Europe and Middle East governments


               It now appears that the armies in Middle Eastern countries determine the future of governments. Brave popular uprisings have forced governments out in Tunisia and Egypt, where the armies declined to support the incumbents. In Libya it looks as if the rebels are now losing, as the dictator seems to have command of enough mililtary might to crush them horribly.

               For once the USA has decided it does not wish to use its might to intervene, to prevent the Libyan reassertion of brutal power. Libya is in the EU’s back yard.  Italy and France have the military means to intervene to help the rebels, but have decided not to.

                I think intervention is fraught with difficulty, and could end up killing too many of the people they migtht like to help. I understand their reluctance. The various conditions set included UN support, which was never likely to be forthcoming.

                  It tells us something about the modern world. The USA now has to take more account of the emerging power of China, and  is having second thoughts about the rersults of its past interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The European countries do not think as one, and find inaction easier to agree than action. It is a better time to  be a dictator as a result. The world does not like its US policeman when he does take action, but misses him when he’s not around.  Middle Eastern countries do have armies prepared to meddle in politics. Their leadership and loyalty of the troops is now what decides the future of governors.

                 So far it looks as if Bahrain and Saudi do control their military machines, and are using them to keep order. Saudi has made clear it intends to help Gulf states governments, where they were not prepared to help the Libyan regime.


  1. Gary
    March 16, 2011

    One man’s world policeman is another’s thug. The angst over policing seems to be directly proportional to the amount of oil involved. Congo, Rwanda, Zimbabwe etc, orders of magnitude more brutal ,failed to prick our interventionist consciences.

    1. Pamela Braidford-Hal
      March 16, 2011

      Hear, Hear, well said.

  2. Cliff.
    March 16, 2011

    Yes John, indeed, in general terms, these Middle Eastern dictators are not nice people however, they have given some sense of stability over a number of years in a volatile region.

    I just wonder how our own government would act if a “popular anti government” movement tried to over throw our government; imagine if the student protests escalated and got popular support from the population in general, would the government of the day crack down on the lawlessness? If the police were overcome by the protestors, would the army be called in and Labour’s civil contingencies act be invoked? How would our government act if a foreign power started supporting the “popular uprising” and decided to arm the rebels? You see one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist.

    Personally, I think it is a very dangerous thing to get involved in the affairs of another nation and one may ask why we’re so keen to get involved in places such as Libya and Iraq where, yes the leaders are awful but, we are happy to sit back and allow Zimbabwe under Mugabee to effectively destroy the country and kill off many innocent civilians; perhaps it’s because Zimbabwe doesn’t have anything we in the west need….ie oil.

    I do feel that by backing one side or the other in these “civil wars”/”revolutions,” we could see ourselves isolated and despised even more in many parts of the Arab/Muslim world. Remember we are seen as little Satan by many in the Muslim world and a popular uprising in many areas of the ME is likely, in my opinion, to go towards a religious based political system and that may well leave us out in the cold if we continue to interfere…..Just my thoughts.

  3. Damien
    March 16, 2011

    On the positive side the new message to wannabe dictators and tyrants is clear; billions looted from their citizens national wealth over decades then ‘safely’ deposited abroad for the benefit of their off spring can and have been frozen at the stroke of a pen. Travel bans have been imposed on Mubarak and now the Gadhaffi regime. We know how the Gadhaffis son loves to travel abroad in five star luxury. Now he is holed up in a bunker soon to be answering questions at the Hague.

    With billions frozen and an arms embargo the Gadhaffi regime is weakened and will never recover in his lifetime. No doubt he will have plenty of willing buyers for his oil but when it comes to future replacements and spare parts for his military hardware hopefully the UK and others will have learnt a lesson?

    The best development is that now Saudi Arabia has reached the maturity that it is able to take military action to protect its interests, an arab solution for an arab problem.

  4. oldtimer
    March 16, 2011

    If memory serves correctly, current events in North Africa and the Gulf appear likely to end like the 1848 failed revolutions around Europe. The ancien regime prevailed more often than not.

    They also mark a new reluctance, by the USA, to embark on intervention. Several reason could apply including an absence of will (Obama?) and of capacity (the Gates influence?), conflicting interests (desire for oil vs support for democracy?), and pressure from China (financial and diplomatic?). Whatever they are, the consequnce has been no UN resolution to intervene.

  5. norman
    March 16, 2011

    I’d say any time in human history is a good time to be a dictator / sovereign. What we think of as democracy is the rare exception to the rule that might is right.

    We shouldn’t act shocked when we see repression, rather we should be shocked our democracies have survived so long (even if, as now, in a perverse form) and keep our noses out of others affairs.

  6. forthurst
    March 16, 2011

    These ‘popular’ uprisings in SW Asia and North Africa do not all use the same blueprint. Libya is a Western imposed post WWII concoction. The East of the country, Cyrenaica may always have resented rule from Tripoli. There are widely unpopular despots and there are despots that have always used their armed supporters to suppress unwillingly subordinated regions.

    What is our purpose? So far we have harmed BP’s relationship with Gadhafi. Do we want to impose ‘democracy’? The West is being destroyed by a surfeit of ‘democracy’ and the belief systems of the proletariat which have been groomed assiduously by the media to accept an entirely false set of values and a version of modern history which is no better than a fairy tale. Instead of distracting ourselves with foreign affairs, we should be working urgently to create for ourselves a form of government which is rather more responsive to the real aspirations of the people than to the diktats of a self-chosen London-based elite whose interests are in diametrical opposition to theirs.

  7. lifelogic
    March 16, 2011

    Cast Iron “Eurosceptic” Dave now brings the NHS under EU competition laws.

    So no further transfer of powers to the EU there then. I do not suppose It will do much to help efficiency or the flexibility in running it well.

  8. A.Sedgwick
    March 16, 2011

    As I responded last week on this subject, the rebels in Libya are going to lose without help with awful consequences. It is truly a defining moment for Obama and the relatives of the PanAM bombing will feel an opportunity for justice has been thrown away. There is no benefit to world democracy and western governments when Gaddafi regains full control and Obama’s sitting on his hands will probably confirm his one term presidency.

  9. Mark
    March 16, 2011

    Each country where there has been unrest has different factors at play.

    In Bahrain the dominant feature has been demonstrations by repressed Shias. In Saudi’s neighbouring oil rich Eastern Province the Shia population is also in the majority – although there money has assuaged their aspirations – as indeed the Saudis hoped it would in Bahrain. The Bahraini economy is essentially dependent on Saudi for oil for its large export refinery and gas for the power for its aluminium smelter. Bahrain is of course also a key US naval base, a stone’s throw away from the largest Saudi export ports of Ras Tannurah and Al Juaymah. Throughout the Gulf, the poor are the Shias and foreign workers from Asian or other Arab countries.

    The Libyan uprising has no basis in religious sects: indeed even the tribal divisions that might have been expected to be a feature given the country’s past have yet to predominate, although the geography of re-conquest by the regime may make it more of a feature. Their revolution sees to have been a rejection of Arab socialism as practised in the People’s Jamaharriyah. China was making a substantial contribution to the Libyan economy, with some 30,000 expatriates in the country, and despite the distance also being an important oil customer. Whether it has secretly re-supplied the regime via Sudan where it also holds sway is an unknown. Oil company interests in Libya come from a wide range of countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia. However, Libya has never been an area of high profit because the oil has been easy to find and not too difficult to develop – and the regime has maximised its share of the booty. Militarily, the battle has been about the control of key economic assets that provide export revenue and fuel, power and water that make life bearable. The regime can now win simply by siege tactics.

    The really key difference is that the world can survive without Libyan oil if need be (and whichever side succeeds, exports will resume soon after): but without Saudi oil, or worse still the oil that comes through Hormuz, we will have a severe shortage globally. In 2009 Japan consumed 464 mtoe, of which 62 mtoe was nuclear power, and 179 mtoe was oil and 19 mtoe LNG from the Gulf. UK dependence on the Gulf was mainly the 5 mtoe of Qatar LNG imports. US dependence on Middle East oil was just 87 mtoe out of imports of 565 mtoe and total energy consumption of 2,182 mtoe (very similar to China’s 2,200 mtoe consumption of which 103 mtoe was ME oil). The real strategic dependence is now in Asia. Expect the military interest to follow suit in the coming years

    1. Mark
      March 16, 2011

      Still in moderation? Surely there’s nothing too sensitive to publish here?

  10. Mike Stallard
    March 16, 2011

    Two historical parallels do spring to mind.
    The first is Spain in the nineteenth century. Like the Arabs, Spain is a retired Imperial power. Like the Arabs of today, the occasional army officer took power in Spain with a pronunciamento right up to Franco. Like the Arabs, Spain’s economy and human rights record was not altogether what Polly Toynbee would have liked to see.
    The second is the end of the Roman Empire – say 500 a.d. when the central power simply ceased to dominate and the barbarians began to control the West instead. We have got to get used to it, I am afraid, us Romans.

  11. Alte Fritz
    March 16, 2011

    It is indeed interesting that everyone wants to see a mess cleaned up, but no one is keen to do the dirty work required.

    Yes, one would love to see Gaddafi fall, but then what? I suspect the US can see no exit if it is drawn in.

  12. J leslie smith
    March 16, 2011

    There is no morality on “International Relations,” only the use of power, influence and diplomacy to further the “National Interest.” Thus, our National Interest in Libya is only Oil, not democracy, nor others human rights. This was the way of the British Empire and all Empires of History. Morality begins and ends, at home. We have enough injustice, enough suffering and pain, within our own Island of the UK to last us a life time. Why do we even bother to verbalise on Countries and Peoples we have never met, nor seen, nor visited? I lived many years in the Middle East and with various forms of Governments there. It is not what it seems. It is far better for us to insist that all immigrants from such Countries, wanting to come to the UK speak our language, share OUR values and begin to comprehend a thousand years of British Culture. We are taking positions and judging other Governments on the “Spin of the Media” of a twenty second clip of violence. Let us sort our own mess out first and our own lack of democractic accountability, within the present British Political System. Our chains are invisible in the UK, but they are still chains.

    1. Andrew Johnson
      March 17, 2011

      Well said – agree completely.

  13. acorn
    March 16, 2011

    As usual, the west fails to understand that the outcome in Libya depends on the position the twenty odd leading tribes and families take.

    Gaddafi has been in power for forty years because tribal allegiances with the Gaddafi tribe, has kept him there. He got to be in power because of colonialism. You do not get a job in the Gaddafi government unless you are from the right tribe / family. The Magariha tribe is strong in the Gadaffi area and has a debt of allegiance to Gadaffi; for getting the Lockerbie bomber back from a British jail. Arab debts have to be honoured. Never-the-less, the Magariha tribe is likely to be the only tribe that can oust Gaddafi.

    Many of Gaddafi’s right hand men, are from different tribes. The Army is led by a member of the al-Mujabra tribe. Many of these tribes have yet to declare their allegiance in this conflict, which is why Gaddafi won’t hang about while they make a decision. If the big tribes decide it is time for Gadaffi to go, they will make sure he goes. The squaddies will ultimately point their gun barrels where their tribal elders tell them.

  14. Anoneumouse
    March 16, 2011

    As the UN is unable to help, has the time come to emulate The International Brigades who fought against Franco befor the war

  15. Ross J Warren
    March 16, 2011

    I wonder if the reluctance of the US to intervene is really a sign of restraint. The Arab world could police the skies themselves but will not. My feeling is that the powers that be will be quite happy to see Gadaffi crackdown, and the region brought back in line.
    Of course there will be plenty of the right noises made by the democracies, as in our own case this will be heartfelt. But in the end nothing will be done, and normality will return to the region for a while, the domino effect of peoples revolutions will be ended.

  16. JimF
    March 16, 2011

    Not something to worry about in the UK, where this Government is cutting the armed forces and allowing taxpayers’ money instead to be used for madcap schemes to prop up Lloyds Bank and the housing market viz.

  17. davidb
    March 16, 2011

    We haven’t had an election yet in Tunisia or Egypt. Are the political prisoners all freed in both these places? The Army may well have taken over in both. We don’t know yet.

    As to Mr Gadaffi. If the US intervenes against him then what is their policy to Bahrain or Saudi to be? If Al Jazeera viewers see Gadaffi fall they will expect to be helped to topple the Saudis. How is that in the US or indeed the British interest? Is not the Al Yamahni contract the source of much exports for BAE?

    And if we are all pro democracy what happens if pro Iranian factions get elected?

    I admire the brave people who stand up for democracy. I am 100% for free and fair elections. But we should be under no illusion that the outcome of our principled position will automatically be in our national interest.

  18. English Pensioner
    March 16, 2011

    During our colonial era, Britain used to use the divide and rule principle. I worked well in the days of the Raj and countries like Malaya and parts of Africa. Then suddenly we got the idea biggest is best and encouraged the formation of Iraq from the tribal areas and of course Libya at the end of the war. We are trying to the same in Afghanistan now, which I think is a grave mistake, as few of the population will give allegiance to anyone other than their tribal leaders. Lots of small entities are likely to cause the world far less trouble as tribal rivalries generally prevent them acting together. The only way they are likely to join together as a large artificial country is when they are forced by a dictator.
    (And how long before the people at the top of the EU get the same idea having realised that it will only work under a dictator?)

  19. Stuart Fairney
    March 17, 2011

    “So far it looks as if Bahrain and Saudi do control their military machines, and are using them to keep order. Saudi has made clear it intends to help Gulf states governments”

    Er, no, Bahrain cannot rely on their military which is why they have invited the Saudis in to do the dirty work. The Saudis are happy to do this because it shows local Saudis what maybe in store for them without actually having to fire on them.

  20. StevenL
    March 18, 2011

    Well, it looks like Libya is going to get a good bombing, perhaps from the French of all people.

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