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The African ‘Star Wars’: US uses militarism to counter China’s development aid

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It is the Pentagon’s Africom versus China’s web of investments – the ultimate prize: Africa’s natural resources.

Pepe Escobar, Al Jazeera, April 26, 2011

From energy wars to water wars, the 21st century will be determined by a fierce battle for the world’s remaining natural resources. The chessboard is global. The stakes are tremendous. Most battles will be invisible. All will be crucial.

In resource-rich Africa, a complex subplot of the New Great Game in Eurasia is already in effect. It’s all about three major intertwined developments:

1) The coming of age of the African Union (AU) in the early 2000s.

2) China’s investment offencive in Africa throughout the 2000s.

3) The onset of the Pentagon’s African Command (Africom) in 2007.  

Beijing clearly sees that the Anglo-French-American bombing of Libya – apart from its myriad geopolitical implications – has risked billions of dollars in Chinese investments, not to mention forcing the (smooth) evacuation of more than 35,000 Chinese working across the country.

And crucially, depending on the outcome – as in renegotiated energy contracts by a pliable, pro-Western government – it may also seriously jeopardise Chinese oil imports (3 per cent of total Chinese imports in 2010).

No wonder the China Military, a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) newspaper, as well as sectors in academia, are now openly arguing that China needs to drop Deng Xiaoping’s “low-profile” policy and bet on a sprawling armed forces to defend its strategic interests worldwide (these assets already total over $1.2 trillion).

Now compare it with a close examination of Africom’s strategy, which reveals as the proverbial hidden agenda the energy angle and a determined push to isolate China from northern Africa.

One report titled “China’s New Security Strategy in Africa” actually betrays the Pentagon’s fear of the PLA eventually sending troops to Africa to protect Chinese interests.

It won’t happen in Libya. It’s not about to happen in Sudan. But further on down the road, all bets are off.

Meddle is our middle name

The Pentagon has in fact been meddling in Africa’s affairs for more than half a century. According to a 2010 US Congressional Research Service study, this happened no less than 46 times before the current Libya civil war.

Among other exploits, the Pentagon invested in a botched large-scale invasion of Somalia and backed the infamous, genocide-related Rwanda regime.

The Bill Clinton administration raised hell in Liberia, Gabon, Congo and Sierra Leone, bombed Sudan, and sent “advisers” to Ethiopia to back dodgy clients grabbing a piece of Somalia (by the way, Somalia has been at war for 20 years).

The September 2002 National Security Strategy (NSS), conceived by the Bush administration, is explicit; Africa is a “strategic priority in fighting terrorism”.

Yet, the never-say-die “war on terror” is a sideshow in the Pentagon’s vast militarisation agenda, which favours client regimes, setting up military bases, and training of mercenaries – “cooperative partnerships” in Pentagon newspeak.

Africom has some sort of military “partnership” – bilateral agreements – with most of Africa’s 53 countries, not to mention fuzzy multilateral schemes such as West African Standby Force and Africa Partnership Station.

American warships have dropped by virtually every African nation except for those bordering the Mediterranean.

The exceptions: Ivory Coast, Sudan, Eritrea and Libya. Ivory Coast is now in the bag. So is South Sudan. Libya may be next. The only ones left to be incorporated to Africom will be Eritrea and Zimbabwe.

Africom’s reputation has not been exactly sterling – as the Tunisian and Egyptian chapters of the great 2011 Arab Revolt caught it totally by surprise. These “partners”, after all, were essential for surveillance of the southern Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

Libya for its part presented juicy possibilities: an easily demonised dictator; a pliable post-Gaddafi puppet regime; a crucial military base for Africom; loads of excellent cheap oil; and the possibility of throwing China out of Libya.

Under the Obama administration, Africom thus started its first African war. In the words of its commander, General Carter Ham, “we completed a complex, short-notice, operational mission in Libya and… transferred that mission to NATO.”

And that leads us to the next step. Africom will share all its African “assets” with NATO. Africom and NATO are in fact one – the Pentagon is a many-headed hydra after all.

Beijing for its part sees right through it; the Mediterranean as a NATO lake (neocolonialism is back especially, via France and Britain); Africa militarised by Africom; and Chinese interests at high risk.  

The lure of ChinAfrica

One of the last crucial stages of globalisation – what we may call “ChinAfrica” – established itself almost in silence and invisibility, at least for Western eyes.

In the past decade, Africa became China’s new Far West. The epic tale of masses of Chinese workers and entrepreneurs discovering big empty virgin spaces, and wild mixed emotions from exoticism to rejection, racism to outright adventure, grips anyone’s imagination.

Individual Chinese have pierced the collective unconscious of Africa, they have made Africans dream – while China the great power proved it could conjure miracles far away from its shores.

For Africa, this “opposites attract” syndrome was a great boost after the 1960s decolonisation – and the horrid mess that followed it.

China repaved roads and railroads, built dams in Congo, Sudan and Ethiopia, equipped the whole of Africa with fibre optics, opened hospitals and orphanages, and – just before Tahrir Square – was about to aid Egypt to relaunch its civilian nuclear programme.

The white man in Africa has been, most of the time, arrogant and condescending. The Chinese, humble, courageous, efficient and discreet.   

China will soon become Africa’s largest trading partner – ahead of France and the UK – and its top source of foreign investment. It’s telling that the best the West could come up with to counteract this geopolitical earthquake was to go the militarised way.

The external Chinese model of trade, aid and investment – not to mention the internal Chinese model of large-scale, state-led investments in infrastructure – made Africa forget about the West while boosting the strategic importance of Africa in the global economy.

Why would an African government rely on the ideology-based “adjustments” of IMF and the World Bank when China attaches no political conditions and respects sovereignty – for Beijing, the most important principle of international law? On top of it, China carries no colonial historical baggage in Africa.  

Essentially, large swathes of Africa have rejected the West’s trademark shock therapy, and embraced China.

Western elites, predictably, were not amused. Beijing now clearly sees that in the wider context of the New Great Game in Eurasia, the Pentagon has now positioned itself to conduct a remixed Cold War with China all across Africa – using every trick in the book from obscure “partnerships” to engineered chaos.

The leadership in Beijing is silently observing the waters. For the moment, the Little Helmsman Deng’s “crossing the river while feeling the stones” holds.

The Pentagon better wise up. The best Beijing may offer is to help Africa to fulfil its destiny. In the eyes of Africans themselves, that certainly beats any Tomahawk.

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/04/2011422131911465794.html

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Written by peripheralrevision

04/26/2011 at 12:37 pm

US, Egyptian Army Attempting to Hijack Revolution -RT News

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Campaigning heats up in Egyptian elections

“It’s very worrying to see so many advisors from Washington arriving in Cairo, and perhaps trying to hijack the revolution for Washington’s ends,” said journalist and author Afshin Rattansi. “We must always remember that Egypt was a strategic lynch-pin in Washington’s foreign policy, that all-important Suez Canal and the Nile River basin. So we’ll see the forces aligned against any leader that does emerge in Egypt, Washington will definitely try and get it on side.”

From RT News:


http://rt.com/news/brotherhood-democracy-muslim-egypt/

The next chapter in Egypt’s handbook on democracy will see free elections held in September. Rather than a path towards open democracy, radical Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood are gaining ground in the polls.

The army is clearing Cairo’s Tahrir Square of demonstrators to show everything is back to normal. But after months of upheaval, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It is very much the same people in charge as before.

“The Egyptians are concerned that they may have got rid of the dictator but they haven’t got rid of the dictatorship,” says James Denselow, a Middle East expert from Kings College London. “There are deep concerns as to whether the reforms have gone far enough, whether the restrictions, and the role of the military is still too great for true freedom to emerge in Egypt, and that’s the debate that’s polarizing society in Egypt right now.”
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Written by peripheralrevision

04/20/2011 at 12:18 pm

Posted in +Video, Egypt

Egypt enters second phase of uprising

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How will the realisation that the military could be the revolution’s chief obstacle, rather than an ally, impact Egypt’s future?

Atul Aneja, The Hindu, April 19, 2011

The magnificent Egyptian uprising, after a brief introspective but impatient pause, has flared up again. On February 11, it brought down dictator Hosni Mubarak and drove him into peripheral existence in Sharm-el-Sheikh, the resort city on the Red Sea. Yet, even when the euphoria generated by the exit of the oligarch was in full flow, many among Egypt’s seasoned protesters observed, “We have brought down the dictator, not the dictatorship.”

By April 9, less than two months after Mr. Mubarak’s unceremonious exit, the uprising gathered its second wind. With clarity and focus, it declared war on the remnants of the regime, which had remained largely unmoved from institutions and had, for three servile decades, served Mr. Mubarak unquestioningly. More significantly, the protesters’ perception of the military top brass, who had taken over the state after Mr. Mubarak’s ungainly departure, changed dramatically. It began to dawn on them that the military was not people’s friend. It was as much part of the old oligarchy, which was yet to make way for people’s power.

The Egyptian media have been quick to pick up the military’s fading appeal. An article in Al Ahram Online observed: “The army’s advent to Egypt’s streets in the early days of the revolution was welcomed by the people who met the officers and soldiers with flowers and the chant ‘the army and the people are one hand.’ But as tensions cloud the relationship between the two sides, the optimistic chant is becoming increasingly rare.”

What has changed in a couple of months? How will the realisation that the military could be the revolution’s chief obstacle, rather than being an ally, impact Egypt’s future?

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Written by peripheralrevision

04/18/2011 at 9:09 pm

Posted in Egypt

IMF, World Bank to capitalize on Middle East uprisings

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The IMFC was directly affected by the pro-democracy turmoil that swept the Arab crescent this year. Until February it was headed by Egyptian Finance Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali, who was obliged to step down after he was fired, along with half the government, by then-president Hosni Mubarak in Cairo.

+Also see “Arab Spring Shock Doctrine? IMF, World Bank and Western Businesses See Oppurtinity in Exploiting Transitional Egypt, Tunisia” -PR+

‘Act now’ to support Mideast: World Bank

Paul Handley, AFP, April 17, 2011

The World Bank and IMF called Saturday for urgent support for Middle East economies, warning the region’s political upheavals could throw the global economic recovery off track.

“We must act now,” said World Bank President Robert Zoellick at the close of the the two organisations’ meetings in Washington.

“Waiting for the situation to stabilize will mean lost opportunities. In revolutionary moments, the status quo is not a winning hand.”

The Bank earlier warned that “a worsening of conditions in the Middle East and North Africa could derail global growth.

[…]

The uprisings that overthrew longtime strongmen in Tunisia and Egypt while challenging others from Libya to Syria and Yemen grabbed the focus of the world’s financial technorati as they met in Washington to discuss the crucial challenges facing the global economy.

Zoellick stressed earlier in the week the impact of rising food prices on political stability in poor countries.

“We may be coming out of one crisis — the financial and economic crisis — but we are facing new risks and wrenching challenges,” he said.

“Food prices were not the cause of the crises in the Middle East and North Africa, but they are an aggravating factor.”

Chad’s Finance Minister Ngata Ngoulou said his country was feeling the heat from the spillover of Libya’s European- and US-backed uprising against dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

“All this has repercussions on Chad, repercussions above all negative on the economy and on our society. It weighs on our resources,” he said.

Other countries “have not considered this situation,” he added.

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, who chaired a Group of 20 finance chiefs meeting on the sidelines of the World Bank-IMF meetings, called for strong support for the North African countries from governments and multilateral agencies.

She said international financial institutions need to begin assessments “in particular of those countries that have initiated a transition towards democracy.”

“The economies of these countries are facing specific structural problems,” she added.

France will boost its annual commitment to Egypt to 250 million euros ($360 million) from 150 million euros.

“If priority is to be accorded to inclusive and sustainable growth, issues of justice, security and employment, particularly in the private sector, can no longer be addressed separately,” Lagarde said.

“This is also one of the lessons to be learned from the events in North Africa and the Middle East.”

Lael Brainard, US Treasury under-secretary for international affairs, said the World Bank, International Finance Corp and African Development Bank together could potentially muster $4 billion for Egypt and Tunisia in the next year, to help them restart their economies.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development was also positioning itself to take a lead in the effort, according to an EBRD official.

Read the full article here

‘Arab Spring’ holds IMF, World Bank, amid financial woes

Hugues Honore, AFP, April 17, 2011

Global finance chiefs sought ways to help Arab economies flourish amid pro-democracy revolts erupting across the region as the IMF and World Bank met in Washington Saturday.

While the Arab Spring that has seen dictators in Egypt and Tunisia fall since January has captivated the two key global institutions in their spring meetings, looming in the background were destabilizing “imbalances” in the world’s most powerful economies.

International Monetary Fund and World Bank policy makers made support for Arab countries a key priority, highlighting the social-political impact of skyrocketing food prices and joblessness around the world and especially in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region.

“We can together build a better future for these countries. And that’s not only important for Egypt and Tunisia, it’s important for the whole world because this example is an example that is going to have a lot of consequences,” IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said Friday.

“The upheaval in the MENA region is not only a reflection of discontent over jobs, low wages and poverty, but also represents a day of reckoning for trade and economic policy choices made … over past decades,” Supachai Panitchpakdi, the secretary general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, told the opening meetings said in a statement.

[…]

The IMFC meeting will be followed later in the day by a meeting of the Development Committee, which advises the IMF and the World Bank on aid to developing countries.

The IMFC was directly affected by the pro-democracy turmoil that swept the Arab crescent this year. Until February it was headed by Egyptian Finance Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali, who was obliged to step down after he was fired, along with half the government, by then-president Hosni Mubarak in Cairo.

A week later, Mubarak himself was ousted by popular revolt. The IMFC chairmanship went to Singapore’s finance minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

The post-revolution period in Egypt and Tunisia and aid to other Arab countries swept by protests seeking social justice and better economic futures have been the center of attention in Washington since Thursday.

France and the United States announced Thursday a “joint action plan” for five international financial institutions to aid development in the Middle East and North Africa.

The IMF was tasked with providing an economic evaluation of the countries potentially involved, initially seen as Tunisia and Egypt.

Strauss-Kahn said the IMF was ready with aid if asked. But Tunisia and Egypt have so far not done so.

Tunisian authorities are negotiating with a number of countries and development agencies at this point, while Egypt is studying its options, officials from the two countries have said.


Read the full article here

Written by peripheralrevision

04/18/2011 at 6:50 pm

Posted in Chad, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia

The House of Saud won’t wake up

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Brian Downing, Asia Times, April 16, 2011

The once seemingly overwhelming momentum of the democratic movements in the Middle East has been stopped or at least slowed in many countries. The forces behind staunching the tide of change are often domestic in nature, but Saudi Arabia is playing an important supporting role – sometimes behind the scenes, sometimes through open use of force. These actions will have consequences throughout the region for quite some time.

Saudi Arabia and Iran

Once the “twin pillars” of US policy in the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia and Iran have become increasingly antagonistic over the past three decades. This was especially so after the Saudis supported Iraq’s lengthy and bloody war with Iran in the 1980s, which included a handful of air skirmishes between Saudi and Iranian aircraft.

More recently, Saudi Arabia has helped to build a coalition of Sunni Arab states opposed to Iranian influence and nuclear research. Such is the fear of Iran in Saudi Arabia that it is reportedly willing to grant fly-over rights for Israel to attack Iran.

The House of Saud’s concern with Iran has become a veritable obsession. It can be usefully likened to the obsession US national security institutions had for the Soviet Union during some of the more heated moments of the Cold War when many reformist movements around the world were deemed the machinations of Soviet intelligence officers. A pertinent case in point would be the Central Intelligence Agency’s conviction that the popular uprising that unseated the shah was the work of the Soviet KGB.

Similarly, the House of Saud has badly misinterpreted reform movements both inside the kingdom and throughout the region. The various crowds that assembled peacefully to call for a voice in their future are seen as the nefarious work of Iranian intelligence officers.

However, there is no evidence of Iranian intelligence personnel in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, where the kingdom’s Shi’ite minority is concentrated, or in neighboring Bahrain, where the Shi’ites constitute 70% of the population. In both countries, Shi’ite and Sunni alike called for social and political change. “No Shi’ite, no Sunni, Just Bahraini.” Neither group needed foreign operatives to tell them that their futures were limited by monarchal cliques or that the Shi’ites were looked down upon and excluded from many parts of public life.

Nonetheless, the Saudis responded swiftly and forcefully. They issued dire warnings before the called-for demonstrations of March 11 in their country and security forces immediately set upon groups trying to coalesce that day, intimidating and beating them before they could form the numbers that assembled in Cairo until Hosni Mubarak had to step down. Outside the kingdom, Saudi national guard troops crossed the causeway into Bahrain and helped to crush the protest movement in Pearl Square with considerable loss of life.
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Written by peripheralrevision

04/15/2011 at 4:31 pm

Arab Spring Shock Doctrine? IMF, World Bank and Western Businesses See Oppurtinity in Exploiting Transitional Egypt, Tunisia

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+As the policies advocated by the IMF and World Bank were among the most prominent factors contributing to the economic conditions motivating Egyptians take to the streets in protest, it is extremely concerning that the economic consequences of the uprising are being countered by the same institutions. It is well known that the World Bank and IMF serve western interests, many times locking developing nations into inescapable debt obligations, rendering them subservient to their political and economic mandates, regardless of their ultimately negative affect on the vast majority of citizens. Now is seen as a advantageous time to take advantage of the weak and chaotic transitions that the Arab Spring countries are in. Especially with the military in control in Egypt (heavily funded by the U.S. government), the economic policies and deals that are emerging are likely to be ones that perpetuate economic polarization and capital extraction in the favor of international/transnational investors and institutions. Now, not only do the people have to continue their revolutionary struggles to preserve and advance political gains, but just as important, they must organize to protect to the true power of the state, that is the economy, from being dominated and siphoned by external powers and internal elites. -PR+

IMF and World Bank’s aid tightens noose around poor nations

Public frustration with rampant unemployment, high food prices and privatization deals is believed to have helped spark the mass uprising in Egypt. At the suggestion of the IMF and World Bank, ousted President Hosni Mubarak sold public companies to local and foreign investors, while 40 per cent of Egyptians earned US$2 per day.

“It’s definitely a catalyst and the timing is very much related to what was tremendous financial deregulation and opening to privatization by external banks of Egypt and other countries and what has had dramatic negative circumstances,” says author and journalist Nomi Prins.

From RT News:


http://rt.com/news/imf-world-bank-countries/

Egypt Officials Push U.S. Businesses for ‘Strategic’ Investment

Nicole Gaouette, Bloomberg, April 14, 2011

Egypt’s finance minister and its minister of planning appealed to U.S. businesses to invest in their country, warning that strategic U.S. interests are at stake if the transition to democracy fails.

“This is not about aid, this is not about assistance, this is about strategic interests,” said Fayza Mohamed Aboulnaga, the minister of planning and international cooperation, speaking yesterday at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington.

Aboulnaga and Finance Minister Samir Mohamed Radwan have spent two days in Washington meeting with administration officials and members of Congress to appeal for debt forgiveness, they said. They also talked with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Egypt faces mounting demands, a young population impatient for jobs that pay well, and a burgeoning deficit that the officials projected will hit $8 billion by June 30, the end of the country’s fiscal year.

To those who would rather “wait and see” whether to invest in Egypt, Aboulnaga said such a stance “could lead to irreversible consequences that will cost everybody a lot more than anybody can think if, God forbid, insecurity and instability prevail in Egypt and then, subsequently, in the region.”

Egypt would like the U.S. to forgive $3.6 billion in debt, the principal of which has been “paid over and over,” Aboulnaga said. Egypt is simply paying “interest upon interest upon interest,” she said.
Interim Government

Read the full article here

G-7 Urges Europe’s Development Bank to Lend to Egypt

Sudeep Reddy and Anjali Cordeiro, The Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2011

The Group of Seven industrialized economies are urging Europe’s development bank to lend to Egypt and Tunisia as the two countries build new governments, Egypt’s finance minister said in an interview Thursday.

Egypt, two months after the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak, also faces a cash crunch amid a weak economy–hit by a loss of tourism revenue–and outflows of capital. ‪ ‪

Samir Radwan, who took his post in Egypt’s transitional government this year, said leaders of the G-7 nations–U.S., Canada, Germany, France, Italy, the U.K. and Japan–met Thursday and agreed that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development should make loans to the two countries. The European development bank, established in 1991, was created to invest in former communist countries in central Europe. The organization needs special approval to extend its role to Africa.

The development bank “is now authorized to deal with Egypt and Tunisia,” Radwan said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires after G-7 leaders met. “They have given the EBRD permission,” Radwan said. “If I want to borrow I can go to them.” It is unclear if the G-7 endorsement is enough to get the development bank to make the changes or if there are other procedural hurdles.

During the past three months, Egypt’s reserves have tumbled from $43 billion to $32 billion. At least some of those funds are believed to have been used to shore up the Egyptian pound, which has been sliding.

So far, Radwan said, Egypt isn’t having problems servicing its debt. There is “no thought of default or anything like that,” he said. A big portion of Egypt’s debt is domestically held and the overseas debt has relatively long maturity.

Egypt is working with the World Bank, African Development Bank and Arab development institutions on funding packages to support its rebuilding effort. It is also “in conversation” with the International Monetary Fund but is waiting to determine its needs before deciding how to proceed with IMF funding, Radwan said.

“Egypt has been receiving tremendous goodwill from everybody,” he said. “We have the best of relations with the IMF. We have not requested; we have not rejected. We are watching the situation day by day.”

The nation also could borrow in private markets if necessary, he said. “We will start with a homegrown program and then we see the requirements.”

[…]

Financial leaders from the U.S., Europe, Middle East and North Africa also agreed Thursday on a “joint action plan” to target investment for “inclusive growth” in the Middle East and North African region, according to a joint statement released by France and the U.S.

“We stand ready to support these countries with responses coordinated with the international institutions, who can bring significant resources and expertise to aid the transitions,” the statement said. The countries said early recommendations by international groups would be presented before the end of May.

The World Bank this week said it is working with Tunisia to provide $500 million in loans, which could draw $700 million more from other institutions. That amount of funding would be “a drop in the ocean” for Egypt, Radwan said. “We will see the possibilities of leveraging whatever they have.”

Read the full article here

Written by peripheralrevision

04/15/2011 at 1:18 pm

Posted in Egypt, Tunisia

Al Jazeera loses credibility for censoring coverage of uprisings in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, acting as propaganda tool for Qatar’s role in Libya intervention

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+Al Jazeera is based in Qatar which just happens to be the most active Arab supporter of the “rebels” attempting to aid the west in overthrowing the Libyan government. Qatar is positioning itself to be the international marketer for the oil exported by the “rebels,” was the second country to recognize the “ransitional government,” and has contributed aircraft to the NATO bombing campaign.  Part of Al Jazeera’s advantages in reporting international issues is that it can pretty much criticise anyone it chooses without consequences, the only stipulation is refrain from any serious critique of its host nation and its regional allies. This limitation has greatly jeoprodized the Arab media station’s legitimacy and credibility in covering the events in Libya. So heed the warning that Al Jazeera, while widely recognized as a useful news outlet, is not a reliable source when it comes to current regional issues -PR+

Andrew Hammond, Reuters, April 14, 2011

Pan-Arab broadcasters who played a key role reporting Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt are helping dynastic rulers police the gates of the Gulf to stop the revolts from spreading on their patch, analysts say.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera, the leading Arabic language network, was pivotal in keeping up momentum during protests that toppled Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, both entrenched rulers who were no friends of Qatar’s ruling Al Thani dynasty.

When Al Jazeera’s cameras turned to Yemen, it was as though its guns were trained on the next target in an uprising longtime Arab leaders were convinced was of the channel’s making.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose impoverished country of 23 million is not a member of the affluent Gulf Arab club, accused Al Jazeera of running an “operations room to burn the Arab nation.” His government has revoked the Al Jazeera correspondents’ licences over its coverage in Yemen.

For viewers watching protests spread across the region, the excitement stopped abruptly in Bahrain. Scant coverage was given to protests in the Gulf Cooperation Council member and to the ensuing crackdown by its Sunni rulers, who called in Saudi and Emirati troops in March under a regional defence pact.

Protests in Oman and Saudi Arabia have also received scant attention in recent months.

“Bahrain does not exist as far as Al Jazeera is concerned, and they have avoided inviting Bahraini or Omani or Saudi critics of those regimes,” said As’ad AbuKhalil, politics professor at California State University.

“Most glaringly, Al Jazeera does not allow one view that is critical of Bahraini repression to appear on the air. The GCC has closed ranks and Qatar may be rewarded with the coveted post of secretary-general of the Arab League.”

Despite a wealth of material, there were no stirring montages featuring comments by protesters or scenes of violence against activists in Bahrain. Al Jazeera has produced such segments to accompany Egyptian and Tunisian coverage.

The threat posed by Bahrain’s protests was closer to home. Their success would have set a precedent for broader public participation in a region ruled by Sunni dynasties. More alarming for those dynasties, it would have given more power to Bahrain’s majority Shi’ites, distrusted by Sunni rulers who fear the influence of regional Shi’ite power Iran.

From an early stage, Al Jazeera framed the movements in Tunisia, Egypt and then Yemen as “revolutions” and subverted government bans on its coverage by inviting viewers to send in images captured on mobile phones to a special address.

“Despite being banned in Egypt, Al Jazeera went to great lengths to provide non-stop live coverage of events. It did not do that in Bahrain,” said political analyst Ghanem Nuseibeh.

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Written by peripheralrevision

04/15/2011 at 12:59 am