Tag Archives: North Africa

„No one knows how the power structure will ultimately shift in the Middle East“ – interview with Steve LeVine

– Usually (especially after the success of „Putin’s Labyrinth“ book) people tend to associate your name to Russia. However, your experience as correspondent in the Central Asia and Middle East, makes me to focus the discussion on the events in Egypt and Arab world. For Egyptians still is a moment of euphoria. But political analysts are reticent. What would be the major concerns and challenges for world powers and zonal actors? And what should worry Egyptian people?

Steve LeVine

– Analysts are reticent because no one knows what type of governmental system will result from the uprising, and how Egypt will interact with its nei­g­hbors. So that generates a whole series of questions for which unfortu­na­tely there are no answers, and very few clues. They include: Will the Army organize elections that end up reflec­ting the true will of voters, or will they reflect the leadership that its generals believe is „best“ for Egypt, regardless of their popularity? Whatever govern­ment is formed, how will it manage to satisfy the much-raised expectations of the Egyptian people? On foreign mat­ters, will Egypt continue to be a proactive intermediary in Middle East conflicts? Specifically regarding its respective relationships with Israel and the Palestinians – will it continue to be an honest broker between these antagonist parts?
– Most journalists are asking: Who’s next? There will be a domino effect throughout the Arab world? Sure, perhaps with not the same speed of propagation …
– I think it gets more difficult from here. After Egypt, the remaining despots of the region know that Tunisia was not a one-off event – they are all potentially in danger. Mubarak seems not to have thought he was vulnerable. Now they all know they are, and they are preparing. Yet none of that shifts the reality, which is that popular change really has happened in the Arab world. As I write this, the grip of the leaders of Bahrain and Yemen is in jeopardy. The situation in Libya is quite different.
– How interpret in this context the statement of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israeli army is prepared for anything, depending on how events will unfold in next time? What option has Israel at this point?
– The events in Egypt potentially shake up geopolitics and security for Israel. The Palestinians could arise in a far more aggressive way, with the help of allies in Lebanon and elsewhere, for example. Israel no doubt has its lines of communication open with the Egyptian Army for this very reason. It wants Egypt to continue serving as a mediator with the Palestinians.
– Behind the media uproar of unrest in North Africa, at the Munich Security Conference was put the last piece of the new treaty START 2. Fairly quietly, I would say, given that was a top priority for both presidents – Obama and Medvedev. So, beyond the official rhetoric, there will be a real change in approach to global nuclear programs for military purposes?
– If what you mean is whether the key nuclear states – Russia and the United States – are going to do away with their nuclear arsenals, the answer is No. The first reason is that, even if they do, so many other countries have capability and are gaining it that it would be fruitless. Another reason is that it is a perceived fount of power in both countries that neither will surren­der. (Full text)

Romanian language version – can be read here

Published in Cadran Politic Review, April 2011

The Egyptian revolt and operetta of imported democracies

For beginning, I have a question: if there are problems and restrictions on communications, why Al-Jazeera TV can to broadcast LIVE  without problems, from the main cities of Egypt  (Alexandria, Cairo, Suez) ? And how can the authorities of Egypt allow this ?

If you wish to see the uprising in Egypt LIVE: Al-Jazeera TV

Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt … North Africa in the last two weeks became the scene of violent protests against the regimes in power. It is true that we’re talking about some oppressive regimes with old «payroll». But will the uprisings change the future of these countries ? An extensive Islamic revolution ? A counter-revolution ? What are we talking exactly ? Let’s clarify one thing: President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-old rule. And Egypt is in a perpetual state of emergency and human rights violations over two decades. The world’s democracies were not disturbed by this ? More, Tunisia is in some ways the most European country of North Africa. It boasts a relatively large middle class, liberal social norms. United States officials have given it high marks for its aggressive prosecution of terrorism suspects. But “until January 2011 it also had one of the most repressive governments in a region full of police states, and levels of corruption among its elite that became intolerable once the economic malaise that has gripped southern Europe spread to the country, sending unemployment and public resentment skyrocketing”, noticed New York Times. So, where is the true ? Why now ? Of course, sociologists say that social tensions have accumulated over time. And now it has reached a critical level. The rest is social contagion. I reserve the right to have doubts on the spontaneity of these events. The fall of the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe proved to be a carefully staged operetta. The discontent of the population was only the detonator’s fuse.

But at the same time we’re talking about countries with a majority Muslim population. More, Egypt is a special case — a heavyweight in Middle East diplomacy, in part because of its peace treaty with Israel, and a key ally of the United States. The country, often the fulcrum on which currents in the region turn, also has one of the largest and most sophisticated security forces in the Middle East. The media continually builds an association of Islam with war, instability and repression, creating a false stereotype. Coverage of Islam has turned into an industry specialising in the engineering of images, scenes, and messages. Islam became a local and globalised issue at once, transmitted in countless daily images across the globe. As darkness began to fall on Egypt, Al Jazeera reported that convoy of army tanks roll through Cairo street.  So, who’s next?  Propaganda in State mass-media of Syria and  Eritrea says that there’s not  possible. Libya’s leader Gadaffi is still in favor with the great powers ? I suppose so. But never know …

Update: January 29, 2011

The Egyptian authorities are revoking the Al Jazeera Network’s licence to broadcast from the country, and will be shutting down its bureau office in Cairo, state television has said. In reply, an Al Jazeera spokesman said it strongly denounces and condemns the closure of its bureau in Cairo by the Egyptian government. The network received notification from the Egyptian authorities on Sunday morning. “Al Jazeera sees this as an act designed to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting by the network and its journalists” the statement said.

Regardless of how events will be finalized, one thing is clear: Mubarak losing media war. And this is crucial for his fate.