The Emerging Counter-Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt
© Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Source: Global Research
February 12, 2011
“President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down as president of Egypt and has assigned the higher council of the armed forces to run the affairs of the country,” Suleiman said in a brief televised address. “May God help everybody.”
Cheers could be heard in the streets of Cairo even before Suleiman stopped speaking. And while there was no way to know whether the army would make good on its previous pledges to safeguard democratic elections, the crowds were euphoric at the news that Mubarak’s 30 years of authoritarian rule were over.
“Egypt is free! Egypt is free!” they shouted in Tahrir Square. “The regime has fallen!”
Source: The Washington Post (February 11, 2011)
An arrogant pharaoh has fallen. Egyptians may be chanting that their country is free, but their struggle is far from over. The United Arab Republic of Egypt is not free yet. The old regime and its apparatus are still very much in place and waiting for the dust to settle. The Egyptian military is officially in control of Egypt and the counter-revolution is emerging. A new phase of the struggle for liberty has started.
The so-called regime-desired “transitional phases” in Tunisia and Egypt are being used to buy time in order to do three things. The first objective is to erode and eventually break the people’s popular demands. The second goal is to work to preserve neo-liberal economic policies, which will be used to subvert the political system, and to tighten the straightjacket of external debts. Finally, the third motivation and objective is the preparation of counter-revolution.
The Self-Selected Egyptian “Wise Men”
Unqualified figures are emerging, which claim to be speaking or leading the Arab people. This includes the so-called committee of “Wise Men” in Egypt. These unelected figures are supposedly negotiating with the Mubarak regime on behalf of the Egyptian population, but they have no legitimacy as representatives of the people. The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, is amongst them. Secretary-General Moussa has also said that he is interested in becoming a future cabinet minister in Cairo. All of these figures are either regime insiders or agents of the status quo.
Amongst these self-chosen individuals also is the chief of Orascom Telecom Holdings (O.T.H.) S.A.E., Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris. Bloomberg Newsweek had this to say about Sawiri: “Most Egyptian businessmen are keeping low profiles these days. The protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square blame them for Egypt’s ills, and mobs have even trashed some of their properties. Yet Egypt’s most prominent mogul, Naguib Sawiris, chairman of Orascom Telecom Holding, the Middle East’s biggest telecom company is in Cairo fielding calls on his mobile phone, appearing on TV, and (as a member of an informal committee of “wise men”) negotiating with newly appointed Vice-President Omar Suleiman about a gradual transfer of power away from President Hosni Mubarak. Far from discouraged, the billionaire thinks a more vibrant Egyptian economy may emerge from the turmoil.” 
The so-called “Wise Men” in Egypt are involved in bravado. To whom is the power “gradually” being “transfered”? Another unelected figure, like Suleiman?
What is the nature of the negotiations? Power sharing between an unelected regime and a new cast? There is nothing to negotiate with unelected despots. The role that the “Wise Men” play is that of a “manufactured opposition” that will keep the interests behind the Mubarak regime in place and also dilute the real opposition movements in Egypt.
Al-Mebazaa Given Dictator Powers while Tunisian Military Reservists are Mobilized
In Tunisia, military reservists are being summoned for duty to manage the protesters.  The mobilization of the Tunisian military has been justified under the pretext of combating lawlessness and violence. The Tunisian regime itself has been behind most of this lawlessness and violence.
At the same time as the mobilization of Tunisian reservists, Fouad Al-Mebazaa, the interim president of Tunisia, has been given dictatorial powers.  Al-Mebazaa was the man that Ben Ali selected as parliamentary speaker of Tunisia and a leading figure inside Ben Ali’s Constitutional Democratic Rally (CDP) Party. Protesters peacefully tried to stop the members of the Tunisian Parliament from voting to grant dictatorial powers to Al-Mebazaa by blocking entry into the Tunisian Parliament.
The members of the Tunisian Parliament are all members of the “old regime.” Amid the protests, the Tunisian Parliament still managed to go forward with the plan: “Lawmakers eventually bypassed demonstrators by accessing the voting hall through a service door, the TAP news agency reported. In a 177-16 vote, the lower house approved a plan to give Interim President Fouad Mebazaa temporary powers to pass laws by decree.”  The next day, the Tunisian Senate would approve this too. 
Al-Mebazza can now select governors and officials at will, change electoral laws, give amnesty to whomsoever he pleases, and bypass all Tunisian state institutions through his decrees. The passing of the motion to give Al-Mebazza what amounts to dictatorial powers is an illustration of the facets of “cosmetic democracy.” This act by the kangaroo Tunisian Parliament is being passed off as a democratic act of voting, but in reality all its members were undemocratically selected by the Ben Ali regime.
The Generals of the Egyptian Military and Vice-President Suleiman are a Continuation of Mubarak
In Egypt, the commanders of the military have stated that they will not allow the protests to continue for much longer. The military leadership of Egypt are all heavily invested into the kleptocratic status quo of the Mubarak regime. Egyptian generals or flag officers are all wealthy members of the Egyptian capitalist class. Without any distinctions, the leadership of the Egyptian military and the Mubarak regime are one and the same. All key figures in the Mubarak regime are from the ranks of the military.
Omar Suleiman, the newly appointed vice-president of Egypt and the general who was the former head of the intelligence services of Egypt, has started to back-track on the promises made by the Mubarak regime and himself. The New York Times reported that “Omar Suleiman of Egypt says he does not think it is time to lift the 30-year-old emergency law that has been used to suppress and imprison opposition leaders.”  Just days before Mubarak’s resignation, Suleiman has also stated: “He does not think that President Hosni Mubarak needs to resign before his term ends in September . And he does not think [Egypt] is ready for democracy.” 
Battles have been Won, But the Struggle Continues…
The stakes are getting higher. The people of Tunisia and Egypt should be aware that the U.S. government and the European Union are politically hedging their bets. They support the counter-revolutions of the old regimes, but are also working to co-opt and control the outcomes of the protest movements. In another development, the U.S. and NATO are also making naval deployments into the Eastern Mediterranean. Specifically with Egypt in mind, this too could be meant to aid the counter-revolution, but it can also be used to intervene against a successful revolution.
The events in Tunisia and Egypt have proven wrong all the false assumptions about the Arab peoples. The Tunisian and Egyptian people have acted peacefully and intelligently. They have also proven that the assumption of an advanced political culture in Western Europe, North America, or Australia is merely utter nonsense used to justify repression of other peoples.
 Stanley Reed, “Egypt’s Telecom Mogul Embraces Uprising,” Bloomberg Businessweek, February 10, 2011.
 “Tunisia calls up reserve troops amid unrest,” Associated Press (AP), February 7, 2011.
 Kaouther Larbi, “Tunisia Senate grants leader wide powers,” Agence France-Presse (AFP), February 10, 2011.
 Helene Cooper and David E. Sanger, “In Egypt, U.S. Weighs Push For Change With Stability,” The New York Times, February 8, 2011, A1.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).
Twitter, Facebook look engaged in U.S. policy, Armenian blogger says
February 7, 2011
(PanARMENIAN.Net) – Twitter and Facebook social networks are likely to be directly engaged in the U.S. policy, according to an Armenian blogger.
“With their central servers located in the U.S., these companies have to be subordinate to American laws and operate in the interested of the United States,” information security expert Tigran Kocharyan said in a conversation with a PanARMENIAN.Net reporter.
“The recent events in Egypt evidence of these websites’ policy, obviously coordinated with the White House. Parallel to Obama’s calls on Mubarak to start a dialogue with the opposition, Twitter and Facebook launched a campaign to support the rioters. Moreover, these companies helped the Egyptian opposition reach internet bypassing the governmental ban,” he said.
Kocharyan noted that the processing of so-called “twitter revolutions” started in 2009 in Moldavia and was successfully continued in cases with Iran, Tunisia and Egypt.
“The example of Egypt proved that total internet cutoff could not suppress the ‘twitter revolution’, which can be counterbalanced through monitoring and control over social networks only,” he said.
See also Inteltrends’ Special Report:
The role of social networking websites in global unrest
Muslim masses begin to move. West fears Islamic revolution.
© Kavkaz Center
January 31, 2011 21:16
The popular uprising changed the regime of dictator Ben Ali in Tunis and, apparently, Mubarak will be the next who will have to go, says the Indonesian newspaper The Jakarta Globe.
Some experts have even compared the wave of popular demonstrations in Muslim countries with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of Communism in Europe – events that nobody predicted until they actually happened – and that Tunisia and Egypt are the beginning of a wave that will sweep away other notoriously autocratic regimes in the Islamic world as well.
As Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center noted, the “barrier of fear that so far kept the Muslim masses under the control of their ruling elites has been broken by the Tunisian revolt”.
After Tunisia protests began in Egypt, Algeria, Jordan and Yemen. These developments have put the West in a quandary.
Both Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt have over the years received considerable support from Western countries. America has been supporting Egypt to the tune of billion a year. Tunisia was the “poster boy” of the IMF.
Even in spite of the fact that many demonstrations in Tunisia are under the slogans of “freedom and democracy”, Western countries are afraid of supporters of political Islam coming to power.
Yet, it could be argued that an Islamic takeover is still the most likely outcome of the events in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Syria, Jordan and Yemen, says The Jakarta Globe.
For although Islamic forces might seem largely absent in the protests right now, anyone familiar with the region knows that Islamic sentiments and inclinations have always been strong among its residents.
This is proven by the fact that the burial of Mohammed Bouazizi, the young Tunisian who set himself alight in protest against Ben Ali and thereby started the popular uprising, featured slogans like “The martyr is loved by Allah!”
And also by the fact that the organizers of the demonstration in Egypt on Tuesday felt themselves forced to ask the demonstrators not to show their religious views, and begged the people to bring only Egyptian flags and no religious symbols.
Nevertheless, the protests started off with a mass prayer in the square where the people gathered.
The fact that Muslims do not want democracy and secular way of development, has been shown by numerous opinion polls. The most recent PEW survey showed that 85% of Egyptians and 91% of Indonesians favor the presence of Islam in politics. 82% of Egyptians, 70% of Jordanians, and 40% of Indonesians support the introduction of sharia law such as stoning for adultery and the death penalty for apostasy.
Therefore, it is possible that the word freedom Muslims understand not as permissiveness and disrespect for religious laws, as in the West, but rather to live according to Islam. For instance, Tunisia banned the Islamic headscarf and threw women in prison for wearing it.
Although western media outlets are silent about this, we must recognize the popular uprisings in the Arab countries are associated with Islam. While the revolutionaries do not call for the establishment of an Islamic state, but by time the revolution can turn in this direction.
Meanwhile, Western diplomats and analysts predict that the growing instability in the country will present fresh challenges for U.S. and “Israel”, which are considered “masters” of the Middle East, says CBS.
“Egypt is now witnessing a major political tsunami with consequences for its surrounding region”, warns an Arab diplomat from a Middle Eastern country who served in Cairo until last August. Speaking to CBS News on condition of anonymity, the diplomat warned of “a variety of dangers” following a regime change in Egypt.
Going forward, he listed the emerging possibilities, ranging from “a significant rise of Islamic militants in Egypt who will take a harder line towards the U.S. and Israel”, to “Egypt becoming a symbol of change for others to follow”.
While President Mubarak for now appears to be defying the odds, Egypt is becoming increasingly locked in a state of growing paralysis that is forcing many analysts to resign themselves to a regime change.
Meanwhile, the return of Mohamed El-Baradei to lead the protests has raised the possibility of a future government led by a figure who will pursue internal reforms while retaining links to the U.S., “Israel” and other outside powers.
Analysts warn a future democratic regime elected through a popular vote is likely to also give political gains to Egypt’s Muslim brotherhood, or “Akhwan al muslimeen”.
Mubarak, in his three decades as Egypt’s president, has frequently presented himself to foreign powers as the most effective bulwark against “hard line Islamists”.
Nevertheless, the possibility of “Akhwans” coming to power is even real.
“Akhwan al muslimeen” has assumed a role as the key representative of Egypt’s underdog. In a volatile situation as we have today, these people have the perfect opportunity to be heard as never before,” says a second Arab diplomat who until 2009 served at his country’s embassy in Cairo.
“I believe events in Egypt have a real chance of spilling over. This is a volcano with real lava waiting to spill over,” said a Pakistani security official.
Department of Monitoring
How the Muslim Brotherhood Saved the U.S. Dollar
© Stanislav Mishin
Source: Mat Rodina
January 30, 2011
There are two truths that the Anglo Elites know all too well: democracy in the West means a ruling oligarchy with good PR, democracy in the Middle East means Islamic Jihadists and Fundamentalists. This has been a fact for many years and is not, in any way a shock or disconnect for any of the American elites now backing “democracy” revolutions.
1. Iranian revolution, 1978-1979: Mass protests by a wide coalition against the King. Result? Mullahs take over.
2. Egypt has free parliamentary elections. Results? The Muslim Brotherhood becomes the second most powerful party in the country, before being quickly banned.
3. Americans allow free elections in Iraq. Results? Islamist parties become the main power blocks in power.
4. Palestinians have free elections: Voters protest against corrupt regime. Result? Hamas is now running the Gaza Strip.
5. Beirut Spring: Christians, Sunni Muslims, and Druze unite against Syrian control. Moderate government gains power. Result? Hezbollah is now the main political force in Lebanon.
6. Algeria holds free elections: Voters back moderate Islamist group. Result? Military coup; Islamists turn (or reveal their true thinking) radical; tens of thousands of people killed.
Quite simply, the majority of the population has an insane infatuation with extremist Islam, be it Shiite or Sunni. Again, none of this is a surprise to the owners of the Anglo sphere. So why are they so actively backing revolutions and over throws throughout the Middle East?
Already a revolution has swept out the sectarian dictator of Tunisia, with Islamists quickly moving in. Exiled leader of Tunisian Islamist party returning to role in ‘new era of democracy’.
Protests, demonstrations and revolutions have now spread to Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Albania, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Egypt is by far, the worst hit, with the government teetering, mass looting and violence becoming the norm and the Muslim Brotherhood riding high.
All of this, of course is nothing new, it is a rehash of past and present events. So, my astute readers are now asking, again, why are the Anglo Elites servicing these revolutions and how will this save the U.S. dollar, or at least stave off its death for a few more years?
To answer that one must understand that to be a vassal, er, an ally of the Anglos is worse than to be an enemy. At least an enemy knows where he stands, while an ally will be used and when his or her utilization has reached its max, will be betrayed, back stabbed and sold out as best suits the Anglos, be it an Irishman or a Half Arab who sits in the Oval Office.
So now the time has come for a new round of betrayals, to prop up the USD at the expense of allies. You see, dear reader, the U.S. dollar is the exchange currency for Oil and Gas and the higher the price, the more the USD is demanded. The more that is demanded, to buy the more expensive oil and gas, the more debt currency the U.S. private Federal Reserve gets to print up and drop off on the world, allowing for accumulation of real resources, worth real value, as well as continuing pointless Marxist programs and the off-shoring of American hyper inflation to the rest of humanity.
This is nothing new. The U.S. ‘colour revolutions’ were used in the Central Asian states, to create havoc in areas adjacent to oil. The first was in Uzbekistan, where the socialist dictator and U.S. ally, Karimov, has been designated for removal by a U.S.-sponsored Islamic revolution. Unfortunately for the Americans, Karimov had no problem massacring the American paid for revolutionaries. He followed this by ousting the U.S. base on his lands and running to Moscow for protection.
The U.S. dollar did not get its intended boost in the Central Asian territories, at that time, however, the Americans did not give up. Even if a revolution fails in the directly affected area, one can be staged in an adjacent area which will lead to further instability in the intended area, thus driving up the price of oil and gas. To that end, the Americans created and backed the civil war in Tajikistan, where Uzbeki fanatics, in the south of the country now have defacto rule and will export their jihad to their own mother country, thus ensuring high levels of instability for decades to come.
To that same end, the Americans are backing the revolutions on the periphery of the main oil fields of the Middle East, in full knowledge that this will spill further and further into the oil producing regions. That is the plan, after all.
Tunisia, itself, a small time oil producer, accounts for 40,000 barrels/day.
Algeria and Yemen have also faced mass protests, funded and organized by Western NGOs, even as the owners of those NGOs pretend to be sympathetic to the rulers of the countries in question. However, as in Uzbekistan, these rulers have and will continue to respond with massive force, making sure that their U.S.-sponsored, home grown Islamics do not get very far. In Yemen, early Sunday, the government arrested Tawakul Karman, a prominent journalist and member of the Islamist party Isiah. He had organized protests through text messages and emails. All of the Western press are playing their roll, screaming to the high heavens about this Islamic fundamentalist’s follow on release and her love of freedom, even though Fundamentalist Islam believes in Sharia and has no freedom, other than the right to murder unbelievers.
Jordan, one of the most stable regional powers, has also been rocked by protests, as more than 5,000 people took to the streets, demanding the King give up his power, to “the people”.
Egypt has not been so lucky. Its government has proven, so far, to be weak, with many in the military openly siding with the Islamic Brotherhood and its Western NGO backers. Looting in the streets is rampant, as is direct confrontation with those special police forces, and special forces, still loyal to the dictatorship. The end is only a matter of time.
Egypt itself is responsible for the production of 680,000 barrels of oil per day. While this is about 1-2% of the world total output, Egypt further plays a massive role, with the Suez Canal and the alternate Surned pipeline, of passing an additional 1 million barrels of crude bound for the European and American markets. It is bad enough with the Somali pirates pushing up the price of oil, or why do you think that a trigger-happy America willing to invade just about anyone it can, including once upon a time Somalia, suddenly is too timid to deal with a bunch of rag tag pirates?
Other protests have erupted in Morocco, Libya, Lebanon and even Albania. All around the edges of the major oil players.
More worrisome than disruptions to Egypt’s oil production is the prospect that the unrest spreads to other hard-line states in the region, such as Libya and Algeria, both members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Other countries in the region, including Tunisia and Yemen, have been wracked by anti-government protests in recent weeks, though neither is a major oil producer.
“If this thing spreads across the North African continent, gets into Libya, Algeria, then you’ve got trouble,” said Stephen Schork, editor of the Schork Report energy newsletter.
Finally, this whole process is now spilling into Saudi Arabia and soon possibly into the whole of the Gulf princedoms. The oil shocks will be profound and will be quick.
Already, with just the Egyptian upheavals, and as expected, just on the Thursday and Friday violence, oil went up over 4%, some $3.70 per barrel. Another similar rise can be expected this week, if not higher. When, not if, Mubarak’s government falls, oil should be expected to hit close to the $100 mark. With Nigeria also sinking into civil war, oil may well peak over $100/barrel by the end of February.
The American media and their other Western underlings and affiliates, are doing their part in colouring these as peoples’ fights for freedom and human rights. Of course they know full well what this will lead to: Islamic fundamentalism, which is the only result that this has ever led to. Then when this happens, when the correct end result is in place, those very same self-serving hypocrites, will throw up their hands and declare that they are shocked that those stupid, dirty Arabs could not make any go of “freedom” even after all the help they were given.
The Americans have been preparing for this for years. Many foolishly blame this on Obama, he is a part of this, but his is only the final chapter in the preparation for one of the last ditch efforts to stave off Judgment Day of the U.S. dollar and its debt built and house of cards economy.
“What happened in Georgia with the Rose Revolution and Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2003-2004 was part of a long-term strategy orchestrated by the Pentagon, the State Department and various U.S.-financed NGOs like Freedom House and National Endowment for Democracy to create pro-NATO regime change in those former Soviet Union areas and to literally encircle Russia,” author and researcher William Engdahl told RT.
“What is going on in the Middle East with the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia that we saw a few days ago, and now in Egypt with Mubarak in his 80s, and obviously a regime that is not exactly the most stable one, we have a food crisis taking place as a backdrop and the IMF coming and telling these countries to eliminate their state food subsidies so you have, of course, the explosive background for popular unrest. Within that you have these NGOs, like Freedom House, training activists and trade unions and various other organizations to demand democracy, demand human rights and so forth,” he added.
This earlier report by RT [“TV Novosti”] sums the process up even better:
Dr. William Robinson is one of the foremost experts on Washington’s democracy promotion initiatives, he wrote the book ‘Promoting Polyarhcy.’
“In Latin America, in Eastern Europe with the Velvet Revolutions, in Africa, in the Middle East, really all over the world, the U.S. set up these different mechanisms now for penetrating these civil societies in the political systems of countries that are going to be intervened and to assure the outcome is going to be pleasing to Washington’s foreign policy objectives,” said Robinson.
Lawrence Wilkerson, the former Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “We do this through surrogates and non-governmental organization and through people who are less suspecting of the evil that may lurk behind their actions than perhaps they were before. Have we learned some lessons in that regard? You bet! Do we do it better? You bet! Is it still just as heinous as it has always been? You bet!”
The Americans call this process Creative Destruction, that is the new catch phrase for world revolutions, no different than that which was exported from our own country while it was ruled by Anglo financed Marxists. While the PR may be promising and alluring, the results will be misery and death for those in ground zero: with tourism and industry fleeing fundamentalist regimes, resulting in yet more starvation and poverty, and a massive enrichment for the top 1% of the Anglo elite who could not give a bigger damn, no matter what their fully owned media mouth pieces may be saying.
The massive increases in the price of oil, as well as the increased demand for weapons by those states who border these areas, will line the pockets of thousands of executives and politicians in America, and to a smaller level, of England, for decades to come. If a war or three are spawned from this, even better.
Furthermore, with refugees and terrorism flooding Europe, which is finally starting to react violently to the virus that is attacking the body social at large, and the confiscation of European industry in Northern Africa, the Euro will be on the front lines of these new Islamic plagues, like never before. It will take another beating, with the dollar remaining a “safe” investment. Just another big plus, not to mention the new missions for NATO and that military-industrial complex, this will generate.
As for the American serfs, the little people? Well, the $6-10/gallon ($1.50-$2.25/liter) gasoline will crush them. Sure, the socialist welfare programs that their government will finance by selling yet more dollars, will help some, but it is a mild treatment for a terminal disease. Their falling wages, in the face of mass and growing unemployment as well as soaring inflation, will drag the last of the middle class into poverty and slavery. However, unlike the Arabs or the French or most other people of the world, they will do what their British cousins have been doing for the past 30 years, put up a stiff upper lip and accept this as their reality. And yes, as before, for the world at large, their owners in NYC, DC and London, could not really give a bigger damn.
A passive people, believing in their own illusionary freedoms and high on their own self importance, make for the best slaves and no where are there more such slaves than in the USA.
The rest of us will also have to live with an ever more violent world, courtesy of the biggest sponsor of Islamic insanity the world has ever had the sorry state of knowing.
By Steve in Wisconsin
January 29, 2011
During the anti-government protests following Iran’s 2009 election it was reported that protestors were using social networking sites, such as Twitter, to muster their forces. Iran accused Western powers of having a hand in the rebellion and coordinating these activities via the internet. The same social networks played a role in ‘color revolutions’ in Europe and elsewhere.
Allegations that Facebook, Twitter, and Google in particular, serve the interests of intelligence agencies abound; Twitter serving primarily in rapid communications of short messages and instructions.
Social networking played a role in ousting Tunisian president Zine Al Ben Ali. So much so, in fact, that Egyptian authorities quickly shut down the internet at the onset of the uprising there this week.
Social networks as assets of the authorities
As a former law enforcement officer I see the investigative advantages of social networking sites, particularly Facebook.
Facebook links individuals with their friends, family members, acquaintances and social circles. Photographs of all of these people are available – having been voluntarily submitted by the people themselves. The worldwide popularity of Facebook extends to young and old alike, rich and poor, successful or impoverished. From simply a police perspective, a fugitive, drug dealer or criminal can be quickly linked to family and friends — intelligence that can point to his or her whereabouts, criminal associates, and those likely to hide him from authorities. Top this off with high-resolution photos of everyone involved and you have an indispensible investigative tool that extends from the local level up to global intelligence.
Google complements social networks in collecting information
With regard to Google, does anyone but me think it’s unusual that a “search engine” engages in satellite photography (Google Earth) and photographing city streets and neighborhoods (Google Street View)? Google’s acquisition of Blogger, Feedburner, and other web assets help to assemble pieces of an intelligence puzzle, i.e. the subscriber lists to blog newsfeeds and emails, the identity of blog owners, which blogs link to other blogs having common political or ideological interests, etc. Recent allegations that Google was involved in collecting information about home wireless networks shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
Could social networking backfire on the West?
The same networks that were instrumental in fomenting Iran’s anti-government protests now appear to have been used by Tunisians and Egyptians seeking to overthrow their respective governments. The recent article in Algeria’s Ennahar newspaper, titled “Facebook, a U.S. program to bring down Arab regimes“, may have it all wrong. Rather than being used by America to ‘bring down Arab regimes’ it appears that Facebook and Twitter may have been harnessed by the masses to bring down pro-U.S. regimes instead.
The inherent danger of social networking sites is the ability to use this format for secret communications.
I bought a book in South Africa in the early 1980s, set during the waning days of Rhodesia’s white rule, wherein the phrase “See you in November” was used in telephone conversations to convey the message that a covert SAS operation was a “go” – the phrase itself being so innocent when used in general conversation that anyone listening in would be oblivious to what was being communicated. The same applies to social networking sites today. Instructions can be conveyed to hundreds or even thousands of individuals by posting messages of seemingly innocent nature. This may yet come back to bite the West in the backside.
America has long associated freedom of speech and internet access as indicators of the level of democracy in foreign lands. Governments such as China, for example, are routinely condemned for blocking access to Facebook, Google and YouTube. However, it is precisely because these governments are aware of the threat posed by these sites that they are blocked. China learned the power of the internet first hand when the Falun Gong religious sect mobilized 10,000 followers at a moments notice to protest against the government. This was a wake-up call for the Chinese who promptly banned the sect and blocked their website.
Using social networks to implement regime change
The full extent of social networking sites’ ability to topple governments has yet to be seen but it is likely that pro-Western authoritarian regimes will be targeted. As I wrote in an earlier article (deleted when Blogger/Google closed down my previous newsblog, hence I’m on WordPress now) the unrest in North Africa, the Caucasus, Middle East and Central Asia must be viewed within the larger context of an Islamic Caliphate, rather than as mere regional conflicts within the Islamic world. Until analysts see “the big picture” the situation will continue to deteriorate and Western interference in these conflicts will only exacerbate the problem.
UPDATE: See also:
Google Launches Service Letting Egyptians Tweet by Phone
Egypt: Google executive will become a ‘hero’ of the revolution upon release
Twitter, Facebook look engaged in U.S. policy, Armenian blogger says
Egypt: Google ‘very, very proud’ of cyber revolutionary
Steve in Wisconsin is a former deputy sheriff with travels in Africa, Asia and Central America. His primary blog is inteltrends.wordpress.com.
Revised since originally posted.
© Ramzy Baroud
January 21, 2011
When faced with problems, most authoritarian regimes maintain a policy of rigidity when the appropriate response would be flexibility, political wisdom and concessions. This policy gives authoritarian leaders their ability to control their populations to serve the interests of a few individuals and political and military elites. It can also, however, usher their downfall, for populations can only be oppressed, controlled and punished to a point.
President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, who controlled his population with an iron fist since his arrival to the presidential palace in 1987, must have crossed that point. He was forced to flee the country amid the angry chants of thousands of Tunisians, fed up with growing unemployment, soaring inflation, government corruption, violent crackdowns and lack of political freedom. These mounting frustrations led to relentless protests throughout the country. The government’s subsequent crackdowns only stirred emotions beyond any crowd control strategy, and eventually Ben Ali’s plane left to seek refuge outside his own country.
The upheaval in Tunisia is certainly worthy of all the headlines, media commentary and official statements it has generated. But many of these reactions contain generalizations that hype expectations, worsen an already terrible situation and provoke misguided policies. Indeed, the current political storm, dubbed both the “Youth Intifada” and the “Jasmine Revolution”, has inspired many interpretations. Some commentators wished to see the popular uprising as a prelude to an essentially anti-Arab regimes phenomenon that will strike elsewhere as well, while others placed it within a non-Arab context, noting that popular uprisings are growing in countries that struggle with rising food prices. Even al-Qaeda had a take on the situation, trying to score points to find a place in the looming political void.
Many commentators have focused on the Arab identity of Tunisia to find correlations elsewhere. Hadeel al-Shalchi’s Associated Press article “Arab activists hope Tunisia uprising brings change,” presented the uprising within an Arab context. Reporting from Cairo, she wrote of the growing optimism among those whom she dubbed “Arab activists” that other Arab leaders will share the fate of Ben Ali if they don’t ease their grip on power. Hossam Bahgat is one such activist. He told AP, “I feel like we are a giant step closer to our own liberation… What’s significant about Tunisia is that literally days ago the regime seemed unshakeable, and then eventually democracy prevailed without a single Western state lifting a finger.”
True, both Tunisia and Egypt are Arab countries with many similarities, but expecting a repeat of a scenario that was uniquely Tunisian and implicitly suggesting that Western states serve as harbingers of democracy is illusory, to stay the least.
Now that Ben Ali is out of the picture, Western governments are cautiously lining up behind the Tunisian uprising, but hardly with the same enthusiasm of their support of the Iranian riots of June 2009. British Foreign Secretary William Hague merely denounced the unrest, calling for “restraint from all sides.” He stated, “I condemn the violence and call on the Tunisian authorities to do all they can to resolve the situation peacefully.” U.S. President Barack Obama added, “I urge all parties to maintain calm and avoid violence, and call on the Tunisian government to respect human rights, and to hold free and fair elections in the near future.”
Clichéd statements aside, both the U.S. and the U.K. must fear the repercussions of a popular uprising in an area so close to the heart of American-British interests in the Middle East. Both countries are careful not to appear to oppose democratic reforms, even if they are forced to disown their friends in the region. Their response is largely representative of official responses from many Western capitals – the very capitals that lauded Tunisia as a model for how Arab countries can help win the war on terror.
One must not let confusing media headlines sideline the fact that neither the U.S. nor the U.K. had Tunisia on their radar for circumventing democracy or violating human rights. Ben Ali was celebrated as an icon of moderation, notwithstanding his atypical Arab stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Ben Ali’s authoritarian regime was not the type that required much chastising. It was the benign kind that allowed a tiny space for secular opposition while cracking down on any Islamic opposition group. For 23 years, such practice was barely problematic, for it served the interests of both Ben Ali and various Western powers. The countless calls for respect of human rights from international and local organizations were mostly unheeded. Washington and London rarely found that irksome.
Now that the Tunisian people’s fight for rights has taken a sharp turn, many of us find it difficult to examine the specific context of this case without delving into dangerous generalizations. Western governments now speak of democracy in the region – as if there were ever a genuine concern; commentators speak of the next regime to fall – as if every Arab country is a duplication of another; and technology bloggers are celebrating another ‘twitter revolution.’
Perhaps generalizations make things more interesting. Tunisia, after all, is a small country, and most people know little about it aside from the fact that it’s a cheap tourist destination – thus the need to place it within a more gripping context. Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is using the opportunity to read the Tunisian uprising in a unique way. The AQIM leader, Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, has called for the overthrowing of the “corrupt, criminal and tyrannical” regimes in both Tunisia and Algeria and the instatement of al-Sharia law. This call has promoted American commentators to warn of the future Islamization of Tunisia and will likely result in Western intervention to ensure that another “moderate” regime succeeds the one that just fled.
There is no harm in expanding a popular experience to understand the world at large and its conflicts. But in the case of Tunisia, it seems that the country is largely understood within a multilayer of contexts, thus becoming devoid of any political, cultural or socio-economic uniqueness. Understanding Tunisia as just another “Arab regime”, another possible podium for al-Qaeda’s violence, is convenient but also unhelpful to any cohesive understanding of the situation there and the events that are likely to follow.
Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally syndicated columnist, author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com.
The following article is republished with permission from Magharebia.
Muslim Brotherhood expert discusses Maghreb Salafism
By Houda Trabelsi
October 1, 2010
Alaya Allani is a professor of contemporary history at the University of Manouba in Tunis and a specialist in political Islam. He has published several studies on the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist currents in the Arab Maghreb. Magharebia sat down with Allani in Tunis to discuss the dangers of the spread of Salafism and what he sees as the root causes of the problem.
Magharebia: You have warned against the dangers of militant Salafist groups. What exactly do you mean?
Alaya Allani: First of all, we must stress the need to differentiate between Salafism as a conservative religious current that has been known throughout history for its call to return to pure faith and for its insistence on its stances that reject violence and hold to the legitimacy of rulers and the need to disobey them, even if there were some violations committed, as long as those rulers preserved the identity of the nation, and between Salafism in its contemporary meaning, which coincided with the appearance of the political Islam current.
We now generally talk about appeasing Salafism and militant Salafism; scientific Salafism and another jihadist Salafism. In general, we can say that the militant Salafist groups you mentioned in your question are mainly represented in the jihadist Salafist groups and in some other scientific Salafist currents.
There are common factors that led to the appearance of jihadist currents. These currents are either external or internal. No one can deny the role played by some Western countries in supporting the Afghan jihad to overthrow the communist regime in Afghanistan, and the assistance rendered in this effort by some Gulf countries.
As to internal factors, tension exists between the prevailing jihadist currents and local Muslim governments because of differences in understanding religious texts. Jihadists usually embrace the apparent meaning of texts, accusing all those who oppose their understanding of texts of being infidels, and permit the use of arms against those who oppose them. This is the most dangerous thing in these groups, as there is absence of dialog and physical liquidation becomes the prevailing form of dealing.
Magharebia: How widespread are these types of groups?
Allani: The militant Salafist groups are spread in all Muslim countries with varying degrees. Their presence in Asia, whether in Caucasus countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India or some Arab countries, has grown over the last two decades. As to Africa, except for Egypt, their presence is considered relatively new in the region. This may be linked to the implications of modernisation experiences in these countries, where the failure of pattern of development and rising rates of illiteracy played a role in the expansion of pockets of poverty.
The state no longer became the primary sponsor of economy and the main employer of individuals; something that contributed to the rising tensions. The most prominent example may be found in Algeria in October 1988 when there was popular anger over the deteriorating living conditions of the people and over some social and cultural problems and the inability of the state to meet the basic needs of population. In this environment, the Salafist current, as represented by the Islamic Salvation Front, tried to take advantage of this anger and entered into an intimidation battle with the authorities. The result was victims, bloodshed and cancellation of election results, and then outbreak of a long wave of terrorism that almost destroyed everything.
When we check the social base on which the Front built its presence, we find that the marginalised categories in popular and poor neighbourhoods gave their votes in large numbers to that group in the 1991 elections. In Morocco, investigations proved that most of the members of jihadist cells in that country hail from poor neighbourhoods or shantytowns.
The liberal, Islamic and leftist movements started presenting their alternatives. However, the alternative offered by the Islamic Salvation Front, which included a minority of moderate Islamists and a majority of extremists with Salafist inclinations (whether scientific or jihadist), won the trust of voters. This led to the cancellation of election results in 1992, and after that Algeria entered into a bloody decade of terrorism in which 100,000 victims were killed.
Then al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) came at the beginning of the third millennium to further confuse cards and to involve some African countries, such as Mali, Chad and Niger which had no previous experience with the activities of Islamic armed groups.
Magharebia: What are the most important principles of Salafist groups present in the Maghreb?
Allani: The principles of the jihadist Salafist current in the Maghreb region are derived from the literature of symbols of al-Qaeda: Bin Laden, al-Zawahri, al-Maqdisi, Abu Qatada and others. This literature urges people to consider jihad as an individual duty rather than a collective obligation, and it accuses the society and state of kufr because of their negligence in implementing God’s Sharia.
Magharebia: Are the factors that led to the growth of these Salafist groups in the Arab Maghreb political, social or ideological, or are there any other factors?
Allani: The growth of these Salafist groups in the Arab Maghreb is more due to political and social factors than it is to ideological factors. The wide gap between the social classes increases the state of social tensions, and the violent dealing with ethnic and cultural diversity has contributed to the instigation of sectarian feelings.
As to ideological factors, they come last.
Magharebia is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defence, Africa Command.