Is the Middle East driving you nuts too? Map of the Middle East MadEast Map 2015:
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Saudi Arabia - Theocray, absolute monarchy. Main question for 2015:  When can we raise the oil price again? Iraq - Rump state. Question for 2015: I'raq, I'ran - what's the difference? Iran - Military theocracy. Main question for 2015: What will Obama get us for Christmas? Syria - Rump state, hereditary dictatorship. Question for 2015: Is you IS or is you ain't? Palestinian Territories - divided and lapsed democracy Question for 2015: reconciliation or reconflagration? Egypt - Military-anti-fundamentalist complex. Question for 2015: wither the revolution? Lebanon - Chaotic, sectarian, lapsed quasi-democracy. Question for 2015: Will the country live out another year without major violence? Israel- increasingly imperfect democracy. Question for 2015: Can the rot still be stopped?
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RIP Charlie Hebdo. This is so fucking sad

Going into 2015 Madeast sadly notes that this piece, written in February 2011 - days after the fall of Mubarak - has proved all too prescient:

Mabrouk! But why I try not to care (too much) about Egyptian democracy

February 2011

While millions around the world are gushing about that warm and fuzzy feeling they profess to be getting from watching the revolution in Egypt, I cannot say that I care very much. I know Egypt and I wish my friends who were in Tahrir square all the best, and sure in general I do not like the idea that people anywhere should suffer.

But I don't consider it much of my business and even less my achievement in some transcendental way just because I’m part of a Western democracy, or am on Twitter or Facebook or simply because I watch TV. I’m rather flabbergasted at the outpouring of enthusiasm for Egypt’s democrats from people who were just weeks ago happy to holiday there and more than likely prattled on about how stable and secure it was.

This is an uprising that belongs to the people of Egypt and the last thing that I’d like to do is appropriate their joy as so many western observers seem to be doing. Or maybe it’s just the slightly unhinged tone that television reporters, twitterers and commentators seem to have in common.

Look, it’s hardly a great and significant moment that should unite all of humanity in joyous awe of our common achievement, such as the moon landings or when Ali fought Frazier in the Congo. And really, are we not tired of all these semi-failed, oddly named revolutions? Who says that Egypt’s Facebook and Twitter revolution is going to be any more significant and less frustatingly inconclusive than Lebanon’s Cedar revolution?

Of course, a transformative moment for the Middle East, blah blah blah. Let’s compare notes in a few years time and see what has come of it. The region, any region, is notoriously resistant to change. There is a hell of a lot more to transform in the Middle East than just the presidency of one or two countries. I wish true democrats all the best and I’m not saying that their achievement would be insignificant if they succeeded in establishing a fair and open system in Egypt.

But at best it will only be the beginning of a process that will need to effect a deep change throughout society. Democracy and a whole slew of freedoms, of expression, religion, etc. are concepts that need time to take hold. It will be a long and precarious slog with many pitfalls that could see the whole process head in directions where chaos or a new tyranny lie in wait.

And then I have not even talked yet about the economy and corruption, social change and police brutality, to mention but a few important reasons why people went into the street in Egypt. Will democracy cure all that or will democracy at least start addressing these issues and offer a better chance of dealing with those challenges?

As a Western democrat I’d have to say yes. But how wonderful is it to be a Western democrat in the first place? We are brought up to believe that our system is the best, that solely by virtue of being born in a north-west corner of Europe, or anywhere in North America if you insist, we belong to the global elite. But then we’re also told not to impose our culture on others, that there is no such thing as universal values, which nicely absolves us of the responsibility for spreading our ideas and for measuring others by our standards.

I guess that I do care a bit but I am deeply suspicious that we in the West are projecting our wishes and selfish dreams on what is happening in Egypt and the Arab world at the moment. I’ll hold off on the euphoria for now and quietly root for my friends truly to succeed.

MadEast interview with Mohamed Elbaradei, September 2010 - first installment:
(Ferry Biedermann for Elsevier magazine of the Netherlands)

FB: Why are you doing this? You had such a distinguished international career, I’m sure you had other options?
MB: I have spent all my life working as a public servant, looking at the big picture. I have come to believe in having an approach that focuses on the fact we are all part of the same human family. You cannot just have a part of the world develop and another one going in another direction. And with the globalisation we see today, I don’t think that any one problem is going to be resolved without all cooperating, whether it is climate change, arms control, HIV/AIDS, what have you. And I don’t think you’ll ever get that environment of cooperation without empowering every human being to be free, to be able to have basic freedom and rights, freedom of speech, of religion, of fear, from want…
… As you grow older you cannot face the question: did you have the chance to fix the lives of 80 million people and you haven’t even tried. That, I think, was the question to me, would I have been able to face myself in a few years and I had an opportunity and I didn’t do it because I have my personal preferences, because I have a lot more attractive things to do.
… I try to explain two things. One is that change is not going to happen through the efforts of one person, there is no saviour. You have to grow up and understand that everybody has to chip in. And secondly, I have been explaining to them, these are human values and my role is explaining to people in the world what is happening in Egypt, through the media, through meeting people. And I think I have succeeded in that, in having the floodlight focus on Egypt, on the political repression, the economic downtrodden situation that we are in, friction between Christians and Muslims, all the problems that come with development and poverty, that comes with repression. But it is a long way to go, I have no illusion about that, I will do my best. And I do think that I have succeeded so far, in a few months, in a couple of things. One is to make people aware that the situation is not sustainable, that it has to change. Two, that democracy is the gateway to any restoration of freedom, economic and social justice, there is no other way, there is no other programme, unless people are empowered. And thirdly, I managed to break the culture of fear that permeates the country. People are intimidated, they are detained, tortured. You cannot have a political party, unless you go to the ruling party and ask for permission. There is really an absolute fake democracy, it is 100 per cent fake, there is no democracy, it is just a one-party authoritarian system. And I think that of course over many decades, since 1952, Egypt has never practiced any form of democracy, it has been a one party state in different names and shapes. People never practiced any democracy. Both the right and the left have been tortured, from the Muslim Brotherhood to the Marxists. So there is an embedded culture of fear and that of course takes time to overcome. But I tried to see how we can change things trough peaceful means and that of course remains my hope. I don’t want to see bloodshed in the street. My fear was always the revolt of the poor. When you have 40 per cent of Egyptians live on under a dollar a day, 28 per cent of Egyptians cannot read or write, there is something awfully wrong. I tried and I continue to try to see how we can change things peacefully. The young people gave me the idea that we can have a petition campaign, they gave me power of attorney to say we need to change to insure free and fair elections, to have a new constitution that like any constitution in a democracy build guarantees a balance of power, an executive that does not have an imperial power, an independent judiciary, a truly independent parliament. We have now reached almost a million signatures which will be a milestone in a country where six decades of oppression have bred a culture of fear. So I am optimistic in that sense. But I also try to tell people that after some 58 years of lack of democracy, to shift Egypt into a fairer-based system as I call it, will take some time. Everybody of course is so anxious that they think of change overnight and I understand, they are so emotional about it, particularly the young people and I try to make them understand that it might take time, we don’t have a timeframe. It could be six months, it could be a year, it could be five but change is inevitable and change will come about and I hope it will come about in a peaceful way…

Seriously MAD!!!

Madeast is seriously pissed off with:

The Dutch, all of them, for letting Geert Wilders, that platinum-haired populist, simple-minded martinet, blow-dried demagogue even have a look-in on power in their country without massively taking to the streets. This is the time for resistance, this is the time to defend the very values of democratic and enlightened western society that the Dutch for so long pretended to be the very guardians of. How hypocritical and pathetic can you be to let an intolerant tin-pot despot like Wilders, whatever the excuses are, dictate the terms on which the next government is going to be formed? This is not in defence of Islam. Islamic extremism, or any religious extremism, and Wilders are two sides of the same coin. There is no place for either in the society that I want to live in. I'm still considering how to tackle this properly. Any ideas? Email


• Poor Lebanon, football mad but no team of its own ever to cheer for. Uhm, yes almost like in the country's politics, always running after someone else. Better just to enjoy some sexy teams, right?
• Miss America, Rima Fakih, as the Hezbollah babe. If it did not actually happen it would have to be invented. MadEast proposes a much better way to settle Arab-Israeli rivalry - Have Rimah hummus-wrestle Israeli super model Bar Rafaeli.
• Israel's settlers, a motley collection of messianic militants and middle class commuters, are now seen as the one obstacle to world peace. So, get ready for the settlement squeeze.
• Iran's nuclear programme, coupled with an extremely nasty turn of phrase deployed by Tehran, are fanning Israel's perennial existential angst. Will the Israelis strike first?
• Lebanon's Bekaa valley is a fun mix of hash and Hezbollah. Now the armed movement is watching gleefully as the country's ramshackle army takes on the big crime families of the Bekaa...more.
• Some 25 per cent of the one million Israelis who came from the former Soviet Union in the 1990's are not Jewish according to the strict religious definition, even though they qualified for immigration to the Jewish state...more
Six years ago the US launched its attack on Iraq and now you’re about to read yet another useless anniversary piece. So, let’s make this one special...more.
• Bullets and Balantine, RPG's and Red Bull with Vodka, tanks and tequila - Beirut would not be Beirut if a screening of the Israeli movie Waltz with Bashir did not turn into a party...more.
• The Middle East should go into collective therapy to deal with its existential angst. So many people are worried about being wiped off the face of the earth but how likely is that? Here's the MadEast threat-off...more.
• It's Arab and it's about sex but is it art? The West is desperately seeking sexy Arabs, because people who have sex cannot be terrorists, right?...more.



Saudi Arabia - Theocray, absolute monarchy. Main question for 09:  Will women be allowed to drive this year?Iraq - Imposed democracy. Local elections in 2009 again make or break. The main question for 09: What will Obama do?Iran - Theocracy, semblance of democracy. Main question for 09: Will Ahmadinejad stay around to entertain usSyria - Hereditary dictatorship, only remaining Baath regime after fall of Saddam Hussein. Questions for 09: peace talks with Israel? Indictments over Hariri tribunal? This country is spoilt for choiceJordan - Absolute monarchy, really! Question for 09: yawn... Palestinian Territories - divided democracy? Question for 09: ask the Israelis.Egypt - Semi-pharaonic autocracy. Only one question for Egypt in 2009: is Mubarak going to live until the end of the year?Lebanon - Chaotic, sectarian democracy. Question for 09: How will the economic downturn affect the buying of votes in this year's crucial elections Israel- imperfect democracy. Question for 09: Bibi or Tsipi? It sounds like Sesame Street