Will Islamist betrayals destroy the Arab Spring?


by FG

Anyone can notice the worrisome signs these days in many post-Arab Spring countries.  Will pledges made by "moderate Islamists" to respect democracy, hold honest elections, protect human rights and treat religious and ethnic minorities as equals be honored or ignored, as in Iran?  Even the influential "Erdogan model" in Turkey is showing authoritatrian tendencies--arresting journalists who criticize or expose ills, seizing generals and holding them without bail on what appears to be light and questionable evidence, targeting minorities by promoting hate-inspiring, nationalistic rallies, etc.    Let's look at a few Arab Spring countries:

EGYPT: Egypt's Islamists, who will have a major say in Egypt's consititution, overwhelmingly believe that no woman should serve as head of state even if popularly elected.  They remain silent while Egypt's generals promote the idea that demands for human rights and democracy are "foreign inspired, while NGO's are trashed and foreign employers arrested as "spies."  You'd think the victims were promoting fascism or communism rather than human rights and democracy--supposedly Arab Spring goals.   The real conflict of interest is with those behind such tactics.

By no coincidence, such tactics resemble exactly those used by the mullahs to sieze power in Iran after the Shah's ouster.  Appealing to ultra-nationalism and xenophobia, the Bad Guys cloaked their intent.  Theyt hang on now by the same means.  As  Samual Johnson said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." 

LIBYA: a mess dissoliving into Irag/Somalia/northwest Pakistan-style anarchy on which radical Islamists always feed.

SYRIA: The longer Assad insists on staying where he isn't wanted, the more likely Syria will end up like Libya if not worse.  Al Queda and its experienced bomb makers may have their uses now, but they won't conveniently vanish when the regime goes down.

TUNISIA:  Salafists (estimated at 3% of the population, are using plainclothes mobs to intimidate secular types.   Will we soon see equivalents to the Abadan fire and Iran's acid-in-the-face tactics to eliminate undesired secular behavior?  

People say the Arab Spring has been a "half-revolution."  There are worse things.  Like Iranians after 1979, Arabs could wind up under regimes infinitely worse than those they removed. The behavior and life expectancy of such regimes will be determined by the presence or absence of oil.


The "curse of oil" corrupts ruling clerics as badly as secular dictators.  So long as oil revenues survive, so do evil regimes.  When it comes to getting out from under, people in oil rich countries will have a harder time than counterparts in oil poor countries--the only reason Iranians are not already free.   Sunni Islamists will seek Islamist allies but Iran won't be among them.  The IRI's regional ambitions and covert destabilization schemes make it an Enemy for Life.

Otherwise Radical Islamist rulers need isolation for the same reason they must rely on brutality and intimidation.   Of course their nations and peoples would be even better off economically if oil wealth could be supplemented by income from tourism, a diversified economy, promoting a middle class, retaining friendly relations with the outside world, participating in the modern global economy, etc.   However, the political minuses for insiders outweigh the massive economic pluses for everyone else.  Such policies are incompatible with promoting xenophobia as a popular diversion.  Secondly, such policies would require more cultural and political openness that lead to demands for reform, human rights, democracy and end to censorsorhip.   Hence whole countries must forego potential in order to string out days of rule for an oppressive class. 


Even if oil poor states do not fall to radical Islamists, they may experience years of violent Algerian-style attacks which make no distinction between civilian and military targets.  The disenchanting effect of radical Islamist rule will be greatest in the most advanced and westernized countries (Tunisia, parts of Egypt) and smallest in places like Yemen (a potential Afghanistan).  

1. Countries lacking oil require revenue from tourism.  Who wants to travel in oppressive countries ruled by Islamists and their spoil-sport religious police?   Can you say: "Hajib, everyone?"   Paris yes, Afghanistan or its equivalent, NO!

2. Countries lacking oil cannot afford to alienate or drive out the middle class ( I do not refer to middle class of bazaar merchants who are right at home with religious conservatism and who have been around for thousands of years).  It is only natural that this class of economic enables always comes to demand a share in political power proportionate to its contributions.  It is a natural, not foreign-insipired process where such classes appear--a process now at work in Russia and China as well.

3. Countries lacking oil badly need economic diversity and effienciency to survive and thrive.  They also must particpate in the world economy to become a South Korea.  As the old saying goes, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."  The cathc is that doing so inevitably encourges cultural and political "infections" from outside.  Once again, oil-poor Islamist states don't  have the luxury of choice.

4. The usual method to counter such outside ideas is to promote xenophobia which discourages all three previoius items. 


Outsiders provide major boosts for Islamists seeking power or trying to retain it.  Who finances all those seductive Salafist charities that provide a political edge?  Who finances covert training and arming of Islamist militias?.  Conservative sheiks in the Persian Gulf area. Once Islamists in oil-less states acquire power, the same sheiks supply cash but there are limits.  They have only so much oil.  How many economically incompetent regimes can they keep afloat and for how long?   Meanwhile, some Gulf states are already grasping the need to diversify and modernize as their oil runs out. Ironically, the original homeland  of powerful Islamists may be the first to make the breakthrough into real democracy just as some Arab Spring states take a proven and discredited "Road to Hell."  

Opting for rule by radical Islamists is as nutting as returning to another failed experiment (commmunism)  in 2012.  These choices squander years or decades pursuing an ideology while giving up what might have been.   If moderate Islamists double cross the people and renege on promises, Arab clerics will be as discredited as Iran's mullahs or Catholicism's pedophile priests.  It would be tragic for the Arab peoople if they must go to go though the same hard lessons as Iranians or the West (Spanish Inquistion, Thirty Years War) to grasp the dangers of religious excess and arrive at Enlightenment. 



more from FG

From the very beginning of the uprisings

by Reality-Bites on

I felt they would end up becoming the "Islam Spring" rather than the "Arab Spring" that the gullible Western media has christened them as. And so it is turning out to be the case.

Quite simply the secular and pro-democracy elements in almost all Arab countries are too small, too weak and far too disorganized and disunited to take on the very well organized and well funded Islamist groups that have a 1400 year (brainwashing) headstart on them.


Reply To MX1

by FG on

RE: Islam is a cutlure of Arab people and if they gravitate towards it it is natural, they are comfortable with it.  May be, just may be by going back to their roots they can then decide where they want to go from there.

Salafism and Islam aren't identical.   There are many interpretations of Islam, shaped by clerics over a thousand years often--as in Christianity--to their own ends.  That's what clerics do, especially political Islamists.  

If most muslims wanted Salafi-style Islam there would be no need to impose it by force. Democracy and human rights threatens their political power so they impose Islamist rule (a relatively new invention) by force for PERSONAL REASONS.  Most muslims who have lived under hard line Islamist regfimes and got away describe it as akin to escaping from hell.  Most Iranians can't stand it.  

Historically cultures that grow and succeed are NOT close minded, insular or excessively concered with returning to an idealized past or they'd never get anywhere and always be backwards.   I can't blame Iranians for believing they'd be better off with Zorastrianism (and given the only present alternative they might be right).  Nevertheless, depending on ANY religion--even an ancient Persian one and simply because of domestic origin--should be mistrusted after the last 33 years--at least as the key to a decent life.  That comes from other things--almost exclusively non-religious.

 It is the willingness of the West to accept new ideas from everywhere and often improve on them which explains much of its success.  Conservative regimes that resist change and look to the past obviously must remain backwards.   Change is more critical than ever in the modern world.  Hence it's change or go nowhere. 


Obama's secret drone war explained (Excellent video)

by FG on

Yes we certainly have the capacity to pick off the Supreme Leader & top cohorts at any time we so choose it's unlikely we'll do so, given legal restrictions on their use.  Nor will we give suich technology to the Israels though I suspect they are rapidly developing drone capacities on their own.  If they succeed, the Israelis won't be subject to the same restaints.  The Israelis do what they want to do and let Americans protest.

As the documentary notes, the CIA, not the military, controls drone strikes and targeting. 


Meanwhile don't miss the related report from Foreign Policy:


My Drone War American drones have changed everything for al Qaeda and its local allies in Pakistan, becoming a fact of life in a secret war that is far from over.



No it won't

by MRX1 on

Islam is a cutlure of Arab people and if they gravitate towards it it is natural, they are comfortable with it.  May be, just may be by going back to their roots they can then decide where they want to go from there.

The message is clear; as they seek their identity we Iranian should start embracing ours and resurecting our culture and then may be will find our way as well.


"MUST" VIDEO: Turkish soap operas ignite Mideast culture war

by FG on


I wonder if recent Salafist demonstrations against Tunisia television stations was motivated by programs from Turkey.   It used to be that reactionary yahoos could blame all nasty "cultural infiltration on western infidels and thus close up minds to new social thinking.   Now that the Turks are "doing it" that won't be so easy.

Highly popular and well done Turkish soap operas are enraging conservative clerics everywhere in the Middle East.  In the video you'll see a top Saudi cleric who issued a fatwa "authorizing" (who the hell does he think he is) the murder of producers, actors, directors of such programs.  

When you watch the enthusiastic kissing scene (I'm sure Iranian young folk in the West kiss as vigorously as non-Iranian Americans) think about Iranian clerics who blew a fuse when one regime official (Ahmadinejad?) made the mistake of shaking hands with a woman while visiting the West.

What's funny is over half the women in Arab countries follow some of these stories "religiously."  (Ha!)  Perhaps doing so provides relief from clergy-imposed boredom.  The only way ultraconservatives can stop the tide before it is too late is the way they stopped  the Iranian people from gietting what they wanted in elections--by censorship, cheating, vetting and outright coercion ("OK. So we stole the election. What can you do about it?")

As a defender of Turkish soap operas notes,  they are not directly political. Surey he knows better.  Where extreme Islam rules, all of life is political.  What causes clerical outrage is how these shows shows treat as perfectly normal for muslims behavior that can get you killed or burned with acid depending of where you live--same religion (in theory) or not.  

People naturally start asking: Was the morality we've been raised on nothing but a cultural invention dreamed up and maintained by our imans for their own purposes?  If so, and if the behavior we see on television is normal, then why should we trust any other bullsh*t that comes from the dudes in turbans?

It is important that these soap operas are produced and directed by muslims in a muslim country and use muslim actors portraying real muslims.  The West can't be blamed for that.  Why does no one make a fuss?  Why do the muslims feel no obvious moral qualms?  Put yourself in the mind of a young female Arab forcibly married to an old coot (cleric perhaps) and embeded in chador with veil.  What must she think about as she watches the freedom of choice and romance enjoyed by many Turkish women? This is dynamite.

The effect recalls how the VCR helped undermine the Soviet Union, whose sailors and even KGB agents used to smuggle in music and videos.  A VCR owner would charge for viewing.  People who were told poor and oppressed people were in the West would watch a film like "ET" not for the story but to gasp at the homes, appliances, clothes, etc.   Living in cramped, sometimes shared apartments, they were shocked to see that many American blacks lived in homes or apartments with possessions they could never dream of.  

Such things are "Discontent-Makers" and rightfully feared.  

These soap operas--like external musical influences--can undermine an ultraconservative regime in ways that the most inflamatory, direct and critical speeches cannot.  Meanwhile, anyone viewing this video back in Iran won't miss the obvious prosperity of Turkey's fast-growing, oil-less economy (far behind Iran in 1979) and cannot help making comparisons to the egg-sucking tragedy imposed by the greedy clerics and kept in place by their thuggish bodyguards.  

Enjoy the video:



Women begin to revolt against churches, synagogues & mosques

by FG on

Say what you want about feminists (and I do find the most radical, man hating ones self-discrediting) the triumph of feminism when it spreads sufficiently within the muslim world, will be the end for Islamists like Khamenei and Bin Laden.

LIsa Miller in the Washington Post has a nice article on "Feminism's Final Frontier: Religion."  Miller writes:

 In churches (and synagogues and mosques) across the land, women are still treated as second-class citizens. And because women of faith are increasingly breadwinners, single moms and heads of households, that diminished status is beginning to rankle.

There are churches in America in which women aren’t allowed to speak out loud unless they get permission from a man first.

 In churches (and synagogues and mosques) across the land, women are still treated as second-class citizens. And because women of faith are increasingly breadwinners, single moms and heads of households, that diminished status is beginning to rankle.

There are churches in America in which women aren’t allowed to speak out loud unless they get permission from a man first.

Susan’s story was published in January by a small Christian publishing house in the book “The Resignation of Eve.” In its pages, the author, an evangelical minister named Jim Henderson, argues that unless the male leaders of conservative Christian churches do some serious soul-searching — pronto — the women who have always sustained those churches with their time, sweat and cash will leave. In droves. And they won’t come back. Their children, traditionally brought to church by their mothers, will thus join the growing numbers of Americans who call themselves “un-churched.”

COMMENT: I say,  "Three cheers for the un-churched, the un-synagogued and the un-mosqued.   More often than not religion has been a souce for repression, encouraging hatred of outsiders (i.e.,competion) and minorities and supporting extreme conservatism.   In America the Republic Party--now a bastion of older white folks) caters heavily to such fundamentalist churches.  

As a consequence the GOP is now losing--deservedly--the women's vote and the fast growing minority population whose combined votes can make a huge difference in any reasonably close election.


Between 1991 and 2011, the number of adult women attending church weekly has declined 20 percent. The number of women going to Sunday school has dropped by about a third, as has the number of women who volunteer at church.


Oon Yaroo

FG, Ex American hostage Don Cooke has every right to be

by Oon Yaroo on

angry at IRR and wishing its total annihilation!

Who wouldn't want that? 

I hope some day very soon, Mr. Don Cooke, gets the opportunity to travel to Iran, of course, after the collapse of IRR and see his captors both dead and alive hung from the chenar trees on Pahlavi street.

That will be the day of reckoning!

God Bless America!


Former Hostage: Iran still holds America hostage

by FG on



 Mock firing squads. Manacles. Blindfolds. This was not what I signed up for when I joined the Foreign Service in October 1978. But that was what I found when, assigned to Tehran as my first post, I was taken captive for 444 days by Islamic militants, along with 51 of my colleagues. I was 24 years old, and Iran was gripped by revolution...

 I started Farsi language training in January 1979 and closely followed the conflict between the Western-backed shah,Mohammad Reza Pahlavi,and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. After the shah fell, the conflict in the Islamic republic was between Western-educated secularists, who controlled the trappings of government power, and Islamic fundamentalists, who controlled the mosques and the local militia komitehs...

 After one interim move, I found myself in the guest house of an Iranian military base on the Caspian coast with Marine Kevin Hermening. Kevin and I spent a lot of time speculating about the reason for the move — especially since it eliminated any pretense that the Iranian government was not supporting the hostage-taking....

 The hostage crisis concluded more than 30 years ago, but the confrontations with the Islamic republic continue. Over the decades, we’ve seen the Iranians attack tankers in the Persian Gulf, provide weapons and training to Hamas and Hezbollah, and, through their proxies, attack our troops in Iraq. In each case, the success of our response depended both on appearing resolute and on being resolute....


When I worked as a Provincial Reconstruction Team leader in Iraq’s Karbala province, we tracked and countered Iranian influence in the Iraqi Shiite heartland. Now, world shipping faces Iranian threats in the Straits of Hormuz. Iran remains a key state sponsor of terrorism. And it is pursuing the biggest feather of them all — nuclear weapons.

 All of this is playing out, as it did in 1980, in the worst possible time in the American political cycle, an election year. The penalty of the election year delay in 1980 was that my beard got longer and I lost more weight. Today, the penalty of an election year delay is that Iran’s centrifuges keep spinning, enriching uranium, getting Iran closer to the ability to build a nuclear weapon.

Iran is coming back to the negotiating table — but not because it has suddenly decided to live up to its international obligations. These talks may provide a face-saving way to halt its nuclear program. The key to the Iranians accepting such a solution is to convince them that we have the capability and the will to end their program ourselves. The irony is that the more clearly we demonstrate that capability and will, the less likely we will need to use them.


COMMENT: I believe the same need for resoluteness applies domestically.   As long as the people give the regime nothing to fear, it will continue to act as it does.  

There will be no change until Iranians stand up to the mullahs day after day, week after week, month after month if necessary, a la Syria.   When the regime believes it can overpower the people, and when intermittent, pre-announced demonstrations play into its hands, the regime will always win.




Veiled women from all over the world demonstrate in Tunisia

by FG on

Enduing America reports:

  In Tunisia, hundreds of women gathered near Tunis Saturday to call for the return of the Islamic caliphate.

Members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir party came from the Arab states, Indonesia, Turkey, and Europe.

Nasrin Nawaaz, the spokeswoman of the British branch of the party, said, "Muslim women are gathering together saying that we no longer want to live under secular liberal democratic systems. We want a new system, we want the khalifa system that historically has been tried and has succeeded in securing the rights of women."


Where strict Islamist rule prevails, it is illegal for anyone--let alone foreigners--to demonstrate for any rights.

Where Islamist don't rule but want to, it's OK to import foreign demonstrators by the boatload.  So who sponsored their obviously organized trips?  How many Tunisian women were left after discounting the imports?

I'm reminded of how the IRI constantly engages in covert, destabilizing schemes abroad but screams at the idea of "foreign interference in Iran's affairs." 


Khatami: a disasterous failure of leadership

by FG on

Tehran Bureau has an excellent analyists of how Khatami's behavior has hurt more than helped those who want change, democracy and human rights in Iran. Time and again, he played right into the hands of the Supreme Leader.