السبت، 9 أبريل 2011

Editor Silenced, With the Help of Unreliable Sources

MANAMA, Bahrain

FOR years, Mansour al-Jamri led what was, by all accounts, a charmed life.

Having returned to Bahrain a decade ago at the personal invitation of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, he enjoyed a certain degree of immunity from government pressures, even when the prosperous, independent newspaper he started, Al Wasat, made things uncomfortable for a minister or two.

In the last two months of rising tensions and violence, his was a voice of moderation, urging both the Sunni royal family and leaders of the predominantly Shiite protest movement to sit down and compromise. He wrote columns criticizing government repression and corruption, and others condemning moves by protesters to march on the royal palace and barricade the country’s main highway — acts that eventually provoked a sweeping crackdown over the last three weeks.

But suddenly, Mr. Jamri found himself out of a job, forced to quit last weekend to keep Al Wasat open. He now spends his days clearing out his office and preparing to face prosecutors on Monday. They have accused him of publishing false stories to incite Shiites to rise up against the government.

“They have taken away my baby,” said Mr. Jamri, who says the false stories were planted. “When they touch and attack Al Wasat, it is a message to everybody that there is a new Bahrain. They are re-engineering the country.”

Speaking out extensively for the first time since his arrest, he said on Friday that he did not want to consider what could happen to him next. In an interview conducted in part in a car as his wife nervously drove around the city trying to avoid military roadblocks, he said he received threatening text messages every day, and when he called back he was greeted with taunts inflected with mock Shiite slang expressions.

Mr. Jamri is the mild-mannered son of the late Sheik Abdul-Amir al-Jamri, once a fiery Shiite protest leader whose photograph is still hung prominently in the meeting rooms of Shiite activists. But Mr. Jamri, now 49, took a different path from his father. He became a mechanical engineer and made the rare personal choice of marrying a Sunni woman of Western tastes who is also a journalist.

He lived and worked in Britain for 20 years before returning to Bahrain at a time when the royal family was trying to finesse a political opening after a previous period of unrest and repression.

He was offered a position in the cabinet, but he decided instead to build Al Wasat, and it has since become the most profitable and only major independent newspaper in this tiny island country. Al Wasat distinguished itself from other newspapers and government television by covering the opposition parties, particularly when they pressed the government over charges that senior officials were buying up beachfront property at rock-bottom prices.

However, over the last few days, after a one-day shutdown and Mr. Jamri’s resignation, Al Wasat has undergone a thorough makeover, emerging as a mouthpiece for the government.

Under a new emergency law, criticism of the government is grounds for closing not only newspapers, but political parties as well.

This week, the government shut the offices of the Waad, a liberal opposition party, and arrested the deputy of the top leader who is himself already in jail. Professional medical and educational associations have been closed in recent days, and four doctors and nurses who have treated wounded demonstrators have been arrested this week, bringing to 11 the number who have been seized since the crackdown began, according to the organization Physicians for Human Rights.

As Mr. Jamri tells the story, his troubles have been building ever since March 14, when the military and masked thugs attacked masses of demonstrators camped out in the central Pearl Square, and Saudi troops entered the country to bolster conservatives in the royal family. “I mediated between the two sides, and both sides used me to reach common ground until March 15,” he said.

Early that morning masked men wielding swords and clubs broke into Al Wasat’s press room and seriously damaged the printing presses. Masked men continued to surround the building over the next week, preventing employees from going to work without a police escort. Mr. Jamri wrote the interior minister asking for a meeting, but got no response. Reporters and editors started working from home, leaving the newsroom understaffed, particularly late at night

In early April, over a three- or four-day period, e-mails with stories and photographs began surfacing in Al Wasat’s system. They were cleanly written with notes saying they had been edited, and even included a phone number. They were relatively small stories — a person fainting after being beaten at a police checkpoint, a young man being assaulted by unknown assailants

The catch was that the stories and photographs were taken from other news outlets, some from other countries, with names of people who did not exist. The picture of a car with smashed windows, said to be owned by a doctor attacked by unknown assailants, was actually a car owned by a pro-government member of Parliament whose car suffered damage during last year’s election campaign.

“They were believable news,” Mr. Jamri said. “You see my wife panicking at a checkpoint; people are getting harassed every day. They were not unbelievable, not like stories of explosions of buildings.”

Last Saturday night, pro-government Bahrain TV broadcast what it called an investigative report charging that Al Wasat “deliberately targeted the security and stability of the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

The report said, “It did this by disseminating false news and reporting fabricated events regarding security developments in the Kingdom of Bahrain.” The broadcast highlighted the published stories and photographs next to the original versions in other news media.

“The guy made a mistake,” Mr. Jamri said of a newsman who ran with the stories. “The guy pumped them right to the layout guys, without editors.” He said computer experts had found that all the false stories came from one company in a neighboring Arab country. He said he would identify the company only to the prosecutors when given the chance next week.

“It was the last thing that crossed my mind, that they would attack my presses and then plant things,” he said.

International human rights groups have taken up Mr. Jamri’s cause. The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement saying it “condemns the Bahraini government’s strong-arm tactics, which effectively forced a change in a prominent paper’s editorial management.”

Local activists are incensed. “Someone working for the Ministry of Interior put the information in the paper and knew it was wrong,” charged Mohammed al-Maskati, president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights. “They wanted him to quit, and the paper has totally changed.”

Bahrain TV has not backed away from its charges, and the government Information Affairs Authority has characterized Bahrain TV’s reporting as fair and thorough. The Bahrain News Agency has posted the fabricated stories on its Web site, with links to the photographs and original reports from which they came.

Last Sunday, the day after the Bahrain TV broadcast, Al Wasat was prohibited from publishing. Mr. Jamri and two other senior editors resigned that night, in hope that the paper could be saved. The next day the paper was allowed to publish and was temporarily edited by two Iraqi editors.

But on Monday, the two Iraqi editors were summoned to the Information Affairs Authority, and then taken to the National Security Agency for seven hours of questioning, according to Mr. Jamri. After they refused to testify that Mr. Jamri deliberately published false information, Mr. Jamri said, they and their families were escorted to the airport and deported without their belongings.

Mr. Jamri says he has not even begun to think about his future. “I’m trying to recover from the shock,” he said. “They are sending a message that nothing is untouchable in Bahrain

الثلاثاء، 22 مارس 2011

ليبيا ترمي باسم الله طائرة معتدية فتسقطها

الجزيرة تعهر المهنة وتهدر الحق والكرامة وتطحن الامهات

الجزيرة تمتطي القرضاوي كولي سفيه لقطر والدنمارك

Battle for Benghazi بنغازي عشية العدوان على ليبيا

تدمير ليبيا لتسويق احدث الاسلحة وتفاهة الجزيرة

اوباما : لا للعدوان الفرنسي البريطاني القطري على ليبيا

ثورة الحرية في اليمن تتقدم بالشهداء والمخلصين للوطن

ليبيا تدحض بالاسلام فقه القرضاوي القطري المصالح

ليبيا موحدة في مواجهة قطر: اولاد الكلب الخونة

ثورة الحرية في سوريا: صعبة جدا وليست مستحيلة

ثورة الحرية في سوريا: صعبة جدا وليست مستحيلة

دليل صريح: الجزيرة قتلت علي حسن الجابر

القذافي يرد على العدوان بشرعية الدفاع عن النفس

ليبيا وموقف الكوريدور الاسرائيلي - الايراني : قطر

الجمعة، 18 مارس 2011

اوباما: لن نرسل قوات امريكية لليبيا ولن نستخدم القوة

ثورة الحرية في سوريا: درعا وبقية المدن

ثورة الحرية في اليمن: 50 شهيد في يوم واحد

The Imperial President

The president's speech was disturbingly empty. There are, it appears, only two reasons the US is going to war, without any Congressional vote, or any real public debate. The first is that the US cannot stand idly by while atrocities take place. Yet we have done nothing in Burma or the Congo and are actively supporting governments in Yemen and Bahrain that are doing almost exactly - if less noisily - what Qaddafi is doing. Obama made no attempt to reconcile these inconsistencies because, one suspects, there is no rational reconciliation to be made.

Secondly, the president argued that the ghastly violence in Libya is destabilizing the region, and threatening world peace. Really? More than Qaddafi's meddling throughout Africa for years? More than the brutal repression in Iran? And even if it is destabilizing, Libya is not, according to the Obama administration itself, a "vital national interest". So why should the US go to war over this?

None of this makes any sense, except as an emotional response to an emergency. I understand the emotions, and sympathize with the impulse to help. But I can think of no worse basis for committing a country to war than such emotional and moral anxiety. One fears this is Bill Clinton's attempt to assuage his conscience over Rwanda, rather than Obama's judicious attempt to navigate the Arab 1848. And as Obama said things like "Qaddafi has a choice," did you not hear echoes of Bush and Saddam?

At least Bush argued that Saddam posed a threat to the US. No one can seriously argue that Qaddafi poses such a threat. To launch a war on these grounds is to set a precedent that would require a kind of gobal power and reach that not even the most righteous neocons have pushed for. And I look forward to the actual Arab contributions to the military action. Presumably Egypt and Saudi Arabia will be involved. Or will it be what we now have - Qatar and, er, that's it? The Arab League has no real skin in this game. And one suspects, in the end, the narrative will be America bombing the Arabs again. How many civilians might the US kill in such an action? More civilians than we are currently killing in Pakistan and Afghanistan? Have we learned nothing?

The proper response to this presidential power-grab is a Congressional vote - as soon as possible.

That will reveal the factions that support this kind of return to the role of global policeman, and force the GOP to go on the record. I also look forward to the statements of the various Republican candidates in support of this president.
But it seems clear enough: exactly the same alliance that gave us Iraq is giving us Libya: the neocons who want to see the US military deployed across the globe in the defense of freedom and the liberal interventionists who believe that the US should intervene whenever atrocities are occurring. What these two groups have in common is an unrelenting focus on the reason for intervention along with indifference to the vast array of unintended consequences their moralism could lead us into. I do not doubt their good intentions and motives. No human being can easily watch a massacre and stand by. Yet we did so with Iran; and we are doing so in Yemen and Bahrain as we speak, and have done so for decades because we rightly make judgments based on more than feeling.

A congressional vote is also important to rein in the imperial presidency that Obama has now taken to a greater height then even Bush. No plane should lift off, no bomb released, until the Congress has voted. I don't see why Obama should oppose this. He needs some Congressional support in an open-ended military commitment to ensure the protection of civilians in Libya

As U.N. Backs Military Action in Libya, U.S. Role Is Unclear

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations Security Council voted Thursday to authorize military action, including airstrikes against Libyan tanks and heavy artillery and a no-fly zone, a risky foreign intervention aimed at averting a bloody rout of rebels by forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

After days of often acrimonious debate, played out against a desperate clock, as Colonel Qaddafi’s troops advanced to within 100 miles of the rebel capital of Benghazi, Libya, the Security Council authorized member nations to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians, diplomatic code words calling for military action.

Diplomats said the resolution — which passed with 10 votes, including the United States, and abstentions from Russia, China, Germany, Brazil and India — was written in sweeping terms to allow for a wide range of actions, including strikes on air-defense systems and missile attacks from ships. Military activity could get under way within a matter of hours, they said.

Benghazi erupted in celebration at news of the resolution’s passage. “We are embracing each other,” said Imam Bugaighis, spokeswoman for the rebel council in Benghazi. “The people are euphoric. Although a bit late, the international society did not let us down.”

The vote, which came after rising calls for help from the Arab world and anguished debate in Washington, left unanswered many critical questions about who would take charge, what role the United States would play and whether there was still enough time to stop Colonel Qaddafi from recapturing Benghazi and crushing a rebellion that had once seemed likely to drive him from power. After the vote, President Obama met with the National Security Council to discuss the possible options, European officials said. He also spoke by telephone on Thursday evening with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, the White House said.

Speaking on a radio call-in show in Tripoli before the vote, Colonel Qaddafi raised the level of urgency on the vote, saying that his forces would begin an assault on Benghazi that night.

“We will come house by house, room by room. It’s over. The issue has been decided,” he said, offering amnesty to those who laid down their arms. To those who continued to resist, he vowed: “We will find you in your closets. We will have no mercy and no pity.”

After the Security Council’s vote, Libya’s deputy foreign minister, Khalid Kaim, said at a news conference in Tripoli early on Friday morning that the Qaddafi government welcomed the resolution’s calls for the protection of civilians, which he insisted his government had always sought. But he warned against foreign countries’ trying to arm the rebels. “That means they are inviting Libyans to kill each other,” he said.

Mr. Kaim said the Qaddafi government was ready for a cease-fire with the rebels, “but we need to talk to someone to agree on the technicalities of the decision.” And he declined to address the possibility that the government’s forces were continuing to push swiftly toward Benghazi.

James M. Lindsay, the director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said of the Security Council’s decision: “It’s going to be tougher to stop Qaddafi today than it was a week ago. The issue is not going to be settled in the skies above Benghazi, but by taking out tanks, artillery positions and multiple-launch rocket systems on the ground.”

Mr. Lindsay said that would require helicopter gunships and other close-in support aircraft rather than advanced fighter planes. Other analysts said repelling Colonel Qaddafi’s forces might require ground troops, an option that has been ruled out by senior American officials.

A Pentagon official said Thursday that decisions were still being made about what kind of military action, if any, the United States might take with the allies against Libya. The official said that contingency planning continued across a full range of operations, including a no-fly zone, but that it was unclear how much the United States would become involved beyond providing support.

That support is likely to consist of much of what the United States already has in the region — Awacs radar planes to help with air traffic control should there be airstrikes, other surveillance aircraft and about 400 Marines aboard two amphibious assault ships in the region, the Kearsarge and the Ponce.

The Americans could also provide signal-jamming aircraft in international airspace to muddle Libyan government communications with its military units.

A European diplomat said that Britain and France were still waiting to hear what role the United States would take in any military action in Libya. “One decision that needs to be made,” he said, “is whether there will be a command and control operations in Britain or in France.”

Beyond that, the diplomat said that officials in Britain, France and the United States were all adamant that Arab League forces take part in the military actions and help pay for the operations, and that it not be led by NATO, to avoid the appearance that the West was attacking another Muslim country.

The United States has played a complicated role in the debate over military involvement, initially expressing great reluctance about being drawn into another armed conflict in a Muslim country but subsequently unnerved by the reports of Colonel Qaddafi’s gains.

But diplomats said the moral imperative of protecting civilians from Colonel Qaddafi and the political imperative of United States not watching from the sidelines while a notorious dictator violently crushed a democratic rebellion had helped wipe away lingering doubts.

Characterizing Colonel Qaddafi as a menacing “creature” lacking a moral compass, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that the international community had little choice but to act. “There is no good choice here. If you don’t get him out and if you don’t support the opposition and he stays in power, there’s no telling what he will do,” Mrs. Clinton said from Tunisia on Thursday.

She went on to say Qaddafi would do “terrible things” to Libya and its neighbors. “It’s just in his nature. There are some creatures that are like that.” Her remarks, applauded by the studio audience where she appeared, amounted to the administration’s most stridently personal attacks on the Libyan leader, echoing President Ronald Reagan’s “mad dog of the Middle East.”

The resolution — sponsored by Lebanon, another Arab state, and strongly backed by France, Britain and the United States — explicitly mentions the need to protect civilians in the rebel stronghold Benghazi, “while excluding an occupation force.” It calls to “establish a ban on all flights in the airspace” and an immediate cease-fire.

Mrs. Clinton said Thursday that establishing a no-fly zone over Libya would require bombing targets inside the country to protect planes and pilots. She said other options being considered included the use of drones and arming rebel forces, though not ground troops, an option that appeared to be ruled out Thursday by the State Department’s highest-ranking career diplomat, Under Secretary William J. Burns.

The vote was also a seminal moment for the 192-member United Nations and was being watched closely as a critical test of its ability to take collective action to prevent atrocities against civilians. Diplomats said the specter of former conflicts in Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur, when a divided and sluggish Security Council was seen to have cost lives, had given a sense of moral urgency to Thursday’s debate. Yet some critics also noted that a no-fly zone authorized in the early 1990s in Bosnia had failed to prevent some of the worst massacres there, including the Srebrenica massacre.

The resolution stresses the necessity of notifying the Arab League of military action and specifically notes an “important role” for Arab nations in enforcing the no-fly zone. Diplomats said Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were considering taking a leading role, with Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt also considering participating.

The participation of Arab countries in enforcing a no-fly zone has been seen as a prerequisite for the United States, keen not to spur a regional backlash. Diplomats said debate on the resolution had been contentious, with Russia and China reluctant to support military intervention. The German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, also opposed military action and called for tougher sanctions.

Security Council members said they were aware that military units loyal to Colonel Qaddafi were surrounding the strategically located town of Ajdabiya and massing for a push up the road to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, 100 miles away

الأربعاء، 16 مارس 2011

Bahrain Calls a State of Emergency

MANAMA, Bahrain—Bahrain declared a three-month state of emergency and handed wide powers to the armed forces, as it moved to quell weeks of demonstrations by mainly Shiite protesters a day after the arrival of Saudi troops.

Bahrain also temporarily withdrew its ambassador from Tehran, after Iran described the arrival of the troops as an "occupation."

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia denied a report that a protester shot and killed one of its soldiers.

Bahrain television reported a member of the security forces had died after being run over by a protester. The government said the state of emergency gives Bahrain's army and security forces a mandate "to take the measures and procedures necessary to preserve the safety of the nation and its people." Bahrain has seen clashes over the past few days between security forces, antigovernment demonstrators and pro-regime loyalists, marking an escalation of tensions in the strategic Arab Gulf state, where a swelling number of protesters have taken control of the key financial district and are calling for the downfall of the monarchy.

On Tuesday, members of opposition groups reported clashes in Sitra and Shiite and Sunni villages near the capital between pro-government and antigovernment parties.

"There have been attacks in six villages," said Abdul Khalil, a senior member of the moderate Al Wefaq party. "They [pro-government mobs] attacked the Shia and Sunni villages. They had guns and security forces had to use tear gas. This is a terrible and complicated situation."

Underlining growing U.S. concerns about deteriorating security, the Pentagon said Tuesday it authorized the departure, on a voluntary basis, of nonemergency civilian personnel and service members' families.

Bahrain's six formal opposition parties and secular groups issued a statement late Tuesday condemning emergency law and the widespread attacks on mainly Shiite communities outside of the capital. "The political opposition parties and the Federation of Trade Unions denounce the state of emergency declared by the regime and the escalation of the security situation and the use of the military to resolve a political crisis caused by the regime itself," said a translation.

It also denounced the "military and civil militias that brutally attack unarmed civilians in their homes and villages," which it said reinforced its call to the international community to "protect the Bahraini people from the brutality of the security forces and domestic and international armies."

Members of Bahrain's opposition Monday had appealed to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for help, amid a growing crisis in the country.

Meanwhile, opposition members said hopes for dialogue were fading. "We can't start dialogue with violence everywhere in the country," said Mr. Khalil. "We don't need more guns. Security forces from Gulf countries will put oil on the fire."

"I don't think there is room for dialogue," said Abdul AlSingace, a senior figure in the hard-line Haq movement. Foreign troops in Bahrain will provoke protesters into further acts of "civil disobedience," he said.

The White House on Tuesday called for "calm and restraint" on all sides.

The U.S. hopes to avoid further escalation. At a news conference in Cairo, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern about the violence in Bahrain, adding that "all sides must take steps now to negotiate toward a political solution." She said she had expressed similar concerns in a telephone conversation Tuesday with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

The State Department dispatched Jeffrey Feltman, acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, to Bahrain.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that Mr. Feltman's "message is that there is no military solution to the problems in Bahrain. A political solution is necessary and all sides must now work to produce a dialogue that addresses the needs of all of Bahrain's citizens

Arabs Rise, Tehran Trembles

Published: March 5, 2011

IN “Garden of the Brave in War,” his classic memoir of life on a pomegranate farm in 1960s Iran, the American writer Terence O’Donnell recounts how his illiterate house servant, Mamdali, would wake him every morning with a loud knock on the door and a simple question: “Are you an Arab or an Iranian?”

“If I was naked,” O’Donnell explained, “I would answer that I’m an Arab and he would wait outside the door, whereas if I was clothed I would reply that I was an Iranian and he would come in with the coffee.” This joke went hand in hand, O’Donnell wrote, with an age-old chauvinism that depicted the Persians’ Arab neighbors as “uncivilized people who went about unclothed and ate lizards.”

The Islamist victors of the 1979 Iranian revolution intended to change things, to replace the shah’s haughty Persian nationalism with an Arab-friendly, pan-Islamic ideology. Yet Tehran’s official reaction to the 2011 Arab awakening shows that, at the heart of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Middle East strategy, there is a veiled contempt for Arab intelligence, autonomy and prosperity.

What many young Iranians see as a familiar struggle for justice, economic dignity and freedom from dictatorial rule, Iranian officialdom has struggled to spin as a belated Arab attempt to emulate the Islamic revolution and join Tehran in its battle against America and Israel.

The delusions of the Iranian regime are partly attributable to a generation gap. Tehran’s ruling elite continue to cling to the antiquated ideology of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whose worldview was formed by decades of imperial transgressions in Iran. The demographic boom in the Middle East, however, has brought a wave of young Arabs and Iranians who associate subjugation and injustice not with colonial or imperial powers, but with their own governments.

Until now, Iran’s interests have been served by the Arab status quo: frustrated populations ruled over by emasculated regimes incapable of checking Israel, and easily dismissed as American co-dependents. A conversation I once had with a senior Iranian diplomat is instructive.

He complained, justifiably, about Washington’s excessive focus on military power to solve political problems. I posed a simple hypothetical: What if, instead of having spent several billion dollars financing Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad over the past three decades, Iran had spent that money educating tens of thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites to become doctors, professors and lawyers? Wouldn’t those communities now be much better off and in a much stronger position to assert their rights vis-à-vis Israel?

“What good would that have done for Iran?” he responded candidly. (He himself had a doctorate from a British university.) “Do you think if we sent them abroad to study they would return to southern Lebanon and Gaza to fight Israel? Of course not; they would have remained doctors, lawyers and professors.”

Iran, in essence, understands that it can inspire and champion the region’s downtrodden and dispossessed, but not the upwardly mobile. Its strategy to dominate the Middle East hinges less on building nuclear weapons than on the twin pillars of oil and alienation.

Iranian petrodollars are used to finance radicals — Khaled Meshaal in Syria, Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon and Moktada al-Sadr in Iraq, to name a few — who feed off popular humiliation. As an Arab Shiite friend once complained to me, “Iran wants to fight America and Israel down to the last Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqi.”

At first glance, the fall of Western-oriented Arab governments may appear to be a blow to Washington and a boon for Tehran. The seeming consensus among Western analysts and pundits — that Iran will fill the Middle East power vacuum — is short-sighted.

While the relationship between Egypt and Iran — the region's two oldest and most populous nations — will likely improve, the competition between them will likely intensify

Tehran’s ascent in the Arab world over the last decade has been partly attributable to Cairo’s decline. The potential re-emergence of a proud, assertive Egypt will undermine Shiite Persian Iran’s ambitions to be the vanguard of the largely Sunni Arab Middle East. Indeed, if Egypt can create a democratic model that combines political tolerance, economic prosperity and adept diplomacy, Iran’s model of intolerance, economic malaise and confrontation will hold little appeal in the Arab world

Renewed Iranian influence in places like Bahrain and Yemen may also prove self-limiting. As we have seen in Iraq, familiarity with Iranian officialdom often breeds contempt. Polls have shown that even a sizable majority of Iraq’s Shiites resent the meddling in their affairs by their co-religionists from Iran. “The harder they push,” said Ryan Crocker, a former United States ambassador to Iraq, “the more resistance they get.”

Elsewhere in the Arab world, Iranian proxies like Hezbollah will increasingly find themselves in the awkward position of being a resistance group purportedly fighting injustice while simultaneously cashing checks from a patron that is brutally suppressing justice at home.

The Arab uprisings of 2011 will also, of course, have their effect on Iran internally. Iranian democracy advocates have long taken solace in the belief that they were ahead of their Arab neighbors, who would one day too have to undergo the intolerance and heartaches of Islamist rule. The largely secular nature of the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia have bruised the Iranian ego: were they the only ones naïve enough to succumb to the false promise of an Islamic utopia?

It has been said about authoritarian regimes that while they rule their collapse appears inconceivable, but after they’ve fallen their demise appears to have been inevitable. In the short term Tehran’s oil largesse and religious pretensions have seemingly created for it deeper, if not wider, popular support than many Arab regimes.

But the regime’s curiously heavy-handed response to resilient pro-democracy protests — including the recent disappearance of opposition leaders Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi — betrays its anxiety about the 21st-century viability of an economically floundering, gender-apartheid state led by a “supreme leader” who purports to be the prophet’s representative on Earth.

Tehran publicly cheered the fall of Egyptian and Tunisian regimes undone by corruption, economic stagnation and repression. Do its rulers not know that Iran — according to Transparency International, Freedom House and the World Bank — ranks worse than Tunisia and Egypt in all three categories?

A saying often attributed to Lenin best captures the sorts of tectonic shifts taking place in today’s Middle East. “Sometimes decades pass and nothing happens; and then sometimes weeks pass and decades happen.”

The uprisings may not all end happily. As history has shown time and again — notably in Iran in 1979 — minorities that are organized and willing to use violence can establish reigns of terror over unorganized or passive majorities. Whatever ensues, however, the Arab risings have revealed that Iran’s revolutionary ideology has not only been rendered bankrupt at home, but it has also lost the war of ideas among its neighbors

Karim Sadjadpour is an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*

Al Qaeda "Aljazeera" vs Qaddafi

By Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai

This rebellion is the fresh breeze they’ve been waiting years for,” says an Afghan Taliban operative

The terror cell sees Gaddafi’s bloody civil conflict as the perfect chance to swoop in and turn the war-torn country into an Islamic state

Exiled Libyans with connections to Al Qaeda are racing to find ways to send people home, in hope of steering the anti-Gaddafi revolt in a radical Islamist direction, according to several senior Afghan Taliban sources in contact with Al-Qaeda.

This rebellion is the fresh breeze they’ve been waiting years for,” says an Afghan Taliban operative who helps facilitate the movement of Al Qaeda militants between the tribal area and Pakistani cities. “Some say they are ready to go back at this critical moment.” The operative, who has just returned from Pakistan’s lawless tribal area on the Afghanistan border, adds: “They realize that if they don’t use this opportunity, it could be the end of their chances to turn Libya toward a real Islamic state, as Afghanistan once was.”
So far, Muammar Qaddafi’s clumsy efforts to blame Al Qaeda for the popular uprising against his dictatorship would be a joke, if only he weren’t using that claim as an excuse for mowing down so many Libyans. In fact, it’s been many years since Libya has seen significant numbers of radical Islamists—or any other organized opposition, for that matter. Nearly all have been killed, locked up or chased into exile years ago by the regime’s secret police and security forces. Although the country’s most feared insurgent entity, the Al Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (known in Arabic as Al-Jama’a al-Islamiyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya), has been seeking to topple Gaddafi since the early 1990s, it’s unlikely that more than a handful who pledge allegiance to Osama bin Laden remain inside Libya.
Seizing the moment, however, Al Qaeda’s top ranking Libyan, Abu Yahya al-Libi, the movement’s senior Islamist ideologue and bin Laden’s head of operations for Afghanistan, broke his public silence over the Libyan revolt this past weekend. He issued a call to arms to his countrymen in a 30-minute video that was posted on Al Qaeda-linked Internet sites, urging Libyans to fight on and do to Qaddafi what he has done to them over the years: kill him. "Now it is the turn of Qaddafi [to die] after he made the people of Libya suffer for more than 40 years," he said. “Retreating will mean decades of harsher oppression and greater injustices than what you have endured." He also called for the institution of Islamic law once an Arab nation has cast off its former, Western-supported rulers. Overthrowing these Western-backed Arab regimes, he added, was "a step to reach the goal of every Muslim, which is to make the word of Allah the highest

Several Libyans have held top roles in Al Qaeda’s leadership. Some traveled to Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight the Soviets and stayed, eventually teaming up with bin Laden after his return from Sudan in 1996. Taliban sources estimate there were some 200 Libyans with bin Laden in Afghanistan at the time of the 9/11 attacks. Since then some of bin Laden’s senior-most operational aides have been Libyans. One was Abu Faraj al-Libi, who was captured by Pakistan forces in 2005 and is now a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay; another was Abu Lais al-Libi, his replacement as Al Qaeda’s third in command, who died in a U.S. Predator attack in 2008. Apart from his hard-line sermons and jihadist exhortations that are widely distributed on DVD and posted on jihadist Website, Yahya may be be best known for his daring escape along with four [make that three other] other Al Qaeda prisoners from the high-security lockup at the American airbase at Bagram in July 2005.Yahya, who is believed to be in his late 40s, is smarter, more charismatic, a more articulate speaker and a more learned Islamic scholar than either Faraj or Lais, according to Afghan Taliban sources.
Now he’s said to be eager to go home, like most other Libyans in the Afghan borderlands. “They desperately want to at least get a foothold in the new Libya,” the Taliban facilitator says. The long, dangerous trip from Pakistan’s tribal areas to Libya—via Afghanistan, Iran, Iraqi Kurdestan and Turkey—can take weeks if not months. Nevertheless, at least one Taliban source says Yahya made the trip two years ago and returned safely, although no one else seems able to confirm that story. And even if he or other Al Qaedea Libyans manage to get home again, the Taliban facilitator says they know they’ll have a tough time influencing the largely prodemocracy uprising. “They know they must tread cautiously, and not push too hard, for too much, too soon,” he says. Instead, he says, they expect to take a moderate line at first, while quietly trying to persuade rebel leaders that the preservation of Libyan sovereignty against Western “colonialists” depends on taking an anti-Israeli, anti-American line. Any move toward imposing Islamic sharia law, Yahya’s specialty, will have to come later.
Still, Taliban sources say, if Yahya is successful in reaching rebel-held territory inside Libya, at least he’ll be able to operate with relative freedom, without worrying about Gaddafi’s secret police. There’s one question: will bin Laden grant leave to Al Qaeda’s senior operations man for Afghanistan to undertake such a hazardous journey? The betting among the Taliban is that he will—and he may already have a replacement in mind. “Al Qaeda will not leave this place empty,” says the facilitator.
Sami Yousafzai is Newsweek's correspondent in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he has covered militancy, Al Qaeda and the Taliban for the magazine since 9/11. He was born in Afghanistan but moved to Pakistan with his family after the Russian invasion in 1979. He began his career as a sports journalist but switched to war reporting in 1997.

*Ron Moreau is Newsweek’s Afghanistan and Pakistan correspondent and has been covering the region for the magazine the past 10 years. Since he first joined Newsweek during the Vietnam War, he has reported extensively from Asia, the Middle East and Latin America

Al-Qaida Commander Calls For Islamic Rule In Libya
CAIRO March 13, 2011, 09:40

A top Libyan al-Qaida commander has urged his countrymen to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi's regime and establish Islamic rule, expanding the terror network's attempts to capitalize on the wave of unrest sweeping the region.

Abu Yahia al-Libi, al-Qaida's Afghanistan commander, said in a video posted on a militant website that after the fall of the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, it is now Gadhafi's turn, as rebel fighters there press a nearly monthlong campaign to oust him.

Those nation's autocratic governments — enemies of Islamic militants — practiced "the worst kind of oppression" with the backing of the West and had failed to heed the lessons of history, he said.

"Now it is the turn of Gadhafi after he made the people of Libya suffer for more than 40 years," he said, adding that it would bring shame to the Libyan people if the strongman were allowed to die a peaceful death.

A transcript of the video was provided Sunday by SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. organization that monitors militant messages.

Gadhafi has accused al-Qaida of being behind the movement seeking to end his more than 40-year rule, though the rebels have no known links to the terrorist organization. The uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia were similarly driven by widespread popular outrage at corruption, unemployment and limited outlets for political expression, rather than Islamist fervor. Nevertheless, al-Qaida has tried to make gains on the tumult, also urging formation of an Islamic government in Egypt.

Libya's Gadhafi was once demonized for sponsoring various terrorist groups and attacks like the 1988 Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. But in the late 1990s, the Libyan leader began efforts to emerge from international pariah status and stopped sheltering terrorists.

Gadhafi also crushed his country's Muslim militants, including those who fought in Afghanistan alongside Osama bin Laden, and banned clergymen from expressing political opinions in their Friday sermons. Gadhafi has also helped the U.S. track al-Qaida and other terrorism suspects in the region.

Since then, top al-Qaida figures have routinely targeted him in their video and audio recordings.

Al-Libi said ousting Western-backed Arab regimes was "a step to reach the goal of every Muslim, which is to make the word of Allah the highest" and establish Islamic rule.

The al-Qaida commander, whose nom de guerre is Arabic for "the Libyan," rose to prominence in the terror group after escaping from the U.S. military prison at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in 2005.

He is believed by Western and Afghan intelligence to have run training camps for suicide bombers and fighters in eastern Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan. Afghan police said at the time of his escape that his real name is Abulbakar Mohammed Hassan and that he is a Libyan.

The authenticity of his 31-minute video could not be verified, but it was produced by As-Sahab, the media wing of al-Qaida, and posted late Saturday on militant websites.

He also criticized the United States, asking how it could ultimately voice support for the uprisings after having backed the regimes they toppled.

"We have to get rid of our inferiority complex and free ourselves from the West," he said.

His message came days after a North African offshoot of al-Qaida called on Muslims to support the uprising.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb said in a statement posted on a militant website last month that it would do whatever it can to support the revolt against Gadhafi, calling him a "criminal tyrant," but it gave no specifics.

The group, based in neighboring Algeria, may be seeking to capitalize on the revolt to gain recruits or win support among Libyans

الاثنين، 14 مارس 2011

Libya dispatch: Momentum

Abu Ray March 14, 2011 at 11:56 AM

A second dispatch from Libya from Abu Ray, who's been very, very close to the action.

"I came here to cover a revolution, not a war," said one photographer in disgust after a particularly bad day on the front. Many of those covering this conflict have been surfing from one Middle East uprising to the last and as exhausting as it’s been, it’s also been an uplifting story of peoples peacefully overcoming nasty repressive governments. Until now.

In Egypt and Tunisia the militaries balked from shooting their own people and in the end presidents had to go. In Bahrain, a mercenary military and police were finally restrained by a country that needs world opinion on its side.

None of those strictures existed in Libya where the army was weak and did divide over killing civilians, but was offset by brigades of shady security forces and mercenaries that stayed loyal to Moammar Gadhafi and were ok with shooting people in the streets..

We arrived in Tobruk and Benghazi into a barely restrained carnival of euphoria and over the next three weeks watched the fits and starts of a fledgling state. Eastern Libya and its string of “liberated” cities did not dissolve into chaos or tribalism as some had predicted, calling Libya with its complex web of clan ties as “North Africa’s Somalia.”

Instead it remained peaceful, generous to outsiders and incredibly earnest about building something new in land ruled for four decades by a destructive whim suspicious of any normal social or civic institutions.

Perhaps some sort of shaky future lay ahead for this nascent Free Libya, but we’ll never know because the empire struck back and today it all seems in peril. I leave now with the feeling of a retreat. Qadhafi’s forces, backed by the overwhelming force of tanks and rockets, are rolling back rebel gains and making their way east.

At the time of writing, they are still probably 200 kilometers from Benghazi and don’t really have the forces for any kind of protracted siege of a major metropolis but the momentum now feels like it’s on the government side and in Benghazi and Ajdabiya, closer to the front, tensions are high. They are blaming the journalists they once welcomed for somehow giving them away and some are digging out their old Qadhafi pictures and giving them a polish.

“It is just like the Spanish Civil War,” said Raoul, a Spanish TV journalist, “like Homage to Catalonia.” Benghazi in this scenario becomes civil war Barcelona, with an exuberant explosion of revolutionary thinking and fervor that is eventually crushed under the boot of the fascist armies after it turns out enthusiasm doesn’t beat out lots of equipment on the front.

I had a lot of respect for Raoul, he tended to have a good take on the situation, and besides he was captured and beaten up by Russian Special Forces in Georgia, which has to count for something.

It’s not a bad parallel for what the front was like either. There were maybe 1,500 to 2,000 rebel forces out on the field by some wildly unsubstantiated estimates we made, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the government had even less, fighting out of Qadhafi’s home town of Sirte in the middle of the country.

What they lacked in numbers, though, they made up in gear and on March 6, when the triumphant rebel forces hit the tiny coastal town of Bin Jawwad they were greeted with a curtain of tank shells and rockets. Every time their mad rushes on pickup trucks with heavy machine guns bolted on the back were stopped cold by a steady thump of high explosives.

Afterwards, talking with rebels about their experiences, it was always about the hail of “Jerads”, the local word for Grad rockets, also known as Katyushas, though after a while I had the feeling there was a sinister French fellow named Gerard who was messing everything up for them.

“We just don’t have the means,” said one young recruit, kitted out in mismatched camouflage as he cleaned the desert sands out of his puny Kalashnikov after being driven back hundreds of kilometers from Bin Jawwad.

After Bin Jawwad, the war just became a gradual slog backwards as government forces moved forward slowly but inexorably behind a wall of rockets, each time driving the rag tag rebels army further back.

Talking to the volunteers and the occasional member of the defected military fighting on the rebel side, there was always talk of rebels regrouping and waiting for the heavy weapons to come up from Benghazi.

In some ways, the wait was understandable, the rebel army never expected to start pushing west against Qadhafi’s forces, they had to sit down and figure out what tanks they had, who could drive them, and what ranks meant in the new army _ and for that matter, how they were going to feed everybody.

But the eager volunteers didn’t give them time. Everyone grabbed a Kalashnikov and a beret, wrapped a keffiyeh around their neck and rushed off to the front in a pickup truck. And for a while it worked, until it didn’t.

A few heavy rocket launchers made their way from the rebel side to the front, but apparently not enough to counteract the government barrages and some journalists even saw a few tanks fighting for the revolution. They also saw a couple crash into each other.

Nothing seemed to make a difference and as the government forces moved forward a few dozen kilometers every day, the volunteers disappeared leaving just a few units of the defected military to hold the line.

I spent days at the front, different little towns that in normal times wouldn’t have been more than a passing blur in a fast moving desert car, but now represented hard won gains or unattainable goals.

At Ras Lanouf, an oil refinery town, a kind of rebel village evolved, with people sleeping outside by their trucks at the checkpoint or “liberating” the housing of evacuated foreign oil workers, surviving on a diet of tuna sandwiches, twinkies and biscuits brought up from Benghazi for the fighters.

Somehow, one of the most difficult logistical problems of any army, feeding its men, seemed to work here on a system of volunteers who just bought food, threw it into a pickup truck and dropped it off at rebel checkpoints where it was given out.

Disconcertingly, a lot of it seemed to be junk food, especially those awful cream wafer things and sugary juice boxes, but occasionally apples and bananas made an appearance and of course lots of dates.

Hanging out at the checkpoints on a sunny day was almost fun, despite the occasional burst of fire from an overexcited teenager manning a bulky 14.5mm anti aircraft gun. Except for the air strikes.

I think it will be a while before I feel comfortable with the distant sound of an airplane again. You would hear the familiar buzz of a high flying aircraft and everyone would panic, diving for their cars, opening up with their machine guns, occasionally stupidly firing noisy short range rocket propelled grenades pointlessly into the sky.

The actual aircraft was always a little ahead of the noise, so it was hard to see them and sometimes they would just circle, other time the noise from the unseen plane would get louder and louder and suddenly a massive plume of dust and sand would erupt in the distance and sometimes closer by.

The airstrikes never really did anything, they never actually seemed to hit an important target and weren’t nearly as effective as those awful rockets and artillery shells but they were scary in their randomness and all the rebels kept asking me where the no fly zone was. Where was Obama? How the hell should I know, I’m here running around like a chicken with its head cut off with the rest of you.

Up from Ras Lanouf was the front, which in the final days was a distant rumbling thing with far plumes of smoke as the two sides traded rockets. One day they hit the oil storage facilities at the Sidra oil terminal and the sky filled with pitch black smoke sparked with rolling fireballs.

Several times those days, we would watch from far away, trying to figure out what was going on a shall would whizz crash into the side of the road not a few dozen meters from us. Once you hear or see a shell crash you know you survived, But it’s hard to feel all that comforted.

It all just felt so random, some days the rockets fell far away, other days nearby.

The photographers were always crazy. I remember walking down a hill once following a group of photographers into a valley of death and chaos marked by oil fires and plumes of distant explosions as dusk neared. It was a nightmare scene but they kept walking, pausing only when they saw two rebel fighters taking a break to pray in the desert.

A half dozen photographers then piled on them, shooting two men in keffiyehs praying with their guns besides them against a backdrop of a burning sky. Moving image, no doubt.

It was usually impossible to find anyone in charge at the front, just kids with guns and a lot of bile for Qadhafi, but occasionally a grizzled officer would make an appearance with heartening words about the imminent arrival of heavy weapons, and some private comments about how difficult it was to instill any sense of discipline or order in the chaotic forces.

The rebel forces seemed to move as an inchoate mob of group think, and it just wasn’t enough. So every day, despite talk of counterattacks and secret weapons, the front moved back day by day, until Ras Lanouf fell and then Brega.

“It is back and forth, that is a desert war,” said Abdel Fatah Younes, the sketchy former interior minister who switched sides at the beginning of the uprising and later became the rebel defense minister. Except that it just seemed to be going back.

I don’t think Qadhafi’s forces will be rolling into Benghazi any time soon, but if things keep going the way they are now, they will eventually regroup sufficiently and take back the east. And then I don’t know what will happen to all those people who for a month enjoyed a Libyan spring, spray painting satiric pictures of Qadhafi on the walls of buildings, waving the old monarchy flag and telling everyone how much of a murderous killer he was.

How do you go back to the silence, lies and mistrustful shiftiness of the last 40 years after that without going utterly mad

Fighting Qaddafi With A Piece Of Paper

Niall Ferguson

The Cold War ended not because the United States achieved a military edge over the Soviet Union, but because the legitimacy of the Soviet system collapsed from within. Our role was to insist on the importance of those “human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Even if not all our allies in the Cold War always upheld them, the other side respected them less

Mr. President, don't send guns to the Libyans. Send them a piece of paper. In this week's Newsweek, Niall Ferguson has a message for Obama—take advice from President Gerald Ford. Yes, President Ford.
President Obama is reluctant to intervene in the bloody civil war now under way in Libya. As a senior aide told The New York Times last week, "He keeps reminding us that the best revolutions are completely organic." I like that notion of organic revolutions—guaranteed no foreign additives, exclusive to Whole Foods. I like it because, like so much about this administration, it is both trendy and ignorant.
Was the American Revolution "completely organic"? Funny, I could have sworn those were French ships off Yorktown. What about Britain's Glorious Revolution, the one that established parliamentary rule? Strange, I had this crazy idea that William III was a Dutchman.

Eight of the 35 countries that signed the Final Act were communist. Yet it contained the following startling words:
The participating States will respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion… The participating States will respect the equal rights of peoples and their right to self-determination.
So accustomed were the Soviet authorities to lying that they saw no harm in subscribing to these pledges. Indeed, the Final Act was reprinted in full in Pravda. But for dissidents inside the Soviet Bloc like the physicist Andrei Sakharov or the Czech playwright Václav Havel, Helsinki represented a huge stick with which to beat their persecutors.
The Cold War ended not because the United States achieved a military edge over the Soviet Union, but because the legitimacy of the Soviet system collapsed from within. Our role was to insist on the importance of those "human rights and fundamental freedoms." Even if not all our allies in the Cold War always upheld them, the other side respected them less.
Why have we failed to learn from that success? Why have we allowed a mockery to be made of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which numbered Libya among its members until just the other day and still includes Saudi Arabia, not to mention China and Cuba?
Memo to the president: Organic revolutions, just like your Whole Foods arugula, need sunlight and watering. It's time for a new Helsinki, aimed at discrediting all of today's unfree states, starting with the four I've just named.

*Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard University and a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. He is also a senior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford University, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His latest book, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, was published in November


Will the protests that have swept the Middle East inspire a similar movement in China, or is that country's middle class more interested in the material than the political

Over the course of three short months, popular uprisings have toppled regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, sparked a civil war in Libya and created unrest in other parts of the Middle East. They also have raised a question in many people's minds: Are all authoritarian regimes now threatened by this new democratic wave? In particular, is China, a rising superpower, vulnerable to these forces?

The Communist government in Beijing is clearly worried. It has limited news coverage of the recent uprisings and has clamped down on democratic activists and foreign reporters, acting pre-emptively against anonymous calls on the Internet for China to have its own "Jasmine Revolution." A recent front-page editorial in the Beijing Daily, an organ of the city's party committee, declared that most people in the Middle East were unhappy with the protests in their countries, which were a "self-delusional ruckus" orchestrated by a small minority. For his part, President Hu Jintao has urged the strengthening of what has been dubbed the "Great Firewall"—the sophisticated apparatus of censorship and surveillance that the regime uses to control access to the Internet.

No social scientist or intelligence analyst predicted the specific timing or spread of the Arab uprising—the fact that it would start in Tunisia, of all places, that it would be triggered by an event like the self-immolation of a vegetable seller, or that protests would force the mighty Egyptian army to abandon Hosni Mubarak. Over the past generation, Arab societies have appeared stolidly stable. Why they suddenly exploded in 2011 is something that can be understood only in retrospect, if at all.

But this doesn't mean that we can't think about social revolutions in a more structured way. Even unpredictable things take place in a certain context, and the present-day situations of China and the Middle East are radically different. Most of the evidence suggests that China is pretty safe from the democratic wave sweeping other parts of the world—at least for now.

Perhaps the most relevant thinker for understanding the Middle East today and China tomorrow is the late Samuel Huntington—not the Huntington of "The Clash of Civilizations," who argued that there were fundamental incompatibilities between Islam and democracy, but the Huntington whose classic book "Political Order in Changing Societies," first published in 1968, laid out his theory of the development "gap."

Observing the high levels of political instability plaguing countries in the developing world during the 1950s and '60s, Mr. Huntington noted that increasing levels of economic and social development often led to coups, revolutions and military takeovers. This could be explained, he argued, by a gap between the newly mobilized, educated and economically empowered people and their existing political system—that is, between their hopes for political participation and institutions that gave them little or no voice. Attacks against the existing political order, he noted, are seldom driven by the poorest of the poor in such a society; they tend to be led, instead, by rising middle classes who are frustrated by the lack of political and economic opportunity.

All of these observations would seem to apply to Tunisia and Egypt. Both countries have made substantial social progress in recent decades. The Human Development Indices compiled by the United Nations (a composite measure of health, education and income) increased by 28% for Egypt and 30% for Tunisia between 1990 and 2010. The number of people going to school has grown substantially; Tunisia especially has produced large numbers of college graduates. And indeed, the protests in Tunisia and Egypt were led in the first instance by educated, tech-savvy middle-class young people, who expressed to anyone who would listen their frustrations with societies in which they were not allowed to express their views, hold leaders accountable for corruption and incompetence, or get a job without political connections.

Mr. Huntington stressed the destabilizing power of new social groups seeking political participation. People used to be mobilized by newspapers and radio; today they are spurred to action by cell phones, Facebook and Twitter, which allow them to share their grievances about the existing system and to learn about the possibilities of the larger world. This change in the Middle East has been incredibly rapid, and it has trumped, for now, old verities about the supposed passivity of Arab culture and the resistance of Islam to modernization.

But do these remarkable developments tell us anything about the possibility for future instability in China?

It is certainly true that the dry tinder of social discontent is just as present in China as in the Middle East. The incident that triggered the Tunisian uprising was the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, who had his vegetable cart repeatedly confiscated by the authorities and who was slapped and insulted by the police when he went to complain. This issue dogs all regimes that have neither the rule of law nor public accountability: The authorities routinely fail to respect the dignity of ordinary citizens and run roughshod over their rights. There is no culture in which this sort of behavior is not strongly resented.

This is a huge problem throughout China. A recent report from Jiao Tong University found that there were 72 "major" incidents of social unrest in China in 2010, up 20% over the previous year. Most outside observers would argue that this understates the real number of cases by perhaps a couple of orders of magnitude. Such incidents are hard to count because they often occur in rural areas where reporting is strictly controlled by the Chinese authorities.

The most typical case of outraged dignity in contemporary China is a local government that works in collusion with a private developer to take away the land of peasants or poor workers to make way for a glittery new project, or a company that dumps pollutants into a town's water supply and gets away with it because the local party boss stands to profit personally. Though corruption in China does not reach the predatory levels of certain African or Middle Eastern countries, it is nonetheless pervasive. People see and resent the privileged lives of the nation's elite and their children. The movie "Avatar" was a big hit in China in part because so many ordinary Chinese identified with the indigenous people it portrayed whose land was being stolen by a giant, faceless corporation

There is, moreover, a huge and growing problem of inequality in China. The gains from China's remarkable growth have gone disproportionately to the country's coastal regions, leaving many rural areas far behind. China's Gini index—a standard measure of income inequality across a society—has increased to almost Latin American levels over the past generation. By comparison, Egypt and Tunisia have a much more equal income distribution.

According to Mr. Huntington, however, revolutions are made not by the poor but by upwardly mobile middle-class people who find their aspirations stymied, and there are lots of them in China. Depending on how you define it, China's middle class may outnumber the whole population of the United States. Like the middle-class people of Tunisia and Egypt, those in China have no opportunities for political participation. But unlike their Middle Eastern counterparts, they have benefited from a dramatically improving economy and a government that has focused like a laser beam on creating employment for exactly this group.

To the extent that we can gauge Chinese public opinion through surveys like Asia Barometer, a very large majority of Chinese feel that their lives have gotten better economically in recent years. A majority of Chinese also believe that democracy is the best form of government, but in a curious twist, they think that China is already democratic and profess to be satisfied with this state of affairs. This translates into a relatively low degree of support for any short-term transition to genuine liberal democracy.

Indeed, there is some reason to believe that the middle class in China may fear multiparty democracy in the short run, because it would unleash huge demands for redistribution precisely from those who have been left behind. Prosperous Chinese see the recent populist polarization of politics in Thailand as a warning of what democracy may bring.

The fact is that authoritarianism in China is of a far higher quality than in the Middle East. Though not formally accountable to its people through elections, the Chinese government keeps careful track of popular discontents and often responds through appeasement rather than repression. Beijing is forthright, for example, in acknowledging the country's growing income disparities and for the past few years has sought to mitigate the problem by shifting new investments to the poor interior of the country. When flagrant cases of corruption or abuse appear, like melamine-tainted baby formula or the shoddy school construction revealed by the Sichuan earthquake, the government holds local officials brutally accountable—sometimes by executing them.

Another notable feature of Chinese government is self-enforced leadership turnover. Arab leaders like Tunisia's Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt's Mr. Mubarak and Libya's Col. Moammar Gadhafi never knew when to quit, hanging on 23, 30 and 41 years, respectively. Since Mao, the Chinese leadership has rigidly adhered to terms of about a decade. Mr. Hu, the current president, is scheduled to step down in 2012, when he is likely to be replaced by Vice President Xi Jinping. Leadership turnover means that there is more policy innovation, in sharp contrast to countries like Tunisia and Egypt, which have been stuck for decades in the rut of crony capitalism.

The Chinese government is also more clever and ruthless in its approach to repression. Sensing a clear threat, the authorities never let Western social media spread in the first place. Facebook and Twitter are banned, and content on websites and on China-based social media is screened by an army of censors. It is possible, of course, for word of government misdeeds to get out in the time between its first posting by a micro-blogger and its removal by a censor, but this cat-and-mouse game makes it hard for a unified social space to emerge.

A final critical way in which China's situation differs from that of the Middle East lies in the nature of its military. The fate of authoritarian regimes facing popular protests ultimately depends on the cohesiveness and loyalty of its military, police and intelligence organizations. The Tunisian army failed to back Mr. Ben Ali early on; after some waffling, the Egyptian army decided it would not fire on protesters and pushed Mr. Mubarak out of power.

In China, the People's Liberation Army is a huge and increasingly autonomous organization with strong economic interests that give it a stake in the status quo. As in the Tiananmen uprising in 1989, it has plenty of loyal units around the country that it could bring into Beijing or Shanghai, and they would not hesitate to fire on demonstrators. The PLA also regards itself as the custodian of Chinese nationalism. It has developed an alternative narrative of 20th-century history that places itself at the center of events like the defeat of Japan in the Pacific war and the rise of a modern China. It is very unlikely that the PLA would switch sides and support a democratic uprising.

The bottom line is that China will not catch the Middle Eastern contagion anytime soon. But it could easily face problems down the road. China has not experienced a major recession or economic setback since it set out on its course of economic reform in 1978. If the country's current property bubble bursts and tens of millions of people are thrown out of work, the government's legitimacy, which rests on its management of the economy, would be seriously undermined.

Moreover, Mr. Huntington's scenario of rising but unfulfilled expectations among the middle class may still play out. Though there is a labor shortage among low-skill workers in China today, there is a glut of the college educated. Every year into the future, China will graduate more than seven million people from its universities, up from fewer than a million in 1998, and many of them are struggling to find work suitable to their self-perceived status. Several million unemployed college graduates are far more dangerous to a modernizing regime than hundreds of millions of poor peasants.

There is also what the Chinese themselves call the "bad emperor" problem. China's historical achievement over the centuries has been the creation of high-quality centralized bureaucratic government. When authoritarian rulers are competent and reasonably responsible, things can go very well. Indeed, such decision-making is often more efficient than in a democracy. But there is no guarantee that the system will always produce good rulers, and in the absence of the rule of law and electoral checks on executive power, there is no way to get rid of a bad emperor. The last bad emperor, commonly (if quietly) acknowledged as such, was Mao. We can't know what future tyrant, or corrupt kleptocrat, may be waiting in the wings in China's future.

The truth is that, much as we might theorize about the causes of social revolution, human societies are far too complex, and change too rapidly, for any simple theory to provide a reliable guide. Any number of observers dismissed the power of the "Arab street" to bring about political change, based on their deep knowledge of the Middle East, and they were right every year—up until 2011.

The hardest thing for any political observer to predict is the moral element. All social revolutions are driven by intense anger over injured dignity, an anger that is sometimes crystallized by a single incident or image that mobilizes previously disorganized individuals and binds them into a community. We can quote statistics on education or job growth, or dig into our knowledge of a society's history and culture, and yet completely miss the way that social consciousness is swiftly evolving through a myriad of text messages, shared videos or simple conversations.

The central moral imponderable with regard to China is the middle class, which up to now has seemed content to trade political freedom for rising incomes and stability. But at some point this trade-off is likely to fail; the regime will find itself unable to deliver the goods, or the insult to the dignity of the Chinese people will become too great to tolerate. We shouldn't pretend that we can predict when this tipping point will occur, but its eventual arrival, as Samuel Huntington might have suggested, is bound up with the very logic of modernization itself.

—Mr. Fukuyama is a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. His new book, "The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution," will be published next month