x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Will Arab Spring states follow the Iraq path?

As has happened in Iraq, an Arab writer argues, Arab Spring rulers feel like they have won the last battle against their adversaries, and think that the further they keep their adversaries away, the more chances they have to stay in power – which is an ill-advised view. Other Digest topics: Egypt, Syria.

As Iraq squirms, a legitimate concern arises: will Arab Spring nations go down same path?

It has been 10 years since the ultra-socialist, Pan-Arabist Baath regime in Iraq was brought down by the Americans.

Yet the spectre of the Baathists still looms large on Iraqi politics and security, with Baghdad's new rulers blaming much of the country's instability on the supposed remnants of the now-defunct regime, according to Farouq Youssef, a columnist with the London-based newspaper Al Arab.

"In Iraq, the chaos and the corruption at every level of public life are still there, as if the United States' 2003 war on the country had not yet ended," he wrote yesterday.

A similar trend can easily be identified in other Arab countries that have, over the past two years, seen a regime change, he said. In Tunisia, Egypt, Libya or Yemen, accusing underhanded supporters of deposed regimes of instigating instability after the Arab Spring has become the handiest way for new rulers to pass the buck, Mr Youssef said.

In Tunisia, some members of the Ennahda party are always quick to call out the aides of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali whenever a protest is staged against their rule, he wrote. In Egypt, the label "feloul", referring to the "remnants" of president Hosni Mubarak's regime, is liberally tossed around to brand both members of the opposition and government officials.

"In Libya, there are still people who consider [the deposed and killed Libyan leader Muammar] Qaddafi as a threat to the new political order, even though he is lying in his grave. As to Yemen, the current president himself is part of the old regime," the writer said.

One fears that the tenuous political situation in Iraq, which was compounded by escalating violence in recent weeks, become the mainstream in these four countries of the so-called Arab Spring, he observed.

"It is a matter of concern that the relics of toppled regimes might become a pretext for … confiscating freedoms, legitimising violence, driving wedges within the social fabric and glossing over the people's legitimate struggles to the benefit of new forms of despotism," Youssef wrote.

Deployed by the Ennahda-led government, police in Tunisia used such force to break up recent protests that one fails to make any distinction between the police mentality that dominated before the revolution and what is happening now, the author said.

In Egypt, to spite the opposition, the Muslim Brothers mobilise their supporter base every time an anti-government demonstration is staged, fuelling social tensions in the process.

Indeed, as has happened in Iraq, Arab Spring rulers feel like they have won the last battle against their adversaries, and think that the further they keep their adversaries away, the more chances they have to stay in power - which is an ill-advised view, the columnist concluded.

Lessons learnt from Egypt's kidnap crisis

"Egypt has regained its stature and saved face with the release on Wednesday of the seven troops who were abducted last week from a taxi," the Cairo-based newspaper Al Ahram said in an editorial yesterday.

Six Egyptian policemen and a border guard were kidnapped in the Sinai Peninsula last week by masked gunmen - a development that was starting to undermine the image of Egypt's security forces and the country's president, Mohammed Morsi.

But what lessons were learnt from the crisis?

First, the country's intelligence services, whose role has been critical in the case, proved that they are worth every government penny, and "the rabid campaigns to tarnish their reputation, which escalated in the past few weeks, must stop", the newspaper said.

Second, Sinai and its people need much more attention from the state.

"As President Morsi said on Wednesday, we must kick-start real development on the ground, and not keep relying on figures and statements that get published in the papers but have no basis in reality," the newspaper said.

"Thirdly, the state must deal with these Jihadists, who take shelter in the mountainous regions of Sinai, with the utmost seriousness, strip them of the weapons they are said to own and have Al Azhar [Cairo's top centre of Islamic learning] reach out to them and appeal to their reason."

Syria is breaking up as diplomats dally

As diplomats are holding long meetings and drafting proposals that have so far brought no concrete results, the Syrian regime is working hard to break up the country into at least three small states, the Dubai-based Al Bayan said in an editorial yesterday.

The Friends of Syria met on Wednesday in Amman, Jordan, to discuss the mechanisms of negotiation between the regime of President Bashar Al Assad and the opposition, and to make arrangements for Geneva Conference 2. But developments in Syria's battlefields are going at a much faster pace than international diplomacy, the newspaper observed.

"The Assad forces, backed by Iranian and Hizbollah militias, have for some time now been conducting an ethnic-cleansing operation in the towns along the Syrian coast on the Mediterranean, which are inhabited by a majority of Sunnis and Alawite minorities," it said.

The Syrian regime's plan is to change the demographics in that area, and tip the balance in favour of the Alawites, the paper noted.

"This is a prelude to dividing Syria into smaller states. One would be Alawite, lying on the coast from the Turkish border in Syria's far north to the border with Lebanon; the second one would be Sunni, further inland and occupying the centre of the country … and the third one would be Kurdish, occupying most of the east."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk

translation@thenational.ae