Phi Beta Iota: Two outcomes have emerged from Tunisia-Egypt: the first human, the second technical. Humans world-wide are emergent against the 44 dictators as well as false democracies such as the USA’s GRIFTOPIA–the Power of the Powerless that emerged against the Soviet Union is now global; a strong aspect of this is that the human revolt is non-sectarian–secular corruption exploits sectarian divides, but when all are focused on ending corruption, there is no sectarian divide to exploit. The second is human-technical: crowdsourcing of money combined with a rapidly emerging strategy for creating the Autonomous Internet. 2012 is a year of Awakening & Emergence. What the Pope does in Assisi right now is slated to fail or be relevant, but if the Church wakes up and sees the possibilities, with religions adopting OpenBTS and Autonomous Internet as a means of empowering the faithful to be free with dignity, potent in creating a prosperous world at peace, Assisi is a game changer.
Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Libya-UK, Tunesia
Bahrain: Tens of thousands Bahraini protesters marched in Manama on 4 March demanding the resignation of the cabinet. Secretary-general of the Shiite Al Wefaq opposition group, Sheikh Ali Salman, said that the peaceful action of the protesters forced authorities to abandon plans to control the demonstration by force.
Following clashes between Shiites and Sunnis on 4 March, thousands of anti-government protesters went to the state television headquarters in Manama and chanted slogans against the al-Khalifa dynasty.
Several people were wounded in a fight between Sunni and Shiite Muslims involving approximately 100 people after a small altercation escalated.
Comment: Saudi advice to pursue dialogue and power sharing has failed.
Iraq: About 2,000 Iraqi protesters gathered around Liberation Square in the capital city of Baghdad with hundreds rallying in the western Mansour neighborhood and more in front of the Abu Khanifa mosque in the Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah.
A 3 March vehicle ban in Baghdad forced many protesters to walk for miles, a scene repeated in at least ten other cities with similar bans and demonstrations in such cities as Mosul and Tikrit. Around 1,000 people demonstrated in front of the Basra provincial council building, 300 protesters in Hilla and 400 protesters outside the town hall in Dujail. However, Iraqi security forces prevented planned protests in Samarra as well as other part of Salaheddin province.
Comment: The numbers are not yet large but the discontent is rising and it seems to cross sectarian boundaries.
Saudi Arabia: Around 300 youths participated in a peaceful march to the provincial headquarters of Al-Ahsa province in Hofuf, Saudi Arabia, ABNA reported March 4. Security forces surrounded the headquarters but did not come into contact with the demonstrators. More than 100 clerics from Al-Ahsa and Qatif issued statements demanding the release of democracy activist Sheikh Tawfiq Al-Amer.
Comment: Separate protests were held in the predominately Shiite Eastern Province for the release of political prisoners. Public protests of any size in the Kingdom are rare.
Yemen: Shiite Muslim rebels in northern Yemen said the military fired rockets at a group of anti-regime protesters during a demonstration in the city of Harf Sufyan early on 4 March, injuring dozens. A rebel spokesman said thousands marched in the streets of Harf Sufyan demanding an end to corruption and President Saleh’s regime when they were hit by rockets fired from the army base located in the city.
Prominent Yemeni cleric Abdul Majeed al-Zindani wrote an eight point plan, approved by Yemeni clerics, to end the current political crisis and submitted it to President Saleh, Saba reported March 4.
The plan calls for the withdrawal of current election and referendum draft laws with parliament to approve a new consensus law. It calls for the withdrawal of proposed constitutional amendments and the establishment of a mediation committee to end political disputes as well as the formation of a national unity government. Political prisoners not found guilt or without pending cases are to be released and anti-corruption investigations intensified. All parties are to end inciting and provocative media campaigns as well as all demonstrations and sit-ins.
Comment: The Muslim clerisy is making a bid to take control of the uprising in the name of ending the unrest. In other words, it is trying to be politically relevant.
Egypt: The Egyptian Cabinet announced on its Facebook page 4 March that a referendum on constitutional amendments will be held March 19, Egyptian Nile News TV reported.
An estimated 1,000 Egyptian protesters marched on an internal security service building in Alexandria. Officers inside fired on the crowd, injuring three demonstrators, a medic witness stated. Military forces were called to disperse the crowd after protesters set four police cars on fire.
Comment: As long as the military-backed government pursues constitutional amendments, instead of rewriting the constitution, that means it is not serious about fundamental political change. It still wants strong man rule, which the constitution supports in so many articles that it cannot be amended.
The Alexandria incident supports the point that the Egyptian Army would have shot protestors without hesitation had it been ordered. The high command manipulated the uprising for its own political purposes. That at least is reassuring that the mullahs will have little substantive power in whatever the military approves as the next government. It also means that sometime in the future another uprising is inevitable.
Libya Situation Summary: On 4 March, pro-Qadhafi forces went on a counter offensive in Zawiyah, west of Tripoli and beat back protestors in Tripoli itself. Qadhafi claims his mercenaries are in control in Zawiyah. Combat aircraft bombed rebel areas again. Rebels claim to have taken control of Ras Lanuf, an important oil town.
In Tripoli, Qadhafi’s militias were ready for the protestors after Friday prayers. The tear gassed them and shot them with rubber bullets. In Zawiyah the death toll was said to be 50, which is high for what are essentially light infantry engagements. The tactical skill of Qadhafi’s supporters is just slightly better than that of completely untrained rebel fighters.
At the end of the day, little geography changed, but the rebels showed they have a presence in Tripoli and that is a basis for building. Tripoli is the prize, unless the rebels are content to fragment Libya, which is not yet the case. Instability is always centripetal, towards the center of power which is Tripoli.
The rebels lack the strength and organization to challenge Qadhafi’s grip on Tripoli unless his inner circle fractures. Bribery and safe passage will work.
Libya-UK: The Cameron government indicated that it is stepping up its support to the Benghazi-based National Liberation Council by providing expert military assistance, which almost certainly includes top of the line military communications to coordinate groups.
Comment: The euphoria of local success by the rebels is being replaced by the realization that freedom is hard to achieve and hold. Supplies run out, not helped by illiterate pre-modern holders of guns who shoot them in the air for no reason. Bullets come down and are dangerous in their return to earth.
Essential support infrastructures are vulnerable. A single lucky bomb on a storage tank at an oil facility in eastern Libya will end the rebellion in a week by making everyone walk, except Qadhafi’s forces. The British approach has merit because the rebels need professional help, regrouping, training and organization even though they want to succeed without it.
It was clear two weeks ago, but much clearer today, that the Qadhafi family cartel must be killed or taken prisoner. The cartel will fight to the last Libyan to stay in power. Negotiations with the rebels would be invitations to a rebel leadership massacre. Everything depends on the tribes and the arrival speed of effective modern military advice and aid.
The problem with the tribes is their interests are tribal not national. They must have the promise of a tangible return greater than Qadhafi is offering. If they side with the rebels, Qadhafi is history.
Tunisia: Tunisia’s newly appointed Prime Minister Beji Caid-Essebsi said he hopes to form a new interim government with presidential approval by 6 March. He said the popular revolution does not have a framework to work within and that any government members who wished to leave or stay should feel free to do so. Essebsi also said the new government will relaunch the economic cycle as soon as possible, adding the Tunisian economy is on the brink of an abyss, DPA reported.
Comment: One of the many ironies in the ferment shaking the Arab world is that the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt often are cited as inspiring other uprisings. The irony is that Tunisia, even more than Egypt, is far from a fundamental change of government. Ben Ali and Mubarak are gone but their cronies are still in office or in positions of wealth and power and their systems thrive.