Cafeteria Democracy

via The West’s ‘double standards’ in Middle East – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

“We are not only facing a regime and neighbouring powers, but American influence as well. They either do not want to see change or only slight changes that do not give people real democracy because the monarchy might lose power. Everyone sees the US double standards very clearly now. They see Gaddafi hitting people and the US strike back. But here they even bring in foreign armies who don’t believe in democracy and killing people on streets and the US does nothing. It is a big mistake the Americans are making, losing people, losing the faith of the streets.”

The US wants to pick and choose, cafeteria-style, which protests to support and which to ignore.  According to many Middle-Easterners, it does so at the risk of losing the respect of the very people we need to help us fight radical terrorists.

The article points out that by encouraging violent resistance, as opposed to the peaceful protests in Egypt and Yemen, the US may be setting an unfortunate precedent:  more protesters may begin to use violence in Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain.

As it happens, in Bahrain, where the movement refuses to move towards violence so far, things have only gotten worse since the crackdown. Rajab declared with a hint of exasperation:

“More people died and injured. The gap between the ruling elite and the people is getting wider and wider. The government is trying hard to incite sectarianism, frightening both Bahraini Sunnis and neighbouring countries, which is why they sent troops to Bahrain. Indeed, by refusing to take a strong stand, did the US not open the way for the Saudis to take control of the situation for their interests. Look, the Bahrainis could have used their own police, not even the army, just the police, to stop this, because we were peaceful.”

But they brought in the Saudis and GCC specifically to regionalise the conflict and raise the stakes.

Some peaceful protesters also feel they have not gotten the publicity that Egyptians and Tunisians had:

Rajab also feels, as many do many Bahraini pro-democracy and their supporters, that Al Jazeera has not done enough to cover the protests, a dynamic which proved so important in increasing support for protesters in Tunisia and Egypt.

What will happen in the region?  How will the US protect its interest and the fledgling democracy movements as well?

As Syria, Jordan and even Morocco see protests that are turning increasingly deadly, the era of the authoritarian bargain in the Middle East is clearly over.

What replaces it across the region has become the most compelling question in global politics today.

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Qaddafi Grounded

 

 

via U.N. Approves Airstrikes Against Libya – NYTimes.com.

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.

Russia, China, Germany, Brazil and India abstained from voting, as the US and 10 other nations on the Security Council voted to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya.

The US is insisting that the Arab League play a major role in whatever actions are taken in Libya, to avoid the appearance of another Western takeover of an Arab nation.

What will be the outcome?  It’s hard to say:

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.

 

 

Refugee Hell

Moises Saman for The New York Times

Hundreds of African migrant workers, many from Ghana and Nigeria, live next to the airport in Tripoli, Libya, hoping to fly home.

via Refugee Camps in Libya Reach Crisis Point – NYTimes.com.

TRIPOLI, Libya — As wealthier nations send boats and planes to rescue their citizens from the violence in Libya, a new refugee crisis is taking shape on the outskirts of Tripoli, where thousands of migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa have been trapped with scant food and water, no international aid and little hope of escape.

These mostly illegal migrants are suffering, with little hope of relief.  Racial discrimination is common here, and dark-skinned Africans, as well as Bangladeshis and Chinese, are looked down upon.

Sub-Saharan Africans make up a vast majority of the estimated 1.5 million illegal immigrants among Libya’s population of 6.5 million, according to the International Organization for Migration. Many were desperately poor people made even more so by investments of up to $1,000 each to pay smugglers to bring them across Libya’s southern border for a chance at better work in its oil economy.

Their flight has emptied the streets of thousands of day laborers who played a crucial, if largely unheralded, role in sustaining Libya’s economy. Their absence has played a role in halting construction projects that had been rising across the skyline.

They are now trying to flee the fighting, but their governments are not able to pay for flights home.  They are trapped in no-man’s land, with no water, sewers, or food.

“We are somebody and we are from somewhere,” said Abru Razak, 35, a Nigerian with two daughters, 2 and 5, at the airport. “Even when we get into the airport they are beating us and pushing us. We are dying. Tell the United Nations they should get us away from here — to anywhere, just to save our lives.”

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