In my July 16, 2007 posting to this blog, The Middle East: A Boiling Cauldron, I tried to elucidate on the situation in this exceptionally vital part of the world, which is boiling with conflict and violence and polarization, a situation which threatens a very serious explosion. I also said that any country there could be the flash point for that eventuality, but I talked about Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq which were at the time the most probable candidates for that kind of cataclysm. The situation in Palestine, is still highly inflamed threatening the emergence of two mini states, the Lebanese are still haggling over the election of a new president who should be acceptable to all factions in that badly torn country. Iraq is disintegrating and decaying, the people are impoverished and insecure. And then the boiling cauldron exploded a little while later, which was very serious in the beginning, but it has by now deteriorated into terrible hostilities and civil wars, a nightmare which is encompassing almost the whole region. The boiling cauldron exploded, when Mohammad Bouazizi, a young Tunisian boy set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, in front of the governor of the city of Bouzid, 265 km south of the capital city, Tunisia. That act of self-immolation by the youngster, driven to despair by the local police in the city, triggered days of massive demonstrations all over the country demanding change and political reform. It was utterly incredible and implausible, the president, Ben Ali, who has been in power since November 7, 1987 was forced to resign on January 14, 2011, he fled the country and sought asylum in Saudi Arabia. These developments in Tunisia, emboldened freedom activists in the whole Arab world, and soon similar uprisings erupted in Egypt, in Libya, Bahrain, and in Syria. Major protests took place also, in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, and almost every other part of the Arab world.
In Egypt, the people were particularly incensed at President Mubarak, who after more than thirty years in power was seeking another six years term. This was more than the people could take, they proclaimed January 25, 2011, a day against him and his regime, millions of protesters gathered against him. In the capital, Cairo, in the country’s second big city, Alexandria, in Suez and many other cities all over the country, they demanded that he should step down. He resisted for two days but was forced on the February 12, 2011 to resign. The news of the downfall of Mubarak reverberated in the whole Middle East, they were followed by a similar very violent uprising against Muammar al-Kaddafi who has taken power in a 1969 coup d’état, anti-government protests began in Libya on February 15, 2011. By February 18, the opposition controlled most of Benghazi, the country's second-largest city. The government dispatched elite troops and militia in an attempt to recapture it, but they were repelled. By February 20, the protests had spread to the capital Tripoli which started a very nasty civil war, and resulted in a massive death toll, numbering in the thousands, which drew international condemnation and military interference, which resulted in the capture and assassination of Kaddafi on October 20, 2011.
The explosion reached Syria on March 15, 2011, which is still ongoing, has become a deadly contest between forces loyal to the Ba'ath government and those seeking to oust it. It started with popular demonstrations that grew nationwide by April 2011. They were part of the wider Middle Eastern protest movement and demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held power in Syria since 1971, as well as the end of Ba'ath Party rule, which began in 1963. But al-Assad refused, he ordered the army to quell the uprising, and the protests grew into an armed rebellion, a civil war.
These events have been instigated all over the region by dissatisfaction with the rule of their governments, which included issues such as dictatorship or absolute monarchy, human rights violations, political corruption economic decline, unemployment, extreme poverty, and a number of demographic factors, such as a large percentage of educated but dissatisfied youth within the population. It was an open rebellion against the concentration of wealth in the hands of autocrats who were in power for decades, against abuse and corruption.
The Arabs have been fighting for their rights for more than a generation, these events have very strong historical roots, and they were in the beginning very genuine uprisings, seeking improvements in their standards of living, their human rights and a chance to have a role in the running of their own countries, but it has unfortunately and very sadly taken a totally different course because of the brazen interference into these events by a number of local and foreign powers who imagined that a change in the status quo would endanger their political and economic interests in the region which are very extensive. This interference by these foreign powers has transformed the situation into a real nightmare. The situation in the Middle East now is not SPRING, it is a very harsh and an extremely cold WINTER. The situation in all the countries which have been part of the so called Arab spring, has by now sank into a much serious state of affairs than it was before it started, it has worsened into terrible civil wars and extremely high levels of polarization and conflicts. I am not going to talk about all of them now, I am going to concentrate on Iraq, Egypt and Syria.
In Iraq, the violence has reached unprecedented levels of violence between the two major components of the society, the Sunnis and the Shi’ites. The intensity of attacks in Iraq this year by mainly Sunni Muslim insurgents has reached levels not seen for five years. More than 1,000 Iraqis were killed in attacks in July, the highest monthly toll since 2008 according to United Nations statistics. Reuters news agency reports more than two years of civil war in neighboring Syria have inflamed long-running sectarian divisions in Iraq. The country's politics are characterized by an uneasy mix of Shia, Sunni and Kurdish persistently quarreling factions. I have written about the current situation on this blog on several occasions recently, it is terrible it is nothing but a civil war and the country’s future is very unpredictable and gloomy.
In Egypt it is worse, the bloody quarrel between the Muslim brotherhood and the new authority which has replaced their rule that followed the recent military coup, has reached unbelievable levels of discord and violence. The new authorities are facing unprecedented levels of opposition who insist on re instating president Mursi, the man they have helped into office, the new authority are responding by unmercifully suppressing the opposition, by very harsh measures, using the old police state tactics which they inherited from the Mubarak regime. I have been writing about this unfortunate situation for the last two months, and I have just emphasized it is getting worse by the day, leaving poor old Egypt to another worrying and very unpredictable future like that of Iraq.
In Syria the situation nowadays is a flagrant civil war, and as I have said few minutes ago, the level of violence and destruction in that country is simply staggering, there have been more than a hundred thousand deaths, tens of thousands of injuries and almost two million people have fled their homes to neighboring countries living as refugees.
I am leaving the Syrian situation now, and would very soon return to it, after the real objectives of the United States government and its allies will become clearer toward the Syrian government. They want to punish the Syrian regime for their supposedly very punitive chemical weapons attack against their own people on August 21, but I would like to emphasize now that the American intentions are becoming extremely worrying and confusing, some Americans favor a strike, another faction is against it. President Obama is evidently unable to make up his mind and he is playing for time, he is saying now that he is going to go ahead after he receives a definite and a clear mandate from Congress to go ahead. In the meantime the world is holding its breath, because in the end, an American military strike against Syria, will never make things better it will very definitely make them worse.
Monday September 2, 2013