What next for the Middle East?

Women Protesting in Egypt

The biggest story of the year so far has been the Arab Spring! Revolutions happening all across the Arab World toppling powerful long serving and at the same time authoritarian regimes. It all started in the streets of Tunis and later spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Jordan and Bahrain. Some have been able to bring about a change int he government in some form or other as in the case of Egypt and Jordan and more recently in Libya. But some have been failures so far as in the case of Yemen and Syria. But what happened in the Middle east this year is sure to have huge impact in the region for many years to come. But the real question is, What next? Where do they go from now? There is no stable government yet in Egypt. Libya, which saw the bloodiest battles is still recovering and the future of the state is unsure, with the Colonel still on the loose. As far as I know, there are two things that can happen next. One, the states’ Muslim clerics could take over and form Islamic states like Iran. Two, the states could become further unstable ultimately allowing terror organizations to take advantage and ruining the core spirit of the Arab Spring. Lets analyse the two scenarios.

The Arab world has seen a major influx of foreign exchange from the sale of Oil and other natural resources. This led to governments, or rather Rulers becoming more and more inclined toward the West. This naturally loosened the grip of Islamic Institutions on the state and the rulers started enjoying the riches and this created greed for power and that ultimately turned these leaders of the government elected by people into dictators. Now after all these revolutions and revolts, most of them have been removed or have been restored to being normal leaders. But in many countries, the situation is still unstable. No power has claimed complete control. In this unstable situation, the Muslim Brotherhood of those states are the only power to which all people abide. So naturally they might take over the nations once again and establish Iran like states. But clearly people dont want that. They want a free democracy. This scenario has already taken place in Iran where the Shah was toppled by the Islamic Revolution and finally a pro-Islamic state was established which most people don’t like. And it has produced people like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who may not be a Nasser but still is a authoritarian. The probability of this happening in Egypt is very high with the current government unable to meet people’s demands leading to continuing mass protests at Tahrir Square. I dont think this might happen in Libya because over there the National Transitional Council is definitely going to take control of the state. Although a Islamic regime would bring stability in  a nation, its not the preferred system among most citizens. Such a regime might also create a serious conflict of interest with western governments.

End Game - Muammar Gaddafi!

The prospect of a failed state is more likely in countries like Yemen and Libya. First of all in Yemen, one of the main reasons that everyone is cautious to intervene is the fact that Al Qaeda has a strong presence over there. It must be noted that Osama had links in Yemen and the 9/11 pilots although being Saudis actually had Yemeni origins. NATO and UN fear that an intervention might lead to another Iraq or Afghanistan. So its a highly volatile situation over there. President Saleh shows no sign of stepping down. He agreed to sign an agreement in May that would see him resigning in two months but later refused to do so. Even after an assassination attempt that saw a RPG being fired into his office severely injuring him, he hasn’t lost his determination to hold on to power. At the same time even the people’s determination to continue protest hasnt been deterred by the killings. All this makes the country more and more unstable and unlike Libya there is no strong opposition power that can take control of the nation if Saleh is killed or resigns. Coming over to Tripoli, we have a delicate situation here. We all know that Gaddafi is no more. He cant come back. But the National Transitional Council (NTC) which coordinated the civil revolt is not an united front. It has many factions of people who have different ideologies and principles and the NTC must also convince many nations like China, Russia, India etc that they are capable of ruling the nation because these countries are yet to recognize them. The power of the NTC to maintain peace and order is also questionable. The countless people who took up arms will have no work now and the NTC must ensure that these people dont turn into mercenaries and anti-social elements. And they must also keep check on terrorist intrusions. Unless a strong institution that can control the entire nation is constituted Libya may well become a failed state as well.

The special case in the Arab revolutions is definitely Syria. The atrocities committed by the Assad led government is well known and well documented as well. Reports say tanks surround towns at night and within hours demolish them and soldiers kill everything that moves! But still apart from sanctions and pressure from UN and other nations, no direct intervention has been proposed. The reason for this is the fact that Syria has good diplomatic ties with Hezbollah, Turkey, Iran and Russia. Gaddafi didnt have anyone to help him when NATO came in. But its not the same with Bashar Al Assad. Even though other Arab states have requested Assad to make reforms, there is no serious pressure. Hence there is no sign of an end to the problems in Syria. So the coming months will be very crucial for the whole of the Arab world. This will shape the history of the region forever. Hence it is crucial that these revolutions end in success!

Tahrir Square

Whatever happens, the Arab revolutions will not be forgotten. The images of Tahrir Square, Benghazi etc are still fresh in people’s minds. The amount of passion and will shown by the Arab people was immense and highly commendable. Lets just hope everything ends well. As always post your views below!

Steve Robinson

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