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CHANGE IN THE MIDDLE EAST February 22, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Middle East, North Africa.
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The dictator of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, is now as good as gone, although in a vain attempt to retain power, but not legitimacy, the massacre of people may continue. The problem will be then to form a new government, albeit an transitional arrangement.

The Egyptian solution of allowing an army council to run the country for an unspecified limited time does not look too bad by contrast. The army did not turn it weapons on its own people, so its’ institutional credibility has been retained. I would be confident that there would be those that thought that it might be possible to effect an apparent change, but given the Libyan experience and the mass Friday demonstrations is now simply not possible.

As Egypt changes so in due course, and sometimes with remarkable rapidity will the rest of the Arab World. It is no easy matter to keep to the nonviolent script when subject to barrages of rocks, tear gas, live bullets, and even in Libya, bombs from aircraft. The critical question is the proportion of the military that have deserted the government, as they did in both Bahrain and Libya, and in the case of Libya the use of a “foreign legion” to kill protesters adds an element, shared with a different composition by Bahrain.

The fact that oil prices would increase given events was an easy prediction, yet it seems the raise has been greater than appropriate, but that may be in anticipation of what could happen in the Saudi Kingdom.

The US, as Pepe Escobar points out has the problem of seeing another of the pillars of its foreign policy shaking, if not falling under the impact of the political earthquake that is reshaping the Arab World, and doubtless in due course beyond. As he writes:

Is Washington remotely outraged by all this [killing of peaceful demonstrators by military fire]? The record speaks for itself. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed “deep concern”, according to the State Department, and “urged restraint”. The Pentagon said Bahrain was “an important partner”; later Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman – certainly to make sure everything was dandy with the US Navy’s 5th Fleet and its 2,250 personnel housed in an isolated compound inside 24 hectares in the center of Manama.

Even The New York Times was forced to acknowledge that US President Barack Obama had “yet to issue the blunt public criticism of Bahrain’s rulers that he eventually leveled against President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt – or that he has repeatedly aimed at the mullahs in Iran”. But he can’t; after all, Bahrain’s I-shot-my-people king is another usual suspect, a “pillar of the American security architecture in the Middle East”, and “a staunch ally of Washington in its showdown with Iran’s Shi’ite theocracy”.

Under these strategic circumstances, it’s hard to dismiss Lebanese political scientist and blogger at the Angry Arab website As’ad AbuKhalil, when he stresses, “The US had to plot the repression of Bahrain to appease Saudi Arabia and other Arab tyrants who were mad at Obama for not defending Mubarak to the every end.”

But it seems to the problem for the US goes further. The significance of the fighter jet deal with Saudia Arabia means that the petrodollars can be recycled. Otherwise they are likely to be used property and share purchases in the US which may not contribute to alleviate the debt problem or however that recycling problem is worked.

Pepe Escobar engages in thinking about the extension of the uprisings that have been witnessed so far and have extended to Omar, Algeria and Morocco. He writes:

Yet there may be reasons to dream of Saudi Arabia following the winds of new Egypt. The average age of the House of Saud trio of ruling princes is 83. Of the country’s indigenous population of 18.5 million, 47% is under 18. A medieval conception of Islam, as well as overwhelming corruption, is under increasing vigilance on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

The middle class is shrinking. 40% of the population actually lives under the seal of poverty, has access to virtually no education, and is in fact unemployable (90% of all employees are “imported” Sunnis). Even crossing the causeway to Manama is enough to give people ideas.

Once again, talk about an extraordinary uphill struggle – in a country with no political parties – or labor unions, or student organizations; with any sort of protests and strikes outlawed; and with members of the shura council appointed by the king.

The Arab News newspaper anyway has already warned that those winds of freedom from northern Africa may hit Saudi Arabia. And it may all revolve around youth unemployment, at an unsustainable 40%. There’s no question; the great 2011 Arab revolt will only fulfill its historic mission when it shakes the foundations of the House of Saud. Young Saudi Sunnis and Shi’ites, you have nothing to lose but your fear.

So far brutal repression does not seem to be working, and so may be Mugabe has got it right in arresting people on suspicion for watching the demonstrations of people power. Tough times for dictators and that is a good thing, but equally difficult adjustments required to the status quo that support for dictators has created. Of course we should never confusethe bit players with the Empire.

ELSEWHERE

Fred Halliday, who died last year, wrote of the Libyan Regime on its’ 40th anniversary describing it as a kleptocracy. His article is republished in Open Democracy.

Andrew Bacevich, via AntiWar.com, observes that the whole “war on terror” has been “consigned to the category of strategic irrelevance”.

At War in Context, Paul Woodward notes that John Kerry has made several demands, including that the US not only condemn Gaddafi but call for international prosecutions on the basis of crimes against humanity. Unfortunately this would set a precedent for the Empire. The leading Islamic scholar, Yousuf al-Qaradawi, has called for the assassination of Gaddafi on the basis that he is insane. Furthermore there are reports that non-Arab African mercenaries are being executed in “Free Libya”.

Brian Whitaker, in The Guardian, suggests their is a rationale in Gaddafi’s behavior, although he does not identify the reasons why the original revolution, so closely associated with Gaddafi went wrong.

In regard to Libya, Juan Cole observed on Informed Comment:

Aljazeera Arabic is making the point that a lot hinges on the Libyan tribes’ response to the crisis. The reporter says that the officer corps is actually an assemblage of tribal notables cultivated by Qaddafi over the years, and in the end tribal loyalties may win out.

CODA:

The comparison is made between the brutality that Gaddafi is attempting in Tripoli and the successful suppression of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. In this case violence has been successfully resisted in Egypt and Benghazi. There is the further element that mercenaries are been used, a factor that is likely to act as a spur to increase the likelihood that the army will draw back from the policy. By proclaiming that he intended to hunt down the resisters to the last person, Gaddafi has created the situation in which there is nothing to lose. Furthermore, the Chinese Government has overseen a situation in which economic well being has increased, whereas in Libya despite the flow of oil revenues, it is reported that 40% of the population live in poverty. Over time governments based on violent repression inevitably become isolated from the population, and the realization of freedom and lack of fear becomes a very strong force, not to be underestimated.

The factor that I am ignoring is international support for the regime. While it is true that I have no expertise and I definitely could not find my way out of the airport in Tripoli or Cairo, it is possible to weigh the evidence and come to a conclusion as to a likely outcome.

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