Egypt Circling The Drain

Here we go again. First Pakistan, then Lebanon, Tunisia, and now . . . Egypt?

Three Dead in Egypt As Protestors Demand Mubarak’s Exit

At least three people have died as tens of thousands of protestors continue to pack the streets of Cairo in what has become the biggest protest in recent Egyptian history.

Two protestors died in the city of Suez and a security officer died in downtown Cairo as protestors calling for an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign clashed with police. At least 100 protestors were injured in Cairo, where police used tear gas, rubber bullets, batons and dogs to try to disperse the crowds, and Twitter has been blocked.

The Associated Press said that 10,000 people had flooded downtown Cairo, where demonstrators shouted “Down with Mubarak” and “Tunisia, Tunisia” as part of a protest called “Day of Anger” that was purposely scheduled for “National Police Day.” Earlier this month, protests in Tunisia sparked by the self-immolation of a disgruntled job seeker and spread by social media brought down the government of President Ben Ali.

In Egypt, the protest remained nonviolent for most of the day with marches in the square and around the capital. However, by late afternoon a large group began to move towards the Ministry of the Interior, home of the police force, and security forces responded by using rubber bullets, tear gas and water hoses.

See also:
Rioters Jolt Egyptian Regime
Egypt: Protest Against ‘Repressive’ Mubarak
Protestors shake Egypt’s streets
Egypt Protests Leave 3 Dead; Cairo Rally Broken Up
Egypt Police Disperse Anti-Mubarak Protesters
A dam breaking in Egypt
Egypt protesters report live bullets used
Egypt: President’s son and family ‘have fled to the UK’
Update: Egypt protests
U.S. urges restraint in Egypt, says government stable
White House keeps eye on Middle East protests
Twitter blocked in Egypt as thousands of protesters call for government reform [Updated]
Twitter blocked in Egypt after political unrest
Twitter confirms it is blocked in Egypt

Boy oh boy, you can bet the ranch that the Muslim Brotherhood are just salivating at the prospect of toppling the Mubarak government. Another Western domino would surely fall under the control of radical Islamists and it would be arguably the largest domino in the region. These developments do not bode well at all for U.S. and, especially, Israeli interests. And I don’t think these protests are going to stop either, the masses have a real taste for it now.

/is Obama just going to sit back and watch as the Middle East burns to the ground?

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Beat Down In Belarus

It was a good day for Europe’s last dictator, not so much for democracy.

Belarus election ends in protests, police crackdown

Following a night of violence and mass arrests in Minsk, Belarus, the state-dominated media on Monday declared that Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarussian leader who’s often described as “Europe’s last dictator,” has been reelected to an unprecedented fourth term with a 79.7 percent majority of the votes. None of his eight opponents won more than 3 percent.

After state-conducted exit polls indicated the scope of Mr. Lukashenko’s triumph Sunday night, an estimated 20,000 opposition supporters attempted to rally on Minsk’s central Independence Square to protest what they allege to be systematic fraud in the electoral process – as they did under almost identical circumstances in previous presidential polls four years ago.

But this time, authorities reacted with a harshness unseen in the past. An attempt by some opposition supporters to storm the Central Electoral Commission headquarters failed to get past massed ranks of police. Special riot squads then charged into the crowd, using batons and stun grenades, arresting 600 and injuring dozens.

During the night, Belarus’s KGB security forces swept through Minsk, arresting six opposition candidates along with scores of their supporters in an operation that continued in full swing Monday. Two of the candidates, Nikolai Statkevich and Vladimir Neklyaev, claimed they were beaten by special police before being taken to prison. The arrested leaders could face jail terms of up to 15 years.

See also:
Alexander Lukashenko wins Belarus’ presidential election with 79.67% of the vote
U.S. Condemns Belarus Crackdowns, Rejects Election Results
Belarus President Lukashenko Clamps Down on Protests After Election Win
The Moscow Power Games Behind Belarus’ Election Crackdown
Belarus Leader Shrugs Off Accusations of Election Fraud, Violence
U.S. condemns Belarus violence, says poll in doubt
Belarus protests: Your views
Lukashenko, bogeyman for both West and Russia
Lukashenka uncovered
Belarus is a kleptocratic arms bazaar that the EU needs to tackle
Civil unrest in Minsk on 19 December ‘nothing to do with elections’

I’m not sure why countries like Belarus even bother to hold elections at all. It’s not like they’re fooling anyone into thinking the election is legitimate.

/our American democracy may not be perfect, but at least our losing electoral candidates don’t get thrown in prison

It’s Starting To Look Like All Or Nothing In Iran

It appears that both sides are now painting themselves into two irreconcilable, mutually exclusive, opposite corners in this zero sum game for control of Iran, the country isn’t big enough for the both of them. There can only be one winner here.

Iran opposition leaders face threat of prosecution

Iran’s opposition leaders faced new threats Thursday with the state prosecutor warning they could be put on trial if they do not denounce this week’s anti-government protests – the worst unrest since the immediate aftermath of the disputed June election.

Police firing tear gas and wielding batons dispersed opposition supporters trying again Thursday to gather in two locations in central Tehran, said an opposition Web site called The Green Road. Police detained many of them, it said. The information could not be independently confirmed due to restrictions barring journalists from reporting on opposition activity in the streets.

The confrontation between Iran’s clerical rulers and their opponents has returned to the streets in recent weeks, after a harsh crackdown immediately following the election had all but put an end to demonstrations. Despite a continuing tough response from security forces, the opposition movement has regained some momentum.

Opposition Leader Strikes Back in Iran

Iran’s most prominent opposition leader launched a defiant broadside at the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday, striking back after two days of heavy criticism by supporters of the regime.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, the former presidential candidate who has become the opposition movement’s de facto leader, criticized a harsh government crackdown on protesters Sunday, and said he was willing to die in the fight to allow the Iranian people to express their religious and civic rights.

Mr. Mousavi, in his Internet posting Friday, said he “has no fear of becoming one of the martyrs” for the cause, and he challenged regime officials who have threatened to prosecute him and other leaders of the opposition.

The statement comes after two days of outpourings by government supporters against the opposition and Mr. Mousavi personally. On Wednesday, tens of thousands of regime backers demonstrated, sometimes raucously, in solidarity with Mr. Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. During some rallies, government supporters chanted against Mr. Mousavi and his opposition partner, Mahdi Karroubi, another unsuccessful candidate in the June 12 presidential elections, calling for Mr. Mousavi’s death and the execution of protesters.

On Thursday, Iran’s state prosecutor warned that opposition leaders could face charges if they didn’t renounced recent protests.

On Friday, Iran’s deputy head of the judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, called pro-opposition protesters enemies of God, or mohareb in Farsi, a crime punishable by death under Iranian law, according to the Associated Press.

See also:
Iran prosecutor threatens opposition with trials
Repent or else’ … Iran vows to crush protesters
Iran opposition leaders face threat of prosecution
Iran: Legal prosecution against the opposition leaders
Standoff in Iran Deepens With New Show of Force
Iran Intensifies Crackdown on Dissent
Iran steps up crackdown on Opp after violent protests
Iranian authorities demand halt to protests
Iran Arrests Dissidents, Sites Report
Iran arrests hundreds of dissidents
Iranian regime rounds up relatives of opposition leaders in bid to stop protests
Trial over people arrested in Iran on Ashura Day to be held on Sunday
Divided Iran enters 2010 after a year of deadly protests
Mousavi supporters say Iran ordered murder of his nephew
Opposition leader Mousavi denounces Iran’s crackdown
Mousavi “ready to die” but green wave calls for Khamenei’s end
Mousavi: Not afraid to be a martyr
World Digest: Iranian opposition leader Mousavi ‘not afraid’ to die
Mousavi Anticipates His Own Death, Ctd
Mousavi arrest would have ‘catastrophic consequences’: dissident
Late cleric’s son warns of more Iran turmoil: report
New revolution challenges old

This is the best opportunity for a regime change in Iran that the West is ever going to get. While I agree that direct intervention would be the wrong course of action, the United States and the rest of the West need to do something to take advantage of this situation, we just can’t remain neutral and sit idly by.

/at a bare minimum, if Obama hasn’t authorized our intelligence community to provide the Iranian opposition with secure communication equipment and suitcases full of cash, he’s committing Presidential malpractice

Intifada At Isfahan

Iran protests intensify, prompting state of emergency in Isfahan

Iran security forces and opposition protesters stepped up clashes on Wednesday in the city of Isfahan, the birthplace of Iran’s top dissident cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. Montazeri’s death this past weekend, and the rituals marking his passing, coincide with a new push by regime opponents during a 10-day religious commemoration.

The government has responded by harassing two reformist clerics who could replace Montazeri, as well as stripping the opposition’s top political figure – Mir Hossein Mousavi – of his sole official post.

In Isfahan, pro-regime basiji militiamen used batons, chains, and stones to beat mourners who gathered at the city’s main mosque to remember Montazeri, the spiritual mentor of the Iranian opposition, whose websites reported the clashes.

“While people were reciting the Quran [in the mosque], plainclothed forces attacked them and threw tear gas into the mosque yard and sprayed those inside with pepper spray after they closed the doors,” reported the reformist Parlemannews. “They severely beat the people inside,” then doused the clerical speaker with pepper spray and arrested him.

“Tens of thousands gathered outside for the memorial but were savagely attacked by security forces and the basijis,” witness Farid Salavati told the Associated Press. He said that dozens were injured as riot police and vigilantes clubbed and kicked men and women alike – some in the face – and arrested 50 people who had gathered to mourn the grand ayatollah.

Montazeri – the chosen successor of Iran’s first supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, until a falling out in 1989 – had been unrelenting in his criticism of the officially declared reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last June, as well as of Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“Khamenei is a murderer, his rule is invalid,” protesters shouted on Wednesday, referring to violence since June, in which severe force has been used against Iranians who marched to reverse the official result. They wanted to see the “Green Movement” presidential candidate, Mr. Mousavi, elected. Scores died in June and thousands were arrested; protests have flared repeatedly around the nation since then.

In Isfahan, the clashes on Wednesday portend more violence, as protesters and pro-government forces alike prepare for the religious peak of the Shiite calendar, Ashura, which falls on Sunday. By the end of the day on Wednesday, it was reported that the governor had announced a state of emergency and reportedly called in the military for help.

“The regime has no alternative but to try to block the commemorations of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, because it has been state policy to demote him,” says Mehrdad Khonsari of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London. “But given the events of the last six months, this only aggravates the situation [and] becomes a catalyst for more protests and is counter-productive.

“Every demonstration is a dress rehearsal for the next demonstration. Once Ashura is over next week, there will be more demonstrations,” says Mr. Khonsari. “The fact is there is no likelihood that these protests are going to come to an end anytime soon.”

See also:
Police, protesters clash in southern Iran
Iran forces clash with cleric’s mourners: websites
Iran: unrest reported in Isfahan
Iran warns that it will deal ‘fiercely’ with protesters
Iran security forces clash with protesters in Isfahan
Iranian security forces suppress new wave of opposition protests in Isfahan
Isfahan beset by violence
Iran behaves increasingly like a ‘police state’: US
Iran Beats Mourners, Signaling Harder Line
Esfahan / Isfahan Nuclear Technology Center N32°40′ E51°40′
Esfahan (Isfahan) Nuclear Technology Center
Could This Be A Tipping Point?

It looks like this coming weekend might be shaping up as the largest nationwide Iranian opposition protest yet and, judging by recent events, it could also be the bloodiest. I can only hope, especially after reading this, that all the Green Movement pain won’t be in vain and these protests eventually reach the point of no return, critical mass, the overthow of the Iranian mullahs, regime change.

/Go Green!