بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِِ
الَّذِينَ يُبَلِّغُونَ رِسَالاَتِ اللهِ وَيَخْشَوْنَهُ وَلاَ يَخْشَوْنَ أَحَدًا إِلاَّ اللهَ وَكَفَى بِاللهِ حَسِيبًا

Isnin, Februari 28, 2011

Egypt/Turkey-Israel: ‘A Clean Break’

Source: Information Clearing House
By Eric Walberg

February 25, 2011 "MEO" -- While Egypt’s revolution was very much about domestic matters -- bread and butter, corruption, repression -- its most immediate effects have been international. Not for a long time has Egypt loomed so large in the region, to both friend and foe. At least 13 of the 22 Arab League countries are now affected: Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.

But just as powerful has been the resonance in Israel. It has no precedent for an assertive, democratic neighbour. Except for Turkey.

As the US was putting the finishing touches on NATO (established in April 1949), Turkey became the first Muslim nation to recognise Israel, in March 1949 (Iran did so a year later). Under the watchful eye of its military, Turkey and Israel had close diplomatic, economic and military relations throughout the Cold War.

The first hint of trouble was Turkey’s denunciation of “Israeli oppression” of the Palestinians in 1987, but it was not until the Justice and Development Party came to power in 2002 that a strong critical voice was heard. In 2004 Turkey denounced the Israeli assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin as a “terrorist act” and Israeli policy in the Gaza Strip as “state-sponsored terrorism”.

Saudi acquiescence to US-Israel hegemony is understandable because of the Saudi monarchy’s total reliance on the US dollar income from its oil. As US secretary of state Henry Kissinger told Business Week after Saudi Arabia defied the US with its oil embargo in support of Egypt in the 1973 war against Israel, any more such behaviour would lead to “massive political warfare against countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran to make them risk their political stability and maybe their security if they did not cooperate”.

His words were not idle. King Faisal, who had risked all to help the Egyptians and Palestinians, was assassinated shortly after that, and his act of defiance was the last peep heard from the Saudis. Or Egypt, which went on to make peace with Israel. Even as Turkey’s resistance to Israel has grown hotter, Israel continued to find comfort in the accommodating nature of president Hosni Mubarak’s rule, though it has been a “cold peace” between enemies.

Yes, enemies. For despite official relations and a trickle of photo ops of Egyptian-Israeli leaders shaking hands over the past three decades, 92 per cent Egyptians continued to view Israel as the enemy, according to a 2006 Egyptian government poll. Perhaps Mubarak also found maintaining good relations with Israel distasteful, but he complied with US wishes, getting the second largest US aid package (after Israel).

Current Israeli military strategy was honed in the early1980s, after the elimination of Egypt as a military threat. Two names are identified with it. Ariel Sharon announced publicly in 1981, shortly before invading Lebanon, that Israel no longer thought in terms of peace with its neighbours, but instead sought to widen its sphere of influence to the whole region “to include countries like Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and areas like the Persian Gulf and Africa, and in particular the countries of North and Central Africa”. This view of Israel as a regional superpower/ bully became known as the Sharon Doctrine.

Sharon’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 followed traditional imperialism’s strategy of direct invasion and co-opting of local elites, in this case a Christian one. But already this strongman policy was losing its appeal. It didn’t work for Israel in Lebanon. There was always the risk of a strongman turning against his patron or being overthrown.

The more extreme version of the new Israeli game plan to make Israel the regional hegemon was Oded Yinon’s “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980”. Yinon was nicknamed ‘sower of discord’ for his proposal to divide-and-conquer to create weak dependent statelets with some pretense of democracy, similar to the US strategy in Central America, which would fight among themselves and, if worse comes to worst and a populist leader emerges, be sabotaged easily – the Salvador Option. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah described the Israeli policy based on Yinon in 2007 as intended to create “a region that has been partitioned into ethnic and confessional states that are in agreement with each other. This is the new Middle East.”

Yinon was using as a model the Ottoman millet system where separate legal courts governed the various religious communities using Muslim Sharia, Christian Canon and Jewish Halakha laws. Lebanon would be divided into Sunni, Alawi, Christian and Druze states, Iraq divided into Sunni, Kurd and Shia states. The Saudi kingdom and Egypt would also be divided along sectarian lines, leaving Israel the undisputed master.

“Genuine coexistence and peace will reign over the land only when Arabs understand that without Jewish rule between Jordan and the sea they will have neither existence nor security.” Yinon correctly observed that the existing Middle East states set up by Britain following WWI&II were unstable and consisted of sizable minorities which could be easily incited to rebel. All the Gulf states are “built upon a delicate house of sand in which there is only oil”.

Following on Yinon’s strategy in 1982, Richard Perle’s 1996 “A Clean Break” states: “Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq – an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right.”

Israeli internal security minister Avi Dichter said shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003: “Weakening and isolating Iraq is no less important than weakening and isolating Egypt. Weakening and isolating Egypt is done by diplomatic methods while everything is done to do achieve a complete and comprehensive isolation to Iraq. Iraq has vanished as a military force and as a united country.”

According to Haaretz correspondent Aluf Benn writing on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Sharon and his cohorts “envision a domino effect, with the fall of Saddam Hussein followed by that of Israel’s other enemies: Arafat, Hassan Nasrallah, Bashar Assad, the ayatollah in Iran and maybe even Muhammar Gadaffi.” By presenting the US with facts-on-the-ground and using its US lobby, Israel would keep itself at the heart of American plans for the Middle East.

The invasion of Iraq was always intended as a prelude to the invasion of Iran. The Israeli logic, which is hard to fault, is that with Iraq now occupied, unstable and its inevitably pro-Iranian Shia majority asserting control, Iran has been strengthened, and that the same war plan against Iran is necessary to defeat the chief remaining regional anti-Israeli regime, which is now gathering support from not only Shia, but from Sunni opponents to the US-Israeli project throughout the Arab world. Ben Eliezer told the gathering: “They are twins, Iran and Iraq.”

Despite Turkish storm clouds on the horizon, until 25 January 2011, Israel’s plan was still to replace the Ottoman Turks of yore as the local imperial power. The Arab nations (prepared by British imperial divide-and-conquer and local-strongman policies) would be kept divided, weak, dependent now on Israel to ensure safe access to oil. An Israeli-style peace would break out throughout the region.

But this tangled web has unravelled. Despite the $36 billion poured into Egypt’s military and Americanisation of Egypt’s armed forces since the peace treaty with Israel, according to wikileaks-egypt.blogspot.com US officials complained of the “backward-looking nature of Egypt’s military posture” (read: Israel is still Egypt’s main enemy), that the army generals remained resistant to change and economic reforms to further dismantle central government power.

Egyptian Minister of Defence Muhammad Tantawi “has resisted any change to usage of FMF [foreign military financing] funding and has been the chief impediment to transforming the military’s mission to meet emerging security threats.” In plain language, Egypt’s de facto head of state was criticised by the US because he refused to go along with the new US-Israeli strategy which would incorporate Egypt’s defence into a broader NATO war against “asymmetric threats” (read: the “war on terror”) and to acquiesce to Israel as the regional hegemon.

Mubarak was the Egyptian strongman that fit Sharon’s strategy for the region. But he was overthrown in a truly unforeseen manner -- by the people. Yinon’s divide-and-rule strategy -- in the case of Egypt, by inciting Muslim against Copt -- has also come to naught with the popular revolution here, one of its symbols being the crescent and cross.

There has indeed been “a clean break” with the past, but not the one foreseen by Perle. His scheme can be rephrased as: Egypt and Turkey can shape their strategic environment, in cooperation with Syria and Lebanon, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Israel. As for Dichter’s hubris, it is impossible at this point to see what the future holds for Iraq, but it will not be what he had in mind. And Iran can now breathe a sigh of relief.

A year and a half ago, an Israel Navy submarine crossed the Suez Canal to the Red Sea, where it conducted an exercise, reflecting the strategic cooperation between Israel and Egypt, aimed at sending a message of deterrence to Iran. Just one week after the fall of Mubarak, the canal is being used to deliver a message of deterrence – but this time the message is for Israel, as Iranian warships cross the canal on their way to Syrian ports.

Nor are the upheavals across the Arab world at present following the sectarian scenario envisioned by Yinon. Even the Shia uprising in Bahrain is more about an oppressive neocolonial monarchy, originally imposed by the British, than about Shia-Sunni hostility.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has expressed fears about Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood “undermining the peace treaty” which 85 per cent of Israelis approve of. But he need not fear. While Egyptians have no love for Israel, none contemplate another war against what is clearly a more powerful and ruthless neighbour.

What really hurts for the Likudniks is the new Egypt in cooperation with the new Turkey will put paid to the Sharon/ Yinon strategy for establishing Israel as the regional empire. It will have to join the comity of nations not as a ruthless bully, but as a responsible partner.

Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/

Source: Information Clearing House

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Jumaat, Februari 25, 2011

Gaddafi's son denies crackdown; loyalists reportedly continue attacks

Source: The Washington Post
By Leila Fadel, Ernesto Londono and Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Foreign Service

Moammar Gaddafi has ruled Libya for more than 40 years. Now, he is strongly rejecting opposition demands that he give up power, as anti-government demonstrators continue to push for his ouster. (Photo: John Moore / AP)

BAIDA, LIBYA - Moammar Gaddafi's son denied Thursday that Libya has killed large numbers of protesters through airstrikes and other attacks, while a former top Gaddafi aide said he quit the government to protest its violent crackdown.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Gaddafi's son, disputed the death tolls that have have been reported since the protests began 10 days ago, saying allegations that hundreds have been killed are a "joke."

"Tripoli is quiet," he said in an interview aired on Libyan state television. "Life is normal."

The junior Gaddafi said Libya intends to provide Western journalists on Friday access to Tripoli, the capital, and other cities, so they can corroborate the government's claim that the country remains under Gaddafi's control.

The U.S. State Department issued a warning to Western journalists who have entered Libya in recent days without government permission. Citing information received from top Libyan officials, the warning said some members of CNN, BBC Arabic and al-Arabiya would be allowed into the country, but any reporters not approved by the government as part of that effort would be considered al-Qaeda "collaborators."

"The Libyan government said that it was not responsible for the safety of these journalists, who risked immediate arrest on the full range of possible immigration charges," the State Department warning said.

Libya appears dangerously fractured, with Gaddafi's regime intent on fighting but its authority beyond Tripoli in doubt. The longtime ruler has tightened his grip on the capital, witnesses say, by flooding the streets with militiamen and loyalist troops who were reportedly roaming the streets and shooting opponents from SUVs.

Rebels who launched an uprising last week have consolidated their control of key eastern cities, however, and continued advancing west across the coastal strip, where most of the country's population is clustered. The opposition has called for a large protest Friday.

In the city of Zawiya, 30 miles west of Tripoli, an army unit attacked a mosque where protesters had been stationed for several days, a witness told the Associated Press. The soldiers opened fire with automatic weapons and hit the mosque's minaret with anti-aircraft missiles, the witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

He told the AP there were casualties, but couldn't provide exact figures. Some of the young men among the protesters had hunting rifles, he said. He said a day earlier an envoy from Gaddafi had come to the city and warned protesters, "Either leave or you will see a massacre."

"What is happening is horrible, those who attacked us are not the mercenaries; they are sons of our country," the witness said, sobbing. After the assault, thousands massed in the city's main Martyrs Square, shouting "leave, leave," in reference to Gaddafi, he said.

The other attack came at a small airport outside Misrata, Libya's third-largest city, where rebels claimed control on Wednesday, AP reported. Militiamen on Thursday attacked a line of residents who were protecting the facility, opening fire with rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, said a resident who saw the assault.

"They left piles of human remains and swamp of blood," the resident told the Associated Press. "The hospitals are packed with those killed and injured."

In Cairo, a cousin and close adviser to Gaddafi said he had defected from the regime to protest its crackdown on the uprising, the Associated Press reported. Gadhaf al-Dam, who arrived in Egypt several days ago, is a member of the Libyan leader's inner circle, handling Libyan-Egyptian relations.

Dam said in a statement that the crackdown has seen "grave violations to human rights and human and international laws," AP reported. He said he left Libya "in protest and to show disagreement."

Oil prices hit $100 a barrel because of the turmoil in the North African oil exporter, a peak not reached since 2008. In Washington and other capitals, attention turned to the possible responses to the crackdown, including economic sanctions or imposition of a no-flight zone over Libya to prevent the use of aircraft against civilians.

In Washington, President Obama said the United States was developing a "full range of options" and would intensify discussions with other nations to address the violent unraveling of Gaddafi's regime.

"The suffering and bloodshed are outrageous and unacceptable," Obama said. The Libyan government "must be held accountable for its failure . . . and face the cost of continued violations of human rights."

But enormous questions remained about whether any foreign powers could wield the influence necessary to head off Libya's dizzying plunge into disorder, much less persuade Gaddafi to reconsider his vow to fight to the death in defense of his 41-year-old regime.

The independent organization Human Rights Watch has estimated that 300 people have been killed in a week of clashes, although some Libyan opposition groups and Western diplomats have said that they fear the figure may be much larger.

A 600-passenger ferry chartered by the U.S. government was in Libya to evacuate U.S. citizens to the nearby island of Malta, but its departure has been delayed by turbulent weather.

Residents reached by telephone in Tripoli on Wednesday said Gaddafi's loyalists appeared to have reclaimed control of the capital after several days of skirmishes. Stores and offices were shut down, the residents said, while blue-uniformed militiamen set up checkpoints and regime loyalists cleaned up graffiti calling for him to step down.

But opposition groups appeared to have taken control of cities across a broad swath of northern Libya that stretched hundreds of miles from Tobruk, near the Egyptian border, to as far as Misurata, 120 miles east of the capital. The loosely organized opposition protected key roads and government installations, with men in fluorescent orange vests patrolling the area, armed with sticks or rocket-propelled grenades.

A state-run radio station previously known as Eastern Radio was under the control of opposition groups, which renamed it Free Radio. In and around Baida, along the northern coast west of Tobruk, the once-omnipresent portraits of Gaddafi had been ripped down or burned.

"Oh Moammar, dictator, it's your turn now," people chanted.

There was ample evidence of recent fighting in Baida. Buildings on Revolution Street were pocked with bullet holes. At La Braq Airport, spent ammunition from rifles and antiaircraft rounds littered the ground. Civilians and defected soldiers climbed on tanks and blocked the runways to stop planes from landing - a precaution, residents said, after people were gunned down last week by purported mercenaries flown in from elsewhere in Africa.

The ability of the rebels to swiftly push west suggested that Libya's powerful tribes, long a beneficiary of Gaddafi's patronage, were turning against him. In recent days, tribal leaders have declared their support for the opposition after Gaddafi's use of warplanes and helicopter gunships to kill hundreds of protesters.

Indeed, the eastern tribes have long complained of being denied a share of Libya's wealth and resources, and eastern cities such as Benghazi have been bastions of opposition. Such grievances led to a revolt in the 1990s and underpinned the ongoing rebellion that began in Benghazi last week, in a country of as many as 140 tribes.

The east's al-Zuwayya tribe threatened to shut down oil production unless authorities stopped the "oppression of the protesters." The Warfala, one of the country's biggest and most influential tribes, has also reportedly joined the opposition. The tribe controls areas around Tripoli.

"We are seeing more and more tribal defections. A lot of police and military in Tobruk, Benghazi and other eastern cities defected because their tribal leaders had ordered them," Ronald Bruce St. John, an author and expert on Libya, said in a telephone interview. "I think you will see more and more in western Libya."

So far, St. John said, it appears that the major tribes in and around Tripoli continue to support Gaddafi.

The signs of a widening rebellion in eastern Libya came as more senior military commanders and government officials defected. The Libyan newspaper Quryna reported that an air force pilot bailed out of his Soviet-made warplane and allowed it to crash rather than following an order to bomb Benghazi.

Residents of Tripoli said a sense of fear pervaded the capital.

"We have been indoors for the past three days," said Rahma, a Libyan American reached by telephone, who insisted that her last name not be used to avoid any retribution. "Tripoli is like a ghost town, as if nobody exists here."

She said her father, also a U.S. citizen, had been detained during an anti-government demonstration a few days ago in front of Tripoli's courthouse and was being held at a hospital on a military base. She said she fears for his safety after listening to Gaddafi's speech, in which he threatened to execute anyone going against the regime.

"We don't know what's going to happen to him," Rahma said.

She said two sons of a neighbor were killed at a protest. The next day, Rahma said, the neighbor placed a green Libyan national flag by her house to show support for Gaddafi and avoid being targeted by his loyalists.


Londono reported from Cairo. Wilgoren reported from Washington. Correspondent Sudarsan Raghavan contributed reporting from Sanaa, Yemen. Staff writer Howard Schneider in Washington contributed to this report.

Source: The Washington Post

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Khamis, Februari 24, 2011

Dictators are crumbling and Kingdoms are shaking

Source: IslamiCity.com
By Dr. Aslam Abdullah

The televised brutality against unarmed civilians seeking their dignity as seen in Egypt, and now in Bahrain and Libya is neither shocking nor unexpected. In many of the Middle Eastern countries the security forces, drawn mainly from tribes loyal to the elites, are hired to protect rulers at every cost and they have done what they were paid to do. In Egypt, the security forces showed some restraint because of the pressure that came from several US army generals under whose command many of the Egyptian military officials were trained. The US army did not want to be openly seen as an accomplice of the crimes against the people of Egypt. In Bahrain and Libya, the situation is different as the US army has little at stake there.

However, what is shocking is the perpetual silence of the leadership of various Islamic movements and Muslim intellectuals all over the world on these known and unknown acts of violence. Major Islamic seminaries in South Asia and South East Asia as well as in the Gulf are quiet. Known Islamic groups have avoided talking about people's right to dissent openly.

With the exception of a few Muslim organizations in the US and abroad, not many have spoken against the violence. Even here, Muslim organizations are reluctant to put their full weight in favor of democratic reforms. They are keen to enjoy the benefit of democracy in America and Europe but are skeptical about democratic reforms in countries with Muslim majority. The debate among some Muslim groups still focuses on the legitimacy of democracy as a form of government within Islamic thought. Many still believe that democracy stands opposite to the concept of divine authority, a position that was expounded recently by Ayman Al-Zawahiri in a statement issued after the departure of Hosni Mubarak from Egypt.

The despotism, the dictatorship and the monarchy practiced in almost every Gulf country and most Muslim majority nations, are nothing new. For almost seven decades, the rulers in those countries have been thriving on coercion and the violation of human rights. They have justified their rule by enlisting the support of a religious leadership that often misuse the Quran and the teachings of the prophet to denounce people's participation in matters of government.

Many Islamic movements and Muslim intellectuals ignore this reality conveniently. The reason is very simple. A number of these movements and individuals were and are still heavily financed by groups and businesses who have close ties with the regime. Some of the leading Muslim institutions in the Muslim world receive funds, directly or indirectly from various corrupt regimes.

During the last seven decades, these rulers have promoted a version of Islam, through financing Islamic institutions all over the world, that promotes sectarianism, factionalism and divisions on the basis of juristic interpretations of Islam. The religious hierarchy that backed them has succeeded in creating a theology that supports the rulers and denounces any attempt on the part of people to seek their dignity. Much of the religious literature that is in circulation in various languages of the world come from outfits that owe their existence to religious groups and businesses owing allegiance to the rulers.

What is ironic is that the opposition of such attempts mainly come from individuals and groups who are backed by the political opponents of the regimes or are the opportunists. Regional political rivalries have played up their conflicts. The Quran and the teachings of the Prophet were always misused by these groups to denounce the other. What an irony that the dictator of Iraq used the name of God to kill his opponents who in turn invoked the name of the same God to promote violence against the supporters of the ruler. When religious hierarchy is itself involved in misusing the faith to serve the political interests what can be expected of the masses?

Not many have tried to question the legitimacy of the regimes on the basis of their understanding of the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet objectively. On the contrary, they have projected the rulers as the shadow of God on earth quoting the Prophet to remain loyal to the elites even if they are wrong.

The Quran states very clearly that human dignity is the cornerstone of a healthy human society. Without ensuring the dignity, people cannot achieve their highest potential. Tribalism, feudalism, racism and ethnicism as well as class based differences are visible in the Muslim world, especially in the Gulf. Despite the claim of Islamic egalitarianism, there exists discrimination, and injustice in every aspect of social life. Labor laws are non-existent. Laws that could protect the dignity of women are absent. Laws that would prevent child labor are no where to be found. The right to dissent is not accepted as a legitimate Islamic concept. Even slavery can be found in pockets of the Muslim world.

Despite the emphasis of the Quran on the preservation of human rights and religious tolerance and freedom, rulers and their supporters twist the Quranic verses to justify every act of indecency.

Those who speak up against these injustices are either often declared heretics or foreign agents or ignorant of true Islam. Obviously, these labels justify their elimination from the society either politically or physically.

The situation is not going to last for ever. The betrayal of the so called Islamic movements and Muslim intellectuals will not prevent the younger generation to take matters in its hand. The access to information including religious information has empowered many people to take a genuine stand on issues and pay the price for that. By 2020, some 60 per cent of the Muslim world population would comprise of youth under the age of 30. This generation will refuse to live under suppression, and injustice. It would not accept the lack of human dignity and human rights as the general norm of the society. It will not tolerate the humiliation of women as well as men based on their gender or class or ethnicity. This generation has risen and will continue to rise demanding changes that will shake the Muslim world to the core. The thrones are shaking and the crowns are falling. It is time that those who have been on the side of injustice realize their wrongs and join hands with those who are seeking change.

It is time to realize that we Muslims are responsible for what has happened to us in the last several decades. We allowed it to happen to us. We allowed suppression and injustice to dominate us at the cost of our dignity. We played in the hands of the power elites and their backers in religious and business and academic circles. We supported the rulers by bowing before them in every sense of the term.

If we are responsible for the situation we alone can change it. Let us seek clarification from our religious hierarchy and religious organizations on people's legitimate rights to govern themselves and the illegitimate rule of despots, dictators and monarchs. We must not remain silent. In every Islamic circle, we must demand explanation for the silence of several decades. Those who who misled us to believe that human dignity and human rights can be compromised for the comfort of rulers have no right to continue to lead us in religious or social affairs. The revolt is coming. It is not only against corrupt rulers but also against those religious scholars too who are accomplice in the crimes against people.

Dr. Aslam Abdullah is editor in chief of the weekly Muslim Observer and director of the Islamic Society of Nevada.

Source: IslamiCity.com

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Selasa, Februari 22, 2011

The Veto and the Case for Impeaching President Obama

Source: Information Clearing House
By Alan Hart

February 21, 2011 "Information Clearing House" -- Never before has an American President’s fear of offending the Zionist lobby and its stooges in Congress been so exposed as it was by Obama’s decision to veto the Security Council resolution condemning continued, illegal Israeli settlement activities on the occupied West Bank and demanding that Israel “immediately and completely cease” all such activities. In a different America – an informed America – some might think, I do, that Obama should be impeached. The charge? TREASON.

After she had exercised the Obama administration’s first veto, the plea made by U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice for understanding of America’s position could not have been more absurd. “Our opposition to the resolution before this Council today should not be misunderstood to mean that we support settlement activity. On the contrary, we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity.”

So why the veto? Ambassador Rice said:
“The United States has been deeply committed to pursuing a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, In that context, we have been focused on taking steps that advance the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security, rather than complicating it. That includes a commitment to work in good faith with all parties to underscore our opposition to continued settlements.”

What nonsense! If the Obama administration really wanted to underscore its stated opposition to Israel’s on-going colonization of the occupied West Bank including Arab East Jerusalem, there was no better or more effective way of doing so than voting for the resolution or abstaining. In either case the resolution would have passed and that would have opened the door to real global pressure on Israel if it continued to defy international law.

As for advancing the goal of a two-state solution, the Obama administration has done the opposite. By allowing Israel to continue its illegal settlement activities and consolidate its occupation, it, the Obama administration, has helped to guarantee that there can never be a viable Palestinian state living side by side with an Israel inside its borders as they were on the eve of the 1967 war.

In the context of the conflict in and over Palestine that became Israel, the only thing to which the Obama administration has been deeply committed is not provoking the wrath of the Zionist lobby and its stooges in Congress and the mainstream media. For all practical purposes Obama has surrendered policy making on Israel-Palestine to this lobby. (The veto marked the complete surrender).

The essence of the problem this presents can be simply stated. The Zionist lobby’s agenda – unquestioning support for Israel right or wrong – is not in America’s own best interests. (In reality it is not in anybody’s best interests including those of Israeli Jews and the Jews of the world).

As I pointed out on I February in my post Crunch time coming for America in the Middle East?, what all Arab peoples want is not only an end to corruption and repression and a better life in their own countries. They also want an end to the humiliation caused by Israel’s arrogance of power and American support for it.

It is clear that the manifestations of Arab people power the world is witnessing were not instigated by Islamist extremist groups and are spontaneous protests with demands by citizens from all sections of civil society. So at the present time that is no evidence to suggest that change brought about by people power in Arab states will create more cover, more scope and more popular support for extremist and violent forces which use and abuse Islam in much the same way as Zionists use and abuse Judaism. But this could change, in my view will change, if America goes on supporting Israel right or wrong. In other words, the more the administration in Washington D.C. is perceived by the Arab street as being complicit in the Zionist state’s defiance of international law and crimes, the more American interests and citizens are likely to be targeted and hit.

The American Constitution states that a president can be impeached and removed from office for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanours.”
In my view a president who allows a lobby group to put the interests of a foreign power above those of the country of which they are citizens, and who by doing so puts his fellow citizens more in harm’s way than they otherwise would be, is guilty of treason. (And all the more so when the American-Jewish lobby in question does not speak for more than about a third, and possibly only a quarter, of America’s mainly silent and deeply troubled Jews)


The admirable and courageous Gideon Levy, the conscience of Israeli journalism, has a brilliant article (which I have tweeted) in today’s Ha’aretz with the headline With settlement veto resolution, Obama has joined Likud.

And this is how Gideon concluded his piece:

“If the U.S. had been a responsible superpower, it would have voted for the resolution on Friday to rouse Israel from its dangerous sleep. Instead, we got a hostile veto from Washington, shouts of joy from Jerusalem and a party that will end very badly for both.”

Source: Information Clearing House

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Moammar Gadhafi’s Son Warns “Stop The Protest Or Face Civil War & Colonialism” (Video)

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Libya defectors: Pilots told to bomb protesters flee to Malta

As Muammar Gadaffi's ambassadors and most of Libya's UN mission resign, two air force pilots escape rather than obey orders

Source: guardian.co.uk
John Hooper in Rome and Ian Black

Two civilian helicopters, which landed without authorisation after leaving Libya, at Malta International Airport. Photograph: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

Two high-ranking Libyan air force pilots have who fled to Malta in their aircraft are reported to have told officials they escaped rather than carry out orders to bomb civilians.

The officers defected as Libyan diplomats in several countries and international organisations resigned in protest at the regime's violent response to the deepening crisis. They included Muammar Gaddafi's ambassadors to China, India, Indonesia and Poland, as well as Libya's representative to the Arab League and most, if not all, of its mission at the United Nations.

Omar Jelban, head of the London People's Bureau, flatly denied an al-Jazeera report he too had quit. Jelban was earlier called to the Foreign Office to hear what William Hague, the foreign secretary, called "our absolute condemnation of the use of lethal force against demonstrators".

The two Mirage F1 jets touched down in Malta after the pilots said they urgently needed to refuel and sought emergency clearance to land. The Times of Malta reported on its website the pilots had told officials they flew to the island after being ordered to bomb protesters occupying Libya's second-biggest city of Benghazi.

One report said they had also brought with them two other members of the Libyan armed forces. The pilots – both colonels – said that, after taking off from Okba Ben Nafi base, they flew low through Libyan air space to avoid radar detection.

The pilots were being questioned by Maltese police who were also trying to identify seven other people who landed from Libya in two civilian helicopters shortly before the arrival of the jets. The helicopters took off from Libya without official clearance and a source in Malta said they appeared to have been in haste, with only one of the seven people aboard carrying a passport.

All seven said they were French. The helicopters' passengers said they were working on an oil platform off Benghazi when the violence in Libya erupted.

The two military jets were at Malta international airport near Valletta, away from the commercial area.

A spokesman for Libya's delegation at the UN told Reuters its members had declared their allegiance to Libya's people, not the government. The spokesman, Dia al-Hotmani, said: "The members of the Libyan mission are representing only the Libyan people and not anyone else."

The deputy UN ambassador told the BBC: "All the Libyan people want Gaddafi to go." Other members of the UN mission had said they were resigning to support anti-government protesters: "We are aware that this will put our families back home in danger, but they are in danger anyway," said member Adam Tarbah.

In New Delhi, Ali al-Essawi accused his government of deploying foreign mercenaries against protesters. And three local employees of the Libyan embassy in Sweden said they had quit in protest.

"It would be hypocritical to assist the Libyan government while we see them attacking people in the streets," said Sayed Jalabi.

Source: guardian.co.uk

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Top Sunni cleric says army should kill Kadhafi

Source: AFP

Yusuf al-Qaradawi (AFP)

DOHA — Influential Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi issued a fatwa on Monday that any Libyan soldier who can shoot dead embattled leader Moamer Kadhafi should do so "to rid Libya of him."

"Whoever in the Libyan army is able to shoot a bullet at Mr Kadhafi should do so," Qaradawi, an Egyptian-born cleric who is usually based in Qatar, told Al-Jazeera television.

He also told Libyan soldiers "not to obey orders to strike at your own people," and urged Libyan ambassadors around the world to dissociate themselves from Kadhafi's regime.

Famous in the Middle East for his at times controversial fatwas, or religious edicts, the octogenarian Qaradawi has celebrity status in the Arab world thanks to his religious broadcasts on Al-Jazeera.

He has in the past defended "violence carried out by certain Muslims."

The West accuses the cleric of supporting "terrorism" because he sanctioned Palestinian suicide attacks in Israel. Britain and the United States have refused to grant him entry visas.

The cleric, spiritual leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and longtime resident of Qatar, heads the International Union for Muslim Scholars.

Source: AFP

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Source: Intifada
Sami Moubayed

Muammar Gaddafi reportedly went into severe depression when his long-time friend and colleague, Saddam Hussain, was toppled by US troops in 2003. Gaddafi’s U-turn was quick — he immediately opened his country to United Nations inspectors, turned a new page with the US, and formally took the blame for the infamous 1988 Lockerbie bombings, agreeing to pay up to $2.7 billion (Dh9.90 billion) to the families of the 270 victims.

The same cannot be said for the more than 200 Libyan citizens who were murdered in cold blood over the past week of demonstrations that have swept Libya, picking up a contagious momentum that started in Tunisia last January.

If the lives of the Lockerbie victims were worth nearly $10 million each, those of Gaddafi’s own citizens are seemingly worth nothing — as far as the Libyan leadership is concerned.

Gaddafi, strangely enough, did not see it coming and still refuses to believe that his time has run out. When addressing the people of Tunisia days after Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali — another friend and colleague — was toppled from the presidency by a popular revolt in January, Gaddafi said that such things don’t happen in Libya “because people are the ones who govern!”

It was a classic case of a leader blinded by power, who has been around for too long, and who seemingly believes the many stories, or should we say lies, that he has fed his people for 42 unbearable years.

One of them is that he is not president of Libya, but “Big Brother Muammar”. Another is that Libya is a democracy that is run by the people, known as popular committees.

The 69-year-old Gaddafi also probably believed that after restoring his relations with the US, portraying himself as a strategic ally in the war on terror after 9-11, and silencing all opposition at home, it was impossible for an ‘Egypt scenario’ to be repeated in Libya.

When it did, Gaddafi showed his true colours, this time, refusing to believe that it was ‘Game over Brother Muammar’.

The images coming out of Libya — where there is no international media covering the massacre — are horrendous. What is uglier than the bloodbath is the haunting silence of Libyan officialdom.

Over 200 people have reportedly been killed and the local morgue in Benghazi and Al Bayda can no longer accommodate the rising death toll. Prisons have been invaded in the chaos, and thousands of criminals have been set free to loot Libyan homes.

Gaddafi has hired African mercenaries to come and kill his own countrymen, and is already using all kinds of weapons, ranging from machine guns on helicopters to cannon fire, to kill young Libyans.

He has cleaned gasoline out of Benghazi to make sure that demonstrators cannot commute to Tripoli. The waters of Benghazi have reportedly been contaminated by his men, and there is a fear he will resort to chemical weapons against groups that have taken the name ‘Grandsons of Omar Al Mukhtar’.

Gaddafi cannot understand how much the world has changed since he came to power four decades ago, and yet, how some things never change. It was street power, after all, that helped him bring down the ageing monarch Idris II back in 1969. The young demonstrators he is killing today are of the same age he had been (only 27) when he decided to impose “regime change” on his country.

The young men and women back then and now, are fed up with nepotism, corruption, and autocracy. Bin Ali tried to silence the demonstration by force but fell 29 days later. Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak — yet another Gaddafi friend and colleague — lasted for only 18 days.

What Gaddafi is probably thinking is that he can muscle down the Libyan street, forcing it into submission if maximum pain is inflicted on anybody who opposes him.

Gaddafi probably thinks that after surviving the April 1986 US raid on Libya, where many civilians were killed (including his adopted daughter), and the gripping sanctions of the 1990s, he can probably survive anything else.

The man has survived every US president since Richard Nixon, and if people thought Mubarak had been around for way too long, Gaddafi has outlived three Egyptian presidents.

Gaddafi has recently been re-branded as a “friend of the West” receiving former British prime minister Tony Blair, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.

He has failed to digest that western friendships do not really matter when the curtain falls. The adventurer in him — who refuses to cope with changes of the 21st century — will probably stay in power until either arrested in a military coup or harmed by a Libyan demonstrator, who one day, may storm his palace — as the 1958 case of Iraq’s prime minister Nouri Al Said being murdered by the mob.

He will continue to fire until then, regardless of the death toll or public opinion, and will never flee like Bin Ali, or resign like Mubarak.

Source: Intifada

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Gaddafi's son Seif wounded in gunfire, dictator has fled: Muslim Brotherhood

Source: International Business Times
By IB Times Staff Reporter

Saif al-Islam, son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, speaks during an address on state television in Tripoli, in this still image taken from video, February 20, 2011 (Photo: REUTERS)

Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, who has been leading the campaign to quell the popular uprising that has reportedly led to the fleeing of his father, has been wounded in gunfire, the Muslim Brotherhood has said citing unofficial reports. The report also says Gaddafi, his wife and daughter have fled the country.

The frontline Egyptian Opposition group that took an active role in the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, said in its website on Monday that 38-year-old Seif al-Islam, the second son of Gaddafi, has been wounded in gunfire, but gave no further details.

"Unofficial reports proliferating that Seif al-Islam Gaddafi wounded by gunfire, while his father has fled with his wife and daughter," the website said in a terse report on the unfolding events in Libya, where more than 200 people have been reportedly killed ever since anti-government protests erupted last week.

Rumors have been rife over the weekend that the flashy dictator, who has been in power for more than 41 years, has run away to Venezuela.

If true, the latest piece of information points to the failure of Gaddafi clan's attempt to quell the popular revolt on behalf of their father.

Seif al-Islam, who was appointed by Gaddafi as General Coordinator in 2009, warned over the weekend that a "civil war" was imminent in the country and that the country would see "rivers of blood" if violence continued.

Seif, who earned a PhD from the London School of Economics, is seen as a moderate figure in the Gaddafi household and has been active as a human rights advocate.

Source: International Business Times

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Death Toll Soars in Bahrain as Protesters Attacked Near Hospital

Doctors Report Army Snipers in the Streets as Police Block Medics

Source: AntiWar.com
By Jason Ditz

Bahraini MPs (nearly half of whom resigned yesterday) are calling again for the immediate ouster of the monarchy and the entire government as what started as peaceful protests on Friday turned into yet another bloodbath.

The protesters were marching on the hospital, where hundreds of wounded were taken after the overnight massacre in Pearl Square, when they were met on a residential street by a large number of military forces, including tanks, who opened fire using live rounds just 300 meters from the hospital.

This led to another influx of wounded into the already overwhelmed hospital, before the military and police decided to start blocking the medical teams from bringing in additional casualties. This has left scores if not hundreds of victims in the streets, within visual range of the nation’s largest hospital but with no hope of the hospital’s crews reaching them.

Doctors reported that amongst the hundreds of new casualties most were shot in the head or chest, and that a large number of the wounds appear consistent with sniper attack. The overall death toll of today’s attacks is unclear, of course, with large numbers of bodies still in the streets, but the hospitals have confirmed at least 10 additional dead so far.

Source: AntiWar.com

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Report: Egypt has approved Iran warships to use Suez Canal

This would be first time since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution that Iranian ships have used Suez; U.S. says they are monitoring the ships and criticize Iran's 'track record' in the region.

Source: HAARETZ.com
By News Agencies

The Suez Canal. Photo by: AP

Egypt has approved the passage of two Iranian warships through the Suez Canal, a source said on Friday, a move that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman described as "provocative".

"Egypt has agreed to the passage of two Iranian ships through the Suez Canal," the security source told Reuters.

State TV and the official news agency subsequently reported the news, without citing sources. An army source earlier said the Defense Ministry was considering a request by the Iranians to allow the naval ships to cross the strategic waterway.

Iranian officials have said that the request is in line with international regulations.

The United States is monitoring the possible transit of the Iranian ships and does not believe Iran has behaved responsibly in the region, the White House said on Friday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, briefing reporters on an Air Force One flight from California to Oregon, said, "We're monitoring that, obviously."

"But we also would say that Iran does not have a great track record of responsible behavior in the region," he said.

It is believed to be the first time since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution that Iranian warships are attempting to pass through the Suez Canal, which links the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

Iranian officials have said the two vessels, currently in international waters, are headed to Syria for training.

Egypt has been run by an army-led transition government since last week's ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising. Iran's request could pose the first diplomatic dilemma for Egypt's new rulers.

A Suez Canal official said Egypt can only deny transit through the waterway in case of war.

Earlier this week, Lieberman said Iran's attempt to send warships through the canal is a provocation.

"To my regret, the international community is not showing readiness to deal with the recurring Iranian provocations. The international community must understand that Israel cannot forever ignore these provocations," the foreign minister said.

Israel considers Iran an existential threat because of its disputed nuclear program, ballistic missile development, support for militants in the region and its threats to destroy Israel.

Israel has accused Syria and Iran in the past of paying for and smuggling weapons to the Lebanese Shi'ite group, Hezbollah, which fought a war with Israel in 2006.

Source: HAARETZ.com

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Khamis, Februari 10, 2011

Egypt protests draw largest crowd yet in defiance of Mubarak regime

Hundreds of thousands of protesters across Egypt in biggest show of defiance to Mubarak since revolt began.

Source: Middle East Online
By Guillaume Lavallee - CAIRO

Getting stronger and stronger

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators flooded Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square and towns across Egypt on Tuesday, in the biggest show of defiance to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak since the revolt began.

In Cairo, the immense crowd hailed as a hero a charismatic cyberactivist and Google executive whose Facebook site helped kickstart the protest movement on January 25 and who has since been detained and held blindfolded for 12 days.

Many protesters carried the symbols of the Internet social networks Facebook and Twitter, which have become vital mobilising tools for the opposition thanks to online campaigners like Google executive Wael Ghonim.

"I like to call it the Facebook Revolution but after seeing the people right now, I would say this is the Egyptian people's revolution. It's amazing," he said, after he was mobbed by adoring supporters in the crowd.

"Egyptians deserve a better life. Today one of those dreams has actually come true, which is actually putting all of us together and as one hand believing in something," he said.

Ghonim has become a hero to many in the protest movement, having started one of its most popular Facebook sites and been seized by the regime on January 27.

"I'm not a hero, you are the heroes, you're the ones who stayed on this square," Ghonim told the crowd that surged around him, many weeping, clapping and shouting: "Long live Egypt, long live Egypt!"

Earlier, the regime had issued a decree forming a committee to oversee constitutional changes ahead of elections due later this year.

"The president welcomed the national consensus, confirming we are on the right path to getting out of the current crisis," said Vice President Omar Suleiman, whom many now see as the effective power behind the throne.

"A clear road map has been put in place with a set timetable to realise a peaceful and organised transfer of power," he promised, in a televised address.

The vice president has begun meeting representatives of some opposition parties -- including the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, but not some of the street protest groups -- to draw up plans for a democratic transition.

Mubarak has vowed not to stand for re-election in September, but opposition groups say any vote to replace the 82-year-old strongman would not be fair under Egypt's current constitution.

While larger crowds gather daily to protest, several thousand occupy Tahrir Square day and night, sleeping under plastic sheets or under army tanks.

"Patriotic songs about the country used to sound exaggerated, but we own the country now," said 34-year-old doctor Issam Shebana, who came back from Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates to staff a makeshift clinic in the square.

"Yesterday, one man in his 60s said: 'We were cowards. We kept quiet all these years, but you've done it.' It's inspiring. It's a rebirth," he said. "I never thought I'd sleep on asphalt with rain on my face and feel happy."

On Monday, Mubarak tried to buy time, pledging to raise public sector wages by 15 percent and ordering a probe into deadly violence that has left at least 300 people dead in the course of 15 days of protests.

"They announced a pay increase. They are trying to fool us. This is a political bribe to silence people," snorted 36-year-old demonstrator Mohammed Nizar as he queued patiently to join the crowds in Tahrir.

There have been reports Mubarak could seek medical leave in Germany, but Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: "I am not currently aware of such a request and therefore see no reason ... to contribute to the speculation."

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said it was "critical" the Egyptian government fulfil its promises and move ahead with an orderly democratic transition after days of mass street protests.

Western capitals have generally stopped short of calling for Mubarak to go, urging instead cautious reforms, but French Defence Minister Alain Juppe said it was now time to "bet on the emergence of democratic forces".

Source: Middle East Online

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Saudi consultative council likely to debate allowing women to drive

Saudi Arabia's consultative council will soon discuss a proposal to allow women to drive

Source: GulfNews.com
By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Manama: Saudi Arabia's consultative council will soon discuss a proposal to allow women to drive, a local daily said.

The likely debate of the highly controversial issue was prompted by a petition from 128 Saudi men and women who urged Shaikh Abdullah Bin Mohammad Al Shaikh, the council chairman, to launch discussions about the right of Saudi women to obtain a driving licence and drive, Al Yawm reported.

"As there are many Saudi women who drive in other countries, they should be allowed to do the same in their own country," the petition said. "We do not think that you or any other citizen would accept to see a Saudi woman on the side of the road begging a taxi driver to take her to hospital for instance," the petitioners said in their letter to Shaikh Abdullah.

The petitioners said that the law allowing women to drive should be accompanied by a set of strict rules that stipulate harsh action against males who harass them or annoy them as they drive.

"Stringent actions should include detention and prison terms as well as high fines so that no one would dare to bother women drivers," the petition said.

Other measures include setting up driving schools for women and opening offices in the traffic buildings that would deal exclusively with women, the petitioners said.

Initial reactions to the report in the Saudi daily ranged between support for the petition to outright opposition, the daily reported this week.

Those who were against the petition said that allowing women to drive would result in new social and family problems.

"Allowing women to drive means an increase in the divorce rates, loose family ties, more expensive spare parts, new and more crimes, less commitment for Islamic values and immoral activities, " Mazen, a blogger wrote.

However, those who endorsed the call said that Saudi Arabia should not remain the only country in the world where women are not allowed to sit behind the steering wheel and that the multi-layer reforms should not exclude women.

"Women need to be allowed to drive so that they can be more self-reliant. They will not depend on others and we will not so many foreigners as drivers. Women have often proven that when they are given the appropriate chance, they deliver and perform in a highly respectable manner," Hassan Haji wrote.

Source: GulfNews.com

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Cantor: Primary US Goal in Egypt to Stop ‘Radical Islam’

Expresses Hope for 'Progress' in Egypt

Source: AntiWar.com
By Jason Ditz

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R – VA) declined to directly criticize President Obama for his handling of the growing protest movement in Egypt today, insisting he is “having a tough enough time as it is,” but his comments did suggest he had a different focus.

Rather than giving lip-service to democratic reforms in Egpyt and focusing on the demands of the massive opposition movement being balanced with “stability” as President Obama has, Cantor insisted the US policy in Egypt should be entirely to “stop the spread of radical Islam.”

Cantor’s comments are likely linked at the Western concern about the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned opposition faction that the US has declined to have any official contact with. The group is far from the only opposition faction in Egypt, but is a significant one.

The reason for this is largely the same reason religious factions were so powerful in the Iranian Revolution, that the banning of rival political factions leaves the mosques as one of the few places that people can openly voice dissent. Still, the Muslim Brotherhood has insisted they aren’t trying to seize power for themselves, and has ruled out fielding a candidate for president in the event Egypt has free elections.

Source: AntiWar.com

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Khamis, Februari 03, 2011

Millions against Mubarak


International Socialist Review editor Ahmed Shawki reports from Cairo on the latest mass protests against Hosni Mubarak--and what the future holds for Egypt's uprising.

Cairo's Tahrir Square is packed with protesters demanding the downfall of a dictator. (REUTERS)

MASSIVE DEMONSTRATIONS across Egypt Tuesday were followed by a televised speech by President Hosni Mubarak, but his declaration that he wouldn't run for reelection later this year after 30 years in power--apparently at the urging of U.S. government officials--won't satisfy anyone.

Essentially, Mubarak has agreed not to run in an election where no one would have voted for him anyway. The only effect this can have on the uprising will be to sharpen people's sense of determination still further.

The demonstrations today, on the eighth day of Egypt's popular uprising, were a confirmation of the unanimity that Mubarak must go. As one sign in Tahrir Square in Cairo said, "Game over, next player." That sentiment was dominant in all the crowds. But Mubarak continues to hang on, ignoring the volcano that's now erupted beneath him.

According to the media, the sizes of the protests were bigger than any of the previous days. The estimate is that some 2 million Egyptians took to the streets in Tahrir Square and the surrounding areas in Cairo. The square was just a sea of people. In the port city of Alexandria, an estimated 1.5 million marched. In another port city, Port Said, 100,000 to 120,000 people marched. In the city of Suez, by the Suez Canal, an estimated 40,000 marched--and that list doesn't include dozens and dozens of other protests all over the country.

As this article was being written, around 9 p.m. in Egypt, some 1 million people are still in Tahrir Square, or Liberation Square--several hours after the curfew, which no one is really abiding by anyway.

This is an outpouring of the pent-up frustration that millions of Egyptians feel at the rule of Hosni Mubarak. But the demonstrations have a festive feeling--an almost carnival-like atmosphere, with whole families of several generations showing up at the square during the day today.

It was a gathering of people from all walks of life--as broad a cross-section of Egyptian society as you could imagine, in terms of class, in terms of race, in terms of gender. One of the most important features was the fact that Muslims and Copts--who are Egyptian Christians--were raising the need for unity across religious lines. That's especially important after a series of anti-Coptic attacks, including a deadly attack on a Coptic church in Alexandria on January 1.

Another thing I thought was interesting at the demonstration was the association people made between Mubarak and the U.S. government. That was more muted in the first days of the protests, from reports I saw, but not today--people, for example, chanted the slogan: "Mubarak, you coward, you're a slave of the U.S."

There was also a real sense of people having taken charge of things for themselves. For example, everyone who came to Tahrir Square today was searched going in--by agreement between the organizers of the demonstration and the army, to make sure that no provocateurs with weapons were let in. So people were asked to show their national identity card, and were frisked and searched if they had any bags.

If you can imagine this taking place with so many hundreds of thousands of people who got to the square, you get an idea of the atmosphere of calm order prevailing in spite of the incredible numbers of people.

The longer the uprising goes on, the more people begin to feel a sense of their own power--of their capacity to change and control their destiny. That, of course, is an intoxicating feeling, and you see it everywhere in the streets.

A lot hangs in the balance now. Egypt will never be the same--nor will the rest of the Middle East, nor the rest of the world.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

YESTERDAY, MUBARAK swore in a new cabinet after firing the whole government last week. It was the absurd act of a ruler whose time is done.

Everybody agrees that there's no future for the regime. All the players--those at the top of Egyptian society, the United States and its European allies--are now concerned with how to get Mubarak out. But of course, each of the different forces has different solutions and different interests in mind.

Sections of the Egyptian ruling class, as well as the army, indicated more clearly today that they think Mubarak should step down. For example, a well-known and extremely wealthy Egyptian capitalist named Naguib Sawiris, the owner of the mobile phone company Mobinil, today hinted that Mubarak should go.

Yesterday, the army chiefs came on television and announced that the army wouldn't fire on protesters, or block the demonstrators today from exercising their right to peacefully assemble.

And today, state-controlled television showed scenes from Tahrir Square--to the cheers of people in the offices of left-wing activists who I was visiting at the time. It's an unheard-of event that a protest in Egypt is actually reported about in Egypt. And there were reports tonight that at Tahrir Square, state television actually showed up to interview people on the street for the first time since the events began to unfold.

All of which shows that even the country's elite understand what everyone on the street already knows--that the Mubarak regime is finished.

But what comes between being finished and Mubarak actually leaving office is the big question, and that's where the speech tonight comes in.

Mubarak promised that he wouldn't run for reelection in the vote scheduled for September--still more than half a year away. The people in Tahrir Square booed and jeered Mubarak's words as they were broadcast. They listened to him say, in effect, "I know how you feel, but you've been infiltrated, and you're being manipulated." That will satisfy no one.

So the question is: Why was this proposed? Before the speech, word leaked out that Barack Obama had called on Mubarak not to run for reelection, but nothing more. Why did the U.S. go along with something that so clearly wouldn't be accepted by the demonstrators? To save face for Mubarak? Is he really worth it to them?

Of course, one thing that's gained is that Mubarak and the U.S. show they won't give in to popular demand--they won't allow the example of the U.S. and its allies being dictated to by mass protest.

Another possibility is that this is an attempt to separate moderates--to create a cleavage among opponents of Mubarak. If they were able to get an agreement from a moderate leader like Mohamed ElBaradai to say that Mubarak's speech wasn't everything we wanted, but now it's time for orderly constitutional change, and we should wait until September, that might begin the process of isolating more radical elements.

That's a possibility. But so far, all the commentators responding to the speech have said it's not enough. If Mubarak offered this five days ago, it might have worked. But now the situation has gone beyond that.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

FROM THE point of view of those who supported Mubarak for 30 years and who now understand this support can no longer be maintained--most obviously, the U.S. government--the chief concern is how to ensure a "stable transition."

They need a transition that satisfies the mass demonstrations and demobilizes them, but that ensures a status quo without Mubarak, where the broader questions of democratization and inequality--of how Egypt is run, and who by--are avoided, while somebody is brought in as a transitional figure. Even a couple days ago, that was obviously Hillary Clinton's view already, and the push to get Mubarak out of the way has continued to grow.

So why hasn't Mubarak stepped down?

There are many possible explanations. One is his basic mental sanity. Another is that he's been the ruler of Egypt for 30 years, and like Louis XIV in France, he thinks "L'état, c'est moi"--that Egypt is him, and without him, the country itself wouldn't hold together.

But there are other questions. He may also be worrying about what happened to his cohort from Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who fled last month after 23 years in power, went to Saudi Arabia, and discovered he was going to be pursued for the crimes he committed while ruling Tunisia--which is why Ben Ali has reportedly left Saudi Arabia and taken up a new home in Libya.

The situation is contradictory. Everybody knows that Mubarak and his immediate allies are finished. Yet they continue to exert some influence, and even seem to be digging in. For example, one of the few places where the Internet was still functioning in Egypt was a luxury hotel downtown called the Semiramis--but that was turned off today. The offices of Al Jazeera were shut down. These are all signs of Mubarak's attempt to maintain a foothold.

There are also rumors that members of the hated police are reappearing and attempting to act as provocateurs in certain areas, after being driven off the streets in the opening days of the demonstrations. The strategy is to let the country descend into chaos. That's helped along by a number of gangs that have marauded around neighborhoods--it's meant to create a sense of crisis, to which the government and presumably the army can step in and justify both a crackdown and a cleanup.

The problem for the regime is that the attempts at creating chaos appear, in the main, to have been thwarted so far by popularly mobilized neighborhood committees--which, in the absence of any police at all, began to take up the defense of people's homes, small businesses and so on.

There are now checkpoints all over Egypt, but unlike previous checkpoints run by police, these checkpoints are run by local popular committees. Driving anywhere in the city after curfew, you're bound to meet one or another checkpoint. But you're let through, if there's a reason for you to be in that neighborhood.

It's not clear exactly what's happening in every neighborhood. But the reports that I've managed to get are that in a great number of working class areas, it's much more of a festive atmosphere. People have essentially set up popular militia committees, which are armed with whatever people can get, from pipes to baseball bats to knives, so they can defend themselves from the police and any threat by gangs of looters and the like.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

OVERALL, THE transformation is amazing. Two weeks ago, I was in Cairo for family reasons. The regime in Tunisia had just been overthrown, and I overheard an American tourist talking on her cell phone and saying, "No, don't worry, I think this one is more stable."

I actually tended to agree with that opinion. I left a few days before the protests began on January 25, and following events from the U.S., I couldn't believe the rapidity of the change.

It's even more obvious now that I'm back in Cairo--the enthusiasm and sense of spirits lifted is obvious, just in the way people comport themselves. After I returned from Tahrir Square today, I saw one of the television commentators remark on how there was hardly a fight or an act of violence at the demonstration, despite the massive numbers and the very, very tightly packed crowds. That was definitely true--it was another sign of the carnival atmosphere.

It's difficult to predict where this will end. There could still be a deal cooked up by the U.S.--which sent a diplomat, Frank Wisner, to meet with Mubarak today--to have him step aside, in spite of the speech tonight. But I still don't rule out the possibility of an attempt by the Mubarak regime to reestablish itself by force.

If it attempts to do so using the army, however, there are big questions. The army presence is very strong in Cairo, but its forces have been on the streets for five or six days, and it's not acting as a hostile force--at least in terms of rank-and-file soldiers. That's not to say that the army isn't a hostile force--just that there's been considerable fraternization going on.

I think movement toward an arrangement that pushes Mubarak aside is more likely, if only because as the protests continue, they have a spillover effect. Also today, Jordan's King Abdullah fired his government and appointed a new prime minister after weeks of protests--which is exactly what Mubarak did in the early days of the demonstrations here, to no effect whatsoever. And already, according to reports, there are demonstrations in Jordan demanding further change.

These are momentous events, and we've only seen the start. We're just at the beginning of what are likely to be even bigger transformations. Imagine, for example, the impact of Mubarak finally stepping aside--and yet there are still the underlying questions of unemployment that affects 40 percent of youth in Egypt, of Palestinian self-determination, of the domination of the Middle East by the U.S. and the West, of the control of Middle East oil.

All that hangs in the balance, and it's forcing everyone involved to think through new strategies. For those of us who have wanted to see the end of the Mubarak regime for many years, our first step is to celebrate the uprising and continue to push as hard as we can--in Egypt and everywhere else--for the downfall of the dictatorship. But we also know that we're just beginning this new struggle of the 21st century.

Transcription by Christine Darosa and Karen Domínguez Burke


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Robert Fisk: Secular and devout. Rich and poor. They marched together with one goal

Source: The Independent

Childrenwave Egyptian flags atop an armoured vehicle on the edge of Tahrir Square in Cairo yesterday. (AP)

It was a victory parade – without the victory. They came in their hundreds of thousands, joyful, singing, praying, a great packed mass of Egypt, suburb by suburb, village by village, waiting patiently to pass through the "people's security" checkpoints, draped in the Egyptian flag of red, white and black, its governess eagle a bright gold in the sunlight. Were there a million? Perhaps. Across the country there certainly were. It was, we all agreed, the largest political demonstration in the history of Egypt, the latest heave to rid this country of its least-loved dictator. Its only flaw was that by dusk – and who knew what the night would bring – Hosni Mubarak was still calling himself "President" of Egypt.

Mubarak ended the day as expected, appearing on television to announce that he will hang on until the next election – a promise that will not be accepted by the people he claims to love. The people of Egypt were originally told this was to be "the march of the million" to the Kuba Palace, Mubarak's official state pile, or to the man's own residence in Heliopolis. But so vast was the crowd that the organisers, around 24 opposition groups, decided the danger of attacks from the state security police were too great. They claimed later they had discovered a truck load of armed men close to Tahrir Square. All I could find were 30 Mubarak supporters shouting their love of Egypt outside the state radio headquarters under the guard of more than 40 soldiers.

The cries of loathing for Mubarak are becoming familiar, the posters ever more intriguing. "Neither Mubarak, nor Suleiman, and we don't need you Obama – but we don't dislike USA," one of them announced generously. "Out – all of you, including your slaves," announced another. I did actually find a decaying courtyard covered in rectangular sheets of white cloth where political scribes could spray-paint their own slogans for 40 pence a time. The tea-houses behind Talat Harb's statue were crammed with drinkers, discussing Egypt's new politics with the passion of one of Delacroix's orientalist paintings. You could soak this stuff up all day, revolution in the making. Or was this an uprising? Or an "explosion", as one Egyptian journalist described the demonstration to me?

There were several elements about this unprecedented political event that stood out. First was the secularism of the whole affair. Women in chadors and niqabs and scarves walked happily beside girls with long hair flowing over their shoulders, students next to imams and men with beards that would have made Bin Laden jealous. The poor in torn sandals and the rich in business suits, squeezed into this shouting mass, an amalgam of the real Egypt hitherto divided by class and regime-encouraged envy. They had done the impossible – or so they thought – and, in a way, they had already won their social revolution.

And then there was the absence of the "Islamism" that haunts the darkest corners of the West, encouraged – as usual – by America and Israel. As my mobile phone vibrated again and again, it was the same old story. Every radio anchor, every announcer, every newsroom wanted to know if the Muslim Brotherhood was behind this epic demonstration. Would the Brotherhood take over Egypt? I told the truth. It was rubbish. Why, they might get only 20 per cent at an election, 145,000 members out of a population of 80 million.

A crowd of English-speaking Egyptians crowded round me during one of the imperishable interviews and collapsed in laughter so loud that I had to bring the broadcast to an end. It made no difference, of course, when I explained on air that Israel's kindly and human Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman – who once said that "Mubarak can go to hell" – might at last get his way, politically at least. The people were overwhelmed, giddy at the speed of events.

So was I. There I was, back on the intersection behind the Egyptian Museum where only five days ago – it feels like five months – I choked on tear gas as Mubarak's police thugs, the baltigi, the drug addict ex-prisoner cops, were slipped through the lines of state security policemen to beat, bludgeon and smash the heads and faces of the unarmed demonstrators, who eventually threw them all out of Tahrir Square and made it the Egyptian uprising. Back then, we heard no Western support for these brave men and women. Nor did we hear it yesterday.

Amazingly, there was little evidence of hostility towards America although, given the verbal antics of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton these past eight days, there might have well been. One almost felt sorry for Obama. Had he rallied to the kind of democracy he preached here in Cairo six months after his investiture, had he called for the departure of this third-rate dictator a few days ago, the crowds would have been carrying US as well as Egyptian flags, and Washington would have done the impossible: it would have transformed the now familiar hatred of America (Afghanistan, Iraq, the "war on terror", etc) into the more benign relationship which the US enjoyed in the balmy 1920s and 1930s and, indeed, despite its support for the creation of Israel, into the warmth that existed between Arab and American into the 1960s.

But no. All this was squandered in just seven days of weakness and cowardice in Washington – a gutlessness so at odds with the courage of the millions of Egyptians who tried to do what we in the West always demanded of them: to turn their dust-bowl dictatorships into democracies. They supported democracy. We supported "stability", "moderation", "restraint", "firm" leadership (Saddam Hussein-lite) soft "reform" and obedient Muslims.

This failure of moral leadership in the West – under the false fear of "Islamisation" – may prove to be one of the greatest tragedies of the modern Middle East. Egypt is not anti-Western. It is not even particularly anti-Israeli, though this could change. But one of the blights of history will now involve a US president who held out his hand to the Islamic world and then clenched his fist when it fought a dictatorship and demanded democracy.

This tragedy may continue in the coming days as the US and Europe give their support to Mubarak's chosen successor, the chief spy and Israeli negotiator, Vice-President Omar Suleiman. He has called, as we all knew he would, for talks with "all factions" – he even contrived to sound a bit like Obama. But everyone in Egypt knows that his administration will be another military junta which Egyptians will again be invited to trust to ensure the free and fair elections which Mubarak never gave them. Is it possible – is it conceivable – that Israel's favourite Egyptian is going to give these millions the freedom and democracy they demand?

Or that the army which so loyally guarded them today will give such uncritical support to that democracy when it receives $1.3bn a year from Washington? This military machine, which has not fought a war for almost 38 years, is under-trained and over-armed, with largely obsolete equipment – though its new M1A1 tanks were on display yesterday – and deeply embedded in the corporation of big business, hotels and housing complexes, all rewards to favourite generals by the Mubarak regime.

And what were the Americans doing? Rumour: US diplomats were on their way to Egypt to negotiate between a future President Suleiman and opposition groups. Rumour: extra Marines were being drafted into Egypt to defend the US embassy from attack. Fact: Obama finally told Mubarak to go. Fact: a further evacuation of US families from the Marriott Hotel in Cairo, escorted by Egyptian troops and cops, heading for the airport, fleeing from a people who could so easily be their friends.

Source: The Independent

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