Posts Tagged ‘Middle-East’

The snows of global warming hit the Middle East

December 20, 2013

Of course this snow will be warmer than normal!

Follow the Sun

Beware the IPCC and its false prophets of doom!

Who would addle thy mind in a stew of consensus science,

And entrap thy soul in a web of fear. 

For in their ignorance and in their arrogance,

They presume that they can control the Earth,

And brave the wrath of Sol Invictus.  

The Sun in our heaven heeds not the sticks of Mann,

And waxes and wanes as it is always wont to do,

And the Earth follows.

To the music of the stars in their celestial dance,

By oceans and clouds and winds and rain,

Sol Invictus heats and cools our world.

And as the storms do rage and winds do blow,

As ice-sheets do shrink and then they do grow,

The human mind contrives and Man does follow.  

And there is nothing new under the Sun,

It has happened before and will happen again,

The ice-age will come whether Man will or no!

Winter storm “Alexa” chills the Middle East

Winter storm ‘Alexa' chills the Middle East

People walk in front of the snow- capped Dome of the Rock in the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday. Snow fell in Je rusalem and parts of the occupied West Bank where many schools and offices were closed. (Photo: Reuters)

Kerry trapped in snow

A car covered in snow at the entrance to Jerusalem Friday morning. (photo credit: Israel Hatzolah)

A car covered in snow at the entrance to Jerusalem Friday morning. (photo credit: Israel Hatzolah)

Heavy snow, thunderstorms pummel Turkey

Many schools, roads close as heavy snow continues to hammer Turkey

Cold weather and heavy snow that began on Tuesday afternoon brought İstanbul to a halt. (Photo: DHA)

 

Advertisements

How the map of the Middle East could develop

October 5, 2013

Once upon a time maps were dawn primarily as symbolic and pictorial descriptions of physical geography. Then came the nation states and “Nations of the Mind” became nations on the ground. With their dark under-belly of nationalism and jingoism, maps have become – nearly always – political, religious or ideological maps superimposed on and tied to physical geography. Some day humans will outgrow the limitations of nation-states and nationalism. “Nations” tied to a geography will eventually become obsolete but it will not be in my lifetime.

The dynamics in the Middle East are particularly volatile and give rise to much speculation about how new nations could form and how the map of the region could develop. But much of the new formations – which are already ongoing – are not by design but by the realities on the ground. Many forces are engaged and much blood is being shed as the various parties try to impose their own designs.

A few years ago Ralph Peters imagined a “better Middle East” in  “Blood Borders: How a Better Middle East Would Look” and was heavily criticised for his provocative work.

The map was prepared by Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters. It was published in the Armed Forces Journal in June 2006, Peters is a retired colonel of the U.S. National War Academy. (Map Copyright Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters 2006). The map is included in Peters’ book Never Quit the Fight.

Ralph-Peters-Remapped-Middle-East

Ralph-Peters-Remapped-Middle-East

As Geo Currents remarked in 2010:

For all of Peters’s miscues, many of his core ideas are sound. His initial assertion – that misplaced boundaries often generate injustice and strife – is spot on. And he is right to point out that the foreign policy establishment refuses to acknowledge the violence engendered by geopolitical misalignment for fear of opening a Pandora’s Box of separatist demands. Because of that fear, any suggestions for alternative arrangements tend to be dismissed out of hand. Such a stance, Peters argues, is intellectually dishonest. New countries sometimes do appear on the map without ruffling the international order. Think of Montenegro, 2006. Such neophyte states must, however, come into being through the channels of global diplomacy if they want international recognition. Should they emerge on their own, their existence will be denied by the powers that be. In this way the system of international diplomacy that Peters mocks can indeed become a masquerade. Grant diplomatic recognition to Somaliland, the only effectively administered territory in the bedlam called Somalia? Impossibly destabilizing: surely anarchy would be loosed across the Horn of Africa!

The New York Times has just carried an article by Robin Wright returning to the same subject

Imagining a Remapped Middle East

Robin-Wrights-Remapped-Middle-East

Robin-Wrights-Remapped-Middle-East – NYT

THE map of the modern Middle East, a political and economic pivot in the international order, is in tatters. Syria’s ruinous war is the turning point. But the centrifugal forces of rival beliefs, tribes and ethnicities — empowered by unintended consequences of the Arab Spring — are also pulling apart a region defined by European colonial powers a century ago and defended by Arab autocrats ever since.

A different map would be a strategic game changer for just about everybody, potentially reconfiguring alliances, security challenges, trade and energy flows for much of the world, too.

Syria’s prime location and muscle make it the strategic center of the Middle East. But it is a complex country, rich in religious and ethnic variety, and therefore fragile. After independence, Syria reeled from more than a half-dozen coups between 1949 and 1970, when the Assad dynasty seized full control. Now, after 30 months of bloodletting, diversity has turned deadly, killing both people and country. Syria has crumbled into three identifiable regions, each with its own flag and security forces. A different future is taking shape: a narrow statelet along a corridor from the south through Damascus, Homs and Hama to the northern Mediterranean coast controlled by the Assads’ minority Alawite sect. In the north, a small Kurdistan, largely autonomous since mid-2012. The biggest chunk is the Sunni-dominated heartland.

…………

Saudi-Arabia-Remapped-by-Robin-Wright

Saudi-Arabia-Remapped-by-Robin-Wright

GeoCurrents reviews the NYT article:

Wright’s article, however, shows that her purpose is different from that of Peters. Whereas Peters sought to depict a more rationally constituted political map, Wright rather speculates about a map that might be developing on its own, regardless of her personal preferences, much less her country’s geo-strategic designs. In this regard, the map has much to recommend it. Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq could well be in the process of disintegration, splitting into de facto states or state-like entities that might bear some resemblance to the territories depicted by Wright’s map. The likelihood of Iraq and Syria regaining stability as effective states within their internationally recognized boundaries seems remote, given the viciousness of the conflicts currently being waged. As things already stand, the non-country of Iraqi Kurdistan is almost as much of a state as Iraq itself, and arguable more of a nation. Whether Libya and Yemen can politically reintegrate is also an open matter. Mapping how the Middle East appears today, rather than how the international political community thinks it should be configured, is thus an essential task. Thinking about where such processes might lead is equally important. Wright’s thoughts on the subject are generally insightful, and her map has many pertinent and intriguing features. I commend the New York Times for publishing such a provocative piece. ……

…….. My serious misgivings concern Wright’s  treatment of Saudi Arabia. She realizes that she goes out on a limb here, noting that “The most fantastical ideas involve the Balkanization of Saudi Arabia…” Unlike the other countries that she remaps, Saudi Arabia is a relatively stable state, with no serious challenges to its territorial integrity. Imagining the division of this country thus does not involve speculating about the possible end-points of processes already in motion, as is the case in the other countries considered. It is not at all clear, moreover, why Wright has divided Saudi Arabia as she has, as her article is largely silent here. Presumably, her division is based on the idea that the non-Wahhabi peripheries of the country could detach themselves from the Wahhabi core, potentially resulting in the emergence of the new states of North Arabia, Eastern Arabia, South Arabia, and Western Arabia.

Fascinating stuff.

Déjà vu! For Iraq read Syria

August 28, 2013

Déjà vu!

Some kind of military action by the US and its allies – probably missile and drone attacks – is imminent  against Syria and Assad. To what end is uncertain. To destroy stocks of chemical weapons could be an objective but any action would probably only cause more release of the toxins involved. To destroy or help destroy Assad’s regime is possible but unlikely since the alternative would probably be Al Qaida. To assassinate Assad runs the same risk. To kill some of Assad’s military or his supporters just as a “punitive” strike could be an objective but adding to the killing to stop the killing seems a little dubious. To demonstrate a self-righteous “moral” position to the world with the least damaging consequences possible would seem to the main objective. To prevent any future use of chemical weapons by any country could be an objective thought it is difficult to see how many “bad guys” would need to be killed or how much property would need to be destroyed to create a valid deterrent.

For Iraq read Syria. For Bush, Blair, Chirac  (my failing memory) and Howard read Obama, Cameron, Hollande and Rudd. Even though each of the current four leaders is from the opposing party to that of his predecessor. For WMD read “chemical or nerve gas”. Statements by the politicians show that they are absolutely “certain” that Assad was responsible. Evidence is not forthcoming. As it was not for Iraq. And it does not inspire any confidence that to justify the Iraq invasion, “evidence” was made-up by the intelligence services to satisfy their political masters.

That upto some 300 people have been killed seems very likely though there is some doubt as to the number. The main evidence seems to be video footage. That some form of chemical or nerve agent was used seems probable. And traces of such agents are detectable years after the event, though some politicians (Obama and Kerry for example) would like us to believe that the evidence may be destroyed and therefore  time is of the essence just to preserve the evidence. Though it is likely that someone within the Assad regime was probably responsible it is not at all impossible that one of the many “rebel” groups was responsible. Some of the rebel groups – along with Assad’s supporters – have exhibited their barbaric and cannibalistic tendencies.

But I am afraid that military actions will be carried out – again – without any more serious objective than to demonstrate “moral superiority” and to fulfill domestic agendas.  Even though such actions – in themselves – undermine the very moral superiority that is being touted. Some more people – some quite innocent – will of course be killed. They will just be collateral damage and the the sacrifice in a war of moral superiority. That Tony Blair on-board a luxurious yacht somewhere supports immediate strikes against Syria only adds to my feeling that it would be ill-advised. His thirst for blood is apparently not yet satisfied. Obama needs to show that he can actually be decisive – if only for history. Cameron needs a war – any war – before the next General Election and Spain over Gibraltar does not quite fit the bill.  Argentina over the Falklands is better but too far away and already done. Hollande needs to show that he does really exist – as he did in Mali. Rudd would love to be seen at the “big table” and he could see this as a way for grabbing some of Abbot’s supporters for the election in less than 2 weeks.

The chaos in Iraq and the daily loss of life that is occurring there is a direct consequence of the Iraq invasion (and how much worse would it have been under Saddam?). The adventure in Libya to satisfy the European desire for demonstrating their moral superiority will have consequences for many many years to come. Of course the Middle East today (like the Balkans a few years ago) provides proof positive of the barbarism that lies so close to the surface of many human “societies”. And the interventions by moral “police” has always dragged the police down to the level of the criminal societies they are ostensibly trying to put down. The intervention in Kosovo has succeeded after a fashion. But it is hard to come to to the same conclusion for Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya.

To add Syria to the list seems irresponsible.

The only way to address Syria – in my opinion – is to ostracise the entire country. Shun them. Close the borders. isolate them. No weapons – to anybody. No goods, no services to enter the country. Nobody and nothing enters. Only refugees may leave. Send the country to Coventry. Go back in a few months and when the killing stops – help the survivors pick up the pieces. But don’t intervene to add to the killing in the hope of stopping the killing.

Yemen a clear target in US drone sights

August 6, 2013

Perhaps it is all connected to the current global alert and threats of terrorist actions supposedly emanating from Yemen, but there certainly seems to be a major US operation ongoing in Yemen.

File:Yemen division 2012-3-11.svg

Yemen Divisions – wikipedia

UPDATE 2:

Drone strikes kill eight suspected militants in Yemen on Thursday 8th August

UPDATE!

Another 7 were killed in Yemen by US drone attacks on Wednesday, 7th August.

============================================

In the last 10 days since July 27th , there have been at least 4 drone attacks killing 17 people in Yemen.

  • July 27th: 6 killed in Abyan province
  • July 30th: 3 killed in drone attack on a car in Shabwa
  • August 1st: 4 killed in drone attack in Habramawt
  • 5th August: 4 killed on Tuesday when two unmanned aircraft fired four missiles at two vehicles in Wadi Abidah district. 

According to the Washington-based New America Foundation, the US killer drone attacks in Yemen almost tripled in 2012. 

The advantage with drone attacks is that they are impersonal, supposed to be clinically accurate, relatively cheap and put no personnel from the attacking side at risk. The downside is that they pre-empt any due process, are subject to the accuracy of very fallible intelligence gatherers and are inherently inhumane being “untouched by human hands”. And the civilians and children who frequently are killed on the ground get brushed under the carpet of “collateral damage”.

All those who have been killed recently in Yemen are said to have been affiliated with Al Qaeda.

But the dead cannot deny their alleged guilt and we will never know.

Is there an element of anti-Snowden PR in the current US security alert?

August 3, 2013

We shall never know of course.

Edward Snowden has revealed the absolutely massive scale on which the NSA gathers information – almost indiscriminately. The UK government and German government agencies are apparently complicit in this dredging of information. But in spite of this the US and its allies were not capable of anticipating events in North Africa and the Middle East. The Arab spring in particular seems to have caught all the Western intelligence agencies napping. The apparent lack of intelligence analysis about Egypt is particularly interesting. The threat to Mubarak – as close an ally of the US as you could get outside of Israel – was not anticipated. The threat of the Muslim Brotherhood was not anticipated. The dethronement of Mursi by the Army was not anticipated. The attack on the US Embassy in Libya – which was not some spontaneous mob action, but a planned attack  – was not anticipated.

The indiscriminate volume of intelligence gathering does not seem to be matched by the analytical capabilities of the intelligence gatherers. But they did find Osama – even if it took ten years. They did find the Boston bombers – very quickly but only after the event. But the intelligence for the drone attacks does not seem – from the number of civilians and children killed – to be very precise.

Post Snowden there is now considerable criticism even within the US about the level of intelligence gathering and leaves Obama and the Democrats looking like the enemies of civil liberties. The “escape” of Snowden and his asylum application in Russia leaves the Democratic administration in Washington looking inept at worst and severely embarrassed at best. After Snowden was granted a years residence in Russia, the White House media response was mere thrashing about. A summit meeting to be held this fall was threatened (does Putin even care?). Even the venue of next G20 meeing planned for St. Petersberg was “questioned” by a blustering White House spokesman.

And now comes this announcement of a Security Alert and an Al Qaida threat (unspecified) in North Africa and the Middle East. Perhaps there is a real threat. If it does not materialise then the NSA can take credit for thwarting the threat (even if it never existed). If some act of terror does materialise during August, the intelligence agencies will pat themselves on the back (but someone else will be blamed for not preventing the event).

BBC: The US state department has issued a global travel alert because of an unspecified al-Qaeda threat.

In a statement, the department said the potential for an attack was particularly strong in the Middle East and North Africa. It comes shortly after the US announced nearly two dozen embassies and consulates would be shut on Sunday.

The alert expires on 31 August 2013, the department said. It recommended US citizens travelling abroad be vigilant. “Current information suggests that al-Qaeda and affiliated organisations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August,” the statement said.

Maybe there is a real threat — and maybe there is not. Certainly the track record of the intelligence agencies correctly forecasting events in the Middle East and North Africa is not terribly impressive.

The White House clearly does see an increasing need to justify the scope of its intelligence gathering activities. Obama needs to show his own left wing that he is not a “bad guy”. The Administration also needs to show that Snowden is not a hero and a defender of civil liberties and that he has actually put national security at risk. All these are matters of perception and can be addressed by “spin”.  I just observe that this current Security Alert – whether the threat is real or not – does achieve that – if only partially.

Going East the Vikings were seen as “handsome but filthy”

July 18, 2013

ScienceNordic reports on a new doctoral thesis by an Icelandic historian:

The Icelandic historian Thorir Jonsson Hraundal has studied comments about what we call Vikings in original texts by Arab historians and geographers. The texts described Arab encounters with Scandinavians in areas around the Caspian Sea and the Volga River. 

Their depictions differ radically from images of fearsome Viking conquerors handed down from the British Isles and France in the same era. 

“A major difference between the Scandinavians who travelled eastwards and those who sailed west was that in the East they were far more subordinated in societies they came to,” says Jonsson Hraundal.

He recently presented his doctoral dissertation at the University of Bergen about the so-called Rus ― Scandinavian merchants and warriors who travelled to Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.

“The Scandinavians appear to have been versatile people who were really good at adapting to diverse regions and participating in various power structures,” he says. …

…. For a number of reasons, the East-bound Vikings have been neglected by scholars in comparison to those who headed west. Political problems hampered Western archaeologists for decades. During much of the 20th century it was hard for West European researchers to access artefacts collected behind the Iron Curtain.

“We have a lot more source information from the West because of the linguistic and writing culture that dominated there,” adds Archaeology Professor Jan Bill of the University of Oslo.

“This doesn’t mean that the contact in the East was unimportant, but perhaps we haven’t had as much opportunity to study it.”

There are exceptions and Bill mentions that Arab silver coins and other artefacts from Kazakhstan and neighbouring areas have been found at Heimdalsjordet, a former marketplace not far from the Gokstad Viking Ship Mound in Sandefjord, southwest of Oslo.

“They come from the Silk Road and show that the Vikings definitely had contact with Islamic areas,” he says.

He draws on and analyses the writings of Ahmad ibn Fadlān ibn al-Abbās ibn Rāšid ibn Hammād.

He was a 10th-centuryArab traveler, famous for his account of his travels as a member of an embassy of the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad to the king of the Volga Bulgars. His account is most known for providing a description of the Volga Vikings, including an eyewitness account of a ship burial.

File:Ibn Fadhlan manuscript.jpg

Ibn Fadhlan manuscript

Elements of Ibn Fadlān’s account are used in the novel Eaters of the Dead  by Michael Crichton (adapted to film in The 13th Warrior with Antonio Banderas as Ibn Fadlan), in which the Arab ambassador is taken even further north and is involved in adventures inspired by the Old English epic Beowulf.

Some excerpts from Ahmad ibn Fadlān:

They are the filthiest of all Allah’s creatures: they do not purify themselves after excreting or urinating or wash themselves when in a state of ritual impurity after coitus and do not even wash their hands after food.

I have never seen more perfect physical specimens, tall as date palms, blond and ruddy; they wear neither tunics nor kaftans, but the men wear a garment which covers one side of the body and leaves a hand free. Each man has an axe, a sword, and aknife, and keeps each by him at all times. Each woman wears on either breast a box of iron, silver,copper, or gold; the value of the box indicates the wealth of the husband. Each box has a ring from which depends a knife. The women wear neck-rings of gold and silver. Their most prized ornaments are green glass beads. They string them as necklaces for their women.

In the case of a rich man, they gather together his possessions and divide them into three portions, one third for his household, one third with which to cut funeral garments for him, and one third with which they ferment alcohol which they drink on the day when his slave-girl kills herself and is burned together with her master.

Was European colonialism the force that spread democracy?

November 26, 2012

A new paper in the American Political Science Review suggests that European colonialism was the key driver in establishing democratic systems of government around the world. Only states which had strong established political structures prior to the colonial wave managed to resist colonial rule and/or  the establishment of “democratic” European institutions. According to the author, Jacob Gerner Harir of the University of Copenhagen,

”This could mean that perhaps we need to adopt a new view of the colonial era. Even though it led to massive exploitation and oppression of many people in the Third World, we can now see that it also contributed to the spread of democracy.”

There is a hint of defensiveness here, almost as if this work is also an attempt to justify the oppression and exploitation that was the main-stay of European colonialism.

(more…)

Could Romney really upset Obama? US election gets interesting

October 10, 2012

A few months ago it seemed like a done deal.

The US economy was showing signs of recovery at just the right time for November. The Republican primaries – viewed from very far away – seemed to be self-destructive. The Tea Party kept shooting themselves in the foot and in other parts of their strange anatomies. Mitt Romney seemed to be a personally successful but a wooden candidate lacking the ability to catch the electorate’s imagination. The election was losing interest for me.

And now one Presidential debate seems to have changed all that. I thought Romney was good – engaged and articulate and focused. I did not think that Obama was all that bad but he seemed listless and lacking in the fire he showed 4 years ago. It showed up sometimes as a sort of frustration and he failed to enthuse. Clearly battling with Congress has taken its toll.

Perhaps the key point was that he did not himself seem especially fired up about continuing for another 4 years. He seems tired. From so far away my perceptions are just perceptions but the subject of the US Presidential election has become compulsive again. I am a little sceptical that just one Presidential debate can determine the outcome and suspect that it was the culmination of the many months of disillusionment with Obama and his own apparent loss of enthusiasm. In any event the prospect of a Romney win has become real again.

Who would I prefer to see win? US domestic issues do not affect me except in that they do provide direction for many others outside the US. Instead of looking at whose views I support I prefer to see which candidate better supports my views.

  • In that sense Health Care models are universal and Obama has a healthier view than Romney’s dithering.
  • In Foreign Policy I do not see that there would be much difference in their approach to the Middle East – and the Middle East is what has set the entire world scene over the last decade. Perhaps there is a higher chance of a strike on Iran with Romney (with its risk of World war 3). But neither is likely to reevaluate the relationship with Israel and Israel’s nuclear weapons. And without that the Middle East will remain a flash-point.
  • The possibility of profligate support of subsidy regimes to push politically correct agendas is much greater with Obama. Many of these politically correct agendas are based on alarmism and bad science. Jobs come from wealth creation not from subsidising nonsense. Healthy job creation (sustainable jobs and not just increasing the public sector or throwing money at silly environmental projects) is more likely with Romney.
  • Obama is likely to continue with a taxation view that is fundamentally flawed. Taxation has to shift away from penalising wealth creation and focus on being a disincentive to wealth destruction (by irreversible consumption). Romney will be constrained by taxation orthodoxy but is more likely to move closer to my view.

Not very easy to choose. My preference would be the Obama of 4 years ago against today’s Romney. But the Romney of today could be more interesting than the tired, frustrated and listless Obama on display. The world financial recovery is more likely with Romney than with Obama. I suspect Obama will still win — but the process has become interesting again.

If Ryan wins or draws the VP debate against Biden and if Romney wins the second debate he would – I think – become favorite.

Gaddafi gains ground while protests spread to Saudi Arabia

March 11, 2011
Location of Benghazi within Libya.

Image via Wikipedia

The Gaddafi end-game gets murkier as he uses air power, regular troops and heavy artillery to retake towns controlled by the demonstrators. Zawaiyah and Ras Lanuf have been ruthlessly bombarded into submission. In the process many (at least 1000) Libyans have been killed by other Libyans. In the meantime NATO, the European Union, and the UN are dithering about the introduction of a no-fly zone across Libyan air space. It is conceivable that with no other forces coming into play Gaddafi could even try to retake Benghazi. In any event without US support such a no-fly zone would be difficult to implement. Any UN Security Council resolutions will be watered down since Russia and China have a fundamental aversion to the support of any group challenging authoritarian rule.

Gulf Arab states said the Gaddafi regime was illegitimate, and urged contact to be made with the rebels while President Barack Obama’s top intelligence adviser James Clapper predicted government forces would defeat the rebels.

Gaddafi has to go but the end-game for him and his family could be a long drawn-out affair. While France has recognised the rebel National Libyan Council as the legitimate government, other countries concerned that may well have to deal with Gaddafi for some time yet have not had the courage to follow suit. Berlusconi will see to it that any European consensus will be hard to come by.

But these hot and humid winds of change in North Africa and the Middle East represent a fundamental shift of political climate and are unlikely to be stopped. What is commonly known as the Sirocco is called Chom (hot) or arifi (thirsty) in North Africa and Simoom in Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and the desert of Arabia. In Libya it is called the Ghibli, in Egypt it is the Khamsin  and it is the Sharavin in Israel.

File:Persian Gulf Arab States english.PNG

map via Wikipedia

And the winds are now blowing towards the House of Saud. Yesterday (Thursday)

Saudi security forces fired on scores of protesters in the city of Qatif, according to two witnesses and an activist.

The protests took place one day ahead of a planned “Day of Rage” in the Middle Eastern country.

Defying a Saudi government ban on all kinds of public demonstrations, more than 100 people in the predominantly Shiite city in eastern Saudi Arabia urged authorities to release Shiite prisoners, the witnesses and activist said.

At some point, the witnesses said Saudi security forces shot to disperse the crowd. It was unknown if the forces fired rubber bullets or live ammunition. Those injured were taken to Qatif Central Hospital for treatment, the activist and witnesses said.

The Jerusalem Post writes:

The time after Friday prayers has proved to be crucial in popular uprisings that have brought down Tunisian and Egyptian rulers who once seemed invulnerable.

Gulf leaders are struggling to hold back an Internet-era generation of Arabs who appear less inclined to accept arguments appealing to religion and tradition to explain why ordinary citizens should be shut out of decision-making.

Saudi Arabia, the largest country in the Gulf, is home to Islam’s holiest sites – and is a long-time US ally that has ensured oil supplies for the West. More than 32,000 people have backed a Facebook call to hold two demonstrations in the country, the first of them Friday.

Riyadh has tried to counter the call with promises of money and other measures – including a pro-government Facebook page “against the revolution” with 23,000 supporters.

The protest movements hit populous Yemen a month ago, and spread to the Gulf states, where dynasties secured their rule in colonial times.

Bahrain – an island state, whose rulers look to Riyadh for support – has been the most vulnerable so far. This week, hardline Shi’ite groups formed an alliance to ditch the monarchy and turn Bahrain into a republic.

Political earthquake spreading and claims Tunisian PM and French Foreign Minister

February 27, 2011

The earthquakes that are ripping across the political foundations of North Africa and the Middle East are producing an uncharted landscape which is still changing everyday. The after-shocks continue in Tunisia where it all started and new shocks were felt in Oman today. In Libya, Gaddafi is increasingly isolated and further shocks will no doubt be felt. The speed of propagation is stunning and beyond anything predicted by “domino theories” and the directions of movement are quite unpredictable. That Egypt’s Mubarak would fall in 18 days is hard to believe. That his departure did not produce a long period of chaos is even more remarkable. That Saudi Arabia could be vulnerable at all seems ridiculous on the surface but the events in Bahrain and today in Oman suggest that the sand under the House of Saud is highly unstable and could be susceptible to very sudden shifts.

The consequences will be felt far outside the immediate region and not least in the old colonial powers of France and Italy and the UK. All the so-called defenders of freedom and democracy who -on the grounds of stability – continued to support the string of repressive dictators will have to devise new policies. The new found revolt against the corruption in North Africa and the Arabian peninsula will create new stresses in Europe and the US where the “establishments” have all been complicit in the corrupt practices and especially in the sale of defence equipment and in the extraction and refining of oil. How to continue supporting absolute monarchs and dictators in some countries while supporting the establishment of democratic institutions in others is going to be particularly challenging for the US.

French Foreign Minister Alliot-Marie quits over Tunisia

Embattled French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has announced her resignation after weeks of criticism over her contacts with the former Tunisian regime. But in announcing her resignation, she said she had committed no wrongdoing.

A veteran conservative politician and cabinet minister, she had been in her new job for just three months. She was heavily criticised for initially offering French help to quell the uprising in Tunisia. Subsequent revelations about her and her family’s links to the regime of former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, and the fact that she had taken a Christmas holiday in Tunisia during the uprising made her position increasingly untenable.

Tunisians celebrate prime minister’s ouster

Less than a minute after Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi resigned Sunday in a speech on national television, the massive crowd filling this city’s Casbah Square suddenly halted the angry chants that had continued around the clock for days. There was silence, and then cheers, chants and circles of ecstatic dancing.

For the second time in as many months, the people of Tunisia had toppled their government, and now their chant changed to “the act is done, the rest is yet to come.”

Ghannouchi, 69, quit because he had been unable to overcome his past as part of fallen president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s government, and the peaceful demonstrations that forced Ben Ali out had turned violent and police seemed unable to control the crowds, according to activists in several newly formed political parties.

Libya protesters control Zawiyah

Forces loyal to the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have surrounded the city of Zawiyah, where anti-government protesters are bracing for an attack. Men opposed to Gaddafi were patrolling the streets of the city 50km from the capital on Sunday, saying they had seized weapons and even tanks which they would use to defend themselves.

Ezeldina, a Zawiyah resident, told Al Jazeera that people in the city had raided some military camps.

“We are expecting an attack at any moment,” he said. “We are forming rotating watchgroups, guarding the neighbourhood.” Police stations and government offices inside the city have been torched and anti-Gaddafi graffiti painted of walls. Hundreds of protesters in the city centre chanted “Gaddafi Out”. Some stood on top of a captured tank, while others crowded around an anti-aircraft gun. Women stood on top of buildings cheering on the men in the crowd below.

An effigy of Gaddafi hung from a light pole in the main square.

A group of foreign journalists were driven to Zawiyah by Libyan authorities on Sunday to show that forces loyal to Gaddafi still held the town. But once there, it was evident that the protesters were in control.

Protests turn violent in Oman port

Thousands of Omani youths confronted police in the industrial port of Sohar on Sunday after witnesses reported that two protesters had been killed in clashes with the security forces. The small Gulf state, a close ally of the UK, is the latest country to be rocked by the wave of youth-driven democracy movements that have spread through the region since the fall of the Tunisian and Egyptian leaders.

Unprecedented unrest in northern Oman marks an escalation of civil protest in the oil-rich Gulf, sparking fears of further contagion in a region whose oil reserves are vital to the global economy.

The flare-up follows rising tensions in Bahrain, where pro-democracy protests have shaken the country for the past two weeks, prompting other states such as Saudi Arabia to offer citizens billions of dollars worth of benefits in an attempt to ward off unrest.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, Oman’s ruler, reshuffled the cabinet at the weekend. But this failed to placate the protesters in central Sohar. “We want all these ministers to go,” said one demonstrator. “They are thieves.”

Protest marches fill Bahrain capital as pressure mounts on rulers

Thousands of protesters streamed through Bahrain’s diplomatic area and other sites Sunday, chanting against the country’s king and rejecting his appeals for talks to end the tiny Gulf nation’s nearly two-week-old crisis.

At least three processions paralyzed parts of the capital, Manama, and appeared to reflect a growing defiance of calls by Bahrain’s rulers to hold talks to ease the increasingly bitter showdown in the strategic island nation, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

“No dialogue until the regime is gone,” marchers chanted as they moved through the highly protected zone of embassies and diplomatic compounds. No violence was reported.

Other marchers shouted slogans to oust Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and plastered fences with flyers denouncing security forces for attacks that have killed seven people since the first protests Feb. 14 inspired by revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.



%d bloggers like this: