Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 08/25/2011

From DG:
1) The end of a chapter of history?

Jim Hoagland in What we've learned in Libya:

Gaddafi’s downfall brings us closer to closing a dark chapter in Arab history — an era when dictators spent their vast oil revenue to finance international terrorism against the West as well as to suppress their own people. OPEC’s oil price revolution in 1973 started that era, which began to end with the overthrow of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is next in history’s sights. The ruling minority Alawite clan has used protection money muscled out of the Saudis and other Gulf Arab oil producers — and lavish payoffs from Iran’s regime — to give cash and arms to the killers of U.S. Marines, a former Lebanese prime minister and many others. 
The truth is that we don't know if this chapter is over. Will the new leaders be any better than the old ones?  Though not Arab, Iran's rulers still seem well entrenched; Saudi Arabia's too.

I thought this description, though, was ironic.
Sarkozy is the big winner in the international political sweepstakes surrounding the Libyan campaign. With his standing at home at an all-time low in the spring, he gambled by sending French planes on the first raid into Libya before he had U.S. or alliance approval. Rebel success should enable him in his reelection bid next year to recast his actions as decisive and courageous rather than rash and impulsive. And French companies are likely to benefit in a new Libya oil rush.
Hoagland makes Sarkozy sound like President Bush, doesn't he? But Hoagland's saying that results matter. If the Libya's new rulers can't get their acts together, Sarkozy will then look "rash and impulsive," won't he?

2) Shooting themselves

Now Lebanon features an interview with a defecting Syrian soldier. (h/t Elder of Ziyon) There's a lot of fascinating material here. What struck me though, was this statement from the soldier:
Also, some who refuse to shoot at protesters are shot on the spot during the demonstrations. The aim is to set an example for others and to make it look like demonstrators are armed. 
Reading news accounts of what was happening in Syria, it sounded like this was happening, but the reporting was often confusing. The Syrian army would shoot its own soldiers and then claim that rebels did it to justify the use of force. Often, ironically, they'd declare the dead soldiers heroes.

3) Whitson's wit

David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy writes about a video of Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch discussing the "Arab spring." He singles out the following part of her talk:
The weirdest moment in the talk, though, is when Whitson points out that no Arab country allows freedom of speech, the cornerstone of a free society. What one example, of all possible examples, does she use to illustrate the lack of freedom of speech? That Arab governments tried to prevent their populations from protesting Israel’s actions in Gaza in the war against Hamas in late 2008/early 2009. Just, WOW!
 Elder of Ziyon notices that HRW is getting on the ball regarding Hamas. 
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