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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Arab Spring’

Cleric to Saudi Government: Start Reforms, Or Else…

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, a leading Saudi cleric, who was imprisoned in the 1990s for speaking in favor of change, and whose Twitter is accessed by 2.4 million believers, published an open letter on the social media site, with a warning to the government of Saudi Arabia—which isn’t accustomed to receiving public criticism—that it would be facing “the spark of violence” if it didn’t act quickly on burning issues like detained dissidents, bad public services and corruption, Reuters reported.

In reaction to the “Arab Spring” of the past two years, the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, pledged $110 billion in social spending, in return for a religious ban on protests.

But according to the conservative Sheikh, nothing significant has changed so far. He described a stagnation, caused by a lack of housing, unemployment, poverty, corruption, bad health and education services, the suffering of political prisoners and the fact that Saudis see no hope for political reform.

“If revolutions are suppressed they turn into armed action, and if they are ignored they expand and spread. The solution is in wise decisions and in being timely to avert any spark of violence,” al-Awdah wrote.

Dissidents have been detained as political prisoners in Saudi Arabia during the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. The issue of the detainees has united some Saudi Islamists and liberals against what they see as a punitive state security apparatus.

As of 2012, estimates are that as many as 30 thousand dissidents are sitting in Saudi prisons. They included tribal leader Mukhlif al-Shammari, who was charged with “annoying others” for his op-eds, assistant professor of law Muhammad al-Abdul Karim who published an article on “The crisis of conflict amongst the governing wings in Saudi Arabia,” in 2010.

A week ago, two prominent human rights activists were jailed, having campaigned for years on behalf of detainees. Most demonstrations in support of detainees involve only a few dozen Saudis, but now and then, such as in a late February rally in Bureidah in the central Qassim Province, many more show up. In that instance, 161 protesters were arrested.

Sheikh al-Awdah wrote that his Saudi countrymen “like people around the world” aren’t always going to remain ” silent about forfeiting all or part” of their rights, adding that “when someone loses hope, you should expect anything from him.”

The Saudi authorities do not tolerate public dissent, this is, most likely, because signs of public rage are being closely monitored by the world’s oil industry experts, who make their futures purchases with said dissents in mind.

Unanswered Questions About Susan Rice

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

President Obama reportedly has decided to appoint U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as his next national security adviser. Since the national security adviser is a member of the president’s executive staff, Ambassador Rice would not need to be confirmed by the Senate, as would a nominee for a cabinet-level office such as secretary of state. (It will be recalled that worries over her prospects at being confirmed by the Senate derailed her widely expected nomination as secretary of state).

Given that the national security adviser has the ear of the president and in most administrations is an enormously significant member of the foreign policy team, salient parts of Ambassador Rice’s record warrant scrutiny.

There still are serious, unanswered questions concerning Ms. Rice’s role in the aftermath of last year’s terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. Since that time it has been learned that the administration knew almost at the outset that the attack was a well-planned operation of Islamist terrorists. Yet officials initially claimed the attack was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video. Indeed, Ambassador Rice touted the notion of a spontaneous mob action for several days after the event despite the evidence to the contrary.

On what basis did Ms. Rice promote the false storyline? Did she knowingly mislead the public or was she duped? These are important questions about someone who would advise the leader of the free world on a daily basis.

In terms of Israel, we continue to be dismayed by her performance at the U.N. Security Council in February 2011, when she cast the U.S. veto of an Arab-initiated resolution condemning Israeli settlement expansion. President Obama had said early on that the U.S. would not go along with it and if necessary, block the measure by voting against it. (Because the U.S. is a permanent member of the Security Council, this meant the measure could not pass no matter how many affirmative votes were cast by others.)

A video of that Security Council session shows a visibly upset Ambassador Rice as she cast the negative vote. Her body language and facial expressions strongly suggest she was doing something she really didn’t want to. And most of her speech was characterized by a lambasting of Israel for its settlement activity.

One excerpt:

[W]e reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. For more than four decades, Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 has undermined Israel’s security and corroded hopes for peace and stability in the region. Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace….

While we agree with our fellow Council members – and indeed, with the wider world – about the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this Council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians. We therefore regrettably have opposed this draft resolution.

And then there were the instances when she snubbed Israel. She skipped Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to the U.N. in September 2012. She was not present during the UN debate over the Goldstone Report and left it to her deputy to read a statement from the Obama administration opposing it. She was also absent from the UN Security Council in 2011 when the U.S. opposed Palestinian efforts to declare statehood at the United Nations, again relying on a deputy to read an administration statement.

To be sure, Ambassador Rice has her defenders in the pro-Israel community who cite her many efforts defending Israel against the institutionalized demonization that is part of everyday life at the U.N. But that doesn’t quite alleviate our concern over her apparent embrace of the Palestinian narrative on the core issues of the Arab-Israel conflict – even when the president seems to be leaning the other way.

The Arab Street is Still Angry

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Much like Festivus, American diplomacy in the Middle East usually begins with an airing of grievances. These are not the American grievances over decades of terrorism and acts of violent hatred. These are the grievances that are supposedly infuriating the Arab Street. The list begins with Israel, continues on to the “Arab Dictators” supported by America and concludes with warnings to respect Mohammed by not making any cartoons or movies about him.

During his first term, Obama kept his distance from Israel, locked up a Christian who made a movie about Mohammed and withdrew his support from the Arab Dictators. The street should have been happy, but now it’s angrier than ever. And much of that anger is directed at America.

Mohamed El Baradei, once the administration’s choice to take over Egypt, has refused to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry. Joining him in this boycott is much of Egypt’s liberal opposition.

When Mubarak was in power, the “Arab Street” of Islamists and Egyptian leftists was angry at America for supporting him. Now the “Arab Street” of Egyptian leftists, Mubarak supporters and some Anti-Brotherhood Islamists is angry at America for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

The American foreign policy error was to assume that the political grievances of the Arab Street could be appeased with democracy. They can’t be. The various factions are not truly interested in open elections. What they want is for America to elevate their faction and only their faction to power. When that doesn’t happen, they denounce the government as an American puppet and warn of the great and terrible anger of the Arab Street if America doesn’t make them its puppet instead.

Democracy is no solution, because none of the factions really wanted democracy for its own sake. They wanted it only as a tool to help them win. Now that the tool has failed most of them, they don’t care for it anymore. And the Islamists who benefited from democracy have no enduring commitment to it. Like all the other factions, they see it as a tool. A means, not an end.

While the West views democracy as an end, the East sees it as only a means. The West believes in a system of populist power rotation. The East however is caught between a variety of totalitarian ideologies, including Islamists and local flavors of the left, who have no interest in power rotation except as a temporary strategy for total victory.

There is no actual solution to the Arab Street that will please all sides and keep their hatred of America down to a dull roar. Whichever side the United States of America backs will leave the others full of fury. If the United States doesn’t back a side but maintains good relations with the government, it will still be accused of backing that government.

The only way to disprove that accusation is for the winning side to demonstrate its hostility to the United States. Accordingly even governments that are in theory friendly to the United States must demonstrate their unfriendliness as a defense against accusations that they are puppets of the infidels. And as a result, no matter whom the United States supports, all the factions, including those we support, will continue to engage in ritual displays of hostility against us.

Trying to appease the fictional construct of an Arab Street that has clear and simple demands is a hopeless scenario. It’s a Catch 22 mess where every move is ultimately a losing move, no matter how promising it initially appears to be.

There is no Arab Street. The real Arab Street is the overcrowded cities full of angry men with no jobs and lots of bigotry. Their hostility to the United States has nothing to do with the sordid politics that experts insist on bringing up to prove that the Muslim world hates us with good reason. Even if this history did not exist, the United States would be just as hated. The best evidence of that is that most of the accusations that enjoy popularity on the Arab Street are entirely imaginary.

Demagogues can lead the street from bread riots to toppling governments, but what they cannot do is fix the underlying problems, let alone change the bigotry of people who blame all their problems on the foreigners, rather than on themselves. Each faction promises that the anger will subside and stability will return when it comes to power, but the anger will never go away because it’s too convenient to blame America for everything. As long as America is around, no one in the Muslim world ever has to take responsibility for anything.

Why the CIA Director is Wrong: Islamism Scarier than Al Qaeda

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

It’s time, a dozen years after September 11 and following Islamist coups in the Gaza Strip; Islamist electoral revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Turkey; and a probable Islamist victory during the next year in Syria–to rethink completely our view of Al Qaeda.

First, Al Qaeda wasn’t involved in any of these events or in several more big developments we could list. Second, Al Qaeda hasn’t disappeared, contrary to the Obama Administration’s claims. And third, the American homeland is now demonstrably well-protected from terrorist attacks so consequently while success on this front remains important it need not be the top U.S. strategic priority.

So let me propose a new way of looking at things:

Aside from being a problem of counter-terrorism—that is, of law enforcement—Al Qaeda is no longer important. It certainly isn’t strategically important nor is it important for the biggest and most essential U.S. national interests. That doesn’t mean Al Qaeda should be ignored. Yet combating it is relatively manageable.

This alternative view is especially significant at a moment when the new CIA director is the father—and the president, secretary of state, and secretary of defense the avid fans—of a theory that places Al Qaeda at the center of the world stage. Basically their theory goes like this:

Al Qaeda is terribly evil and a threat to America. It must be fought. But all Islamism—except for Al Qaeda—can be moderated and won over by a sympathetic U.S. policy. The Islamists are the best people to handle and defeat Al Qaeda and by giving the people what they want–Islam running the society–their desire to commit terrorism or attack America will subside. After all, if the United States shows itself to be Islamism’s best friend, why should Islamists be angry at it? This strategy began with Obama’s Cairo speech which was a profoundly pro-Islamist statement, and that’s why he invited Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders to sit in the front row.

In other words, put your enemies in power and they are no longer your enemies. Moreover, once Islamists get into power they will get entangled in party politics, paving roads, running schools, and doing all the other things that governments do. They will lose their radicalism and certainly stop using violence.

Now there’s a lot to say against this theory. It either hasn’t worked historically on other radical ideologies—Nazism, fascism, Communism—or at least only after a very long time in power (including millions of victims) often mixed in with military debacles. It can be said to have worked with radical Arab nationalism but only after 50 years and multiple military defeats. This was also the precise theory that underpinned the 1990s’ Oslo peace process and assumptions about Yasir Arafat settling down to become a great and practical statesman. And that didn’t work either.

Moreover, it ignores the fundamental extremism, anti-Americanism, antisemitism, anti-Christian, and anti-women tenets of Islamist philosophy, which are rooted in reasonable (but not the only possible) interpretations of Islam. And it also leaves out the power gained once radicals take over institutions. Sure they’ll be running the schools but that doesn’t mean they will become entangled in planning curricula so much as to persuade people they should grow up to be radical Islamists and jihad warriors.

Finally, all Islamists want Islamist rule and the application of Sharia as the law. Some will talk and do nothing; others will talk and organize; others will use violence, and among those who organize there are those who can seize state power—in Muslim majority countries—and those that will fail. The Muslim Brotherhood is brilliant tactically; Al Qaeda has only one note in its orchestra, endless struggle and terrorism rather than political maneuvering and building a mass base.

Usually, as you can see, when I talk about this issue I stress the non-Al Qaeda side of the equation. But it’s time to reanalyze Al Qaeda also.

The importance of Al Qaeda in the history of Islamism is actually more marginal than it might seem from the massive study and headlines it generated. Al Qaeda had three innovations of importance:

First, that the movement be international, fighting simultaneously on all fronts. While the Muslim Brotherhood had been an international group it had a limited number of branches, only four of real significance. However, this only succeeded because Al Qaeda’s organization—especially after the U.S. destruction of the center in Afghanistan and long before Osama bin Ladin’s assassination—was so loose. Basically, local groups could simply affiliate with Al Qaeda without being its actual creation. Being active everywhere and not concentrating one’s forces is a formula for survival but also a recipe for ultimate defeat.

Who Will Morsi Heed: Allah or Tom Friedman?

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Sigh. Forgive me. I really don’t want to write this article but it is too good a case study of the contemporary Western foreign policy reporting, debate, and elite attitudes toward international affairs. And doing a better job is vital because this task involves the fate of millions of people; matters of war and peace; the most basic interests of the United States; and the decency of intellectual discourse.

I refer of course to Thomas L. Friedman’s latest effort, “The Belly Dancing Barometer,” (New York Times, February 19, 2013). Hey, tens of millions of lives are at stake so that’s worth a flippant title and a goofy concept, right?

Friedman writes:

Since the start of the 2011 revolution in Tahrir Square, every time the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood faced a choice of whether to behave in an inclusive way or grab more power, true to its Bolshevik tendencies it grabbed more power and sacrificed inclusion. [President] Morsi’s power grab will haunt him.

The Brotherhood needs to understand that its version of political Islam – which is resistant to women’s empowerment and religious and political pluralism – might be sustainable if you are Iran or Saudi Arabia, and you have huge reserves of oil and gas to buy off all the contradictions between your ideology and economic growth. But if you are Egypt, you need to be as open to the world and modernity as possible to unleash all of the potential for growth. So let me get this straight. Friedman is saying that you cannot trust the Brotherhood, it seeks total power and is antidemocratic. Hmm, What’s he been saying the last two years? He’s been an apologist for the Brotherhood, a cheerleader for the course taken by the “Arab Spring,” and has constantly insisted that the democratic revolution is going well.

Indeed, in January 2012, I wrote an analysis of Friedman’s coverage entitled, “Friedman Cheers as Egyptians are Enslaved.” Now that it’s too late he is supposedly outraged to see what’s going on there.

Now he concludes that the Egyptian regime is not democratic at all but then draws no conclusion about how U.S. policy should change to adjust for his discovery?  Does Friedman now favor, as he hints in the article, using real pressure on Egypt if the regime continues to be repressive at home? Will he criticize Obama for not doing so?

But if Morsi has “Bolshevik tendencies” might that not also lead to his doing something nasty to U.S. interests?

It’s like identifying a mass murderer and then saying, “Do you really think you can get away with this without a vast criminal organization behind you?” rather than yelling, “Help, police! There’s a mass murderer over there!”

And then on top of that he uses the “needs to understand” phrase so beloved of newspaper editorialists but totally absurd in dealing with dictators. Well, what if they don’t understand?  How about saying:

Herr Hitler needs to understand that he cannot conquer the whole world. Germany lacks the economic base to do so.

And do we now believe in economic determinism? Was the USSR sustainable? Can you imagine someone writing this in 1917 to the Bolsheviks?

Mr. Lenin needs to understand that the Soviet Union [yes, I know it wasn't founded until several years later but I'm trying to make a point here] should abandon its Bolshevik tendencies because it will never work out.

Sure the Soviet Union failed but it took almost 75 years and there were tens of millions dead as a result.

And since when did a Middle Eastern radical dictatorship (even one that was elected) put economic pragmatism ahead of seeking its goals: the PLO or Palestinian Authority, Saddam Hussein? Gamal Abdel Nasser? I  don’t remember the Iranian government dropping the nuclear weapons program because of economic sanctions.

Arguably, one such leader did bow to economic necessity to moderate. His name was Anwar al-Sadat and now his regime–under Sadat’s successor, Mubarak–is the villain for America and the West.

Note that Friedman never says: President Obama needs to understand that he cannot trust this Muslim Brotherhood regime, should see it as a threat to U.S. interests, and must work to undermine it.

Moreover, is Friedman correct and Morsi wrong? Is the world really going to cut off the money to Egypt if it keeps getting more Islamist? Will the U.S. insist that the IMF stop aiding the Egyptian regime or even stop sending it free weapons?

Egypt’s Islamists Obsessed not Only With Power, but Sex too

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Egypt’s Islamists have been exhibiting a relentless control over their country. First with President Morsi’s granting to himself sweeping powers, then enforcing a constitution that eliminates the opposition and isolates religious minorities and then by harassing the media with a court ruling that imposes a month-long suspension on YouTube. Their lust for power is apparently not their only vice; evidence suggests they are also obsessed with sex and controlling women’s bodies.

The Arabic website of the Russian state news channel , Russia Today, reported for example, that the Consular General of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Khirat Al-Shatir, had married a 21-year-old Syrian model through an “unofficial marriage decree,” known in Egypt as “Orfi.”

Orfi marriage, according to the report, is a marriage documented only by a mere non-government-registered hand-written marriage decree, which in effect, gives the husband sexual privileges with his young Syrian wife while securing for her none of the rights of marriage.  According to the “decree,” Al-Shatir paid the young model one million U.S. Dollars as a dowry to confirm that “any offspring resulting from this reunion will become a legitimate heir to Al-Sahtir’s wealth,” thereby excluding the wife herself from inheritance.

According to the Muslim Brotherhood’s hierarchy, Al-Shatir is president Morsi’s leader and Murshid or “Guidance-provider.”

In June 2012, a Salafist parliament member Ali Wanees was arrested along with a young woman for indecent exposure in a car. An audio recording of the incident was leaked to the Egyptian media.  In the recoding, a police officer can be heard ranting “I swear to almighty God I would have thought she was his daughter.” While the young woman kept exclaiming, “He was going to marry me…he was going to marry me!”

Wanees belongs to a group which calls for the implementation of Sharia law, according to which, he should be stoned to death for committing adultery. Nonetheless, his Salafist followers in the Egyptian government have not been calling for him to be punished according to Sharia.

Furthermore, some of Egypt’s top Islamists officials have been making sexist statements to the media. In September 2012, Salah Abdul Maksoud, Egypt’s Information Minister and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was interviewed by Palestinian-Syrian TV anchor, Zeina Yazji. As Yazji began asking questions, Maksoud commented, “I hope your questions are not as hot as you are!” Maksoud is in charge of Egypt’s state media and oversees the government’s public image.

In February of this year, Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kindil, also a Muslim Brotherhood member, was asked on television about the economic conditions of rural areas. He failed to address the economic woes, but did say, “I know the Egyptian rural area of Bani Sweif, women there are so ignorant that they breast-feed their babies without cleaning their breasts causing the babies to have diarrhoea,” adding, “women in Bani Sweif who go out to bathe in public ponds get raped too.” While Kindil’s off-point responses resulted in the secular opposition movement seeking to sue him for his demeaning comments, there are no signs that his boss, Morsi, is unhappy with him.

Egypt’s Islamists’ sex-obsession even extends to Egyptian men.  Take the case of Bassem Youssef, dubbed Egypt’s Jon Stewart with his political comedy show “El Bernameg.”  Youssef has been a fearless critic of the ruling Islamists in Egypt.  As a result, Youssef has come under a ruthless defamation campaign by the Islamists.  One of those is Abu Islam– a Salafist preacher and a TV anchor on Al-Omah Islamist television.

Abu Islam publically addressed Bassem Youssef in his “religious” show which is watched regularly by the average Egyptian household.  Abu Islam told Youssef he was “so pretty he had to wear a Burkka,” because “you are prettier than women with your hairless face”.  In Egyptian culture, these comments are a subliminal indication that Bassem Youssef was to be sexually pursed by men.  As Abu Islam put it, “We [men] are not allowed to look at your pretty face according to Sharia.”

To further insult Youssef, Abu Islam even spoke about female genitalia in details and mentioned Youssef’s wife: “Do you know what a **** is Bassem? I am sure you know; it is the little thing right above your wife’s genitalia.”

‘An Act of Stupidity That Will Resonate for Generations’

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

The replacement of dictator Hosni Mubarak with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi has had serious negative consequences for Egyptian liberals, Christians, and women; for Israel, which now must treat Egypt as a hostile power rather than a peace partner; and for the U.S., which is in the uncomfortable position of financially supporting a radical Islamist, anti-American, antisemitic regime.

So did this have to happen? Some say yes, there was no way the 82-year old corrupt, brutal Mubarak could have been propped up (but note that the new regime is no less, possibly more, brutal and corrupt). And shouldn’t the Egyptian people be allowed to choose their own rulers?

If you listen to Rafi Eitan, a former Mossad official who led the capture of Adolf Eichmann in 1960, the answer is that it definitely did not have to happen — and the U.S. is responsible. An interview with Eitan appeared today in the Times of Israel:

This slight man, with his trademark thick-rimmed glasses, did not mince his words when speaking of what he perceives as fatal American mistakes in handling the “Arab Spring” — particularly at that crucial moment in June 2012 when the administration could have imposed a secular president on Egypt, Ahmad Shafiq — and by doing so change the course of that country’s history. …

“The military unequivocally decided that [Ahmed] Shafiq will be president, not [Mohammed] Morsi,” Eitan told The Times of Israel. “But the Americans put all the pressure on. The announcement [of the president] was delayed by three or four days because of this struggle.”

Immediately after Egypt’s presidential elections in June 2012, Eitan spoke to unnamed local officials, who told him that with a mere 5,000-vote advantage for Islamist candidate Morsi, the military was prepared to announce the victory of his adversary Shafiq, a secular military man closely associated with the Mubarak regime.

But secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Eitan said, decided to favor democracy at all costs and disallow any falsification of the vote.

“This is idiocy. An act of stupidity that will resonate for generations,” Eitan said. “I also thought Mubarak should be replaced, but I believed the Americans would be smart enough to replace him with the next figure. Mubarak would have agreed to that, but the Americans didn’t want that; they wanted democracy. But there is no real democracy in the Arab world at the moment. It will take a few generations to develop…”

If you believe that the ideology of radical Islamism represents a real challenge to the Enlightenment values of Western civilization,  then the takeover of the largest and most important Arab nation by the Brotherhood is a significant defeat for America and the West. Although historical analogies are notoriously misleading, in a sense it is as if the U.S. had intervened on behalf of the Bolsheviks in 1917 or helped Hitler attain power in 1933.

The appeal to ‘democracy’ is particularly ludicrous. Although Morsi uses the word a lot, his actions in consolidating power in the hands of the Brotherhood have been anything but democratic. And the philosophy of the Brotherhood itself makes it clear that regardless of the means by which power is attained, the goal is a state — and ultimately an expansive caliphate — governed according to shari’a, ruled by religious authorities, a regime in which Muslims (male) will dominate all others.

It seems that the Obama Administration has made a distinction between Islamists, with al-Qaeda and Hezbollah in the category of ‘bad’ Islamists because they have directly attacked us, while the Brotherhood and (for example) the Turkish AKP are ‘good’ because they have made the tactical decision not to wage war on us (at least not yet). But their ideology is no less anti-Western and anti-American.

If Eitan’s analysis — that the U.S. chose to support Morsi because it would be “more democratic” — is true, it reveals a shocking ignorance on the part of our leaders about the nature of the Brotherhood, of Egypt, and yes, the real meaning of “democracy.”

Arab Moderation Murdered in Tunisia

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph in the world is that good men do nothing.” –Edmund Burke

And if the good men are murdered by the forces of political evil than they certainly cannot do anything. Hence, the outcome is assured.

Thus, the “Arab Spring” has just been murdered with bullets and hijacked amid bloodstains. Here is the list of countries in the Middle East area currently ruled by Islamists: Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Iran, Lebanon, and Turkey. Syria will probably join them soon. Qatar has a pro-Islamist policy. Morocco technically has an Islamist government though the king neutralizes it in practice. Saudi Arabia is ruled by a strict Islamic regime but opposes the revolutionary Islamists though its money often spreads their doctrines elsewhere. Everyone is being forced into Sunni or Shia Islamist camps, backing radical forces in other countries so that their religious allegiance can conquer.

In this situation, only in Tunisia could the non-Islamists win fairly conducted elections. But an election isn’t fair if one side uses violence to ensure its victory and its ability to transform the country into a social-political dictatorship afterward.

I know that whenever I write an article on Tunisia it will have fewer readers than other topics. That’s understandable from the standpoint that Tunisia is a small country with little international impact and limited U.S. interests.

Yet Tunisia was the country where the “Arab Spring” began. And Tunisia is going to be the place where the Middle Eastern equivalent of the Spanish Civil War will be fought. In other words, it is the only place where moderate and “secularist” forces are going to fight and the only country where the moderates have a majority of the population–though not a majority of the guns–behind them.

Given that bellwether factor, they have just suffered a massive defeat which is simultaneously a major victory for the Islamist forces.

Briefly, what people who believe the Arabic-speaking world is heading toward democracy don’t understand is that they have helped unleash forces quite willing to engage in violence and that will not stop until they’ve achieve a total triumph. It’s sort of like Pandora who opened the box to unleash its spiritual whirlwinds and said, “This ought to be interesting!”

That’s why the assassination of Choukri Belaid is so important. He was leader of the Democratic Patriot party and a leader of the Popular Front opposition coalition. While the story will be obscure in the West it is devastating for Tunisia, the Arab liberals, and the future of the region. Belaid was the single most outspoken and determined anti-Islamist leader in the country, and indeed the most important openly anti-Islamist politician in the entire Arabic-speaking world. He wasn’t the only moderate politician in Tunisia but he was the main one who rejected Islamist rule and warned against Islamist intentions.

And how did the Islamist-dominated coalition react? The moment the leading opposition figure—the man around whom an anti-Islamist coalition might have been built following the next elections–was murdered, it called for new elections.

Get it? The Brotherhood’s moderate coalition partners didn’t want elections now. And if you eliminate the tough moderate, those remaining may be more pliable about caving in. It was quite conceivable that the non-Islamists would get a majority in the next elections–as they did in the previous one. But a majority divided among four parties isn’t enough. Last time, the moderate parties got 60 percent but their disunity allowed the largest single party, the Brotherhood, to take control of the government coalition with only 40 percent of the vote.

But a man like Belaid might have forged a moderate coalition government that would keep the Brotherhood out of power. In other words, though he led only the fourth largest party, Belaid was the key to forcing the Brotherhood out of power by convincing the four moderate parties to work together against the Islamist threat. His elimination isn’t just a crime, but a political strategy.

As I predicted a few days ago, destroying the left is going to be the Islamists’ priority and Tunisia is the only country where the political left poses a danger to them. Elsewhere it is too weak, confined to isolated individuals and publications.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/arab-moderation-murdered-in-tunisia/2013/02/11/

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