations” there lay extraordinarily complex tapestries of tribes and subtribes and clans, ancient social orders that remained the populations’ principal source of identification and allegiance.

Much as the United States Army and white settlers did with Indian tribes in the conquest of the American West, so the British and French and Italians proved adept at pitting these groups against one another, bestowing favors — weapons or food or sinecures — to one faction in return for fighting another.

The great difference, of course, is that in the American West, the settlers stayed and the tribal system was essentially destroyed. In the Arab world, the Europeans eventually left, but the sectarian and tribal schisms they fueled remained.

Seen in this light, the 2011 suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi seems less the catalyst for the Arab Spring than a culmination of tensions and contradictions that had been simmering under the surface of Arab society for a long time. Indeed, throughout the Arab world, residents are far more likely to point to a different event, one that occurred eight years before Bouazizi’s death, as the moment when the process of disintegration began: the American invasion of Iraq. Many even point to a singular image that embodied that upheaval.

It came on the afternoon of April 9, 2003, in the Firdos Square of downtown Baghdad, when, with the help of a winch and an American M88 armored recovery vehicle, a towering statue of the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, was pulled to the ground.

While today that image is remembered in the Arab world with resentment — the symbolism of this latest Western intervention in their region was quite inescapable — at the time it spurred something far more nuanced. For the first time in their lives, what Syrians and Libyans and other Arabs just as much as Iraqis saw was that a figure as seemingly immovable as Saddam Hussein could be cast aside, that the political and social paralysis that had so long held their collective lands might actually be broken.

Not nearly so apparent was that these strongmen had actually exerted considerable energy to bind up their nations, and in their absence the ancient forces of tribalism and sectarianism would begin to exert their own centrifugal pull. Even less apparent was how these forces would both attract and repel the United States, damaging its power and prestige in the region to an extent from which it might never recover.

At least one man saw this quite clearly. For much of 2002, the Bush administration had laid the groundwork for the Iraq invasion by accusing Saddam Hussein of pursuing a weapons-of-mass-destruction program and obliquely linking him to the Sept. 11 attacks.

In October 2002, six months before Firdos Square, I had a long interview with Muammar el-Qaddafi, and I asked him who would benefit if the Iraq invasion actually occurred. The Libyan dictator had a habit of theatrically pondering before answering my questions, but his reply to that one was instantaneous. “Bin Laden,” he said. “There is no doubt about that. And Iraq could end up becoming the staging ground for Al Qaeda, because if the Saddam government collapses, it will be anarchy in Iraq. If that happens, actions against Americans will be considered jihad.”

Beginning in April 2015, the photographer Paolo Pellegrin and I embarked on a series of extended trips to the Middle East. Separately and as a writer-photographer team, we had covered an array of conflicts in the region over the previous 20 years, and our hope on this new set of journeys was to gain a greater understanding of the so-called Arab Spring and its generally grim aftermath. As the situation continued to deteriorate through 2015 and 2016, our travels expanded: to those islands in Greece bearing the brunt of the migrant exodus from Iraq and Syria; to the front lines in northern Iraq where the battle against ISIS was being most vigorously waged.

We have presented the results of this 16-month project in the form of six individual narratives, which, woven within the larger strands of history, aim to provide a tapestry of an Arab World in revolt.

The account is divided into five parts, which proceed chronologically as they alternate between our principal characters. Along with introducing several of these individuals, Part 1 focuses on three historical factors that are crucial to understanding the current crisis: the inherent instability of the Middle East’s artificial states; the precarious position in which U.S.-allied Arab governments have found themselves when compelled to pursue policies bitterly opposed by their own people; and American involvement in the de facto partitioning of Iraq 25 years ago, an event little remarked upon at the time — and barely more so since — that helped call into question the very legitimacy of the modern Arab nation-state.

Part 2 is primarily devoted to the American invasion of Iraq, and to how it laid the groundwork for the Arab Spring revolts. In Part 3, the narrative quickens, as we follow the explosive outcome of those revolts as they occurred in Egypt, Libya and Syria. By Part 4, which chronicles the rise of ISIS, and Part 5, which tracks the resulting exodus from the region, we are squarely in the present, at the heart of the world’s gravest concern.

I have tried to tell a human story, one that has its share of heroes, even some glimmers of hope. But what follows, ultimately, is a dark warning. Today the tragedy and violence of the Middle East have spilled from its banks, with nearly a million Syrians and Iraqis flooding into Europe to escape the wars in their homelands, and terrorist attacks in Dhaka, Paris and beyond. With the ISIS cause being invoked by mass murderers in San Bernardino and Orlando, the issues of immigration and terrorism have now become conjoined in many Americans’ minds, forming a key political flash point in the coming presidential election.

In some sense, it is fitting that the crisis of the Arab world has its roots in the First World War, for like that war, it is a regional crisis that has come quickly and widely — with little seeming reason or logic — to influence events at every corner of the globe.

Note: I posted many far more detailed articles on this issue on my blog.  Syria and Iraq are bound to become more stable, developed and better equipped to confront further sanctions and pre-emptive wars by Israel or any colonial power, thanks to powerful Iran and is vast potential and integration

Cash rolls?
PATRICK COCKBURN. Tuesday 15 January 2013

As long as the cash rolls in, the West appears untroubled by Gulf monarchies’ ideology

Note: Remember this article was published in 2013. The world parties engaged in the war in Syria all knew the financial resources of the funding for terrors. The Western nations just delivered the purchased weapons and training and logistical support.

The West has portrayed Gulf leaders as natural allies in promoting democratic revolutions.

France is expecting the “Arab” monarchies of the Gulf to help the campaign against jihadi Islamist rebels in Mali, its Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (a Zionist) said today.

On a visit to the UAE, Mr Fabius outlined different ways of helping; through materials, or through financing – an ironic request given that private donors from these countries are believed to be the main supporters of  al-Qa’ida in Iraq and Syria.

The US and Western states have long looked to the Gulf monarchies to fund their actions in the Muslim world and beyond. Sometimes the funding has been direct, such as the financial and material aid Qatar gave the Libyan rebels in 2011.

At others, it has been indirect subsidies to groups, such as the Afghan mujahideen who were fighting the Soviets, with whom the West did not want to be quite so publicly associated.

Mr Fabius said that donors would meet towards the end of January in Addis Ababa, to finance an African push against al-Qa’ida. He said: “Everybody has to commit to fighting against terrorism. We are pretty confident that the Emirates will go in that direction as well.”

Relations between the US and its West European allies on the one side and the absolute monarchies of the Gulf on the other have been highly contradictory since the “Arab” Spring began two years ago. The West has portrayed the kings and emirs of the Gulf, ruling some of the most undemocratic states in the world, as natural allies in promoting and financing democratic revolutions in Libya and Syria.

A further contradiction is that Saudi Kingdom and the Sunni rulers have encouraged the salafis across the Muslim world – fundamentalist militants advocating a literal interpretation of the Koran – through paying for schools and mosques. While most of the salafi are non-violent, their ideology is similar to that of al-Qa’ida. (From where did Cockburn get this statement?)

Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya was an important donor and investor in sub-Saharan Africa and it is unlikely that the Gulf Arabs will be prepared to spend as much money.

Even Syrian rebels say the funds they receive come episodically and are inadequate, leading to widespread looting by rebel commanders.

While France is justifying its intervention in Mali by claiming it is all part of the “war on terror” its action may stir up further turmoil in the region. Interestingly, one rebel group in the north, the separatist MNLA that wants a homeland for Tuareg in northern Mali, is reported to have backed the French intervention

Note: As the Syrian army has practically re-conquered most of Syria and reached the Golan Heights and all the southern border with Jordan, Qatar, The Emirates and even Saudi Kingdom are conducting secret negotiations to re-open their embassies in Damascus.

Stopping PB in Egypt

We recently visited a small Egyptian town, Idku lies just east of Alexandria, that fought off plans by giant BP to build a gas terminal on its land as part of an $11 billion project.

After a year of delays, the oil company was forced to re-route its proposed pipeline and processing plant.

Mika posted on June 25, 2013:

Idku, where the Nile Delta meets the Mediterranean.

We met a number of local activists, farmers and fisher folk, who explained that Idku’s land and water has for years suffered from pollution by both nearby sewage canals and the existing BG/Rashpetco’s LNG export plant.

Liquefied natural gas is exported from Idku to East Asia and Europe.

BP, having drilled for oil in the deep waters of the North Alexandria block, wanted to build yet another new gas plant on Idku’s beach.

This is part of a larger $11 billion project (62% owned by BP and 38% by German RWE), including sub-sea pipelines, oil platforms and the gas terminal itself.

But the community was tired of their sea being polluted by large corporations. Emboldened by the ongoing revolution that also enable them to organise more publicly, local activists mobilised against BP’s plans.

(I’m worried of what oil production in Lebanon will do to our already polluted seashore)

An enormous popular street assembly against BP's plans in Idku

An enormous popular street assembly against BP’s plans in Idku

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“No to BP” painted in English & Arabic on a road block. Photo by Nadine Marroushi

"Lift your head up high - you're Egyptian - No to BP"

“Lift your head up high – you’re Egyptian – No to BP”

From 2011 onwards, graffiti appeared around the town on walls, lamp-posts and houses, combining revolutionary chants with anti-BP slogans and demands to save Idku’s environment.

Banners were draped across the roads. Popular assemblies in the street gathered outrage and gave space for local residents to speak out.

Local activists researched BP’s activities elsewhere, gathering evidence of abuses and pollution elsewhere and warning that the company could cause a disastrous spill like it had in the Gulf of Mexico, in the deep waters north of Egypt.

Facebook groups were used to share updates within Idku and connect with activists elsewhere.

Many in the local community felt that pollution by Rashpetco and BG had caused fish death and ruined their agricultural land and joined the opposition to BP’s plans.

Protests included a symbolic funeral procession and a sit-in occupation at BP’s proposed construction site in late 2011. The main “International Highway” road was blocked, and BP’s Idku office raided and computers confiscated.

march_BP_banner_2

A banner from Idku’s farmers rejects BP’s plans

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A banner against BP stretches across the road

march_coffin

A symbolic coffin is carried, with the words “No to the death of life on Idku’s land”

march_flags_truck

A truck full of Idku residents heads to the construction site to protest

The consistent protests forced the governor of Beheira to back local demands, and imposed delay after delay onto BP. After 18 months of postponing work, BP conceded to the pressure and agreed not to build the gas terminal in Idku.

Idku’s victory shows that even small communities, far from the media spotlight of Tahrir – can win against major odds.

By protesting and taking action, local residents stopped a multi-billion project and protected their local environment, health and land.

BP, ever resourceful, has found a way to continue its larger plans – moving the gas terminal further east along the coast, into the neighbouring governate of Kfar Sheikh.

It is now facing repeated protests from nearby villagers there. They join the communities in Damietta fighting the MOPCO fertiliser factory, Dabaa opposing a nuclear power plant and the people of Idku in their continued struggle versus BG. All across Egypt, people are fighting for environmental justice.

Idku protestors opposing BP’s plans for a gas terminal take to the beach. BG’s LNG export plant is in the background

– See more at: http://platformlondon.org/2013/06/25/winning-against-the-odds-how-an-egyptian-community-stopped-bp-in-its-tracks/#sthash.5b0hqFGS.dpuf

The unsexy truth about why the Arab Spring failed

By the time it became clear to the world that Egypt’s Arab Spring had gone terribly wrong, that the seemingly Hollywood-like drama of good-guy protesters triumphing over bad-guy dictator had turned out to be something much more disappointing, the other revolutions across the Middle East had soured as well.

Today, Egypt is under a new military dictatorship; Libya, Yemen, and Syria have all collapsed into civil wars.

In the years since everything went so wrong, it has become fashionable to blame the naiveté of the revolutionaries or the petty incompetence of transitional leaders.

We are still trying to make this a story about the personal accomplishments or failures of individual heroes or villains, but that narrative is just as silly as it was when we first tried to apply in 2011.

(Mind you that what failed the revolution in Egypt is that the USA insisted to have an election right away, before the revolutionaries got the time to organize as a voting force. The US wanted the Moslem Brotherhood to come to power at any cost. The democratic revolutions were Not meant to succeed.)

Updated by on January 27, 2016

The truth is that this was never a story primarily about individual heroes or villains. Rather, it was about something much bigger and more abstract: the catastrophic failure of institutions. (There were institutions in Egypt and their failure was tightly linked to US never caring to control where the money went)

It’s not a story that is particularly dramatic, and it’s not easy to profile for a magazine cover. But when you look at what has happened from the Arab Spring, from its 2011 beginning through today, you see institutional failure everywhere.

That story isn’t as emotionally compelling as the one we told ourselves in 2011. But it’s a crucially important one, if we want to understand how this went so wrong and the lessons for the world.

The story we tell ourselves about the Arab Spring

In the five years since the Arab Spring disappointed the world’s hopes, a story has developed for the revolutions and their failures.

On Egypt, for example, the story usually goes something like this:

First, the brave and idealistic but tragically naive revolutionaries focused only on bringing down the evil dictator Hosni Mubarak, but not on governing when he was gone. (Armchair essay, as usual)

They failed to plan or to politically organize, foolishly placing their faith in hope, change, and Facebook instead of doing the difficult work of real politics.

In that story, the liberals’ supposed failures left an opening for the Muslim Brotherhood to sweep in and establish a hard-line Islamist government.

The Brotherhood failed as well, pursuing shortsighted, petty agendas that alienated the public and elites alike. The military was able to exploit the liberals’ naiveté and the Muslim Brotherhood’s incompetence, taking power for itself and placing Egypt under a military dictatorship.

(The military has been in power since the 50’s and their budget is more than one third of the total budget and is the largest employer and investor)

This narrative looks very different from the story we first told ourselves in 2011 about the Arab Spring, in which brave, enlightened protesters were said to be standing up to the evil dictators. But what these two narratives share is that they ascribe everything to the personal failings or strengths of certain individual people: a wicked dictator in the original 2011 story; naive protesters, shortsighted and oppressive Islamists, and an evil general in the 2016 version.

(No one is a fool in this region and claiming that they targeted individual dictators is the same narrative all over again)

But both versions of the story are incomplete. Individual failures alone didn’t cause the disastrous consequences of the Arab Spring revolutions, just as the individual heroism of Arab Spring protesters wasn’t enough to ensure their success.

The truth is that while the revolutionaries were in fact very brave and the dictators were in fact very bad, the real story of the Arab Spring wasn’t one about individual people being heroic or wicked. Rather, it was a less cinematic — but far more important — story about the dangers of brittle dictatorships and weak state institutions.

Democratic transition, it turns out, isn’t about whom you can overthrow or whom you replace them with. It’s about whether or how you can change the vast network of institutions underneath that person. ( as if revolutions do Not know this principle)

If you don’t make those institutions work — and often, by the dictator’s deliberate design, you simply can’t — then your revolution is doomed. That’s the real lesson of the Arab Spring — and it’s important precisely because it’s not as exciting or emotionally satisfying as the good-versus-evil story we prefer to tell.

The story of Egypt’s Arab Spring we don’t see: institutional collapse

In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak began preparing for revolution long before it came.

In the three decades of his rule, he systematically ensured that no opposition party or civil society institution grew strong enough to challenge him. But in ensuring that no institutions were powerful or independent enough to threaten his rule, Mubarak also ensured that they were too weak to support a transition to democracy after he fell.

Mubarak stuffed the interior ministry with political loyalists rather than effective public servants, which allowed corruption and brutality to corrode public security.

He turned the judiciary into a pro-regime puppet, which gave him a tool to persecute political opponents but left judges dependent and the rule of law weak.

He undermined liberal opposition parties and tolerated the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood only enough to let him credibly claim to the world, “It’s me or the Islamists,” using frequent crackdowns and careful electoral rules to ensure that they never got real governing experience.

The one institution that gathered strength was the military. Its role in politics expanded under Mubarak far beyond what his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, had permitted, with Mubarak using patronage to buy the military’s loyalty as it grew more powerful.

But those measures couldn’t protect Mubarak forever. Even before the revolution, there were signs his regime was in trouble.

His apparent plans to pass power to his son Gamal provoked popular outrage, including a 2010 protest at which demonstrators burned photographs of Gamal.

Popular tolerance for the regime eroded further as inflation raised the cost of food, especially bread, placing real strain on poor Egyptians.

Unemployment grew so catastrophically high that the International Monetary Fund warned it was a “ticking time bomb.” Popular anger against police brutality grew.

When the protest movement finally exploded in January 2011, Mubarak’s regime proved brittle. The revolution quickly gathered public support. The Interior Ministry failed to restore order.

And then, perhaps most crucially, Mubarak lost the loyalty of Egypt’s powerful army. Instead of crushing the protests, the army withdrew its support from his regime and installed itself in his place, ostensibly temporarily.

But it turned out that the military, an institution itself, had become focused on preserving its own interests over those of the state, and, a mere year after the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi became president, executed a military coup that deposed him and installed Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president.

The Morsi government, in its year of rule between military regimes, did some things right and a great many things wrong. But at all times, regardless of its performance, it was beset and undermined by the weakness or total incapacity of institutions and civil society.

The judiciary turned openly against the Morsi government, security services withdrew from the streets, and even the state institutions that provided gas and electricity failed, according to the New York Times, “so fundamentally that gas lines and rolling blackouts fed widespread anger and frustration.”

Many of Morsi’s failures were self-inflicted, but even if he had been better at governing, the hollowness of Egypt’s state would still have at least severely weakened and possibly doomed him. And so when Morsi faltered, the country’s democratic transition collapsed. The military filled the void left by the rest of the state’s failures.

The problems that brought down Mubarak have never been fixed

The conditions that Mubarak deliberately engineered to elongate his rule — an excessively powerful military, a weak opposition without governing experience, corrupt security services, hollowed-out civil society, and no effective democratic institutions — have all remained after his fall, and have undermined successive governments as much as they eventually undermined his own.

When you see that, it becomes clear that the real problem was never the degree to which individual protesters did or did not understand grassroots political organizing. That democratic transition isn’t merely the absence of a dictator. Rather, it is the presence of democratic rule. (A sustainable democratic process that the western nations made sure never to materialize in the Middle-East)

And democratic rule requires something a lot more important, if less obviously visible, than having a good-guy democrat at the top of the government. It requires the institutions of democracy: political parties capable of winning elections, politicians capable of governing, a bureaucracy capable of implementing that governance, and civil society groups able to provide support and stability to those institutions.

Many of the liberal protesters had years of organizing experience, yet they couldn’t seem to develop a political party to carry their ideals beyond Tahrir Square into actual governance. Maybe this was due in part to infighting, an inability to reach the working classes, or other failures.

But it is also the case, perhaps most important of all, that Mubarak had systematically ensured, over the decades of his rule, that the conditions for developing a successful liberal political party simply did not exist.

The Muslim Brotherhood had fared a bit better — it had a genuine party machine, political candidates, and a base of public support — but as Morsi’s disastrous administration showed, those are only necessary conditions for forming a viable party, not sufficient ones for governing.

Mubarak had ensured, over the decades of his autocratic rule, that basic institutions were weak or missing in Egypt. Yet when his regime fell, we were all shocked — shocked! — to discover that Morsi couldn’t, in his 12 months in power, muster those institutions either.

The story of the Arab Spring is one of weak states imploding

A similar dynamic played out in most of the other Arab Spring countries — with even worse results.

In Libya, for instance, Muammar Qaddafi had gone to even greater lengths to weaken institutions such that none was strong enough to challenge him.

It was, according to the International Crisis Group, “a regime centred on himself and his family; that played neighbourhoods and groups against one another; failed to develop genuine national institutions; and deliberately kept the national army weak to prevent the emergence of would-be challengers.”

So when Qaddafi’s regime fell, there was little left of the Libyan state. The country collapsed into conflict and today is mired in a civil war involving two rival governments and countless militant organizations, including ISIS.

In Syria, the military is strong and has largely remained loyal to Bashar al-Assad. But Assad had engineered the military not primarily as an external security force to guard the borders, but rather as an instrument of sectarian rule, staffing it with Alawites who would remain loyal to the regime.

The result is that when Assad ordered the military to fire on unarmed protesters — orders that many militaries might have refused — some of the troops complied, while others defected to help begin an armed rebellion.

(Mind you that it is in 2012 that Bashar finally decided to let out the regular army begin the Reconquista at the expense of his total power and his Alawi clan. Syria has strong and competent institutions which allowed it to face a world offensive)

And so the Arab Spring protests in Syria have led to the worst of both worlds: the preservation of a brutal dictatorship that still holds substantial territory and attacks civilians, but also a power vacuum in territory that Assad lost, which has proved to be fertile ground for ISIS and other extremists.

It has  been a disaster for Syrian civilians.

Is Tunisia the exception that proves the rule?

There was one Arab Spring country whose institutions weren’t hollowed out prior to its revolution: Tunisia. It turns out that it was the only country to emerge from the Arab Spring with anything approaching a real democracy.

Although there have been moments of serious crisis, including the murder of two liberal politicians in 2013, Tunisia has thus far stayed the course of its political transition. Its first post-revolutionary government remained quite stable throughout its term, and although it eventually lost public support, that resulted in a defeat at the ballot box in 2014’s free and fair elections, rather than another revolution or coup.

Explaining the success of Tunisia’s revolution necessarily involves some unseemly Monday morning quarterbacking. But Tunisia did have one advantage over its neighbors that seem to have made a crucial difference: Its civil society institutions were far, far stronger.

That meant that when the country faced a political crisis following the 2013 assassinations, and when initial attempts to draft a new constitution broke down, there were other institutions within the country that were strong enough to prevent a descent into violence or state collapse.

Tunisia’s largest trade union, its business organization, its lawyers association, and a leading human rights organization formed, in 2013, a “national dialogue quartet” that successfully brokered talks between rival political factions. Their ability to steer the political system toward consensus defused political tensions, supported the successful drafting of a new constitution, and paved the way for 2014’s historic elections.

In 2015, the quartet was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its work.

Tunisia’s story is, yes, one of brave protesters and noble-minded individual Tunisian leaders, but it’s also one of strong institutions and civil society that allowed those individuals to succeed.

That’s not a particularly emotionally compelling story. As a former lawyer, I know all too well that no one has ever written a revolutionary ballad romanticizing the heroism of a lawyers association’s participation in a series of meetings, and I suspect no one ever will.

But without lawyers and trade unions and NGOs willing to step in to do the dull work of civil society, it’s not clear that Tunisia would be the success story we consider it today.

Institutional weakness isn’t as exciting a topic as evil dictators or heroic protesters — but it’s far more important

The lesson to draw from this is not that it would have been “better” for Egypt to keep Mubarak, Libya to keep Qaddafi, or Syria to keep Assad. Rather, it’s that by the time these countries got to the moment of choosing to keep or depose these leaders, the game was already lost. The governments were already so brittle and institutions so weakened that any outcome would be bad.

The lesson here is that although rigid autocracies often like to advertise themselves as a regrettable but necessary way to ensure stability, they’re actually drivers of instability. They are only ever buying their regimes’ temporary stability today by mortgaging their future security.

The primary question we should be asking after the failures of the Arab Spring is not whether more should have been done after 2011 to bolster transitional governments, or whether we should have chosen to simply preserve the dictatorships. The question we should be asking is why and how we allowed those dictatorships, over the decades before the 2011 revolutions came, to hollow out their states so completely that the Arab Spring was all but assured to bring chaos regardless of the world’s response.

(The answer is that each time a democratic process was taking shape, the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia would foment a military coup)

It was Qaddafi’s brutal and ruthless regime that paved the way for Libya’s eventual collapse into civil war, and Mubarak’s shortcomings that left Egypt vulnerable to a coup by a mass-murdering general. And Bashar al-Assad is still proving every day that he was and remains the most terrible danger to the Syrian people, both in his own wholesale slaughter of innocent civilians and in his regime’s catastrophic failures that opened up space for ISIS’s own brutality and violence.

That’s not the exciting, emotionally compelling message that anyone craves. Brave young protesters aren’t going to take to the streets waving banners demanding judicial reform or civil society groups that can one day support a slow, incremental process of change. Hollywood isn’t going to make any summer blockbusters about political negotiations that succeed because respected pillars of the community convince stakeholders to adopt a consensus-based approach. And political candidates aren’t going to win applause with debate zingers about the importance of institutions to American foreign policy.

It’s far easier to call for a dictator’s downfall than to pressure for boring, unsexy policies that anticipate such a downfall years in the future and look for ways to ensure a smooth and uneventful transition.

But it’s a story worth paying attention to. The Arab Spring nations aren’t the only countries with brittle autocratic governments that could suddenly and catastrophically collapse. This is a problem we will face again.

Andrew Bossone shared this link

I’ve been saying this for awhile, that the previous regime ensured that no one could takes its place. Although I disagree with the final conclusions and inside Washington perspective.
“The conditions that Mubarak deliberately engineered to elongate his rule — an excessively powerful military, a weak opposition without governing experience, corrupt security services, hollowed-out civil society, and no effective democratic institutions — have all remained after his fall, and have undermined successive governments as much as they eventually undermined his own.”

After 5 years, we’re still telling the wrong story about the Arab Spring.
vox.com|By Amanda Taub

 

Were the Arab Springs that disastrous? Is the longer-term much brighter?

The word tragedy is overused, but it seems fitting enough for the Arab Spring. Air crashes, earthquakes, fatal illnesses: these are sad, devastating, but they lack that necessary requirement of Greek drama – an audience clutching their faces and silently, inwardly screaming at the actors: “Don’t do it, you’ll regret it if you do.”

, Middle East The Telegraph Editor, Jan. 23, 2015

The disastrous triumph of the Arab Spring

Four years after the first street protests, the shock waves are still being felt across the Middle East

The Arab Spring has that quality in spades. On Sunday, we mark the fourth anniversary of the first street protests in Cairo that led to the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.  Dozens were killed that day. And many dozens by “terrorist” attacks in Sinai and al Arish.

Every moment of what has transpired since has involved regimes, protesters, political movements, Western and other outside leaders being told that the decisions they were taking would lead to disaster – yet taking them anyway.

On January 28 2011, three days after those first protests, hundreds of people were shot dead in Cairo and Alexandria by police marksmen, and from there on followed the massacres, wars and coups, jihadism and barrel-bombing, that have stalked us like riders of the apocalypse ever since.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians are dead, and hundreds of thousands more will die before that benighted country is put back together again.

Libya is divided, with concentric circles of nationalists, Islamists, federalists, non-Arab tribes and plain old thugs enmeshed in an ever-deepening conflict that no one wants but no one can stop.

Tunisia: tourists slow to return after Arab Spring

Last year, Tunisia was deserted by tourists, scared off by Tunisia’s revolution and the war in nearby Libya

In far-off Yemen this week, a bunch of Shia militiamen, followers of a regional warlord few outside the country had heard of before 2011, took control of the presidential palace and television station. Al-Qaeda roams across much of the rest of the country.

Egypt has returned to some sort of order but at a cost of thousands dead, and tens of thousands being raped or otherwise brutalised in prison.

The reality of this Sunday’s anniversary is that only some will mark it, and quietly: under Egypt’s version of the disaster, many of those who initiated the Tahrir Square protests are now in jail, others are dead, and under the country’s new authoritarian ruler the square itself will this weekend be a highly secure, commemoration-free zone.

Everyone cheered Mubarak’s downfall including, it turned out, many of the generals who were eventually to profit from this moment of apparent casting off of military rule. But the pattern of what was to follow was already being set. Amid the euphoria, former Eastern Bloc countries put together a working group to offer advice to the generals who had promised to manage a transition to democracy.

It was led by their ambassadors, who had been young diplomats during their own velvet revolutions of 1989, and who had personal experience of the challenges that lay ahead. They were rebuffed by the Army Council, which said that Egypt had 5,000 years of history, and needed no help from anyone, thank you very much.

Then the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, and the generals decided they had need of outside help after all: billions of dollars poured in from the Gulf, to oust the country’s first democratically elected president, from the very same countries that were supporting the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad in the name of democracy.

At every stage, it could have been different. At every stage, wise heads told leaders that simply turning thugs and the police on their opponents wouldn’t work. It didn’t work for President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali of Tunisia, but instead of learning from his humiliating downfall, his colleagues doubled their efforts. More than 800 died during the course of Egypt’s revolution.

It didn’t save Mr Mubarak, but Col Gaddafi tried the same, then President Assad. Mr Assad continued even as officials admitted that the regime’s violent response had been a mistake. By then it was too late, and state violence was already out of hand. Eventually, those officials who had been honest were sacked, or sidelined. Violence, it seemed, was the solution after all.

In some cases, the precedents for disaster were further off; but still recent. In Afghanistan in the Eighties, American attempts to support a revolution against a Russian-backed dictatorship without getting too closely involved went disastrously wrong as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan chose to work with proxies who turned out to be Islamist thugs. In Syria today, American allies have once again presided over the hijacking of a revolution by militant, anti-American Islamists, with America standing off, fearing a repetition of its experiences in Iraq.

It was not just onlookers who shouted that this would happen: President Obama’s own officials warned him of the consequences of his false promises of support for the non-militant revolutionaries, and resigned, one after the other, in protest. They, too, were ignored.

This is water under the bridge. Yet unlike a real tragedy, history has no final curtain. We have wept cathartically with Syria – not quite enough to feed its starving and freezing people, perhaps, but we have wept. Now we have moved on. Now just a trickle of articles emerge, blaming someone (usually “the West”) for everything that has happened, a patronising and ultimately orientalist view that rests on the assumption that Arab countries, their regimes, their armies, their politicians and their people are incapable of taking responsibility for their own fates.

Some reports still pay tribute to the original protesters who took to the streets to call for a better life: for freedom from fear, freedom from police corruption and brutality, freedom to present their views and demands. But these tributes are usually overwhelmed by despair: the whole Arab Spring was a mistake, they sigh, we should never have believed that the Arab world was capable of democracy.

Realpolitik should have dictated that the yearning for freedom simply be suppressed, both by those who wanted it, and Western powers that should have had the vision to foresee the collapse that resulted.

Is this right? I think not. This may be an obvious thing to say, but just because a call for more freedom and democracy isn’t met, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to call for them. The Prague Spring of 1968 plunged Europe back into a Cold War that meant that my own childhood was lived in fear of nuclear holocaust: yet it also led to the revolutions of 1989, which few surely regret, even though they have led to other uncertainties, other conflicts of potentially epoch-breaking proportions.

Above all, we do not know how else the regimes that were toppled by the Arab Spring would have ended, as end all regimes surely must. They were not, despite what you may hear now, paradises of stability, where human rights were traded off against security. Egypt was stagnating into an impoverished, disorderly, chaos; Syria funded terror; Iraq was a breeding ground for violence of sectarian and all other stripes. The regimes played a love-hate game with Islamism that saw enough jihad spread abroad to scare their supporters, both Western and Eastern, into backing them, a vicious circle that meant the boil was never lanced.

The sores of dictatorship and lies, repression and jihad, are now exposed. It is not a pretty sight. But at least we now see and know them for what they are. The struggle against them may last as long as the Cold War, but at least now that struggle has begun. That is the triumph that can be plucked from the Arab Spring’s tragedy.

Richard Spencer is Middle East Editor and has reported on the Arab Spring since January 2011

 

Female socialist activist is gunned down by police during demonstrations on fourth anniversary of Arab Spring that ousted Hosni Mubarak

So far, 20 Egyptians died in this long day of demonstrations throughout Egypt.

Egyptian Arab Spring is still bringing its toll of brutal military dictatorship.

  • WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT 
  • Shaima al-Sabbagh died of birdshot wounds in clashes with police
  • Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab vowed to ‘punish’ whoever is responsible 
  • Al-Sabbagh’s death follows that of an 18-year-old protester on Friday 
  • WHAT IS BIRD SHOT AMMUNITION?

A female demonstrator was killed in clashes with Egyptian police during a protest in central Cairo today on the eve of the anniversary of the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.

A health ministry spokesman said Shaima al-Sabbagh died of birdshot wounds, which fellow protesters said were fired by police to disperse the march.

Al-Sabbagh, who was said to be 34-years-old with a five-year-old son, was shot while she peacefully marched towards the Tahrir Square to lay a commemorative wreath of roses.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said al-Sabbagh’s death was being investigated and vowed that ‘whoever committed a mistake will be punished, whoever he may be.’

Socialist Popular Alliance Party activist Shaima al-Sabbagh (middle) was shot and died of birdshot wounds during clashes with Egyptian police during a protest in central Cairo today on the eve of the anniversary of the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak

Al-Sabbagh can be seen, right, hitting the ground as a fellow protester comes to her aide during the clashes

Al-Sabbagh can be seen, right, hitting the ground as a fellow protester comes to her aide during the clashes

Fellow protesters said Al-Sabbagh was shot by police trying to disperse those involved in the protest march

Fellow protesters said Al-Sabbagh was shot by police trying to disperse those involved in the protest march

Al-Sabbagh, a member of the party, was hit in the head with birdshot, and was taken to a hospital where she was declared dead.

The interior ministry said it was investigating the death, and suggested Islamist ‘infiltrators’ were to blame.

The clash took place hours before state television aired a pre-recorded speech by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to mark the fourth anniversary of the uprising.

He said: ‘I salute all our martyrs, from the beginning of January 25 (2011) until now.’

The speech appears to have been taped in the presidential palace before Sisi left for Saudi Arabia to offer his condolences over the death of King Abdullah. 

Islamists called for protests tomorrow to revive what they say was the ‘revolution’ that overthrew Mubarak. It also briefly brought to power Islamist president Mohamed Morsi who was toppled by the then army chief Sisi in July 2013.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said al-Sabbagh's death was being investigated and vowed that 'whoever committed a mistake will be punished, whoever he may be'

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said al-Sabbagh’s death was being investigated and vowed that ‘whoever committed a mistake will be punished, whoever he may be’

Morsi’s supporters often hold small rallies that police quickly disperse.

Yesterday an 18-year-old female protester was killed in clashes in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. Police had warned they would confront protests ‘decisively.’

Authorities have cracked down on the Islamists since the military overthrew Morsi after a year in power, and hundreds have been killed in clashes.

Scores of policemen and soldiers have also been killed in militant attacks.

The crackdown has also extended to leftwing and secular dissidents who initially supported Morsi’s overthrow but have since turned against the new authorities, accusing them of being authoritarian.

Today’s central Cairo protest was organised by the Socialist Popular Alliance party.

Egyptian policemen detain a supporter of the People's Alliance Party during a demonstration in Cairo's Talaat Harb square, near Tahrir square

Egyptian policemen detain a supporter of the People’s Alliance Party during a demonstration in Cairo’s Talaat Harb square, near Tahrir square

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood movement leave as security forces arrive to disperse a demonstration on January 24, 2015 in the Cairo district of Heliopolis
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Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood movement leave as security forces arrive to disperse a demonstration on January 24, 2015 in the Cairo district of Heliopolis

Party member Adel el-Meligy said: ‘The party decided to hold a symbolic protest to commemorate the anniversary of the January 25 revolution.’

WHAT IS BIRD SHOT AMMUNITION

Bird shot is designed to be used in shotgun shells and consist of spheres of metal, or bb’s, that can be packed into a shell and which separate when fired.

It was originally made from lead, but is now made from steel, tungsten and other materials.

The ammunition was designed for shooting birds but it can injure larger animals.

In 2006 American Vice-President Dick Cheney accidentally shot a fellow hunter with it. His victim was not severely injured.

Birdshot is used by law enforcement as a non-lethal alternative to shot gun pellets and is often used in riot and protest situations.

Police also replace the slugs with rubber bullets. (That should be a better idea)

He said police fired tear gas, birdshot and arrested the party’s secretary general and five other young members.

The 18-day anti-Mubarak revolt had been fuelled by police abuses and the corruption of the strongman’s three decade rule, but the police have since regained popularity amid widespread yearning for stability.

Activists, including those who spearheaded the anti-Mubarak revolt, have accused Sisi of reviving aspects of the former autocrat’s rule.

Sisi and his supporters deny such allegations, and point to his widespread popularity and support for a firm hand in dealing with protests, which are seen as damaging to an economic recovery.

The anniversary will be marked just days after a court ordered the release of Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, pending a corruption retrial along with their father.

Another court had dismissed charges against Hosni Mubarak over the deaths of protesters.

Archive footage of anti-Mubarak uprising in Egypt

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2924709/Shocking-moment-female-socialist-activist-gunned-police-demonstrations-4th-anniversary-Arab-Spring-ousted-Hosni-Mubarak.html#ixzz3PowZlldR
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

 

 

 Isis rules in Mosul and Ninawa Province: “New US Reservation Land” for Islamist fighters denied re-entry to homelands

Since 1981, thousands of Muslim fighters flocked to Afghanistan to resist the Soviet invasion.

The US delivered the Stinger missiles in huge quantity to knock down the Soviet helicopters.

The Soviet troops vacated Afghanistan and the US stopped any reconstruction funds to stabilize and secure Afghanistan.

The Afghan warlords took over the country and Taliban was welcomed by the US as a “stabilizing factor”  until The Twin Towers went down after the gigantic Buddha statue in Bamian was blown up by Taliban. The same process of blowing all shrines, churches and mosques executed by ISIS.

All militants were denied re-entry in their homelands for fear of “destabilizing” the status quo of the political/social systems.

And Yugoslavia was split after a lengthy civil war .

And Chechnya civil war took a heavy toll and the fighters joined factions outside their homeland.

And then Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, Mali, Chad… And all these fighters still denied re-entry.

And when they returned during the “Arab Spring” uprising, they were wooed to fight in Syria and Iraq.

Over 2,ooo Europeans have joined the extremist Islamic factions in Syria since 2011 and are denied re-entry.

Britain was unable to woo more than 170 to join its army as reservists, but hundreds of them were willing to travel and fight in Syria.

Do Iraqis living under Isis rule in Mosul are beginning to show resistance?

Despite military triumphs, Islamist militants are losing hearts, minds and obedience of residents who have had enough
Demolished grave of prohet Jonah near Mosul

Iraqis inspect wreckage of grave of prophet Jonah in Mosul which was allegedly destroyed by Isis. Photograph: EPA

Iraqis living under Isis rule in north Iraq, where non-Sunni residents have been forced from their homes and tens of mosques have been deemed idolatrous and marked for destruction, have started to push back against the extreme interpretation of Islam being imposed on them.

(Actually, far more Sunnis have been killed by the extremist factions for control of lands, oil, spoils and interests)

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has won significant territorial victories and declared an Islamic caliphate in swaths of land it has seized, from al-Bab in Syria to Falluja in Iraq.

The US recently said Isis was worse than al-Qaida (pdf) and that it had a “full-blown army”. It has subsequently increased reconnaissance flights over Mosul, from one flight a month just two months ago to 50 flights a day (as ISIS moved toward Kurdistan Erbil)

Isis fighters have fought and wrested territory from the Syrian army, the Iraqi army and the Kurdish peshmerga, but have revealed their fragility in governance, in particular, a brutal disregard for local religious and cultural values.

In Mosul, despite its military triumphs, Isis is losing the hearts, minds and obedience of residents who say they have had enough.

When its fighters destroyed the Nabi Jonah mosque (Jonah’s tomb) in the Iraqi city last Thursday, they failed to remove copies of the Qur’an and other religious texts. Residents treading through the ruins of the building found torn and burnt pages of the holy books scattered across the rubble. It was an insult to Islam that was captured on video and unified the city in outrage.

“[Isis] claims that having graves inside mosques is heretical but what about the Qur’an, why did not they remove the Qur’an from the mosque before destroying it?” one resident, who did not wish to be named, asked the Guardian.

The fighters – who adhere to an extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam (Wahhabi sect of Saudi Arabia) that requires the destruction of shrines and graves as idolatory – have reportedly drawn up a list of around 50 mosques to be destroyed in Mosul so far.

The group has a unit called Katayib Taswiya, the demolition battalion, whose job is to identify heretical mosques for destruction. The battalion razes to the ground any mosques built on tombs. If a graveyard has been built after the mosque’s construction, then they will destroy the graves and any section of the mosque building.

Among the 50 on the list are a shrine to the prophet Seth – considered in Islam, Judaism and Christianity to be Adam and Eve’s third son – and the 14th-century Prophet Jirjis mosque and shrine, which was bombed and largely destroyed on Friday.

The Prominent Iraqi architect Ihsan Fethi described the destruction of the heritage site in Nineveh as “cultural suicide”.

Speaking to the Guardian from Mosul, Bashar, a 38-year-old musician, said people had tried to occupy the mosques under threat in an effort to prevent fighters from bombing them.

When the demolition battalion made its move on the Jirjis mosque in the Souq al-Sharin neigbourhood, some residents decided to take a stand. On Friday and Saturday evening, they slept inside the mosque in the hope that their presence would dissuade the militants from their demolition attempts. The fighters came back on Sunday and destroyed the graveyard as planned, but most of the mosque is still standing.

Isis defended its destruction of the sites in a post on one of its main websites on Tuesday: “The demolition of structures erected above graves is a matter of great religious clarity. Our pious predecessors have done so … There is no debate on the legitimacy of demolishing or removing those graves and shrines.”

But on Sunday, Mosul residents continued their defiance.

They had named Monday as the first day of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. On Sunday evening, militants paraded through the city, ordering citizens through loudspeakers mounted on vehicles to continue their fast on Monday or face punishment. These warnings were ignored and the arrival of Eid was announced from Mosul’s mosques on Monday. In the face of public rebellion, Isis changed its mind and several hours later announced the end of Ramadan.

With at least 8,000 years of continuous habitation, Mosul is considered an archeological treasure, with many heritage sites belonging to all religions and sects. Dubbed “small Iraq”, people from a range of religions and ethnicities have lived side by side peacefully for centuries.

This solidarity was displayed last week when several thousand Christian residents were given a deadline of midday on Saturday to convert to Islam, pay a special tax or “face the sword”.

Fleeing Christians told the Guardian that when they were preparing to leave, fearful of the threats, their Muslim neighbours told them to stay put and promised to defend them should Isis come after them. Most of the Christian population fled regardless to areas under control of the Kurdistan regional government. (Stories of feeing residents claim that the neighbors wanted to occupy their possessions and homes and failed to protect them)

This weekend, reports leaked from the city that Isis had ordered the closure of women’s salons and placed specific restrictions on the styling of men’s facial hair. Drug supplies, particularly for those with kidney disease, are running short.

In what could be an indicative violent eruption of resentment and anger from the population, two Isis fighters were reportedly shot dead in broad daylight in the Qayara neighbourhood of south Mosul on Sunday. A witness told the Guardian he saw three assailants fleeing the scene through the city’s narrow alleyways.

The initial joy with which Isis was received in Mosul, as liberators for the Sunni population after years of sectarian corruption and restriction at the hands of the Iraqi army, may already have run dry.

(Maybe so, but wishful thinking does not replace the fact of the continuing occupation)


adonis49

adonis49

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