lunes, 28 de febrero de 2011

Artículo No. 32 Stratford Revolution and the Muslim World February 22, 2011

The Muslim world, from North Africa to Iran, has experienced a wave of instability in the last few weeks. No regimes have been overthrown yet, although as of this writing, Libya was teetering on the brink.
There have been moments in history where revolution spread in a region or around the world as if it were a wildfire. These moments do not come often. Those that come to mind include 1848, where a rising in France engulfed Europe. There was also 1968, where the demonstrations of what we might call the New Left swept the world: Mexico City, Paris, New York and hundreds of other towns saw anti-war revolutions staged by Marxists and other radicals. Prague saw the Soviets smash a New Leftist government. Even China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution could, by a stretch, be included. In 1989, a wave of unrest, triggered by East Germans wanting to get to the West, generated an uprising in Eastern Europe that overthrew Soviet rule.
Each had a basic theme. The 1848 uprisings attempted to establish liberal democracies in nations that had been submerged in the reaction to Napoleon. 1968 was about radical reform in capitalist society. 1989 was about the overthrow of communism. They were all more complex than that, varying from country to country. But in the end, the reasons behind them could reasonably be condensed into a sentence or two.
Some of these revolutions had great impact. 1989 changed the global balance of power. 1848 ended in failure at the time — France reverted to a monarchy within four years — but set the stage for later political changes. 1968 produced little that was lasting. The key is that in each country where they took place, there were significant differences in the details — but they shared core principles at a time when other countries were open to those principles, at least to some extent.
The Current Rising in Context
In looking at the current rising, the geographic area is clear: The Muslim countries of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula have been the prime focus of these risings, and in particular North Africa where Egypt, Tunisia and now Libya have had profound crises. Of course, many other Muslim countries also had revolutionary events that have not, at least until now, escalated into events that threaten regimes or even ruling personalities. There have been hints of such events elsewhere. There were small demonstrations in China, and of course Wisconsin is in turmoil over budget cuts. But these don’t really connect to what is happening in the Middle East. The first was small and the second is not taking inspiration from Cairo. So what we have is a rising in the Arab world that has not spread beyond there for the time being.
The key principle that appears to be driving the risings is a feeling that the regimes, or a group of individuals within the regimes, has deprived the public of political and, more important, economic rights — in short, that they enriched themselves beyond what good taste permitted. This has expressed itself in different ways. In Bahrain, for example, the rising was of the primarily Shiite population against a predominantly Sunni royal family. In Egypt, it was against the person of Hosni Mubarak. In Libya, it is against the regime and person of Moammar Gadhafi and his family, and is driven by tribal hostility.
Why has it come together now? One reason is that there was a tremendous amount of regime change in the region from the 1950s through the early 1970s, as the Muslim countries created regimes to replace foreign imperial powers and were buffeted by the Cold War. Since the early 1970s, the region has, with the exception of Iran in 1979, been fairly stable in the sense that the regimes — and even the personalities who rose up in the unstable phase — stabilized their countries and imposed regimes that could not easily be moved. Gadhafi, for example, overthrew the Libyan monarchy in 1969 and has governed continually for 42 years since then.
Any regime dominated by a small group of people over time will see that group use their position to enrich themselves. There are few who can resist for 40 years. It is important to recognize that Gadhafi, for example, was once a genuine, pro-Soviet revolutionary. But over time, revolutionary zeal declines and avarice emerges along with the arrogance of extended power. And in the areas of the region where there had not been regime changes since after World War I, this principle stays true as well, although interestingly, over time, the regimes seem to learn to spread the wealth a bit.
Thus, what emerged throughout the region were regimes and individuals who were classic kleptocrats. More than anything, if we want to define this wave of unrest, particularly in North Africa, it is a rising against regimes — and particularly individuals — who have been in place for extraordinarily long periods of time. And we can add to this that they are people who were planning to maintain family power and money by installing sons as their political heirs. The same process, with variations, is under way in the Arabian Peninsula. This is a rising against the revolutionaries of previous generations.
The revolutions have been coming for a long time. The rising in Tunisia, particularly when it proved successful, caused it to spread. As in 1848, 1968 and 1989, similar social and cultural conditions generate similar events and are triggered by the example of one country and then spread more broadly. That has happened in 2011 and is continuing.
A Uniquely Sensitive Region
It is, however, happening in a region that is uniquely sensitive at the moment. The U.S.-jihadist war means that, as with previous revolutionary waves, there are broader potential geopolitical implications. 1989 meant the end of the Soviet empire, for example. In this case, the question of greatest importance is not why these revolutions are taking place, but who will take advantage of them. We do not see these revolutions as a vast conspiracy by radical Islamists to take control of the region. A conspiracy that vast is easily detected, and the security forces of the individual countries would have destroyed the conspiracies quickly. No one organized the previous waves, although there have been conspiracy theories about them as well. They arose from certain conditions, following the example of one incident. But particular groups certainly tried, with greater and lesser success, to take advantage of them.
In this case, whatever the cause of the risings, there is no question that radical Islamists will attempt to take advantage and control of them. Why wouldn’t they? It is a rational and logical course for them. Whether they will be able to do so is a more complex and important question, but that they would want to and are trying to do so is obvious. They are a broad, transnational and disparate group brought up in conspiratorial methods. This is their opportunity to create a broad international coalition. Thus, as with traditional communists and the New Left in the 1960s, they did not create the rising but they would be fools not to try to take advantage of it. I would add that there is little question but that the United States and other Western countries are trying to influence the direction of the uprisings. For both sides, this is a difficult game to play, but it is particularly difficult for the United States as outsiders to play this game compared to native Islamists who know their country.
But while there is no question that Islamists would like to take control of the revolution, that does not mean that they will, nor does it mean that these revolutions will be successful. Recall that 1848 and 1968 were failures and those who tried to take advantage of them had no vehicle to ride. Also recall that taking control of a revolution is no easy thing. But as we saw in Russia in 1917, it is not necessarily the more popular group that wins, but the best organized. And you frequently don’t find out who is best organized until afterwards.
Democratic revolutions have two phases. The first is the establishment of democracy. The second is the election of governments. The example of Hitler is useful as a caution on what kind of governments a young democracy can produce, since he came to power through democratic and constitutional means — and then abolished democracy to cheering crowds. So there are three crosscurrents here. The first is the reaction against corrupt regimes. The second is the election itself. And the third? The United States needs to remember, as it applauds the rise of democracy, that the elected government may not be what one expected.
In any event, the real issue is whether these revolutions will succeed in replacing existing regimes. Let’s consider the process of revolution for the moment, beginning by distinguishing a demonstration from an uprising. A demonstration is merely the massing of people making speeches. This can unsettle the regime and set the stage for more serious events, but by itself, it is not significant. Unless the demonstrations are large enough to paralyze a city, they are symbolic events. There have been many demonstrations in the Muslim world that have led nowhere; consider Iran.
It is interesting here to note that the young frequently dominate revolutions like 1848, 1969 and 1989 at first. This is normal. Adults with families and maturity rarely go out on the streets to face guns and tanks. It takes young people to have the courage or lack of judgment to risk their lives in what might be a hopeless cause. However, to succeed, it is vital that at some point other classes of society join them. In Iran, one of the key moments of the 1979 revolution was when the shopkeepers joined young people in the street. A revolution only of the young, as we saw in 1968 for example, rarely succeeds. A revolution requires a broader base than that, and it must go beyond demonstrations. The moment it goes beyond the demonstration is when it confronts troops and police. If the demonstrators disperse, there is no revolution. If they confront the troops and police, and if they carry on even after they are fired on, then you are in a revolutionary phase. Thus, pictures of peaceful demonstrators are not nearly as significant as the media will have you believe, but pictures of demonstrators continuing to hold their ground after being fired on is very significant.
A Revolution’s Key Event
This leads to the key event in the revolution. The revolutionaries cannot defeat armed men. But if those armed men, in whole or part, come over to the revolutionary side, victory is possible. And this is the key event. In Bahrain, the troops fired on demonstrators and killed some. The demonstrators dispersed and then were allowed to demonstrate — with memories of the gunfire fresh. This was a revolution contained. In Egypt, the military and police opposed each other and the military sided with the demonstrators, for complex reasons obviously. Personnel change, if not regime change, was inevitable. In Libya, the military has split wide open.
When that happens, you have reached a branch in the road. If the split in the military is roughly equal and deep, this could lead to civil war. Indeed, one way for a revolution to succeed is to proceed to civil war, turning the demonstrators into an army, so to speak. That’s what Mao did in China. Far more common is for the military to split. If the split creates an overwhelming anti-regime force, this leads to the revolution’s success. Always, the point to look for is thus the police joining with the demonstrators. This happened widely in 1989 but hardly at all in 1968. It happened occasionally in 1848, but the balance was always on the side of the state. Hence, that revolution failed.
It is this act, the military and police coming over to the side of the demonstrators, that makes or breaks a revolution. Therefore, to return to the earlier theme, the most important question on the role of radical Islamists is not their presence in the crowd, but their penetration of the military and police. If there were a conspiracy, it would focus on joining the military, waiting for demonstrations and then striking.
Those who argue that these risings have nothing to do with radical Islam may be correct in the sense that the demonstrators in the streets may well be students enamored with democracy. But they miss the point that the students, by themselves, can’t win. They can only win if the regime wants them to, as in Egypt, or if other classes and at least some of the police or military — people armed with guns who know how to use them — join them. Therefore, looking at the students on TV tells you little. Watching the soldiers tells you much more.
The problem with revolutions is that the people who start them rarely finish them. The idealist democrats around Alexander Kerensky in Russia were not the ones who finished the revolution. The thuggish Bolsheviks did. In these Muslim countries, the focus on the young demonstrators misses the point just as it did in Tiananmen Square. It wasn’t the demonstrators that mattered, but the soldiers. If they carried out orders, there would be no revolution.
I don’t know the degree of Islamist penetration of the military in Libya, to pick one example of the unrest. I suspect that tribalism is far more important than theology. In Egypt, I suspect the regime has saved itself by buying time. Bahrain was more about Iranian influence on the Shiite population than Sunni jihadists at work. But just as the Iranians are trying to latch on to the process, so will the Sunni jihadists.
The Danger of Chaos
I suspect some regimes will fall, mostly reducing the country in question to chaos. The problem, as we are seeing in Tunisia, is that frequently there is no one on the revolutionaries’ side equipped to take power. The Bolsheviks had an organized party. In these revolutions, the parties are trying to organize themselves during the revolution, which is another way to say that the revolutionaries are in no position to govern. The danger is not radical Islam, but chaos, followed either by civil war, the military taking control simply to stabilize the situation or the emergence of a radical Islamic party to take control — simply because they are the only ones in the crowd with a plan and an organization. That’s how minorities take control of revolutions.
All of this is speculation. What we do know is that this is not the first wave of revolution in the world, and most waves fail, with their effects seen decades later in new regimes and political cultures. Only in the case of Eastern Europe do we see broad revolutionary success, but that was against an empire in collapse, so few lessons can be drawn from that for the Muslim world.
In the meantime, as you watch the region, remember not to watch the demonstrators. Watch the men with the guns. If they stand their ground for the state, the demonstrators have failed. If some come over, there is some chance of victory. And if victory comes, and democracy is declared, do not assume that what follows will in any way please the West — democracy and pro-Western political culture do not mean the same thing.
The situation remains fluid, and there are no broad certainties. It is a country-by-country matter now, with most regimes managing to stay in power to this point. There are three possibilities. One is that this is like 1848, a broad rising that will fail for lack of organization and coherence, but that will resonate for decades. The second is 1968, a revolution that overthrew no regime even temporarily and left some cultural remnants of minimal historical importance. The third is 1989, a revolution that overthrew the political order in an entire region, and created a new order in its place.
If I were to guess at this point, I would guess that we are facing 1848. The Muslim world will not experience massive regime change as in 1989, but neither will the effects be as ephemeral as 1968. Like 1848, this revolution will fail to transform the Muslim world or even just the Arab world. But it will plant seeds that will germinate in the coming decades. I think those seeds will be democratic, but not necessarily liberal. In other words, the democracies that eventually arise will produce regimes that will take their bearings from their own culture, which means Islam.
The West celebrates democracy. It should be careful what it hopes for: It might get it.

Artículo No. 31 Stratford The Significance of Libya's Gulf of Sidra Energy Assets February 23, 2011 |

Libyan energy infrastructure
The heads of several oil companies in eastern Libya’s Gulf of Sidra region announced Feb. 23 they had “pledged loyalty to the people” and were splitting from Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. The Gulf of Sidra is critical to Libya’s energy exports and its major ports handle approximately 77 percent of Libya’s oil exports. It is still very early in the conflict, but if eastern forces gain control over this region, it could provide crucial strategic depth in their fight against Tripoli.
The directors of several oil companies in the Gulf of Sidra region of eastern Libya announced they were splitting from embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi and had “pledged loyalty to the people,” Zawya Dow Jones reported Feb. 23.
The Gulf of Sidra is critical to Libya’s energy exports. The ports of As Sidra, Marsa el Brega, Ras Lanuf, Tobruk and Zuetina handle approximately 77 percent of Libya’s oil exports. Allegiances in the Gulf of Sidra and the economic value they represent, therefore, are key to the survival of Gadhafi’s regime.
According to the report, the defecting directors came from the Arabian Gulf Oil Company and the Sirte Oil Company, both regional subsidiaries of Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corporation. The Benghazi-based Arabian Gulf Oil Company operates the Nafoora, Messla and Sarir oilfields in Libya; Marsa el Brega-based Sirte Oil Company runs the Marsa el Brega refinery, which has a maximum capacity of about 200,000 barrels per day (bpd), but sanctions have limited its actual production to about 18,000 bpd. The three oilfields are now allegedly under the control of the Zawiya tribe, which has threatened to stop the flow of oil to western Libya if authorities do not halt their operations against Libyan protesters. Oil appears to be flowing from the fields for now as the Zawiya tribe appears to be cooperating with oil companies, but it appears that the refinery of Marsa el Brega and several of the oilfields that supply it and other ports have fallen out of the control of the government. 
On Feb. 22, a Filipino information technology worker living in Benghazi told Filipino news agency GMA that he had been transferred from Benghazi to Marsa el Brega because “the military has taken control” there. Given the large-scale military defections elsewhere in the country’s east, it is unclear if the worker was speaking of Gadhafi loyalists or breakaway factions.
In addition to the statements from the oil companies, anti-Gadhafi protesters claimed control over Ajdabiya, also along the Gulf of Sidra and adjacent to the strategic port of Zuetina. While there is little anecdotal evidence from Zuetina, the protesters’ proximity is a sign that the port and oil terminal are at serious risk of falling out of the government’s control. Farther to the east, the port of Tobruk has broken away from Gadhafi, bringing with it the terminal that services the Sarir oilfield.
This also means that around three-quarters of Libya’s oil export revenue, which was $30 billion in 2009, goes abroad via the Gulf of Sidra. Additionally, the Ras Lanuf oil refinery is Libya’s largest export refinery, with a throughput of 220,000 bpd. Western Libya does have the 110,000 bpd Elephant oilfield and the Greenstream natural gas pipeline, with a capacity of 10 billion cubic meters per year, which pipes essentially all of Libya’s produced natural gas to Italy. However, the revenue from natural gas is far smaller, at only around $3.8 billion in 2009.
Currently, the fluid situation in eastern Libya makes it difficult to draw boundaries between cities controlled by pro- and anti-Gadhafi forces. While there appears to be an east-to-west domino effect, protests are still contained in individual cities, and their success in recruiting the support of local tribes, military forces or business leaders is different from city to city. Geographic limitations will further constrain the ability of protesters in these cities to coalesce for a push westward.
As of now, there are no reports of protesters taking control or business or military leaders defecting in Ras Lanuf or As Sidra. Without evidence to the contrary, STRATFOR must assume that those cities not claimed as being controlled by anti-Gadhafi forces are still under Gadhafi’s control. That being the case, it appears that the allegiance in the Gulf of Sidra is geographically split between Marsa el Brega to the east and Ras Lanuf to the west, with Ras Lanuf being more important overall to Libya’s economy.
Finally, in addition to defections in the energy industry hurting the Gadhafi regime in the immediate future, their allegiance “to the people” may provide an economic and strategic underpinning to a secessionist movement in eastern Libya. It is still very early in the conflict, and there is no indication that anti-Gadhafi forces are consolidating in eastern Libya, but control of the Gulf of Sidra could provide crucial strategic depth to a region of Libya that is breaking away from Tripoli’s control.

Artículo No. 30 Libya: Past and future?

After alienating powerful tribes, Gaddafi's regime seems to be falling, but it is unclear who could fill vacuum.
George Joffe Last Modified: 24 Feb 2011 

Many believed that Colonel Gaddafi's regime in Libya would withstand the gale of change sweeping the Arab world because of its reputation for brutality which had fragmented the six million-strong population over the past 42 years. 
Its likely disappearance now, after a few days of protest by unarmed demonstrators is all-the-more surprising because it has systematically destroyed even the slightest pretence of dissidence and has atomised Libyan society to ensure that no organisation – formal or spontaneous – could ever consolidate sufficiently to oppose it. 
Political Islam, whether radical or moderate, has been the principle victim, especially after an Islamist rebellion in Cyrenaica, the country's eastern region, in the latter 1990s. Other political currents have been exiled since 1973, when "direct popular democracy" was declared and the jamahiriyah, the "state of the masses", came into existence. 
Even the Libyan army was treated with suspicion, with its officer corps controlled and monitored for potential disloyalty.  No wonder that major units now seems to have broken away from the regime and made the liberation of Eastern Libya possible.
Causes for collapse
The only structures that the regime tolerated, outside the formal structure of the "state of the masses" Colonel Gaddafi's idiosyncratic vision of direct popular democracy in Libya’s stateless state in which all Libyans were theoretically obliged to participate – came from Libya’s tribal base and the Revolutionary Committee Movement, itself tied to the regime by tribal affiliation and ideological commitment and used to discipline and terrify the population through "revolutionary justice". 
Apart from that, there was only the colonel's family and the rijal al-khima, the "men of the tent" – the colonel's old revolutionary comrades from the Union of Free Officers which had organised the 1969 revolution against the Sanussi monarchy which had brought the colonel to power.  And even the tribes did not necessarily support the regime, although they were constrained by the "social popular leadership", a committee bringing together thirty-two of the major tribal leaders under the watchful eye of the regime.
Yet, in reality, the Sa’adi tribes of Cyrenaica, for example, had little love for the regime, for they had been the cradle of the Sanussi movement which had controlled much of modern Libya and Chad in the nineteen century. In partnership with the Ottoman Empire, the Sa'adi led resistance to Italian occupation between 1911 and 1927. 
They had been disadvantaged by the revolution, not least because the revolutionaries came from three tribes – the Qadhadhfa, the Maghraha and the Warfalla – which had originally been subservient to them. 
It could be argued, in short, that the revolution was, at its heart, a reversal of tribal politics, despite its ostensible commitment to Arab nationalism. 
Geographic issues
Indeed, the regime has been consciously constructed on the back of these three tribes which populated the security services and the Revolutionary Committee Movement
Yet even they had their own grievances; the Warfalla had been implicated in the unsuccessful 1993 Bani Ulid coup and its leaders had refused to execute those guilty as a demonstration of their loyalty to the regime. 
Colonel Gaddafi's henchmen organised the executions instead, earning tribal enmity and probably explaining why tribal leaders so quickly sided with the opposition when the regime began to collapse.
Then there is also a geographic imperative for the rapidity of the collapse of the regime. Libya is essentially a desert, with the only areas that can support intensive residence located in the Jefara Plain, around Tripoli in Tripolitania, and the Jabal al-Akhdar behind Benghazi in Cyrenaica
The result has been that Libya’s six million-strong population, as a result of oil-fired economic development in the rentier state that emerged at the end of the 1960s, is now highly urbanised and largely concentrated in these two cities and the satellite towns around them. 
This means that any regime which loses control of them has lost control of the country, even if it controls all outlying areas, such as the oil fields in the Gulf of Sirt between them, which is also the home base of the Qadhadhfa, or the Fezzan that still seems to be loyal to the Gaddafi regime. 
It is this that explains how, once the army in Benghazi changed sides, the regime lost control of Eastern Libya and why its hold on Tripoli, the capital, has been so rapidly contested.
Nor should the nature of the regime or the Gaddafi family be ignored as a factor for the collapse. The regime has, in recent years, benefited from growing foreign investment in Libya, alongside its massive oil revenues, after sanctions in connection with the Lockerbie affairs were removed in 1999. 
As foreign economic interest grew, so did corruption and, although Colonel Gaddafi himself may not have been corrupt, his seven sons and one daughter certainly were, drawing their fortunes from commissions and income streams siphoned off from the oil-and-gas sector. 
Libyans themselves have been excluded from the benefits of oil wealth for decades, so the blatant corruption inflamed their resentment in recent years. 
'Foreign mercenaries'
In addition, the Libyan leader, who had no formal role inside the jamahiriyah but made sure that the Revolutionary Committee Movement answered only to him, has played on the aspirations of his sons to succeed him, pitting one against the other to ensure that none of them could amass sufficient power to threaten his position.
In such an atmosphere of eternal mistrust and suspicion, it is hardly surprising that the ultimate bastion of the regime has been the "foreign mercenaries" that have terrified Libyans with their indiscriminate violence during the country’s latest revolution. 
Yet, they too form part of the leader’s conception of the state. In the 1980s, Libya opened its borders to all who were Muslim, as part of its vision of Arab nationalism and Islamic radicalism. 
The regime also recruited an "Islamic Legion" to aid it in its foreign adventures, particularly in Africa, as Chad, Uganda and Tanzania were to discover. 
In 1997, Libya also renounced its self-image as an Arab state, prioritising its African destiny instead, opening its borders to sub-Saharan Africa, despite the intense domestic tensions that the inflow of migrants generated, which resulted in riots and deaths in September 2000. 
Now, apart from using African migrants as a tool to coerce European states such as Italy with the threat of uncontrolled migration, it has also recruited them into its elite forces around the "Deterrent Battalion" (the 32nd Brigade) which are used solely for internal repression
They have no loyalty to Libyans who hate them and they are the forces on which Colonel Gaddafi relies to ensure that his regime ends in a bloodbath to punish Libyans for their disloyalty to his political vision.
The future
Whatever the Colonel thinks – and it is what he thinks that determines the struggle inside Libya today – there are objective factors that will determine the outcome. 
Unrest in Western Libya has already led to towns in the Jefara Plain falling to the widening anti-regime movementZuwara is said to have been taken over by them and major struggles are taking place between armed forces loyal to the Gaddafi regime and the inchoate movement opposed to it in Misurata and Zawiya, where helicopter gunships seem to have been used. 
Even if Tripoli is still under regime control, the towns surrounding it seem to be slipping away. Eventually, the leader will control only the capital and nothing else. There is no doubt that the struggle is becoming increasingly bloody, with estimates of losses being set at between 600 and 2,000 dead.
The outcome will be determined by the loyalty of the armed forces and the institutions of the state towards the Libyan leader. 
Yet this is increasingly in doubt; two ministers, from the justice and the interior, have resigned and Libya’s diplomatic missions around the world are gradually falling way, including key missions at the United Nations in New York and in Washington. Diplomats say the are sickened by what they regard as genocide as Libya’s armed forces fire on unarmed demonstrators. 
Even the armed forces are becoming increasingly unreliable – a belated revenge, no doubt, for the way in which they have been chronically mistrusted and misused. Few, in the armed forces or within the population, have forgotten the abuse heaped upon them by the regime after Libya was forced out of Chad with heavy losses in the late 1980s.
Who follows?
The problem is that it is extremely unclear what could emerge to replace the colonel’s unlamented regime. 
One consequence of its unrestrained repression has been to ensure that no movement or individual has emerged as a natural alternative. Inside Libya, only the Muslim Brotherhood and some extremist Islamist groups have any formal presence
Outside Libya there are myriad opposition groups, it is true, but there is no evidence that they have any real purchase inside the country. 
There are also growing fears in European states along the northern shores of the Mediterranean of a flood of migrants and asylum-seekers fleeing the violence.  And then there are the one million sub-Saharan African migrants marooned in Libya in the hope of crossing into Europe.
George Joffe is a Research Fellow at Cambridge University, and Visiting Professor at Kings College, London University, specialising in the Middle East and North Africa. He is the former Director of Studies at the Royal Institute for International Affairs in London (Chatham House). 
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.