NIGHTWATCH: Arab Spring Update

Cultural Intelligence

Arab Spring countries

Egypt: Starting Friday and continuing over the weekend in Egypt, 80 to over 120 members of the Muslim Brotherhood and pro-Mursi demonstrators died in clashes in Cairo, Alexandria and other Nile Delta towns. The health ministry reported 792 people injured. The Brotherhood said 4,500 were wounded.

The interim president has authorized the prime minister to empower the military to make civilian arrests. A final showdown with the Muslim Brotherhood is emerging.

In north Sinai, Egyptian security forces began “Operation Desert Storm” against anti-government elements and tribes. The first official report is that government forces killed 10 militants and captured 20. According to al Ahram, the government estimates there are 500 active militants. The government has more than ten times that number.

Tunisia: A general strike in reaction to a political assassination last week emptied Tunis and grounded some commercial aircraft on Friday. On Saturday thousands protested against the Islamist-led government. Protests continued on Sunday resulting in clashes between pro- and anti-government groups. Anti-government groups have threatened to create an opposition counter-government.

Police clashed with anti-government protestors in Sidi Bouzid. This is the Tunisian town considered to be the birth place of the Arab Spring because it is where the first violent protests occurred in December 2010. The murdered opposition leader, Brahmi, came from Sidi Bouzid.

Libya: Protestors ransacked the Muslim Brotherhood offices in Tripoli in reaction to the killing of a prominent critic of the Brotherhood, who was shot dead on Friday.

In Benghazi about 1,200 inmates escaped from a prison on Saturday. On Sunday, two bombs detonated at justice ministry buildings. Thirteen people were reported injured.

The bombings were followed by demonstrations over the government’s inability to provide security in Benghazi.

Comment: In all three countries, elected government has fallen short of popular expectations and failed to deliver on promises. The Islamists have proven able to win elections but not to govern. Their problem is that the conditions enabling elections were created by popular revolts supported by the armed forces. The direction the Islamists tried to move appears to have been rejected, mainly for non-performance.

The reflex for leadership change under conditions of violence is not spent. The people look impatient for improvements to living conditions. The so-called Arab Spring is sputtering, but the revolutionary impulse remains alive.

Phi Beta Iota:  A nuanced appreciation for Islamic countries demands a rigorous understanding of the differences among the Islamic religious aspect, the economic governnance aspect, the military control aspect, the youth demographic aspect, and finally the natural-geographic aspect.