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New Left Review 70, July-August 2011

kees van der pijl


The shockwaves of popular rebellion reverberating across the Arab world since the start of 2011 have put to the test the West’s dominion over the region; a rule that has long aimed at securing access to the Middle East’s oil and gas, while supporting Israel’s ongoing colonization of Palestine. The means by which imperial control is exercised were vividly exposed to public view, as Western officials scrambled to ‘stabilize’ the states that had long served as their clients in the region. In Egypt, a favoured destination for cia rendition flights, the annual subsidy of $1.3bn in us military aid since 1979 has famously bought the Pentagon a direct line to the Army high command, giving Washington a control panel from which to manage the handling of the mass protests. The us Defense Secretary Robert Gates was on the phone to Cairo ‘every few hours’. Daily exhortations from the Obama Administration urged, first, ‘an orderly transition’ with Mubarak stepping down in September; then, as mass pressure grew, ‘an orderly transition now’, to the spymaster, Omar Suleiman; finally, a seizure of power by the Supreme Military Council (smc), an outcome announced to Congress by Leon Panetta, then head of the cia, on February 10, the day before it happened. All pointed to the urgency of American actions in stabilizing the 80-million-strong centre of gravity of Arab discontent, through the mechanisms of the post-colonial state.

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Kees van der Pijl, ‘Arab Revolts and Nation-State Crisis’, NLR 70: £3

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