Two Bitter Anniversaries for Middle Eastern Democracy

Jan. 26 2016

Yesterday, writes Elliott Abrams, marked the anniversary of two major events in the recent history of the Middle East: the overthrow of the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and the electoral victory of Hamas in Gaza in 2005. Abrams draws some parallels, and some lessons.

In both cases high hopes were crushed. . . . Egypt today is more repressive than it was under Mubarak, and Palestine is divided between Gaza, ruled by Hamas without a scintilla of democratic practice, and the West Bank, ruled by Fatah just as it was when Yasir Arafat lived. . . .

[I]t is worth noting what the Egyptian picture has in common with the Palestinian one: the lack of strong democratic political parties. The Muslim Brotherhood won [the post-Mubarak election] in good part because it had weak competition, and it had weak competition because Mubarak for three decades made sure centrist or moderate (including moderate Islamist) parties could not be organized. Similarly, Hamas won in 2006 in good part because of the absence of alternatives. . . .

So . . . these fifth and tenth anniversaries are a reminder (among many other things) of the importance of building democratic political parties, or, put otherwise, of the impossibility of achieving democracy when no such parties exist. Efforts to promote democracy in Arab and other lands that count solely on NGOs and “civil society” will not succeed if this crucial ingredient—democratic political parties—are absent.

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Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Arab democracy, Egypt, Gaza, Hamas, Hosni Mubarak, Politics & Current Affairs

 

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela