Beyond the News ما وراء الأخبار

people need to know يحتاج الناس إلى معرفته

POST-ARAB SPRINGS: JOURNALISM AND THE BIG GAME

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Cairo, Presidential palace - July the 2nd 2013

There are two images that have hammered the media and the web in recent weeks from the Middle East:  “the hell pinpoint” bombing in Gaza, according to very apt definition of a John Kerry during an off the record statement  in a TV program. The awful snapshots that come from the Syrian-Iraqi “caliphate” with severed heads on display, “Scary movie” street furniture-style, a river of blood of executions that you would wish so much were not true. And many stories about the persecution of Christians. These are the photos of a reality that affects the stomach and the heart of many in the West, in Asia, everywhere. Let’s keep them in mind as a large billboard, as we go on to describe what new geometry policy that involves not only the Middle East but also North Africa looks like (that is the area that the “experts” like to call MENA).

It was 2011 when I described in one of my articles the signs of the USA decoupling from the Great Middle East. A trend that was confirmed a month later by Edward Luttwak on the sidelines of an interview. With his colorful, but more effective, language, he had stated: “Those wearing towels on their heads do not want democracy. It is best deal with Asia, they are people who are willing to work”.

It all seemed the logical consequence of forced and intended choices. Forced by the long economic and financial crisis that was draining the coffers of Washington, wanted by the need to contain the Chinese expansionism in Asia: the United States shall not allow Beijing to become a maritime power. The so- called deep blue waters should remain an American prerogative, acoording to Washington, otherwise the US global hegemony (already in serious danger) could end. At the same time Middle East oil was losing part of its strategic value to the United States (not for Europe and the rest of the world). With the advent of new drilling techniques crude oil could be produced in less “messy” areas. Including in America. Italian General Carlo Jean  (geostrategic expert) then confirmed the intention of the United States to climb the list of top global gas/oil producers. In short, the premise of a historical change were clear. A little less clear were the direct and indirect geopolitical byproducts.

It should be noted  that the United States in the Middle East subsidizes Israel’s military spending with an annual funding of about $ 1.3 billion (a similar amount was also provided to Egypt). What the official chronicles do not say is that the relationship between Washington and Jerusalem was always a turbulent marriage. President Obama’s behavior, raising his voice on the phone with Netanyahu, or John Kerry losing his patience, today are made public, but they are not a novelty. Israel has always been unpredictable and “unmanageable” abou tits “security” problem. As far as being ready to launch Jericho nuclear missiles against Egypt. Then (we are at the times of the Cold War) it was a tandem working with Washington and Moscow that saved the peace and avoided a doomed (nuclear) massacre with one stone (Soviet atomic missiles settled in Egypt). Can you imagine how dangerous the situation could have been? So much to push communists and “capitalists” to team up together. An incident also mentioned by our Admiral Fulvio Martini in a book of memoires. It  should be kept  in mind when analyzing the regional policy.

The decision of the USA to step back from MENA could not take into account the utmost need to leave   the “more friendly” enviroment as possible.  Especially for the Jewish state. The Arab spring came, therefore, with perfect timing. Except for the fact that  it then created so much confusion in the leadership of the Israeli politicians and diplomats,  that a wise silence was devoted throughout the period of the “riots”. Political dizziness caused by election results of the springs were not those expected. In particular, when experts emphasized the fact that street protesters did not burn American and Israeli flags. The strong push for change absolutely had no religious coloration, but found vent in the electoral formations with strong and moderate Islamic characterization. A fact that was analyzed in an inaccurate way, because instead it made it clear a key element for all the great Middle East: the opinion vote was born.

Israel could not fail to think about new geopolitical geometries for the Middle East and North Africa “liberated” from the old dictators. And it created  a field project  to replace an America that wanted to close the taps of the major military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and stay more  secluded and sheltered in the Mediterranean area. And that seemed inattentive because of Asia (China).

France – a secular, anti-religious, full of geopolitical velleity and with a residual foreign power projection capacity – was the perfect candidate. Paris was also the  nearest Country than Washington, more Mediterranean, more open-minded in dealing with  Arabs. And Israel needed a “real” friend at the Elysée: Dominique Strauss-Kahn (not all doughnuts come with a hole). But they also needed local Islamic partners, possibly frightened by the political project of the Muslim Brotherhood (which involved mainly the triangle Turkey-Egypt-Tunisia). Saudi Arabia (disappointed by Washington), Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, just one step back, were suitable candidates to complete this hypothetical geometry of a new regional balance of power. And they had what more missing. The money, a lot of bucks – what France was beggling for – the terror that the springs could become a model of “Islamic democracy” that would clearly mine their undemocratic  oil-cracies families. And they had a desperate need to create new alliances. The oligarchies of the Gulf also had a good reason to do everything in a hurry: Iran had its breath on their  neck. An activism of Tehran who was pushing Shiite waves along the Persian Gulf. In Bahrain, for example, but also in Syria and Iraq.

Of course,  I’m making assumptions, but they are two steps beyond mere speculation.
There is also a historical precedent: the Algeria-nineties and the great fear for the Islamic drift. A cure, in the Algerian style, with the banning of GIA (Armed Islamic Group) – winning at the ballot box – that in the end was worse than the “disease”‘ and that cost thousands of lives.

A first field experiment for this new “alliance” was the “revolution” in Libya. Then Tunisia and Egypt, with several precedents in Syria. Given the results, we would have to worry about it. Even the sudden movement of Isis / l, Daeesh, Is – or whatever it’s called – in Iraq has “surprised” only the media and American think tanks (Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy have begun to show signs of fatigue in their analysis, usually brilliant). Because Kerry was  not too much concerned about it  and supply of the F-16 promised to Nouri al-Maliki  never arrived in Baghdad. So much so that the Shia president, who was disowned by his friend and US diplomat Ali Khedeyr, turned to the Russians. If then we analyze several episodes of the defeat of the Iraqi army in front of the advancing new “Caliph” we find that the majority of Iraqi officers, one fine day, showed up in their barracks in civilian attires to communicate to their subordinates that they were disbanded.

In short, the perception that the “Libyan lesson” – the made up revolution – had been learned, it was obvious. When the uprising in Benghazi had rose too soon, for “self-combustion”. And military divisions of Fezzan had not moved: the “deal” (with foreign directors of revolution) stated  about different times. Such an operation must be carefully planned. In November last year I was “lucky” enough to get a fleeting contact with the “gentlemen” of Isil in Azaz. Military casted, no Syrian among them. I am still struggling – but I admit that this may be my failure to act – to superimpose their images to those scattered in profusion from the sites of Walid Shoebat – self-proclaimed former Palestinian terrorist from Bethlehem – posted in the web and in social media (but also published by NBC) where you see severed heads turned into street furniture, in a wise of patronal feast. Or those awful sequences from Dante’s Inferno with never-ending summary executions on the banks of a red river of blood. Not to mention the terrible persecutions against the Christians. But I can share the same perception with Us Senator John McCain. He, too, some time ago had got the chance of a fleeting encounter with the “barbarians” of Isis / l / Daeesh / Is. In brief, the tension against the “Islamic threat” must be kept constantly high. The most ‘difficult’ task is  to distinguish the true from the false. Especially when reporters who are able to enter  high-risk areas  are very, very few … often none.

Every so often, no one knows from where, a piece of “news” password appears and the media circus that consumes information ester slavishly follows. Instead, the media that got  the power to produce information globally launch clear signals to the few who dare to produce independent news. Let me give an example, so as not to be vague. The Salafists. Ugly, dirty and bad. The first time I met them in Tunisia, I was  asking what they would take to digest children. I entered the notorious mosque of al Fath in Rue de la Liberté. It happened several times between the spring and summer 2013 while the prohibition for foreigners to cross that threshold was still in force. Last winter, just not to miss anything, I also went to pray in a mosque in Soukra district where the official historiography indicates the birthplace of  Ansar al Sharia Tunisia. I state that on May 19, 2013 I was in Kairouan, where Ansar was supposed to rally its annual meeting. I have met many of Salafis (not on this occasion). Of course there are also the violent ones, but they are everywhere, even among the Sufis – in Libya, for example – that are known to have a very different reputation. I have enough experience to understand if some journalist’s carelessness comes from rougery  or instead from less than immaculate purposes.

It becomes therefore difficult to explain that among the vast majority of Tunisian Salafists (even among the Egyptian ones)  are the most polite, reliable and friendly people that one can meet, which resemble more to Franciscan friars than to the blood-thirsty & sharia “head-cutters”  that some propaganda wants to propose. I would like to point out that some “certified” Salafis were photographed during the attack on the US Embassy in Tunis. For them there will be enough jail, throwing the keys away if possible.

The perspective error is to confuse the religion with a  subculture byproduct of ignorance, as the anthropologist Clifford Geertz, just as an example,  pointed out in his research. But avoiding dropping quotes escape-the-reader, it is like Catholicism would be judge looking at some episodes of the fifties in Southern Italy. I am referring to honor killings or to the ones within the family, where setting fire a disobedient sister/wife/daughter  was considered a right. Was it the religion to condemn or context “culture” that formally recognized itself, however, in that religion? I understand that we are entering a field unsuitable with the style of an article, but it needed an explanation. At least in part. It is clear that, in such a context, information becomes not only impossible to provide, but also surreal. It could also explain how new regional geometries of policies exert a power to address the media. You must not feel suprised or disapointed until you pass over the dead bodies of innocent, ordinary citizens. It happened during the Cold War and Italy is a closet  of examples.

It is happening in the Post-Arab Spring countries. What must be challenged is the coarse manner in which the whole action is conducted. Especially with the sovereign contempt with which Muslims are treated, who live in Gaza, Tunis, Tripoli, Cairo, Aleppo and Mosul. And above all, the results must be challenged. The consequent action to thrown in the toilet by pulling the flush of state violence, the spirit of spring that was real, alive, and not addressed is a mortal sin. A pity that soon will produce unpredictable effects. An opinion vote was born. Those who had voted for the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafis (in Egypt) expressed only hope that the new, having never handled the power, would be less corrupt than the old regime. Ready to take back the vote at any time: Arabs were starting to like the democratic game too much.

Let me give another example that struck me directly. Last year, between the end of June and the first half of July I was in Cairo. I wandered between the squares and streets in the triangle Tahrir- Kasr el Ithadia-Nasr city. In the morning, I’d often read about dozens of deaths in places where I had been, without noticing any tension. And I would not  read any news when the dead were all thoroughly. Real “fake dead” and ” true dead”  disappeared.

So today, thanks to the support of some Western governments, restoration has taken over. Fear has become the mean by which large and small game win over in  political and diplomatic arena. And in the media circus. The big games  want to give the coup de grace to Erdogan, to any further velleity of universalist project of the Muslim Brotherhood, to Iran and its ambitions in the Gulf, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Hamas. If you need to make an alliance with the waahabi devil, never mind. Arrogance and conceit are not lacking. Small games, those that bind malfeasance, corruption, state machines, and portions of the old regimes, curiously used the same methods. A country facing continuous  extremism emergency never will start  a serious fight against white-collar mafia, to defeat the lords of the bribes that prey on the wealth of a country. This way  a successful alliance made among neo-colonialists and thieves will be established, if it hasn’t happened already. With some useful idiot coming from Europe, those defeated by the history who pour their angry frustration “communicating” by MENA countries, those of the “Salafi police” of mass rapes, the Islamists “ugly, dirty and bad.” And to make information if you do not form an integral part of one of these power tribes  becomes a true profession of faith. The war in Gaza is a good example that shows what kind of pressures are exerted on the reporters during their work, not to mention those who suffer from heads of service and newsrooms, often lined up on one side or the other and that sometimes claim to give a cut to your piece, you write from your trench, with your eyes, with your ears … and with your suspended breaths. And the growing number of media professionals killed shows well how is “annoying” the presence of independent journalists in the middle of the new Risiko has become.

But we need to go back precisely to the big game and one of its protagonists, Israel. Just put in the backlight operation Protective Edge and its premises to figure out where we want to go. The current government has deliberately sabotaged, voided, canceled the project of the Two States. The policy of settlements, destroying the territorial continuity  turned it into a joke. Not only that, but also the current Palestinian pacifist, well represented by Abdallah Abu Rahma, Ahsem Tamimi and former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, they was placed deliberately out of the game. The first ended up in jail, thanks to the 101 military regulations prohibiting any political demonstration also peaceful. The second was the victim of a tested tactic. To respond to your openings and political recognition, also important, Israel “disgraced” who offers them in front on the Palestinians. So was demolished the credibility of the PA and of all those who could have built the foundation for a civil society voted to peaceful cohexistence. And it ‘s been strengthened Hamas, as Peter Beinart well explained in the columns of Haaretz. Protective edge as well as politically resurrected Islamic resistance, after yet another waltz to the court of Teheran that was making very weak. This government in Jerusalem needs radicals on the doorstep and headcutters of Isil scattered in the Middle East, to continue to win easy, at home, in the region and to cash in from Washington. They desperately need to replace the “crazy” dictators such as Gaddafi or Ahmadinejad that made to their foreign policy “so easy” with new bogeymen. And they need the settlers too to curb a negative demographic trend: the only real danger to the future of the Jewish State. Israel could be called a “immature” modern democracy  and one that is used to cheat, better than his opponents. And it knows that the game can last as long as the enemy continues to appear “ugly, dirty and bad.” All this without taking into account the latent European anti-Semitism, always ready to stand up, thanks to a post-war historiography  which described all the “isms” of Europe as hell (with horns and tail) and not as inevitable result of the history of the Old Continent. European culture has not done anything substantial to delete this infamous scarlet letter from its own DNA.

Pierre Chiartano

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This entry was posted on October 9, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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