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Archive for February 21st, 2011

Wikistrat on Egypt’s Endgame

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Mubarak Steps Down – For Real

….Embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ended his three-decade reign when he left the capital last week – never to return. Shortly after, the top military body suspends constitution and initiates martial law, deferring to protestors’ demands that legacy government be liquidated. New election law promised.



When all was said and done, there was no placating the protest movement with sacrificial ministers, so once the military made clear that it was unwilling to slaughter on Mubarak’s behalf, the stunningly lopsided correlation of forces dictated the dictator’s departure. It was a revolution that, in many ways, mirrored Karl Marx’s classic description of how an elite-controlled capitalist economy is eventually challenged from below and shouted out of political office, except here the popular army cast the swing vote.

In most instances, the suspension of the constitution and the application of martial law would generate consternation in the West, but in this case, it triggers relief, because it says the military plays sherpa to the nation’s embryonic (at best) democracy movement, which, in many ways, is a late-comer to the scene, thanks to Mubarak’s decades of repression. Ironically, the most organized and experienced opposition party is the much-feared Muslim Brotherhood, by virtue of its decades-long role as convenient bogeyman rationalization for Mubarak’s authoritarianism. Rest assured, Western governments will be funneling all manner of aid to the more secular parties, but it’s not clear if that will have any impact, as the strong majority of Egyptians favor Islamic law….

Read the rest and see the video here.

Gene Sharp

Monday, February 21st, 2011

[ by Charles Cameron ]

I was impressed by him in London in the early sixties.

Okay, I was young and impressionable. But others have noticed him more recently, too: Hugo Chavez accused him of being a conspirator with the CIA, and the Iranians thought he, George Soros and John McCain were in cahoots.


Gene Sharp has been in the news quite a bit recently [1, 2, 3, 4], because he pretty literally wrote the book on non-violent resistance.

The young leaders of the Egyptian revolt that toppled Mubarak studied tactics with members of the Serbian Otpor youth resistance who topped Milosevic, Otpor studied tactics in the writings of Gene Sharp, specifically his 90-page pamphlet From Dictatorship to Democracy [download as .pdf]. Sharp wrote that handbook for use in Burma, where it was apparently translated at the request of Aung San Suu Kyi — who once cautioned her readers that that phrase they kept hearing wasn’t “jeans shirt”, it was “Gene Sharp”.

And before that, he’d penned his masterful 900-page, three-volume work, The Politics of Nonviolent Action

I told you he was impressive.

Recommended reading:

From Dictatorship to Democracy is now available in Amharic, Arabic, Azeri, Belarusian, Burmese, Chin (Burma), Jing-paw (Burma), Karen (Burma), Mon (Burma), Chinese (Simplified Mandarin), Chinese (Traditional Mandarin), English, Farsi, French, Indonesian, Khmer (Cambodia), Kyrgyz, Pashto, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Ukrainian, Tibetan, Tigrigna, and Vietnamese.

Return of the Vanished Imam?

Monday, February 21st, 2011


Fouad Ajami’s The Vanished Imam: Musa al Sadr and the Shia of Lebanon was among the first books I read about matters Islamic, and the close parallel between the vanishing of Musa al-Sadr and the vanishing — or, more properly speaking, Ghayba or occultation — of the Twelfth Imam or Mahdi struck me forcibly at the time.

I don’t have my copy to hand, so I can’t tell how strongly Ajami himself made the comparison — but I was certainly not alone. Daniel Pipes, in his review of Ajami’s book writes:

What made the Imam’s vanishing so significant is that it exactly fit the millennial expectations of Shiism, a faith premised on the disappearance of righteous leaders and their reappearance at the end of time.

And now it may be — the report has yet to be confirmed — that Imam Musa is back among us.

@rallaf is an Associate Fellow at London’s Chatham House.


The mind sees one thing, which reminds it of something else. It’s the oldest trick in the book, and it depends on the recognition of pattern, or you might say, parallelism.

The return of Imam Musa would be significant not merely for his admirers, not only for what he might have to say or what role — now aged 82, after 30 years in prison — he might yet play, but also, I suspect, for the vivid premonition of the Mahdi his return might stir…

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