Middle East developments: An interview with Stephen Lendman

var addthis_product = ‘wpp-257’;var addthis_config = {“data_track_clickback”:true};Interview by Kourosh Ziabari / STAFF WRITER

Stephen Lendman is a prolific political commentator, author and radio host. He is a research associate with the Canada-based Center for Research on Globalization. His articles have been widely published on a variety of news websites and magazines across the world and translated in several languages.
He is based in Chicago and has written extensively on war and peace, social justice in America and many other national and international issues. Stephen Lendman is a recipient of a 2008 Project Censored Award, University of California at Sonoma.
Lendman’s articles have appeared on Leworockwell.com, Dissident Voice, Counter Punch, Counter Currents, Intifada Palestine, Palestine Telegraph, The Greanville Post, Palestine Chronicle, Baltimore Chronicle, Counter Currents, Information Clearing House and Veterans Today.
Stephen joined me in an interview to discuss the latest developments in the Middle East, the destiny of Egyptian Revolution, the situation in Tunisia and the prospect of civil war in Libya.
What follows is the complete text of my interview with Stephen Lendman, political analyst and author from Chicago.

Kourosh Ziabari: The Egyptian revolution of 2011 began and progressed quite unexpectedly and unpredictably. After decades of U.S.-backed dictatorship under Hosni Mubarak, the people of Egypt took to the streets of Cairo and Alexandria all of a sudden and called for the dismissal of the dictator and the installation of a democratically-elected president. What were the motives behind this revolution?

Stephen Lendman: First of all, Egypt like elsewhere in the region (except for Libya and Syria) experienced a popular uprising against Mubarak and his regime. Mubarak’s out. The regime remains in place, headed by a repressive military junta as brutal as before under him.
I’ll have a new article ahead on their brutal killings, detentions and torture. I made the comment that everything in Egypt changed but stayed the same. Egyptians know it and are reacting. Whether they’ll do it with the same enthusiasm as earlier remains to be seen. If so, the military will confront them violently.
Popular motivations are for populist democratic change, decent jobs, a living wage and essential benefits, human and civil rights, and ending high-level corruption. None of that’s been achieved anywhere in the region from popular uprisings.

KZ: After Tunisia and Egypt in which the revolutionary forces and people on the ground succeeded in ousting the U.S.-backed puppets, several other Arab nations joined them and staged massive street demonstrations to call for civil liberties, improved living conditions, freedom and democratic governments. Can we interpret this collective uprising a result of the explosion of strong pan-Arabist sentiments?

SL: I think the Tunisian uprising inspired others, and have had them from Morocco to Syria to Oman. Syria is different though, externally incited and armed like in Libya. New reports are that Saudi Arabia and Lebanon’s Saad Hariri are involved. But no question, Washington is the driving force.
I think, but can’t prove, that the Obama administration targets only the regime, not Assad – Western educated with a Western wife. Much different than his father, nominally running the regime Washington wants replaced. So does Israel but in a way that won’t further destabilize the region. A tall order I believe, as the whole region now is in an uproar with anger directed both at repressive regimes and Western governments that back them.

KZ: Many Iranians believe that the uprisings of Tunisia and Egypt have been inspired by Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979. They compare the overthrowing of U.S.-backed Mubarak and Ben Ali to the deposition of Mohammad Reza Shah which was unconditionally supported by the United States and its European allies. Do you find such a relationship between these revolutions which took place during an interval of 32 years?

SL: Very possibly Iran’s 1979 revolution inspired the current uprisings although most young people don’t remember it firsthand. Nonetheless, the lesson is that sustained resistance works. Again I don’t know, but today’s regional spark seems to have legs. Nothing like it before that I recall, so I’m hopeful something good may come from this, including in Palestine. But I say all the time, it won’t be easily or quickly.

KZ: The Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi is said to have deposited $90 billion in Italian and other European banks. Since 1990s, the European states moved towards normalizing their ties with the dictator and supported him both politically and financially. Now, these Western states with which the Libyan dictator was once a close friend are calling for a unified international action against him. The old friend has now become a bitter enemy. Isn’t this an exercise of double standards by the Western governments?

SL: What’s true of America holds for other Western powers. They have interests, not allies. Gaddafi was never really accepted. The plan to oust him was hatched years ago, awaiting the right time to do it.
Lots of reasons why, including his support for pan-Africanism, having his own state owned central bank, wanting a regional gold-backed dinar, possibly nationalizing Libyan oil, not being part of AFRICOM, plus Washington wanting to balkanize the country, control its resources, exploit its people, privatize all state enterprises, and establish new US bases. It’s the same imperial scheme America plans globally.

KZ: The media have reported that the mercenaries of Colonel Gaddafi have so far killed more than 6,000 protesters in Tripoli and other cities of Libya. What’s your prediction for the political future of Libya? Gaddafi has vowed to remain in power and “die as a martyr.” Will the Libyan revolution bear fruits?

SL: I don’t believe Gaddafi killed 6,000 in Tripoli. I do know though that NATO bombed a Brega peace conference attended by 150 leading Imams, killing 10, injuring 40 badly enough to require hospitalization. The official lie is they bombed a command and control center. It was a non-military conference center.
Why? Washington wants war, not peace, and won’t end it until Gaddafi is ousted, ideally killed. As a result, hostilities could continue for sometime, taking a horrendous human toll. In the end, his survival chances are very slim.

KZ: Prof. Rashid Khalidi believes that the recent uprisings in the Arab countries have transformed and changed the mainstream media’s portrayal of the Muslim world. The people that were once introduced as fanatic terrorists and extremists are now being called freemen who sacrifice their lives for the sake of achieving freedom and liberty. Do agree with this viewpoint? Has the communal uprising of the Arab world changed the public’s viewpoint regarding the Arabs and Muslims?

SL: I disagree with Khalidi. My Sunday article is on one my of my common themes – targeting Muslim Americans bogusly for connections to terrorism. We get regular inflammatory headlines, and news anchors like on Fox News saying all Muslims aren’t terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims. The same theme repeats, vilifying Muslims for their faith and ethnicity. Since 9/11, fear of Islam and terrorism has been engrained in the popular mindset.

KZ: What do you think about American double standards with regards to human rights issue? Bahraini government is now violating the rights of its citizens to the gravest extent, but the U.S. has kept silent. Why?

SL: The double standard is glaring. I ripped apart Obama’s Middle East speech, outrageous hypocrisy. We talk peace but wage war. At the same time, we support the most brutal Middle East regimes, especially in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Yemen, but also in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, the other GCC states, etc.

KZ: What will be the impacts of Arab world’s uprising on the power equations in the Middle East? Will the U.S., Israel and their European cronies suffer damages as a result of the Middle East revolution? Who is the real winner of this power game?

SL: In the short run I see little or no change. In the long run, I’m hopeful. Israel and America especially keep shooting themselves in the foot. I think both countries are headed for a bad ending. In America’s case, the disintegration of its empire, also affecting Israel [is predicted]. American’s support for Israel is also self-destructive

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