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Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

10 World’s Most Outstanding Politicians (2012)

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

The outgoing year will remain in people’s memory for quite a number of major world events. Elections were held, new leaders were elected in many countries. Syria was the most talked-about country in 2012, so Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can be named the politician of the year. Of course, many other significant events took place in different parts of the world. Pravda.Ru offers its own version of world’s ten most outstanding politicians of the year. Read more…

Unrest in Arab countries: Yemenis stage new protests, demand president leave office

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

At least 3,000 protestors gathered on Monday on the streets of Yemen’s capital Sanaa in a hopes of repeating the success of the recent revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia and to oust their long-standing President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Clashes between pro- and anti-government protestors ensued on the streets. The two sides threw rocks at each other and brandished knives and daggers, eyewitnesses said. Protesters chanted “Down, down with Ali, long live Yemen!” as police formed a human shield to keep crowds from spreading and dividing the two sides.

Mass upheavals, the first large-scale public challenge to Saleh during his rule, broke out in Yemen in late January when tens of thousands of Yemenis took to the streets in Sanaa demanding the end of his 32-year regime.

In early February, Saleh said he would not seek to run in 2013 when his presidency expires and his son would not succeed him as president.

What Drives Americans To Protest?

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

As more and more countries join the wave of protests that have been sweeping through the Middle East, many are wondering just how far these protests will spread.

The world has been watching closely, hoping these destructive protests steer clear of their own backyards.

In the United States, a heated debate has erupted over whether or not Americans will follow in the footsteps of the Egyptians and begin protesting.

Some are convinced Americans simply don’t have enough enthusiasm to rally in mass numbers.

“I don’t think that Americans are motivated enough to go protest in those kind of numbers,” said Washington DC resident, Dan Rubin.

However, others said protesting has been and will always be a uniquely American characteristic.

“I think it’s part of the American DNA,” said Washington DC resident John Townsend. “I think that we take protests seriously and that when agitated and aggrieved and impassioned we take to the streets–that’s part of the American lifestyle, it’s our way of life.”

Whether it’s the economy, gay marriage, immigration, or universal healthcare, most everyone can cite a cause that would motivate them to rally in the streets of Washington.

Does the United States need to brace themselves for Middle Eastern style protests just yet? While many citizens weren’t sure, they all agreed on one message for the US government to take away from these protests:fix the economy, or else.

George Hemminger, the founder of Survive and Thrive TV explained Americans do come together and protest, but not in the same way or in the same mass numbers as those across the Middle East. But, that may change he argued.

“We may be getting to the point, to some point, where people become so economically downtrodden that they may have nothing to do but hit the street,” he said.

He said Americans would begin to rebel is big cuts came to social programs, such as social secretly and other entitlement programs.

The people are in need of unemployment and welfare. As the economy continues to dwindle and jobs are scarce, some people have no option but to turn to the government. If the government is not there to support them, the people will turn to the streets to riot and protest.

Overall, most Americans exist in a sense of complacency because little attention is given to US protests. There is a great deal of ignorance about what is really going on in America, Hemminger argued.

What drives Americans to protest?

Middle East – Nothing Will Ever Be The Same…

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

The fall of dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia shows that the U.S. can no longer keep the power scheme it set up for over three decades. Powerless to act directly with the military, the U.S. tries to articulate transitions that change the form of domination, but keep its essence. The Army chose Mubarak’s resignation because it realized that his presence had united the opposition. They hope that without him, they might co-opt the opposition sectors to a moderate coalition – with El Baradei, the Muslim Brotherhood, with the support of the U.S. and Europe.

The Middle East has become a pillar of the foreign policy of the North American empire for two good reasons : the strategic need for safe and cheap oil supplies to the U.S., Europe and Japan, and protection for Israel – key U.S. ally in the region, surrounded by Arab countries.

Hence the rise of Arab nationalism has become one of the most frightening ghosts to the U.S. in the world. On the one hand, the nationalisation of oil by nationalist governments directly affects the interests of oil giants – North American or European – and the propagation of anti-imperialist, nationalist ideology – Gamal Abdel Nasser was the leading exponent – as well as the Palestinian question.

The contemporary history of the Middle East centers on the Arab-Israeli war of 1967 as its most important reference. The union of Arab governments allowed the recovering of the claim of the Palestinian state, which was answered by Israel with the invasion of new territories – including Egypt – with the direct military support of the U.S.A.

A new conflict began in 1973, now accompanied by the politics of OPEC to increase oil prices. From that moment, the West sought to overcome its dependence on oil or it would attempt the dividing of the Arab world. This second possibility triumphed, with the Iraq-Iran war, encouraged and armed by the U.S., which struck two countries with nationalist governments, who became mutually neutralized in a bloody confrontation. As a by-product of war, Iraq felt entitled to invade Kuwait – with tacit U.S. approval – which was taken as a pretext for the invasion of Iraq and the definitive settlement of U.S. troops in the very center of the richest oil region in the world.

The U.S. managed to divide the Arab world and has, on one hand the most reactionary regimes – led by monarchies, beginning with Saudi Arabia, which holds the largest oil reserves in the world, and the other moderate governments like Egypt and Jordan. The greatest North American achievement was the co-optation of Anwar El Sadat, Nasser’s successor, who surprisingly normalized relations with Israel – the first regime in the region to do so – paving the way for the creation of a moderate, pro-North American bloc in the region, which is characterized by the resumption of relations with Israel – and therefore the recognition of Israel – and virtually abandoning the Palestinian question. This also became a moderating force in OPEC, in the interests of the western powers.

Egypt as a country has the region’s largest population, with large oil production. The country also once had the biggest nationalist leader of the entire region, Nasser. Now it has become crucial as a political pawn of the U.S. in the region. Not coincidentally, Egypt became the second largest country to get U.S. military aid in the world after Israel and ahead of Colombia.

This neutralization of the Arab world, by appointment of governments and the U.S. military presence in the heart of the region – updated with the invasion of Iraq – was in itself an essential element of North American politics in the world and the guarantee of oil supplies to supplement the declining oil production in the U.S.A. and all oil supplies to Europe and Japan

That is what is at stake now, after the fall of dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt. Impotent to act directly with their military, the U.S. tries to articulate transitions that change the form of domination, but maintains its essence. The Army preferred Mubarak’s resignation, because they realized that his presence had united the opposition. They hope that without him, they might co-opt the opposition sectors into a moderate coalition – with El Baradei, the Muslim Brotherhood, and with the support of the U.S. and Europe – that can make constitutional reforms, but control the succession process in the elections of September, managing to demobilise the popular movement before it can forge new leadership.

Independence could be extended to other countries in the region – of which Algeria, Jordan, Morocco and Saudi Arabia are strong candidates. The fall of the dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia demonstrates that the U.S. can no longer maintain the scheme of power that they did for over three decades. The least that can be expected is political instability in the region, until other coalitions of power can be organised, whose character will colour the new period which the Middle East is set to enter.

Middle East: nothing will ever be the same

Democracy Promotion For Dummies, Or What Is The Color Of Your Revolution?

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Just a month ago, a Washington Post editorial shared with us some bad news: freedom is on retreat around the globe. Helping the Post‘s editors arrive at such a sad conclusion was a survey by the Freedom House which claimed that the situation with the world’s human rights has been deteriorating “for the fifth consecutive year.” Did it occur to the clowns from the Freedom House that the timing of their supposed trend conspicuously coincided with the George W. Bush administration’s policy of advancing democracy at a gunpoint? (Incidentally, supervising these clowns is a David Kramer, the Freedom House’s executive director, who served in the Bush administration as an assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor. For democracy and human rights! One can be sure that in this capacity, Kramer did his best to sharpen the administration’s favorite democracy promotion tools, such as Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, CIA secret prisons and waterboarding.)

It is therefore quite understandable that the eruption of street protests in Egypt has lifted the spirit of thousands of professional democracy promoters in Washington, DC. And rightfully so: it’s not every day that a “pro-democracy” crowd is challenging the rule of a bloody Middle Eastern tyrant.

Yet, at the risk of sounding obstructive, I have a couple of clarifying questions for the folks who’re more versed than me in the science and art of democracy promotion. (Actually, I’d love to start with this one: if Egypt is on its way to democracy, then why did many countries, including the United States, begin evacuating their citizens? But I won’t let this technical question distract us from the more fundamental.) The first question: what kind of proof do we have that the mob regularly gathering at the Tahrir Square in Cairo represents a bona fide “pro-democracy” movement? Now, there is no question that this movement is antiMoubarak, but history provides us with enough examples of anti-movements — the 1789 French Revolution, the 1917 Russian Revolution, and 1979 Iranian Revolution come to mind immediately — that resulted in regimes that were arguably more brutal than the ones they replaced. What exactly did the Tahrir Square protesters do or say to pursuade us that they were not simply anti-Mubarak, but pro-democracy?

And this leads me to my second question. In democracy, the voice of majority rules. Do we have any evidence that the protesters’ demand for Moubarak’s resignation reflects the opinion of the majority of Egyptians — and not of a particular minority faction, however large, organized and determined? This is not a fancy question. We all remember mass protests that engulfed the streets of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, in the fall of 2007. Many, myself included, believed that the days of Georgia’s embattled president Mikheil Saakashvili were numbered. But Saakashvili held on, and the protests have gradually stopped. Why? Because as much as Saakashvili was hated by the Georgian intellectuals running the show in Tbilisi, he was equally popular in the countryside where the majority of Georgians live.

I’m not an expert on the Middle East: I don’t speak Arabic and my only personal experience with the region is restricted to a short tourist trip to Morocco. (Yes, I know that a similar lack of knowledge of the Middle East doesn’t prevent U.S. democracy promoters from comfortably issuing labels like “dictator”, “pro-democracy”, “moderate”, “radical”, etc. But I can only speak for myself.) I didn’t plan to write about the Egypt protests and I changed my mind only in response to repeated attempts to bring parallels between the crisis in Egypt and the situation in Russia.

This, of course, shouldn’t come as a surprise. Ever since the glorious times of the Orange Revolution in Kyiv in November 2004, every case of mass disturbances in the post-Soviet space — and now even in the Middle East! — has been exploited as an excuse to stick the proverbial Mirror of the Russian Revolution into Russia’s face. My only wonder is which term will be chosen to describe the “revolution” that is supposed to bring a “pro-democracy” change to Russia. Somehow, I suspect that this isn’t going to be a color, but, rather, a plant — pretty much in line with the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, or the Date Palm Revolution in Tunisia. The Birch Revolution? The Daisy Revolution? Or, perhaps, something completely unorthodox: say, The Samovar Party Movement?

To assess whether Russia is ready for a “revolution”, I turned to a man with an impressive track record of launching Russian revolutions. Obviously, I’m speaking about Vladimit Ilyich Ulyanov-Lenin whose definition of the “revolutionary situation” — presented in the 1915 article “The Collapse of the 2-nd International” — still remains the golden standard in the field.

Lenin describes three major conditions characterizing a “pre-revolutionary” situation in a given country. The first is the inability of the ruling class to execute its authority (“the top can’t rule in the old way”). It is plain clear that with the approval ratings of Russia’s top two leaders oscillating around 60%, the Russian ruling class remains in full control of the country. President Medvedev‘s attempts at “modernizing” Russia’s economic and political institutions, however clumsy at times, still reflect the ability of the Russian elites to adjust to the changing conditions on the ground.

The second condition identified by Lenin is the sharply increased (“beyond the usual level”) impoverishment of ordinary citizens (“the bottom doesn’t want to live in the old way”). True, the economic crisis has decreased the living standards of ordinary Russians and further widened the already large gap between the wealthy and the poor. Yet, at the average per-capita income of about $14,000, it’s a huge stretch to call Russians impoverished “beyond the usual level.” Characteristically, over the past couple of years, only two significant mass protests, in Vladivostok and Kalinigrad, have been marked by economic demands, and Vladivstok was obviously a special case. At least for now, the authorities have enough financial resources to prevent “economic” grievances from reaching the boiling point — by increasing the pensions and salaries of state workers.

The third condition is the dramatic increase in political activity of ordinary people, their “readiness for spontaneous revolutionary actions”, as Lenin called it. This is definitely something that deserves consideration. There is no question that mass political activity is on the rise in Russia. However, so far, the most prominent anti-government movements, such as, for example, the Defenders of the Khimki Forest, have been alternating their protest actions with clever PR campaigning and occasional talks with the authorities. And Medvedev is somewhat decreasing the likelyhood of “spontaneous” mass actions by holding well-publitized meetings with his Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, where “hot” topics are allowed to be at least publicly articulated.

The close attention the West is paying to the regular episodes of a reality show mistakenly called “the rallies of the Russian opposition” is actually purely self-serving, as it allows the democracy promotion crowd to justify its own existence. The spectacular clashes between wooden-headed “strategists-31” with equally wooden-headed omonovtsy may make great news in the Western media, but they can’t hide this simple math: 1,500 of protesters gathering for such meetings represent less than a two-hundredth of a percent of the 10-million population of Moscow. This is not something that the Kremlin should worry about.

What the Kremlin must worry about is the repeat of the demonstration that took place on the Manezhnaya Square on December 11, when a few thousand youngsters showed up out of the blue (or so it seemed) with the banners “Russia for Russians, Moscow for Muscowites!” and “Moscow is not the Caucasus!” No efforts should be spared to prevent converting this, so far, one-off episode into another reality show. For the genre of this show won’t be Russia’s “democratization.” It will be Russia’s disintegration, something that even the evil Lenin didn’t want happening to Russia.

Democracy Promotion For Dummies, Or What Is The Color Of Your Revolution?