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Member since: Tue Nov 25, 2003, 08:50 PM
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This is really excellent.

Thank you.

CBC's The National just aired some graphic, yet jaw dropping images of the violence in Syria

CBC's The National just aired some graphic, yet jaw dropping images of the violence in Syria. Well done, CBC. Courageous move.



Assessing Assad - The Syrian leader isn't crazy. He's just doing whatever it takes to survive.

Assad depends on the backing of key members of the Alawite clan, a quasi-Shiite group consisting of between 12 and 15 percent of Syria's mostly Sunni population. The Alawites make up 70 percent of Syria's career military, 80 percent of the officers, and nearly 100 percent of the elite Republican Guard and the 4th Armored Division, led by the president's brother Maher. In a survey of country experts we conducted in 2007, we found that Assad's key backers -- those without whose support he would have to leave power -- consisted of only about 3,600 members out of a population of about 23 million. That is less than 0.02 percent. Assad is not alone in his dependence on a small coalition. Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's coalition is even smaller. His essential supporters include the Revolutionary Guard's leadership, the economically essential bonyad conglomerates, key clerics, and a smattering of business interests, totaling, according to our survey of Iran experts, about 2,000 in a population of well over 70 million.

Any political system that depends on such a small percentage of the population to sustain a leader in power is destined to be a corrupt, rent-seeking regime in which loyalty is purchased through bribery and privilege. Syria possesses these traits in spades. Transparency International reports in its latest evaluation that Syria ranks in the top third of the world for corruption. ...

There are two effective responses to a mass uprising (other than stepping down, of course, which leaders almost never do until all other options have been exhausted): liberalize to redress the people's grievances or crack down to make their odds of success too small for them to carry on. Leaders who lack the financial wherewithal to continue paying off cronies often choose to liberalize. (Remember South Africa's F.W. de Klerk, who negotiated a government transition with Nelson Mandela's African National Congress when economic decline made the apartheid system unsustainable.)


China's Wukan Village Wins Rare Government Compromise After Protests

BEIJING -- Southern Chinese authorities have given in to key demands of protesting villagers after a nearly two-week standoff with police, agreeing in a rare compromise to release detainees and return some confiscated land to farmers.

Guangdong's deputy Communist Party secretary Zhu Mingguo told Wukan village protest leader Yang Semao on Wednesday that four villagers being held by police would be released over the next few days, Yang told The Associated Press.

"So now we are cautiously optimistic," Yang said.

The significance of the authorities' unusual concession in Wukan depends on how the details are played out, but it could affect the way other protests are handled, particularly in the corner of coastal southern China that has seen periodic unrest over the last few years. To Wukan's northeast, the coastal town of Haimen saw a second day of protests Wednesday over a planned coal-fired power plant.


A government that is learning to listen. (Guess PNAC was behind this as well.)

The Bouazizi 'big bang'

It was an act of self-immolation that would change the course of Arab political history. That is the significance of Mohamed Bouazizi one year on. It will be years before December 17, 2010 and the subsequent chain of events his act set off in Tunisia - and later on across the Arab world - are profoundly grasped by historians and social scientists. ...

The writing was on the wall and I wrote in my AJE column in September 2010 about 'Bin Ali the last Bey' of Tunisia. When I wrote about 'dynastic republicanism' in November 2009, I was engaging in a prognosis of a situation of absolute power and corruption screaming for attention in Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Gamal and Saif al Islam are in prison, and Ahmed Saleh in Yemen will not inherit power from his father - who gave up power recently. ...

All Arabs are breathing in the air of freedom which is expanding the appetite for equal citizenship. They are out of the tunnel. They are more comfortable with their 'Arabhood' than they were 12 months ago. For they have discovered that fellow human beings from Barzil to Sydney champion their struggles and applaud their courage and sacrifices, and some even stage their own protests inspired by the fervour and hope they have generated.


Looking to leave: Young Iraqis scarred by war

Baghdad, Iraq - Mohammed al-Jaburi, a 25-year-old architect, is emblematic of a growing problem in Iraq: He is an educated professional with a comfortable life here, and he is desperately hoping to leave that life behind.

After completing his studies in Jordan, al-Jaburi returned to Baghdad, where he now works for the firm which won the contract to reconstruct the Rashid, one of the top hotels in Baghdad. He is happily married and planning an overseas vacation with his wife; he drives around Baghdad in a new sports car.

But he's also looking for a way out of the country, because he is also worried that the country's fragile political consensus is close to collapsing.

"Of course there will be a civil war soon," he said matter-of-factly. "I want to leave, I want to go back to Jordan, but my wife wants to stay here, and I cannot leave her."


Notice that the Arab Spring is really more of a Big Bang - Rami G. Khouri

At a panel discussion I participated in earlier this week on the Arab uprisings, a key point of debate was whether the Arab world was experiencing a crisis of regimes or of states.

Looking around the region today, with unsettled conditions in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya in particular, it seems obvious that the answer is “both.” One of the eventualities that some Arab countries must come to grips with, but that remains largely unspoken, is that some countries may not survive in their present configurations, and may undergo modifications of borders, populations and national identity – as happened to much acclaim in places after the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

The Arab world has suffered the humiliation of authoritarian or dictatorial regimes in the past half-century because of reasons related to the nature of states and regimes. Artificial states that were created by the retreating Europeans early last century often could be held together only by a strong central government headed by strongmen of the ilk of Saddam Hussein or Hafez Assad. The antidote to state artificiality was authoritarianism. In other cases like Egypt, where the state was never vulnerable because of its artificiality, the state succumbed to dictatorial rule for other reasons – military assertion, the repercussions of the Cold War, and the conflict with Israel.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Columnist/2011/Dec-21/157480-notice-that-the-arab-spring-is-really-more-of-a-big-bang.ashx#ixzz1hBVfAyPx
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

Syria group urges UN action over 'massacre'

Syrian security forces appear to be continuing an offensive on army defectors in the northwestern province of Idlib in which activists say about 200 people, including a large number of civilians, have already been killed.

The Syrian National Council, the umbrella group representing opponents of President Bashar al-Assad's government, on Wednesday called for "immediate action" by the Arab League and the UN Security Council to condemn and halt what it called "horrific massacres" conducted by Syrian forces in Idlib and other areas.

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from the Turkish city of Antakya, along the border with Syria, said the Syrian military's operations had been focused on Idlib because it was attempting to regain control over what had become a stronghold for army defectors.

"It is clear that army defectors have taken control over some towns and villages, almost as though they have created some sort of safe area, where protesters from other regions were seeking a safe haven and where defectors were able to operate from," she said.


Libya asks Turkey’s support for military training

In an exclusive interview with the AA, al-Juwali said that Libya wanted the assistance of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in training the Libyan army during the transition period.

Libyan Defense Minister Osama alJuwali said Tuesday that Turkey has a very strong army and asked Turkey’s support for military training.

In an exclusive interview with the AA, al-Juwali said that Libya wanted the assistance of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in training the Libyan army during the transition period.


I guess Turkey is an invited colonialist.

Frustration threatens to unleash second Libyan revolution

Growing frustration over the slow pace of reforms and a lack of transparency in the new Libyan government could push the war-scarred North African nation toward a second revolution, less than two months since the first.


Dittmann suggested that the lack of public commitment by the NTC to the demands of the people to keep members of the old regime out of government could be potentially disastrous.

“This development does not help the peace or stability of Libya,” he said. “If the Libyan revolutionaries get the feeling that the new government is becoming infused with elements of the old regime then a second revolution, as seen in Egypt, is likely.”


Guess there will be no Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Libya.

However, Libyans know what they want, and are not afraid to demand it.

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