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jpyaks3

Tunisian Revolution and the Middle East

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Kind of surprised to see nothing in here about a revolution in an Arab state after all the stuff about the Iranian protests last summer.

For those who don't know an unemployed graduate set himself on fire outside a government building to protest economic conditions and the governments actions this sparked off protests and government repression that continued with increasing fury until protests started in Tunis which eventually led to Ben Ali saying he wouldn't run again in 2014 and eventually fleeing the capital where a unity government has been formed. This seems to have sent some shockwaves across the Middle East as both leaders and the people have been put on notice that this is a possibility.

Here is a timeline of the unrest and revolution

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/spotlight/tunisia/2011/01/201114142223827361.html

Everyone here (in Cairo) is talking about it and there have been at least a half dozen self immolation attempts in Cairo or Alexandria. Similar protests have been in Algeria and to a lesser extent Libya and Jordan (although they appear to be growing) and there is going to be a big protest in Cairo on the 25th with a government counter-protest. While I wouldn't call the revolution and the subsequent protests a sweeping force of democracy but it definitely opened up some space in the Middle East. This coupled with Lebanons government falling and succession issues and a Presidential election in Egypt has the potential for a year that can absolutely change the game in the Middle East as we know it.

Here are a few articles about the revolution and some of its possible influences in the region.

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/01/2011115135046129936.html

The Tunisian uprising, which succeeded in toppling Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian president, has brought down the walls of fear, erected by repression and marginalisation, thus restoring the Arab peoples' faith in their ability to demand social justice and end tyranny.

It is a warning to all leaders, whether supported by international or regional powers, that they are no longer immune to popular outcries of fury.

It is true that Ben Ali's flight from the country is just the beginning of an arduous path towards freedom. It is equally true that the achievements of the Tunisian people could still be contained or confiscated by the country's ruling elite, which is desperately clinging to power.

But the Tunisian intifada has placed the Arab world at a crossroads. If it fully succeeds in bringing real change to Tunis it will push the door wide open to freedom in Arab word. If it suffers a setback we shall witness unprecedented repression by rulers struggling to maintain their absolute grip on power.

Either way, a system that combined a starkly unequal distribution of wealth with the denial of freedoms has collapsed.

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/01/20111167156465567.html

As the French paper Le Monde described it, scenes that were "unimaginable only days ago" are now occurring with dizzying speed. Already, in Egypt, Egyptians celebrate and show solidarity over Tunisia's collapse, chanting "Kefaya" and "We are next, we are next, Ben Ali tell Mubarak he is next." Protests in Algeria and Jordan could easily expand thanks to the inspiration of the tens of thousands of Tunisians, young and old, working and middle class, who toppled one of the world's most entrenched dictators. Arab bloggers are hailing what has happened in Tunisia as "the African revolution commencing... the global anti-capitalist revolution."

So what does everyone think? Will we see major changes in the Middle East or will it be the same old across the region?

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I think a question and concern for every country in the region is if you overthrow the repressive regime in power, are you opening the door for radical and violent fundamentalists? It's not clear how well those advocating for social justice will compete against those who use both political means when it suits, and violent methods when it doesn't. Irish Republicans in Northern Ireland openly talked of fighting "with a ballot box in one hand, and an Armalite (rifle) in the other."

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Interesting thing is how Twitter was used to aid in the revolution

Other Arab countries watch closely in order to prevent a revolution in their countries too

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The whole Iran situation somewhat soured me on having any expectations from Middle Eastern "revolutions".

I spent a lot of time posting videos people uploaded and discussing things with Iranians and ex pats and rooting people on for months and it was extremely draining and disappointing seeing not much come of everything.

Hopefully Tunisia will turn out for the better from this and it will have a positive impact on the Middle East.

I won't be surprised if things actually get worse or the guy they kicked out is back in power in a few months though.

It does seems as if there are some good changes happening in different places in the Middle East right now though.

Edited by visionary

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I think a question and concern for every country in the region is if you overthrow the repressive regime in power, are you opening the door for radical and violent fundamentalists? It's not clear how well those advocating for social justice will compete against those who use both political means when it suits, and violent methods when it doesn't. Irish Republicans in Northern Ireland openly talked of fighting "with a ballot box in one hand, and an Armalite (rifle) in the other."

I am sorry but I don't really see a situation where an Islamist group that isn't moderate think Muslim Brotherhood not al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya comes to power. Also I think at least for the United States the biggest risk is an Iran situation where we burned ourselves badly by supporting a dictator over democracy. If a moderate Islamic party comes to power so be it, look at the AKP in Turkey right now I think anything is better then the situation right now where the government suppresses the ability of moderates from playing a role in the political process to prevent Islamization but instead gives the radical and the violent factions more power because they can see that the political path isn't working so they try another path.

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The whole Iran situation somewhat soured me on having any expectations from Middle Eastern "revolutions".

I spent a lot of time posting videos people uploaded and discussing things with Iranians and ex pats and rooting people on for months and it was extremely draining and disappointing seeing not much come of everything.

Hopefully Tunisia will turn out for the better from this and it will have a positive impact on the Middle East.

I won't be surprised if things actually get worse or the guy they kicked out is back in power in a few months though.

It does seems as if there are some good changes happening in different places in the Middle East right now though.

Most revolutions aren't revolutions but simply a sudden, violent change of who has the monopoly on power.

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I am sorry but I don't really see a situation where an Islamist group that isn't moderate think Muslim Brotherhood not al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya comes to power.

I have heard Tunisians express this very concern ... if you create a void by removing the oppressive incumbent, how do we make sure moderates rather than radicals seize power, given that the radicals won't play by the rules while simultaneously taking advantage of the compliant behavior of moderates.

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The Tunisian First Lady seems like a special type from what I'm hearing on the news. It's fascinating to me that millions of people across the globe put up with this kind of behavior from their leaders.

Good for the people of Tunisia, all in all. Sounds like a largely peaceful overthrow. Now comes the hard part...

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I have heard Tunisians express this very concern ... if you create a void by removing the oppressive incumbent, how do we make sure moderates rather than radicals seize power, given that the radicals won't play by the rules while simultaneously taking advantage of the compliant behavior of moderates.

Well the Tunisian Islamist population is very small right now so I doubt that. I think an Islamist group would not be able to hold with the general population, I mean there is no way that they will be less difficult to bring down than a ruler with an enormous army, police, and secret police force. I think a much more likely situation is the United States or France or whoever throwing support behind another leader in the same style as Ben Ali someone who will rule with an iron fist and prevent any "Islamists" or anyone who doesn't agree with our policy from gaining ground in the country. I think its going to be a rough ride for Tunisia until they can get their feet under them, the unity government is already having some problems. But at what point do you say enough repression, violence, economic stagnation, and lack of basic freedoms is it worth overthrowing a dictator if there is the slight possibility that an radical Islamist group might take power. I know from the people I have talked to they are ready to take that chance, because in quite a few cases the only thing worse than Islamist taking over is the current government.

We make the moderates take control by pushing on dictators to open up the political process, thats what the United States needs to do if it wants to avoid radicals. Unfortunately we rarely take that track instead supporting whoever will support our interests in the short term without a long term plan.

I think Robert Fisk makes some good points in his article about the bigger problems with the wests foreign policy towards the region.

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/the-brutal-truth-about-tunisia-2186287.html

It's the same old problem for us in the West. We mouth the word "democracy" and we are all for fair elections – providing the Arabs vote for whom we want them to vote for.

In Algeria 20 years ago, they didn't. In "Palestine" they didn't. And in Lebanon, because of the so-called Doha accord, they didn't. So we sanction them, threaten them and warn them about Iran and expect them to keep their mouths shut when Israel steals more Palestinian land for its colonies on the West Bank.

I also think that is one of the main reasons why the United States needs to start taking a responsible position towards the Middle East and instead of supporting any dictator who will suppress "Islamists" push for free and fair elections and actually honor the results. Otherwise there is the potential for radical groups to take advantage of a situation where there is no legitimate means of changing the ruling class.

Edited by jpyaks3

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Algeria is feeling the effects.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/01/22/algeria.protest/index.html?hpt=Sbin

Algiers, Algeria (CNN) -- Baton-wielding Algerian security forces clashed Saturday with protesters who defied a ban and took to the streets of the capital demanding political reform.

Eleven individuals and eight policemen were injured, two seriously, the official Algerie Presse Service reported.

Police arrested nine protesters, the news service said.

Anti-government protests erupted in Algeria in early January after weeks of similar demonstrations in neighboring Tunisia that eventually ended 23 years of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's rule.

In Algeria, the protests broke out over spiraling food costs. The opposition blames the government of failing to use the north African nation's energy wealth to better the lives of ordinary people.

A law adopted in 2001 indefinitely bans all demonstrations in Algiers, according to the monitoring group Human Rights Watch. A nationwide state of emergency in effect for nearly two decades allows the government to ban any event that is "likely to disturb public order and tranquility."

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Ripple protests could topple U.S. allies

http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/01/24/winds.change/index.html?hpt=C1

Alexandria, Egypt (CNN) -- Tunisia has brought a blast of reality to Mideast politics. Aging autocrats have been put on notice they can no longer count on docile citizens.

But is an era of unrest approaching? Will the winds of change sweep east along the Maghreb and bring down regimes from North Africa to the Levant and even the Arabian Peninsula?

Beyond doubt, those winds are blowing. Across the region they are being driven by the same social and economic factors, including high unemployment, a booming birth rate, and exploding food prices.

According to the International Monetary Fund, if chronic unemployment and the social tensions that accompany it are to be avoided the Middle East needs to create another 18 million jobs in the next 10 years. From where they stand today that's a very tall order indeed.

Amre Moussa, the Arab League secretary-general and former Egyptian foreign minister, warned regional leaders last week: "It is on everybody's mind that the Arab spirit is broken. The Arab spirit is down by poverty, unemployment and the general decline in the real indicators of development."

Regional parties like the moderate Islamists in the Muslim Brotherhood, scent opportunity.

"The same disease is in all Arab countries, we have different degrees only but the same origin of the disease, it is the same dictatorship, lack of democracy, lack of freedom restrictions on civil society," Esam el-Erian, spokesman for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said.

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Interesting article on this in the Economist. Tunisia is far from the poorest country in the Arab World, and its people were not particularly oppressed - as long as they didn't say anything political or challenge the status quo of kleptocracy by the ruling family. It's odd that Tunisia would be the one to rise up.

Many of the region’s countries look, on the surface, to be far more fragile than Tunisia, with equal volumes of anger and far deeper social woes. But different factors serve to bolster even unpopular governments. In Syria the ever-present danger of war with Israel mutes dissent. The Egyptian state, despite its appalling record in running other things, wields a large force of riot police that is well equipped, highly trained and very experienced, and so less likely to provoke outrage by excessive violence. Egypt also has a relatively free press. This not only gives healthy air to protest, but acts as the sort of early-warning system that Mr Ben Ali, due to his own repressive tactics, sorely lacked.

There is another way in which Tunisia’s experience could prove subtly inspiring. “The one constant in revolutions is the primordial role played by the army,” said Jean Tulard, a French historian of revolutions, in an interview in Le Monde. So far Tunisia’s army, kept small to forestall coup attempts, has won kudos for holding the fort, and not playing politics. Yet it is the army which is believed to have persuaded Mr Ben Ali to leave. Perhaps a few generals elsewhere in the Arab world are thinking that they, too, might better serve their countries by doing something similar.

http://www.economist.com/node/17959620?story_id=17959620&fsrc=scn/tw/te/rss/pe

I liked this joke:

During Algeria’s bloody civil strife in the 1990s, Tunisians joked of a plump, sleek Tunisian dog fleeing across the border and meeting a ragged, starving Algerian one. “What on earth are you doing here?” asked the Algerian dog. “I came here to bark,” was the forlorn reply.

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Interesting article on this in the Economist. Tunisia is far from the poorest country in the Arab World, and its people were not particularly oppressed - as long as they didn't say anything political or challenge the status quo of kleptocracy by the ruling family. It's odd that Tunisia would be the one to rise up.

Is it though? Leaving possible military coups out of the equation (and they may very well be a big part in Tunisia), who has the greater ability to overthrow a corrupt but extremely wealthy regime: The poor, uneducated masses living in squalid conditions? Or the educated folk who are able to utilize modern technologies like twitter and youtube and whatever else?

Edited by G.A.C.O.L.B.

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The Muslim Brotherhood are moderates?

Compared to Al Qaeda maybe

Yes, they are. In the 1960's and 1970's no they weren't but since then they have moved significantly towards the middle.

They are very conservative, but they are pretty moderate as a whole. There was a major leadership shake up in the early 1980's and their entire organizational structure changed, they renounced violence and most of their more violent and radical members splintered off. Currently, they are a moderate Islamist non-party (since they aren't allowed to be a party) focused mainly on social works and gaining greater political freedoms in Egypt.

---------- Post added January-25th-2011 at 04:27 AM ----------

Nothing is going to happen in Egypt

I think today is going to tell us a lot about if anything is going to happen in Egypt. There are plans for massive protests across Cairo and Alexandria and from what I have heard from Egyptians and long time ex-pats is that the Tunisian revolution actually changed the status quo a bit. People are a lot more freely denouncing Mubarak and the current government and there is a feeling of unity residual from the Alexandria church bombings which brought about a lot more anti-government rhetoric. Now I am not saying that anything is going to happen but it does seem like there has been a change and I wouldn't rule out something big happening in the near future. Mubarak has kind of backed himself into a corner with this upcoming Presidential election as well so there is quite a lot that can happen and as we saw in Tunisia it can happen pretty quickly.

That said, the Egyptian government has been extremely effective and controlling and quashing dissident and opposition forces, from the Islamic radicals to the left wing of the political spectrum, so more than likely nothing will come of this but the possibility is still there.

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I am sorry but I don't really see a situation where an Islamist group that isn't moderate think Muslim Brotherhood not al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya comes to power.

Did you notice that Hezbollah just determined who the next PM or Lebonon will be? Signaling perhaps a historic turning of Lebonon away fromo a western and Saudi Arabian alliance in favor of a more pro Iran and Syria alliance. Not sure Hezbollah's new prominence in Leboonon is directly tied to Tunisia, but I do think it's part of Arab nationalism. I also think it's pretty easy for any popular Arab nationalist movement to be co-oped to work against both the United States and Israel. It's not like either one of us is very popular with the Arab man on the street.

Also I think at least for the United States the biggest risk is an Iran situation where we burned ourselves badly by supporting a dictator over democracy.

Isn't that our history across the middle east? From Morroco, Egypt, Jordan, Iran and Saudi?

If a moderate Islamic party comes to power so be it, look at the AKP in Turkey right now I think anything is better then the situation right now where the government suppresses the ability of moderates from playing a role in the political process to prevent Islamization but instead gives the radical and the violent factions more power because they can see that the political path isn't working so they try another path.

I tend to agree with you. Democracies are messy and we must be willing to accept and work with that messyness. In the long run democracies are much more reliable allies and friends than monarchies and dictators. Although that's going to be a tough sell if one of those new democracies takes a pot shot at Israel and Israel is forced to mop up the floor with them; using US weapons.

---------- Post added January-25th-2011 at 07:58 AM ----------

The Muslim Brotherhood are moderates?

Compared to Al Qaeda maybe

The Muslim Brotherhood are the grandaddies of all radicals in the ME. They are the ones who inspired AQ. They are the ones to killed Anwar Sadat. They are also in favor of Arab unity. That's where Saddam, Nasser(Egypt), and Asad(Syria) got the idea from wasn't it?

---------- Post added January-25th-2011 at 08:02 AM ----------

Interesting article on this in the Economist. Tunisia is far from the poorest country in the Arab World, and its people were not particularly oppressed - as long as they didn't say anything political or challenge the status quo of kleptocracy by the ruling family. It's odd that Tunisia would be the one to rise up.:

It kind of shows you how potentially unstable the entire ME is doesn't it. It if could happen in tunisia as it happenned in Iran before; It could really happen anywhere given the right spark.

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The Muslim Brotherhood are moderates?

Compared to Al Qaeda maybe

When Al Quieda was threating Coptic Christians in Egypt the Muslim Botherhood offered them protection and went to the Christmas services to make sure they were able to worship in peace

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Nothing is going to happen in Egypt

http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/01/25/egypt.protests/index.html?hpt=T1&iref=BN1

Thousands protest in Egypt

(CNN) -- People across Egypt took to the streets on Tuesday in demonstrations against corruption and failing economic policies, rallies partly inspired by similar protests that rocked Tunisia this month.

Thousands were protesting in the capital of Cairo, according to the "Front to Defend Egypt Protesters," an alliance of lawyers who helped organize the events.

At first, witnesses said, the police were restrained in Cairo. But later, they said, police fired around a dozen rounds of tear gas on the protesters, and people in the crowd threw the canisters back at the officers.

The group said about 200 demonstrators were in the southern city of Aswan, 2,000 in the eastern city of Ismailiya, and about 3,000 in the northern city of Mahallah.

Protest organizers said they hope to capture the regional momentum for political change set by Tunisians, who 10 days ago forced the collapse of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year rule.

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Hearing estimates of around 50,000 in Cairo and 40,000 in Alexandria, absolutely crazy atmosphere here. People aren't afraid of the police anymore. There are still thousands in Tahrir Square.

Here is a twitter stream

http://tweetchat.com/room/jan25

Here is a sight that is live updating

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/4773.aspx

Edited by jpyaks3

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Hearing estimates of around 50,000 in Cairo and 40,000 in Alexandria, absolutely crazy atmosphere here. People aren't afraid of the police anymore. There are still thousands in Tahrir Square.

Here is a twitter stream

http://tweetchat.com/room/jan25

Here is a sight that is live updating

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/4773.aspx

Are you seeing any yourself where you are?

Curious if you're planning on checking one of the protests out.

Be careful if you are.

You never know what can happen, with either side.

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Are you seeing any yourself where you are?

Curious if you're planning on checking one of the protests out.

Be careful if you are.

You never know what can happen, with either side.

I was in Tahrir square all day, just returned home but there are thousands still in there. Streets are on lockdown. The protests were peaceful until the government ran through with a water cannon on top of a troop carrier someone jumped on the roof and ripped it off which just made the protests that much more intense. Then the troops boxed us in shot tear gas. When I left it had been subdued after an attempt to storm the Parliament building was put down with what must have been 30 or 40 rounds of tear gas. Seems like both sides were regrouping for the night.

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When Al Quieda was threating Coptic Christians in Egypt the Muslim Botherhood offered them protection and went to the Christmas services to make sure they were able to worship in peace

I thought the Muslim Brotherhood was banned in Egypt?

added

They seem so moderate

http://www.businessinsider.com/muslim-brotherhood-egypt-revolution-2011-1

Edited by twa

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