Tag Archives: Syria

Fresh protests in Syria

Syria: Protesters in south set fire to buildings

Demonstrators in the southern Syrian city of Deraa have set fire to several buildings during a third consecutive day of protests, witnesses say.

One report said the buildings targeted included the headquarters of the ruling Baath Party.

Police tried to disperse protesters in the southern city, and one demonstrator was reportedly killed.

Violent clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces on Friday left at least four people dead.

The protests on Sunday came as a government delegation arrived in Deraa to offer condolences for those killed.

Residents told Reuters news agency that protesters had set fire to symbols of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, including the Baath Party building, a courthouse and two branches of a phone company owned by the president’s cousin.

Earlier, protesters in Deraa called for an end to Syria’s 48-year-old emergency law, and for the dismissal of officials involved in Friday’s crackdown, reports said. …

Read more : BBC

With the Mubarak gone there may be changes or the ruling elite could just find a new public face

Mubarak’s departure marks the end of an era for Egypt

If real reforms are achieved, Egypt will have witnessed a real revolution – and its impact will be felt across the Middle East

by Ian Black

Hosni Mubarak’s dramatic departure marks the end of an era for Egypt and the Middle East. Thirty years of his rule has left a deep impression on his country’s domestic affairs and external relations. Without him, much could change on many fronts — at home and across the region. …

Read more : Guardian.co.uk

Egypt a ticking time bomb – Eric Margolis

As battered air travelers struggle to recover from Iceland’s volcanic big bang, another explosion is building up. This time, it’s a political one that could rock the entire Mideast, where rumours of war involving the U.S., Syria, Israel and Iran are intesifying.

President Hosni Mubarak, the U.S. – supported strongman who has ruled Egypt with an iron hand for almost 30 years, is 81 and in frail health. He has no designated successor. Mubarak, a general, was put into power with U.S. help after the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat by nationalist soldiers. Sadat had been a CIA “asset” since 1952.

Egypt, with 82 million people, is the most populous and important Arab nation and Cairo the cultural centre of the Arab world. It is also an over crowded madhouse with eight million people whose population has tripled since I lived there as a boy. Not counting North Africa, one in three Arabs is Egyptian.

Egypt was once the heart and soul of the Arab and Muslim world. Under Sadat’s predecessor, the widely adored nationalist Jamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt led the Arab world. Egytians despised Sadat as a corrupt western today and sullenly accepted Mubarak. After three decades under Mubarak, Egypt has become a political and cultural back water. In a telling incident, Mubarak recently flew to Germay for gall bladder and colon surgery. After billions in U.S. aid, Mubarak could not even trust a local hospital in the Arab world’s leading nation.

The U.S. gives Egypt $ 1.3 billion annually in military aid to keep the generals content and about $ 700 million in economic aid, not counting secret CIA stipends, and vast amounts of low cost wheat. Mubarak’s Egypt is the cornerstone of America’s Mideast Raj (dominion). Egypt’s 469,000-man armed forces, 397,000 paramilitary police and ferocious secret police keep the regime in power and crush all dissent.

Though large, Egypt’s military is starved by Washington of modern weapons, ammo and spare parts so it can not wage war against Israel. Its sole function is keeping the U.S. backed regime in power. Mubarak has long been a key ally of Israel in battling Islamist and nationalist groups. Egypt and Israel  collaborate on penning up Hamas-led Palestinians in Gaza.

Egypt is now building a new steel wall on the Gaza border with U.S. assistance. Mubarak’s wall, which will go down 12 meters, is designed to block tunnels through which Gaza Palestinians rely for supplies. While Washington fulminates against Iran and China over human rights, it says nothing about client Egypt – where all elections are rigged, regime opponents brutally tortured and political opposition liquidated.

Washington could quickly impose real democracy to Egypt where it pulls all the strings, if it wanted.  Ayman Nour, the last man who dared run in an election against the eternal Mubarak – “pharaoh” to Islamist opponents – was arrested and tortured. Now, as Mubarak’s health fails, the U.S. and Israel are increasingly alarmed his death could produce a political eruption in long repressed Egypt.

Mubarak has been trying to groom his son, Jamal, to succeed him. But Egyptians are deeply opposed. The powerful 72-year old intelligence chief, Gen, Omar Suleiman, an ally of the U.S. and Israel, is another army or air force general for the job. Egypt’s secular political opposition barely exists. The regime’s real opponent remains the relatively moderate, highly popular Islamic Brotherhood. It would win a free election hands  down. But its leadership is old and tired. Half of Egyptians are under 20.

Mohammed El-Baradai, the intelligent, principled, highly respected Egyptian former UN nuclear chief, is calling for real democracy in his homeland. He presents a very attractive candidate to lead post-Mubarak Egypt.

Washington hopes it can ease another compliant general into power and keep the security forces loyal before 30 years of pent-up fury at Mubarak’s dictatorship, Egypt’s political emasculation, thirst for change and dire poverty produce a volcanic eruption on the Nile.

eric.margolis@sunmedia.ca

Courtesy: Toronto Sun, April 25, 2010

From Pakistan to Israel – by Saleem H. Ali

Courtesy: All voices

Israel – Tel Aviv : As a Pakistani-American, I was initially hesitant to visit Israel in this political climate, but when an invitation from Tel Aviv University beckoned to explore prospects for ecological peace-building in the region, I felt obliged to accept. One of Israel’s most liberal universities was organizing a conference on the prospects for an environmental “peace park” with Syria in the Golan Heights and they wanted me to be the keynote speaker, given my previous research on such efforts worldwide. Some “Realists” might roll their eyes on such a prospect but the concept of “peace parks” is more than an idealist’s ramblings and has shown promise in resolving territorial disputes. Warring parties can be made to realize quite pragmatically that joint conservation is economically beneficial and also a politically viable exit strategy from a conflict. The US used such a strategy in the mid 1990s to resolve a decades-old armed conflict between Ecuador and Peru in the Cordillera del Condor region. The Obama administration’s deputy envoy to the Middle East, Fred Hof, has proposed the Golan peace park effort as a means of a peace-building with Syria as well in a formal paper written for the US Institute of Peace in 2008. So the idea is one which policy-makers are considering seriously and there are even detailed maps and plans that have been prepared to consider such a solution.

Nevertheless, the trip was risky in two ways: first in Pakistan, I would be immediately marginalized for visiting a country that is still perceived by many to be illegitimate. Second, as a Muslim of Pakistani lineage traveling to the region, I would be considered with suspicion in Israel as well as back in the United States. Thus I arrived with conflicting emotions and a protracted security screening at Ben Gurion airport, only to find the country in its latest conflagration in Gaza. An early January air attack on the beleaguered region had left four Palestinians dead and an aid convoy from the UK on Gaza’s border with Egypt was being stopped by Egyptians who claimed that they were under treaty obligations with Israel to ensure proper security measures. An Egyptian soldier was also killed in the frenzied fury of the waiting game for desperately needed aid.

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