US Drug War Against Russia Waged From the Asian Foothold

US Drug War Against Russia Waged From the Asian Foothold

US Drug War Against Russia Waged From the Asian Foothold 

Nil Nikandrov –

The US intelligence community launched its first drug attacks against Russia in the early 1990ies, an epoch when drastic reforms were bleeding Russia’s law enforcement agencies and the borders of the formerly insulated country became easy to cross for envoys of Western drug cartels. The Russian customs and border-guard services which inherited from the Soviet era a very limited experience of dealing with the drug threat were completely unprepared to face the challenge, and the shipments of cocaine and heroin started flowing easily into Russia from a distant continent. Weakening the country regarded as a potential enemy by spreading substance abuse among its population – the younger people, the military, the intellectuals – is a priority of the Empire which seeks to reduce Russia’s human potential.

The majority of drugs supplied to Russia reached it from Columbia where the history of the suspiciously fruitless US anti-drug activities is ages long. The US-brokered free-travel regime introduced by Russia and Columbia – notably, one of Moscow’s first deals of the kind – certainly helped drug barons and their shadowy patrons bring the new drug-trafficking route online. Media reports at the time frequently showed confiscated Columbian drug shipments disguised as bananas, canned fish, or souvenirs. Shortly, narcotics also started coming to Russia from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Bolivia. The temptation to earn handsomely at the cost of a brief risk proved irresistible to a lot of Russia’s state employees. The US intelligence community permanently assisted the drug cartels, in part by luring into cooperation the Russians who then became instrumental in disseminating drugs across Russia and in having them forwarded to Europe.

The US “war on terror” and the NATO occupation of Afghanistan propelled the US drug offensive against Russia to an unprecedented level.Over just a few years, Afghanistan’s drug output rose by almost a factor of 50 and reached the equivalent of 190-200 billion of heroine dozes annually, the number roughly 30 times greater than the global population. Drug laboratories occasionally superior in equipment to global pharmaceutical companies proliferated across Afghanistan under the protection of NATO and the US DEA. In the meantime, NATO, the Pentagon, and DEA mount staunch opposition to Russia’s proposals for joint eradication campaigns. The unsophisticated arguments invoked by representatives of the Western coalition are supposed to sound “humanistic”: eradication would allegedly leave Afghan poppy farmers without means of existence, plunge Afghanistan into total starvation, and strengthen the positions of the Taliban in the country. NATO officials stick to the optimistic view that things would improve automatically when viable agricultural alternatives to drug cropping are offered to Afghan peasants. To quell Moscow’s brewing discontent, the US did launch several anti-drug raids in Afghanistan in cooperation with Russia, but of course has not invented up to date any alternatives comparable in profitability to opiates cultivation.

Slightly under 50% of heroin produced in Afghanistan are supplied via the so-called northern route which traverses the Central Asian republics to Russia and further on to Europe. The amounts of heroin on offer in Russia are growing steadily, and the situation evokes the early phase of the developments in Mexico which eventually spiraled into the country’s internal drug and terror war.

The Empire’s strategy is to create the conditions under which a drug war in a “partner”-country erupts imminently and then to make the partners totally dependent on the US support in the conflict. Washington’s supplies of firearms and grenade launchers to Mexico’s rivaling drug cartels clearly reflect the strategy of managing the drug war in the country. Dozens of Mexican military and law-enforcement officers – along with US border guards, customs officers, and DEA operatives – die in the conflict.

The Mexican government is unable to cope with the drug problem on its own and has to make serious concessions to Washington which as a result enjoys unrestricted freedom of maneuver in Mexico. For example, personnel is recruited for Mexican law-enforcement agencies and special forces under US oversight. These people take polygraph tests, receive training in accord with the Pentagon standards, and are taught undivided loyalty to the US. The zombies readily take assassination orders and hardly care whom they are killing – Mexicans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, or Americans. Wrestling over global dominance, the Empire puts this type of technology to work in all parts of the world.

Recently US Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) William R. Brownfield toured Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.Brownfield’s personal record is rich in episodes linked to Washington’s operations against defiant regimes. Occasionally, the efforts ended with spectacular failures, as in Venezuela where Chavez bluntly warned Brownfield that attempts to orchestrate conspiracies and color revolutions would not be tolerated. Isolated and dubbed a clown, Brownfield had to leave Venezuela with a sense of defeat.

What Brownfield delivered to the Central Asian republics was a plan titled the Central Asia Counternarcotics Initiative (CACI) which strongly resembles Plan Colombia (Brownfield served as the US ambassador to Columbia in 2007-2010). The overly self-confident Texan promptly convinced his Central Asian partners that triumph over the common enemy – the drug trafficking – would be within reach. Part of the plan is to have operative groups set up in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan similar to those already organized in Afghanistan and Russia. The US pledges funding for the project, but the amount to be poured into its initial phase – $2-3m – appears modest against the background of the billions of dollars spent on Plan Colombia. Brownfield inaugurated a border-guard and customs complex at the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan as a showcase of the US-Central Asia cooperation.

Talking to his partners in Dushanbe, Bishkek, and Astana, Brownfield chose not to elaborate on the wider US agenda for the region, which implies profound internal transformations in the five Central Asian republics. Washington’s objectives in Central Asia include the fostering of pro-US regimes and the elimination of any influence Moscow still has in this part of the post-Soviet space. Brownfield similarly did not explain what missions the operative groups would be charged with in the framework of the plan. A credible hypothesis is that those are going to be modeled on Mexico’s and Columbia’s death squads and to be used in serious military offensives in Central Asia. The day may come when the groups will turn out to be the frontier forces of the Empire which hopes to perpetuate its presence in Central Asia with the purpose of holding Russia and China at gunpoint.

Turkmenistan and Tajikistan Parliaments Hold Compare Notes Day

Turkmenistan and Tajikistan set to strengthen inter-parliamentary ties

The Mejlis of Turkmenistan hosted a meeting with members of the Majlisi Oli (the national parliament) of the Republic of Tajikistan. The sides exchanged views on the prospects of bilateral cooperation, in particular through strengthening the inter-parliamentary relations, the official report said.

The guests were briefed on the main activities of the national parliament in the context of the legal reform implemented in Turkmenistan. In turn, the Tajik MPs updated Turkmen colleagues on the structure, role and place of the Majlisi Oil, which is the supreme representative and legislative body of the Republic of Tajikistan.

The Tajik guests also held talks at the Ministry of Oil and Gas and Mineral Resources of Turkmenistan and the State Concern “Turkmengaz”. As part of the visit to Ashgabat, the delegation of Tajikistan also visited the Main National Museum of Turkmenistan and the National Museum of Turkmen Carpet.


Clinton Urges Countries Not to Stifle Internet, Her Primary Weapon

[Just in case anyone manages to block her instrument of subversion, she has the back-up “Internet in a suitcase.”]

A case filled with enough equipment to set up an autonomous, metropolitan WiFi network.

Clinton Urges Countries Not to Stifle Online Voices

THE HAGUE — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other international leaders urged countries and private businesses on Thursday to fight increasing efforts to restrict access to the Internet by repressive governments and even some democratic ones.

Jerry Lampen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton with the Dutch foreign minister, Uri Rosenthal, in The Hague on Thursday.

Opening a two-day conference on digital freedom here sponsored by Google and the Dutch government, Mrs. Clinton warned that restrictions on the Internet threatened not only basic freedoms and human rights, but also international commerce and the free flow of information that increasingly makes it possible.

Uzbekistan’s Wasteful Soviet-Era Agricultural System

[The Soviets emptied the Aral Sea trying to water this salty desert.  Maintaining the country’s primary agricultural product, cotton, wastes what little water manages to reach Uzbekistan through the Central Asian river systems, helping to raise Islam Karimov’s anger with Tajikistan over proposed Rogun Dam project, which will strangle Uzbek cotton production for several years.  One of the biggest problems of the CIS countries is switching over from communist-era systems to more modern and efficient models of production or transmission systems, whether that be gas, water, electrical, or highway.  The answer for Uzbekistan is not better irrigation systems, but a better means of producing national profit. 

If the order of the day is to actually to help the citizens of Central Asia, as a pathway to obtaining their gas and oil, then we will produce something on the order of a Central Asian Marshall Plan.  Then you get into the sticky business of saying–“What about Afghanistan and Pakistan reconstruction?”  Or, for that matter, “What Iraq or Libya?”   Every nation on this earth, with few exceptions, needs a hand-up into the Twenty-First Century.  Do we start in Central Asia, now?  Or do we do nothing at all to help the people recover from decades of wasteful destruction and division?  There is a line that has been carved right down the middle of humanity–cut there by the genius Washington and Moscow planners.  How do we mend that rift in humanity? 

A simple problem like an antiquated irrigation system can be traced all the way back to the Cold War.  The damage that mankind does by blindly following blind leaders remains invisible until the shadow of the past passes over something that we want or think that we need today.  Such are the problems that cover both the “Silk Road” and “Pipelinestan.”]

Food shortages emerging

Poor irritation practices, growing population and climatic change all signal a worrisome scenario on the food security front in Uzbekistan, according to a study conducted by Tashkent’s Centre for Economic Research, reported.

The study was supported by the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations Development Programme. ldus Kamilov, senior research coordinator on the project said, “Water resources are being depleted not only by global warming, but also by the inefficient irrigation systems being used by Uzbekistan’s agricultural producers.”

He claimed that half of the water which could tapped for irrigation is lost and he suggested channels and pumping stations to alleviate the losses. According to Kamilov, a significant proportion of cultivated land in Uzbekistan is irrigated but research shows that 70% of Uzbekistan’s land is not suitable for agricultural production as the land is desert, steppe, or mountainous or soil salinity is too high.

Newt and Other Republican Morons Forget To Register As Agents of Israel

[“Neut” is here to remind us exactly what Bush was all about.  Kissing Netanyahu’s ass, while appeasing the Rapture Republicans is a neocon speciality.  Gingrich steered Reagan’s bankrupt policies through the Congress, while fixating on Monica Lewinski’s stained dress.  He locked the Congress up over Clinton’s sexual deviancies, while ignoring the mess that Bill and Hillary were making with his Bosnian Islamists that he recruited from the Afghan veterans, otherwise known as “al-Qaeda.”  He, more than anyone else, can be said to have “fiddled” while Clinton created the force of international terrorist mercenaries who helped lead us into the perpetual terror war.  It has been American bipartisan policy to unleash Islamist terrorists upon the rest of the world, as seen in the wave of Islamists which we have helped empower in the Middle East.  The zombie Republicans have arisen from the dead to impersonate American statesmen, who all speak with the same voice, uttering the same seductive promises to save America from Obama, knowing full well that every word they speak is a lie.]

Gingrich and company share their Middle East delusions

James Zogby

On Wednesday, six Republican candidates for president appeared before the Republican Jewish Coalition to campaign for Christian votes. There are Jewish Republicans, to be sure, but not enough to make a difference in this primary contest. No, the real prize that drew the candidates to the event were the 40 per cent of GOP primary voters who identify themselves as “born-again” Christians. Many of them fervently believe that Israel can do no wrong and that it is their religious duty to support any and all Israeli policies as a prerequisite to hasten the “Day of Judgment”.

The speeches were mostly filled with hysterical criticism of President Barack Obama’s “appeasement” of Israel’s enemies and hyperbolic praise for Israel (with the exception of John Huntsman, who, after a few pandering platitudes, spoke mostly about the economy and was greeted with stony silence). Because their remarks included such irresponsible charges and promises, I have included significant excerpts to give a flavour of how out of touch today’s Republican Party is with current Middle East realities.

Newt Gingrich has in recent days surged ahead in the polls with statements like this: “As president, on my first day in office, I will issue an executive order directing the US embassy in Israel to be moved to Jerusalem as provided for in the legislation I introduced in Congress in 1995.

“The United States should explicitly reject the concept of a right of return for Palestinian refugees. The so-called right of return is a historically impossible demand that would be a demographic disaster and mean the end of the Jewish state of Israel.

“The United Nations camps system must be replaced by a system of earned income and property rights to restore dignity and hope to every Palestinian.”

The next day, Mr Gingrich followed up these remarks, in essence rejecting any Palestinian claim to a state: “Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places. And for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and I think it’s tragic.”

Michele Bachmann continued her pattern of lambasting Mr Obama while pandering to the far-right constituency: “It seems as if lately, our president has forgotten the importance of Israel to America and thinks of our relationship only in terms of what we do for Israel. The president is more concerned about Israel building homes on its own land than the threats that Israel and America face in the region.

“Obama improperly calls for Israel to retreat to indefensible 1949 armistice lines with swaps, and to then still face further demands to divide Jerusalem and allow a Palestinian ‘right of return’ to overrun the entire state of Israel. The Obama administration has also unconditionally given the Palestinians unprecedented amounts of US foreign aid, and opposed Congressional efforts to condition aid on the real steps that would bring about peace.

“The so-called Palestinian ‘right of return’ would demographically destroy Israel by swamping it with millions of Arabs who never lived in Israel, thereby turning the world’s only Jewish state into the world’s 23rd Arab state.

“My administration will fully recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.”

In that company, Mitt Romney was eager to sing the same tune: “Over the past three years, President Obama has … chastened Israel. He’s publicly proposed that Israel adopt indefensible borders. He’s insulted its prime minister. And he’s been timid and weak in the face of the existential threat of a nuclear Iran.

“These actions have emboldened Palestinian hard-liners who now are poised to form a unity government with terrorist Hamas and feel they can bypass Israel at the bargaining table. President Obama has immeasurably set back the prospect of peace in the Middle East.”

Rick Perry continued the refrain, based on his own version of history: “President Obama has systematically undermined America’s relationship with Israel … I support the goal of a Palestinian state, but it should be the Palestinians who meet certain preconditions.

“Instead, the administration has insisted on previously unheard of preconditions for Israel, such as an immediate stop to all settlement activity. President Obama has suggested the 1967 borders as a basis for negotiations. And he has instituted the practice of ‘indirect talks’, subverting the Oslo Accords.

“Israel does not need our president demanding gratitude for being the best friend Israel has ever had while his secretary of defence rails that Israel has ‘to get back to the damn table’ with the Palestinians, and his secretary of state questions the viability of Israel’s democracy, even as his ambassador to Belgium blames anti-Semitism among Muslims on Israel’s failure to accommodate the Palestinians.”

All of this went beyond the normal platitudes offered up in an election year. It was dangerous, shameful and crass pandering, making it clear how far today’s Republicans have moved from the reality-based foreign policy of the Bush-Baker era. And while it’s hard to imagine the alternate universe inhabited by these candidates for president, it’s frightening to think of where they would take US-Middle East policy should any of them be elected.

James Zogby is the president of the Arab American Institute

Finally, US Ambassador Tells the Truth About American Intentions In Afghanistan

[Ambassador Crocker’s admission is the first time that a US official has admitted publicly the fact that has always been denied, whenever US spokesmen mentioned Obama’s deception, the imaginary “withdrawal” date of 2014.  The United States would never have been investing so many hundreds of millions of dollars building super bases if there had been a real intention to leave the war-ravaged country.  The withdrawal is a big fat lie by our Commander-In-Chief, used to brush away resistance to the unspoken reality.  Ours is to be an Empire of lies and blood.  Sounds like a new Dark Ages.]

Rod Nordland, New York Times
Kabul —

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan on Saturday raised the possibility that U.S. combat troops could stay in the country beyond the 2014 deadline that the White House had set for their withdrawal.

The ambassador, Ryan Crocker, speaking at a roundtable event with a small group of journalists, said that if the Afghan government wanted U.S. troops to stay longer, the withdrawal could be slowed. “They would have to ask for it,” he said. “I could certainly see us saying, ‘Yeah, makes sense.’ ”

He emphasized, however, that no such decision had been made.

White House officials said that Crocker’s comments were consistent with its previously stated position.

“The president never excluded the possibility that there would be some U.S. forces here, but he stressed that security would be under Afghan lead by 2014,” said the embassy spokeswoman, Eileen O’Connor. “The president has always spoken of a responsible winding down of the efforts here, so talk of the possibility of some troops still being here post-2014 is not a change in policy.”

But Crocker’s comments were a strong articulation of that possibility, and came as the administration is engaged in discussions with the Afghan government on what arrangements should be after 2014. Referring to the NATO summit meeting in Lisbon last year at which Western leaders agreed to transfer security responsibility to Afghan forces by 2014, Crocker said: “There is nothing in the Lisbon declaration on 2014 that precludes an international military presence beyond 2014. That is to be determined by the parties, who could be numerous, not just us, as we get closer to that date.”

In June, President Obama announced that U.S. troop withdrawals would begin the following month, with 10,000 of the roughly 101,000 U.S. troops then in the country to leave by Dec. 31, and an additional 23,000 to follow by the summer of 2012.

After that, he said, “Our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead.”

“Our mission will change from combat to support,” he added. “By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.”

Of the first 10,000, 4,000 have left, according to a senior NATO official. In most of those cases, personnel who had been scheduled to leave were not replaced, the official said.

On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Gen. John Allen, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, had been promoting the view that the withdrawals should stop after next year, with the remaining 68,000 soldiers to be kept in Afghanistan through 2013, before cuts resume in 2014.

Islamists, Dictators, and Bad Choices

Islamists, Dictators, and Bad Choices

By Abraham H. Miller

American Thinker

For those of us who lived through the fall of the shah of Iran, the Egyptian elections are 1979 all over again.  Then, a naïve President Carter decided that a compliant dictator who was aligned with our security interests was less worthy of our continued support than a group of theocrats who would create one of the most repressive regimes on the face of the planet.

Today, the Obama administration has jettisoned Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, another compliant dictator who represented our interests, in favor of the chimera of a popular democratic movement that, like the one in Iran in 1979, has proved to be merely a stepping-stone to the rise of the fundamentalists.  As the interim Egyptian military government sought to postpone elections in light of an all-too-predictable outcome, the Obama administration revved up the pressure on the military to call for elections, repeating in Egypt what Carter had done in Iran.

Carter’s decision led to Professor Jeane Kirkpatrick’s “Dictators and Double Standards” in Commentary Magazine, a work that would speak directly and critically to Carter’s ill-fated Iranian policy.  Kirkpatrick advocated that America support authoritarian dictatorships that supported our interests.  Drawing a distinction between authoritarian and totalitarian dictatorships, in terms of both the severity of their oppression against their own people and their threat to our national security, Kirkpatrick saw Carter’s human rights emphasis, which was his justification for not supporting the shah, as actually undermining human rights.  By not supporting the shah, Carter opened the gates to the reign of the totalitarian theocrats.

Obama’s Middle East foreign policy is indistinguishable from Carter’s.  Obama’s policy is concerned more with being part of some ephemeral and ill-defined “democratic” historical moment than with drawing the difficult distinctions and making the hard and often unpopular choices to which Kirkpatrick’s analyses led.

Authoritarian dictators are a threat to their own people.  Authoritarian dictators do not attempt to project power beyond their borders.  As reprehensible, ruthless, and violent as their regimes are, they are neither a direct nor an immediate threat to our security.

In the Middle East, not only did dictators such as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh pose no threat to America, however oppressive their regimes, but they also supported our interests.  Even Moammar Gaddafi’s episodic acts of sponsored violence were in the larger scheme of things neither an existential nor a systemic threat.  By any measure, there is far more justification for American intervention in Syria than there was for the Obama administration to bring the Islamists to power in Libya.

The real threat in the Middle East comes from those who will project power — not just through military means, but also through a virulent ideology which is taking root throughout the Islamic world and even in Muslim enclaves in the West.  Amid the chaos and power-vacuum of the so-called “Arab Spring,” power is shifting not to the idealists in the streets, who naïvely saw virtue in a “leaderless” revolution, but to those who have long stood in the wings organizing and waiting for the opportunity to take over.

Leon Trotsky ended up with a pickaxe in his head while residing in exile in Mexico City.  In contrast, the bureaucratic-oriented, power-driven Stalin rose to become the dictator of the Soviet Union.  Trotsky, not Stalin, had been in the streets of St. Petersburg directing the Russian Revolution.  Stalin, in contrast, concentrated on the mundane task of taking over and organizing the Communist Party of the new Soviet Union.  Power goes not to the idealists, but to those who have organized and anticipated finding opportunity in chaos.

The young people who initiated the Arab Spring will no more see their vision of the future come to fruition than did the young people who ran through the streets of St. Petersburg in 1917.  As Trotsky opened the gates of power to Stalin’s dictatorship, so too the young people running through the streets of the Middle East and screaming for change have opened the corridors of power to the Islamists.

As the Carter administration created the nightmare of Iran by bringing the mullahs to power, the Obama administration has created a new nightmare by bringing the Islamists to power.

The administration has supported the Islamists against the dictators while ignoring Kirkpatrick’s warning that whom you support in the world often boils down to choosing between the evil that threatens you and the evil that doesn’t.  In failing to make this distinction and siding with those whose popular slogans resonated with our instincts but who had no chance of taking and holding power, the administration has behaved with naïveté and stupidity.  Obama has sacrificed our strategic interests by supporting those whose goal is to project power to destroy us.  Our policies are directed by the slogans of those who appear to stand for democratic change.  We have chosen to ignore that those people are being pushed aside in a larger power-struggle sweeping the entire Middle East.

Kirkpatrick’s admonition is as relevant to the struggle in the Middle East today as it was three decades ago:

No idea holds greater sway in the mind of educated Americans than the belief that it is possible to democratize  governments, anytime and anywhere, under any circumstances. Decades, if not centuries, are normally required for people to acquire the necessary disciplines and habits. In Britain, the road [to democratic government] took seven centuries to traverse… The speed with which armies collapse, bureaucracies abdicate, and social structures dissolve once the autocrat is removed frequently surprises American policymakers.

As it was in Iran, so too is it happening in Egypt.  It is not farce that is being played out in this repetition of historical tragedy.  This is a repeat of Carter’s birthing of the regime that is the single greatest sponsor and perpetrator of terrorism.  An Islamist Egypt will simply be another Iran, and that will come about because Obama, as Carter did, judged an historical moment by its aspiration rather than by its reality.

Arab Spring gives bloom to Islamist parties

Arab Spring gives bloom to Islamist parties

By Louise Osborne and Sarah Lynch – Special to The Washington Times

The Washington Times

Anti-government protesters wave Bahraini flags and gesture as they participate in a rally and march Friday, Nov. 25, 2011, that drew tens of thousands to Maqsha, Bahrain, just outside the capital of Manama. Participants in the rally, organized by several opposition societies, waved Bahraini flags along with those of Arab spring countries Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Tunisia and Egypt, while calling for the fall of the Bahraini government, freedom for prisoners and democracy in the Gulf island kingdom. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Anti-government protesters wave Bahraini flags and gesture as they participate in a rally and march Friday, Nov. 25, 2011, that drew tens of thousands to Maqsha, Bahrain, just outside the capital of Manama. Participants in the rally, organized by several opposition societies, waved Bahraini flags along with those of Arab spring countries Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Tunisia and Egypt, while calling for the fall of the Bahraini government, freedom for prisoners and democracy in the Gulf island kingdom. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

CAIRO — As Islamist political parties dominate elections in the Arab Spring, analysts say the results should not be a shock or cause for apprehension.

“I don’t think it is surprising that the Muslim Brotherhood and mainstream Islamists in Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Libya have done as well as they have,” said Fawaz Gerges, director of Middle East studies at theLondon School of Economics.

“This is a return for Islamists making major investments in politics, welfare and society over the last 40 years.”

For Islamists across the Arab world, those investments are paying big dividends:

• In Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring protests, the moderateIslamist party Ennahda has come to power after winning the largest share of votes in recent parliamentary elections.

• In Morocco, King Mohammed VI appointed Abdelilah Benkirane, leader of the Justice and Development Party, as that nation’s first prime minister after enacting reforms that strengthen the office.

• In Egypt, results from the first round of parliamentary elections last month showed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Partyleading, with 36.6 percent of the vote. The Al-Nour Party, a more fundamentalist Islamist group, was second, with 24.4 percent.

• Islamist parties are expected to dominate upcoming elections in Libyaand Yemen.

In general, Islamists seek to base their government’s functions on their religion, usually a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam’s tenets and proscriptions. Some Islamists also seek to institute Shariah law over civil law.

Secularists and civil libertarians have expressed concerns about the prospect of Islamist-led governments limiting women’s rights and religious freedoms throughout the Arab world.

Islamist parties, especially the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, have been heavily involved in helping poor communities amid the oppression of the Arab world’s now-ousted, autocratic regimes, analysts say.

“They [the Muslim Brotherhood] are the most organized and have been around for a long time,” said Kate Nevens, manager for the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, a London think tank.

“They have a good reach into more rural areas and have natural community outreach through mosques. The Muslim Brotherhood has been pragmatic, and I think their policies will focus on economics and social welfare.”

Ali El Ghol, a Muslim Brotherhood supporter from the Cairo neighborhood of Zaytun, says the group is in touch with ordinary people and understands their needs.

“The Brotherhood has a role in every social activity and is interacting with everyone, because they are from the people,” Mr. El Ghol said. “They are not different people or a different country.


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Arab Islamists less scary than Republicans

Siddiqui: Arab Islamists less scary than Republicans

A Egyptian casts his vote during the first day of parliamentary run-off elections in Cairo. (Dec. 5, 2011)A Egyptian casts his vote during the first day of parliamentary run-off elections in Cairo. (Dec. 5, 2011)


Islamists have emerged as winners in all three post-Arab Spring elections — Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. This has spooked some people — “Islamists ascendant” and “Muslims on the march.” This is unwarranted, based on known facts.

Truth be known, the Islamists sound far less scary than the American presidential candidates for the Republican party.

Islamists have invoked God far fewer times than Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and, until his recent departure due to revelations that he broke his Christian wedding vows, Herman Cain.

The candidates have been competing in proclaiming fidelity to Jesus. Whether they are sincere or merely striking poses for the benefit of the party’s fundamentalist core constituency is moot, for the purposes of our discussion here.

Romney’s Mormonism has emerged as an issue as well.

While the Republicans are obsessed with religion, the Islamists are downplaying it. While the former are promising to be guided by their spirituality in public life and public policy (abortion, prayers in schools, etc.), the latter are being guided mostly by the voters’ worldly woes.

The winning parties in Tunisia and Morocco have promised not to impose their Islamist lifestyle on others. Bikinis and alcohol won’t be banned. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is also promising not to impose a strict moral code. Whether this reflects their conversion to liberalism or just a nod to the reality of tourism revenues is not clear.

What is clear is the chasm between the western media’s definition of democracy and that of a vast majority of Arabs — the tourists’ freedom to wear bikinis and consume alcohol vs. the local population’s freedom from decades of autocracy, oppression, corruption and poverty.

Unlike the Republicans, leading Islamists are not threatening to bomb or invade any other nation. Romney et al are vying with each other in their belligerency toward Iran. If any of them ever makes it to the White House, he/she will have far more executive authority to wage war than any governing Islamist party ever would in the emerging Arab parliamentary democracies. And given the American arsenal, he/she would have far more power to cause human catastrophe (as in Iraq).

The Islamists have avoided partisan political bickering, unlike the Republicans, who refuse to concede an inch to the Democrats. They’d rather sink Barack Obama than save the American economy. By contrast, the winning parties in Tunisian and Morocco vowed during their campaigns to work together with other parties, including secular ones. They have since formed coalition governments to work jointly at their nations’ economic woes.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is suggesting a similar coalition, representing a range of political forces, once the three-stage parliamentary election ends next month. Interestingly, the only party the Brotherhood has refused to get into partnership with is the hard-core Islamist al-Nour, whose supporters want to bar women and Christians from leadership roles.

The Republican contenders’ reservations about the Arab Spring flow, in part, from two worries: what democracy in Egypt might mean to the peace treaty with Israel; and what the rise of Islamists might mean to Coptic Christians.

The Brotherhood has already said it would honour the peace treaty. Even if one were skeptical, the guiding principle has to be that a peace deal with a democratic state would likely be more enduring and carry greater legitimacy than one forged with dictatorships, especially discredited and corrupt ones.

As for protecting Christians, the notion that they are safer under dictators is false. Copts in droves fled Egypt under the rule of both Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak for Canada and the United States. Now Bashar Assad is invoking the safety of Christians in Syria to win brownie points in the West to prolong his rule. Buying into that is to grant a licence to tyrants to slaughter their populations so long as they protect the minorities of our choice.

Unlike the Republicans, the Obama administration has aligned itself with the democratic aspirations of Arabs, at least as much as it can within the limitations of American geopolitical interests. Washington has called on the interim Egyptian military regime to respect the outcome of the election and turn over power to a civilian government “as soon as possible.” Failing to do so would “plant the seeds for future unrest.”

In contrast, the silence of Stephen Harper is deafening. As so often in the past, he is taking his cue from the Republicans.

Haroon Siddiqui is the Star‘s editorial page editor emeritus. His column appears on Thursday and Sunday.