Free Markets, Free People

So what’s happening in N Africa and the ME?

All sorts of fun stuff … but has anyone noticed how the coverage of Egypt had all but ceased?  What’s up with that?

Uncovered by most of the media has been the return from exile of the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who has, for years, hosted one of the most watched talks shows on Al Jazeera. 

And this:

Some of the young activists who launched the Egyptian uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak say they are skeptical about the military’s pledges to hand over power to a democratically elected government.

They also warned Western diplomats in Cairo Monday that the remnants of Mubarak’s regime that still hold positions of power could overturn the uprising’s gains.

Nah … that can’t be true can it?  And who do those who ran through the streets denouncing Mubarak, Israel and the US want to help ensure the military keeps its word?

The seven activists – representatives of a broad coalition of youth groups – also called on the international community to support Egypt’s transition toward democracy, and asked for help in tracking down Mubarak’s assets – rumored to be in the billions of dollars.

The activists spoke as senior U.S. and European officials, including British Prime minister David Cameron, were to arrive in Cairo for talks with the country’s military leaders.

Why us, of course.

Meanwhile in Gadaffi land, things have gone from bad to worse.  The old boy has managed to get a fatwa issued against him.

‘Whoever in the Libyan army is able to shoot a bullet at Mr Gaddafi should do so,’ Qaradawi, an Egyptian-born cleric who is usually based in Qatar, told Al-Jazeera television.

Qaradawi also told the Libyan army not to fire on protestors.  And there are reports in some areas of Libya that those instructions are being followed.

Probably most interesting about the collapse going on in Libya are the words of Gadaffi’s son about what may follow:

"Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt. Libya is composed of clans and tribes. There are alliances. Libya does not have a civil society with political parties. No, Libya is composed of clans and tribes. […]

"There will be civil war in Libya. We will return to the civil war of 1936. We will kill one another in the streets. Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt. Libya has oil, and that is what united the country. An American oil company played a pivotal role in the unification of Libya.

"We have a single source of income – oil. It is found in central Libya – not in the east or the west. It is in central and south Libya. That is what all five million Libyans live off. If secession takes place – who will give us food and water? Who will control the oil wells? Who is capable of managing the oil sector in Libya? […]

"We will be forced to emigrate from Libya, because we will not be able to divide the oil between us. There will be war, and all of Libya will be destroyed. We will need 40 years to reach an agreement on how to run the country, because today, everyone will want to be president, or Emir, and everybody will want to run the country.

"Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt. Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt."

Interesting points about Libyan society (lack of political parties meaning lack of democratic institutions/tribes and clans – Afghanistan in N. Africa, except it has oil.) Of course he also said:

"There is no alternative other than to adopt a firm stand. I tell you that the army will play a central role in this, and the Libyan army is not like the army of Tunisia or of Egypt.

"Our army will support Libya and Mu’ammar Al-Qadhafi to the last moment, and it will be victorious, Allah willing. Matters will be set straight. We will destroy all the dens of strife. […]

"In any event, our morale is high. The leader Mu’ammar Al-Qadhafi is here in Tripoli, leading the campaign. We stand by him, and the armed forces stand by him. Tens of thousands of people are on their way to Tripoli. We will not sell Libya short. We will fight to our very last man, woman, and bullet. Under no circumstances will we leave our country.

"Let Al-Jazeera TV, Al-Arabiya TV, and the BBC laugh at us. Let those bullies and those traitors, who live abroad, laugh at us, and say that we are destroying our country, but we will not leave it." […]

And he’s considered the “reasonable” one in the Gadaffi family.  My guess is our State Department has no clue about the societal implications and probable outcome of this particular revolution – so I expect sunny, moon-pony pronouncements about “democracy advancing” in Libya to be their stock answer to everything.

Morocco, Bahrain and Yemen are also undergoing disturbances and protests in some form or fashion  – and some of those are being met with violent government crackdowns.

Meanwhile in Iran:

Antigovernment protesters gathered throughout parts of Iran on Sunday, most concentrated in the capital Tehran, to mark the deaths of two men killed during demonstrations last Monday. The government mounted a stultifying security presence in the capital, with the police making arrests and using tear gas to try to prevent the unrest from escalating.


The security forces seemed prepared for them, and in some locations, witnesses reported that police officers and baton-holding mercenaries outnumbered the protesters. There were reports of police officers firing on the crowds, although those could not be confirmed, because most foreign journalists were not allowed to report in Iran.

Opposition Web sites and witnesses said that ambulances were driven into the crowds. Security forces, including riot-control units on motorcycles, deployed tear gas to disperse crowds in several places, including near Valiasr Square and Vanak Square.

Plainclothes officers stopped and frisked people on the streets and removed people from vehicles, witnesses said.

Business as usual.  And if not busy enough at home, Iran has decided now was a good time to provoke Israel by sending two warships through the Suez canal for “exercises” with Syria – the first time in 30 years Iranian warships have transited the canal.

Finally, something else to keep an eye on:

BEIJING—Chinese authorities detained dozens of political activists after an anonymous online call for people to start a "Jasmine Revolution" in China by protesting in 13 cities—just a day after President Hu Jintao called for tighter Internet controls to help prevent social unrest.

Only a handful of people appeared to have responded to the call to protest in Beijing, Shanghai and 11 other cities at 2 p.m. Sunday, a call first posted on the U.S.-based Chinese-language news website and circulated mainly on Twitter, which is blocked in China.

Yeah, probably not happening — yet.

Not a good week for authoritarians it appears.  Of course be careful what you wish for – while we may see one crop of authoritarians shunted to the side, there is no indication that anything other than a different type of authoritarian regime would replace it in many of these places.  Change is definitely in the air.  But whether that’s finally a “good thing” remains to be seen.



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41 Responses to So what’s happening in N Africa and the ME?

  • ” but has anyone noticed how the coverage of Egypt had all but ceased? ”
    Didn’t you know? Egypt is now a democratic state, they kicked out their current leader and he ran away to Wisconsin! I give credit to facebook and the internetz…and Obama.

    • My son, with several Egyptian ex-pat employees, says they’ve closed down the coms, at least, that what his people are telling him.

  • And Sudanese pirates killed four Americans…pretty much under the guns of American warships.
    Libya has imported African mercs…apparently non-Arab-speakers…who are apparently indiscriminate killers.
    Things are very interesting.
    I’ll be curious to see if the Wisconsin legislature can meet today.

    • And Sudanese pirates killed four Americans…pretty much under the guns of American warships.

      >>>>  So how many of the pirates did our navy kill? 

      • Unclear, shark.  Two, with another two “found dead” aboard.  The Navy apparently took the vessel in time to render first aid to the dying Americans after gunshots were heard.
        13 pirates “arrested”.  I think it is time to abrogate us some treaties, personally.

        • Make ’em walk the plank

          • surely they can hoist ropes up the antenna mast.  Tie the rope around an appropriate neck, have the crew take a run – just like the old days.  Let them dance their jig between heaven and hell till they can dance no more.

        • Hanging always works…

          • “Hanging always works…”
            “Execution by hanging at the yardarm was the normal punishment for mutiny in the fleet. The last execution was carried out in 1860. As a capital punishment it was by no means instantaneous as is said to be with the case with our modern practice. The prisoner’s hands and feet were tied, and with the noose about his neck a dozen or so men, usually boats’ bowmen (the worst scoundrels in the ship) manned the whip and hoisted him to the block of an upper yard, to die there by slow strangulation.”
            Using the old naval methods, eventually.  Memorable too.

          • Back when “hanged by the neck until dead” really meant just that.

          • Pirates and terrorists are very similar in the law.
            “Enemies of all mankind” was the term that used to describe them.
            Pirates taken in their piracy were summarily executed.
            Efficient, I calls it….

  • As I posted in an off-topic comment, one of the things happening is that the oil deal the Brits got after sending the mass murderer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to a hero’s welcome probably won’t be worth anything in the near future.

  • Update at 11:16 a.m. ET: “I will fight until the last drop of my blood,” Gadhafi says, according to Al-Jazeera’s translation.
    That certain appears to be in prospect…
    Something to remember…Libya’s “official name” under Gadhafi included “socialist”.

  • Over the weekend I watched “Lawrence of Arabia” again. Still a magnificent movie and still valid today — Arabs are stuck in a tribal past and unable to run technology even with substantial Western help.

    • Geez, hux, I know a BUNCH of American oil companies who rely on very talented Arab engineers every stinking day!
      But I agree WRT Orlance.

      • Sure, some. But how many countries in the ME could run their oil fields if all the Western technical help went home. As Gaddafi’s son asked, “Who is capable of managing the oil sector in Libya?”

        Note that Iran (admittedly not an Arab nation) has plenty of oil but few refineries and depends on imports for  gasoline.

  • I guess “Smart Diplomacy” is burning

    • It produces no light or warmth either…strange…

    • What has really concerned me is that the current administration doesn’t seem to have a coherent, consistent policy on the ME.  I’m sure some spin doctor will talk about “promoting civility and prosperity” blah, blah, blah.  But their actions have not been consistent from one country to the next nor are they predictable.  For example, why would we denounce violence in one country but remain mute about it in another?  Why would we call for dictators in one country to step down, support others, then denounce the one functional democracy in the region?  Why would we ask military rule to end in one country but then support it in another?  I know someone will respond with claims of “it’s complicated”, “historical concerns”, etc.  Others will probably claim that “stability” is our goal.  But right now the ME doesn’t seem very stable and it doesn’t seem like we have any sort of plan.  Can anyone explain it to me?

  • “Plainclothes officers stopped and frisked people on the streets and removed people from vehicles, witnesses said.”
    Iran, probably sons of former SAVAK operatives……new regime, same old ‘freedoms’.
    Hey, Erb, this is what happens when all your ‘rights’ are derived from the government.  I see the youth of Iran are using their IPods and IWants to replace their government, just like you said they would.

  • Re: Somali pirates, hostages killed. Just because you have the right to do something does not mean that it is the right thing to do. For example, I have the right to walk anywhere in downtown Detroit at any time but that does not mean that it is the right thing to do. Why go sailing anywhere near, ie within 200 miles, the Somali coast? That is just plain stupid.

  • Off topic, but…
    The Flee Party has spread to Indiana now!

    • Think of it as one 4 year old noticing the obvious success of some other 4 year old in mid-tantrum at Wal-Mart.

  • This is not the hope and change you are looking for.

  • This is a necessary and probably inevitable end to an era of dictators.  If Saddam were still in power, we’d be seeing this in Iraq too.   It’s good that these authoritarian corrupt butchers are being overthrown by their own citizens.  Building stable societies that can move to democracy in their wake won’t be easy, but the people won’t tolerate another dictatorial tyrant.  Change will be slow, at times dangerous, but it’s a new era for the Mideast and the world.   Ultimately, that’s a very good thing — the most exciting thing happening in the world today.  But it won’t be an easy transformation, just as Europe’s shift to modernism was difficult and bloody.  But this is the most obvious example yet that the world of the 21st century will be fundamentally different than the world of the last century.  Hopefully leaders can adapt their mindset and understanding, and not try to simply interpret everything through an anachronistic world view.

    • If Saddam were still in power, we probably wouldn’t be seeing this at all.

    • Yep.  Another socialist puke bites the bullet.

      but the people won’t tolerate another dictatorial tyrant.

      Heh…tell us another one, Erp…!!!

    • “It’s good that these authoritarian corrupt butchers are being overthrown by their own citizens.”
      You are a little early to that party just yet.  Why don’t you wait and see if his bullets and bombs quell the desire for ‘freedom’ before you start using the word “overthrow”.  He’s old though, look for one of his henchmen, to paraphrase ‘ to rid us of this troublesome ruler’ (and set himself up in his place, promising democracy, and moon ponies for all).
      ” but the people won’t tolerate another dictatorial tyrant. ”
      Read much Middle Eastern History do you?   Answer the following questions – Which democracy did Gaddafi overthrow?  The Egyptians had a (?) before Nassir.  The Republic of Saud was overthrown by the ?  and resulted in the current Saudi Kingdom.  The Free Democracy of Syria was undermined by the ?
      Get the point?  YET?   These people don’t truly understand how a democracy works, and furthermore, their religion works against the concept.
      “Change will be slow, at times….blah blah blah blah blah….21st century Erbspeak”
      Why don’t you throw in a few “long hard roads”  “many trials and tribulations”  “possibly great sufferings”, just for laughs, toss in a couple of mentions of the One Ring.  I think you’ve covered your bases enough on how hard it will be for these people to find democracy.  And you’re right, it will be, and they themselves won’t choose it willingly.
      If anything, you’re likely to see just another form of tyranny replace their current tyrannies…WHY?  Because the UN and the busy bodies will step in to prevent any one unifying force, like an Ottoman Turkey, collecting all these fine feathers in their hat.  The Western and Eastern powers will work against it behind the scenes, while mumbling about democratic institutions and how wonderful they are.  All you’re going to get is “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”, and that will be true for I’d wager, the next 30 years or so.  Don’t go getting your George Washington look alike award ready for them any time soon. I’d settle for Nelson Mandela, or Ghandi, but it isn’t going to happen on this go round.

    • And before ya start MaryJane Sunshining at me here’s some info about your ‘youth revolution’ in the Middle East.
      Iran – “Members of Iran’s parliament have called for opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi to be tried and executed.”
      Iran – unrest – “”A number of popular and revolutionary forces were wounded by gunshots and two persons were martyred” in Monday’s incidents, Kazem Jalali, member of Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy commission, said Tuesday as he quoted Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar’s words at the commission’s session.”
      Tunisia – kinda too soon to tell, but the new government has called out retired military and youths with military training to ‘keep order’.  Elections scheduled, meanwhile the President has been given authority to rule by decree.
      Bahrain – the votes are still out –

      Yemen – same same.
      Egypt – the military is in charge…sounds….familiar…..
      Don’t confuse violence in the streets with democracy Scott, and don’t confuse the fact that they’re aren’t slaughtering people by the hundreds with ‘victory’.

    • I note the the MEEEEsiah continues to suck his teeth.
      Impressive commitment to self-determination…

    • Hopefully leaders can adapt their mindset and understanding, and not try to simply interpret everything through an anachronistic world view.
      Prof Erb: Hopefully academics can be similarly adaptable, though I’m not waiting up nights.

    • This is a necessary and probably inevitable end to an era of dictators.

      You need to read history.  The US and Europe went through The Enlightenment, first.  Much of the Muslim world, beyond the trivial use of technology bought from other countries, is mired in pre-Enlightenment thinking.  When all the numbers on genital mutilation, widespread oppression of women, stoning, honor killing, murder of apostates and homosexuals actually start diminishing, you might be able to make the case that there is a shift towards modernization.  Until then, all you’re doing is putting a big ol’ fake cardboard smiley face on events.
      “This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius….”  Wishful thinking.
      Improvements could happen.  But I think we’re at least a few months away from having enough evidence to predict whether this marks a sea change.  Or, will it be just another case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”?  (You know, that’s what happens most of the time when there isn’t a cultural foundation for anything better.
      And, while we’re on the subject, if this is the end of the era of dictators, you want to include China, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela (because Chavez was given dictatorial powers with their “enabling act”), etc. in that?

    • Saddam Huessein already put down several uprisings. I would not bet on him falling to those.
      Plus, Iraq had the Sunni/Shia divide whereas Libya does not.

  • It looks like things are going bad in Egypt faster than expected. The Muslim Brotherhood might be looking for the army to capitulate rather than effecting a blend when the elections come along. The Iranian model is gaining on the Turkish model, in other words. Perhaps the Brotherhood will overplay its hand and the army will act against it, but given the demographics, with a heavy tilt against the secular, it might already be too late.

    • Given that the Brotherhood is perfectly willing to kill other Muslim’s to achieve it’s goals, yeah, they could make it hot for the Army.  Can they make it hot enough though?
      Still, the Army may thin the herd a bit, and that may quiet them down.   Saddam always managed to maintain control thru slaughter, I see no particular reason to think Egypt is immune to that sort of persuasion.
      All it takes is a ruthless bastard (you know, someone like the Muslim Brotherhood would choose as a leader….)

      • The Brotherhood has too many of the people effectively on its side. They have already taken the anti-Mubarek mass demonstrations and substituted, after Mubarek, their own mass demonstrations. (Western media not paying attention; too off narrative.)

        The Egyptian army won’t attack the Egyptian people, so the Brotherhood is setting it up as “yes, we are the people.” They saw the opening here — maybe they even made that opening — and they are moving through it as we chat.

        They already had their “return of Khomeini” moment on Friday, when their big ideological makker returned to Egypt to hold forth in Tarhir Square for Friday prayers. Very very off narrative. Plus the “Mubarek” of Madison had to be overthrown that day.

        • Noted that one – that was what I likened it too mentally, Khomeini.    What really torques me off here is I have a choice between a military dictatorship and an Islamic fundamentalist dictatorship.  GREAT, I’m supposed to pick one?
          As far as the media – It just kills me that they can even begin to draw a parallel between Wisconsin and Egypt while keeping a straight face.   The two are as different as ice cream is from baby crap, or perhaps some of them should go and play Anderson Cooper in Egypt and then try it in Madison and see if they notice the subtle difference.

          • What really torques me off here is I have a choice between a military dictatorship and an Islamic fundamentalist dictatorship.  GREAT, I’m supposed to pick one?

            For the most part, you pick one or both.  Amanutjob has used “militia” thugs to attack demonstrators protesting the election fraud.  And, the Taliban, Somali warlords, Saudi rulers, and their ilk enforce their rule with guns, executions, and all the other hallmarks of military dictatorships.

          • There’s the rub – I have to try and imagine a junta that’s worse than a fundamentalist government CONTROLLING the junta.

  • You can also see in all this turmoil and the very poor prognosis for any of it, the inestimable value of having the U.S. military on the ground in Iraq through its transition. They provided cover for a political process to unfold. Not a perfect political process, but one where all the factions could take part and move their conflicts into a parliamentary forum. As ridiculously hard as that was, it resulted in something that Iraqis participated in willingly and against the threats of the car bombers and murderers.
    I think that the very best thing that we did for Iraq was to expose the people to our fine soldiers, who provided a model of manliness and self-respect born of freedom to people conditioned to the terror of the Hussein regime. Iraq will not become Massachusetts, but it very well could have enough structural strength to carry on and grow. America was good for and good to Iraq, and the disgusting narratives elevated by the Left about it are good evidence of what America’s own cold civil war is about.