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Egypte: Les Manifestants rejetent les concessions militaires, et demandent le retour de l’armee aux casernes

November 24, 2011 4 comments

Egyptian Protesters Reject Military Concessions, Demand Officers Return to Barracks

Posted on 11/23/2011 by Juan

On Wednesday morning there were clashes between protesters and the military at the Ministry of Interior, which the interim government feared might be invaded and/or torched. In Egypt, Interior is in charge of security police (Amn al-Dawlah), the force that is accused of using undue force and killing dozens of protesters since last Friday. The protesters are thus furious with the ministry.

There were also clashes in Alexandria between protesters and police in front of the municipality building, in which one demonstrator was killed.

Air Marshall Hussein Tantawi, the de facto military dictator of Egypt, attempted on Tuesday to mollify the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demonstrating in cities up and down the Nile Valley on Tuesday. In a major concession, he agreed to move elections for a new civilian president (i.e. for his own replacement) to no later than June 2012. The earlier plan had been to delay presidential elections until late in that year.

Tantawi alleged that the Egyptian military has no desire to remain in power and would retire to its barracks as soon as the president was elected. He even said that the military would leave sooner if a referendum of the Egyptian people demanded it. He said that parliamentary elections would be held beginning November 28 despite the turmoil. He officially accepted the resignation of the interim cabinet led by Essam Sharaf, but asked it to stay on until a new government could be appointed.

The groups gathered in Tahrir Square rejected the general’s speech, demanding that he “get out of here” (irhal!)

The referendum suggestion is particularly dishonest. Military governments often offer to hold referendums rather than real elections. There is no real way to tell if someone has lost a referendum. What would it take for Tantawi to step down? If 52% of Egyptians said he should, he could maintain that nearly half wanted him to stay.

Despite the withdrawal of the Muslim Brotherhood from the protest movement, tens of thousands thronged to Tahrir Square on Tuesday, in massive defiance of the military and security forces that had tried to clear the square when protesters began demanding that the military give up power. Two demonstrators were killed in Cairo on Tuesday.

Aljazeera English reports:

The military council met with a half dozen parties that are running in next week’s election, including the Muslim Brotherhood but also the Wafd. Amr Moussa, former head of the Arab League and now presidential candidate, was there.

The center-right Wafd Party urged that the Nov. 28 elections be postponed two weeks, while the better-organized Muslim religious parties demanded that they be held on schedule.

Presidential candidate Mohammed Elbaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, declined to attend the meeting with the military council, but has been spoken of as a potential interim appointed prime minister. The Wafd newspaper reported Wednesday morning that Elbaradei had written to the military council offering to form a government of national unity, but only if the officers explicitly pledged to refrain from interfering with the interim civilian government’s decision-making and policies.

 

 

La Revolution Egyptienne 2.0?

November 24, 2011 2 comments

This is a great post authored by our friend Dr. Juan Cole.  Juan Cole is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. Most of Dr. Cole’s academic work is on the relationship of the West and the Muslim world in historical context. His most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan, March, 2009), and he also recently authored Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). He has written widely about Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and South Asia. He has commented extensively on al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the Iraq War, the politics of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Iranian domestic struggles and foreign affairs. He has a regular column at Truthdig. He continues to study and write about contemporary Islamic movements, whether mainstream or radical, whether Sunni and Salafi or Shi`ite. Briefly, what you get from reading Dr. Cole’s column is a deep serious and unbiased analysis of the situation in the Middle East.

 

Egyptian Revolution 2.0?

Posted on 11/22/2011

Egypt is virtually rudderless as morning breaks on Tuesday. Interim prime minister Essam Sharaf and his cabinet tendered their resignations in protest against the use of violence against protesters in Tahrir Square. The demonstrators had been demanding that the military withdraw its “Silmi Communique,” which pledged military oversight of the next Egyptian government, put the military budget off limits to the civilian authorities, and gave the military veto over articles in the new constitution before they went to the electorate for a referendum.

Sharaf’s cabinet apparently is willing to stay on for a short period until another interim government can announced.

One possibility being considered by the military, according to one Arabic newspaper, would be to appoint Mohammed Elbaradei (a presidential candidate and former head of the IAEA at the UN) to form a government of national unity.

Some 20,000 protesters were in Tahrir Square on Monday night. On Tuesday morning, smaller crowds of protesters had gathered again in in downtown Cairo. In Alexandria late Monday, 5000 protesters surrounded a central security building. In the port city of Ismailiya, an angry crowd of 4,000 gathered, and two were killed when police fired on them.

Aljazeera English reports that protesters are calling for a million-person march on Tuesday afternoon.

But the powerful Muslim Brotherhood party, Freedom and Justice, announced that they would not join the demonstration. They said they did not want to see the confrontation ratcheted up. Typically when the Muslim Brotherhood does not join a demonstration, the rally is smaller and less successful than it would have been otherwise.

In the wake of the killing of some 33 protesters around the country (some 24 of them in downtown Cairo) since Friday, crowds in Tahrir Square have started chanting “The people want the fall of the Air Marshall [al-Mushir],” i.e. they are calling for the outster of Air Marshall Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, who is de facto Egypt’s interim president.

Protesters also called for the formation of a government of national unity by the New Year, and the election of a civilian president no later than April (the current plan, backed by the military, is for staggered parliamentary elections to be held for the lower and upper houses through March, after which a constituent assembly will draft a constitution. Next year this time, presidential elections would be held.

A credible new civilian government needs to be established as soon as possible.

Légendes de l’échec

November 12, 2011 2 comments

Today, i choose to post a New York Times Op-ed piece written by Paul Krugman. To those who do not who Dr. Krugman is, well let me just say that he is one of the most brilliant economists of our era. Dr. Krugman is professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University.  He received his B.A. from Yale University in 1974 and his Ph.D. from MIT in 1977. He has taught at Yale, MIT and Stanford. And at MIT, he became the Ford International Professor of Economics.

Dr. Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 academic papers in professional journals and edited volumes. He has built his professional and academic reputation on his serious work in international trade and finance; he is one of the founders of the New Trade Theory, which represents a major rethinking of the theory of international trade. In recognition of that work, in 1991 the American Economic Association awarded him the John Bates Clark medal; the highest prize in economics which is given every two years to the “economist who is adjudged to have made a significant contribution to economic knowledge.” In 2008, Krugman won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science based on his work on the explanation of the patterns of international trade and the geographic concentration of wealth by examining the impact of economies of scale and of consumer preferences for diverse goods and services.

Briefly stated, when Paul Krugman speaks about economics, we all should shut up and listen closely to what he has to say. This is his take on the eurozone crisis.  And if i might add, his analysis is very close to mine, which is a great honor and validation of what i have been arguing for months now.

Legends of the Fail

By

This is the way the euro ends — not with a bang but with bunga bunga. Not long ago, European leaders were insisting that Greece could and should stay on the euro while paying its debts in full. Now, with Italy falling off a cliff, it’s hard to see how the euro can survive at all.

But what’s the meaning of the eurodebacle? As always happens when disaster strikes, there’s a rush by ideologues to claim that the disaster vindicates their views. So it’s time to start debunking.

First things first: The attempt to create a common European currency was one of those ideas that cut across the usual ideological lines. It was cheered on by American right-wingers, who saw it as the next best thing to a revived gold standard, and by Britain’s left, which saw it as a big step toward a social-democratic Europe. But it was opposed by British conservatives, who also saw it as a step toward a social-democratic Europe. And it was questioned by American liberals, who worried — rightly, I’d say (but then I would, wouldn’t I?) — about what would happen if countries couldn’t use monetary and fiscal policy to fight recessions.

So now that the euro project is on the rocks, what lessons should we draw?

I’ve been hearing two claims, both false: that Europe’s woes reflect the failure of welfare states in general, and that Europe’s crisis makes the case for immediate fiscal austerity in the United States.

The assertion that Europe’s crisis proves that the welfare state doesn’t work comes from many Republicans. For example, Mitt Romney has accused President Obama of taking his inspiration from European “socialist democrats” and asserted that “Europe isn’t working in Europe.” The idea, presumably, is that the crisis countries are in trouble because they’re groaning under the burden of high government spending. But the facts say otherwise.

It’s true that all European countries have more generous social benefits — including universal health care — and higher government spending than America does. But the nations now in crisis don’t have bigger welfare states than the nations doing well — if anything, the correlation runs the other way. Sweden, with its famously high benefits, is a star performer, one of the few countries whose G.D.P. is now higher than it was before the crisis. Meanwhile, before the crisis, “social expenditure” — spending on welfare-state programs — was lower, as a percentage of national income, in all of the nations now in trouble than in Germany, let alone Sweden.

Oh, and Canada, which has universal health care and much more generous aid to the poor than the United States, has weathered the crisis better than we have.

The euro crisis, then, says nothing about the sustainability of the welfare state. But does it make the case for belt-tightening in a depressed economy?

You hear that claim all the time. America, we’re told, had better slash spending right away or we’ll end up like Greece or Italy. Again, however, the facts tell a different story.

First, if you look around the world you see that the big determining factor for interest rates isn’t the level of government debt but whether a government borrows in its own currency. Japan is much more deeply in debt than Italy, but the interest rate on long-term Japanese bonds is only about 1 percent to Italy’s 7 percent. Britain’s fiscal prospects look worse than Spain’s, but Britain can borrow at just a bit over 2 percent, while Spain is paying almost 6 percent.

What has happened, it turns out, is that by going on the euro, Spain and Italy in effect reduced themselves to the status of third-world countries that have to borrow in someone else’s currency, with all the loss of flexibility that implies. In particular, since euro-area countries can’t print money even in an emergency, they’re subject to funding disruptions in a way that nations that kept their own currencies aren’t — and the result is what you see right now. America, which borrows in dollars, doesn’t have that problem.

The other thing you need to know is that in the face of the current crisis, austerity has been a failure everywhere it has been tried: no country with significant debts has managed to slash its way back into the good graces of the financial markets. For example, Ireland is the good boy of Europe, having responded to its debt problems with savage austerity that has driven its unemployment rate to 14 percent. Yet the interest rate on Irish bonds is still above 8 percent — worse than Italy.

The moral of the story, then, is to beware of ideologues who are trying to hijack the European crisis on behalf of their agendas. If we listen to those ideologues, all we’ll end up doing is making our own problems — which are different from Europe’s, but arguably just as severe — even worse.

Israël-Iran: L’improbabilité d’une attaque

November 6, 2011 9 comments

Ces deux dernières semaines, la presse écrite et les médias audio-visuels ont avancé l’idée ou la thèse d’une attaque probable d’Israël sur l’Iran. La question que tout le monde doit se poser est de savoir si ces spéculations ont des bases rationnelles et si une telle attaque est même possible quand nous prenons en considération la situation qui évolue rapidement dans le Moyen-Orient et dans les pays occidentaux.

La presse israélienne note que le Premier ministre israélien Benyamin Netanyahou et le ministre de la défense, Ehud Barak, ont été jusqu’à parler d’une éventuelle attaque—des frappes, plus précisément–israélienne contre les installations iraniennes d’enrichissement nucléaire.

Personne ne sait si les deux sont en train de juste essayer de créer un environnement menaçant pour l’Iran dans l’espoir d’intimider Téhéran sur un large éventail de questions, ou si leurs spéculations servent a préparer l’opinion publique israélienne pour une attaque réelle. Le problème avec les déclarations pompeuses visant a effrayer l’ennemi, si c’est ca leur tactique, c’est que ce discours irresponsable peut engendrer une escalade d’actions et de réactions que personne ne peut éventuellement contrôler qu’on le veuille ou non.  C’est cette erreur là que Gamal Abdel Nasser a probablement commis dans la guerre de 1967 ; les faucons israéliens tels que Moshe Dayan a profité du discours menaçant et des rodomontades de Nasser pour lancer une attaque qu’ils ont décrit comme préventive (pre-emptive).

L’ancien chef des services secrets israéliens, Meir Dagan, a révélé qu’il ya un an, que lui et d’autres responsables de la sécurité avaient stopper le duo Netanyahou-Barak d’engager Israël dans une probable attaque sur l’Iran. Dagan a déclaré qu’une attaque sur l’Iran était «la plus stupide idée que j’ai jamais entendu.” Dagan, toujours selon la press Israélienne, dit que le duo Netanyahou-Barak n’est pas en train de calculer les retombées désastreuses, non seulement d’une attaque probable sur l’Iran, mais aussi de la fanfaronnade de leurs discours. Selon Dagan, les malades mentaux sont en charge de l’asile en ce qui concerne la posture d’Israël vis-à-vis de  l’Iran.

Si ce que Dagan a déclaré est exact, alors il est tout à fait plausible que Netanyahou et Barak sont encore engage dans un tour de prestidigitation très dangereux. D’autre part, il n’est pas évident qu’ils ne puissent obtenir le support nécessaire et primordial de l’establishment de sécurité israélien.  Le Maariv a rapporté (en hébreu traduit en anglais), le 3 novembre, selon le Centre USG Open Source, que Barak a des relations épouvantables avec ses généraux, y compris le chef d’état major, le lieutenant général Benny Gantz. La crise de confiance entre les généraux et Barak s’étend, dit Maariv, au Mossad et les services de renseignement israéliens.

Si ce rapport est vrai, il se pourrait bien que les successeurs de Dagan (ancien chef des services secrets israéliens) seront impossible à convaincre de la sagesse d’une attaque sur Iran.

Ceci dit, je pense que Netanyahou et Barak sont en train de bluffer, et ont eu recours à l’opposition de leur services de sécurité comme une explication commode pour expliquer qu’ils ne vont pas aller au-delà des menaces et des fanfaronnades.

Mais il y a aussi une considération très importante dans tout cela est qu’il est difficile de croire qu’Israël n’oserait lancer une telle attaque sans le feu vert de l’administration Obama. Israël doit avoir besoin des États-Unis pour le ravitaillement des armes et des pièces de rechange si les hostilités deviennent hors de contrôle. Non seulement, Israël devrait avoir besoin de ravitaillement  et de pièces de rechange, mais devrait avoir un besoin crucial des systèmes de signalisation et d’autres renseignements pour accomplir sa mission. Chose qu’Obama n’accorderait pas.

Par ailleurs, Israël n’aura pas le « feu vert » de l’administration d’Obama  tand que les troupes américaines sont toujours stationnées en Irak et leur retrait ne se fera qu’au bout de plusieurs mois. Un « feu vert » d Obama mettrait plus de 80000 soldats Américains dans une situation très vulnérable aux attaques de la part des chiites radicaux.  On entend déjà des grognements sérieux de la part d’anciens généraux à la retraite comme Amiral Michael Mullen (ex-Chairman du Joint Chiefs of Staff) que le retrait des troupes est la phase la plus dangereuse d’une opération militaire et « que nous n’avons pas besoin d’agitations supplémentaires dans la région.”  En plus, une frappe Israélienne sur l’Iran relancerait l’activité des milices de Moqtada al-Sadr, l’Armée du Mahdi, à cet effet, et tout le monde à Washington est bien conscient de cela. Aucun membre de l’administration d’Obama (militaire et civil) ne veut voir les convois des soldats Américains attaquer alors qu’ils se dirigeraient vers la frontière koweïtienne. Donc le tout est hors de question, au moins jusqu’en Janvier et au-delàs.

Même après que les troupes américaines sont hors d’Irak, les États-Unis veulent essayer de garder un certain niveau d’influence à Bagdad. L’administration Obama se rend compte qu’une attaque israélienne contre l’Iran pousserait bon gré mal gré presque certainement le Premier ministre irakien Nouri al-Maliki dans les bras de Téhéran. Même l’ambassade américaine à Bagdad serait vulnérable à une attaque massive, surtout une fois que les troupes sont en dehors du pays. Il faut se rappeler qu’Al-Maliki a soutenu le Hezbollah du Liban contre Israël pendant la guerre de 2006, et certainement adopterait la même position dans l’éventualité d’un autre conflit entre Israël and l’Iran—même si ce conflit serait une sérié de bombardements visant le complex de Natanz. La position éventuelle d’Al-Malaki n’est pas une conjoncture ou une supposition si on tient compte que son parti, Al-Da’wa Islamiya, a été partiellement responsable de la formation et la création du Hezbollah au Liban en 1984.

Par ailleurs, l’Iran a encore la capacité de nuire énormément à la posture diplomatique et militaire des États-Unis en Afghanistan, dont Obama veut aussi commencer à terminer, avec une réduction progréssive des troupes prévue de 30000 dans la première moitié de 2012.

Un dernier point, mais non des moindres, et qu’une attaque israélienne contre l’Iran effectivement mettrait fin a ce qui reste du printemps arabe. Le peuple Syrien serait forcé de se rallier derrière Bachar al-Assad et ses alliés iraniens. Probablement le même scenario serait valide au Yémen, ou Ali Abdallah Saleh saurait utiliser une telle attaque pour faire taire son opposition et pour booster sa stature au près du peuple Yéménite.

Ce qu’une attaque israélienne sur l’Iran donnerait est une alliance Téhéran-Bagdad-Damas-Beyrouth, créant une instabilité énorme dans la région et créant un casse-tête et une instabilité géopolitique d’une envergure incroyable pour les États-Unis, les pays du Golfe ainsi que les pays du basin Méditerranéen; une  instabilité dont Israël même serait la première victime .  Une telle attaque donnerait certainement aux Frères musulmans un coup de pousse électoral incroyable dans tout les pays en phase de transition démocratique.

En plus, une attaque pareille artificiellement augmenterait le prix du pétrole de manière significative, ce qui pourrait pousser l’économie américaine et l’économie des pays de la zone euro dans une deuxième récession profonde (une recession en W), ainsi tuant les chances de réélection d’Obama, de Sarkozy, de Cameron, etc.

Depuis son élection, Obama a montré qu’il désapprouve de l’aventurisme politique. Il était difficile à convaincre sur la guerre de Libye, et même après avoir donner son accord, il a insisté sur une sérié de conditions qui n’ont pas beaucoup plu à Sarkozy et aux dirigeants de la Ligue Arabe. 2012 sera une année électorale pour lui et il veut être en mesure de faire campagne sur le thème d’un apaisement politique du Moyen-Orient en pleine transition démocratique ; pas sur le thème d’un Moyen-Orient à feu et à sang. 1956, le président Eisenhower était furieux a propos de l’attaque  israélo-franço-britannique sur l’Egypte parce qu’elle a pris place quelques semaines avant le jour des élections, ce qui lui donnait l’air d’être faible et pas en contrôle de la politique étrangère Américaine. Pour la même raison, Obama n’approuverait pas d’une attaque sur l’Iran, maintenant que la saison électorale est en pleine effervescence.  Ce qui me pousse à dire que d’après mon analyse qu’il n’y aura pas de « feu vert » de la Maison Blanche validant l’aventurisme israélien concernant l’Iran.

Juan Cole

La Syrie à la croisée des chemins: Ce que le plan de la Ligue Arabe pourrait faire pour débloquer la situation

November 3, 2011 2 comments

The ICG issued a good risk analysis of the situation in Syria and the recent developments that have been taken place. Their recommendations are clear, direct, and on target. The Arab League proposal and its acceptance by Bashar’s regime represent a probable and viable way for the protest movement and the regime itself. However, there are conditions and engagements that both sides need to follow in order to find an exit to this protracted and bloody situation.

Brussels, 3 November 2011: Syria’s acceptance of the Arab League proposal to defuse the crisis presents an eleventh-hour opportunity to seek a negotiated transition before the conflict takes an even uglier turn. Despite understandable scepticism, both the protest movement and the international community ought to give this initiative a fair chance; for either one to dismiss or undermine it would be to offer the regime justification for rejecting both the deal and responsibility for its failure.

The regime’s intentions soon will be put to the test. In coming days, protesters will take to the streets with renewed energy, probing President Bashar al Assad’s sincerity after months of rising repression; they cannot be expected to show patience for protracted political talks devoid of swift, tangible results on the ground. The various strands of the opposition ought to publicly reject violent attacks against security forces and accept to engage in a dialogue with no condition other than the regime’s implementation of the plan. Likewise the international community should fully endorse the deal and adjust its reaction to developments on the ground. Only by giving Damascus a genuine opportunity to live up to its commitments under the plan can the international community reach consensus on holding it accountable should it choose to flout them.

The agreement unquestionably is flawed. It calls for a halt to violence and for the regime to withdraw its forces, release those detained as a result of recent events, grant access to the Arab League as well as Arab and international media, and, within two weeks, initiate a dialogue with the opposition under League auspices. But it does so in relatively vague terms, thereby virtually ensuring that the regime will try to re-negotiate in practice what it has already approved in principle.

The agreement does not explicitly mention the right to peaceful demonstrations, a key opposition demand. Likewise, it fails to provide a mechanism for effective on-the-ground monitoring to supervise implementation. As far as one can tell, it is backed by neither meaningful incentives nor credible threats in the event the regime reneges on its commitments or plays for time. More fundamentally, the agreement may simply be unrealistic. It is hard to imagine why the regime would risk jeopardizing its most significant achievement to date, namely preventing the kind of mass demonstrations that would conclusively establish its lack of legitimacy – and that the protest movement will now seek to organise. Indeed, large numbers of Syrians almost certainly will take to the streets – including in Damascus – were they to conclude that the deal provides them with some protection.

This could well be a last chance. If peaceful protests face continued repression in coming days, a more violent and dangerous confrontation is almost certain to develop. Syria’s eight-month-old uprising is fast approaching a dangerous tipping point.

Behind the thin veil of a so-called reform process that has been premised on the need to restore “law and order”, the regime has in the past three months almost entirely delegated the task of dealing with popular discontent to its security services. In turn, their indiscriminate violence and sectarian behaviour has begun to radicalise the street. The regime’s claim that it is exclusively eradicating armed groups while in reality treating non-violent demonstrators with equal ferocity is doing nothing to weaken the former while pushing the latter to the brink. The protesters’ overall restraint has been remarkable and so far has helped avoid descent into all-out civil war. But there are unmistakable signs of change.

Among demonstrators, the prospect of armed resistance is gaining appeal. A pattern of attacks against regime forces has emerged in border areas. Homs has served as a magnet for a steady stream of army defectors whose success in resisting regime attempts to retake the city is inspiring others to emulate its more confrontational tactics. Although still expensive, rudimentary weapons are now widely available due to intensive smuggling. Meanwhile, uninhibited brutality of regime henchmen, chiefly members of the Allawite minority, is fuelling sectarian retribution. Long an imaginary part of the regime’s propaganda, such retaliation is becoming a reality, particularly in central Syria.

For now, no credible evidence has emerged to suggest significant, organised foreign support for a developing insurgency; the regime frequently displays stacks of weapons, cash and telecommunications technology it claims to have seized from armed groups, yet has offered no proof regarding the identity and role of outside backers. This too could change. Already, Turkey is playing host to the leadership of the Free Syrian Army, which has openly claimed responsibility for attacks against Syrian forces. Some among the Syrian opposition make no secret of their goal to lure the international community into a Libyan-style military intervention, which they see as the only way of tilting the balance in their favour. On the ground, calls for a “no-fly-zone” – codeword for international military intervention – have become widespread; only weeks ago, they were unthinkable.

Should these dynamics intensify and the conflict morph into an armed, sectarian confrontation with heavy outside involvement, Syria’s cohesion would be threatened. Regional instability could spread. Spill-over effects most likely would be felt in Lebanon, where sectarian conflict risks being reignited. But a Syrian Sunni insurgency also could affect confessionally-divided Iraq and neighbouring Jordan. A proxy war could intensify between Ankara and Damascus, which already has reactivated ties with Kurdish forces battling Turkey. In short, the impression of a standstill – in which predominantly peaceful protests are met by increasingly intensive repression – is misleading. Beneath the surface lie developments that should be worrisome to all.

Until recently at least, the regime appeared relatively comfortable with these trends. From the outset, it sought to portray the protest movement as an Islamist, sectarian and foreign-backed insurgency; anything that could bolster its narrative was welcome. Framing the struggle in such terms helped justify the president’s decision, made in late July, to opt for a so-called “security solution” – i.e., all-out repression of all forms of dissent on the one hand and preservation of the fiction of “normalcy”, “reform” and “dialogue” on the other. Since then, the regime has rejected any meaningful compromise, recovering a sense of self-confidence even as the situation on the ground continued to deteriorate.

The regime found some reasons for solace. First, the “security solution” bolstered the security services’ cohesiveness, determination and loyalty; after months of internal disarray prompted by the leadership’s confusing mix of symbolic concessions and hesitant repression, they finally understood what they were expected to do. Second, the massive campaign of arrests, indiscriminate killings and other scare tactics diminished the number of demonstrators while largely circumscribing the protest movement within the communal, geographic and socio-economic boundaries that best suit the regime – namely a provincial movement of the Sunni underclass. In turn, the regime has used this to keep significant segments of the upper- and middle-class, largest cities and minorities on board. Third, Damascus ensured that the interests of key allies, Iran and Hizbollah, became intimately intertwined with its own fate: insofar as they have blindly aligned themselves with the regime, they are certain to lose were it to fall. Finally, the leadership has witnessed the international community’s divisions and impotence – whether motivated by fear of Islamism, suspicion of Western intervention or concern at Syria’s ability to spread chaos throughout the region.

But the security solution cannot resolve the regime’s most fundamental problems. It cannot address its economic predicament, which has reached alarming levels and which, in the absence of a political resolution, will only worsen as wave after wave of Western, and possibly international, sanctions are almost certainly unleashed. It cannot end the demonstrations, which invariably pick up wherever and whenever pressure relents. It cannot revive the regime’s legitimacy which was based on Assad’s personal reputation, a sense of communal coexistence, as well as the idea of resistance to Israel and U.S. hegemony. Instead, what support it enjoys today is almost entirely of a negative sort: fear of sectarian retribution, Islamism, foreign interference, social upheaval or, more simply, anxiety about the unknown. Nor can the regime forever count on the resilience of its security forces. For the country’s intense polarisation – between those who reject the regime’s brutality and those who see it as the only path to salvation – and the distrust this engenders has con taminated all institutions, including the army. Faced with an increasing number of defectors willing to take up arms against them, the security services find themselves in greater need of military protection precisely at a time when regime distrust of the army is growing. Tellingly, the regime has not yet been able to retake Homs – something it almost certainly would have done if it could muster sufficient trusted troops to do so.

The regime is not alone in having reached an impasse. In the past eight months, the protest movement has failed to break out of the straightjacket into which it has been forced by the security services. The growing number of student protests over the last several days is remarkable precisely because they break with the image carefully and relatively successfully cultivated by the regime – that of an undereducated, thuggish and extremist protest movement. Still, the middle class in the largest city, Aleppo, as well as in Damascus has remained largely quiet; only in Homs have demonstrators convincingly bridged social and communal divides. Minorities have either openly sided with the regime (in some Christian areas), kept a relatively low profile (in the Kurdish-dominated northeast and the Druze town of Sweida), or been crushed into submission (in the Ismaeli town of Salamiya). There have been few significant defections from within the regime’s technocratic ranks. Although several senior officials have been sidelined, no decisive cracks have emerged in the decision-making apparatus. Having rejected any dialogue with the regime so long as it resorts to violence – an understandable position given the level of repression – and having espoused ever more radical slogans (from toppling the regime at the beginning, to executing Assad now), the opposition had left itself with no alte rnative but to fight till the bitter and bloody end; the Arab League proposal perhaps now provides it with a small, but vital, margin for manouver.

Nor has the opposition succeeded in unifying its ranks or presenting a coherent program. Its most visible figures, whether in exile or at home, have shown insufficient leadership, unable to articulate a political platform that could provide either a basis for negotiations with the regime or some guarantee of continuity in the event of its collapse. Divided more often by petty personal rivalries than by deep substantive issues, the opposition’s failure to present a realistic way forward has helped persuade many despairing protesters that their only hope lies in domestic armed struggle or outside intervention.

A fractured international community also has been forced to watch largely from the sidelines. In the Arab world, the regime has benefited so far from support from countries such as Lebanon (which cannot afford to alienate its neighbour); Algeria (whose rulers fear the spread of popular uprisings); or Iraq (whose Shiite leadership has opted for an essentially sectarian perspective on Syria’s unrest). To date, efforts to pass a UN Security Council resolution have been resisted by, among others, Russia, China and India, who share an instinctive fear of Islamism, aversion to foreign interference in domestic affairs and distaste for the what they see as the West’s self-serving interpretation of international principles. As a result, Europe and the U.S. have had little to offer beyond heightened rhetorical condemnation (inevitably undermined by their inconsistent approach to other issues, such as Bahrain or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) and an array of economic sanctions whose political impact remains uncertain and whose economic legacy could undermine any future transition.

Syria’s closest allies, Hizbollah and Iran, face their own perils. Their unconditional support for the regime was premised on appreciation for Syria’s role within the so-called axis of resistance and belief that Assad would successfully manage the crisis. In order to justify Damascus’ resort to extreme violence, they were compelled to embrace its version of a Sunni Islamist, foreign-backed insurgency seeking to tip the regional balance of powers. By the same token, they essentially dismissed the protesters’ legitimate demands and obvious sufferings, casting much of Syrian society as the enemy. The net effect has been to severely damage their moral standing across the Arab world, undermine the notion of resistance, expose them to the very same accusation of double-standards they typically levy against the West – in their case by condemning in Syria the popular revolt they champion in Bahrain – and cast them in a purely sectarian light. Iran and Hizbollah already have paid a steep price. It will be steeper still should the Syrian regime’s repression intensify and the conflict develop along ever-deepening sectarian lines.

There is good reason to doubt that anything will come out of the Arab League initiative. The opposition suspects a manoeuvre designed to gain time and thwart efforts at greater international involvement. It will be leery of providing the regime with any breathing space and eager to demonstrate the president’s bad faith. Among outside actors, some predictably will want to rush to condemn the regime, others to exonerate it.

If only because the alternative is so bleak, however, every effort should be made to maximise the proposal’s chances of success. It is crucial that President Assad sticks to his part of the agreement and rapidly implement its provisions, and crucial that the regime’s remaining friends press him convincingly to do so. So too must the opposition find a way to contain its well-justified scepticism, condemn acts of violence against regime forces and put aside any precondition for negotiations save for the agreement’s strict implementation. The international community, rather than follow Washington’s lead – which unhelpfully greeted the announcement with a renewed call for Assad’s immediate departure – should take a cautious approach and judge the regime based on its actions. But the converse also must hold, namely that Syria’s violation of the agreement should be met by swift international condemnation, including by those who have proved most reluctant to date and including in the form of a UN Security Council resolution.

Should it come to that, many undoubtedly will push for such a resolution to impose sanctions. But not only would insistence on this step likely impede chances of swift passage, there also are serious questions regarding its efficacy. Sanctions hurt the regime, but they hurt what is left of the middle class even more; those in power typically find ways to circumvent them and render themselves indispensable providers of goods and services, thereby heightening society’s dependency on the very forces the sanctions are intended to undermine. Rather than rush to enact new penalties, better to wait to see how those already in force play out. Above all else, the regime dreads further international isolation. That is one reason why it so warmly greeted Russia’s and China’s veto at the UN and why it decided to accept the Arab League’s proposal. If the regime reneges on its commitments, a consensus that lays the blame at its doorstep would be the worst possible outcome from its perspective – and both the most effective and achievable lever at the international community’s disposal.

Mbrouk 3likoum el-metro You You You Youuuu…

November 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Mebrouk 3likoum el-metro. C’est vraiment un exploit incroyable. Une réalisation divine. Koudra Ilahiya. La construction du métro d’Alger a été achevée ce weekend.

Officiellement, le projet du métro d’Alger a commencé en 1979.  Alors, de 1979 à 2011, nous avons réussi à construire 9 km de ligne de métro. Laissez-moi répéter cela encore une fois pour que vous puissiez comprendre cet exploit incroyable: en 32 ans, nous avons  construit 9 km de métro.

Alors juste pour vous donnez une idée sur notre exploit divin, je vais le comparer a d’autres grands projets de construction et d’architecture. Pour ne citer que quelques-uns d’entre eux, nous allons commencer par:

  • La Pyramide de Gizeh a été  construite en 20 ans.
  • La Chapelle Sixtine a été construite en 11 ans (1473 à 1484)
  • Il a fallu a Michelangelo 4 ans (de Juillet à Octobre de 1508 de 1512) pour peindre le plafond de la chapelle Sixtine, une œuvre intemporelle d’art.
  • Le barrage de Hoover a été  construit en 5 ans. (1931-1936)
  • Le United States Capital a été construit en 37 ans (1793-1830) et toute la region etait des marais
  • Les Tours Petronas de Kuala Lumpur ont été construite en 6 ans (1992-1998)
  • Il a fallu au Programme Apollo juste 9 années pour mettre Neil Armstrong sur la lune (1961-1969).

Les 9 km du métro d’Alger,  32 ans….

Quelque chose est absolument et totalement anormal en Algérie. Et si vous ne trouvez pas cela anormal, c’est que vous avez été infecté. Vous avez pris la pilule bleue…

C’est vrai que le ridicule ne tue pas