Our Grim Future: Restored Neoliberalism or Hybrid Neofascism?

June 01, 2020

Our Grim Future: Restored Neoliberalism or Hybrid Neofascism?

by Pepe Escobar – crossposted with Strategic Culture Foundation

With the specter of a New Great Depression hovering over most of the planet, realpolitik perspectives for a radical change of the political economy framework we live in are not exactly encouraging.

Western ruling elites will be deploying myriad tactics to perpetuate the passivity of populations barely emerging from de facto house arrest, including a massive disciplinary – in a Foucault sense – drive by states and business/finance circles.

In his latest book, La Desaparicion de los Rituales, Byung-Chul Han shows how total communication, especially in a time of pandemic, now coincides with total vigilance: “Domination impersonates freedom. Big Data generates a domineering knowledge that allows the possibility of intervening in the human psyche, and manipulating it. Considering it this way, the data-ist imperative of transparency is not a continuation of the Enlightenment, but its ending.”

This revamping of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish coincides with reports about the demise of the neoliberal era being vastly overstated. Instead of a simplistic plunge into populist nationalism, what is on the horizon points mostly to a Neoliberalism Restoration – massively spun as a novelty, and incorporating some Keynesian elements: after all, in the post-Lockdown era, to “save” the markets and private initiative the state must not only intervene but also facilitate a possible ecological transition.

The bottom line: we may be facing a mere cosmetic approach, in which the deep structural crisis of zombie capitalism – barely moving under unpopular “reforms” and infinite debt – still is not addressed.

Meanwhile, what is going to happen to assorted fascisms? Eric Hobsbawm showed us in Age of Extremes how the key to the fascist right was always mass mobilization: “Fascists were the revolutionaries of the counter-revolution”.

We may be heading further than mere, crude neofascism. Call it Hybrid Neofascism. Their political stars bow to global market imperatives while switching political competition to the cultural arena.

That’s what true “illiberalism” is all about: the mix between neoliberalism – unrestricted capital mobility, Central Bank diktats – and political authoritarianism. Here’s where we find Trump, Modi and Bolsonaro.

From Anthropocene to Capitalocene

To counterpunch zombie neoliberalism, those believing another world is possible dream of a social-democratic revival; wealth redistribution; or at least neoliberalism with a human face.

That’s where eco-socialism jumps in: a radical rupture with the diktats of the Goddess of the Market, the product of a healthy rebellion against ultra-authoritarian neoliberalism and illiberalism.

In sum, that could be seen as a soft adaptation of Thomas Piketty’s analyses: to break the domination of capital by economic democracy, in the spirit of mid-19th century social democracy.

It’s quite interesting, in this aspect, to consider Fully Automated Luxury Communism, by Aaron Bastani, a refreshing utopian manifesto where we see that once society is stripped off everything superfluous linked to alienation, it’s still possible for everyone to find all the necessary technical means to live “in luxury” without recourse to infinity growth imposed by Capital.

And that brings us to the direct link between the Anthropocene and what has been conceptualized by French economist Benjamin Coriat as the Capitalocene.

Capitalocene means that our current state of appalling planetary degradation should not be linked to an undefined “humanity” but “to a very defined humanity organized by a predatory economic system.”

The state of the planet under the Anthropocene must be imperatively linked to the hegemonic economic system of the past two centuries: the way we developed our system of production and legitimized indiscriminate predatory practices.

The bottom line: to go beyond it, the economy must be reoriented and rebuilt, part of a “big bang in public and economic policies.”

In the Anthropocene, Promethean humanity must be contained so the rape of Mother Earth can be properly tackled.

Capitalocene for its part describes Capital as the crucial root and conditioner of the current world-system. The result of the struggle against the ravaging effects of Capital will determine the possible future of eco-socialism.

And that refocuses the importance of the commons – way beyond the opposition between private property and public property.

Coriat has shown how Covid-19 laid bare the necessity of the commons and the incapacity of neoliberalism to address it.

But how to build eco-socialism? Should it start as eco-socialism in one country (somewhere in Scandinavia)? How to coordinate it across Europe? How to fight ossified EU structures from the inside?

After all both Restored Neoliberalism and illiberalism already count on powerful states and networks. A good example is Hungary and Poland continuing to function as cogs of the German industrial supply chain.

How to prevent someone like Bill Gates to take control of a UN organization, the WHO, thus forcing it to invest in programs that fit his own personal agenda?

How to change the WTO’s free market rules, according to which buying palm oil and transgenic soya contributes to the de facto deforestation of large tracts of Africa, Asia and South America? This is a state of affairs that allows wealthy nations to actually buy the destruction of ecosystems.

Revolution, not reform

Even if neoliberalism was dead, and it’s not, the world is still encumbered with its corpse – to paraphrase Nietzsche a propos of God.

And even as a triple catastrophe – sanitary, social and climatic – is now unequivocal, the ruling matrix – starring the Masters of the Universe managing the financial casino – won’t stop resisting any drive towards change.

Diversionist tactics supporting an “ecological transition” fool no one.

Financial capitalism is an expert in adapting to – and profiting from – the serial crises it provokes or unleashes.

To update May 1968, what’s needed is L’Imagination au Pouvoir. Yet it’s idle to expect imagination from mere puppets such as Trump, Merkel, Macron or BoJo.

Realpolitik once again points to a post-Lockdown turbo-capitalist framework, where the illiberalism of the 1% – with fascistic elements – and naked turbo-financialization are boosted by reinforced exploitation of an exhausted and now largely unemployed workforce.

Post-Lockdown turbo-capitalism is once again reasserting itself after four decades of Thatcherization, or – to be polite – hardcore neoliberalism. Progressive forces still don’t have the ammunition to revert the logic of extremely high profits for the ruling classes – EU governance included – and for large global corporations as well.

Economist and philosopher Frederic Lordon, a researcher at the French CNRS, cuts to the inevitable chase: the only solution would be a revolutionary insurrection. And he knows exactly how the financial markets-corporate media combo would never allow it. Big Capital is capable of co-opting and sabotaging anything.

So this is our choice: it’s either Neoliberal Restoration or a revolutionary rupture. And nothing in between. It takes someone of Marx’s caliber to build a full-fledged, 21st century eco-socialist ideology, and capable of long-term, sustained mobilization. Aux armes, citoyens.

Western counter-revolution tragically on display at gas price hike protests

A picture taken on November 17, 2019 shows a scorched gas station that was set ablaze by protesters during a demonstration against a rise in gasoline prices in Eslamshahr, near the Iranian capital of Tehran. (By AFP)

A picture taken on November 17, 2019 shows a scorched gas station that was set ablaze by protesters during a demonstration against a rise in gasoline prices in Eslamshahr, near the Iranian capital of Tehran. (By AFP)

Western counter-revolution tragically on display at gas price hike protestsBy Ramin Mazaheri

Thu Nov 28, 2019 08:18AM [Updated: Thu Nov 28, 2019 08:24AM ]

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism.’

 

A simple question for you: are there, for lack of a better word, “counter-revolutionaries” in Ukraine, Hong Kong, or Syria? By that I mean: do those nations have people on the far extremes of the political spectrum who will provoke, take advantage of, and even relish in violence against their governments?

Obviously, only a liar or somebody foolishly playing devil’s advocate would not respond that, yes, in these nations there are many such persons — the proof is overwhelming.

So why would it be so hard to believe that there are such persons — counter-revolutionaries — in Iran, and that they hijacked recent protests over gas price hikes to provoke, take advantage of, and devilishly relish in death and violence against the government? Iran, unlike the nations I listed — and unlike almost every nation, period — actually had a popular revolution for extremists to counter in the first place.

Iranians are reminded of their exceptionalism when, for example and for certain, such far-right groups drove on a motorcycle to a gas hike protest, fired on the crowd, and fled.

Such vicious, armed people — the allies of the governments of many of those reading this article — are obviously the worst, most anti-democratic type of criminal. Their goal is just as obvious: to foment a counter-revolution in Iran.

What is unfortunate regarding the West’s coverage of the national tragedy which was the violence at the Iranian gas hike protests is that there isn’t the barest mention of this very real, very life-and-death, very accurate reality.

The term “counter-revolutionary” staggers the Western mind in its tracks — they seem to think it has been consigned to history? Or because there are no revolutionary countries in the West, and many ones filled with neo-imperial propaganda, perhaps they cannot even conceive of the existence of counter-revolutionaries?

The impact of such naivety is profoundly deadly.

Iranian counter-revolutionaries are aware of this yawning Western blind spot, and so they know that every single Iranian death — when reported by Amnesty International or Western journalists — will be blamed on the government and national security forces even though every Iranian knows that this is false and impossible.

The sweet, good-hearted innocents at Amnesty and the desk-only journalists in London, Paris, and New York City simply do not have the experience, or maybe even the editorial approval, to write this truthful question asked by every Iranian: how many innocent deaths were caused by counter-revolutionaries, and how many counter-revolutionaries pushed their far-right views all the way to their own demise?

We don’t know, as an official government report of the deaths has not yet been released. But everyone in Iran has an idea of the answer — a lot of them.

And there were many innocent deaths of protesters, too. This is why the gas hike protests are a tragedy.

And we know, because no one denies the right to self-defense, that the government simply had to fire back: when somebody drives by on a motorcycle and opens fire… what is the alternative for any civil servant working in security?

What needs to be impressed on non-Iranians is that there are regular protests in Iran and that they are not violent. Iran is not Cuba, which has no protests besides the “Ladies in White.” Iran is also not China, which has almost too many protests to keep track of. Iran is also not the US, which seemingly forgot how to protest in between the end of their Vietnam invasion and the election of Donald Trump. So if Iran has many protests which do not get violent, why did these?

The gas price hikes were launched without warning, and I assume it is because the government knew that they would be very unpopular… but they didn’t want them to be explosive.

And by “explosive” I mean that they didn’t want the old-money monarchists, the insane MKO who are even less popular than the criminal monarchists, ISIL (an attack of theirs caused 70 innocent casualties in Tehran in 2017), the cynical mercenaries bought by Western nations and their Arab monarch puppets, the secret service agencies of such nations which of course target Iran (is this is not a great number of people, already?) to have time to plan their drive-by shootings, building bombings and arsons at a  moment of heightened social unrest. I would say it’s not that the government wanted to catch the Iranian people by surprise, but to catch these illegitimate, undemocratic, far-right, definitely “counter-revolutionary” forces by surprise.

Were there legitimate protests against the gas hikes? As I mentioned, of course, and nor were they unusual or unexpected.

But attacking a police station, probably to get weapons — it is a normal journalistic question to ask if these are the works of counter-revolutionaries or “normal protesters,” regardless of the passport such attackers hold? Take a moment to imagine what the Western mainstream response would be be if French Yellow Vests did that — the idea that any of them would receive the barest sliver of public support is preposterous.

Just like with the Yellow Vests, the West lies about the true authors of protest violence

This should be stating the obvious to anyone with a rudimentary political awareness, but in the Iranian context, a “far-rightist” is synonymous with a “counter-revolutionary.” This is the case of every society which had a revolution since 1917, and Iran is no different. There is no “far-right” party in China, Cuba, Iran, or in any revolutionary nation because revolutionary nations all banish/declare war on far-right forces, after all.

It is difficult for Westerners to understand the recent Iran protests because they are denied this historical-political honesty and context about Iran. Their difficulty is further compounded by the fact that the top NGOs and the Western mainstream media cannot or will not admit that in Western nations the far-right is firmly a part of their establishments, unlike in Iran.

Look at the Yellow Vests in France: across the West, they have been portrayed as violent, far-right thugs masquerading as protesters. The reality is — and I have been there nearly every Saturday and can testify — the scenes of extreme violence always come from Black Bloc members who infiltrate the protests. Black Bloc is totally detrimental to the legitimate pro-democracy and socioeconomic demands of the Yellow Vest protesters; their ultra-left anarchism is totally unwanted; they are easily infiltrated by rogue cops, who merely have to wear black; French riot cops don’t lift a finger to stop Black Bloc’s vandalism — they are either colluding or, certainly, told to allow violence to occur in order to discredit the Yellow Vests.

The Yellow Vests are innocent protesters, just like the Iranian gas hike protesters — they are unarmed and cannot possibly stop people from committing unreasonable violence. Therefore, how can the West blame the Yellow Vests for violence they disavow and have no part in? I don’t know… but that is certainly what they have done for a calendar year.

The real violence comes not from Iranian gas price hike protesters nor Yellow Vests (who started following a gas price hike) in either of their situations, but from outside, unwanted, self-interested forces with incredibly dubious democratic intentions.

It is crystal clear: just as the West doesn’t report that it is Black Bloc committing violence and not the Yellow Vests protesters, the West also doesn’t report that it is far-right/counter-revolutionaries who are the authors of violence in Iran.

The Iranian government must absolutely punish police wrongdoings whenever proven. They must not be like France, which last week finally opened their first trial for police brutality despite the full calendar year of incredibly calculating repression. Iran has had a short-lived paroxysm of violence — the French government cold-bloodedly wages police brutality with sadistic regularity and precision.

However, comparing France and Iran is to compare apples and bowling balls. France’s government doesn’t have to spend one second thinking about catching “anti-France” forces “by surprise.” France is not beset by many rich, far-right groups / nations / monarchs / ex-monarchs / terrorists who get out of bed in the morning with the sole goal of destabilizing their national system.

Iranians, unlike the French, know this article is full of truths.

They know that because they know what propaganda is: France just had its bloodiest day since being kicked out of Beirut some 40 years ago, as 13 French soldiers died while fighting in Mali. President Emmanuel Macron immediately tweeted, “These 13 heroes had just one goal: To protect us.” Now that is laughable propaganda about France’s “one goal!”

Nobody can believe that, but many in France and the West do — all part of the “war on terrorism,” right? But Malians know better: a January 2018 poll in the capital of Bamako revealed that 80% of respondents believe that France’s army is in Mali only to defend its own interests. Which is, of course, obviously the case. Macron immediately and robotically made his phony “war on terror” claim because he knows such scaremongering propaganda is desperately needed to stop honest discussion.

Just as many Westerners will believe Macron’s false propaganda, many Westerners will believe 100% that the Iranian government is responsible for every recent death. The emphatic, self-righteous certainty with which Western propaganda insists this falsehood and inaccuracy is appalling.

Iranians believe otherwise — some told me the majority of the dead were ardent counter-revolutionaries. This is a common perception, but it cannot be verified yet — what’s certain is that innocents did die, and that is a tragedy.

US clarifies its ‘diplomacy:’ allow a counter-revolution or starve to death

The real economic problem in Iran is the Western sanctions blockade. Such sanctions are made to create instability to the point of civil war. The West also funds groups which are designed expressly to create the most sparks precisely at times of heightened dissatisfaction and difficulty.

Those are all facts, and why would they not have been on full display at the gas price hike protests?

They were, but honest analysis of Iranian politics has few forums available. This article has discussed and analyzed these rarely-discussed realities which Iranians know well and will not deny.

In Iran, the violence comes from an ultra-violent right but the West naively acts as if such a political sector in Iran does not exist. The West also naively acts as if within their own nations there is not establishment support of far-right, conservative, certainly “counter-revolutionary” ideas and groups. It should thus be clear why the West is so unwilling to support revolutionary Iran in maintaining its revolution.

The West allies with the far-right across the world. Iranians know this, and they also pay the price. They pay the price at the gas pump, as the West’s blockade has undoubtedly forced the recent price increase, and they pay the price in so very many liters of blood, just as they have done ever since the beginning of the Western-forced invasion by Iraq in 1980.

Why can such realities not be even be broached in Western media or by Western NGOs? To this, I have no satisfactory answer.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just said, essentially, that Iran has to have a counter-revolution if “they want their people to eat.” As Yemen proves (in case North Korea did not do this already), the US is fine with starvation as a “legitimate” political tactic.

What is certain, sadly, is that no Western journalist called Pompeo a “far-rightist,” a “fascist” or a “counter-revolutionary” — they all simply nodded and reported what he said without question, contestation, or a hint of shame.

The counter-revolutionaries lost in Iran recently, again; Iran mourns that they still keep trying. The nation mourns most of all because of the West’s never-ending blockade against Iranian self-determination.

The terroristic inhumanity of their starvation-strangulation-sanction policy is something which cannot be broached in Western media, NGOs, governments or among many Western citizens, as well.

 

(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)

 

U.S.-backed coup Deposes Evo Morales in Bolivia

Global Research, November 11, 2019

Update by Workers World

As of 4 p.m. EDT on Nov. 10, President Evo Morales has resigned his office in Bolivia, pushed out by a counterrevolutionary coup d’état backed by Washington. After part of the police force joined the counterrevolutionary gangs and the heads of the Armed Forces advised him to resign, Morales took this step as the best of bad choices after consultation with the Bolivian Workers Confederation (COB) and other supporters of his government. 

This has all happened in the 24 hours since Marco Teruggi wrote the article below, which was first published Nov. 9 by TeleSur, translated by Resumen Latinoamericano’s North America bureau and edited by Workers World. 

Although superseded by Nov. 10 events, Teruggi’s article still presents the forces in action in the landlocked country of 11.6 million people, a majority of whom are Indigenous.

Workers World joins those progressive forces all around Latin America and the world who are condemning the U.S.-backed counterrevolutionary coup, including the governments of Venezuela and Cuba, and also Lula da Silva of Brazil, who was released from prison just days earlier. 

***

These are the days and hours of the coup offensive in Bolivia. The attempt to overthrow President Evo Morales is gaining strength, territory and its capacity for action. It’s like an announced bullet that arrives from the front and has a date: before Nov. 12.

That day the country will know the result of the audit in which the Organization of American States is participating to see if there was any fraud in the Oct. 20 elections that gave Morales and his MAS party a victory in the first round. Those who are in the leadership of the coup want an outcome before that day, and they believe they can make it happen.

They have several elements in their favor. In the first place, they have a mobilized social base that believes it can win, is heterogeneous, and gathers accumulated discontents by holding exclusive racist discourses and public events in the conservative/colonial country. That base has strength in the cities of Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Potosí [in the east], and in La Paz — the final objective of the assault [and the administrative capital].

Secondly, shock troops — groups for confrontation — have accumulated strength from the east to La Paz. Their movement followed the direction of the coup’s strength: the city of Santa Cruz acts as a strategic rearguard in the center of the country. It is in this area where [the right wing] carried out the most violent attacks, and La Paz is the point where state power is concentrated.

These groups are in the process of mobilizing and moving toward La Paz, where some have already carried out siege actions surrounding the government palace on previous nights. One of the objectives of the offensive is to succeed in gathering together all the different elements of opposition [to the MAS government] and to reinforce the mobilization with sectors coming from different points in the country to La Paz.

Thirdly, [there is] the leadership of Fernando Camacho, who went from heading the Santa Cruz Civic Committee to setting up his base of operations in La Paz and projecting an image of national leadership. His speeches seek to distance himself from all acts of racism, separatism and coup d’état, in an attempt to shift the accusations away from him and to bring in other sectors of society.

The expansion of these three factors seeks to unleash, through an escalating offensive, the outbreak of three others. The first goal they aimed at, and that has been achieved in part, is influencing the Bolivian National Police. The images of riots on Friday night and Saturday morning [Nov. 9] showed how a sector of the police have been influenced to join the coup process.

The second target is the Bolivian Armed Force, a central element for a coup d’état to be successful, which up until noon Saturday [Nov. 9] has shown no public sign of a possible internal breakdown.

The third target is the popular sectors, which for the moment are playing no part in the mobilization demanding the dismissal of Evo Morales. But some groups, like the Association of Coca Producers of the Yungas or mining sectors, have been present at the [reactionary] mobilizations.

The calculation of this set of factors, interconnected and projected with the greatest force, has created a scenario in which the coup leadership claims that the departure of Evo Morales is the only possible solution and that this will take place in a matter of hours or days.

Within this leadership, in a lesser capacity, is Carlos Mesa, who came in second in the presidential vote on Oct. 20, and has been able to align himself with the narrative of those who are giving the ultimatum. Along with Camacho, Mesa rejects the OAS audit but leaves some room for maneuver in case of the defeat of the coup attempt.

Up to now, Morales seeks to avoid confrontation

The government’s objective, both that of President Morales and the social movements that support him, seems to be to contain the escalation of the coup until the result of the audit. Within this framework, [pro-Morales] mobilizations have taken place almost daily, led by different organizations, such as the Bolivian Union of Workers and the Bartolina Sisa Women’s Confederation.

The president’s call has been to defend the results of the election, the process of change — democracy — without opening the doors to the scenario of confrontation that the rightists are trying to generate. This means Evo [Morales] has rejected the rightists’ attempt to increase acute violence, which would lead to wounded and dead people.

This is a complex and increasingly unstable scenario. The outcome of the audit could lead to different conclusions. The United States has made clear from the outset that its position is that the result of Oct. 20 was invalid. Washington has claimed that the path of the audit decided by the OAS should be followed. That means, to a large extent, whatever the U.S. itself decides.

The government has stated that the outcome of the audit will be binding and that it would be willing to call for a second round [of elections] if that emerges as the result. In that case there could be a division within the opposition between those who would be willing to participate in the election and those who would not. Would Carlos Mesa accept [a new election] and retreat from speaking in favor of the coup?

There are still many hours and days until Nov. 12 in the [rightist] offensive framework that is accumulating strength and capacity for destabilization. The government, [and] the process of change [represented by Morales and MAS], still has cards to play to contain and de-escalate the situation.

Trump

The late William Blum documented how Washington toppled numerous sovereign governments, assassinated legitimate leaders, and removed others by coup d’etats.

Along with endless wars of aggression and by other means against nations threatening no one, that’s what US hegemonic rage for unchallenged global dominance is all about.

Nations unwilling to subordinate their sovereign rights to US interests are on its target list for regime change.

Blum explained that US policies are “worse than (most people) imagine” or understand. They include virtually every form of lawlessness in pursuit of its geopolitical aims — notably aggression, economic terrorism, pressure, bullying, intimidation, and manipulating foreign elections.

When their outcomes elect or reelect the “wrong” leaders, they’re targeted for removal by foul means.

Evo Morales was and remain’s Bolivia’s first indigenous president since elected in December 2005, taking office in January 2006.

In October, he was reelected for the third time, defeating challengers Carlos Mesa and Chi Hyun Chung, his popular support topping theirs combined.

His victory margin over lead challenger Mesa exceeded 10% to avoid a runoff.

James Petras earlier explained that no president in Bolivian history “secured consecutive electoral victories (now four), and ruled democratically for such an extended period of time…with political stability” as Morales.

Calling him “the world’s most conservative radical…or the most radical conservative,” Petras explained that his domestic and foreign agendas combine “radical rhetoric and…orthodox economic policies,” adding:

“The most striking aspect of (his rule) is his rigor and consistency in upholding orthodox economic policies –right out of the handbook of the international financial organizations.”

His independence and anti-imperialist rhetoric made him a prime US target for removal.

Petras: He “launched a series of anti-imperialist manifestos against US intervention in Venezuela; repeatedly denounced the US blockade of Cuba; opposed the US backed military coup in Honduras’ and defended Argentina’s claim to the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands.”

He “joined the radical regional bloc, ALBA, initiated by President Chavez and supported ‘regional integration’ which excluded the US. He denounced the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) as a ‘neo-liberal project’.”

He “praised Edward Snowden and his revelations; denounced NSA spying and…denounc(ed) European collaboration with the US Empire.”

He achieved “an unprecedented decade of political and social stability and a growth rate between 4% and 6%” — 4.2% in 2018.

He’s “a master, without peer in Latin America, at justifying orthodox, reactionary policies with radical rhetoric” — combining service to business interests with populist rhetoric, denouncing imperialism while “embrac(ing) neo-liberal economic orthodoxy.”

Petras called him a “genius…political manipulator” — no “social revolutionary” or government of Bolivia’s working class.

He’s been Latin America’s “most successful democratic capitalist ruler…” Yet hardliners in the US want him replaced, what the post-election coup plot against him is all about, CIA dirty hands all over it.

Days earlier, Telesur reported that “Radio Education Network of Bolivia (Erbol) leaked 16 audios, involving opposition leaders who are calling for a coup d’etat against” Morales — the plot orchestrated and coordinated from the US embassy in La Paz, the executive and legislative seat of government, Sucre the judicial branch seat.

Leaked audios mention contacts between GOP hardliners Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, as well as undemocratic Dem Bob Menendez with Bolivian opposition leaders.

They also call for setting government buildings ablaze, organizing nationwide strike actions, and other disruptive tactics— right out of the CIA’s playbook, including violent street protests.

Morales denounced what’s going on, telling supporters in La Paz Tuesday of a coup plot against him, adding backers of the electoral result turning out in large numbers is “not in defense of (him) but of the people themselves,” mobilized to defend democracy from dark forces wanting it eliminated.

He invited the international community to audit election results, saying: “Let them come here. Let them know how much they have earned.”

“We never lie or hide.” The world community has an “obligation to respect our Political Constitution of State. They have to respect the will of the Bolivian people.”

No evidence suggests lead opposition figure Mesa’s accusation of “massive fraud” — what the US falsely claims time and again when democratic elections chose the “wrong candidate” — notably Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro, his successor.

Trump regime hardliners want the US-controlled Organization of American States (OAS), headquartered in Washington, to conduct an election results audit to be able to falsely claim fraud despite no evidence suggesting it.

They and ruling right-wing regimes in Argentina (before succeeded by President-elect Fernandez on December 10), Brazil and Colombia called for a new election if an audit doesn’t affirm the anti-Morales result they want.

On Friday, he said

“I would like to tell you, brothers and sisters, as well as entire Bolivia and the whole world. I will not give up (the presidency). We have been elected by the people, and we respect the constitution.”

He’s in the US crosshairs, wanting pro-Western puppet rule replacing him.

Numerous US plots using varying tactics are playing out against other sovereign independent governments on its target list for regime change.

That’s what the scourge of US imperialism is all about, seeking global dominance by whatever it takes to achieve its objectives — the rule of law and human toll of no consequence.

*

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Lebanon’s “Revolution” Is Without Revolutionary Ideology

Global Research, October 31, 2019

There is a revolution in Lebanon without a revolutionary ideology. It is spontaneous, and if memory serves one well, spontaneous revolutions end up badly for the left. Although the left was at its peak in the less spontaneous German uprising of 1918-1919, the right-wing militias defended the state, won and murdered Rosa Luxemburg.

There is practically very little left left, and the slogans of the Lebanese spontaneous revolution are as shallow and insidious as any of its Arab Spring predecessors. Calling for the removal of the sectarian system without removing its associated capital will rotate the same class into power with another form of sectarianism.

Sectarianism is the form of working-class differentiation or the basis of capital, a social relationship rooted in history and incarnated by much of the working class. To misunderstand the impulsiveness of the uprising is suicidal for remnants of the socialist forces. People want bread and democracy, but it is geostrategic-rent bread, as opposed to homegrown bread, and Western-style democracy, or the rule of US-led capital delegated to its local proxies that they want. ‘Words mean so many different things’ and there is paucity of alternative revolutionary concepts.From the spectrum of democratic choices, only shades of selective democracy are being proposed.

These are democracies that alienate the masses. They are based on the central democratic model where most vote for an imperial government to bomb and invade a developing country because they share a vested interest in imperial rents. In a selective democracy there are natural underlings and theworking-class lets capital to do what is best for capital. The ideology of capital incarnate in the working class, now the thingified people who replicate the thingified capitalists, reflects the short-termism of profit making. In Lebanon much has been invested in the idea that what is good for business is good for me. In short, there is a crisis of revolutionary consciousness and alternatives as elsewhere.

The crisis in Lebanon however is severe. For thirty years, the private Lebanese banks owned by the comprador ruling class charged five to ten times the prevailing world interest rate on bonds of the Lebanese government. Today, the state’s debt to the national banking sector is close to twice the income of the country. After thirty years of borrowing to reconstruct, Lebanon has no potable water supply, public transport, electricity, and cannot even remove its trash. Its capital city and only freshwater lake are possibly the most polluted on earth. Jobs are scarce, and emigration is high. The neoliberal policy of fighting inflation under open capital account, dollarized the economy, usurped much of national wealth, and brought the share of the wage bill from national income from about 50 percent in the late nineties to twenty five percent in 2015. With so much rationing of credit to production and indirect taxes dragging down demand, most private-sector loans owed to the banking sector are non-performing or unlikely to be repaid. The state cannot service its debts without draconian tax and privatisation measures. After years of austerity to pay exorbitant interests on a self-fuelling debt, the public, business and household sectors are all effectively insolvent. If the US decided to delay disbursements to finance future spending with more debt, the house of cards could come tumbling down.

In development finance, this latter point of US-governed international financial institutions (IFIs) lending US dollars on time to pay for state spending or imports, lest otherwise the national currency tumble and inflation lead to hunger and riots, is called the short-leash policy. It is a textbook case. In Ghana for instance, President Kufuor had to abide by the conditionality of privatising the Ashanti gold mines as loan disbursement was postponed forcing the population onto the streets just before the 2001 elections. In Lebanon too, the newly proposed reform programme by the incumbent prime minister proposes a fire-sale bonanza of most public assets. Through resource divestiture, neoliberalism imparted inimical growth in the productive forces, including productive capital stock, employment and growth in the incomes of the poorest working strata. Capital-biased institutions blocked broader participation in the decision-making process as the state retreated and vacated the ground for the imperialistically-funded civil society. Neoliberalism, the reigning ideology, does not choose people who are corrupt and in the business of promoting their self-interests. It creates the historical context into which it is only possible for corruption to grow. Corruption defined not in terms of personal ethical considerations is integral to a market economy and gauged by the rate of transfer of public into private wealth. The open capital account, the peg to the dollar, the tax on the poor and the privatisation of public assets are examples of context/corruption.

The prevailing concepts with which the crisis is being tackled are the same ones that were used as weapons against people in the past. Tax workers and privatise public assets – that is Moses and the prophets. Clearly, such measures, or the demands to try the corrupt without eliminating the context of corruption, are not at all revolutionary. To be sure, there are no revolutions without revolutionising the concepts with which reform is carried out. In view of the socialist ideological disaster, the only concepts available for public consumption are the putative neoliberal ones. The working class asks how do we pay for a debt that has become the wealth of the comprador class, as opposed to how we get rid of the comprador and its neoliberal policies. The comprador, to be sure, is a class, a historical social relationship of power reproduced by ideology, by the idea that not only our bread is imported, but our conceptual framework as well. For now, the salient conceptual alternatives are all about increasing state revenues from bread and butter tax to service an odious debt. In the case of Lebanon, the leakages are so pronounced that no matter the earnings from privatisation, the remedy would still be short-term. No one is talking about debt cancelation or, lesser serious reforms, like standstill agreements whereby the banks take zero interests until the economy recovers.

In Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and to a lesser extent Tunisia, the spontaneity of the Arab Spring, the revolution in times of socialist ideological retreat, resulted in deeper crises. The revolutionary spontaneity in Lebanon appears to further destroy the national sources of people’s incomes, which are already quite low. However, the Lebanese banks also have put themselves at risk by lending at rates that brought the economy to a halt. Had they accepted lower rates of return over longer periods to allow the country’s productive capacity and demand to rise in order to earn more in the future, their business would be more secure; that is simple arithmetic. However, the chemistry of sectarianism, the political process by which capital fakes its differences to acquire more rents from the state, is quite complex. It is sort of like a Buick competing with a Chevrolet although both are General Motors. The banks do not truly belong to Lebanon. They are institutions of the international financial class, the social relation that has organised the resilience of capital for centuries. It is a class that personifies the reason of the commodity as self-expanding value. It is impersonal and objective, it is history and knows no right or wrong. It is a class neither obtuse nor short-sighted. It risks some funds for the bigger booty, prospects of control and the business of militarism.

The Middle East is a region of war and oil. Physicians for Social Responsibility noted that the global war on terror has killed 4 million or more.[1] The US has spent 32 Million per hour on war since 2001, which means some financial institution was absorbing the war debit as credit and billions were made in the spinoffs of the financial markets.[2] Now these numbers are gross underestimates, but they are indicative of how true, as Karl  Liebknecht pointed out, that war is big business. Lebanon is at the heart of this region and it has almost always been in war whether with US-Israel or its Lebanese proxies. The now dormant inter-communal proxy war may awaken again. There is much more to be gained by the international financial class as it scapegoats its Lebanese compradors and immiserates Lebanon to the point of eroding the social basis by which Lebanon conducts people’s war in self-defence. The world ruling combination of finance and militarism could set Lebanon ablaze again. The evident objective of imperialism is to contain Hezbollah, but the not so obvious objective is the de-valorisation process, which reduces the costs of inputs for capital over its economic cycle. To shed light on the situation in deeply divided Lebanon, it is best to project the course of developments by moving from the broader political picture to the narrower one inside Lebanon.

Looking at Lebanon from the outside in

Had these been revolutionary times, or times in which radical concepts prevailed, nothing short of the expropriation of the robber baron class, the nationalisation of the banking sector, and the regulation of the capital account, could have been proposed as remedies. A revolution in revolutionary times and in this bloodied area may involve immediate violence against the ruling class. However, never in the past 200 years have the socialist alternatives available to humanity to organise its metabolic rate of reproduction been so absent. So far, the anarchy of production has overconsumed man and nature, yet economic planning, the historical priority by which to respond to the existentialist calamity, does not even figure on the spectrum of debate. The rich die earlier as a result of pollution related diseases, but not as early as the poor. The Veblenian consumption trap of recognition for status and power self-consumes the participants of all social classes. Impulsive uprisings are afoot across the planet, yet the people one sees on the streets are not the masses. They are not armed with progressive ideology, with ironclad modes of organisation, and a preparedness for peoples’ war. Capital is pure violence. People or working classes without revolutionary thought and the exercise of violence in self-defence are neither masses nor proletariat. They are appendages to capital, thingified people.

The business of imperialism in the Middle East is bigger than the business of Lebanese banks. Nearly nothing to do with Lebanon’s internal political landscape has to do with Lebanon. Lebanon’s development and politics are all about the US’s ambitions to control the region, especially to retain hegemony over the Persian Gulf. Reigning over the Gulf is the power that underwrites global dollarization and the imperial rents attendant thereupon. In fact, the United States is already on a low-key war-footing with Iran, a war whose boomerang effect is part of the effort to contain China. The deepening sanctions, the US armed proxies and Kurdish secession are but the tip of the US-offensive. Unmistakably, no matter the calculated costs, US-capital whose mind is the reason of the commodity is preparing to strike the Eastern flank of the Persian Gulf. For the commodity and its reason, war is a means but also end in itself. The Gulf happens to be a most strategic waterway from which thirty percent of seaborne world oil supply passes every day. Hegemony over the Gulf is priceless. True, the US exports oil, but hegemonising oil is a source of controlcumpower, and power, both military and ideological, is the primacy in the primacy of politics. Without that primacy, without arresting the development of others and regulating labour reproduction, there will be no profits. Power is what makes a subject of history; a subject who is capable of moulding social relations to accommodate low-cost production. The subject in value relationships also shapes how much of what is being produced goes to capital, and how much goes to labour, albeit over the lifecycle of society. A powerful subject implements the demands of possibly the most egregious of laws, the law of value. This is no simple double entry bookkeeping in dollars designed and printed by the US-treasury. Capital is not a person; it has real people working for it. It is a social being or a social relationship, which political economy names capital for brevity or coquetry.

The US is the operating structure of capital.  It already controls the western shores of the Gulf and to control the eastern shores would undoubtedly strengthen its position at the helm in the international division of labour. If the US leaves things as they are and accepts Iranian partial control over Gulf waters, it would also have to accept a downgrading of its imperial stature, which would imply massive tectonic realignments of global powers, including perhaps an orderly workout of the US’s debt and its overstretched US dollar, among other losses de-structured around imperial rents. But the Gulf for US imperialism is an indispensable condition of empire. It epitomises an existential question for an empire whose crisis deepens with the ascent of China. Lebanon, bordering Israel to the North and in possession of effective weaponry, threatens the imperial security arrangement for the surrounding region.

That Lebanon is socially and constitutionally sectarian and geopolitically rent-based is no anomaly under the rule of capital. Working class division or sectarianism is the normal condition of the labour process under capital. Without labour differentiation, capital, the ruling social relation, will appear for the fiction that it really is and cease to be. The French, former colonial power in Lebanon, and their heirs invested heavily in Lebanon’s sectarianism. Lebanon is sort of a precursor in sectarianism or a first experiment in the process applied in distinct ways in Iraq. As a society disarticulated along sectarian lines, a country whose national productive capacity was destroyed by war, Lebanon survives by geostrategic rents. It imports nearly twenty billion US$ and exports around three billion US$.  These imports require the county to raise its interest rate and set aside nearly the equivalent of its GDP in reserves to finance imports. And although the country almost always has a primary surplus, as it reduces spending on schools and health to service the debt, it runs a significant fiscal deficit as a result of servicing high interest-internal borrowing. The interest rate is kept too high to account for the risks and to draw in dollars to address balance of payments shortfalls.

Most of debt is internal, 80 or 90 percent. Such is an odd case for a small country recovering from years of war in the developing world. Lebanon’s debt to GDP is said to be at nearly150 percent, but it is in fact bigger (total income is about 50 billion US dollars). Only countries under the financial umbrella of US-led international finance can boast such an internal borrowing record while maintaining a currency peg and low inflation rates. A caveat is in order here: the debt to GDP ratio may be much higher because sometimes after 2005, the private bank responsible for issuing national statistics corrected the GDP figures upward to make the debt to GDP ratio look smaller. In December 2006, the debt to GDP ratio was 183 percent, and oddly enough, it went down to 151 percent in 2018. Lebanon did not have a national bureau of statistics then and most statistics were produced by one of its private banks. One must use the qualifying ‘nearly’ when speaking of figures, for although statistics everywhere are a point of view, they are even more so in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s Banks are family and political nomenklatura-owned. These financial institutions have drawn tremendous profits from holding high-interest state debt. They did so knowing that the faulty reconstruction efforts boosted by a constitution that denied the representation of labour in the state made sure that all funds destined for reconstruction went to banks and to the ruling comprador class. Without social reconstruction nothing constructs, and people build the sect leader not themselves. The post-war constitution reconfirmed sectarianism de jure, and the masses became many sects competing for rents from the state through their own sectarian leadership.  Lebanon’s financial institutions are overstocked with cash because of banking privacy, and a considerable portion of their assets is of dubious origin. Their assets are about quarter of a trillion US$. They have an interest in putting the state into debt and buying the debt to launder much of their illegitimate cash. A former finance minister complained that the central bank overruled him and issued bonds at high interest rates even when the state did not need to borrow.

In 1990, the government issued reconstruction bonds at about forty percent yearly rates. The banks gladly obliged and doubled their initial loans in about two years.  As noted above, the complex chemistry of baleful sectarianism is more complicated than the calculus of the debt. Banks earned tremendous rents on bonds and placed part of the capital abroad, while the remaining portions rolled over into additional debts. As time went by, new loans financed old and new debts, especially as internal and external deficits gaped wide. The debt grew as Lebanon’s tepid growth rates, powered by public and private borrowing to boost consumption, induced further austerity. Austerity compressed demand far below what was necessary to boost state revenues to settle new interest payments. As in typical Ponzi schemes, the debt grew at higher rates than the economy. If the scheme unfolds now, the earlier huge banking profits have been deposited abroad. The resulting runaway inflation would cripple the economy.

Non-oil exporting states in the Near East are traditionally geopolitical rent states. After the first Arab oil boom in the seventies, these countries became more dependent on rents. It was a combination of IFI supported structural adjustment and Gulf aid and remittances that gradually de-industrialised them. De-industrialisation deepened their dependence on handouts, or properly put, imperialist investments in social divisions and imperialist securitisation. It would be bizarre to believe that the US-Euro imperialism that has mown down nearly a billion people in its wars since 1500 A.D. benevolently delivers aid to humanity, or it would make efforts to arrest wars and the natural disaster. It is rather odder to entertain the thought that the Gulf states enjoy any significant autonomy to deliver aid without American consent.

As is typical of social processes under capitalism, which homogenise cultures and traditions and erase variety, Gulf aid to almost starving lower strata laced with Salafism homogenised the multifarious traditions of Islam. From dress codes to burial customs, the otherwise tolerant Islamic world was becoming more like a Xerox version of Saudi Islamism. To be sure, the Saudi version of Islam is a modern, colonially reared and concocted tradition meant to hold cultural and industrial development at bay while Arabian oil falls into the grip of empire. Gulf rents delivered to Lebanon and other states were plainly linked to the US’s political objectives to contain socialism and to create weak and internally divided states.  US-sponsored rents from the Gulf not only eroded national production requiring indigenous knowhow, they reduced the state-distribution functions and the capacity of the state to deliver social welfare. Almost everywhere, the vacuum was filled by US-supported Islamists and liberals. During the Arab Spring, Islamists commandeered the revolts and with unconditional funding from the Gulf, they either attacked their states or were elected and introduced yet more neoliberal programmes than their predecessors. For post-war Lebanon things were no different. Rents bred either the liberal NGO’s or the Islamists. The former on paper declare women or any identity to be equal, but in actuality they do not deliver them from poverty. Liberalism is arguably more devastating than Islamism because it completely erases the social class or reality under the banner of freedom. It is indeed a freedom for humans to perish early from hunger while enjoying the liberty of fitting into an identity pre-selected for them by capital, the social power and the agent of history. Islamists, on the other hand justify the demobilisation of resources by divine fiat. Neither speaks of freedom from want.

Post-war Lebanon which had suffered the destruction of its infrastructure and industry depended more on external sources of funding to maintain consumption.  As the state emerged weaker after the war and its social function was delegated to US-European sponsored civil society or to the parallel institutions of the sect. To rephrase an earlier point, what we see in the demos of Lebanon today is a thirty years investment in reactionary politics personified in people who suffer the same dire class conditions under phantasmagorical doses of intense neoliberalism. The social reaction could boil into a solid class position, but the left is weak in terms of organisation and resources, while the Gulf or European backed NGOs and sects have at their disposal extensive financial means.

In addressing the causes of lapses in development, mainstream social science falsely dichotomises constituents of the agency of history into internal and external. It blames the victimised classes for their self-inflicted misery. It does it so that history absolves the US-European structure of capital. But these Arab working classes are too weak and consistently under assault, often by the belligerence of war and poverty, and violently prohibited from organising into agents of history. The defeated are consistently stripped of agency.  The truly powerful make historical choices. They truly vote in historical time. The colonials or later US imperialism lay down with the power of their bombs, starvations, invasions, and tailored constitutions the margins of actions available for subjugated people. These powers impose the historical imperatives. They empower and institutionalise sectarian and ethnic forms as purveyors of rent from the subjugated state such that the state is always in a state of low or high intensity civil war. They set the material foundations and impose a false scarcity to promote inter working-class war. And by doing this they make profits from the war and set the stage by the continual disempowerment of people to make future profits.

The Lebanese, for instance, can cast this or that vote for the sectarian lackey of imperialism who will do whatever to provide jobs for some of his sect members. However, his rent acquisition action always comes at the expense of other sect members and the working class as a whole. Incomes under capital are rents and if sects bid against each other they lower the share of social wage from the total income pie for the whole of the working class.  The dividedness also weakens the state by the loss of sovereignty arising upon the living insecurity of the working class and holds it hostage to imperialist strategy. In the case of Lebanon, the short leash of finance, the few billion dollars needed to service the debt are currently being delayed and US imperialism is calling the shots. It has something up its sleeve and it has to do with Hezbollah. The US-led financial class through its control of the Lebanese finance casts the real vote in real historical time. It just sits back and watches, while the vote of the vanquished Lebanese population, rhetorically speaking, appears as a mere ornament of modern-day slavery.

The big divide and Iran

The US spares no effort to destabilise the region. As should be obvious, it does so because by devastating and warring it empowers itself and reduces the reproduction costs of labour. This latter point is at the heart of higher profit rates not only because the pressure of refugees on wages, but also in terms of the real value, the real commodities and the hours of labour it takes to sustain the working class, much less is expended on labour. In political economy parlance, that is called a reduction of necessary labour, which is another way of saying if capital pays less than is necessary for people over their lifetime, it makes more profits. In-fighting lowers the cost of people and what they own in resources.

At this historical juncture, fomenting the Sunni-Shiite divide, the in-fighting at play in Iraq and elsewhere is both an end in itself and end to weaken Iran. Also, by raising tensions in the Gulf, and by virtue of its gigantic military presence there, US-led capital holds the world in suspense relative to the instability it injects in oil supply routes. Imperial ransom from the rest of the world tallies with protracted military tension or turmoil in the Gulf. The scurry to the safety of the dollar market alone resituates the US atop of the global pyramid. War or tension in the Gulf is a win-win situation for ‘US-led capital.’ The use of the term US-led capital is more appropriate than the use of the term US because the poor in the US are also subjected to the wrath of their home grown imperialism. The recent figures on poverty in the US indicate that half the population subsists at below the poverty line.[3]

Regionally, Israel, a state constructed around Jewish identity, has an innate aversion for Hezbollah and a less-sectarian Lebanon. Although Israel has no aversion to its adversaries wallowing in class conflict painted over by religion, Hezbollah is a successful paramilitary force and a model for people’s war. To be sure, Hezbollah’s power, its victory in liberating South Lebanon, had reconfirmed the effectiveness of people’s war. No weapon superiority bestows an occupier with the power to rule over a people against their will. Outright victory of an occupying force over an occupied people was and is no longer possible, short of complete annihilation – naturally under the rule of capital that means the continuation of wars. Hezbollah is stronger after its experience in the Syrian war and better armed. For that reason, Israel is keen to have Hezbollah consume itself in Lebanese misery or in an inter-communal war. Aware of Israel’s intentions, Hezbollah had solidified its ties to other progressive forces in Lebanon and the region.

As per the old lessons of national liberation wars, the premise of larger and deeper fronts, especially ones that involve grassroots support that combine security with development, better positions liberation struggles. Although anti-imperialism is not a class-inherent characteristic of the Iranian ruling classes, imperialism deprives peoples, peoples from all sort of classes and not only the working class in developing formations, not only of their control over resources, but also of their lives or longevity. Imperialism often consumes the peripheral comprador, the labour aristocrat and possibly the whole of social nature with its uranium-laced bombs. It depopulates to earn profits. The prematurely wasted life in wars or war related austerity is itself a product of militarism, just as a coke can is a product of the Coca-Cola corporation and industrialism. The more cokes and wasted-lives are consumed-realised, the more returns capital generates.

The Iranian ruling class is a rentier class. While some in Iran delude themselves with mini imperialist ambitions, the struggle of Iran’s people is a struggle to literally exist. Dreams of grandiosity related to past empire is delusional for Iran. The reality that Iran will meet the fate of Iraq or Afghanistan is demonstrably present. The barometer of the strength of its national front remains the extent to which it socialises, subsidises basic commodities, and creates social employment positions founded on a national money cycle – free from international finance, to cement the grounds for people’s war. Iran may have inroads in the Near East, but these were cavities purposefully carved by the US, not by some conspiracy, but by the reason of history abiding by the desires of the self-expanding commodity. Fetishism, the rule of commodities, through its ideology commands real processes and people believe that their imaginary relations to these real processes are real. Their relationship to the sect is not real because the only reality is that of the social class as it produces what people need to survive. Put differently, it is living labour deprived of better living conditions that produces and reproduces people and not identity. A reading of the historical moment, the balance of forces, would clearly show that Iran is in a position of self-defence. Its present government, however, is short on the delivery of jobs and welfare to solidify the social grounds for people’s war. Based on the premise that encroachment wars in this region are an industry of militarism and that imperialism reinforces waste accumulation through depopulation, the security of Iran through Hezbollah is a shared and co-dependent security with Lebanon.

Security in Lebanon is inversely related to sectarianism – here one has in mind the historically determined modern identity sect that acts a conveyor belt for rents. The sect imposed by imperialism as a form of social organisation vitiates class unity, consciousness and the solidarity required for anti-imperialist struggle. The degree to which sectarian divisions surface and security sinks principally corresponds to the retreat of socialist ideological crisis worldwide. In better times, before the Lebanese war, working class cohesion was in the process of formation diluting sectarian differences. Some indicate that inter-sectarian rapprochement under progressive parties and slogans was the reason for which imperialism unleashed its right-wing cronies against the masses igniting the Lebanese war of 1975-1989. After the war ended in 1989, the right learnt its lesson and rents were channelled to sects by degree of loyalty. Such was the effort to obviate the real social being of people, the working class and its institutions. The Lebanese revolution faces the weight of a history in which a cultural identity instrumentalised by capital has acquired a supernatural power. Received perception has it that against all odds such identity exists in the same shape and form it is across history.

The demos prove that class is the reality that resurfaces in times of crisis. Penuries of bread and democracy, poverty in Lebanon, are cross-sectarian. Bread and democracy are presupposed by social relationships before they become things or acts. They are historical and power relationships obtained from class struggle. These concepts, the bread and the democracy, even for the left they have become reified and ahistorical. They are simply the things and the boxes of the ballot boxes. They are maintained as such because Western Marxism peddles them as such. The Western left-intellectuals, with slightly more leisure than others in the developing world, churn out concepts that fit the R2P designs. Overlooking capital’s history and the current social and natural calamity, these pseudo-leftists harbour a deep fascination for the selective democratic model of Western capital and see its atrocities as prerequisites for progress.

Conceptualised differently, bread is the social wage share that requires delinking from the West, working class solidarity and, necessarily but not exclusively, armed struggle against imperialism. Development obtains from combining security with resistance. Poverty in Lebanon could have been worse than Egypt’s without Hezbollah and its resistance. Some sectarian leaders are using the poverty they inflicted upon people through their banks to negotiate a higher share of imperial rents as a price for handing over Hezbollah.

Democracy is an end to alienation. People no longer relinquish the popular will through the voting system. It is about the organs of labour consistently voting for labour in state policy with or without the ritual ballot box. Democracy is not labour as ‘an’ organic constituent of the state, it is ‘the’ organic constituent of the state. Yet, few understand the depth of the conceptual crisis and the idea that people’s representation in the state has to be organic. Demanding one-man one-vote realises democracy only when man is social man; the real man of society reproduced by the value of society, the socially necessary labour invested in him or her. Social man is a subcategory of the working class and, therefore, democracy is the rule of the working class.

Who is more democratic China whose revolution of 1949 heralded prosperity and eliminated poverty or the US which sinks half of its population and half the world into poverty? The working class is there, but it is not brought into focus because people have been taught to think in forms devoid of history, in the ‘now,’ while indeed the ‘now’ or the present do not exist in real time. Capital paid teachers, universities and media to distort people’s minds and erase the social alternatives. The cliché capitalism won against socialism has become truth as if history is a football game and not an ongoing process of massacres and environmental destruction. Without being democratically armed with weapons, without revolutionising concepts and ideology, the working class will always be a proletariat in waiting.

People negate the system, but adopt the conceptual alternatives of the system itself as their alternatives. As they uncritically assimilate the rule of capital, no matter what procedure of voting they choose, they will be electing capital’s authoritarianism. As capitalists and working people personify things or commodities, the development attendant upon the production-consumption of commodities by commodities will continue to end in the human and environmental waste visible all around.

Lebanon again

The crisis in Lebanon was inevitable. Why the banks usurped so much so as to debilitate the state has to do with capital’s objectives to create a social crisis capable of weakening Hezbollah. As the currency falls and the cost of living rises, sectarians and their NGOs are at work to derail the uprising. History bereft of socialist ideology is on their side. The NGO’s will divert cries for justice into a cry against Hezbollah. The US’s conditionality here is being put as such: hand over the weapons of Hezbollah and get the funding needed to maintain the consumerist standard of living. But borrowing short term will only delay the onslaught of poverty for few months. For imperialism, the reason of the commodity adopted by history, the poverty of all sects is necessary because it cheapens inputs from humans and otherwise in production and profits.

To reiterate: the reason why the private banking sector has sucked the country dry with exorbitant interest rates for such a long time is because its patron the international financial class makes more money out of poverty and war in Lebanon and the region. The bigger world financial class and its militarism may sacrifice the smaller Lebanese banking class. However, no matter how sects are positioned on the inside, events in Lebanon will unfold in synch with how the US fares in its regional war offensive. A glimmer of hope exists here as the rise of China arrests the growth of European civilisation, a store of culture whose ethos is to waste or to accumulate by waste. The real world happens to be a planet plagued with overproduction crises, which necessitate that money should be made in wars and in socially imposed under-consumption. Waste produced under waste accumulation also produces a consumerist man indulged in an overly entropic mode of self-consumption. Scarcity constructed to differentiate labour or to pit the working class against each other by designating quaweaponizing identity as the vehicle for rent acquisition abounds. In terms of the real physical scarcity however, not even oil is scarce anymore.

Capital’s logic of cost minimisation, the production of waste for profit, becomes the repository of the system. In times of socialist ideological retreat, the absurd becomes real as reality conforms to the logical forms of mainstream economics. Value relations become waste relations, the ruling class becomes the wasting class and the working class becomes the wasted class. The formalism of capital’s mainstream logic, the two-dimensional diagrammatic in which prices clear excess commodities, becomes more and more a condition in which the excess commodity to be cleared is living labour. Arresting European civilisation, the body of knowledge and traditions of expansion by war, the structural embodiment of that wasting capital, is the historical necessity.

Subordinately, the flux of this spontaneous revolution in Lebanon is a test of the left’s resolve. The left is poised against imperialist NGOs with logistical support from the Gulf states destined to lure the support of despairing people with bribes needed for survival. As people lose income, the left has to provide the alternatives. For the working class to become a proletariat, it must broadly align against reactionary positions. So far, spontaneity mixed with liberal or Islamist NGOs has been a suicide-trap for socialism. The left can commit the anecdotal suicide, it could jump from the superstructure and hit the base, but it could also through struggle carry the day.

*

Renowned author and Middle East analyst, Professor Ali Kadri teaches Economics ath the National University of Singapore (NUS). He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

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Notes

[1] https://www.mintpressnews.com/do-the-math-global-war-on-terror-has-killed-4-million-muslims-or-more/208225/

[2] https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/03/21/we-have-spent-32-million-hour-war-2001

[3] Yes, Half of Americans Are In or Near Poverty: Here’s More Evidence https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/10/16/yes-half-americans-are-or-near-poverty-heres-more-evidence

«لم تعد إيران فقط نحن»… الثورة على إيران في لبنان والعراق؟

أكتوبر 5, 2019

روزانا رمّال

للوهلة الأولى يطرح تساؤل أساسي حول «مشترك ما» يدور بين الشارع اللبناني والشارع العراقي المحتقن للأسباب نفسها، وموقع الطرفين من المعادلة السياسية الإقليمية وعما اذا كانت هناك اشارة تجمع بين مصير حكومة الرئيس سعد الحريري وحكومة رئيس وزراء العراق عادل عبد المهدي.

«مطالبكم بالإصلاح ومكافحة الفساد وصلتنا.. حاسبونا عن كل ما نستطيع القيام به في الأجل المباشر ولا توجد حلول سحرية… إن البطالة لم نصنعها والبنى التحتية المدمّرة ورثناها…».

هذا الكلام صدر عن رئيس الحكومة العراقية عادل عبد المهدي، لكن إمكانية إسقاطه على القيادات اللبنانية برئاستي الجمهورية والحكومة ممكن أكثر نظراً لتشابه المعضلة الاقتصادية وارتباطها بحروب مدمجة بقيادات فاسدة محلية عاثت خراباً سياسياً محلياً أورثت معها العهود المتعاقبة الفشل والضياع. ومع أي محاولة للاصلاح يتبين ان المعضلة كبيرة وأن التركيبة السياسية الحزبية «الطوائفية» صارت أكبر من برمجة لائحة من الخيارات والحلول الاقتصادية. وهنا وفي ربط للحالتين اللبنانية والعراقية يتم إسقاطه على الوضع الراهن فإن الشبه أيضاً والترابط متعلق بسياسة المحاور التي يغرق فيها البلدان بشكل كبير، بل هو أكبر من أي دولة عربية حتى أن سورية التي تعيش حرباً ضروساً منذ سنوات استطاعت حسم اللعبة العسكرية نحو محور حليف لروسيا في وقت سابق اعتبرته واشنطن أمراً واقعاً منذ لحظة وصول القوات الروسية الى السواحل السورية، ومنذ اول الطلعات العسكرية الروسية الجوية في 2015.

في العراق ما يشبه قوى الرابع عشر من آذار وحلفاء أميركا والسعودية، ومحور آخر يشبه قوى الثامن من آذار وهم حلفاء إيران وسورية. وفي الحالتين دارت اللعبة وارتبطت بشكل وثيق حتى دخلت لعبة احتساب نقاط الربح والخسارة بين المحاور على حساب البلدين.

المشترك اليوم هو غضب الشارع العراقي وتحضير أرضية لبنانية مماثلة «بخطوات حذرة»، لكنها واقعة ضمن الأجندة والمنطق نفسهما. وهو المنطق الذي يقول التالي: هناك استحالة بالتسليم السعودي الأميركي لفكرة سيطرة نفوذ إيرانية على أكثر من عاصمة عربية. وهذا الكلام يكشفه دبلوماسي عربي رفيع لـ»البناء» وهو أكثر ما يجعل السعودية متأهبة لإفشال هذا النوع من الخطاب اللاذع الذي يعني إخراجها من العراق ولبنان.

الكلام الأول الذي جاء على لسان قائد الحرس الثوري الإيراني اللواء قاسم سليماني بسيطرة إيران على أربع عواصم عربية، وباعتبار أن الأكثرية النيابية في لبنان تؤيد إيران وهي 75 نائباً هي لغة غير ممكن اعتبارها عابرة في منطق التوازنات التي صارت فيها السعودية هي الأضعف.. هذا الكلام موجود ويبدو أنه صار خطاباً معتمداً عند بعض القيادات الإيرانية. فقد انتشر حديث لإمام جامع مدينة مشهد الإيرانية آية الله احمد علم الهدى وهو عضو مجلس خبراء القيادة وممثل الولي الفقيه في خراسان، تحدّث فيه عن توسّع نفوذ إيراني غير محدود بجغرافيا ممثل بالحشد الشعبي بالعراق واصفاً إياه بـ»الإيراني» وحزب الله في لبنان «إيراني» وأنصار الله في اليمن هم «إيران» وما أسماها الجبهة الوطنية السورية هي «إيران» والجهاد الإسلامي وحماس في فلسطين هما «إيران» جميعهم باتوا إيران… لم تعد إيران فقط نحن «على حد وصف» علم الهدى. وأضاف: «سيد المقاومة نصرالله أعلن أن المقاومة في المنطقة لها امام واحد وهذا الإمام هو المرشد الاعلى للثورة الاسلامية. هل تريدون أن تعلموا اين هي إيران؟ اليس جنوب لبنان هو إيران.. أليس حزب الله إيران؟ طائرات الدرون اليمنية التي تسببت بأضرار كهذه للسعودية اليست إيران هناك؟ تقولون إن الطائرات أتت من الشمال وليس من الجنوب شمال او جنوب ما الفرق؟ إيران هي الاثنان.. شمالكم وجنوبكم».

هذا الكلام يناقض كلام القيادة الإيرانية التي تؤكد أنها لم تستهدف أياً من المصالح السعودية، لكنه وبأي حال من الأحوال يبقى خطاباً مفهوماً لدى محور يعتقد منذ أكثر من ثماني سنوات وهو تاريخ الحرب في سورية التي قسمت المنطقة عمودياً ودخلت إيران وحليفها الاساسي حزب الله في صلبها.. يقول مصدر متابع «مؤيد لحزب الله وسياسات إيران في لبنان لـ»البناء» ان هذا الكلام يوضع ضمن شرح عام للمشهد وليس معنى تجريدياً لسيطرة إيرانية حقيقية، بل هو موضوع ضمن إطار حساب نقاط الربح بالمنطقة لصالح محور أثبت صوابية خياراته واستطاع إفشال المخططات الأميركيّة.

تبدو الثورات في العراق وما يمكن أن يتطور في لبنان واحدة من الاستهدافات لهذا النفوذ الإيراني.. هي ثورات على «إيران» بكل ما للكلمة من معنى ففي لبنان يسود خطاب انفعالي يعتبر ان عهد الرئيس ميشال عون كرّس الوجود الإيراني. وهو كلام صادر عن معارضة مبطنة تحرك باتجاه خيارات جدية يتبين اليوم أن اولها الشارع وثانيها استهداف الحريري وتعقبها مشاكل العملات والوقود التي تخض البلاد وفيها جزء يتعلق بعقوبات على بنوك تقول الادارة الأميركية إنها تتعاطى مع حزب الله..

الأسئلة حول السكوت السعودي والردّ على استهداف «أرامكو» وإعادة المهل بالتسويات في المنطقة الى أجندة تحكمها واشنطن لا الخيارات الروسية – الإيرانية إجابتها في هذه الثورات أو ما يعادلها من حراك شعبي. وهي تتحكم بالمشهد اليوم. والسؤال ليس عن إمكانية ان تنتج هذه الثورات اي تغيير وهو غير وارد لأنها تعنى ببلدان تعيش تراكمات تاريخية من الفساد كلبنان والعراق وحتى مصر المتوجّهة نحو خيارات تطبيع مع سورية ومساعٍ لإعادتها للجامعة العربية، بل عن مغزى الفوضى لأجل الفوضى فقط لدى محرّكين يدركون استحالة إعادة ميزان القوى للوراء.

نقاط على الحروف هل ينتبه الأميركيّون
إلى اللعب بالنار؟

أكتوبر 4, 2019

ناصر قنديل

لم يعد ممكناً تجاهل المعنى الدقيق لتوقيت التصعيد الذي يشهده الملف الاقتصادي خصوصاً في لبنان والعراق، وتحويله قضية متفجّرة  في الشارع، والقضية كي تكون واضحة للبحث هي فقط التوقيت، وليست أبداً نفي أسباب الغضب الشعبي أو مشروعية هذا الغضب. فالفساد قائم هنا وهناك، والاستهتار بأوجاع الناس قائم هنا وهناك. والمحاصصة قائمة هنا وهناك، والجوع والبطالة والضغوط المعيشيّة قائمة هنا وهناك، لكن كل ما هو قائم قائم منذ زمن، ولم يطرأ عليه جديد بحجم يفرض توقّع ردود أفعال بحجم ما هو قائم، وربما يمكن إضافة مصر إلى القائمة التي تضمّ لبنان والعراق بطرح سؤال التوقيت  في الشارع، والقضية كي تكون واضحة للبحث هي فقط التوقيت، وليست أبداً نفي أسباب الغضب الشعبي أو مشروعية هذا الغضب. فالفساد قائم هنا وهناك، والاستهتار بأوجاع الناس قائم هنا وهناك. والمحاصصة قائمة هنا وهناك، والجوع والبطالة والضغوط المعيشيّة قائمة هنا وهناك، لكن كل ما هو قائم قائم منذ زمن، ولم يطرأ عليه جديد بحجم يفرض توقّع ردود أفعال بحجم ما هو قائم، وربما يمكن إضافة مصر إلى القائمة التي تضمّ لبنان والعراق بطرح سؤال التوقيت.

قد يكون واضحاً لكل متابع أن للتوقيت صلة بخطوات انفتاحيّة على سورية اتخذتها الدول الثلاث أو أعلنت العزم على اتخاذها، عقب الإعلان عن نجاح مساعي تشكيل اللجنة الدستوريّة السوريّة وصدور إشادات بتشكيلها من واشنطن والرياض، العاصمتين اللتين منعتا سابقاً أي انفتاح مصري أو لبناني أو عراقي على سورية يتجاوز حدود الشكليات الدبلوماسية، بينما جاءت الخطوات المعلن عنها نوعيّة، بحجم عودة سورية إلى الجامعة العربية، كما قال وزير الخارجية المصري، وبحجم فتح معبر البوكمال – القائم وما يعنيه من فرص استراتيجية أمام العلاقات بين سورية والعراق واستطراداً من ورائهما إيران ولبنان، وكذلك الفرص الاقتصادية الواعدة لسورية بوجه العقوبات. أما لبنان فترجم سعيه الانفتاحي بفتح ملف عودة النازحين بتعاون الحكومتين، وكلها تبدو تجاوزاً لخط أحمر أميركيّ سعوديّ يريد ربط كل انفتاح بقاطرة تقودها واشنطن والرياض بتوقيتهما. وهذا لا يعني ولا يجوز أن يعني أن الذين نزلوا إلى الشارع عملاء أميركا والسعودية، بل يعني أن صواعق التفجير للشارع أميركيّة سعودية ومعلومة بالأسماء كيفية تحضيرها وتفجيرها، وأن نوابض التلقي في الشارع منظمات مموّلة من برامج المساعدات الأميركيّة لما يُسمّى بمؤسسات المجتمع المدني.

 ما لا تنتبه له واشنطن هو أنها تلعب بالنار، فدول وقوى محور المقاومة ومعها روسيا، بعد الانتصارات الكبرى التي حققتها جميعاً، لن تترك التآكل والهريان أن يصيبا بيئتها الشعبية، ولا الفوضى أن تنخر بيئتها السياسيّة، وعلى الأميركييّن أن يلتفتوا إلى كون قواتهم تشكل نقطة ضعف مكشوفة لا تحميها خطوط حمراء. ولعله من اللافت ما تقوله سورية في هذا التوقيت عن وجود وسائل مشروعة ستلزم الأميركيين بالرحيل، ومثلها كلام للحشد الشعبي عن التمركز الأميركي في العراق، وأخيراً كلام مهم لوزير الخارجية الروسية سيرغي لافروف عن خطورة الغارات الإسرائيلية في سورية، والأهم القول إنها “قد تدفع الوضع للخروج عن السيطرة”.

واشنطن مدعوّة لإدراك معادلة الحرب المالية مقابل الحرب العسكرية، والفوضى في الشارع تقابلها مقاومة الاحتلال، وأن التملص من معادلة للهروب إلى أخرى سيزيد الوضع تعقيداً، وربما يكون دقيقاً ما قاله لافروف أنه قد يخرج عن السيطرة، وتبدو الأسابيع المقبلة حاسمة على هذا الصعيد بضوء ما ستحمله أخبار الشارع في بغداد وبيروت.

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Takfiri ISIL group vowed to destroy ancient sites built by infidels” after showing video footage of the group blowing up a 2,500-year-old temple in Iraq.

The video showed ISIL militants detonating bombs at the ancient temple of Nabu in Iraq which proceeded to reduce to rubble.

Following the destruction of the ancient temple, the group vowed to destroy other ancient sites that were created by “infidels.”ISIL Demolishes Ancient Temple in Iraq, Vows to Destroy Pyramids

When noting their intention to destroy other ancient monuments, the video showed pictures of the Great Pyramid of Giza indicating the group hopes to destroy the impressive Egyptian structures.

Earlier this year, shocking pictures showed how ISIL militants had destroyed ancient monuments in the Syrian city of Palmyra.

The militants sparked a global outcry when they started destroying Palmyra’s treasured monuments, which they consider idolatrous, after taking the city in May 2015.

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Source: Agencies

08-06-2016 – 14:35 Last updated 08-06-2016 – 16:01

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Franklin Lamb: Introducing the Syria Resistance (PFLI) and it’s Leader

ED NOTE: Thanks to our friend Dr. Franklin Lamb for introducing the Syrian resistance and its Leader Ali Kayali fighting in all fronts, shoulder to shoulder with the Syrian Arab Army,  the takfirs sponsored by the zionists world order and its tools Saudia, Qatar, Turkey and the So-called March 14 movement. The resistance will continue until full liberation of Syrian Land, including south Syria (Palestine) and every inch of Syrian Land occupied by Turkey.
I added some pictures and the videos

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North of Latakia, Syria Posted on 
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Every school kid here in Syria learns at an early age about the various colonial land grabs that have lopped off key parts of their ancient country, and they receive instruction about their national duty to recover this sacred territory. The concept applies equally to still-occupied Palestine, or at least it did before the 2011 uprising got started, albeit since then a degree of resentment has arisen over participation by some Palestinians with rebel groups seeking to topple the Syrian government.
https://i0.wp.com/i.imgur.com/COy9D.jpg
Be that as it may, one such land grab historically remembered, and which is currently galvanizing resistance on behalf of Syria, is that of Iskenderun, north of Latakia, in a disputed Syria-Turkish border area. As Turkish, Saudi, and Qatari-sponsored jihadists continue to enter the country, well worth remembering is it that Iskenderun is rich in natural resources and that for thousands of years it was part of Syria. But that status changed more than half a century ago when France cut it off from Syria and grafted it onto Turkey—and now some pro-government militias are fighting to get it back.
iskmap
The name derives from Alexander the Great, who around 333 BC encamped in the area and ordered a city be built, although the exact site of the historic city is subject to dispute. At any rate, the strategic importance of Iskenderun comes from its geographical relation to Syrian Gates, the easiest approach to the open ground of Hatay Province and Aleppo, and the dispute over it has been heating up recently, partly as a result of the current crisis.
It all started on July 5, 1938, when Turkish forces under Colonel Sukril Kanath launched an aggression, with French approval, and ethnically cleansed the local Armenian Christian and Allawi populations. The Turkish invasion was enabled by the French, partners with Britain in Sykes-Picot, who had remained as illegal occupiers of Syria, a holdover from the League of Nations mandate. The French were complicit in a rigged referendum, essentially ceding to Turkey this Syrian territory, which by then was referred to as the Republic of Hatay. It was a land grab. Pure and simple. And it was part of a secret deal to secure Turkey’s help with the fast approaching war with Germany. Paris and Ankara struck a deal: Turkey, while not joining the allies against Germany, declared neutrality and essentially sat out World War II.

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Commander Ali Kayali, of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Iskenderun
Syria, rather than being expansionist, as it is sometimes accused of by Turkey and the Zionist regime, has actually been losing territory, not gaining it. “We lost northern Palestine in 1918, Lebanon in 1920, and the Iskenderun area through French duplicity,” said a retired diplomat here. “Surely Lebanon must also be returned to Syria. It was never a real country and it never will be as far as I am concerned. It is part of Syria!”Indeed, as Robert Fisk points out, after the First World War, most Lebanese wished their land to remain part of Syria (see the results of the King-Crane Commission) rather than live in a separate “nation” under French domination. As we parted, the gentleman shook my hand and declared: “Of course Iskendurun is part of Syria. No honest person can deny this!”
Enter one remarkable Syrian nationalist, Ali Kayali, aka “Abu Zaki”. So how did a polite gentleman from this region of Turkish-occupied Syria end up leading one of the most effective resistance militias in the northern theater in the current Syrian crisis? Basically he did it the same way as untold numbers of Palestinians supporting young Syrian men during the early 1980’s.
Ali went to Beirut to resist the 1982 Zionist aggression. There he was baptized by fire, so to speak, carrying the banner of his new group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Iskenderun (PFLI) under the tutelage of Dr. George Habash and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Ali fought in a number of south Lebanon fronts, and also inside West Beirut, but then after the PLO withdrawal (on 8/20/82), he returned to Syria, to Tartous, joining the rebellion against PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. Near Bedwari camp he fought, as part of the Fatah Intifada uprising, this following the PLO split along -pro-Arafat and pro-Hafez Assad cleavages.

Later, Ali undertook study on his own in Tartous (Tripoli, Syria), and at one point escaped from prison in Turkey where he had been jailed for demonstrating against the fascist regime in Ankara. Returning to Syria, he joined Syrian Army battles against the Bilal Shaaban-led Al Tawhid Islamic (Muslim Brotherhood ), following which he and the PFLI moved to the area of Halba in Akkar, Lebanon, and organized a resistance training camp. Eventually, however, he returned to Syria to continue the fight to liberate the Syrian territory of Iskenderun, and while supported by Syrian citizens, the Kayali-led group was not formally part of the Syrian security/resistance apparatus.

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Commander Ali discussing PFLI positions
Speaking with non-government analysts in Latkia, this observer was repeatedly told that the PFLI has the reputation of understanding the geography and politics of the Syrian coast area where its fighters are currently active, including Aleppo, Banias, between Tartous and the countryside around Latakia, as well as the Idlib, Homs and Damascus areas.

As PFLI fighters and officials put it, “Syria will not kneel to the Zionist-Arab project to destroy the unity and independence of the Syrian Arab Republic.” According to one PFLI spokesperson, the group “supports and stands in the same trench, hand in hand with the state, confronting two foreign projects—the first being to destroy the achievements of the Syrian people and Syria’s social fabric and multi-cultural heritage, and the second being to infiltrate foreign intruders.”

One place the PFLI is currently fighting is the strategic rebel bastion of Yabrud, in the Qalamoun Mountains, north of Damascus, near the Lebanese border. On 3/3/14, during a meeting with this observer and some of his associates, Ali Kyali received a phone call relaying information that Sahel village, about four miles from Yabrud, had come under control of Syrian and pro-Syrian forces, including the PFLI. Remarkably open with battlefield details, Ali explained that pro-Syria forces do not want to occupy Yabrud, but rather the strategy is to control the villages surrounding it in order to trap al Nursa and other rebel militia inside. Asked about the trapped local population and reminded of the fate of the inner city populations of Aleppo, Homs and a dozen other locations, Ali shrugged and turned up his palms.

Today (3/7/14) the PFLI is fighting to try to cut off the road linking Yabrud to Arsal in eastern Lebanon, whose majority population supports the Syrian revolt. PFIL fighters were involved last week with the fall of Al-Sahl, a town a little over a mile south of Yabrud, and now are fighting in and around Yaboud, preparing for the anticipated final assault. According to Ali’s personal bodyguards, they are facing Al-Qaida’s Syria affiliate, al-Nusra Front. Some of PFLI’s 3000 troops are also fighting this week in Douma, Jobar, Aleppo, the countryside around Lattakia, and Deralcia near Nubek on the main Damascus-Homs highway. They also played a key role earlier in Baniyas, in the battle between Tartous and Latakia. One YouTube clip being given to visitors to the PFLI HQ in Latakia shows the group’s participation, including women, in a recent important battle against the ISIS:

The PFLI organization receives a variety of random and sporadic support from the local community, according to Mr. Kayali and his staff, but they, like most militia, need money and weapons and regular supplies of food. Also needed are places for the fighters to sleep, as well as more uniforms to accommodate a sharp influx of applicants seeking to join their ranks. Additionally there is the matter of funding death benefit payments for the families of PFLI men and women killed during resistance.

PFLI fighters are not paid salaries, which sets them apart financially from many Gulf-backed and Western-trained militia, who can garner monthly salaries from $500-$1,000. By contrast, pro-government popular committees, numbering approximately 5,000, and National Defense units, whose fighters number around 25,000, receive approximately 20,000 Syrian Pounds, or $126 a month. Footing much of this bill are Syrian businessmen such as Rami Mahlouf, cousin of President Bashar Assad. Regular Syrian army recruits get only 3000 Syrian pounds, or about $20 monthly, but they also receive food and lodging and health and travel benefits. Syrian army reservists are said to receive approximately $10.50 per month.

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“Joan of Arc” with part of her resistance family
For Ali Kayali, the PFLI is also a family matter. His wife and daughter and two sons are deeply connected with its resistance goals. His sons are fighters, as are his wife and daughter when called upon, though in-between time they do other resistance projects. Nicked-named “Joan of Arc,” his 22-year-old daughter attends medical school, but reportedly is also a ferocious fighter and adept battlefield tactician, with dramatic results in a number of battles against rebels over the past nearly two years. She is a strong, no-nonsense feminist and told me she loves to shock takfiris, who sometimes appear amazed to see her and her female unit chasing them up the side of some mountain.
It is said that an army (or a militia, for that matter) travels on its stomach. This observer was treated to an impromptu roadside lunch with half a dozen PFLI fighters last week. Their favorite cook, Mahmoud, a small guy who always seems to wear the same blue shirt, invited us. Within minutes, Mahmoud gathered some twigs and small chunks of wood, lit a small fire, covered it with a metal grate, grabbed a bag of flour, mixed in water, kneaded it a bit, and shaped and roasted some small, irregular round loaves. On these he sprinkled, from another plastic bag, some handfuls of spices. His fast and hot food was delicious, constituting Mhamra manouche (roasted pita bread with spicy red pepper sauce), Zaatar  manouche (oregano, thyme, & sesame seeds), and Jibneh (cheese) manouche.
Captagon Jihad?
Sitting in the lobby of a run-down, less-than-one-star, dockside hotel opposite the Mediterranean, a lodging establishment occasionally used as quarters by various militia, this observer and his companion spoke leisurely one early morning with one of Ali Kyali’s sons and a companion. When not fighting jihadists (in “Have AK-47, Will Travel”-mode), they are among his father’s bodyguards. I have for a while been interested in claims by Western governments that they are supplying “humanitarian non-lethal aid” to rebel groups, including night goggles, telecommunication equipment, and GPS devices. This observer views all such equipment as misnamed and indeed lethal inasmuch as they facilitate one side killing the other via night snipers or through expedition of troop movements. I was a bit surprised to learn what PFLI fighters thought of this kind of equipment being given to their adversaries and labeled ‘humanitarian aid.’
“Not having night goggles, except for some we take off the enemy, is not much of a problem for us because we can sense where al Nusra fighters are, and they tend not to fight at night,” Ali’s son told me.
I asked why the reluctance to fight at night, thinking maybe it had something to do with a religious edict of some sort, but once more I was mistaken.
“No it’s not that, it’s because they are too paranoid and exhausted, from taking captagon and even stronger drugs, to fight at night.”
According the guys I was sitting with, some with more than two years fighting experience with the PFLI, many, if not most, of the Gulf-sponsored jihadists are given bags of pills to enhance their battlefield courage. And it works to a degree. At dawn each day, jihadists take drugs, including large doses of captagon and other widely available drugs. There also are some particularly potent drugs, known locally as “baltcon,” “afoun,” and ”zolm,” as well as opium, heroin, cocaine, and hashish. The main drug routes into the Syrian battle zones, I was advised, run from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Lebanon, with lesser amounts coming via Turkey, Iraq and Jordan. Lebanon’s Bekaa valley apparently produces large amounts of captagon pills for shipment to the Gulf, and now to Syria. Jihadists high on drugs apparently feel invincible, and hostile, and do not fear death. Many are indeed ferocious and fearless fighters during the day, as many media sources have reported. But by nightfall, when the drug wears off, the fighters become exhausted and sometimes are found asleep on the very scene of battle they were fighting from.

“Many of the ‘Gulfies’ are in fact heavily addicted to strong heroin-like drugs. They crave them, and sometimes they even fight with their fellow militiamen to get their ‘fixes.’ We are told by some we capture that sometimes, when one of their comrades is killed, the fallen fighter’s ‘friends’ will descend on his body, not particularly to pray over it, but to rummage his pockets for his drugs.”

In point of fact, in 2011 alone, Lebanese authorities confiscated three amphetamine production labs, in addition to two Captagon-producing labs, which they claim were responsible for sending hundreds of thousands of the pills to the Gulf. The seizure of trucks with captagon in their chassis in Lebanon, and at Beirut airport, shows a growing demand for these products in the Syrian militia market. The UN recently reported that the Middle and Near East are experiencing the majority of drug busts globally.
Al Nusra Front and ISIS—being some of the more extreme “imported jihadists,” as some here call them—claim to be better fighters than Hezbollah, whose units set the fighting skill bar fairly high these days. Some of them claim they have not really started their battle to defeat Hezbollah on its own territory, but will do so when they are ready. But as one PFLI fighter explained, and some of his buddies nodded agreement, only when high on drugs do Qatari/Saudi jihadists exhibit bravery and bravado. Only then do they pose a serious threat, because they ignore normal defensive fighting tactics.
“We know many of these guys quite well. Lots of them were never even religious. There are many who are drug addicts, who get high and lose their fear of dying, so they are dangerous to confront, and they often use strange tactics.”
According to another PFLI source, the “imported Jihadists” die in high numbers because they ignore the battlefield realities. Their average number of dead in any given firefight over the past two years is estimated to be approximately five times the number of Hezbollah casualties, three times the number of PFLI fighters, and twice the number of casualties than the regular Syrian army.
As the Syrian crisis enters its fourth year, with more jihadists arriving and more militia being formed across the political and religious spectrum, the US intelligence community and congressional sources are now predicting the war will continue for another decade or more. It’s anyone’s guess what the post-Syrian crisis period will bring to this region given the rise of ethno-nationalism along with demands for the return of Sykes-Picot land grabs. There are also growing signs of a cataclysmic intifada in Palestine. When you add to all that US intelligence predictions of the overthrow of two, and possibly three, Gulf monarchies, another Hezbollah-Zionist war, plus the deterioration of the social and religious fabric across the region, the future looks bleak indeed.
Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (sssp-lb.com).

Muslim Brothers of the world UNITE! –

Egypt Crisis Leaves 5 Dead, Over 350 Wounded

Muslim Brothers of the world UNITE!

The Qataris (rulers & objects of sedition) are worried about Muslim Bros rule! Thanks As’ad;
لو كنت مكان الرئيس المصري محمد مرسي لفعلت كما فعل الرئيس الأمريكي جورج بوش الأب حينما انزل الجيش في لوس انجليس لوضع حد للفوضى في مصر

FLC

‘Martyr Mohamed Issam’

Who is fighting in Syria? revolutionaries or ’contras’?

Free Syrian Army: revolutionaries or ’contras’?
Who is fighting in Syria?

Though the Western press portrays the Free Syrian Army as an armed revolutionary group, for more than a year Thierry Meyssan has affirmed that it is on the contrary a counter-revolutionary body. According to him, it would have progressively passed from the hands of reactionary monarchies in the Gulf to those of Turkey, acting for NATO. Such a non-mainstream affirmation needs demonstrative proof…
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Logo of the “Free Syrian Army”

For the last 18 months, Syria has been prey to troubles that have steadily increased to become a widespread armed conflict having already killed about 20,000 people. If there is consensus on this observation, narratives and interpretations vary beyond.

For Western states and their press, the Syrians aspire to live in the Western market democracies. Following the Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan “Arab Spring” models, they rose up to overthrow their dictator Bashar al-Assad. The latter suppressed the demonstrations with bloodshed. While Westerners would have liked to intervene to stop the massacre, the Russians and Chinese, out of self-interest or contempt for human life, opposed intervention.

On the contrary for all other states that are not vassals of the U.S. and for their media, the U.S. launched an operation planned a long time ago against Syria. First, through its regional allies, and then directly, they have introduced armed bands, modeled on the Contras in Nicaragua, that have destabilized the country. But they found only very weak domestic support and were routed while Russia and China prevented NATO’s destroying the Syrian army and reversing the regional equation.
Who is telling the truth? Who is wrong?

Armed groups in Syria do not defend democracy, they fight against it

First, the interpretation of Syrian events as an episode of the “Arab Spring” is an illusion because this “spring” has no basis in reality. This is an advertising slogan to positively present unrelated facts. Although there has been a popular revolt in Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain, there was none in neither Egypt nor Libya. In Egypt, the street demonstrations have been limited to the capital and parts of the middle class; never, absolutely never, have the Egyptian people identified with the telegenic spectacle of Tahrir Square [1]. In Libya, there was no political revolt, but a separatist movement in Cyrenaica against the power of Tripoli, and the military intervention of NATO, which cost the lives of about 160,000 people.

The Lebanese station NourTV has been very successful airing a series of broadcasts by Hassan Hamade entitled “The Arab Spring, from Lawrence of Arabia to Bernard-Henri Levy.” The authors develop therein the idea that the “Arab Spring” is a remake of the “Arab Revolt” of 1916-1918 orchestrated by the British against the Ottomans. This time, Westerners have manipulated situations to upset a generation of leaders and impose the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, the “Arab Spring” is false advertising. Now, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Gaza are governed by a brotherhood; on the one hand imposing a moral order and on the other supporting Zionism and pseudo-liberal capitalism, that is to say the interests of Israel and the Anglo-Americans. The illusion was dispelled. Some authors, like Syria’s Said Hilal Alcharifi, now deride the “NATO spring“.

Secondly, the leaders of the Syrian National Council (SNC) as well as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) commanders are not democratic at all, in the sense that they would be favourable to “a government of the people, by the people, for the people“, according to Abraham Lincoln’s formula taken from the French Constitution.

Thus, the first president of the SNC was the Paris academic, Burhan Ghalioun. He was in no way “a Syrian opponent persecuted by the regime” since he circulated freely in and out of his country. Nor was he a “secular intellectual” as he claims, since he was the political advisor to the Algerian Abbassi Madani, President of the Islamic Salvation Front (ISF), now a refugee in Qatar.
His successor, Abdel Basset Syda [2] entered politics only in the last months, and immediately established himself as a mere executor of US wishes. Upon his election as head of the SNC, he pledged not to defend the will of his people, but to implement the “road map” that Washington drew up for Syria: The Day After.

Nor are the Free Syrian Army fighters champions of democracy. They recognize the spiritual authority of sheikh Adnan Alrour, a takfirist preacher, who calls for the overthrow and killing of Assad, not for political reasons but simply because Assad is of the Alawite faith, that is to say a heretic in the preacher’s eyes. All of the identified officers in the FSA are Sunnis and all of the FSA brigades are named after historical Sunni figures. The “revolutionary tribunals” of the FSA sentence their political opponents to death (and not only supporters of Bashar al-Assad) and they slaughter the unbelievers in public. The FSA program is to end the secular regime installed by the Baath, the SSNP and the Communist Party in favor of a pure religious Sunni regime.

The Syrian conflict was premeditated by the West

The western will to end Syria is known and it is quite sufficient to explain current events. Let us recall some facts that leave no doubt as to the premeditation of these events [3].

The decision to go to war with Syria was made by President George W. Bush at a Camp David meeting on September 15, 2001, just after the spectacular attacks in New York and Washington. Simultaneously attacks were planned in Libya to demonstrate the ability to act in two theaters at once. This decision was corroborated by the testimony of General Wesley Clark, former NATO supreme commander, who was opposed to it.

In the wake of the fall of Baghdad, in 2003, Congress passed two laws instructing the President of the United States to prepare wars against Libya and Syria (the Syria Accountability Act).
In 2004, Washington accused Syria of harbouring the weapons of mass destruction that could not be found in Iraq. This accusation fizzled when it was admitted that the weapons never existed and were but a pretext for invading Iraq.

In 2005, after the assassination of Rafik Hariri, Washington attempted to go to war against Syria, but could not manage it as Syria withdrew its army from Lebanon. The United States then elicited fake testimonials to accuse President al-Assad of ordering the attack and they created a special international court to try him. But they were ultimately forced to withdraw their false accusations when their manipulations were brought to the light of day.

In 2006, the U.S. began to prepare the “Syrian revolution” by creating the Syria Democracy Program. The idea was to create and fund pro-Western opposition groups (such as the Movement for Justice and Development). Official funding from the State Department was supplemented by secret CIA funding via an association from California, the Democracy Council.

Also in 2006, the U.S. outsourced to Israel a war against Lebanon in the hope of involving Syria in order to justify intervention. But Hezbollah’s quick victory foiled that plan.

In 2007, Israel attacked Syria, bombing a military installation (Operation Orchard). But again, Damascus kept its cool and did not let itself get embroiled in war. Subsequent audits by the International Atomic Energy Agency showed that the target was not a nuclear site, contrary to what had been claimed by the Israelis.

In 2008, during NATO’s annual Bilderberg Group meeting, the Director of the Arab Reform Initiative, Bassma Kodmani, and the director of the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Volker Perthes, demonstrated briefly to the Euro-American Gotha the economic, political and military benefits of possible intervention by the Alliance in Syria.

In 2009, the CIA set up tools of propaganda destined for Syria such as the BaradaTV channel, based in London, and Dubai-based OrientTV.

To these historical elements, let’s add that a meeting was held in Cairo, the second week of February 2011, around John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Bernard-Henry Levy, figures like Mahmoud Jibril Libya (then number two in the Libyan Jamahiriya government) and Syrian personalities like Malik al-Abdeh and Ammar Qurabi. It was this meeting that gave the signal for covert operations that began in both Libya and Syria (February 15th in Benghazi and 17th in Damascus).

In January 2012, the U.S. Departments of State and Defense formed the Task Force named The Day After: Supporting a democratic transition in Syria, which drafted both a new constitution for Syria and a governance program [4].

In May of 2012, NATO and the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) set up the Working Group on Economic Recovery and Development of the Friends of the Syrian People, under German and Emirati co-chairmanship. Therein, the Syrian-British economist Ossam el-Kadi worked out a plan to divide Syrian wealth among coalition member states, to apply the “day after” (that is to say, after the overthrow of the regime by NATO and the GCC) [5].

Revolutionaries or counter-revolutionaries?

The armed groups did not spring from peaceful protests in February 2011. These events in fact denounced corruption and demanded more freedoms, whereas the armed groups- as we have seen above- emerge from Islamism.

In recent years, a terrible economic crisis has hit the countryside. It was due to poor harvests, which were wrongly assessed as passing misfortunes while they were in reality the consequences of chronic climate change. To this are added errors in the implementation of economic reforms that have disrupted the primary sector. This was followed by a massive rural exodus which the government has managed, and a sectarian drifting away of some farmers neglected by the powers. In many areas, rural housing was not concentrated in villages, but dispersed as isolated farms, no one had measured the extent of this phenomenon until its adherents congregated.

Ultimately, while the Syrian society embodies the paradigm of religious tolerance, a takfirist current developed within. It provided the basis for the armed groups. These have been richly funded by Wahhabi monarchies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Sharjjah).

This windfall has led to the rallying of new fighters which include relatives of the victims of the massive crackdown against the failed bloody Muslim Brotherhood coup in 1982. Their motive is often less ideological than personal. It springs from vendetta.

Many thugs and habitual criminals lured by easy money joined: a “revolutionary” is paid seven times the average wage.

Finally, professionals who fought in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya or Iraq started pouring in. At the head of these are the men of Al Qaeda in Libya, led by Abdelhakim Belhaj in person [6] The media present them as jihadists, which is inappropriate, Islam not conceiving of holy war against fellow Muslims. These are primarily mercenaries.

Western media and the Gulf press both insist on the presence of deserters in the FSA. That is certain, but it is false to claim that they defected after refusing to suppress political demonstrations. The deserters in question almost always come from cases similar to those we described above. Moreover, any army of 300,000 men would perforce have in its ranks its share of religious fanatics and thugs.
Armed groups use a Syrian flag with a green band (instead of the red band) and three stars (instead of two). The Western press calls it the “flag of independence“, as it was in effect at the time of independence in 1946. In reality, this is the flag of the French mandate which remained in force during the country’s formal independence (1932-1958). The three stars represent the three districts of religious colonialism (Alawite, Druze and Christian). Using this flag is certainly not the equivalent of brandishing a revolutionary symbol. On the contrary, it is to affirm the will to prolong the colonial project, that of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 and the remodeling of the “Greater Middle East“.
Over the 18 months of armed action, these armed groups structured and more or less coordinated themselves. As it stands, the vast majority have come under Turkish command, under the label of Free Syrian Army. In fact, they have become auxiliaries of NATO; their headquarters is even located on the NATO air base at Incirlik. Hard core Islamists have formed their own organizations or have joined al-Qaida. They are under the control of Qatar or of the Sudeiri branch of the Saudi royal family [7]. They are de facto attached to the CIA.

This progressive constitution, which starts with poor farmers and ends with an influx of mercenaries, is identical to what we saw in Nicaragua when the CIA organized the Contras to overthrow the Sandinistas, or to what we had known in Cuba when the CIA organized the landing of the Bay of Pigs to overthrow Castro. It is precisely this model that the Syrian armed groups now claim as their own: in May of 2012, Miami Cuban Contras organized counter-revolutionary guerrilla war training seminars for their Syrian counterparts [8].

CIA methods are the same everywhere. Thus, the Syrian Contras focused their military action in part on the creation of permanent bases (but none held, not even the Islamic Emirate of Baba Amr), then economic sabotage (destruction of infrastructure and burning down large factories), and finally terrorist tactics (derailment of passenger trains, car bomb attacks at popular sites, killing religious, political and military leaders).

In consequence, that part of the Syrian population which could have had sympathy for armed groups at the onset of events, believing that they represented an alternative to the current regime, have become progressively disaffected.

Not surprisingly, the battle of Damascus has consisted in the convergence on the capital of 7,000 fighters scattered around the country and mercenary armies based in neighboring countries. Tens of thousands of Contras have tried to enter the country. They moved simultaneously in numerous columns of pick-up trucks, preferring to cross deserts than travel the highways. Some of them were stopped by aerial bombardment and had to turn back. Others, after seizing the border crossings, reached the capital. They have not found the hoped for popular support. Rather, it is the people that have guided the National Army soldiers to identify them and weed them out. Eventually they were forced to retreat and have announced that, failing to take Damascus, they would take Aleppo. Moreover, it shows they are neither Damascenes in revolt, nor Aleppians, but transient fighters.


Contra infiltration through the desert near Dera

The unpopularity of the armed groups should be compared with the popularity of the regular army and self-defense militia. The Syrian National Army is a conscript army, so it’s a people’s army, and it is unthinkable that it can be used for political repression. Recently, the government authorized the creation of neighborhood militias. It distributed weapons to citizens who are committed to devote 2 hours of their time every day to defend their neighborhood, under military supervision.

The moon is made of green cheese

In his time, President Reagan met some difficulties trying to present Contras as “revolutionary.” He created a structure for this propaganda, the Bureau of Public Diplomacy, the management of which he entrusted to Otto Reich [9]. The latter corrupted journalists in most major U.S. and Western European media to poison the well of public opinion. Among others, he launched a rumor that the Sandinistas had chemical weapons and might use them against their own people. Today propaganda is directed from the White House by the deputy national security adviser in charge of strategic communications, Ben Rhodes. He employs the old methods and has spread rumors of chemical weapons against President al-Assad.

In collaboration with the British MI6, Rhodes managed to impose a phantom structure as the main source of information for Western news agencies: the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH). The media have never questioned the credibility of this outfit, even though its allegations were denied by the observers of the Arab League and by those of the United Nations. Better yet, this phantom structure, which has neither offices nor staff nor expertise, has also become the source of information for European chancelleries since the White House convinced them to withdraw their diplomatic staff from Syria.

While waiting to be on live, the Al-Jazeera correspondent, Khaled Abou Saleh, phones his editor. He claims that Baba Amr is being bombed and organizes the sound effects. M. Abou Saleh was François Hollande’s guest of honour at the 3rd Conference of the Friends of Syria.

Ben Rhodes also organised shows for journalists thirsting for sensationalism. Two tour operations have been established, one in the office of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and the second at the offices of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Willing journalists were invited to enter illegally into Syria through smugglers. For months, a trip was offered from the Turkish border to a remote witness village located in the mountains. You could have a photo shoot with “revolutionaries” and “share the daily lives of combatants.” Then the more sporting crowd could visit the Islamic Emirate of Baba Amr from the Lebanese border.

Oddly enough, many journalists observed huge falsifications for themselves, but they did not draw any conclusions. Thus, a famous photojournalist filmed the Baba Amr “revolutionaries” burning tires to release black smoke and make believe in a bombing in the neighborhood. He broadcast these images on Channel4 [10], but continued to claim that he had witnessed the bombardment of Baba Amr as narrated by the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights. Or again, the New York Times noted that pictures and videos sent by the press service of the Free Syrian Army showing valiant fighters were staged [11]. Weapons of war were actually replicas, toys for children. The newspaper has nevertheless continued to believe in the existence of an army of deserters numbering nearly 100,000 men.

Reading a statement from the Free Syrian Army. The proud “deserters” are extras who carry fake weapons.

According to a classical irony, journalists prefer to lie than admit that they have been manipulated. Once duped, they consciously participate in the development of the lie they have discovered. The question is whether you, readers of this article, also prefer to close your eyes or if you decide to support the Syrian people against the Contras’ aggression.

Thierry Meyssan

[1] Tahrir Square is not the largest in Cairo. It was chosen for marketing reasons, the word Tahrir translates in European languages as “Liberty”. This symbol was obviously not chosen by Egyptians, for there are several Arab words signifying liberty. Moreover, “Tahrir” indicates the liberty that is given to one, not the liberty that one acquires.

[2] The Western press has made a habit of adding an “a” to Mr. Syda’s name, changing it to “Saida” to avoid confusion with the disease of the same name. Ed.

[3] The term “premeditation” is used normally in criminal law. In politics, the correct term is “conspiracy”, but the author abstained from using it because it creates a hysterical reaction from those who insist on making believe that Western policy is transparent and democratic. Ed.

[4] “Washington drafted new constitution for Syria”, Voltaire Network, 22 July 2012.

[5] “The “Friends of Syria” divvy up Syrian economy before conquest”, Voltaire Network, 30 June 2012.

[6] “Free Syrian Army commanded by Military Governor of Tripoli”, by Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire Network, 19 December 2011.

[7] For further details, read “The Middle East counter-revolution”, by Thierry Meyssan, Komsomolskaïa Pravda, Voltaire Network, 26 May 2011.

[8] “Syrian opposition sets up summer camp in Miami”, by Jean Guy Allard, Voltaire Network, 29 May 2012.

[9] “Otto Reich and the Counterrevolution”, by Arthur Lepic, Paul Labarique, Voltaire Network, 14 May 2004.

[10] “Syria’s video journalists battle to tell the ’truth’“, Channel4, 27 March 2011.

[11] “Syrian Liberators, Bearing Toy Guns”, by C. J. Chivers, The New York Times, 14 June 2012.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

THE GOD DAM-NED REVOLUTIONمن السد العالي الى الباب العالي

Daniel Mabsout,

Is mistaken who thinks that there were real competition in the Egyptian presidential elections between two candidates , the two candidates are one and all this delay in revealing the outcome of the presidential elections and announcing the results of these elections and the pre election measures regarding the parliament is in order to give credibility to Dr Mursi and make him the winning candidate of the revolution which he had failed- uptil now- to represent .

Now – after the farce of the competition- Dr Mursi can appear as the president brought by the revolution and the masses and people can maybe forget his more than frequent meetings with all the US administration officials who visited him one by one and the promises he gave to these officials regarding the relations with the Israelis .

Brothers of America

The old system which is constituted by the recognition of Israel and normalization with it has been now reproduced but with the Ikhwaan at the head and accompanied this time by religious commitment to Sunni Islam .
The hunger that the Ikhwaan had for power and for legal recognition , this hunger that was increased and exacerbated has been now satisfied .

This satisfaction is accompanied by a certain blindness that makes the Ikhwaan forget why they wanted to rule and why they sought power in the first place . Now the Tahrir Square is populated with the Ikhwaan who refrained to a large extent -previously- from sharing extensively in what was taking place in the Square of the Revolution.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

The Egyptian “Soft Coup”

by the Editor

Sunday, June 17th, 2012
      

Jihan Hafiz reports thousands of Egyptians hit the streets rejecting the disbanding of Parliament, as the Egyptian military is moving towards full dictatorship

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

The True Face of Egypt’s Military

Mubarak- Omar Suliman- Sami Anan

The masks dropped. The cards are shown.

For over a year, Egyptians have wondered who was leading the efforts to frustrate and obliterate their nascent revolution, or what was dubbed in the local media as the “third party” or the “hidden bandit.”
But the mystery is no more.
It was none other than the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the same body that took power from deposed president Hosni Mubarak under the guise of leading the transitional period towards democracy. It was a masterful work of political art.
The final act was on display on Thursday, June 14, 2012, when Egypt’s High Constitutional Court (HCC) not only ruled against banning the military’s candidate and Mubarak’s last Prime Minister, Gen. Ahmad Shafiq, but also dissolved parliament, the only institution that represented the political will of the people in post-revolutionary Egypt.
It is important to note that all the justices on the HCC were appointed by Mubarak, and that most if not all are considered regime loyalists.
Egypt’s new president to be sworn in before judiciary
 after parliament dissolution
Incidentally, last March, Parliamentary Speaker and MB leader, Dr. Saad Katatni, said that he was told, in the presence of SCAF’s deputy commander, Gen. Sami Anan, by SCAF’s appointed Prime Minister Dr. Kamal Ganzouri, that the order to dissolve the parliament was in the drawer but would come at the appropriate time.
This dramatic announcement was therefore followed by the parliament passing a law banning most of the former senior officials of the Mubarak regime (including Shafiq) from politics on the grounds of corrupting Egypt’s political life and institutions for decades.
Nevertheless, Shafiq was shortly reinstated by the Presidential Elections Commission (PEC) even though it had no jurisdiction on the matter. It is perhaps important to note that the head of the PEC is also the Chief Justice of the HCC. He declared on the same day that the parliamentary elections’ law (that resulted in the victory of the Islamic parties, led by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), winning seventy five percent of the seats) was unconstitutional. It was the same law that several of the same justices assured all political parties last summer that it passed constitutional muster.
Katatni: Parliament cannot be dissolved except with referendum | Egypt News | Scoop.itWith this brazen act of thwarting the political will of the Egyptian people, the emerging Islamic and revolutionary parties have now been totally stripped of their political ascendency, less than five months after their rise to power. This was accomplished simply by utilizing the institutions of the deep state crafted by a regime that was controlled for decades by corrupt officials, senior military officers, and intelligence agencies. Further, a Mubarak era military man is now on the verge of being “elected” president using the assorted tools of the democratic process.
One of the major demands of the revolution was to end the three-decade old emergency law that allowed the security agencies and the military to arbitrarily arrest and abuse the civil and human rights of any activist at will. But under tremendous public pressure throughout last year, these laws were repealed at the end of last May. But what was kicked out of the door crawled back through the window. Egypt’s Justice Minister announced this week, less than two weeks after the repeal went into effect, that he was empowering all military officers and intelligence personnel to arrest indefinitely any person deemed a security threat to public order.
SCAF will retain legislative and budgetary powers: Judicial source | Egypt News | Scoop.it
SCAF will retain legislative and budgetary powers: Judicial source
In a transparently coordinated fashion, before parliament could react to this shameless challenge to the essence of the revolution, it was dissolved within 24 hours by the High Court. Further, within minutes of the decision to dissolve the parliament, hundreds of military and security officers occupied its buildings, preventing any member to enter or even clear their offices. In short, Egypt has come a full circle, the transition to democracy was aborted, the process hijacked, and its remarkable revolution put on life support.
The final act of quietly killing the hopes of Egypt’s youth and the aspirations of its people is coming this Sunday when the presidential elections end in the declaration of a Shafiq presidency. The other candidate in this charade is represented by the MB’s Dr. Muhammad Mursi. For weeks, the MB has been warning against elections fraud perpetrated by the institutions of the deep state and led by its security and intelligence services.
For example, the Elections Commission has refused to hand over the voter lists, which it had no problem doing last winter during the parliamentary elections. But the problem is that these same lists have now increased by a whopping 4.5 million voters, raising suspicions of multiple registrations of regime loyalists who might vote multiple times in different provinces over the two-day elections process (for example 200 thousand regime loyalists voting in twenty different precincts.) Furthermore, elections officials announced that they would refuse to allow elections’ monitors to stay in the same rooms where the ballot boxes are left unattended for 12 hours between the first and the second days of the elections, although they were allowed to stay in and watch the boxes overnight in the previous parliamentary elections last winter.
In addition, the government announced that it is giving all its 6 million employees a two-day vacation and free public transportation to boost participation (an indirect prodding of government employees and their families to vote for Shafiq). In a blatant violation of elections’ laws, hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on media propaganda to boost SCAF’s candidate, as well as payments to local officials especially in the delta region, to secure the peasants’ votes.
In a nutshell, the intense involvement of the security state is now in the open. But most Egyptians are frustrated and feel that they have been robbed of making a choice consistent with their sixteen-month popular uprising. Before their own eyes they see how the Mubarak regime is slowly being re-invented with the full backing of state institutions under the direction of SCAF, the same military that promised to fulfill the objectives of the revolution.
Most pro-revolution groups, activists, and public intellectuals have called on MB’s candidate Mursi to withdraw from the presidential elections so as to deny the military’s candidate any claim of legitimacy once he is “elected.” But in its desperate attempt to show any achievement in its one-year dalliance with SCAF, it appears that the MB is pressing ahead with the elections. Once again the Islamic group has demonstrated its inability to join in, let alone lead, any revolutionary path, even though its leaders understand fully the determination of SCAF and the state institutions to manipulate the elections and force their candidate on the rest of the people.
During his final interview before the elections, Mursi understood the stakes and his long electoral odds as the elections are being manipulated. Although he believed that he would easily win in a free and fair elections, he admitted that elections’ fraud were certain to take place. He further said that he was recently told by President Jimmy Carter that Mubarak was for decades “sleeping in Israel’s bed,” and that “Shafiq would follow in his footsteps.” The former president, who raised many concerns about the first round elections, had earlier stated that he did not believe that the military would hand over power to civilian rule.
Revolution II is underway in Egypt as election looms | Egypt News | Scoop.it
Revolution II is underway in Egypt as election looms
Meanwhile, Shafiq, who does not deny his admiration for Mubarak and considers him a role model, has brazenly declared that his first state visit would be to the U.S. in order to signal that he was its preferred candidate. He also said that he would not only keep the peace treaty with Israel, but would also deepen it.
Thus, the MB’s delusion that SCAF will allow it to contest power will soon be exposed. Sooner or later the group will realize that it simply can neither outmaneuver nor win against the military or the deep security state on its own. It will have to fundamentally change its strategic choices and genuinely adopt the revolutionary path in order to defeat the entrenched interests of the deep state.
Even if by some miracle their candidate wins the election, the past year has demonstrated that in every state-controlled institution, including the judiciary, no real change will take place unless all the counter-revolutionary elements are purged, a concept that is lost on the MB’s leadership that is used to slow approach reforms or behind-the-scenes questionable deals to preserve its interests.
Egypt Moves Closer To Military Rule, Civil War, Or Both | Egypt News | Scoop.itDisappointed, yet again, with the MB’s attitude to ignore their consensus, most of the revolutionary groups have vowed to press on with their revolution that has been deeply, but not yet gravely, wounded. Former presidential candidate Dr. Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, a favorite among many revolutionary and youth groups, has declared that the latest decisions by the High Court allowing the candidacy of Shafiq and the dissolution of parliament were nothing short of a soft coup d’état orchestrated by the military. He called for the immediate establishment of a revolutionary leadership council comprised of all pro-revolution groups and leaders to challenge the military hold on power and Shafiq’s inevitable presidency.
Sensing these threats dozens of such groups that have sacrificed so much since the early days of the revolution, have vowed to join in and continue the difficult struggle to dislodge the military and achieve the main objective of the revolution in establishing a true democratic civil state and ending the culture of the deep security state. Thousands have taken to the streets, while hundreds started a sit-in in Tahrir Square.
They now quietly admit that a hard lesson has been learned. This time their slogan is not “the people and the army are one.” Rather their cry is: “This time we are serious, we will not leave it (the revolution) to anyone.”
Esam Al-Amin can be contacted at alamin1919@gmail.com

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Logic of ‘Shafik Warriors’ … spilling over into Syria?

Via FLC

…in case you were wondering about the National Review’s piece & Kissinger’s, calling for prevailing cool heads when it comes to calls for intervening in Syria!

There is nothing so bad as a journalist in the wrong place at the wrong time. So here I was in Cairo, covering the trial of Hosni Mubarak, arriving from Lebanon – where 15 people have just died – while Bashar al-Assad pops up on my television screen yesterday to say that his army was not responsible for the massacre at Houla a week ago. And there was Assad, talking of the most serious crisis since the end of colonialism. Well, you can say that again.
And I don’t feel a lot happier. Ahmed Shafik, the Mubarak loyalist, has the support of the Christian Copts, and Assad has the support of the Syrian Christians. The Christians support the dictators. Not much of a line, is it?
On Saturday, the dictator of Egypt was sentenced to life. On Sunday, the dictator of Syria fought for his life. And he said – he warned, he threatened – that his war could extend to other countries. And we all know what that means. The future of the Lebanese city of Tripoli is in doubt. Not long ago, a Lebanese friend said to me that she feared for her country if Assad was in danger. Now I know what she means.
These are bad times for the Arab “spring” or awakening. In Yemen, there are bad times – the government helping the US drone attacks on al-Qa’ida operatives. In Egypt, there are Americans who want to support Shafik. Yet in the country’s Al Ahram daily, editors are free to say that the first reaction of Shafik’s spokesman to the presidential election is that “the revolution has ended”. And they can write that Shafik’s rule would be “a much more ferocious version of a police state than what was under the second half of Mubarak’s three-decade rule”. The paper spoke of “endless sacrifices of young men and women so that all of Egypt, those who took part in the revolution, those who sympathised with it, and those who opposed it, can have a better life whereby violations will not remain the norm”. Could I have read anything like this under Mubarak?
But could I have read anything like this in Lebanon? Is Lebanon not serious about freedom? Is Yemen? The fact is that the Arabs are waking up – which is why I prefer the Arab “awakening” to the Arab “spring”. And I think Syria is “awakening”. Now, President Assad said yesterday that his country’s “security” is a “red line” and implied – only implied, mind you – that the war in Syria (and he called it a war) could topple over into a neighbouring state (for which, read Lebanon). And so I am worried about Lebanon and the Alawites in Lebanon who support Assad, who deserve better.
But I am also aware that the Shafik warriors, those in Washington who want Shafik to restore Egypt’s old relationship with Israel, those who want, in effect, to restore Mubarak’s dictatorship, to recreate the old paradigm (Mubarak “stability” versus the old fear of Muslim Brotherhood), will want to pump up Christian fears and frighten the West with the awfulness of “Muslim fundamentalism”, will pop up their heads again as surely as Assad. And as the Republicans close in on Obama, will they not show their love for Mubarak’s last Prime Minister?
But maybe we shall have to live, perhaps, with Mohamed Morsi as the next President of Egypt, a Muslim Brother, a man who will have to show that a Muslim government can actually run an economy, can tame corruption (or cannot, as the case may be) as the Muslim government of Algeria should have been allowed to do in 1991. I’m not sure.
But let’s go back to Lebanon. Its press is free. Its people are. It got shot of Syria in 1995 (albeit at the cost of an ex-Prime Minister’s life). It can look over the border to Syria to see how democratic and free its nation is. And – dare one say this? – poor Syria. It doesn’t deserve the pain and massacres it is enduring. Its President is claiming that international conspiracies are destroying his country. Given Saudi Arabia’s and Qatar’s interest in helping the resistance, he may be right. And weapons are certainly entering Syria from Lebanon.
So here’s a bad omen from Cairo. Shafik may win – though Mubarak’s trial may prove otherwise. Assad may fail – though I fear the civil war of which Kofi Annan speaks. And Lebanon will live. Maybe I should fly back tomorrow.

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Bloody Revolutions

by Daniel Mabsout
Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

Syria again and again and not only Syria but almost every country in the Arab world has been lately more than exposed .

Still some foreigners are really hot about revolutions , especially about revolutions in the Arab world , one would wonder why some foreigners are so much cheering regarding these revolutions , and what is it that is so cheering , one would wonder .

There is great instability and great chaos everywhere , people are dying by dozens in Syria , in Libya , in Yemen , in Gaza everyday ,Gaza is plunged in darkness and great instability has taken Egypt , the society is divided concerning every issue, the unemployment has reached 10% and also Tunisia , the economic crisis has increased drastically , poverty is threatening a big portion of the population , the tourists did not come this year and will not come . Libya is threatened with partition , so is Yemen between north and south , both are threatened with inflation, Bahrain is threatened in its existence itself, it is to become affiliated to KSA in what would be called the Gulf Union; there goes, Bahrain the only revolution that has not been manipulated.
shaheed ahmedfarhan
Shaheed Ahmed Farhan in Bahrain
Still some westerners find the way to rejoice over all this . Still they want to worship the idols of freedom and democracy and liberty at our own expense , they want to celebrate all this crap over our dead bodies , over our security and safety and that of our parents and children , may they be damned , may those people be damned who celebrate the revolutions of the prince of Qatar , the revolutions of Soros , of NGO and Google , the revolutions of the internet backed by al Jazeera . May they be damned . May you be damned you fake activists and whoever –like you- supports the kind of instability and chaotic situation that has taken the Arab world .

These people like these fake activists and company and so many others journalists and intellectuals -among them Arabs also- are not well wishers of our people and societies . They feed on the ailments of Arab countries and will feed these ailments in return in whatever possible way . They are the enemies of these countries.

What are they celebrating, in their articles and reports , what are they celebrating ? The armed thugs of Libya ? The 60000 victims of NATO bombardments ? Or the slaughters of thousands of black Africans slaughtered by the racist thugs led by Henry Levy ? Or the killing of Kaddhafi ? Are they celebrating the killing of Kaddhafi or the sacking of Libya? What are they these blood thirsty people hiding under the garb of a peace activists celebrating ?

These activists along with the others who are like them , the activists of the world Establishment , what are they celebrating in Syria , and whom are they saluting ? The people who take Gulf money in order to destroy their country , who get paid few dollars everyday from some Saudi or Qatari prince to go scream in the streets at sunset? Or are they saluting the convicts who were set free from Iraqi prisons and smuggled by hundreds into Syria to create havoc ? What is it that delights them ? The 4000 Syrian soldiers killed and sometimes butchered by the armed thugs or the civilians killed by those same thugs?

What is it that delights them more , the instability of Yemen or that of Tunisia? The armed thugs of Libya or those of Syria , or both in addition to Al Qa’ida ? And why do they prefer to publish articles that lie and distort truth ? Why do they have these kinds of preferences for lying and distorting facts over anything else , is that a special taste they have developed or some sort of training they underwent or both ?

Do they really love Palestine, and for whom do they love it ? For the Palestinians or for the Zionists or for both ? Do they know where is Palestine or what is Palestine? , have they met a Palestinian that is not an NGO, a Palestinian who is a refugee? a homeless refugee? Do they know that half the things they say or publish are full of misinformation , for whose sake do they do this ? To serve whom ? The NATO ? The world order? Their friends the Zionists , or the BDS? Are they sure they want freedom for Arabs , ? why don’t they let the Arabs decide what is good for them instead , or they think that with their head of NGO they know better , or is it that they are not fully satiated yet ?

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The U.S. and the Muslim Brotherhood: The Calculus of Egypt’s Presidential Race

The U.S. and the Muslim Brotherhood
 
 
“President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from his position as president of the republic.” Uttered by former Vice President Omar Suleiman on the evening of February 11, 2011, these words set in motion jubilations by millions of Egyptians celebrating the ultimate triumph of their will over the obstinate dictator.

Although the previous eighteen tumultuous days had united the overwhelming majority of Egyptians regardless of political orientation, religious persuasion, economic class or social strata, the ultimate victory of the revolution was not inevitable. The massive demonstrations that started on January 25, were originally called for by groups dominated by youth activists such as the April 6 Movement and “We are All Khaled Said,” in reference to the young blogger who was murdered by state security agents.

Most established political parties and social movements including the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) did not initially support the calls to protest in anticipation of the security crackdown, though they did not discourage their members from participation.

Within days the demonstrations escalated and it became clear that the security forces were not able to stop the growing protests. By January 28, the protesters called for a Day of Rage, and all genuine opposition parties, led by the MB, took to the streets calling for the ouster of Mubarak.
Within two weeks, the regime was ousted and the military, under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which refused to back Mubarak and violently disperse the demonstrators, assumed political control, promising a peaceful transfer of power to a democratically elected civilian government within six months.

It was the most momentous event in the modern history of Egypt. But unfortunately the revolutionaries went home satisfied with their astonishing achievement as the remnants of the regime – the fulool– were on the run.

But this incredible historical unity of all Egyptians soon dissipated, giving way to deep ideological divisions. Urgent issues such as whether the constitution should be written before democratic elections or vice versa, or long-term questions concerning the identity of the country, the nature of the state, the role of Islam in society, and the status of the military were hotly debated outside an agreed upon framework. Religious and social groups that were highly organized insisted on holding the elections first, utilizing their clear advantage over others especially the new revolutionary groups that lacked structure, manpower, and resources.


But these revolutionary groups realized early in the standoff with SCAF that none of their objectives were going to be accomplished without applying tremendous pressure on the military council. For several months, massive demonstrations returned to Tahrir Square in order to compel SCAF to dissolve parliament and local assemblies, change the government, force trials of the deposed president and his corrupt cronies, repeal emergency laws, and halt military trials, among other revolutionary demands.

Throughout these demonstrations that sometimes turned deadly, especially in July and November, the revolutionary youth accused the MB of turning a blind eye to the SCAF’s abuses, and in some instances even defending or justifying its actions. Hence, throughout the summer two main camps were formed: the religious camp with the MB and the more conservative Salafis on the one hand, and the secular camp that included the liberals, the leftists, and many youth groups. The former clearly wanted calm in order not to give any pretext to postpone the parliamentary elections, scheduled for end of November, while the latter accused the former of pursuing political expediency at the expense of the primary objectives of the revolution.

By the end of January 2012, the elections of the two-chamber parliament concluded with stunning victories for the religious camp garnering close to 75 percent of the seats, led by the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the MB, gaining 47 percent of the seats, while the Noor Party (the political arm of the Salafi groups) acquiring 25 percent of the seats. Other smaller Islamic parties received 3 percent while all the liberals and the leftists parties combined acquired less than 22 percent. The fulool, of the banned National Democratic Party (NDP), running under numerous new-fangled names, garnered less than 3 percent.
The Brotherhood and SCAF

The charge of the revolutionary groups was not completely without merit. The MB by its nature is a conservative group that favors phased reforms rather than revolutionary change. It had been banned since 1954 after its confrontation with the Nasser regime.
Since the release of its members from prison in the early seventies, its primary objective was to receive recognition by the state and work within the system. So when in a secret meeting during the height of the revolution on Feb. 1, former Intelligence Chief and Vice President Omar Suleiman offered the MB leadership recognition and release from prison of their senior leaders, Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat El-Shater and businessman Hasan Malek in exchange for withdrawing their ranks from the streets, they agreed.
Meanwhile, the revolutionaries, including MB youth groups and other rivals within the MB leadership at the time such as Dr. Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, refused to leave Tahrir Square and openly defied the proposition. The attack by the goons of the former regime the following day in the Battle of the Camel forced the leadership to change course and that agreement became moot.
For almost a year since the SCAF took power in February 2011, a tacit honeymoon between the two strongest centers of power in the country evolved for different reasons. On the one hand, the MB did not want to experience a repeat of their 1954 showdown with the military that ended in their ban and imprisonment. Confident in their ability to win contested democratic elections, they overlooked all the attempts by SCAF to frustrate fulfilling the objectives of the revolution, particularly with regard to holding corruption investigations and trials, or banishment of former regime loyalists in the government.
On the eve of the triumph of the revolution on Feb. 10, 2011 the MB senior leadership body of about 120 members met for the first time in years and announced they would not seek more than 30-40 percent of seats in a new parliament and that they would not field a presidential candidate.
They gave assurances to anxious civil society groups and nervous international powers that they simply wanted to be one of the participants in governing the country and that they did not want to face similar sanctions Hamas had to contend with in Gaza after winning the 2006 elections.
Throughout 2011, the main strategy of the MB and its affiliated FJP was to manage a close coordination or at least a friendly and cordial relationship with SCAF in order not to give the military any pretext to postpone or cancel the parliamentary elections. But with the elections approaching, the pledge not to field more than 30-40 percent evaporated and the group fielded close to 100 percent of the candidates, winning an impressive result as it won almost 47 percent of 498 elected members in the lower house (People’s Assembly) and 55 percent of 180 elected members of the upper house (the Shura Council).
Meanwhile, since taking the reign of power SCAF has had three main objectives that they wanted to secure before turning over control to a future civilian government.
Since the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, the military has quietly acquired a substantial stake of the Egyptian economy, estimated by experts to be between 25-35 percent, comprising many sectors including agriculture, industry, real estate, and energy. This control allowed many generals and senior military leaders, as well as their families, to enjoy extreme wealth without any transparency or public accountability. No one in government, let alone parliament or the public, knows the extent of their holdings, who has control over it, or how it is being spent. Unsurprisingly, SCAF justifies the concealment and control of these public resources in the name of national security.
Secondly, the military has desperately sought blanket immunity from prosecution or accountability for anything it has done in the past, especially with regards to financial corruption. But no one actually knows what the immunity would entail, though it is suspected that massive wealth and corruption could be uncovered once senior military leaders retire or disappear from the scene.
Finally, the military wants to obtain a special status in the constitution that allows it to control its budget without civilian oversight, and enjoy veto power in strategic policy areas, including foreign relations and decisions of war and peace.
SCAF calculated shortly after the fall of the regime that the easiest way to achieve its main objectives was by reaching a tacit understanding on these matters with the MB, the largest organized political group. When SCAF inserted these provisions in the so-called supra-constitutional document last November, the MB along with most political opposition groups rejected this document in a massive showing of public protests that forced the collapse of the government and the withdrawal of the document.
Meanwhile, SCAF prevented the FJP, the MB affiliated majority party in parliament, from forming a new government after the elections, while appointing a government headed by Mubarak’s former Prime Minister, Dr. Kamal El-Ganzouri. With worsening conditions of the economic and security situation in the country, the public was blaming the MB for not delivering on their promises of good governance, while the Brotherhood complained that SCAF did not allow it to form a government.
But the primary purpose of the elected parliament was to elect one hundred people to form the constitutional writing committee. Instead of holding countrywide discussions with all political parties and civil society groups on the criteria for committee membership, the FJP held bilateral talks with the Salafist Noor party reaching an agreement that appointed to the constitutional committee fifty members from parliament, which is dominated by Islamists.
In the end the total Islamists appointed to the committee comprised two-thirds (super majority) of total membership and were dominated by members or supporters of the MB. Not only liberal and leftist parties as well as revolutionary groups were incensed, but even religious entities and civil society groups including Al-Azhar, the Coptic Church, opposition parties, labor unions, and the Supreme Court, were upset and withdrew their members from the committee. Predictably, all condemned the policy of exclusion that the MB promised it would not pursue. Eventually, the High Administrative Court invalidated the committee and the parties are now back in discussions to devise new criteria after the FJP conceded its high-handed tactics and did not appeal the ruling.
Nevertheless, by late February, the FJP felt empowered and confident with its electoral gains. The speaker of the Assembly and the president of the Shura Council as well as the chairs of the major committees were all MB members. They were also in charge of appointing the constitution writing committee. So they demanded from SCAF that they lead a coalition government. A tense meeting between both parties took place in early March. The military was upset because of the way the MB formed the constitution committee and for their adamant opposition to the special status for the military in the new constitution. During the meeting, the generals played hardball. They told the Brotherhood’s leadership that not only would they be denied the opportunity to form a government, but they would also not be allowed to control any key ministries including foreign, interior, finance, and justice. They also hinted that the decision to dissolve the new elected parliament that the FJP dominated was near if they did not cooperate and withdrew their motion to dissolve the government. In short, a test of wills was in play.
For the first time since SCAF took the reigns of power, the MB decided to seriously challenge it. Within a few days, the MB released a fiery statement that attacked the military in unprecedented fashion, accusing it of thwarting the revolution and blackmailing the group, and warned the public that SCAF might rig the upcoming presidential elections.
By the following day, SCAF issued its own harsh response denying all accusations and warning the MB, in a thinly veiled threat not to forget the lessons of their past and avoid repetition of their mistakes, in an oblique reference to the 1954 confrontation between the two sides.
Soon after the Shura Council of the MB, their highest decision-making body that usually meets twice a year, uncharacteristically met twice in one week to decide their next step. In response to the SCAF challenge, the Guidance Council, the MB executive body, proposed that they change course and field a presidential candidate. A contentious discussion ensued where 52 of the 65 members attending the meeting objected, fearing that violating their one-year old pledge against fielding a candidate would further erode their credibility with the public. The Supreme Guide, Dr. Muhammad Badie’ adjourned the meeting and called for another within a few days. In the following meeting, 43 more members attended and all voted in favor of fielding a candidate, thus jumping the final count from 13 to 56 against 52. Their candidate was the Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat El-Shater, an engineer by education and a businessman by profession. But more importantly he is a charismatic leader who was not only in charge of the so-called Renaissance Project within the group, but who also controlled the most important components within the group including organization, finance, and media.
 

The U.S. and the Muslim Brotherhood

Mustafa Al-Fiqi was one of the most important political thinkers of the Mubarak regime. During the intense debate in 2009 and 2010 regarding the candidacy of Gamal Mubarak to succeed his father, Al-Fiqi said that the most crucial criteria for the next president was acquiring the blessing of America and avoiding a veto by Israel. This idea was not lost on the MB. When they announced in Feb. 2011 that they would not contest the presidential elections, their justification was that they did not want to cause anxiety in secular circles or concern in Western capitals.

As Western officials flocked to Egypt throughout the year, the MB headquarters was always one of the most important places visited by these officials. When Deputy Secretary of State William Burns visited Egypt in January, he met with top MB leaders Badie’ and El-Shater. During the meeting the MB leadership gauged America’s red lines. Assuming power by the MB was not one of them. Burns’ main concern was the fate of the peace treaty with Israel. According to a person familiar with the meeting with the U.S. official, Burns offered that “the good offices of the U.S. would help Egypt secure as much as $20 Billion” from the Arab Gulf states as well as from other international organizations such as the IMF if the MB would maintain the peace treaty with Israel. Although the MB leaders were non-committal, they indicated that their main concern was the shattered economy and the rebuilding of Egypt. In mid-February Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham met with El-Shater and other FJP leaders and essentially delivered the same message.

By the time the MB leadership decided to field a candidate after their clash with SCAF, its main concern with regard to Western reaction had already been put at ease. As El-Shater became the official candidate for the MB, he sent in late March a delegation to Washington that featured four MB officials including a member of parliament and a senior advisor. In effect, their main purpose was to determine the administration’s reaction to the candidacy of El-Shater. Although the delegation members were neither senior party leaders nor officials of the Egyptian government, they were met by the highest officials in Washington. They met twice at the State Department with senior administration officials including Burns and Jeffrey Feltman, the top State Department official on the Middle East. They also met at the White House with National Security Council staff Samantha Power and Steven Simon. While they were at the White House meeting, President Obama dropped in and dazzled his Egyptian guests.
Once again the talks centered on the future of the peace treaty with Israel and Egypt’s economic needs. This time the delegation promised that the MB had no plans to cancel or alter the peace treaty but that they would end the blockade and sanctions on Gaza. During the meetings the Americans repeatedly raised concerns about policies with regard to women and the Christian Copts. At one point the MB delegation responded by raising their concerns about the ill treatment of American Muslims after 9/11. The Americans immediately cut them off and told them that this issue was “none of their business.”
In essence, both parties felt comfortable with each other and were satisfied with the results of their discussions as the U.S. attempted to recalibrate the nature of the relationship with its former client state. Not to be outdone, neocon Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s top foreign policy advisor in 2008, and the current undeclared senior advisor to Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, met secretly with the MB delegation, essentially raising the same concerns and receiving the same assurances.

Egypt’s presidential race

Between March 10 and April 8, Egypt’s Judicial Committee for Presidential Elections started receiving the applications for candidates running for the presidency. To qualify, each candidate had to satisfy certain criteria including proof of age and Egyptian citizenship, not only of the candidate but also of his parents and spouse. In addition, there were three ways for any candidate to become viable: a) collecting at least 30 signatures from members of parliament, b) becoming the official candidate of a political party provided that the party has at least one seat in parliament, or c) collecting at least 30,000 notarized signatures from a minimum of 15 provinces with at least 1000 signatures from each province.
Within four weeks, 23 candidates submitted their papers, claiming to have satisfied the criteria to become an official candidate. This slate of candidates had actually represented the diverse Egyptian political electorate, ranging from the ultra conservative to the radical leftist and Mubarak regime’s loyalist. The MB fielded Deputy Supreme Guide El-Shater as its official candidate with less than a week before the end of the nominating process. To qualify he submitted signatures by 277 MB members of parliament.

At that time it was not clear what candidate SCAF might support. Before the dispute with SCAF was made public, many observers thought that a deal might have been struck with the military to support El-Shater in exchange for the secure exit guarantees SCAF was seeking. But within days, rumors started circulating that former vice president Suleiman was about to run for president as the military’s response to El-Shater’s candidacy. On April 4 Suleiman issued a statement announcing that he would not be a candidate. Yet, within 48 hours he reversed himself and submitted 43,000 signatures to the Elections Committee twenty minutes before the closing of the nominations. Not since the success of the revolution have the fulool felt empowered and the revolutionaries became dispirited and divided.

Egyptians across the political spectrum were shocked and outraged that Mubarak’s intelligence chief and most loyal underling would have the audacity to run for president in order to “fulfill the objectives of the revolution” as he shamelessly declared. They felt insulted and appalled. Many asserted that as pro-revolution groups were divided along ideological lines, the fulool (former regime remnants) and SCAF were now regrouping and organizing themselves to mount a counter-revolution. The signatures in support of Suleiman’s candidacy were collected within 48 hours, an impossible task if it was not for many government agencies and officials pressuring public employees and army recruits, and mobilizing their resources to facilitate it.

Within days the parliament passed a law barring former Mubarak senior officials from running in any elections for ten years due to their role in corrupting politics during the former regime. If signed by SCAF, this law would effectively ban not only Suleiman but another official candidate who was Mubarak’s last Prime Minister, Ahmad Shafiq, also a former military general. In order to play for time, SCAF sent the law to the Constitutional Supreme Court asking for an advisory opinion hoping to delay the decision until it would be too late to disqualify the fulool candidates. But the court immediately ruled that it had no jurisdiction on the matter. SCAF is now forced to show its cards, it could no longer hide behind any political group or the courts.

As they sensed the grave threat Suleiman’s candidacy paused against the revolution, all political parties and groups called for massive demonstrations in the two successive Fridays against the fulool candidates represented not only by Suleiman and Shafiq but also by two former intelligence officers and former foreign minister Amr Mousa. Hundreds of thousands flocked to Tahrir Square and across the country in a show of unity reminiscent of the early days of the revolution. The protesters rejected the fulool candidates and called for the end of military rule.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Committee evaluated the applications of the candidates and disqualified 10 candidates out of the declared 23. Most surprisingly, it disqualified El-Shater, Suleiman, Ayman Noor, a liberal and a former presidential contender that ran against Mubarak in the 2005 elections, as well as the charismatic Salafi candidate, fiery preacher and civil rights attorney Hazem Salah Abu Ismail.

The committee reasoned that each candidate was disqualified because they lacked one or more conditions. Abu Ismail was disqualified because his mother attained U.S. citizenship before she died in 2010. The candidate claimed that the U.S. forged the citizenship documents and thus it was opposed to his candidacy because he called for the implementation of Shari’a law and took a hard stand against the peace treaty with Israel and American foreign policy in the Muslim world. Although the U.S. as well as many secular Egyptians were indeed concerned about his candidacy and popularity, it was clear that his mother had indeed obtained American citizenship in 2006, acquired a U.S. passport, as well as registered to vote in Los Angeles County.

The committee also disqualified the candidacy of El-Shater and Noor on the pretext that they were convicted of crimes during the Mubarak regime, though in widely condemned political show trials. According to Egyptian law, a convict loses his political rights unless restored through full presidential pardon or by the courts. Although SCAF issued pardons to both candidates the committee claimed that they still lacked the requirement of restoring their political rights that could only be obtained by the courts six years after the pardon is issued or by the invalidation of the charges. Perhaps most surprisingly, the committee also disqualified Suleiman by charging that some of the signatures submitted by him were forgeries. The other six disqualifications were minor candidates, including two former intelligence generals. They were excluded for violating one or more conditions. Although the committee allowed the candidates to appeal its decisions, it eventually rejected all appeals and reaffirmed its disqualification of their candidacies.

Naturally the MB and El-Shater were outraged and charged that the Suleiman’s candidacy was a ruse, a farce, and a clumsy attempt by SCAF to disqualify the MB official candidate without causing public outrage since the public would feel relief after the disqualification of Suleiman. They also charged that the real SCAF candidates were now revealed. They are Prime Minister Shafiq and former foreign minister Amr Mousa; both allowed to contest the elections. Not to be out-maneuvered, the MB feared that their official candidate, El-Shater, might be disqualified so on the last day of the nominations it too fielded a back-up candidate, FJP chairman, Dr. Muhammad Mursi. The new MB candidate received a Ph.D. in 1982 in engineering from southern California, and worked as an academic in the U.S. and later in Egypt for decades before being elected to parliament in the 2005 elections.

So who are the final official candidates?

One can classify the remaining 13 candidates that might appear on the ballot into different groupings as follows:

a) The Islamically-oriented candidates: There are three candidates that belong to this group.

1) Dr. Abdulmoneim Abol Fotouh, 60, a medical doctor by training, and the head of the Arab Medical Union, a pan-Arab medical association focused on relief work. He is also a former MB leader who broke away from the group last year after announcing his candidacy. Abol Fotouh was qualified as an independent candidate after collecting over 43,000 notarized signatures. He is well known to the public since his days as a former student leader who challenged former president Anwar Sadat in 1977. In that confrontation, which aired on live television at the time, Abol Fotouh accused Sadat’s advisors of being hypocrites and corrupt. The former president, not accustomed to public criticism became angry and tried to intimidate and silence him but Abol Fotouh stood his ground, gaining many admirers. He later spent several years in prison for his political activism during the Sadat and Mubarak regimes. He is not only popular within the Islamic circles, but also among many segments of Egyptian society including liberals, leftists, and Copts. He is also known for his moderate views. With the elimination of Abu Ismail, it is expected that he would get a substantial vote from that conservative constituency as well as from many other revolutionary and anti-Mubarak regime constituents.
2) Dr. Muhammad Mursi, 60, is the low-key and uncharismatic back-up MB candidate. He was qualified as the official FJP candidate in lieu of being the head of the party. Mursi would most likely garner the majority of the MB vote but it is not clear how much support he would attract outside that constituency in light of the controversial decision by the MB to reverse its decision and field a candidate, as well as their mishandling of the appointment of the constitutional assembly. Many observers believe that if Mursi wins he would share power with El-Shater as Prime Minister similar to the arrangement in recent years in Russia between Medvedev and Putin, with the latter being the power behind the throne.
3) Dr. Muhammad Salim Al-Awwa, 71, a well-known constitutional scholar and Islamic intellectual. He was qualified by collecting 30 signatures from members of parliament.
Although Al-Awwa is well respected by many Egyptian intellectuals and elites, he does not have large following among the grass roots revolutionaries or common Egyptians to have a realistic chance of getting enough support to go to the second round.

b) The fulool-supported candidates: There are two candidates that fit this group.

1) Ahmad Shafiq, 71, is the former Prime Minister appointed by Mubarak just twelve days before he was ousted. He is considered a Mubarak loyalist and likely has the support of the fulool business class and the counter-revolutionary forces within the security apparatus as well as many segments within the government, still largely run by former Mubarak loyalists.
2) Amr Mousa, 76, served as foreign minister under Mubarak for over a decade. He also served for another decade as Secretary General of the Arab League.
He is considered very popular among common Egyptians because at times he was critical of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians while Mubarak was following the dictates of the U.S. and Israel. His critics charge that he was an integral part of the Mubarak regime and was on record in 2010 of supporting the deposed president for another term.

c) Leftist and nationalist candidates: There are four candidates that belong to this group, but none are considered likely to finish among the top two contenders in the first round of the elections.

The most prominent among this group is Hamdein Sabbahi, 59. He is a former journalist and is considered among the most respected Nasserite in the country. He collected more than 30,000 signatures and thus qualified as an independent candidate.
Another candidate is labor union organizer and civil rights attorney Khaled Ali, 41, the youngest among all presidential candidates. He was qualified by garnering the support of 32 members of parliament. He is articulate and considered by many youth groups as the most authentic revolutionary candidate. Yet his chances are very slim because he is not well known outside the labor unions and activist circles.
The two other candidates are former Judge Hisham Bastawisi and political veteran Abol-Izz Al-Hariri. They represent minor leftist groups and are also considered extremely unlikely to receive large support.

d) The remaining four candidates represent minor parties. They are virtually unknown to the public and are unlikely to receive any meaningful support.

The Presidential Elections Scenarios

The first round of the presidential race is scheduled for May 23 and 24. If no candidate receives more than fifty percent of the vote, then a run-off between the top two contenders would take place on June 16 and 17. Most experts predict that absent massive elections’ fraud sanctioned by the military and ignored by the Elections Committee, no candidate would actually receive a majority after the first round.
Since there are no reliable polls in Egypt, it is not clear what the popularity or electability of each candidate might be. Prior to the parliamentary elections, most polls were widely inaccurate. For instance, the quasi-governmental Al-Ahram sponsored poll predicted prior to the parliamentary elections last November that the FJP and the Wafd parties would each receive 30 percent of the votes, while the Noor party would receive less than 10 percent. In the end, the FJP, Noor and Wafd received 47, 25, and 10 percent respectively, a whopping difference of over 15 points from each prediction.
So what are the most likely scenarios?

Scenario 1: The top two finishers belong to the Islamist camp. In this scenario the two final contenders would be the independent Abol Fotouh and the MB candidate Mursi. In such a two-man race, the majority of Egyptians would likely vote for the independent candidate over the MB contender out of fear of concentrating all political power in the hands of a single political party.

Scenario 2: One of the top two finishers is from the Islamist candidates while the other belong to the fulool. In this scenario the fulool candidate would be Amr Mousa facing either Abol Fotouh or Mursi. In such two-man race in the second round the Islamist candidate would most likely win over Mousa, since a majority of Egyptians consider Mousa as part of Mubarak’s underlings.

Scenario 3: The Elections Committee declares that top two contenders are from the fulools. This scenario is very unlikely and would only come to pass if through low voter turnout (very unlikely), while massive fraud for the benefit of Shafiq occurs undetected (also unlikely), followed by a muted electorate (extremely unlikely). As unlikely as this scenario might be, many political observers are concerned that this might be SCAF’s endgame since both candidates are acceptable to the military.
Many political observers are concerned that the decision of who the next president might be is determined by the five-member Elections Committee and cannot be appealed. Critics point out that the head of the committee was an obscure judge appointed by Mubarak to oversee his son’s succession. His deputy is the infamous judge that interfered in the judicial process overseeing the recent charges of illegal foreign financing of political groups and civil rights advocates, and secured the pre-trial release and flight from the country of the Americans accused in that case. Critics charge that he is susceptible to pressure from SCAF, which in that case was under tremendous pressure from U.S. officials to free the Americans.

Scenario 4: The youth and revolutionary groups have identified six candidates that have revolutionary credentials and are acceptable to them. They are Abol Fotouh and Al-Awwa from the Islamist camp, and Sabbbahi, Ali, Bastawisi, and Al-Hariri from the secular camp. Although Mursi is not considered part of the unacceptable fulools, these groups have demanded that the MB withdraw its candidate so as not to polarize the country if the MB ends up monopolizing all positions of power.

In this scenario, several candidates favored by the revolutionary groups would withdraw in favor of a single candidate so as not to splinter the votes among them. Two or three of these candidates would run on one presidential ticket as a president with one or several vice presidents. In all the different proposals circulated by the different groups, all agree that among all the candidates Abol Fotouh would be the consensus candidate to lead this ticket. If such a presidential ticket is eventually formed and the MB candidate actually withdraws (very unlikely), then such a ticket might actually receive more than fifty percent of the vote in the first round, making Abol Fotouh the first president of post-Mubarak’s Egypt.

Although in the parliamentary elections, 27 million Egyptians went to the polls, it is estimated that 35-40 million Egyptians out of the 45 million eligible voters may actually participate. But it is also difficult to predict whom the 8-13 million new voters would actually support. However, judging by the parliamentary elections, over seventy percent of Egyptians voted for an Islamist party or candidate, while twenty percent voted for a liberal or leftist candidate. Less than 3 percent actually voted for a fulool candidate.

Ultimately the real questions awaiting this process are: Would SCAF honor its pledge not to interfere in the elections and hand over power to a newly elected president? Would the new president of Egypt be the independent Abol Fotouh, thus starting a new dawn for a new Egypt? Or would it be Mursi, the MB candidate, consolidating the ascendance of power of the Brotherhood with possible political polarization in the country? Or would it be Mubarak-era loyalists Amr Mousa or even Ahmad Shafiq, thus returning Egypt back to square one, and unleashing a second revolution?

The answer to these questions by the Egyptian electorate in the next few weeks will certainly determine the future of post-revolutionary Egypt.
Esam Al-Amin can be contacted at alamin1919@gmail.com
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Syrian communist party: "Syria will not kneel down″ .

Contributed by Lucia (My old friend) from Spain

Secretary general of the central committee of the Syrian communist party.
Athens 9-11 December 2011 

 
Dear comrades:           


Arab national liberation movement locates on the first front line with the global imperialism. imperialism especially its striking force which is American imperialism has received painful strikes by the factions of Arab national liberation movement, which comes Zionist Israel aggression on Lebanon 2006, and followed by a series of popular uprising against the Arab reactionary regimes loyal to America and have distinct relations with Zionism such as Egyptian and Tunisian regimes, who the heads of their regimes have overthrown, despite the Egyptian and Tunisian people have to do more and more in order to deepen and develop their liberation and national revolution.


 Global imperialism currently launches a fierce counter –attack against the Arab national liberation movement. The most clear face of this attack in terms of expansionist and aggressive objectives is the aggression of NATO against Libya with full coordination with Arab reactionary regimes. There was an attempt to cover this aggression with worn cover of words and familiar dissembler slogans about ″spreading democracy″ and ″human rights″.


The main purpose of violating Libya and its brutal extortion lies in restoring the integrity of empire which is reeling under the strikes of defeats and successive setbacks.


As well as a perfectly programmed and escalating attack launched against Syria. This country which has clear approach against imperialism and Zionism and their expansionist plans in the region, this country who supports resistance and liberation movements, unlike all Arab reactionary regimes from ocean to Gulf. The imperialist countries as well as traitor autocratic Gulf regimes allocate very large possibilities, using the most insidious methods and the most dirty means to overthrow the anti- imperialism Syrian regime.


The Syrian communist party early warned about this danger. It has literally mentioned in the political report of the 11th conference of Syrian communist party which held in October 2010, the following:″it clear more and more that this attack on Syria which takes many faces of political pressure, military threats, economic sabotage and weaving conspiracies, aims to make radical transformations to change the national face of Syria including overthrowing the exist regime which depends on wide national alliance its main object is protecting and strengthen the national sovereignty″.

As regards to the current situation in Syria, it is worth to note the following points:- The plans of imperialism and internal reactionary to overthrow the anti- imperialism Syrian regime through wide popular uprisings which generously funded by reactionary regimes in Gulf, have failed, because of the majority of the popular masses, especially in the main centers in the country didn’t go through this context. But in the contrary, Damascus, Aleppo and many Syrian cities witnessed mass demonstrations condemning the conspiracy, and shouting against imperialism, Zionism and Arab reactionary.

After this failure the reactionary forces moved to new methods have a criminal nature such as individual assassinations, in some cases to collective killing has sectarian nature and sabotage actions such as bombing the railway and attempts to burn factories especially which are belonging to the public sector. It is worth to mention that the individual assassinations particularly target the men of science and culture ( researchers, doctors,……etc), as well as being targeted militants who have high experience such as pilots in order to weaken the capacities of national steadfastness. The collective killing did by terrorists randomly, as a result of that victims fell like children, women and old men in order to provoke the feelings of hate and shaking any possibility of stability.

– In parallel with that increasing pressure on Syria is going on weather from the side of states and imperialist centers or from the Arab reactionary regimes related with these centers, by using the Arab states league, the target of this frenetic activity of Arab reactionary is to give pretext to take aggressive decisions against Syria by security council and other bodies of united nation under the cover of what so-called Arab legitimacy, which is completely false. In addition, Gulf regimes generously fund all forms of internal reactionary movements in Syria.

Galioun (4th from R), the Turkey-based Syrian army defector
and the leader of self-proclaimed Free Syrian Army,
Col al-Asaad (2nd from L) and other Syrian dissidents
hold a secretive meeting in the southern Turkish city of Hatay.

As well as Turkey – which is the arm of NATO in the region- plays an essential role in exercise of all kinds of pressures on Syria, starting from political pressures, through economic pressures, reaching to direct support to the armed terrorist organizations and to embrace leaders of these organizations on its land.  

The regime in Syria has taken many laws and procedures towards the expansion of democratic freedoms in the country. But all these procedures received with dogmatic rejection by the reactionary forces. These forces are seeking to overthrow the regime, this is consistent with the inserts of imperialism and Zionism. As long as Syria keeping its anti- imperialism approach, then the imperialist expansionist plans can′t fully implement in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially the new great middle east project and in other word Great Zion project.

The stand of Syrian communist party is clear and lies in the confrontation to imperialist projects and support the national regime and its anti- imperialism projects approach, supporting the democratic reforms which in general close to the program directions of our party in this area. As well as the steady struggle in order to review the economic liberal orientation and all laws embody it. We always remind, that this orientation is the one who prepared the suitable soil of subversive work of reactionary forces. The abandonment of this orientation will strengthen the anti- colonial approach which applied by Syria and will strengthen the convolution of masses around it.


 When we look to the situation in Syria we have to take into account that the opposition forces don’t form a democratic alternative, the reactionary strike force is Muslim Brotherhood organization who stained itself by committed of collective killing and who completely related with imperialism and Arab reactionary regimes, while the liberal of all types are used as curtain of these obscurant forces.


We prepare our people for all probabilities including the confrontation of military aggression. We are confident that if this aggression occur, Syria will turn into a grave yard for the aggressors. The Syrian people has an ingrained national heritage of struggle against colonialism. It isn’t vainly what one of the smarter French imperialism representatives Charles de Gaulle said:″ delusive who thinks that he could subdue Syria″, yes ″ Syria will not kneel down″ .


We take this occasion to thank all brother workers and communist parties which contribute in solidarity with the justice case of liberation national struggle of Syrian people resisting the imperialist media lies and venoms.


Dear comrades: the circumstances of the escalating confrontation between labor and capital and between liberation forces and global imperialism require to increase the bond of international communist movement factions on the basis of proletarian internationalism. It is also requires hard and serious work in order to consolidate and expand the anti-imperialism global front, this is a creative application of the great Marxist-Leninist slogan:″world workers and oppressed people unite″.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Syria: the Middle East’s tipping point

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Thursday, 09 February 2012 14:27    

Nassar Ibrahim for the Alternative Information Center (AIC)

The struggle for Syria isn’t just about Syria–it’s the struggle for a free, democratic Middle East versus one that lives under the yoke of American and Israeli hegemony.  

The conflict in Syria has reached its tipping point. At this level, it is no longer acceptable or reasonable to continue playing in a gray area in the name of diplomacy, as the struggle on Syria has a crucial significance from various strategic points of views.

The importance of the Syrian question has to be found in Syria’s key-role in the regional geostrategic pattern. Its position is directly intertwined with the confrontations we will witness in the Arab world for the next decade, whose results will in turn be strongly affected by the transformation happening in Syria. To be clear, the moves we are witnessing nowadays will influence the fate of a number of regional and global balances on more than one axis.
From the moment that the Arab League made the decision to suspend Syria’s membership, entailing a series of sanctions against the Syrian people, the clashes happening in Syria have moved to another level. This became even clearer with the second proposed UN resolution–calling for a democratic transition and for Bashar Al Assad to step down–which was stopped by Russia and China’s vetoes last Saturday for the second time in four months. There have been two attempts to prepare the ground for a military intervention – that the US, European, and Arab countries would like to see and that 13 out of 15 UN Security Council members voted for. Such fervor reminds of the international climate before the war against Iraq began in 2003.

With the recent developments, the façade has tumbled down disclosing the real goals hidden behind different masks, revealing that the slogans demanding freedom, democracy, and human rights have been used as a battering-ram by the advocates for an intervention to break Syria. The objective seems clear: depriving the country of its role and the Syrian people of their will. Here it has to be remembered that Syria has always had a relevant position in Arab history, being an example of a centuries-old civilization, solid state structures and a reference pole for the whole Arab world, not only because of its geopolitical position, but also because of its anti-colonial spirit and historical stand toward the state of Israel – as the longa manus of Western colonial powers in the Middle East. These elements, which have determined the nature of the people’s national feelings, are completely ignored by advocates of “human rights, freedom and democracy” – specifically the reactionary regimes in the Gulf, Turkey, the Lebanese Hariri-movement and Syrian Islamist groups – hired by the American – French – Qatar- connection. Ironically, representatives of countries which have been re-named after the ruling family (Saudi Arabia) or whose leaders came to power with a coup d’état while the own father was abroad (Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa of Qatar) are begging today for a NATO intervention aiming at the destruction of Syria under the banner of “human rights and democracy”.

At the peak of their frustration – being unable to provoke a regime change for ten months in spite of all their media, financial and military efforts – the opposition chef Burhan Ghalioun already promised his intention to open up Syria to the Western allies, cut off Syria’s relations with Iran, with the Lebanese and the Palestinian resistance and furthermore to establish positive relations with Israel – if their project will succeed. This shift toward a stronger inclusion into the free market economy and the penetration by colonial forces would deny Syria’s historical role and certainly not represent the Syrian people’s interests.
The Western goal for Syria, and the broader Middle East, is to progressively consolidate its control of the region. The so-called “War on Terror” that began after 9/11 is an expression of this desire to co-op the Middle East, as are the occupation of Afghanistan, the fall of Baghdad in 2003, the Israeli war with Lebanon in 2006, and, finally, the Israeli attack on Gaza at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009.
The United States, however, faced resistance and opposition movements.Washington has been surprised by the fall of the Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, the breakdown of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt, and the outbreak of protest movements in various Arab countries. The game, which was so clear until then, got distorted, and the equation confused. These overthrows forced the West to re-formulate strategies and policies in order to contain and control the social change. This became even more important in light of the US-defeat in Iraq after nine years of war under the pressure of the Iraqi resistance, five thousand people dead, and an estimated three trillion dollars military expenditure.At this point, the alliance between the US and reactionary regimes alliance could no longer set the agenda in an overt way. The strategy shifted to involving the public debate and to direct the Arab reactionary regimes to break the Syrian conflict. Strong engagement seemed to be the sole chance to compensate for losses in Afghanistan, Iraq, and to protect the allied regimes from the “Arab Spring”.
So, the imperialist and reactionary forces – namely NATO and its Gulf allies – quickly decided to intervene against Syria, aiming at two possible scenarios.
The first option was to ride the wave of the Arab revolts, employing full force to overthrow Syria using a comprehensive political, psychological, and media war, including the internationalization of the crisis and the call for an external intervention (like the one that occurred in Libya) to finally turn this NATO-hostile country into a satellite state like other Arab reactionary regimes revolving in the orbit of the colonial West.
If this doesn’t happen, we could see Western forces sink Syria in a quagmire of destruction, exhausting its resources as state and society and, in doing so, erasing the gains of its historical role at the regional and international level. This would be achieved by fueling sectarian violence and by arming terrorist organizations and extremist groups – trained and directed to drain the structures and institutions of the state – to disrupt the social and religious models, condemning Syria to long term internal conflicts.In this context, we have to analyze the power positions of the different parties that have been involved in this struggle for months.
We see two fronts squaring off:

The first includes the United States, Israel, Western European countries, the Arab reactionary regimes represented by the Gulf Cooperation Council, reactionary segments of Gulf societies, and Turkey, which is looking for its regional role. 
On the other side we find the Syrian people demanding a change, the Syrian state and resistance forces of political and cultural opposition, especially in Lebanon and Palestine, backed by Algeria and Iran.
Here a point has to be stressed: the Syrian regime – and the Baath party# in particular- has to be strongly criticized for its repressive policies. The people’s will for a change and for reforms must be respected and supported. But the fact that the regime could not be overthrown yet shows that the internal balance of powers is different than it is presented in the international mainstream media. The crucial role of the Baath party in the creation of state structures (for example, the health care and educational systems) and in the support of the resistance movements- first and foremost the Palestinian one – has not been forgotten by the Syrian people. Moreover, if foreign powers are calling for the destruction of Syria’s state and structures, the regime should answer the Syrian people’s demands for reform. While a transition is necessary, it shouldn’t come at the price of Syria’s dismantlement and the denial of its people’s right to self-determination, disguised as democratization.
Internal pressure has already proven to be able to force the regime to open up for reforms, which were announced in recent months and include the withdraw of the emergency law in power since 1963, constitutional reforms entailing Presidential and local elections, parties pluralism with four new legalized parties and five others in the process of legalization, economic reforms revoking free trade agreements harming the interest of small and medium Syrian entrepreneurs and taking distance again from the shortly started free market policies. But the reforms need time and space to work and to prove that democratization is possible without Western dictates.
What is happening in Syria now is in not a local conflict, but an expression of the clashes between the American and Israeli vision of a “New Middle East” on one side and the resistance movements and oppositions fighting for true democratic social change.
This struggle moves on three interdependent levels:
First level: the confrontation between the resistance and opposition parties fighting for their political, economic and cultural rights versus the Zionist project in all its dimensions and goals.
Consequences of the conflict at this level will determine the future of the Palestinian cause, either beyond the impasse created by the Oslo Accords, or by the dependency of the Arab countries and the consequent weakening of the Palestinian resistance. This would mean that the Arab world has to take initiative, pushing for Palestinian national rights, and countering the Zionist project as a prelude to his defeat. Or, it would lead to the defeat of the core of the resistance with the following Zionist victory, implying the annihilation of Palestinian rights.
20120207-142620.jpgSecond level: a confrontation between the US- EU colonial attempt to dominate the region, with the support of the reactionary forces in Turkey and in the Arab regimes, against the Russian-Chinese axis, backed by emerging international forces, such as Iran, Brazil, and India.
This confrontation will determine the parameters of the new international balances, aiming, on the one hand, to overcome American hegemony and restore Russia’s and China’s moderating roles – which would lead to a reshaping of international relations, including reforming the UN role, which has been increasingly dominated by US interests in the last two decades. Russia and China, together with other emerging countries – such as India, South Africa, Brazil and Venezuela, and much of Latin America – are willing to reshape international relations on the basis of a more just balance than the pattern of US dominance that emerged after World War II and that was reinforced by the fall of the Soviet Union.
The alternative to this would be the fulfillment of the US plan to break Syria, gaining the chance to rearrange the region according to American interests and strategies.

New Zoinified Middle East
controlled by the Jewish state

Third level: The confrontation at the sociopolitical – ideological level between the reactionary religious forces and the Salafists on one side and the secular progressive movements on the other, with their respective social and political agents.This will determine the nature of change in the region and in the Arab communities, either moving the area towards a state of decline, leading to the establishment of new reactionary systems ruling in the name of religion, which will put an end to the process of democratic change with its national progressive expressions. This is what we will see if NATO powers intervene and manipulate the Arab ownership of the democratization process, thus restoring the colonial “democracy” once again. Alternatively, we could see the socio-political democratization process gain new momentum in Arab societies, becoming a genuine and profound phenomenon, which could be a model for change in Syria. This would clear the path for the Arab nation to break away from a state of dependency on the West, allowing it to enter a phase of progress and to assert itself on the international stage.

In light of this analysis, and stressing the interdependency of these three levels, the conflict in Syria has to be seen not just as struggle to punish the previous positions or the repressive policies by the Assad regime. It is, in essence, a conflict to determine the region’s future. In this sense, the confrontation transcends narrow readings. A success for Syria means more than the state’s survival resisting foreign colonial interventions and standing against the attempt of its dismantlement. This is important, but a real success is dependent on the ability to implement a deep, radical and comprehensive reform process targeting the Syrian institutions, society and state apparatus. Aim of such democratization should be tapping the full potential of the Syrian society, especially in light of the high level of consciousness it proved in crucial historical moments. The people who – with their protests and, at the same time, their resistance to external interventions – did not fall in the trap of dazzling slogans for democracy and human rights, have been a big surprise for those who wagered on their break down. They proved to the Assad regime that they are willing and capable of true democratic change that is more than a translation of external models.
The struggle taking place in Syria reveals that current developments have been fueled by colonial powers. The goal sought by the colonial and reactionary actors is to prevent Syria from building its own democratic model as an alternative to the Western “Democratic colonial” project. The Western policy implemented towards the Assad regime seeks Syria’s subordination and dependence, as a strategy to contain the Arab revolutions, to control and keep them under the roof of the American-Western vision, as the latter have failed to protect their Arab allies from mass revolts.

Brothers of America
Western interests in keeping hold of the reins of change in the Arab world explains the Western repositioning towards political Islam, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, which came to power in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. In their turn, the Islamist movements are proving to be far less dangerous to Western interests than Western leaders, analysts, and the media claimed they would be. Looking past the hostile rhetoric we see that the Islamist movements in power are, in fact, rethinking their attitude in order to build bridges with Western countries, as a prelude to the establishment of new alliances in the region.
There is no room to be neutral or ambiguous in the face of this confrontation, and the duty of the resistance forces and the actors struggling for a democratic change across the Arab world – the actors that shouldn’t be forgotten – is, therefore, to evolve and protect Syria and the broader Middle East.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Egypt: Rage of a Revolution

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A protester returns a gas canister during clashes with security forces near the Interior Ministry in Cairo 3 February 2012. (Photo: REUTERS – Suhaib Salem)
Published Saturday, February 4, 2012
Ahmed Wardani, aged 25, lost his brother to police violence against protesters on January 28 last year. Mustafa was killed during the Friday of Rage riots in Suez, on a day that Egyptians consider crucial to the short history of the country’s revolution.

In spite of the loss of his elder brother, Wardani showed consistent warmth and a characteristically Egyptian sense of humor during interviews with Al-Akhbar in early December 2011.

But on 3 February 2012, Wardani sounded bitter like never before. “There’s so much violence. It’s really bad here today,” he said. “The police are using tear gas, rubber bullets and live fire to disperse some 8,000 protesters around the city’s security directorate. The violence just shows that the police has not changed at all, in spite of the revolution.”

New wave of violence: Police versus people

A new wave of violence struck Egypt starting February 1, when 74 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured during the country’s worst football disaster in history during a game in Port Said. Sympathizers with the victims unequivocally blamed the ruling military regime, either by design or omission, for the tragedy. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has held executive power since the resignation of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Witnesses said the Central Security Forces, long associated with quelling anti-Mubarak street action, failed to stop the violence, in part by allowing people armed with white weapons to enter the stadium. They also reportedly failed to intervene to stop violence against Al Ahly fans when they were violently attacked by thugs as soon as the game ended.

The Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) heads the main parliamentary bloc, blamed remnants of Mubarak’s regime for the violence. On Thursday, parliament held an emergency session and blamed the Ministry of Interior, led by Mansour Essawi, for failing to stop the violence.
According to a statement published on the Muslim Brotherhood’s English website, FJP vice-chairman Essam Eryan “presented to parliament a request for prosecution of the Interior Minister on charges of negligence.” The statement also referred to the “survival” of the senior leadership” of the ministry, which is believed to be “complicit” with Mubarak’s regime.

Enraged by the deaths, thousands of people took to the streets in cities across Egypt on Thursday. But the protests were more than just an expression of anger with the security forces. They also expressed demands for the fall of the SCAF new momentum.

Police violence remained in the limelight when the security forces resorted to excessive violence to quell protests that continued through Friday in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria among other towns. The authorities have denied the use of live ammunition against protesters, though witnesses at the scene in Cairo and Suez claim otherwise.

The scenes were reminiscent of crackdowns on protesters in central Cairo during November and December last year. Because of their magnitude, they were also eerily reminiscent of crackdowns during the last days of Mubarak’s regime.

Through clashes on Thursday evening and Friday, at least four people were killed during street battles in Cairo and Suez. The significance of the deaths in Suez was not lost on protesters, who were quick to remember that the first victims of the January 25 revolution fell there.

According to the Ministry of Health, more than 1,600 people were injured in the latest round of violence since Wednesday. Protesters on Thursday and Friday were mostly unarmed, while some hurled rocks at the security forces.

One of those killed was an army lieutenant, apparently run over by mistake by a security vehicle. The majority of injured protesters suffered suffocation from tear gas used to force protesters away from the Ministry of Interior building in the heart of the city.

Significantly, among those in the front lines of Cairo protests were hardcore football fans, or Ultras. The Ultras not only played a key role in last year’s protests leading up to Mubarak’s ouster, but also in intermittent clashes through 2011 with the security forces and military. They have a history of clashes with the Central Security Forces, both pre and post-Mubarak.

Resignations and travel bans: Insufficient concessions

A string of resignations and travel bans followed the Port Said tragedy. Port Said governor Major-General Mohamed Abdullah resigned Wednesday and has now been banned from leaving the country. According to Al Jazeera, the head of Port Said’s security has also been issued a travel ban.

SCAF Chairman Hussein Tantawi was quoted by Reuters as saying: “We will get through this stage. Egypt will be stable. We have a roadmap to transfer power to elected civilians. If anyone is plotting instability in Egypt they will not succeed. Everyone will get what they deserve.” He also said that the security of the Port Said game was the responsibility of the police force.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri told parliament on Thursday that all Egyptian Football Association board members would be suspended and an investigation would be opened on the Port Said game.

Appointed by SCAF in November and once prime minister under Mubarak, Ganzouri’s statements before parliament Thursday were deemed insufficient concessions by human rights lawyer Gamal Eid.
As the executive power, “the SCAF is directly responsible for security in Egypt. Promises of accountability are empty, and poor attempts at fooling the Egyptian people into thinking that only the SCAF can save them from insecurity and chaos,” said Eid, head of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information.

Eid mentioned the fact that no officer has yet been sentenced for killings during numerous crackdowns on protesters through 2011, though promises to that effect were made each time. “Every time calm returns to Egypt, a tragedy takes place to try and make people believe the SCAF’s claims that foreign agents or unidentified thugs being behind insecurity in the country,” the lawyer said.

“In fact, the strategy is backfiring. Every time there is bloodshed, people become more aware of who is ultimately responsible for the violence,” Eid added. “When you want to know who is behind a crisis, try and look for benefits most from it.”

And while the FJP’s calls to a large extent reflected the need to overhaul Egypt’s unreformed, and thus far unaccountable security apparatus, Eid believed its de facto compromise with the SCAF would make it hard for the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing to go through with its drive.

“The FJP is trying hard to keep both its voters and the SCAF happy,” he said. “At some point, it is going to have to choose between them, because violence is making the gulf between the people and the executive grow by the day.”

Insecurity to engineer the counter-revolution

Not all Egyptians, however, are against the SCAF. Continued instability started to create a split on the streets that had yet to show itself in full force. Overall insecurity, skyrocketing crime rates, and the unprecedented presence of unknown thugs – whom some believe are criminals let out of jail during Egypt’s 18-day revolution last year – have led to the creation of significant support for continued military rule.

What has yet to be seen was how the situation in the coming months, leading up to presidential elections scheduled for June, would evolve. For one, splits between FJP supporters and other popular political forces on how to take the country forward – concerning both method and pace – were fast emerging almost 12 months on from Mubarak’s ouster.

On January 27, clashes broke out between liberal, secular and independent protesters on one hand, and Muslim Brotherhood supporters on the other in downtown Cairo. On Wednesday, new skirmishes broke out when FJP supporters blocked protesters from entering the street leading to the parliament building. This time around, however, the skirmishes were contained.

Meanwhile provocation by the authorities to keep tensions high have been continuous through the latest round of clashes. “State television has spent the past few hours telling its viewers to take to the streets to defend the country against ‘thugs,’ referring to protesters,” Suez activist Wardani said.
“But in my view, the more the SCAF and security forces resort to violence, the less likely it is that a split on the street will emerge,” he said. Though he sounded troubled, “I have hope,” Wardani added. “People can see with their own eyes, just like they did during the revolution, who is behind the violence.”

But ill omens still weighed heavy on Egyptians. For one, as Friday evening came to a close, reports broke out of attempts to set ablaze a building adjacent to the Ministry of Interior in downtown Cairo, just a few meters away from ongoing clashes. Minutes later, anti-SCAF Facebook group Scafgate claimed protesters had “detained” those trying to start the fire.

Staged or not, such incidents only prove that security was diminishing in a country whose people once kept it beautifully safe.

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Egypt: mixed reactions on one year anniversary

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Demonstrators take part in a protest marking the first anniversary of Egypt’s uprising at Tahrir Square in Cairo 25 January 2012. (Photo: Reuters – Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)
Thousands of Egyptians are pouring into Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square to mark the one year anniversary since a popular revolution toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Islamists, liberals, leftists, and ordinary citizens made their way to the square, but protesters carried banners with a wide range of messages, reflecting the disagreement over what Wednesday’s rally symbolized.

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist al-Nour party – who now dominate Egypt’s parliament – were largely there to celebrate the revolution.

But several other groups, including pro-democracy movements behind last year’s revolt, insist they are there to reignite their unfinished revolution and demand the ouster of the military council that took over when Mubarak quit.

“The first anniversary celebration” read one huge banner in the square, where “popular committees” searched protesters on their way in.

“Down, down with military rule,” read another.

Four stages have been built, with different groups expected to broadcast their own messages from the podiums.

Concerns remain, particularly among liberal Egyptians, that the goals of the revolution have not been fully attained.

Activists continue to demand an end to military rule, headed by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), with protests late last year leading to deadly clashes amid a brutal military crackdown.

In a gesture to appease opponents, Tantawi on Tuesday announced the partial lifting of Egypt’s dreaded emergency laws, except in cases of “thuggery,” without specifying what that implied.

The ambiguity of the emergency law’s status drew criticism from Human Rights Watch, which said it was “an invitation to continued abuse.”

“Military leaders have frequently described protesters as ‘thugs’ and military tribunals have convicted peaceful protesters after unfair trials for the crime of ‘thuggery’,” said Human Rights Watch on Wednesday.

Heba Morayef, the Egypt researcher for New-York based Human Rights Watch, described the exceptional clause as “misleading,” saying it left wide scope for arbitrary detention.

Tantawi’s announcement also failed to convince certain members of parliament, with an Islamist MP asserting that the law was still in place.

“This is not a real cancellation of the state of emergency,” said Essam Sultan, a newly elected member of parliament from the Wasat Party, a moderate Islamist group.

“The proper law designates the ending of the state of emergency completely or enforcing it completely, nothing in between,” he said.

Egyptians have been living under emergency law continuously since Mubarak took power in 1981.
In September, the SCAF widened the scope of the emergency law – restricted in 2010 to narcotics and terrorism – to strikes, traffic disruption, and the spreading of rumors, paving the way for the detention of activists, bloggers, and journalists.

“Before the revolution, we saw bloggers and peaceful opponents of Mubarak’s regime detained administratively on terrorism and drug trafficking accusations,” said Rachid Mesli, director of Alkarama’s legal department, who co-signed the statement with Human Rights Watch.

“If the emergency law is not lifted completely, such an exception will undoubtedly allow for the continuation of these arbitrary detentions,” he said.

The military, which took power when Mubarak was ousted in February, enjoyed hero status at the start of the revolt for refusing to shoot protesters.

But it has since become the target of protesters’ anger, who accuse the army of rights abuses and of using Mubarak-era tactics to stifle dissent.

SCAF says it will retain its military rule until a new president is elected in June, and has at least won the support of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood to adhere to its timetable.

But the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which won nearly half of the lower house seats, announced that parliament will form a fact-finding committee to investigate the deaths of roughly 800 people in the uprising against Mubarak.

In parliament, one lawmaker after another echoed the demand for an independent fact-finding committee into violence which killed around 800 people. No senior official has been found responsible for the violence.

Akram al-Sha’ir, whose son was injured in the protests, broke into tears during a passionate speech to the chamber now dominated by members of his Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the party of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

“Mr. Speaker, it’s been a year, where is the verdict? Tardy justice is oppression,” he said.
“We want real justice,” he said, to a standing ovation.

FJP secretary-general, Saad el-Katatni, who was elected speaker of the parliament on Monday, said: “The chamber will form a fact-finding committee after these discussions.”

However, MPs wrangled into the night over who should be on the committee, as well as over the composition of other parliamentary sub-committees charged with overseeing everything from defense to health care.

Elections to decide who should sit on the committees were postponed when smaller parties withdrew in protest at what they said were FPJ attempts at domination.

As for the former dictator, Mubarak is now standing trial, facing charges including ordering the killing of protesters during the 18-day uprising that ended when he handed power to the military leadership on February 11.

But the prosecution has said a lack of cooperation from security authorities has hindered evidence gathering.

That charge – denied by the authorities – has strengthened the view of those Egyptians who worry that much of the Mubarak-era establishment is still in place and blocking reform.

One MP criticized SCAF-appointed Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri – who also served the same office under Mubarak – for failing to attend the parliamentary session, saying his absence was reminiscent of the Mubarak days.

In the eyes of many Egyptians, Mubarak may be gone, but the institutions of his regime still remain.
(Al-Akhbar, Reuters, AFP)

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