Whether you call the Arab uprisings against their Presidents for life dictators the Arab Spring or, as we named them early on, the Arab Winter, the results have been less than stellar. In Egypt they elected a Parliament which was a majority of Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, both of which are varying shades of Islamists and far removed from the portrayal of their initial revolution as of young people striving for a modern democratic state with equal rights and universal freedoms, not some offshoot of Sharia. In Libya where a “No Fly Zone” intervention turned into everything short of actual massive troops on the ground in assisting the rebels to oust Muammar Gaddafi. Now the people of Libya are facing fighting between the different factions which had made up the so-called Rebel Alliance. It seems the Alliance was not all that tightly bound and now there appears to be some disagreements over who will take the leadership roles going forward. In Yemen things are so completely off the charts messed up that I’m not sure exactly how to describe things. Between al-Qaeda controlling much of the southern parts of the country and the northern tribes operating mostly independent of the government and a central government which does not control much beyond the capital city and the surrounding countryside, it is impossible to tell who is actually in charge. The one constant is that if you are too close to one of the al-Qaida leaders targeted by Washington one would be advised to keep one eye on the skies for drones carrying missiles. In Tunisia things have the appearance of some semblance of sanity. The new government which was elected is comprised of majority Muslim Brotherhood members but they appear to have been blunted from imposing Sharia and strict Islamic codes by the more liberal portions of the society. Thus far there is the quiet of a somewhat uneasy calm as things proceed forward but that could change at any time with the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists exerting their control and imposing their strict rules based in Sharia. Lebanon, the country often left off the list of those under new governance, is still under strong influence of Hezballah which toppled the more secular Hariri Government. This situation is delicately balanced and very dependent on pressures from Iran and Syria which are used to maintain Hezballah’s influence and control, at least for the time being. The anti-Syrian factions are poised ready to take any opportunity to reinstate a more secular government replacing the Islamic governance of Hezballah. And that brings us to Syria.
Syria is now at the point where one must wonder to what extent Russia, Iran and Hezballah will be willing to go in order to maintain President Assad in power. It has been obvious for quite some time that Bashir Assad does not have the support of the vast majority of the Syrian people. When you have both France and Turkey discussing if in deed the time has come for them to jointly intervene, you know that it is time for a change. The weak statements and refusal of the United States to take the lead in Syria is as troubling as it is predictable. Much of the confusion and trouble around the globe can be traced directly back to the United States policy of leading from behind, a polite way of stating that the United States has abrogated their leadership role and are now simply followers and not even very dependable at doing that. The question for Syria should Iran and Russia decides that Assad has ended his usefulness is who then will step forward to lead? Somebody will have to take the leadership role at least until all the refugees have returned and elections can be held, or whatever does end up being the process for choosing the next governance for Syria. It has become obvious that those fighting to have Assad replaced will die before they give up their efforts, partly because even if they were to be granted amnesty to end their struggle, it is not exactly the Assad family’s way to leave enemies alive to cause future problems. So, eventually Russia and Iran will forgo backing Assad. But will they have somebody who can win an election and yet continue to have Syria play its supporting role under Iran and as the arms depot through which Russia channels arms to so many in the Middle East.
In all of these uprisings we have seen that one occurrence which is the bane of any successful revolution, the fact that those who start the revolution are rarely the ones who take the lead when it is over. In Tunisia the revolution was started by a street vegetable vendor’s act of desperation when he set himself alight in protest. Well, obviously the street vendors will not be governing any time soon in Tunisia. In Libya it was a number of different tribes and some terror groups who initiated the uprising and there it will likely be one of those who end up at the top of the heap. The problem is that once the winner is determined, most likely by force of arms and not the ballot, all that will have been accomplished is the installing of a new Muammar Gaddafi under a different name and a different tribal support making up the Armed Forces. In Egypt we have seen how the young idealists were swept aside almost before Mubarak had stepped aside. The obvious point from which those youthful supporters of what was termed the Google revolution no longer had a voice in Egypt’s future came immediately after Imam Yusuf al-Qaradawi gave his triumphant sermon in Tahrir Square upon his on February 18, 2011 return and Google’s Egyptian Internet revolutionary Wael Ghonim was then chased from the stage and informed he was not to speak nor was he of any further use. The story of all these revolutions which made up the Arab Futility (my newest title for the once so hopeful revolts) was likely best explained in song by the Who, Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Apparently, the faster things change in the Muslim Middle East, the slower actual change occurs. It is so sad, especially for all those in the West who held out such high hopes for progress. Sorry to say, but these things have to run their course and currently, Iran is the furthest along. All the rest are now entering their Iran 1979 Stage of the progression to freedom and liberty. From Monarchy, Dictator, President for Life, or other named strongman to Sharia Islamist Theocracy, and then possibly to some form of hopefully constitutional democratic republic. One can always be allowed to hope.
Beyond the Cusp