Posted on 03/03/2013 by Juan Cole
The “sequester” is actually, of course, the American form of austerity, or cut-backs in government spending during a recession. Austerity, or stingy government in Europe has kept employment extremely depressed compared to what it would have been with government stimulus, as Paul Krugman argues.
Saturday, there were massive protests throughout Portugal against Scrooge policies by the government, which have so destroyed the country’s economy that 2% of the population has fled abroad for jobs in the past 2 years alone. On Friday, Greek workers staged a huge general strike. In Italy, anti-austerity feeling made grumpy comedian Beppe Grillo and his party the swing vote in the new parliament. Grillo may single-handedly destroy the Euro zone. European newspapers rather amusingly demanded that Grillo now ‘take responsibility’ and ‘tell us what he wants.’ He is a contrarian comedian. It would be like having Robin Williams or Tracy Morgan as the swing vote in Congress, with the press hounding them for their agricultural policy and asking them about the dangers of deflation. But Grillo’s ascendancy, while less alarming than the resurgence of the Greek far Right, is a manifestation of the rejection by the Italian public of the long dreary road prescribed by the ‘troika,’ (The International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the Central Bank), of further government cut-backs, reductions in minimum wage, high unemployment, no hope.
While for some odd reason the Middle East does not usually get analyzed with the same social science tools as Europe, the political crisis in Egypt is related to the Muslim Brotherhood government’s austerity program. The latter, as Samuel Knight argues, is being pursued under pressure from the International Monetary Fund. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Cairo, also urging acceptance of the austerity program. Austerity is estimated to have reduced Egyptians’ real income by 3 percent in January alone. Tunisia is doing better than Egypt economically, but the parliament, dominated by the religious Right, is also tempted by austerity measures, seeking to trim a point off the budget deficit this year while seeking 4.5% growth. While letting the value of the Tunisian dinar fall would hurt consumers with regard to imported goods, it would make Tunisian textiles and tourism more affordable for those abroad. Tunisia’s exports are hurt by European economic problems, and the country would do well to develop more Asian customers (Brazil has had success reorienting exports to the Pacific Rim). Likewise, although Yemen’s economy improved in 2012 after a 10 percent drop in the revolutionary year of 2011, if anything the government budget deficit of 5.5% is not big enough to stimulate the economy properly.
Reducing the state budget at a time of economic contraction is the opposite of what the great economist John Maynard Keynes prescribed. When the economy is in the doldrums, the businesses are skittish about investing their money, and so keep it in the bank. The only force, Keynes argued, that can and will risk putting a lot of money into the economy during a deep recession is the government. Of course, the government has less money at that point, too, since tax receipts are reduced. So it will simply have to spend money it doesn’t technically have, i.e. go into deficit and print extra paper money. The extra paper will, obviously, lose some of its value. But that loss can have benefits, too, since it will make the goods produced by the country less expensive abroad, and spur exports.
This argument is straightforward for most countries, and it is mysterious why European and some Middle Eastern governments reject it. It is complicated in the US by the position of the dollar as a reserve currency and by the fall of manufacturing to only 20% of the US economy. The former means that large budget deficits don’t necessarily reduce the dollar’s value significantly, because the US only holds about a third of the world’s dollars and there is a lot of confidence in its value. The latter means that even when the dollar falls against the yen or euro, the jump in exports is limited to a fifth of the economy and domestic services don’t get much of a boost. But actually these peculiarities of the US economy are not arguments for austerity; on the contrary, the reserve dollar allows the US to do stimulus without as much pain as one would otherwise expect.
Instead, the Tea Party has forced the US into an artificial crisis with the ‘sequester,’ taking $100 bn. a year out of the economy for the next ten years, which will cut half a point of economic growth and harm workers, keeping unemployment high– not to mention the harm it likely will do to medical research, higher education, etc. That this austerity is being pursued by the GOP in part in hopes of disillusioning voters with President Obama in his second term is fairly obvious, but it is also in order to protect the 2003 Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, 80% of which have been retained. Sequester, as usual with these things in the US, is actually a tax on the middle classes to benefit the wealthy, since it preserves undeserved tax cuts for the latter by reducing government services for the former.
That austerity does not work economically should be clear. But that it creates populist discontents that are shaking southern Europe and could derail Middle East democratization is even more alarming. The world needs stimulus, not Scrooge government if it is to pull out of the crisis kicked off by corrupt bankers in 2008.
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Posted in Egypt, Tunisia, US politics, Yemen | Comments
Posted on 02/08/2013 by Juan Cole
The Drones Team at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism writes:
The Bureau is launching an ambitious new investigation, which will seek to identify as many as possible of those killed in US covert drone strikes in Pakistan, whether civilian or militant.
The Bureau is raising some of the money for this project through a crowd-funding appeal.
As part of our ongoing monitoring and reporting of CIA and Pentagon drone strikes, the Bureau has already recorded the names of hundreds of people killed in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
At the end of January 2013, the Bureau was able to identify by name 213 people killed by drones in Pakistan who were reported to be middle- or senior-ranking militants.
A further 331 civilians have also now been named, 87 of them children.
But this is a small proportion of the minimum 2,629 people who appear to have so far died in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. The Bureau’s work suggests 475 of them were likely to have been civilians.
‘At the moment we know the names of fewer than 20% of those killed in Pakistan’s tribal areas. At least 2,000 deaths still remain publicly anonymous,’ said Chris Woods, who leads the Bureau’s covert drone war team.
‘Our aim will be to identify by name many hundreds more of those killed. A significant number of those identities will be known by local communities, by US and Pakistani officials, and by militant groups. We hope to convince them to share that information.’
Related story – Analysis: Why we must name all drone attack victims
The project has already secured substantial funding from a UK foundation – but it still needs more funds.
Today the US-based Freedom of the Press Foundation, a crowd-funding organisation aimed at raising money for public interest journalism, announced it is backing the Bureau’s Naming the Dead project. The Bureau’s new investigation will be one of four recipients of Freedom of the Press Foundation’s latest campaign.
Crowd-funding is an established way of supporting journalism in the US and it is increasingly being used in the UK as a way of funding projects, which established organisations ignore or will not fund.
Using the reach of the web, many people (the crowd) are able to give small amounts of money to back a cause or project in which they believe.
‘In the face of official secrecy, having the full facts about who is killed is essential for an informed debate about the effectiveness and ethics of the drone campaign,’ said Christopher Hird, managing editor of the Bureau. ‘And it is exciting to be able to give all of our supporters worldwide the chance to be part of our first venture in this democratic form of funding.’
To make a donation to the project click here.
A challenging task
Government officials, media organisations and even militant groups are often quick to identify senior militants such as Yahya al-Libi and Ilyas Kashmiri when they are killed.
Yet little is said of the hundreds more alleged militants and civilians among at least 2,629 deaths in Pakistan drone strikes.
Both the US and Pakistani governments are likely to keep detailed records. A recent case at the Peshawar High Court heard that officials in the tribal agencies had prepared a confidential report which ‘included details of each and every drone attack and the number, names and ages of the people killed’.
Anonymous US intelligence officials have also revealed details of CIA video surveillance on particular strikes. And the ‘Terror Tuesday’ process – in which hundreds of named alleged militants have been selected by US agencies for targeted killing – has been widely reported.
Photographs and other documents also occasionally surface. When a civilian family was killed in the first drone strike of Barack Obama’s presidency, local officials issued formal paperwork (see right) that was later obtained by the campaign group Center for Civilians in Conflict.
ID cards, family photographs and eyewitness testimony of attacks can all provide useful corroborating evidence. The graves of militants killed in drone strikes can also name them as ‘martyrs’ and give details of the strikes in which they died.
Drawing on information from a wide array of sources, the Bureau’s team will seek to build a detailed understanding of those killed.
Focus on Pakistan
While the Bureau will seek to extend the project to Yemen and Somalia in the near future, the initial focus will be on the nation where most US covert drone strikes have taken place.
Researchers based in Pakistan and the UK will seek to build up biographical information for all of those killed, whether civilian or militant – their name, age, gender, tribe, and village, for example. Where possible, photographs, witness statements and official documentation will also be published.
The team will seek assistance from the Pakistan and US governments in identifying those killed. And researchers will also call on Taliban factions and other militant groups to release information on the many hundreds of fighters killed in more than 360 US drone strikes since 2004.
Mirrored from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (click on this link for more information).
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Posted in Afghanistan, CIA, Drone, Pakistan, Pakistan Taliban, Uncategorized, Yemen | Comments Off
Posted on 01/12/2013 by Juan Cole
Cora Currier writes at ProPublica:
You might have heard about the “kill list.” You’ve certainly heard about drones. But the details of the U.S. campaign against militants in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia — a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s national security approach – remain shrouded in secrecy. Here’s our guide to what we know— and what we don’t know.
Where is the drone war? Who carries it out?
Drones have been the Obama administration’s tool of choice for taking out militants outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. Drones aren’t the exclusive weapon – traditional airstrikes and other attacks have also been reported. But by one estimate, 95 percent of targeted killings since 9/11 have been conducted by drones. Among the benefits of drones: they don’t put American troops in harm’s way.
The first reported drone strike against Al Qaeda happened in Yemen in 2002. The CIA ramped up secret drone strikes in Pakistan under President George W. Bush in 2008. Under Obama, they have expanded drastically there and in Yemen in 2011.
The CIA isn’t alone in conducting drone strikes. The military has acknowledged “direct action” in Yemen and Somalia. Strikes in those countries are reportedly carried out by the secretive, elite Joint Special Operations Command. Since 9/11, JSOC has grown more than tenfold, taking on intelligence-gathering as well as combat roles. (For example, JSOC was responsible for the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden.)
The drone war is carried out remotely, from the U.S. and a network of secret bases around the world. The Washington Post got a glimpse – through examining construction contracts and showing up uninvited – at the base in the tiny African nation of Djibouti from which many of the strikes on Yemen and Somalia are carried out. Earlier this year, Wired pieced together an account of the war against Somalia’s al-Shabaab militant group and the U.S.’s expanded military presence throughout Africa.
The number of strikes in Pakistan has ebbed in recent years, from a peak of more than 100 in 2008, to an estimated 46 last year. Meanwhile, the pace in Yemen picked up, with more than 40 last year. But there have been seven strikes in Pakistan in the first ten days of 2013.
How are targets chosen?
A series of articles based largely on anonymous comments from administration officials have given partial picture of how the U.S. picks targets and carries out strikes. Two recent reports – from researchers at Columbia Law School and from the Council on Foreign Relations– also give detailed overviews of what’s known about the process.
Keep reading Everything You Always Wanted to Know about US Drone Strikes *but Were Afraid to Ask (Currier)
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Posted in Drone, FATA, Pakistan, Pakistan Taliban, Uncategorized, Yemen | Comments
Posted on 06/28/2012 by Juan Cole
David Pegg writes at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism
These graphs accurately reflect the Bureau’s data on CIA drone strikes in Pakistan to the most recent strike.
They are designed to illustrate in the simplest possible way key statistical data from our investigation. Click on a graph to enlarge.
You are free to download and to reproduce them, provided the Bureau is credited.
A chart illustrating minimum total casualties, minimum reported civilian casualties and minimum casualties aged under 18.
This graph illustrates the minimum reported civilians killed in drone strikes year by year.
This graph shows the total number of people reportedly killed in CIA drone strikes.
This graph shows the tally of total drone strikes in Pakistan between 2004 – 2012.
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Mirrored from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
Posted in Yemen | Comments
Posted on 04/05/2012 by Juan Cole
Former Iranian president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, gave an interview in a security studies journal recently, and I thought it might be important to share some key passages here. They were translated from the Fars News Agency by the USG Open Source Center. Rafsanjani is head of the Expediency Council, which resolves conflicts between the civil parliament and the clerical Guardianship Council. It also advises Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Rafsanjani gave some support to the Green Movement of 2009, which protested alleged election fraud in the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. When that movement was largely defeated, Rafsanjani was left weakened. He resigned from the Guardianship Council in 2011. The semi-official Fars News, which reported on the interview that had appeared in a specialized security journal, is clearly outraged at what Rafsanjani says about the need to reach out to the US.
I’ve chosen three key passages of a pragmatic sort, and will discuss them out of order. First, Rafsanjani alleged that he was the one who argued to Ayatollah Khomeini in the late 1980s that a pragmatic reevaluation of Iran’s relationship to the US needed to be carried out. He points out that Iran has relations with China and Russia, and says he is puzzled that the US should be treated differently than the other superpowers. He underlined that Iran wouldn’t be in its current straits if it had maintained better relations with Saudi Arabia (which is now trying to flood the market so as to help take Iranian petroleum out).
And, he affirmed that Iran does not want a nuclear weapon. He went on to try to explain something he said years ago, about Israel being vulnerable to a single nuclear strike; he said what he had meant to convey was that Israel should rethink being a nuclear power, since it is so small that it would be destroyed by a first strike. He said he was not making a threat but rather trying to give the Israelis good advice.
Rafsanjani says that he wrote Ayatollah Ruhullah Khomaini late in the latter’s life urging some sort of compromise with the United States of America.
“There are difficult passages and if you do not help us pass through them, they will be difficult to pass through after you… Ties with America were one of these issues. I wrote that, after all, our current practice — of not speaking to or having ties with America — could not persist forever. America is the super power of the world. What is the difference between Europe and the US, China and the US, or Russia and the US from our point of view? Why should we not negotiate with the US if we negotiate with them? Talks do not mean that we should surrender to them. We will negotiate and if they accept our positions or we accept their positions, then it would be all over.”
Rafsanjani implicitly critiqued Iran’s present leaders for allowing an Iran-Saudi polarization to build up. On pragmatic grounds, he urges that the Islamic Republic of Iran repair its relations with Riyadh.
“Having relations with Saudi Arabia is not a minor issue for the region. First of all, it is a wealthy country and the majority of the scholars from Muslim countries have ties with Saudi Arabia first and foremost considering the hajj and pilgrimages and second because of their own interests. It (Saudi Arabia) renovates their (Muslim countries) mosques, provides facilities, prints Korans and has provided numerous facilities for spread of their religious issues. Most of the works Al-Azhar University has done in Egypt, even the academic works, are now in the hands of Saudi Arabia.
“More important is the issue of oil. Would the West impose sanctions on us, if Saudi Arabia had good ties with us? Only Saudi Arabia could take Iran’s place. Saudi Arabia does not need to do anything. If it produces oil according to OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) limits, no one could harass us. As the world economy could not carry on without our oil, I believe that it is still possible to establish good relations. However, there are people here who, as you see, do not want that. You are an expert in international relations and foreign policy and know well that if they say one word without thinking, it would immediately be reflected. Some harsh words from both sides should not be tolerated and should be corrected.”…
About overcoming the nuclear deadlock, Hashemi-Rafsanjani said:
“We really do not seek to build nuclear weapons and a nuclear military system. In a Friday prayer sermon in Tehran, I even once said that an atomic bomb would not benefit the occupation regime of Israel. Eventually, if one day a nuclear conflict takes place, Israel as a small country, will not be able to bear an atomic bomb. It is a small country and all its facilities would be destroyed. However, they interpreted this advice as a threat. We really believe that there should not be any nuclear weapon in the region and this is a part of the principles of our politics.”
Iran’s Rafsanjani Discusses Failed Efforts To Engage US
Hashemi-Rafsanjani’s strange statements about negotiating and having relations with the US at the same time when the most hostile policies are against Iran and on the peak of anti-US sentiments around the world …
Fars News Agency
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
(Description of Source: Tehran Fars News Agency in Persian — hardline semi-official news agency, headed as of 24 July 2011 by Nezameddin Musavi; http://www.farsnews.com)
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Document Type: OSC Translated Text
Posted in Uncategorized, Yemen | Comments
Posted on 04/05/2012 by Juan Cole
Christ Woods and Emma Slater write at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:
Arab spring brings steep rise in US attacks in Yemen
by Chris Woods and Emma Slater
Covert US strikes against alleged militants in Yemen have risen steeply during the Arab spring, and are currently at the same level as the CIA’s controversial drone campaign in Pakistan, a new study by the Bureau reveals.
At least 27 US military and CIA strikes involving cruise missiles, aircraft, drones or naval bombardments have taken place in the volatile Gulf nation to date, killing hundreds of alleged militants linked to the regional al Qaeda franchise. But at least 55 civilians have died too, the study found.
In the latest attack on March 30, two linked US drone strikes struck a vehicle and house in Azan, Shabwa province. Up to five alleged militants died. But a second vehicle travelling the other way was also struck, killing one civilian and injuring at least five others, according to officials, medics and eyewitnesses.
At least six US attacks – some involving multiple targets – have so far taken place in Yemen in March alone, in support of a government offensive to drive militants from key locations. In comparison, Pakistan’s tribal areas, the epicentre of the CIA’s controversial drone war, have seen four US drone strikes in March.
The recent surge in attacks appears linked to the appointment of the new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. In his inauguration speech he called for ‘the continuation of war against al-Qaida as a religious and national duty.’
Despite multiple confirmed reports of American military action in Yemen, the US rarely acknowledges its secret war. A State Department spokesperson, speaking on background terms, would this week say only: ‘I refer you to the Government of Yemen for additional information on its counterterrorism efforts.’
A detailed examination of US military activity in Yemen over nine years reveals that most attacks – as many as 35 – have taken place after May 2011, as Arab spring-related protests gripped the country.
Total US attacks 27 – 45 (some multiple) with up to 35 since May 2011
Total killed 280 – 522
Civilians reported killed 55-105
All but one of the strikes have taken place under President Obama, who has taken a personal interest in the Yemen campaign. By the time he came to office al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had grown to become, in his words, ‘a network of violence and terror’ that had attracted a number of US citizens to its cause, including radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
AQAP even began publishing online propaganda magazines in English, and was behind a number of attempted terrorist attacks against the US, the UK and their allies.
With the CIA heavily engaged in Iraq and Pakistan, the job of crushing AQAP was handed to the Pentagon’s elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) – the same unit that had captured Saddam Hussein and would later kill Osama bin Laden.
But from the start, JSOC’s operations were mired in controversy.
Acting on intelligence that an AQAP meeting was taking place in the southern Yemen desert on December 17 2009, JSOC launched at least one cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs at the gathering. A Yemen parliamentary commission later found that 14 alleged militants died in the attack. But so too did 44 civilians.
The massacre the United States won’t admit or deny
A copy of the commission report obtained by the Bureau identifies by name all of the civilians killed, which include five pregnant women and 22 children, the youngest just a year old. Eight families were effectively wiped out, the commission found, although it did not attribute blame to either US or Yemen forces.
A secret massacre
Two years on, the US will neither confirm or deny whether any investigation into those deaths has taken place, or if any compensation has been paid to the families of victims. The Pentagon, Centcom, the State Department and US Senate Armed Services Committee all declined to comment on the matter this week.
A spokesman for Sheikh Himir Al-Ahmar, the commission’s chairman and now Yemen’s deputy speaker, told the Bureau: ‘The families of the victims were indeed paid appropriate compensation by the Yemeni Government (according to the standard of compensations given out to victims in Yemen). The American authorities did not get involved in this process in any way.’
In contrast, affected families of a killing spree carried out by a US soldier in Afghanistan recently received $50,000 (£31,500) for each victim.
The US refusal to acknowledge the attack is undermined by a secret diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks revealing that then-Centcom chief General David Petraeus – now director of the CIA – and Yemen’s president and prime minister at the time, Ali Abdullah Saleh had sought to hide the US’s role in the incident.
Al Jazeera English’s report on the Bureau’s findings
According to the secret cable, ‘[President] Saleh lamented the use of cruise missiles that are “not very accurate” and welcomed the use of aircraft-deployed precision-guided bombs instead. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh said, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just “lied” by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG.’
Amnesty International, which carried out its own investigation into the December 2009 attack, said this week that the US failure to investigate credible reports of civilian deaths was troubling.
‘With an increase in such operations in places like Yemen, unless one gets to the bottom of who was killed, why, and what precautions were taken to protect civilians, then there is a risk such mistakes will be repeated in the future,’ said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty’s Middle East programme.
There have been other Pentagon errors too. When its elite Special Forces hit a supposed militant convoy in May 2010, they instead killed the region’s popular deputy governor, Jaber al-Shabwani. That error led to a year-long pause in US attacks, after local tribes strongly protested.
There is a risk such mistakes will be repeated in the future’
Philip Luther, Amnesty International
It took the chaos of the Arab Spring to see the US return to the offensive. As Yemen’s people revolted against President Saleh and his cronies, JSOC and CIA drones took to the skies, supplemented by US naval and air assets. President Obama has been fighting an almost unreported war in Yemen ever since.
Yemen’s ramshackle air force
At least 21 US strikes have taken place in Yemen since May 2011, the Bureau understands. The actual number may be as high as 35. But reports are often confused, with the US and Yemen governments unwilling to clarify events.
There are also claims that the Yemen Air Force carries out some precision strikes. Yet an investigation of its capabilities reveals it to be a ramshackle, low-tech outfit, wracked by the recent political unrest.
‘Barely functional’ – why US is likely to be behind Yemen’s precision strikes
Alan Warnes, chief correspondent at defence publication AirForces Monthly, says Yemen’s air force is incapable of precision or night-time attacks: ‘The only aircraft they have capable of night flying would be quite antiquated fighters. I think it’s the Americans who are doing it rather than the Yemenis.’
Recent close co-operation between the CIA and JSOC does appear to be paying off. Some two dozen named Al Qaeda militants and their associates have died since last spring, with the group under almost constant attack. Civilian deaths are also now reportedly rare – although there have been further errors.
For Obama his greatest success in Yemen came on September 30 last year, when two US citizens were among four high-value militants killed. Anwar al Awlaki, the radical preacher, died with Samir Khan, editor of AQAP’s English-language propaganda magazine Inspire.
Days later a follow-up attack killed other militants – but also Awlaki’s 16-year-old son and 17-year-old nephew. AQAP’s ability to speak to an English-language audience was apparently destroyed, possibly terminally. Yet these deaths of American citizens continue to generate significant controversy in the US.
Additional research by David Pegg and Jack Serle
This data in this report was amended on March 30 2012 to reflect new US strikes in both Pakistan and Yemen.
Follow @chrisjwoods and @eslater6 on Twitter
From The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
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Posted on 03/24/2012 by Juan Cole
Friday is a traditional day of protest in the Arab world, and yesterday did not disappoint. In addition, there were some important developments in the two post-revolutionary societies of Egypt and Tunisia.
1. Tens of thousands of Syrians demonstrated in a number of Syrian cities on Friday, including in Idlib province and in the capital The regime continued to rain mortar fire onto some districts of the rebellious cit of Homs. Meanwhile, the European Union applied sanctions to first lady Asma al-Assad, now seen as a Marie Antoinette figure after her private emails on shopping were hacked and released.
2. Thousands of Yemenis protested Friday against the continued influence of deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh is said to work through his party’s cabinet ministers. He also continues to have support in the officer corps, where one of the generals is his son. Saleh had been president for life before last year. In February, his vice president ran unopposed and was elected president. But Saleh can’t let go, provoking Friday’s big demonstrations.
3. Police in the island nation of Bahrain used tear gas and riot gear to break up a demonstration near the capital of Manama.
4. NYT says that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, whose Justice and Development Party dominates the new parliament, is intent on lifting the blockade on the Gaza Strip. The article alleges that the Brotherhood is trying to broker a national unity government between fundamentalist Hamas and the secular Palestine Liberation Organization, in the belief that only a united front can bring about a meaningful two-state solution.
5. Tunisia’s large number of small secular and leftist parties are forming a big coalition to contest the next parliamentary elections. The Nahda or Renaissance Party, Tunisia’s fundamentalist movement, captured 42% of the seats in parliament last October and so elected the current prime minister. One problem the small leftist parties faced was that they had been allowed to function, if under severe restrictions, during the reign of dictator Zain al-Din Ben Ali. All the parties that did well in the elections had been in exile. The fractured character of the left allowed them to lose the elections decisively, even though they have a great deal of support among unions, students and urban populations.
6. On Libya, the glass can be seen as half full or half empty. Despite the raft of negative reporting on Libya, its security situation is generally just all right, and tour operators are reviving tourism, saying they’ve had “zero problems.” Security and administration are good enough that Libya’s oil exports are set to reach pre-revolution levels again in April, earlier than expected. This would not happen in a country that is a basket case (Iraq took years to accomplish this feat). There have been pressures for decentralization in the east, but moving from a highly centralized dictatorship to more of a federal system is only natural and parallels after all what happened in the early United States. No one is talking about breaking up the country. The third-largest city, Misrata, pulled off grassroots municipal elections, and several other cities have or will follow suit. Building democracy from the ground up is a good idea. There has been very little reporting on these electoral achievements in cities that had been ruled by idiosyncratic fiat for 40 years.
There have been serious human rights abuses, but on a small scale compared to those of Qaddafi, and most of the population feels liberated. This is not to minimize them; the human rights situation needs to improve if the revolution is to be honored. Attempts are being made to rebuild a national army, but it will take time; in the meantime, its social peace will be a bit fragile– but that is to be expected after a revolution. Libya is nowhere near the mess that France was after its revolution in 1789, and there is nothing like a Vendee or a Terror. There hasn’t been a civil war, though there are still a few pockets of insecurity. Those hoping for bad news really haven’t had all that much considering that the country had been left with no functioning institutions after decades of personalistic Qaddafi totalitarianism.
As for those who blame the recent military coup in Mali on the civil unrest in the north of that country caused by returning Tuareg mercenaries from Libya, surely the blame should be put on Muammar Qaddafi for forming a corps of lawless Tuareg mercenaries in the first place. Qaddafi promoted militias and mercenaries and civil strife all over Africa, and it is not unexpected that some of his minions will go on being troublesome after his death. It isn’t Free Libya’s fault except if you think 6.5 million Libyans should have preferred to live under brutal tyranny in order to keep foreign Tuareg mercenaries employed and happy. Moreover, there were other ways for Mali’s officer corps to deal with the Tuareg unrest than to make a coup; the military is taking advantage of the turmoil to take power, which is also not Libya’s fault. And, it is not as if the Libyan Revolution invented a Tuareg problem for Mali. There have been two major Tuareg rebellions before.
Some people can’t forgive Libya for revolting against Qaddafi, or for taking outside help to do so, and seem to seek some Schadenfreude in Libya’s post-revolution problems. But that isn’t social or political analysis, it is just point scoring and a sort of moralistic story-telling. People who are interested in the welfare of Libyans are pulling for them.
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Posted in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Uncategorized, Yemen | Comments