The latter, first.
- I was watching the news on Germany's international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, and their "Middle East Analyst" in the studio (German, though I didn't get the name. Sorry.) made the following remark (paraphrased):
"This is the moment in the Arab world. The Americans should seize the moment and really support the uprising of the people in the region. They should realize that this is the way to democratize the region, and not by the 'Iraq method'."
He also said he expects Yemen and, probably, Jordan to follow suit. If unrest continues, he said we should be watching Algeria and Saudi Arabia, too (agree with most, though the last one sounds like a stretch. But then, who knows?).
Image from CTV News.
- On the subject of that U.S.-made tear gas... There have been many more reports and images of those coming out. These canisters have not only wounded (and in some cases killed) protesters, but have, obviously, done irreparable damage to the U.S. image in the Arab world. (Not that it's news. But being all over TV and given the circumstances, it makes matters for American public diplomacy much, much worse.)
Here is what Blake Hounshell of the Foreign Policy Magazine shared on Twitter:
"As far as everyone tells me the USG provides zero aid to the interior ministry; it's all big hardware for the military: tanks, planes, etc."
"The key question about the tear gas is the export license; unfortunately the State Dept. office that handles that is closed until Monday."
Good point. Although I'm in no position to say whether any of the foreign aid money provided to Egypt goes directly (or indirectly) to buying this American-made tear gas, it is beyond doubt that these canisters represent the U.S. support for Mubarak's oppression of his own people.
Regarding Hounshel's second point: yes, the money used to buy the Mubarak-regime-protection gear (for the Interior Ministry) might not be coming from the U.S. itself. Neither should they be "sold" (literally) by the U.S. Government. Yet, the images and reports of American-made tear gas, produced by a "tactical weapons company", Combined Systems, based in Pennsylvania, are certainly speaking much louder to the Arab people than any statement Obama or Clinton will make.
In short, American foreign policy and its private sector are working against it public diplomacy. Not news. Just really dangerous.
And on to the second section.
This week's Listening Post was of course devoted to the the events in Tunisia and its ripple effects all across the region. The program came out on Wednesday, 2 days before Friday, the major day of protests. Yet, the analysis and the predictions seem to be pretty accurate, touching upon social media and the importance of Arab satellite TV.
Al Jazeera also reposted a documentary made back in 2008. Provides useful background on and a very interesting insight into the current political situation. Certainly recommend watching:
Lastly, an interesting discussion with the representatives of the young "political activist" generation in the country. Explains a lot about how people feel and what they are hoping for:
And to end on a lighter note, several tweets from the mock "Hosni Mobarak" (the father) and "Gamal Mobarak" (the son):
- @HosniMobarak: "For sale: One government. Never used, but probably doesn't work. #Egypt"
- @GMubarak: "Looking for a new pad. Anyone know of a cheap place with Internet access and a view of Big Ben? #jan25 #egypt"
- @HosniMobarak: "@GMubarak Why with a view of Big Ben? I'll buy the Big Ben for you."