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December 1, 2011- Iranian Set Backs, Egyptian Elections - History

December 1, 2011- Iranian Set Backs, Egyptian Elections - History


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December 1, 2011- Iranian Set Backs, Egyptian Elections

Developments in Iran have been coming at a fast and furious pace... Some good, some less so. Much remains unknown. First, the Iranians seem to have seriously miscalculated with their attack on the British Embassy in Teheran. The attack has fueled an unprecedented level of anger at Iran. Instead of deterring Eurpean countries from taking more action against Iran, it may well have had the opposite effect. The British and French have lobbied to get the EU to take very strong action against the Iranians at today’s EU meeting. While at least initially, they came away with only limited sanctions against Iran, there is clear sense that this may just be the first round.

Meanwhile, there are more and more reports that the Iranian reactor at Isfahan was seriously damaged in the explosion earlier this week. The Iranian reaction, through all of this, has been confused. This seems to reflect the fact that there is a serious split in the Iranian government. Iranian President Ahmedinejad has not been seen in public for over two weeks. There is even some speculation that he was either killed or wounded in the explosion at the missle base two weeks ago. This is probably only wishful thinking but...

While the official results of the Egyptian elections have not been released, all of the initial reports indicate that the Islamists have won a major victory. Polls show the Muslim Brotherhood winning over 40% of the vote; followed by the Safi’s (an even more fundamentalist Islamic group). The Safi have made their position clear, that in their thinking, democracy and Islam cannot coexist. They also oppose tourism, since they feel it corrupts the country.

I suppose anyone who looked at the demonstrations in Tahrir Square and was looking for Jeffersonian Democracy was engaging in wishful thinking. I guess if Israel looked mostly like Meir Shearim it would be no different. To that end, read Ari Shavit's article, it says it all Arab Spring Election Result:Allah Won


Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City, colloquially "the Met," [a] is the largest art museum in the United States. Its permanent collection contains over 2 million works, [1] divided among 17 curatorial departments. The main building at 1000 Fifth Avenue, along the Museum Mile on the eastern edge of Central Park in Manhattan's Upper East Side, is by area one of the world's largest art galleries. A much smaller second location, The Cloisters at Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan, contains an extensive collection of art, architecture, and artifacts from medieval Europe.

The museum's permanent collection consists of works of art from classical antiquity and ancient Egypt, paintings, and sculptures from nearly all the European masters, and an extensive collection of American and modern art. The Met maintains extensive holdings of African, Asian, Oceanian, Byzantine, and Islamic art. The museum is home to encyclopedic collections of musical instruments, costumes, and accessories, as well as antique weapons and armor from around the world. Several notable interiors, ranging from 1st-century Rome through modern American design, are installed in its galleries.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in 1870 to bring art and art education to the American people. The Fifth Avenue building opened on February 20, 1872, at 681 Fifth Avenue. In 2020, it was closed for 202 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and attracted only 1,124,759 visitors. This was a drop of 83 percent from 2019, but the Met still ranked ninth on the list of most-visited art museums in the world. [10]


Timeline: How the Arab Spring unfolded

Ten years ago, protests swept across Arab nations that changed the course of history.

On January 14, 2011, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali stepped down after weeks of protests, ending his 24-year rule.

What began as a protest by Mohamed Bouazizi – a fruit vendor who set himself on fire – the month before, sparked the period of unrest that unseated Ben Ali.

Protests and uprising were then witnessed across the region.

Al Jazeera takes a look at the turn of events that changed the course of history.

[Alia Chughtai/Al Jazeera] TUNISIA

December 2010

December 17: Jobless graduate Bouazizi died after setting himself on fire when police refused to let him operate his cart. The self-immolation, following WikiLeaks’s publication of US criticism of the government, provokes young Tunisians to protest.

December 29: After 10 days of demonstrations, President Ben Ali appears on television promising action on job creation, declaring the law will be very firm on protesters.

January 2011

January 9: Eleven people die in clashes with security forces. Protesters set fire to cars in several Tunisian cities, while security forces respond violently.

January 14: Ben Ali finally bows to the protests and flees to Saudi Arabia.

January 17: Tunisia’s Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announces the formation of an interim unity government that includes figures from the previous government. But protesters throng the streets to reject it.

February 2011

February 27 – Prime Minister Ghannouchi resigns.

March 9: Tunisian court rules the party of former President Ben Ali will be dissolved. The news is followed by street celebrations.

October 2011

October 23: Polls open nine months after Tunisians first took to the streets.

January 2012

January 14: Celebrations are witnessed in the capital to mark one year since the overthrow of Ben Ali.

January 2011

January 14: First reports of unrest in Libya. Muammar Gaddafi condemns the Tunisian uprising in a televised address.

January 16: Protests erupt in Benghazi after the arrest of human rights activists.

February 2011

February 20: The death toll passes 230 Gaddafi’s son addresses Libyan TV defending his father.

February 25: As uprising reaches the heart of Tripoli, protests erupt across the Middle East.

March 9: Gaddafi warns the imposition of a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace will be met with armed resistance.

March 18: The United Nations backs a no-fly zone.

March 19: Operation Odyssey Dawn begins, marking the biggest assault on an Arab government since the 2003 Iraq invasion.

March 23: Britain, France and the US agree NATO will take military command of Libya’s no-fly zone.

March 28: Rebels advance on Sirte, Gaddafi’s home city, recapturing several towns without resistance on the way.

April 15: US President Barrack Obama commits to military action until Gaddafi is removed.

April 25: Libyan government accuses NATO of trying to assassinate Gaddafi after two air raids in three days hit his premises in Tripoli.

May 1: The British embassy in Tripoli is set on fire and other Western missions ransacked in retaliation to NATO’s air raid.

August 2011

August 26: In its first Tripoli news conference, the National Transitional Council says its cabinet will move from Benghazi to the capital.

September 2011

September 8: While in hiding, Gaddafi issues a defiant message promising never to leave “the land of his ancestors”.

September 25: A mass grave containing 1,270 bodies is discovered in Tripoli.

October 2011

October 20: Cornered by rebel forces and pinned down by NATO air raids, Gaddafi is found hiding and killed.

October 25: Gaddafi’s burial alongside his son ends the controversy over the public displaying of his body.

November 2011

November 19: Celebrations as Gaddafi’s fugitive son Saif is arrested while attempting to flee to Niger.

November 20: All leading figures from the Gaddafi regime are killed, captured or driven into exile.

January 2011

January 17: A man sets fire to himself next to the Parliament building in Cairo to protest the country’s economic conditions.

January 25: The first coordinated demonstrations turn Cairo into a war zone as protesters demand the removal of President Hosni Mubarak.

January 28: After four days of protests and 25 deaths, Mubarak makes his first TV appearance, pledging his commitment to democracy. He sacks his government but refuses to step down.

January 31: The army declares itself allied to the protesters.

February 2011

February 1: Mubarak declares he will not run in the next election but will oversee the transition.

February 2: Mubarak supporters stage a brutal bid to crush the Cairo uprising. Using clubs, bats and knives, they start a bloody battle in Tahrir Square.

February 11: Mubarak resigns and hands power to the military.

February 13: The military rejects protesters’ demands for a swift transfer of power to a civilian administration.

August 2011

August 1: Bringing in the tanks, the army violently retakes Tahrir Square.

September 2011

September 27: The military regime announces parliamentary elections since Mubarak was overthrown. Protesters fear remnants of the old regime will stay in power.

October 2011

October 6: Supreme Council of the Armed Forces unveil plans that could see it retain power until 2013.

November 2011

November 13: Violence escalates as protests against the governing military government spread beyond Cairo and Alexandria.

November 21: The interim government bows to growing pressure as violence leaves 33 dead and more than 2,000 injured.

November 29: Egyptians vote in record numbers in the country’s first free ballot for more than 80 years.

November 30: The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party looks on course to be the biggest winner after the first round of voting.

December 2011

December 5: Egyptians go to the polls once more in runoff elections for parliamentary seats as no party gained more than 50 percent of the votes.

December 7: A new government is sworn in by Kamal Ganzouri, who was appointed prime minister by the military rulers.

May 23-24: Egyptians vote in the first round of the presidential election with Ahmed Shafik and Mohammed Morsi in the lead.

June 2: Former President Mubarak sentenced to life in prison by an Egyptian court.

June 24: Egypt’s election commission announces Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi wins Egypt’s presidential runoff.

February 2011

February 4: Several hundred Bahrainis gather in front of the Egyptian embassy in the capital Manama to express solidarity with anti-government protesters there.

February 14: “Day of Rage”: An estimated 6,000 people participate in demonstrations. Their demands include constitutional and political reform and socioeconomic justice.

February 17: “Bloody Thursday”: At about 3am local time, police clear the Pearl Roundabout of an estimated 1,500 people in tents. Three people are killed and more than 200 injured during the raid.

February 26: The king dismisses several ministers in an apparent move to appease the opposition.

March 1: An anti-government rally, called by seven opposition groups, sees tens of thousands of protesters taking part.

March 14: Saudi Arabia deploys troops and armoured vehicles into Bahrain to help quell the unrest.

March 15: Bahrain declares martial law.

March 18: The Pearl Monument – the focal point of the protest movement – is demolished.

March 27: Opposition party Al Wefaq accepts a Kuwaiti offer to mediate talks.

March 29: Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid ibn Ahmad Al Khalifah denies any Kuwaiti involvement.

SAUDI ARABIA

March 6: Authorities ban public protests after demonstrations by minority Shia groups.

September 2011

September 25: King Abdullah announces cautious reforms, including the right for women to vote and stand for election from 2015.

January 2011

January 24: Police arrest 19 opposition activists including Tawakil Karman, a female campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize winner, who called for the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

March 8: More than 2,000 inmates stage a revolt at a prison in the capital Sanaa and join calls by anti-government protesters for Saleh to step down.

March 10: Saleh’s pledge to create a parliamentary system of government is rejected by the opposition.

March 18: Forty-five people are killed after government forces open fire on protesters in Sanaa.

April 27: Security forces shoot at an anti-government demonstration, killing 12.

June 3: President Saleh survives an assassination attempt in which he is severely wounded.

September 2011

September 23: Saleh returns unexpectedly after three months of recovering in Saudi Arabia. He calls for a truce after five days of violence in Sanaa in which 100 protesters are killed.

September 25: Saleh calls for early elections in his first speech after returning to Yemen.

November 2011

November 23: Agreement for an immediate transfer of power pledges immunity for Saleh and his family.

December 2011

December 1: The political opposition and Saleh’s party agree to the makeup of an interim government.

February 2012

February 27: Saleh officially resigns and hands over powers to Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

March 15: Major unrest begins when protesters march in Damascus and Aleppo, demanding democratic reforms and the release of political prisoners. Rallies were triggered by the arrest of a teenage boy and his friends a few days earlier in the city of Deraa for graffiti denouncing President Bashar al-Assad.

April 9: Anti-government demonstrations spread across Syria. At least 22 are killed in Deraa.

April 25: Tanks are deployed for the first time.

April 28: Hundreds of governing Baath party members resign in protest as an increasingly bloody crackdown kills 500.

June 4: Security forces kill at least 100 protesters in two days of bloodshed.

July 25: The cabinet backs a draft law to allow rival political parties for the first time in decades.

January 2012

January 10: In a televised speech, President al-Assad says he will not stand down and promises to attack “terrorists” with an iron fist.

February 2012

February 3: The Syrian government launches an attack on the city of Homs.

April 16: The first truce in the battle of Aleppo is declared.

June 16: Iran sends 4,000 troops to aid Syrian government forces.

September 2015

September 30: Formal permission is granted by Russia’s upper house for air raids in Syria. Al-Assad asks President Vladimir Putin for military aid.

November 2015

November 24: Putin calls Turkey “accomplices of terrorists” and warns of “serious consequences” after a Turkish F-16 jet shoots down a Russian warplane.

March 2016
March 14: Putin announces the withdrawal of the majority of Russian troops from Syria, saying the intervention has largely achieved its objective.

January 2011

January 14: Protests begin with demands for Prime Minister Samir Rifai’s resignation in addition to economic reforms.

March 24: About 500 protesters set up camp in the main square in the capital Amman.

October 2011

October 7: Protests start again when former Prime Minister Ahmad Obeidat leads about 2,000 people in a march outside the Grand Husseini Mosque in central Amman. There were also marches in the cities of Karka, Tafileh, Maan, Jerash and Salt.

October 2012

October 5: Thousands protest hours after King Abdullah II dissolved Parliament and called early elections.

November 2012

November 13: Protests erupt nationwide in response to an increase in fuel prices and other basic goods announced by Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour.

December 2018

December 19: Hundreds protest in the northern city of Atbara against soaring bread prices. Demonstrations spurred by a broader economic crisis spread to Khartoum and other major cities.

April 11: The army overthrows President Omar al-Bashir, ending his 30 years in power. The generals announce two years of military rule followed by elections. Street celebrations turn into more demonstrations as hundreds of thousands demand handover to civilians.

June 3: Security forces raid a sit-in protest outside the defence ministry in Khartoum. Crowds flee in panic. In the days that follow, opposition-linked medics say more than 100 people were killed in the assault.

June 16: Al-Bashir appears in public for the first time since his overthrow as he is taken from prison to be charged with corruption-related offences. He has already been charged with incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters.

July 5: A military council and a coalition of opposition groups agree to share power for three years after mediation by Ethiopia and pressure from the African Union and world powers.

July 17: A political accord is signed that defines the transition’s institutions. Differences remain over the wording of a constitutional declaration.

July 29: At least four children and one adult are shot dead when security forces break up a student protest against fuel and bread shortages in the city of El-Obeid.


The New Middle East

There has been much debate surrounding the role of social media in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Though the movement that led to the ousting of President Husni Mubarak has been dubbed the “Facebook Revolution,” it is not the first time that foreign media has been quick to connect a social networking site with a popular uprising.

The 2009 Iranian protests were labeled the “Twitter Revolution,” and ever since there are those who are adamant that social media is a vital instrument for mobilizing the masses while others argue that social media is just a new means of communication in a history of popular uprisings that fared quite well without these new technological innovations.

While social media is not necessary for organizing revolutions it served three important functions leading up to the Egyptian Revolution. It aided in building a politically conscious civil society over the course of a number of years prior to the Revolution, it lowered the threshold for engaging in political dissent by providing a relatively anonymous space for political debate in a country that outlaws gatherings of five or more people, and it allowed organizers to plan protests more easily and anonymously.

One of the first scholars to coin the term “cyber-resistance” in the context of Middle Eastern social movements was Mamoun Fandy. As far back as 1999, Fandy identified that Saudi opposition movements, such as the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (MIRA), were using the internet as a tool for circumventing the ever watchful eyes of the oppressive regime.

Fandy found that the internet offered both opposition groups and the state an intermediate space where they were able to disseminate information in a virtual space that was beyond limited conceptual and physical spaces. The internet provided “a new space for airing grievances with minimal risk.” By emailing opposition newsletters and information throughout the Kingdom, MIRA was able to promote its cause without the physical risk of going out into the streets in protest or holding illegal meetings that could be shut down by the authorities.

Critics might argue that there was little difference between the use of email and the more traditional method of distributing cassette tapes by anti-regime clerics, but the novelty was that by using email, information could be disseminated simultaneously and immediately to a large number of people simply with a click of the mouse.

Other than the work of Fandy and a few others, there was little written about the use of social networking in political protest movements for quite a while. While the media began to latch on to the importance of social networking after Facebook and Twitter helped rally the youth vote in the 2008 American presidential elections, it was during the protests following the 2009 Iranian presidential elections that social networking sites were deemed such a central tool in mobilizing the masses that the uprising was labeled by many as the “Twitter Revolution.”

Within the Iranian context, Twitter was used to organize protests and disseminate information. According to Time magazine, Twitter was the medium of the movement because it was easy for average citizens to use but difficult for government authorities to control. The purpose of Twitter is for news to spread and spread fast, which makes it an ideal method for organizing a mass protest. Even when the government attempted to block Twitter, proxy servers were set up to allow Twitter content into Iran through network addresses that had not been blocked.

In June 2009 the U.S. State Department reached out to Twitter and asked the company to delay its planned upgrades so that Iranian protesters using the social networking site would be protected and would have access to it as a means of communication. This request by the U.S. government highlights the importance of sites such as Twitter and Facebook not only for casual social networking but also as a political instrument, a fact that governments both promoting democratic initiatives and attempting to maintain authoritarian rule are beginning to recognize.

Just as soon as the media began to proclaim that social networking was pivotal for mass mobilization in the Iranian uprisings, others began to question how important these sites really were and claimed that their centrality was overstated. Throughout history, protests against oppressive regimes occurred without the use of social networking sites. People still managed to organize and amass large crowds virtually overnight before the advent of Twitter, including during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Wasn’t Twitter just a new way of doing the same old thing?

The debate over the importance of social networking continued during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Just as the Iranian protests had been labeled the Twitter Revolution, the foreign press was quick to cast the Egyptian uprising as the Facebook Revolution. However, as quickly as the name caught on, it was called into question on January 27, 2011 when the Egyptian government took the unprecedented step of shutting down all internet service in the country.

In addition to the Internet blackout, a large number of Egyptians lost mobile service. Despite the unanticipated loss of virtually all modern technological means of communication, protest organizers were able to bring out larger crowds than ever using flyers and leaflets, word of mouth, and mosques as centers for congregation.

If protest organizers were still able to amass large crowds in such a short period of time without the use of social networking then why bother to call it a Facebook Revolution at all?

The importance of Facebook in the Egyptian Revolution lies in the events leading up to the Revolution. Revolutions are not usually spontaneous events. While outsiders may not anticipate the uprising until it occurs, revolutions often take careful planning and slowly unfold over a long period of time.

In 2008, the April 6 Youth Movement used Facebook and YouTube to organize a nationwide strike in support of workers in al-Mahalla al-Kubra. During the strikes citizen journalists used Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr to report on strikes and draw attention to their cause. By 2009 a New York Times article reported that the April 6 Youth Movement Facebook group had 70,000 members, mostly young educated Egyptians who were novices to the political scene.

The group members’ primary political grievances have centered on free speech, government nepotism, and economic stagnation. In addition to followers using the Facebook page as a public forum for political discussion, the organizers of the April 6 Youth Movement are able to post politically relevant news articles and videos to their wall and send out messages to followers providing political updates, accurate information, and news about upcoming events and protests.

In terms of bringing people off the web and into the streets, it has been a place for debating and planning protests and calling followers to engage in political activism. In a relatively closed society with government controlled media, the Movement was able to use Facebook as a tool for developing a young, politically informed civil society. Social media, in this case Facebook, lowers the threshold for political participation in countries ruled by authoritarian or closed regimes. While individuals’ private preferences may be in favor of regime change, the risks to one’s safety are often too large to publicly display such preferences.

The Internet provides a greater degree of anonymity where citizens can express their political ideas with less fear of reprisal. It also allows groups to circumvent the Egyptian Emergency Law that criminalizes the assembly of 5 or more people in a gathering that could "threaten public order." Facebook allows citizens from different areas of the country, who might otherwise never meet, to share political views and realize that they are not alone in their feelings of opposition to the regime. In short, Facebook aids in the development of civil society, particularly in countries where open political opposition is often curbed by force.

The April 6 Youth Movement is not the only group to use social media to reach the Egyptian masses. We are all Khalid Said, founded by Google executive Wael Ghonim as both a Facebook page and blog, was created in response to the death of twenty-eight year old political blogger Khalid Said at the hands of Egyptian police in Alexandria after Said posted a video on his blog exposing police corruption.

The purpose of the pages was to end torture in Egypt by exposing the brutality of the Egyptian regime. Posting graphic pictures and videos and providing information on Egyptian torture, the pages outraged many Egyptians and in 2010 more than 11,000 people heeded the call for silent protests in Cairo, Alexandria, and across Egypt against Khalid Said’s death. These protests were organized on the "We are all Khalid Said" Facebook page. We are all Khalid Said has become the largest Egyptian dissident page, attracting over one hundred thousand followers, who again came out in protest during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.

In addition to the April 6 Youth Movement and We are all Khalid Said, other groups such as Kifaya, a grassroots coalition that opposed Husni Mubarak’s presidency, began using social networking to organize protests against the regime in 2004, close to the time of the 2005 presidential elections.

There have been numerous smaller political pages that have popped up around the country from Suez to Port Said. However, it is not only the number of followers that a page has that is so important in forming a revolution. If one looks solely at the development of a politically conscious civil society, then the number of followers is a good measure of political activity.

However, the Egyptian Revolution began on January 25, 2011 as an interaction between smaller organized groups, such as the April 6 Youth Movement, We are all Khalid Said, Justice and Freedom, Muslim Brotherhood youth, ElBaradei's campaign, The Popular Democratic Movement for Change (HASHD), and The Democratic Front, and a larger mass of disorganized, everyday citizens with economic grievances.

Though small, the organizing groups were clearly effective in bringing people to the streets who had never engaged in political activity a day in their lives. While organizers did meet in person, social media was sometimes a safer way to interact and plan. In protests organized in the years preceding the revolution, oftentimes organizers would never meet in person, conducting all planning and coordinating through Facebook.

While there will remain skeptics who feel that the role of social media leading up to the Egyptian Revolution has been overstated, one thing is certain. If one logs onto Facebook today, there are more Egyptians than ever before using the site to discuss the constitutional referendum, the role of the military, and a host of politically pressing issues. It appears that at least in the near future, Facebook will provide one of the primary forums for Egyptian youth’s political debates.


America’s Second Chance and the Arab Spring

Egyptians went to the polls en masse on Nov. 28 and Nov. 29 to vote in the closest thing that any of them has ever seen to real elections. Although the final word is not in — either regarding the results or the integrity of the elections — early reports suggest that the vote was mostly fair and free.

But Egypt is still a long way from stable, functional democracy. As Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon have demonstrated again and again, elections do not equal democracy. Egypt’s Islamists — who appear to have garnered as much as 65 percent of the vote — will dominate the new parliament regardless of the role they play in the new Egyptian government, and we do not yet know whether they will wield that power responsibly. Egypt’s armed forces remain the most powerful force in the country by far, and they have shown a Hamlet-like ambivalence — demonstrating an ardent desire to surrender power to a new civilian government and a similar determination to preserve their own prerogatives from the era of Egyptian autocracy.

The strong showing of Salafi movements, which appear to have captured approximately a quarter of votes, was the surprise of this round of elections. These Sunni extremists are growing in number and, if the system begins to break down, might try to seize control of the government like modern-day Bolsheviks. Some of Egypt’s most popular leaders are dangerous demagogues who could plunge the country into all manner of problems. Democracy is a long road, with many perilous intersections, and Egypt has barely started on its way. What’s more, Egypt will likely require considerable political, military, and even economic support from the United States and the rest of the world if it is to make that critical, dangerous, transition successfully.

What is true for Egypt today is even truer for the wider Middle East. The events that began in Tunisia in December 2010 — and spread to Egypt and then Libya, Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain, Syria, and beyond — shook the political, social, and intellectual foundations of the Middle East. The tremors can still be felt, and no one is quite certain when the aftershocks will end, or when another wave of popular unrest might occur. In some countries, like Egypt and Tunisia, and perhaps Morocco, Libya and Jordan, a move toward real democracy has started. That is difficult enough, but the situation is even more dire in countries such as Syria and Bahrain, where old elites are fighting the popular forces of change with all of their might.

Between these countries lies a dozen other Arab states, where both the unrest and the government responses have been more limited. However, there is no reason to believe that they will remain untouched by the forces of the great Arab Awakening forever, or even for very long. Change is coming to the Middle East, but the ultimate result of that change is impossible to discern.

Unfortunately, the United States does not have the luxury of waiting around to see how things play out and then make sense of what has occurred. Although the shock of the initial events of the Arab Spring has ebbed, many of the miseries that gave rise to it persist and remain compelling motives for many people across the region. For that reason, the storm of unrest that spread from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf may have subsided, at least in some parts of the region, but its story has just begun.

Whether we like it or not, the changes sweeping the Middle East will affect America’s vital national interests as well. We hate to admit it, but we must face the fact that our economy — and the economy of the wider world, with which we are inextricably intertwined — is addicted to oil. And the price of oil, and thus the welfare of our economy and that of the rest of the world, is deeply affected by what happens in the Middle East.

We may want to turn inward and concentrate on setting our own house aright — to focus on nation-building at home, as President Barack Obama put it — but we cannot afford to ignore the events of the Middle East. The Middle East is not Las Vegas: what happens there, does not stay there.

Elements of a New American Middle East Strategy

In the wake of the earth-shaking events of the past year, and to secure U.S. interests in that part of the world, what U.S. policymakers must do is easily said, but hard to do. Indeed, Americans have determinedly resisted doing it for decades. But now that the events of 2011 have revealed the world as it truly is, and not as Americans have tried to insist that it was, perhaps the United States can finally commit itself to doing them.

To this end, the United States must embrace a long-term commitment to help the countries of the Middle East pursue a process of political, economic, and social transformation. This process should grow from within, rather than be imposed from without. It should reflect the values, traditions, history, and aspirations of the people of the region themselves, not a Western best guess at them. And it should also recognize that change and stability are not mutually exclusive, but mutually reinforcing — and ultimately mutually essential. This will be a difficult course to pursue, but it is ultimately the only good path to follow.

While it is unquestionably true that the people of the Middle East want to secure their own futures, it is also true that they want to know that the United States supports them and will help them when they ask for assistance. Many suspect that the United States still backs the region’s moribund and repressive regimes. For all of them, the United States must articulate and consistently hew to a new strategy that supports transformation in the Middle East.

But the message is equally important for the extant rulers themselves. Some hope simply to withstand the popular furor and, when passions have cooled, go back to the way things were. If they are going to be brought around to making more meaningful change, they need to understand that this is unacceptable to Washington and will place them squarely at odds with what will become a new, long-term American strategy toward the region.

Other Arab leaders fear that the United States will define its interest in change in such a way that will set the old political elite at odds with Washington. For them, the United States needs to articulate a vision of change that is compatible with their own interests (broadly defined), and that lays out a path forward that they could be persuaded to tread, even if grudgingly at first.

Saudi Arabia is clearly paramount in this area. King Abdullah himself appears to recognize the need for change within his oil-rich kingdom, and has begun a number of initiatives to overhaul the Saudi educational, economic, judicial, and social systems, although Riyadh has been notably slower to introduce reforms in the political sphere. Despite this, the Saudis clearly fear that the Obama administration now plans to throw its support behind revolutionary regime change across the region — something very frightening to the Saudi ruling family, both in terms of what they believe it would mean for themselves and for their allies. To some extent, they even fear that the United States will go so overboard in embracing transformation that it will forget traditional threats like Iran, and will decide that countries that are not reforming at revolutionary speeds should become the principal target of American pressure instead.

For Riyadh in particular, then, it is vital for the United States to develop a new strategic narrative that paints developments in the region and the future of U.S. policy toward it in terms that are compatible with Saudi interests and fears, and that indicate how the United States will adjust to the changes sweeping the region, continue to address traditional threats like Iran and Salafist terrorism, and will do both in ways that Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies can accept — even if reluctantly.

The United States should define the new regional struggle as one based on internal politics and the aspirations of the people of the region. It should accept that the region is now clearly divided. On one side are the states that have acknowledged the desires of their people for a better future and are taking concrete steps to improve their peoples’ lives. On the other side are the states that are not, and are employing the failed methods of the old Middle East: repression, violence, fear, totalitarian control over information and expression, and the creation of internal or external scapegoats on which to blame their problems — all to deny their people the better future they dream of.

Not accidentally, such a framework places the new Egypt, the new Tunisia, the new Libya, and hopefully the new Iraq squarely in the camp of those states in which such a change has begun, even despite the challenges that beset them. Despite their daunting problems, all are trying to democratize, all are responding to the desires of their people for better lives, more or less. It also places Iran, Syria, and groups like Hezbollah — which is slowly gaining control over Lebanon — in the camp of those states decidedly on the wrong side of history. In so doing, it should rally popular support for Egypt, Iraq, Libya, and Tunisia and further alienate Iran and Syria from Arab public opinion. Indeed, recent public opinion polls demonstrate that this is already happening: Iran is no longer viewed by the Arab public as championing resistance to the old status quo, and is instead viewed as supporting its repressive clients in Syria and Lebanon and practicing similarly autocratic policies at home.

This strategic framework places a number of other countries exactly where they need to be — right in the middle. Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain, Algeria, and others have in the past made mostly half-hearted forays at reform. The United States should convey that it wants to help them move into the first camp. Indeed, all of them have been frightened by the waves of unrest, and this ought to serve as an important motivation to adopt meaningful change. An American willingness to help, if not push, such change should also keep them on the straight path and bring them more fully into the progressive camp farther down the road.

Reconciling Ends and Means

But can the United States actually affect this kind of change? It is clear that, today, the country faces very significant financial problems. Although the foreign aid budget had virtually nothing to do with those problems, the issue of spending cannot be ignored. Today, every nickel the U.S. government spends will be scrutinized, and there is little stomach for disbursing large amounts of new aid.

Part of the answer to this problem is that the United States can and should emphasize providing assistance to Middle Eastern states that costs little or nothing at all. To some countries, the United States can provide technology and know-how at little cost. Another thrifty way to help the Arab states is with diplomatic assistance — from mobilizing NGOs and inclusive civil society to creating new international institutions, to addressing troublesome international issues. Some assistance can and should come in the form of military aid, such as maintaining training programs with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and other states, and building a similar relationship with Libya. In most cases, such military assistance could employ forces that already exist, and much could be paid for by the governments themselves. The new Libyan government, for example, might use frozen Libyan assets to pay for U.S. arms and training for new security services and police.

But some commitment of U.S. resources will inevitably be warranted and required to push forward the changes occurring in the Middle East. Even small new aid packages could have an outsized impact on countries struggling to change, especially when they form the kernel of larger packages from U.S. allies and international organizations. Moreover, it is vital to remember the optics of U.S. policy at this crucial juncture: The people of the Arab world believe that the United States gave generously to the bad old regimes. If Washington were to suddenly cut its assistance to the Middle East precisely when the people of the region rose up and threw off their autocratic shackles, they will conclude — now, and for a very long time to come — that the United States was only interested in supporting repressive autocrats that did their bidding and had no real interest in helping the Arab people themselves.

Wasthington cannot lose sight of the importance of the changes that have now begun in the Middle East as a result of the Arab Spring. They are too important to the vital national interest to allow a few billion dollars — an insignificant fraction of the total U.S. budget, let alone the national debt — to become the difference between success and failure.

Throughout the Cold War and over the past 20 to 30 years, the United States has seen the Middle East largely through the traditional lens of political power. It was the governments of the region that mattered, and conflicts between states that posed the greatest threat (even if those conflicts manifested themselves in competing attempts at internal subversion). Because the United States had allied itself with those states that largely benefited from the prevailing geopolitical arrangements, Americans saw the status quo as highly beneficial and any threat to it as correspondingly dangerous. Our great Arab allies — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Morocco — all liked things the way they were. The United States — intent on ensuring that the oil flowed and that Arab states were officially or unofficially at peace with Israel — also liked the way things were. Even Israel, after its victories in 1967 and 1973 and its failed attempt to rearrange the Levantine status quo in its favor in 1982, had itself become a status quo power.

Consequently, the United States became the great champion of the status quo in the Middle East and defined its adversaries — Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Libya (until 2004) — as those states seeking to overturn the status quo. In some sense this was correct, because those states were attempting to subvert the prevailing geostrategic realities to create new ones, centered on their own interests.

The great problem inherent in this construct was that the people of the Middle East saw the preservation of the status quo as condemning them to eternal misery. Maintaining the status quo against all foreign and domestic threats meant keeping the people of the Arab world down. It meant preserving the stagnant economic, social, and political systems of the region that were the source of their frustration. Thus preserving the status quo meant dismissing the aspirations of the people of the Middle East.

This, more than anything else, is why so many Arabs admired Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and even Osama bin Laden. They, at least, seemed to be fighting for change — for overturning the status quo. And although most Arabs did not like what they stood for, they loved what they stood against — the traditional order that oppressed them.

Because the United States supported the traditional order for geopolitical reasons, this also put it on the wrong side of Arab public opinion. Washington’s support for the status quo was based on its focus on the region’s geopolitical dynamics, but for the people of the Middle East, whose central concern was the region’s stagnant economies and callous autocracies, that same defense of the status quo became a defense of their oppressors. It was a principal (albeit not the only) cause of the region’s pervasive anti-Americanism.

Today, this strategy is categorically the wrong one for the United States to pursue, if it ever was the right one. More than anything else, the great Arab Awakening has meant that the people of the region can no longer be dismissed. After the wave of popular upheavals that rolled across the region in 2011, no Arab or external government can ever again afford to ignore the wishes of its people.

The old status quo is gone. Parts of it might be preserved for some time in some places, but it will never be re-created. The only wise path that the United States can take at this point is to accept that change is coming to the region, and to help the people of the region shape that change to their ends. If the United States comes to be seen as a willing partner of the Arab peoples in their quest to build a new kind of Middle East, then over time, we might find a new status quo emerge — one that is truly peaceful and prosperous, and therefore stable. And if the United States helps in that effort, perhaps it, too, can be transformed, from the most hated and feared foreign power to one of the most beloved.

Certainly, Washington has nothing to lose. The strategy of the past condemned it to endless crises and conflicts in the Middle East, consuming more and more blood, treasure, and time as the years passed. And for what? In return, the United States reaped a volatile oil market and worsening anti-Americanism. It was not a very good deal. The Arab Awakening has offered the United States a second chance. It represents a new opportunity to remake America in Middle Eastern eyes, and become the country it imagines itself to be.

Egyptians went to the polls en masse on Nov. 28 and Nov. 29 to vote in the closest thing that any of them has ever seen to real elections. Although the final word is not in — either regarding the results or the integrity of the elections — early reports suggest that the vote was mostly fair and free.

But Egypt is still a long way from stable, functional democracy. As Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon have demonstrated again and again, elections do not equal democracy. Egypt’s Islamists — who appear to have garnered as much as 65 percent of the vote — will dominate the new parliament regardless of the role they play in the new Egyptian government, and we do not yet know whether they will wield that power responsibly. Egypt’s armed forces remain the most powerful force in the country by far, and they have shown a Hamlet-like ambivalence — demonstrating an ardent desire to surrender power to a new civilian government and a similar determination to preserve their own prerogatives from the era of Egyptian autocracy.

The strong showing of Salafi movements, which appear to have captured approximately a quarter of votes, was the surprise of this round of elections. These Sunni extremists are growing in number and, if the system begins to break down, might try to seize control of the government like modern-day Bolsheviks. Some of Egypt’s most popular leaders are dangerous demagogues who could plunge the country into all manner of problems. Democracy is a long road, with many perilous intersections, and Egypt has barely started on its way. What’s more, Egypt will likely require considerable political, military, and even economic support from the United States and the rest of the world if it is to make that critical, dangerous, transition successfully.

What is true for Egypt today is even truer for the wider Middle East. The events that began in Tunisia in December 2010 — and spread to Egypt and then Libya, Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain, Syria, and beyond — shook the political, social, and intellectual foundations of the Middle East. The tremors can still be felt, and no one is quite certain when the aftershocks will end, or when another wave of popular unrest might occur. In some countries, like Egypt and Tunisia, and perhaps Morocco, Libya and Jordan, a move toward real democracy has started. That is difficult enough, but the situation is even more dire in countries such as Syria and Bahrain, where old elites are fighting the popular forces of change with all of their might.

Between these countries lies a dozen other Arab states, where both the unrest and the government responses have been more limited. However, there is no reason to believe that they will remain untouched by the forces of the great Arab Awakening forever, or even for very long. Change is coming to the Middle East, but the ultimate result of that change is impossible to discern.

Unfortunately, the United States does not have the luxury of waiting around to see how things play out and then make sense of what has occurred. Although the shock of the initial events of the Arab Spring has ebbed, many of the miseries that gave rise to it persist and remain compelling motives for many people across the region. For that reason, the storm of unrest that spread from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf may have subsided, at least in some parts of the region, but its story has just begun.

Whether we like it or not, the changes sweeping the Middle East will affect America’s vital national interests as well. We hate to admit it, but we must face the fact that our economy — and the economy of the wider world, with which we are inextricably intertwined — is addicted to oil. And the price of oil, and thus the welfare of our economy and that of the rest of the world, is deeply affected by what happens in the Middle East.

We may want to turn inward and concentrate on setting our own house aright — to focus on nation-building at home, as President Barack Obama put it — but we cannot afford to ignore the events of the Middle East. The Middle East is not Las Vegas: what happens there, does not stay there.

Elements of a New American Middle East Strategy

In the wake of the earth-shaking events of the past year, and to secure U.S. interests in that part of the world, what U.S. policymakers must do is easily said, but hard to do. Indeed, Americans have determinedly resisted doing it for decades. But now that the events of 2011 have revealed the world as it truly is, and not as Americans have tried to insist that it was, perhaps the United States can finally commit itself to doing them.

To this end, the United States must embrace a long-term commitment to help the countries of the Middle East pursue a process of political, economic, and social transformation. This process should grow from within, rather than be imposed from without. It should reflect the values, traditions, history, and aspirations of the people of the region themselves, not a Western best guess at them. And it should also recognize that change and stability are not mutually exclusive, but mutually reinforcing — and ultimately mutually essential. This will be a difficult course to pursue, but it is ultimately the only good path to follow.

While it is unquestionably true that the people of the Middle East want to secure their own futures, it is also true that they want to know that the United States supports them and will help them when they ask for assistance. Many suspect that the United States still backs the region’s moribund and repressive regimes. For all of them, the United States must articulate and consistently hew to a new strategy that supports transformation in the Middle East.

But the message is equally important for the extant rulers themselves. Some hope simply to withstand the popular furor and, when passions have cooled, go back to the way things were. If they are going to be brought around to making more meaningful change, they need to understand that this is unacceptable to Washington and will place them squarely at odds with what will become a new, long-term American strategy toward the region.

Other Arab leaders fear that the United States will define its interest in change in such a way that will set the old political elite at odds with Washington. For them, the United States needs to articulate a vision of change that is compatible with their own interests (broadly defined), and that lays out a path forward that they could be persuaded to tread, even if grudgingly at first.

Saudi Arabia is clearly paramount in this area. King Abdullah himself appears to recognize the need for change within his oil-rich kingdom, and has begun a number of initiatives to overhaul the Saudi educational, economic, judicial, and social systems, although Riyadh has been notably slower to introduce reforms in the political sphere. Despite this, the Saudis clearly fear that the Obama administration now plans to throw its support behind revolutionary regime change across the region — something very frightening to the Saudi ruling family, both in terms of what they believe it would mean for themselves and for their allies. To some extent, they even fear that the United States will go so overboard in embracing transformation that it will forget traditional threats like Iran, and will decide that countries that are not reforming at revolutionary speeds should become the principal target of American pressure instead.

For Riyadh in particular, then, it is vital for the United States to develop a new strategic narrative that paints developments in the region and the future of U.S. policy toward it in terms that are compatible with Saudi interests and fears, and that indicate how the United States will adjust to the changes sweeping the region, continue to address traditional threats like Iran and Salafist terrorism, and will do both in ways that Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies can accept — even if reluctantly.

The United States should define the new regional struggle as one based on internal politics and the aspirations of the people of the region. It should accept that the region is now clearly divided. On one side are the states that have acknowledged the desires of their people for a better future and are taking concrete steps to improve their peoples’ lives. On the other side are the states that are not, and are employing the failed methods of the old Middle East: repression, violence, fear, totalitarian control over information and expression, and the creation of internal or external scapegoats on which to blame their problems — all to deny their people the better future they dream of.

Not accidentally, such a framework places the new Egypt, the new Tunisia, the new Libya, and hopefully the new Iraq squarely in the camp of those states in which such a change has begun, even despite the challenges that beset them. Despite their daunting problems, all are trying to democratize, all are responding to the desires of their people for better lives, more or less. It also places Iran, Syria, and groups like Hezbollah — which is slowly gaining control over Lebanon — in the camp of those states decidedly on the wrong side of history. In so doing, it should rally popular support for Egypt, Iraq, Libya, and Tunisia and further alienate Iran and Syria from Arab public opinion. Indeed, recent public opinion polls demonstrate that this is already happening: Iran is no longer viewed by the Arab public as championing resistance to the old status quo, and is instead viewed as supporting its repressive clients in Syria and Lebanon and practicing similarly autocratic policies at home.

This strategic framework places a number of other countries exactly where they need to be — right in the middle. Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain, Algeria, and others have in the past made mostly half-hearted forays at reform. The United States should convey that it wants to help them move into the first camp. Indeed, all of them have been frightened by the waves of unrest, and this ought to serve as an important motivation to adopt meaningful change. An American willingness to help, if not push, such change should also keep them on the straight path and bring them more fully into the progressive camp farther down the road.

Reconciling Ends and Means

But can the United States actually affect this kind of change? It is clear that, today, the country faces very significant financial problems. Although the foreign aid budget had virtually nothing to do with those problems, the issue of spending cannot be ignored. Today, every nickel the U.S. government spends will be scrutinized, and there is little stomach for disbursing large amounts of new aid.

Part of the answer to this problem is that the United States can and should emphasize providing assistance to Middle Eastern states that costs little or nothing at all. To some countries, the United States can provide technology and know-how at little cost. Another thrifty way to help the Arab states is with diplomatic assistance — from mobilizing NGOs and inclusive civil society to creating new international institutions, to addressing troublesome international issues. Some assistance can and should come in the form of military aid, such as maintaining training programs with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and other states, and building a similar relationship with Libya. In most cases, such military assistance could employ forces that already exist, and much could be paid for by the governments themselves. The new Libyan government, for example, might use frozen Libyan assets to pay for U.S. arms and training for new security services and police.

But some commitment of U.S. resources will inevitably be warranted and required to push forward the changes occurring in the Middle East. Even small new aid packages could have an outsized impact on countries struggling to change, especially when they form the kernel of larger packages from U.S. allies and international organizations. Moreover, it is vital to remember the optics of U.S. policy at this crucial juncture: The people of the Arab world believe that the United States gave generously to the bad old regimes. If Washington were to suddenly cut its assistance to the Middle East precisely when the people of the region rose up and threw off their autocratic shackles, they will conclude — now, and for a very long time to come — that the United States was only interested in supporting repressive autocrats that did their bidding and had no real interest in helping the Arab people themselves.

Wasthington cannot lose sight of the importance of the changes that have now begun in the Middle East as a result of the Arab Spring. They are too important to the vital national interest to allow a few billion dollars — an insignificant fraction of the total U.S. budget, let alone the national debt — to become the difference between success and failure.

Throughout the Cold War and over the past 20 to 30 years, the United States has seen the Middle East largely through the traditional lens of political power. It was the governments of the region that mattered, and conflicts between states that posed the greatest threat (even if those conflicts manifested themselves in competing attempts at internal subversion). Because the United States had allied itself with those states that largely benefited from the prevailing geopolitical arrangements, Americans saw the status quo as highly beneficial and any threat to it as correspondingly dangerous. Our great Arab allies — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Morocco — all liked things the way they were. The United States — intent on ensuring that the oil flowed and that Arab states were officially or unofficially at peace with Israel — also liked the way things were. Even Israel, after its victories in 1967 and 1973 and its failed attempt to rearrange the Levantine status quo in its favor in 1982, had itself become a status quo power.

Consequently, the United States became the great champion of the status quo in the Middle East and defined its adversaries — Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Libya (until 2004) — as those states seeking to overturn the status quo. In some sense this was correct, because those states were attempting to subvert the prevailing geostrategic realities to create new ones, centered on their own interests.

The great problem inherent in this construct was that the people of the Middle East saw the preservation of the status quo as condemning them to eternal misery. Maintaining the status quo against all foreign and domestic threats meant keeping the people of the Arab world down. It meant preserving the stagnant economic, social, and political systems of the region that were the source of their frustration. Thus preserving the status quo meant dismissing the aspirations of the people of the Middle East.

This, more than anything else, is why so many Arabs admired Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and even Osama bin Laden. They, at least, seemed to be fighting for change — for overturning the status quo. And although most Arabs did not like what they stood for, they loved what they stood against — the traditional order that oppressed them.

Because the United States supported the traditional order for geopolitical reasons, this also put it on the wrong side of Arab public opinion. Washington’s support for the status quo was based on its focus on the region’s geopolitical dynamics, but for the people of the Middle East, whose central concern was the region’s stagnant economies and callous autocracies, that same defense of the status quo became a defense of their oppressors. It was a principal (albeit not the only) cause of the region’s pervasive anti-Americanism.

Today, this strategy is categorically the wrong one for the United States to pursue, if it ever was the right one. More than anything else, the great Arab Awakening has meant that the people of the region can no longer be dismissed. After the wave of popular upheavals that rolled across the region in 2011, no Arab or external government can ever again afford to ignore the wishes of its people.

The old status quo is gone. Parts of it might be preserved for some time in some places, but it will never be re-created. The only wise path that the United States can take at this point is to accept that change is coming to the region, and to help the people of the region shape that change to their ends. If the United States comes to be seen as a willing partner of the Arab peoples in their quest to build a new kind of Middle East, then over time, we might find a new status quo emerge — one that is truly peaceful and prosperous, and therefore stable. And if the United States helps in that effort, perhaps it, too, can be transformed, from the most hated and feared foreign power to one of the most beloved.

Certainly, Washington has nothing to lose. The strategy of the past condemned it to endless crises and conflicts in the Middle East, consuming more and more blood, treasure, and time as the years passed. And for what? In return, the United States reaped a volatile oil market and worsening anti-Americanism. It was not a very good deal. The Arab Awakening has offered the United States a second chance. It represents a new opportunity to remake America in Middle Eastern eyes, and become the country it imagines itself to be.

Kenneth M. Pollack is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of the new book Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness.


The Arab Spring: A Year Of Revolution

Tunisians protest outside the gates to the French Embassy in Tunis. Arab Spring began in Tunisia when a fruit vendor set himself on fire in protest in front of a government building. Fethi Belaid /AFP/Getty Images hide caption

Tunisians protest outside the gates to the French Embassy in Tunis. Arab Spring began in Tunisia when a fruit vendor set himself on fire in protest in front of a government building.

Fethi Belaid /AFP/Getty Images

A year ago, 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi was getting ready to sell fruits and vegetables in the rural town of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia.

Bouazizi was the breadwinner for his widowed mother and six siblings, but he didn't have a permit to sell the goods. When the police asked Bouazizi to hand over his wooden cart, he refused and a policewoman allegedly slapped him.

Angered after being publicly humiliated, Bouazizi marched in front of a government building and set himself on fire.

His act of desperation resonated immediately with others in the town. Protests began that day in Sidi Bouzid, captured by cellphone cameras and shared on the Internet.

Within days, protests started popping up across the country, calling upon President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his regime to step down. About a month later, he fled.

The momentum in Tunisia set off uprisings across the Middle East that became known as the Arab Spring. A year after the young Tunisian became a martyr, where does the Arab world stand on demands for democracy?

Mixed Success In Egypt

Along with Tunisia, Egypt has been viewed as a victory.

Esraa Abdel Fattah, an Egyptian democracy activist known as "Facebook Girl" for her social media savvy, fought for a new Egypt. She was also an organizer for the major protest in Tahrir Square on Jan. 25.

An Egyptian anti-government protester holds a defaced poster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, with the words "Mubarak, get out" written above, during a demonstration in Cairo in January. Ben Curtis/AP hide caption

An Egyptian anti-government protester holds a defaced poster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, with the words "Mubarak, get out" written above, during a demonstration in Cairo in January.

When President Honsi Mubarak stepped down, it was thought that Egypt had completed its revolution. But now, as Egypt starts its first round of "free and fair elections," Fattah tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz that she isn't so sure the work is over.

"Always I am optimistic for the future of Egypt, but now I have some worry," she says. "I think maybe the result of the revolution will take longer than I expected."

Fattah says Egypt is already having major setbacks during this period of transition. And despite Mubarak stepping down, she says, the country is still in the "Mubarak regime" and life is not better than it was a year ago.

Egypt's Next Steps

Fattah is among those who say the real transition in Egypt will happen when a civilian leader is elected. The recent elections, however, put the Muslim Brotherhood ahead, which perhaps is not exactly what secular activists had in mind.

Shadi Hamid, director of research for the Brookings Institute in Doha, says he doesn't see ascendants of Islamist groups as a pitfall for the Middle East.

"None of this should be surprising," he tells Raz. "Islamists are popular, they're well organized. It was inevitable that they were going to win and dominate in these elections."

The Arab Spring

Tunisia: Government overthrown on Jan. 14, 2011. President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali flees into exhile. Elections for a Consituent Assembly held on Oct. 23, 2011.

Egypt: Government overthrown on Feb. 11, 2011. President Hosni Mubarak steps down, faces charges of killing unarmed protesters. Elections held on Nov. 28, 2011. Protests continue in Tahrir Square.

Libya: Anti-government protests begin on Feb. 15, 2011, leading to civil war between opposition forces and Moammar Gadhafi loyalists. Tripoli was captured and the government overthrown on Aug. 23. Gadhafi was killed by transition forces on Oct. 20.

Syria: Protests for political reforms have been ongoing since Jan. 26, 2011 with continuing clashes between the Syrian army and protesters. On one day in July, 136 people were killed when Syrian army tanks stormed several cities.

Yemen: Ongoing protests since Feb. 3, 2011. President Ali Abdullah Saleh is injured in an attack on June 4. On Nov. 23, he signs a power-transfer agreement ending his 33-year reign.

Other nations: Protests and uprisings related to the Arab Spring also took place in other countries as well, including: Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco and Oman.

He says the Arab world is a religiously conservative place and people generally want to see Islam playing an important role in public life.

"They're a reality on the ground and the people have voted them in," he says. "America has to learn to live with political Islam."

Hamid says the U.S. should engage with the Islamist groups to understand them and learn how to work together. The sense in the region, he says, is that the Obama administration has been "on the wrong side of history." Waiting until the last moments to take action and show support for the aspirations of the people is troubling, he says.

"I think in times of historical ferment like these you need strong, bold [and] decisive leadership," he says.

In the year since the beginning of the Arab Spring, leaders have been ousted in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen. At the start, it would have been hard to imagine how much the movement would spread throughout the region, Hamid says, but it certainly can't be said that it came out of nowhere.

The revolution had been building up for decades in Egypt, he says.

"I think there was a loss of faith in working within the system, and that's when people began to think more and more about civil disobedience, mass protests [and] going out in to the streets," he says. "When your political process fails you, there's really only one option left."

A Continuing Battle

If storming the streets is the only plan the activists had, then they were at a disadvantage from day one, says Raghida Dergham, a columnist and senior diplomatic correspondent for Al-Hayat, one of the leading daily pan-Arab newspapers.

Dergham believes the youth activists where hijacked by longer established Islamist groups.

"When the youths went to Tahrir Square and other places they wanted a modernist future," Dergham says. "Suddenly they were encroached upon by the very well-organized and well-experienced Islamist parties . and they won the day."

Dergham says people should not prematurely celebrate what is being called "moderate Islam." As long as there is no separation between religion and the state, she says, there will be a huge price to be paid by much of the population in the Arab region — particularly women.

The bottom line, she says, is that the men in power will have the authority to interpret the laws set in sharia, or Islamic law.

"They have the right, in that case, to say what the laws are," she says. "If there [were] any guarantees that there will be a civil constitution that would rule any country where Islamists win the day in elections . no problem. But I'm afraid that we do not have any such guarantees."

In a recent column, Dergham wrote that the "Arab Awakening will end in the Slumber of Dark Ages" if Arab women fail to take the initiative. She says they should stand up to the Islamists now for the rights of women in the new Arab world.

"These women fought with these young men to bring the change," she says. "They should not be sidelined."

Watching the Arab Spring during the past year, Dergham says, she often feels like she's on a seesaw. One moment she is exhilarated and proud of what has taken place and other times she'll find herself questioning what has been done.

"I am really not clear yet, but I still want to bet on the good day that will be coming after the turbulent times that we are witnessing now," she says.


Egypt: from revolution to coup to crisis, a timeline

Anti-government protesters at Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt on February 10, 2011. (AP)

The Egyptian revolution of 2011, which began on January 25 in line with the then simmering Arab Spring in neighbouring countries, quickly spread across the country and drew millions of demonstrators on streets.

Inspired by the Tunisian revolt, tens of thousands of young Egyptians rallied for 18 days of unprecedented street protests in Cairo's central Tahrir Square and elsewhere in 2011 against the monopolisation of power, as well as climbing poverty and youth unemployment.

Yet a movement that began as a revolution has since devolved into a continuing crisis, plunging Egypt in protests, political deficit, sporadic violence and waves of repression.

At the time, the demands were simple enough. They consisted of socio-economic reforms and the overthrow of longtime Egyptian president &ndash for some a dictator &ndash Hosni Mubarak.

Mubarak, who was the resolute face of stability in the Middle East, ruled Egypt for 30 years until he was ousted during that period.

Yet the generation that claimed the streets against long-stagnant politics would soon be pushed aside by an intense rivalry that pitted the military and secular parties against the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that believes Islamic principles should regulate all aspects of public and family life.

Military leader Abdel Fattah el Sisi's rise to power pinnacled in the 2013 coup that ousted democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi two years after the revolutionary movement.

Here is a timeline of events surrounding Egypt's 2011 movement and the years that have followed:

Anti-government protesters celebrate next to soldiers inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo, February 11, 2011. (Reuters)

January 25 &ndash Organised on Facebook and dubbed a &ldquoday of revolution&rdquo on January 25, thousands gather in Cairo and several other Egyptian cities to demonstrate against poverty and political repression.

Protesters chanting anti-Mubarak slogans clash with police, who used water cannons and tear gas against the crowds.

Protests erupt across Egypt demanding accountability and democracy.

January 28 &ndash Anti-government protests in Egypt intensify when demonstrators clash with police following Friday prayers.

Internet and telephone services are disrupted in an effort to limit the extent of demonstrations.

Mubarak imposes a curfew and deploys army units in an attempt to control the unrest.

February 2 &ndash Violence intensifies as anti-government protesters clash with crowds of Mubarak supporters in Tahrir Square in Cairo. The members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the most organised political opposition group in Egypt, hide any visible religious symbols in conformity with the non-ideological tone set by the protest&rsquos young organisers.

Security forces kill hundreds of people in clashes that would ensue and the military mobilises amid unrest.

February 6 &ndashThe Egyptian government holds talks with members of the opposition. The banned Muslim Brotherhood also takes part.

Feb 11 &ndashOmar Suleiman, Mubarak&rsquos intelligence chief and vice president, announces that Mubarak would step down after weeks-long protests, leaving the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, a council of high-ranking military officers headed by then defence minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, in control.

Hundreds of thousands celebrate in Tahrir Square. The United States withdraws support for Mubarak&rsquos regime.

February 12 &ndash The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issues a statement saying that the military will hand over power to an elected civilian government. A spokesman also states that Egypt will continue to abide by international treaties, implying that the 1979 peace treaty with Israel would not be challenged.

February 13 &ndashThe Supreme Council of the Armed Forces suspends the constitution and dissolves Egypt&rsquos two legislative bodies, the People&rsquos Assembly and the Consultative Assembly.

A statement issued by the council announces that a commission would be set up to draft a new constitution to be approved via referendum and that the military would remain in power for six months or until new elections can be held.

June 29 &ndashNew clashes break out in Cairo between police and protesters, who accuse the interim government of continuing many of the authoritarian practices of the Mubarak regime.

August 3 &ndashMubarak&rsquos trial for complicity in the killing of some 900 protesters during the 2011 revolution and for corruption begins.

November 2011 to January 2012 &ndash The Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, known as the Freedom and Justice Party, wins parliamentary elections called by Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

The Muslim Brotherhood forms the largest bloc.

June 24 &ndash Egypt's first free presidential election, in which 13 candidates competed, goes to a run-off between Brotherhood candidate Morsi and former prime minister and air force commander Ahmed Shafik.

August 12 &ndash Morsi removes top military commanders and appoints General Abdel Fattah el Sisi as minister of defence and military commander-in-chief.

October 9 &ndashMorsi issues a general pardon for political activists jailed since the 2011 revolution. Some of Morsi's pardons would later be revoked.

December 15 to 26 &ndash Morsi pushes through a new constitution in a controversial referendum that leads to clashes between religious ideologists and their opponents.

The aim is to fulfil some demands of the revolution: the end of Egypt&rsquos all-powerful presidency, a stronger parliament and provisions against torture or detention without trial.

But in the meantime, it also gives Egypt&rsquos generals much of the power and privilege they had during the Mubarak era.

The turnout is about 33 percent. Nearly 64 percent of voters endorse the constitution.

Morsi implements it on December 26, just hours after the results were announced.

July 3 &ndashWith the economy crumbling and with shortages of electricity and fuel, anger at the government mounts.

Following mass protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square, army chief Sisi announces the ouster of the country's first democratically elected president, Morsi, and the appointment of an interim president.

Morsi is arrested alongside other Brotherhood leaders after the military coup.

The generals build their case for intervention in a carefully orchestrated series of manoeuvres, calling their actions an effort at a &ldquonational reconciliation.&rdquo They refuse to call their takeover a coup.

August 14 &ndash Hundreds are killed as security forces storm pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo in what human rights groups call the worst massacre in Egypt's modern history.

Official sources claim that 578 were left dead.

The Brotherhood claim that 2,200 are killed and 10,000 injured.

Egyptian authorities impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew and declare a state of emergency.

December 25 &ndashThe military-backed government designates the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation. The decree criminalises the activities and finances of Egypt&rsquos largest opposition movement.

June 3 - Results of the presidential election, which had a turnout of about 47 percent, are announced. Sisi is declared the winner with more than 96 percent of the vote, promising stability and economic recovery.

November 10 &ndash Sinai-based terror group Ansar Beit al Maqdis pledges allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and Daesh, effectively setting up an Egyptian branch of the violent jihadist group based in Iraq and Syria.

June 29 &ndash A powerful bomb kills Egypt&rsquos top prosecutor as he drives to work. The prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, is the most senior official to be killed in Egypt since the insurgency began in 2013.

July 12 &ndashEgyptian authorities issue a requirement for Muslim clerics to read out identical pre-written weekly sermons as part of the Egyptian government&rsquos campaign against extremism.

November 11 &ndash Egypt secures a $12 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund and devalues its currency, leaving most Egyptians worse off amid austerity measures aimed at improving the economy in the long term.

November 15 &ndash The Court of Cassation overturns Morsi&rsquos death sentence and orders a retrial of the case in which he was charged with orchestrating a prison break.

March 24 &ndash Mubarak is freed after six years of detention and cleared of charges, including corruption and the killing of protesters in 2011.

April 9 &ndash Two bombs are detonated at Palm Sunday masses in Tanta&rsquos St George&rsquos Church and Alexandria&rsquos St Mark&rsquos Cathedral, killing at least 43 people and injuring more than 100.

Daesh claims responsibility for the attack via its Amaq news agency. Egypt declares a three-month state of emergency.

June 14 &ndash Sisi's parliament approves plans to transfer two uninhabited Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia despite a court order that blocked the transfer in March.

September 16 &ndash Court sentences deposed president Morsi to 25 years in prison in a final ruling over a case accusing him of spying for Qatar.

March 26 to 28 &ndash The conservative Nour Party, the last permitted religious party in Egypt, backs Sisi for a second presidential term.

He does not face any real competition. Serious challengers had ended their campaigns months prior to the election.

One was arrested. The remaining candidate had no intention of challenging the president.

April 2 &ndash Sisi&rsquos victory is announced.

He allegedly receives 97 percent of the vote, while the turnout was only 38 percent.

April 23 &ndash Voters approve a series of constitutional amendments that significantly increase the power of the presidency and military.

These include an extension to presidential terms that could allow Sisi to remain in power until 2030. The bill also allows the president to appoint top judges and grants military courts wider jurisdiction in prosecuting civilians.

June 17 &ndash Egypt's first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi collapses during a court session and dies.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants and other Tradies

Universities were never intended to be apprenticeship schools, but they are. Nowadays, you can't get a job in a whole range of intellectual industries unless you've been to university and completed a related or general university degree. In effect, the university is the same for the lawyer, doctor, public servant, as the technical training school is for the plumber, builder, electrician. Universities pump out suit monkeys with degrees in exactly the same way that technical schools pump out tradies with trade certificates. On average, they even earn the same range of salary. The average public servant even earns slightly less than your average tradie.


Universities were intended to extend the wealth of collective human knowledge and wisdom. The great philosopher Plato opened his Academy, the world's first university, in ancient Athens to give adults the opportunity to learn a universal breadth of knowledge, to broaden their minds and contribute to the current body of things known and understood in the world, and beyond the world. In the Gardens of Academus, Plato taught the philosophical subjects of Logic, Ethics, Economics, Aesthetics, Epistemology, Politics and Natural Philosophy (now known as Science).

Plato's star pupil was Aristotle who went on to teach a young Alexander the Great and formed his own university the Lyceum. From Plato's Academy, we derive all our 'academic' words and language. More importantly, we also derive all of our institutes of higher learning, some of which offer a 'universal' understanding of the world and award their most accomplished students the title Doctor of Philosophy or PhD.

Universities were never intended to be factories for manufacturing lawyers, doctors, accountants and public servants. So, what the hell happened? A lawyer is just a tradie. A lawyer's trade is the Law. A lawyer is an expert in the Law, which they can prove to you by showing you their trade certificate (an undergraduate degree in law from a university). Like a brickie, a lawyer practices his trade by providing his learned services and skills to a paying client. So what's the difference between those smarmy, self-congratualting professionals with degrees and the average Joe tradie? Not a damn thing.



But Our cause is the conservation of the University. Its protection against being reduced from an institute of universal understanding, knowledge growth and the pursuit of wisdom to becoming nothing more than a suit factory, pouring out an endless stream of boring, pathetic, prententious, elitist mummies' boys clutching their trade certificates in law, accounting, IT and other tripe as they saunter into the money sector having left nothing behind, but debt and giving nothing back to society except another annoying service we all have to pay for when something goes wrong.


Our suggestion is that we keep our once esteemed universities sanctified and preserved as institutes not of learning, not in the manner of a library or news agent where people come in and take things away for themselves, but to return universities back into institutes of contribution to the sum of all human knowledge and understanding. People come in and give to the university. They research, they propose their thesis, it is accepted or rejected, then they leave.

The only reason trades are taught at university is money. Trades in law, medicine and accounting are expensive, which is why only the rich can afford to pay for such learning. Years ago, universities stooped beneath themselves and prostituted their knowledge to the rich in exchange for training their spoilt brats to be elitist tradesmen. This practice must end.

Lawyers, accountants, doctors, nurses, IT workers, plumbers, brickies, sparkies and other tradesmen should piss off out of universities and go learn your trade in a technical school or trade college, do your apprenticeship and get lost. Neither lawyer, nor sawyer, neither surgeon nor plumber, contributes to the collective wisdom of our world. They just learn enough to practice what the world already knows and then they leave. They give nothing back, so they have no business even looking at a university. Get over yourselves! Admit that you are what you are - a bunch of tradies - and piss off.


Leave the practice of philosophy, the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom to the thinkers. Doers should just do.


By S. Acharya and D. M. Murdock

The following article is adapted from a chapter in Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled, as well as The ZEITGEIST Sourcebook and articles such as The Origins of Christianity.

  • “Both Mithras and Christ have been described variously as the way, the truth, the light, the life, the word, the son of God, the good shepherd.
  • The Christian litany to Jesus could easily be an allegorical litany to the sun god.
  • Mithras is often represented as carrying a lamb on his shoulders, just as Jesus is.
  • Midnight services were found in both religions.
  • The virgin mother… was easily merged with the virgin mother Mary.
  • Petra, the sacred rock of Mithraism, became Peter, the Christian Church’s foundation.”[13]

– Gerald Berry, Religions of the World

  • “Mithra or Mitra is… worshipped as Itu (Mitra | Mitu | Itu) in every house of the Hindus in India. Itu is considered to be the vegetation deity. Mithra or Mitra (sun-god) is believed to be a mediator between God and man, between the sky and the earth.
  • It is said that Mithra or [the] sun took birth in a cave on December 25.
  • It is also the belief of the Christian world that Mithra or the sun-god was born of [a] virgin.
  • He traveled far and wide.
  • He has twelve satellites, which are taken as the Sun’s disciples….
  • [The sun’s] great festivals are observed in the winter solstice and the vernal equinox—Christmas and Easter.
  • His symbol is the lamb….”[32]

– Swami Prajnanananda, Christ the Saviour and Christ Myth

Special attention should be paid to Mithraism, because of the evident relationship of this Persian-Roman religion to Christianity. Worship of the Indo-Persian god Mithra dates back centuries to millennia. The same god is Mitra in the Indian Vedic religion, which is over 3,500 years old by conservative estimates. After the Iranians separated from their Indian brethren, Mitra became Mithra or Mihr, as he is also called in Persian.

Hittite and Mitanni kingdoms around 1400 BC.

By 1500 BC, Mitra worship had made it to the Near East, in the Indian kingdom of the Mitanni, which was occupying Assyria. This worship was known as far west as the Hittite kingdom, only a few hundred miles east of the Mediterranean, as evidenced by the Hittite-Mitanni tablets discovered at Bogaz-Köy in what is now Turkey. The gods of the Mitanni included Mitra, Varuna and Indra, all found in the Vedic texts.

Mithra as sun god

The Indian Mitra represented the sun’s friendly aspects. The Persian Mithra was a benevolent god and the bestower of health, wealth and food. Mithra also seems to have been regarded as a sort of Prometheus, for the gift of fire.[38] His worship purified and freed the devotee from sin and disease. Eventually, Mithra became more militant and a warrior.

Like so many gods, Mithra was considered to be the light and power behind the sun. In Babylon, Mithra was Shamash, the sun god he was also Bel, the Mesopotamian and Canaanite-Phoenician solar deity, who was likewise Marduk, the Babylonian god who represented both the sun and Jupiter. According to Pseudo-Clement of Rome’s debate with Appion, Mithra was also Apollo. [Homily VI, ch. X]

Mithra wears a crown of sun rays Taqwasân or Taq-e Bostan or Taq-i-Bustan, Sassanid Empire, Coronation of Ardeshir II, c. 4th century AD/CE (Photo: Phillipe Chavin).

In time, Babylonians and Chaldeans infused Persian Mithraism with their astro-theology, and Mithraism became notable for its astrology and magic. Indeed, its priests, or magi, lent their very name to the word magic. This astro-theological development reemphasized Mithra’s early Indian role as a sun god.

In Forerunners and Rivals in Christianity, Francis Legge writes: “The Vedic Mitra was originally the material sun itself, and the many hundreds of votive inscriptions left by the worshippers of Mithras to the unconquered Sun Mithras, to the unconquered solar divinity (numen) Mithras, to the unconquered sun-god (deus) Mithra, and allusions in them to priests (sacerdotes), worshippers (cultores), and temples (templum) of the same deity leave no doubt open that he was in Roman times a sun-god.” [Legge, II, 240]

To the Roman legionnaires, Mithra — or Mithras, as he began to be known in the Greco-Roman world — was “the divine Sun, the Unconquered Sun.” He was said to be “Mighty in strength, mighty ruler, greatest king of gods! O Sun, lord of heaven and earth, God of Gods!” Mithra was also deemed to be the mediator between heaven and earth, a role often ascribed to the god of the sun.

An inscription in Rome by a T. Flavius Hyginus, from around 80 to 100 AD, which dedicates an altar to Sol Invictus Mithras | The Unconquered Sun Mithra, reveals the hybridization reflected in other artifacts and myths. Dr. Richard L. Gordon remarks: “It is true that one… cult title… of Mithras was, or came to be, Deus Sol Invictus Mithras (but he could also be called… Deus Invictus Sol Mithras, Sol Invictus Mithras…” …Strabo, basing his information on a lost work, either by Posidonius (ca 135-51 BC) or by Apollodorus of Artemita (first decades of 1 BC), states baldly that the Western Parthians “call the sun Mithra.” The Roman cult seems to have taken this existing association and developed it in their own special way. [8,21,23]

As concerns Mithra’s identity, Dr. Roger Beck says: “Mithras… is the prime traveler, the principal actor… on the celestial stage which the tauctony [bull-slaying] defines…. He is who the monuments proclaim him — the Unconquered Sun.”[12] In an early image, Mithra is depicted as a sun disc in a chariot drawn by white horses, another solar motif that made it into the Jesus myth, in which Christ is to return on a white horse. [Rev 6:2 19:11]

Persian sun god in quadriga sun chariot Lundy, 177, after Lajard.

Mithra in the Roman Empire

Subsequent to the military campaign of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC, Mithra became the favorite deity of Asia Minor. Christian writers Dr. Samuel Jackson and George W. Gilmore, editors of The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (VII, 420), remark: “It was probably at this period, 250-100 BC, that the Mithraic system of ritual and doctrine took the form which it afterward retained. Here it came into contact with the mysteries, of which there were many varieties, among which the most notable were those of Cybele.”[29]

According to the Roman historian Plutarch (c. 46-120 AD), Mithraism began to be absorbed by the Romans during Pompey’s military campaign against Cilician pirates around 70 BC. The religion eventually migrated from Asia Minor through the soldiers, many of whom had been citizens of the region, into Rome and the far reaches of the Empire. Syrian merchants brought Mithraism to the major cities, such as Alexandria, Rome, and Carthage, while captives carried it to the countryside. By the third century AD, Mithraism and its mysteries permeated the Roman Empire and extended from India to Scotland, with abundant monuments in numerous countries that amount so far to over 420 discovered Mithraic sites.

The inscription reads: Mithra, Sol Invictus.

From various discoveries, including pottery inscriptions and temples, we know that Roman Mithraism gained a significant boost and much of its shape between 80 and 120 AD, when the first artifacts of this particular cultus begin to be found at Rome. It reached a peak during the second and third centuries, before largely expiring at the end of the fourth to the beginning of the fifth century.

Among its members during this period were emperors, politicians and businessmen. Indeed, before Mithraism’s usurpation by Christianity, it enjoyed the patronage of some of the most important individuals in the Roman Empire. In the fifth century, the emperor Julian, having rejected his birth religion of Christianity, adopted Mithraism and “introduced the practice of the worship at Constantinople.”[29]

Modern scholarship has gone back and forth as to how much of the original Indo-Persian Mitra-Mithra cultus affected Roman Mithraism, which demonstrates a distinct development but which nonetheless follows a pattern of this earlier solar mythos and ritual.

The theory of continuity from the Iranian to Roman Mithraism, developed famously by Dr. Franz Cumont in the 20th century, has been largely rejected by many scholars. Yet, Plutarch himself, in Life of Pompey, related that followers of Mithras “continue to the present time” the secret rites of the Cilician pirates, “having been first instituted by them.” So too does the ancient writer Porphyry (234-ca 305 AD) state that the Roman Mithraists themselves believed their religion had been founded by the Persian savior Zoroaster.

Statue of Tiridates I of Armenia André, 1687 Parc et jardins du château de Versailles (Photo: Eupator).

In discussing what may have been recounted by ancient writers, asserted to have written many volumes about Mithraism, such as Eubulus of Palestine and a certain Pallas, Gordon remarks: “Certainly Zoroaster would have figured largely and so would the Persians and the magi.”[8,21,23]

It seems that the ancients did not divorce themselves from the eastern roots of Mithraism, as exemplified also by the remarks of Dio Cassius, who related that in 66 AD the king of Armenia, Tiridates, visited Rome. Cassius states that the dignitary worshiped Mithra yet, he does not indicate any distinction between Armenia’s religion and Roman Mithraism.

It is apparent from the testimonies of ancient sources that they perceived Mithraism as having a Persian origin hence, it would seem that any true picture of the development of Roman Mithraism must include the latter’s relationship to the earlier Persian cultus, as well as its Asia Minor and Armenian offshoots. Current scholarship is summarized thus by Dr. Beck: “Since the 1970s, scholars of western Mithraism have generally agreed that Cumont’s master narrative of east-west transfer is unsustainable but… recent trends in the scholarship on Iranian religion, by modifying the picture of that religion prior to the birth of the western mysteries, now render a revised Cumontian scenario of east-west transfer and continuities once again viable.”[12]

In a massive anthology titled, Armenian and Iranian Studies, Dr. James R. Russell essentially proves that Roman Mithraism had its origins in, not only Persian or Iranian Mithraism and Zoroastrianism, but also in Armenian religion centuries before the common era.[36]

The many faces of Mithra

Mainstream scholarship speaks of at least three Mithras:

  • Mitra, the Vedic god
  • Mithra, the Persian deity
  • Mithras, the Greco-Roman mysteries

Armenian Empire under Tigranes the Great, fl. 95 to 66 BC, Aivazovskyicon.

The Persian Mithra apparently developed differently in various places, such as in Armenia, where there appeared to be an emphasis on characteristics not overtly present in Roman Mithraism but later found as motifs in Christianity, including the virgin-mother goddess. This Armenian Mithraism is evidently a continuity of the Mithraism of Asia Minor and the Near East. The development of gods into different forms, shapes, colors, ethnicities and other attributes according to location, era and so on, is not only quite common but also the norm. Thus, we have hundreds of gods and goddesses who are in many ways interchangeable but who have adopted various differences based on geographical and environmental factors.

Over the centuries — in fact, from the earliest Christian times — Mithraism has been compared to Christianity, revealing numerous similarities between the two faiths’ doctrines and traditions, including the stories of their respective god men. In developing this analysis, it should be kept in mind that elements from Roman, Armenian and Persian Mithraism are adopted, not as a whole ideology but as separate items that may have affected the creation of Christianity, whether directly through the mechanism of Mithraism or through another Pagan source within the Roman Empire and beyond. The evidence points to these motifs and elements being incorporated into Christianity, not as a whole from one source, but from many sources including Mithraism. The following list represents, not a solidified myth or narrative about one particular Mithra or form of the god as developed in one particular culture and era but, rather, a combination of them all for ease of reference as to any possible influences upon Christianity under the name of Mitra | Mithra | Mithras.

Mithra has the following in common with Jesus

Mithra ascends to heaven in his solar cart, with sun symbol.

  • Mithra was born on December 25 of the virgin Anahita.
  • The babe was wrapped in swaddling clothes, placed in a manger and attended by shepherds.
  • Mithra was considered to be a great traveling teacher and master.
  • He had 12 companions or disciples.
  • He performed miracles.
  • As the “great bull of the sun,” Mithra sacrificed himself for world peace.
  • He ascended to heaven.
  • Mithra was viewed as the good shepherd, the way, the truth and the light the redeemer, the savior, and the messiah.
  • Mithra is omniscient, as he “hears all, sees all, knows all: none can deceive him.”
  • He was identified with both the lion and the lamb.
  • His sacred day was Sunday, the Lord’s day, hundreds of years before the appearance of Christ.
  • His religion had a eucharist or Lord’s supper.
  • Mithra set his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers.
  • Mithraism emphasized baptism.

December 25 birthday

The similarities between Mithraism and Christianity have included their chapels, celibacy and the term “father” for priest and, it is notoriously claimed, the December 25 birth date. Over the centuries, apologists who contend that Mithraism copied Christianity have nevertheless asserted that the December 25 birth date was taken from Mithraism. As Sir Arthur Weigall writes: “December 25 was really the date of, not of the birth of Jesus, but of the sun-god Mithra. Horus, son of Isis, however, was in very early times identified with Ra, the Egyptian sun-god, and hence with Mithra….”[40] Mithra’s birthday on December 25 has been so widely claimed that the Catholic Encyclopedia (“Mithraism”) remarks: “The 25 December was observed as his birthday, the natalis invicti, the rebirth of the winter-sun, unconquered by the rigors of the season.”

Yet this contention of Mithra’s birthday being on December 25 or the winter solstice is disputed because there is no hard archaeological or literary evidence of the Roman Mithras specifically being named as having been born at that time. Dr. Alvar writes: “There is no evidence of any kind, not even a hint, from within the cult that this, or any other winter day, was important in the Mithraic calendar.”[8]

In analyzing the evidence, we must keep in mind all the destruction that has taken place over the past 2,000 years — including that of many Mithraic remains and texts — as well as the fact that several of these germane parallels constituted mysteries that may or may not have been recorded in the first place, or the meanings of which have been obscured.

The claim about the Roman Mithras’ birth on Christmas is evidently based on the Calendar of Filocalus or Philocalian Calendar (ca 354 AD), which mentions that December 25 represents the “Birthday of the Unconquered,” understood to mean the sun and Mithras being Sol Invictus. Whether this represents Mithras’ birthday specifically or merely that of Emperor Aurelian’s Sol Invictus, with whom Mithras had become identified, the Calendar also lists the day — the winter solstice birth of the sun — as that of natus Christus in Betleem Iudeae | Birth of Christ in Bethlehem Judea. Moreover, it would seem that there is more to this story, as Aurelian was the first to institute officially the winter solstice as the birthday of Sol Invictus (Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) in 274 AD.[24] It is contended that Aurelian’s move was in response to Mithras’ popularity.[33] One would thus wonder why the emperor would be so motivated if Mithras had nothing whatever to do with the sun god’s traditional birthday: a disconnect that would be unusual for any solar deity.

Regardless of whether or not the artifacts of the Roman Mithras’ votaries reflect the attribution of the sun god’s birthday to him specifically, many in the empire did identify the mysteries icon and Sol Invictus as being one, evidenced by the inscriptions of “Sol Invictus Mithras” and the many images of Mithras and the sun together, representing two sides of the same coin or each other’s alter ego. Hence, the placement of Mithras’ birth on this feast day of the sun is understandable and, despite the lack of concrete evidence, this date, quite plausibly, was recognized in this manner in antiquity in the Roman Empire.

Persian winter festivals

It is clear that the ancient peoples, from whom Mithraism sprang long before it became Romanized, were very much involved in winter festivals so common globally among many other cultures. In this regard, discussing the Iranian month of Asiyadaya, which corresponds to November/December, Mithraic scholar Dr. Mary Boyce remarks: “… it is at this time of year that the Zoroastrian festival of Sada takes place, which is not only probably pre-Zoroastrian in origin, but may even go back to proto-Indo-European times. For Sada is a great open-air festival, of a kind celebrated widely among the Indo-European peoples, with the intention of strengthening the heavenly fire, the sun, in its winter decline and feebleness. Sun and fire being of profound significance in the Old Iranian religion, this is a festival which one would expect the Medes and Persians to have brought with them into their new lands… Sada is not, however, a feast in honor of the god of Fire, Atar, but is rather for the general strengthening of the creation of fire against the onslaught of winter.” This ancient Persian winter festival therefore celebrates the strengthening of the fire, or sun, in the face of its winter decline, just as virtually every winter-solstice festivity is intended to do.

Yet, as Dr. Boyce says, this “Zoroastrian” winter celebration is likely to be pre-Zoroastrian and even proto-Indo-European, which means that it dates back far into the hoary mists of time, possibly tens of thousands of years ago. And one would indeed expect the Medes and Persians to have brought this festival with them into their new lands, including the Near East, where they would have eventually encountered Romans, who could hardly have missed this common solar motif celebrated worldwide in numerous ways.

The same may be said as concerns another Persian or Zoroastrian winter celebration called Yalda, which is the festival of the longest night of the year, taking place on December 20, or the day before the winter solstice: “Yalda has a history as long as the Mithraism religion. The Mithraists believed that this night is the night of the birth of Mithra, Persian god of light and truth. At the morning of the longest night of the year the Mithra is born from a virgin mother…. In Zoroastrian tradition, the winter solstice with the longest night of the year was an auspicious day, and included customs intended to protect people from misfortune…. The Eve of the Yalda has great significance in the Iranian calendar. It is the eve of the birth of Mithra, the Sun God, who symbolized light, goodness and strength on earth. Shab-e Yalda is a time of joy. Yalda is a Syriac word meaning birth. Mithra worshippers used the term ‘yalda’ specifically with reference to the birth of Mithra. As the longest night of the year, the Eve of Yalda (Shab-e Yalda) is also a turning point, after which the days grow longer. In ancient times it symbolized the triumph of the sun god over the powers of darkness.”[7] It is likely that this festival does indeed derive from remote antiquity, and it is evident that the ancient Persians were well aware of the winter solstice and its meaning as found in numerous other cultures: to wit, the annual rebirth, renewal or resurrection of the sun. In the end the effect is the same: Christmas is the birthday, not of the son of God, but of the sun.

Indeed, there is much evidence, including many ancient monumental alignments, to demonstrate that this highly noticeable and cherished winter-solstice celebration began hundreds to thousands of years before the common era in numerous parts of the world. The observation was thus provably taken over by Christianity, not as biblical doctrine but as a later tradition meant to compete with the Pagan cults, a move we contend occurred with numerous other supposedly Christian motifs, including many that are in the New Testament.

Rock-born Mithra

Mithra’s genesis out of a rock, analogous to the birth in caves of a number of gods, including Jesus in the apocryphal non-canonical texts, was followed by his adoration by shepherds, another motif that found its way into Christianity. Regarding the birth in caves, likewise common to pre-Christian gods and present in the early legends of Jesus, Weigall relates: “…the cave shown at Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus was actually a rock shrine in which the god Tammuz or Adonis was worshiped, as the early Christian father Jerome tells us and its adoption as the scene of the birth of our Lord was one of those frequent instances of the taking over by Christians of a pagan sacred site. The propriety of this appropriation was increased by the fact that the worship of a god in a cave was commonplace in paganism: Apollo, Cybele, Demeter, Herakles, Hermes, Mithra and Poseidon were all adored in caves Hermes, the Greek Logos, being actually born of Maia in a cave, and Mithra being ‘rock-born.'”[40]

Mithra, born from a rock, holds a dagger and torch.

As the rock-born, Mithras was called Theos ek Petras, or the God from the Rock. As Weigall also relates: “Indeed, it may be that the reason of the Vatican hill at Rome being regarded as sacred to Peter, the Christian ‘Rock,’ was that it was already sacred to Mithra, for Mithraic remains have been found there.”[40] Mithras was The Rock, or Peter, and was also double-faced, like Janus the key holder, likewise a prototype for the apostle Peter. Hence, when Jesus is made to say, in the apparent interpolation at Matthew 16:12, that the keys of the kingdom of heaven are given to Peter and that the church is to be built upon Peter as a representative of Rome, he is usurping the authority of Mithraism, which was precisely headquartered on what became Vatican Hill. “Mithraic remains on Vatican Hill are found underneath the later Christian edifices, which proves the Mithra cult was there first.”

By the time the Christian hierarchy prevailed in Rome, Mithra had already been a popular cult, with popes, bishops, etc., and its doctrines were well established and widespread, reflecting a certain antiquity. Mithraic ruins are abundant throughout the Roman Empire, beginning in the late first century AD. By contrast, “the earliest church remains, found in Dura-Europos, date only from around 230 AD.”

Virgin mother Anahita

Unlike various other rock- or cave-born gods, Mithra is not depicted in the Roman cultus as being born of a mortal woman or a goddess hence, it is claimed that he was not born of a virgin. However, a number of writers over the centuries have asserted otherwise, including several modern Persian and Armenian scholars who are apparently reflecting an ancient tradition from Near-Eastern Mithraism. “The worship of Mithra and Anahita, the virgin mother of Mithra, was well-known in the Achaemenian period.”

Sassanid king Khosrow flanked by Anahita and Ahura Mazda 7th century AD, Taq-e Bostan, Iran (Photo: Phillipe Chavin).

For example, Dr. Badi Badiozamani says that a person named Mehr or Mithra was “born of a virgin named Nahid Anahita (‘immaculate’)” and that “the worship of Mithra and Anahita, the virgin mother of Mithra, was well-known in the Achaemenian period (558-330 BC)…”[11] Dr. Mohammed Ali Amir-Moezzi states: “In Mithraism, as in popular Mazdaism, Anahid, Mithra’s mother is a virgin.”[9] Comparing the rock birth with that of the virgin mother, Dr. Amir-Moezzi also says: “…there is therefore an analogy between the rock, a symbol of incorruptibility, giving birth to the Iranian god and that (same) one’s mother, Anahid, eternally virgin and young.”[9]

In Mithraic Iconography and Ideology, Dr. Leroy A. Campbell calls Anahita the “great goddess of virgin purity,”[17] and religious-history professor Dr. Claas J. Bleeker says, “In the Avestan religion she is the typical virgin.”[14] One modern writer portrays the Mithra myth thus: “According to Persian mythology, Mithras was born of a virgin given the title ‘Mother of God.'”[4]

The Parthian princes of Armenia were all priests of Mithras, and an entire district of this land was dedicated to the virgin mother Anahita. Many Mithraeums, or Mithraic temples, were built in Armenia, which remained one of the last strongholds of Mithraism. The largest near-eastern Mithraeum was built in western Persia at Kangavar, dedicated to “Anahita, the Immaculate Virgin Mother of the Lord Mithras.”

Artemis the Huntress holds two animals, Francois Vase, 6th century BC, Louvre.

Anahita, also known as “Anaitis”— whose very name means pure and untainted — and who was equated in antiquity with the virgin goddess Artemis — is certainly an Indo-Iranian goddess of some antiquity, dating back at least to the first half of the first millennium prior to the common era and enjoying widespread popularity around Asia Minor. Indeed, Anahita has been called “the best known divinity of the Persians” in Asia Minor.[18]

Concerning Mithra, Schaff-Herzog says: “The Achaemenidae worshiped him as making the great triad with Ahura and Anahita.”[29] Ostensibly, this triad was the same as God the Father, the Virgin and Jesus, which would tend to confirm the assertion that Anahita was Mithra’s virgin mother. That Anahita was closely associated with Mithra at least five centuries before the common era is evident from the equation made by Herodotus (1.131) in naming Mitra as the Persian counterpart of the Near- and Middle-Eastern goddesses Alilat and Mylitta.[18]

Mithra’s prototype, the Indian Mitra, was likewise born of Aditi, mother of the gods, the inviolable or virgin dawn. Hence, we would expect an earlier form of Mithra also to possess this virgin-mother motif, which seems to have been lost or deliberately severed in the all-male Roman Mithraism.

The pre-Christian divine birth and virgin-mother motifs are well known to scholars and documented in the archaeological and literary records, as verified by Dr. Marguerite Rigoglioso in The Cult of the Divine Birth in Ancient Greece and Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity. For more information, read: Mithra Born of a Virgin Mother and Mithra and the Twelve.

The teaching god and the twelve disciples

Mithra surrounded by the Twelve anthropomorphized signs of the Zodiac, Mithraeum of San Clemente, 3rd century AD.

The theme of the teaching god and the 12 is found within Mithraism. Mithra is depicted as being surrounded by the 12 zodiac signs on a number of monuments and in the writings of Porphyry (4.16), for one. These 12 signs are sometimes portrayed as humans and, as they have been in the case of numerous sun gods, could be called Mithra’s 12 companions or disciples.

Regarding the 12, John M. Robertson says: “On Mithraic monuments we find representations of twelve episodes, probably corresponding to the twelve labors in the stories of Heracles, Samson and other Sun-heroes, and probably also connected with initiation.”[35] The comparison of this common motif with Jesus and the 12 has been made on many occasions, including in an extensive chapter by Professor A. Deman in Mithraic Studies titled, “Mithras and Christ: some iconographical similarities.”

Early church fathers on Mithraism

Mithraism was so popular in the Roman Empire and so similar in important aspects to Christianity that several church fathers were compelled to address it, disparagingly of course. These fathers included Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Julius Firmicus Maternus and Augustine, all of whom attributed these striking correspondences to the prescient devil. In other words, the devil anticipated Christ and set about to fool the Pagans by imitating the coming messiah. In reality, the testimony of these church fathers confirms that these various motifs, characteristics, traditions and myths predate Christianity. Concerning this devil-did-it argument, in The Worship of Nature Sir James G. Frazer remarks: “If the Mithraic mysteries were indeed a Satanic copy of a divine original, we are driven to conclude that Christianity took a leaf out of the devil’s book when it fixed the birth of the Savior on the twenty-fifth of December for there can be no doubt that the day in question was celebrated as the birthday of the Sun by the heathen before the Church, by an afterthought, arbitrarily transferred the Nativity of its Founder from the sixth of January to the twenty-fifth of December.”

Regarding the various similarities between Mithra and Christ, as well as the defenses of the church fathers, the author of The Existence of Christ Disproved remarks: “Justin Martyr, Church Father Augustine, Firmicus, Justin, Tertullian, and others, having perceived the exact resemblance between the religion of Christ and the religion of Mithra, did, with an impertinence only to be equaled by its outrageous absurdity, insist that the devil, jealous and malignant, induced the Persians to establish a religion the exact image of Christianity that was to be — for these worthy saints and sinners of the church could not deny that the worship of Mithra preceded that of Christ — so that, to get out of the ditch, they summoned the devil to their aid, and with the most astonishing assurance, thus accounted for the striking similarity between the Persian and the Christian religion, the worship of Mithra and the worship of Christ a mode of getting rid of a difficulty that is at once so stupid and absurd, that it would be almost equally stupid and absurd seriously to refute it.”

In response to a question about Tertullian’s discussion of a purported Mithraic forehead mark, Dr. Richard Gordon says: “In general, in studying Mithras, and the other Greco-oriental mystery cults, it is good practice to steer clear of all information provided by Christian writers: they are not ‘sources,’ they are violent apologists, and one does best not to believe a word they say, however tempting it is to supplement our ignorance with such stuff.” He also cautions about speculation concerning Mithraism and states that “there is practically no limit to the fantasies of scholars….”: an interesting admission about the hallowed halls of academia.[8,21,23]

Priority: Mithraism or Christianity?

It is obvious from the remarks of the church fathers and from the literary and archaeological record that Mithraism in some form preceded Christianity by centuries. The fact is: there is no Christian archaeological evidence earlier than the earliest Roman Mithraic archaeological evidence, and the preponderance of evidence points to Christianity being formulated during the second century, not based on a historical personage of the early first century. One important example, the canonical gospels, as we have them, do not show up clearly in the literary record until the end of the second century.

Mithra’s pre-Christian roots are attested in the Vedic and Avestan texts, as well as by historians such as Herodotus [1.131] and Xenophon [Cyrop. viii. 5, 53 and c. iv. 24], among others. Nor is it likely that the Roman Mithras would not essentially be the same as the Indian sun god Mitra and the Persian, Armenian and Phrygian Mithra in his major attributes, as well as some of his most pertinent rites. Moreover, it is erroneously asserted that because Mithraism was a mystery cult, it did not leave any written record. In reality, much evidence of Mithra worship has been destroyed, including not only monuments, iconography and other artifacts, but also numerous books by ancient authors. The existence of written evidence is indicated, for example, by an Egyptian cloth manuscript from the first century BC called, “Mummy Funerary Inscription of the Priest of Mithras, Ornouphios, Son of Artemis” or MS 247.

Egyptian Mithra inscription on cloth, 1st century BC, the Schøyen Collection.

As previously noted, two of the ancient writers on Mithraism are Pallas, and Eubulus, the latter of whom, according to Jerome (Against Jovinianus Schaff), “wrote the history of Mithras in many volumes.” In discussions of Eubulus and Pallas, Porphyry too related that there were “several elaborate treatises setting forth the religion of Mithra.” The writings of the early Church fathers themselves provide much evidence as to what Mithraism was all about, as do the archaeological artifacts stretching from India to Scotland.

These many written volumes on Mithraism doubtlessly contained much interesting information that was damaging to Christianity, such as the important correspondences between the lives of Mithra and Jesus, as well as identical symbols such as the cross, and rites such as baptism and the eucharist. Indeed, Mithraism was so similar to Christianity that it gave fits to the early church fathers, as it does today to apologists, who attempt both to deny the similarities and yet to claim that these (non-existent) correspondences were plagiarized by Mithraism from Christianity.

For centuries prior to the Christian era, the god Mithra was revered, and germane elements of Mithraism are known to have preceded Christianity by hundreds to thousands of years. Regardless of attempts to make Mithraism the plagiarist of Christianity, the fact remains that Mithraism was first and well established in the West, as least decades before Christianity had any significant influence.

References

  • 1. “Chronography of 354,” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calendar_of_Filocalus
  • 2. “Mithraic Mysteries,” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mithraic_mysteries
  • 3. “Mithraism,” www.catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=8042
  • 4. “Mithraism and Christianity,” meta-religion.com/World_Religions/Ancient_religions/Mesopotamia/Mithraism/ mithraism_and_christianity_i.htm
  • 5. “Mithras in Comparison With Other Belief Systems,” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mithras_in_Comparison_With_Other_Belief_Systems
  • 6. “Mitra,” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitra
  • 7. “Yalda,” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yalda
  • 8. Alvar, Jaime, and R.L. Gordon. Romanising Oriental Gods: Myth, Salvation and Ethics in the Cults of Cybele, Isis and Mithras. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2008.
  • 9. Amir-Moezzi, Mohammed Ali. La religion discrète: croyances et pratiques spirituelles dans l’islam shi’ite. Paris: Libr. Philosophique Vrin, 2006.
  • 10. Anonymous. The Existence of Christ Disproved. Private Printing by “A German Jew,” 1840.
  • 11. Badiozamani, Badi. Iran and America: Rekindling a Lost Love. California: East-West Understanding Press, 2005.
  • 12. Beck, Roger. Beck on Mithraism. England/Vermont: Ashgate Pub., 2004.
  • 13. Berry, Gerald. Religions of the World. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1955.
  • 14. Bleeker, Claas J. The Sacred Bridge: Researches into the Nature and Structure of Religion. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1963.
  • 15. Boyce, Mary. “Mithraism: Mithra Khsathrapati and his brother Ahura.” www.iranchamber.com/religions/articles/mithra_khsathrapati_ahura.php
  • 16. A History of Zoroastrianism, II. Leiden/Köln: E.J. Brill, 1982.
  • 17. Campbell, LeRoy A. Mithraic Iconography and Ideology. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1968.
  • 18. de Jong, Albert. Traditions of the Magi: Zoroastrianism in Greek and Latin Literature. Leiden/New York: Brill, 1997.
  • 19. Forbes, Bruce David. Christmas: A Candid History. Berkeley/London: University of California Press, 2007.
  • 20. Frazer, James G. The Worship of Nature, I. London: Macmillan, 1926.
  • 21. Gordon, Richard L. “FAQ.” Electronic Journal of Mithraic Studies, www.hums.canterbury.ac.nz/clas/ejms/faq.htm
  • 22. “The date and significance of CIMRM 593 (British Museum, Townley Collection).”
  • 23. Journal of Mithraic Studies, II (148-174). hums.canterbury.ac.nz/clas/ejms/out_of_print/JMSv2n2/ JMSv2n2Gordon.pdf
  • 24. Halsberghe, Gaston H. The Cult of Sol Invictus. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1972.
  • 25. Hinnells, John R., ed. Mithraic Studies: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1975.
  • 26. Kosso, Cynthia, and Anne Scott. The Nature and Function of Water, Baths, Bathing and Hygiene from Antiquity through the Renaissance. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2009.
  • 27. Lundy, John P. Monumental Christianity. New York: J.W. Bouton, 1876.
  • 28. Molnar, Michael R. The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1999.
  • 29. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, VII. eds. Samuel M. Jackson and George William Gilmore. New York/London: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1910.
  • 30. Plutarch. “Life of Pompey.” The Parallel Lives by Plutarch, V. Loeb, 1917 penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/ Pompey*.html#24
  • 31. Porphyry. Selects Works of Porphyry. London: T. Rodd, 1823.
  • 32. Prajnanananda, Swami. Christ the Saviour and Christ Myth. Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, 1984.
  • 33. Restaud, Penne L. Christmas in America: A History. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1995.
  • 34. Robert, Alexander, and James Donaldson, eds. Ante-Nicene Christian Library, XVIII: The Clementine Homilies. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1870.
  • 35. Robertson, John M. Pagan Christs. Dorset, 1966.
  • 36. Russell, James R. Armenian and Iranian Studies. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004.
  • 37. Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace. A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Father of the Christian Church, VI. New York: The Christian Literature Company, 1893.
  • 38. Schironi, Francesca, and Arthus S. Hunt. From Alexandria to Babylon: Near Eastern Languages and Hellenistic Erudition in the Oxyrhynchus Glossary. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2009.
  • 39. Srinivasan, Doris. On the Cusp of an Era: Art in the Pre-Kusana World. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2007.
  • 40. Weigall, Arthur. The Paganism in Our Christianity. London: Thames & Hudson, 1923.
  • 41. For more information and citations, see The Christ Conspiracy and The Christ Myth Anthology.

Source: Truth Be Known | Edited by Dady Chery for Haiti Chery


Democracy uprising in Egypt: Vindication for Bush 'freedom agenda'?

Critics of Obama's 'pragmatic' approach to Arab regimes say former President Bush was right to push democracy – even if by force. Others say Iraq war delayed its onset in Egypt and elsewhere.

Does US foreign policy under President George W. Bush have anything to do with the pro-democracy protests now rocking the Egyptian regime and forcing accommodation elsewhere in the Arab world?

Events of the past weeks in the "greater Middle East" are, naturally, prompting scrutiny of US policy under President Obama and of the long US relationship with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. But they've also intensified a never-quite-ended boxing match about the "freedom agenda" of Mr. Bush, with some analysts arguing vindication for his attempt to speed democracy to the region and others suggesting the former president's policies did more harm than good to pro-democracy forces there.

In one corner are those who say Bush was right: It is about freedom and democracy. They argue that the US would be better off in the region today if the Obama administration had pursued Bush's vision of regime change in the name of the people’s rights and freedoms, instead of taking a pragmatic tilt to accommodate dictatorial regimes such as Iran in 2009 and other Arab countries more recently.

In the other are those who cite the Iraq war, which Bush pursued at least partly to create a beacon of democracy in the region, as perhaps the single most significant setback for pro-democracy advocates in the region in the past decade.

The debate over the Bush “freedom agenda” may have found its best opposing arguments so far from two Washington thinkers.

Elliott Abrams, a deputy national security adviser in the Bush White House, says the former president believed fervently that Arabs have the same yearning for “liberty” as other people and that dictatorships “are never truly stable.” Recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen “seem to come as a surprise” to the current administration, which cast aside the "freedom agenda" as "too ideological," says Mr. Abrams, now a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Writing Sunday in the Washington Post, Mr. Abrams quoted Bush as saying in a 2003 speech, “As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export.” He himself added: "[T]he revolt in Tunisia, the gigantic wave of demonstrations in Egypt and the more recent marches in Yemen all make clear that Bush had it right – and that the Obama administration’s abandonment of this mind-set is nothing short of a tragedy.”

An opposing view comes from Shibley Telhami, a Middle East expert at the University of Maryland and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He argues that above all the US must refrain from imposing an outcome in the region – no matter how democratic and freedom-oriented its own vision might be. “When the Bush administration used the Iraq war as a vehicle to spread democratic change in the Middle East," he writes, "anger with the United States … and deep suspicion of US intentions put the genuine democracy advocates in the region on the defensive.”

The Iraq war, “waged partly in the name of democracy,” is what raised the passionate opposition of Arab publics and tarnished the name of democratization, Mr. Telhami, a specialist in Arab public opinion, wrote in an op-ed in Monday’s Politico. He agrees with Abrams that the wave of transformative events across the region might have occurred sooner – but he argues that didn't happen “because of the diversion of the Iraq war.”

Telhami’s point is that outside efforts to impose democracy – especially by force – will only set back its forward march. He includes Iran in his analysis, writing, “one wonders whether the Iranian people might succeed [in toppling the clerical regime] if the regime were robbed of its ability to point fingers at the West.”

The showdown in Egypt is raising many pressing questions in Washington: When should the US throw in the towel on a longtime ally who is also a dictator? Does Egypt, after decades of suppression of political opposition, have the makings of a functioning interim government that could keep order until fair elections could be held? What impact would a change of government in Egypt have on Israel and the Arab-Israeli peace process?

But the debate over the appropriate US role in promoting democracy in various corners of the world is central to the priorities of American foreign policy – and evidently it is far from over.


Watch the video: Egyptian elections 2011. Mohamed Gomaa (June 2022).