Thursday, December 20, 2012

Syria: Assad's Playbook Is Now Empty


The Atlantic

by ROBIN WRIGHT   DEC. 14, 2012

The last of the three conditions keeping Syria's dictator in power finally collapsed this week.
The Assad dynasty, which has ruled the most strategic chunk of land in the Arab world for more than 40 years, may now face insurmountable odds. The three fundamental rules in a dictator's playbook of power have changed over the past two weeks.
Although modern autocrats rarely rally a majority, my experience is that they need at least 30 percent support at home to survive serious opposition challenges. They also need powerful foreign allies to prevent international isolation or invasion. And they also need to prevent viable, credible, or recognized alternatives to their leadership so they remain the only source of order.
President Bashar al-Assad is now closer -- much closer -- than at any point in the 20-month conflict to losing out on all three. And his use of imprecise but deadly Scud missiles against his own people this month demonstrates that he has no backup game plan.
That doesn't mean that he will be forced out quickly or easily. In many historic last-gasps, the final battle is the bloodiest. But the odds are now decisively against the Assad regime's open-ended survival.
First, every indicator suggests the despot of Damascus no longer has one-third of the population behind him. The Assad father and son had relied on an unusual collection of minorities with interconnected political and economic self-interests. The political math added up large chunks of Alawites (12 percent), Christians (10 percent), Kurds (9 percent,) plus business elites, the corrupt who were bought, and civil servants in a bloated bureaucracy who were loyal (or apolitical) in exchange for jobs.
The numbers were important as much for security as for politics in a country without any real rights. They ensured Assad could recruit security forces with motives worth putting their lives on the line for him.
But the critical quota has been dwindling since the summer, as the regime's crackdown has grown ever more bloodthirsty and rebels have seized territory. A growing number of Alawites, an offshoot sect of Shiite Islam to which the Assad family belongs, are alarmed enough to distance themselves from the ruling clan.
Assad's army -- on paper -- was about 300,000 strong when the first protest erupted in remote Daraa, after teenagers were arrested for scribbling anti-government graffiti on public walls in March 2011. Today, the number of reliable troops may be as low as 70,000 to 80,000 in a country of 22.5 million, according to Arab and Western officials.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh lasted 13 months because he still had significant political and military support. Libya's Moammar Qaddafi held on for eight months because he had a mix of the military, tribes or clans, and the oil-corrupted. Assad has lasted the longest, but also at the greatest cost to his base of support.
Second, autocrats also need powerful allies. Assad would not have lasted this long without Russia, China, and Iran. Tehran has aided and abetted Damascus with weaponry, intelligence capabilities, lessons from its experience in tactical repression from its own 2009 uprising, and indirect economic assistance, according to Western and Arab officials.
Russia has been even more important. With an assist from Beijing, Moscow has blocked credible international sanctions to squeeze Syria, which was vulnerable because its modest oil exports were already declining.
But on Thursday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov conceded Assad might not make it. "Unfortunately, it is impossible to exclude a victory of the Syrian opposition," he said, according to Russian press reports. "We must look squarely at the facts, and the trend now suggests that the regime and the government in Syria are losing more and more control and more and more territory."
Russia is also developing plans to evacuate thousands of Russians now in Syria, Bogdanov reportedly said. Moscow has longstanding military, diplomatic and commercial interests in Syria, its strongest Arab ally. The leaks are a major indication of the cracks in an alliance that blocked punitive U.N. measures against Syria.
And finally, Syria has a new(ish) opposition that claims more credibility as an alternative than the feckless group of exiles that squabbled away 20 months -- and in the process left Assad the only political game in town. Under intense U.S. pressure, the Syrian National Council was reconfigured and expanded to include insiders under an unwieldy title -- the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SOC).
The opposition is still fragile and fraught with infighting. It may still prove as hapless as the Iraqi National Council, which was also crafted by the United States. But the transformation was enough for President Obama this week to announce American recognition of the SOC as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, with 100 other countries joining in.
The emergence of a recognized opposition changes the internal and international dynamics of the conflict and opens the way for many other forms of aid, too.
Predictions about anything in the Middle East are always dicey. Many of us who know Syria well -- and have had our own encounters with a very determined dictatorship -- have been stunned that Assad has lasted this long. I still owe lunch to a colleague who predicted a longer struggle than I did. But his target date for Assad's ouster has also long passed.
Assad's demise will require that his support ebbs further, that his allies move more decisively against him, and that the new government-in-exile prove itself. But the forces have never been so solidly arrayed against the Assad dynasty. Syria may have finally reached a long-illusive tipping point.

After the Arab Spring: Two Years Later


Los Angeles Times 

Revolutionary fervor has given way to the hard realities of running countries
By Robin Wright
Dec. 9, 2012
The most enduring image from my travels across the Middle East this year was a Libyan street lined with bridal boutiques. Mannequins in bouffant white dresses, with beaded bustiers and satin rosettes, evoked Cinderella transformed by her ball gown.
Outside, however, the street was lined with heaping piles of garbage wrapped in tatty plastic bags. Tripoli literally stank.
On the second anniversary of the Arab uprisings, millions across the Middle East still have dreams of makeovers. But revolutionary fairy tales have devolved into the reality of running countries that are still without fully functioning governments or basic laws. Providing fundamental public services, much less addressing economic woes that sparked the uprisings, is still a very long way off.
The old order has yet to be replaced by a new one.
"We are a stateless society today," lamented former prime minister Mahmoud Jibril, a  rebel leader. "For 42 years, Moammar Qaddafi was the state. When he died, the state died too." In July, Jibril's coalition won the largest block of seats in the new national assembly. "We're starting from scratch," he told me last month.

Phase two of the Arab Spring is proving far harder than the first phase, as has become painfully evident in Egypt's turmoil. Despite a theoretical embrace of democracy, factions fear each other in practice. The latest flash point is the country's draft constitution, scheduled for a vote this week.

"I suffer from polarization in my own family," a senior Egyptian official told me. "Two of my kids blame me and [President Mohamed] Morsi for all Egypt's problems. They say you're robbing me of my future."
Egypt is consumed with a democracy of distrust. Young revolutionaries resent that the Muslim Brotherhood has been the primary beneficiary of an uprising it did not spark. The Morsi government made a power grab last month out of fear that a deep state cabal from the ancien regime was plotting to undo it. Secular and liberal activists suspect that the two religious parties, which won more than 70% of the seats in a parliament since disbanded by the courts, are scheming to create an Islamic state.
And, in the ultimate irony, the Islamist parties aren't crazy about each other either. The Brotherhood views the ultraconservative Salafis as backward and naive. Salafis criticize the Brotherhood for compromising the Islamist code.
Variations of the same issues are visible throughout the region.
In the spring, I went to Sidi Bouzid, where a young Tunisian fruit vendor triggered the Arab uprisings by setting himself on fire on Dec. 17, 2010, to protest government corruption and abuse. I asked other fruit vendors on his old corner what the Jasmine Revolution had done for them.
They had far more freedom, they said, but far fewer jobs. Nationwide unemployment was about 17%, but 40% among the young. By the fall, when I returned to Tunisia, new graffiti blasted the new government.
Emboldened and ambitious Salafis, who have entered politics after 14 centuries of rejecting participation, also now seek to re-create life as practiced by early Muslims, a central tenet of al Qaeda's ideology. Many but not all reject violence.
During my visit, six weeks after a Sept. 14 attack by Salafi radicals, the large windows at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis were still blackened and broken. Bulletproof glass at the entry was shattered and warped.
Among Mideast countries in transition, Libya has the most going for it, with vast resources and a small population. Oil production is back to about 90%.
Yet for six days in October, water sellers set up stands all over the capital because the city of 2.2 million was bone dry, and no one seemed to know how to fix broken pipes and pumps.
It wasn't entirely the fault of the country's new leaders. After international sanctions were lifted in 2008, Qaddafi initiated huge construction projects with foreign companies without provisions for maintenance.
Revolutionary rivalries, spurred by democratic openings, have intensified the trauma of transition in Libya. One basic clash is over who is a real revolutionary — and not a "post-revolution revolutionary" cashing in politically or financially after the fact.
In recent months, the Warriors Commission has registered 240,000 men from 300 militias. "Some pretend they were revolutionaries," commission spokesman Abdel Rahman Mansouri told me. "So we ask for proof. Some lie. Some fail. Some are pro-Qaddafi." Cellphone combat videos — I saw many, most of them quite bloody — are a hot item to prove bona fides.
Only a fraction probably fought, officials said. So not all may win benefits, which could have an impact on both politics and national security.
"There are at least four guns for every man, woman and child in Libya," former Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur told me.
Libya is far from lost, however. Like the bridal shop, some images reflected hope about the future — even around Bab Azizia, the sprawling fortress where I first interviewed Qaddafi in 1980. He had received visitors in a hokey tent of colorful quilts inside the compound's concrete walls.
Pummeled by NATO warplanes and finished off by rebels, Bab al Azizia is now a pile of rubble. But across the street is a more than 500-yard wall divvied into billboard-size sections. For the revolution's first anniversary in October, young artists, including teenage girls, painted their visions of a new Libya. Several featured promising symbols such as scales of justice or white doves.
In a country long associated with extremism, terrorism and the Mideast's most radical factions, the most eye-catching sign was emblazoned with a single word in big bright colors: Peace.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mideast’s dynamic opportunity for peace


Reuters 
By Robin Wright
           The Arab world may be in turmoil, but its leaders actually need an enduring peace—now in Gaza and long-term with Israel—because regimes across the region are vulnerable as never before.
Whether they like it or not, that’s true for newly elected Islamists. And old-order autocrats need resolution to prevent protests at home from turning against them.
            The challenge for Washington is taking advantage of the vulnerability to work with the new political roster, including players it doesn’t know all that well. The tectonic political shift over the past two years offers a rather dynamic opportunity.
            Committed U.S. diplomacy could not only spur meaningful movement on the 64-year conflict. It could enhance Israel’s security and prevent a whole new type of tension with the region’s new governments.
            The potential is visible in budding relations between President Obama and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate who has evolved since June from an unknown engineering professor to the most powerful Arab leader. They’ve talked often during the crisis.  He is now brokering what happens next.
             Washington's relationship with Morsi will also influence Phase 2 of the Arab awakening. U.S.-Egypt relations under a Muslim Brotherhood president will shape American ties with the wider Islamic world too. 
           The Obama administration needs to move through three phases. Phase 1 is a lasting truce—not just a “period of calm.”
Ceasefires never last if not followed by substantive solutions. So Phase 2—in weeks, not months—is tackling immediate flashpoints, including real security for Israel, easing the crippling blockade of Gaza and a settlement freeze in the West Bank.
Hamas has no incentive to end military pressure on Israel unless Israel eases economic pressure on Gaza, and vice versa. Hamas can never win militarily, but it can thrive politically by not losing—the Hezbollah model from the 2006 war. The now weakened West Bank government of President Mahmoud Abbas Bank won’t convince Hamas rivals to consider any deal without proof that Israel is seriously engaging.
Phase 3 is negotiations on a broader Palestinian-Israeli peace. Ironically, after four years of virtually neglecting the peace process, Hillary Clinton now has an opportunity to pick up where Bill Clinton left off in his final days as president. The working assumption has long been that the Camp David plan outlined 12 years ago would form the basis of any peace. Phase 3 needs an urgent deadline that doesn’t slip, as have efforts since the original 1993 accords.
Diplomacy short of all three means indefinite rounds of these conflicts which neither side can win militarily. The administration needs to move at a clip to ensure events on the ground don’t again overtake diplomacy. The moment of opportunity is short.
Phase 3 could begin to take shape when Morsi makes his maiden visit as president to Washington next month. The new Egyptian government reflects the broader political reality today: Fragile new Arab governments are no longer resistance movements. Their primary focus is on creating jobs, writing constitutions, reconstruction, and disarming militias.
They don’t have a lot of time. Egypt, Tunisia and Libya all face elections over the next year for permanent parliaments, after writing constitutions. They know there is more power on the streets today than in presidential palaces. They also know utopian expectations are not being met.  Over the past two months, I’ve tasted the growing public disillusionment in travels from North Africa to the Gulf.
Islamist parties have stronger ties to Hamas than their secular predecessors. But ideology may not be preeminent—at least now. Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem, son-in-law of Islamist leader Rachid Ghannouchi, visited Gaza Saturday. Yet when I saw Abdessalem and Ghannouchi last month in Tunisia, both were consumed with staggering domestic challenges.
            Unemployment was 17 percent, but 40 percent among the young, Abdessalem lamented. “Among the young, half are college graduates. So it’s not finding them just any job.”
            Economics triggered the greatest change in the modern Middle East. A young Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire over the right to a job, not to vote for the party of his choice. Enduring hardships can’t be overestimated as the pressing political factor.
            In Libya, Tripoli literally stinks from garbage lining streets while the ingĂ©nue state figures out how to function. Last month, the capital was without water for six days. And a Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarian fretting about disarming 240,000 armed men from 300 militias.  “So far, integration into the military and security institutions is not going all that well,” Neizar Kawan told me.
Only Syria has no interest in either a short or long-term peace. Gaza diverts attention from the daily slaughter.  That says a lot about the changing Middle East—and the possibilities for U.S. diplomacy. A real peace process may have a rippling impact too.
I’ve covered every Middle East war since 1973. This conflict really has critical differences—and opportunities.

Robin Wright, a joint fellow at the US Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson Center, is author of “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion across the Islamic World.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Don't Fear All Islamists, Fear Salafis

The New York Times 

 Aug. 20, 2012 
 By Robin Wright
      THIS spring, I traveled to the cradle of the Arab uprisings — a forlorn street corner in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, where a street vendor, drenched in paint thinner, struck a match in December 2010 that ignited the entire Middle East. “We have far more freedoms,” one peddler hawking fruit in the same square lamented, “but far fewer jobs.” Another noted that Mohamed Bouazizi, the vendor who set himself on fire, did so not to vote in a democratic election but because harassment by local officials had cost him his livelihood.
      As the peddlers vented, prayers ended at the whitewashed mosque across the street. Among the faithful were Salafis, ultraconservative Sunni Muslims vying to define the new order according to seventh-century religious traditions rather than earthly realities.
     For years, many Salafis — “salaf” means predecessors — had avoided politics and embraced autocrats as long as they were Muslims. But over the past eight months, clusters of worshipers across the Middle East have morphed into powerful Salafi movements that are tapping into the disillusionment and disorder of transitions.
      A new Salafi Crescent, radiating from the Persian Gulf sheikdoms into the Levant and North Africa, is one of the most underappreciated and disturbing byproducts of the Arab revolts. In varying degrees, these populist puritans are moving into the political space once occupied by jihadi militants, who are now less in vogue. Both are fundamentalists who favor a new order modeled on early Islam. Salafis are not necessarily fighters, however. Many disavow violence.
      In Tunisia, Salafis started the Reform Front party in May and led protests, including in Sidi Bouzid. This summer, they’ve repeatedly attacked symbols of the new freedom of speech, ransacking an art gallery and blocking Sufi musicians and political comedians from performing. In Egypt, Salafis emerged last year from obscurity, hastily formed parties, and in January won 25 percent of the seats in parliament — second only to the 84-year-old Muslim Brotherhood. Salafis are a growing influence in Syria’s rebellion. And they have parties or factions in Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Libya, Yemen and among Palestinians.
      Salafis are only one slice of a rapidly evolving Islamist spectrum. The variety of Islamists in the early 21st century recalls socialism’s many shades in the 20th. Now, as then, some Islamists are more hazardous to Western interests and values than others. The Salafis are most averse to minority and women’s rights.
      A common denominator among disparate Salafi groups is inspiration and support from Wahhabis, a puritanical strain of Sunni Islam from Saudi Arabia. Not all Saudis are Wahhabis. Not all Salafis are Wahhabis, either. But Wahhabis are basically all Salafis. And many Arabs, particularly outside the sparsely populated Gulf, suspect that Wahhabis are trying to seize the future by aiding and abetting the region’s newly politicized Salafis — as they did 30 years ago by funding the South Asian madrassas that produced Afghanistan’s Taliban.
      Salafis go much further in restricting political and personal life than the larger and more modern Islamist parties that have won electoral pluralities in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco since October. For most Arabs, the rallying cry is justice, both economic and political. For Salafis, it is also about a virtue that is inflexible and enforceable.
      “You have two choices: heaven or hellfire,” Sheikh Muhammad el-Kurdi instructed me after his election to Egypt’s parliament as a member of Al Nour, a Salafi party. It favors gender segregation in schools and offices, he told me, so that men can concentrate. “It’s O.K. for you to be in the room,” he explained. “You are our guest, and we know why you’re here. But you are one woman and we are three men — and we all want to marry you.” Marriage may have been a euphemism.
      Other more modern Islamists fear the Salafi factor. “The Salafis try to push us,” said Rachid al-Ghannouchi, founder of Ennahda, the ruling Islamist party in Tunisia. The two Islamist groups there are now rivals. “Salafis are against drafting a constitution. They think it is the Koran,” grumbled MerhĂ©zia Labidi, the vice chairwoman of Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly and a member of Ennahda.
       Salafis are deepening the divide between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and challenging the “Shiite Crescent,” a term coined by Jordan’s King Abdullah in 2004, during the Iraq war, to describe an arc of influence from Shiite-dominated Iran to its allies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Today, these rival crescents risk turning countries in transition into battlefields over the region’s future.
       The Salafis represent a painful long-term conundrum for the West. Their goals are the most anti-Western of any Islamist parties. They are trying to push both secularists and other Islamists into the not-always-virtuous past.
      American policy recently had its own awakening after 60 years of support for autocratic rulers. The United States opted to embrace people power and electoral change in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Yemen. Yet Washington still embraces authoritarian Gulf monarchies like Saudi Arabia, tolerating their vague promises of reform and even pledging the United States’ might to protect them.
      Foreign policy should be nuanced, whether because of oil needs or to counter threats from Iran. But there is something dreadfully wrong with tying America’s future position in the region to the birthplace and bastion of Salafism and its warped vision of a new order.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/opinion/dont-fear-all-islamists-fear-salafis.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print
       Robin Wright, the author of “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World,” is a fellow at the United States Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Friday, January 20, 2012

After Tahrir, Finishing the Revolution

On the anniversary of Egypt's historic protests, a 49-year-old mother tries to hold the military accountable—one body at a time

Wall Street Journal Jan. 21, 2012

As Egypt's tumultuous uprising has deteriorated over the last year, Ghada Shahbender, a former soccer mom, has adopted a grim vocation.

"It's hospital after hospital, morgue after morgue," the divorced mother of four told me. "I started back in February, about the time that the camel drivers attacked us in Tahrir Square. I was trying to get a body count, but I was chased out. The government didn't want us to know how many people really died."

As clashes between protesters and security forces escalated in the fall, Ms. Shahbender and other volunteers learned to reach coroners quickly to prevent them from lying on death certificates under government pressure.

"There's often an awful battle over writing a report about what really happened—like when a body arrives with a gunshot wound in the forehead and a coroner tries to make it a car accident," said Ms. Shahbender, a secular voter (and former screenwriter) who sees the country's Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF) as the key remaining obstacle to democracy.

On Jan. 25, Egypt marks the one-year anniversary of epic protests that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in a mere 18 days. The Arab world's most populous country has just wrapped up the freest election in its 5,000-year history. By June, a committee from the new parliament is supposed to write a constitution, and then Egypt will elect a president.

Yet across teeming Cairo, there's a sense now that the revolution has only begun—and that the last body has yet to be counted. Egyptians increasingly frame the next five months as a third phase of their rebellion. The first was the ouster of Mr. Mubarak. The second played out in sporadic clashes from October to December. The third phase will be shaped as elected officials struggle to dismantle Egypt's military empire. Many here fear it could take years—and prove harder than ousting Mr. Mubarak.

Underneath its autocratic surface, modern Egypt was effectively a military state. Since the Free Officers Movement toppled the monarchy in 1952, all of the country's presidents have been military men. The SCAF, which holds power now, abandoned Mr. Mubarak partly because it wanted another general, not Mr. Mubarak's son, to succeed him, Egyptian analysts contend.

The military has long influenced everything from legislation to the media and foreign policy. And, according to reports, it may control up to 30% of the economy, including vast tracts of land.

The generals want four controversial guarantees before ceding power, according to Amr Hamzawy, who won a parliamentary seat as an independent. They seek immunity from prosecution for human rights violations, including hundreds of deaths, since taking over on Feb. 11 last year. They want to preserve their political leverage, including an effective veto over legislation. They want to retain their business interests. And they seek control over the military budget, which under Mr. Mubarak was kept secret even from parliament.

"These are not issues that will be decided once and for all in June," Mr. Hamzawy said. "Does that mean they will not hand over power? It means they will hand it over constitutionally and on paper. And the new parliament will draft limits and checks and balances that then will take time to enact."

"I don't know whether we will be successful," he added.

Meantime, the disparate array of protesters is demanding that SCAF allow elected civilians to rule Egypt for the first time. At Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the yearlong uprising, graffiti that once carried anti-Mubarak slogans now target the generals. "Death to the rule of the military," declares one.

Tensions between protesters and SCAF have deepened particularly since a four-day crackdown in December killed dozens more activists. Over the past year, according to Human Rights Watch, more than 12,000 civilians have been tried by military courts, some simply for insulting the military.

Rival anniversary commemorations reflect the rising tensions. Protesters have called for massive demonstrations against SCAF on Jan. 25. SCAF responded by calling on Egyptians to turn out to honor the military's role in ousting Mr. Mubarak. The Islamist parties, on the eve of gaining power after winning almost 70% of the seats in the new parliament, want to avoid new turmoil, but they are also savvy about street sentiment. They have called on the public to turn out to celebrate "martyrs" who died in the uprising.

Whether or not the competing passions of Jan. 25 spark confrontations, Ms. Shahbender and her daughter Nazly Hussein, 28, are preparing to count more bodies. Ms. Hussein takes a video camera along to document death and injuries for the new group Mosireen, Arabic for "the determined," which posts them on the Web.

"I've been to the morgues so many times I lost count," Ms. Shahbender said. The hardest deaths to document, she said, were the bodies crushed by military vehicles.

Over the past year, Ms. Shahbender, 49, whose latest film was abruptly deferred after the uprising, has become a leading activist—a reflection of the fact that Egypt's protest leaders are not just young people. She smuggled supplies into Tahrir Square, created networks of activists and became a popular voice on Twitter. During the recent elections, she exposed thousands of discarded ballots in a Cairo district and forced a revote.

"This can't all have been for nothing," she told me while navigating Cairo's chaotic traffic en route to an open-air rally for Kazeboon, a group formed last month to counter the military's propaganda against the protesters. (Kazeboon means "liars.") On a frigid night, the demonstration packed Union Square with protesters to honor the "Eyes of Tahrir," the more than 1,500 activists who lost an eye from beatings or from pellet guns, according to human rights activists and doctors.

Among them was Ahmed Harara, a young dentist who lost an eye on Jan. 28 last year, the day protesters pushed security forces from Lovers' Bridge and occupied Tahrir Square. He lost his other eye during protests on Nov. 19. Ms. Shahbender is documenting his and other cases for the Egyptian Organization of Human Rights. At the rally, an ophthalmologist showed gruesome slides of bloodied corneas on a screen made from sheets.

Bassem Youssef is a cardiac surgeon who tended to the injured at a makeshift clinic at Tahrir Square during the uprising's first phase. He has gained fame since March as the Jon Stewart of Egypt after he launched a satirical news show. Mr. Youssef has now started ridiculing SCAF.

"It's not just how many tanks they own," he reflected after a recent taping. "How do you build a highway here? You go to the military as it has the resources. So the idea of turning over control—I just don't see it happening. After Mubarak stepped down, he went on trial. Will the generals go on trial? I don't think so." He started the show, he said, to expose "the hypocrisy and lying."

After a year of unrest, Ms. Shahbender says that she is inured to fear. "I can't get over the sight of the one-eyed and the blind. The more I look at the paraplegics who were shot in the back, the more I want justice. The dead actually may be in a better place," she said. "I can only pray that these generals pay the prices of these grievances with their own health."

—Ms. Wright, a joint fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson Center, is the author of "Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion across the Islamic World."