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Arab World Unrest : Taking account of disinformation

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  • Sadanand Patwardhan
    Upheaval in the Arab world is seen by different interlocutors from different perspectives that are informed by their own fears, prejudices, and interests. The
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 10, 2011
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      Upheaval in the Arab world is seen by different interlocutors from different perspectives that are informed by their own fears, prejudices, and interests. The events like mass uprisings have a dynamics of their own and there is no way of predicting what ultimate course they would run. But a priori, there are three hostile narratives that wish to dominate the discourse to discredit what certainly are movements where masses are in the lead. Here are some reports, not necessarily friendly to Arab world and its cause, and yet remarkably open minded in the way they see the events unfolding.
      1. Bogey No. One : Tunisia and Egypt will go the way of “Islamic revolution” in Iran.
      “...In both cases, state-run media assert that the collapse of pro-Western Arab regimes will benefit the Islamic Republic of Iran and lead to expansion of an "arc of resistance" against U.S. and Israeli interests in the region.”.
      “....Iran portrays the travails of U.S.-backed Arab rulers as a zero-sum game in which Washington's loss is an undiluted victory for Tehran. It links these developments to the rise of Shiite-dominated governments in Iraq and Lebanon.
      However, the image exaggerates Iranian power and omits the ways in which regional trends could threaten Iranian influence and re-ignite its own domestic opposition
      Green Movement leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Musavi have asked for a permit to demonstrate in Tehran's Freedom Square on Feb. 14 "in solidarity" with the Tunisian and Egyptian pro-democracy activists.
      If the government agrees, it risks reviving the Green Movement. If it refuses, it exposes itself to charges of hypocrisy
      “....While it praises Arab protesters, the Iranian government has exploited the media preoccupation with Tunisia and Egypt by executing more than 80 people last month, including a dual Iranian-Dutch citizen, Zahra Bahrami”.
      “....Given the historic rivalry between Persians and Arabs - and the stereotype that Egyptians are politically passive while Iranians are not - Ghaemi said some Iranians may be motivated to turn out just to show that they are not inferior to Arabs in courage and conviction.
      "The average Iranian is going to wonder, 'if Egyptians can do it, why can't we?'" Ghaemi said
      2. Bogey No. Two : Events in Egypt pose a death knell for Coptic Christians.
      “....In statements that would later be parroted by much of the western media, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Jan. 31: Our real fear is of a situation that could develop and which has already developed in several countries including Iran itself - repressive regimes of radical Islam”.
      “....During the fiercest clashes on January 28, I found a guy about my age guarding my back, who I later found out was a Christian," Yahia Roumi, a 24- year-old protester from Cairo, told IPS. Now we're best friends; we never go to the demonstrations without one another”.
      “....Christian participation in the ongoing wave of protests comes despite statements by Coptic leader Pope Shenouda III, in which he threw his support behind the ruling regime”.
      “....Shenouda lost a good deal of legitimacy among his flock by essentially barring Copts from joining the uprising. But despite the church's official stance on the matter, the priest added, we nevertheless encouraged young Copts to participate”.
      “....Rami Kamel, a member of Egypt's Coptic Youth Movement, was quoted as saying in independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm on February 4: From the beginning, we've been participating in the demonstrations to call for the ouster of the ruling regime, which we blame for the country's economic and social decline”.
      “....Following the withdrawal of police from the streets of Cairo on January 28, Abdulla Rageb, a 42-year-old Muslim government employee from Old Cairo, has led an ad-hoc "popular committee" mandated with guarding churches in his neighbourhood”.
      But events in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, and elsewhere, are also portends for far more intractable problems facing not only the Arab world, but the entire Humanity, as the following article shows.
      Egypt : The relentless math

      Population 1960:  27.8 million
      Population 2008:  81.7 million
      Current population growth rate: 2% per annum (a 35-year doubling rate)
      Population in 2046 after another doubling:  164 million

      Rainfall average over whole country:  ~ 2 inches per year
      Highest rainfall region:  Alexandria, 7.9 inches per year
      Arable land (almost entirely in the Nile Valley):  3%
      Arable land per capita:  0.04 Ha (400 m2)
      Arable land per capita in 2043: 0.02 Ha
      Food imports: 40% of requirements
      Grain imports: 60% of requirements

      Net oil exports: Began falling in 1997, went negative in 2007
      Oil production peaked in 1996
      Cost of oil rising steeply
      Cost of oil and food tightly linked

      “....Hillary Clinton actually spoke something approximating the truth about this fact recently, although she was referring to the entire region, but nonetheless, it was an unusual moment of clarity for the U.S. political structure.....Water shortages and oil running out? I'd decode those ideas for you, but they speak for themselves. Food and fuel are running out. The irony here is that she may as well have been speaking about the United States, Japan, or any number of countries across the globe, but any admission of biophysical limits is a good start, I suppose”.
      “....With abundant energy and food, we are treated to expansive and stable economies in which everyone stands a chance of gaining. Not that everyone will, mind you, but the possibility is there.  In an energy-constrained world, what was formerly possible is no longer do-able, things don't work right, and there seem to be persistent shortages of everything from growth, to money, to food, to goodwill. What used to work doesn't. It is at these points that the prior stresses and imbalances are most likely to snap and suddenly change the world. ”.
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