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2011-01-18

Anthony Shadid in Beirut: Tunisia Has "Electrified People Across the Arab World"

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We speak with journalist Anthony Shadid, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, who is in Beirut where the government collapsed last week. Tunisia has "electrified people across the Arab world," Shadid says, "mainly for that prospect of change, that change can actually occur in a lot of countries that seem almost ossified at this point." [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined by Anthony Shadid from Beirut, the foreign correspondent for the New York Times, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.

As we wrap up this broadcast, Anthony, talk, from your perspective in Beirut, about the significance of the Tunisian revolution, especially as Lebanon’s national unity government collapsed last week, and what the means for Lebanon.

ANTHONY SHADID: Well, you know, what struck me, Amy, was how electric of a moment it actually was in the Middle East. I mean, it’s not an overstatement to say that every conversation that you heard the past few days was dominated by the events in Tunisia. And I think, in a way, it was almost an antidote to the demoralization we’ve seen in the region over the past few years — the carnage in Iraq, Israeli intransigence, divisions among Palestinians, the utter inability of governments in Egypt and Saudi Arabia to reform themselves. Here, for the first time in a long while, you saw this moment in Tunisia, this popular revolt, a revolution, and I think it was just electric. It electrified people across the Arab world, mainly for that prospect of change, that change can actually occur in a lot of countries that seem almost ossified at this point.

AMY GOODMAN: And particularly for Lebanon, where you are, and what’s happening there right now?

ANTHONY SHADID: And I think Lebanon is symptomatic of that, kind of that demoralization. Again this country finds itself again in a crisis, basically another iteration of a crisis that’s been going on for the past six years. There’s a sense here that it’s going to take violence before there’s a resolution, and everybody is pretty much bracing for a few grim weeks, even months, ahead. I think Tunisia was kind of the bright spot. In some ways, Tunisia was a contrast to what we’re seeing in Lebanon right now.

AMY GOODMAN: And how the government now, which we are also not getting much information about, how it is dealing, and the situation with Hezbollah in Lebanon?

ANTHONY SHADID: You know, it’s again — it’s a confrontation that divides the country pretty much evenly. What makes it so combustible, in some ways, is that it cuts across questions of sect, of ideology, of the conflict with Israel. On one side you have the government that is nominally supported by the Sunni sect in the country. Of course, you have Hezbollah, the superpower among the Shiite community here. So what’s so dangerous about this conflict, in some ways, it’s not just a government opposition conflict, it’s a conflict that could quickly turn sectarian, that could turn violent. It’s deeply ideological, as well. What we have is Hezbollah fearing the indictments that may be handed down by an international tribunal naming its members in the assassination of a former prime minister. That former prime minister, his son is now the caretaker prime minister, was head of the government that fell last week. So, what we’re dealing with almost is a waiting period, waiting what’s going to happen, if we can see regional mediation perhaps reach some kind of solution, that’s not all that likely. If it doesn’t, we have a stalemate. And in past experience in Lebanon, that stalemate is only broken through confrontation and violence.

AMY GOODMAN: Anthony Shadid, I want to thank you for being with us, foreign correspondent for the New York Times. Also, Juan Cole, speaking to us from the University of Michigan, thank you for joining us.

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