x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Western think-tanks got it wrong

No western governments or academics really saw the rapid-fire change in the Arab World on the horizon, a columnist notes. Other topics: Moroccan diplomacy and Tunisian power-sharing.

Western 'experts' had no clue about changes that have arrived so quickly in the Arab world

The US and the West have put huge resources into keeping track of developments in the Arab world and keeping the situation under control, but there is significant evidence that all these efforts have gone flat, commented Abdel Bari Atwan in the pan-Arab paper Al Quds Al Arabi.

When it comes to intelligence gathering, western nations have extremely advanced tools, and great minds working in prestigious think tanks. "But all these resources have failed spectacularly in understanding what is unfolding in our region," he noted.

They failed because psychological and cultural specificities in the Arab world are too knotty for western experts to analyse.

Dozens of outstanding western-backed "think tanks" could not predict the revolution in Egypt. for example.

Over the last 30 years, the US has spent about $36 billion (Dh132 billion) to arm the Egyptian army, and expended great efforts in strengthening ties with Egypt's military leaders. But a person by the name of Mohammed Morsi emerged to turn the tables on everybody and remove the top military leaders, who were US confidantes.

The Americans were confident that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi was Egypt's de facto leader, and that Mr Morsi had little power. But the converse is true now.

"The US sacred cow, the Camp David Accords … are faltering, with Egypt's tanks and aircraft being deployed to Sinai without consulting with Israel."

US intelligence agencies predicted a quick fall of the Syrian regime, but the latter has survived for 18 months now, leaving thousands of innocent casualties.

"Did western intelligence, for instance, expect hundreds, if not thousands, of supporters of hardline Islamist groups pouring into Syria to fight the bloody regime with arms purchased by US allies? Did they imagine that they [hardline groups] might tip the balance of power in Syria or probably even in the entire Middle East?"

On Monday, the US administration warned its citizens against visiting new Libya for fear of being killed or kidnapped. "Did western tank tanks expect this result when they urged a Nato military intervention?"

The West has imposed a strict embargo on Iran that was supposed to isolate it internationally. Yet, the Non-Alignment Summit began on Tuesday, in Tehran, with some 100 delegations in attendance, including 30 presidents, eight of which were Arabs, the writer noted.

Mr Morsi, whom they thought would kneel before the US president, being forced to feed 90 million mouths in Egypt, went to China first, not Washington, then to Iran, not Israel.

The Arab region is rising up against all forms of US hegemony as peoples have started to reclaim their will power, and this is hard for think tanks to fathom, he argued.

Some worrying signs of the old Tunisia

It is a positive sign that political groups hold different opinions in the new Tunisia, but it is worrying to see the new government copying the old regime in dealing with opposing political forces, the UAE-based newspaper Al Khaleej said in an editorial yesterday.

It is not in the interests of Tunisia and those who want it to make progress to emulate the methods of the deposed regime, the paper said.

Interim Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki has recently complained that his Islamist allies in the ruling coalition are seeking to monopolise power, in a manner akin to the old system.

Mr Marzouki's remarks came amid serious concerns about the revolution's goals. These concerns emanate from three issues, according to the editorial:

First, aggressive moves by the Salafis in several areas, prompting the ministry of culture to warn of sectarian strife, so alien to moderate Tunisian society.

Second, a warning came from Yadh Ben Achour, chairman of the Tunisian Association of Constitutional Law, who said that the preliminary draft of the new constitution is paving the way for a dictatorial religious state, which reflects, he said, a counter-revolution.

The third worrying sign is restrictions on freedom, especially against critics of government policies, and the pulling of a Tunisian TV puppet satire.

Morocco was wrong to denounce UN envoy

The decision by Moroccan officials to "open fire" on the UN envoy to the disputed Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, was a bad diplomatic mistake, Taoufik Bouachrine wrote this week in the Moroccan daily Akhbar Al Youm.

Morocco declared on Thursday that it had withdrawn its confidence in Mr Ross, saying it believed he was biased in favour of the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.

But the accusation was too hasty, the writer said. And relying on France only in making such a decision, without consulting the US, was a second mistake.

And then, to top it off, Rabat retracted and accepted the UN envoy again, after all the criticism it had levelled at him.

How can the Moroccan foreign minister, Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani, now deal with Mr Ross as if nothing had happened?

"The relationship will never go back to normal," the writer said. The US, so influential at the UN, could not swallow having its envoy for the Sahara be sacked."

But there is another more serious explanation for this incident, the writer went on to say:

The strong relationship between Rabat and Washington, that once allowed for the more influential envoy James Baker to be removed, is no longer as it once was, the writer said.

 

* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni

AEzzouitni@thenational.ae