Whether one wishes to credit what is coming in the very near future to the spreading of the Syrian Civil War or the second round of the Arab Spring really makes little difference. Perhaps the best way to approach this is to give a quick review of where each of the nations which made transitions in round one of the Arab Spring currently are and whether or not the Arab Spring blossomed into an Arab Summer of contentment or blasted its way into a cold, hard Arab Winter. In Tunisia the resultant election placed an Islamic governance into power which was heavily leaning on the Muslim Brotherhood to take the helm and lead the nation. This led to steadily increased protests as the people resisted the imposition of religious aligned laws, a sort of Sharia light. The people had expected to have the result to produce a more secular governance but the Muslim Brotherhood having the most organized campaign with the most funding won out and now there is a growing state of unrest. In Libya the government in Tripoli does not have any strong hold on power with a differing group controlling Benghazi and similar results in every corner of the nation with each region basically under the control of the most populous tribe or family. Libya is rapidly becoming the new training ground for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups who are able to set up camps through bribing the individual reining tribe over any particular location who in turn protect them from any interference from the central government or foreign forces and interests. Then there is the shining example of supposed success resulting from the Arab Spring, Egypt. That success is about to stand a crucial test from which the current government may not survive. The one year anniversary of the election of Muslim Brotherhood backed President Morsi occurs this weekend. There have been rising protests and some resultant violence building up to this weekend’s supposed celebration of one year under President Morsi. Where one year ago the people were filled with hope and demanding that the Egyptian military return to its bases and leave the government and the people to get on with the nation’s business, now the people are praying for the Egyptian military to replace the Morsi government and begin to repair the country and return them to even a level of economic health that existed under President Mubarak. President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are about to face a repeat of the Arab Spring revolution where they will get to play the role of Mubarak. So, the Arab Spring resulted in an Arab Winter with no successful governance put in place and in every instance the governing simply made thing worse. In every case there were no great increases in personal freedoms and liberties, if anything the government became more oppressive especially against minorities. The economies which were far from ideal somehow managed to get considerably worse with unemployment rising skyward, trade falling into a shambles, monetary reserves depleted, tourism nonexistent, and every measure of wealth and economic health dropping off the scale downwards. In a simple summary, in every case where the Arab Spring forced changes things have deteriorated into catastrophe.
Next we need to look at Syria and the effect of the Arab Spring there. This was the first case where a dictator, or should I say President for Life, simply decided he was not going to leave no matter what the price. President al-Assad had the benefit of outside assistance which allowed him to stand against those who protested against his continued rule. When al-Assad finally decided he had had enough of the protesters and turned the military upon them he initially appeared to have succeeded in preventing his overthrow. Then the protesters were replaced by rebel forces who initially were from two camps, one democratic and one religious. As time passed the democracy faction began to dwindle in numbers to the point that they were absorbed, or maybe subsumed, by the Islamist rebel forces. Then there came a split in the Islamist rebels with the leadership split between Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda. There is a delicate balance with each side of this divide working with the other against their common enemy, al-Assad. The Syrian Civil War has morphed into a traditional Islamic war for dominance between the two oldest foes within Islam, the Sunni-Shiite divide, a war that has a long history. The addition of outside Sunni reinforcements being brought into theater by both the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda the rebel side has sufficient human forces and is seeking more heavy weapons with which to equalize the military assets possessed by the Syrian military. The Syrian military also has outside assistance with their being fully backed by Iran. This has brought both IRGC elite forces and Hezballah irregular troops who have excellent training and very high morale. This has led to a standoff that had slightly appeared to favor the rebels but now the tide appears to have changed as al-Assad and his allies recently taking the offensive. This has apparently included a limited use of chemical weapons which is proving to be the deciding factor in a number of battles.
There has been a direct spinoff of the violence in Syria with the Syrian Civil War spreading across the border into Lebanon where the Sunni militias have confronted Hezballah forces threatening to spark a similar civil war once again in Lebanon. There have also been other sparks and cinders from the Syrian Civil War spreading into Jordan and Turkey. Iran is taking advantage of these difficulties in Turkey where Shiite dissidents have taken to the streets with violent riots resulting. This is leading to a potential Civil War breaking out in Turkey where President Erdogan is facing his first real challenge to his authority. This is stressing Turkey even further than the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled across the border seeking safety and relief from the violence that is destroying any semblance of normalcy or civilization within the Syrian borders. The refugee situation is no better in Jordan but at least there is no threat to the government as of yet in Jordan. This may be due to the presence of a training exercise involving Jordanian and American troops in Jordan. How long the quiet will persist in Jordan is not an easy question to answer as the American forces will not remain in country forever. There have been rumors that the United States military equipment which was imported for these exercises may remain in Jordan for the time being in order to strengthen King Hussein. With Iran behind al-Assad in Syria and having a hand in the rioting against Erdogan in Turkey, one has to wonder how long before Iran’s mischief enters Jordan.
The last part in this Arab Winter Spring Summer or Fall spreading confrontation is directly traceable back to Iran whose terror sponsor and training forces are currently supporting Shiite insurrection throughout many locations in the Middle East. They are operating in Yemen adding yet another front tearing that nation apart. As mentioned they are in Syria and Turkey up to their necks and are likely biding their time waiting for the opportunity to sponsor an uprising in Jordan. Iran has taken virtual control over the Iraqi Shiite government which has gone so far as to issue warrants for the arrest of the leading Sunni officers within the government. The Sunni have even petitioned the Kurds to form a united front against the Iranian backed Shiites. Iraq has returned to its turmoil with suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks occurring almost daily. The Iranian sponsored Shiite offensive across the Middle East has possibly been partially responsible for Sunni attacks of Shiites in Egypt where riots have broken out with Sunnis attacking Shiite neighborhoods beating Egyptian Shiite citizens as well as burning their Mosques, businesses and homes. This violence is on top of similar attacks against Coptic Christians also in Egypt. As stated above, Egypt may fall into complete chaos starting this weekend. All of these confrontations within the Muslim world almost dwarf the current violence on the borders of Islam with the Christians and Animists across Central and North Africa including such places but not limited to Mali, Nigeria, Kenya, and Rwanda. This summer will be very hot across many areas on the globe and not all of them necessarily related to Islam as there are also economic difficulties behind other areas experiencing unrest and rioting. If you live somewhere that is calm and serene than count yourself as lucky and living in an area which is blessed because such areas are becoming more and more rare as time passes. If you are in an area of unrest and violence we feel for you but as even the areas of quiet are not as far and safe from the roiling cauldrons as to allow our complacency.
Beyond the Cusp