Obama’s Second Term: Selling Death and Buying Assassins In the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia
As President Obama enters his second term with a new Cabinet, the foreign policy legacy of the past four years weighs heavily on their strategic decisions and their empire-building efforts. Central to the analysis of the next period is an evaluation of the past policies especially in regions where Washington expended its greatest financial and military resources, namely the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.
We will proceed by examining the accomplishments and failures of the Obama-Clinton regime. We will then turn to the ongoing policy efforts to sustain the empire-building project. We will take account of the constraints and opportunities, which define the parameters resulting from imperial military ambitions, Israeli-Zionist influence in shaping policy and the ongoing anti-imperialist struggles. We will conclude by examining likely polices and outcomes resulting from current strategies.
The Clinton-Obama Imperial Legacy: The Accomplishments
The greatest success of the Obama-Clinton (OC) imperial legacy was the virtual elimination of organized domestic anti-war dissent, the demise of the peace movement and the co-optation of virtually the entire ‘progressive’ leadership in the US – while multiplying the number of proxy wars, overt and covert military operations and ‘defense’ spending. As a result, the entire political spectrum moved further to the right toward greater militarization abroad and increased police-state measures at home.
Facing mass revolts and the overthrow of long-standing client regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, the Obama-Clinton (OC) Administration moved rapidly to reconfigure new client regimes while preserving the state apparatus – the military, intelligence, police, judicial and civilian bureaucracy. The empire dumped incumbent regimes in order to save the repressive state, the key guarantor of US strategic interests. Washington reminded its client rulers that ‘There are no permanent alliances, there are only permanent imperial interests’. Washington successfully engineered a political pact between conservative Islamist leaders and parties and the old military elite. The new political blocs in Egypt upheld Israeli annexation of Palestine, the brutal blockade of Gaza and the neo-liberal economic order. Washington repeated the ‘reshuffle of clients’ in Yemen and Tunisia. The OC intervention temporarily aborted the pro-democracy, anti-Zionist and anti-corruption popular revolt. The OC policies secured a temporary respite, but the subsequent effort by Egypt to secure an IMF loan has led to a stalemate amid deteriorating economic conditions and rising political protest. The successful imposition of new client regimes amenable to US hegemony in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, in the face of popular revolts, marked the beginning of a series of favorable political-military outcomes in the region for the OC regime.
Facing Israeli annexation of ever-widening swaths of Palestinian land and the end of any pretense of ‘peace negotiations’, Washington continued to provide Israel with massive military assistance, modern weapons systems and unconditional political support in the UN. By submitting to Israel the OC regime succeeded in retaining the political support of the domestic Zionist power configuration (ZPC). The OC regime’s economic handouts supported the puppet Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as it policed the West Bank for Israel. Despite losing the vote to seat the Palestinians as a non-voting member in the UN, Washington succeeded in blocking full membership. The OC regime succeeded in fulfilling its role as Israel’s handmaiden, despite opposition from the vast majority of UN members.
The OC regime succeeded in tightening sanctions on Iran, by securing Russian, Chinese and Arab League support, without provoking a potentially destructive war. The US sanction policy toward Iran is largely designed and implemented by key Zionist appointees in the Treasury (formerly Stuart Levy, now David Cohen) and in Congress, by legislators bought and directed by the powerful America-Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
The US, under Obama-Clinton, destroyed the independent nationalist Gadhafi government via a joint air war with the EU and tried to set up a client regime. In turn, Libya became a key recruiting ground for violent Islamist mercenaries invading Syria and weapons depot supplying Islamist terrorists. The OC regime’s military success in Libya was part of a general strategy to accelerate the expansion of US and European military operations in Africa. This includes setting up drone bases and promoting African mercenary armies from Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia to expand imperial control in Somalia, Mali and elsewhere.
In the Gulf region the US succeeded in propping up the autocratic Bahrain monarchy, as it killed and jailed opponents and outlawed the mass pro-democracy social movement among its oppressed Shi’a majority population. The OC regime successfully secured Gulf state financing for the Libyan and Syrian wars.
In Iraq, the US has succeeded in dividing the devastated nation into fragments of warring fiefdoms, Shi’a, Sunni, Kurd and subsets of each. It succeeded in destroying a once modern and secular society, an advanced economy and independent nationalist regime. Initially the OC regime hoped to establish a client outpost in Iraq from which to secure Washington’s wealthy petro-clients in the Gulf, especially among the patrimonial dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates.
Washington, in alliance with other NATO powers and its Gulf state clients, succeeded in converting a peaceful civilian protest movement in Syria into a full scale civil war and military invasion, increasingly dominated by armed Al Qaeda ‘internationalists’. The US-EU-Gulf State-Turkey-Israeli alliance has armed, financed, trained and advised Islamist and mercenary terrorists to effectively destroy the Syrian state, society and economy, dispossessing and uprooting a million refugees across the border and resulting in the death and injury of hundreds of thousands. The US promoted invasion of Syria has seriously weakened one of the last governments defending the Palestinians, opposing Israeli colonization of the West Bank and providing a refuge for persecuted Palestinian leaders. By virtually destroying the Syrian state, the OC regime has driven a wedge between Hezbollah, the leading nationalist force in Lebanon and its ally Iran, while tightening the military encirclement of Teheran and exerting cross-border pressure against Iraq. A brutal Islamist regime in Syria will [could] replace the secular state with prospects of massive ethnic cleansing against minority populations, especially Christians and Allevis.
Obama and Clinton successfully expanded the drone assassination program throughout the Middle East and South Asia, killing more civilian non-combatants than suspected adversaries especially in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen.
The OC regime successfully imposed the presidential doctrine of killing of US citizens via drones with the support or acquiescence of the US Congress, judiciary and most of the mass media and without a shred of judicial due process. Accompanying the license to assassinate civilians via drones, Obama/Clinton successfully expanded the use of Special Operations death squads, dispatching them to seventy countries to assassinate political adversaries, destabilize independent governments and bolster client regimes.
The OC regime has spent tens of billions of dollars and succeeded in building a 350,000 man mercenary army in Afghanistan to defend US strategic interests, sustain its military bases and destroy the nationalist-Islamic opposition (‘Taliban’). OC hoped to cover Washington’s retreat from the combat front. Despite the military build-up and in the face of a sharply deteriorating military situation in Afghanistan, the OC regime has been negotiating with political sectors of the ‘Taliban’, to dump the current client ruler, Karzai, and ‘reshuffle the regime to save the state’, hoping to pull-off a coalition-collaborator Islamist-military regime such as has been shoe-horned in place in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen.
Vulnerability and Failures of the Obama-Clinton Legacy
The apparent and real empire-building successes of the Obama-Clinton regime are fraught with vulnerabilities and are based on fragile political and socio-economic foundations. Temporary tactical gains reveal strategic weaknesses and high military costs without commensurate imperial economic gains.
The Obama-Clinton counter-revolutionary offensive and its political military successes are driven by a military conception of empire building without a shred of economic thinking. It is not surprising that many of the key decision-makers promoting military-driven empire building are militarist ideologues and Zionist policy-makers, who specialize in utterly destroying adversaries (of Israel) and not in promoting or protecting US imperial oil, manufacturing and service interests.
A telegraphic point-by-point analysis and critique of the major policy interventions of the Obama-Clinton regime highlights strategic weaknesses and failures, even in areas that the empire-builders currently celebrate as ‘successes’.
While the OC regime succeeded in procuring close to fifteen billion US tax payer dollars in tribute payments to Israel, they failed to secure a neo-colonial settlement of the Israeli-Palestine conflict, even one based on conceding a truncated part of the West Bank composed of disconnected enclaves (‘Bantustans’). As a result of the total dominance of US Middle East policy by the Zionist power configuration (representing less than 1% of the US populace), the OC regime was repeatedly ‘humiliated’ by their Israeli overlords. The supremely confident, beefy Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu launched and flaunted massive new exclusive Jews-only colonial settlements on Palestinian land, despite near universal condemnation, knowing he could count on the veto power of Washington in the United Nations and its political leverage over EU allies and Arab clients. Strategically, the OC regime’s deep links to the Zionist power configuration includes the appointment of Israel Firsters to top positions in the US foreign policy establishment. These appointments ensured that Israeli interests would continue to determine US policies in North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf region. The Zionist appointees designated which political clients would be acceptable and which adversaries would be targeted for destruction. The OC regime’s biggest failure as US empire-builders was their inability to achieve independence from the Zionist incubus and accommodate the emergence of new socio-political forces as well as its failure to reap economic gains commensurate with its budget-busting military expenditures.
The successful imposition of new client regimes in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula (Yemen) is a short-term victory, based on force and the continuation of the authoritarian repressive state apparatus. The introduction of regressive neo-liberal policies will doom this short-term success. If the US ‘won’ the first round in the ‘Arab Spring’, its client rulers face a more radical social upheaval, one which goes beyond the earlier anti-dictatorial struggle and which explicitly targets the US, EU and the IMF. The new clients’ prospects of achieving stability via economic recovery are virtually non-existent. The full implementation of the OC-IMF agenda of ending popular food and fuel subsidies, increasing regressive taxation and wide spread privatizations will create a powder-key among the Arab masses. Under pressure from new waves of mass uprisings against brutal neo-liberal economic policies, the Arab clients’ US-mandated complicity with Israel may end.
The OC regime’s successful overthrow and assassination of President Gadhafi was accompanied by the utter destruction of the Libyan nationalist state, its economy and social fabric. The OC policy of total war has produced a miserable, lawless, chaotic society ‘headed’ by powerless expat neo-liberals at the top and run by local tribal chiefs, Islamist thugs and criminal gangs on the ground. They specialize in running guns, dispatching armed mercenaries abroad (especially to Syria), trafficking in migrant workers, drugs and sex slavery. The oil industry enclave has partially recovered but few if any oil profits make it to the US. Meanwhile, even US Embassy personnel (including the Ambassador) have been murdered and visiting US officials only travel in heavily armed conveys. Instead of a political victory, Washington has lost a potential oil partner for its own extractive industry. One might say the only real ‘beneficiary’ of the US-EU war to destroy Libya was Israel: Gadhafi had been a staunch ally and supporter of the Palestinian people. The invasion of Libya led to the massive displacement of armed ethnic communities, which has exacerbated conflicts in resource-rich sub-Sahara neo-colonies.
The Zionist power configuration, embedded in Congress, Treasury and inside the OC regime, has succeeded in imposing new and harsher economic sanctions on 75 million Iranians in support of Israel’s goal of ‘regime change’ in Teheran. However, the effect has been to strengthen the unity of the ethnically diverse Iranian population, especially when overt military threats, emanating from nuclear-armed Israel, are amplified by the White house and the Zionist-occupied US Congress.
Iran’s peaceful nuclear program continues; oil and gas sales to China, Japan, India and Korea and Pakistan continue. A new billion-dollar gas pipeline agreement with Pakistan has been signed. Iran has replaced the US as the major foreign influence in Iraq.
In other words the Obama-Clinton diplomatic success (‘sanctions against Iran’) have not enhanced US power nor achieved any strategic goals. Moreover Zionist-designed sanctions have had a negative effect on US energy prices and oil company profits. The OC regime’s policy toward Iran has ‘succeeded’ in maintaining Israel as the only nuclear power in the Middle East, a goal of Tel Aviv.
Obama and Clinton’s success in expanding outposts, missions, drone platforms and mercenary armies in Africa has been costly, politically destabilizing and has not prevented large-scale long-term Chinese economic penetration in the most lucrative resource sectors of the region. The US may have closer ties with African generals and dictators; its bankers come and go; but capital flight out of Africa accompanies inflows of US foreign aid. While the OC regime were building drone platforms, thousands of Chinese miners, investors, construction and transport companies were establishing an economic empire that over time will enhance China’s power, long after the US military empire has collapsed.
The OC regime claims ‘military victory’ in Iraq when, in fact, what we see is ‘defeat via retreat’ on the ground. The US has spent $2 trillion dollars in order to overthrow and execute the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The Bush and Obama-Clinton regimes have made absolute fools out of the entire executive branch of the US government by justifying the war on the basis of crudely manufactured intelligence (falsely claiming the existence of weapons of mass destruction) through a series of lies cooked up by Israeli-collaborators in the Pentagon, White House and New York Times (especially the infamous propagandist Judith Miller). The end result is a failed state: savage ethnic-religious divisions, millions of dead, displaced and injured, daily terror bombings against a brutalized population, and a great leap backward in terms of Iraq’s economic, scientific and social development. In political terms, Iraq is now ruled by a thuggish Shia elite closely tied to Iran – which is the biggest beneficiary of the US invasion of Iraq and principal adversary of US empire building. The OC regime’s post-war Iraq is composed of an overwhelmingly hostile population, a divided and fragmented country pitting Arabs against Kurds, where the most qualified and educated have been driven out or assassinated and entire ancient Christian communities have been obliterated. The OC regime claims to ‘success in Iraq’, in fact, show a weakening of the overall US presence in the Gulf region. Economically, Turkey has become Iraq’s main trading partner with trade growing by double and triple digits each year.
In other words, the US invasion of Iraq destroyed an adversary of Israel, broke the US economy ($2 trillion and counting), increased the influence of Iran and handed Iraq’s petro-dollar consumer market and lucrative reconstruction contracts over to Turkey. The Obama-Clinton regime’s claims of military victory ring hollow in the empty coffers of the US Treasury – where are the ‘spoils of this imperial war’? Most of the intellectual authors of the invasion of Iraq have departed from the US government and are now comfortably ensconced within Zionist think tanks (propaganda mills) in Washington or flaunt lucrative ‘consultant’ contracts in Wall Street and Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, the American taxpayers are left to struggle with an enormous war debt and to grieve the several hundred thousand American casualties – soldiers who lost their lives, limbs and minds – all for a blatant lie perpetrated at the behest of a foreign power, Israel.
The people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Syria – serial victims of the US-EU military machines and their Islamist mercenaries – face an increasingly militarized Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, out of which new wars are already emerging, like pus from festering wounds. In Libya, the US and EU diplomats cringe in their bunkers and travel only in armed convoys, the consequences of their ‘humanitarian’ imperial-Islamist alliances.
As the US and EU supply arms to Islamist terrorists and murderous gangsters who plunder Syrian cities, decapitate captured government soldiers and execute civilian suspects (civilian government functionaries, such as school teachers), Syria’s diverse secular society is on the brink of extinction. Islamist fanatics bristling with advanced weaponry bought by the Saudi monarch and Gulf petro-oligarchs capture sophisticated Syrian cities and impose medieval Sharia law on what was one of the region’s most diverse and sophisticated secular societies. The large communities of Alawites, Orthodox and Syriac Christians, Kurds and educated secular Syrians face mass extermination or expulsion by Saudi-funded Wahhabi fanatics. The EU-US backed ‘secular’ clients (mostly ex-pat Syrians with US or UK passports) serve as propaganda cover for the armed Islamists thugs and mercenaries. Authoritarian Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, himself a ‘soft-core’ Islamist, provides bases, training, and logistical support for the Syrian invasion. Turkey has become the Islamist pivot for fundamentalist power taking over Syria and the Levant. Islamist terrorist violence is spilling over the border into Lebanon today, Jordan tomorrow and may eventually lead to multiple wars involving vulnerable Gulf clients.
Yes, the Obama-Clinton regime undermined an independent, secular, nationalist adversary in President Assad and by doing so they destroy an advocate of Palestinian self-determination, but the ultimate results will not favor US imperial military, economic or diplomatic interests. The OC regime’s wars have destroyed US commercial prospects for decades ahead; the victory of their mercenary Islamist ‘rebels’ is setting in motion a more virulent armed version of Al Qaeda with a territorial base and access to immense quantities of modern weapons in areas contiguous to US client regimes.
The OC regime claim to have discovered a low-cost (in terms of American blood) technique to project US military power: killing anti-imperial opponents by drone and Special Forces. According to the OC regime’s strategists the advantages of assassination by drone warfare is that it would not result in the death of US combat soldiers and the Special Forces, whose high-intensity, low visibility operations are ‘off-budget’ would not elicit any public or legislative scrutiny. But drones have become highly visible, even to the usually complacent and highly myopic US Congress and are routinely condemned even by client regimes in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The United Nations has publically condemned drones as civilian casualties have far exceeded the number of so-called ‘terrorist’ targets. Most experts agree that drone assassinations have vastly increased the number of opponents and facilitated the recruitment of resistance fighters. Drone warfare has increasingly isolated client regimes like Yemen that permit US drone attacks against its citizens. The strategy of foreign policy by ‘drone and death squad’ has not replaced the need for ground troops in the task of empire building. Once US troops do withdraw, its mercenary armies have proved incapable or unwilling to obey US advisors, trainers or Special Forces.
The clearest expression of the failed strategy is the rising number of defections from Afghan security forces and the killing of NATO and US officers by Afghan soldiers and officers – even those with the highest security clearance. This infiltration into the highest ranks of the Afghan military and police points clearly to the near-future demise of the puppet Karzai regime. The various ministers in the Afghan client regime and their banker cronies know they have no chance of surviving a post-US withdrawal situation: they have multiple passports in hand and millions in stolen funds stashed in Gulf State bank accounts; their families are safely housed abroad; and their private planes are ready to take off at a moment’s notice. We may witness the panic scenes at the US Embassy, reminiscent of the last days in Saigon (Viet Nam), with local ‘small-fry’ collaborators clamoring to board the ‘last flights out’ before the advancing Taliban insurgents – if our jaded media even bother to cover the debacle. The current attempt by the US to strike a face-saving deal with the ‘political Taliban’ (under auspices of ‘our friends’, the Saudi autocrats) has infuriated our current puppet in Kabul, Hamid Karzai. As a result he is publically condemning Special Forces operations and their arbitrary killing and torture of villagers, as well as US drone attacks against Afghan civilians.
The OC regime’s overtures to the Taliban have so far failed because the sine quo non-condition of the Islamist nationalists is the total withdrawal of all US military and civilian occupation forces: in other words an unconditional collapse of US power in Afghanistan. The Taliban do not need to offer Obama a ‘face-saving’ formula allowing for a ‘residual’ US presence. As the withdrawal proceeds, more and more Afghan military officers will switch sides, dumping the losers and building bridges toward the new rulers. If the US decides to reverse course and retain ‘garrison bunkers’ in Afghanistan, they will face a continuing and deepening war of attrition under conditions of growing budgetary constraints and US electoral hostility.
Results and Perspectives: The Obama-Kerry-Hagel (OKH) Era
The Obama-Kerry-Hagel (OKH) regime has few imperial assets with which to confront the next four years of US empire building and has powerful constraints against devising strategic innovations or even tactical advances, capable of limiting US losses.
The most significant obstacle to any shift from costly and ineffective military-driven empire building to economic and diplomatic informed policies is the influence of the Zionist power configurations (ZPC) over the ‘troika’ (OKH) and the Congress. The new Israeli coalition regime is even more extreme and militarist, as indicated by the powerful presence of a radical settler-colonist party intent on violently annexing what remains of the Palestinian West Bank. The effective Israeli veto over US foreign policy in the Middle East is enforced by the Presidents of the Major American (sic) Jewish Organizations (representing over 50 powerful Zionist groups) that exclude any possibility that the Obama-Kerry-Hagel regime can even paste a tiny fig leaf ‘peace process’ onto Israel’s accelerating seizure of Palestinian land. The OKH regime, under war-mongering ZPC tutelage, will never attempt any reasonable negotiations with Iran.
The OKH regime is openly committed to entering a war on Israel’s behalf, if the Jewish state unilaterally decides to attack Teheran. Obama’s visit to Israel, and his obligatory ‘consultation’ with leading Jewish-Zionist leaders prior to the trip, was designed ‘to fix’ the White House agenda: US lock-step conformity with Netanyahu’s policy of provoking war against Iran and Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands. The Zionists have even dictated Obama’s own body language toward Netanyahu: no public spats, only smiles and handshakes, the lapdog US President agreed. If anything, the OKH regime will be even more servile to Israeli demands over the next four years because the Zionist occupied US Congress has given Israel a ‘free hand’ in deciding US foreign policy in the Middle East, including the timing of war and the substance of negotiations.
Obama’s newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew are unconditional lifetime Zionists who can be expected to advance economic sanctions against Iran in hopes of strangling its economy and provoking a military confrontation.
Given Washington’s costly commitment to Israeli war plans and the constraints of US budget cuts, the new OKH regime will try to ‘coordinate’ policies with the other NATO powers, including sharing material resources and devising complementary strategies in counter-insurgency operations in sub-Sahara Africa, Islamist mercenary operations in Syria and managing ‘Muslim–neo-liberal’ regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Kerry’s visit to Europe was designed to strengthen inter-imperial efforts and especially to bolster French ‘Socialist’ President Hollande’s imperial war policies in Mali and Niger and the ‘Franco-Saudi’ efforts against Syria.
Under pressures from the puppet Syrian mercenary army invading Syria, British Prime Minister Cameron and French President Hollande, the OKH regime will step-up the flow of US arms in an attempt to forestall the advance of the Wahhabi Islamist terrorists who have effectively taken over regions of Syria with backing from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Gulf petro-dictatorships. The great fear in Washington is that its modern weapons will not just contribute to overthrowing the secular nationalist Assad regime but will put in power a new Al Qaeda-type regime on the borders of the most vulnerable client rulers in Jordan and Lebanon. An Islamist fundamentalist Syria could serve as a ‘headquarters’ and trampoline for cross border attacks on US bases throughout the region. Israel will finally annex the strategic Syrian ‘Golan Heights’, which it has occupied since 1967, on the pretext of protecting itself from the Islamists it worked hard to put in power. The Kurds will try to seize regions of Northern Syria as part of ‘Greater Kurdistan’, to Ankara’s consternation. Turkey will traffic its ‘gentler’ version of ‘Islamist nationalism’. Washington, London and Paris will be unable to enthrone their London-based ex-pat clients in Damascus … The OKH regime may have ousted the secular, nationalist President Assad but it will certainly reap the whirlwind of long-term bloody strife pitting regional powers, rival clients and Al Qaeda terrorists all intent on pillaging the war-ravaged Syria.
Faced with its dubious prospects in Syria, unable to secure a deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan and impotent to regain influence over Shi’a Iraq, the new OKH regime will make an effort to bolster the military-Islamist regimes in Egypt and Tunisia by co-opting sectors of the liberal secular opposition. This won’t be an easy task given the growing socio-political polarization. Washington’s prospects for consolidating a new set of client regimes will be severely tested by its support for brutal IMF demands on Morsi to eliminate popular food and fuel subsidies – a policy guaranteed to provoke large-scale rioting among impoverished Egyptians and even the threat of a mass national uprising, uniting secular leftists and poor Muslims. The key concern in Washington is that the ouster of its Islamist client Morsi might jeopardize Egypt’s subservient deal with Israel to enforce the economic blockade of millions of Palestinians in Gaza and to accept the Jewish State’s seizure of more Palestinian land in the West Bank.
So far the OKH regime has relied on the combined repressive power of the intact Mubarak military, police and intelligence services to prop-up its client Morsi. But in a pinch, if he falls, the US may try to reshuffle the deck and seek a new set of ‘liberal’ political clients or impose an outright military dictatorship on the Egyptians.
In Obama’s never-ending pursuit on behalf of Israeli interests, his new Secretary of State John Kerry made a point of directly attacking Prime Minister Erdogan for equating Zionism with fascism as soon as he landed in Turkey. While his ham-fisted tirade made little headway in achieving a Turkish-Israeli reconciliation, Obama convinced Erdogan to accept a pro-forma apology from Netanyahu. Erdogan now has to face the political reality that 90% of the Turkish people clearly oppose Israel’s savage repression of the Palestinians. In the meantime, Turkish capital has been the main beneficiary of the US military-imposed ‘partition’ of Iraq. Turkish traders and oil speculators dominate the market in Iraqi ‘Kurdistan’. The US may have wasted hundreds of billions of dollars in the invasion but the Turks have made many billions in profits from a war they did not support and immensely increased Turkey’s regional influence. The OKH regime can do nothing about Turkey, an opponent of Washington’s Iraq invasion, reaping huge profits from that $2 trillion-plus investment of US treasure and blood. The OKH regime may have secured Erdogan’s support for the violent overthrow of the Assad regime in Syria … but it will be for Turkey’s own hegemonic interests. Erdogan’s interest in overthrowing the secular-nationalist Assad is based on his plans to establish a compliant client Islamist regime in Damascus and market to be dominated by Turkish business leaders and policy makers. Erdogan has taken a page from the Israeli playbook of manipulating the US military machine for its own regional interests and profit.
Washington will continue to rely on Saudi and Qatari financing of mercenary armies and Islamist terrorists to destabilize and invade anti-imperialist regimes but with the caveat that the battle-hardened mercenaries are also fanatics – profoundly hostile to the US and the EU.
Qatar’s billions of petro-dollars are like a venereal disease, ‘here, there and everywhere’, infecting a region through the funding and arming of Islamist terrorists in tandem with NATO missiles and bombs to destroy Gaddafi’s nationalist welfare state in Libya, savaging the independent secular government in Syria and providing billions of dollars to prop up the puppet Islamist regimes in Egypt and Tunisia (Financial Times, 3/19/2013, p.7). Qatar’s autocratic monarchy enriches its extended royal family and the foreign imperial protectors – namely the US and UK, in exchange for buying and distributing weapons to Islamist mercenaries attacking independent nationalist regimes.
The OKH regime will retain the presence of its naval armada in the Gulf and its training missions and military bases in order to prop-up the decadent Gulf petro-monarcho-dictatorships. However, the entire Gulf-US complex could become the scene of a grisly military conflagaration if the extremist Israeli regime decides to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iran and provoke a generalized regional war. As it stands, the stability of the entire US-Gulf oil alliance rests on the whims of a ‘third party’ (Israel) and its Fifth Column embedded in the US Congress and Executive branch.
Obama’s second term depends on a precarious set of alliances, conditioned by the decisions of a fanatical ultra- militarist foreign power (Israel) and subject to a rising tide of mass pro-democracy movements in an arc extending from Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen over to Pakistan. Moreover, many of the crucial outcomes are beyond the control of the US White House. The OKH regime does not control the mass movements in North Africa and the mercenary Islamists currently taking over Syria are sworn enemies of both Washington and Damascus. Washington may retain, within a shrinking budget and in concert with the EU, the power to brutally destroy independent regimes. However, in the process they rip the very fabric of complex societies and shatter their economies, thus undermining their own capacity to reap the economic spoils of imperial conquest. Indeed the main ‘booty’ extracted from Washington’s imperial wars has derived from the US Treasury, as rapacious contractors, corrupt politicians and US military officials pillage billions of US taxpayer dollars in ‘aid and reconstruction programs’ for themselves.
A 2011 report from the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan estimated that defense contractors had wasted or lost to fraud as much as $60 billion dollars – or $12 million a day since 2001 (Financial Times, 3/19/2013, p. 4). The biggest military contractor ($39.5 billion dollars) is Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton – formerly run by George W. Bush’s Vice President Richard Cheney. Cheney was a co-architect of the Iraq war along with the Pentagon Zionists Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. Corrupt war profiteers and Zionist Fifth Columnists (for Israel) teamed up to pillage the US Treasury for self-enrichment and to destroy Iraq, a key ally of Palestinian liberation and consolidate what Obama hails as Israel’s military supremacy in the Middle East.
The legacy of the Bush regime and Obama’s first term is one of pyrrhic military victories: an Iraq shredded by sectarian wars and the reversal of half a century of socio-economic, educational and scientific progress under a secular nationalist government. The OKH regime cannot undo the growing ties between Iraq and Iran. Nor can they reverse the growing commercial, gas and energy ties between Iran and Pakistan. The US has secured greater Israeli military links with NATO and the European Union, but a growing popular European and North American boycott against Israeli goods and investments is taking its toll on the Jewish state. The Obama-Kerry-Hagel regime shows no sign of making even a partial break with the costly policy of ‘military driven imperialism’ in the Middle East and North Africa. Moreover, it lacks economic resources to prop up its new clients in North Africa. While they scurry to fund the current brutal war against Syria, they will have to prepare for new wars against Lebanon and Iran. The OKH regime will have to rely on low-cost, high-risk, mercenary warfare in Syria. It will try to carve out defense perimeters around its political and petroleum enclaves in Libya. It will have to concede even greater economic and Islamist ideological influence to Turkey. Above all, it will need to appease the Jewish State’s annexation of the West Bank, under pressure from the ZPC!
The old RCA Victor Company marketed its Victorolas, ancient phonograph players with huge horn-like amplifiers, with the image of an attentive dog sitting before the machine in eager anticipation of ‘his master’s voice’. The recent trip by Obama to Israel evokes such an image. Obama’s speech to Jewish students in Jerusalem included such ecstatic praise of everything Israeli or Jewish that he exceeded any propagandistic AIPAC press release, surpassed any fabrication by Netanyahu and embellished (almost to the point of caricature) every racist myth of Jewish superiority. He lauded Israel as a ‘land of peace and democracy’ in the face of 45 years of brutal military rule and expropriation of 60% of the occupied Palestinian West Bank. He spoke of ‘negotiations without conditions’, a euphemism for giving Israel the green light to annex what remains of Palestinian land in the West Bank. He praised Israel’s creativity and courage in founding the Jewish State, ignoring the violent ethnic cleansing and expulsion of over 850,000 Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians. He spoke of Israeli technological genius, forgetting that Israel’s main exports are weapons of massive destruction. No US leader, past or present (or any other imperial ruler), has so faithfully echoed and embellished the lies of such a bloody colonial power and its US-based Fifth Column with greater fervor than Obama’s degrading effort to satisfy his Zionist handlers in Washington. His performance far exceeded their highest expectations of US servility. In style and substance he fulfilled and over-fulfilled their demands for unconditional US subordination to the Jewish state. In fact, one might suspect that in doing so he set a new standard for the boot-licking belly crawl so familiar to observers of US Congressional servants to Israel. Needless to say, the entire Zionist propaganda apparatus from neo-cons to liberals were ecstatic. Here was a Shabbat goy out-Zionizing the most fanatical Zionist.
The day Obama spoke in Jerusalem will be remembered as a day of shame for all Americans who believe in freedom and dignity and peace with social justice. To listen to the President of the United States grovel before a racist colonial power is degrading. It was also a day of anger for the five billion people of the world who have broken their chains of colonial racist oppression. Obama has made his choice: His administration will have to live with this for the next four years.
The OKH regime’s attempt to penetrate Africa via military missions and the promotion of Pan-African mercenary forces will require an accommodation of France’s rising imperial militarism. It will have to acknowledge China’s increasing economic supremacy in Africa’s extractive sectors, infrastructure and trade. The OKH regime’s ‘pivot to Asia’ involving trans-Pacific free trade agreements excluding China, military bases encircling Beijing and encouraging Japan’s provocation over disputed territory has had no impact on China’s economic growth and burgeoning trade relations. China’s trade with Asia now surpasses its trade with the US. The two way flow of investments into and out of China trump all the OKH regime’s offshore war mongering. The OKH regime’s Asian ‘pivot’ has failed to produce any imperial economic rewards for Washington’s coffers. However, it has incited greater military tensions between Japan and China and between North and South Korea. This is occurring at a time when the Pentagon faces major budget cuts and US Treasury Secretary Lew is trying to drum up greater trade with China.
In sum, the past military commitments, the links to Israel, the legacies of political failures in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fragility of new client rulers mean that the OKH regime will play an increasingly marginal economic role in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. The Obama-Kerry-Hagel troika will do their best to salvage the US military bases and political influence among autocratic petro-states in the Gulf.
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International Finance Corporation invests $2.9 billion in the Middle East and North AfricaFigures released by the International Finance Corporation show that its investments for the fiscal year 2012 in the Middle East and North Africa have reached a record $2.9 billion. Fifty-seven projects have been supported across 12 countries as part of the Corporation’s efforts to restore investors’ confidence in the region, with a focus on the long-term possibilities after the end of the political crises. It is the IFC’s highest annual commitment in the region to date, representing a 21 per cent increase over 2011.
Twenty-five advisory projects were launched with a total value of $17.6 million to improve opportunities for obtaining access to finance and strengthen corporate governance and practices of small and medium enterprises. Almost $600 million has been pumped into infrastructure projects in the MENA region. One IFC initiative is the Arab Financing Facility for Infrastructure (AFFI), established in partnership with the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank to encourage infrastructure investment.
In order to address what it calls the “the mismatch between the needs of the labour markets and the education outcomes in the Arab World”, the IFC pointed to the launch of the e4e (Education for Employment) initiative for Arab youth in Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco, in collaboration with the Islamic Development Bank. The e4e team has also sought and received funding for the project from Britain’s Department for International Development among other donors.
Staff at two Tunisian newspapers held strikes on Tuesday protesting a government clampdown on freedom of expression, as the country’s media accuses authorities of tightening their grip on the press.
French-language daily Le Temps and Arabic-language Essabah held a day-long strike after talks broke down between unions and the government, led by the Islamist al-Nahda party.
“We are striking to defend our right to freedom of expression and the right of the Tunisian people to receiving reliable information,” unionist and journalist Sana Farhat told AFP.
Newspaper unions pushed the strike after suspending negotiations with the government on Monday, during which there had been a lack of progress on the media crisis.
“The government showed no willingness to go back on its recent appointment of controversial figures at the top of some media establishments,” said Nejiba Hamrouni, president of the National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT).
Journalists have protested the government’s appointment of a new director, Lotfi Touati, to the Dar Assabah press group, which owns Le Temps and Essabah, considering him too close to al-Nahda.
AFP tried to reach Touati by telephone, but was told he was out of his office.
International NGOs have criticized the Tunis government for seeking to manipulate the media, including by appointing new directors to head public media groups without consulting their staff.
The government wants to “bring editorials in line with its propaganda ahead of the next elections,” said Farhat, referring to general elections due in 2013.
Elections in 2011 which followed the ouster of former western-backed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a popular uprising propelled the Islamists to power.
- Tunisia: Al-Nahda’s Failures Lead Sidi Bouzid to Rise Again (alethonews.wordpress.com)
A Tunisian man who died on Monday in hospital in Tunis was tortured in a police station, his lawyer said, while the government confirmed he had died of a concussion.
The death of Abd Raouf Kammassi was the first of its kind to be reported in the North African country since the overthrow of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his dictatorial regime last year.
“Abd Raouf Kammassi died today at Charles Nicole Hospital due to being hit with a sharp object on his head by security forces during his interrogation in a police station,” lawyer Abd Elhak Triki told Reuters.
The Interior Ministry confirmed in a statement that Kammassi had died of a concussion. It said an investigating judge had ordered four security agents to stop interrogating him.
“Abd Raouf Kammassi died under torture in Sidi Hussein police station after his arrest on charges of theft,” Radhia Nasroui, President of the Association Against Torture, told Reuters.
The previous government had long faced criticism of torturing prisoners, but the first such death after the revolution could embarrass the new government led by the Islamist party Al-Nahda, which has pledged to respect human rights and ensure proper treatment of prisoners.
Al-Nahda’s democratic credentials have come under intense scrutiny in recent months, with the Islamists accused of censoring free press, using violence against protesters, and curtailing women’s rights.
- Tunisia: Al-Nahda’s Failures Lead Sidi Bouzid to Rise Again (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Mossad in the Maghreb: Stepping Up its Game (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Tunisia – For the past three months, the Arab Maghreb countries have been witnessing a growing number of controversies and scandals concerning cells linked to Israeli espionage activities.
It began when an informants network was dismantled in Mauritania early this year. Then Mossad made the headlines in Algeria and Morocco in a string of reports, rumors, and hoaxes.
Finally, a new scandal reverberated across Tunisia last week involving a wide network of Mossad operations, including espionage centers using the country as a base to spy across the Maghreb region.
Abderraouf al-Ayadi, head of the Wafa Movement which split from the Rally for the Republic (RPR), caused a huge stir last week when he revealed that Mossad has stepped up its activities in post-revolutionary Tunisia.
He said that these activities were being conducted under the “cover of European and US NGOs that claim to be charitable, humanitarian, or cultural.”
This echoes earlier statements by the head of the Tunisian Workers Party (formerly POCT), Hamma al-Hammami, about “Israeli spy networks operating in post-revolution Tunisia that took advantage of the state of chaos and lawlessness that swept the country following president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s escape.”
The information revealed by Ayadi and Hammami coincided with a February report by the Yafa Center for Studies and Research focusing on Mossad activities in the Maghreb. The report said that the agency began concentrating its operations in Tunisia following the PLO’s exit from Beirut and relocation to Tunis in 1982.
Interest in the region declined after the signing of the Oslo accords, until the Tunisian revolution brought it back.
The report spoke about the post-Oslo Tunisian-Israeli rapprochement which became public with the establishment of a bureau for economic cooperation in 1996.
The relationship included a secret item about the “establishment of a system for security coordination between the Mossad and Tunisia by Shalom Cohen, a Tunisian Jew working in the North Africa section of the Israeli Mossad. In the same year, he became the director of the Israeli interest bureau in Tunisia.”
According to the report, Cohen used his diplomatic cover to build a “Mossad network” based in the capital Tunis, with branches in Sousse and Djerba.
The Yafa center information is consistent with that which Ayadi said he had received from a high-ranking Tunisian security source who reported the surveillance of a secret Mossad network “of around 300 agents” distributed over the three spying bases.
The first base was in the capital and run by a certain Nachman Jalboagh. It focused on Algeria by collecting information, monitoring targets, and recruiting agents.
The second is in Sousse and run by Doron Pierre. Its operations were primarily inside Tunisia, especially the monitoring the remaining Palestinians in Tunisia, Salafi movements, and groups opposing peace with Israel.
The third is in Djerba, run by Nurit Tsur, and focuses on Libya. It also acts to protect the Jewish sect in Tunisia, which is concentrated on the island, and collects information about Jewish archaeological sites and landmarks in Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya.
Tunisian authorities have remained silent despite the uproar caused by the revelations. The government has yet to take any public action concerning the issue.
Speaking to al-Maghreb newspaper, interior minister Ali al-Arid said “the statements concerning 300 Mossad spies in Tunisia, working under the cover of cultural NGOs and travel agencies, are unfounded and completely irresponsible.”
“They are intended to disturb the work of security agencies that toil night and day to protect Tunisia. Anyone who has information about the issue should contact the security agencies so they can confirm it,” he added.
Tunisian anti-normalization activists believe that the interior minister’s statements contradict information broadcast on official Israeli television in the first days of the Tunisian revolution.
Mossad had boasted about “a special operation in Tunisia, under the cover of European companies, to evacuate a group of Israelis who were visiting Djerba, the site of the oldest synagogue in the world, al-Ghariba temple.”
Tunisian activists suggest that “Mossad activities and crimes are not new in Tunisia. The most famous was the bombing of the Hammam al-Shat suburb in the autumn of 1985. It targeted the offices of late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat. The Mossad also carried out numerous assassinations in Tunisia, including that of the mastermind behind the first intifada, Abu Jihad, in 1988.”
Following the Oslo agreement, nationalist and leftist currents, as well as anti-normalization associations accused Ben Ali of “facilitating Mossad operations and activities in Tunisia.”
This was highlighted in a documentary broadcast by Tunisian television following the revolution called “The State of Corruption.” The film exposed the significant role that Ben Ali played in setting the scene for the accords.
Following Oslo, the former dictator opened an Israeli economic cooperation bureau in Tunis. The office initiated its activities by contacting several Tunisian intellectuals and journalists to lure them into normalization activities. The majority refused to be involved.
The bureau was later closed due to popular pressure following the 2002 Israeli assault on the West Bank and the consequent siege of Yasser Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah.
The alarm sounded by Ayadi and Hammami is based on evidence and information corroborated by rights activist Ahmed al-Kahlawi, president of the Tunisian Association for Fighting Normalization and Supporting the Arab Resistance (TAFNSAR).
Kahlawi said that “several foreign organizations active in post-revolution Tunisia, such as Freedom House, play a major role in propagating the culture of normalization under the pretext of defending human rights.”
He also laid bare the schemes of an organization called “AMIDEAST, which teaches English under the supervision of the US embassy. It entices students to give up their animosity towards Israel and promotes programs that claim to call for peace and dialogue between cultures, but in reality it aims to foster normalization.”
“With the fall of Ben Ali, Israel lost a strong strategic ally in North Africa,” Kahlawi explained. He indicated that most Zionist leaders admit this openly, including Benjamin Netanyahu and Silvan Shalom, who is of Tunisian origins (born in the city of Qabis).
Ben Ali had officially welcomed Shalom in 2005 in a meeting that was not covered by the Tunisian media, coinciding with the World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis.
Kahlawi said the latest revelations about Mossad’s role in Tunisia should be further grounds for the constituent assembly to ratify chapter 27 of the proposed constitution, related to crimes of normalization and prosecuting collaboration with the Zionist state.
He added that “al-Nahda had rejected the criminalization of normalization, with a demagogic argument contending that the Tunisian constitution will last longer than the Israeli state, which will inevitably perish!”
Most Tunisian anti-normalization activists suspect the real reason behind al-Nahda eschewing the criminalization of normalization to be “pressure from the US on the ruling troika, and specifically on the movement, to prevent the ratification of chapter 27, which had been proposed by anti-normalization associations.”
- Tunisia: Al-Nahda’s Failures Lead Sidi Bouzid to Rise Again (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- “Arab Spring” back to the beginning? (english.ruvr.ru)
Hardline Salafis attacked a peaceful pro-Palestine protest on Friday evening in the Tunisian city of Gabes.
Hundreds of people were marching in support of the Palestinian demand for statehood on the occasion of International Quds Day but were attacked, witnesses said.
In a telephone interview with UPI a protester said that about 30 people affiliated with the hardline Salafi movement “attacked participants in the march with sticks and batons on the pretext that they are Shia, and not allowed to display their beliefs in the town of Abu Lubaba Ansari.”
The witness, who requested anonymity, said that clashes between Salafis and the participants in the rally continued for more than an hour in the absence of security forces – resulting in a number of injuries.
The witness added that Salafis attacked participants with sticks and stones, and also burnt the Palestinian flag and hoisted black banners reading “there is no god but Allah.”
They also chanted slogans, including: “There is no god but Allah, and Shias are the enemies of God,” and others calling for the killing of Shias.
Tunisia has witnessed a number of aggressive moves moves by the Salafi movement in the past week.
On Thursday night the closing ceremony of the second session of the al-Aqsa festival in the city of Bizerte was interrupted by attacks in which five people were injured.
The festival was attended by Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese resistance figure formerly detained in Israel.
Militant Salafis stormed the concert hall and threatened the audience with swords and sticks on the pretext that Kuntar is Shia, despite him coming from a Druze background.
Extremist demonstrations in the name of Islam have become an increasing trend in Tunisia and security forces have been accused of turning a blind eye to such attacks.
On Tuesday August 14, the central Tunisian governorate of Sidi Bouzid held a general strike to call for the release of several protesters detained during the demonstrations held over the preceding weeks and to demand concrete plans for development in the region.
Tuesday’s events come after a series of city-wide general strikes which, from the month of May, have swept through Tataouine, Monastir, Kasserine and Kairouan. The recent events in Sidi Bouzid, cradle of the Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, should be considered the culmination of an extended standoff, not only between the al-Nahda-led ruling coalition and Tunisia’s main trade union federation, the UGTT, but also between those in power and those who are yet to see the revolutionary demands of “work, freedom, and national dignity” realized.
Tensions in Sidi Bouzid have been mounting over a period of months. However, the origins of this most recent wave of unrest can be linked to July 26 when a large number of day workers in the region attacked the al-Nahda party offices in protest at a two-month delay in their wages being paid. The Interior Ministry estimated the numbers involved at 150 while union officials claimed more than 1,000 took part.
The response of al-Nahda to these events was typical. Refusing to recognise the genuine demands of the chronically unemployed and disenfranchised in the southern regions of Tunisia, party officials claimed that those demonstrating had been manipulated by rival political parties, seeking to sow instability and dissent for their own ends. The police fired warning shots and tear gas canisters to disperse the protest.
Tensions have been further exacerbated in recent months by ongoing water shortages in the region. Over the past six months, drinking water has commonly only been available in the evenings and has occasionally been cut off for the entire day. Mohamed Najib Mansouri, the governor of Sidi Bouzid, claimed that one of the reasons for these shortages was the failure of residents to pay their bills. It is more likely that the local infrastructure has been unable to sustain the increased consumption of water during an especially hot and dry summer.
On Thursday August 9, a protest was organised by the December 17th Progressive Forces Front in conjunction with the December 17th Committee for the Protection of the Revolution, the UGTT and a number of opposition parties.
As well as demands for a guaranteed supply of water to the region, the protesters’ demands included the settlement of the status of workers, the resignation of the regional commander of the National Guard, the resignation of Governor Mohamed Najib Mansouri and the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, in view of its failure to respond to the legitimate demands of the residents of Sidi Bouzid.
In response to the protests, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowds. One man was hospitalised having been struck in the stomach by a rubber bullet and four others were taken to hospital after inhaling tear gas.
Following these events, al-Nahda once again ignored the grievances of those protesting, this time claiming that rival party Nidaa Tunis was behind the protests. Indeed, a spokesperson from the ruling Islamist movement went so far as to claim that Nidaa Tunis, created in June of this year by former interim prime minister Beji Essebsi, represented the political arm of Ben Ali’s defunct Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party and that they had “proof that some figures within the region known to be close to Nidaa Tunis sided with criminals, thieves and alcohol vendors to spread anarchy in Sidi Bouzid”.
Despite President Moncef Marzouki’s efforts to quell the the growing tension in the region, the general strike went ahead on Tuesday with over 1,000 protesters assembling outside the court house.
The events of recent weeks mark a significant development in the mounting levels of anger at the failures of the majority Islamist party. More than the ruling coalition as a whole, it is now al-Nahda which is perceived to be behind the lack of real progress in Tunisia. What’s more, one should not be surprised at the police’s violent handling of these protests. Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali and Interior Minister Ali Larayedh have previously made it clear that they are willing to use force in order to maintain order in the country. Sadok Chourou, a prominent figure within the al-Nahda ranks claimed in January that strikers were “enemies of God” and that they should suffer the same fate as apostates.
It is the protesters themselves who are blamed for the ongoing instability within Tunisia and not the failures of the ruling coalition and, specifically, al-Nahda. And yet, one need only look at actions of the ruling parties in order to see the falsity of such a claim. Negotiations up until now have been dogged by political outbidding and brinkmanship which has severely hindered the transitional process, as seen in al-Nahda’s attempts to prevent the transition to an independent judiciary, its decision to level a sentence of up to two years for attacks on “sacred values” or its recent rewording of the draft constitution to define the status of women as “complementary to men.”
Furthermore, the economic alternatives being proposed will likely do little to alleviate the situation of many in the southern regions of Tunisia which have traditionally suffered from high levels of unemployment and a lack of investment. Relying principally on foreign and private investment, the government aims to to provide 100,000 more jobs in Tunisia and predicts a level of 3.5 percent GDP growth for 2012. The latter of these two predictions seems increasingly unlikely considering that Tunisia has, to date, experienced four consecutive quarters of negative growth. With levels of unemployment at 18.1 percent, the aim to create 100,000 jobs will also do little to abate social unrest in a country which counts over 709,000 (of an active workforce of 3.9 million) unemployed.
With Minister for Investment Riadh Bettaib announcing last Friday that Tunisia can expect to receive a further $1 billion in World Bank loans alongside his continued insistence on boosting foreign direct investment (FDI) and tourism revenues, it is clear that the proposed model for economic development differs very little from the neoliberal agenda of the former regime.
Of course, alongside the social context of these protests, one must also take into account the political dimension of what is occurring. Tuesday’s general strike was called by the UGTT and the protests of the past week have found support among a broad range of opposition political parties, including the centrist Republican Party, al-Watan (The Nation), and several leftist parties, including the Workers’ Party. While it is important not to discount the role played by opposition political forces in these mobilisations, it remains the case that the principal drivers of this spell of popular contestation have been the young and unemployed in the region whose demands, as has commonly been the case, are channeled through the UGTT. Malek Khadraoui, a writer and activist who has been present throughout the latest wave of strikes and protests in Sidi Bouzid, further comments that, while some opposition parties may be seeking to capitalize on recent events, “the youth in the region harbour a deep distrust towards political parties” and the real cause of these events is the inability of the ruling coalition, and particularly al-Nahda, to respond to their demands.
It is difficult to predict where this latest spell of social upheaval is headed. An International Crisis Group report published this June remarked that it would be an exaggeration to “raise the spectre of a second insurrection,” but that the continued political instability within Tunisia alongside sustained levels of socioeconomic insecurity could “negatively feed on each other and risk snowballing into a legitimacy crisis for the newly elected government.”
In the same report, economist Lotfi Bouzaiane comments that one of the principal demands of the revolution was “the right to work.” Prior to the revolution, he says, it was Ben Ali who insisted that “to find work you just had to wait for the economy to grow!”
Following this latest wave of strikes and demonstrations, it is becoming ever more difficult to distinguish between the rhetoric of the former regime and Tunisia’s new ruling coalition, so committed is it to denouncing any expression of popular dissent in the name of national stability and economic growth. In the absence of any real answers to the demands of those in Sidi Bouzid and elsewhere, the government is increasingly having recourse to violent means of repression. It appears that Tunisia’s uncommonly hot summer may precede an even hotter Autumn.
Christopher Barrie is a student and journalist currently working in Tunisia at Nawaat.
Check out this Middle East Institute publication, “Revolution and Political Transformation in the Middle East,” featuring “The Power of Strategic Nonviolent Action in Arab Revolutions” by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict’s Stephen Zunes; and “People Power: The Real Force Behind the ‘Bad Year for Bad Guys’” co-authored by Srdja Popovic, leader of the National Endowment for Democracy-backed Otpor movement that overthrew Milosevic.
Timed to coincide with the six-month anniversary of the resignation of Mubarak, the Introduction reads:
The first volume of this series, “Agents of Change,” focuses on the groups and individuals who have led the popular uprisings throughout the region. Nine scholars, journalists, and activists remind us of the history behind these movements, demonstrate the effectiveness and importance of nonviolent struggle, explore the use of social media and other tools of mobilization, and investigate the characteristics and motivations of the players in the activist and rebel movements in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.
The Middle East Institute’s Board of Governors includes such noted advocates of nonviolent anti-imperial revolution as Anthony C. Zinni, former Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM); Richard A. Clarke, former chief counterterrorism adviser on the National Security Council; and William H. Webster, the only American to serve as both Director of Central Intelligence and Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In “The Power of Strategic Nonviolent Action in Arab Revolutions,” Prof. Zunes parenthetically reveals his uncanny powers of prediction:
(Indeed, my visits to Egypt and meetings with pro-democracy activists led me to predict in an article posted on the Foreign Policy in Focus web site in early December that “Egypt could very well be where the next unarmed popular pro-democracy insurrection takes place of the kind that brought down Marcos in the Philippines, Milosevic in Serbia and scores of other autocratic regimes in recent decades.”6)
It might be worth keeping an eye on his Institute for Policy Studies-affiliated FPIF column (regularly republished by the supposedly “non-interventionist” Antiwar.com) to see where Zunes “predicts” the next “unarmed popular pro-democracy insurrection” is likely to spontaneously occur.
- Antiwar.com: Helping to do today what was done covertly 45 years ago by the CIA (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- The Revolution Business (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Sara Besbes, a Tunisian champion fencer, boycotted a competition in Italy rather than fence Israeli Noam Mills.
Besbes, who comes from a family of great fame in fencing, reached the final round where she had to play against an Israeli player. However, she stood still on the platform, pointing her sword toward the ground and refusing to move as a sign she was boycotting the Israeli athlete but without officially announcing it to avoid punitive measures by the judges.
Tunis Radio reports Noam Mills “collapsed in tears” as she was declared the winner.
A Google translation of this article from the Italian press indicates Besbes’s action required Mills to win the competition by inflicting the final blows against Besbes as she “remained completely passive to the point of suffering from the five thrusts that have losing the match”
An abnormal behavior that has not escaped the referees, who could not take action because it was not a rejection but, apparently, of a defeat. The Besbes, 22, belongs to a family of fencers: the mother was one of the most famous specialists in Tunisia, three sisters and a brother are part of the National Assembly and the father is on the board of the Federation. She, Sarah, was African champion and points to a place for the London Olympics. In short, not a champion, but even the newcomer, and there is more than reasonable suspicion that hers was a conscious decision and inspired by the leaders of her Federation. Even the rival, winning, reacted to the success with tears. The 5-0 defeat cost the Tunisian also the final knockout in the next round got the Chinese Li Na, who has eliminated easily. The Mills has instead continued the journey by eliminating the Mexican Teran and entered the main draw which Thursday released the new world champion. Sara and Tunisian leaders have preferred to avoid the comment.
This was the second such incident this week. Iranian Sayyad Ghanbari Hamad refused to fight against Israeli Tomer Or.
- Ex-Israeli diplomat: Boycott my country (csmonitor.com)