‘The Kim is Dead…Long Live the Kim’…

…As the newly late Christopher Hitchens said of the ascension of the also newly late Kim Jong-Il to his father’s premiership in 1994.*

It seems oddly fitting that they died within days of each other.

The death of the most famous modern example of ‘short man complex’, Kim Jong Il, this Saturday instigates another merry-go round of mourning as North Korea prepares for the arrival of more of the same in the shape of his son, Kim Jong Un in much the same way as his father took over power from his grandfather.

The dramatic scenes of public mourning may seem odd to the cynical Western observer who is unlikely to notice one of their leaders passing or only wish to dance on their grave but they are not immune to a cult of personality.

What is it about one person that can inspire such rapturous devotion? Especially in a country like North Korea: regarded as the world’s most dangerous ‘rogue state’ where the capital city, Pyongyang, only has light at night if there are foreign journalists in town and the people regularly starved as the elites indulge their taste for cigars and cognac.
Continue reading ‘The Kim is Dead…Long Live the Kim’…

And the Arab Winter Rumbles On…

Syrian Soldiers Patrol the Streets of Homs. Courtesy of the Guardian/Yin Bogu/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Syria has rejected the Arab League’s demand to end its violent crackdown on protesters and allow greater freedom or face economic sanctions from the League after 3500 people have been killed since the rebellion began in March.

They were suspended from the League on Wednesday.

Along with the demand to end the violence, the League also ordered Syria to allow foreign journalists to work, release all recent political prisoners, withdraw all military from the cities and enter talks with opposition groups within two weeks.

It is understood that the Syrian authorities have agreed to allow a small number, much smaller than originally proposed by the League, of observers in to monitor the peace talks but activists say that 11 have died in the unrest since last Friday are worried that the country will slide into civil war.

Libyan’s suspension from the League was a major factor in the UN agreement to send in support for the rebels back in March and with huge public pressure in countries around the Western world Syria is widely tipped to be the next country faced with foreign intervention. However there are fears within the elite that if they give into the League’s demands and in allowed foreign peace keepers they will lost control of large swathes of territory.

Meanwhile in Egypt, more than 200 people have been hurt in clashes in Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the Egyptian revolution earlier this year, as police use rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the long-term sit-in that started on Friday to protest against Egypt’s military rule.

Finally, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son that always claimed the regime would rise again, was captured trying to flee the country yesterday and will be transported to the Hague to stand trial at the International Criminal Court.

It would seem the Arab Spring still isn’t over.
Continue reading And the Arab Winter Rumbles On…

After The Fall: What’s Next For The Middle East?

Courtesy of Nick Hayes/ The Guardian

Now that the Gaddafi regime has been ousted from Tripoli and the rebels revel in and loot the various palaces of him and his family, the blogosphere and the Guardian’s picture editors are making the (slightly obvious) comparison’s between Gaddafi’s regime and the forgotten colossus in Shelley’s Ozymandias.

However, as talk turns to what Libya and the Middle East will do next I think a probably more profound literary allusion would be George Orwell. Or more specifically, the final words of his 1945 novella Animal Farm:

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from
pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

Continue reading After The Fall: What’s Next For The Middle East?