January 23, 2012

Arab Spring Hangover

Found on Drudge Report, the following three news stories showing a common thread.  The Arab Spring isn't exactly what the president has been promising.  Forget Afghanistan, Syria and the problems in Iran, just check out the news items below, and see for yourself, things are falling apart fast.

That's not good news for those who held out the Utopian hope that the Arab Spring would usher in a Western, secular, liberal set of cultures in the Middle East.  It turns out, not so much.  Who would have thought?

Egypt:
CAIRO (AP) - Final results on Saturday showed that Islamist parties won nearly three-quarters of the seats in parliament in Egypt's first elections since the ouster of authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak, according to election officials and political groups.

The Islamist domination of Egypt's parliament has worried liberals and even some conservatives about the religious tone of the new legislature, which will be tasked with forming a committee to write a new constitution. It remains unclear whether the constitution will be written while the generals who took power after Mubarak's fall are still in charge, or rather after presidential elections this summer.

In the vote for the lower house of parliament, a coalition led by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood won 47 percent, or 235 seats in the 498-seat parliament. The ultraconservative Al-Nour Party was second with 25 percent, or 125 seats. The Salafi Al-Nour, which was initially the biggest surprise of the vote, wants to impose strict Islamic law in Egypt, while the more moderate Brotherhood, the country's best-known and organized party, has said publicly that it does not seek to force its views about an appropriate Islamic lifestyle on Egyptians.
BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) - Hundreds of angry Libyans on Saturday stormed the transitional government's headquarters in the eastern city of Benghazi, carting off computers, chairs, and desks while the country's interim leader was still holed up in the building.

Libyans have grown increasingly frustrated with the pace and direction of reforms in the country more than three months after the end of the civil war that ousted longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Those concerns spurred residents in Benghazi, where the uprising against longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi broke out in February, to begin protests nearly two weeks ago to demand transparency and justice from the country's new leaders.

The melee at the National Transitional Council's headquarters began after protesters broke through the gates using hand grenades and streamed into the grounds of the headquarters. They banged on the building's doors and demanded officials meet with them.
And post-Obama's "It's time to leave" Iraq:
Iraq is falling back into authoritarianism and headed towards becoming a police state, despite US claims that it has helped establish democracy in the country, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday. The criticism from the New York-based HRW comes less than a year after thousands of Iraqis took to the streets nationwide to criticise the government for poor services.

"Iraq cracked down harshly during 2011 on freedom of expression and assembly by intimidating, beating and detaining activists, demonstrators and journalists," HRW said in a statement accompanying its annual report.

HRW noted that Iraq remains one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, that women's rights remain poor and civilians have paid a heavy toll in bomb attacks.

The rights group pointed to the discovery of a secret prison last February run by forces controlled by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office, the same troops who ran Camp Honour, another facility where detainees were tortured.

"Iraq is quickly slipping back into authoritarianism as its security forces abuse protesters, harass journalists and torture detainees," Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director, said in the statement.

"Despite US government assurances that it helped create a stable democracy, the reality is that it left behind a budding police state."
All in all, the Mideast is a mess.  But don't expect the president to spend too much time on it all.  In addition to working on his re-election bid, his March Madness picks will be coming up soon.
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