elations/> "Arab Spring and Western-Islam relations"
Posted on | november 22, 2011 |
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Hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis taking part in the "March of Loyalty to
Martyrs", honoring political dissidents killed by security forces, on 22
In several postings throughout spring and summer 2011 (see the postings
entitled: Western co-optation of Arab Revolts - April 2011; Middle East:
mid-2011 Assessment of Arab Revolts, June 2011), I emphasized that the Arab
revolts would not necessarily result in regimes that are accountable to
their own people, but more likely to Western governments and business
On 19 November 2011, violence erupted in Egypt and the rebels are claiming
that in essence the Arab Spring revolt did not result in a new regime that
represents the people, but new faces that represent the old policies. As
guarantor of the old institutional structure and policies, the Egyptian
military remains a major obstacle to free and open elections similar to
those that took place in Tunisia and returned a parliamentary system.
But even in Tunisia where the two leftist political parties won almost as
many seats in the Chamber as the Islamist Ennahda party, the government
remains very committed to close economic and political ties to France and
EU. Unlike Egypt and Algeria where the military historically has played a
role in both politics and business - protecting their interests - the
Tunisian military does not have such inordinate influence in politics and
business, so the transition to a semblance of political power sharing under
parliamentary rule was smooth so far.
This does not mean however, that even Tunisia with its relatively smooth
transition will not suffer social unrest like Egypt. High ranking Tunisian
military officers have been cooperating with the US and NATO; Tunisia has
taken part in a number of US-NATO operations, and it has provided NATO ships
to use its port facilities. If a segment of the population is convinced that
the new regime is a Western puppet and serves a small segment of the
political and business elites, and that the country is as much a Western
satellite after deposed dictator Ben Ali as during his regime, there will be
problems in Tunisia.
Yemen, which is more like Egypt and Algeria in terms of the military's role
in the political and business arena, remains extremely volatile, with the
dictator-for-life Ali Abdullah Saleh insisting that he will only hand power
to the military. This signals that there will be no real change in the
political arena, and that Yemen will remain under the aegis of the US and
Saudi Arabia, thus the revolution in Yemen is likely to continue.
Meanwhile, the US and EU hardly make any noise about Yemen, Kuwait, or any
of the Gulf states, especially Bahrain, a major US satellite, where grass
roots movements demand democratization; a concept that means the countries
become as free of Western imperialism as their power leverage permits. The
only focus of the US is on Iran and Syria, two countries that the US and EU
want to see regime changes so that both come under pro-Western influence and
become more closely integrated economically, militarily and politically with
the West. One-time ally Turkey would love for the rebel movement in Syria to
succeed, for it would make Ankara even stronger in the region to compete
with Iran for regional hegemony.
Can we conclude that the US and EU are interested in 'freedom and democracy'
in the Islamic countries, given what has taken place so far? Of course,
there are those who argue that the real struggle is not between
pro-democracy elements and authoritarian in the dress of the military in
Egypt, but between the military and Islamists, a term that in the West is
not equated with democracy because it is not secular and pro-West.
Maybe the EU countries and US are indeed interested in democratizing the
Islamic countries for no other reason than to see democracy thrive. Does
Libya now have a democracy, or is it about to be reduced into a much more
dependent Western satellite than it has ever been since independence? If
only the Libyan rebels fighting in the streets knew that their country's
future rests as a Western semi-colony, with lower living standards and lack
of sovereignty? Maybe there has been no covert operational activity
involving CIA and other intelligence agencies, no political, military or
economic agenda, no geopolitics or balance of power issues at all on the
part of the US and its EU partners. (see my posting entitled: CIA and the
Arab Revolts - February 2011).
Maybe governments in the West just love to spread freedom and democracy
around the world, just as they did during the Cold War. Thus far, all
evidence shows that the West has its own agenda that includes plans of how
to exert political, military and economic hegemony in the Middle East. This
is exactly what the West has been doing for the last 100 years, from WWI
when the Allies promised Arabs freedom if they fought against the Ottoman
Empire and its German allies, to the formation of the Mandate system, to the
creation of the state of Israel at the expense of Palestinians, and to the
numerous wars in the post-WWII era where the West ardently defended Israel
against the Arabs, to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the
recent NATO bombing of Libya. is there a single instance of evidence, just
one piece of evidence that the West has ever acted to fulfill the pledge
that it stated publicly, namely, to deliver freedom and democracy to the
Freedom and Democracy are not cell phones or weapons that they can be handed
over to a country. The people in the countries where revolts have taken
place and are currently unfolding have a very different sense of what they
want for themselves and what the US and EU want for their countries.
Kipling's "White Man's Burden" notwithstanding, in the history of
Arab-Western relations dating back to the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji of 1774,
is there even a single instance where any Western nation has acted in any
manner other than self-interest to the detriment of the Islamic country that
the Western nation claimed it wished to help democratize?
Do Islamic countries need Lawrence of Arabia-style PR, only to discover that
in the end they must surrender sovereignty to the West? Why would there be a
change in Western policies today when Western nations are on the economic
warpath against their own citizens with detrimental fiscal and social
policies? Should any rebel die or be injured in the Middle East and North
Africa under the illusion that the new regime that will replace the existing
authoritarian one will not be but a puppet of the West?
E-MAIL: jonkofas [at] yahoo.com
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Received on Tue Nov 22 2011 - 07:50:37 EST