Balkans, Energy policy, Middle-East

Realpolitik: The Energy Triangle As Game Changer For The Eastern Mediterranean

<img alt><img source="pic.gif" alt="Energy triangle"</img>

The potential “third energy corridor” – the Greece-Cyprus-Israel energy triangle may be the winner of the European energy game.”Third Energy Corridor” into the EU, a development of certainly wider geo-economic proportions.The gas could be a geopolitical game changer especially for Israel as well for the wider region (meaning the Balkans, the Middle East and especially the Eastern Mediterranean).

The Energy Triangle refers to the joint natural gas extraction between Cyprus, Israel and Greece that is estimated to begin in 2015. Officials from all three countries have agreed to the establishment of a gas pipeline from the Aphrodite gas field and the Leviathan gas field to a liquefied natural gas plant in the Vasilikos Power Station by 2019. (Note: here is not referred EU’s energy policy triangle ”emissions-supply-affordability”). So for the Energy Triangle and the EU there is now three projects of common interest: the first is the connection of an electricity cable between the three countries, the second is the feasibility of a pipeline from the East Mediterranean to Europe via Greece and the third one is the gas storage pipeline that will enhance the strategic resources of Cyprus, Israel and other European countries such as Greece.

Russia is the key player – even a game changer – in this triangle too. Future production in the eastern Mediterranean would be too marginal to offset Russia’s dominant market position. Nevertheless, the state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom is seeking a financial stake in the development of local resources. Israel and Cyprus see Russia as a source of both technical expertise and potential political support. Russia has repeatedly affirmed Cyprus’ right to explore offshore deposits in its exclusive economic zone.

Moscow won’t jeopardize its new deeply strategic energy partnership with its Israeli-Greek Cypriot ‘Western’ partners – in particular, its burgeoning relationship with the Middle East’s coming energy superpower, Israel. It is not only energy but geopolitics as Russia’s actions might cause selling out of Russia’s backing for both Iran and Syria for a Stake in Israeli Gas.

<img source="pic.gif" alt="Map credit: Gazprom"</img>

Map credit: Gazprom

Gazprom has also revealed that the company still has plans to link Greece with South Stream. This implies that the Russian strategy is to use Greece as a potential LNG hub, supplied by South Stream. South Stream, as far as its geostrategic role is concerned, is one of the most important projects in Balkans since WWII. Especially Serbia can be the heart of energy transport in the Balkans but also two branches will be built – to Republika Srpska and Croatia. In addition the Serbian side has proposed the construction of branches to Kosovo and Montenegro and Macedonia has also expressed the wish to get a branch of the pipeline from Serbia. On the other side the competitive project, the Nabucco pipeline, is already practically dead. More about background of Nabucco/South Stream battle in my articles Is it time to bury Nabucco? and EU’s big choice – Nabucco or South Stream?

The new opportunity with energy gives also some new political leverage to Israel. There has been a bit uncertainty how Israel will formulate its export policy. Israel’s options for selling the gas include Europe, China or even India. In terms of development, a partnership with Cyprus tying in its gas fields and co-operating on building sub sea gas pipes makes sense. And Greece has proposed becoming a distribution hub for eastern Mediterranean gas throughout Europe. Just how Israel’s vast reserves are to be monetized is yet to be seen. However in the few years since the state’s changeover from oil to gas-powered electricity generating plants Israel is already believed to have saved around $5 billion in revenue.

The new Gulf

<img source="https://i2.wp.com/www.yalibnan.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/oilgas-lebanon-israel-400x452.jpg" alt="Levantine basin gas and oil."</img>

Source: Noble Energy

The U.S. Geological Survey says the Levant Basin, encompassing Syria, Lebanon. Cyprus, Israel and the Gaza Strip, contains 123 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas and 1.7 billion barrels of oil.

In 2009 and 2010, a pair of U.S.-Israeli consortiumsexploring the seabed near Haifa discovered the Tamar and Leviathan fields, which collectively hold an estimated 26 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas. Israel has also worked to expand political, military, and economic cooperation with other local stakeholders, particularly Cyprus. But even at a combined total of 25 Tcf, worth some 200 billion euros at today’s prices, Tamar and Leviathan only represent around a fifth of the estimated gas in the Levantine Basin, much of which falls within Israeli jurisdiction. Anyway only this is enough gas to supply Israel’s needs for 150 years.

Since Cyprus signed a maritime border agreement with Israel in 2010, it has become the second main beneficiary of the gas boom. The island straddles Israel’s most likely gas export route to European markets. Cyprus also lays claim to its own gas deposits. The Aphrodite field, which is next to Leviathan, may contain up to seven tcf of natural gas — enough to meet Greek Cypriot domestic consumption needs for decades to come. Yet even that field is contested by others. The breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus claims co-ownership of the island’s natural resources.

On the borders of energy triangle one should not forget Syria, which is in the middle of two important energy corridors: It links Turkey and the Caspian See to Israel and the Red Sea and it links Iraq to the Mediterranean. Syria’s civil war is preventing seismic soundings in its waters but there’s every reason to assume they contain similar-sized gas fields.The Eastern Mediterranean gas fields might be the reason the Kremlin has created a military foothold in Syria for the Russian Federation. Moreover, it has been Iran that has agreed to explore and help develop these natural gas fields off the Levantine coast for Beirut and Damascus. Before civil war Syria was seeking foreign investment for three offshore oil and gas concessions. If the present regime in Syria falls the question is who would control these energy routes. If western powers are taking more firm grip from Syria it would also mean that the large natural gas fields off the Lebanese and Syrian coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean would be out of reach for China and instead go to the E.U., Israel, and Washington.

Also Lebanon, whose waters border both those of Israel and Cyprus, is expected to start issuing tenders to international companies to explore its maritime exclusive economic zone.

To its south, Israel has a difficult relationship with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) over natural gas, and has been obstructive to the PA’s own natural gas exploitation opportunities. Gas was discovered in 2000 by BG in waters that would include Gaza’s EEZ. However, political difficulties made it impossible to tap and transport the gas – not only is the PA not a member of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and hence has not declared its EEZ, but Israel occupied the Gaza Strip until 2005 and holds de facto control over the waters off Gaza’s coast.

<img source="https://i0.wp.com/farm8.static.flickr.com/7135/7017081555_dc08f6c09b.jpg" alt="Levantine basin gas and oil."</img>

Levantine basin gas

Earlier Egypt’s natural gas sector has expanded rapidly, with production quadrupling between 1998 and 2011. Egypt’s proven gas reserves were estimated at 2.2 tcm in 2011, representing the third-largest reserves in Africa after Nigeria and Algeria. In 2010, Egypt produced roughly 61.3 bcm of natural gas, of which 45.1 bcm was consumed domestically. In 2010, Egypt exported 15.1 bcm of natural gas (of which 9.71 bcm was via LNG and 5.46 bcm via pipeline). Egypt’s proven crude oil and condensate reserves are estimated at 4.5 billion barrels. The recent unrest in Egypt and the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi is again giving the energy markets jitters reminiscent of the uprising in 2011 that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rein. Then, as now, most attention is focused on oil markets and possible disruptions of tanker trade through the Suez Canal. But with increased worldwide attention focused on liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade, it’s important to note that about 13-14% of global LNG trade passes through the Suez Canal. Since 2011 Egypt has suffered from gas shortages and has already halted gas exports to Israel and shut down one of its two LNG plants — the SEGAS LNG plant at Damietta — because of a lack of feedstock.


With a newfound focus on maritime security, eastern Mediterranean states are also keen to modernise their navies and coastguards. Israel, for example, announced in July 2012 that it would spend $800 million on acquiring four offshore patrol vessels to protect its platforms and enforce maritime security. Turkey, meanwhile, has a number of naval procurement projects, including 16 Tuzla-class patrol craft for the navy and four Dost-class offshore patrol vessels for the coastguard. The most substantial Turkish procurement is for a $1.7 billion landing helicopter dock, the navy’s first amphibious assault vessel.

Two other claimants, Greece and Cyprus, are hamstrung in procurement efforts by lack of funds. Inspired by the gas finds, however, Nicosia finally gave the go-ahead for the procurement of two offshore patrol vessels in January, with a likely budget of $150m (although it is unclear how the country’s financial crisis will affect this programme). Greece, meanwhile, with a defence budget constrained by a political decision to stick with the purchase of six submarines from Germany, has resorted to unusual deals to bolster its Mediterranean presence. In February, Athens sought to lease two frigates and four maritime patrol aircraft from the French navy to better patrol the eastern Mediterranean.

Volume of gas fields

US firm Noble Energy and Delek Energy, a domestic company, discovered gas off the country’s coast in 1999. The Mari-B field, which began production in 2004, contained about 1 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas but is now severely depleted and likely to run dry within two years. Other nearby fields, such as Noa and Pinnacles, are now connected to the Mari-B platform and began production in June 2012 – they are thought to hold a further 1.2tcf of gas.

<img source="https://i0.wp.com/mercury.ethz.ch/serviceengine/Files/ISN/468x351/165677/iresourcemultiple_files/45eab09d-1c3e-4ec0-978c-476f756a2363/en/Gas-Claims-in-the-Eastern-Mediterranean468x351.jpg" alt="Levantine basin: Exclusive economic zones (EEZ)."</img>

Source: IISS

The first well, Leviathan 1, was first drilled to a depth of 5,170 metres where the deposit found was estimated to contain 16 trillion cubic feet (450 billion cubic metres) of natural gas. The second stage of drilling of the Leviathan 1 well was intended to reach a depth of 7,200 metres where the estimated natural gas reserve is an extra 9 trillion cubic feet (250 billion cubic metres) and potentially 600 million barrels of oil.

The Tamar field is considered to have proven reserves of 200 billion cubic metres (7.1 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas and is estimated to contain an extra 80 BCM of probable natural gas reserves. In a related development, natural gas from the offshore Tamar gas field near Haifa started flowing last April 2013.Tamar produces a gross 636 million cubic feet of gas a day.

Karish is Israel’s latest offshore gas discovery northwest of Haifa and the fifth field to contain over 1 tcf of gas. Noble Energy announced on the 22nd of May 2013 the discovery of the Karish well, in the Alon C license approximately 20 miles northeast of the Tamar field, in 5,700 feet of water.

Beyond Israel, the most active country in gas exploration has been Cyprus. Nicosia was eager to negotiate its Exclusive economic zone (EEZ) boundary with Israel (having already done so with Egypt in 2003), and reached an agreement in December 2010. A year later, the real Aphrodite field (Block 12) was discovered in Cypriot waters, just 35km west of the Leviathan field. The estimated reserves of up to 8 tcf would more than cover Cyprus’s entire energy needs for 200 years.

More about topic in Outlook for Oil and Gas in Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Countriesby Manfred Hafner, Simone Tagliapietra and El Habib El Elandaloussi, MEDPRO 10/2012

Transfer of gas

The Israeli energy minister Uzi Landau announced that his country has established a high level commission that actively examines the prospects for transfer of gas. To date, the following options have been proposed:

  • Transfer gas to Israel for the purposes of electricity production
  • Creation of LNG stations in Cyprus and Israel to supply the world market
  • Creation of a floating LNG station close to the gas fields
  • Creation of a pipeline connecting the fields with Greece and from there on to the EU via Italy
  • Use the gas production for electricity generation and creation of a high voltage cable to connect Israel-Cyprus-Greece who will consume the electricity. it would mean that Israel could export energy to Europe, and in times of crisis could fall back on European electricity. it would mean that Israel could export energy to Europe, and in times of crisis could fall back on European electricity.

(Source: Natural Gas Europe )

It should be pointed out that any transfer of gas to Europe from developments in the eastern Mediterranean would take upwards of a decade to begin, once investment decisions were taken. In one other point of view, a dynamic triangle between Greece-Cyprus-Israel could be treated as an efficient geo-political counterweight to Turkey.

March. 8, 2013 a new deal by Russia’s Gazprom to market Israeli liquefied natural gas shows that Moscow is again emerging as a player in the strategic region. The 20-year LNG contract between Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom Marketing and Trading Switzerland and Levant LNG Marketing Corp. also provides a major boost for Russia’s drive to rebuild its Cold War influence in the Middle East that collapsed with the demise of the Soviet Union.This is an important milestone for strengthening Gazprom’s position in the global LNG market ( Source: UPI)

Already on end of June 2013 Cyprus inked a deal with a US-Israeli partnership to build a liquefied natural gas plant on the island to exploit untapped energy riches. Building a multi-billion euro LNG plant is seen as the biggest infrastructure investment project in the island’s history.

Early August 2013 Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed a memorandum of mutual understanding to cooperate in energy and water resources. The delegations from all three countries voiced their support for the EuroAsia Interconnector project that plans to link the electricity grids of all three countries via an underwater cable that is also going to hook up with the Paneuropean Electricity Grid. The 2,000-mega-watt EuroAsia Interconnector could potentially allow for the export of electricity generated in the eastern Mediterranean to the EU energy market through the trans-European electricity networks; it is also seen an important reason for stability in the eastern Mediterranean.

Conclusion

The term “Energy Triangle” was first issued at the Cyprus-Israel Business Association in Nicosia, Cyprus in 2010. Due to the joint establishment of the Exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between Cyprus and Israel, this marked the beginning of an increasing collaboration between the two Mediterranean neighbors. Both countries agreed to a joint extraction of natural gas by the American company Noble Energy in order to cut the financial burden of extraction by both countries. Shortly after the exchange of representatives between Israel and Cyprus, the Gaza flotilla raid occurred in 2010, thus destroying the Israeli-Turkish relations and pushing Israel towards a closer alliance with Greece. Since 2011 Greece joined Israel and Cyprus in the plan to export natural gas to Europe by 2015 through a power plant close to Limassol.

The discovery of natural gas is a huge strategic opportunity but it also has complicated rivalries in the eastern Mediterranean, an area already full of long-standing security issues.Among those to have issued assertive statements of intent regarding undersea gas finds are Greece and Turkey, Cyprus and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, as well as Israel, the Lebanese militia group Hizbullah and Palestine’s Hamas.

The energy discoveries during last decade have transformed Israel’s energy calculus and caused a significant strategic shift.. In 2012, when Egypt abruptly cancelled natural gas exports to Israel, the country was reliant on imports for 70% of all natural gas used, and on its Arab neighbour alone for 40% of its supply. But the Tamar and Dalit fields alone hold enough natural gas to supply all the country’s needs for two decades. When combined with Leviathan, Israel could meet all of its electricity needs and export gas.

<img source="https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTLjJH9WkBHGdIjtOeanrJn4-Zb7U01_vLJdgXVwbsZ4EOp4xjs" alt="triangle."</img>

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BalkanBlog, crisis management, MENA, Middle-East

Fatah-Hamas Deal: Three Scenarios

The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: ‘O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.” (Hamas Charter: Article 7)

The reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas came to a draft agreement in last week. The core of the new Hamas-Fatah deal is agreeing to a unity and power-sharing of two parties mentioned. Palestinian division, playing so-called “moderates” against “extremists”, has been key element of US/EU and Israeli policy almost a decade. If the Palestinian unity deal holds it can open the Middle-East deadlock – but which way remains too see. I see at least three different scenarios as outcome:

  1. Israel makes a deal with Palestinian representatives

  2. No Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – UN recognises Palestine

  3. Israel annexes part of West Bank – cold peace

Some background

“This is our answer to the enemy: We have no other home.” (President Peres)


Similar Hamas-Fatah agreements were made in March 2007 In Mecca, which lasted for three months until the outbreak of a five-day war in Gaza, which ended with Hamas taking complete control of the territory. The second agreement was signed in Saana, Yemen on March 2008 by the same signatories as now and it lasted just two days. Last year negotiations were mediated by Germany and Turkey in Damascus, but now entered into a definitive agreement, assisted by the Egyptian intelligence service in Cairo.

After failed previous agreements The Palestinian Authority (excluding Hamas) has had fruitless round of talks with Israel meditated mainly by US, PaliLeaks are giving clear picture offers nad responses to them (more e.g. PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace). During negotiations The Palestinian Authority lost its rest authority as well credibility to achieve any results. Uprisings in Arabstreet this Sring may have been the main reason for Hamas-Fatah deal now as the Palestinian president, Abu Mazen/Abbas, lost his allies – Hosni Mubarak and Omar Suleiman in Egypt. Also Hamas is losing its Syrian protector, Bashar al-Assad. But The Guardian editorial highlights also the third reason which had little to do with either of the above: Abu Mazen’s faith in Barack Obama finally snapped. US failed to deliver even the limited and partial extension of Netanyahu settlement moratorium. The PLO forced a vote on settlements at the UN security council, despite US pressure, leaving the US alone to cast its veto in a 14-1 vote. Preparations for UN recognition of Palestinian statehood proceed apace (again, in opposition to US policy).

The Israeli government immediately sounded the alarm over the prospect of having to deal with Hamas. “The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both,” said prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu warned that the deal could lead to a Hamas takeover of the West Bank. “Hamas aspires to destroy the state of Israel and says so explicitly. The idea of reconciliation with Hamas demonstrates the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and makes one wonder whether Hamas will seize control of (the West Bank) the way it seized control of the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli prime minister said. (Source: The Guardian )

Directly related to the agreement it stopped the joint Israeli-Palestinian security panel because Hamas is of course not allowed into the meetings where joint Israeli-Palestinian (covert) operations against Hamas are planned. The United States is considering to remove its USD 475 million economic support for PA, the EU’s position as a major funder is not yet clear. From its side Israel will hold up an USD 89 million cash transfer to the Palestinian Authority planned for this week to assure that any money transferred to the Palestinians will not reach the militant Hamas organisation.

In parallel, Journal of the Kuwait Al-Rai, referring to Syrian security men, whereas the event of war with Israel, Syria will play a “strong hand” and to compete with Hamas in Tel Aviv bombing missiles. (Both are in possession of Scud missiles; Israel’s new missile defense to respond this threat is described e.g. in my article Will Iron Dome balance the Hamas Terror?)

Deal with united Hamas-Fatah front

“Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” (Hamas Charter: Preamble)


Hamas-Fatah deal means that now Israel may have got a strong
counterpart on the Palestinian side as any significant Israeli-Palestinian agreement demands involvement of Hamas. So far the reluctance of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate with Israel is his lack of political legitimacy, he officially holds no power (in January 2009 he unilaterally awarded himself a one-year extension as president). Also Abbas’ prime minister, Salam Fayyad’ authority is limited, he ran in the 2006 parliamentary elections and won two seats out of 132.

Fatah is seen as the more secular organisation, which has supported the Oslo Accords which led to the formation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994. Hamas, an Islamic group, opposed the Oslo Accords and continues to refuse to honour past agreements with Israel. The US and EU both view Hamas as a terrorist organisation, anyway its successful imposition of law and order in Gaza have persuaded analysts that peace between Israel and Palestinians is impossible without its involvement.

The factor, which in fact can nullify this negotiation slot, is that Hamas will continue to aim the establishment of an Islamic state in Gaza, the West Bank and the current Israeli territories by force if necessary. Now approved the draft agreement, which final form is planned to sign next week, does not give any indication that the Hamas / Fatah would agree to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past agreements with Israel. Senior Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmud A-Zahar, makes it clear that despite reconciliation agreement his organization with Fatah, Hamas has no intention of changing its attitude toward Israel: “The transition government will not take part in the diplomatic process.” (Source e.g. Ynetnews)

Haarez editorial gives interesting alternative view to deal compared to the one of PM Netanyahu’s, who hastened to denounce the reconciliation agreement. Here Haarez perspective:

Israel can improve its status if it takes its fate into its own hands. It can be the first to welcome the establishment of a Palestinian sister-state, wish it luck, hold out its hand in peace and express a desire to discuss borders, refugees and settlements issues, this time on an entirely different level − as two sovereign states…On the tactical level, Israel will be able to pass the responsibilities required of a state to the Palestinian side as well, whatever its government.

One base for negotiated peace deal could be the latest Olmert proposal 2008 which may be most far reaching compromise so far.

UN option and the effect of unilateral Palestine actions

Since we can’t defeat Israel in war, we must do it in stages, we must take whatever area of Palestine we can get, establish sovereignty there, and then at the right time, we will have to convince the Arab nations to join us in dealing the final blow to Israel. (Yasser Arafat)


Israel-Palestine conflict is now on crucial stage as September is shaping up to be a key month for peace efforts. The Palestinians say that in the absence of a peace deal, they will take their case to the United Nations. It appears now that a Palestinian state will be imposed – or better say tried to impose – on Israel by the international community as overwhelming majority of U.N. members will vote to give them a state. However since the U.N. General Assembly’s decisions are not legally binding, the vote would be largely symbolic, and it remains unclear what the Palestinians will do after that. International support for the Palestinians has put heavy pressure on Netanyahu to offer his own diplomatic plan to end the impasse. Netanyahu is expected to deliver a major policy speech to U.S. Congress next month. But officials close to the prime minister say he has not yet decided what he plans to say.

Some 110-140 countries is estimated to support Palestinian case in UN, there is also a slight possibility that UNSC will make similar resolution. Besides sending again letter to Jerusalem at its worst there can be discussions about sanctions against Israel; however even today Israel is more diplomatically isolated than ever before and also outside governments there is a growing civil BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) against Israel. Despite this economically life in Israel has never been better. According latest data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel’s economy grew 7.8 percent in the last quarter of 2010, international trade is rising steeply as in the first quarter of 2011, exports rose 27.3%. compared grew of 19.9% in the final quarter of last year. Imports rose respectively 34.7% and 38.9%. Despite hard statements EU remains Israel’s largest trading partner and even ally of Hamas and Iran Turkey’s trade with Israel reached an all time high last year. So international isolation does not seem effect very much.


Unilateral Israeli actions

“(Peace) initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement… Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the infidels as arbitrators in the lands of Islam… There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.” (Hamas Charter: Article 13)

Jerusalem Post reports that ‘Annexation for declaration’ idea advancing in Knesset . True, the Israeli Likud party is already preparing a draft law, which accompanied Israel in Judea and Samaria, or at least its a lot areas with Jewish mayority as well as the Jordan River Valley; this in case that the PA government take its proposal at the UN.

As Likud MK Danny Danon said, that

A Palestinian declaration of statehood would officially bury the Oslo Accords, which state that final borders will be decided via negotiations and that unilateral actions constitute violation of the accords…The Palestinians declaring a state would free us of all the diplomatic, security, and economic commitments we made in the Oslo Accords.

Danon favors responding to a Palestinian declaration of statehood by annexing all of Area C, which includes all the West Bank’s Jewish settlements and empty land. He said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should follow the example of his predecessors Levi Eshkol, who annexed eastern Jerusalem, and Menachem Begin, who annexed the Golan Heights. Area C Israeli 59% of WB land and 4% of WB Palestinians.

Israel’s unilateral actions can be understood from its security driven policy. The main thread from Hamas-Fatah deal is that as more motivated, well organised partner with popular support Hamas will override Fatah in West Bank like they have done in Gaza. If Hamas keeps its aim the destruction of Israel, the deal and Hamas takeover would allow it to deploy Iranian and Syrian-supplied Katyusha missiles near all Israel urban centers. From Israel security perspective this brings most of Israel population under thread of hostile missiles and rockets. Be’er Sheva already has been attacked by Grad Katyusha missiles from Gaza, as have been Haifa and the Galilee from Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon.

Map by Americans for a Safe Israel (ASFI)


My conclusion

For the Palestinians internal unity creates a change for developing a new national platform, strategy and representative PLO, which can also implement agreements if needed. If Hamas-Fatah deal makes a commitment to non-violence and recognises also Israel’s right to existence it might be a partner for Israel to make new peace deal. The effect and nature of Hamas-Fatah deal will be tested soon as Palestinian groups on Facebook are calling for violent uprisings against the citizens of Israel, openly planning a Third Intifada on May 15th, 2011. Previous intifadas resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians through suicide bombings and other horrific acts of terror. They are aggressively pursuing their goal of reaching one million supporters.


If Hamas-Fatah deal is neutralizing terrorism it may boost the international community and especially US to put pressure to both Israel and Palestine authorities to find negotiated common solution. This way the deal really can be what Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called “a key window of opportunity” for the entire region. One crucial point for outcome will be PM Netanyahu’s speech before the US Congress next month, will it appease Obama admistration and EU-3 (Cameron, Sarkozy and Merkel) about Israeli intentions in peace process.


One can guess that I am not very hopeful about the peace deal soon after Hamas-Fatah agreement, at least in its current form. Hamas should first change its fundamential course to apply non-violent methods and accept Israel security concerns, and Israel needs time to trust Hamas intentions. Perhaps the best outcome related to three scenarios mentioned could be limited cold peace or truce, plus restricted trade agreements.

Earlier and now I still consider sc Three State-Option the most pragmatic solution. As Egypt now is opening Rafah border crossing and when its current leadership better cooperates with Hamas it would be easier than before logistically and politically annex Gaza with Egypt e.g. as autonomius province with cultural and economical independence. Annexing Palestinian West Bank areas similar way with Jordan could decrease Israeli security concerns and hence allow smaller buffer zones and less fragmented area for Palestinians. (More e.g. in The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )

Background Annex

Conflicting Views of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Every year in USA, campus hate groups such as the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine join a festival called “Israel Apartheid Week”, which also is part of the growing BDS movement (BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel). As response the David Horowitz Freedom Center is sponsoring counter-protests on more than 50 college campuses, as part of its Islamo-Fascism Awareness Campaign. From banner below one can open some of the claims from Palestinian side and counter claims from Israeli side to highlight the big difference of views in Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 
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BalkanBlog, Middle-East

Days of Rage on the Arab street

After the first successful thrust every revolution differentiates into political and class currents. This is the moment of greatest danger. The moment when the future of the revolution is decided.” (John Rees)

After successful ousting in Tunisia and Egypt now on the rest of Arab streets in every Arab capital the masses have the idea that change is possible. Will the ouster of autocrats continue remains to seen. Along the Arab street there is a long history of tensions and frozen conflicts and events in Tunisia and Egypt may be a catalyst for rebellion. Still existing regimes and dictators are using old strategies to stay in power. These included promises of rulers to resign in future, using pro-government thugs against demonstrators, wage increases and tax cuts and other economic concessions to cut support from uprisings.


Dictators have been ousted so far in Tunisia and Egypt and today it seems that Libya, Yemen and Bahrain will follow any day;  ‘Sturm und Drang’ is advancing extensively on the Arab streets.  How deep the change will be on scale reformation-revolution and wide the fire will spread on the Arab street and outside of it remains to seen.


Egypt starts post-Mubarak era

In Egypt it now appears that the coup was possible due the tensions between Tantawi and the Mubarak family. Tantawi was frustrated with the prospect that Mubarak’s son Gamal. might ascend to the presidency. Gamal Mubarak, in turn, was believed to be hostile to Tantawi and wanted him to be removed. Huge crowds of Egyptians who demonstrated for 18 days against Hosni Mubarak’s rule saw Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi and his troops as their saviour. They appealed to the military to intervene in Egypt’s crisis, and the generals did.

Party is over? Over the weekend, Egyptians and others globally celebrated. Today they awakened to the cold reality of a new dawn. Mubarak has gone, but his state apparatus remains intact. In my opinion the outcome in Egypt will be a reform not revolution, that is, changes in personnel and policies, protection of human rights, but no challenge to the structure or the constitution. Egypt’s society is diverse enough to withstand a despotic theocracy and if in doubt so the army is the final guarantor. If the military regime retains power the geopolitical arrangements would remain in place.
According social media April 6 Youth movement continues demonstration to implement following demands:

  • Acquitting the current government.
  • Abolition of the Emergency law.
  • The Release of all Detainees.
  • The formation of a presidential council, including civilians, and fair judges.
  • Retribution of all the media figures that have contributed in killing our martyrs.
  • Acquiting the state security apparatus and restructuring of the Ministry of Interior as well as all of the NDP headquarters
  • Forming a new technocratic government .
  • Aquitting the government led by Ahmed Shafik, which includes the foul faces that have a history of corruption such as Mufid Shehab Aisha Abdel Hadi Faiza Abu Naga Sameh Fahmi Ali Meselhi Mahmoud Wagdy, to be dismissed and Mhakthm and the formation of a new technocratic government.

To make a complete break with the bourgeois regime and that means expropriating the wealth of the big capitalists – the Mubarak family, the some 1.000 family clique around them including leading army brass. Egypt’s senior generals are part of the ruling establishment and army is up to its helmets in big business: shopping centers, tourism, property, hotels, steel, telecom. A real revolution would require a Marxist revolutionary leadership by Egyptian workers and youth and there is no signs that such a party is possible to build in near future. There is a deep divide in the opposition and thus far do not appear to have been able to generate the type of mass movement that toppled the Shah of Iran’s regime in 1979.


Libya moving to civil war

The protests in Libya are the latest in a wave of dissent sweeping the Arab world in the wake of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. After the worst unrest in Gaddafi’s four decades in power hundreds of people have been killed over the past three days in a fierce security crackdown mounted in response to anti-government protests that sought to emulate uprisings in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia. ABC News reports that the protests were originally not organised but were sparked by youths turning out for Thursday’s “Day of Rage” against the Gaddafi regime. “We don’t have here unions and syndicates or political parties, just youth going out on the “Day of Rage” (February 17).

Gaddafi’s government has moved quickly to try to stop Libyans from joining the wave of uprisings in the Middle East. In an attempt to stave off protests the Libyan government had announced it would double the salaries of government workers. It also released a sizeable number of Islamic militants from prison. As soft power was not enough the regime used hard its security troops and also “thugs” were being given cash and new cars to take to the streets and attack anti-government protesters. Government used e.g. snipers from the Internal Security Forces in the eastern city of Beyida against unarmed demonstrators. In Benghazi police initially followed orders Saturday to act against the protesters, but later joined with them because they belong to the same tribe and saw foreign mercenaries taking part in the killings.

Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam delivered a speech on national television. The content of the speech indicates the state believes it is facing a serious uprising and a potential civil war. He also has orchestrated the release of members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which is suspected of having links to al-Qaida, in the past as part of a reconciliation plan. Another of Gaddafi’s sons, Libyan National Security Adviser Motasem Gadhafi, is Seif al-Islam’s potential rival.

In some areas it also seems that the police and security forces are showing sympathy for the protesters and even army units have changed side. In Ajdabia the police seem to have sided with the protesters to fight government mercenaries and the government has reacted by shutting down electricity supplies and access to the internet has been blocked. Some towns were surrounded by the military but latest reports are claiming that many regions are already occupied by opposition. Some tribe leaders are taking side with opposition, the government has started to collapse and Gaddafi has probably escaped from Tripoli to his desert base.

Gaddafi has ordered the Libyan air force to fire on military installations in Libya, which reflects a split within the regime source, earlier air force fighters have opened fire on crowds of protesters and the navy has participated too operations against demonstrators.

Earlier possibility for an Egypt-style revolt was seen unlikely in Libya because the government could use oil revenues to smooth over most social problems. Probably the events escalated so fast that there was not enough time to use this mean.


The Middle East on the edge

Thousands of people are protesting in Yemen for a fifth consecutive day to demand political reforms and the ouster of the country’s US-allied president – Saleh – who has ruled the Arab world’s poorest country since 1978. Military ties between the US and Saleh’s administration have grown stronger in recent months, as the country struggles with the increasing militancy of a secessionist movement in the south, as well as unrest provoked by rising food prices, unemployment reaching 40 per cent – and demands for human rights to be recognized.The US is shortly to embark on a $75m project to train Yemen’s counterterrorism unit, US officials say. (Source: Uruknet)

“Down with the president’s thugs” (sign in demonstration)

Yemen used to be two separate countries: The southern half was the only Arab communist country – PDRY(People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen). There is unrest in the south because they haven’t fully integrated the two parts of the country. Government has still not resolved the issues of the rebellious so-called Houthi people on the Saudi border, where the Saudis have intervened militarily. Economically Yemen has no water, and the country faces an agricultural crisis for which there is no visible solution. A hugely disproportional amount of water that they do have is used for the cultivation of qat, a mild narcotic leaf. Yemen has no oil. It is now the place where al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has established itself, and it poses a serious terrorism issue. And similarly to other Arab despots who face overthrow, President Saleh had announced wage increases and tax cuts and other economic concessions. Like in Egypt pro-government thugs armed with daggers and batons fought anti-government protesters. The police fired warning shots into the air, but then withdrew from the streets allowing the thugs to attack the anti-government protesters.


In Bahrain, the problem is between the majority of people, who are Shiite, and the ruling government, who are Sunnis. The latest death raises the possibility of more rallies and challenges to the ruling Sunni monarchy in Bahrain. In the past week, Bahrain’s rulers have attempted to undermine calls for reform by promising nearly $2,700 for each family and pledging to loosen state controls on the media. A main Shiite opposition group, Al Wefaq, denounced the “bullying tactics and barbaric policies pursued by the security forces” against peaceful marchers staging the first major rallies in the Gulf since uprisings toppled long-ruling regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Bahrain’s protesters, however, claim they do not seek to overthrow the ruling monarchy but want greater political freedoms and sweeping changes in how the country is run. The demands include transferring more decision-making powers to the parliament and breaking the monarchy’s grip on senior government posts. Bahrain’s majority Shiites — about 70% of the population — have long complained of systemic discrimination by the Sunni rulers.

Initially the protesters were calling on the Sunni monarchy to adopt more liberal policies and also grant more rights for the country’s majority Shiite population. But as the movement grew in strength after it started on Monday of last week the demands of the protesters have become bolder, calling for jobs, better housing conditions and freedom for all political prisoners. Source: Ynetnews )

Bahrain is of particular importance to the United States because it is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. If King Khalifa falls so U.S. outpost for Iran and strategic Hormuz channel will be in danger. Also other side of the border are Saudi Arabia’s oilfields on Persian Gulf – populated mostly with Shiites.

Bahrain was the first sign of post-Egypt unrest anywhere in the wealthy Gulf states, but also in Kuwait, opposition groups had called for an anti-government protest last week, but shifted the date to March 8 after the resignation of the country’s scandal-tainted interior minister.

The Islamic Action Front is the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and it seems that it has now transformed political disillusionment into political capital. The Islamic Action Front is more liberal than Islamist parties in some other countries and so far it has backed the royal family. However supporters of this country’s largest opposition party held a rally to celebrate the new Egypt and the people power that swept away Mubarak. Jordanians took to the streets demanding constitutional reform and more say in decision-making. About 2,000 pro-democracy protesters under attack from pro-government activists armed with batons, pipes and stones. King Abdullah II dismissed his cabinet earlier this month after massive street protests against the government’s economic and political policies.

In Jordan dissatisfaction with regime was shown also indirectly. In a letter published this week by 36 Jordanian tribal leaders, who represent nearly 40% of the population and play an important role in the kingdom’s politics, the Queen Rania Al-Abdullah was criticized relentlessly. In the letter, Rania was accused of “corruption, stealing money from the Treasury and manipulating in order to promote her public image – against the Jordanian people’s will.”It was also mentioned that Jordan is suffering from “an authority crisis” and from a growing influence of “corrupt businessmen who surround the decision makers, affect political decisions and ignore national interests.” The tribal leaders called to “put these corrupt people who stole from the country on trial, regardless of their status.””Sooner or later Jordan will be a destination for a similar uprising like the ones in Tunisia and Egypt because of oppression of freedom and robbing from public funds,” said the letter. (Source: Ynetnews)

In Saudi Arabia spread over week ago a wild rumor that king, Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, is dead, which triggered a spike in the price of oil; the government assured that he is alive and in “excellent shape”. A Saudi Arabian prince on Thursday said said that the protests and unrest in Arab countries may be dangerous for his country if King Abdullah does not step up the pace of reform. Prince Talal bin Abdul-Aziz, a half brother of the king, said it was not too late for the Saudi government to take steps to avoid protests. He also said the king is the only person who can bring about major changes. Talal has called for reform before, he holds no government posts and is considered something of an outsider within the royal family.

Perhaps fearing its own uprising, the Saudi Arabia’s government (unchanged since its 1932 founding) “react(ed) to the winds of change blowing throughout the Arab Middle East. For the first time, a political party has been established – and though it has not yet received official government approval,” it asked King Abdullah to allow it. Supported by lawyers, businessmen, and others, Saudi’s new Islamic Nation Party is a first. Saying it will work for political reform and human rights, it stressed that the “regime need not fear the democratic spirit overtaking the Arab world.”Saudis domestic intelligence service, the General Directorate for Investigations, arrested five party’s founders on the night of February 16, 2011, one week after they submitted their request for recognition of the Islamic Nation Party as a political party to the Royal Court and the Shura Council, an unelected council with some parliamentary functions.

Saudi Arabia does not allow political parties. Up to now and unless changed, King Abdullah appoints a Cabinet of Ministers every four years, including many royal family members. No elections are held. In 2006, a committee of Saudi princes was established to serve unspecified future selection functions after Crown Prince Sultan becomes king. A 150-member Consultative Council also exists, headed by a royal appointed chairman to serve four years. Demonstration along the Arab streets have alarmed the Saudis and the regime is investing huge amounts of money securing their southern border for that reason.

In Syria, too, although President Bashar Assad Tuesday put on a big show of unconcern by mingling unescorted among a crowd of affectionate admirers in Damascus, the situation is very tense. Early Wednesday, he placed Syrian security forces and the army on high alert in readiness for the Day of Anger called for Friday, Feb. 18, by opposition organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood. After Syrian intelligence received word that it was planned to be the most serious attempt to date to shake the dynastic Assad regime, police and security strength in Syrian cities were beefed up. Heavy reinforcements were moved into the Kurdish areas of the north, where the most violent protests are anticipated. Assad has adopted the Iranian tactic of exerting maximum force to break up crowds as they form and giving security forces a free hand to open fire with live ammunition without having to ask for permission. (Source: Debkafile)

According the International Marxist Tendency even Iraq is now being affected as mass protest have erupted across the country, particularly in the Kurdish areas of the country where violent protests have broken out as the anger of the youth has reached boiling point. Ten people are reported to have been killed by police forces during protests in Sulaymaniya. Violent protests have taken place at various locations in Iraq, with anti-government protesters taking out rallies against corruption, poor basic services and high unemployment. In Basra, the country’s second largest city in the south, around a thousand people rallied today, demanding jobs and improved pensions.

Iraqi and Kurdish leaders have also attempted to head off the protests by slashing the salaries of ministers and MPs and diverting cash earmarked for the purchase of fighter jets to buy food for the needy. This highlights growing mass opposition to the atrocious social conditions created by the occupation regime set up by Washington after the US invasion in 2003. These include lack of electricity and clean water, mass joblessness, and surging increases in the price of food—as well as the dictatorial conduct of the new rulers placed in power by Washington.

In Palestine the turmoil started already earlier due the the Al Jazeera-Guardian Palestine Papers leak, the Palestinian Authority also made early mistake bywrongly siding with Egypt’s ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak, now the PA is employing desperate political maneuvers. According analyst Fadi Elsalameen nothing short of Abbas and Fayyad handing in their own resignations and accepting responsibility for their failures will satisfy the Palestinian streets. Abbas and Fayyad are of a past era. They are no longer representative of the future we young Palestinians seek for ourselves. Rather, we see them through the lens of withering and illegitimate Arab regimes that if not replaced democratically will be toppled through a popular revolution that I can assure them has already begun. (Source: Al Jazeera )

So far the military coup has stabilized or even improved Egypt’s relationship with Israel. Last week on 18th Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have waved through another 3,000 Egyptian troops into North Sinai, topping their number up to 4,000 and virtually scrapping the key demilitarization clause of the 1979 peace treaty. Senior Israeli military officers report that Israel posed no conditions for its permission then or now – not even demanding a timeline for their withdrawal so that Sinai might revert to the military-free buffer status which buttressed the peace for 32 years. Neither were limits placed on the Egyptian troops’ operations and movements. (Source: Debkafile)


Maghreb on the waitlist

In Morocco the government appears to be trying to calm fears over price hikes on basic goods ahead of a Facebook-arranged protests planned for next Sunday. It has doubled the money it sets aside for state subsidies to counter rising global commodity prices.The Moroccan monarchy is largely popular and entrenched in the socio-cultural foundations of the country., so much so that in Morocco we can actually talk about two layers of political authority that help set the monarchy as regime and political order above the political fray, and one that is capable of deflecting all criticism towards the state government led by the prime minister.

Communist League of Action as a Marxist revolutionary group in Morocco declared its position as follows:

  • active participation in the mobilization of the masses
  • its appreciation of the Democratic Confederation of Labour and other leftist organizations and parties (the Democratic Way, the United Socialist Party, the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, etc) who are participating to assure the success of this action
  • the objective conditions for revolutionary change are ripe, posing for the revolutionary left the responsibility to prepare for the leadership of these and other actions towards the completion of the historical tasks
  • their opposition to all forms of class cooperation with the capitalists and their dependent capitalistic stat

One, two, three, viva L’Algerie”

Algeria – a regional power, U.S. ally, and major energy producer — is vulnerable to revolution; however the number of protesters there, who went to the streets on February 12th was much smaller than in Tunisia and Egypt. In my opinion Algeria is surprisingly quiet reflected to its violent past. After massive riots caused the one-party state to collapse in 1988, Algeria failed to become a democracy, and the military took power in 1992. What followed was the decade-long Algerian civil war. Algerian civil society has only just begun to emerge from the trauma of that war, which left 200,000 people dead. To date, it remains the region’s most violent conflict between militants and the state.

In Tunisia, the revolution of the young urban elite has for the time being concealed the fact that the Islamists Renaissance party is likely to emerge from the fringes of illegal sub-activity to that of a leading political force. While this is unlikely to transform Tunisia into a stronghold of radical fundamentalism, the Islamic movement under the leadership of Rachid Ghannouchi is expected to fare well in democratic elections scheduled for this summer.

Radical Islamists gathered outside a synagogue in Tunis and chanted anti-Semitic slogans. Footage taken from the scene shows them chanting “Allahu Akbar” and “Khaybar, Khaybar. Oh Jews, Muhammad’s army will return”. They were referring to the Battle of Khaybar, which was fought in the year 629 between Muhammad and his followers against the Jews living in the oasis of Khaybar, located 150 kilometers (95 miles) from Medina in the modern-day Saudi Arabia (song came recently famous as it was popular song also in Gaza flotilla).

John Rees writes in his analysis The Tunisian Revolution in historical context as follows:

It is still possible in Tunisia that the ruling elite, having jettisoned only their hated figurehead, will attempt to crush the movement by force and restore the old regime virtually unmodified. It is also possible that there will be some transition to a weak form of bourgeois democracy where there is a change in the political structure of the country but no change to the underlying property relations. The fate of the Tunisian revolution is, so far, still hanging in the balance. Will it result in more far reaching political change? Will the momentum of the considerable working class opposition to the old dictator, including the General Strike, which was crucial in breaking his Presidency, carry the revolution forward to confront capitalist property revolutions? Will political currents emerge that represent this perspective? These questions are still to be answered.


Demography factor

One major cause behind the unrest on Arab streets is demographic expansion in all these countries. Although birth rates are falling, a third of the overall population is below 15 years old, and large numbers of young women either are or soon will be reaching reproductive age. The Ministry of Defense in the UK has projected that by 2030 the population of the Middle East will have increased by 132%, and that of sub-Saharan Africa by 81%, generating an unprecedented “youth bulge.” As unemployment among youth is high and there is no sign for improvement, the perspective for better future is rather dim.

Below I have collected some statistics reflecting demographic challenge:

Country Population % < 30

Jobless

youth

Ruler
Algeria

34,6

57

45,6

A. Boutflika, 11 years
Bahrain

1,2

+56

54.1

King Ali Khalifa
Jordania

6,4

64

27

King Hussein
Egypt

80,5

61

21,7

Military council 0 years
Libya

6,5

60

27,5

M. Gaddafi, 42 years
Morocco

31,6

56

21,9

King Muhammed VI, 11 y.
Saudi Arabia

25,7

61

16,3

King Abdullah, 6 years
Sudan

43,9

69

na

O. al-Bashir, 18 years
Syria

22,2

66

16,5

B. al-Assad, 11 years
Tunisia

10,6

50

27,3

Interim 1 month
Yemen

23,5

72

18,7

Ali Saleh, 32 years

Demography is creating other problems – than radicalism and unrest – which are limiting socio-economic solutions. The Water Sector Assessment Report on the Gulf countries expects that the availability of fresh water is likely to halve because of demographic pressures. A halving of available water supplies due to population growth over the next 20 years could all too easily intensify tensions and turn them into civil wars and international military hostilities.


Democracy now

According The Economist report the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) remains the most repressive region in the world—16 out of 20 countries in the region are categorized as authoritarian. There are only four exceptions: Israel is the only democracy in the region, albeit a flawed democracy; and there are three hybrid regimes (Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories). The average score of countries in the region declined from an already very low 3.54 in 2008 to 3.43 in 2010, almost a point below the next lowest-scoring region, Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of democracy, on a 0 to 10 scale, is based on the ratings for 60 indicators grouped in five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.


Meanwhile in Iran

In Iran demonstrations were initiated by Iranian opposition figures in ostensible solidarity with the popular protests in Egypt and elsewhere, but were plainly intended to revive the post-election protests of 2009. “How, after all, it will be wondered, can Ahmadinejad say ‘yes’ to the rights of the Arab peoples, but deny those same rights to his own people?”

Iran’s protests have sparked hope among observers of the region that the country might see a grassroots, Egypt-style uprising that would unseat the ruling theocracy. However the circumstances between Egypt and Iran differ. In the Islamic Republic there are security forces eager to do exactly what the Egyptian military were not willing to do – beat, and even shoot and kill citizens protesting on the streets. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and fiercely loyalist Basij militia consider it a “sacred duty” to quell anti-government dissent. According Hagai M. Segal, a lecturer on Middle Eastern Affairs at New York University in London “Iran has welcomed events in Egypt, yet has suppressed its own democracy movement, and even while celebrating events in Egypt they have banned public demonstrations in its favor because it fears Iranian protesters back on the streets,” he said. “Mousavi, Karroubi and others wish to remind Iranians and the West of this double standard, and if possible, reignite their own ‘revolution’ in the process.” (Source: Jerusalem Post)


My conclusions

If the people don’t go home, the regime will have a problem” (Menashe Amir)

Nelson Mandela said many times that while in prison he saw too many postcolonial leaders come to power only to abuse their people and rob them of the promises of liberation. Revolutionary movements invariably split into factions. Their sole common objective is the ouster of the existing regime. As soon as this goal comes close to being achieved, elements of the opposition begin to position themselves for the second phase of the struggle and the coming competition for power.


I am afraid (but hopefully wrong) that it is unlikely demonstrations to result in a widespread fall of regimes in near future. There may be more change among dictators, some military coups and modest reforms. However the regimes and economical interest groups behind them may stay almost untouched and the outcome at best is only an updated illusion of democracy.


Epilogue

A fresh documentary film “People & Power– Egypt: Seeds of change by Al-Jazeera reveals the story behind the unprecedented political protests in Egypt. Over the course of a remarkable fortnight, People&Power has been filming exclusively behind the scenes with a core group of young activists. It also shows how they studied “lessons learned” from Otpor – a student movement in Serbia, which helped to oust Milosevic some ten years ago.


Watch film Here!

Some of my other Middle East articles:




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BalkanBlog, crisis management, Middle-East

Egypt at crossroads – theocracy, democracy or something between


While Yasmin Revolution in Tunisia inspired population throughout Arab world and wide support to change regime got decisive role in Egypt it was clear that Tunisia was not an isolated event – some process has started with geopolitical consequences. Mubarak’s ouster in Egypt is one step with process and it is still unclear how far and how deep the outcome will be as well where the tremors will reach.

Egypt has came to a crossroads – Egyptians may choose to embrace the model of a secular reformist state with a prominent role for the military as Turkey has done; there is a second possibility that the Islamists exploit the influence to gradually take the country into a reverse direction – not towards modernity and reform but backward, nearest example could be Iran. With smaller scale the same is possible in Tunisia too as well with rest of some twenty Arab countries short of democracy. If all countries on the Arab road make the same selection towards Islam so an Islamic Caliphate could be reality. Islamic radicals seek to take over governments from North Africa to Southeast Asia and to re-establish a caliphate they hope, one day, will include every continent. Islamic United States is a central aim of some radical groups.

ISLAMIC CALIPHATE – Arab version (Pakistani version includes also India and Bosnia)

Now there is a moment for change, I would claim that the status quo is sooner or later unsustainable in all Arab countries. However in all probability the roads will differ from country to country. Arab regimes have a choice: They can either lead a reform process from above or watch it take place in the streets below, different interest groups on the street level may implement different agendas.

The Egyptian autocrats removed the Internet from Egypt; the Chinese autocrats removed Egypt from the Internet. (an anonymous quote from web forum)

The popular unrest in the Arab world has even reached Libya. There have been calls in Libya for demonstrations next week to protest against Muammar Gaddafi’s 41.5-year rule. From social media I have got messages that especially youth is trying to collect people for 25th February demonstration but Libya’s regime is not waiting escalation passively – internet is blocked, many prominent bloggers and tweeter are arrested and related facebook sites hacked. As Gaddafi has iron grip in country the time for revolution might not have arrived – yet.


The demonstrators

The workers are the primary instigators of the Egyptian uprising. The April 6 group of young labor activists first came to prominence when they supported strikes by textile factory workers in Mahalla al-Kubra and elsewhere for improved wages and work conditions. There have been more than 3,000 labor actions by Egyptian workers since 2004. The pro-labor youth activists have been among the major leaders of the uprising in the past week, and had pioneered the use of Facebook and Twitter for such purposes. According DEBKAfile large sections of Egypt’s economic machinery are shut down by spreading strikes. Although reforms and pay hikes have been pledged by the new Egyptian government, large groups of workers, mainly in Cairo, rebelled against state-appointed managements and set up “Revolutionary Committees” to run factories and other work places, including Egyptian state TV and Egypt’s biggest weekly “Ros el-Yusuf.”

 

From How to Protest Intelligently -leaflet

While some demonstrators may demand for Western-style liberal democracy the main part of them have their interests with the state of the Egyptian economy – Egypt’s peasants, workers and merchant class to rise en masse. The demonstrators are clearly united in opposing Mubarak as an individual, and to a large extent united in opposing the regime. Beyond that, there is a deep divide in the opposition and thus far do not appear to have been able to generate the type of mass movement that toppled the Shah of Iran’s regime in 1979.

From How to Protest Intelligently -leaflet

In social media there is not so many tweets espousing Islamic extremism, instead there are many of them supporting Socialist/Marxist themes. Tunisian public rising was clearly against former dictator Ben Ali and his local and foreign collaborators in the US, Israel, France, Germany and Italy. In the first post-Ben Ali government of Tunisia at least six new people of a 17 member cabinet were selected from these groups. Similar as in Tunisia also Egyptian grassroots big part of political activists are coming from Socialist/Marxist/Unionist circles. In Egypt there are some of the more well-known socialists groups involved in kicking off the January 25th protests (Source and more in The Graph: The Socialist Roots Of The Egyptian Protests ):

  • Kafya/Kefaya – “The Egyptian Movement for Change” – Translated to English it means “enough”. It’s made up of socialists, Marxists, (seems ‘Change’ means the same to them as it did to Barack) secularists and Islamists. Some see this group as Mubarak’s primary opposition group.
  • Tagammu – “National Progressive Unionist Party” – a socialist political party in Egypt that rejects religious extremism.
  • Mahalla/April 6th – a large group of unionists/socialists and their youth supporters.
  • The Center for Socialist Studies – an Egyptian group in Giza committed to bringing about “revolutionary socialism”.
  • Nasserites – mainly Arab nationalism combined with socialism and secularism. Named after former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. These supporters tended to be older in age and were in much smaller numbers at the protests, but their worldview is mostly consistent with their younger counterparts.

From How to Protest Intelligently -leaflet

The political Islam waits on the sidelines. The Muslim Brotherhood has not been instrumental in this movement to date. The socialists involved in the January 25th uprising do not trust the Muslim Brotherhood politically because they see that group as beholden to Egyptian capitalism. However, the Brotherhood has money, powerful people who don’t mind engaging in murder, and years of organization on their side. If they want to co-opt this movement, they’ll be a force that the Egyptian neo-Marxists have to deal with. Based on events in Tunisia and Egypt The Graph concludes that

it’s clear that the current “revolution” in Africa has more to do with socialism than it does about Islamic fundamentalism, although the latter is playing a strong secondary role within some of the factions. Socialism has very deep roots in the Egypt and the Middle East going back to the era of Salama Moussa who wrote the first Arabic book on socialism in 1912 titled, “Al-Ishtirākiyya (The Socialism)”. Moussa also helped form Egypt’s Socialist Party (later to be renamed the Communist Party in 1923) in 1921.

Protests have begun in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Albania, and Jordan and they are planned to take place also in Syria, Libya and the rest of Arab world. There may not be a common ideology behind these protests, but e.g. in Albania the Socialist Party is speaking out against the current government.

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB)

The Muslim Brotherhood may look so far like bystander; however it is may get even decisive role with further developments. Though many members of the MB joined the protests, they maintained a low profile. The group’s traditional slogans were not seen in Tahrir Square. However inside MB there exists many views. One of them came publicity via Muhammad Ghanem, representative of Muslim Brotherhood in London, who demanded civil disobedience but also “Halting Passage through the Suez Canal… and Preparing for War with Israel”.


Egypt’s MB always remained a pragmatic organization, true militant Islamists or jihadist groups are e.g. Tandheem al-Jihad, which was behind Sadat’s assassination, and Gamaa al-Islamiyah, which led a violent insurgency in the 1990s responsible for the killings of foreign tourists. There is some base to claim that majority of Islamists who are not jihadists and instead are political forces. The MB is internally divided. It faces a generational struggle, with an old guard trying to prevent its ideals from being diluted while a younger generation looks to Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) as a role model. The core question – without clear answer – is if the Muslim Brotherhood will remain a benign force in the event that it came into power.

The Muslim Brotherhood has participated to electoral competition and representation, developed new professional competencies and skills, and forged closer ties with Egyptian activists, researchers, journalists, and politicians outside the Islamist camp; indeed the MB could well evolve to be more like Turkey’s Justice and Development (AK) Party.

In her article What the Brotherhood Is and How it Will Shape the Future published in Foreign Affairs, Carrie Rosefsky Wickham concludes following:

It remains to be seen whether the Brotherhood as an organization — not only individual members — will accept a constitution that does not at least refer to sharia; respect the rights of all Egyptians to express their ideas and form parties; clarify its ambiguous positions on the rights of women and non-Muslims; develop concrete programs to address the nation’s toughest social and economic problems; and apply the same pragmatism it has shown in the domestic arena to issues of foreign policy, including relations with Israel and the West.

As Muslim Brotherhood rule is one possible option in future Egypt and to understand the implications, The Palestinian Media Watch has translated the important MB book “Jihad is the way” by Mustafa Mashhur, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, 1996-2002. Translation can be found from PMW site.

Non-violent revolution

Anonymous leaflets How to Protest Intelligently – circulating in Cairo also provide practical and tactical advice for mass demonstrations, confronting riot police, and besieging and taking control of government offices. Signed “long live Egypt”, the slickly produced 26-page document calls on demonstrators to begin with peaceful protests, carrying roses but no banners, and march on official buildings while persuading policemen and soldiers to join their ranks. The leaflet ask recipients to redistribute it by email and photocopy, but not to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which are being monitored by the security forces. Here some translated pages of How to Protest Intelligently :

Revolution flag of Egypt 1919

One previous model for recent upraising in Egypt is what Egyptians havealways called the “Revolution of 1919”, though many English histories follow the British colonial usage and call it an uprising. Like 2011, 1919 had no clear leadership and was largely a genuine popular uprising. It had its own flag, with the crescent and the cross to show both Muslims and Copts supported it, a symbol has be seen occasionally also recent demonstrations.

Attitudes in Egypt

In a survey conducted April 12 to May 7, 2010, the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project examined the views of Egypt and six other Muslim publics about politics and the role Islam should play in it. A 59%-majority of Muslims in Egypt believed that democracy was preferable to any other kind of government. About one-in-five (22%), however, said that in some circumstances, a non-democratic government could be preferable, and another 16% said it did not matter what kind of government is in place for a person in their situation. Besides attitudes to different questions in Egypt the following tables include also results in some selected countries where the same survey took place: (Source: Pew Research Center publication )



Hardliners exporting terrorism

The Gaza Strip was clearly an exporter of terrorism to Egypt before the current crisis began. Egypt’s outgoing interior minister, and after him the Egypt media, accused the Army of Islam operating in the Gaza Strip of involvement in the mass-casualty suicide bombing attack at a Coptic church in Alexandria (January 2011, 25 killed and at least 80 wounded). Army of Islam operatives in the Gaza Strip were accused of directing terrorist activities in Egypt for Al-Qaeda and of contacting terrorist operatives through the tunnels under the Egyptian-Gazan border (which, according to the outgoing interior minister, threaten Egypt’s national security). The Army of Islam was also accused of involvement in other terrorist attacks carried out in Egypt in recent years, including one in the El Khalili bazaar in Cairo which killed a woman tourist from France (February 22, 2009).Various jihadist-Salafist networks affiliated with Al-Qaeda thrive in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The Army of Islam (Jayish al-Islam), established in 2006, is one of the most prominent. It -temporary – later joined by operatives of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing.


Another example of internal Arab terrorism with roots in the Gaza Strip was the exposure of a terrorist network in Morocco. In June 2010 an eleven-man cell of Moroccans from Casablanca, Azjlal (in the Atlas mountains) and Oujda (in eastern Morocco), as well of Palestinians, was exposed. The cell was headed by Yahya al-Hindi, aka Abu Qutada al-Shami, a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip. He had previously been a Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative and was influenced by Al-Qaeda’s ideology. ( Source: The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center )

Israel’s security concern

PM Netanyahu’s early comments were supporting Mubarak, but few days later statements from Israel were moderated more towards understanding the need to replace him. President Obama publicly sided with the protesters’ cause, but is secretly helping the army play for time and keep Mubarak going for the interim; now also Israel and its intelligence have joined the effort. Israel’s early support for Mubarak was probably based on fear that Mubarak’s regime will be replaced with Islamist regime, he anyway was capable of keeping the Muslim Brotherhood in its place. Israel may have hard experiences about Brotherhood’s activities in Gaza strip, however the views in this organization are not one to one with those among Iran’s ayatollahs.


Israel assumed that its victory in 1967 had improved its national security. First, it provided Israel with strategic depth, which it never had before. An attack by its neighbors, particularly Egypt and Syria, would first be fought outside of Israel. On 1973 Israel was forced to revise its overconfident position as happened what the Israelis call the Yom Kippur War and the Arabs call the Ramadan War. Just six years after their 1967 defeat, the Egyptians mounted a two-army assault across the Suez, coordinated with a simultaneous Syrian attack on the Golan Heights. Even more stunning than the assault was the operational security the Egyptians maintained and the degree of surprise they achieved. One of Israel’s fundamental assumptions was that Israeli intelligence would provide ample warning of an attack. And one of the fundamental assumptions of Israeli intelligence was that Egypt could not mount an attack while Israel maintained air superiority. Both assumptions were wrong. But the most important error was the assumption that Egypt could not, by itself, coordinate a massive and complex military operation. In the end, the Israelis defeated the Egyptians, but at the cost of the confidence they achieved in 1967 and a recognition that comfortable assumptions were impermissible in warfare in general and regarding Egypt in particular.


The Egyptian recognition that its interests in Israel were minimal and the Israeli recognition that eliminating the potential threat from Egypt guaranteed its national security have been the foundation of the regional balance since 1978.

To be continued: revolts, reforms, coups, revolutions…?

Situation in Egypt is so appalling that a military takeover of the regime is a serious future scenario. This is no new idea – in 1952, Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser staged a military coup that displaced the Egyptian monarchy, civilian officers in the military, and British influence in Egypt. Nasser created a government based on military power as the major stabilizing and progressive force in Egypt. His revolution was secular and socialist. On Nasser’s death, Anwar Sadat replaced him. On Sadat’s assassination, Hosni Mubarak replaced him. Both of these men came from the military as Nasser did.

Thinking different scenarios forward so first one could be that the regime might survive with or probably without Mubarak. Under the same scenario there may be a coup of the army staff.  A second possibility is that the demonstrators might force elections in which ElBaradei or someone like him could be elected and Egypt might proceed on the path of democracy. The third possibility is that the demonstrators force elections, which the Muslim Brotherhood could win and move forward with an Islamist-oriented agenda. And then there is a possibility that Egypt will sink into political chaos.

Egypt’s society is diverse enough to withstand a despotic theocracy and if in doubt so the army is the final guarantor. Sustainable significant change requires a new political structure, as well as a new process that ensures free and fair elections and adequate opportunities for popular participation. Real democracy must be substantive as well as procedural, bringing human security to the people, including basic needs, decent work, and a police that protects rather than harasses.

In my opinion the outcome in Egypt and maybe in other Arab countries in near future will be a reform not revolution, that is, changes in personnel and policies, protection of human rights, but no challenge to the structure or the constitution.  I am afraid so but the events so far are giving hope that surprises are also possible.

Geopolitical outcome

For radical Islam a radicalized Egypt could give a great boost even if Islamist Egypt would not be an Iranian ally. However for the United States, an Islamist Egypt would be a strategic catastrophe. Also Israel would be endangered. Israel’s national security has rested on its treaty with Egypt. The demilitarization of the Sinai Peninsula not only protected Israel’s southern front, it meant that the survival of Israel was no longer at stake. In all of the wars Israel fought after its treaty with Egypt (the 1982 and 2006 wars in Lebanon) Israeli interests, but not survival, were at stake. Islamic Egypt would bring a multi-front war again on the table.

If the military regime retains power the geopolitical arrangements would remain in place, except in case where new regime must get popularity by anti-Western and anti-Israeli policy to get support base from the Muslim Brotherhood. If the advocates for democracy win, and if they elect someone like ElBaradei, it is unlikely that this scenario would take place. The pro-Western democratic faction is primarily concerned with domestic issues, are themselves secular and would not want to return to the wartime state prior to Camp David, because that would simply strengthen the military. If they win power, the geopolitical arrangements would remain unchanged.

If there are significant threats to US interests in Suez, and particularly if workers and unemployed start taking over whole areas and start to self-organise it is possible that US will ally with new regime based on army coup.

So the Western governments could be more afraid of the arrival of democratic institutions in the Middle-East than of military stable dictatorships. Anyway the outcome doesn’t depend on what the European Union, Tehran or Washington says so let’s give the stage to locals.

Some of my other Middle East articles:


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