Expect new pharaohs rather than fair winds in the Middle East.

Naive Western jubilation at Middle Eastern events beggars belief.

Iraq is a country that ’embraced’ democracy following a dose of shock and awe. In the city of Samarra yesterday, Sunni terrorists allied to AlQ’eida murdered 48 people and injured a further 80.

Egypt’s former President Mubarak got his shock but refused to be awed, until everyone from Obama to Hague told him the game was up. Despite Hillary Clinton’s creature-envoy to Cairo Frank Wisner declaring last weekend that Mubarak was ‘indispensable’ to democratic tradition, a furious Obama – calling upon his vast reserves of objective Mid-East wisdom – decided otherwise. It’s an election year, and Barack wanted to get things moving.

Thirty six hours into Egyptian ‘democracy’, a military junta is running the show, and the main body negotiating with it is the Islamic Brotherhood. Demanding stuff is contagious, and sure enough this morning there were shootings, scuffles and more human shields by the protestors refusing to leave Tahrir Square. This is the square they said they wouldn’t leave until Mubarak left. Now he’s gone well, they’ve kinda gotten used to the Square. Next week, strike actions are planned, and mass demonstrations will be “a regular weekly events” according to one opposition Youth leader. He just didn’t say what they’d be for or about.

Meanwhile, throughout Saturday thousands of demonstrators poured onto the streets of Algeria. Algeria is one of the world’s biggest oil producers, and the target for Russian instability tactics for some years. (Moscow’s chief aim for years has been to render the Middle East unsteady and revolutionary, in order to drive up the price of oil and make her the world’s biggest supplier).

This time there’s a new Square, in the capital Algiers, called May 1st Square. No doubt we can  expect it’s name to change to another month some time soon, because 30,000 people are already in it. The main  movement spearheading the Opposition is the Rally for Culture and Democracy (always fear any movement with ‘democracy’ in its name) a coalition of trade unionists and human rights activists (always fear any movement describing its members as ‘Human Rights Activists’).

One of its leading lights claimed today that 1000 of their number – “including a hundred women” – (always fear any movement playing the ‘women arrested’ card) had been arrsted by police using batons and tear gas. The Government agency says the number arrested was twelve.

Next door in Tunisia, the post-revolutionary interim Government has been rocked by strikes inspired by the UGTT (their TUC), an organisation which led the fight to oust Ben Ali, but now declares there is more ousting to do before things will be ‘satisfactory’. Opposition exile Moncef Marzouki  flew in to great acclaim, he being a….human rights activist. The Islamist opposition Party Ennahda will (thinks Marzouki) also push for a role in Government. His own view is that the immediate need is for ‘discipline’, and that he wouldn’t mind an alliance with the Islamists. Hmm.

In the Yemen, there have been marches on the palace of US ally and all-round nasty bloke Ali Abdullah Saleh. The now all-too familiar ‘Day of Rage’ approach is being applied by the protestors to ousting Salkeh – a major Al Q’eida opponent. Saleh has at last bowed to the idea of having talks with the demonstrators. That usually prefaces the beginning of the end.

I’m not getting much sense of democracy in any of this, and my doubts aren’t assuaged by Iran’s leader Mahmoud Amadinnejad, who declared the Egyptian revolution “a great blow against American interference, and a true opportunity for our brothers there”. Mahmoud’s brothers there include Islamist leader Mohamed Ghanem, whose opening gambit after Mubharak’s departure was to tell the Egytpian army to “gear up for war with Israel”. A long career in diplomacy obviously lies ahead of him.

Only the Israeli realists have a handle on all of this, and they don’t see any of it as good news. Neither do I, but then I find myself at odds with 90% of the Western media coverage of the Middle East in general, and Gaza in particular.

In Gaza this very weekend, in fact, although Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for new elections, the plea isn’t playing well with Hamas, an organisation only inclined to enter elections it can’t theoretically lose….but when it does, to then surround the Legislature and take power by force. Hamas leader Fawzi Barhoum struck a conciliatory note by saying that Hamas “will not take part, and will not recognise the results”.

My bottom line on the Middle East’s ‘new dawn’ remains simple. Western reporting  of it is posturing, naive bollocks. It is a blow for the West, a triumph for Putinesque foreign policy, and an encouragement for the mad folks in Islam’s rainbow of schisms. It can only end in tears.

24 thoughts on “Expect new pharaohs rather than fair winds in the Middle East.

  1. I only disagree with you on the “war with Israel” bits.
    The only way Egypt can fight, let alone win, a war with Israel, is if a sugar daddy is paying the bills.
    It couldnt win when it rang up the USSR and said, “I need 4 armoured divisions and 950 front line combat aircraft, I can pay you back in cotton over the next 3 million years” and not get a disconnect tone.
    Slipping a few bags of $100 notes to the unemployed might get them pissed enough to revolt, but to change policy?


  2. Well spotted. No I’m not – but I sometimes use folksy US syntax in prose becasue it communicates irony quite well, and I AM an admirer of the best of American magazine humour – which most Limeys never experience.


  3. A more positive attitude is seen from the perspective of young people – connected and informed by the rapid improvement in the internet this century, they have every intention of rejecting the tired, old control structures of previous generations. Also, not that many are really interested in the religion of their parents, just like in the UK when you might put Anglican on an NHS form but never go to church. I’m very encouraged by the restraint of the (US funded) army, when it could so easily have turned into a bloodbath.


  4. Hi John,
    Sobering thoughts. indeed
    Apart from Robert Fisk, most reports are wishful thinking.

    What might be useful is to have the views of current and former Generals (from several countries)as to what they think might happen next as opposed to hopes/aspirations from journalists.

    Keep the faith.


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