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RE: Authoritarianism and Dictatorship - Admin - 02-13-2011


As the Social Movements Assembly of the World Social Forum of Dakar, 2011, we are gathered here to affirm the fundamental contribution of Africa and its peoples in the construction of human civilisation. Together, the peoples of all the continents are struggling mightily to oppose the domination of capital, hidden behind illusory promises of economic progress and political stability. Complete decolonization for oppressed peoples remains for us, the social movements of the world, a challenge of the greatest importance.

We affirm our support for and our active solidarity with the people of Tunisia, Egypt and the Arab world who have risen up to demand a true democracy and build the people´s power. Their struggles are lighting the path to another world, free from oppression and exploitation.

We strongly affirm our support for the Ivory Coast, African and world peoples in their struggles for sovereign and participatory democracy. We defend the right to self-determination for all peoples.

Through the WSF process, the Social Movements Assembly is the place where we come together through our diversity, in order to forge common struggles and a collective agenda to fight against capitalism, patriarchy, racism and all forms of discrimination.

We are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Social Forum, which was first held in Porto Alegre in 2001. Since that time, we have built a common history of work which led to some progress, particularly in Latin America, where we have been able to intervene in neoliberal alliances and to create several alternatives for just development that truly honor nature.

In these ten years, we have also witnessed the eruption of a systemic crisis that has expanded into a food crisis, an environmental crisis, and financial and economic crises, and has led to an increase in migrations and forced displacement, exploitation, debt levels and social inequities.

We denounce the part played by the main actors in the system (banks, transnational companies, the mass media, international institutions, …) who, in their constant quest for maximum profits, continue with their interventionist politics of war, military occupation, so-called humanitarian missions, new military bases, plundering natural resources, exploitation of entire peoples, and ideological manipulation. We also denounce their attempts to co-opt our movements through their funding of social sectors that serve their interests, and we reject their methods of assistance which generate dependence.

Capitalism´s destructive force impacts every aspect of life itself, for all the peoples of the world. Yet each day we see new movements rise, struggling to reverse the ravages of colonialism and to achieve well-being and dignity for all. We declare that we, the people, will no longer bear the costs of their crisis and that, within capitalism, there is no escape from this crisis. This only reaffirms the need for us, as social movements, to come together to forge a common strategy to guide our struggles against capitalism.

We fight against transnational corporations because they support the capitalist system, privatize life, public services and common goods such as water, air, land, seeds and mineral resources. Transnational corporations promote wars through their contracts with private corporations and mercenaries ; their extractionist practices endanger life and nature, expropriating our land and developing genetically modified seeds and food, taking away the peoples’ right to food and destroying biodiversity.

We demand that all people should enjoy full soverignty in choosing their way of life. We demand the implementation of policies to protect local production, to give dignity to agricultural work and to protect the ancestral values of life. We denounce neoliberal free-trade treaties and demand freedom of movement for all the human beings.

We will continue to mobilize to ask for the unconditional abolition of public debt in all the countries in the South. We also denounce, in the countries of the North, the use of public debt to impose to unfair policies that degrade the social welfare state.

When the G8 and G20 hold their meetings, let us mobilize across the world to tell them, No ! We are not commodities! We will not be traded !

We fight for climate justice and food sovereignty. Global climate change is a product of the capitalist system of production, distribution and consumption. Transnational corporations, international financial institutions and governments serving them do not want to reduce greenhouse gases. We denounce ¨green capitalism ¨ and refuse false solutions to the climate crisis such as biofuels, genetically modified organisms and mechanisms of the carbon market like REDD, which ensnare impoverished peoples with false promises of progress while privatizing and commodifying the forests and territories where these peoples have been living for thousands of years.

We defend the food sovereignty and the agreement reached during the Peoples’ Summit against Climate Change, held in Cochabamba, where true alternatives to face the climate crisis were built with the social movements and organisations from worldwide.

Let’s mobilize, all of us, especially on the African continent, during the COP 17 in Durban in South Africa and in « Rio +20 » in 2012, to reassert the peoples’ and nature’s rights and block the illegitimate Cancun Agreement.

We support sustainable peasant agriculture ; it is the true solution to the food and climate crises and includes access to land for all who work on it. Because of this, we call for a mass mobilisation to stop the landgrab and support local peasants struggles. ´ We fight against violence against women, often conducted in militarily occupied territories, but also violence affecting women who are criminalized for taking part in social struggles. We fight against domestic and sexual violence perpetrated on women because they are considered objects or goods, because the sovereignty of their bodies and minds is not acknowledged. We fight against the trade in women, girls and boys. We call on everyone to mobilize together, everywhere in the world, against violence against women. We defend sexual diversity, the right to gender self-determination and we oppose all homophobia and sexist violence.

We fight for peace and against war, colonialism, occupations and the militarization of our lands.

The imperialist powers use military bases to trigger conflicts, control and plunder natural resources, and support anti-democratic initiatives, as they did with the coup in Honduras and the military occupation of Haiti. They promote wars and conflicts as in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and many others.

We must intensify the fight against repression and the criminalisation of the people’s struggles and strengthen the solidarity and initiatives between peoples, such as the Global Boycott Disinvestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel. Our struggle also aims at NATO and to ban all nuclear weapons.

Each of these struggles implies a battle of ideas in which we cannot progress without democraticizing communication. We affirm that it is possible to build another kind of globalization, made from and by the people, and with the essential participation of the youth, the women, the peasants and indigenous peoples.

The Assembly of the Social Movements calls the forces and popular actors from all countries to develop two major mobilisations, coordinated on the international level, to participate in the emancipation and selfdetermination of the people and strengthen the struggle against capitalism.

Inspired by the struggles of the peoples of Tunisia and Egypt, we call for March 20th to be made a day of international solidarity with the uprisings of the Arab and African people, whose every advance supports the struggles of all peoples: the resistance of the Palestinian and Saharian peoples ; European, Asian and African mobilisations against debt and structural adjusment plans ; and all the processes of change underway in Latin America.

We also call for a Global Day of Action Against Capitalism on October 12th, when we express in myriad ways our rejection of a system that is destroying everything in its path.

Social movements of the world, let us advance towards a global unity to shatter the capitalist system !

We shall prevail!

RE: Authoritarianism and Dictatorship - Admin - 02-26-2011



My theory, mentioned in private circles, was that Mubarak would leave when he had stolen as much wealth as possible, and when it was clear he could steal no more. That simplistic vile viewpoint seems spot on. Autocrat Hosni Mubarak delayed his exit only enough to ensure the proper plunder of Gold could be executed safely. It appears the president (funny title when opponents are imprisoned) has pilfered much of the gold supply from the Egyptian Central Bank. Bribes surely were paid to enable the heist. If only the people of Egypt knew. Numerous plane flights were intercepted on the ground in the last two critical weeks, but Mubarak probably used other means, even truck routes to friendly cooperative Arab nations. He was making certain that transfers of his assets, especially gold, completed to safe regimes, helped along by tens of $million in banker payoffs to be sure. Hardly ever does a banker stand in the way of an exiled tyrant bearing gold bullion. See the
Shah of Iran, Marcos, and a dozen others. The UK Telegraph is a great rebellious journal that reports on controversial topics. They reported that a US official told one of their reporters, "Hosni Mubarak used the 18 days it took for protesters to topple him to shift his vast wealth into untraceable accounts overseas, Western intelligence sources have
said. There is no doubt that there will have been some frantic financial activity behind the scenes. They can lose the homes and some of the bank accounts, but they will have wanted to get the gold bars and other investments to safe quarters. The Mubaraks are understood to have wanted to shift assets to Gulf states where they have considerable investments already, and crucially, friendly relations. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have frequently been mentioned as likely final destinations for Mubarak and possibly his family." The unexpected key to Arab protests is the role of the internet and
social networks.

The Egyptian dictator is accused of amassing a fortune of as much as $40 billion during his 30 years in power. It is claimed his wealth was tied up in foreign banks, investments, gold bullion, and scattered properties. When his downfall was assured, Mubarak scurried to place his assets out of the reach of potential investigators. On February 11th, the Swiss
officials announced they were freezing any assets Mubarak and his family may hold in their country. The pressure did not extend to England, which eagerly received the liquid wealth, a strong signal of its criminal banker class. He has his best social links in Arab nations but his best business links to London. Urgent conversations were noted within the Mubarak family about preserving their ill-gotten assets. He and his financial henchmen routinely moved large sums of money. Any big
money in Zurich is long gone, well placed in London. The World Gold Council estimated Egypt to have 75.6 tonnes of gold at the end of 2010. Watch this figure NOT change, to assure no evidence in official data to point a finger at Mubarak's plunder. See the Zero Hedge article (CLICK HERE> ).

Airports in Egypt intercepted outbound flights that included gold shipments worth tens of $millions, the nab occurring at the very beginning of the Cairo street protests. In a mirror image of the story out of Tunisia one week apart, Egypt has its own chapter. The Tunis leader departed his nation, leaving its central bank with 23% less gold bullion. The Cairo customs officials were on guard. According to Egypt News, its airport intercepted 59 shipments of gold directed for the Netherlands. The gold bars and stacks of foreign currencies were stuffed and hidden in pillow cases. To be sure, tyrants in exile do love gold, a confirmation of its status as money. They understand how Gold is fungible, transportable, and stores value even when stolen. London is always ready to accept stolen money, while the New York is always ready to accept narcotics money.

RE: Authoritarianism and Dictatorship - Admin - 02-26-2011


If rebellion results in a retrenchment of neoliberalism, millions will feel cheated.

On February 16th I read a comment was posted on the wall of the Kullina Khalid Saed ("We are all Khaled Said") Facebook page administered by the now very famous Wael Ghonim. By that time it had been there for about 21 hours. The comment referred to a news item reporting that European governments were under pressure to freeze bank accounts of recently deposed members of the Mubarak regime. The comment said: "Excellent news … we do not want to take revenge on anyone … it is the right of all of us to hold to account any person who has wronged this nation. By law we want the nation’s money that has been stolen … because this is the money of Egyptians, 40% of whom live below the poverty line."

By the time I unpacked this thread of conversation, 5,999 people had clicked the "like" button, and about 5,500 had left comments. I have not attempted the herculean task of reading all five thousand odd comments (and no doubt more are being added as I write), but a fairly lengthy survey left no doubt that most of the comments were made by people who clicked the "like" icon on the Facebook page. There were also a few by regime supporters, and others by people who dislike the personality cult that has emerged around Mr. Ghoneim.

This Facebook thread is symptomatic of the moment. Now that the Mubarak regime has fallen, an urge to account for its crimes and to identify its accomplices has come to the fore. The chants, songs, and poetry performed in Midan al-Tahrir always contained an element of anger against haramiyya (thieves) who benefited from regime corruption. Now lists of regime supporters are circulating in the press and blogosphere. Mubarak and his closest relatives (sons Gamal and 'Ala’) are always at the head of these lists. Articles on their personal wealth give figures as low as $3 billion to as high as $70 billion (the higher number was repeated on many protesters’ signs). Ahmad Ezz, the General Secretary of the deposed National Democratic Party and the largest steel magnate in the Middle East, is supposed to be worth $18 billion; Zohayr Garana, former Minister of Tourism, $13 billion; Ahmad al-Maghrabi, former Minister of Housing, $11 billion; former Minister of Interior Habib Adli, much hated for his supervision of an incredibly abusive police state, also managed to amass $8 billion — not bad for a lifetime civil servant.

Such figures may prove to be inaccurate. They may be too low, or maybe too high, and we may never know precisely because much of the money is outside of Egypt, and foreign governments will only investigate the financial dealings of Mubarak regime members if the Egyptian government makes a formal request for them to do so. Whatever the true numbers, the corruption of the Mubarak regime is not in doubt. The lowest figure quoted for Mubarak’s personal wealth, of "only" $3 billion, is damning enough for a man who entered the air force in 1950 at the age of twenty two, embarking on a sixty-year career in "public service."

A systemic problem

The hunt for regime cronies’ billions may be a natural inclination of the post-Mubarak era, but it could also lead astray efforts to reconstitute the political system. The generals who now rule Egypt are obviously happy to let the politicians take the heat. Their names were not included in the lists of the most egregiously corrupt individuals of the Mubarak era, though in fact the upper echelons of the military have long been beneficiaries of a system similar to (and sometimes overlapping with) the one that that enriched civilian figures much more prominent in the public eye such as Ahmad Ezz and Habib al-Adly.

Despite macroeconomic gains, tens of millions of Egyptians still live in poverty [EPA]
To describe blatant exploitation of the political system for personal gain as corruption misses the forest for the trees. Such exploitation is surely an outrage against Egyptian citizens, but calling it corruption suggests that the problem is aberrations from a system that would otherwise function smoothly. If this were the case then the crimes of the Mubarak regime could be attributed simply to bad character: change the people and the problems go away. But the real problem with the regime was not necessarily that high-ranking members of the government were thieves in an ordinary sense. They did not necessarily steal directly from the treasury. Rather they were enriched through a conflation of politics and business under the guise of privatization. This was less a violation of the system than business as usual. Mubarak’s Egypt, in a nutshell, was a quintessential neoliberal state.

What is neoliberalism? In his Brief History of Neoliberalism, the eminent social geographer David Harvey outlined "a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterised by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade." Neoliberal states guarantee, by force if necessary, the "proper functioning" of markets; where markets do not exist (for example, in the use of land, water, education, health care, social security, or environmental pollution), then the state should create them.

Guaranteeing the sanctity of markets is supposed to be the limit of legitimate state functions, and state interventions should always be subordinate to markets. All human behavior, and not just the production of goods and services, can be reduced to market transactions.

And the application of utopian neoliberalism in the real world leads to deformed societies as surely as the application of utopian communism did.

Rhetoric vs. reality

Two observations about Egypt’s history as a neoliberal state are in order. First, Mubarak’s Egypt was considered to be at the forefront of instituting neoliberal policies in the Middle East (not un-coincidentally, so was Ben Ali’s Tunisia). Secondly, the reality of Egypt’s political economy during the Mubarak era was very different than the rhetoric, as was the case in every other neoliberal state from Chile to Indonesia. Political scientist Timothy Mitchell published a revealing essay about Egypt’s brand of neoliberalism in his book Rule of Experts (the chapter titled "Dreamland" — named after a housing development built by Ahmad Bahgat, one of the Mubarak cronies now discredited by the fall of the regime). The gist of Mitchell’s portrait of Egyptian neoliberalism was that while Egypt was lauded by institutions such as the International Monetary Fund as a beacon of free-market success, the standard tools for measuring economies gave a grossly inadequate picture of the Egyptian economy. In reality the unfettering of markets and agenda of privatization were applied unevenly at best.

The only people for whom Egyptian neoliberalism worked "by the book" were the most vulnerable members of society, and their experience with neoliberalism was not a pretty picture. Organised labor was fiercely suppressed. The public education and the health care systems were gutted by a combination of neglect and privatization. Much of the population suffered stagnant or falling wages relative to inflation. Official unemployment was estimated at approximately 9.4% last year (and much higher for the youth who spearheaded the January 25th Revolution), and about 20% of the population is said to live below a poverty line defined as $2 per day per person.

For the wealthy, the rules were very different. Egypt did not so much shrink its public sector, as neoliberal doctrine would have it, as it reallocated public resources for the benefit of a small and already affluent elite. Privatization provided windfalls for politically well-connected individuals who could purchase state-owned assets for much less than their market value, or monopolise rents from such diverse sources as tourism and foreign aid. Huge proportions of the profits made by companies that supplied basic construction materials like steel and cement came from government contracts, a proportion of which in turn were related to aid from foreign governments.

Most importantly, the very limited function for the state recommended by neoliberal doctrine in the abstract was turned on its head in reality. In Mubarak’s Egypt business and government were so tightly intertwined that it was often difficult for an outside observer to tease them apart. Since political connections were the surest route to astronomical profits, businessmen had powerful incentives to buy political office in the phony elections run by the ruling National Democratic Party. Whatever competition there was for seats in the Peoples’ Assembly and Consultative Council took place mainly within the NDP. Non-NDP representation in parliament by opposition parties was strictly a matter of the political calculations made for a given elections: let in a few independent candidates known to be affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood in 2005 (and set off tremors of fear in Washington); dictate total NDP domination in 2010 (and clear the path for an expected new round of distributing public assets to "private" investors).

Parallels with America

The political economy of the Mubarak regime was shaped by many currents in Egypt’s own history, but its broad outlines were by no means unique. Similar stories can be told throughout the rest of the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, Europe and Africa. Everywhere neoliberalism has been tried, the results are similar: living up to the utopian ideal is impossible; formal measures of economic activity mask huge disparities in the fortunes of the rich and poor; elites become "masters of the universe," using force to defend their prerogatives, and manipulating the economy to their advantage, but never living in anything resembling the heavily marketised worlds that are imposed on the poor.

Unemployment was a major grievance for millions of Egyptian protesters [EPA]
The story should sound familiar to Americans as well. For example, the vast fortunes of Bush era cabinet members Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, through their involvement with companies like Halliburton and Gilead Sciences, are the product of a political system that allows them — more or less legally — to have one foot planted in "business" and another in "government" to the point that the distinction between them becomes blurred. Politicians move from the office to the boardroom to the lobbying organization and back again.

As neoliberal dogma disallows any legitimate role for government other than guarding the sanctity of free markets, recent American history has been marked by the steady privatization of services and resources formerly supplied or controlled by the government. But it is inevitably those with closest access to the government who are best positioned to profit from government campaigns to sell off the functions it formerly performed. It is not just Republicans who are implicated in this systemic corruption. Clinton-era Secretary of Treasury Robert Rubin’s involvement with Citigroup does not bear close scrutiny. Lawrence Summers gave crucial support for the deregulation of financial derivatives contracts while Secretary of Treasury under Clinton, and profited handsomely from companies involved in the same practices while working for Obama (and of course deregulated derivatives were a key element in the financial crisis that led to a massive Federal bailout of the entire banking industry).

So in Egyptian terms, when General Secretary of the NDP Ahmad Ezz cornered the market on steel and was given contracts to build public-private construction projects, or when former Minister of Parliament Talaat Mustafa purchased vast tracts of land for the upscale Madinaty housing development without having to engage in a competitive bidding process (but with the benefit of state-provided road and utility infrastructure), they may have been practicing corruption logically and morally. But what they were doing was also as American as apple pie, at least within the scope of the past two decades.

However, in the current climate the most important thing is not the depredations of deposed Mubarak regime cronies. It is rather the role of the military in the political system. It is the army that now rules the country, albeit as a transitional power, or so most Egyptians hope. No representatives of the upper echelons of the Egyptian military appear on the various lists of old-regime allies who need to be called to account. For example, the headline of the February 17th edition of Ahrar, the press organ of the Liberal party, was emblazoned with the headline "Financial Reserves of the Corrupt Total 700 Billion Pounds [about $118 billion] in 18 Countries."

A vast economic powerhouse

But the article did not say a single word about the place of the military in this epic theft. The military were nonetheless part of the crony capitalism of the Mubarak era. After relatively short careers in the military high-ranking officers are rewarded with such perks as highly remunerative positions on the management boards of housing projects and shopping malls. Some of these are essentially public-sector companies transferred to the military sector when IMF-mandated structural adjustment programs required reductions in the civilian public sector.

But the generals also receive plums from the private sector. Military spending itself was also lucrative because it included both a state budget and contracts with American companies that provided hardware and technical expertise. The United States provided much of the financing for this spending under rules that required a great deal of the money to be recycled to American corporations, but all such deals required middlemen. Who better to act as an intermediary for American foreign aid contracts than men from the very same military designated as the recipient of the services paid for by this aid? In this respect the Egyptian military-industrial complex was again stealing a page from the American playbook; indeed, to the extent that the Egyptian military benefited from American foreign aid, Egypt was part of the American military-industrial complex, which is famous for its revolving-door system of recycling retired military men as lobbyists and employees of defense contractors.

Consequently it is almost unthinkable that the generals of the Supreme Military Council will willingly allow more than cosmetic changes in the political economy of Egypt. But they could be compelled to do so unwillingly. The army is a blunt force, not well suited for controlling crowds of demonstrators. The latest statement of the Supreme Military Council reiterated both the legitimacy of the pro-democracy movements demands, and the requirement that demonstrations cease so that the country can get back to work. If demonstrations continue to the point that the Supreme Military Council feels it can no longer tolerate them, then the soldiers who will be ordered to put them down (indeed, in some accounts were already ordered to put them down early in the revolution and refused to do so) with deadly force, are not the generals who were part of the Mubarak-era corruption, but conscripts.

Pro-democracy demonstrators and their sympathisers often repeated the slogans "the army and the people are one hand," and "the army is from us." They had the conscripts in mind, and many were unaware of how stark differences were between the interests of the soldiers and the generals. Between the conscripts and the generals is a middle-level professional officer corps whose loyalties have been the subject of much speculation. The generals, for their part, want to maintain their privileges, but not to rule directly. Protracted direct rule leaves the officers of the Supreme Military Council vulnerable to challenges from other officers who were left on the outside. Also, direct rule would make it impossible to hide that the elite officers are not in fact part of the "single hand" composed of the people and the (conscript) army. They are instead logically in the same camp as Ahmad Ezz, Safwat al-Sharif, Gamal Mubarak, and Habib al-Adly — precisely the names on those lists making the rounds of regime members and cronies who should face judgment.

Ultimately the intense speculation about how much money the Mubarak regime stole, and how much the people can expect to pump back into the nation, is a red herring. If the figure turns out to be $50 billion or $500 billion, it will not matter, if Egypt remains a neoliberal state dedicated (nominally) to free-market fundamentalism for the poor, while creating new privatised assets that can be recycled to political insiders for the rich. If one seeks clues to how deeply the January 25th Revolution will restructure Egypt, it would be better to look at such issues as what sort of advice the interim government of generals solicits in fulfilling its mandate to re-make Egyptian government. The period of military government probably will be as short as advertised, followed, one hopes, by an interim civilian government for some specified period (at least two years) during which political parties are allowed to organise on the ground in preparation for free elections. But interim governments have a way of becoming permanent.

Technocrats or ideologues?

One sometimes hears calls to set up a government of "technocrats" that would assume the practical matters of governance. "Technocrat" sounds neutral — a technical expert who would make decisions on "scientific" principle. The term was often applied to Yusuf Butros Ghali, for example, the former Minister of the Treasury, who was one of the Gamal Mubarak boys brought into the cabinet in 2006 ostensibly to smooth the way for the President’s son to assume power. Ghali is now accused of having appropriated LE 450 million for the use of Ahmad Ezz.

I once sat next to Ghali at a dinner during one of his trips abroad, and had the opportunity to ask him when the Egyptian government would be ready to have free elections. His response was to trot out the now discredited regime line that elections were impossible because actual democracy would result in the Muslim Brotherhood taking power. Conceivably Ghali will beat the charge of specifically funneling the state’s money to Ahmad Ezz. But as a key architect of Egypt’s privatization programs he cannot possibly have been unaware that he was facilitating a system that enabled the Ezz steel empire while simultaneously destroying Egypt’s educational and health care systems.

The Egyptian army controls a range of businesses, ranging from factories to hotels [EPA]
The last time I encountered the word "technocrat" was in Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine — a searing indictment of neoliberalism which argues that the free-market fundamentalism promoted by economist Milton Friedman (and immensely influential in the United States) is predicated on restructuring economies in the wake of catastrophic disruptions because normally functioning societies and political systems would never vote for it. Disruptions can be natural or man-made, such as … revolutions.

The chapters in The Shock Doctrine on Poland, Russia, and South Africa make interesting reading in the context of Egypt’s revolution. In each case when governments (communist or apartheid) collapsed, "technocrats" were brought in to help run countries that were suddenly without functional governments, and create the institutional infrastructure for their successors. The technocrats always seemed to have dispensed a form of what Klein calls "shock therapy" — the imposition of sweeping privatization programs before dazed populations could consider their options and potentially vote for less ideologically pure options that are in their own interests.

The last great wave of revolutions occurred in 1989. The governments that were collapsing then were communist, and the replacement in that "shock moment" of one extreme economic system with its opposite seemed predictable and to many even natural.

One of the things that make the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions potentially important on a global scale is that they took place in states that were already neoliberalised. The complete failure of neoliberalsm to deliver "human well-being" to a large majority of Egyptians was one of the prime causes of the revolution, at least in the sense of helping to prime millions of people who were not connected to social media to enter the streets on the side of the pro-democracy activists.

But the January 25th Revolution is still a "shock moment." We hear calls to bring in the technocrats in order to revive a dazed economy; and we are told every day that the situation is fluid, and that there is a power vacuum in the wake of not just the disgraced NDP, but also the largely discredited legal opposition parties, which played no role whatsoever in the January 25th Revolution. In this context the generals are probably happy with all the talk about reclaiming the money stolen by the regime, because the flip side of that coin is a related current of worry about the state of the economy. The notion that the economy is in ruins — tourists staying away, investor confidence shattered, employment in the construction sector at a standstill, many industries and businesses operating at far less than full capacity — could well be the single most dangerous rationale for imposing cosmetic reforms that leave the incestuous relation between governance and business intact.

Or worse, if the pro-democracy movement lets itself be stampeded by the "economic ruin" narrative, structures could be put in place by "technocrats" under the aegis of the military transitional government that would tie the eventual civilian government into actually quickening the pace of privatization. Ideologues, including those of the neoliberal stripe, are prone to a witchcraft mode of thinking: if the spell does not work, it is not the fault of the magic, but rather the fault of the shaman who performed the spell. In other words, the logic could be that it was not neoliberalism that ruined Mubarak’s Egypt, but the faulty application of neoliberalism.

Trial balloons for this witchcraft narrative are already being floated outside of Egypt. The New York Times ran an article on February 17th casting the military as a regressive force opposed to privatization and seeking a return to Nasserist statism. The article pits the ostensibly "good side" of the Mubarak regime (privatization programs) against bad old Arab socialism, completely ignoring the fact that while the system of military privilege may preserve some public-sector resources transferred from the civilian economy under pressure of IMF structural adjustment programs, the empire of the generals is hardly limited to a ring-fenced quasi-underground public sector.

Officers were also rewarded with private-sector perks; civilian political/business empires mixed public and private roles to the point that what was government and what was private were indistinguishable; both the military and civilians raked in rents from foreign aid. The generals may well prefer a new round of neoliberal witchcraft. More privatization will simply free up assets and rents that only the politically connected (including the generals) can acquire. Fixing a failed neoliberal state by more stringent applications of neoliberalism could be the surest way for them to preserve their privileges.

A neoliberal fix would, however, be a tragedy for the pro-democracy movement. The demands of the protesters were clear and largely political: remove the regime; end the emergency law; stop state torture; hold free and fair elections. But implicit in these demands from the beginning (and decisive by the end) was an expectation of greater social and economic justice. Social media may have helped organise the kernel of a movement that eventually overthrew Mubarak, but a large element of what got enough people into the streets to finally overwhelm the state security forces was economic grievances that are intrinsic to neoliberalism. These grievances cannot be reduced to grinding poverty, for revolutions are never carried out by the poorest of the poor. It was rather the erosion of a sense that some human spheres should be outside the logic of markets. Mubarak’s Egypt degraded schools and hospitals, and guaranteed grossly inadequate wages, particularly in the ever-expanding private sector. This was what turned hundreds of dedicated activists into millions of determined protestors.

If the January 25th revolution results in no more than a retrenchment of neoliberalism, or even its intensification, those millions will have been cheated. The rest of the world could be cheated as well. Egypt and Tunisia are the first nations to carry out successful revolutions against neoliberal regimes. Americans could learn from Egypt. Indeed, there are signs that they already are doing so. Wisconsin teachers protesting against their governor’s attempts to remove the right to collective bargaining have carried signs equating Mubarak with their governor. Egyptians might well say to America 'uqbalak (may you be the next).

'Abu Atris' is the pseudonym for a writer working in Egypt.

RE: Authoritarianism and Dictatorship - Admin - 03-06-2011


After alienating powerful tribes, Gaddafi's regime seems to be falling, but it is unclear who could fill vacuum.

European countries worry waves of migrants will use Libya as a jump off point if Gaddafi's government falls [Reuters]

Many believed that Colonel Gaddafi's regime in Libya would withstand the gale of change sweeping the Arab world because of its reputation for brutality which had fragmented the six million-strong population over the past 42 years.

Its likely disappearance now, after a few days of protest by unarmed demonstrators is all-the-more surprising because it has systematically destroyed even the slightest pretence of dissidence and has atomised Libyan society to ensure that no organisation – formal or spontaneous – could ever consolidate sufficiently to oppose it.

Political Islam, whether radical or moderate, has been the principle victim, especially after an Islamist rebellion in Cyrenaica, the country's eastern region, in the latter 1990s. Other political currents have been exiled since 1973, when "direct popular democracy" was declared and the jamahiriyah, the "state of the masses", came into existence.

Even the Libyan army was treated with suspicion, with its officer corps controlled and monitored for potential disloyalty. No wonder that major units now seems to have broken away from the regime and made the liberation of Eastern Libya possible.

Causes for collapse

The only structures that the regime tolerated, outside the formal structure of the "state of the masses" Colonel Gaddafi's idiosyncratic vision of direct popular democracy in Libya’s stateless state in which all Libyans were theoretically obliged to participate – came from Libya’s tribal base and the Revolutionary Committee Movement, itself tied to the regime by tribal affiliation and ideological commitment and used to discipline and terrify the population through "revolutionary justice".

Apart from that, there was only the colonel's family and the rijal al-khima, the "men of the tent" – the colonel's old revolutionary comrades from the Union of Free Officers which had organised the 1969 revolution against the Sanussi monarchy which had brought the colonel to power. And even the tribes did not necessarily support the regime, although they were constrained by the "social popular leadership", a committee bringing together thirty-two of the major tribal leaders under the watchful eye of the regime.

Yet, in reality, the Sa’adi tribes of Cyrenaica, for example, had little love for the regime, for they had been the cradle of the Sanussi movement which had controlled much of modern Libya and Chad in the nineteen century. In partnership with the Ottoman Empire, the Sa'adi led resistance to Italian occupation between 1911 and 1927.

They had been disadvantaged by the revolution, not least because the revolutionaries came from three tribes – the Qadhadhfa, the Maghraha and the Warfalla – which had originally been subservient to them.

It could be argued, in short, that the revolution was, at its heart, a reversal of tribal politics, despite its ostensible commitment to Arab nationalism.

Geographic issues

Indeed, the regime has been consciously constructed on the back of these three tribes which populated the security services and the Revolutionary Committee Movement.

Yet even they had their own grievances; the Warfalla had been implicated in the unsuccessful 1993 Bani Ulid coup and its leaders had refused to execute those guilty as a demonstration of their loyalty to the regime.

Colonel Gaddafi's henchmen organised the executions instead, earning tribal enmity and probably explaining why tribal leaders so quickly sided with the opposition when the regime began to collapse.

Then there is also a geographic imperative for the rapidity of the collapse of the regime. Libya is essentially a desert, with the only areas that can support intensive residence located in the Jefara Plain, around Tripoli in Tripolitania, and the Jabal al-Akhdar behind Benghazi in Cyrenaica.

The result has been that Libya’s six million-strong population, as a result of oil-fired economic development in the rentier state that emerged at the end of the 1960s, is now highly urbanised and largely concentrated in these two cities and the satellite towns around them.


This means that any regime which loses control of them has lost control of the country, even if it controls all outlying areas, such as the oil fields in the Gulf of Sirt between them, which is also the home base of the Qadhadhfa, or the Fezzan that still seems to be loyal to the Gaddafi regime.

It is this that explains how, once the army in Benghazi changed sides, the regime lost control of Eastern Libya and why its hold on Tripoli, the capital, has been so rapidly contested.

Nor should the nature of the regime or the Gaddafi family be ignored as a factor for the collapse. The regime has, in recent years, benefited from growing foreign investment in Libya, alongside its massive oil revenues, after sanctions in connection with the Lockerbie affairs were removed in 1999.

As foreign economic interest grew, so did corruption and, although Colonel Gaddafi himself may not have been corrupt, his seven sons and one daughter certainly were, drawing their fortunes from commissions and income streams siphoned off from the oil-and-gas sector.

Libyans themselves have been excluded from the benefits of oil wealth for decades, so the blatant corruption inflamed their resentment in recent years.

'Foreign mercenaries'

In addition, the Libyan leader, who had no formal role inside the jamahiriyah but made sure that the Revolutionary Committee Movement answered only to him, has played on the aspirations of his sons to succeed him, pitting one against the other to ensure that none of them could amass sufficient power to threaten his position.

In such an atmosphere of eternal mistrust and suspicion, it is hardly surprising that the ultimate bastion of the regime has been the "foreign mercenaries" that have terrified Libyans with their indiscriminate violence during the country’s latest revolution.

Yet, they too form part of the leader’s conception of the state. In the 1980s, Libya opened its borders to all who were Muslim, as part of its vision of Arab nationalism and Islamic radicalism.

The regime also recruited an "Islamic Legion" to aid it in its foreign adventures, particularly in Africa, as Chad, Uganda and Tanzania were to discover.

In 1997, Libya also renounced its self-image as an Arab state, prioritising its African destiny instead, opening its borders to sub-Saharan Africa, despite the intense domestic tensions that the inflow of migrants generated, which resulted in riots and deaths in September 2000.

Now, apart from using African migrants as a tool to coerce European states such as Italy with the threat of uncontrolled migration, it has also recruited them into its elite forces around the "Deterrent Battalion" (the 32nd Brigade) which are used solely for internal repression.

They have no loyalty to Libyans who hate them and they are the forces on which Colonel Gaddafi relies to ensure that his regime ends in a bloodbath to punish Libyans for their disloyalty to his political vision.

The future

Whatever the Colonel thinks – and it is what he thinks that determines the struggle inside Libya today – there are objective factors that will determine the outcome.

Unrest in Western Libya has already led to towns in the Jefara Plain falling to the widening anti-regime movement. Zuwara is said to have been taken over by them and major struggles are taking place between armed forces loyal to the Gaddafi regime and the inchoate movement opposed to it in Misurata and Zawiya, where helicopter gunships seem to have been used.

Even if Tripoli is still under regime control, the towns surrounding it seem to be slipping away. Eventually, the leader will control only the capital and nothing else. There is no doubt that the struggle is becoming increasingly bloody, with estimates of losses being set at between 600 and 2,000 dead.

The outcome will be determined by the loyalty of the armed forces and the institutions of the state towards the Libyan leader.

Yet this is increasingly in doubt; two ministers, from the justice and the interior, have resigned and Libya’s diplomatic missions around the world are gradually falling way, including key missions at the United Nations in New York and in Washington. Diplomats say the are sickened by what they regard as genocide as Libya’s armed forces fire on unarmed demonstrators.

Even the armed forces are becoming increasingly unreliable – a belated revenge, no doubt, for the way in which they have been chronically mistrusted and misused. Few, in the armed forces or within the population, have forgotten the abuse heaped upon them by the regime after Libya was forced out of Chad with heavy losses in the late 1980s.

Who follows?

The problem is that it is extremely unclear what could emerge to replace the colonel’s unlamented regime.

One consequence of its unrestrained repression has been to ensure that no movement or individual has emerged as a natural alternative. Inside Libya, only the Muslim Brotherhood and some extremist Islamist groups have any formal presence.

Outside Libya there are myriad opposition groups, it is true, but there is no evidence that they have any real purchase inside the country.

There are also growing fears in European states along the northern shores of the Mediterranean of a flood of migrants and asylum-seekers fleeing the violence. And then there are the one million sub-Saharan African migrants marooned in Libya in the hope of crossing into Europe.

George Joffe is a Research Fellow at Cambridge University, and Visiting Professor at Kings College, London University, specialising in the Middle East and North Africa. He is the former Director of Studies at the Royal Institute for International Affairs in London (Chatham House).

RE: Authoritarianism and Dictatorship - Admin - 03-06-2011

James Petras

Most accounts of the Arab revolts from Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Iraq and elsewhere have focused on the most immediate causes: political dictatorships, unemployment, repression and the wounding and killing of protestors. They have given most attention to the “middle class”, young, educated activists, their communication via the internet, (Los Angeles Times, Feb. 16, 2011) and, in the case of Israel and its Zionists conspiracy theorists, “the hidden hand” of Islamic extremists (Daily Alert Feb. 25, 2011).

What is lacking is any attempt to provide a framework for the revolt which takes account of the large scale, long and medium term socio-economic structures as well as the immediate ‘detonators’ of political action. The scope and depth of the popular uprisings, as well as the diverse political and social forces which have entered into the conflicts, preclude any explanations which look at one dimension of the struggles.

The best approach involves a ‘funnel framework’ in which, at the wide end (the long-term, large-scale structures), stands the nature of the economic, class and political system; the middle-term is defined by the dynamic cumulative effects of these structures on changes in political, social and economic relations; the short-term causes, which precipitate the socio-political-psychological responses, or social consciousness leading to political action.

The Nature of the Arab Economies

With the exception of Jordan, most of the Arab economies where the revolts are taking place are based on ‘rents’ from oil, gas, minerals and tourism, which provide most of the export earnings and state revenues (Financial Times, Feb. 22, 2011, p. 14). These economic sectors are, in effect, export enclaves employing a tiny fraction of the labor force and define a highly specialized economy (World Bank Annual Report 2009). These export sectors do not have links to a diversified productive domestic economy: oil is exported and finished manufactured goods as well as financial and high tech services are all imported and controlled by foreign multi-nationals and ex-pats linked to the ruling class (Economic and Political Weekly, Feb. 12, 2011, p. 11). Tourism reinforces ‘rental’ income, as the sector, which provides ‘foreign exchange’ and tax revenues to the class – clan state. The latter relies on state-subsidized foreign capital and local politically connected ‘real estate’ developers for investment and imported foreign construction laborers.

Rent-based income may generate great wealth, especially as energy prices soar, but the funds accrue to a class of “rentiers” who have no vocation or inclination for deepening and extending the process of economic development and innovation. The rentiers “specialize” in financial speculation, overseas investments via private equity firms, extravagant consumption of high-end luxury goods and billion-dollar and billion-euro secret private accounts in overseas banks.

The rentier economy provides few jobs in modern productive activity; the high end is controlled by extended family-clan members and foreign financial corporations via ex-pat experts; technical and low-end employment is taken up by contract foreign labor, at income levels and working conditions below what the skilled local labor force is willing to accept.

The enclave rentier economy results in a clan-based ruling class which ‘confounds’ public and private ownership: what’s ‘state’ is actually absolutist monarchs and their extended families at the top and their client tribal leader, political entourage and technocrats in the middle.

These are “closed ruling classes”. Entry is confined to select members of the clan or family dynasties and a small number of “entrepreneurial” individuals who might accumulate wealth servicing the ruling clan-class. The ‘inner circle’ lives off of rental income, secures payoffs from partnerships in real estate where they provide no skills, but only official permits, land grants, import licenses and tax holidays.

Beyond pillaging the public treasury, the ruling clan-class promotes ‘free trade’, i.e. importing cheap finished products, thus undermining any indigenous domestic start-ups in the ‘productive’ manufacturing, agricultural or technical sector.

As a result there is no entrepreneurial national capitalist or ‘middle class’. What passes for a middle class are largely public sector employees (teachers, health professionals, functionaries, firemen, police officials, military officers) who depend on their salaries, which, in turn, depend on their subservience to absolutist power. They have no chance of advancing to the higher echelons or of opening economic opportunities for their educated offspring.

The concentration of economic, social and political power in a closed clan-class controlled system leads to an enormous concentration of wealth. Given the social distance between rulers and ruled, the wealth generated by high commodity prices produces a highly distorted image of per-capital “wealth”; adding billionaires and millionaires on top of a mass of low-income and underemployed youth provides a deceptively high average income (Washington Blog, 2/24/11).

Rentier Rule: By Arms and Handouts

To compensate for these great disparities in society and to protect the position of the parasitical rentier ruling class, the latter pursues alliances with, multi-billion dollar arms corporations, and military protection from the dominant (USA) imperial power. The rulers engage in “neo-colonization by invitation”, offering land for military bases and airfields, ports for naval operations, collusion in financing proxy mercenaries against anti-imperial adversaries and submission to Zionist hegemony in the region (despite occasional inconsequential criticisms).

In the middle term, rule by force is complemented by paternalistic handouts to the rural poor and tribal clans; food subsidies for the urban poor; and dead-end make-work employment for the educated unemployed (Financial Times, 2/25/11, p. 1). Both costly arms purchases and paternalistic subsidies reflect the lack of any capacity for productive investments. Billions are spent on arms rather than diversifying the economy. Hundreds of millions are spent on one-shot paternalistic handouts, rather than long-term investments generating productive employment.

The ‘glue’ holding this system together is the combination of modern pillage of public wealth and natural energy resources and the use of traditional clan and neo-colonial recruits and mercenary contractors to control and repress the population. US modern armaments are at the service of anachronistic absolutist monarchies and dictatorships, based on the principles of 18th century dynastic rule.

The introduction and extension of the most up-to-date communication systems and ultra-modern architecture shopping centers cater to an elite strata of luxury consumers and provides a stark contrast to the vast majority of unemployed educated youth, excluded from the top and pressured from below by low-paid overseas contract workers.
Neo-Liberal Destabilization

The rentier class-clans are pressured by the international financial institutions and local bankers to ‘reform’ their economies: ‘open’ the domestic market and public enterprises to foreign investors and reduce deficits resulting from the global crises by introducing neo-liberal reforms (Economic and Political Weekly, 2/12/11, p. 11).

As a result of “economic reforms” food subsidies for the poor have been lowered or eliminated and state employment has been reduced, closing off one of the few opportunities for educated youth. Taxes on consumers and salaried/wage workers are increased while the real estate developers, financial speculators and importers receive tax exonerations. De-regulation has exacerbated massive corruption, not only among the rentier ruling class-clan, but also by their immediate business entourage.

The paternalistic ‘bonds’ tying the lower and middle class to the ruling class have been eroded by foreign-induced neo-liberal “reforms”, which combine ‘modern’ foreign exploitation with the existing “traditional” forms of domestic private pillage. The class-clan regimes no longer can rely on the clan, tribal, clerical and clientelistic loyalties to isolate urban trade unions, student, small business and low paid public sector movements.
The Street against the Palace

The ‘immediate causes’ of the Arab revolts are centered in the huge demographic-class contradictions of the clan-class ruled rentier economy. The ruling oligarchy rules over a mass of unemployed and underemployed young workers; the latter involves between 50% to 65% of the population under 25 years of age (Washington Blog, 2/24/11). The dynamic “modern” rentier economy does not incorporate the newly educated young into modern employment; it relegates them into the low-paid unprotected “informal economy” of the street as venders, transport and contract workers and in personal services. The ultra- modern oil, gas, real estate, tourism and shopping-mall sectors are dependent on the political and military support of backward traditional clerical, tribal and clan leaders, who are subsidized but never ‘incorporated’ into the sphere of modern production. The modern urban industrial working class with small, independent trade unions is banned. Middle class civic associations are either under state control or confined to petitioning the absolutist state.

The ‘underdevelopment’ of social organizations, linked to social classes engaged in modern productive activity, means that the pivot of social and political action is the street. Unemployed and underemployed part-time youth engaged in the informal sector are found in the plazas, at kiosks, cafes, street corner society, and markets, moving around and about and outside the centers of absolutist administrative power. The urban mass does not occupy strategic positions in the economic system; but it is available for mass mobilizations capable of paralyzing the streets and plazas through which goods and services are transported out and profits are realized. Equally important, mass movements launched by the unemployed youth provide an opportunity for oppressed professionals, public sector employees, small business people and the self-employed to engage in protests without being subject to reprisals at their place of employment – dispelling the “fear factor” of losing one’s job.

The political and social confrontation revolves around the opposite poles: clientelistic oligarchies and de clasé masses (the Arab Street). The former depends directly on the state (military/police apparatus) and the latter on amorphous local, informal, face-to-face improvised organizations. The exception is the minority of university students who move via the internet. Organized industrial trade unions come into the struggle late and largely focus on sectoral economic demands, with some exceptions - especially in public enterprises, controlled by cronies of the oligarchs, where workers demand changes in management.

As a result of the social particularities of the rentier states, the uprisings do not take the form of class struggles between wage labor and industrial capitalists. They emerge as mass political revolts against the oligarchical state. Street-based social movements demonstrate their capacity to delegitimize state authority, paralyze the economy, and can lead up to the ousting of the ruling autocrats. But it is the nature of mass street movements to fill the squares with relative ease, but also to be dispersed when the symbols of oppression are ousted. Street-based movements lack the organization and leadership to project, let alone impose a new political or social order. Their power is found in their ability to pressure existing elites and institutions, not to replace the state and economy. Hence the surprising ease with which the US, Israeli and EU backed Egyptian military were able to seize power and protect the entire rentier state and economic structure while sustaining their ties with their imperial mentors.

Converging Conditions and the “Demonstration Effect”

The spread of the Arab revolts across North Africa, the Middle East and Gulf States is, in the first instance, a product of similar historical and social conditions: rentier states ruled by family-clan oligarchs dependent on “rents” from capital intensive oil and energy exports, which confine the vast majority of youth to marginal informal ‘street-based’ economic activities.

The “power of example” or the “demonstration effect” can only be understood by recognizing the same socio-political conditions in each country. Street power – mass urban movements – presumes the street as the economic locus of the principal actors and the takeover of the plazas as the place to exert political power and project social demands. No doubt the partial successes in Egypt and Tunisia did detonate the movements elsewhere. But they did so only in countries with the same historical legacy, the same social polarities between rentier – clan rulers and marginal street labor and especially where the rulers were deeply integrated and subordinated to imperial economic and military networks.


Rentier rulers govern via their ties to the US and EU military and financial institutions. They modernize their affluent enclaves and marginalize recently educated youth, who are confined to low paid jobs, especially in the insecure informal sector, centered in the streets of the capital cities. Neo-liberal privatizations, reductions in public subsidies (for food, unemployment subsidies, cooking oil, gas, transport, health, and education) shattered the paternalistic ties through which the rulers contained the discontent of the young and poor, as well as clerical elites and tribal chiefs. The confluence of classes and masses, modern and traditional, was a direct result of a process of neo-liberalization from above and exclusion from below. The neo-liberal “reformers” promise that the ‘market’ would substitute well-paying jobs for the loss of state paternalistic subsidies was false. The neo-liberal polices reinforced the concentration of wealth while weakening state controls over the masses.

The world capitalist economic crises led Europe and the US to tighten their immigration controls, eliminating one of the escape valves of the regimes – the massive flight of unemployed educated youth seeking jobs abroad. Out-migration was no longer an option; the choices narrowed to struggle or suffer. Studies show that those who emigrate tend to be the most ambitious, better educated (within their class) and greatest risk takers. Now, confined to their home country, with few illusions of overseas opportunities, they are forced to struggle for individual mobility at home through collective social and political action.

Equally important among the political youth, is the fact that the US, as guarantor of the rentier regimes, is seen as a declining imperial power: challenged economically in the world market by China; facing defeat as an occupying colonial ruler in Iraq and Afghanistan; and humiliated as a subservient and mendacious servant of an increasingly discredited Israel via its Zionist agents in the Obama regime and Congress. All of these elements of US imperial decay and discredit, encourage the pro-democracy movements to move forward against the US clients and lessen their fears that the US military would intervene and face a third military front. The mass movements view their oligarchies as “third tier” regimes: rentier states under US hegemony, which, in turn, is under Israeli – Zionist tutelage. With 130 countries in the UN General Assembly and the entire Security Council, minus the US, condemning Israeli colonial expansion; with Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and the forthcoming new regimes in Yemen and Bahrain promising democratic foreign policies, the mass movements realize that all of Israel’s modern arms and 680,000 soldiers are of no avail in the face of its total diplomatic isolation, its loss of regional rentier clients, and the utter discredit of its bombastic militarist rulers and their Zionist agents in the US diplomatic corps (Financial Times 2/24/11, p. 7).

The very socio-economic structures and political conditions which detonated the pro-democracy mass movements, the unemployed and underemployed youth organized from “the street”, now present the greatest challenge: can the amorphous and diverse mass becomes an organized social and political force which can take state power, democratize the regime and, at the same time, create a new productive economy to provide stable well- paying employment, so far lacking in the rentier economy? The political outcome to date is indeterminate: democrats and socialists compete with clerical, monarchist, and neoliberal forces bankrolled by the U.S.

It is premature to celebrate a popular democratic revolution….

James Petras is a retired Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, SUNY, New York, U.S., and adjunct professor at Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who has published prolifically on Latin American and Middle Eastern political issues. Petras received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.


RE: Authoritarianism and Dictatorship - Admin - 03-06-2011

Zafar Bangash

In 18 days, the people of Egypt have changed the course of history. They have not only impacted people’s thinking in their own country but also affected regional and global politics. What was considered unthinkable only a few weeks earlier, was made possible by the resilience and perseverance of the people, mostly the youth. They stunned even the most seasoned observers by what they achieved: they forced Hosni Mubarak to resign as president, a post he had occupied for 30 years.

Mubarak is gone — or is he? He refused to announce his resignation in the late night televised address on February 10. He merely talked about transferring some of his powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman, who in turn announced Mubarak’s departure the following day (February 11). Suleiman also said Mubarak had handed power over to the Military High Council. This is problematic. According to the Egyptian Constitution in force at the time, the speaker of parliament should have assumed such powers. The military has since dismissed parliament, suspended the constitution and announced that a committee of experts would draft amendments that would be put to a referendum within two months.

So far, so good but there are concerns about what the military regime has done. It has retained the old guard that were appointed by Mubarak on January 29 to form a “new government”. Both Suleiman and Mahmoud Wagdy, the new interior minister (who formerly served as chief of prisons) are still there. Egypt’s prisons are notorious for torturing detainees and committing other heinous crimes that Suleiman and Wagdy presided over. Both are former generals as indeed are a number of other figures in the cabinet. The state of emergency imposed in October 1981 has not been lifted. It is under this draconian measure that thousands of people — one estimate puts the number at 30,000 — are languishing in prisons. They are not charged with any specific crime but have been tortured and held incommunicado for decades. Hundreds more have now been put in prison since the recent uprising erupted on January 25.

So what exactly has happened that would warrant optimism in Egypt? The euphoria over Mubarak’s departure must be tempered by ground realities. The people’s courage in overcoming fear — the principal instrument used by all tyrants — has broken one major barrier. By refusing to be intimidated, the people neutralized the most potent weapon in the hands of the regime. This was most clearly witnessed on February 2 when the regime’s goons, dressed in plainclothes and supported by criminals released from prisons to attack the protesters, failed to drive them out of Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Equally important was the people’s resolve not to be provoked. Had they retaliated, the regime would have unleashed its immense firepower and the movement may have suffered irreparable damage.

Many observers have lauded the military’s role in refusing to fire at protesters. This needs to be understood in its proper context. Its relatively detached role was part of a larger plan that was being implemented at the behest of the US. It must be borne in mind that militaries in almost all Muslim countries have deep links with the US military and the Pentagon. They receive regular instructions from and are influenced by such “advice” since the US pays for their weapons. Egypt, like Pakistan, is extremely important for US geo-strategic designs.

While the youth were leading the uprising, there was a great deal going on in the background as well. When Mubarak complained that there was external interference, he was not entirely wrong. The US was not manipulating the mass uprising directly; it did not have to. Washington’s plan was to transfer power to a safe pair of hands in Egypt after Mubarak’s departure so that US and Israeli interests, not those of the Egyptian people, are preserved. Preparations for this were launched last year when it became known that Mubarak was suffering from cancer. The US did not want Mubarak’s son, Gamal, to succeed him, hence the planned soft coup. There were also other contenders for the top spot: Suleiman who had until recently served as intelligence chief and presided over torture sessions at the behest of the US, was the favourite.

Cairo was the US destination of choice for “extraordinary rendition” (read kidnapping) and “enhanced interrogation techniques” (euphemism for torture). Then there was Mohamed El-Baradei, former head of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), projected in the Western media as a “leading opposition figure,” who was parachuted into Egypt just a few days after the uprising began. El-Baradei is member of the George Soros funded International Crisis Group (ICG) that has such other American luminaries as Zbigniew Brzezinski on its board.

During the 18-day uprising, Chairman US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and Defence Secretary Robert Gates were in constant touch with their Egyptian counterparts, Lt. General Sami Enan and Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi respectively. Mullen admitted this on US television. Other US officials were also regularly talking to the Egyptians, especially Suleiman, the US point man and appropriately dubbed the torturer-in-chief.

While US officials, including President Barack Obama, gradually calibrated their statements as the uprising escalated in Egypt, their principal concern was the protection of Israel. This became even more blatant when Mubarak’s departure was announced on February 11. The US said it expected the new regime to honour its “treaty obligations.” As if on cue, the military regime immediately said it would honour all international obligations. Not surprisingly, this was greeted with great relief in Tel Aviv.

The sequence of events that led to Mubarak’s ouster on February 11 also needs analysis. Mubarak was widely expected to announce his resignation on February 10 following a statement from the Military High Council saying it supported the people’s demands. This was a clear signal that the military would not use force against the protesters in Tahrir Square. Mubarak was now isolated and had to go. The military high command tasked Defence Minister Tantawi to deliver the message to Mubarak.

As a Mubarak protégé and timid in nature, Tantawi was unable to deliver a clear message during the six-hour meeting with Mubarak at which Suleiman and Gamal were also present. It appears both Suleiman and Gamal were able to browbeat Tantawi to agree to cosmetic changes that Mubarak would announce on television that night but he would not resign until elections in September. The euphoria that had greeted the military’s announcement during the day turned into deep resentment when people realized Mubarak was not going.

On the morning of Friday, February 11 — an interesting date since it coincided with the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran 32 years ago — the military said it would not allow protesters into Tahrir Square. Far from being intimidated by the threat, the people clearly anticipated a military-perpetrated bloodbath. Nonetheless, millions of people poured into the streets after Jumu‘ah prayers and started heading toward the television station as well as the presidential palace. Tanks were deployed blocking the road to the palace, their guns pointed at the massive crowd heading their way. It was at this point that army commanders decided to disobey orders to shoot at people. Instead, they turned their turrets toward the palace and joined the marchers.

The military high command realized that the game was up. Troops would disobey orders to shoot at protesters and if the generals did not move against Mubarak quickly, some colonel in the manner of Gamal Abdel Nasser nearly 60 years earlier, would do so. It was at this stage that the military high command sent Tantawi back to see Mubarak and tell him in no uncertain terms to make his exit before there was a revolt among the rank and file of the military. Tantawi was still deferential toward his benefactor: “You have served the country well for 30 years,” he told Mubarak. “It is better to make a graceful exit now.” Delusional for several days, Mubarak still had enough sense to realize that he could no longer cling to power. It is possible Tantawi may also have given assurances that the wealth he and his family have stolen — estimates range from $1 billion to as high as $70 billion — would not be touched although on February 18, the Swiss authorities froze millions of dollars in assets belonging to the Mubarak family. This may be the tip of the iceberg.

The following Friday (Feb. 18), millions of people again poured into Tahrir Square to celebrate their victory but their struggle is far from over. Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a respected ‘alim who returned to Egypt after 50 years in exile, asked the military to “liberate them from the old regime.” This is sad. It shows a lack of understanding of what has transpired in Egypt and the nature of the military. In every Muslim country and more so in Egypt, militaries are instruments for maintaining the status quo. They are hard-wired to the US to safeguard Western interests. Unless the people remain on the scene, they run the risk of being lulled into complacency and little beyond cosmetic changes would occur. In any case, they are leaderless. This is a great weakness in the otherwise brilliant campaign they have waged thus far.

In addition to workers’ strikes for higher wages, not all the demands of the protesters have been met. During the inconclusive meeting with Suleiman on February 5 at which a representative of al-Ikhwan al-Muslimoon (Muslim Bro-therhood) was also present, the youth had put forward the following demands:

1. Resignation of President Mubarak

2. Dissolution of Parliament and the Senate

3. Ending the 30-year-old state of emergency

4. Forming a transitional national unity government

5. Electing a new parliament that will amend the constitution

6. Prosecuting all those officials responsible for the murder of more than 300 martyrs

7. Prosecuting all those corrupt officials and those who pilfered the wealth of the country

As is evident, only two of the seven demands have been met despite claims by Suleiman and Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq that nearly 90% have been conceded. The people of Egypt still have a long way to go before they can be truly liberated. Getting rid of a tyrant is one thing; getting rid of the regime by demolishing old structures and putting new ones in place will require a great deal more effort, not to mention sacrifices. There is as yet no evidence that many people in Egypt — whether the Ikhwan, other political parties or spokespersons for the people’s movement — understand this fully.

Dr. Perwez Shafi

The prerequisites for large-scale social change in the Muslim world, particularly in the Middle Eastern and North African countries have existed for several decades. Finally there is a movement for change as the masses have gradually shed their psychological fear. The entire Arab world, conceived and carved up by the US and the West during World Wars I and II, is shaking to its foundation by the rage of the Muslim masses who desire to get rid of the US- and Western-imposed dictators-for-life and their political systems. It was a remarkable sight to witness the courageous Egyptian youth and masses drive the most powerful US-backed dictator, Hosni Mubarak, from power in 18 days. He seemed invincible three weeks earlier. The US, whose own survival depends upon exploitation of the Muslim world’s resources and military bases, is busy with intrigues and shadowy maneuvers to tame the uprising from turning into a full-blown revolution.

Mass Politics

Finally the Age of Mass Politics — a term borrowed from social sciences — has dawned in the Middle East. Until now, dictatorial elites and their cronies in collusion with Western elites conducted all political, economic and social activities. Finally the tired and deprived masses are taking control of their lives, rejecting elite politics and entering the period of mass politics.

Until about 200 years ago, the world population was less than a billion and poverty-stricken people lived almost entirely in the rural areas where population density was very thin. The feudal, capitalist and political elites made all the decisions, naturally to benefit themselves. The masses were dispersed, weak and unable to overcome their exploitation and oppression. Large mass protests were virtually unheard of. As small villages and cities became centers of commercial and technological activities, populations began shifting from rural to urban areas transforming them into big cities that in turn became large population centers. For the first time the masses became conscious of large numbers concentrated in one place and found strength and political power in large gatherings.

Peasants and workers used their large numbers for concerted social action to change and improve their condition, destiny and balance of political power against the feudal lords and capitalists. Large protests and demonstrations help individuals shed their psychological fear and challenge repressive power of the state and the authorities. Western history has witnessed and launched numerous mass movements for limited goals, depending upon the particular class that launched it, as well as few partial and material revolutions against oppression and exploitation by kings and feudals in the West. The dictatorial and capitalist states that used to have no fear of small poverty-stricken populations suddenly discovered they were unable to cope with mass political action. No nation-state had enough coercive power to withstand the power of the masses determined to resist exploitation and oppression.

Although a number of Muslim nation-states all over the world had witnessed mass movements, whether truly independent or elite-directed, in South Asia, Iran, Turkey and Southeast Asia, the phenomenon of mass politics by and large bypassed the Islamic East, particularly the Arabian and North African nation-states with the exception of Palestine. The Western-supported Arabian kings and despots were able to rule for life through coercion and oppression. With the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings and their ripple effect spreading to Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the Muslim masses of the Arab world have finally discovered their power in numbers. Large-scale social change is being conceived by overcoming psychological fear and big cities with huge populations are turning into centers of uprising and eventually revolution.

Weaknesses in the uprisings

From the colonial to the neo-colonial period, the West had two overall motives in propping up lifetime dictators: to keep these nation-states integrated within the global capitalist-world so that loot and plunder becomes systemic in nature, and to suppress Islam in order to eliminate it as an ideology. Thus, there is symbiotic relationship between domestic illegitimacy and Western imperialism. The declining West’s survival depends upon exploitation of the Muslim world’s resources. In addition, suppressing Islam leaves Muslims dysfunctional, robbed of their Islamic worldview, and cut off from religious leadership, that is allowed to play only electoral politics but unable to serve the masses by offering an Islamic vision to guide them toward an Islamic revolution. Thus there are a number of weaknesses in the revolutionary energy of the masses.

Ideals invoked

All these weaknesses were visible before and during the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings. Because of plunder by the domestic illegitimate dictatorships propped up by Western imperialism, the Muslim masses though highly educated were reduced to demanding jobs due to high unemployment and low-cost food items. Beside material improvement, robbing them of their Islamic worldview has left them demanding multi-party democracy. Instead of dealing with the dictatorship of one man, in a multi-party democracy, the US job will become a little more sophisticated and somewhat difficult because now there are more players and organizations on its payroll. Nevertheless, the US and Western nations had already developed much expertise during the last 200 years to defraud and exploit the masses through democracy worldwide.

The limit of Egyptian revolutionary dreams already exists in the form of Pakistan. It has multi-party “democracy”, with on and off elections, hundreds of irrelevant political parties (the only difference being their overall cover or the robes they wear masquerading as communist or Islamic), and thousands of organizations divided along linguistic, sectarian, geographical, and nationalistic basis. People are similarly divided. The military and spy agencies determine the “national interest” as to who is foe or friend and pursue domestic and foreign policies accordingly under the West’s overall hegemony. The US has no problem in managing Pakistani “democracy” as all players and institutions are under its firm grip. All the conditions are ripe for a genuine revolution in Pakistan. Maybe the Tunisian and Egyptian masses will find this out in another 15 to 20 years and at that point may decide to have a full revolution.

Secular youth demanding jobs

The Western media and governments are emphasizing the character of the youth movement as “secular”, demanding jobs and needing improvement in material conditions only. The use of the internet (Facebook and Twitter) is highlighted as proof implying that only secular people use such informational technologies. These conclusions could be misleading and part of propaganda campaign to restrict and define the implication of change to upholding democratic ideals and reassure the Western masses that this uprising has nothing to do with Islam or the Islamic culture of the masses.

Although Islam is suppressed, often violently, it must be borne in mind that the Egyptian masses had adopted Islam centuries ago and it forms a part of their culture. Now that Hosni Mubarak is gone and the security apparatus is on the defensive, it may not resort to violent methods to suppress Islam. Thus the process of revolutionary constituency building and Islamic conscientizing may proceed at a quicker pace as Muslims become more attuned to what is at stake: continued Western hegemony through the façade of a democratic order or real freedom through an Islamic Revolution.

Change of faces

When confronted by an uprising against its puppet, the US’s first option is to change faces. In Egypt, the plan was to replace the hated dictator Mubarak with Vice President Omar Suleiman, his trusted Intelligence Chief, to pacify the protesters. Failing that, the Egyptian military was asked to take over. The poor and oppressed masses, robbed of basic necessities of life, lacking leadership, deprived of Islamic vision, and demanding no more than jobs and decent living conditions, made the US job easier. To sacrifice the dictator who was close to expiration of his shelf life anyway, to save the regime and the corrupt system that benefits the US all fits into the mantra of having no permanent loyalties, only permanent interests. Thus only two to three days into the protests, the US started demanding Mubarak’s departure in a “managed change”. The US has done that in a number of places: with Ferdinand Marcos in Philippines (1986), General Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan (2008), and Ben Ali of Tunisia in 2011. Cycling of dictators to save the US dominated system is an old technique of imperialism to perpetuate itself.

Lack of military violence

Another aspect of the Egyptian uprising was the absence of violence by the military against unarmed masses to crush their aspirations. Since the uprising began, the military has projected an image of friendliness toward the masses in Tahrir Square. It was the hated police, ruling party goons and paramilitary forces that committed atrocities against innocent civilians.

In contrast, during the Iran’s Islamic Revolution (1978–1979) the US authorities starting with President Jimmy Carter and his National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brezezinski, all constantly urged the Shah, his military machine and the oppressive security agency SAVAK to kill as many civilians as possible to bring the rest into submission. During the year-and-a-half of the revolution, they killed nearly 80,000 unarmed civilians. This deepened hatred of the US and crystallized into an uncompromising stand of the new revolutionary government.

During the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, the US avoided deepening the hatred of the masses to secure its long-term interests. From the first day, Washington warned its pet dictators not to resort to violence against the “unarmed, peaceful” protesters and promised to reform the system to earn their goodwill. Consequently, the military and the US were not viewed as villain. This was precisely part of the US-managed “change” by restraining the military. This happened because the US has been providing equipment and training to the Egyptian army and paying $1.3 billion annually to buy its loyalty. Due to this deep structural relationship it was in the mutual interest of the Egyptian military as well as the US to appear to be on the side of the masses.

Military coup

A dictator is fully supported until he can no longer stand against the masses at which point the military normally installs a “new face” to replace the old crony. If this recycling does not work, the US then signals the military to stage a coup. In “managed change”, military coup is the chief instrument available to imperialism to save the corrupt system. The military is allowed to dominate every aspect of the economy and to become the biggest beneficiary of ill-gotten wealth. This is what happened in Egypt where huge social change “managed” by the US was limited to an uprising, thwarting the potential revolution by sacrificing the dictator and asking the army to take complete power in a coup, albeit “for the sake” of people.

When the Islamic Revolution in Iran was nearing victory, the Shah and his cronies started thinking of fleeing. The US urged the senior generals, who were in the forefront of killing the people, to stay put and keep the military organized. Brezezinski, impatient and dissatisfied with the Shah’s level of violence and repression, told him the US would not oppose the formation of a military government, that is, a coup. Even when the Shah had already fled the country and the Islamic Revolution was almost an accomplished fact, Carter sent General Robert Huyser to Tehran to report on the state of readiness and cohesiveness of the Iranian military, to unify the generals behind the Shah-installed Prime Minister Shahpur Bakhtiyar, with a military coup as final option.

In a coup, the military tactic is to earn the sympathies of the masses by accepting most of their grievances and demands and promise to fulfill them within a few months. The military interest is to keep their supreme position as decision-maker and arbitrator even in a democracy, retain their perks and benefits and align with global imperialism. But due to a clash of interests, differences emerge on timing and the depth of reform program.

The Egyptian masses realize that their mission is not complete yet. To keep pressure on the military to fulfill their promises, quarter of a million people gathered in Tahrir Square on Friday February 18 — a week after Mubarak’s downfall — to pray and celebrate the “Friday of Victory and Continuation,” a name reflecting both their pride in overthrowing the dictator and realization that revolution is not complete yet and much remains to be done. Influential Egyptian ‘alim Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi led the Friday prayer, hailing the uprising and saying: “the illegitimate can never defeat the truth.” Then added: “The revolution is not over, until we have a new Egypt.”

Failure of Islamic orthodoxy & political party approach

It is well known that the uprising was planned and organized by the Egyptian youth who displayed great courage and commitment to face the repressive orer. The leadership, especially Islamic, was glaringly absent. It is even more ironic that Cairo — the seat of Sunni orthodoxy at al-Azhar — is still has not come out of its political coma, going now for nearly 200 years. They are out of touch with the masses, splitting hairs in their seminaries, unable to even understand the intrigues and machinations of Western imperialism much less to lead and resist it, and failed to offer a vision to Muslims. If in the last 1,000 years, Sunni orthodoxy has failed to produce revolutionary Islamic leadership, how “democracy” will be able to produce it, is the billion dollar question.

That failure was compounded by the Islamic political party approach within a “democratic” neo-colonial system. Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimoon now has nothing to show for gaining a few seats in elections under the dictatorship except to confer legitimacy on an illegitimate political system since the 1960s. The Ikhwan leadership became too cozy and complacent by participating in fraudulent electoral politics under which it guaranteed itself defeat and humiliation.

Thus, after 50 years when the masses were ready for a revolution, both the Sunni orthodoxy and the Ikhwan were almost irrelevant and unable to articulate and guide Muslim revolutionary energy. In Pakistan, the Jamaat-e Islami and other Islamic political parties, also work comfortably within the illegitimate, corrupt and secular liberal-democratic order making transitory coalitions with the most corrupt and immoral parties in the hope of winning elections. But they justify their participation by declaring the constitution as “Islamic” and, therefore, no need for a “bloody” and “chaotic” revolutionary struggle.

Al-Qaida approach vs. the masses

Another interesting feature of the Egyptian uprising is that during the 1990s, al-Qaida indulged in much violence and guerrilla warfare to topple the Mubarak regime. Al-Qaida’s No. 2 man, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, is an Egyptian who led the fight against the regime. Much bloodshed and chaos ensued but their sacrifices over many did not dislodge Mubarak and failed to dent the regime’s coercive power. This was a failure to understand the potential revolutionary energy of the masses and their role in revolutionary struggle.

In contrast, peaceful and unarmed protesters got together only for 18 days and drove the dictator out. Since then al-Qaida has been quiet. Even before that, the Muslim masses widely believed these organizations were in some way US puppets and exist only to provoke and justify US intervention in areas around the globe where imperial interests are at stake. Thus to achieve change in Muslim societies the masses have correctly rejected both the path of violence that is not a substitute for revolution, and the religious political party approach in a neo-colonial order as immoral that cannot give birth to a moral entity. In other words, Islamic revolutionary approach to restructure Muslim societies is the most moderate not an extremist approach.


The Islamic Revolution in Iran and events of the past couple of months have firmly established that Muslims will judge a political system based on whether it is legitimate or not. An illegitimate system must be resisted and its transformation into a legitimate system by reform or revolutionary means must be sought. Thus any struggle against an illegitimate system will be considered legitimate resistance only if it employs legitimate means to achieve legitimate Islamic goals.

Since the concept of legitimacy is central to revolutionary struggle, it can now be moved from academic to the practical world. The concept of moral legitimacy was defined in my 1993 PhD dissertation: “a political system is considered legitimate, first, when its values, norms and belief system are in harmony with the values, norms and belief system of the people it governs. All political structures and institutions should reflect this consensus on core values. This allows the state to exist and function legitimately and bestows on authorities the right to govern and be accountable.” The scope of “moral legitimacy” deals with such matters as the primary purposes of government; the rights and obligations of the government and the governed; and the methods of selection, change, and accountability of the governing personnel.

A political system consists of three hierarchical levels. At the top are political authorities, then the regime, and at the foundation is the state. Illegitimacy may be limited to political authorities or it could exist in the structure and processes of the entire regime. The worst case is the illegitimacy of the state at the foundational level, making the entire political system illegitimate. In other words, the political system lacks moral and legal legitimacy. A complete mismatch in the value structure of the masses and the elite-state institutions occurs. The two value structures are completely alien, opposite in direction and with their ultimate vision different from each other, it results in constant clash.

Since the entire Muslim world gradually fell under Western colonial yoke and since WWII under neo-colonial yoke, it suffers illegitimacy at all three levels. The very basis of the nation-state is nationalism, which is a form kufr. Every dictator and king has to be evaluated on legitimacy basis. That collective determination has been made long ago, thus the revolutionary struggle becomes not only justified but necessary for the transformation of society from a state of jahiliyah to Islamic consciousness.

The coming weeks and months will determine whether the military will tighten its grip on power by manipulating and using coercive methods to renege on promises, or the masses will succeed by turning the uprising into a full-blown revolution. If the masses had good Islamic revolutionary leadership that would educate and train them, they could have a relatively easier path to achieve revolutionary goals rather than settling for continued Western domination under “fake democracy”.

Only the first phase of the revolution has taken place in the form of a mass uprising resulting in the overthrow of the dictator, a symbol of illegitimacy. The rest will unfold in the coming months. Maybe it is good that the revolution proceeds in stages and at each stage the Western ideology of kufr becomes more exposed. In turn, the masses must be prepared to offer more blood and confront the ensuing chaos as revolutionary spirit and Islamic consciousness conscientizes them to greater depth, ultimately bringing them closer to their goal.

RE: Authoritarianism and Dictatorship - Admin - 03-06-2011

James Carroll

The REVOLUTIONS in the Arab streets, whatever their individual outcomes, have already overturned the dominant assumption of global geopolitics — that hundreds of millions of impoverished people will uncomplainingly accept their assignment to the antechamber of hell. The United States, meanwhile, has been faced with the radical obsolescence of its Cold War-rooted preference of strong-man “stability’’ over basic principles of justice. In 1979, with Iran’s popular overthrow of the shah, America was given a chance to re-examine its regional assumptions, but the Carter Doctrine militarized them by threatening war for the sake of oil. In 1989, when people power dismantled the Soviet empire, Washington declared its own empire, and replaced the Communist devil with an Islamic one. But what if the devil has a point?

This The Obama administration’s initial ambivalence toward the popular Arab uprisings resulted less from uncertain political instincts than from the iron grip of a half-century old paradigm, the core principle of which, in the Mideast, is that oil matters more than human life. That paradigm is broken now, and Washington is chastened by the clear manifestation that its policies have been self-serving, callous, and even immoral. It is impossible to behold such developments without asking: What next? And to ask that question is to follow an automatic shift of the gaze toward Pakistan.

The United States has been preoccupied, as ever, more with the power elite of Pakistan than with the plight of its people, which makes it as wrong in its strategy toward that pivotal nation as toward the others. For the usual reasons of realpolitik, Washington has cozied up to one Pakistani dictator after another; ignored their corruptions; downplayed their mortal complicity in the most dangerous nuclear proliferation on the planet; turned a half-blind eye to the Pakistani military’s double game in Afghanistan. All the while, the same pressures that have blown the tops off half a dozen Arab states have been building there, too.

Pakistan is a country of 170 million people, 60 percent of whom live on less than $2 a day. Nearly that many are illiterate. In the last three years, unemployment has almost tripled to 14 percent, with the same increases in the cost of basic necessities that sparked unrest elsewhere. But Pakistan has also been staggered by last summer’s floods, which directly affected more than 20 million, and so devastated the nation’s agricultural infrastructure that by autumn the World Food Program was warning that 70 percent of the population lacked adequate access to nutrition. As if these “normal’’ pressures of natural disaster and economic inequity are not destabilizing enough, a massive Islamist insurgency, building on the primacy of tribal loyalties, increasingly threatens the Islamabad government. Early this month, as protests mounted to his west, the Pakistani prime minister made the by-then mandatory show of reform by dissolving his cabinet.

But the context for all of this in Pakistan is unique, for the more insecure Islamabad has felt, the more it has embraced the American-spawned fantasy of nuclear weapons as a source of all-trumping transcendent power. Since President Obama gave his historic speech in Prague two years ago, declaring a world purpose of nuclear elimination, Pakistan has been adding to its nuclear arsenal at a feverish clip, growing it from about 70 weapons to perhaps more than 100. The stated rationale for this is the threat from India, which is engaged in its own escalations, with highly touted military support from the United States — including a recent offer of dozens of prized F-35 stealth fighters. Nothing better demonstrates the stuck-in-amber obsolescence of US policy than this self-defeating — and profit-driven — fueling of the South Asia arms race. A balance of terror is no balance. So last week, Pakistan test-fired its nuclear-capable Babur cruise missile — a bow shot as much at Washington as at New Delhi.

And speaking of last week, what were those frenzied crowds in Pakistani streets calling for if not the lynching of Raymond Davis, the CIA operative who faces a murder trial in Lahore for his January killing of two Pakistanis? That Davis is tied to havoc-wreaking CIA drone strikes is enough to enrage a population, shackling his nation, once again, to the wrong side of history.

RE: Authoritarianism and Dictatorship - Admin - 04-25-2011

The Observer 17 April11

To have different levels of tolerance for different despots raises awkward questions. One obvious lesson for the west from recent upheaval in the Middle East is that propping up authoritarian regimes on the grounds that they make stable allies is a terrible policy.
The stability procured by despotism is an illusion. Brittle police states can contain, but never satisfy, a captive people's appetite for better lives. Eventually, they shatter and the more rigid the apparatus of repression, the more explosive the change when it comes.

That has been demonstrated clearly enough in North Africa and yet the west struggles to apply the lesson to the Arabian Peninsula. The contagious spirit of democratic springtime that provoked protests in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya also reached Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia. But there the west has been markedly less inclined to cheer it on.

The Observer carries the chilling testimony of a young Bahraini caught up in the small Gulf kingdom's brutal crackdown on civil dissent. It is a story that struggles to be heard as foreign media are increasingly denied access to the country and the local press is muzzled.

As many as 30 people are thought to have been killed as anti-government demonstrations have been violently suppressed. Hundreds of protesters have been detained and employees have been dismissed from state-owned enterprises in a move to purge dissent.

As our report makes clear, the unrest is increasingly sectarian in character. The Khalifa royal family and ruling elite are Sunni, while the majority of the population is Shia. That religious, cultural and economic division was politicised before the current crackdown, with the main parliamentary opposition coming from Shia parties. The government has flirted with a plan to ban those groups on the grounds of "disrespect for constitutional institutions". There has been widespread intimidation and abuse of Shia communities, carried out in part by security forces "invited" from neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

It would be unfair to say that the violence carried out by Bahraini authorities has passed entirely without comment from the UK. There have been pained expressions of discomfort and urgings of restraint on all sides.

Elsewhere in the region, those noises were precursors to more robust language. But in the Gulf there is a subtle difference of tone. In a statement to Parliament, William Hague, foreign secretary, was keen to recognise "important political reforms" which he welcomed in the context of "the long friendship between Bahrain and the UK".

Why does this Gulf regime get the benefit of the doubt when other authoritarian Arab rulers do not? Clearly, there is no question of intervention in Bahrain or in any other state where protest is being crushed. The entanglement in Libya leaves no appetite for giving active support, whether diplomatic or military, to other rebellions.

If only one villain in the region had to be singled out for attack, Colonel Gaddafi was surely the most deserving candidate. But to have different levels of tolerance for different despots still raises awkward questions about Britain's role in the region. It plainly compromises the government's credentials as an advocate for democracy.

There are many reasons for western reluctance to criticise Gulf rulers, but two stand out: oil and Iran.

The latter's aspirations to be a regional superpower, armed with nuclear weapons, is the source of perpetual anxiety in much of the Middle East and in every western capital. Iran has a proven record of exporting aggressive Shia fundamentalism, chiefly by sponsoring Hezbollah in Lebanon, but also by fomenting insurgency in southern Iraq. As a result, Sunni Arab regimes and their western allies assume Iranian mischief when Shia communities get restive – as in Bahrain.

That fear is eagerly stoked by the Gulf monarchies and emirates, largely without evidence, but safe in the knowledge that Washington and London are allergic to the suggestion of Tehran's advancing influence.

The main strategic bulwark against Iranian power is Saudi Arabia, which happens also to be the world's largest oil exporter. It is hardly a coincidence that the Saudis are keen buyers of British military exports and close partners in antiterrorism operations. It is easy enough to see the immediate utility of this relationship, but it is ultimately toxic. The Saudi regime is an unstable mix of ferocious religious zealotry and hypocritical monarchial decadence. It has no interest in or agenda for democracy and yet it is our key ally in the Middle East.

That partnership has a corrupting influence on commercial relationships and moral judgements. It is the reason why Saudi troops can enter Bahrain and carry out thuggish acts with impunity. Their weapons might well have been made in the UK. There is nothing new in the accusation that the west operates "double standards" in foreign policy. Plainly it does. The only defence is that inconsistency does not rule out an authentic aspiration to do the right thing, at least some of the time. It is surely better to encourage the spread of democracy where strategic calculations allow than to abandon it as a goal altogether because it cannot be universally applied.

That is not an excuse for turning a blind eye to repression in Bahrain. The policy contortions and contradictions Britain has been forced into in recent weeks must serve as a warning. Our reliance on regimes that fear and despise democracy is no more sustainable than those regimes are themselves stable. Weaning ourselves from that strategic dependency is the work of many years, possibly decades. But some exit route must be mapped.

Meanwhile, it is not sufficient to mutter only mild disapproval when our allies murder their citizens.When first confronted by Arab political revolutions, Britain vacillated, reluctant to abandon useful and grubby friendship with corrupt regimes. It should never have required such a complicated effort of calculation to support vocally and unequivocally those forces in oppressed societies who want civil rights, political pluralism and democracy. Having belatedly found that voice in North Africa, it would be a strategic error and a moral failure immediately to let it fall silent in the Gulf.

UK bankers take Bahrain to court over human rights 'violation'

Three British bankers detained in Bahrain for more than a year are taking the Gulf kingdom to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) over what they describe as “serious and systemic violations” of their rights. Alistair MacLeod, Anthony James and Cliff Giddings were held in Bahrain for nearly 17 months after Awal Bank, where they worked, collapsed in 2009, and have said they were the victims of an “arbitrary and illegitimate” travel ban. The men were allowed to leave Bahrain in December after a personal intervention by Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, the crown prince of Bahrain.

In papers filed with the UNHRC and seen by The Telegraph, the bankers said that their “gentleman’s agreement” with the Bahraini government not to take further action was “morally and legally void” because of the continued harassment by officials in the kingdom’s central bank.

“We regret having to do this, but the persistent behaviour of officials at the CBB [Central Bank of Bahrain] and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, who are behaving in a manner not as your King had led us to believe, leave us with no alternative,” wrote the men in a letter to Sheikh Khalifa bin Ali Al-Khalifa, the Bahraini ambassador to Britain.

Among the allegations made are that the prosecutors in Bahrain have suppressed documents that could exonerate the men over their role in the collapse of Awal Bank.

Bell Pottinger's Bahrain brief suspended amid country's crisis
Bell Pottinger's controversial work on behalf of the Economic Development Board of Bahrain has been suspended, PRWeek has learned.
The account, thought to be worth well in excess of seven figures annually, has been suspended during the three-month period of emergency rule declared last month. Bell Pottinger has come under fire from a small group of protesters for its work in Bahrain, which has seen violent uprisings in recent weeks. Lord Bell, chairman of Chime Communications, confirmed the suspension of the account, but stressed this did not necessarily point to a permanent disengagement.
'We had different contracts with the Bahrain government - most of them have been suspended,' he said. 'Clearly it is not possible to attract inward investment at this time.' He added that the situation would be revisited as and when the period of emergency rule ended and that the agency continued to work for a number of clients in Bahrain.
Meanwhile, Good Relations, part of the Bell Pottinger group, has won the UK and European consumer tech and b2b PR account for Research in Motion. The makers of BlackBerry previously used Hotwire

Escalating unrest in several Middle Eastern countries is sparking growing interest in the role PR agencies are playing on behalf of the region’s beleaguered governments. Facing particular scrutiny is the Government of Bahrain, which has retained Bell Pottinger for the past two years. The agency appears to have expanded its role since first being appointed to promote investment in the country; over the past week, it emerged that Bell Pottinger has helped set up a media centre to help journalists cover protests within the country. Bell Pottinger CEO Paul Bell confirmed that the agency represents Bahrain’s Economic Development Board (EDB) but declined to comment further, stating that the agency did not discuss its work for clients. Earlier today, protesters appeared outside the firm’s London HQ, attacking its work for the country.

Last year, The Guardian claimed that PR firms were making London the world capital of reputation laundering. Lobbyists in Washington DC, meanwhile, have also seen their work on behalf of foreign governments examined in detail. The launch of the media centre has attracted criticism among journalists, after a BBC producer was held for 15 hours at Bahrain International Airport. However, a source familiar with the situation said that the development represents a “highly atypical” response, “in the context of the region”. “This is unfamiliar territory,” said the source. “Governments in this region are used to controlling information. This has been a very credible response by the government of Bahrain, and highly atypical in the context of the region.”

“What people assume with PR agencies is their real business is burying the truth,” continued the source. “Not so – this is where you step out with as much real information as you can provide. It is the kind of thing you expect to see from a full-fledged democracy”. Mass protests are continuing in Bahrain today, after authorities released 308 political prisoners. The unrest has seen Bahrain’s credit rating downgraded but the Gulf Arab kingdom’s central bank governor Rasheed al-Marak has insisted there has been “no indication of major capital flight.”

In the US, State Department filings reveal that PR counsel for Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is subcontracted by Bell Pottinger to Washington DC lobbying firm Qorvis. Meanwhile, the Holmes Report understands that last month Edelman New York began handling Bahrain’s EDB brief in the US.Qorvis, one of DC’s leading lobbying firms, also represents the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea. Another DC consultancy, The Livingston Group, has previously represented Libya.
According to this story, Bell Pottinger also handled some work for the Government of Egypt last year. Bell confirmed that his firm is no longer handling any Egyptian assignments of this nature. It has also emerged that the firm is representing exiled Libyan royal Muhammad Al-Senussi, the country’s crown prince. Bell Pottinger is one of a number of agencies that retain lucrative Middle East government contracts. Abu Dhabi’s Executive Affairs Authority retains Edelman as its primary PR agency, while Hill & Knowlton works Egypt’s IT Industry Development Agency and its General Authority for Foreign investment. Financial agencies such as Brunswick, FD and Citigate are also particularly active, handling assignments for the various financial centres and investment vehicles that are government-owned.

Authoritarianism and Dictatorship - Admin - 05-02-2011


Since the first stirrings of revolt erupted in Tunisia on December 17, 2010, the entire Islamic East has been engulfed in civil uprisings. Two tyrants — General Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and General Hosni Mubarak — have been swept from power. Other dictators are feeling the heat to varying degrees. The uprisings have been described variously as “pro-democracy movements”, the “Arab Awakening” or even “revolution”. Absent from all these is mention of any Islamic movement. In the West this is greeted with much relief. While Muslims make up the overwhelming majority of Islamic East’s population, the West does not want Islam to have anything to do with shaping the socio-political order in these societies. Similarly, Islamic parties — al-Ikhwan al-Muslimoon, al-Nahdah and others — are either banned or seldom mentioned as having played any role in the uprisings. This, however, is only one dimension of the problem.

The more important question is whether these uprisings can be characterized as revolutions. At one level, perhaps they could be, insofar as new methods of protest, such as twitter and facebook, are being utilized for mass mobilization. Additionally, in almost all countries, the youth are in the vanguard. This, too, is a new phenomenon but it would be simplistic to get carried away with this. The youth can and have offered great impetus to movements in all countries; they usually do but in the current uprisings, they are not following any particular leader or ideology. At one level this may be considered a blessing since an identifiable leader can be arrested and the movement dealt a blow but one should not fall for romanticism. In the real world, there are certain requirements that must be in place for a movement to succeed. It is not enough to get rid of a tyrant or be content with a change of faces. What follows next is equally, if not more important. Thus we need to have a better understanding of certain basic rules.

First, let us be clear about the phenomenon of revolution. While the word revolution has great romantic appeal, the minimum requirement for any movement to be called revolutionary is that it overthrows the existing order and replaces it with a new, radically different one. This has not happened either in Tunisia or Egypt where old-time dictators have been removed from power but the old order is still in place and does not appear to be in any danger of collapse. The Egyptian military, an important pillar of the old regime, is fully in control. The newly appointed foreign minister, Nabil al-Araby, endorsed the Saudi invasion and occupation of Bahrain in order to crush the people’s uprising there. The state of emergency remains in place; the border with Gaza remains sealed and even the old pharaoh, Hosni Mubarak, who presided over decades of torture, is living comfortably in his opulent villa in Sharm al-Shaikh. So what has changed in Egypt?

The same is true of other countries — Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria — where uprisings are underway. With the exception of Bahrain and Jordan, there are no identifiable leaders or movements leading these protests. In Bahrain, the movement is led by the ‘ulama while in Jordan, the Islamic Action Front (IAF) is in the lead but its demands are modest. The IAF has not demanded abolition of the monarchy; it is only calling for resignation of the prime minister and curtailment of some of the king’s vast powers. These can hardly qualify as revolutionary demands much less leading to any revolutionary change.

Muslims must understand that the systems in their societies are constructs imposed by colonial occupiers. These are not designed to serve the interests of the people. The ruling elites in every Muslim society barring Islamic Iran are all subservient to the West. Unless Muslims strive to dismantle these systems completely as happened in Iran in 1979, their desire for change will not be realized. For change to occur, certain conditions must be met. There must be an Islamic movement led by charismatic muttaqi leadership that will give a directional course to the movement. All energies of the people must be channeled toward the goal of not only overthrowing the old order but also replacing it with an Islamic order. Such a movement can have no parochial, tribal or national interests. Further, the movement and leadership must not be dependent on any outside powers, such as the US, Britain, France etc. In Egypt, for instance, the new regime is still pursuing old policies and the movement that forced the removal of Mubarak is too consumed by internal, purely nationalistic issues to worry about the plight of the Palestinians. This nationalistic trend is worrying. Similarly, the rebels in Libya want the West to help them against Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s forces. Since when has the West supported people’s yearning for freedom and fundamental rights? If Qaddafi is overthrown, the Libyan people may find themselves entering a period of direct colonialism once again.

While one must applaud the courage and dedication of the youth and other segments of society in the Islamic East for rising up against their tyrannical rulers, there is still a long way to go before they will taste true freedom. This will not come about by espousing nationalistic slogans or accepting servitude to the West, regardless of how much they may hate their present rulers. The ruling oligarchies in the West are not their friends; they are nobody’s friends, not even their own people whom they oppress and exploit. No amount of wishful thinking can change this reality.

Muslims struggling for dignity and freedom must have a much clearer understanding of the reality both in their own societies and of the global setup if they are to achieve success in their undoubtedly genuine struggles. Nothing comes easy. This is what we learn from the Sunnah and Sirah of the noble Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Muslims should not harbor any illusions about the price that freedom demands.  

Stratfor Report

Syria is clearly in a state of internal crisis. Protests organized on Facebook were quickly stamped out in early February, but by mid-March, a faceless opposition had emerged from the flashpoint city of Daraa in Syria’s largely conservative Sunni southwest. From Daraa, demonstrations spread to the Kurdish northeast, the coastal Latakia area, urban Sunni strongholds in Hama and Homs, and to Aleppo and the suburbs of Damascus. Feeling overwhelmed, the regime experimented with rhetoric on reforms while relying on much more familiar iron-fist methods in cracking down, arresting hundreds of men, cutting off water and electricity to the most rebellious areas, and making clear to the population that, with or without emergency rule in place, the price for dissent does not exclude death. (Activists claim more than 500 civilians have been killed in Syria since the demonstrations began, but that figure has not been independently verified.)

A survey of the headlines would lead many to believe that Syrian President Bashar al Assad will soon be joining Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak in a line of deposed Arab despots. The situation in Syria is serious, but in our view, the crisis has not yet risen to a level that would warrant a forecast that the al Assad regime will fall.

Four key pillars sustain Syria’s minority Alawite-Baathist regime:

Power in the hands of the al Assad clan
Alawite unity
Alawite control over the military-intelligence apparatus
The Baath party’s monopoly on the political system

Though the regime is coming under significant stress, all four of these pillars are still standing. If any one falls, the al Assad regime will have a real existential crisis on its hands. To understand why this is the case, we need to begin with the story of how the Alawites came to dominate modern Syria.

The Rise of the Alawites
Syria’s complex demographics make it a difficult country to rule. It is believed that three-fourths of the country’s roughly 22 million people are Sunnis, including most of the Kurdish minority in the northeast. Given the volatility that generally accompanies sectarianism, Syria deliberately avoids conducting censuses on religious demographics, making it difficult to determine, for example, exactly how big the country’s Alawite minority has grown. Most estimates put the number of Alawites in Syria at around 1.5 million, or close to 7 percent of the population. When combined with Shia and Ismailis, non-Sunni Muslims average around 13 percent. Christians of several variations, including Orthodox and Maronite, make up around 10 percent of the population. The mostly mountain-dwelling Druze make up around 3 percent.

Alawite power in Syria is only about five decades old. The Alawites are frequently (and erroneously) categorized as Shia, have many things in common with Christians and are often shunned by Sunnis and Shia alike. Consequently, Alawites attract a great deal of controversy in the Islamic world. The Alawites diverged from the mainstream Twelver of the Imami branch of Shiite Islam in the ninth century under the leadership of Ibn Nusayr (this is why, prior to 1920, Alawites were known more commonly as Nusayris). Their main link to Shiite Islam and the origin of the Alawite name stems from their reverence for the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali. The sect is often described as highly secretive and heretical for its rejection of Shariah and of common Islamic practices, including call to prayer, going to mosque for worship, making pilgrimages to Mecca and intolerance for alcohol. At the same time, Alawites celebrate many Christian holidays and revere Christian saints.

Alawites are a fractious bunch, historically divided among rival tribes and clans and split geographically between mountain refuges and plains in rural Syria. The province of Latakia, which provides critical access to the Mediterranean coast, is also the Alawite homeland, ensuring that any Alawite bid for autonomy would be met with stiff Sunni resistance. Historically, for much of the territory that is modern-day Syria, the Alawites represented the impoverished lot in the countryside while the urban-dwelling Sunnis dominated the country’s businesses and political posts. Unable to claim a firm standing among Muslims, Alawites would often embrace the Shiite concept of taqqiya (concealing or assimilating one’s faith to avoid persecution) in dealing with their Sunni counterparts.
Between 1920 and 1946, the French mandate provided the first critical boost to Syria’s Alawite community. In 1920, the French, who had spent years trying to legitimize and support the Alawites against an Ottoman-backed Sunni majority, had the Nusayris change their name to Alawites to emphasize the sect’s connection to the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law Ali and to Shiite Islam. Along with the Druze and Christians, the Alawites would enable Paris to build a more effective counterweight to the Sunnis in managing the French colonial asset. The lesson here is important. Syria is not simply a mirror reflection of a country like Bahrain, a Shiite majority country run by a minority Sunni government. Rather than exhibiting a clear Sunni-Shiite religious-ideological divide, Syria’s history can be more accurately described as a struggle between the Sunnis on one hand and a group of minorities on the other.
Under the French, the Alawites, along with other minorities, for the first time enjoyed subsidies, legal rights and lower taxes than their Sunni counterparts. Most critically, the French reversed Ottoman designs of the Syrian security apparatus to allow for the influx of Alawites into military, police and intelligence posts to suppress Sunni challenges to French rule. Consequently, the end of the French mandate in 1946 was a defining moment for the Alawites, who by then had gotten their first real taste of the privileged life and were also the prime targets of purges led by the urban Sunni elite presiding over a newly independent Syria.

A Crucial Military Opening
The Sunnis quickly reasserted their political prowess in post-colonial Syria and worked to sideline Alawites from the government, businesses and courts. However, the Sunnis also made a fateful error in overlooking the heavy Alawite presence in the armed forces. While the Sunnis occupied the top posts within the military, the lower ranks were filled by rural Alawites who either could not afford the military exemption fees paid by most of the Sunni elite or simply saw military service as a decent means of employment given limited options. The seed was thus planted for an Alawite-led military coup while the Sunni elite were preoccupied with their own internal struggles.

The second major pillar supporting the Alawite rise came with the birth of the Baath party in Syria in 1947. For economically disadvantaged religious outcasts like Alawites, the Baathist campaign of secularism, socialism and Arab nationalism provided the ideal platform and political vehicle to organize and unify around. At the same time, the Baathist ideology caused huge fissures within the Sunni camp, as many — particularly the Islamists — opposed its secular, social program. In 1963, Baathist power was cemented through a military coup led by President Amin al-Hafiz, a Sunni general, who discharged many ranking Sunni officers, thereby providing openings for hundreds of Alawites to fill top-tier military positions during the 1963-1965 period on the grounds of being opposed to Arab unity. This measure tipped the balance in favor of Alawite officers who staged a coup in 1966 and for the first time placed Damascus in the hands of the Alawites. The 1960s also saw the beginning of a reversal of Syria’s sectarian rural-urban divide, as the Baath party encouraged Alawite migration into the cities to displace the Sunnis.

The Alawites had made their claim to the Syrian state, but internal differences threatened to stop their rise. It was not until 1970 that Alawite rivalries and Syria’s string of coups and counter-coups were put to rest with a bloodless military coup led by then-air force commander and Defense Minister Gen. Hafez al Assad (now deceased) against his Alawite rival, Salah Jadid. Al Assad was the first Alawite leader capable of dominating the fractious Alawite sect. The al Assads, who hail from the Numailatiyyah faction of the al Matawirah tribe (one of four main Alawite tribes), stacked the security apparatus with loyal clansmen while taking care to build patronage networks with Druze and Christian minorities that facilitated the al Assad rise. Just as important, the al Assad leadership co-opted key Sunni military and business elites, relying on notables like former Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass to contain dissent within the military and Alawite big-business families like the Makhloufs to buy loyalty, or at least tolerance, among a Sunni merchant class that had seen most of its assets seized and redistributed by the state. Meanwhile, the al Assad regime showed little tolerance for religiously conservative Sunnis who refused to remain quiescent. The state took over the administration of religious funding, cracked down on groups deemed as extremist and empowered itself to dismiss the leaders of Friday prayers at will, fueling resentment among the Sunni Islamist class.

In a remarkably short period, the 40-year reign of the al Assad regime has since seen the complete consolidation of power by Syrian Alawites who, just a few decades earlier, were written off by the Sunni majority as powerless, heretical peasants.

A Resilient Regime
For the past four decades, the al Assad regime has carefully maintained these four pillars. The minority-ruled regime has proved remarkably resilient, despite several obstacles.
The regime witnessed its first meaningful backlash by Syria’s Sunni religious class in 1976, when the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood led an insurgency against the state with the aim of toppling the al Assad government. At that time, the Sunni Islamists had the support of many of the Sunni urban elite, but their turn toward jihadism also facilitated their downfall. The regime’s response was the leveling of the Sunni stronghold city of Hama in 1982. The Hama crackdown, which killed tens of thousands of Sunnis and drove the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood underground, remains fresh in the memories of Syrian Brotherhood members today, who have only recently built up the courage to publicly call on supporters to join in demonstrations against the regime. Still, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood lacks the organizational capabilities to resist the regime.

The al Assad regime has also experienced serious threats from within the family. After Hafez al Assad suffered from heart problems in 1983, his younger brother Rifaat, who drew a significant amount of support from the military, attempted a coup against the Syrian leader. None other than the al Assad matriarch, Naissa, mediated between her rival sons and reached a solution by which Rifaat was sent abroad to Paris, where he remains in exile, and Hafez was able to re-secure the loyalty of his troops. The 1994 death of Basil al Assad, brother of current president Bashar and then-heir apparent to a dying Hafez, also posed a significant threat to the unity of the al Assad clan. However, the regime was able to rely on key Sunni stalwarts such as Tlass to rally support within the military for Bashar, who was studying to become an ophthalmologist and had little experience with, or desire to enter, politics.
Even when faced with threats from abroad, the regime has endured. The 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the 2005 forced Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon may have knocked the regime off balance, but it never sent it over the edge. Syria’s military intervention in the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war allowed the regime to emerge stronger and more influential than ever through its management of Lebanon’s fractured political landscape, satisfying to a large extent Syria’s strategic need to dominate its western neighbor . Though the regime underwent serious internal strain when the Syrian military was forced out of Lebanon, it did not take long for Syria’s pervasive security-intelligence apparatus to rebuild its clout in the country.

The Current Crisis
The past seven weeks of protests in nearly all corners of Syria have led many to believe that the Syrian regime is on its last legs. However, such assumptions ignore the critical factors that have sustained this regime for decades, the most critical of which is the fact that the regime is still presiding over a military that remains largely unified and committed to putting down the protests with force. Syria cannot be compared to Tunisia, where the army was able quickly to depose an unpopular leader; Libya, where the military rapidly reverted to the country’s east-west historical divide; or Egypt, where the military used the protests to resolve a succession crisis, all while preserving the regime. The Syrian military, as it stands today, is a direct reflection of hard-fought Alawite hegemony over the state.

Syrian Alawites are stacked in the military from both the top and the bottom, keeping the army’s mostly Sunni 2nd Division commanders in check. Of the 200,000 career soldiers in the Syrian army, roughly 70 percent are Alawites. Some 80 percent of officers in the army are also believed to be Alawites. The military’s most elite division, the Republican Guard, led by the president’s younger brother Maher al Assad, is an all-Alawite force. Syria’s ground forces are organized in three corps (consisting of combined artillery, armor and mechanized infantry units). Two corps are led by Alawites (Damascus headquarters, which commands southeastern Syria, and Zabadani headquarters near the Lebanese border). The third is led by a Circassian Sunni from Aleppo headquarters.

Most of Syria’s 300,000 conscripts are Sunnis who complete their two- to three-year compulsory military service and leave the military, though the decline of Syrian agriculture has been forcing more rural Sunnis to remain beyond the compulsory period (a process the regime is tightly monitoring). Even though most of Syria’s air force pilots are Sunnis, most ground support crews are Alawites who control logistics, telecommunications and maintenance, thereby preventing potential Sunni air force dissenters from acting unilaterally. Syria’s air force intelligence, dominated by Alawites, is one of the strongest intelligence agencies within the security apparatus and has a core function of ensuring that Sunni pilots do not rebel against the regime.
The triumvirate managing the crackdowns on protesters consists of Bashar’s brother Maher; their brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat; and Ali Mamluk, the director of Syria’s Intelligence Directorate. Their strategy has been to use Christian and Druze troops and security personnel against Sunni protesters to create a wedge between the Sunnis and the country’s minority groups (Alawites, Druze, Christians), but this strategy also runs the risk of backfiring if sectarianism escalates to the point that the regime can no longer assimilate the broader Syrian community. President al Assad has also quietly called on retired Alawite generals to return to work with him as advisers to help ensure that they do not link up with the opposition.

Given Syria’s sectarian military dynamics, it is not surprising that significant military defections have not occurred during the current crisis. Smaller-scale defections of lower-ranking soldiers and some officers have been reported by activists in the southwest, where the unrest is most intense. These reports have not been verified, but even Syrian activist sources have admitted to STRATFOR that the defectors from the Syrian army’s 5th and 9th divisions are being put down.
A fledgling opposition movement calling itself the "National Initiative for Change" published a statement from Nicosia, Cyprus, appealing to Syrian Minister of Defense Ali Habib (an Alawite) and Army Chief of Staff Daoud Rajha (a Greek Orthodox Christian) to lead the process of political change in Syria, in an apparent attempt to spread the perception that the opposition is making headway in co-opting senior military members of the regime. Rajha replaced Habib as army chief of staff when the latter was relegated to the largely powerless political position of defense minister two years ago. In name, the president’s brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat, is deputy army chief of staff, but in practice, he is the true chief of army staff.

The defections of Rajha and Habib, which remain unlikely at this point, would not necessarily represent a real break within the regime, but if large-scale defections within the military occur, it will be an extremely significant sign that the Alawites are fracturing and thus losing their grip over the armed forces. Without that control, the regime cannot survive. So far, this has not happened.

In many ways, the Alawites are the biggest threat to themselves. Remember, it was not until Hafez al Assad’s 1970 coup that the Alawites were able to put aside their differences and consolidate under one regime. The current crisis could provide an opportunity for rivals within the regime to undermine the president and make a bid for power. All eyes would naturally turn to Bashar’s exiled uncle Rifaat, who attempted a coup against his brother nearly three decades ago. But even Rifaat has been calling on Alawite supporters in Tripoli, in northern Lebanon and in Latakia, Syria, to refrain from joining the demonstrations, stressing that the present period is one in which regimes are being overthrown and that if Bashar falls, the entire Alawite sect will suffer as a result.

While the military and the al Assad clan are holding together, the insulation to the regime provided by the Baath party is starting to come into question. The Baath party is the main political vehicle through which the regime manages its patronage networks, though over the years the al Assad clan and the Alawite community have grown far more in stature than the wider concentric circle of the ruling party. In late April, some 230 Baath party members reportedly resigned from the party in protest. However, the development must also be viewed in context: These were a couple of hundred Baath party members out of a total membership of some 2 million in the country. Moreover, the defectors were concentrated in southern Syria around Daraa, the site of the most severe crackdowns. Though the defections within the Baath party have not risen to a significant level, it is easy to understand the pressure the al Assad regime is under to follow through with a promised reform to expand the political system, since political competition would undermine the Baath party monopoly and thus weaken one of the four legs of the regime.

The Foreign Tolerance Factor
Internally, Alawite unity and control over the military and Baath party loyalty are crucial to the al Assad regime’s staying power. Externally, the Syrian regime is greatly aided by the fact that the regional stakeholders — including Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United States and Iran — by and large prefer to see the al Assads remain in power than deal with the likely destabilizing consequences of regime change .
It is not a coincidence that Israel, with which Syria shares a strong and mutual antipathy, has been largely silent over the Syrian unrest. Already unnerved by what may be in store for Egypt’s political future, Israel has a deep fear of the unknown regarding the Syrians. How, for example, would a conservative Sunni government in Damascus conduct its foreign policy? The real virtue of the Syrian regime lies in its predictability: The al Assad government, highly conscious of its military inferiority to Israel, is far more interested in maintaining its hegemony in Lebanon than in picking fights with Israel. While the al Assad government is a significant patron to Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, among other groups it manages within its Islamist militant supply chain, its support for such groups is also to some extent negotiable, as illustrated most recently by the fruits of Turkey’s negotiations with Damascus in containing Palestinian militant activity and in Syria’s ongoing, albeit strained, negotiations with Saudi Arabia over keeping Hezbollah in check. Israel’s view of Syria is a classic example of the benefits of dealing with the devil you do know rather than the devil you don’t.
The biggest sticking point for each of these regional stakeholders is Syria’s alliance with Iran. The Iranian government has a core interest in maintaining a strong lever in the Levant with which to threaten Israel, and it needs a Syria that stands apart from the Sunni Arab consensus to do so. Though Syria derives a great deal of leverage from its relationship with Iran, Syrian-Iranian interests are not always aligned. In fact, the more confident Syria is at home and in Lebanon, the more likely its interests are to clash with Iran . Shiite politics aside, secular-Baathist Syria and Islamist Iran are not ideological allies nor are they true Shiite brethren — they came together and remain allied for mostly tactical purposes, to counter Sunni forces. In the near term at least, Syria will not be persuaded by Riyadh, Ankara or anyone else to sever ties with Iran in return for a boost in regional support, but it will keep itself open to negotiations. Meanwhile, holding the al Assads in place provides Syria’s neighbors with some assurance that ethno-sectarian tensions already on the rise in the wider region will not lead to the eruption of such fault lines in Turkey (concerned with Kurdish spillover) and Lebanon (a traditional proxy Sunni-Shiite battleground between Iran and Saudi Arabia).

Regional disinterest in pushing for regime change in Syria could be seen even in the April 29 U.N. Human Rights Council meeting to condemn Syria. Bahrain and Jordan did not show up to vote, and Saudi Arabia and Egypt insisted on a watered-down resolution. Saudi Arabia has even quietly instructed the Arab League to avoid discussion of the situation in Syria in the next Arab League meeting, scheduled for mid-May.
Turkey’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) has given indications that it is seeking out Sunni alternatives to the al Assad regime for the longer term and is quietly developing a relationship with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. AKP does not have the influence currently to effect meaningful change within Syria, nor does it particularly want to at this time. The Turks remain far more concerned about Kurdish unrest and refugees spilling over into Turkey with just a few weeks remaining before national elections.

Meanwhile, the United States and its NATO allies are struggling to reconcile the humanitarian argument that led to the military intervention with Libya with the situation in Syria. The United States especially does not want to paint itself into a corner with rhetoric that could commit forces to yet another military intervention in the Islamic world — and in a much more complex and volatile part of the region than Libya — and is relying instead on policy actions like sanctions that it hopes exhibit sufficient anger at the crackdowns.
In short, the Syrian regime may be an irritant to many but not a large enough one to compel the regional stakeholders to devote their efforts toward regime change in Damascus.

Hanging on by More Than a Thread
Troubles are no doubt rising in Syria, and the al Assad regime will face unprecedented difficulty in trying to manage affairs at home in the months ahead. That said, it so far has maintained the four pillars supporting its power. The al Assad clan remains unified, the broader Alawite community and its minority allies are largely sticking together, Alawite control over the military is holding and the Baath party’s monopoly remains intact. Alawites appear to be highly conscious of the fact that the first signs of Alawite fracturing in the military and the state overall could lead to the near-identical conditions that led to its own rise — only this time, power would tilt back in favor of the rural Sunni masses and away from the urbanized Alawite elite. So far, this deep-seated fear of a reversal of Alawite power is precisely what is keeping the regime standing. Considering that Alawites were second-class citizens of Syria less than century ago, that memory may be recent enough to remind Syrian Alawites of the consequences of internal dissent. The factors of regime stability outlined here are by no means static, and the stress on the regime is certainly rising. Until those legs show real signs of weakening, however, the al Assad regime has the tools it needs to fight the effects of the Arab Spring.

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The Syrian regime responded to protests with violence, but is this tactic leading them to their eventual suicide?

The death toll is estimated at 2,000 civilian casualties and 400 members of the security services [EPA]  

The Syrian regime's response to five months of popular uprising was described by a recent report of the International Crisis Group as "slow motion suicide", resulting from a "mix of uninhibited brutality, sectarian manipulation, crude propaganda and grudging concessions".

The regime opted for a survival strategy: responding by violence and threatening the population with chaos and civil war in the event of its demise. The objective was to launch a war of attrition by playing on time to wear out any internal revolt. It chose, however, the wrong combination of brutal repression and gradual concessions. The result was a crisis of confidence which was too deep to be overcome by mere calls for national dialogue and reform.

The death toll is estimated at 2,000 civilian casualties (including more than 100 children), and 400 members of the security services. The situation has now reached a stalemate. Neither side appears to be able to defeat the other. Protests are rallying at major urban and rural centres, including Damascus and Aleppo in the last weeks. Rallies continue in Hama, Homs, Lattakia, the Idlib province, and continue to be met with massive military assaults and house to house arrests. The cities of Homs, Hama and Deir ez-Zor were brutally besieged by the regime's armed forces; hundreds of civilian casualties have fallen since the start of the holy month of Ramadan. In Deir ez-Zor, the regime was met with strong resistance by local tribesmen, including the leading Baqqara tribe who joined the opposition movements.    

On July 17, the National Salvation conference held in Istanbul gathered 450 opposition figures who called for civil disobedience throughout the country. Tenets of regime survival quite naively assumed that they would effectively counter the historical meeting held in Damascus on June 27 by prominent opposition figures in the Semiramis Hotel of Damascus. The regime's so-called "national dialogue" conference held on July 10 included a few organic intellectuals and public figures which were carefully selected and summoned to contribute to the process of constitutional amendment and political reform. The strategy was to divide the opposition and maintain the status quo. Dialogue under repression was, however, firmly rejected by the opposition.  

Few cards to play

In its struggle for survival, the regime has a few cards to play. Syrians are now extremely worried about the fragility of their country and the dangers that lurk around the corner. Being in a web of strategic networks, the consequences of instability and insecurity in Syria would potentially be far-reaching. Events can turn in any direction and the next month will be crucial.

A long-term and responsible vision is needed at this stage to prepare for a sustainable and peaceful transition. Appeals have been made within US neo-conservative think-tanks to implement energy sanctions on the oil and gas sectors to strangle and weaken the Assad regime. Such sanctions are ill-advised as they would imply collective punishment of a population already under severe economic and political hardship.

Third-parties are sometimes brought in to break stalemates. The problem here would be to find an impartial mediator with no specific agenda who would be recognizsd and accepted by both sides. The would-be mediator also needs to be able to bring effective pressure on the regime to hand over power in a transition phase towards democratic representation.

Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, famous for his "zero-problems" approach to neighbouring countries, was sent to Damascus, apparently to issue a warning and possibly suggest a way out of the crisis. Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government appears, however, to have fallen out of grace. On the one hand, his collusion with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is increasingly worrying secularists amongst the opposition. On the other hand, the Syrian government's seven-year-old "special relationship" with Turkey, which came at the price of major concessions on water and territorial claims, is now seriously affected by the presence of more than 10,000 refugees in Turkey.

Who else?

What other countries could represent viable sources of mediation? Saudi Arabia, the United States, Russia? A shift in Russia's position was witnessed on August 4, when the United Nations Security Council issued a statement condemning violence against civilians in Syria. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States have now increased pressure by recalling their ambassadors from Damascus. This move was clearly taken in coordination with Washington. Their agenda does not appear void of any calculation and whilst some members of the Syrian opposition now openly state their will to distance themselves from the Iran-Hezbollah nexus, this choice is not shared by all.

Prominent opposition figures such as Burhan Ghalioun consider Egypt, Turkey and Iran as Syria's natural partners in the region for the future. The regime has indeed lost any internal legitimacy drawn from its foreign policy but the Syrian population would not settle for any foreign policy re-alignment which would not secure the full return to Syrian sovereignty of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

International condemnation and continuous scrutiny of the repression is much needed to mobilise and increase pressure over the regime. But foreign military intervention is still firmly rejected by the majority of the Syrian population. To secure legitimacy, the opposition's strategy should focus on the internal front. A combination of backward and forward looking approaches could help in establishing a viable new regime. The battle can be won from the inside while preserving the country from chaos and insecurity in an inclusionary rather than exclusionary process. All religious and ethnic components of the population, including the Alawite community, should be included in the process.

Secular state

Syria is one of the few states remaining in the region which has successfully managed to build a secular state with a strong national identity transcending ethnic or religious affiliations. So far, protesters have remarkably resisted the regime's attempts at framing the unrest along confessional lines by arming 30,000 villagers in the Alawite provinces and giving licenses to kill to the Shabbiha, or armed thugs brought in from the Alawite regions. Minorities, such as Christians, Alawites and Druze, continue to actively contribute to the uprisings in the provinces of Deraa, Homs and other parts of the country. While it has improved coordination and strengthened its outreach, the Syrian opposition still remains scattered and weakened by power struggles and ideological differences.

Since August 1, protesters have seen their ranks invigorated after the evening prayers. Any killings carried out during Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayers and spiritual dedication for Muslims, carry additional costs for the regime. Local Coordination Committees nurture the ambition to bring more forcefully Damascus and Aleppo - with 40 per cent of Syria's 22 million inhabitants - into the protests to reach a critical mass.

Plans to reach out to the second circles of power, beyond the immediate ruling family, are also under consideration. Rumours of growing defections in the army are now reaching the news. Speculations on the recent replacement of the minister of defence, General Ali Habib, evoke his presumed inclinations in favour of the revolution. The regime is again playing the sectarian card by appointing a new Christian minister of defence.

If given guarantees for the post-revolution phase, the 1,200 Alawite officers, with hundreds of men under their command, could be drawn into the transitional phase leading to political pluralism and the rule of law; otherwise, they might resist to the bitter end. Prosecution should be sought against the ones who have perpetrated crimes. But the bulk of the army (with approximately 200,000 soldiers and officers) will need to somehow be integrated. All this presumes that control of military and security affairs is effectively handed over to civilian rule in the transition to democracy.

There is still a long way to go, but the road to Damascus has been taken, and there is no turning back.

Dr Marwa Daoudy is a lecturer at the Middle East Centre, St Antony's College, the University of Oxford.


Bashar al-Assad's shelling of towns and killing of citizens leaves country at risk of imperialist invasion, says author.
George Galloway

August 19, 2011 "Al-jazeera" 08/15/08 -- The news this morning that the Syrian navy were shelling the water-front of Latakia - including the Palestinian refugee camp there - shook me to the core.

Not just because I lived in that camp last year, on that water-front, when Egypt's then-dictator Hosni Mubarak was stalling about letting the Viva Palestina 5 convoy sail for Gaza (after more than a fortnight of Syrian hospitality, the convoy sailed - though I was banned). The people of Latakia, a beautiful seaside holiday resort, were good to me. I cannot be silent about their suffering now.

More importantly, the news was shocking insofar as it calibrated how close we now are to a full-scale civil war in "the last Arab country" - as I described Syria in a speech in the Assad library five years ago, just after the Israeli attack on Lebanon was repulsed by the Syrian-backed resistance, led by Hezbollah.

Historically, I was never close to the Syrian regime. I'm writing this from my house - which I named Tal-al-Zattar, after the Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon which suffered a massacre - facilitated by another Assad - more than thirty years ago, and carried out by his then Phalangist allies.

I was with Yasser Arafat in his long struggle to keep the PLO free from the dead hand of the Syrian Ba'ath Party. I stood with Iraq when 29 countries tried to destroy it in the first Iraq war in 1991. One of those countries was Assad's Syria.

Anti-imperialism vs the police state

But in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, and, by 2006, Bashar al-Assad was left standing as the last Arab leader not to be in the pocket of the West. Syria was hated, I said that night in the library - not because of the bad things it had done, but because of the good. I outlined them thus: Syria has refused to sign a surrender peace with Israel, refused to abandon its territory on the Golan to the illegal occupiers. Syria has refused to abandon the Palestinian resistance, continuing to give safe haven for the leaders, and fighters, of virtually the whole gamut of resistance organisations. Syria has insisted on supporting the Lebanese resistance, has refused to allow its territory to be used as a base against the resistance in Iraq and so forth. It was all true, of course, but it was not the whole truth.

The dark side of the Syrian regime, its authoritarian character, its police state mentality - above all, its deep-seated corruption, fantastically exacerbated by the regime's neo-liberal turn with its attendant privatisations - substituting state property for private ownership by the regime's comprador, by and large. This was another part of the truth, though partly concealed by the Arab nationalist, anti-imperialist character of the Syrian people and their government. This has been the experience lived by most Syrians for more than forty years. That's a lot of darkness.

It was formerly possible to judge Syria by the nature of its enemies - Israeli, US, British and French imperialism, the Arab reactionaries, the Salafist sectarian fanatics - for as long as the Syrian people remained either supportive or were largely quiescent behind the regime, even if only for fear of something worse. And for as long as the president, Bashar al-Assad, held out hope for real reform towards democracy, open government and an end to the rampant corruption - much of it concentrated around his own family and close cronies. That hope now dangles by a thread.

To describe the mass uprising in Syria, day after day, for months - undaunted by the steadily rising price in blood being paid by the protesters, as the actions of "terrorists" and "gunmen" is a gross distortion. In fact, the regime itself looks more and more like the terrorist, certainly the gunmen, in this picture. This is a genuine popular uprising taking place in Syria, even if it is heavily infiltrated by all of Syria's enemies - the enemies of all the Arabs in my view.

Vulnerable to Western 'intervention'

The biggest problem is that the longer fighting on this scale continues, the greater the scope for these enemies to engineer an outcome favourable to them. An outcome which takes Syria out of the traditional national camp and into the camp of collapse, surrender, sectarianism and indignity.

That's why I must say, for me, it looks like five minutes to midnight in Syria. For years, the president has talked of reform. But the more he talked, the faster his relatives counted their ill-gotten gains.

He has talked about the lifting of states of emergency while presiding (one assumes he's still presiding) over the mother of all emergencies in his country. He has talked about ending the Ba'ath party's constitutional monopoly as the "leading force" in the country - but it still exists, at least on paper if not on the streets. He has talked about elections, but of those there is no sign - and how could there be amid the carnage?

The risk of open imperialist intervention in this situation increases almost by the hour. The enemies of the Palestinians and of all the Arabs are rattling their sabres. The Syrian people, always the heart of Arab nationalism, cry out in their slogans - even as they are shot down - against any such foreign interventions, but the vultures circle nonetheless. Such a fate for the great Syria must be avoided at all costs. At all costs.

Unless the Syrian regime can conclude an urgent agreement to proceed to elections, a free media, legal political opposition and an end to what has now become a massacre, the state is going to be invaded or is going to collapse under the weight of the bloodshed. And amid the ruins, the rats of reactionary, sectarian hatred and treason will certainly run free.

George Galloway is a British politician, activist, author, journalist and broadcaster who was a member of parliament from 1987 to 2010.

RE: Authoritarianism and Dictatorship - Admin - 05-08-2011


Dr.Mahboob A. Khawaja

The unfolding of Osama bin Laden killing plan exposes a much hated and embittered sadists and insane gang of Pakistani rulers at the helm of decision making.

“Death to America”, “Death to Zardari” “Death to General Kiayani” read the posters transmitting loud volatile voices of protest and anguish originating from the masses across Pakistan and in other parts of the Arab-Islamic world. The rulers would have hard time in justifying their innocence and inaction at a time when the US elite forces were carrying out the Obama’s sponsored cold blooded political murder of Osama bin Laden and his households including women and children.

Did President Obama and his Pakistani complacent agents ever considered the consequences of such a blunder? America was known to be a nation dedicated to legal system of justice, not political terrorism against the innocent and destitute. There is ample credible evidence available in the US to suggest that 9/11 was an insider job effectively planned and carried out by the official agents to wage new wars against the oil riched Arab-Muslim nations. The major thrust of the US legal system defines an accused person as “innocent” until proven guilty. There were no legal charges registered against Osama bin Laden in any US based Court of Law. If Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 tragedies, was it not appropriate for the US Government to charge him with crimes in a US court according to the US Constitution? Under political temptation to gain numbers and compulsion of evil and a clear failure of sense of rational judgment and foresight, America appears to have pursued vengeful and political killing of bin Laden as he was not charged with any crimes in the US or elsewhere. In all intents and purposes, it appears more understandable that killing of bin Laden was meant for political reasons. Obama’s popularity is declining below 42%, US is financially, morally and political a bankrupt nation, its superpower image and role is open to question and it is fearful of being replaced by other emerging nations of Asia such China, India or combination of small economically viable and productive nations. It is that FEAR of the unknown that alludes behind the sickening thinking and military actions against others across the globe. Abdus Sattar (“Has our civil military leadership failed totally” The International News, May 3, 2011) makes the point:

“If Osama was considered a terrorist by the Pakistani government just because of being convinced by Washington’s propaganda, then why was not he apprehended by our own forces? He should have been tried and sentenced here if he was doing anything in violation of the law of the land.”

Undoubtedly, the US is at the losing end and operationally a defeated party in Iraq and Afghanistan. These were bogus wars launched by the Bush administration against the Islamic people to grab and exploit their natural resources. Despite public overtures of reaching-out to the Muslim people and bridging the political gaps, Obama has continued the madness and cruelty of killing innocent people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. An estimated three million people have been killed by the US led war in Iraq. Millions of habitats and lives are continuously destroyed in Afghanistan. About 12,900 civilians are reported to have been killed by the US increased drone attacks in Pakistan. Who are the real terrorists? War is killing others, not peace-building. Obama’s actions refute his own words and commitment to global outreach and peacemaking. President Obama wanted to normalize the relations with the Muslim world as he professed in his first presidential speech. His first legal act was to close down the infamous Guantanomo Bay terror prison, and then he wanted to stop the bogus wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring home the troops. He renegade all of his commitments to make the difference in American politics. This is the US politics. All contemporary politicians are stage actors pretending to be doing good to the interest of the people. Men who are universally hated and feared claim to have achieved success at the cost of wrong thinking, ruthlessness, and treason against humanity. Their so called fantasy of success can never flourish except leading to degeneration, viciousness and self-destruction.

In July 2007, the NY Times published front page article that “Pakistani Generals are paid to do the job.” That was General Mushraf and comrades, exposing the insanity of the “war on terrorism” that Pakistan embraced and the Generals made millions. Now General Musharaf lives in $1.4 million mansion in London. After the Raymond Davis case, this latest episode left no doubt that indeed Pakistani Generals and Zardari gang are paid by the US Government to do the job. The terms of reference clearly shows that the US intelligence network and the political leadership have full control over all the major affairs of governance in Pakistan. Zardari and the Pakistani Generals are the stooges at the US conducted political chessboard. What kind of future is waiting for these people? Abdus Sattar recaps the prevalent reality:

“The Pakistani leadership might have thought that it would pocket more dollars in exchange for the latest shame earned for the nation. But in reality Pakistan might soon find itself between the devil and the deep sea. Instead of getting dollars, the whole world has already started discussing Pakistan as the epicenter of terrorism. And what al-Qaeda and Taliban would do with Pakistan is anybody’s guess.”

Do the Pakistani military and civilian rulers have any justifiable explanation to offer to nation? They have failed miserably to prove their professional duty and accountability. What if India and Israel would come-in as did the US intruders to attack the nuclear installations? Would they be ignorant of such an unthinkable intrusion into Pakistan’s sovereignty? The rulers are the absolute power in Pakistan. There is no democracy, no political accountability and there is no political system based on any known legitimacy. The Pakistani rulers have acquired indifference to the public interest and insanity and they are victim of their own obsession - their removal or death will bring no deliverance to the nation. Pakistan needs a new political system of governance to be articulated by the new educated and proactive visionary generation of the people. Zardari and the Generals belong to the dead past, and cannot be a hope for the future. Pakistanis live in a domain of vicious circle with a terrible sense of helplessness lacking political imagination and new ideas for the future making. The present rulers deserve a jolt to open up new avenues for change and hope for the future.

Colin Wilson (The Criminal History of Mankind), offers an historical perspective quite befitting to the Pakistani rulers:

“The history of Rome contains more crime and violence than that of any other city in world history……the Romans were slipping into violence by a process of self-justification and once a nation or an individual has started down this particular slope, it is impossible to apply brakes. The Roman people were too unimaginative and short sighted to realize that once murder has been justified on grounds of expediency, it can become a habit, then a disease.”

Is there a way out of the Pakistani sell out to the US? The Pakistani military Generals and political rulers are part of the problem; they cannot be part of the solution. The traitors are boxed-in, fair or foul. They will deny being on the wrong side or ever having committed treason against the very people and nation that fed them. The solution must come out of the NEW THINKING and NEW VISIONS of the young people and new generation of Pakistani scholars and intellectuals not afflicted by political corruption and crimes against the interest of the masses. This approach deserves an inward EYE on the objectivity and purpose of political change and reformation of the neo-colonial dominated governance, an eye not merely to change the political faces but FOCUSED on the PURPOSE of political change institutionalized development, holding the current rulers accountable to their crimes and treason to the nation, and rebuilding new political institutions with an instinctive recognition gradually transforming the obsolete and corrupt governance to new and responsible system of democratic governance. Surely, history will judge the Pakistani rulers by their actions, not by their claims.

Dr. Mahboob A. Khawaja specializes in global security, peace and conflict resolution, and comparative cultures and civilizations, and author of many publications including Muslims and the West; How America Lost the War on Islamic Fundamentalism; To America and Canada with Reason; “Pakistan: Enigma of Change”, “Pakistan: Leaders who could not lead”, “Pakistan at Crossroads”, “ How the US and Britain Lost the Bogus Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?”, “To President Obama-War is War, Not Peace.”, “Arab People in Search of Peace and New Leadership”, “Pakistan’s Living Graveyards”, “Arab People Win Freedom”