What Is Going in Middle East?

What Is Going in Middle East?

Bob
Bob

February 6th, 2011, 4:42 pm #1

We see this wave of citizen uprisings, in Tunisia, now Egypt, I hear Algeria may be next, and with more countries possibly to follow (not to mention that Christian southern Sudan will be separating from the Muslim north). Before that, it was the people of Iran who rose up against their dictator (and it took the brutality of the Iranian military to beat that back --- Egypt's military could do the same, but unlike Iran, Egypt wants continued strong relations with U.S. -- they don't have Iran's oil wealth, and Egypt is second only to Israel as beneficiary of U.S. aid).

This was the sort of thing that I heard George W. Bush's Administration say was an objective of the war in Iraq. Yes, there was the "weapons of mass destruction" that were not found. But, it was also a stated objective to topple a brutal dictator and give the Iraqi people an opportunity for free elections and self-determination. And, I also heard the Administration openly speculate and hope that a free Iraq might put pressure on other dictatorial regimes in the area to allow their people more freedoms or to face potential overthrow.

Yes, I hear you say, "Well, U.S. couldn't be too committed to democracy, as they supported Mubarak and other dictators around the world." Which is true. But that support was not for dictatorship so much as for logistical reasons. Egypt controls that major shipping lane, the Suez Canal. And, we needed non-aggression pacts between some countries surrounding Israel so that the Israelis wouldn't have a fight on every front. We need Egypt, and they have also benefited.

But now, with opportunity for a free Egypt that could maintain close relations with U.S., I feel hopeful. I don't trust the Muslim Brotherhood at all. I fear they could hijack the revolution and take Egypt toward an Iran-like hostile theocracy. But the opportunity is there for a good outcome. And, if the outcomes in Tunisia and Egypt, and in Iraq (not feeling as confidant about Afghanistan, unfortunately -- and I have real concern about Pakistan) are positive . . then I think the pressure builds on other Middle East governments to liberalize and allow increased freedoms to their people.
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Bob
Bob

February 6th, 2011, 4:50 pm #2

This could go different ways, but if the tide could turn again in Afghanistan, and stability return to Pakistan, then I think the pressure builds on Iran. With pro-Western countries to their west and east . . with the Taliban and al-Qaeda on the run . . Iran would be the next logical place for overthrow of its dictator and a return to positive U.S.-Iran relations. We can only hope!
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Nat
Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

February 6th, 2011, 11:45 pm #3

We see this wave of citizen uprisings, in Tunisia, now Egypt, I hear Algeria may be next, and with more countries possibly to follow (not to mention that Christian southern Sudan will be separating from the Muslim north). Before that, it was the people of Iran who rose up against their dictator (and it took the brutality of the Iranian military to beat that back --- Egypt's military could do the same, but unlike Iran, Egypt wants continued strong relations with U.S. -- they don't have Iran's oil wealth, and Egypt is second only to Israel as beneficiary of U.S. aid).

This was the sort of thing that I heard George W. Bush's Administration say was an objective of the war in Iraq. Yes, there was the "weapons of mass destruction" that were not found. But, it was also a stated objective to topple a brutal dictator and give the Iraqi people an opportunity for free elections and self-determination. And, I also heard the Administration openly speculate and hope that a free Iraq might put pressure on other dictatorial regimes in the area to allow their people more freedoms or to face potential overthrow.

Yes, I hear you say, "Well, U.S. couldn't be too committed to democracy, as they supported Mubarak and other dictators around the world." Which is true. But that support was not for dictatorship so much as for logistical reasons. Egypt controls that major shipping lane, the Suez Canal. And, we needed non-aggression pacts between some countries surrounding Israel so that the Israelis wouldn't have a fight on every front. We need Egypt, and they have also benefited.

But now, with opportunity for a free Egypt that could maintain close relations with U.S., I feel hopeful. I don't trust the Muslim Brotherhood at all. I fear they could hijack the revolution and take Egypt toward an Iran-like hostile theocracy. But the opportunity is there for a good outcome. And, if the outcomes in Tunisia and Egypt, and in Iraq (not feeling as confidant about Afghanistan, unfortunately -- and I have real concern about Pakistan) are positive . . then I think the pressure builds on other Middle East governments to liberalize and allow increased freedoms to their people.
I don't know Bob, I think it could go either way. I think because the press tends to interview friendly English speaking citizens there gives us a false impression that they are representative of the citizenry as a whole which I don't think is the case. I think radical Muslinism and anti-westernism is growing by the day and the revolt against Mubarak is in part because he is seen as too friendly to the US and Israel.
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cool beans boi
cool beans boi

February 8th, 2011, 2:48 am #4

Believe it or not I am a bit conservative on this one. All this talk of how bad Mubarak is, however does anyone want the Muslim brotherhood to take over Egypt?
If Mubarak goes, I fear the Country will turn into another Iran. In 1979 everyone wanted the Shah to go, but the country got stuck with Khomeini (however you spell it)

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Nat
Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

February 8th, 2011, 6:08 am #5

Yes, they certainly are. We keep thinking that given a choice the people of the middle east will choose what we would choose- but these people are not us, they have a very different heritage and think very differently than we do. Already the Iraqis free elections did not go as we had hoped and all signs that I see is that anti-Americanism is only increasing.

As I have said many times- the only smart thing for us (the US) to do is end our dependence on middle-eastern oil and get the hell out of their business. It's long pass time for the US to stop being the world's cop and nanny.
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Bob
Bob

February 8th, 2011, 6:09 pm #6

On NPR this morning, they interviewed a shop owner in Cairo, who said that Americans are leaving Egypt due to (he believes) a mistaken fear for their safety due to anti-American sentiment. He said the Europeans don't have such concerns and are not so quick to run (thus, might patronize his business). Made me think again that Americans tend to have this concern that people in other countries mostly resent us. Four years ago, Marseil reassured me that the French would not be hostile toward my son during his visit . . so long as he didn't boast of being American and insinuate that France and Europe are not up to some standard (actually, he told me that he was treated well generally, and that he received the colderst response when he visited London). I'm sure there are a number of places where being American would get you killed. But, I also think the numbers of such places are not nearly as high as our fears lead us to believe. (Don't get me wrong -- If I were in Egypt, I would high-tail it out of there too! No sense taking chances with one's life.)
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Nat
Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

February 8th, 2011, 7:10 pm #7

Europeans don't have such concerns because they don't meddling in other countries business like we do.
Just imagine if another country had soldiers and military bases around us? We wouldn't stand for it.
Hell- we nearly started WW-III over the Russians being in Cuba.

So why do we think Arab people should just accept our international meddling?
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Bob
Bob

February 8th, 2011, 8:22 pm #8

Well, people in other countries don't seem to mind our "meddling" in the form of monetary assistance to them. Their problem (I'm guessing) is with some things that our assistance buys from them: U.S. bases on their soil, cooperation with/support of U.S. policies in the region, votes that are sympathetic to U.S. positions at the United Nations, a generally pro-West stance. People have to know that very little comes without strings. They are soverign nations, so if it bothered them so much to play ball with U.S., they could simply refuse (as some nation states have done) and sacrifice the aid. But, you can't have cake and eat it too: take the money but don't do anything to earn it.

As for Europe, I think the difference is that they lack the means (or the will) to gift that level of money. They are content to let U.S. foot the bill in various ways (as we do in United Nations), and they still will often profit vis-avis the objectives those countries share with the U.S.

P.S. Remember when Puerto Ricans loudly objected to U.S. using a nearby uninhabited island of theirs for bombing practice? In response, U.S. brass said that the American base in Puerto Rico wouldn't be needed without use of the island for bombing practice. So, the choice offered was to stop bombing the island and move the U.S. base out of Puerto Rico. The Puerto Ricans didn't want to lose the base, as that provided the locals with many jobs, directly and indirectly. What they wanted was the reward (the base) without having to pay the price (use of the island for bombing practice). Wouldn't we all want our cake and to eat it too?
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Nat
Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

February 8th, 2011, 9:42 pm #9

Yes well its time we close our wallet and quit handing out these goodies. We are not in a position to be everybody's rich uncle anymore. We are deep in debt- and have long neglected our needs at home while other countries have been investing in their infrastructure and and exceeding us in many ways. We no longer have the tallest buildings, the best schools, or fastest internet. We can't even keep our worn-out space shuttle flying and will have to depend on the Russians to take us to the Space station. The fact is about the only thing we lead the world in these days is military spending. And we wouldn't need to be doing so much of that if it wasn't for all our foreign adventurism. And it's not like our meddling has worked- in the long run it has back-fired in nearly every case.
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Marseil
Marseil

February 9th, 2011, 12:16 am #10

We see this wave of citizen uprisings, in Tunisia, now Egypt, I hear Algeria may be next, and with more countries possibly to follow (not to mention that Christian southern Sudan will be separating from the Muslim north). Before that, it was the people of Iran who rose up against their dictator (and it took the brutality of the Iranian military to beat that back --- Egypt's military could do the same, but unlike Iran, Egypt wants continued strong relations with U.S. -- they don't have Iran's oil wealth, and Egypt is second only to Israel as beneficiary of U.S. aid).

This was the sort of thing that I heard George W. Bush's Administration say was an objective of the war in Iraq. Yes, there was the "weapons of mass destruction" that were not found. But, it was also a stated objective to topple a brutal dictator and give the Iraqi people an opportunity for free elections and self-determination. And, I also heard the Administration openly speculate and hope that a free Iraq might put pressure on other dictatorial regimes in the area to allow their people more freedoms or to face potential overthrow.

Yes, I hear you say, "Well, U.S. couldn't be too committed to democracy, as they supported Mubarak and other dictators around the world." Which is true. But that support was not for dictatorship so much as for logistical reasons. Egypt controls that major shipping lane, the Suez Canal. And, we needed non-aggression pacts between some countries surrounding Israel so that the Israelis wouldn't have a fight on every front. We need Egypt, and they have also benefited.

But now, with opportunity for a free Egypt that could maintain close relations with U.S., I feel hopeful. I don't trust the Muslim Brotherhood at all. I fear they could hijack the revolution and take Egypt toward an Iran-like hostile theocracy. But the opportunity is there for a good outcome. And, if the outcomes in Tunisia and Egypt, and in Iraq (not feeling as confidant about Afghanistan, unfortunately -- and I have real concern about Pakistan) are positive . . then I think the pressure builds on other Middle East governments to liberalize and allow increased freedoms to their people.
There's a need for multiple answers to this thread, as I think what is happening in North Africa and the Arab world is the most important event since the fall of Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, and also because Europeans and Americans do not have the same information basis, thus not the same option about this.

It's late, I'm not gonna answer all posts today.....


"We see this wave of citizen uprisings, in Tunisia, now Egypt, I hear Algeria may be next, and with more countries possibly to follow (not to mention that Christian southern Sudan will be separating from the Muslim north). Before that, it was the people of Iran who rose up against their dictator (and it took the brutality of the Iranian military to beat that back --- Egypt's military could do the same, but unlike Iran, Egypt wants continued strong relations with U.S. -- they don't have Iran's oil wealth, and Egypt is second only to Israel as beneficiary of U.S. aid)."

Sudan: yes religion is one angle to understand the separation between north and south. Ethnicity is another one: north Sudanese speak mainly arabic, whereas southern Sudanese speak mainly Nile-family languages. Also, and probably more important: North Sudan economy is largely agriculture based, whereas SOuth Sudan has large oil reserves. .... And surprisingly the US government is actively supporting SOuth Sudan independence....

The situation is totally different between Tunisia and Egypt. Tunisia is a small (10 million inhabitants) country, where since H Bourguiba, an important effort has been put on education. Illiteracy rate is low, women are educated, and a large part of the population has university degrees. This even was the start of the revolution: a guy with university degrees, who had as an only solution to support his family to sell vegetables had his cart taken by the police. Tunisian institutions are totally non religious, and most people interviewed during the demonstrations made it clear they would oppose any religious stronghold.

Egypt is a different story. A large part of the population is illiterate, made of extremely poor peasants. The Muslim brotherhood, was created in 1928, and has been the object of suppression by all powers., especially under Nasser. The Muslim Brotherhood is a starting point for AL Quaeda. WHen you say "Egypt wants continued strong relations with U.S", it would be interesting to question who in EGypt want them. The Mubarak clique and government, and allies definitely want strong relations with the US as they benefitted from them. I don't believe most of the population want them, as they see the US and Israel to be linked, and are generally against the peace with Israel, and sympathetic with the Palestinian cause.



"This was the sort of thing that I heard George W. Bush's Administration say was an objective of the war in Iraq. Yes, there was the "weapons of mass destruction" that were not found. But, it was also a stated objective to topple a brutal dictator and give the Iraqi people an opportunity for free elections and self-determination. And, I also heard the Administration openly speculate and hope that a free Iraq might put pressure on other dictatorial regimes in the area to allow their people more freedoms or to face potential overthrow."

No one ever believed the US would bring democracy to Iraq. Democracy has a much better chance in Tunisia with a revolution made by the Tunisians alone, than imported with the most intense deluge of weapons by the first power in the world. If the objective of the US war in Iraq had been to topple a dictator, why start with this one? And no one, even in the US government under Bush believed there was weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This war has already made 100,000 iraqi victims. You won't make me believe they were all culprits.

Iran is an interesting demonstration a revolution started with the best intentions can go wrong. AT the time Khomeini went back to Iran to overthrow the Shah regime, the whole world believed things would get better for the iranians. We learnt later that the regime turned into a religious dictatorship. There has been recent attempts of democratization through the organization of elections in the early 2000s, but power was seized by antidemocratic Ahmadinejad.



"But now, with opportunity for a free Egypt that could maintain close relations with U.S., I feel hopeful. I don't trust the Muslim Brotherhood at all. I fear they could hijack the revolution and take Egypt toward an Iran-like hostile theocracy. But the opportunity is there for a good outcome. And, if the outcomes in Tunisia and Egypt, and in Iraq (not feeling as confidant about Afghanistan, unfortunately -- and I have real concern about Pakistan) are positive . . then I think the pressure builds on other Middle East governments to liberalize and allow increased freedoms to their people."

I think no one can anticipate the outcome of the ongoing Egyptian situation. The will of the US would be a soft transition towards a slightly more open government which wound keep the relation with Israel and with the US as is. We have no guarantee it will happen this way. If you're optimistic, you may want to see the Muslim Brotherhood evolved towards a moderate muslim party as the Justice and Development Party in Turkey. However, keep in mind that this party, even if it appears moderate has been restricting liberties (slowly, and discreetly) since it came into power in 2007. I'm not so optimistic.



Marseil.
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