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.
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 Boxun.com 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.