With the resurgence of revolutions in the region, is it possible that the transition to peace and the simultaneous extinguishing of fires be achieved? This time the crises are in close geographical proximity: Sudan, Libya and, to a lesser extent, Algeria.
We realize that, despite the differences between the regional political leaders, there is a desire in the region in general to bring an end to the chaos, but how is that possible? This is done by giving priority to wisdom when dealing with important issues above other issues of less importance. This may be illustrated by two examples: Improving relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, despite attempts to sabotage them, and dealing with change in Sudan.
Despite attempted incitements, the visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi to Riyadh had positive effects that were first seen at the conference of parliaments of Iraq’s neighboring countries, which hosted under one roof two regional rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran. This is something that rarely happens. It also resulted in the reopening of the Arar border crossing between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the signing of 13 agreements, the upgrading of the level of trade, the opening of three more Saudi consulates in Iraq, and the most important agreement to not allow the buildup of tension in their relation, such as the agreement not to engage in confrontations.
A similar scenario is being replicated in Sudan, which is witnessing a historic change in governance. Omar Al-Bashir’s exit is an important event and can contribute to influencing the regional scene negatively or positively. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have rushed to support Khartoum politically and economically, so as not to see it slip into chaos and to proceed politically with minimal pain. Removing Bashir will not be enough because the regime is full of people who belong to his party, who hold positions at all levels and are capable of obstructing change.
The military establishment, represented by the Transitional Military Council, seems to be proceeding cautiously in this direction by abolishing the centers of influence held by Bashir and his party. At the same time, everybody is looking into how to move on to civilian rule. Supporting Sudan and enabling it to stand up again, so as not to fall prey to political conflict or economic failure, is vital to the security of the region. The mistake that happened in Libya, for example, left political leaders to stand without support until initial attempts collapsed within a few months. Libya has lived all these years since the fall of the Qaddafi regime in unnecessary chaos, until the national army finally had to try to resolve the division and chaos by military force.
Agreement in Sudan will not be achieved quickly or without the consensus of the main political forces. Although the transitional leadership has accepted the basic principles of transition to civilian rule, elections and a peaceful power transfer, doing that remains difficult. Bashir and his regime collapsed overnight, leaving behind a political system in ruins. This makes the transition, which is the key to maintaining the country and its stability, difficult. No one wants to have a regime similar to that of Bashir and his extremist Muslim Brotherhood group, or to leave this country victim to regional revolutions as we have seen in Syria, Libya, and Yemen.
Pre-empting the crisis in Sudan, supporting the government in Iraq, and ending the rule of the warring states in Libya, if achieved, could provide hope that the major crises in the region will be resolved. Then the other conflicts, such as the Syrian crisis, will probably be lucky enough to follow suit.