Winter of discontent
> Danish Zakir on December 6th,
2011 (8 hours ago) |
Winter of discontentThe revolutionary movement in the Middle East has
malformed into a messy affair as expected. With the exception of Tunisia,
the seeds of revolution have not yet borne fruit as Egypt, Libya, Yemen and
Syria are still in turmoil; either on the brink of civil war or face the
looming threat of military takeover.
The Arab Spring also stirred up talks of a similar movement in Pakistan
where the youth has become increasingly disillusioned with the present
status quo but despite several socio-political similarities between Pakistan
and the Arab countries a similar revolution did not occur here. The wave of
civil resistance that originated in the Maghrib gradually made its way into
the Arabian Peninsula and its adjoining countries. The revolutionaries were
met by violent responses by authorities in some countries and by
Developmental Stimulus Packages in others (prime specimen being Saudi
The Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia saw the departure of Ben Ali and a
relatively smooth the transition to a democratic system in which the long
banned party Al-Nadha has gained majority of the votes to great dismay of
the liberal and leftist political forces in Tunisia. Al-Nadah is popularly
perceived as an Islamist party in the West and great speculation exists
about its ideological orientation, whereas Al-Nadah is positioning itself as
a moderate and progressive political party that will strive to uphold
Tunisia's secular values.
The greatest triumph of the Arab Spring was supposed to be Egypt, the centre
piece of western strategic alliances in the Middle East for the safeguard of
Israel. After the 30 year reign of Hosni Mubarak, the political landscape
seems to have changed in Egypt but the military is still calling the shots.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has delayed lifting of the emergency
law in place since 1981. In addition, the military has also introduced a
draft constitutional principle that will prevent parliamentary over sight of
the military budget and give it a semi-autonomous character in the new
constitution to effectively control internal affairs (reminds me of a
country in the former sub-continent).
The military has pledged to speed up the transfer of power to a civilian
government but the most important question is which party will win majority
votes in the upcoming parliamentary elections? At the moment, the strongest
and most organised political force in Egypt seems to be the Muslim
Brotherhood. Traditionally advocates of Islamic reform, the Brotherhood has
radically revamped its image and ideology to fit in with Egypt's secular and
progressive-minded youth. It's a sure bet that neighboring Israel and its
Western patrons would not want the Muslim Brotherhood running the show in a
state as important as Egypt, hence one can expect a tumultuous transition to
"democracy" in Egypt.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen has finally signed a US backed power
transfer deal through the intermediation of the Gulf States. Saleh has a bad
habit of agreeing to power transfer deals and then going back on his word
but this time it seems the deal will last. Yemen is a very sensitive country
for the anti-terror crusaders because of the heavy presence of al Qaeda.
Yemen is believed to be the hotbed of al Qaeda activities in the region and
home to the organisation called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The societal structure in Yemen is highly tribalistic. Naturally this
tribalism seeps into domestic politics; hence the political landscape in
Yemen is characterised by the rivalry between powerful tribes and the
military interference. Therefore, the greatest predicament in a post-Saleh
scenario would be reconciliation between rival tribes under a democratic
framework to prevent an outbreak of civil war.
In Syria, Bahar al-Asad's despotic regime has tried to crush the uprising
with an iron fist resulting in blood baths at the hands of the government
security apparatus. Syria's Arab League membership has been suspended and
all regional heavy weights, including Turkey, have urged Asad to step down.
Syria is facing sanctions from Western powers just like long time ally Iran
and sanctions by the Arab League are expected to follow. Similar to Yemen,
the political arena in Syria is ruled by the tribal opponents of the ruling
family, the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army. Even if Bashar
al-Asad steps down, it will be a long and arduous path towards stability
given the various stake holders within the country. Western policy makers
view Syria as crucial component of their strategy to check Iranian influence
in the region.
Operation Odyssey Dawn that brought down Qadhafi and his regime has given
Nato something to gloat about after repeatedly failing in Afghanistan. Oil
companies and engineering firms are rushing to Libya to get contracts worth
billions of dollars from the interim government. Libya is one of the top oil
producers where the cost of extraction and refining is lowest in the world.
I think that says it all about 'whys' and 'whats' concerning Nato in Libya.
The Arab Spring may seem at the moment to be an Arab winter of discontent
but whatever the difficulties and complexities that lay ahead for these
nations and whatever may be its outcome; the people of these states will
have no regrets. They will enjoy the satisfaction of having tried to bring
change or have changed the system to improve their lives. They will be able
to tell future generations that they bled for their country when they tried
to save it from the clutches of self-serving men and did not simply sit back
The Arab Spring has been a glaring example of the triumph of the human
spirit and whether it reaches fruition or not there are important lessons to
be learned by a nation in peril (like ours) from the persistence and vigor
of the Arab youth that has decided that they will not leave fate to chance.
an Investment Banker with a special interest in economics and international
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Received on Tue Dec 06 2011 - 10:49:32 EST