x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Attempt to fathom what’s going on in wake of Arab Spring

Suggestions that the US didn't know what was happening in the Middle East ring true, an Arabic-language commentator says. Other topics: Egypt and Israel.

Speaking at the international MEDays forum in Tangier, Morocco last week, PJ Crowley, the former spokesman for the former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton denied conspiracy theories that claim Washington was controlling the wave of changes that swept the Middle East region, especially Egypt.

In the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat, columnist Ali Ibrahim wrote: “Mr Crowley’s statements seem reasonable.”

In fact, Mr Crowley went on to confirm that in December 2011, US Department of State officials would hold two-hour meetings about Egypt on a daily basis and half the time they were trying to understand what was going on.

“The successive uprisings that spread from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria took international and local players by surprise. This may explain the initial confused, contradictory and hesitant reactions to events. There was no way to predict or to prepare for events,” the writer said.

The confusion was largely due to the fact that it is difficult to predict the movement and mood of crowds, especially in light of changes in Arab Spring countries.

Those movements mostly happened without clear political leadership and, being the most organised among all forces on the ground, the Muslim Brotherhood and other political Islam groups jumped to the forefront. The general impression was that this is the future that everyone should learn to deal and coexist with. But in truth, the popular mood was heading in a different direction.

The Winter after the Spring was the title of the discussion in which the US diplomat spoke in Tangier. The title was carefully chosen to suggest the state of fear of the unknown and the turmoil in the Arab Spring countries. Syria is drowning in a bloody civil war, Tunisia is at a political impasse that has been breeding violence, Libya is being torn apart by armed militias and Egypt is at a most difficult transitional period.

On Monday, Abu Dhabi, in cooperation with the World Economic Forum, hosted the Summit on the Global Agenda. The summit’s report highlighted the battle of ideologies that is raging on throughout the Arab region that makes it hard to foresee its future.

The euphoria that took over two years ago faded away. At the height of Arab revolutions, people harboured hopes that the future would bring about more diversified communities that would eventually generate a modern form of democracy.

However, this wasn’t the case and while, in pre-Spring times, economic issues were the biggest challenge, statistics show that today political stability and unemployment are the big challenges.

It is unclear how the battle will end. The map of the future will not come to light without some sort of agreement over the shape of communities and the social contract that regulates the relationship between rulers and their peoples.

Iron fist is not the solution for Egypt

Amid the confusion in Egypt, it is no longer surprising to find honourable citizens boasting about the greatness of the Egyptian people and then adding expressions such as, “but our people need someone to keep a tight rein on them”, wrote Bilal Fadl in the Cairo-based Al Shorouk.

These people fail to see any contradiction between a people being great and, at the same time, needing reins and an iron fist, the columnist remarked.

It is no surprise that the remnants of the old regime hold this notion; the sad and strange thing is to recognise it in ordinary people and some of those who took part in the revolution, including those whose bodies and souls still bear the traces of the “reins” of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

People who believe in salvation at the hands of an iron-fisted leader fail to provide a convincing account of how Army chief General Abdel Fattah El Sisi or anyone else would be able to establish stability and improve people’s lives.

Champions of the iron hand would normally cite Russia, Venezuela and China as examples of the link between economic progress and political reform and freedom of expression.

They hate to hear about the experiences of Brazil, Turkey, Argentina, South Africa, India and others who made great progress thanks to democracy and power alternation, despite huge challenges.

Hollande’s hypocritical stance solves nothing

During his three-day state visit to Israel that started on Sunday, French president Francois Hollande could have greatly served the peace process in the region if he had been able to get Israel to resume serious talks, wrote Elias Harfoush in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

Instead, he just supported Israel’s campaign against Iran’s nuclear programme – from inside the only country in the region that owns nuclear weapons.

Such a hypocritical stance strips France of credibility, whether it be among Israelis, who deep down must be scoffing at it, or Arabs, who despite being critical of Iran’s adventures, do not disregard the danger posed by Israel’s policies.

In fact, Israeli commentators have doubted the significance of French support and noted the weak popularity of Mr Hollande back home.

In Israel, the French president made no mention of settlement-building. Only in Ramallah did he remember that the settlements were an obstacle on the road to a two-state solution and called for a complete halt to them.

But Mr Hollande’s courtesies before Israelis and Palestinians will have no impact on the Iranian nuclear issue, nor on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk