Uprisings across Arab world pose dilemma for U.S. imperialism
Published Jan 31, 2011 10:46 PM
The revolutionary upheaval in Egypt has brought millions of workers, youth and
professionals into the streets to demand the removal of the U.S.-backed regime
of Hosni Mubarak. The potential looms for a total collapse of
Washington’s foreign policy in the region.
Egypt’s mass outpouring was inspired by the earlier mass demonstrations,
strikes and rebellions in Tunisia that drove longtime neocolonial puppet Zine
El Abidine Ben Ali to seek refuge in Saudi Arabia, another imperialist outpost
in the Arabian Peninsula.
In addition to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, significant mass actions
have protested the governments in Yemen and Jordan, where U.S. imperialism has
dominated the regimes as a key component of their so-called “war on
terrorism” against political Islam and against the masses of the region.
Obama administration officials have been scrambling to formulate and articulate
a coherent position on the rapidly developing situation where the people have
lost all fear of repression and retaliation from the client states of the
region and their U.S. benefactors.
President Barack Obama during his Jan. 25 “State of the Union”
address stated that the U.S. supported the democratic aspirations of the people
in Tunisia. Washington, however, has been a solid supporter of the ruling
Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) in Tunisia. The Obama administration
maintained its backing of Ben Ali until after he fled the country on Jan.
Regarding Egypt, the U.S. administration has refused to publicly call for
Mubarak’s removal as of Jan. 31. The April 6 Movement and other
opposition forces have called a general strike for Feb. 1. These groups said
that 1 million people will enter the streets around the country to demand the
immediate removal of Mubarak and his ruling National Democratic Party.
U.S. imperialist policy in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula has been
based on the shoring up of a number of neocolonial and autocratic regimes, as
well as giving full backing to the Israeli settler state. Now, with the failure
of this strategy, the ruling class inside the U.S. is debating what course of
action to take in order to maintain its economic and strategic interests in the
Economic impact of the uprisings
There is much at stake for the U.S., the European Union and Israel regarding
the political outcomes of the current crisis. Tunisia has been a source of
cheap agricultural products that are marketed in Europe and around the world.
Egypt, with its population of 80 million, borders the state of Israel and on
its territory is the Suez Canal, a gateway to the most important waterways
where vessels transport oil and other resources that are essential to the world
Already, as reported in the Jan. 31 MarketWatch, “European markets fell
on Jan. 31 as investors remained nervous about the growing unrest in Egypt,
with financial firms, travel companies and car makers posting some of the
MarketWatch’s Simon Kennedy also notes, “[The Jan. 31] retreat came
after worries about the situation in Egypt also had pulled Asian markets lower.
The main concern for markets is over what would happen if unrest spreads to
other countries, said Andy Lynch, European equity fund manager at
This same article continues: “Fears about the potential impact on oil
supplies pushed crude-oil prices sharply higher. Lynch said the protests could
also lead to policy changes in other countries. ‘The trigger point seems
to have been the rise in food prices.’”
These developments have placed additional pressure on the European currency,
the euro, which was artificially shored up in a bailout package in 2010 that
was prompted by the grave economic crises in Greece, Spain, Portugal and
Ireland. Also the lower-than-expected U.S. gross domestic product growth rate
of only 3.2 percent resulted in a decline in the stock market on Jan. 28 by 166
Even the New York Times (Jan. 31) admitted that the situation in Egypt could
further destabilize capitalist economies around the world. It quoted Nomura
Holdings Inc. as saying it “would expect regional markets to remain
unsettled because we don’t look any closer to a political resolution than
we did on Friday [Jan. 28]. Instability in the Middle East makes global markets
uncomfortable. We’ve entered a new and unpredictable phase of
transitioning governments in the Middle East.”
Imperialism seeks alternate strategy
Early on in Obama’s term, the president visited Egypt, where he delivered
a speech calling for a new approach to relations with the predominately Muslim
states in the region.
Nonetheless, the U.S. has continued its unconditional support of the state of
Israel and its upholding of the dictatorial regimes headed by puppets of the
U.S. and other imperialist countries. Conditions for the Palestinians in Gaza
have worsened, and the documents released by WikiLeaks on the role of the
Palestinian Authority have further confirmed the historic U.S. interference in
the internal affairs of the colonized peoples.
Even NATO member Turkey, a staunch U.S. military and political ally that
maintains diplomatic relations with Israel, has begun to criticize both the
Zionist state and Washington’s foreign policy in the region. In May 2010,
the Israeli Navy attacked an aid flotilla heading towards Gaza to provide
humanitarian assistance, resulting in the deaths of nine Turkish nationals, one
of whom was also a citizen of the U.S.
The Israeli government spoke out on Jan. 31 in support of the Mubarak regime,
which as a successor to the government of President Anwar Sadat (who was
assassinated in 1981 following his conciliation with Israel), negotiated a
separate peace deal with Tel Aviv that the masses throughout the region and the
world condemned. Israel fears that the coming to power of a new coalition
government in Egypt could result in the abrogation of the 1979 peace treaty and
the possible reopening of the border between the North African state and
In a recent commentary published in the Israeli daily Haaretz, Aluf Benn
stated, “Jimmy Carter will go down in American history as ‘the
president who lost Iran,’ which during his term went from being a major
strategic ally of the United States to being the revolutionary Islamic
Republic. Barack Obama will be remembered as the president who
‘lost’ Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, and during whose tenure
America’s alliances in the Middle East crumbled.” (Associated
Press, Jan. 31)
Demonstrators on the streets of Egypt have openly voiced anti-U.S. and
anti-Zionist sentiments that if put into practice in a new government of
national unity could result in a profound shift in the political and military
balance of forces in North Africa and throughout the Middle East.
U.S. workers and the oppressed
Such a shift could set the stage for an escalation of solidarity efforts in
support of the Palestinian people and other oppressed Arab populations within
the region. Public opinion within the U.S. has been largely shaped by the U.S.
corporate media and political culture, which has distorted the understanding of
the character of national and class oppression in the region as well as in
other majority Muslim states such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen,
Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Despite this lack of debate, more people within the U.S. have supported the
legitimate struggles for national independence and self-determination for the
Palestinians as well as the people of Lebanon and other neighboring states. A
majority of people in the U.S. oppose the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and
Pakistan and see no possibility for peace outside a total withdrawal of
military forces by the Pentagon and NATO.
Numerous demonstrations inside the U.S. and around the world have shown
solidarity with the people of Egypt and Tunisia. The upcoming anti-war
demonstrations on April 9-10 will inevitably be bolstered by the developing
revolutionary movements throughout North Africa and the Middle East.
Anti-imperialists and anti-war activists must incorporate slogans and programs
that support fundamental social change throughout North Africa and the Middle
East as well as in Central Asia and the Horn of Africa, especially those that
demand that the U.S. and the EU keep out. Moreover, the struggles waged by the
workers and youth in Egypt and Tunisia have direct relevance for the people of
the U.S., who are also facing high levels of unemployment, growing poverty,
cutbacks on public and social services and escalating state repression.
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