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There Is No Spring Ahead

Monday, April 1, 2013

An Ambiguous Fate Awaiting the Middle East

Mohammad Ali Mohtadi
Middle East Expert

Two years after the beginning of the popular uprisings in a number of Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa, which has been known as the Arab Spring, it is now clear that those developments were never harbinger of a spring, or at least, turned into fall sooner than expected.

Two years ago, the popular uprisings in those countries sparked with the self-immolation of a Tunisian youth, Mohamed Bouazizi, in the capital city, Tunis. The incident was followed by general reaction of the Tunisian people from all walks of life who shouted, “The Nation Wants the Fall of the Government,” to stress their resolve to fight tyranny, dictatorship and dependence of the government on foreign powers. Before long, the totalitarian ruler of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, fled the country and people celebrated their speedy victory. The Tunisian developments soon spilled over into other countries in the Middle East and North Africa. As a result, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Bahrain also experienced a similar situation. Most experts at that time believed that after a few decades of slumber, the Arab nations have come to life again in order to revive their national identity and dignity. They concluded that a political spring devoid of dictatorship, oppression, discrimination, and corruption was forthcoming, ignoring the fact that those nations had a long way to go before they could possibly achieve their goals.

At the current time, the disgruntled and disillusioned Tunisian youth are still committing self-immolation. In Egypt, it seems that two years after the nation’s original uprising, the revolution has been started all over again while the Egyptian society is seriously fragmented and observers fear that establishment of national unity will not be easily achieved in the Arab country. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia put a special plan in gear as a result of which only the head of the government, that is, [the former president] Ali Abdullah Saleh was apparently removed from office while the Yemeni regime continued to survive without much of a change. After the fall of the Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, the Arab country has become extremely fragmented along tribal lines while in Bahrain, people are still taking to the streets in protest, but are being brutally repressed by a heavy-handed government.

Why this has happened?

To answer this question, a reference should be first made to a string of domestic and foreign reasons. The most important problem with all these revolutions was the absence of a competent and charismatic leader at their head. As a result, many researchers talked about “collective leadership” when referring to these uprisings and discussing their various aspects. In practice, however, it has been proven that such leadership will finally get nowhere as its result will be nothing but division as well as unhealthy rivalries among various ideological groups. This has been the biggest weakness which has compromised these developments. Another important problem was that all of those uprisings stopped along their course when they came face to face with the army and security apparatus. As a result of that standstill, the way has been paved for the direct intervention by foreign powers which have had, and still have, extensive relations with those countries’ military and security organizations.

Israel and the Western powers, topped by the United States, which had lost their important regional allies, were scrambling to bring the situation in the Middle East under renewed control. When these developments started to unravel, the regional order was marked by the existence of two political axes. The first axis was comprised of those political regimes which played the role of the regional satellites of the Middle Eastern strategy of the United States and the West, and included Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and quite naturally, the Palestinian Self-Rule. On the opposite, there was an anti-Israel resistance axis led by Iran with Iraq and Syria as well as the resistance movements in Lebanon and Palestine, being its members. The collapse of the first axis was at first taken as a good omen that the entire region would finally achieve some kind of solidarity and unity to attain independence from foreign powers, thus, entering a new era of solidarity and collective march toward independent development and the realization of suppressed ideals.

The West, however, had already sensed this great threat. Therefore, it opted for a strategy of control and containment. As a result of that strategy and through mediation of certain figures in Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, and also through the influence that the West swayed over the security and intelligence bodies of revolutionary countries, especially Egypt, the Western powers finally accepted that the power should be transferred through an apparently democratic process to the Muslim Brotherhood group which is known to consist of “moderate Islamist” figures. However, this was made conditional on the provision that the Muslim Brotherhood would not do anything to endanger the security of Israel while, on the other hand, serving as an impediment to growing influence of Iran and the resistance axis on these revolutions. This has been the main mission that the Muslim Brotherhood has been carrying out up to this moment and to which it is still committed.

This was how the Muslim Brotherhood managed to snatch the power both in Tunisia and Egypt. However, they soon lost their limited popularity among those nations and this time, the people poured into the streets in multitudes shouting slogans and asking for the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood government. There were many reasons behind this state of affairs which included frequent mistakes made by the Muslim Brotherhood as a result of lack of experience, on the one hand, and such factors as ignoring people, trying to maintain a monopoly on the power by just thinking about keeping power at any cost, being overconfident about the West’s support, taking excessively pragmatic approaches, and showing disregard for their own theoretical and ethical principles, on the other hand. Nowadays, Egypt is facing grave crises while [the new President] Mr. Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are not able to find a solution to those crises while being reluctant to withdraw from their positions at the same time. From the viewpoint of the majority of Egyptians, nothing has changed in their country save for the head of the government. People have been resorting to civil disobedience in such cities of Port Said and Suez and a number of other cities located in the area of the Suez Canal and Nile Delta. The country’s police force and the judiciary are on the verge of total collapse. The situation is so dire that even the police officers who are sent to suppress people, have been involved in demonstrations and strikes. From an economic viewpoint, the country is almost bankrupt and billions of dollars received in aid from Qatar and Saudi Arabia have not been able to help improve the situation. The country is also trying to obtain USD 4,800 billion in loan from the International Monetary Fund, but the loan has been made conditional on certain reforms such as phasing out subsidies and increasing taxes which will put double pressures on the Egyptian people and will be ensued with unpredictable consequences. It has been proven that the Muslim Brotherhood has failed in this experience and Mr. Morsi is not a person who would be able to manage the affairs of a country like Egypt. It is even not improbable that the Americans may give the go-ahead to the Egyptian army to take control of the situation if they make sure that the Muslim Brotherhood is unable to do so.

At the same time, the West, Turkey and a number of Arab countries, especially Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which were delighted with the sudden fall of [the Libyan dictator] Muammar Gaddafi, decided to apply the same model to a member of the [anti-Israel] resistance axis, and finally chose the middle link of that axis, which is Syria, for that purpose. Firmly believing that being part of the resistance axis and the legitimacy resulting from it will make Damascus immune to such political developments, the government of Syria, at first, made big mistakes in dealing with the legitimate demands of the people who were fed-up with economic corruption, poverty, and harassment by the security apparatus. It came to realize those mistakes only too late when Saudi Arabia and Qatar had already started to spend billions of dollars on fomenting crisis in Syria in collusion with Turkey and under the lead of the American intelligence officers. They were actually flooding Syria with money and arms as well as tens of thousands of Takfiri fighters from more than 30 countries that were affiliated to radical groups, which in turn, were related to Al-Qaeda. Now, after two years, destruction and massacre is widespread in Syria. Meanwhile, despite officially announced positions of the West about the need to find a negotiated solution to the Syria crisis, the Western countries do not seem to be honest in their claims because in parallel to talking about a peaceful solution, they continue to send weapons and armed fighters into Syria.

In fact, what is going on in Syria is determining for all the regional and international political players. Therefore, none of the involved parties is ready to let it go and all of them only believe in the military solution as the sole mean which will determine the final result of the Syria crisis. There is a kind of game in the political literature of the Arab world which is known as “biting fingers,” and is used when two rivals are biting each other’s fingers. In this game, the participant who says ‘ouch’ before the other is considered the loser because by saying ‘ouch’ he actually lets go of the other party’s finger while his own finger is still in his mouth and under pressure. It seems that [the Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad as well as his regional and international allies are not still ready to say ‘ouch’. On the other hand, the governments of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have also entered the scene using all their capabilities in Syria and have tied their own fate to this dangerous game. Therefore, they are not ready to admit defeat as well and, on the contrary, are willing to go on with the game up to the very end.

Since they have so far failed to achieve their goals in Syria, the anti-Assad front has decided to take the Syria crisis to a new regional level by exporting it to other neighboring countries as Lebanon and Iraq. To do this, thousands of Takfiri fighters have crossed the border into Lebanon and have been stationed in the northern part of that country, in the Lebanese capital of Beirut as well as in the southern port city of Sidon. These fighters, who enjoy the support and financial aid of Saudi Arabia as well as the Hariri family in Lebanon, have no other mission but to attack the positions of Hezbollah in line with predominantly sectarian affiliations. As a result of such efforts, the Lebanese society has become severely divided so that the belligerent parties have not even been able to reach an agreement over the country’s election law ahead of the forthcoming polls in June. On the other hand, a spate of blind bomb attacks has been sweeping Lebanese cities killing innocent people as a sign to deepening rift between Shias and Sunnis. In fact, all such attacks across the region from bomb blasts targeting the cities of Karachi and Quetta in Pakistan to the massacre of people in Baghdad, Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, Tripoli, Beirut, and Sidon follow the same goal: to engulf the Islamic region of the Middle East in a wave of sectarian strife whose result can be nothing except for unrest and chaos.

Is this situation a direct outcome of the weakness of the United States and a sign of its withdrawal from the Middle East? Or these conditions are the consequence of the plan followed by the American neoconservative politicians under [the former US president] George W. Bush for reengineering and disintegrating countries in the Middle East along the lines of ethnic and sectarian affiliations? Or is this a plan put in gear by the US President Barack Obama’s government with the goal of ensuring the security of Israel and eliminating the phenomenon which is known as resistance in the region in order to not only contain the threat which has been posed to their interests as a result of the popular uprisings in the region, but even to turn it into a new opportunity?

One thing is for sure: the sky in the Middle East is currently overcast with dark clouds with a totally bleak horizon. Therefore, it is not unlikely that the region would witness profound and destructive developments in the early months of the near years. At any rate, all existing signs point to the fact that there will be no real spring in the offing for this region.

Key Words: Middle East, Arab Spring, North Africa, Muslim Brotherhood, Syria, Mohtadi

Source: Iranian Diplomacy (IRD)
http://www.irdiplomacy.ir/
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Promoting Iranophobia, Propagandizing Shia-phobia: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Promoting-Iranophobia-Propagandizing-Shia-phobia.htm

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