Posts Tagged ‘Mittlerer Osten’

Ägypten: Schlacht verloren

Dienstag, August 28th, 2012

“Egyptian Military Checkmated

Behind Morsi’s Momentous Decision


Ever since early April when he became an official candidate in the first post-revolution presidential election, Dr. Mohammad Morsi has been generally dismissed by most political observers as a weak and unimpressive politician. In fact, he was an accidental contender since he was the stand-in candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) first choice, senior leader Khairat Al-Shater. The MB fielded Morsi as its back-up candidate on the last day of filing because it predicted correctly that its original candidate would be disqualified by the pro-SCAF Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC).

As Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) took the reigns of power in February 2011, many observers believed that a tacit understanding existed between the powerful Egyptian military and the MB, the most organized political and social group in Egypt. For the next eighteen months, this complicated and largely behind the scenes contentious relationship between these two powerful entities had its ups and downs.

When SCAF sided with millions of Egyptians in ousting Hosni Mubarak in early Feb. 2011, it was not to advance the objectives of the revolution but rather to sacrifice the president in order to save his regime. Throughout 2011, there were three centers of powers in the country: SCAF with its apparent military power, the MB with its enormous capacity for organization and mass mobilization, and the other revolutionary and grassroots groups (dominated by the youth but politically unorganized and inexperienced) taking to the streets throughout the year while paying a terrible price with dozens martyred, hundreds wounded, and thousands detained in military show trials.

When SCAF cracked down on the revolutionary groups, especially during the fall of 2011, the MB refrained from challenging the military as it was in the midst of its campaign for the parliamentary elections. By January 2012, it was clear that the Islamist groups led by the MB had won almost seventy five percent of the seats in both parliamentary chambers. As the MB flexed its muscle and asked to be allowed to form the next government, SCAF refused and threatened the group with the dissolution of parliament. Shortly after, the MB reversed its public promise not to field a contender and actually filed for two presidential candidates.

Within days the military revealed its preferred candidate, Gen. Ahmad Shafiq, the last prime minister of the Mubarak regime. Consequently the tension of the two groups came to the fore as SCAF and the Egyptian deep state (where the remnants of the Mubarak regime still occupied strategic positions and were in control of the state bureaucracy) did everything in their power during the first round of the presidential elections in late May to split the opposition and support their candidate in order to get him to the second round.

Despite their apprehension over the MB’s past broken promises, the revolutionary groups largely coalesced behind Morsi, the other winner of the first round, in the runoff elections, which he barely won with just over 51 percent of the vote. When it became clear on the last day of the runoff elections on June 17 that its candidate might lose, SCAF carried out a sweeping power grab as it dissolved the MB-dominated parliament, reclaimed all legislative powers to itself, issued a constitutional declaration that largely diminished the office of president, and assigned itself the right to appoint the constitution-writing committee if the current one was invalidated as expected by the SCC. In short, by the time Morsi took the oath of office on June 30, SCAF -which essentially ruled the country for the past 16 months- was effectively in control of the most important levers of power relegating the elected president to the position of a figurehead with diminished authority.

By the end of the first week of his presidency, Morsi issued a presidential proclamation, which re-instituted the parliament while calling for new parliamentary elections shortly after the constitution is approved by the people in a national referendum. Within 48 hours, the SCC swiftly overruled him and reversed his decision while affirming SCAF’s constitutional declaration. Morsi reluctantly accepted its decision averting an impending confrontation, which confirmed in the minds of his detractors his weakness and political naiveté.

Morsi’s tactical retreat of this early challenge to SCAF’s power emboldened the remnants of the Mubarak regime as a public campaign of belittling and undermining the newly elected Islamist president began in earnest. Barely a month into his presidency, his opponents, which included not only SCAF and Shafiq supporters, but also anti-Islamic liberal and secular groups, called for mass protests to oust him that were scheduled for August 24 under the theme “toppling the rule of the Brotherhood.”

Meanwhile, Morsi had difficulties forming a government as he faced many obstacles since most political groups and prominent figures tried to impose unacceptable demands that restricted his presidential authority. By the end of July, he opted for a cabinet that was dominated by technocrats. Out of thirty-five cabinet positions, only ten ministers represented pro-revolution figures, five of which were from his own MB-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). However, these cabinet ministers occupied some of the strategic positions in government that he hoped would bring about long-term structural reforms including the ministries of Housing, Labor, Information, Education, and Youth. But perhaps the most significant appointment was that of Judge Ahmad Makki as the new justice minister. Makki was well known as one of the fiercest critics of Mubarak and is a long time champion of judicial independence. Upon assuming office he immediately took steps to institute new policies geared towards this goal.

But many other ministers were also carry-overs from previous cabinets including the relatively unknown minister of water resources, Dr. Hisham Qandil, 50, who was elevated to the position of prime minister. Although considered by many as a lightweight, the relatively young American-educated prime minister is well regarded for his efficiency and honesty. Morsi also retained SCAF’s head, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi as defense minister and the ministers of foreign affairs and finance, as well as the heads of intelligence and other senior military and security leaders. Most observers concluded that Tantawi, SCAF, and the security agencies had won this round and would be in effective control of the most important strategic positions in government.

For the first month of his presidency, Morsi treated the military institutions and SCAF leaders not only with extraordinary respect but even with reverence as he sought to earn their trust. Many assumed that he had accepted SCAF’s constitutional proclamation that relegated him to a secondary role. Many foreign dignitaries visiting Egypt, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, made a point in meeting not only with Morsi but also with Tantawi. While in the country even her brief statements were awkward as she counseled the president and SCAF’s head to work together as though the country had two functioning heads of state.

But what everyone failed to see was that during this period Morsi was studying the power relationships within SCAF and the other security agencies. He was able during this brief period to identify those military and security leaders whose loyalty were to Tantawi and his chief-of-staff Gen. Sami Anan. In short, he was waiting for the right moment to make his move with minimal confrontation. Luckily for him that opportunity came soon enough.

On August 5, in the midst of the holy month of Ramadan, dozens of unidentified militants with unclear motives and without any provocation attacked a checkpoint in the Sinai at the Egypt-Gaza border as the unsuspecting soldiers were breaking their fast, killing sixteen guards and wounding seven. As a result, the nation was shocked and enraged. Many political analysts and commentators blamed the lack of security on the military that neglected its main duties in protecting and securing the borders while its leaders were fully engaged in politics and ruling the country despite electing a civilian president.

Morsi immediately seized the moment and visited the Sinai twice in a week declaring his resolve to restore security and punish the perpetrators. However, his critics also took advantage of the tragic attack calling him weak and ineffective. On August 7 Morsi cancelled his appearance to attend the funerals of the fallen soldiers as it came to his attention that he would physically be attacked by the remnants of the Mubarak regime. In fact, many public figures considered by the remnants to be Morsi’s supporters including Qandil, his prime minister, and former presidential candidate Dr. Abdelmoneim Aboul Fotouh, were attacked and insulted during the funeral procession, while SCAF’s leaders and other former Mubarak-regime figures were hailed.

The following day on Aug. 8, Morsi seized the opportunity and dismissed intelligence chief Murad Mowafi, who was Omar Suleiman’s replacement when Mubarak appointed the latter as his vice president in Jan. 2011, during the height of the popular protests. He also sacked two SCAF members (the heads of the military police and the Cairo security force) and replaced them with officials he trusted. Under intense public pressure Tantawi and SCAF could not object although such decisions were technically within their prerogatives as the June 17 constitutional proclamation barred the president from appointing or dismissing any military personnel or ranked officers.

On the morning of Aug. 12, Morsi quietly called the head of military intelligence Lt. Gen. Abdelfattah El-Sisi, 57, and the head of the third army Lt. Gen. Sedky Sobhi, 55, both current SCAF members who behind the scenes have been critical of Tantawi, 76, and Anan, 74, for neglecting the military and delving into politics. Morsi not only promoted them as generals but also offered them the positions of minister of defense and chief of staff, respectively. Upon accepting their new assignments, they were sworn in before the president, his prime minister, and other presidential advisors.

Morsi then called Tantawi and Anan for a meeting that afternoon. Calmly, he thanked them for their service and informed them that they have been dismissed and that their replacements have been sworn in. He also called the military general in charge of military budget Lt. Gen. Mohammad Nasr. After assuring him that he was not dismissed, Morsi ordered Gen. Nasr to report the details of the financial situation at the defense ministry as if to signal the start of a new era in front of Tantawi and Anan.

Morsi also soothed any ill-feeling by the generals as he sent an unmistakable signal to Egypt’s de facto military leaders during the transitional period that they would not be tried or humiliated as he informed them that he would be honoring them in public by presenting them the Collar of the Nile and the Republic, the highest medals in the country. He also appointed them as presidential advisors. Nevertheless, both were reportedly stunned. On his way out of the presidential palace, Tantawi was heard cursing in anger.

Immediately, Morsi’s spokesman, Yasir Ali announced in a nationally televised press conference that the president cancelled SCAF’s June 17 constitutional declaration that assigned many presidential and legislative powers to SCAF. He also announced a new constitutional declaration that transferred the same powers that SCAF allocated to itself in its previous declaration back to the president, including legislative powers in the absence of parliament and the appointment and dismissal of military officers.

During the press conference, Ali also announced the appointment of a new vice president, Judge Mahmoud Makki, the younger brother of the justice minister. The younger Makki also has an outstanding reputation as an exemplary, independent, and powerful jurist. His appointment was seen as a counterweight to any rumblings by the pro-SCAF Supreme Court’s senior justices who might challenge Morsi’s decisions.

Morsi’s spokesman then announced to the nation the dismissal of not only Tantawi and Anan but also the heads of the Navy, Air Force, and Air Defense, the most senior SCAF generals. Understanding the politics within SCAF, all three generals were also reassigned to senior civilian positions as heads of companies running the Suez Canal and military industry productions. State television then aired the images taken that morning of Morsi swearing-in the new defense minister and chief of staff.

Underestimated by his critics and dismissed by his opponents, Morsi has demonstrated coolness under pressure, toughness, and shrewdness uncharacteristic to Egyptian politicians. With the exceptions of Mubarak’s remnants his actions were overwhelmingly approved by Egyptians from diverse political, ideological, and pro-revolution groups.

The new generals Morsi choose to lead the Egyptian military, Sisi and Sobhi, embody a new brand of officers. In their mid-fifties, they represent a new generation distinguished from the Mubarak-era generation in their late seventies. The new defense minister is considered not only a critic of Mubarak and his regime but also of the former senior SCAF leaders. He is also distinguished as a religious person in one of the most secular institutions in the country. This characteristic no doubt has endeared him to the Islamist president. Gen. Sisi is also on record advocating the return of the military to its professional duties and staying away from any engagement in domestic politics. Unlike his predecessors, Gen. Sisi had also publicly criticized NATO’s recent involvement in Libya, and has called for the assertion of Egypt’s sovereignty and independence.

Furthermore, on Aug. 16 the New York Times revealed that the new chief-of-staff, Gen. Sobhi, wrote a paper for the Naval War College seven year ago that was highly critical of American foreign policy in the Middle East, especially with regard to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Extraordinarily, he wrote that, “the permanent withdrawal of United States military forces from the Middle East and the Gulf should be a goal of U.S. strategy in the region.”

Taking advantage of the deterioration of security in the Sinai, Morsi and his new military cadres sent hundreds of tanks, helicopters, other military equipment, and thousands of soldiers to the peninsula in order to fight the militant groups in a direct violation of the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, which called for severe restrictions on the number of Egyptian soldiers and military equipment to be deployed in the Sinai. Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported on Aug. 16 that the Israeli government bitterly complained to the U.S. about the lack of consultation by the Egyptians and their disregard in seeking their approval as stipulated in the treaty.

On Aug. 21, Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv wrote that what mostly disturbed the Israeli government was not the deployment of forces and equipment which it would have temporarily approved, but the fact that Egyptian officials are openly challenging the restrictions in the treaty, accusing the Israelis themselves of violating it many times before when they attacked Gaza. Other Egyptian politicians and senior MB leaders have also publicly vowed to re-assert complete sovereignty over the Sinai regardless of the treaty stipulations.

On the day of the military shake-up in Cairo, the U.S. government initially declared that it was surprised by Morsi’s decisions. The following day State Department spokesperson Victoria Noland said that the U.S. was aware of the pending shuffle but was surprised by its timing. In response, Ali, Morsi’s spokesman denied that anyone, let alone the Americans, knew or was informed of the sweeping decisions. So it is unlikely that anyone knew beforehand since clearly when both Secretary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently visited Cairo, they met with Morsi and Tantawi in an attempt to mediate between the parties.

While the U.S. has publicly called for reinstating civilian rule and the restoration of presidential powers, the administration is very much concerned about the independent path asserted by Morsi. For many decades, Mubarak’s Egypt was a U.S. client state ready to support any dictate of U.S. foreign policy in the region. In addition, the U.S. gave the military an annual subsidy of $1.3 billion in order to maintain its leverage over this critical institution. Now, U.S. policymakers – to the detriment of Israel and its American supporters- have to be much more sensitive to Egyptian public opinion and its leaders’ insistence to assert their national sovereignty and independence.

But the first test of this new but complicated relationship has come soon enough. For years the U.S. government has meticulously tried to isolate Iran in the region. It recently called on Egypt not to restore its diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic but to join a tacit regional alliance against it. American allies in the Arab world led by Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. have surreptitiously conditioned their economic aid to Egypt on maintaining a hostile or cold attitude towards Iran. Despite all these pressures, President Morsi recently extended an extremely warm welcome to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when the two met last week during the Islamic Conference in Saudi Arabia. He subsequently announced a visit to China and Iran at the end of August despite the U.S. public displeasure over the visit.

Subsequently Morsi also announced that the only sensible way to address the crisis in Syria was not through the U.N. or NATO involvement, but through negotiations overseen by Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, a bold move that combined the most important players in the region while ignoring all outsiders. On Aug. 23, theNew York Times reported that the U.S. and Israel were extremely concerned about such overtures between Tehran and Cairo and that such concerns will be at the top of the agenda when Morsi visits Washington at the end of September.

Since he became president many pro-Mubarak remnants and hardcore Shafiq supporters started a campaign of attacks and insults against President Morsi and the MB in an attempt to depose him and destabilize his nascent government. This campaign was manifested through many private media outlets that they controlled, including daily newspapers, magazines, and satellite channels. In one particular instance Islam Afifi, the editor-in-chief of the daily Al-Dostoor initiated a vicious campaign of lies, fabrications, and slander that were directed not only against Morsi but also his family. In Egypt, any citizen can file a criminal complaint to the state prosecutor who must investigate and decide on whether or not to prosecute. In this case the state prosecutor – who acts independently of the president- decided to prosecute.

Moreover, the law in Egypt also empowers judges to jail defendants prior to their conviction if there is a prima facie case against them. Once the trial commenced on Aug. 23 the judge ordered the immediate arrest of Afifi pending his trial. Within hours, President Morsi used his legislative powers and issued a law that banned the imprisonment of journalists because of their opinion not only pre-conviction but also post-conviction. The penalty in the new libel law is no longer criminal but civil. But if convicted, the defendant would have to pay a hefty fine. Because of the new law the editor was freed immediately, thanks only to the person that he has been deceitfully slandering for weeks.

While it took decades to curtail the influence of the army in running the country in countries like Turkey and Spain, Morsi was able to overcome it in a matter of weeks. But one should be under no illusion that the influence of the military in Egypt has disappeared. The Egyptian military is still a major player not only in foreign affairs but also in Egypt’s economy, possibly controlling as much as twenty to thirty percent of its GDP. The disengagement of the military from politics could prove to be much easier and smoother than extricating its economic interests so it can focus on its main mission in protecting the country. But Egypt’s modern military is a sixty year-old professional institution. And it is to the great credit of this institution that such dramatic changes took place without much rift or rupture within it.

By quietly reining in SCAF’s rule, Morsi was able to overcome his greatest challenge to date. Meanwhile, the pro-Mubarak remnants and their anti-Muslim Brotherhood allies trying to undermine his rule have mobilized in order to depose him on Aug. 24, while most revolutionary and nationalist groups have declined to join and condemned their rhetoric of insults and divisiveness. Although the movement to depose him will fizzle out, there is no doubt that Egyptian society is still divided over the role of Islam in public life. But this question will soon be answered as the Egyptian people will go to the polls again within the next six months in order to elect their representatives after they approve in a national referendum the new constitution that is currently being written.

But perhaps the foremost challenge facing the Egyptian president is how to assert real national sovereignty and independence in the face of tremendous pressures coming from all directions, foreign and domestic, in order to pull Egypt back to the U.S.-Israel orbit regardless of the will of the Egyptian people. That is clearly a challenge that cannot be overcome through issuing a presidential proclamation or ordering a reshuffle.

Esam Al-Amin can be contacted at


(Quelle: Counterpunch.)

NATO: …und jetzt gen Syrien?

Dienstag, September 6th, 2011

“Western powers have Syria in their sights

By Jean Shaoul
5 September 2011

Having achieved regime change in Libya through military intervention, the Western powers and their regional allies now have Syria firmly in their sights as part of their plans for re-dividing the resource-rich Middle East.

They are intent on using the six-month long protests and civil conflict that the Baathist regime of President Bashar al-Assad has brutally suppressed—at least 2,000 people are believed to have been killed and more than 10,000 arrested—to unseat Assad in favour of a more pliant tool of US imperialism.

Such a government would sever its links with Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and reach an accommodation with Israel, as part of Washington’s goal of isolating and ultimately overthrowing the government in Tehran.

The US and the European powers have thus far stopped short of threatening military force against Syria, but this could change. Ben Rhodes, the director of strategic communications at the National Security Council, said that Libya provided a model for how the US would use its military power where its interests were threatened, but, “How much we translate to Syria remains to be seen”

“The Syrian opposition doesn’t want foreign military forces but do want more countries to cut off trade with the regime and break with it politically”, he added.

Washington, London, France and Berlin are working together to bring the broadest possible diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on Syria in what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called an “international chorus of condemnation”, to lay the basis for more aggressive action in the future.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced fresh sanctions, banning Americans from doing business with Assad’s foreign minister and two other senior officials, and freezing their assets in the US. The US had earlier imposed sanctions on more than 30 Syrian officials, including Assad, and companies, and banned the import of Syrian oil or petroleum products.

The move was largely symbolic, as the US has no trade relations with Syria, More significant economic sanctions were imposed by the European Union. On Friday, the EU, which takes almost 95 percent of Syria’s oil, banned the import of all oil and gas products from Syria

These sanctions follow condemnations of the Syrian regime and demands for Assad to step down from US President Barack Obama and France, Germany and Britain.

The imperialist powers have been unable to get the UN Security Council to agree on a resolution calling for an arms embargo and financial sanctions against Assad and members of his regime due to opposition from Russia and China, but they are still seeking to get a resolution condemning Syria’s violent crackdown on the protests.

In an ominous move, reminiscent of the bogus claims of Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” used as the pretext for regime change, US and Israeli intelligence are claiming that Syria has a cache of chemical weapons and the means to deliver them.

Fox News cited the “belief” of US intelligence services that “Syria’s nonconventional weapons programs include significant stockpiles of mustard gas, VX and Sarin gas and the missile and artillery systems to deliver them.”

Israel’s ambassador to the US stated candidly “We see a lot of opportunity emerging from the end of the Assad regime.”

Turkey, a key US ally in the region, is stepping up the pressure on Assad and could yet act as a Western proxy for a military attack on Syria.

A few weeks ago, Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, delivered an ultimatum to Damascus calling for an immediate cessation of violence by Syria’s security forces.

Ankara has threatened to recall its ambassador to Damascus, as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf sheikdoms have already done, as a prelude to open military conflict. The Turkish government also warned that it would freeze all its investment in Syria, believed to be worth some $260 million. The Syrian economy is already reeling under the conflict, the cost of palliative measures announced by Assad earlier in the year, and the loss of tourism that accounts for 15 percent of the economy.

Last week, Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul declared he had “lost confidence” in the Assad regime, “Clearly we have reached a point where anything would be too little too late”, he said.

“Today in the world there is no place for authoritarian administrations, one-party rule, closed regimes”, he continued, threatening Assad that such governments could be “replaced by force” if their leaders did not make changes.

One of Turkey’s concerns is that Damascus has not done enough to suppress the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara believes operates from bases in Syria’s Kurdish northeastern provinces and supplies weaponry and other support to Kurdish oppositionists in Turkey’s southeast. The PKK seeks to establish an autonomous Kurdish state, adjacent to Turkey’s borders with Syria, Iran and Iraq, also home to significant Kurdish minorities.

This year has seen numerous demonstrations and protests in Istanbul, Izmir and the southeast, which security forces have dispersed with lethal force. Ankara has also bombed Kurdish villages in Turkey and Iraq following terrorist attacks on its armed forces, presumed to be the work of the PKK. Turkey also fears that the on-going unrest in Syria will lead to an influx of refugees from Syria, as happened after the 1991 Gulf War when hundreds of thousands of Kurds sought to flee Iraq.

Ankara has thus far been stymied by the lack of credible and united opposition forces to replace the Assad regime. It has therefore hosted several conferences of Syrian dissidents in an attempt to form a unified opposition with which Turkey and the major powers can do business. Last week, Syrian oppositionists meeting in Turkey announced the formation of the Syrian National Council, consisting of 94 members and with Burhan Ghalioun as president.

Ghalioun, an academic at Paris’s Sorbonne University who has lived outside Syria for most of the time since the 1970s, took part in Syria’s short-lived Damascus Spring in 2000-2001, soon after the present president took over from his father.

Syria’s Kurdish oppositionists largely boycotted the conference, accusing Turkey of seeking control of the anti-Assad movement through the medium of the Muslim Brotherhood. Barzan Bahram, a Syrian Kurdish writer, stated, “The Muslim Brotherhood is trying to exploit the change that is about to take place in Syria for their own gain. And the Turkish government is throwing its full support behind the Islamic groups to bring them to the forefront.”

In addition, Saudi Arabia is financing Sunni Salafist armed militants, many of whom returned radicalised by their experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Salafists are cultivating sectarianism against the minority Shia and Alawite sect to which the Assad and top brass in the military belong. Last month saw the discovery of covert arms shipments to Syria by Saudi-backed Lebanese politicians allied to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Syrian opposition figures also plan to visit Egypt September 8, to seek backing from the military junta.

Washington has long had plans to unseat Assad, but has lacked a credible opposition leadership. To this end, it has since 2005 funded external opposition groups, usually secular and often former regime supporters, and begun to train oppositionists. It has also funded the “human rights centres” that have provided the casualty figures and “eyewitness” reports to social network sites and the corporate media. The Damascus Centre for Human Rights is in partnership with the US National Endowment for Democracy while others receive funding from the Democracy Council and the International Republican Institute.

The deposing of Muammar Gaddafi by Western-military intervention has become a signal for the anti-Assad movement to shift openly to military conflict. Previously, the oppositionists denied Assad’s claims of their being armed, despite the fact that Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist oppositionists have been using antitank weapons and heavy machine guns for months, and the deaths of scores of military and security personnel.

On Sunday, Mohammad Rahhal, a leader of the Revolutionary Council of the Syrian Coordination Committees, told the London-based, Saudi-owned As-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper that the Council had decided to arm the Syrian “revolution”. He said, “We made our decision to arm the revolution which will turn violent very soon because what we are being subjected to today is a global conspiracy that can only be faced by an armed uprising.”

“The Arab countries, which are supposed to help and support us, are cowards, and they refuse to act,” he added. “Therefore, we will follow the Afghan example; when the Afghans were asked: Where will you get the weapons? They answered: As long as the United States is here, there will be weapons.”

Syrian protesters now carry banners calling for a no-fly zone over Syria, like that imposed in Libya. One banner read, “We want any [intervention] that stops the killing, whether Arab or foreign.”

The threats are being taken seriously by Tehran. On August 28, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the official IRNA news agency, “Syria is the front-runner in Middle Eastern resistance (to Israel) and NATO cannot intimidate this country with an attack … If, God forbid, such a thing happened, NATO would drown in a quagmire from which it would never be able to escape.”



Nordafrika / Mittlerer Osten: “Die Rolle des Internets wurde überschätzt”

Montag, Juli 18th, 2011


Sabine Geschwinder befragt Esra’a Al Shafei

“Wer ein Foto von Esra’a Al Shafei veröffentlichen will, bekommt einen Comic. Das ist sicherer. Denn die Studentin aus Bahrain betreibt ein Portal, bei dem kritische Stimmen aus Ländern wie Libyen oder Ägypten zu Wort kommen dürfen.

Comics gegen Homophobie, Gedichte, in denen schonungslos die Gewalt gegen Frauen dargestellt wird, oder Artikel, die direkt von Häftlingen aus dem Militärgefängnis stammen. Die Seite Mideast Youth bündelt jede Art von kritischen Stimmen, die sich für sozialen Wandel im Mittleren Osten oder Nordafrika einsetzen. Veröffentlichen kann jeder, der etwas beizutragen hat. Gegründet wurde die Seite vor fünf Jahren von der Studentin Esra’a Al Shafei, die zum Zeitpunkt der Gründung gerade 19 Jahre alt war. Mit Medien Monitor sprach die Internet-Aktivistin unter anderem über die Macht des Internets und die Angst vor Verfolgung.

Medien Monitor: Was glauben Sie, wird die Rolle des Internets in den Revolutionsbewegungen im Mittleren Osten über- oder unterschätzt?

Esra’a Al Shafei: Ich denke, in den aktuellen Revolutionen wurde die Rolle des Internets überschätzt und aufgeblasen. Mainstream-Medien sind auf den Zug aufgesprungen und haben die Bewegungen aufgebauscht, indem sie den Fokus besonders auf den Einsatz von Twitter und Facebook gelegt haben. Von den wirklichen Gründen, warum die Leute auf die Straße gegangen sind, haben sie abgelenkt. Diese Revolutionen “Facebook-Revolutionen”, “Twitter-Revolutionen” oder sogar “Internet-Revolutionen” zu nennen, ist genauso, als wenn man sie “Schuh-Revolutionen” nennen würde, nur weil alle Protest-Teilnehmer während der Proteste Schuhe getragen haben. Das Internet ist ein Werkzeug, nichts weiter. Man kann damit Wandel entfachen und man kann es nutzen, um Propaganda und Rassismus zu verbreiten. Den einzigen Unterschied macht nur die Entscheidung aus, wie man es nutzen will. Das Internet hat es aber möglich gemacht, dass Menschen diese Proteste verfolgen konnten, die sonst nicht dazu in der Lage gewesen wären.

Nach welchen Kriterien veröffentlichen Sie eigentlich die Artikel auf Ihrer Seite?

Die Artikel können offen eingestellt werden, ohne Moderation. Das Einzige, was wir machen, ist …



(Quelle: Medien Monitor.)

USA: Unverbrüchliche Waffen-Freundschaft

Donnerstag, Mai 19th, 2011

“Obama’s Reset: Arab Spring or Same Old Thing?

How the President and the Pentagon Prop Up Both Middle Eastern Despots and American Arms Dealers

By Nick Turse

If you follow the words, one Middle East comes into view; if you follow the weapons, quite another.

This week, the words will take center stage.  On Thursday, according to administration officials, President Obama will “reset” American policy in the Middle East with a major address offering a comprehensive look at the Arab Spring, “a unified theory about the popular uprisings from Tunisia to Bahrain,” and possibly a new administration approach to the region.

In the meantime, all signs indicate that the Pentagon will quietly maintain antithetical policies, just as it has throughout the Obama years.  Barring an unprecedented and almost inconceivable policy shift, it will continue to broker lucrative deals to send weapons systems and military equipment to Arab despots.  Nothing indicates that it will be deterred from its course, whatever the president says, which means that Barack Obama’s reset rhetoric is unlikely to translate into meaningful policy change in the region.

For months now, the world has watched as protesters have taken to the streets across the Middle East to demand a greater say in their lives.  In Tunisia and Egypt, they toppled decades-old dictatorships.  In Bahrain and Yemen, they were shot down in the streets as they demanded democracy.  In the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, they called for reforms, free speech, and basic rights, and ended up bloodied and often in jail cells.  In Iraq, they protested a lack of food and jobs, and in response got bullets and beatings.

As the world watched, trained eyes couldn’t help noticing something startling about the tools of repression in those countries.  The armored personnel carriers, tanks, and helicopters used to intimidate or even kill peaceful protesters were often American models. 

For decades, the U.S. has provided military aid, facilitated the sale of weaponry, and transferred vast quantities of arms to a host of Middle Eastern despots.  Arming Arab autocrats, however, isn’t only the work of presidents past.  A TomDispatch analysis of Pentagon documents finds that the Obama administration has sought to send billions of dollars in weapons systems — from advanced helicopters to fighter jets — to the very regimes that have beaten, jailed, and killed pro-democracy demonstrators, journalists, and reform activists throughout the Arab Spring. 

The administration’s abiding support for the militaries of repressive regimes calls into question the president’s rhetoric about change.  The arms deals of recent years also shed light on the shadowy, mutually supportive relationships among the U.S. military, top arms dealers, and Arab states that are of increasing importance to the Pentagon.

Since the summer of 2009, President Obama, by way of the Pentagon and with State Department approval, has regularly notified Congress of his intent to sell advanced weaponry to governments across the Middle East, including Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  Under U.S. law, Congress then has 30 days to review the sale before the Pentagon and associated military contractors enter into more formal contract talks with individual nations.      

In July 2009, according to an analysis of Pentagon documents by TomDispatch, notifications were sent to Congress regarding the sale to Kuwait of Browning machine guns, advanced targeting systems for armored vehicles, KC-130 aircraft, and technical support for F/A-18 attack aircraft.  Later that summer, the White House announced plans to outfit both Bahrain’s and Jordan’s militaries with advanced air-to-air missiles to the tune of $74 million and $131 million, respectively, to equip the United Arab Emirates with $526 million worth of Hellfire missiles and other materiel, to send more than $2 billion worth of advanced surveillance and navigation equipment to aid Saudi Arabia’s air force, and to see to it that Egypt’s military received a shipment of new Chinook troop transport helicopters and other high-tech equipment valued at $308 million.

In the fall of 2009, Pentagon documents show a $220 million bid by the administration to outfit the Jordanian military with advanced rocket systems and tactical vehicles, a proposed sale of advanced fighter aircraft, parts, weapons, and equipment to Egypt worth as much as $3.2 billion, and another to equip Kuwait’s military with $410 million in Patriot missile technology.  Then, in November and December of that year, Congress was notified of plans to sell helicopters to Iraq, Javelin guided missiles to Jordan, Hellfire missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, jet engines, and other military materiel to Egypt, and helicopters and thousands of advanced bombs, among other high-tech equipment, to the UAE.

Last year, notifications also went out concerning the sale of F-16 fighters, armored personnel carriers, tank ammunition, and advanced computer systems to Iraq, C-17 military transport aircraft for Kuwait, mobile missile systems for Bahrain, and Apache attack helicopters and tactical missile systems for the United Arab Emirates.  Saudi Arabia, however, was the big winner by far with a blockbuster $60 billion agreement for helicopters, fighter jets, radar equipment, and advanced smart bombs that will represent, if all purchases are made, the largest foreign arms deal in American history.

Deficits, Ducats, and Dictators

The agreement to broker the sale of tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia sheds light on the Pentagon’s efforts to shield itself — and its favored arms dealers — from the shakiness of the American economy, as well as President Obama’s stated goal of trimming $400 billion from projected national security spending of $10 trillion over the next 12 years.  Last October, the Pentagon started secretly lobbying financial analysts and large institutional investors on behalf of weapons makers and other military contractors.  The idea was to bolster their long-term financial viability in the face of a possible future slowdown in Defense Department spending.

Since then, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn and other Pentagon powerbrokers have made regular trips to New York City to shore up Wall Street’s support for weapons manufacturers.  “We are in this for the long term.  We need industrial partners and financial backers who think and act likewise,” Lynn told investors at a recent defense and aerospace conference in that city. 

Along with Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, and Brett Lambert, the deputy assistant secretary for industrial policy, Lynn is creating a comprehensive plan to sustain and enrich weapons makers and other military contractors in the coming years.  “We’re going sector by sector, tier by tier, and our goal is to develop a long-term policy to protect that base as we slow defense spending,” Lynn said.  America’s Middle Eastern allies are seen as a significant partner in this effort. 

It’s often said that the Pentagon is a “monopsony” — that is, the only buyer in town for its many giant contractors.  As has been amply demonstrated since Barack Obama took office, however, it’s not true.  When it comes to the Middle East, the Pentagon acts not as a buyer, but as a broker and shill, clearing the way for its Middle Eastern partners to buy some of the world’s most advanced weaponry. 

And Arab allies have distinctly done their part for the Pentagon.  From 2006 to 2009, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service issued late last year, the United States accounted for 52.4% of all arms agreements inked with Middle Eastern nations — to the tune of $47.3 billion.  (By comparison, the United Kingdom, in second place in arms sales in the region, accounted for only 15.7% and third-place Russia just 12.8%.) 

The purchases of the chief buyer in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, have been climbing steadily.  From 2002 to 2005, Saudi Arabia inked $15.3 billion in arms-transfer agreements with the United States.  From 2006 to 2009, that figure jumped to $29.5 billion.  The multi-year $60 billion deal in 2010 signaled far more of the same and will help ensure the continuing health and profitability of Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, and other mega-defense contractors even if Pentagon spending goes slack or begins to shrink in the years to come. 

The Pentagon’s reliance on the deep pockets of Arab partners across the Middle East, however, has a price, which may help to explain the Obama administration’s willingness to support dictators like Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak until their ousters were givens, and to essentially look the other way as security forces in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and elsewhere, sometimes using American-supplied equipment, suppressed pro-democracy activists.  After all, the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, along with regional partner Jordan — are set to spend $70 billion on American weaponry and equipment this year, and as much as $80 billion per year by 2015.

“The Middle East Military Air Market: Revenue Opportunities and Stakeholder Mapping,” a recent analysis of just one sector of defense spending in the region by U.S.-based defense consultants Frost and Sullivan, projects yet more growth in the future. “[The] regional military air market is… set to generate revenues of $62.9 billion between 2010 and 2020,” it reports.  Frost and Sullivan analysts add that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are likely to be the biggest spenders and will continue to buy most of their arms through the United States for the sake of “political influence.”

For his part, Deputy Secretary of Defense Lynn wants to make it ever easier to put sophisticated military technology in the hands of such deep-pocketed allies.  On his recent trip to New York, he spoke of streamlining the process by which tanks, jets, and other advanced weapons systems are sold around the world.  “To keep our base healthy, it is in our interest for defense companies to compete globally,” he explained, while deriding the current system for selling arms abroad as “archaic” and in need of an overhaul.  “The barriers that we place at this point in the export control system look something like a marriage of the complexity of the Internal Revenue Service with the efficiency of the Department of Motor Vehicles,” he said. “It’s something we have to change.”

Sending a Message

In February, in Baghdad, Fallujah, Mosul, and Tikrit, Iraqi protesters took to the streets, focused on ending corruption and chronic shortages of food, water, electricity, and jobs.  In response, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has in recent years consolidated power with U.S. military backing, unleashed government security forces.  They arrested, beat, and shot protesters, leaving hundreds dead or wounded.  In the weeks since, the Obama administration has not only failed to forcefully rebuke the Maliki regime, but has announced its intent to bolster those same security forces with another $360 million in military materiel ranging from radios to radar systems.

In March, the United Arab Emirates sent security forces into neighboring Bahrain to help put down pro-democracy protests.  Early the next month, UAE security forces disappeared leading human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor and, in the days thereafter, detained at least four other prominent democracy activists.  Before the month was out, however, the Obama administration announced its intention to arm the UAE with advanced Sidewinder tactical missiles.  

Saudi Arabia also sent troops into Bahrain and has been cracking down on nonviolent activists at home with increasing vigor.  At the beginning of this month, for example, Human Rights Watch reported the arrest of “at least 20 peaceful protesters, including two bloggers.”  Within days, the Obama administration notified Congress of its intent to see the Saudi security forces receive $330 million worth of advanced night vision and thermal-imaging equipment.

This year, U.S.-coordinated arms sales have resulted in the delivery of helicopter gunships to Yemen, navy patrol boats to Iraq, and the first of six cargo aircraft to the UAE.  At the moment, used armored personnel carriers are being refurbished for shipment to Iraq later this year.

Whatever “reset” may be in the works for Obama administration policies in the Middle East, the president and the Pentagon are already on the record.  Since 2009, they have sought to arm some of the most anti-democratic regimes on the planet, while repeatedly highlighting the need for democratic reform and now for a fresh start in the region.  Even as the “reset” begins, the Pentagon is leaning ever more heavily on rich rulers in the Arab world to prop up the military-corporate complex at home.  If the Pentagon and the weapons makers have their way, the provisional successes of the demonstrators in Egypt and Tunisia will turn out to be outliers as an Arab Spring turns distinctly wintry.   

In June 2009, President Obama traveled to Cairo University to give a heavily hyped and much-lauded speech (“On a New Beginning”) to “the Muslim world.”  In his remarks, the president spoke of an American Cold-War-era attitude “in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.”  Then came his first call for a reset of sorts in the region.  “I’ve come here to Cairo,” he said, “to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”  Before that summer was out, however, Obama notified Congress of his intent to send Cold War-era autocrat Hosni Mubarak a shipment of new helicopters to beef up his security forces.

During that speech, Obama talked of his “unyielding belief” that all people yearned for free speech, a say in their governance, the rule of law, freedom from corruption, and other basic civil liberties.  These weren’t, the president insisted, just American ideals, they were human rights.  “And that is why we will support them everywhere,” he said to waves of applause. 

In its actions, however, the Obama administration almost immediately left its reset rhetoric in the dust.  Whether the president does any better in the Arab Summer of 2011 will depend mightily on whether he can stand up to the Pentagon and its weapons-makers.

Nick Turse is a historian, essayist, investigative journalist, the associate editor of, and currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. His latest book is The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books).  You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Facebook.  This piece is part of Turse’s ongoing coverage on U.S. military impacts on the Arab Spring and the third in his TomDispatch series on the subject. 

Copyright 2011 Nick Turse”



EU: Waffenverkäufe an Bahrain und Jemen nicht gestoppt

Sonntag, Mai 15th, 2011

“[Comment] EU should ban arms sales to Yemen and Bahrain


EUOBSERVER / COMMENT – The text message from a Yemeni activist was desperate. Security forces had opened fire on a square occupied by anti-government protesters in the port city of Aden on 30 April, killing two and wounding dozens. “The shooting doesn’t stop,” she wrote. “Please, help us!”

Cries for help have been streaming out of Yemen since February, when security forces and pro-government assailants began brutal crackdowns on peaceful protesters seeking to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The attacks have killed at least 121 people and injured hundreds, many from gunfire. People are also pleading for help in Bahrain, where security forces shot dead at least a dozen protesters as well as several security agents during demonstrations in February and March.

Yet while European leaders deplore the violence in both Bahrain and Yemen, they have done precious little to stem the flow of weapons that both governments have used against their citizens. Each year, EU states export millions of euros worth of guns, teargas, and other arms to these repressive governments, with scant regard for how these sales make them complicit in the murders of ordinary people demanding their rights.

When EU ministers meet on Friday (13 May) in Brussels, they should ban all arms sales to Yemen, Bahrain, and any other country that is using excessive force to quash legitimate dissent.

EU members already have taken a few important steps, but they fall far short of what is needed to end the brutality. On 6 May, EU foreign ministers agreed to suspend weapons sales to Syria after security forces there killed hundreds of peaceful protesters.

In February, the UK revoked 156 licenses for weapons sales to Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain, and ordered a review of weapons sales to Yemen. France swiftly followed suit by announcing it was suspending arms sales to Bahrain and Libya.

This piecemeal approach, though, willfully ignores the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports of 1998, which calls on all member states not to sell weapons to countries or regions where there is a clear risk that they will be used for internal repression or other human rights abuses.

The code has been in place in its current form since 2008, when repression was already well documented in countries whose citizens ultimately rose up in this year’s so-called “Arab spring.”

Yet total EU arms exports to north Africa and the Middle East nearly doubled, from €5.8 billion in 2008 to €11.6 billion in 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, according to the EU’s annual report on arms exports.

That included weapons sales of €100 million in 2009 to Yemen. The biggest EU supplier that year was Bulgaria, which sold €85.9 million worth of firearms, ammunition, bombs, rockets or missiles, followed by the Czech Republic, with €7.4 million and France, with €4 million.

In 2008, the UK led the pack in weapons sales to Yemen, its sales that year valued at €17.8 million.

According to a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, the 2009 Bulgarian sale included 30,000 assault rifles as well as explosives and rocket propelled grenades. The cable expressed concerns that the deal, financed by the United Arab Emirates, would contribute to small arms proliferation in Yemen – a country with an active al-Qaeda branch and where the ratio of weapons to people already approaches 1:2.

The UK was a leading arms exporter to Bahrain in 2010, with £5.7 million [€6.4 million] in sales, according to the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade. UK sales to Bahrain in the past five years include sub-machineguns, sniper rifles, smoke canisters, stun grenades, tear gas and riot shields.

In 2009, Bahrain received €39.8 million in weapons from EU member states; France sold it €28 million, Belgium €6.3 million, Sweden €2.4 million, and Germany €2 million, the EU arms report said.

The EU is hardly alone in selling arms to human rights violators. The US is the world’s leading supplier of conventional arms to the Middle East, and hundreds of people suffered severe reactions after security forces in Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen fired US-made tear gas at peaceful protesters. The US in April announced that it is reviewing arms sales to the region on a “case-by-case” basis. The EU can do far better.

The 27 EU member states immediately should ban exports of arms and security equipment to Yemen and Bahrain in response to their brutal repression of peaceful dissent until authorities in the two countries stop their violent crackdowns against citizens, conduct independent investigations into the attacks, prosecute suspected perpetrators, and recognize and compensate victims.

Until the EU matches its words with those actions, the blood of Arab spring protesters will stain its hands.

Letta Tayler is a Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch”


(Quelle: EUobserver.)

Syrien: Bestürzt über den möglichen Sturz

Dienstag, Mai 10th, 2011

Syriens Diktatur zittert – und mit ihr die fünf Nachbarstaaten

Von Hubertus Ecker

Wie fiktiv die Rede vom ‘isolierten Syrien’ ist, wird dieser Tage deutlicher denn je. Tatsächlich mischt die Diktatur bei nahezu allen Konflikten des Mittleren Ostens mit. Nun ist die Diktatur bedroht. Prompt stehen alle Konfliktparteien geschlossen – hinter der syrischen Regierung.

Es hat, im Unterschied zu Libyen, kaum Öl, misst nur 185.000 Quadratkilometer (Jemen: 530.000 Quadratkilometer) und zählt 22 Millionen Einwohner (Ägypten: 80 Millionen) – dennoch bezeichnet Joshua Landis[1], Direktor des Center for Middle East Studies und Politikprofessor an der Universität Oklahoma, Syrien als das “Cockpit” des Mittleren Ostens. Zu Recht. Syrien grenzt an den Irak, den Libanon, Israel, Jordanien und die Türkei und wirkt auf alle fünf Staaten politisch oder wirtschaftlich ein.

So streute Damaskus der US-geführten Invasion in den Irak ab 2003 Sand ins Getriebe, indem es die dortigen Aufständischen unterstützte[2] und sich dabei selbst aus der Schusslinie der überforderten Bush-Administration zog. Den Vorwurf, es habe seine 605 Kilometer lange Grenze zum Irak nie ausreichend gesichert[3], sendet Damaskus heute postwendend zurück: Der Irak würde Syriens Demonstrierende mit Waffen beliefern[4].

US-Truppenabzug soll nicht gefährdet werden

Ein Szenario, das vermutlich nicht zutrifft, im Falle eines Regimesturzes aber sehr real werden könnte: Kaum eine konfessionelle oder ethnische irakische Gruppierung und deren jeweilige Hintermänner (von Iran über Saudi-Arabien bis nach Europa und in die USA) würde Syriens politische Zukunft nicht prägen wollen. Eine Vorstellung, die viele lähmt, zumal der Irak und Syrien nach über 15 Jahren Feindschaft gerade wieder diplomatische Beziehungen aufnahmen[5] – und Obamas ausgelaugte Truppen bis Jahresende die ersehnte Heimreise antreten[6] sollen.

Die entschiedene Solidaritätsbekundung[7] von Iraks Präsident Dschalal Talebani gegenüber seinem Damaszener Amtskollegen überrascht daher nicht.

Syrien hüstelt, der Libanon erkrankt

Auch der Libanon, der, wie der große libanesische Journalist Joseph Samaha einst bemerkte, “mit Grippe im Bett liegt, sobald Damaskus hüstelt”, hält derzeit den Atem an. Wie wenig der “kleine” ohne den (viel gehassten) “großen” Bruder auskommt, bewies der libanesische Bürgerkireg (1975-1990): Beirut ersuchte Syriens Hilfe zwecks Schutz der eigenen Christen und Bekämpfung der Palästinensischen Befreiungsorganisation (PLO); die Arabische Liga willigte ein – doch aus der syrischen Schutzmacht wurde binnen kürzester Zeit und für drei Dekaden der maßgebende Drahtzieher im Land. Unter anderem unterstützte Damaskus die PLO und vertrieb – nun mit Segen der USA – Christenführer Michel Aoun ins französische Exil.

Erst 2005, im Zuge der weltweiten Empörung über die Ermordung des libanesischen ex-Premiers Rafik Hariri (das lange Damaskus angelastet wurde), zog die “Schutzmacht” wieder ab. Dass ihr Einfluss deshalb gemindert wäre, lässt sich kaum behaupten: die Hizbollah und akkurat der einst verjagte Aoun sind heute Syriens stärkste Verbündete und brachten im Januar Libanons Regierung mit Kabinettsschachzügen zu Fall. Eine Veränderung der politischen Landschaft in Syrien könnte sie in arge Bedrängnis bringen, vor allem wenn sich der Iran neue Wege für seine Waffenlieferungen an die Hizbollah suchen müsste.

Eine Vorstellung, die Tel Aviv an sich begeistern sollte, doch auch hier herrscht Unruhe – weiß Israel doch nur zu gut, dass seine Grenze zu Syrien die sicherste ist, die es hat: Seit 1973 fiel kein Schuß mehr entlang der besetzten Golanhöhen. Ob dies mit einer frei gewählten Regierung in Damaskus so bliebe, ist die Frage.

“Nahost-Union” der Türkei gefährdet

Die Rückkoppelungen auf Jordanien scheinen vergleichsweise unbedeutender. Allerdings kämpft diese Diktatur mit einer bankrotten Wirtschaft und einer verarmten Bevölkerung. Sollte ausgerechnet dem extrem unterjochten Nachbarvolk der Befreiungsschlag gelingen, wäre der psychologische Nachhall in der ohnedies gefährdeten Monarchie nicht zu unterschätzen.

Ankara indes plagen andere Überlegungen. Angefangen von potentiellen Allianzen zwischen den syrischen und den landeseigenen Kurden bis hin zu syrischen Flüchtlingsanstürmen[8], die umso wahrscheinlicher sind, als zwischen beiden Ländern seit einem Jahr Visafreiheit herrscht.

Letzteres ist das Resultat einer zunehmenden politischen und wirtschaftlichen Annäherung: Der Handelsaustausch zwischen der Türkei und Syrien überstieg mit einer Milliarde Dollar in der ersten Jahreshälfte 2010 die Gesamtbilanz von 2007. Auch sind eine neu ausgebaute Eisenbahnverbindung und die gemeinsam geplante “Nahost-Union” Signale dafür, dass sich Ankara nicht nur an der EU orientieren will.

Hinzukommt ein verstärkter religiöser Austausch. Erst im Februar meldete die Anatolia News Agency, dass sich die ranghöchsten Religionsvertreter beider Länder in Ankara getroffen hätten, um ihre Kooperation in Fragen religiöser Erziehung auszuweiten[9].

In der Tat: Syriens Regime wirkt wie eine bedrohte Spinne in einem weitgespannten Netz, an das niemand zu rühren wagt. Zu unklar sind vor allem die Alternativen. Wer ist Syriens Opposition? Gibt es sie überhaupt?

Syriens Opposition: Terra Incognita

Junge Twitterer, die zwar hervorragende Arbeit in Sachen Bürgerjournalismus leisten, dürften kaum zur Ausarbeitung politischer Programme fähig sein. Zumal nicht wenige unter ihnen bereit zu sein scheinen, jedem zu folgen, der ihnen “freedom” verheisst. Etwa Ausama Monajed (siehe “Die Gewalt geht vom Regime aus”[10]). Der in London lebende 31-Jährige lancierte jüngst mit Syrern im In- und Ausland die “Initiative zur Nationalen Veränderung”, die ambitioniert mit Syriens Armeechef verhandeln will. Darüberhinaus ist er der Pressesprecher des Movement for Justice and Peace in Syria[11], das Washington mit sechs Millionen Dollar bedachte, wie ein unlängst veröffentlichtes Wikileaks-Dokument enthüllt[12].

Weit seriöser wirkt da Syriens gestandene säkulare Opposition, von Michel Kilo (siehe Eigentlich waren wir an der Reihe[13]) bis zu Riad al-Seif. Doch mitunter jahrzehntelange Haftstrafen erschöpften, isolierten und trieben wohl jene politische Vernetzungskultur aus, die zur Erstellung eines geschlossenen Konzeptes unabdingbar[14] ist.

Dass Syriens Freiheitskämpfer indes bereits sind, einem politisch zwar erfahrenen, aber in die Bluttaten der Diktatur zutiefst verstrickten Abdul Halim Khaddam zu folgen, erscheint mehr als unwahrscheinlich. Der einstige, nach immer mehr Macht strebende Vizeminister brach 2005 mit dem Regime und arbeitet seither aus dem Pariser Exil auf dessen Sturz hin.

Eine pluralistische Mehrheit: Die Sunniten

Bleibt die Frage nach der islamischen Opposition. Zweifelsohne gibt es sie, doch wie sieht sie konkret aus? Wie stark sind die Graswurzeln der Muslimbruderschaft, die seit 30 Jahren in Syrien verboten ist und im Exil lebt? Wie lautet ihr politisches Programm? Ihr Vorsitzender Mohammed Riad Shaqfa erklärte[15] zwar Mitte April seine Organisation habe die Proteste weder initiiert noch schwebe ihr für Syrien das Modell eines islamischen Staates vor.

Vielmehr würde sie im Falle freier Wahlen ein Manifest vorlegen, das die Priorität auf Zivilstaatlichkeit legt und den Islam nur als “Referenz” angibt. Syriens Christen, Drusen, Alawiten u.a. dürfte jede noch so zaghafte “Referenz” erschrecken, vielen Sunniten hingegen entgegenkommen. Doch in welcher Färbung und in welchem Ausmaß, ist unmöglich vorauszusagen. Denn – und auch hierin unterscheidet sich dieses Land grundlegend von anderen in der Region: Syriens Sunniten sind traditionell einer eher sufistischen Islaminterpretation verpflichtet, die dem Salafitentum der Muslimbrüder völlig zuwider läuft.

Und da wäre noch: Ein Volk und “Hurrieh”

Angesichts soviel innerer wie äußerer Verschränkungen und Widerhaken scheint ein Gelingen des Kampfes um “Hurrieh” (Freiheit) fraglich. Joshua Landis ist sich da nicht so sicher. In seinem Blog Syria Comment[16] schreibt er:

◆ Unlike the Iranian opposition, which did not call for the overthrow of the regime and an end to the Islamic republic, but only reform, the Syrian opposition is revolutionary. It is convinced that reform is impossible and Syria must start over. It wants an end to the domination of the presidency and security forces by the Alawite religious community, and an end to the domination of the economy by the financial elite which has used nepotism, insider trading, and corruption. In short: It is more determined and revolutionary than was the Iranian Green movement that was successfully suppressed. ◆

Sollte Landis Recht behalten, könnte die Region demnächst eben jene “Geburtswehen eines neuen Mittleren Ostens” erleiden, die die ehemalige US-Außenministerin Condoleeza Rice antizipiert hatte, als Israel 2006 die Stellungen und Siedlungen der schiitischen Hizbollah im Libanon gnadenlos bombardiert hatte. Diesmal erfreuen die möglichen Wehen indes keinen. Nicht die Hizbollah, aber auch nicht Israel.




















(Quelle: Telepolis.)