On a day in which President Barack Obama insisted that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi must step down “now” and pro-Gadhafi gangs patrolled their terrorized capital, the Middle East continued its march toward democracy Saturday, undeterred by violence and bloodshed. Analyzing the historic upheaval, Newsmax's foreign policy experts say that no matter how the multi-nation drama unfolds
in the days and weeks to come, the region has been permanently transformed.
Ronald Kessler, chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com, says Facebook, YouTube and cable TV have transformed the Mideast's landscape, informing people of what the rest of the world is like and enabling protest movements and popular uprisings.
He says predictions that “terrorists or Islamic fundamentalists will take over countries where Arab dictators are being overthrown ignore the forces overturning Middle East despots in the first place.
“In Tunisia, social media transformed a protest by a man who lit himself on fire into a revolution. In Egypt, social media allowed protesters to organize and schedule mass demonstrations.
“To suggest that countries like Egypt, Tunisia, or Libya could suffer the same fate as Iran after the shah was deposed in 1979 is like suggesting that America will give up electric power and return to using wood stoves and gas street lamps.”
Best-selling author Ken Timmerman says Iran's crackdown has only slowed – not stopped – opposition forces in that country.
“Organizers of the Green movement, based abroad, are calling for 'Tuesdays of protest' for the next several weeks, as a means of keeping their protest movement alive despite the regime’s heavyhanded security crackdown.
“Roozbeh Farahanipour, who was a key organizer of student protests in July 1999, and now heads the Marze Por Gohar (MPG) party from exile in Los Angeles, tells Newsmax that the current strategy of the opposition is not to hold mass demonstrations, but to engage in hit-and-run tactics to avoid the security forces.
“'Iran isn’t Egypt,' he said. 'Our strategy isn’t to stay out in the street' where the regime forces can round up protesters and arrest them.”
Author and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Judith Miller says President Barack Obama should take immediate action to prevent the loss of more innocent lives in Libya.
“While the diplomats blather and dither, Libyans are being killed. To put down the rebellion that has already liberated Benghazi and the western, most oil-rich part of the country, Gadhafi has taken the unprecedented step of paying African mercenaries to massacre his own people. There are reports that his planes have strafed civilian protesters and bombed residential compounds. This was too much even for the Arab League, which voted to suspend Libya’s membership in the organization.
“No one is certain how many people have died so far in the rebellion against Gadhafi in this oil-rich nation of 6.5 million that Gadhafi has ruled since a coup some 42 years ago. But New York-based Human Rights Watch puts the death toll at nearly 300, according to a partial count. Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called estimates of some 1,000 people killed 'credible.'
“Rather than wait for Gadhafi to escalate and carry out threats to use poison gas and house-to-house searches to root out his enemies, Obama should act now, unilaterally, to stop the slaughter.”
Tawfik Hamid is an author and senior fellow and chair for the Study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. He says the recent turmoil in the Middle East has resulted in a power shift from the hands of ruthless dictators to the hands of people.
“The result just may be a furthering of democracy. But there's a risk, too, of increasing the power of radical Islamic movements that promote anti-Western sentiments. Such movements, ironically, were suppressed by the former dictators. ...
“Radical Islam is by no means always taking the soft tack: non-Muslim priests were brutally attacked and killed after the revolutions in both Tunisia and Egypt.
“This trend could be aggravated by the expected sudden increase in poverty levels in the areas of turmoil as a result of collapse of tourism industry and fleeing of investments outside these countries for fear of instability.
“An immediate intervention by the West to bring the money that has been stolen by the dictators back to these countries can impede the growth of such radicals in the area.”
Steve Emerson, executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, says the mounting violence in Libya could have the unintended consequence of reviving radical Islamists – including the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a terror organization aligned with al-Qaida.
“As Gadhafi's 41-year-old dictatorship totters on the brink, U.S. policymakers should pay close attention to reports that LIFG members are being released from Libyan jails, according to Jonathan Schanzer, a former Treasury Department official who monitors jihadist organizations. ...
“As his domestic situation deteriorates, Gadhafi may believe it is in his interest to release terrorists 'in order to say to the West, “You need to back us”' and to drive home the point that the war against al-Qaida will suffer if he is driven from power, Schanzer told the Investigative Project on Terrorism.”
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