Posted by Joshua on Sunday, February 27th, 2011
Bashar Assad, son and designated successor of late Syrian President Hafez Assad, makes a fist as he follows the coffin of his father into the mosque of Qardaha, the home village of the late Syrian leader, June 13, 2000. n Arab countries that don’t have monarchies, the model for aspiring family dynasties was set by Hafez Assad, the iron-clawed “Lion of Damascus,” who died on a sunny June day in 2000…..
Attempts to create family dynasties have to varying degrees helped spark popular uprisings in Arab countries not ruled by monarchies — Yemen, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. (The revolts have also shaken monarchies in Bahrain, Morocco and Jordan.)
Repression, poverty and a general lack of freedom and democracy are the root causes of the Arab revolts. But the family successions being prepared were the frustrating signs that nothing would change.
“People saw it as a symptom of the lack of democracy,” says Marina Ottaway, director of the Middle East program at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment think-tank. “Here were these regimes trying to perpetuate themselves even after the death of the current strongman.”
“It was one of those things that really touched the dignity of Egyptians,” says Michael Wahid Hanna, a fellow at the New York-based Century Foundation. They saw it as an affront — ‘What is this? We’re not Saudi Arabia, we’re not a monarchy.’ ”
Making matters worse was the widely held view of Gamal as leader of a highly corrupt new guard within the ruling National Democratic Party, which made its fortune through the privatization of Egypt’s economy in the l990s.
The old guard, including a military hierarchy that has dominated Egypt since the overthrow of the monarchy in 1952, saw the heightened corruption as needlessly provocative in a country where 40 per cent earn less than $2 a day….
In Yemen, Saleh was promising to dump his son at the same time as Mubarak was dumping his. ….
In Libya, a Mubarak-style seaside retirement doesn’t seem in the cards for strongman Moammar Gadhafi and his family. …
All of this leaves Syrian President Bashar Assad as the first and only example of family succession in the non-monarchic Arab world. His repressive regime has so far been spared the revolts sweeping the region. Still, the republican dynastic model he represents is a thing of the past, says British Middle East expert Tim Niblock. This stage of Arab history is finished.”
Facebook Page Calls To Oust Syria’s Assad With Worldwide
2011-02-26 – Radio Netherlands
NICOSIA (AFP)–A Facebook page has called for mass protests in Syria and in several Western countries against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. The organizers of the page, which had 25,000 fans early on Saturday, said the date for demonstrations to be held “in all Syrian cities” was being carefully studied and “will be determined in a few days.”
Landmark Decision by Lebanon Tribunal ( DER SPIEGEL 22 feb 2011)
Court Ruling Opens Up Terrorism to International Prosecution
The UN tribunal investigating the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has ruled that acts of terrorism can be prosecuted under international law. The decision will have far-reaching legal implications, but could also increase political turmoil in Lebanon and cause the Hariri case to collapse….
CAIRO (Reuters) – Future presidents of Egypt will only be allowed to stay in office for eight years according to constitutional amendments that will open up competition for the position held for three decades by ousted leader Hosni Mubarak.
After Iraq’s Day of Rage, a crackdown on intellectuals
Stephanie McCrummen, The Washington Post
Iraqi security forces detained about 300 people, including prominent journalists, artists and lawyers, who took part in nationwide demonstrations Friday, in what some of them described as an operation to intimidate Baghdad intellectuals….
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who only recently formed a fragile governing coalition that is supported by the United States, was apparently concerned about the protest billed as Iraq’s “Day of Rage.” Leading up to Friday, he ordered a curfew on cars and urged Iraqis to stay home, as a government spokesman warned of “terrorists” who might use “sniping and silencer pistols” to target crowds. Security forces raided a prominent journalist watchdog group involved in organizing the protest.
Despite that, tens of thousands of Iraqis turned out for the protests, which began peacefully but degenerated as forces fired water cannons, sound bombs and live bullets to disperse crowds.
The death toll rose to at least 29 Saturday, as officials reported that six more protesters, including a 14-year-old boy, died from bullet wounds. The deaths were recorded in at least eight places, including Fallujah, Mosul and Tikrit.
Ssairi and his colleagues had joined the protests in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, some wrapping themselves in white sheets in a sign of peace. As the sun set, helicopters swooped down into the crowd, signaling the start of the crackdown.
Around 4 p.m., Aldiyar TV manager Fiysal Alyassiry, who had broadcast the demonstrations, reported that security forces had attacked the station, beat a worker, arrested seven people including a director and an anchorman, and closed the station.
Will Syria become more democratic?
By David Ignatius
Sunday, February 27, 2011;
DAMASCUS, SYRIA: The rise and fall of a protest demonstration here recently shows that Syrians share the yearning for dignity that’s sweeping the Arab world – and also illustrates why President Bashar al-Assad so far hasn’t been threatened by this tide of anger. ….
Syria is a paradox in this Arab season of revolt. It has an authoritarian regime dominated by a corrupt Baath Party – a relic of the age of dictators that is being swept away in so many other countries. But President Assad, relatively young at 45 and wrapped in the popular banner of resistance to Israel and America, hasn’t yet been affected.
Is Syria next? That’s impossible to predict at a time when, as an Arab proverb puts it, “the artery of shame has ruptured.” The answer depends on whether the Assad regime is able to make reforms – and move as quickly as it did a week ago in responding to that street demonstration.
The French, who probably know this country better than most outsiders, view Assad as relatively secure. “In the short to medium term, the probability of revolution is extremely low in Syria compared to other countries,” is how one official describes the French perspective.
An intriguing debate is underway among Assad’s advisers about whether he should allow more democracy and openness – something he has long claimed he wants – or keep the controls fastened tight. The reformers argue that change will enhance Assad’s popularity, while the security establishment counters that concessions now would be a sign of weakness – and empower the Muslim Brotherhood.
Assad must decide soon whether to allow real parties – other than the Baath and its various fronts – to compete in elections this year. Syria has both municipal and parliamentary elections scheduled for this year, and the question is whether there will be real, open balloting for candidates and parties, or a Soviet-style, rubber-stamp version, as in the past. Another opportunity for a shake-up is a congress of the Baath Party also planned for this year.
Reformers hope that Assad will amend the constitution so that it doesn’t require Baath rule and instead allows inter-party competition. “If we have different political parties, it’s healthy for the Baath, which is slowing down and getting distanced from the people,” argues one Syrian reformer.
Corruption is also a volatile issue here. The regime is vulnerable because Assad’s cousin, Rami Makhluf, is the dominant shareholder of the lucrative cellphone franchise known as Syriatel. Assad is considering whether Makhluf should reduce his interest to make way for foreign investment, according to two knowledgeable people. But that reform move could trigger a rift within his family.
The debate among Assad’s inner circle mirrors the wider political battles that are rocking the Arab world. For now, the streets of Damascus are mostly full of shoppers, not protesters. But if the experience of other countries over the past two months shows anything, it’s that delaying reform too long in a one-party state like Syria is potentially a fatal mistake.
Syria’s squandered electricity estimated over 2 bln USD: report
2011-02-27 14:17:34.963 GMT
DAMASCUS, Feb 27, 2011 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — A recently published European study reported the squandered electricity energy in Syria was estimated at over 2 billion U.S. dollars, local Damascus Press news website reported Sunday. The study, prepared in cooperation with Syrian Energy Sector and financed by the European Union, said Syria’s squandered electricity rate is one of the highest in the world. The report attributed the squandering to the outdated low-tension network, saying that all government’s suggested procedures have failed to reduce squandering. The steadily declining of oil and gas production and depletion of reserves have pushed the Syrian government to seek for renewable energy sources, including wind and sun, to meet the rising domestic consumption.
Haaretz – Merkel chides Netanyahu for failing to make ‘a single step to advance peace’
Netanyahu and his advisers are working on a speech that would outline an alternative to the interim agreement with the Palestinians, similar to Lieberman’s plan. That initiative, which Haaretz reported on a month ago, consists of establishing a Palestinian state within temporary borders on about 50 percent of the West Bank.
The prime minister has been discussing the plan with Lieberman in recent weeks to understand it more thoroughly.
All of the sources, however, added that it was unclear whether Netanyahu seriously intended to advance the peace process or whether he merely wants to appear to be doing so, as a means of shifting international pressure onto the PA. In the latter case, he is counting on the Palestinians’ objection to the Israeli initiative. …
….Netanyahu told Merkel he was disappointed by Germany’s vote and by Merkel’s refusal to accept Israel’s requests before the vote, the source added. Merkel was furious.
“How dare you,” she said, according to the official. “You are the one who disappointed us. You haven’t made a single step to advance peace.” The prime minister assured Merkel that he intended to launch a new peace plan.
Sucking up to Syria
Benny Avni, New York Post: , 2011-02-25
When it comes to Syria, we’re actively coddling a hateful regime as it faces unrest. Why won’t we encourage freedom-seeking Syrians to overthrow their oppressor, as we did with former allied countries like Egypt and Tunisia?…..
دعا عبد الحليم خدام النائب الرئاسي السابق والمعارض السوري، الرئيس بشار الأسد إلى “خطوة تاريخية” تتمثل في”تشكيل حكومة وحدة وطنية انتقالية تسلمها السلطة وتتخلى عنها” أي السلطة Abdal Halim Khaddam, Syria’s ex-Vice President and No. 1 dissident is calling for a NationalUnity government in Damascus, where, presumably, he would regain his old title.
GAZA (Reuters) — Israeli warplanes bombed a half-dozen targets in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, wounding a 7-month-old girl and aPalestinian man, medics in the coastal territory said.
Syria Takes ‘Step Forward’ in United Nations Nuclear Probe
By Jonathan Tirone
Feb. 25 (Bloomberg) — Syrian nuclear authorities said they’d allow United Nations inspectors to visit a uranium-extraction plant in what the International Atomic Energy Agency called a “step forward.”
Syria Rejects Nuke Probe
By GEORGE JAHN
Vienna (AP) — Diplomats say Syria has formally rejected a request from the head of the U.N. atomic agency for access to a suspected nuclear site…. The refusal was a snub to IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, who had directly asked Syria’s foreign minister in November to allow a new visit. The agency is attempting to probe both Syria and Iran. It is to release reports on both nations later Friday.
‘Volcano of rage’ (Max Rodenbeck, New York Review of Books)
“Much of Egypt’s nomenclatura consists of current and former army officers like Mubarak himself. Their inbuilt resistance to truly revolutionary change can be seen in the high command’s reluctance, so far, to countenance any investigation of the Mubarak family, or to outline a comprehensive vision for reform. They have yet to abolish Egypt’s notorious emergency law, or to release remaining political prisoners. Perhaps most disturbingly, the military has charged the last cabinet appointed by Mubarak with continuing to run the daily affairs of government. In short, it is not yet clear whether the generals’ understanding of “democracy” is closer to Mubarak’s than to the hopes so vividly expressed by their people. Yet there is no doubt that Egypt has changed for good, and with it the wider region. As the increasingly brutal suppression of uprisings in Yemen, Bahrain, and Libya shows, the Egyptian model of massive street uprisings may not work everywhere in the tyranny-prone Middle East. But in Cairo, at least, a newfound sense of empowerment and potential pulses vigorously. It will not be easily muted.”….
Lack of protests in Syria blamed on internet crackdown
By Weedah Hamzah and Aya Batrawy Feb 27, 2011
Beirut – While much of the Arab world continues to see thousands of people taking to the streets with calls for political change, a ‘Day of Rage’ planned in Syria this month drew only a few dozen protesters.
Hundreds of Syrians did later demonstrate, but to demand an investigation into the alleged police beating of a young man in the capital Damascus – not to seek the toppling of the government, as protesters have successfully done in Tunisia and Egypt.
Government officials attribute the lack of upheaval to President Bashar al-Assad’s popularity.
‘Such protests are useless in Syria because the president is not hated as much as Hosny Mubarak in Egypt. Our president has started to make reforms a few years ago,’ a Syrian source loyal to the president told the German Press Agency dpa. But rights groups and activists blame the low turnout on an internet crackdown initiated by the government.
“Iran is the big winner here,” said a regional adviser to the United States government who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
Iran’s circumstances could change, experts cautioned, if it overplayed its hand or if popular Arab movements came to resent Iranian interference in the region. And it is by no means assured that pro-Iranian groups would dominate politics in Egypt, Tunisia or elsewhere.
For now, Iran and Syria are emboldened. Qatar and Oman are tilting toward Iran, and Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Yemen are in play.
Egypt’s Economy Needs to Change. It Won’t
By David J. Lynch, 2011-02-24
Feb. 24 (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)Despite its position astride trade routes in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, Egypt hasn’t secured a role in global supply chains. Nike (NKE), for example, buys shoes and clothing from 42 Vietnamese manufacturers that employ more than 198,000 workers, according to its website. Egypt, with a similar population, is handicapped by numerous taxes, uncertain contract enforcement, and insufficient skilled labor. Just five Egyptian companies employing 5,129 people supply finished products to Nike.
From 2004 to 2009, per capita income rose 20 percent in Egypt. Vietnam posted a 34 percent income gain over that period. “They really need to penetrate global industrial supply networks,” says Marcus Noland, author of The Arab Economies in a Changing World. Between 1990 and 2009, Egypt’s per capita exports of goods and services rose at an average annual rate of less than 5 percent—about half the rate of India and one-third of China, says the IMF.
Egypt, which has endured unemployment above 8 percent for years, must create 9.4 million jobs by 2020 to absorb the jobless as well as new entrants into the workforce. To do so, GDP would have to grow almost 10 percent a year, about twice the rate since 2000, says the IMF…… The bottom line: Egypt after Mubarak shows signs of resistance to the free-market reforms it must adopt before it connects with the global economy.
(AFP) Russia announced Saturday that it intended to fulfil its contract to supply Syria with cruise missiles despite the turmoil shaking the Arab world and Israel’s furious condemnation of the deal.
“The contract is in the implementation stage,” news agencies quoted Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov as saying. …”
¶1. (S) Summary: A March 14th delegation led by Lebanese MP Marwan Hamadeh that met October 2 with senior French officials may have done more harm than good, at least so far as relations with the Elysee are concerned. “What world are they living in?” Boris Boillon, Counselor for Middle East Affairs at the Elysee, wondered as he listened to Hamadeh express March 14th’s concerns to French NSA-equivalent Jean-David Levitte. Boillon’s negative impression was sealed when Hamadeh alluded to the possibility that the French and Syrian armies were collaborating on a plan for the Syrian re-occupation of Lebanon…
………… Boillon accused March 14th of living in a fantasy world fueled by a rumor-mongering Lebanese press, much of which is sympathetic to the Lebanese opposition. “Of course the opposition is going to claim that France is backing them, that’s part of the game,” said Boillon, who insisted that the March 14th leadership should be smart enough not to believe such tripe. But the reality, he lamented, is that March 14th is part and parcel of a political culture mired in navel-gazing and paranoia……
SYRIA’S TRIUMPH IN LEBANON: AU REVOIR, LES ENTENTES
By Gary C. Gambill *
Since the ignominious withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon in 2005, Damascus has managed to regain dominion over the country by exploiting its adversaries’ conflicting interests and weak resolve………….
Soaring food and fuel prices: Their impact on public finances and other causes of persistently high consumer price inflation in North African and Middle Eastern countries
Dardari argues that reducing taxes on food is going to create jobs in Syria…. “وفيما يتعلق بالخطوات العملية التي ستتخذها الحكومة لتحسين مستوى الدخل, قال الدردري إنه “يتم الاعداد لإطلاق مشروع تشغيل الشباب قريبا”، مؤكدا أن “هناك مجموعة من الإجراءات تسعى الحكومة لتطبيقها وهي موجودة ضمن الخطة الخمسية الحادية عشرة، حيث تم إصدار العديد منها مؤخرا ما يتعلق منها بتخفيض الرسوم الجمركية ورسم الإنفاق الاستهلاكي على المواد الغذائية”.
80 Iranian individuals on new list for sanction from Washington
In an address, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said that anyone who advises a future president to send a large American army to change a third-world regime “should have his head examined.”