Tuesday, January 18, 2011

News from the Middle East

Pressed by protests all over the area, the Arab leaders to pledge $2B to revamp economies at an economic forum this Wednesday, at Sharm el-Sheikh. 
The protests reached Oman. Reports from the area are talking about 200 people asking a stronger stance against corruption, while some other news widespread on social media are mentioning 2000...Mispellings? 
And this is a piece from the FP, on Anwar Al-Awlaki.
Plus, some thoughts about the waves of self-immolations. It is a form of political protest not brand new in politics, as it showed, in January 19 1969, Jan Palach, in the then Czechoslovak Communist Republic or the Tiananmen protesters in 1989. I don't have enough information for reading it according to an universal pattern, as a pure protest against an oppressive regime, without any cultural and religious specific frames.

I want to share a couple of non-scholarly thoughts on what it is going on in the area.
In the last two weeks, it was an over increasing avalanche of information regarding the protests and evolutions or involutions from the region, mostly, but not exclusively in English, French, Arabic. New blogs are created or old ones discovered. I had a very short virtual tour the last hour of many interesting and creative blogs written by people living in the region. It's a pitty that we found them only now, as many of them are hosting good discussions about other topics than politics and protests. For understanding what it is going on now, you need a lot of information about the cultural and mentalities' background. Unfortunately, we are now facing a burning out of too much data, news - not always accurate - about events, persons and situations leading to fortuite conclusions. 
For the moment, we see only shadows, in an Oriental-wise "ombres Chinoises" theater in the style of "1001+ nights". We, in the West, we optimistically wish the blessings of democracy spreading all over the world. It will be wonderful, but...
- those countries never experienced the basics of what we call democracy: separation of power, free and transparent institutions, respect for human - and women - rights, free media, free elections. You need years and deep beliefs to create such habitus, to educate people to refuse and oppose any kind of dictatorship/non-democratic regimes and politicians.
- fighting corruption in an effective way it is a good line of a manifest for the future, but the idea of "corruption" is projected in the discourses of some religious leaders as the fault of "secular" leaders, aiming to force modernization of their societies. According to those statements, the West is portrayed as "corrupt", in comparison with the societies ruled by the laws of Islam.
- excepting the religious parties and organizations - the Muslim Brotherhood is an example, banned or isolated from the political scene, there are not too many, if any, secular structures able to assume coherently and without relying on the (sometimes extreme) religious leaders. The experience and presence of some exiled leaders is not automatically the key for a separation from the past - see, for example, Iraq.
- this complex situation going on in the Middle East would likely block than empower further discussions between the state of Israel and the representatives of the Palestinian Authority - unable to take dramatic decisions exclusively by themselves. For one month, maybe for more. 
- I can bet that the same disorientation is shared in Tehran.
All we need is to watch and think and ponder and use our critical thinking capacities. 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Movie review: In this World

The world is not fair and the place you are born in might be a luck or a curse. Following the silk road of despair presented in the movie In this World, I had a couple of pessimistic thoughts about how limited our chances might be sometimes and how easily do we waste the lucky cards, simply because we don't know how it is to have a bad life. 
The movie is the story of two Afghans, Enayat and Jamal, living for years in a refugee camp in Shamshatoo, from the time of the Soviet invasion. In such places, people are living short, in misery, children face the reality of life from early age and, without any clear future, would be recruited by various terrorist gangs. It is not the lack of Western-wise comfort and easy life that is shocking, but the stucked lives: it is not tomorrow, only the present dedicated to survival. The two Afghans are sent by their family - we don't see any women side of the family, but a society dominated by men - in London, smuggled through Iran, Turkey, via Italy and with the final destination: London. No papers, just money and some telephone numbers. A huge invisible because nobody cares about them network is put into movement by money. Money can't buy a new life, as it is the case of Enayat, who didn't survive the trip on container. Jamal is luckier, but not lucky enough to be provided refugee status in the UK and will have to leave the country before 18. 
This is a problem with granting refugee status, but it is a problem for Europe as well, overexposed by the illegal networks using humans as animals. It is a problem for the Afghan kids as well, who don't have the chance to a normal life, school and education. It is a human problem of all of us, far beyond the old Silk Road.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Understanding the Muslim Brotherhood

The members of this organization are not so hidden and not so secretive. This is only a problem of being able to understand who's who. And mostly, where are they operating - and yes, Tunisia is on the list too.
A couple of links contributing to a wider picture:
Moderates, not exactly...
Claire Berlinski, on their origins
The Muslim Brotherhood and the last elections in Jordan
The official website, in English - interesting to follow various reactions on the events taking place in the North of Africa and in the Middle East
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Death of an Iranian Prince

Alireza Pahlavi, the younger son of the late shah of Iran was found dead, after he killed himself in his Boston residence. The role of the shah family in the current political developments in Iran is limited, and rather symbolical in relation with the main world power brokers.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

About Facebook states

This is a post I was thinking about a very long time the last year, but because too busy with other conflicts, I delayed the documentation.
I was thinking about the latest Latin American spontaneous moves to declare the recogniziting of a Palestinian state "within the 1967 borders": (alphabetically) Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador and Uruguay. Chile and Paraguay are preparing to do it soon. And I was thinking, again, about the situation of Kosovo, a state who self-declared independence in February 2008, facing various system and structural problems, as well as the lack of elites. There are, of course, different shapes of the cups of tea, and the regions are having a different profile. But I was curious if the pioneers of independence proceeded similarly in the case of Kosovo, where most part of the current political leaders used to be part of the UCK, with a limited record of terrorism and repression in comparison with Hamas.
Let's have a look at the arguments:
Argentina declared that it will not recognise it because "it supports the principle of territorial integrity".
Brazil pledged that a peaceful solution for the issue of Kosovo must continue to be sought through dialogue and negotiation.
Bolivian president Evo Morales, refused, on February 2008 to recognize Kosovo's independence and compared the separatists with the leaders of the Bolivian states who have demanded greater autonomy.
Ecuadorian authorities promised they would carefully examine the developments in the area.
Uruguay expressed its official point of view in March 2008, according to "Ultima Noticias", as follows: "Uruguay has not recognized Kosovo's declaration of independence, because doing so would not be in in accordance with its required three pillars of recognition: the principle of territorial integrity of states, achieving a solution through dialogue and consensu, and recognition by international organisations".
Diplomacy, intelligence and caution are required in both cases and Che Guevara-like games might have unexpected boomerang effects.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Religion and voting in Sudan

A year in books: 2010

I had a look this morning over the list of the best books sold and recommended by Amazon. And, not surprisingly, I found a couple of books covering exclusively or partially aspects related to foreign affairs and international politics.
From the category "Biographies and Memoirs", you have, in this order of preference: Laura Hillebrand (1) - Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption; Laura Bush (3) - Spoken from the Heart (useful for understanding the mentality basis of the Bush family); Karl Rove (15) - Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight; George W. Bush (18) - Decision Points (Laura took it all in the family, apparently), Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices (24) (the only one from the list I've read and which, in my opinion, is full of stereotypes and who benefited of an undiserved - from the qualitative point of view - advertising), Andrew Young (26) - The Politician. An Insider's Account of John Edward's Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal that Brought him down.
From the category "Thriller and Fiction", on the 6th place you will find Glenn Beck's The Overton Window (the expression means a "window" in the range of public reactions to ideas in public discourse, from a spectrum of all possible options on a particular issue). I don't like nothing about Glenn Beck, but I would be curious to read his book, as part of my usual documentation about politics and people who want to be part of them.
The politics are represented in the category of "Literature and Fiction" with Karl Marlante's Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, on the 1st place, Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen (3) and David Grossman (7) To the End of Land. (the last two books are on my shelves, waiting to be open very very soon).
Maybe today will be a day dedicated exclusively to reading and more and more writing to be posted very very soon.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sparks of revolt in Tunisia, but will it be fire?

Tunisian President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali at ...Image via Wikipedia//The president of Tunisia

Mohamed Bouazizi is a 26 years old Tunisian, and graduated Mahdia University and unemployed. After the local police from central-west side of the country police confiscated his fruits and vegetables because lacking a proper permit, he set himself on fire, December 17 2010. Now he is in intensive care and visited by officials looking extremely interested about his situation and, in general, about the fate of the youth in the country. UPDATE: Bouazizi died, January 5.
But he was and is not alone and shortly after, protests widespread over the country, but were isolated and repressed by the police and information about were not published in the state media. The most part of the news about the situation were transmitted by bloggers writing inside the country (Here are a couple of examples, in French, Arabic and English: Moor Next Door, A Tunisian Girl, Revolution Tunisieand on Twitter.  Al Jazeera dedicated a 23 minutes report on the situation, in its glamorous CNN-style adapted for the Middle East.
The youth, whose protests are not of recent date, but only the latest won certain intensity for being related in the international media, are asking for less corruption and more professional opportunities based on merit. Demonstrators brandished signs reading “Spread the Wealth” and “Balanced Development of Regions”. With the exception of the tourist zones contributing with a lot of cash to the economy, who made Tunisia famous among Westerners keen to taste some "Orient" without risking the terrorist danger, the unemployment is over 10 percent.
The president Zine al-Abidine ben Ali, ruler of the country for 23 years (who, among others, was involved in the national resistance against the French but studied later at the famous military French Academy Saint Cyr - his Romantic biography can be accessed here), condemned the foreign media for “manipulating images from the protest”.  He also ordered the prime minister to mobilize authorities nationwide for a 6.5 billion dinar ($4.5 billion) plan to create jobs for Tunisians with university diplomas — a substantial sum for a country of only 10 million people. But the opposition, unable to reach too much power, in a country qualified by the US administration according to the Wikileaks as a “police state,” says the government's response has been inadequate and that the protests are fueled not only by unemployment but by the lack of human rights. The president also reshuffled the Cabinet: the communications minister was replaced, while the Interior minister, guilty for the force interventions against protesters was kept. The minister for trade and the minister for religious affairs were also replaced.
Opposition politicians say dozens have been arrested and at least three persons were killed.
Some journalists from the Western media consider the revolt as a sign of change, but I would rather be cautious about declaring that the change – in what direction, and leaded by whom – already took place. Tunisia might be considered a kind of Egypt at a different scale, but it doesn't mean it is less exposed to the risks of instability and extreme temptations and dangers
And, in the middle of the turmoil, the Tunisian regime is ready to greet Abu Mazen, the  president of the Palestinian Authority.
Who will take the bad luck?

Enhanced by Zemanta


I have the great pleasure to introduce to my readers a new - entertainment like - section of my blog: movie reviews, with connection with foreign affairs. Movies are a mirror of mentalities and we only have to think about the period of the "atomic bomb" for realizing how much the visual narratives are used for creating a certain mind framework. And, nevertheless we need some relaxing times from time to time, far away of the world of serious decisions and power brokers, isn't it?
For the beginning I recommend you Salt - the story of a CIA agent (Angelina Jolie) fighting to prove its innocence - by killing everything moving around her, as a brave role model - against the accusations of being a Soviet spy. The movie was released in 2010, and it is about an impressive network of Soviet spies, made of children whose parents died (or were killed) in the Soviet Union. They were brainwashed, educated and sent abroad to infiltrate the America's centers of command. Again, we are in 2010, more than 20 years after the end of the Cold War. The main interest of the network is to start a nuclear war - as in the old good times, in the 60s, if do you remember...But, even in some cases the names changed, you have only to think a bit back a couple of month ago about the famous Ana Chapman's network of spies dismantled in the US. The mindset didn't changed too much, only the age and appearance of the instruments. After 11/9 we got used with the movies focused on terrorism and this one is like a flash back from the not-so-far history. A big country is always facing big enemies, from all sides.
As in this latest big spy case, the network is freely operating in the very heart of the American Empire and probably in the real world, this is exactly like this. From the very beginning, the family name of the powerful agent reminds me of the SALT - Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, started in the 60s between the USA and the Soviet Union on the issue of armament control. The movie is full of suspense and action and Jolie's acrobatics to escape her followers are breathtaking in some cases. And at the end, the mission is accomplished and the discrete agent is disappearing from the public eyes. End of this game. To be continued.
Enhanced by Zemanta