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OUTWARD SPIRALS February 16, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Middle East, North Africa.
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The demonstration effect of the Egyptian Revolution is spreading across the Arab world and significantly to Iran.

The process has not completely unfolded in Egypt, but despite the military holding nominal power there does not seem any likely that the regime will be unable to transmogrify and continue. Donald Macintyre reporting form Cairo for The Independent writes:

The Egyptian military yesterday reinforced its efforts to try to return the country to normal by demanding an end to strikes and protests while holding out the prospect of an accelerated agenda on political reform.

There were indications from the military and Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik that liberalising amendments to the constitution would be drafted in time to put them to a national referendum in two months, while the civilian cabinet would be reshuffled to bring in opposition politicians.

But the ruling Higher Military Council issued a stern warning on state television that demonstrations and a wave of labour unrest over pay and conditions were damaging security and the economy, adding: “Noble Egyptians see that these strikes, at this delicate time, lead to negative results.”
The prospect of an early referendum first surfaced in accounts of a meeting on Sunday night between two top generals and the young activists who organised the more than two weeks of protests that brought down former president Hosni Mubarak on Friday.

The activists – including Wael Ghonim, the Google marketing executive who was jailed for 12 days under the Mubarak regime for his part in the protests – said that the generals had indicated that constitutional amendments would be drafted within 10 days and put to a referendum in two months, preparing for civilian rule. Mr Ghonim and another protest organiser, Amr Salama, were two of the seven activists who took part in the meeting with the generals and they emphasised they were speaking for themselves.

Whether the military will be able to stop strikes is another matter, especially since there were reports that police were also reported striking for higher wages.

Brian Murphy for Associated Press in The Boston Globe reports:

The possible heirs of Egypt’s uprising took to the streets yesterday in several parts of the Mideast: Iran’s beleaguered opposition stormed back to central Tehran. Demonstrators demanded more freedom in Bahrain. And protesters in Yemen pressed for the ouster of their ruler.

The protests — all with important implications for Washington — offer an important lesson about how groups across the Middle East are absorbing the message from Cairo and tailoring it to their own aspirations.

The heady themes of democracy, justice, and empowerment remain intact as the protest wave works it way through the Arab world and beyond. However, the objectives change. The Egypt effect, it seems, is elastic.

“This isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing,’’ said Mustafa Alani, a regional analyst at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. “Each place will interpret the fallout from Egypt in their own way and in their own context.’’

For the Iranian opposition — not seen on the streets in more than a year — it’s become a moment to reassert its presence after facing relentless pressures.

Tens of thousands of protesters clashed with security forces along some of Tehran’s main boulevards, which were shrouded in clouds of tear gas. At least one civilian was killed.

Al Jazeera is following the developments in Algeria.

The speed at which the Egyptian Constitution is apparently being rewritten is simply awe inspiring compared to the experience in Australia. I suppose it helps if one judge is appointed to do the rewrite. Allowing for time and technology, ten days is still pretty quick. BBC Online has the report. Expedition in these matters is I suppose a product of the army mindset.

I have the uncomfortable sense of not knowing what is happening in Egypt. My sense is that despite the desire of the Army, normality will not be restored. As they say in the movies, “something has happened”. Robert Falk gives his thoughts, via Al Jazeera:

It is impossible to predict how this future will play out. There are too many forces at play in circumstances of radical uncertainty. In Egypt, for instance, it is widely believed that the army holds most of the cards, and that where it finally decides to put its weight will determine the outcome. But is such conventional wisdom not just one more sign that hard power realism dominates our imagination, and that historical agency belongs in the end to the generals and their weapons, and not to the people in the streets?

Of course, there is a blurring of pressures as the army could have been merely trying to go with the flow, siding with the winner once the outcome was clear. Is there any reason to rely on the wisdom, judgment, and good will of armies – not just in Egypt whose commanders owe their positions to Mubarak – but throughout the world?

In Iran the army did stand aside, and a revolutionary process transformed the Shah’s edifice of corrupt and brutal governance. The people momentarily prevailed, only to have their extraordinary nonviolent victory snatched away in a subsequent counter-revolutionary move that substituted theocracy for democracy.

There are few instances of revolutionary victory, and in those few instances, it is rarer still to carry forward the revolutionary mission without disruption. The challenge is to sustain the revolution in the face of almost inevitable counter-revolutionary projects, some launched by those who were part of the earlier movement unified against the old order, but now determined to hijack the victory for its own ends. The complexities of the revolutionary moment require utmost vigilance on the part of those who view emancipation, justice, and democracy as their animating ideals, because there will be enemies who seek to seize power at the expense of humane politics.

In these matters, my bias is very much in the way of objectivity. We have become familiar with the thirty year extent of the Egyptian state of emergency, but I had not known that Algeria’s had lasted for nineteen years.

ELSEWHERE:

Moni Basu describes the spreading protest in the Arab World suggesting some of the underlying (and common?) influences.

In The Guardian, Jack Shenker reports that activists are now thinking that the Army Leadership has hijacked their revolution. Next Friday will be critical.

At Waging Nonviolence, Eric Stoner referring to a front page report in The New York Times observes:

Stories like these are important because they make it clear that what happened in Egypt wasn’t spontaneous or leaderless, but the result of the hard work of thousands of activists over the course of several years. This mainstream attention is also generating new, unprecedented interest in nonviolence which I find extremely hopeful and exciting.

Paul Craig Roberts at Global Researcher.ca reflects on the possibility of an nonviolent and non-materialist revolution.

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