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Connecting the dots

A weekly column from Mel Wilde

Trying to understand the politics of North Africa and the Arab States would be a daunting task. At the moment our eyes are on Libya and its dictatorial leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The tribal system is still a fundamental part of Libyan society.  Indeed, Gadhafi’s greatest strength is that for forty years he has managed to retain the support of these divergent groups.

There are more than a hundred and forty sub-tribes in Libya, all which have different allegiances and standards of norms and behavior.  In fact most Libyan surnames carry the tribal name so an individual can be easily identified.   Colonel Gadhafi comes from the Gadhafi tribe.  Loyalty to ones tribe runs deep.

Our concepts of a ‘one man, one vote,’  kind of democratic system doesn’t fit the mold in tribal society and we need to avoid seeing the reality of that Libya through the lens of our own domestic experience.

Libya has about five million citizens and in addition to approximately a million and a half foreign workers in country most of the time.  It’s difficult to believe that one man could by coercion, force, or both, balance the interest of so many different factions.  To his credit he has pulled it off with huge success.

Farther across the Sahara there are provocateurs a field who are working to destabilize the region for their own benefit.  Throughout the Gulf states, Iran is playing a very nasty game and so far is being successful.

They are among the major financiers of the unrest in Iraq and have Muqtada Al-Sadr, a leading Mullah in Iraq, under their thumb.  Just this week the Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki has invited Al-Sadr for talks.  In Lebanon, both Iran and Syria have cooperative control of Hezbollah, the terrorist group that is in charge in Lebanon.

I can only imagine what it was like for the outgoing Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri to hand over power to the people who murdered his father, Rafik Hariri.   An election doesn’t always provide power to democratic people and Lebanon is a perfect example of an elected terrorist regime taking power.

In Bahrain, where reasonably peaceful demonstrations have been taking place, Iran is using Hamas as surrogates to incite unrest.  Indeed Saudi Arabia is so fearful that they have sent a number of battle tanks to Bahrain to support the regime.

It’s important to keep in mind that unrest is taking place in a great many places, both in north Africa and the Gulf states.  Regimes have toppled only in those states in which the governments were reluctant to use brutal force to put down insurgents.

This could be a revolution spurred by technology that allows free and open exchange of ideas, information and networking.  It remains to be seen if dictators can put a stop to the use of today’s technology.

I have watched video footage of Iranian forces repressing people up to and including public hangings in order to squash protest.  We will not see any turn over of government in Iran or any other regime that has no inhibitions against killing their own.

If we connect the dots we can begin to see that on one side of the Persian Gulf, Iran is intent on supremacy and their efforts so far have been successful.  Ultimately, Iran’s Ahmadinejad’s goal is complete control over what he calls Arabia and of course the annihilation of every Israeli.

How then do we respond to all this upheaval, both in the short term and then the longer time line?   Keep in mind that most reasonable people want everyone to live in a prosperous and free society.  No one in a free democratic country would want to see folks enslaved.

It’s important to our way of life and our standard of living that we ensure we are not vulnerable to the world panic over oil.  That simply means we need to bring on line every source of energy we have and we need to do it now.

It’s time to stop the negative rhetoric regarding oil from the Alberta oil sands and accept that buying from ourselves is better than buying oil from dictators. One Canadian writer correctly calls the Canadian industry “ethical oil” for obvious reasons.  There is nothing ethical about giving despotic dictators like Moammar Gadhafi in Libya or Hugo Chavez in Venezuela billions of dollars while we waste our time flogging ourselves.

Contrary to what some people want us to believe, our need to be independent and have plenty of oil and gas is not going to go away any time soon. Our survival depends on looking after ourselves and making sure the needs of Canadians are protected.

To sum up this terrible chaos, we have a number of popular uprisings and we don’t know what the world will look like when it’s over. To complicate matters further we have a skillful rogue regime in Iran undermining many other countries.

Interesting is the fact that the Islamic fundamentalists appear to have been left out in the cold throughout the course of events, which may be the biggest benefit to all of mankind. While Iran exploits the age-old rivalry between Shia and Sunni Muslims, Al-Qaeda is not gaining ground.

For Canadians I suggest we have arrived at the moment that we need to make every effort to stand together with one voice, one consistent policy, and look after Canada’s needs first.  It’s how well we pull together that will decide our future.