Welcome to the Middle East Today

The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Mar 31, 2011

Libyan Revolt

President Barak Obama addressed the nation (3/28/2011) to defend the U.S.’s involvement in the Libyan war. He said that American military forces interfered in the Libyan war as a result of U.N. resolutions (1970 & 1973) to prevent the potential massacre from taking place against unarmed Libyan civilians by the Gadhafi hired killers. President Obama made the right decision based on humanitarian reasons and he should be commended for it.

The tragedy of such a decision is that some members in Congress have manipulated it so they can throw dirt at the president. They are fishing in murky water that will lead them nowhere.

To be honest, if these members of Congress are concerned about the financial cost to the American people, why not call on the president to pull American troops out of Afghanistan, where they have been for nearly ten years. Afghanistan, from a historical point of view, has been a burial ground for foreign troops. Also, the majority of the American Congress were supportive of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, despite the fact that there was no credible evidence that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the U.S.

President George W. bush misled the nation and started a war by choice that led to the deaths of more than 4500 American soldiers and 1.2 million Iraqi civilians. What did the members of U.S. Congress do about that political deception? Nothing. Bush said, “It’s too bad that we didn’t find W.M.D.” Furthermore, if the member of Congress are concerned about the cost to the taxpayers, what about the cost of the Iraqi war, which has been estimated by some economists to exceed 3 trillion dollars. President Obama stated in his speech that no American troops will land in Libya and that the Iraqi war experience will not be repeated.

Also, President Obama is being criticized by some members of Congress by turning the responsibilities of the no flying zone to NATO command. The public should be aware of the fact that Colonel Gadhafi is a notorious killer. On one day in 1996 he killed 1270 prisoners in a Tripoli jail. He has been known as a supporter of international terrorism. He is a ruthless leader and should be removed from power. 42 years of his ruthless rule is more than enough and no person with even half a brain will justify keeping him in power. President Obama did the right thing.

Mar 30, 2011

Politicizing Religion in the Ratification Process

During the months of January and February 2011 we were in Cairo and witnessed the glorious turn of events of the young generation’s 25th of January revolution, which led to the collapse of the most corrupt regime in the history of modern Egypt. The High Council of the Egyptian military forces assumed responsibility during the transitional period and until the election of parliament and Shura council. A committee was appointed to draft new articles and eliminate a few in the constitution to allow voting for a new parliament. The voting on the new articles took place March 18th and more than 41% of the eligible voters cast their votes. More than 18 million people exercised their rights for the first time in their lives. Also 59% of the eligible voters did not participate in the voting to ratify the constitution.

During the previous two to three weeks, the media did not do a good job in terms of briefing the voters on the proposed yes or no of the constitution ratification and its political implications.

After leaving Egypt in early March, some of my friends contacted me through the Internet to provide them with information regarding the yes and no of the proposed ratification. Those who requested the information are college graduates who were seeking more information to enable them to exercise their voting rights.

In my judgment, 40-50% of those who participated in the voting were not briefed on the consequences of voting yes or no. Many people in this group were influenced by those who used religion as a rationale to urge them to vote yes. I would say that this group tends to be around 20-30% of those who participated in ratifying the constitution and the majority of them belong to the Muslim Brotherhood and/or supporters of the group. This group was aware of the fact that the only effective political groups who will play a dominant role in the upcoming election will be the Muslim brotherhood and the National Democratic Party, which used to be the ruling party of the previous corrupt regime. This party should have been dissolved, but it still exists and is supported by many in the business sector of Egyptian society. The implication of voting “yes”, as was advocated by some members of the Muslim brotherhood and others, is that it will speed up the election that is already set for September 2011. The short period will put the Muslim Brotherhood party at an advantageous position by comparison to the young people who initiated the revolution.

Six months is not enough time to create new political organized parties and publicize their political objectives to the voters in such a short time. Furthermore, the other traditional political parties whose members exceed 20 have been marginalized by the previous regime and have lost their political effectiveness with voters during the past four decades. In addition, these political parties are headed by an older generation that has lost contact with the real world around them. This will lead to the conclusion, in my judgment, to a projected expectation that the Muslim Brotherhood party will secure a comfortable percentage in the upcoming parliament elections. Furthermore, it is also unfortunate that members of the Muslim brotherhood and their supporters have used Islam to mislead the potential voters. The Egyptian press reported that they used Islam to urge the public to vote yes to prevent the election of a Copt president. They also claimed that voting yes would keep the second article in the constitution, which says, “Islam is the religion of the state”. Such misleading statements were not part of what some imams said in mosques all over Egypt. These misleading statements politicized religion and influenced the outcome of the vote to ratify the constitution.

It was also reported that Egyptian Copts have been urged to vote no so that the Muslim Brotherhood would not emerge as the major winners in the parliament election. The third group (whose numbers I estimate to be between 20-30% of voters) consists of the liberal, highly educated members of the upper middle class, in addition to the younger generation. This group voted “NO’ in order to delay the election and have time to organize different political parties for hoping for the rise of a secular government where citizenship is primordial, irrespective of individual religions, ethnic affiliation or social status in society. People will be viewed as equal citizens enjoying equal rights in the society where they live.


Mar 25, 2011

Continuance of Political Upheavals in the Arab World

The protesters movements are still going on in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Morocco.

In many of these states, the people are paying a heavy price to secure their freedom and establish new democratic institutions to end corruption and authoritarian rule.

In Yemen, it has been reported that during the past few days more than 70 people have been killed and more than 617 have been injured. The International Human Rights Organization has condemned the Yemeni government for its excessive use of force. More and more members of the diplomatic corp are declaring their support of the revolutionary movements. Also, some high-ranking Yemeni military officers have joined the protestors’ movements in addition to other tribal groups.

In the meantime, President Saleh has dissolved his cabinet and declared emergency laws. The Yemeni Defense Minister and many foreign governments are urging Saleh to stop the use of force to disperse the protestors’ movements. The Yemeni population supports the protestors’ movements in all Yemeni cities. It seems to the observer that Saleh’s support is declining even among his tribe members. The International Human Rights Organization is critical of Saleh’s use of force that led to many deaths and injuries.

The latest report revealed that more than 60 high ranking military officers joined the protestors and demanded the resignation of the president. Saleh offered to step down at the end of the year (2011). His offer was rejected. It looks like President Saleh wants to die in office.

In Libya, the Gadhafi military forces are still attacking the revolutionary forces despite the U.N. resolution that called on the Libyan government to stop attacking the protestors and declare a cease-fire. The Gadhafi government declared publicly that they will abide by the cease-fire resolution, but continued its attacks. Prior to the implementation of the U.N. resolution, it was reported that Bengazi was attacked from the air and by tanks that led to the deaths of 92 people and many injuries. Gadhafi troops are also attacking the revolutionary forces in Misrata, where more than 40 people have died. They also destroyed the water supply system as well as the electrical power in Misrata. It was reported that his forces were using civilians as shields during their attacks on the protestors.

Some foreign states are criticizing the NATO members (U.S., Britain, France and Canada) for the bombing of Libya. Also, I was surprised to hear that Amr Mousa, the director of the Arab League, was critical of the NATO bombing. To start with, he was among the first to call on the U.N. to interfere and stop the slaughter of the Libya people. It is unfortunate that Amr Mousa is speaking from both sides of his mouth. He declared that he is going to run for the position of Egypt’s president. He is trying to appease certain groups, but in the end he will not be a winner. Kuwait and Jordan have provided logistical services to the Libyan revolutionary group, and in addition Qatar sent four planes to join the NATO forces.

It is clear that the Libyan situation at the present reflects a civil war occurring between the revolutionary forces, who are poorly armed, and Gadhafi’s troops, who are heavily armed and supported by tanks another heavy military equipment. Gadhafi’s forces need to be stopped and his headquarters in Bab-il-iziziah should be bombed. He is a madman and the only way to stop his slaughter of innocent civilians is by eliminating him and his sons.

The situation in Bahrain is getting worse due to the Saudi military interference. It was reported that 2,000 soldiers are backing the Bahraini government, which is using force to disperse the protestors from Pearl Square. Also, it was reported that eight people were killed and many others were injured.

The Saudi interference in their neighbor’s internal affairs is the result of the impact of the protestors’ movements on their internal affairs. The Saudi government has used its brutal forces to suppress any protestors’ movements in the country. I wonder if the Saudi interference in Bahrain will be similar to the interference of Syria in Lebanon during the 1970s civil war. The Saudi Arabian policy of helping the ruling royal family in Bahrain by suppressing the protestors’’ movement in Bahrain was a big mistake. The Saudi government’s blunder is attributed to their irrational strategy to get a message across to their own young people, which is that they will not tolerate any attempts to start a protest movement in Saudi Arabia.

In Syria, the protestors’ movement has spread from Damascus to other cities. It was reported that the Syrian security police killed more than one hundred people in Dirra city. At the same time, the supporters of the regime have started their own movement to challenge those who are opposing the regime. In the meantime, it was reported that the protestors’ movements have spread to other cities in Syria, calling for political reforms and an end to corruption. President Bashaar el Asad promised the protesters political reforms such as freedom of expression, lifting emergency law and allowing political parties to participate in future elections. Meanwhile a counter demonstration spread in Syrian cities in support of the president. However, I doubt that the protesters will be appeased by the promises for political reforms made by the president.

In Iraq, the protestors movement has been occurring on and off for the past several weeks. They have spread to all governates. As usual, the protestors are critical of Malik’s government and the newly elected members of the Iraqi parliament. Corruption is still going on at all governmental levels and the economic situation is getting worse. The basic infrastructure reflects no improvements. High unemployment, shortages of electrical power, shortages of drinking water and poor security for the public are among the problems. Many people are yearning for the previous days of Saddam Hussein.

In Morocco, the protestors’ movements are still going on in many cities. They are demanding political reforms and an end to corruption and abuses of their freedom. King Muhammad the sixth responded to their demands by declaring that there will be constitutional reforms and parliamentary elections. However, he did not respond to one of the basic demands, which is to turn the monarchy into a constitutional one. I doubt that he will go that far. King Muhammad the 6th, like the rest of the Arab heads of state, is obsessed with absolute power. Many of them will die in office, resisting such reforms.

In Jordan the younger generation of March 24 are protesting and demanding quick political reforms and an end to corruption. They are further requesting the abolition of the Jordanian secret service, which is suppressing all political activities. It was reported that more than 1,000 protesters are setting tents in Jamal Abdel Nasser Square in Amman and insisting to remain in the square until their demands are fulfilled. There was however a counter-demonstration conducted by nearly 300 people who were shouting, “Long live King Abdullah.” Both groups clashed and security interfered causing injuries on both sides.

Nevertheless, the young Arab generation has removed the barriers of fear to challenge their political leaders and will maintained this until they get what they have been demanding: freedom and an end to political corruption and dictatorship.

Mar 23, 2011

From Tahrir Square to the Voting Booths

The Revolution of the 25th of January led the Egyptian people from Tahrir Square into the voting booths. Nearly 19 million people have exercised their democratic rights freely for the first time in their lives. This exciting and dramatic experience was accomplished in an organized and orderly manner.

Close to half of the eligible voters have cast their votes in support of constitution reforms that will usher in the elections of members of parliament and Majlis il-Shoura in six months. After the election the new parliament will appoint a judicial committee to write a new constitution to replace the present one (1971) in one year.

It is important to stress the point that those who have exercised their political rights are doing so for the first time. During the previous four decades, the elections were fraudulent and only a small segment of the population participated in them. The younger generation has planted the seeds of democracy and I hope they will continue to nourish it until develops solid roots. The road to achieving this objective is still long and the elements of risks are operating behind the scenes. The total demands of the young generation have not been achieved yet.

For example, the Egyptian National Democratic Party (NDP) has not been dissolved. It is the party of the previous ruling government, which nominated all members to its high political positions and many of them are being investigated for political corruption. This party is the only political outlet through which its members can still run for elections within the next six months. They are organized and well financed by the business elite who might make an inroad in the next election.

The second strong politically organized group is the Muslim Brotherhood who will gain a large percentage of the parliament seats in the upcoming elections. The Muslim Brotherhood was not permitted to participate in previous elections because of its religious orientation, but they are highly organized.

There are 24 other licensed political parties that have been marginalized by the previous regime and have lost credibility with voters because of the poor political roles they have played during the previous 4-5 decades. Their leadership is old and not in touch with reality.

The third potential group that might play an important role in the political arena is the younger generation, which led and was responsible for the revolution that started a new beginning in Egypt. However, the ratification of the constitution did not provide them with enough time to politically organize and start publicizing their agenda for the Egyptian voters. Six months is a short period of time in which to accomplish such a task. For that reason, the two major political parties that might sweep the upcoming elections are the members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian Democratic Party.

Mar 18, 2011

The Memory of Eyewitnesses

Now that my wife (an expatriate) and I are back in the USA, we would like to express our personal impressions of the ‘25th of January Revolution.’ Both of us were eyewitnesses to the daily events from the beginning until the end in February 2011.

We were very happy to see how many millions of Egyptians crossed the barrier of fear to join the young generation’s protest movement. We were very proud and happy to see how the young people stood up and faced the brutality of the security forces of the Mubarak regime. Snipers and live bullets were used in addition to Molotov cocktail bombs, tear gas and water cannons, to force protestors to disperse. All of these violent tactics by the security forces made the protestors more determined to achieve their objective. I have seen trucks loaded with rocks that were brought to Tahrir Square to be used by trained security thugs in civilian clothing to scare the protestors. Some of the protestors covered their heads with plastic buckets to avoid being hit by the rocks. The young people’s determination and persistence day after day finally led to the collapse of the Mubarak regime.

For both of us it was an extraordinary life experience that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. It was an experience that we did not anticipate would take place during our visit to Cairo. However, in previous posts, I have focused on the problems and challenges facing the Arab world in general and Egypt in particular. These problems include political corruption, poverty, unemployment, the absence of democracy, transparency and accountability. All of these problems are factors that contributed to a political explosion.

The young people’s revolution opened a new chapter in the history of Egypt and advocated the establishment of new democratic institutions. These young people have never experienced living in a democratic society and have never been able to participate in free elections. Their political representatives were always imposed upon them by the authoritarian regime through fraudulent elections.

The heroic revolution of the young generation not only led to the collapse of the regime but also exposed the corrupt businessmen who were part of it. They stole the public wealth and transferred hundreds of billions of Egyptian pounds into foreign financial institutions during the past four decades. Many of those businessmen who were also government official are now prevented from leaving the country and their wealth has been frozen until they are investigated.

As time passes by, more corruption will appear thus exposing Hosni Mubarak and his regime ‘s criminality. There are discussion now in Egypt that Mubarak and his family will be investigated misuse of the nation’s wealth.

The young people’s revolution will be recorded in history books as a model that the whole world has never seen before. It has been viewed by many foreign observers and even heads of government as a white revolution and a model to be taught in schools. It has changed Egypt’s image worldwide and restored leadership in the Arab world in particular and the Middle East region in general. Not a single Arab state was able to escape the political tsunami that began to flow from Tunisia and Egypt in all directions in the region. Neither Egypt nor the rest of the Arab world will be the same again. The winds of democracy will continue to blow until the Arab population gets what they deserve: freedom from ruling tyrants.

One further important point should be recognized: the Egyptian military forces played a very important and constructive role by protecting the revolution and not siding with the Mubarak regime’s security forces. It is a tragedy to see the military forces of the madman of Libya using their weapons to slaughter their own people. A salute to the Egyptian military forces.

Mar 14, 2011

The Ongoing Protestors Movement

The political outrage blowing in all directions in the Arab world is calling for genuine political reforms and an end to corruption.

In Libya, Gadhafi’s air, sea and land forces continue to bombard towns that are under the rule of revolutionary forces. It has been reported that more than 50 people have been killed and hundreds wounded. Many unarmed civilians, including children, are among the casualties. Gadhafi and his son have lost their minds and are determined to put an end to the people’s revolt. Unless outside interference take place, especially to prevent Gadhafi air force and tanks from being used against the protestors who are poorly armed with no prior training. They will continue to pay a high price for trying to liberate themselves from a savage and mentally derailed person.

I am confident that at the end, they will achieve their goal. The Arab League just called on the international community to impose a no flight zone over Libya.

In Yemen the protestors continue to call for Ali A. Saleh to resign. He made a new offer to the protestors to change the political system into a parliamentarian one before the end of 2011, as well as a change in the constitution. The protestors rejected the offer. In the meantime his security forces continue to use force that led to the killing of more unarmed protestors. The Arab National Human Rights organization condemned the government for its use of excessive force. More members of his political party have resigned from parliament in protest of the use of force against the protestors.

One of the major factors that have played a role in his favor is his tribal affiliation and the relatives of the people that he appointed in high governmental positions. Nevertheless, it is only a matter of time before Ali Saleh is forced out of office.

It is very unfortunate that the USA provided direct support to Ali Saleh by telling the protestors to consider the president’s offer to change the Yemeni government. This offer came too late and he should step down.

In Bahrain, the protestors’ movement is still occupying Pearl Square in Manama. The protestors are calling for constitutional reforms and now are calling for a change from the monarchy into a republic type of government. The government continues to say that reform will be considered only through discussion and not through protesting. In the meantime, the economic council of the Gulf is proposing a Marshall economic plan for Bahrain and Oman to raise billions of dollars for economic investment in Bahrain to create jobs for the many who are unemployed. Members of the Gulf Council want to maintain political stability in the region. Any drastic political changes in Bahrain will have an impact on their government. As usual, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates offered American support to the Royal Family during his visit to Bahrain and urged the government to begin its reforms This is a big mistake and interference in the civil affairs of Bahrain. Because it gives the impression to the public that the USA is supporting the royal family.

In Oman, the second Arab state where the protestors were calling for an end to corruption and the creation of employment for many who are seeking jobs. The protestors’ movements spread to other cities despite the resignation of two ministers from the cabinet. Also, other groups began protesting to increase their salaries in order to meet the continuous increases in the cost of living. The Gulf Economic Council also included Oman in addition to Bahrain for a proposed substantial economic development.

In Iraq, the protestors movements have spread from Baghdad to all other governates, calling for an end to corruption and improvements in their living conditions. The protestors are condemning the people they have elected who have turned their backs on those who elected them.

Iraq still experiences shortages in electrical power and clean drinking water, as well as poor sanitation and health care services. Also, the high unemployment rate is a major influential factor among the protestors. The parliamentary election that took place ten months ago was based on sectarianism did more damage to the public, which was not anticipated. Struggles and conflicts have been occurring among politicians who belong to various sectarian political groups, distracting them from the urgent problems that the public is facing. The protestors are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

In Algeria, the protestors have gathered in the capital despite the barrier that government security erected to prevent the public from reaching the square in front of the parliament building. Despite previous efforts that the government took to prevent the gathering of the protestors, their numbers reached nearly ten thousand. The protestors called for an end to corruption and a clean political reform that will lead to free political elections and other demands that were put on Face book and sent to the president.

In Morocco, the protestors’ numbers were small but they called for an end to corruption and the need for political reform. They have called for a constitutional monarchy and for the election of a prime minister the protestors were carrying signs calling for justice, dignity, freedom of expression and genuine political reform. The king promised political reforms in response to the young people’s demands. However, I doubt that he will move to change the absolute monarchy into a constitutional one.

In Jordan, the protestors’ movement has been going on in Jordan for several weeks. They are protesting the increases in the cost of living and unemployment and calling for an end to corruption, the dissolution of the parliament and a constitutional monarchy. The protestors called March 11th “Dignity Friday”.

The government has called for a national dialogue with all political parties under the direction of Tahrir al-Masry, the lead of Majlis al-Ayan. The political parties responded by setting conditions to participate in the proposed dialogue: first this dialogue should be established by a royal decree; second, it should include revisions in the constitution and parliamentary elections; third, the establishment of a constitutional court and the legal right to prosecute cabinet ministers and the right to challenge elections in court; fourth, increasing the time duration of parliament and the cancellation of the reforms added to the 1952 constitution, in addition to the election law as well as the laws pertinent to political parties; fifth, that the proposed reforms should be accomplished within a period of no more than two months. The consensus among political parties is that the Jordanian government is not serious enough to deal with the proposed agenda.

The social structure of the Jordanian society reflects a division between Jordanians of Palestinian background and Jordanians who still have a strong affiliation with their tribal background. The royal family depends on part of this group for support of its political position in Jordan. This was reflected during some of the protestors’ rallies, where the supporters of the king clashed with the main opposing groups. The Jordanians of Palestinian background constitute over 50% of the total population of Jordan. However, the Jordanian army is heavily linked with the tribal affiliations that support the royal family. Nevertheless, there will be some political accommodation at the end. How far the political reform will be, this is to be seen.

Mar 13, 2011

Recent Upheavals in the Arab World

The recent political upheaval that has been taking place in the Arab world has so far led to the collapse of the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes. There are two other ones on their way out, the Libyan and the Yemeni regimes. Other regimes, such as the ones in Bahrain, Oman, morocco and Jordan, where the protestors have been calling for (among other things) constitutional monarchy to limit the abusive authorities of the kings in their counties and the election of prime ministers instead of the kings appointing them. Other Arab states that are experiencing opposition from their populations include Algeria, Sudan, Syria and Iraq, where the public is demanding political reforms and an end to corruption. In response to the protests, several states, such as Kuwait, Syria and Saudi Arabia, have begun to announce financial aid to their populations to ease the burden of the cost of living.

Upon his return from the U.S. after medical treatment that kept him away for several months, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia announced a generous and lavish $36 billion to be spend on his subjects to prevent and protect the kingdom from the spreading revolts that have been taking place in Arab states.

The benefit announced by the king includes a 15% pay increase for state employees, housing assistance, financial assistance to the unemployed and more funds to students studying abroad in addition to projects to ease the unemployment problems. At the same time, the Minister of Interior issued a formal statement announcing that government law prohibits all sorts of demonstrations because they contradict Islamic Sharia Law and the values and traditions of Saudi Arabian society. He continued to say that police were “authorized by law to take all measures needed against those who will violate the law”.

In addition to the formal government prohibition of public protest, the Saudi religious hierarchy, which consists of 19 religious leaders, prohibited public protests or anything posing any challenge to the Absolute Monarch.

This reflects that Saudi Arabian political structure rests on two sources. The first is the Saudi royal family, which is in full control of political power. The country is run by an absolute monarchy. No organized political parties are permitted to be created in Saudi Arabia. The only free election that the government permitted was in 2005. They were for municipal representatives with limited democratic rules.

The second source of authority rests in the hands of the Wahabi Islamic religious leaders whose Sunni interpretation of Islam is the most conservative among the other schools of Islamic thought. They play a very influential role in Saudi Arabia, which is considered among the leading states in the Muslim world. The country is viewed as the birthplace of Islam.

Recently a group of young Saudis sent a letter to King Abdullah through Facebook, requesting a change in the governmental structure and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. They also asked for a change in the political, economic and judicial structure of the government, in addition to the establishment of democratic institutions to protect individual human rights and freedom of expression. These demands were reflected in 14 points in the letter that was signed by 70 young activists.

The group called for a nationwide protest movement on March 11, 2011. Another group made a Facebook page titled “The Saudi Revolution on March 20th” demanded a constitutional monarchy and free parliamentary elections. Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi Foreign Minister, issued a statement in which he stated that the best approach to solve problems is only through discussion. In my judgment, Saudi Arabia will be the last Arab state to initiate any significant reforms.

King Abdullah, who is 86 years old and in poor health, is viewed as liberal compared to those who are in line to assume the kingship position. Some of the reforms that Abdullah initiated were met with resistance from the Wahabi religious leadership. The second in line after King Abdullah is Prince Sultan, the defense Minister, who is 86 years old and in poor health. Third in line is Prince Nayef, the Minister of Interior who is 77 years old and a very conservative and tough individual and well known for anti-reforms.

Mar 10, 2011

Family Disputes Leading to a Religious Conflict

The January 25th Egyptian Revolution that led to the resignation of Hosni Mubarak’s government set a new and peaceful model of uprising that the whole world has recognized. The young people’s protest movement was supported by millions of Egyptian people, irrespective of their socioeconomic or ethnic background or their religious affiliation. It was a historical experience to see Muslims holding the hands of their Coptic brothers and seeing them pray together for the success of their revolution. It was a true people’s revolution that set a new standard worldwide.

Nevertheless, in all societies there will always be a minority that disregards and ignores what is taking place around them. During the past few days (March 7-10, 2011) the Egyptian and foreign media reported a bloody religious conflict that led to the deaths of 13 people and 140 injuries in the nation’s capital. This was a reaction to the burning of a Christian church in Soul Village in Hellwan Governorate. The Coptic Community protested the incident that led the Egyptian army to interfere and disperse the protestors movement. The High Council of the Egyptian military forces issued an immediate order to rebuild the church in the same spot as the one that was burned down.

The irrational actions taken by the Coptic protestors who blocked major highways in Cairo and burned the cars of innocent people who have nothing to do with the church burning is as bad as the act committed in Soul Village. Those who violated the state law should be prosecuted for the damages caused.

The incident that led to the burning of the Coptic Church was the result of a fight that took place among three Muslim relatives. A farmer’s daughter was suspected of having a romantic relationship with the son of a Coptic merchant in the village. The two Muslims who are relatives of the farmer wanted him to take revenge on the Coptic merchant. The fight among the three relatives led to the shooting of the farmer and one of his relatives.

After the burial of both men, a village crowd gathered and walked toward the Coptic Church to protest the relationship between a Muslim girl and a Coptic boy. It was reported that some individuals among the crowd instigated the burning of the church.

It should be clear that the conflict that took place was not caused by religious factors. It was caused by sociological and cultural factors, which include the honor of the girl’s family. In this case, the girl’s family cannot force the Christian boy to marry a Muslim girl unless he wants to convert to Islam. At this point I am speculating on the causes of this unfortunate incident that caused many deaths and injuries.

There are people in Egypt who have failed to understand that citizenship rights are separate from religious affiliation. During the previous four decades, starting with President Sadat’s rule, the government, especially through security forces in the Ministry of Interior, secretly encouraged religious discrimination against Copts.

It was well known that President Sadat supported Islamic political groups and used force to combat the power of other secular political parties who were not supportive of his policies. The irony is that Sadat’s policy led to his own assassination by members of an Islamic group.

The policy of religious discrimination increased during the Mubarak regime, which lasted for more than three decades. Recently revealed information identified the former Minister of Interior, Habib al-Adli, as the person who organized the attack against the Coptic Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Day.

Historically the roots of religious discrimination were not part of Egyptian culture, prior to the Sadat period. However, it was encouraged during the Mubarak period that stimulated the religious conflict between Muslims and Christians as part of the government policy to justify their authoritarian rule. The government stirred fears that the implementation of democracy will lead to an Islamic takeover, which would not be in the interest of Egypt, the U.S. or the world. Because of this irrational policy, the U.S. never put real pressure on Egypt to implement democracy. As the previous Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice put it, the U.S. over the past 60 years has opted for stability over democracy in the Arab world in general. The U.S.’s consistent foreign policy, especially when it comes to democracy, was to speak about it from both sides of the mouth.

Over the last six decades, the U.S. government did not pay attention to the grass roots movements in Arab states. Arab authoritarian regimes were supported as long as they implemented American foreign policy. The recent attacks on the Egyptian government’s central security buildings in several places in Cairo, Alexandria and other areas, revealed plenty of confidential reports and information that promoted religious discrimination to serve their political objectives.

The Egyptian government should implement new rules and regulations to prohibit religious discrimination and establish rights of citizenship in Egypt. Those who violate these laws should face the strongest punishment possible. This would be the right step to restoring the country back to its real, national character.

Mar 9, 2011

Face Book Spider Net

The January 25th Revolution will usher in a new period in Egypt’s modern history. There are many factors that fueled the political volcano that exploded on the 25th of January 2011. The forces that played a significant role were the absence of democracy, corruption, high unemployment rates, poverty, high cost of living and the political suppression of the public by the authoritarian regime. All these factors that have been building up during the past four decades impacted the majority of the Egyptian population in many negative ways. Another factor that should not be ignored is the fraudulent election of the Egypt parliament in November 2010 under the leadership of Ahmad Ezz . He ignored the Egyptian public’s views and prepared the candidate list mainly from the government ruling party (NDP). Nearly 95% of the elected members were from the NDP list, which Ahmad Ezz prepared.

The vast majority of people didn’t participate in the election, as usual. However, the fraudulent election was a slap in the face of the public and enhanced the suppressed rage against the Mubarak regime.

The spark that ignited the explosion, in my view, is attributed to the following reasons. First, the killing of Khalid Said by the police during his investigation, which occurred in Alexandria on June 6, 2010. This was the first signal reflection the inhumane brutality of the Egyptian security. Khalid Said’s crime was his revealing a video of the corruption in Alexandria’s security forces, such as selling confiscated drugs back to drug dealers. The content of the video spread through the Internet and exposed the filth of the security forces in Egypt. Khalid Said took that chance and ended up losing his life. There are more than 3 million Facebook activists in Egypt. Many of them became aware of Khalid Said’s torture and death. Many Facebook activists began to form small groups and began to call for the punishment of those responsible for Khalid Said’s death. Some bloggers posted “Khalid Said’s Rage” on the Internet. It was reported that as soon as the page was posted many thousands of young people joined to protest the brutalities of the regime. The number of people that have joined the Facebook group reached more than 300,000 in 6 months. They identified themselves as, “We are all Khalid Said”. Through that page a spider web was formed of planners and communicators who set the date of the 25th of January as the day of “rage”. The meeting place was Tahrir Square. Through Facebook and other networks millions of messages were sent urging people to join the protestors’ movement – not only in Tahrir but in all Egyptian cities.

The young people’s revolution succeeded and by February 11, 2011 the Mubarak regime began to crumble and the president submitted his resignation.

There are other small organized political groups that were active and joined the protestors’ movements all over Egypt. The following reflects those groups that participated in the Revolutionary movements:

1) The Popular Movement for Change was organized in August 2010

2) The April 6th Movement was organized April 8, 2008

3) The Free Movement for Peaceful Change was organized in mid 2010

4) The Youth Movement for Freedom and Justice was organized in 2010

5) The Socialist Trend For Social and Public Change was organized September 25, 2010

6) The Socialist Study Center Group

7) The Al-Baradei Independent Movement for Change was organized in February 2010

8) The Hamdi Sabahi Movement for President in 2011 was organized in 2010

9) The Kifayah Movement, which is the oldest organized group, as well as the most active and influential. It was created in 2004. They have organized protest movements in Tahrir Square since 2004 and many of their leaders were arrested by security forces.

All of these organized political groups have joined the protestors’ movements and played an active supportive role in the revolution, which lead to the collapse of the Mubarak regime.

Mar 6, 2011

The Mubarak Family's Wide-Scale Corruptin

The Egyptian newspaper (ahram, Feb. 28, 2011) reported the secret accounts of Mubarak and his family in Egyptian banks. Even the secret account numbers in the Ahli Bank revealed that Susan Mubarak’s deposit was $147 million, Ala’s (Mubarak’s son) deposit was $100 million and his other son Jamal’s deposit was also $100 million.

In addition, Mubarak transferred the Alexandria Library funds, which are equal to $143, 476, 000 into his wife’s account, giving her the legal right to use the money as she wished. This fund, according to the report, was a foreign contribution to the Alexandria Library. Instead of putting that contribution into a library trust fund, Mubarak but it in his is own account. It is very strange that the Mubarak family deposited such a large sum of foreign currency in Egyptian banks rather than in foreign countries, as they have been doing during the past few decades.

Furthermore, the Egyptian newspaper made no reference to the fact that Mubarak’s family funds in Egyptian banks have been frozen. There is an Egyptian law that was adopted by the government during the early 1950s called “From where did you get it?” (“Min ayna laka hatha”). Mr. Mubarak’s monthly salary is set at L.E. 24,000 per month, which is equivalent to $5,000. This sum includes all the financial extra allowed by law. The present government authority in Egyptian has failed to investigate whether they can charge Mubarak and his family for possible theft of state wealth and bribes. Mr. Mubarak and his family are living in Sharm el Sheikh with all the presidential privileges and are protected by the presidential republican guards as if nothing has happened.

This situation opened the door for wide scales of public speculation about the strategy of the high council of the Egyptian military forces. A United Nations Agency, Transparency International, has reported that the Mubarak family’s wealth outside of Egypt has been estimated between $40 and $70 billion. Mr. Mubarak has been at the top of a corrupt regime for the past three decades and he should be put under arrest and investigated for corruption. Again, why the Egyptian Military council has failed to apply the law requires an immediate answer for the benefit of justice and the beginning of a new trend of transparency and accountability in Egypt.

Illegal Money Transfer Out of Egypt

One of the major factors that has fueled the political unrest in the Arab world is the wide scale political corruption. Tens of billions of dollars have been transferred illegal out of the Arab states into Western financial institutions. Many heads of Arab states and high ranking political leaders have set an example that led to political and economic corruption in their states. In previous posts and prior to the beginning of the people protest movements, information was provided about corruption that was based on published international reports. However, since the uprisings that began in Tunisia and Egypt during January 2011, more information about the political corruption of Arab regimes began to appear in the press, especially that of ruling families in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Published reports revealed that the Mubarak family’s wealth was estimated to be between $40 and $70 billion and the Zain al-Abeedin family’s wealth was estimated to be around $35 billion. The Gadhafi family’s wealth was estimated to be between $31 and $100 billion. The political corruption was not only limited to the ruling families, but also prevailed on a wide scale among high-ranking government officials as well.

Professor Ahmad Ghounaim, an economist at Cairo University and an ex-member of the board of Egypt Central Bank, estimated that “The amount of money that was transferred out of Egypt during the past 30 years was equal to around $150 billion.” (al-ahram, February 13, 2011).

This amount of money illegally transferred out of the country is more than the total foreign and national debt of Egypt. The estimated foreign debt is equal to nearly $32 billion and the national debt estimated at L.E. 800 billion. The loss of such a huge amount of financial capital deprived the country of its potential economic development and growth. The end of the Mubarak regime will hopefully put an end to the political corruption in Egypt. Professor Ghounaim estimated the yearly savings will be around $10 billion. This will ease the pressure on the Egyptian government, who is expected to move rapidly to create new jobs for the unemployed millions of Egyptians. It should be mentioned that more than 700,000 young people enter the job market on a yearly basis.

Mar 5, 2011

Libya – The Protesters’ Perseverance

The massive uprising in several Arab states and protestors’ movements are in their third week and the people continue to demand political reforms and an end to corruption. In Libya, the protestors are calling on Gadhafi to step down and for an end to his sons’ influential roles in governmental affairs.

Colonel Gadhafi is responding in an address to his followers and bodyguards by saying that those who do not love him do not deserve to live. Gadhafi and his son Saif il-Islam have been threatening to create a bloodbath unless the rebels stop their protest movement. The Gadhafi African mercenaries have been shooting unarmed protestors. Army helicopters have been used to spray the protestors with bullets. It has been reported that hundreds of people have been killed and many were injured. Most of the killings were committed by the hired ‘Soldiers of Fortune’ who were recruited from neighboring African states. More than 20 of them were arrested by protestors.

It ahs been reported that a high Libyan government official, Abdallah al-Sanusi – the director of the Libyan Intelligence Services – met with high ranking Israeli officials at a military base in Chad. During that meeting, the Libyan official requested help from the Israeli officials to send some of their trained African agents to Libya to support the Gadhafi regime. The Israeli press reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Defense and Foreign ministers met on February 18, 2011 and decided to send African trained thugs to Libya in support of Gadhafi. (www.aljazeera.net, 3/3/2011).

Many military personnel from the Libyan army have joined the protestors. Also, high cabinet members resigned in protest and joined the Libyan masses in defiance of the Gadhafi regime, which is killing unarmed protestors.

Gadhafi has been condemned worldwide for his ruthless response to the protestors. His reaction to the protest is a proof that he is mentally an unstable person. He will continue to resist the protestors’ pressure and most probably will be killed in office.

I am surprised that he continued to rule for more than 42 years. During this long period, he abused and wasted state wealth. Unemployment rate is over 30%, and more than 25% of the Libyan people are poverty stricken.

A recent report estimated the Gadhafi family wealth to be between $35 and $100 billion. Many western governments, as well as the United States, began to freeze the Gadhafi financial assets.

In my opinion the next regime that will collapse soon is the government of Yemen. Ali A. Saleh is still resisting people’s demand’s to step down. His security forces have been clashing with the protestors for the third week, which led to the deaths of 22 people and the injuries of hundreds.

Some the members of his ruling party, in addition to other members of parliament, have resigned their positions in protest of his policies. They have denounced the violence that has caused the bloodshed.

Yemen is among the poorest Arab states, where poverty exceeds 50% of its population. In addition, the unemployment rate is very high, exceeding 45%. Many Yemeni families are facing shortages of drinking water and the country is classified among the most water-poverty stricken states in the Arab world. President Saleh has been in office for more than three decades in spite of the fact that his country has been on the wrong path. My prediction is that he will be out of office soon, or and may be killed before surrendering. Other Arab states where the protestors are demanding sweeping reforms are Bahrain, Morocco and Jordan. The domino game is in process!

The three monarchies share a similar political system and protestors are calling for constitutional monarchy to lessen the extensive authority of the kings. The protestors are also demanding free parliament elections where the prime minister is elected and not appointed by the king, as it is the case now. Freedom of expression and of the press are among the demands of the protestors, as well as an end of corruption and the creation of more jobs for many of those who are unemployed.

We are certainly in some new and drastic developments in the Middle East in the near future.