Arab Spring

On December 17, a Tunisian fruit seller ignited an uprising that caused the fall of the authoritarian Ben Ali.  By the middle of January 2011, protest movements were launched in a number of other Arab countries starting the so-called Arab Spring. The main slogan: The People Want the Fall of the Regime [al-sha`b yurid isqat al-nizam; see video below]. Shorter cries such as, degage, irhal, game over, down with the regime, ghur, etc... became widespread. These pages will attempt to document some of these historic moments. Feel free to send us any document that you would like to share with the academic community and the public.

Commentaries and essays on Arab Spring

Historic elections in Tunisia set the tone for the Arab world

posted Nov 4, 2011, 12:50 PM by Ahmed Souaiaia

Read it here

The country that started the Arab Spring made its first step towards pluralistic, representative governance. On October 23, 2011 and before the eyes of hundreds of national and international monitors, observers, and reporters, Tunisians lined up to elect their representatives for the Constituency Council (Assembly). Nearly ten months after the overthrow of the authoritarian ruler, Ben Ali, more than seven million Tunisians voted. I had the honor to observe the process before, during, and immediately after the elections and I was astounded by the level of professionalism, transparency, and integrity of the process. I will write about the meaning and implications in the near future; but I wanted to share some of the statistics of these elections for that tells just as important of a story as the outcome itself.

To meet the aspirations of the revolution, an independent commission was tasked with organizing the elections (Independent High Commission for the Elections). Out of the total of 1624 lists that sought approval to compete in the elections, 1519 were approved and the rest (about 7%) were denied participation for not meeting the established standards. These lists were a mixture of independents (655), political parties (830), and coalitions (34) competing in some or all of the 27 districts. Each list has a leader; 93% of these leaders were males and 50% of the persons on the lists were under the age of 47 years.

Al-Nahda won 41.47 per cent of the vote (90 of the 217 seats). The Congress for the Republic Party won 30 seats, while al-Takattul came third with 21 seats closely followed by the Popular Petition with 19 seats. The Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), the opposition party since the days of Bourguiba and Ben Ali won only 17 seats. The remaining 40 seats were carried by other lists and parties. The Popular Petition had nine of its seats won in six constituencies eliminated reportedly for breaking the election laws on financing campaigns. One seat in France was invalidated following allegations that the head of the list had an active role within the RCD—the party of the former dictator.

Overall, women took 24% of the assembly after they won 49 seats, and 42 of those seats belonged to al-Nahda. According to the final results, 28 lists are represented at the constituency council, but while 19 party lists hold 203 seats, eight independent lists and one coalition list have nine and five seats, respectively. The elected body will now write a new constitution, choose an interim president and a caretaker prime minister and prepare for the next elections that will take place in one year

Egypt: نظم الانتخاب وبعض التعريفات

posted Sep 28, 2011, 2:31 PM by Ahmed Souaiaia

الانتخاب المباشر السري العام
يعني مساهمة جميع المواطنين البالغين ثماني عشرة سنه ميلادية في الانتخابات علي قدم المساواة باختيار المرشحين مباشرة وهو ما يسمي بالانتخاب علي درجة واحدة في سرية ودون اطلاع أي فرد علي اختياره.

الانتخاب الفردي
يتم تقسيم الدولة إلى عدة دوائر انتخابية لعدد النواب المراد انتخابهم بحيث يكون لكل دائرة انتخابية نائب واحد ولا يجوز للناخبين أن ينتخبوا أكثر من مرشح واحد.

الانتخاب بالقائمة النسبية
يتم تقليص عدد الدوائر الانتخابية ويختار الناخب قائمة حزبية تتضمن عددا من المرشحين عن دائرة واحدة والقائمة التي تحصل علي أغلبية الأصوات لا تحصل علي كافه المقاعد لهذه الدائرة وإنما عدد من المقاعد يتناسب مع نسبه ما تحصل عليه من أصوات.
والانتخاب بالقوائم النسبية قد يتخذ شكل القائمة المغلقة أو القائمة المفتوحة 

القوائم المغلقة والمفتوحة
القائمة المغلقة هي قائمة ثابتة لا يمكن للناخب تغيير ترتيب المرشحين الذي تم اعتماده من الحزب.
أما القائمة المفتوحة يتمكن الناخب من الاقتراع للأفراد المفضلين المرشحين علي قوائم الأحزاب ،حيث يقوم الناخب بالاقتراع لمرشح فرد أو لعده مرشحين بدل التصويت للأحزاب حتى يكتمل ملء كافه المقاعد ويتم جمع الأصوات التي حصل عليها مرشحو الحزب الواحد لتشكيل مجموع أصوات الحزب وبناء علي هذا المجموع يتم توزيع المقاعد علي الأحزاب بحيث تكون نسبه المقاعد التي يحصل عليها الحزب قريبة من نسبة مجموع الأصوات التي فاز بها مرشحو الحزب.
والفارق الأساسي بين القوائم المغلقة والقوائم المفتوحة هي عند توزيع المقاعد علي المرشحين إذ توزع المقاعد في نظام القوائم المغلقة بناء علي ترتيب الأسماء في القائمة التي قدمها الحزب ، أما نظام القائمة المفتوحة توزع المقاعد حسب ترتيب الأصوات التي نالها المرشحون وقد يكون مختلفا عن التوزيع الذي اقترحه الحزب.

كيفية انتخاب أعضاء مجلسي الشعب والشورى
ويتم انتخاب نصف أعضاء مجلسي الشعب والشورى بنظام الانتخاب الفردي والنصف الآخر بنظام القوائم الحزبية المغلقة إذ يجب أن يتساوي عدد الأعضاء الممثلين لكل محافظة عن طريق القوائم الحزبية المغلقة مع عدد الأعضاء الممثلين لها عن طريق الانتخاب الفردي.
و تقسم الجمهورية لانتخابات مجلس الشعب إلي ١٢٦ دائرة تخصص للانتخاب بالنظام الفردي ينتخب عن كل دائرة منها عضوان يكون احدهما علي الأقل من العمال والفلاحين و ٥٨ دائرة أخري تخصص للانتخاب بنظام القوائم.
وتقسم جمهورية مصر العربية لانتخابات مجلس الشورى إلي ٦٥ دائرة تخصص للانتخاب بالنظام الفردي، ُينتخب عن كل دائرة منها عضوان يكون أحدهما علي الأقل من العمال والفلاحين.
كما تقسم الجمهورية إلى ٢٨ دائرة أخري تخصص للانتخاب بنظام القوائم.

Erdoğan: "Those who repress their own people in Syria will not survive"

posted Sep 16, 2011, 12:16 PM by Ahmed Souaiaia

Declaring that the time of autocracies is over, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan stated on Friday that the autocratic regime in Syria will collapse just like those in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

“I was in Tunisia yesterday; I greeted people who carried out the Jasmine Revolution. Two days before that, I was in Egypt and I greeted people who have initiated the Arab Spring. Today, I am with you,” Erdoğan said, addressing an enthusiastic crowd on Martyrs' Square, which was renamed from the Gaddafi-era Green Square. When the crowd chanted slogans against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Erdoğan said: “Those who repress their own people in Syria will not survive. The time of autocracies is over. Totalitarian regimes are disappearing. The rule of the people is coming.”

Erdoğan was addressing the Libyan people following talks with Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil and NTC Deputy Chairman Mahmoud Jibril. In his speech, he wished the NTC leaders success. Another message to the Libyan people by Erdoğan was a call for unity as a nation for the sake of the future of their country.

“Do not give credit to those who have plans for Libya's resources. Libya belongs to Libyans and it should remain so. God bless all of you,” Erdoğan said. Following his talks in Tripoli, Erdoğan was expected to also visit Benghazi, the cradle of the revolution that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, before returning to Turkey on late Friday. Libya was the last leg of a three-nation tour by Erdoğan which earlier this week took him to Egypt first and then to Tunisia.

Turkish Deputy Premier Bekir Bozdağ, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız, Economy Minister Zafer Cağlayan and Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz accompanied Erdoğan on the tour. Erdoğan hopes to reap political and economic dividends from Libya’s new rulers for his country’s help in their struggle to end Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year grip on power.

As Erdoğan was holding talks in Tripoli, the forces of Libya’s new leaders attacked two besieged towns on Friday, storming into Bani Walid and pushing on, towards Sirte, in a bid to finish off the resistance posed by diehard supporters of Muammar Gaddafi.

At Bani Walid, a bastion of tribal loyalists in the desert 180 km southeast of Tripoli, a Reuters correspondent watched anti-Gaddafi fighters move forward under mortar, rocket and sniper fire, advancing from house to house and sheltering behind walls as shrapnel flew and shots rang out.

Though the forces of the NTC said they took a key valley leading to the center, the defense remained ferocious after a two-week siege of the town where senior figures of the old government may have taken refuge.

On the outskirts of Sirte on the Mediterranean coast, Gaddafi’s birthplace, another Reuters correspondent watched scores of trucks mounted with heavy machineguns, as well as four tanks, advancing on the sprawling seaside city.

Explosions, rapid gunfire and the scream of heavy rockets came from the center of the city as black clouds of smoke curled into the sky above. NATO planes roared overhead.

Nearly four weeks after a ragged coalition of rebel fighters, backed by a six-month NATO air campaign, overran his capital and ended his 42 years of personal rule, Gaddafi, 69, is still at large and commanding loyalty from at least hundreds of armed men, concentrated from Sirte, through Bani Walid and deep into the Sahara desert around the southern city of Sabha.

The new leadership, struggling to maintain unity and restore order as international powers line up to offer aid and seek contracts for oil and reconstruction contracts, says Gaddafi and his sons and aides pose a threat, at the very least of insurgent attacks, and wants to capture their last bastions.

At Bani Walid, truckloads of NTC fighters shouting “Let’s go! Bani Walid!” and columns of pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns had advanced on the town in early morning.

Throughout the morning, a Reuters correspondent on the northern edge of the town heard heavy fighting within Bani Walid, from which many of the 100,000 residents had fled earlier in the week. Black smoke rose overhead and mortars and Grad rockets landed around the government lines outside.

The traditional stronghold of Libya’s biggest tribal grouping, Bani Walid’s complex mix of loyalties is a proving ground for the ability of the new leadership in Tripoli to hold together a nation whose historic divisions Gaddafi exploited.

At Sirte, NTC fighters massed around a breeze-block mosque on the outskirts, while others drove on towards the center accompanied by two tanks. Mohammed, a 23-year-old fighter from the city of Misrata said the resistance was coming from pockets of Gaddafi supporters dotted around a city which Gaddafi developed from a village into a would-be “capital of Africa.”

Al Jazeera television said NTC forces had taken Sirte’s airport, which lies some 10 km south of the city. Gaddafi’s spokesman said he had thousands of supporters.

“We are telling you that as of tomorrow there will be atrocious attacks by NATO and their agents on the ground on the resisting towns of Sirte, Bani Walid and Sabha,” Moussa Ibrahim told Syrian-based Arrai television late on Thursday.

The television said 16 people had been killed in Sirte, including women and children, as a result of NATO bombing, and that Gaddafi forces had destroyed a NATO warship and vehicles. A NATO spokesman dismissed those claims and said its air forces struck military targets, including a tank and several missile systems, but was unaware of any civilian casualties.

“It is clear that Gaddafi forces are once again trying to spread rumors, claiming unsubstantiated victories and attempting to terrorize the local population,” said Col. Roland Lavoie. “The allegation about destroying a NATO warship is ridiculous and quite illustrative of Gaddafi’s desperate attempts to fabricate positive news.”

Erdoğan on secularism

posted Sep 16, 2011, 12:14 PM by Ahmed Souaiaia

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has reiterated his response to Arabs who were discontent with the prime minister’s call to build a secular state, saying that his words were mistranslated and that secularism does not mean being against the religion.

Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which was successful in marrying Islam and democracy, has become a model for much of the Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and other political groups such as Tunisia’s long banned Ennahda movement, as they prepare for the first free vote since decades-old rule in Egypt and Tunisia were ended earlier this year.

Erdoğan spoke about secularism in Egypt earlier this week, saying Turkey prefers a model of secularism that is not identical to the “Anglo-Saxon or Western model,” without elaborating. “Individuals cannot be secular, states are. A devout Muslim can successfully govern a secular state,” Erdoğan then said.

Erdoğan, while speaking in Tunisia about secularism, said his “secularism” term was translated as “irreligiousness” in Egypt that caused a confusion among Arabs. He offered an explanation for the Muslim Brotherhood's anger at his words in Cairo and said his words were misunderstood because of a translation mistake.

Asked about his secularism remarks in Libya on Friday during a press conference with Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil, Erdoğan reiterated that his remarks were mistranslated and that secularism is not about being an enemy of religion.

He said people in Turkey know very well what he thinks about this issue and “that’s why they cast 50 percent vote for me.” Erdoğan said post-revolution Arab nations will be discussing more to understand secularism today.

Erdoğan said an individual cannot be secular but a state is. According to Erdoğan, secularism is that while a Muslim is governing a state, he would stand in equal distance to all faiths – Christians, Jews, Muslim and atheits.

“Faith of all faith communities are under state guarentee. This is our understanding,” he said, adding that if there is anything that is against Islam, “please explain me.”

Turkey will stand by Libyans in rebuilding

Erdoğan pledged that Turkey will stand by Libyan people in upcoming period to meet the needs of Libyans in political, military, economic, trade and infrastructure works.

He said Libyan people has come to a historic turning point in their struggle toward a goal of achieving freedom, democracy and justice which Libyans were longing for many years.

Erdoğan also called on Libyans in Gaddafi stronghold Sirte and Saba to quit their fighting and unite with Libyans in Tripoli and Benghazi. He said whatever happened in Benghazi and Tripoli, the same will happen in Sirte and Saba eventually because he said sooner or later wishes of Libyan people will win.

Speaking about several difficulties the Libya’s governing body may experience in this transition period, Erdoğan said Libya belongs to Libya and it must remain so.

Reminding that the schools will be opened in Libya soon, Erdoğan said Turkey will give any kind of support in restoration of schools in Libya along with public facilities such as police posts and courhouses. He added that Turkey will also establish an orphanage house in Misrata for children of slain Libyans.

Among Turkey’s plans, Erdoğan said, there are also building a physical therapy center and a parliament building. He warned against dire situation in Sirte, Saba and Bin Walid regarding food and water, Erdoğan said Turkish charity teams will deliver food and water in these areas this weekend. 

Recalling that Turkish Airlines (THY) has already started flights to Benghazi, Erdoğan said the company is planning to start flights to capital Tripoli as soon as possible. He said he will proceed to Misrata from Tripoli and then to Benghazi.

Asked about Turkish companies which possibly involved in corruption during the Gaddafi regime, Erdoğan said he has no intelligence on that but if there is any, it is full right of the Libya’s governing body to deal with that.

‘Bashar will have to pay price’

Speaking about Syria, Erdoğan said Turkey’s sensitivity regarding Syria is that Turkey fears of a sectarian strife in the neighboring country.

Erdoğan reiterated his criticisms against Syrian regime and said those who attack their people with artillery and tanks can't remain in power. He said Turkey’s position toward “Bashar” is different from what it was one or two months ago. He said Assad will have to pay price after all these incidents and that Turkey will give its final decision regarding the developments in Syria after UN discussions next week the latest.

This was the first time Erdoğan was calling Assad with his first name. He always was used to say "Mr. Assad."

دستور ليبي لمرحلة ما بعد القذافي

posted Aug 23, 2011, 6:33 AM by Unknown user

  تزامنت انتصارات "ثوار ليبيا" على كافة الجبهات مع إعلان المجلس الوطني الانتقالي عن دستور مؤقت للبلاد نهاية الأسبوع يحدد ملامح الدولة الجديدة.


ويسري الدستور بعد إعلان "التحرير"، على أن يبقى المجلس أعلى سلطة في الدولة حتى انتخاب المؤتمر الوطني العام.


حكومة مؤقتة

وحددت المادة 30 مهام المجلس في تشكيل حكومة انتقالية خلال مدة أقصاها ثلاثون يوما، وانتخاب المؤتمر الوطني العام خلال مدة لا تتجاوز تسعين يوما، وتعيين المفوضية الوطنية العليا للانتخابات والدعوة إلى انتخاب المؤتمر الوطني، على أن يُحل المجلس في أول انعقاد للمؤتمر الوطني بالعاصمة طرابلس.


كما حدد الدستور الذي جاء في 34 مادة تنظم الحياة السياسية والاقتصادية والقانونية عقب سقوط نظام معمر القذافي، مسؤوليات المؤتمر الوطني خلال مدة لا تتجاوز ثلاثين يوما من أول اجتماع له بالعمل على تعيين رئيس للوزراء يقترح بدوره أسماء أعضاء حكومته، على أن يحظوا جميعا بثقة المؤتمر قبل مباشرة أعمالهم كحكومة مؤقتة.


كما يقوم المؤتمر بتعيين رؤساء الوظائف السيادية وتعيين هيئة تأسيسية لصياغة دستور للبلاد عليها الانتهاء من تقديمه في مدة لا تتجاوز 60 يوما حيث يعتمد من المؤتمر العام، ويطرح للاستفتاء عليه بـ"نعم" أو "لا".


كما يصدر المؤتمر الوطني قانونا لانتخابات وفقا للدستور خلال 30 يوما، وتجري الانتخابات العامة خلال 180 يوما من تاريخ صدور القوانين المنظمة لذلك.


ويشرف المجلس الوطني على إعداد جميع متطلبات إجراء العملية الانتخابية بصورة ديمقراطية شفافة. وتتولى المفوضية الوطنية العليا للانتخابات إجراء الانتخابات العامة تحت إشراف القضاء الوطني وبمراقبة الأمم المتحدة والمنظمات الدولية والإقليمية.


ويُصادق المؤتمر الوطني على النتائج ويعلنها، وتدعى السلطة التشريعية للانعقاد في مدة لا تزيد على 30 يوما، وفي أول جلسة لها يتم حل المؤتمر وتقوم السلطة التشريعية بأداء مهامها، وبانعقاد جلستها الأولى تعتبر الحكومة المؤقتة حكومة تسيير أعمال إلى حين اعتماد الحكومة الدائمة وفقا للدستور.


فترة انتقالية

وقال رئيس لجنة صياغة الإعلان الدستوري فرج الصلابي للجزيرة نت إن المشروع ينظم الحكم خلال الفترة التالية للتحرير، وهو دستور لن يجري عليه استفتاء ويعالج نظام الحكم خلال فترة انتقالية "محدودة" متمنيا أن يجد التنفيذ.


وفي رده على تجاهل لجنة الخبراء دستور ليبيا عام 1951، ذكر أنهم لم يتجاهلوا هذا الأمر، مضيفا أنهم رجعوا إلى الدساتير العربية لانتقاء مع ما يتماشى مع ظروف ليبيا الحالية.


ويتمنى الصلابي عرض المشروع في وسائل الإعلام لإحاطة كافة شرائح الشعب به للوصول بهم إلى مرحلة الاستفتاء على الدستور الدائم.


وأبدى رئيس منتدى المواطنة للديمقراطية والتنمية البشرية في بنغازي علي بوزعكوك ملاحظات على الإعلان، قائلا إنه "كان لدينا دستور انقلبت عليه دبابة عسكرية بقيادة معمر القذافي في سبتمبر (أيلول) عام 1969، والشعب لم يلغِ ذلك النص الدستوري حتى الآن"، موضحا أنه كان يتمنى الإشارة إلى ذلك الدستور "الذي بالإمكان الاعتماد عليه".


لكنه تساءل "من أعطى المجلس صلاحية الإعلان عن دستور مؤقت؟" و"هل هو تفويض من الشعب؟"، موضحا أنه "عند تأسيس المجلس ذكر أن مهمته تنتهي عند اكتمال التحرير".


وتابع "حاليا هناك رأي يقول إن المجلس سيستمر بشكل ما، وإصداره للإعلان يمنحه هذه الصلاحية"، داعيا إلى توضيح صلاحياته لاتخاذ مثل هذه القرارات الخطيرة.


وانتقد بوزعكوك ما سماها "غياب الدقة في تنصيص النصوص، والاتجاه إلى الكتابة الإنشائية، وفرض توقيت للمراحل الانتقالية بشكل غير موضوعي"، مؤكدا "ضرورة الابتعاد عن ألفاظ المؤتمر العام والشعب العام لأنها من إرث ثقافة العهد القمعي، والاكتفاء بالقول "جمعية وطنية تأسيسية".


هوية دستورية

كما تمنى الناشط السياسي عبد الحفيظ نجم في حديثه للجزيرة نت الرجوع إلى دستور عام 1951 الذي قال "لو أعلن المجلس عن تعديله لكانت ظروف كثيرة تغيّرت"، خاصة أن الأمم المتحدة ما زالت تعترف به، مشيرا إلى أنه كان من الممكن حذف كلمة ملكية وكتابة جمهورية بالاتفاق مع الشعب.


ويتصور الصحفي والمحلل السياسي محمد بعيو أن الظروف التي يعمل بها المجلس وتحت مقتضيات القانون الدولي والدول التي اعترفت به جعلت من الضرورة أن تكون لديه هوية دستورية مؤقتة، مرجحا أن هذه الضغوط أحد الأسباب وراء الإسراع به.


وأضاف أن متطلبات مرحلة "ما بعد التحرير" تختلف عن الفترة الحالية، مؤكدا أن الإعلان خلق قدرا كبيرا من الطمأنينة لدى الجميع بأن المجلس الانتقالي لن يكون سلطة قهرية أو قسرية على ليبيا بعد القذافي.


وقال إن توقيت الإعلان خطوة رشيدة وحكيمة لتحديد هوية الدولة الليبية القادمة، مطالبا بعدم التشدد مع المجلس في تفسير نصوص الإعلان المؤقت.


Interview with Rached Ghannouchi

posted Jul 15, 2011, 8:15 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jul 15, 2011, 8:38 AM ]

Transcript: interview with Rached Ghannouchi
Rached Ghannouchi, leader of Tunisia’s Islamist movement, Nahda, spoke to the Financial Times in London. Here are excerpts from the interview.
 FT: What do you think about the Future of Arab Revolutions?

RG: I’m optimistic. These people who made these revolutions I have confidence that they have the ability to translate these revolutions into a system that achieves the aims of these revolutions. These came after a struggle for long decades where all methods were tried for reforming these regimes from within. And all had failed, in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere and reform from without has also been tried, through the use of violence, and that has also failed.
The people have discovered that these regimes are not able to be reformed. And that attempts to reform them through violence have only strengthened these regimes. And they discovered the method of peaceful resistance, peaceful revolutions. Hence the fate of these revolutions is not linked to any particular party or ideology or leader. It depends on the millions who have achieved them, these revolutions.
Today, the revolution continues; and the youth of the revolutions are still striving to put pressure on the old elites, which are trying to return on the scene to rule again. And are ruthlessly defending their interests. Hence we see new sit-ins and protests in Tunisia and Egypt to put an end to the past, break with the past, and start a new page.
To break with the past and build a political system that achieves the aim of the revolution in building a fair, democratic system. The youth are very vigilant and conscious of what they need to do, and they’re not ready to leave their fate in the hands of the elites. And there is still turmoil in the country, in both Tunisia and Egypt.
FT: What balance sheet would you draw up on what has been achieved so far in the transformation of power?
RG: The main achievements are – and the first one is toppling the dictator and putting a number of his accomplices on trial. Apart from that the main achievements are psychological and people have liberated themselves from fear. People are exercising their sovereignty on the ground; so the ruler or the minister or the director of a company who is appointed, people research their background and they evaluate them. If they discover that they come from the old archives then they use the famous “Degage” and they are dismissed. However, the problem is the new appointees are from the same archives too.
So now fear has moved from the people to the opposite camp of the state, so the state is trying to please and appease the people. . .  The police were a source of great terror. Now Ben Ali has fled and his nearest allies are living in fear, police stations have been burnt. They are coming back onto the scene but in small, reserved steps.
The Interior Ministry has even changed the colour of police uniforms to end the image of the hated policeman; they’ve changed the colours of police cars. So people will forget the image of the terrorising and corrupt policeman.
But we have said what is under the uniform must change, too. There’s a great internal conflict within the Interior Ministry between different trends: those who say that the police must be neutral in the political sphere, must not side with any political party. And just apply the law.
Another trend believes that the police itself is in danger because they will bear the responsibility for all the crimes of the old regime. So they must continue with the same mentality, the same ideology of combating fanaticism and terrorism and Islamists.
Because that was the ideology of the state, combating Islam is combating Nahda. So in brief there is a movement pushing forward and another trying to pull back.
FT: Why did you agree to the postponement of the elections for a constituent assembly (from July to October). Nahda had been against that?
RG: We had no other choice; we were forced to accept.
FT: Forced by whom?
RG: Because the electoral commission, they were the ones who, without consulting anyone, decided to postpone the elections.

Three Days After ME&NA Speech: Obama spoke to AIPAC

posted May 23, 2011, 8:00 AM by Research Assistants   [ updated May 23, 2011, 8:32 AM by ibadiyya Digital Library Project ]

May 22, 2011

Good morning! Thank you, Rosy, for your very kind introduction. But even more, thank you for your many years friendship. Back in Chicago, when I was just getting started in national politics, I reached out to a lot of people for advice and counsel, and Rosy was one of the very first. When I made my first visit to Israel, after entering the Senate, Rosy – you were at my side every step of that very meaningful journey through the Holy Land. And I want to thank you for your enduring friendship, your leadership and for your warm welcome today.

Thank you to David Victor, Howard Kohr and all the Board of Directors. And let me say that it’s wonderful to look out and see so many great friends, including Alan Solow, Howard Green and a very large delegation from Chicago.

I want to thank the members of Congress who are joining you today—who do so much to sustain the bonds between the United States and Israel—including Eric Cantor, Steny Hoyer, and the tireless leader I was proud to appoint as the new chair of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

We’re joined by Israel’s representative to the United States, Ambassador Michael Oren. As well as one of my top advisors on Israel and the Middle East for the past four years, and who I know is going to be an outstanding ambassador to Israel—Dan Shapiro. Dan has always been a close and trusted advisor, and I know he’ll do a terrific job.

And at a time when so many young people around the world are standing up and making their voices heard, I also want to acknowledge all the college students from across the country who are here today. No one has a greater stake in the outcome of events that are unfolding today than your generation, and it’s inspiring to see you devote your time and energy to help shape the future.

Now, I’m not here to subject you to a long policy speech. I gave one on Thursday in which I said that the United States sees the historic changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa as a moment of great challenge, but also a moment of opportunity for greater peace and security for the entire region, including the State of Israel.

On Friday, I was joined at the White House by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we reaffirmed that fundamental truth that has guided our presidents and prime ministers for more than 60 years—that, even while we may at times disagree, as friends sometimes will, the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable, and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad.

A strong and secure Israel is in the national security interest of United States not simply because we share strategic interests, although we do both seek a region where families and their children can live free from the threat of violence. It’s not simply because we face common dangers, although there can be no denying that terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons are grave threats to both our nations.

America’s commitment to Israel’s security also flows from a deeper place —and that’s the values we share. As two people who struggled to win our freedom against overwhelming odds, we understand that preserving the security for which our forefathers fought must be the work of every generation. As two vibrant democracies, we recognize that the liberties and freedom we cherish must be constantly nurtured. And as the nation that recognized the State of Israel moments after its independence, we have a profound commitment to its survival as a strong, secure homeland of the Jewish people.

We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel in a tough neighborhood. I’ve seen it firsthand. When I touched my hand against the Western Wall and placed my prayer between its ancient stones, I thought of all the centuries that the children of Israel had longed to return to their ancient homeland. When I went to Sderot, I saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an eight-year old boy who lost his leg to a Hamas rocket. And when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I grasped the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the map.

Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority. It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels. It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies. And it’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels.

That includes additional support – beyond regular military aid – for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. This is a powerful example of American-Israel cooperation which has already intercepted rockets from Gaza and helped saved innocent Israeli lives. So make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.

You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Here in the U.S., we’ve imposed the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime. At the United Nations, we’ve secured the most comprehensive international sanctions on the regime, which have been joined by allies and partners around the world. Today, Iran is virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system, and we are going to keep up the pressure. So let me be absolutely clear – we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Its illicit nuclear program is just one challenge that Iran poses. As I said on Thursday, the Iranian government has shown its hypocrisy by claiming to support the rights of protesters while treating its own people with brutality. Moreover, Iran continues to support terrorism across the region, including providing weapons and funds to terrorist organizations. So we will continue to work to prevent these actions, and will stand up to groups like Hezbollah who exercise political assassination, and seek to impose their will through rockets and car bombs.

You also see our commitment to Israel’s security in our steadfast opposition to any attempt to de-legitimize the State of Israel. As I said at the United Nation’s last year, “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” and “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.”

So when the Durban Review Conference advanced anti-Israel sentiment, we withdrew. In the wake of the Goldstone Report, we stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself. When an effort was made to insert the United Nations into matters that should be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, we vetoed it.

And so, in both word and deed, we have been unwavering in our support of Israel’s security. And it is precisely because of our commitment to Israel’s long-term security that we have worked to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Now, I have said repeatedly that core issues can only be negotiated in direct talks between the parties. And I indicated on Thursday that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. We will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace: recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and adhering to all existing agreements. And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years.

And yet, no matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under the current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option. The status quo is unsustainable. That is why, on Thursday, I stated publicly the principles that the United States believes can provide a foundation for negotiations toward an agreement to end the conflict and all claims – the broad outlines of which have been known for many years, and have been the template for discussions between the United States, Israelis, and Palestinians since at least the Clinton Administration.

I know that stating these principles – on the issues of territory and security – generated some controversy over the past few days. I was not entirely surprised. I know very well that the easy thing to do, particularly for a President preparing for reelection, is to avoid any controversy. But as I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe that the current situation in the Middle East does not allow for procrastination. I also believe that real friends talk openly and honestly with one another. And so I want to share with you some of what I said to the Prime Minister.

Here are the facts we all must confront. First, the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian territories. This will make it harder and harder – without a peace deal – to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state.

Second, technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself in the absence of a genuine peace.

And third, a new generation of Arabs is reshaping the region. A just and lasting peace can no longer be forged with one or two Arab leaders. Going forward, millions of Arab citizens have to see that peace is possible for that peace to be sustained.

Just as the context has changed in the Middle East, so too has it been changing in the international community over the last several years. There is a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their interests at the United Nations. They recognize that there is an impatience with the peace process – or the absence of one. Not just in the Arab World, but in Latin America, in Europe, and in Asia. That impatience is growing, and is already manifesting itself in capitols around the world.

These are the facts. I firmly believe, and repeated on Thursday, that peace cannot be imposed on the parties to the conflict. No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state. And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the UN or in any international forum. Because Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate.

Moreover, we know that peace demands a partner – which is why I said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist, and we will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their rhetoric.

But the march to isolate Israel internationally – and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations – will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternative. For us to have leverage with the Palestinians, with the Arab States, and with the international community, the basis for negotiations has to hold out the prospect of success. So, in advance of a five day trip to Europe in which the Middle East will be a topic of acute interest, I chose to speak about what peace will require.

There was nothing particularly original in my proposal; this basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. Administrations. But since questions have been raised, let me repeat what I actually said on Thursday.

I said that the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.

That is what I said. Now, it was my reference to the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps that received the lion’s share of the attention. And since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means.

By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.

If there’s a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. I have done so because we cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel would only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.

I know that some of you will disagree with this assessment. I respect that. And as fellow Americans and friends of Israel, I know that we can have this discussion.

Ultimately, however, it is the right and responsibility of the Israeli government to make the hard choices that are necessary to protect a Jewish and democratic state for which so many generations have sacrificed. And as a friend of Israel, I am committed to doing our part to see that this goal is realized, while calling not just on Israel, but on the Palestinians, the Arab States, and the international community to join us in that effort. Because the burden of making hard choices must not be Israel’s alone.

Even as we do all that’s necessary to ensure Israel’s security; even as we are clear-eyed about the difficult challenges before us; and even as we pledge to stand by Israel through whatever tough days lie ahead – I hope we do not give up on that vision of peace. For if history teaches us anything—if the story of Israel teaches us anything—it is that with courage and resolve, progress is possible. Peace is possible.

The Talmud teaches us that so long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith. And that lesson seems especially fitting today,

For so long as there are those, across the Middle East and beyond, who are standing up for the legitimate rights and freedoms which have been denied by their governments, the United States will never abandon our support for those rights that are universal.

And so long as there are those who long for a better future, we will never abandon our pursuit of a just and lasting peace that ends this conflict with two states living side by side in peace and security. This is not idealism or naivete. It’s a hard-headed recognition that a genuine peace is the only path that will ultimately provide for a peaceful Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people and a Jewish state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless Israel, and God bless the United States of America.


President Barack Obama's address on Middle East and North Africa

posted May 20, 2011, 7:44 AM by Ahmed Souaiaia   [ updated May 20, 2011, 9:32 AM ]

As released by White House:
I want to thank Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark – one million frequent flyer miles. I count on Hillary every day, and I believe that she will go down as of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation's history.

The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change take place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square; town by town; country by country; the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security; history and faith.

Today, I would like to talk about this change – the forces that are driving it, and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security. Already, we have done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we have removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we have broken the Taliban's momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader – Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden was no martyr. He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate – an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change. He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy – not what he could build.

Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents. But even before his death, al Qaeda was losing its struggle for relevance, as the overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did not answer their cries for a better life. By the time we found bin Laden, al Qaeda's agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands.

That story of self-determination began six months ago in Tunisia. On December 17, a young vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi was devastated when a police officer confiscated his cart. This was not unique. It is the same kind of humiliation that takes place every day in many parts of the world – the relentless tyranny of governments that deny their citizens dignity. Only this time, something different happened. After local officials refused to hear his complaint, this young man who had never been particularly active in politics went to the headquarters of the provincial government, doused himself in fuel, and lit himself on fire.

Sometimes, in the course of history, the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has built up for years. In America, think of the defiance of those patriots in Boston who refused to pay taxes to a King, or the dignity of Rosa Parks as she sat courageously in her seat. So it was in Tunisia, as that vendor's act of desperation tapped into the frustration felt throughout the country. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets, then thousands. And in the face of batons and sometimes bullets, they refused to go home – day after day, week after week, until a dictator of more than two decades finally left power.

The story of this Revolution, and the ones that followed, should not have come as a surprise. The nations of the Middle East and North Africa won their independence long ago, but in too many places their people did not. In too many countries, power has been concentrated in the hands of the few. In too many countries, a citizen like that young vendor had nowhere to turn – no honest judiciary to hear his case; no independent media to give him voice; no credible political party to represent his views; no free and fair election where he could choose his leader.

This lack of self determination – the chance to make of your life what you will – has applied to the region's economy as well. Yes, some nations are blessed with wealth in oil and gas, and that has led to pockets of prosperity. But in a global economy based on knowledge and innovation, no development strategy can be based solely upon what comes out of the ground. Nor can people reach their potential when you cannot start a business without paying a bribe.

In the face of these challenges, too many leaders in the region tried to direct their people's grievances elsewhere. The West was blamed as the source of all ills, a half century after the end of colonialism. Antagonism toward Israel became the only acceptable outlet for political expression. Divisions of tribe, ethnicity and religious sect were manipulated as a means of holding on to power, or taking it away from somebody else.

But the events of the past six months show us that strategies of repression and diversion won't work anymore. Satellite television and the Internet provide a window into the wider world – a world of astonishing progress in places like India, Indonesia and Brazil. Cell phones and social networks allow young people to connect and organize like never before. A new generation has emerged. And their voices tell us that change cannot be denied.

In Cairo, we heard the voice of the young mother who said, "It's like I can finally breathe fresh air for the first time."

In Sanaa, we heard the students who chanted, "The night must come to an end."

In Benghazi, we heard the engineer who said, "Our words are free now. It's a feeling you can't explain."

In Damascus, we heard the young man who said, "After the first yelling, the first shout, you feel dignity."

Those shouts of human dignity are being heard across the region. And through the moral force of non-violence, the people of the region have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades.

Of course, change of this magnitude does not come easily. In our day and age – a time of 24 hour news cycles, and constant communication – people expect the transformation of the region to be resolved in a matter of weeks. But it will be years before this story reaches its end. Along the way, there will be good days, and bad days. In some places, change will be swift; in others, gradual. And as we have seen, calls for change may give way to fierce contests for power.

The question before us is what role America will play as this story unfolds. For decades, the United States has pursued a set of core interests in the region: countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce, and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel's security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.

We will continue to do these things, with the firm belief that America's interests are not hostile to peoples' hopes; they are essential to them. We believe that no one benefits from a nuclear arms race in the region, or al Qaeda's brutal attacks. People everywhere would see their economies crippled by a cut off in energy supplies. As we did in the Gulf War, we will not tolerate aggression across borders, and we will keep our commitments to friends and partners.

Yet we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind. Moreover, failure to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people will only feed the suspicion that has festered for years that the United States pursues our own interests at their expense. Given that this mistrust runs both ways – as Americans have been seared by hostage taking, violent rhetoric, and terrorist attacks that have killed thousands of our citizens – a failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and Muslim communities.

That's why, two years ago in Cairo, I began to broaden our engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. I believed then – and I believe now – that we have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self determination of individuals. The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.

So we face an historic opportunity. We have embraced the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator. There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.

As we do, we must proceed with a sense of humility. It is not America that put people into the streets of Tunis and Cairo – it was the people themselves who launched these movements, and must determine their outcome. Not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy, and there will be times when our short term interests do not align perfectly with our long term vision of the region. But we can – and will – speak out for a set of core principles – principles that have guided our response to the events over the past six months:

The United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region.

We support a set of universal rights. Those rights include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion; equality for men and women under the rule of law; and the right to choose your own leaders – whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus; Sanaa or Tehran.

And finally, we support political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa that can meet the legitimate aspirations of ordinary people throughout the region.

Our support for these principles is not a secondary interest– today I am making it clear that it is a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions, and supported by all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal.

Let me be specific. First, it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy.

That effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia, where the stakes are high –as Tunisia was at the vanguard of this democratic wave, and Egypt is both a longstanding partner and the Arab World's largest nation. Both nations can set a strong example through free and fair elections; a vibrant civil society; accountable and effective democratic institutions; and responsible regional leadership. But our support must also extend to nations where transitions have yet to take place.

Unfortunately, in too many countries, calls for change have been answered by violence. The most extreme example is Libya, where Moammar Gaddafi launched a war against his people, promising to hunt them down like rats. As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force – no matter how well-intended it may be.

But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people's call for help. Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed. The message would have been clear: keep power by killing as many people as it takes. Now, time is working against Gaddafi. He does not have control over his country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible Interim Council. And when Gaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.

While Libya has faced violence on the greatest scale, it is not the only place where leaders have turned to repression to remain in power. Most recently, the Syrian regime has chosen the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens. The United States has condemned these actions, and working with the international community we have stepped up our sanctions on the Syrian regime – including sanctions announced yesterday on President Assad and those around him.

The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy. President Assad now has a choice: he can lead that transition, or get out of the way. The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests; release political prisoners and stop unjust arrests; allow human rights monitors to have access to cities like Dara'a; and start a serious dialogue to advance a democratic transition. Otherwise, President Assad and his regime will continue to be challenged from within and isolated abroad

Thus far, Syria has followed its Iranian ally, seeking assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression. This speaks to the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stand for the rights of protesters abroad, yet suppresses its people at home. Let us remember that the first peaceful protests were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail. We still hear the chants echo from the rooftops of Tehran. The image of a young woman dying in the streets is still seared in our memory. And we will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal rights, and a government that does not smother their aspirations.

Our opposition to Iran's intolerance – as well as its illicit nuclear program, and its sponsorship of terror – is well known. But if America is to be credible, we must acknowledge that our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for change consistent with the principles that I have outlined today. That is true in Yemen, where President Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power. And that is true, today, in Bahrain.

Bahrain is a long-standing partner, and we are committed to its security. We recognize that Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil there, and that the Bahraini government has a legitimate interest in the rule of law. Nevertheless, we have insisted publically and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain's citizens, and will not make legitimate calls for reform go away. The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can't have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail. The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.

Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian democracy. There, the Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence for a democratic process, even as they have taken full responsibility for their own security. Like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. As they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.

So in the months ahead, America must use all our influence to encourage reform in the region. Even as we acknowledge that each country is different, we will need to speak honestly about the principles that we believe in, with friend and foe alike. Our message is simple: if you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States. We must also build on our efforts to broaden our engagement beyond elites, so that we reach the people who will shape the future – particularly young people.

We will continue to make good on the commitments that I made in Cairo – to build networks of entrepreneurs, and expand exchanges in education; to foster cooperation in science and technology, and combat disease. Across the region, we intend to provide assistance to civil society, including those that may not be officially sanctioned, and who speak uncomfortable truths. And we will use the technology to connect with – and listen to – the voices of the people.

In fact, real reform will not come at the ballot box alone. Through our efforts we must support those basic rights to speak your mind and access information. We will support open access to the Internet, and the right of journalists to be heard – whether it's a big news organization or a blogger. In the 21st century, information is power; the truth cannot be hidden; and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.

Such open discourse is important even if what is said does not square with our worldview. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard, even if we disagree with them. We look forward to working with all who embrace genuine and inclusive democracy. What we will oppose is an attempt by any group to restrict the rights of others, and to hold power through coercion – not consent. Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and respect for the rights of minorities.

Such tolerance is particularly important when it comes to religion. In Tahrir Square, we heard Egyptians from all walks of life chant, "Muslims, Christians, we are one." America will work to see that this spirit prevails – that all faiths are respected, and that bridges are built among them. In a region that was the birthplace of three world religions, intolerance can lead only to suffering and stagnation. And for this season of change to succeed, Coptic Christians must have the right to worship freely in Cairo, just as Shia must never have their mosques destroyed in Bahrain.

What is true for religious minorities is also true when it comes to the rights of women. History shows that countries are more prosperous and peaceful when women are empowered. That is why we will continue to insist that universal rights apply to women as well as men – by focusing assistance on child and maternal health; by helping women to teach, or start a business; by standing up for the right of women to have their voices heard, and to run for office. For the region will never reach its potential when more than half its population is prevented from achieving their potential.

Even as we promote political reform and human rights in the region, our efforts cannot stop there. So the second way that we must support positive change in the region is through our efforts to advance economic development for nations that transition to democracy.

After all, politics alone has not put protesters into the streets. The tipping point for so many people is the more constant concern of putting food on the table and providing for a family. Too many in the region wake up with few expectations other than making it through the day, and perhaps the hope that their luck will change. Throughout the region, many young people have a solid education, but closed economies leave them unable to find a job. Entrepreneurs are brimming with ideas, but corruption leaves them unable to profit from them.

The greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa is the talent of its people. In the recent protests, we see that talent on display, as people harness technology to move the world. It's no coincidence that one of the leaders of Tahrir Square was an executive for Google. That energy now needs to be channeled, in country after country, so that economic growth can solidify the accomplishments of the street. Just as democratic revolutions can be triggered by a lack of individual opportunity, successful democratic transitions depend upon an expansion of growth and broad-based prosperity.

Drawing from what we've learned around the world, we think it's important to focus on trade, not just aid; and investment, not just assistance. The goal must be a model in which protectionism gives way to openness; the reigns of commerce pass from the few to the many, and the economy generates jobs for the young. America's support for democracy will therefore be based on ensuring financial stability; promoting reform; and integrating competitive markets with each other and the global economy – starting with Tunisia and Egypt.

First, we have asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next week's G-8 summit for what needs to be done to stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt. Together, we must help them recover from the disruption of their democratic upheaval, and support the governments that will be elected later this year. And we are urging other countries to help Egypt and Tunisia meet its near-term financial needs.

Second, we do not want a democratic Egypt to be saddled by the debts of its past. So we will relieve a democratic Egypt of up to $1 billion in debt, and work with our Egyptian partners to invest these resources to foster growth and entrepreneurship. We will help Egypt regain access to markets by guaranteeing $1 billion in borrowing that is needed to finance infrastructure and job creation. And we will help newly democratic governments recover assets that were stolen.

Third, we are working with Congress to create Enterprise Funds to invest in Tunisia and Egypt. These will be modeled on funds that supported the transitions in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. OPIC will soon launch a $2 billion facility to support private investment across the region. And we will work with allies to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development so that it provides the same support for democratic transitions and economic modernization in the Middle East and North Africa as it has in Europe.

Fourth, the United States will launch a comprehensive Trade and Investment Partnership Initiative in the Middle East and North Africa. If you take out oil exports, this region of over 400 million people exports roughly the same amount as Switzerland. So we will work with the EU to facilitate more trade within the region, build on existing agreements to promote integration with US and European markets, and open the door for those countries who adopt high standards of reform and trade liberalization to construct a regional trade arrangement. Just as EU membership served as an incentive for reform in Europe, so should the vision of a modern and prosperous economy create a powerful force for reform in the Middle East and North Africa.

Prosperity also requires tearing down walls that stand in the way of progress – the corruption of elites who steal from their people; the red tape that stops an idea from becoming a business; the patronage that distributes wealth based on tribe or sect. We will help governments meet international obligations, and invest efforts anti-corruption; by working with parliamentarians who are developing reforms, and activists who use technology to hold government accountable.

Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.

For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could get blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them. For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own. Moreover, this conflict has come with a larger cost the Middle East, as it impedes partnerships that could bring greater security, prosperity, and empowerment to ordinary people.

My administration has worked with the parties and the international community for over two years to end this conflict, yet expectations have gone unmet. Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks. The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on for decades, and sees a stalemate. Indeed, there are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward.

I disagree. At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever.

For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won't create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.

As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.

The fact is, a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River. Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself. A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people – not just a few leaders – must believe peace is possible. The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.

Ultimately, it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them, nor can endless delay make the problem go away. But what America and the international community can do is state frankly what everyone knows: a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.

So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, and a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.

These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I know that these steps alone will not resolve this conflict. Two wrenching and emotional issues remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians.

Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel – how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist. In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.

I recognize how hard this will be. Suspicion and hostility has been passed on for generations, and at times it has hardened. But I'm convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past. We see that spirit in the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas, who helped start an organization that brought together Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones. He said, "I gradually realized that the only hope for progress was to recognize the face of the conflict." And we see it in the actions of a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza. "I have the right to feel angry," he said. "So many people were expecting me to hate. My answer to them is I shall not hate … Let us hope," he said, "for tomorrow"

That is the choice that must be made – not simply in this conflict, but across the entire region – a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past, and the promise of the future. It's a choice that must be made by leaders and by people, and it's a choice that will define the future of a region that served as the cradle of civilization and a crucible of strife.

For all the challenges that lie ahead, we see many reasons to be hopeful. In Egypt, we see it in the efforts of young people who led protests. In Syria, we see it in the courage of those who brave bullets while chanting, 'peaceful,' 'peaceful.' In Benghazi, a city threatened with destruction, we see it in the courthouse square where people gather to celebrate the freedoms that they had never known. Across the region, those rights that we take for granted are being claimed with joy by those who are prying lose the grip of an iron fist.

For the American people, the scenes of upheaval in the region may be unsettling, but the forces driving it are not unfamiliar. Our own nation was founded through a rebellion against an empire. Our people fought a painful civil war that extended freedom and dignity to those who were enslaved. And I would not be standing here today unless past generations turned to the moral force of non-violence as a way to perfect our union – organizing, marching, and protesting peacefully together to make real those words that declared our nation: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal."

Those words must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa – words which tell us that repression will fail, that tyrants will fall, and that every man and woman is endowed with certain inalienable rights. It will not be easy. There is no straight line to progress, and hardship always accompanies a season of hope. But the United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves. Now, we cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just.

After the Arab Spring

posted May 14, 2011, 6:17 AM by Unknown user

By Steven A. Cook
As violence worsens in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria the rise of democracy may be cut short

A couple of days before Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was finally forced from office, it rained in Cairo. When the storm passed and the sun re-appeared, one of the protesters pointed out on Twitter that a rainbow had appeared over downtown -- a sign, she believed, of the freedom and prosperity that was to come. Caught up in the romance of the barricades, it was hard for demonstrators and democracy activists, in Egypt and beyond, not to think that way. It seemed that Middle East was on the verge of a democratic breakthrough. It was one thing for Tunisians to force a tin-pot dictator like Zine Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Jeddah, it was quite another for Egyptians to dump the Pharaoh. That's not supposed to happen. And as Tunisians inspired Egyptians, what the revolutionaries in Cairo accomplished gave impetus to Pearl Square, where Bahrain's own protesters have gathered, and to Benghazi, the base of Libya's rebellion against Muammar Qaddafi. Yet the successes of Tahrir or November 7 squares have not easily translated to these other places. It seems entirely possible that the Arab spring could end on the banks of the Nile. What went wrong?

Something very different and troubling is happening in Bahrain, Yemen, of course Libya, and now Syria, where security forces killed at least 61 people since protests began last week. President Barack Obama made the case for military action in Libya when he stated, "Not only do we have a humanitarian interest, but we also have a very practical interest in making sure that the changes that are sweeping through that region are occurring in a peaceful nonviolent fashion." But he was too late. The defenders of the status quo in the region, having learned the hard lessons of Ben Ali and Mubarak, have become resolute in their efforts to reverse the revolutionary dynamic that began in Sidi Bouzid on December 17. For obvious reasons, the Obama administration, analysts, and other observers have focused their attention on Qaddafi. After all, the war he has unleashed against his own people is the ultimate counterrevolutionary step. Yet Tripoli is not the only center of anti-revolutionary activity; so is Riyadh.

As Hosni Mubarak's three decades of rule teetered in early February, the Saudis, worried revolution could spread to their own capital, sought to stiffen his spine. They offered Mubarak political, diplomatic, and financial support if he would just use the full brunt of the force at his disposal to bring Egypt's uprising to an end. In keeping with their longstanding policy of riyalpolitik, the Saudis have given the al-Khalifa royal family of Bahrain billions and a contingent of about 1,000 soldiers, both of which gave King Hamad the reassurance he needed to use force, finally and decisively, to clear Manama's Pearl Square. In Yemen, where Saudi Arabia's highest priority is stability, the Saudis seem to have had enough of President Ali Abdallah Saleh. When Saleh asked the Saudis to intervene on his behalf with Yemen's breakway tribes, Riyadh demurred, suggesting the Yemeni leader come up with a plan for a transfer of power instead. But that does not necessarily mean that Riyadh has embraced the same revolutionary goals as those of the crowds along Sana'a thoroughfares. After all, Saudi Arabia is the ultimate status quo power. Progressive political change in Yemen would provide an example for Saudis that would surely make the House of Saud uncomfortable. How long will it be before some emissary of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad turns up in the Kingdom seeking support? The Saudis -- like virtually everyone else in the Arab world -- loathe Qaddafi, but they may not be all that unhappy over the Libyan's determination to crush the rebellion, even under the intense pressure of Western airstrikes. 

In a way, you can't blame the Saudis. When Mohamed Bouazzi lit himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, he unleashed political forces that are, from Riyadh's perspective, dangerous to its core interests and perhaps its very existence. The Saudis are now the central players in a virtual and unarticulated coalition of forces that include not only the Bahraini ruling family, Yemen's president (even if the Saudis think he is part of the problem), Qaddafi, and the Assad regime, but also remnants of the Mubarak and Ben Ali regimes intent on using the uncertainty in Egypt and Tunisia to their political advantage. There need not be any formal links among these countries, groups, or individuals -- indeed, other than the Riyadh-Manama connection there is no evidence of any cooperation among them. At the same time they seem to be connected through a dynamic feedback loop. The Saudis back the Bahrainis, which offers implicit encouragement to the Yemenis, who are also watching Qaddafi closely, while holdouts among the discredited Egyptian National Democratic Party and internal security forces come to believe they are not alone and that all is not lost. 

Perhaps we are witnessing the "birth pangs of the new Middle East" in the words of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. After all, countries in Europe that experienced revolutions of 1848 went through phases in which counterrevolutionary forces were successful, but democracy ultimately prevailed. History often provides insights that are hard to see during the present crisis, but it is not a roadmap for the future. It does not seem likely that the countries of the contemporary Middle East will follow the same path of mid-19th-century France. The defenders of the status quo will use everything from bribery to violence in an effort to try to roll back the demands for political change. These regimes are amplifying uncertainty and sowing general instability -- even if, in the end, they prove unsuccessful. Both oppositions and elites will risk fracturing under the pressure as different groups with different interests and different levels willingness to accept concession and compromise seek political advantage. Factions of revolutionaries may ultimately determine that non-violent resistance can only get them so far, and choose to take up arms in an effort to force change on unwilling elites. This kind of scenario plays directly into the hands of counterrevolutionary forces.

It seems likely that states in the Middle East and North Africa could divide into three camps. The first, composed of Jordan, Morocco, and the small Gulf states, will do whatever they can to insulate themselves from the revolutionary and counterrevolutionary fray. In the second, Egypt and Tunisia will struggle to realize their revolutionary promise and ideals while resisting the counterrevolutionary forces of the old regimes. And, finally, there is the consortium of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen (if President Saleh somehow manages to hold on), Algeria, Bahrain, and even an outlaw Libya, that all work -- not necessarily in concert --to contain and rollback democratic change. There have always been fissures and schisms among the Arab states, but never along these issues and alignments. The Middle East's two heavyweights -- revolutionary, struggling-to-be-democratic Egypt and status quo Saudi Arabia -- are likely to find one other at odds on a range of important issues including Hamas, Iran, Hizballah, and political change around the region. It is also possible that Egyptians, empowered by their revolution, will seek to support democracy activists elsewhere in the region. Many have already crossed the Libyan border in aid of the rebels there. Could they next turn their attention to, for example, Syria? Tunisians might seek to do the same in Algeria and Libya. This is not likely to sit well in Damascus, Algiers, and Tripoli, which would see regional democracy activists, and perhaps democracies themselves, as existential threats. One can imagine, in this way, the development of a divided, contested, and destabilized region.

Welcome to the new "New Middle East." The spectacle of Ben Ali's and then Mubarak's ouster gave hope to dreams of a democratic Middle East, but it may turn out to be more of a nightmare, at least in the short run.

STEVEN A. COOK - Steven A. Cook is the Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eatern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. His book, The Struggle for Egypt, will be published by Oxford University Press in the Fall.

Future of Democracy in Arab World

posted May 14, 2011, 6:09 AM by Unknown user

Danger: Falling Tyrants

By Jeffrey Goldberg
THE LIBRAIRIE AL KITAB is a crowded bookstore on Avenue Habib Bourguiba, the main boulevard of Tunis, the once-drowsy capital of the previously lethargic North African republic of Tunisia. Today, of course, Tunisia is known as the cockpit of the Great Arab Revolt of 2011. During the reign of the now-deposed president, the debauched kleptocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali—whose capitulation in January in the face of furious street protests triggered uprisings across the Arab world—the employees of the Librairie al Kitab kept a weather eye on the secret police. As luck would have it, the secret police kept their headquarters just across the street, in a whitewashed building housing the Interior Ministry. If the Librairie al Kitab had dared to carry a book containing even an insinuation of Ben Ali’s perfidy, it would have been “goodbye to the bookstore,” Kamel Hmaïdi, one of the employees, told me when I visited in late March. “We would go to jail,” he said, pointing out the window toward the looming ministry building. “Just there.”

Today, though, the display window of Librairie al Kitab is a shrine to the glories of free speech, given over in large part to works excoriating Ben Ali’s regime and his family. The titles include Le silence tunisien; La Tunisie de Ben Ali: La société contre le régime; and Ben Ali: Le ripou, which translates to “Ben Ali: The Rotten One.” Also: a number of books illuminating the transgressions of various other Arab dictators, and two books on the pitiable life and ghastly death of the Tunisian fruit-and-vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation, provoked by unending privation and the intolerable humiliation of a policewoman’s face-slapping assault, set off the revolution. The store had sold several hundred copies of Le ripou since January, Hmaïdi said.

Some time earlier, in Damascus, I had visited a bookstore in search of a reasonably non-hagiographic biography of Syria’s hereditary dictator, Bashar al-Assad. I could not find a single one, only book-length condemnations of Western treachery, and copies, in three languages, of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It was a suffocating little shop. The Librairie al Kitab, by contrast, is a joyous place: little else in the world could give a visitor from a free nation as much happiness as the sight of a bookstore in a once-totalitarian state selling, finally, the books it wants to sell, without fear of imprisonment and ruin.

It is true that Ben Ali, for all his now well-cataloged sins, was not a top-tier Middle Eastern tyrant. His secret police operated with a degree of refinement, at least in comparison with the thuggish practices of Hosni Mubarak’s secret agents; and his cult of personality was underdeveloped, certainly when compared with that of his neighbor to the east, Muammar Qaddafi. But Ben Ali was a virtuoso thief, a ravenous looter of the state treasury. The new head of the Central Bank of Tunisia, Mustapha Kamel Nabli, brought back from self-imposed exile to help right his country’s broken economy, described his work so far as an adventure in forensic accounting. “Anything they could steal, they stole,” he told me. “I think it will take years for us to understand the extent of the corruption. The family of Ben Ali treated Tunisia as their personal property.”

Ben Ali’s wife, Leïla Trabelsi, an arriviste hairdresser who would dispatch government airplanes to Saint-Tropez for shopping trips, carried herself as if she were the uncrowned queen of Carthage. Her daughter and son-in-law maintained a mansion of extraordinary size and tackiness on the Mediterranean, whose grounds included a very Uday Hussein–esque enclosure for a pet tiger named Pasha. On at least one occasion they sent a government aircraft to Europe to fetch their favorite frozen yogurt. Before they fled to Saudi Arabia, Ben Ali and his wife reportedly looted the Central Bank, taking as much as a ton and a half of gold bullion. All told, the family may have stolen billions of dollars from the treasury. Thirty percent of young people in Tunisia are unemployed.

A former American ambassador to Tunisia, Robert Godec, told me recently that the family’s brazenness infuriated ordinary Tunisians. (His acerbic observations about Ben Ali’s family, made in cables later exposed by Wikileaks, are believed by many Tunisians to have provided a crucial spark to the anti–Ben Ali movement.) “My sense was that there was profound anger at Ben Ali, his wife, and many of their family members,” Godec said. “When the family wanted a piece of land, the local municipality would tell the owner there was a problem with the title. Then the title would be suddenly transferred to an entity controlled by someone in the family. You can understand how people could become quite angered by this.”

Godec, like other American officials, warned Ben Ali about his sinking reputation, but the president, he said, had no patience for reproachful Americans. And of course, American diplomats understood that there was utility for the United States in maintaining close relations with Ben Ali. Like Mubarak (and even the late-stage Qaddafi, who enjoyed a several-year period of détente with the U.S.), Ben Ali was a foe of Islamic radicalism, and his intelligence services provided not-inconsequential help in the American campaign against al-Qaeda. “Whenever we raised issues of political freedom or corruption, the answers were always the stock answers: ‘We’re threatened by the Islamist party, we’re facing extremists, you Americans don’t understand that we’re your only true friends.’”

Of course, various American administrations, embracing the “realist” notion that stability in Middle East countries brought about through repression could be maintained in perpetuity, accepted Ben Ali’s self-interested analysis of his centrality to the struggle against terrorism, even though Tunisia has the most secular of North Africa’s populations, and one of the most highly educated.

It is this history of sometimes full-throated American support for Ben Ali’s leadership that accounts for the brisk sales of many anti-American books, some of them screedish, in the Librairie al Kitab. “Those books are popular,” Kamel Hmaïdi said. “The books about Ben Ali are more popular.”

I cut short my shopping when I heard a commotion outside the store. Demonstrators were marching in the direction of the Interior Ministry. The only thing more thrilling to an American heart than the sight of a once-censored bookstore selling what it wants to sell is the sight of young citizens of a formerly authoritarian country gathering to demand their rights.

The Interior Ministry building was surrounded by coils of concertina wire; armored personnel carriers and Humvees were parked inside the wire, and soldiers patrolled the perimeter, though it was unclear whether the soldiers were meant to protect the ministry from the protesters, or the protesters from the remnants of the secret police. The demonstrators, marching up from the Casbah, which was the scene of much of the violence of the January revolution, were mainly young people in their teens or 20s, and they were vociferous, even volatile. I joined the crowd. Hundreds of these demonstrators pressed right up to the concertina wire. One of the signs, interestingly, carried the Shahada, the Muslim profession of faith. Another read in English, OUR FREEDOM CAN’T WAIT—MALCOLM X.

I asked the demonstrators around me, “What are we protesting today?” A university student named Latifa said, “The Interior Ministry refuses to let women be photographed for their identity cards wearing the hijab,” the traditional head covering religious Muslim women wear—and in some countries, are compelled by law to wear. “They force women to remove the hijab,” she continued. “This is an insult to Islam. We are demanding that the ministry allow us to wear the hijab at all times.”


Just then I noticed that a number of the young men in the crowd were bearded, and that many, though certainly not all, of the women kept their hair covered. These protesters did not conform to the stereotype of the typical secular Tunisian, yet here they were, in numbers. “Our leaders will understand that Tunisia is a Muslim country,” one of the demonstrators, an unemployed college graduate named Ezzedine Brahim, told me. Brahim described himself as a “youth supporter” of the main Tunisian Islamist party, Ennahda, which was recently made legal after a 20-year ban. He said he was convinced that Islamist-led parties would come to dominate Tunisian politics. My expression must have betrayed me, because he continued: “Yes, everyone says that Tunisia is a secular state, but what they don’t understand is that underneath everything, we are Muslims. The power of Islam has been released.” I asked him a bellwether question: Do you believe women should be made to wear the hijab in public? He answered, “We are striving for a society in which women understand that they are expected to be modest.”

Would you compel them to wear the hijab, if you gained power? “There is no compulsion necessary,” he said. “In a just society, men and women would understand the roles they are supposed to play.”

Suddenly there was another commotion; a group of protesters had split off and seemed to be harassing a middle-aged man in a dark suit. “You are an enemy of Islam!” one of the protesters yelled, as the man scurried away. I did not know it yet, but this man was my next appointment. He was Abdelhamid Largueche, a well-known academic and proponent of secularism, as well as a member of the recently created Committee for the Protection of the Revolution, a body of 71 Tunisians meant to advise the government. When we met later at a nearby hotel, he said, “If those people take over this country, I’m finished.”

“Will they take over?” I asked.

“This is hard to imagine. There is a silent majority of Tunisians who don’t want these Islamists near them. Religion is a private affair here, more than most any other Arab nation,” he said. “Our revolution is an exceptional revolution. It calls for modernity. But as we know from history, they do not need the support of the majority to get their way.”

I asked Largueche whether he thought the demonstrators would get their way on the hijab. “Let us hope that this is not representative of the future,” he said.

Later that day, I was on the phone with a Tunisian acquaintance who mentioned the creation of a local Salafist party. This surprised me. Salafists are ascetic medievalists—they are considerably more immoderate than the Muslim Brothers, who are themselves not archetypes of moderation. (The Saudi Arabian Wahhabi clerical elite are Salafists, for example.) Meeting a Salafist in ostensibly secular Tunis is like finding a Tea Party member on the Berkeley City Council. But these sorts of disorienting moments are becoming common in the Middle East.

IN THESE EARLY DAYS of the Arab revolt, President Obama and his administration, already busy with other wars, are struggling for clarity. At a time when policy makers are wrestling with what might be called, in a nod to the president, the fierce incoherence of now, the administration has to bring about the marginalization of anti-modern, anti-Western, Islamist-oriented political parties, while not seeming to be working toward that goal. It has to continually decide which governments of the Middle East deserve the support of the United States and which deserve abandonment. This question points up a core contradiction of the moment: at the same time America is working for permanent and dramatic democratic change in certain republics of the Middle East, it has, 235 years after freeing itself from the rule of a despotic king, gone into the monarchy-maintenance business, propping up kings, emirs, and sheikhs who, though they may be as venal as Ben Ali, Qaddafi, and Mubarak, have oil the West needs, and who serve as a counterbalance to the greatest threat facing the U.S. in the Middle East, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Creating an overarching doctrine suitable for the moment is an almost impossible task, particularly during a crisis that demands from American policy makers analytical humility, doctrinal plasticity, and a tolerance for contradiction. Analytical humility is called for because the trajectories of the Middle East’s revolutions are still difficult to discern, and because it is not yet clear that tyranny is, in fact, in permanent eclipse. Doctrinal plasticity, which in a less value-neutral way could be called hypocrisy, is a necessity because, while it is true that President Obama, to the surprise of many, has shown himself to be more of a liberal interventionist than a cold-eyed realist, it is also true that America retains fixed, and vital, interests across the Middle East, interests that have already forced America to side with monarchs over the masses they rule. And a tolerance for contradiction is vital not only because America’s democratically elected government is scrambling to keep monarchs on their thrones, but because people across the Middle East are embracing American ideals—freedom of speech, financial transparency, leaders who are chosen by the people and are accountable to them—while at the same time distancing themselves from America itself, and rejecting American assumptions about what freedom is meant to look like.

As it happened, the day before the pro-hijab demonstration, Hillary Clinton had made a flash visit to Tunis, in order to praise the revolution, meet with the leaders it had brought to power, and listen to rank-and-file citizens, including and especially women, whose place in the world is a main preoccupation of her tenure as secretary of state. Her most public event on this visit took place at a television studio outside Tunis, before an audience of mainly young people, few of whom, judging by appearance, seemed to be traditional Muslims. “One of the reasons I’m so optimistic about Tunisia is because women in Tunisia have played a role in the professional, public, economic life—every aspect of life in Tunisia—since independence,” Clinton told the crowd, which, in the main, greeted her warmly. (Tunisia achieved independence from France in 1956.) “I have met with, by now, I would imagine, many, many hundreds of leaders everywhere. And it is so rare when a leader raises with me the pride he has in the women of his country. I often raise it with them. I’ll say, ‘You can’t really be fully developed if you don’t use the potential of 50 percent of your population.’ The president, the prime minister, and the foreign minister all raised it on their own. And they said, ‘There will be no going back in the democratic revolution of Tunisia for our women; they will be full participants.’”

Clinton’s campaign for women’s enfranchisement is, of course, well known across the world, and even an inadequately briefed prime minister of a small nation (particularly one seeking an increase in American financial aid) would know to preempt Clinton’s exhortations by touting his own deeply felt feminism. But it’s also empirically true that Tunisia is an outlier in the Arab world on matters related to women. In Cairo, a woman’s uncovered head has become something of an unusual sight, but in Tunisia it’s the norm. Which is why the pro-hijab demonstration in Tunis gave me whiplash, and which is why I raised it with Clinton when I saw her at her State Department office a few weeks ago. She discussed the issue of hijab-wearing, and all that it signifies, in a measured way. Her main worry, she said, is legislation that would mandate the wearing of the hijab.

“What I want to see is the freedom to choose,” Clinton said. “My model would be our own country. Women are able to dress as they choose in accordance with their own personal desires, and I would like to see this available for women everywhere, so that there is no compulsion.” The Obama administration has maintained a flexible, even positive, attitude about the hijab (unlike the French government, which sees covered women, and particularly fully veiled women, as a threat to the country’s national security, and to its cultural identity). In a speech delivered in Cairo in 2009, President Obama, in the course of attempting to reset America’s relations with the Muslim world, even boasted of America’s tolerance for the hijab:

 Freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union … That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.
This particular assertion in the Cairo speech was not met with joy by some Middle Eastern women’s-rights activists I spoke with at the time, women who believed that the U.S. should do nothing to celebrate the hijab—something that many Muslim women hope to shed when they come to America.

When Clinton talked to me about the hijab, however, she made clear that an attempt to pressure women in any way to cover themselves—anything on “the continuum of compulsion”—would represent a red line for her. “When people start to say that there are certain things that women should not be permitted to do, and the only way we can stop them is pass laws, like you can’t drive in Saudi Arabia, or you can’t vote … that’s a red line, and that infringes on the rights of women. Therefore I am against it. Any society in the 21st century that is looking toward modernization, and certainly [any society] claiming to be democratic, needs to protect the right to make these choices.”

This was a blunt message, delivered, quite obviously, in the direction of conservative religious forces; the secretary of state, correctly, sees the forced imposition of the hijab as a proxy for the ascendance of fundamentalist Islamism. So I asked her about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and of parties espousing ideologies similar to that of the Brotherhood. As winter turned to spring, it was becoming clear in Egypt that the Brotherhood, whose strength was downplayed by most Western commentators during the early days of the revolt in Egypt, was emerging as a power broker of surpassing importance.

The Muslim Brotherhood is a global organization with autonomous branches, some more radical than others (the terrorist group Hamas, in Gaza, is a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, for instance). There is a diversity of opinion, but those who affiliate with the Brotherhood believe, generally, in the primacy of Muslim law; in the supremacy of Islam; and in the idea that women and men should play their traditional roles in society. They also tend to believe that the West (and Israel, the country they consider a Western outpost in the Middle East) seeks, through conspiracy, to undermine their way of life. American analysts are spending a great deal of time studying the Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere (the Brotherhood’s Jordan branch, the Islamic Action Front, is that country’s most potent opposition political force), and there is some debate, in and out of administration circles, about the true views of the organization, especially in Egypt. Since the Arab revolution began, the Muslim Brotherhood has shown signs of fracturing along ideological lines, but its leaders have proved somewhat adept at playing politics, particularly that aspect of politics in which hard questions are ducked. I recently had a conversation with Mohamed Morsy, one of the Brotherhood’s senior leaders, in which he refused, to an almost comical degree, to grapple with two simple questions: Could the Brotherhood support a Christian for the Egyptian presidency? Could it support a woman? (The Brotherhood’s 2007 draft party platform, from which the organization is now trying to distance itself, makes clear that a Christian could not serve as president of Egypt.)

“Which Christian?” Morsy responded when I first asked.

I explained: not a particular Christian, but any Christian.

“There are no Christians running for president,” he said.

Yes, I know. It’s a theoretical question.

“This is a nonsense question,” he said. So I asked him if the Brotherhood had ideological objections to a woman’s running for president.

“Which woman?” he asked.

It is worth remembering, particularly at a time when the Muslim Brotherhood is attempting to soften its image, that the group’s essential platform remains unchanged. The Muslim Brotherhood’s avowed creed is “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Quran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”

I asked Clinton whether she worried about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology, particularly as it related to the future of women in the Arab Middle East. “Well, I think we don’t know enough yet to understand exactly what they’re morphing into. For me, the jury is out,” she said. “There are some Islamist elements that are coming to the surface in Egypt that I think, on just the face of it—they’re coming out of jails, coming out of the shadows—are inimical to a democracy, to the kind of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience that was the aspiration of Tahrir Square.”

This was, if anything, an even more measured answer than one expects from Clinton. But in this fluid period, when there is a reasonable chance—not a large one, but still a reasonable one—that the Muslim Brotherhood might splinter, or perhaps even find itself in vigorous competition with more-secular-minded parties, Clinton and Obama recognize that the Brotherhood could turn harsh American criticism into a campaign advantage, particularly among more rural, poorly educated, and traditionalist voters.

Over the past several months, Obama administration officials have spoken more about the establishment of universal red lines (parties espousing violence, for instance, will meet with Obama’s disapproval), and about aiding all parties in their attempts to master the democratic process, than they have about the ideological dangers posed by the rise of Islamist-oriented parties. “Our interest in these transitions is to ensure that a broad, diverse set of parties are capable of organizing and mounting competent campaigns,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national-security adviser, told me, adding that the Obama administration does not want anxiety about the rise of Muslim parties to unduly influence its policies. “The president’s view is that we can’t let ourselves be driven by fear of change, particularly because change is coming.” He went on, “This is not fatalism. You have to take a step back and acknowledge that it is a good thing when people are demanding the same rights that we ourselves believe in. Indigenous democratic movements are what the U.S. wants, even if they create short-term challenges and complexities.” Another administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, put it more bluntly: “Do you really think that if we announced ourselves as the enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood that this is going to do anything except help the Muslim Brotherhood?”

En route to Tunis, I had stopped off in Jordan, where I paid a visit to the royal palace. Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman had passed through a few weeks earlier, to see King Abdullah II. Their visit, I quickly learned, was simultaneously a source of bemusement and irritation for the Jordanian government. The two senators, of course, advocate an assertive foreign policy, and both are associated with neoconservative striving for robust and quick democratization of the Middle East. “They came in and said that Jordan should open up its political space for more parties, and be more aggressive about democratization within the parameters of a constitutional monarchy,” a senior Jordanian official told me. “And then they said, ‘But whatever you do, don’t allow the Muslim Brotherhood to gain more power.’ So they want us to be open and closed at the same time.”

King Abdullah is in a tough spot these days. His popularity is lower than at any other point in his 12-year reign, as discontent—mainly generated by allegations of corruption in his government—takes hold. Jordan, like most Middle East countries, has been a mukhabarat, or secret-police, state, but it has always created some space for politics and dissent. The sort of dissent I heard in Jordan on this last trip was unlike anything I had heard before. One Friday morning, I visited Zarqa, a city not far from the capital, Amman. It is a rough, poor place; its most famous son is the arch-terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The Islamic Action Front, the Muslim Brotherhood’s local political party, was holding a rally after prayers. One of its leaders, Zaki Bani Rsheid, stood on the back of a flatbed truck parked on a narrow street as hundreds of men gathered to listen. All along the rooftops stood men from Jordanian intelligence, the Mukhabarat, ostentatiously filming the proceedings. “It is not your job to protect the corruption of the regime!,” Bani Rsheid said, looking to the roofs. “Remember, what is acceptable today will not be acceptable later! Today we are asking for the reform of the regime. Tomorrow we will be asking you for something else!” A threat like that, made aloud, in the face of the secret police, is a new and fraught development in Jordan. “An organization dedicating itself to gaining power through violence has to be stopped,” McCain told me. He noted that the Muslim Brothers in Jordan have publicly sworn off violence, but he said he doubts their sincerity. “Everybody says that the Muslim Brotherhood is being deceiving in adopting a much more moderate image.” The king, McCain said, had taken his point. “He got it. He’s smart.”

The Jordanian monarchy represents the sort of regime the United States finds itself defending. It is not the most difficult regime in the Middle East to defend—throughout the early stages of the Arab revolt, Bahrain’s royal family, engaged in the often violent suppression of the country’s Shia majority, was the problem child of the American monarchy-maintenance program—but Jordan is still governed in a manner inconsistent with the spirit of Tahrir Square, a spirit appropriated by President Obama and Secretary Clinton whenever they speak of the Arab desire for democracy.

Hillary Clinton, as one would expect, doesn’t think much of the charge that the administration is engaged in a sustained campaign of hypocrisy. As the administration’s point person on the entire set of issues roiling the Middle East, she is perceived in dramatically divergent ways. In Cairo, many democracy activists believe she was overly coddling of Mubarak; at the same time, she is the object of an intense lobbying campaign by leaders of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, who fear, according to ambassadors and foreign ministers I have spoken with, that she has become some sort of moralizing neoconservative. One Gulf official I spoke with asked me earnestly if Paul Wolfowitz, the leading neoconservative theoretician of the previous presidency, was now serving as her adviser. I mentioned to Clinton that she is seen in some quarters as a kind of wild-eyed Wolfowitz. “Oh, no, not that!” she said. “Call me wild-eyed, but not that.”

When I asked her how she squares the inconsistency—working to build democracies in some countries while keeping incompetent monarchs on their thrones in others—she rejected its very existence.

“I wouldn’t accept the premise,” she said. “I think we believe in the same values and principles, full stop. We believe that countries should empower their people. We believe that people should have certain universal rights. We believe that there are certain economic systems that work better for the vast majority of people than other systems. I think we’re very consistent.”

The U.S. needs to work with the monarchies to help them stay ahead of the unrest brewing in their kingdoms, Clinton said, but even if they don’t take American advice—and she was adamant (and the record does, in fact, show) that Hosni Mubarak was offered a great deal of advice that he consistently ignored—the administration will live with what she refuses to see as inconsistencies.

“We live in the real world, and there are lots of countries that we deal with because we have interests in common, we have certain security issues that we are both looking at,” she said. “Obviously, in the Middle East, Iran is an overwhelming challenge to all of us. We do business with a lot of countries whose economic systems or political systems are not ones we would design or choose to live under. We encourage consistently, both publicly and privately, reform and the protection of human rights. But we don’t walk away from dealing with China because we think they have a deplorable human-rights record. We don’t walk away from Saudi Arabia.”

I noted that the Chinese seem frightened by the possibility that the forces unleashed by the suicide of a Tunisian peddler could reach Tiananmen Square. “They’re worried,” she said. “They’re trying to stop history, which is a fool’s errand. They cannot do it, but they’re going to hold it off as long as possible.”

If it is true, to cite one of President Obama’s favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotations, that the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice; and if it is true that history will sooner or later catch up with the Chinese Communist Party, then why isn’t it also true that history will soon catch up with a collection of superannuated desert monarchs? The answer came, elliptically, when I asked Clinton whether she would be sad to see the disappearance of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Not long ago, Clinton had been criticized for suggesting that Assad himself might be a “reformer,” though she acknowledges that Assad is anti-American in some very consequential ways (and not only in his service to Iran). “Depends on what replaces it,” she said, her answer combining disdain for Assad with a realpolitik understanding that some things out there are, despite the promise of the Arab Spring, potentially more dangerous to U.S. interests than certain dictatorships. For people who have known only dictatorship and who yearn for democracy, this is a hard swallow.

Striking this balance—understanding when the United States absolutely must support leaders it dislikes intensely—will remain the key foreign-policy challenge for the Obama administration, and perhaps its successors, in the coming years. Managing Saudi Arabia’s pre-modern royal family alone is a herculean task. But the United States will ultimately fail if it forgets its fundamental responsibility to people who are living under the boot of repression, and seek the freedoms Americans already have.

On my most recent visit to the Middle East, I traveled from country to country asking essentially the same question of many different people: How could the United States best serve the interests of democracy and stability? Not a single person I spoke with believed that America was in decline; to a person, everyone agreed that American power was potent. Salafists believed it was potent and malevolent; secular democracy activists believed it could be marshaled benevolently. The most eloquent answer came from Ali Salem, a free-thinking Egyptian playwright whose plays and essays were periodically banned by the ancien régime. I met Salem in a café in the Mohandessin neighborhood of Cairo, on the west bank of the Nile. While we talked, various cartoonists, columnists, and Libyan resistance leaders joined us. Salem is an unusual figure, even among democracy activists in Cairo—he is frankly Americaphilic, in part because he was brought to the United States as a young man through a State Department visitors program. He was bursting with ideas about the roles the U.S. could play in the Middle East—in education, in agriculture, but mainly in teaching leaders about how power corrupts, and about building political systems that resist that corruption. “I believe you have a great thing,” he said. “The great thing is, you have a president for four or eight years, and then out. If you are an enemy of the minister of culture and he bans your plays, you will be banned for only four or eight years. The beautiful idea is to limit the damage one human being can do to another. It’s a beautiful idea. Do you know how beautiful it is?”

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