Thursday, December 8, 2011

Arab Spring will give the public welfare or instead will harm the world? Brace for the coming Arab winter

Arab Spring will give the public welfare or instead will harm the world? Brace for the coming Arab winter

Demands and the implementation mechanisms of change (for countries with successful ouster of the old regime) which is underway in most of the Arab world is now underway.

After the fall of the Kaddafi in Libya with the murder of a former Arab rulers for more than 42 years that a mysterious, previously predicted to affect the acceleration of the success of rabbi al-`e al-Arabi (Arab spring) was not done quickly, especially upheaval which is now still took place in Syria. Although the country was under pressure from the international world, including from the Arab League also no signs of Assad's regime would soon retreat. Instead of pressure against Syria from the West got a strong reaction from Russia who immediately sent the mother ship sent to Syria in 2012, although new, this is a signal of Putin's support against Assad. (See:

This proves the existence of Russia's lack of pleasure to the extent of Western influence on Arab countries, although the results of elections in Tunisia ( ) Morocco ( where the discussions of Parliament dominated Islamic groups as well as some of their moderate Islamic groups, except the Egyptian Brotherhood-controlled Islamic (Moslem Brotherhood). (

What is happening in Arab countries has become the world's attention, especially the United States, a NATO member, Russia, China and India. Moreover, the world's oil reserves are mostly located in the region. (See:

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Brace for the coming Arab winter

 One year after a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in an act of defiance that would ignite protests and unseat long-standing dictatorships, a harsh chill is settling over the Arab world. The peaceful demonstrations in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen that were supposed to bring democracy have instead given way to bloodshed and chaos, with the forces of tyranny trying to turn back the clock.

It is too soon to say that the Arab Spring is gone, never to resurface. But the Arab Winter has clearly arrived.

Tunisia, where it all began, recently carried out free elections. But that country — small, ethnically and religiously homogenous, and prosperous — was always a more likely candidate for a successful transition to democracy. Elsewhere in the Middle East, Saudi troops helped orchestrate a crackdown on demonstrators in Bahrain, regime forces gun down protesters in Syria, and Yemen crumbles into civil war, with al-Qaida running rampant in the countryside. In Libya, we see warlords, Islamists, tribal leaders and would-be democrats vying for power in the post-Gadhafi world. And in Egypt, where the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February gave us the defining images of the Arab Spring, the military is trying to keep its hands on power.

So what went wrong — and what will an Arab Winter mean for the Middle East, the United States and the rest of the world?

The reason the Middle East has long seemed like infertile soil for democracy is not because Arab peoples do not want to vote or otherwise be free — poll after poll confirms the opposite — but rather because entrenched dictators had long imprisoned or killed dissenters, bought off opponents, undermined civil society, and divided or intimidated their people. And when dictators fall, their means of preserving power do not always fall with them.

In Egypt, the military ushered Mubarak out of office, but stayed in as a supposed caretaker and is reluctant to relinquish power. Now the security forces have again shot people in Tahrir Square. In Yemen and Libya, tribes and other power centers often opposed the old order, but they saw one another as rivals, too. Throughout the region, the police and the judiciary are broken after years of dictatorship, but there is nothing to take their place.

Moreover, the demonstrations that led to the ouster of rulers such as Mubarak and Tunisia's Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali hardly offered a clear governing alternative. Although they embodied a genuine outpouring of popular rage, the protests were largely leaderless and loosely organized, often via social media; there was no African National Congress or Corazon Aquino to take the reins. You cannot govern by flash mob.

And the opposition voices that were organized were not necessarily the most democratic. With the Arab Spring, Islamist forces rose to prominence. In Tunisia, a moderate Islamist party won victory in the October elections, gaining 89 of 217 seats in parliament, dwarfing the 29 seats of its nearest — secular — competitor. In Morocco, where the king has opened the political system somewhat, the Islamist party likewise won a plurality of the vote in the November elections.

Disciplined by years underground, Islamist groups have popular support because of the social services they provide and the repression they suffered. They were allowed to have a role in society but with limited political participation. Now that groups such as Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood are poised to do well in free parliamentary elections, they are unlikely to accept those old bargains with the military junta in Egypt or other old-regime forces elsewhere.

Brotherhood leaders have learned to mouth a commitment to pluralism and tolerance, but it is unclear that they would act on it when in power. More hard-line Islamists are openly skeptical of democracy, seeing it as a means of gaining power and not as a model for governing. Egyptian salafists, who espouse a more puritanical version of Islam, have also entered the political system and are performing unexpectedly well in the elections; their demands for Islamicizing society are extreme and may push the Brotherhood to pursue a more radical agenda when in power.

These domestic forces often deter democracy in subtle ways, but some other reactionary forces are more brazen. In March, Saudi troops drove across the causeway to neighboring Bahrain, backing a brutal crackdown against Shiite protesters. At home and abroad, the Saudis have spent tens of billions to buy off dissent. Riyadh has pushed fellow monarchs in the Arabian Peninsula and in Jordan to stop any revolutionary movements, and the Saudis are offering a haven for dictators down on their luck, such as Tunisia's Ben Ali.

The Saudi royals not only worry about their own power diminishing, but fear that change elsewhere would be an opening for their arch-rival Iran and for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. As Middle East expert Bruce Riedel puts it, the Saudis have proclaimed a 21st-century version of the Soviet-era Brezhnev doctrine: "No revolution will be tolerated in a bordering kingdom."

A faltering Arab Spring does not mean we will return to a world of dictators and secret police. Not only are Mubarak, Ben Ali and Moammar Gadhafi gone, but so are the cults of personality they nurtured. Bashar Assad may cling to power in Syria, but he will be isolated abroad and hollow at home. Even regimes that have experienced limited unrest — Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Algeria — are entering a new era.

Where old regimes survive, they will be weak; where new ones come in, they will be weaker, because old institutions can be destroyed more quickly than new ones can be built. Both new and old leaders must play to public opinion, and this may lead to rash, incoherent foreign policies, as politicians make campaign promises that are not in their countries' interests to fulfill.

Israel, of course, is the easiest card to play. A Pew Research Center poll taken after Mubarak's fall found that Egyptians favored annulling the 32-year-old peace treaty with Israel by 54 percent to 36 percent, and — no surprise — many mainstream leaders have criticized it. Indeed, Israel can serve as a perfect diversion to struggling governments. In May, as unrest swept across Syria, the regime encouraged Palestinians to march across the Syrian border into the Golan Heights, leading to four deaths when an Israeli border patrol shot Palestinians as they broke through a frontier fence.

Even if violence involving Israel does not escalate, a renewed push for peace seems unlikely. "The ugly facts," wrote former Israeli defense minister Moshe Arens, "are that the two peace treaties that Israel concluded so far — the one with Egypt and the other with Jordan — were both signed with dictators: Anwar Sadat and King Hussein." It is hard to imagine new leaders, who need to play to anti-Israel public opinion, sitting down with their Israeli counterparts to advance peace.

Anti-Americanism is also likely to rise in the Arab Winter — and it matters much more now that governments will seek to be in tune with public sentiment. After Mubarak's fall, for example, only one in five Egyptians had a favorable view of the U.S. (just slightly higher than under Mubarak), and even in Mideast nations that are allied with Washington, majorities identify the U.S. and Israel among the top two threats to their security.

One of the ironies of U.S. support for democratic change is that the autocrats have traditionally been more pro-American than the democrats. Now, forces of the old regimes feel that Washington abandoned them at their most vulnerable time, and Jordan and Saudi Arabia are livid that the U.S. abruptly dumped Mubarak and question the U.S. commitment to their security.

The U.S. may end up with the worst of both worlds: scorned by the forces of democracy because of its ties to dictators, but disdained by dictators — whose cooperation is vital to U.S. economic and security interests — for reaching out to democrats.

The most dangerous outcome of the Arab Winter, however, is the spread of chaos and violence. In Syria, where thousands have already died, the body count may grow exponentially as sectarian killings spread and peaceful protesters take up arms. In Yemen, the resignation of Ali Abdullah Saleh has not ended the turmoil throughout the country. And Libya, lacking strong institutions and divided by tribal and political factions, may never get its new government off the ground.

If unrest spreads, families will leave their homes, burdening neighboring states and incubating fighters for future conflicts. Perhaps 1 million Libyans sought refuge in nearby countries while civil war raged there this year. Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled, and more will leave if the violence there escalates — as it shows every sign of doing. In Turkey, Syrian refugees could become a source of recruits for a future opposition army that would fight the regime in Damascus.

These conflicts could widen if neighbors intervene, whether because they fear more instability or because they want to consolidate their influence across borders. Saudi Arabia has long meddled in Yemen, for example, and the collapse of that regime may lead the Saudis to move directly against al-Qaida forces and other perceived threats there. Meanwhile, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Jordan and Israel all have strong interests in Syria and may arm factions or otherwise get involved simply to offset their rivals. Neighboring Lebanon's history of civil war and foreign intervention offers a depressing precedent for how a local conflict can drag in neighbors.

Distrusted and broke, the U.S. can do little to make the Arab Winter better, but it can do a lot to make it worse. The value and possibility of economic aid, for instance, are questionable. Regimes such as Mubarak's used American aid to prop themselves up and resist democracy. While supporting new democratic parties is a better use of dollars, it is hard to imagine a budget-conscious Congress approving serious aid for new governments that will inevitably include anti-American Islamist groups with a questionable commitment to democracy. Nor would the region's true democrats necessarily welcome U.S. support, with its stench of foreign interference.

Washington has the most influence with the region's militaries, but supporting them presents a dilemma. Militaries were supposed to be the "orderly" part of an orderly transition to democracy in the Middle East, but as Egypt's experience makes clear, most officers want to keep their perks and power, and U.S. support can help them do that. Outside Egypt, militaries are politicized by tribe (Yemen), sect (Syria) and loyalty to the old order (everywhere), making them part of the problem, not the solution.

The Arab Spring began without U.S. help, and the people of the region will be the ones to determine its future. Washington should recognize that change is coming and support it, especially in key power centers such as Egypt. But inevitably it will play catch-up, managing crises where it can or must to keep instability from spreading. This could involve helping refugees, using diplomacy to try to prevent neighbors from intervening and escalating a conflict, and continuing to aggressively pursue al-Qaida affiliates so they do not threaten Arab nations or the U.S.

Just a few months ago, President Barack Obama optimistically declared that, across the Arab world, "those rights that we take for granted are being claimed with joy by those who are prying loose the grip of an iron fist."

We can hope that Tunisia will lead the region not only in loosening that grip, but in creating real democracy through free elections. However, we must also recognize that the Arab Spring may not bring freedom to much, or even most, of the Arab world. Even as the U.S. prepares to work with the region's new democracies, it also must prepare for the chaos, stagnation and misrule that will mark the Arab Winter.

Daniel Byman is a professor in the security studies program at Georgetown University and research director at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

Assad distances himself from security forces

Syrian President Bashar Assad denied ordering the killing of thousands of protesters and said “only a crazy person” would target his own people, as global pressure mounted Wednesday on his regime.

In a rare interview, Assad said that he was not responsible for the nine months of bloodshed and drew a distinction between himself and the military – an assertion that the United States called “ludicrous.”

“We don’t kill our people,” Assad told U.S. network ABC. “No government in the world kills its people, unless it’s led by a crazy person.

“There was no command to kill or be brutal,” Assad told veteran ABC News interviewer Barbara Walters.

Assad said that security forces belonged to “the government” and not him personally.

“I don’t own them. I’m president. I don’t own the country. So they are not my forces,” Assad said.

Assad’s family has ruled Syria with an iron fist for four decades. Assad’s brother, Lieutenant Colonel Maher Assad, heads the army’s Fourth Division, which oversees the capital as well as the elite Republican Guard.

The United Nations estimates that more than 4,000 people have died as Syria cracks down on protesters, who have emerged as the greatest challenge yet to Assad amid a wave of uprisings in the Arab world that have toppled authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

Assad dismissed the death toll, saying: “Who said that the United Nations is a credible institution?”

“Most of the people that have been killed are supporters of the government, not the vice versa,” Assad said in English, giving a figure of 1,100 dead soldiers and police.

Walters pressed Assad on the case of Hamza al-Khatib, a 13-year-old boy who rights group say was killed in April after being shot, burned and castrated.

“To be frank with you, Barbara, you don’t live here,” Assad said of alleged abuse of children.

“Every ‘brute reaction’ was by an individual, not by an institution – that’s what you have to know,” Assad said. “There is a difference between having a policy to crack down and between having some mistakes committed by some officials. There is a big difference.”

Assad, a 46-year-old former ophthamologist, repeated statements made when he succeeded his late father Hafez Assad more than a decade ago that he does not want to lead Syria for life, indicating he would step down if he did not enjoy popular support.

“When I feel that the public support declined, I won’t be here. Even if they say – if they ask. I shouldn’t be here if there’s no public support,” Assad said, indicating that he still enjoys popular support. He insisted that his government was moving ahead with reforms but stated flatly: “We never said we are democratic country.

“It takes a long time,” Assad said. “It takes a lot of maturity to be full-fledged democracy.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner dared Assad to back up his assertions by letting in international observers and media, saying that there was a “clear campaign against peaceful protesters.”

“It either says that he’s completely lost any power that he had within Syria, that he’s simply a tool or that he’s completely disconnected with reality,” Toner told reporters Wednesday.

“It’s either disconnection, disregard or, as he said, crazy. I don’t know,” Toner said,” triggering a rebuke from Syria’s Foreign Ministry which accused him of distorting the remarks.

Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi said: “We regret and express our astonishment at the remarks by U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner, who mocked the comments made by President Assad by distorting them.”

He told a news conference that Assad had not been seeking to shirk his responsibilities as head of state by telling Walters that Syrian security forces did not belong to him personally.

Meanwhile former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri responded to the interview via Twitter, accusing Assad of “lies.”

“Its a big lie everything he said about #Syria was a lie, He is the main killer in all of this,” he tweeted. Syria has come under growing international pressure, with Arab nations and Turkey joining Western powers in pursuing sanctions against Assad.

Turkey, which had close economic ties with Syria, Wednesday announced a 30-percent tax on goods from the neighboring country. Turkey has already banned transactions with Syria’s government and central bank.

The Arab League has suspended Syria and has threatened new sanctions if Assad does not allow in observers. Syria initially refused but at the last minute offered to let in monitors in return for an end to sanctions.

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby is due in Baghdad Thursday to discuss the regional bloc’s sanctions against Syria, which Iraq refuses to enforce, a Foreign Ministry official told AFP. “He will hold talks with [Foreign Minister] Hoshyar Zebari, particularly on Syria,” the official said.

Iraq’s close trade ties with Syria, from which it imports significant amounts of foodstuffs, pushed the Iraqi government to abstain from the Arab League vote on sanctions.

In the ABC News interview, Assad brushed aside the international pressure, saying: “We’ve been under sanctions for the last 30, 35 years. It’s not something new.”

The United States and France Tuesday sent their ambassadors back to Syria in hopes that they can shine light on the violence and show solidarity with protesters, weeks after the envoys were pulled out due to safety concerns.

Looking to the post-Assad future, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Tuesday in Geneva with the dissident Syrian National Council and urged the protection of women and minorities, as details of escalating sectarian conflict emerged from the central city of Homs.

Dozens of bodies were reportedly dumped in the streets of Homs Monday and up to 50 people killed, but details about what happened in Syria’s third largest city only came to light Tuesday with reports of retaliatory attacks pitting members of the Alawite sect against Sunnis.

Opposition figures have accused Assad’s minority Alawite regime of trying to stir up trouble with the Sunni majority to blunt enthusiasm for the uprising.

“It was an insane escalation,” activist Mohammad Saleh told the Associated Press by telephone from Homs. “There were kidnappings and killings in a mad way. People are afraid to go out of their homes.”

Thirty-four of the dead were shot execution-style, their bodies dumped in a public square, according to Saleh and others who monitor the violence, including the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Saleh said all were from the predominantly Sunni district of Jabb al-Jandali. He said that Alawite gunmen had raided the district after an Alawite was found dead earlier.

A Homs government official confirmed only that 43 bodies were found Monday in Homs. He asked that his name not be published because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The reports could not be independently confirmed. Syria has banned most foreign journalists and prevents the work of independent media.

“It’s complete chaos, each side blames the other, and we don’t know who is responsible,” Saleh said. “In some districts, it’s like civil war.”

For many Syrians, the uncertainty over the future is cause for alarm in a country with a fragile jigsaw puzzle of Middle Eastern backgrounds including Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Christians, Kurds, Druze, Circassians, Armenians and more.

“Obviously, a democratic transition is more than removing the Assad regime. It means setting Syria on the path of the rule of law,” Clinton told the activists, who are all exiles in Europe and belong to the Syrian National Council, one of several umbrella groups for Assad foes.

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

Assad speaks with Walters during an interview for ABC.

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