Tag Archives: Tunisia

The Fruits of Arab Spring

The term “Arab Spring” refers to a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world, which began in Tunisia on December 18, 2010.
The most famous Arab Spring protests took place in Egypt, which began on January 25, 2011, and continued for 18 days, eventually bringing down the government of President Hosni Mubarak.
Obama expressed his approval of Arab Spring, saying this in his speech of May 19, 2011:

“Sometimes, in the course of history, the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has built up for years. […] For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change take place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square; town by town; country by country; the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. […] Those shouts of human dignity are being heard across the region. And through the moral force of non-violence, the people of the region have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades.”

We are warned in Matthew 7:15-17 to “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits…[for] a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.”
Here are the fruits of the much-heralded Arab Spring:
On August 20, 2011, more than 2,000 angry Egyptians broke down barriers at Israel’s embassy in Cairo, burned Israeli flags, raised the Egyptian flag, and demanded that Israel’s ambassador be expelled.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu reports for Arutz Sheva, Aug. 21, 2011, that Egyptian police outside the embassy did not try to prevent the crowd from pulling down the Israeli flag from the embassy.

Egypt’s new provisional military regime had condemned Israel for the deaths of Egyptian soldiers during the IDF’s search and destroy operation of the terrorists who staged the sophisticated multi-pronged attack north of Eilat on Thursday. Israel said the terrorists crossed into Egyptian-controlled Sinai from Gaza and continued on to attack Israelis.
Egypt summoned the Israeli ambassador and said it is not enough for Israel to apologize. The regime’s cabinet said, “Egypt lays on Israel the political and legal responsibility for this incident, which constitutes a breach of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.”
Several eyewitnesses to Thursday’s attack said it appeared to them that Egyptian soldiers fired on Israelis, but this has not been confirmed by military officials. However, one of the terrorist attacks began under the noses of Egyptian soldiers in an observation post adjacent to the Israeli border.
Egypt claimed that the IDF killed three Egyptian police officers while chasing the terrorists inside Egyptian territory. The IDF said that its soldiers fired “toward the sources of fire” and did not aim at Egyptian soldiers.
In an e-mail to me, this blog’s regular commentator Anon wrote this most apt observation: “Now they have the freedom to get back to their favorite pastime: Hating Jews.”
Another e-correspondent of mine wrote: “If an embassy is not to be protected, we ought to leave Egypt – and take our ten figure foreign aid per annum with us.”


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U.S. Intelligence and Pentagon Clueless on Egypt

First it was our government’s intelligence agencies being caught surprised by the events in Egypt.
At a House Intelligence Committee hearing last Thursday, Feb. 10, CIA Director Leon Panetta told lawmakers “I have the same information you do.” Panetta then said he expected Egypt President Hosni Mubarak to step down soon, perhaps the next day. But the kick is this: Panetta based his prediction not on secret intelligence but on media broadcasts, the same information that you, I, and what CBS anchorwoman Katie Couric calls “the great unwashed middle of the country” have! 
Then, in the same House Intelligence Committee hearing, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper inspires even more confidence [sarcasm alert] when he admitted that the U. S. intelligence committee was surprised by the protesters in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, but insists the same U.S. intelligence committee has been steadfast in monitoring events in the Middle East.
Now we are told that the Pentagon’s fancy-dancy computer models — which cost taxpayers $125 million for the last 3 years and are supposed to forecast political unrest — somehow failed to anticipate those same “events in the Middle East,” such as the huge demonstrations in Cairo which went on for almost 3 weeks and which succeeded in ousting a 30-year president dictator.
Way to go, CIA and Pentagon! Glad to know that, at a time when millions of Americans are unemployed and are on food stamps, taxpayers are pouring millions of dollars down rat holes.
~EowynPentagon’s Prediction Software Didn’t Spot Egypt Unrest

By Noah Shachtman – Wired – Feb 11, 2011 
In the last three years, America’s military and intelligence agencies have spent more than $125 million on computer models that are supposed to forecast political unrest. It’s the latest episode in Washington’s four-decade dalliance with future-spotting programs. But if any of these algorithms saw the upheaval in Egypt coming, the spooks and the generals are keeping the predictions very quiet.
Instead, the head of the CIA is getting hauled in front of Congress, making calls about Egypt’s future based on what he read in the press, and getting proven wrong hours later. Meanwhile, an array of Pentagon-backed social scientists, software engineers and computer modelers are working to assemble forecasting tools that are able to reliably pick up on geopolitical trends worldwide. It remains a distant goal.
All of our models are bad, some are less bad than others,” says Mark Abdollahian, a political scientist and executive at Sentia Group, which has built dozens of predictive models for government agencies. “We do better than human estimates, but not by much,” Abdollahian adds. “But think of this like Las Vegas. In blackjack, if you can do four percent better than the average, you’re making real money.” 
Over the past three years, the Office of the Secretary of Defense has handed out $90 million to more than 50 research labs to assemble some basic tools, theories and processes than might one day produce a more predictable prediction system. None are expected to result in the digital equivalent of crystal balls any time soon.
In the near term, Pentagon insiders say, the most promising forecasting effort comes out of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Laboratories in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. And even the results from this Darpa-funded Integrated Crisis Early Warning System (ICEWS) have been imperfect, at best. ICEWS modelers were able to forecast four of 16 rebellions, political upheavals and incidents of ethnic violence to the quarter in which they occurred. Nine of the 16 events were predicted within the year, according to a 2010 journal article [.pdf] from Sean O’Brien, ICEWS’ program manager at Darpa.
Darpa spent $38 million on the program, and is now working with Lockheed and the United States Pacific Command to make the model a more permanent component of the military’s planning process. There are no plans, at the moment, to use ICEWS for forecasting in the Middle East.
ICEWS is only the latest in a long, long series of prediction programs to come out of the Pentagon’s way-out research shop. Back in the early 1980s, products from a Darpa crisis-warning system program allegedly filled President Reagan’s daily intelligence briefing, with uncertain results. In the late ’80s, analyst Bruce Bueno de Mesquita began his modeling work. According to The New York Times Magazine, Bueno de Mesquita picked Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini’s successor five years ahead of time, and forecast Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s ouster — to the month.
One former CIA analyst claims that Bueno de Mesquita was “accurate 90 percent of the time.” It’s an assertion that no one — inside the government or out — has independently verified. Perhaps someone at the CIA really is relying on the model, and it really is that good. That hasn’t stopped the agency from swinging and missing for decades on Middle East intelligence estimates.
In 2002, the military’s National Defense University began tapping Abdollahian and his “Senturion predictive political simulation model” to forecast unfolding events in Iraq. According to Abdollahian, the model accurately predicted that Bush administration favorite Ahmed Chalabi would prove to be a lousy ally, and that both Sunni and Shi’ite insurgencies would grow to seriously challenge U.S. forces.
Both Abdollahian and Bueno de Mesquita take a similar approach to the prediction game. They interview lots and lots of experts about the key players in a given field. Then they program software agents to replicate the behavior of those players. Finally, they let the agents loose, to see what they’ll do next. The method is useful, but limited. For every new situation, the modelers have to interview new experts, and program new agents.
A second approach is to look at the big social, economic and demographic forces at work in a region — the average age, the degree of political freedom, the gross domestic product per capita — and predict accordingly. This “macro-structural” approach can be helpful in figuring out long-term trends, and forecasting general levels of instability; O’Brien relied on it heavily, when he worked for the Army. For spotting specific events, however, it’s not enough.
The third method is to read the news. Or rather, to have algorithms read it. There are plenty of programs now in place that can parse media reports, tease out who is doing what to whom, and then put it all into a database. Grab enough of this so-called “event data” about the past and present, the modelers say, and you can make calls about the future. Essentially, that’s the promise of Recorded Future, the web-scouring startup backed by the investment arms of Google and the CIA.
But, of course, news reports are notoriously spotty, especially from a conflict zone. It’s one of the reasons why physicist Sean Gourley’s much heralded, tidy-looking equation to explain the chaos of war failed to impress in military circles. Relying on media accounts, it was unable to forecast the outcome of the 2007 military surge in Iraq.
ICEWS is an attempt to combine all three approaches, and ground predictions in social science theory, not just best guesses. In a preliminary test, the program was fed event data about Pacific nations from 2004 and 2005. Then the software was asked to predict when and where insurrections, international crises and domestic unrest would occur. Correctly calling nine of 16 events within the year they happened was considered hot stuff in the modeling world.
But it doesn’t even meet the threshold that O’Brien, the Darpa program manager and long-time military social scientist, set for strong models. If “we cannot correctly predict over 90% of the cases with which our model is concerned,” he writes, “then we have little basis to assert our understanding of a phenomenon, never mind our ability to explain it.”

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After Egypt, 11 Dominoes May Fall

The overnight news from Egypt is that, despite President Hosni Mubarak’s concession to the rioters revolutionaries that he would step down, the unrest and violence are worsening. It appears pro-Mubarak people have been unleashed against the revolt and they are targeting western media. CNN’s Anderson Cooper was punched in the head yesterday and ABC’s Christiane Amanpour was surrounded by an angry mob who screamed “We hate Americans!”
The Egyptian unrest itself was inspired by what happened a week earlier in Tunisia where huge mobs, enraged by their political leaders’ corrupt lavish lifestyle, succeeded in overthrowing the regime.
Both Egypt and Tunisia share the same trigger factors of social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), rising food prices, and high unemployment, especially among the college educated. In political science literature, the latter is a classic feature of Third World revolutions.
Wall Street Cheatsheet has identified 11 countries that have the same trigger factors as Egypt and may be the next dominoes to fall.
H/t beloved Fellowship co-founder Steve.


violence escalates in Egypt

From “Your Cheat Sheet to the 11 Countries Which Could Follow Egypt’s Lead,” by Business Insider, Wall Street Cheatsheet, Feb 1, 2011:

  • Style of government: Constitutional Monarchy
  • Inflation: 2.6% year-over-year in December
  • Unemployment: Among graduates, 25%, Total rate at 9.1%
  • Social media: Very much a serious part of youth culture
  • Conclusion: Morocco’s government has already undergone democratic reforms, so any political pressure would likely be responded to in a similar manner, with more reforms. Those very reforms have been suggested by a government commission, so Morocco seems pretty safe at the moment, prepared to adjust if things get out of hand. 


  • Style of government: Constitutional monarchy, incorporating limited democracy
  • Inflation: Jordanian inflation up 6.1% year-over-year in December, 1.2% month-over-month
  • Unemployment: Around 14%
  • Social media: 38-39% of Jordanians have internet access
  • Conclusion: Jordan is already experiencing protests related to these factors. The government is responding by providing food and fuel subsidies. King Abdullah just sacked his government and appointed a new one with reforms priority number one. Whether the government moves fast enough to implement these reforms will be the deciding factor in the future size of protests and threat to the regime.


  • Style of government: Single party authoritarian, President Bashar al-Assad
  • Inflation: Government intends to take action to lower prices
  • Unemployment: 8.1% in 2009
  • Social media: Facebook still openly used by the public, searches for Egypt on computers, however, crash them.
  • Conclusion: The economic situation is not as dire in Syria as in other countries. The regime is, arguably, more ruthless than its Egyptian counterpart. The President believes his partnership with Iran and support for the Palestinian cause will keep him safe, and he’s already pushing for reforms. Syria’s state may be too powerful for the little protest movement developing to flourish.


  • Style of government: Absolute Monarchy
  • Inflation: Inflation at 5.4% in December, down from November
  • Unemployment: 10% in 2010
  • Social media: 3 million Saudi Arabians are on Facebook, with Twitter usage increasing quickly
  • Conclusion: Saudi Arabia has seen some small protests, but over the government response to flooding, not rising costs and unemployment. There are concerns on the streets that the country doesn’t have proper infrastructure and is recklessly spending its oil riches. The repressive regime is unlikely to fall under these smaller concerns, but its youth unemployment problem (42%) and religious minority (Shia) could eventually exert real pressure.

5. IRAN:

  • Style of government: Islamic Republic, with democratically elected representatives. Less than certain how “democratic” elections truly are. Ruled by Supreme Leader, who is a both religious and political leader.
  • Inflation: Inflation at 13.5% in early 2010, may be more than double that level
  • Unemployment: 14.6% as of August 
  • Social media: Significant penetration of both Twitter and Facebook. Government showed willingness to crackdown on use during previous protest movement.
  • Conclusion: Iran crushed its most recent protest movement. If inflation continues to rise, the sentiment may become more popular, and Egypt’s revolution could inspire Iranians back to the streets.


  • Style of government: Authoritarian, led by Muammar al-Gaddafi
  • Inflation: CPI up 2.654% in 2009
  • Unemployment: Highest unemployment rate in North Africa
  • Social media: The Muslim Brotherhood has a Facebook page. Unknown levels of internet penetration.
  • Conclusion: Libya would seem a good bet. It’s stuck between revolutionary Tunisia and Egypt. Its leader is regarded as an international eccentric. He wants his son to take over, and the public’s not pleased. Financial squalor is probably worse than estimated. Whether or not social media could assist is unknown, but Libya is a likely future front in the spillover.


  • Style of government: Presidential democracy, elections not entirely free
  • Inflation: No data of note, though likely higher that the 5.4% projection
  • Unemployment: 40%
  • Social media: 2.2 million internet users, population 23.4 million
  • Conclusion: Yemen has the deepest unemployment problem in the region, and likely a serious inflation problem too. There’s a large terrorist group in the country, as it is a headquarters for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Protests are already significant. There is a sincere liklihood of change here, or, and this might be worse, further radicalisation of the population.


  • Style of government: Democratic republic
  • Inflation: Over 15%
  • Unemployment: 14% in 2010 (estimate)
  • Social media: Heavy use, government has banned use over the depiction of Mohamed before.
  • Conclusion: Pakistan has a serious economic crisis, a weakness of state shown in recent flooding, confused positions over the U.S. and Taliban, as well as large anti-government, pro-Muslim fundamentalist forces. The potential for change is there. The biggest power source remains the military, however, and another coup, similar to the one that brought Musharaf to power, could occur.


  • Style of government: Authoritarian capitalism
  • Inflation: High inflation, including rising food costs
  • Unemployment: 6.5%
  • Social media: Blogs, Facebook, and other social media venues are prevalent
  • Conclusion: In Asia, Vietnam looks a likely candidate for protests, particularly if the economy slows down and unemployment increases. The economic trigger for a downturn would need to be pulled, however, before any change would take place.


  • Style of government: Authoritarian republic
  • Inflation: 27.2% in 2010
  • Unemployment: 8.1% in the first 10 months of 2010
  • Social media: It exists, and Chavez has a Twitter account.
  • Conclusion: The economic numbers scream change, but there’s no way to know whether or not Chavez has outstayed his welcome. The country hasn’t had the same, long-term oppressive experience as a country like Egypt. And its leadership still appeals to the anti-American sentiment held by the populace.

11. CHINA:

  • Style of government: Authoritarian
  • Inflation: China has a serious inflation problem, with food prices at the forefront.
  • Unemployment: 4.2% [official figure; real unofficial unemployment is much higher. -Eowyn]
  • Social media: Significant penetration, but government aggressively censors
  • Conclusion: China has all the ingredients except the big one: unemployment. Now, there’s no guarantee rural China won’t see an uprising related to soaring prices and high unemployment there, but it’s unlikely to be passed on to the country’s cities. It would take a massive economic downturn, like one created by a liquidity crisis leading to a banking crisis leading to a recession, to trigger an unemployment surge that would threaten the regime.

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Joint Chiefs of Staff React to Obama's SOTU

America is fighting two wars — in Afghanistan and supposedly winding down in Iraq. North Korea continues to be bellicose. China is a rising power with territorial ambitions in the East and South China Seas, holding $895.6 billion in U.S. treasury securities as of November 2010. Meanwhile, the Arabic world is in open rebellion — from Tunisia to Egypt, thousands are in the streets demanding regime change.
But Obama thinks this is precisely the right moment to play social engineering with the U.S. military.
Don’t you think that the Joint Chiefs of Staff know more about the military than this man-without-a-birth-certificate who has never served in the military, had never fought in a war, and who throws a ball like a girl?


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