Monday, May 9, 2011

The Middle East on Fire

The drum of democracy and freedom, or something more perilous.  I believe that we as Americans must support freedom, even if it is not beneficial to our interests - because freedom, if achieved, would result in a closer relationship of equals.  The desire for freedom is not enough, rather it is the plight of the masses who rise up and seize the chance, place their mark upon history, and end tyranny by the few.  Who wouldn't support it.  If I was the leader of Jordan or Bahrain, or Yemen ... I would be making large transfers of wealth to safe havens, just in case. 

Yet, isn't it amazing how it all happens so .... happenstance like, as if by accident the people rise up, without planning.  I my have a negative view of mankind, and that is we are led - at least that is what some astute students have suggested - so if we, Americans are led, we should be equally fair to others - that the Jordanians, Yemenis .... may also be led, and hopefully not by forces of hate and death.

Except it seems they are being led by someone or something.

Syria hangs in the balance.  It could topple either direction.  For many in the West, this is great news.  They see this as denouement of the past five months of rebellion and revolution in the Middle East.  Except it isn't.

Egypt is not more democratic.  It is less.

The 'rebels' opposing Khadadfi are not 'more democratic' than the dictator.  They are, as he pointed out, aided by al qaida, and with very little disagreement about this from the rebels.  The majority of suicide bombers did not come from Sauid Arabia or Gaza ... but from the general region of the 'rebels'.    So why are they now rising up and what connection to Tunisia and Egypt.  More than likely coincidence.  It spread and al qaida was happy to help. 

Syria is different - who benefits?  Not Israel, not Turkey, not Iraq - for what follows will be far less stable and reserved. 

How about Bahrain?

Abu Dubai?

Saudi Arabia?




Take the above, and in a majority of them, what is the consistent word/label/group/cause/issue?  And that will provide some insight into the larger issue of who is behind the unrest.  Sometimes you start something you can't control and it meanders off course a bit.  You accepted that into the operational plan before you began.  Syria is an ally of several possible countries who are also possible instigators.  So why undermine a state that is already a friend and supports your cause? 

Simple.  Easy Peasy - I want all 100 cookies.  I ask for 80, they offer me 75.  I want 100.  I remember long ago when they were rude to me once when I was no one and they were someone and I harbor that animus, I feed it, even if it predated my grandparents ... so many reasons and any one of them enough.

Protests Pop Up Across Middle East

By BRIAN MURPHY, Associated Press
Feb 15, 2011

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Thousands of protesters took over a main square in Bahrain's capital Tuesday — carting in tents and raising banners — in a bold attempt to copy Egypt's uprising and force high-level changes in one of Washington's key allies in the Gulf.

The move by demonstrators capped two days of clashes across the tiny island kingdom that left at least two people dead, parliament in limbo by an opposition boycott and the king making a rare address on national television to offer condolences for the bloodshed.

Security forces — apparently under orders to hold back — watched from the sidelines as protesters chanted slogans mocking the nation's ruling sheiks and called for sweeping political reforms and an end to monarchy's grip on key decisions and government posts.

The unrest in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, adds another layer to Washington's worries in the region. In Yemen, police and government supporters battled nearly 3,000 marchers calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in a fifth straight day of violence.

Yemen is seen as a critical partner in the U.S. fight against a network inspired by al-Qaida. The Pentagon plans to boost its training of Yemen's counterterrorism forces to expand the push against the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula faction, which has been linked to attacks including the attempted airliner bombing in December 2009 and the failed mail bomb plot involving cargo planes last summer.

Saleh has been holding talks with Yemen's powerful tribes, which can either tip the balance against him or give him enough strength to possibly ride out the crisis.

The political mutinies in the Arab world show the wide reach of the calls for change spurred by the toppling of old-guard regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.

In Jordan, hundreds of Bedouin tribesmen blocked roads to demand the government return lands they once owned. Saudi activists are seeking to form a political party in a rare challenge to the near-absolute power of the pro-Western monarchy.

Yemen's grinding poverty and tribal complexities also stand in contrast to the relative wealth and Western-style malls and coffee shops in Bahrain's capital of Manama.

But many in Bahrain still boiled down their discontent to a cry for economic justice as well — saying the Sunni rulers control the privileges and opportunities and the Shiite majority struggles with what's left over and are effectively blackballed from important state jobs.

"I demand what every Bahraini should have: a job and a house," said student Iftikhar Ali, 27, who joined the crowds in the seaside Pearl Square. "I believe in change."

[In no way is he asking too much - a house and a job ... and Ali is ... from where?]

Protesters quickly renamed it "Nation's Square" and erected banners such as "Peaceful" that were prominent in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Many waved Bahraini flags and chanted: "No Sunnis, no Shiites. We are all Bahrainis."  [I could chant peace, love, and free love - doesn't mean I believe in any or all of those - I can chant, especially if it gets me what I want.]

Others set up tents and distributed tea and kabobs for those planning to spend the night under one of the city's landmarks: a nearly 300-foot (90-meter) monument cradling a giant white pearl-shaped ball that symbolizes the country's heritage as a pearl diving center.

Someone used stones to spell out the message in Arabic: "The real criminals are the royal family."

There is no direct call to bring down the king, whose family has ruled Bahrain for more than two centuries. But he is suddenly under unprecedented pressure to make serious changes in how the country is run.

The key demands — listed on a poster erected in the square — included the release of all political prisoners, more jobs and housing, an elected Cabinet and the replacement of the longtime prime minister, Sheik Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

Even the security forces they have battled represent something more than just state-backed muscle.

Bahrain's leaders have for years granted citizenship to Sunnis from across the region to expand their base of loyalists and try to gain demographic ground against Shiites, about 70 percent of the population of some 500,000. Many of the Sunnis — Jordanians, Syrians and others — receive police jobs or other security-related posts.

In a clear sign of concern over the widening crisis, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa went on nationwide TV to offer condolences for the deaths, pledge an investigation into the killings and promising to push ahead with promised reforms, which include loosening state controls on the media and Internet.

"We extend our condolences to the parents of the dear sons who died yesterday and today. We pray that they are inspired by the Almighty's patience, solace and tranquility," said the king, who had previously called for an emergency Arab summit to discuss the growing unrest.

Bahrain is one of the most politically volatile nations in the Middle East's wealthiest corner despite having one of the few elected parliaments and some of the most robust civil society groups.

The nation's Shiites have long complained of discrimination. A crackdown on perceived dissent last year touched off weeks of riots and clashes in Shiite villages, and an ongoing trial in Bahrain accuses 25 Shiites of plotting against the leadership. The detainees allege they have been tortured behind bars.

Bahrain is also an economic weakling compared with the staggering energy riches of Gulf neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which can afford far more generous social benefits. Bahrain's oil reserves are small and its role as the region's international financial hub have been greatly eclipsed by Dubai.

In Geneva, a statement by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on Bahrain to "curb the excesses" of security forces.

"Too many peaceful protesters have recently been killed across the Middle East and North Africa," Pillay said.

The deaths also brought sharp denunciations from the largest Shiite political bloc, Al Wefaq, which suspended its participation in parliament, and could threaten the nation's gradual pro-democracy reforms that have given Shiites a greater political voice. The group has 18 seats in the 40-member chamber.

The second day of turmoil began after police tried to disperse up to 10,000 mourners gathering at a hospital parking lot to begin a funeral procession for Ali Abdulhadi Mushaima, 21, who died in Monday's marches.

Officials at Bahrain's Salmaniya Medical Complex said a 31-year-old man, Fadhel Salman Matrook, became the second fatality when he died of injuries from birdshot fired during the melee in the hospital's parking lot. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to journalists.

A statement from Bahrain's interior minister, Lt. Gen. Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, expressed "sincere condolences and deep sympathy" to Mushaima's family. He expanded on the king's pledge: stressing that the deaths will be investigated and charges would be filed if authorities determined excessive force was used against the protesters.

But that's unlikely to appease the protesters. In the past week, Bahrain's rulers have tried to defuse calls for reform by promising nearly $2,700 for each family and pledging to loosen state controls on the media.


Make Mine Freedom - 1948

American Form of Government

Who's on First? Certainly isn't the Euro.