Wednesday, March 2, 2011

understanding the upheaval in the MEast

Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

* Cairo Viewed from Gaza: Too Soon to Celebrate - Mark A. Heller
Under Mubarak, Egypt actively repressed its own Islamists and cooperated with Israel in trying to enforce tight controls over movement of people, goods, weapons, and money into and out of Gaza, while simultaneously serving as a patron for Hamas' Fatah rivals in the West Bank. An Islamist takeover in Egypt is not the only scenario that could work to Hamas' advantage. It might also benefit indirectly from general Egyptian sympathy for the Palestinians, which a post-Mubarak government, regardless of its ideological complexion, might feel obliged to accommodate.
Finally, there is the possibility of continuing political disorder, exacerbated by the economic demands of newly-empowered labor and professional organizations. Weak government control, particularly in eastern Sinai where there is traditional Bedouin resentment of domination by Cairo, would facilitate large-scale smuggling of weapons and the provision of training and other support from Iran and elsewhere. The writer is Principal Research Fellow at INSS. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
* Arab Democracy and the Return of the Mediterranean World - Robert D. Kaplan
Some have euphorically announced the arrival of democracy in the Middle East. But something more subtle may develop. The regimes that emerge may call themselves democracies and the world may go along with the lie, but the test of a system is how the power relationships work behind the scenes. Young people, while savvy in the ways of social media and willing to defy bullets, can bring down a system, but they cannot necessarily govern.
America's influence is likely to be maintained less by the emergence of democracy than by continued military assistance to many Arab states and by the threat of a nuclearized, Shiite Iran. Mitigating the loss of American power will be the geopolitical weakening of the Arab world itself. As Arab societies turn inward to rectify long-ignored social and economic grievances and their leaders battle each other to consolidate power domestically, they will have less energy for foreign policy concerns. The writer is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. (Washington Post)
* My Optimism on the New Arab Revolt - Daniel Pipes
The revolts over the past two months have been largely constructive, patriotic, and open in spirit. Political extremism has been largely absent. Conspiracy theories have been the refuge of decayed rulers, not exuberant crowds. One has the sense that the past century's extremism has run its course, that populations seek something more mundane and consumable than rhetoric, rejectionism, and backwardness. With due hesitation, I see changes that could augur a new era, one in which infantilized Arabic speakers mature into adults. The time has come to discard the soft bigotry of low expectations. The writer is director of the Middle East Forum and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. (National Review)

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