Posts Tagged arab spring

The Geopolitics of the Syrian Civil War

The Geopolitics of the Syrian Civil War is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By Reva Bhalla

International diplomats will gather Jan. 22 in the Swiss town of Montreux to hammer out a settlement designed to end Syria’s three-year civil war. The conference, however, will be far removed from the reality on the Syrian battleground. Only days before the conference was scheduled to begin, a controversy threatened to engulf the proceedings after the United Nations invited Iran to participate, and Syrian rebel representatives successfully pushed for the offer to be rescinded. The inability to agree upon even who would be attending the negotiations is an inauspicious sign for a diplomatic effort that was never likely to prove very fruitful.

There are good reasons for deep skepticism. As Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s forces continue their fight to recover ground against the increasingly fratricidal rebel forces, there is little incentive for the regime, heavily backed by Iran and Russia, to concede power to its sectarian rivals at the behest of Washington, especially when the United States is already negotiating with Iran. Ali Haidar, an old classmate of al Assad’s from ophthalmology school and a long-standing member of Syria’s loyal opposition, now serving somewhat fittingly as Syria’s National Reconciliation Minister, captured the mood of the days leading up to the conference in saying “Don’t expect anything from Geneva II. Neither Geneva II, not Geneva III nor Geneva X will solve the Syrian crisis. The solution has begun and will continue through the military triumph of the state.” Read the rest of this entry »

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New Book On Political Islam

From Macmillan Books:

As a wave of popular unrest toppled autocratic rulers across the Middle East and North Africa, many in the West watched with growing concern as Islamists came to power. The continued prominence of Islam in the struggle for democracy in the Muslim world has confounded Western democracy theorists, who largely consider secularism a prerequisite for democratic transition. In Political Islam in the Age of Democratization, Kamran Bokhari and Farid Senzai offer a comprehensive view of the complex nature of contemporary political Islam and its relationship to democracy. With a useful theoretical framework, classification of Islamists, and rich historical context, this book is a compelling and insightful analysis of Islamism and the role that religion is likely to play in any future Muslim democracy.

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The Next Phase of the Arab Spring

The Next Phase of the Arab Spring is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

Analysis

The Arab Spring was an exercise in irony, nowhere more so than in Egypt. On the surface, it appeared to be the Arab equivalent of 1989 in Eastern Europe. There, the Soviet occupation suppressed a broad, if not universal desire for constitutional democracy modeled on Western Europe. The year 1989 shaped a generation’s thinking in the West, and when they saw the crowds in the Arab streets, they assumed that they were seeing Eastern Europe once again.

There were certainly constitutional democrats in the Arab streets in 2011, but they were not the main thrust. Looking back on the Arab Spring, it is striking how few personalities were replaced, how few regimes fell, and how much chaos was left in its wake. The uprising in Libya resulted in a Western military intervention that deposed former leader Moammar Gadhafi and replaced him with massive uncertainty. The uprising in Syria has not replaced Syrian President Bashar al Assad but instead sparked a war between him and an Islamist-dominated opposition. Elsewhere, revolts have been contained with relative ease. The irony of the Arab Spring was that in opening the door for popular discontent, it demonstrated that while the discontent was real, it was neither decisive nor clearly inclined toward constitutional democracy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Egypt’s Atypical Military Coup

Egypt’s Atypical Military Coup is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

Summary

There is a great debate underway in Egypt on whether the move to oust President Mohammed Morsi is tantamount to a military coup. Considering that the Egyptian army is forcibly removing a democratically elected president in the wake of nation-wide unrest, the military intervention is indeed a coup. However, it differs from other coups in that direct military rule will not be imposed.

Analysis

There is a great debate underway in Egypt on whether the move to oust President Mohammed Morsi is tantamount to a military coup. Considering that the Egyptian army is forcibly removing a democratically elected president in the wake of nation-wide unrest, the military intervention is indeed a coup. However, it differs from other coups in that direct military rule will not be imposed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Possible Military Coup in Egypt

Possible Military Coup in Egypt is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

Analysis

The deadline attached to the Egyptian military’s ultimatum expired July 3, and it appears the military is removing President Mohammed Morsi from office to begin the plan that it leaked to the press on July 2. Morsi gave a defiant speech last night, saying that he would not give up his electoral legitimacy — essentially forcing the military to choose between intervening and removing him directly or reaching some kind of compromise. It appears the former is in the process of happening, though it is still possible that the military could be engaging in a show of force to dramatically increase pressure on negotiations. The military could be using this brinksmanship to get the Muslim Brotherhood to adopt the “road map” the military released for the political future.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Salafism and Arab Democratization

Salafism and Arab Democratization is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By Kamran Bokhari
Vice President of Middle Eastern & South Asian Affairs

The outbreak of the Arab Spring in 2011 brought significant attention to groups — known as Islamists — seeking to establish Islamic states in countries once ruled by secular autocrats. The bulk of this attention went to already established political groups such as the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which caused consternation in the West when its Freedom and Justice Party won control of both Egypt’s parliament and its presidency.

Much less attention was paid to the Brotherhood’s principal Islamist competitors, members of the ultraconservative Salafist movement, despite their second-place finish in Egypt’s parliamentary elections. This changed in late September when certain Salafists played a key role in the unrest in reaction to an anti-Islamic video posted on the Internet.

Since then, Salafism has become the subject of much public discourse — though as is often the case with unfamiliar subjects, questions are vastly more numerous than answers. This is compounded by the rapidity of its rise from a relatively minor, apolitical movement to an influential Islamist phenomenon. Read the rest of this entry »

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Assad May Step Down

According to Big Peace and Russian reports, Syrian President Assad may be planning to step down:

According to reports coming out of Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is prepared to step down. The reports indicate the turning point came when Assad’s brother suffered significant injuries “in the blast that killed several key regime officials in Damascus last month.”

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Considering a Sunni Regime in Syria

From STRATFOR:

By Reva Bhalla and Kamran Bokhari

Last week’s publicized defection of the Tlass family marked a potential turning point for Syria’s al Assad regime.

The Tlass family formed the main pillar of Sunni support for the minority Alawite regime. The patriarch of the family, former Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass, had a strategic, brotherly bond with late Syrian President Hafez al Assad. The two military men served as members of the ruling Baath Party in Cairo from 1958 to 1961 when Syria and Egypt existed under the Nasserite vision of the United Arab Republic. The failure of that project brought them back home, where together they helped bring the Baath Party to power in 1963 and sustained a violent period of coups, purges and countercoups through the 1960s.

With Tlass standing quietly by his side, Hafez mounted a bloodless coup and appointed Tlass as his defense minister in 1970. Since then, Tlass has been the symbol of Syria’s old guard regime. Without Tlass’ godfather-like backing, it is questionable whether Bashar al Assad, then a political novice, would have been able to consolidate his grip over the regime in 2000 when his father passed away. Through the Tlass family’s extensive military and business connections, the Sunni-Alawite bond endured for decades at the highest echelons of the regime. Read the rest of this entry »

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STRATFOR: The Arab Spring Revisited

Video from Stratfor:

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Mali Besieged by Fighters Fleeing Libya

From STRATFOR

By Scott Stewart

Mali has experienced perhaps the most significant external repercussions from the downfall of the regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Stratfor has discussed the impact of the conflict in Libya on the wider region since international intervention began in March 2011. Instability in Libya due to that country’s deep internal fault lines meant that re-establishing a government would prove difficult. As we pointed out, that instability could spread to neighboring countries as weapons and combatants flow outward from Libya.

Reports now indicate that thousands of armed Tuareg tribesmen who previously served in Gadhafi’s military have returned home to Mali. The influx of this large number of well-armed and well-trained fighters, led by a former Libyan army colonel, has re-energized the long-simmering Tuareg insurgency against the Malian government. These Tuareg insurgents have formed a new group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). In mid-January, they began a military campaign to free three northern regions of Mali from Bamako’s control. Read the rest of this entry »

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Egypt and the Idealist-Realist Debate in U.S. Foreign Policy

Egypt and the Idealist-Realist Debate in U.S. Foreign Policy is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

By George Friedman

The first round of Egyptian parliamentary elections has taken place, and the winners were two Islamist parties. The Islamists themselves are split between more extreme and more moderate factions, but it is clear that the secularists who dominated the demonstrations and who were the focus of the Arab Spring narrative made a poor showing. Of the three broad power blocs in Egypt — the military, the Islamists and the secular democrats — the last proved the weakest.

It is far from clear what will happen in Egypt now. The military remains unified and powerful, and it is unclear how much actual power it is prepared to cede or whether it will be forced to cede it. What is clear is that the faction championed by Western governments and the media will now have to accept the Islamist agenda, back the military or fade into irrelevance.

One of the points I made during the height of the Arab Spring was that the West should be careful of what it wishes for — it might get it. Democracy does not always bring secular democrats to power. To be more precise, democracy might yield a popular government, but the assumption that that government will support a liberal democratic constitution that conceives of human rights in the European or American sense is by no means certain. Unrest does not always lead to a revolution, a revolution does not always lead to a democracy, and a democracy does not always lead to a European- or American-style constitution. Read the rest of this entry »

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What does WROL look like? The streets of Cairo, January 2, 2011 – Sam Tadros

WROL- Without the Rule of Law

“Saturday was indescribable. Nothing that I write can describe the utter state of lawlessness that prevailed.

Every Egyptian prison was attacked by organized groups trying to free the prisoners inside. In the case of the prisons holding regular criminals this was done by their families and friends. In the case of the prisons with the political prisoners this was done by the Islamists.

Bulldozers were used in those attacks and the weapons available from the looting of police stations were available. Nearly all the prisons fell. The prison forces simply could not deal with such an onslaught and no reinforcements were available. Nearly every terrorist held in the Egyptian prisons from those that bombed the Alexandria Church less than a month ago to the Murderer of Anwar El Sadat was freed, the later reportedly being arrested again tonight.

On the streets of Cairo it was the scene of a jungle. With no law enforcement in town and the army at a loss at how to deal with it, it was the golden opportunity for everyone.

In a city that is surrounded with slums, thousands of thieves fell on their neighboring richer districts. People were robbed in broad daylight, houses were invaded, and stores looted and burned. Egypt had suddenly fallen back to the State of Nature.

Panicking, people started grabbing whatever weapon they could find and forming groups to protect their houses. As the day progressed the street defense committees became more organized.

Every building had its men standing in front of it with everything they could find from personal guns, knives to sticks. Women started preparing Molotov bombs using alcohol bottles.

Street committees started coordinating themselves. Every major crossroad had now groups of citizens stopping all passing cars checking their ID cards and searching the cars for weapons.

Machine guns were in high demand and were sold in the streets.”

 

– Sam Tadros, January 2, 2011, as quoted by The American Thinker.

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Obama and the Arab Spring

Obama and the Arab Spring is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

By George Friedman

U.S. President Barack Obama gave a speech last week on the Middle East. Presidents make many speeches. Some are meant to be taken casually, others are made to address an immediate crisis, and still others are intended to be a statement of broad American policy. As in any country, U.S. presidents follow rituals indicating which category their speeches fall into. Obama clearly intended his recent Middle East speech to fall into the last category, as reflecting a shift in strategy if not the declaration of a new doctrine.

While events in the region drove Obama’s speech, politics also played a strong part, as with any presidential speech. Devising and implementing policy are the president’s job. To do so, presidents must be able to lead — and leading requires having public support. After the 2010 election, I said that presidents who lose control of one house of Congress in midterm elections turn to foreign policy because it is a place in which they retain the power to act. The U.S. presidential campaign season has begun, and the United States is engaged in wars that are not going well. Within this framework, Obama thus sought to make both a strategic and a political speech. Read the rest of this entry »

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Raw Intelligence Report: A View from Syria

This report is published with the permission of Stratfor.

Editor’s Note: What follows is raw insight from a STRATFOR source in Syria. The following does not reflect STRATFOR’s view, but provides a perspective on the situation in Syria.

People are scared. An understatement, no doubt, but my friends — both foreign and Syrian — are worried about the developments. Almost all of my foreign friends are leaving and many have moved departing flights up in light of the recent events. Most Syrians don’t have this option and are weighing their options should sustained protests move to inner Damascus. Everyone is thinking along their sect even if they aren’t open about it. Much of the violence is attributed by Syrians to these mysterious “armed gangs.” Many are still placing hope in “Habibna” (literally “Our Love,” a nickname for the president) to bring about enough reforms to placate the demonstrators. A point that I was forced to make over and over is that a lot of the people protesting are doing so because someone they knew was killed and not because they were anti-government, although they are now. Privately, my Syrian friends admitted that Bashar [al Assad, the Syrian president] needs to make some major, major concessions quickly or risk continued protests and bloodshed of which would be attributed to him and not merely “the regime.”

By now we are all familiar with the cycle of protests reaching their high point on Fridays, after prayers. This Friday, however, was different for Syrians. Having seen the infamous emergency law lifted, albeit with serious caveats, Syrians were hoping for a relaxing of the security responses to the demonstrations. What they got was half as many demonstrators killed in one day as in all the days of demonstrations preceding it combined. It was almost as if things had been safer when the emergency law had been in effect. (On a side note, my friend guessed that maybe two out of every 100 Syrians could actually tell you what the emergency law was.) What was most striking about the demonstrations was that there were two in Damascus itself (Midan on Friday, April 22, and Berze on Saturday, April 23). While not in the city center these are by no means the far suburbs and countryside of Daraa or Douma. There were also protests in Muadamiyeh, which is right outside town next to the main bus station. I’ve heard that tanks along this road were seen April 24 pointing their guns not in the direction of the road but toward the city. The regime and everyone is terrified about protests in the city itself. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Arab Risings, Israel and Hamas

The Arab Risings, Israel and Hamas is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

By George Friedman

There was one striking thing missing from the events in the Middle East in past months: Israel. While certainly mentioned and condemned, none of the demonstrations centered on the issue of Israel. Israel was a side issue for the demonstrators, with the focus being on replacing unpopular rulers.

This is odd. Since even before the creation of the state of Israel, anti-Zionism has been a driving force among the Arab public, perhaps more than it has been with Arab governments. While a few have been willing to develop open diplomatic relations with Israel, many more have maintained informal relations: Numerous Arab governments have been willing to maintain covert relations with Israel, with extensive cooperation on intelligence and related matters. They have been unwilling to incur the displeasure of the Arab masses through open cooperation, however.

That makes it all the more strange that the Arab opposition movements — from Libya to Bahrain — have not made overt and covert cooperation with Israel a central issue, if for no other reason than to mobilize the Arab masses. Let me emphasize that Israel was frequently an issue, but not the central one. If we go far back to the rise of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and his revolution for Pan-Arabism and socialism, his issues against King Farouk were tightly bound with anti-Zionism. Similarly, radical Islamists have always made Israel a central issue, yet it wasn’t there in this round of unrest. This was particularly surprising with regimes like Egypt’s, which had formal relations with Israel. Read the rest of this entry »

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