Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tim Marshall on the Arab Spring

I had a brief chat with Tim Marshall after his recent talk in Trinity College

Last week I attended a lecture given by Sky News foreign correspondent Tim Marshall in Trinity College Dublin. The lecture, hosted by Trinity's Philosophical Society took place in a small room and was conducted in an informal manner. The comfortable atmosphere was the ideal setting for the round table discussion as we all sat on couches listening to Marshall's take on the tumultuous events that have engulfed the Middle East during the last year, much of which he witnessed from close up. The gist of his views were as follows.

1. He believes that Tunisia has by far the best chance of having a successful transition to democracy because of the lack of a sectarian element in that country and because the Ben Ali regime fell before a significant number of armed and uncontrollable rebels groups took to the streets.

2. He is much less optimistic about Libya. He believes that the new regime will inevitably be dominated by undemocratic Islamists. Even more worrying was his view that the main stream media are dramatically understating the level of crimes being committed by the new regime. Marshall believes that as many 10,000 supporters of the Gadaffi regime have already been murdered and another 20,000 imprisoned.

3. According to Mr Marshall Egypt is up for grabs. The Muslim Brotherhood are well organised and will undoubtedly have a significant say in the future of the country but the deeply ingrained military influence on the state will be impossible to sever. Marshall’s personal recollection of events in Egypt was fascinating. His description of the movement as being largely upper middle class surprised me. He also claimed that it was never as large or as grass roots as the media portrayed.

4. Marhsall spent more time discussing events in Syria than anywhere else. I was relieved (and I told him so) that an expert like Tim Marshall could not accurately define what a Alawite Shia Muslim was. I was relieved because I have tried so hard to find this out for myself but always just ended up confusing myself more. Marshall is absolutely convinced that Bashar Al Asssad is done for. The simple fact is that a dictator whose supports base comes from a minority sect representing 10% of the population cannot survive. He also stressed the regional hostility to Syria which many see as the conduit with which Iran can spread its influence throughout the Arab world. He informed us of the quite starling fact that since the fall of Sadam Hussein in Iraq, an Iranian convoy carrying men and equipment can drive over land from Iran to Lebanon via Shia dominated Iraq and allawite Syria. The fall of Assad will put an end to this.

Inevitably when it came to question time many of the students present were more interested in asking Tim Marshall about the nature of his dangerous job. Marshall admitted that there was an element of bravado in it. There was added significance to this discussion because earlier that day the news had broke of the death of Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin (pictured) who was killed during the shelling of Homs. Marshall knew her well and described her with a smirk as "a lot of fun". I have read many books on war journalism and understand that a bond and a sense of comradely often builds up between conflict journalists regardless of who they work for. No doubt Marshall and Colvin shared many intense situations in dilapidated hotel lobbies, drinking and joking as the world seems to be coming to an end around them. This warped sense of humor is something that many war correspondents seem to develop as a way of coping with such madness.

He finished off the lecture with something that really resonated with me. He spoke about the need for the western world to "speak with confidence" when it comes to the Arab world. He put our unwillingness to do this (although not for the Irish) down to post colonial guilt. What I'm sure Mr Marshall means is that at a time when Arab dictatorships are crumbling we in the west should be outspoken and unapologetic about the nobility of the democratic model that we in the west practice. Free elections, free speech, free media and separation of powers is what the Arab world should aspire to and we in the west should not be sheepish about it. It was an excellent talk by Marshall and I was glad to meet a man whose ability to logically analyse rapidly unfolding events I have come to admire very much.


builder man said...

Watching Tim Marshall's interview with Netanyahu did not give me the impression of a fearless broadcaster.
Natanyahu is a slippery character but
a man of Marshall's experience should
have nailed him on what's happening in the West Bank which is destroying
any possibility of a viable Palestinian State. Netanyahu won't appear on the BBC because he doesn't like the questions. I'm afraid that Marshall takes the Israeli view as the default position. Not a good journalist in my view. Look how the interview ends. A handshake and smiles of recognition. Tame questioning and poor journalism.

Ted Leddy said...

Builder man

I have just watched the Netenyahu Marshall interview this minute. I thought Marshall did reasonably well. He did press Netenyahu on the settlements issue and on the stalled talks. What's wrong with the hand shake. How would it have been better journalism if he ended it with a scowl?

builder man said...

To Ted Leddy.Many western leaders regard Netanyahu as a liar and a shyster. I looked again at the Marshall interview and his statements. 1. 'Arab Israelis have equal rights.' Lie. Citizenship Law
discriminates against Arabs - UN. The
Israeli gov. has done little to reduce institutional, legal and societal discrimination against the Arabs - US State Dept. The list is long, housing, benefits, grants for
services etc. 3 times as much spent
on education for Jewish children as Arabs. A new law allowed Jews to claim property they once had in E.Jerusalem and the West Bank but NOT Arab claims to their former properties.See Susan Nathan: 'The
Other side of Israel' and info on
Wiki. 2. Hamas. Is a resistance movement against a perceived injustice and like the ANC, IRA
commit crimes against humanity.
Does the injustice exist? Certainly.Can they be negoiated with? Certainly- See Shallit release.Hamas offers 10 year truce
(incl. recognition of Israel) for '67 borders State.
So why not negoiate with them on future of Palestine? As with the IRA maintaining its political aspirations but renouncing violence.'Wiping out' rhetoric again. At Hamas said 'Liberate Palestine from Med. to Jordan river.'IRA said same of N.Ireland. That didn't translate to
'wiping out.'Another lie.3.Road blocks. West Bank split into 6 'cantons' or 'bantustans' and very
difficult for Palestinians to travel between them. See Wiki.Another lie. 4. The settlement
freeze that wasn't. Did not include
Jerusalem or projects already started or those parts of West Bank
annexed to Jerusalem. See www. global Another lie. 5. Settlements only 1%
Go to where they show
details of the control of 42.8%,
yes 42.8% of the West Bank! Another lie.6. 4000 years a Jewish homeland. Latest DNA shows that it is the PALESTINIANS who are the decendants of the original tribes.
Another lie. So Marshall did not'press' him at all. His default position is to support Israel and
Bibi knows this hence the smiles and warm handshakes.To support Israel is to be complicit in the occupation and subjugation of another people with AT LEAST equal
rights to the land. I'm disappointed that when it comes to Israel you hold your humanity so cheaply.

The System Works said...

Ted: For extreme leftists and jihadists like builder man, Israelis are sub-humans not to be smiled at or mingled with. They might spread disease.

The System Works said...

However, just like the Nazis and the Soviets, Israel's enemies need a Judenrat or an Yevsektsiya to help in their dirty work. This is where Communists like Susan Nathan and Ilan Pappe come in.

Paul said...

Dear oh dear what a throbber!

Ted Leddy said...

Builder man

"I'm disappointed that when it comes to Israel you hold your humanity so cheaply".

I see the big picture with Israel. If the Gaza strip and the West Bank were incorporated into Israel and all sides were to live in one state (as you and many others campaign for), a Rwanda type genocide would be the result. If I were to be an enabler of such a scenario it would not reflect well on my humanity.

builder man said...

To Ted Leddy. I think you have misunderstood. At this time I advocate the 2 state policy and I accept that Israel would require guarantees of security. It is ISRAEL that has made the 2 state solution
virtually impossible, ever more building settlements and stealing the
water on so much of palestinian land.
What I contend is that no decent human being could see what has and is
going on in Palestine look the other way and not protest. I think
you find it more convenient not to look.