Sitting on a street corner about 60 feet from the Salam Mosque in the Al-Mina district of Tripoli, 21-year-old Yasser looked sorrowfully into the distance. His head and left hand were wrapped in bandages. A line of dried blood snaked its way down from his temple to his chin. Fragments of glass and small chunks of concrete covered the concrete around him next to a pile of tomatoes rotting under the summer sun. Further up the road surrounding a crater, about ten-feet in diameter and six-feet in depth, the carcasses of burnt out cars lay at unnatural angles across the tarmac.
Last week Tunisia seemed to be heading for the whirlpool that has sucked Egypt down. The secular opposition had taken to the streets to demand that the Islamist government resign. The National Constituent Assembly, charged with writing a constitution, had been shut down. The state was paralyzed. This week, all the warring parties are talking to each other. The spirit of compromise could evaporate, but my impression, from talking to people on all sides over the last few days, is that Tunisia has a decent chance of avoiding catastrophe. Why is that?
The European Union has thrown delivery of billions of aid dollars into question as it meets "urgently" to coordinate a response to Egypt in the aftermath of a crackdown there that has killed almost 900 people in five days. Violence has skyrocketed since the military-backed interim government cleared two camps of supporters of ousted leader Mohammed Morsi in Cairo on Aug. 14.
As the Egyptian military consolidates control by murdering pro-Muslim Brotherhood protesters and declaring a state of emergency, we may be witnessing the most dangerous potential for Arab radicalization since the two Palestinian intifadas. Despite the resignation Wednesday of Mohamed ElBaradei, the vice president, in opposition to the Egyptian junta's action, the discomfiting fact is that most of Egypt's liberal "democrats"--along with the United States--have never looked more hypocritical.
In the heat of the afternoon, especially this past month of Ramadan, downtown Tunis plays dead. Offices and shops close at 2 p.m. and life is suspended as everyone, parched and hungry, waits for sunset and the breaking of the fast. On a side street behind the Interior Ministry, the only movement is the occasional rumble of a tram, the only sound the trill of its bell warning pedestrians to step off the tracks.
In Egypt, as in many of the great revolutions of modern history, the people not only overthrew the old order but also remained in the streets of the capital to oversee the creation of a new one. And as was to be expected, the forces of order, notably the army, then sought to send them home. What is unusual about the Egyptian case, however, is that the sit-ins, encampments, and targeted occupations were well organized and had been developed by the Muslim Brotherhood to last in the face of military intervention.
The United States on Wednesday denounced as "repulsive" an Instagram site by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying it did not reflect the reality of the civil war. The embattled Syrian leader's office took to the social media site to post pictures that include Assad greeting supporters and his wife Asma comforting the injured.