The protest which began in Tunisia have spawned yet more protests not only in the Maghreb and the Middle East but also in the US and Russia. Dissatisfaction is rife. The established orders are under fire.
In the Maghreb, in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt they were undertaken to overthrow long-standing autocratic governments and dictatorships and were widely welcomed and actively supported in the West. In addition, there are ongoing, as yet unresolved revolutions taking place in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria
However, one must ask what they are accomplishing and if they have a coherent agenda and cohesive political movement. Have these protests and changes in regime resulted in improvement of the lot of the people, or have they merely acted as an escape valve for general discontent? Most all of them as of this writing, appear to be a work in progress.
Tunisia, the one that seems to be the most settled, is still in tumult, The Islamist parties, the Brotherhood and Salafists, particularly the latter, are pushing hard for imposition of harsher Islamic law. Corruption, the hallmark of the Ben Ali regime is now becoming common in the revolutionary government. In this respect matters have changed little, but repression in some way is becoming worse under the influence of the Salafists.
Libya, after the removal o Gadhafi is in complete disarray. The West in its unseemly haste to get rid of Gadhafi ignored the fact that there was no organized opposition, other than a self-professed exile government that had no grass roots base. That was obvious to most everyone excepting NATO. As a result, now eight months after the demise of Gadhafi, we see a country riven by internal dispute and conflict. The unelected self-designated spokes group, that rejoices in the name, “The National Transitional Council”, was recognised by several countries, principally NATO ones, although there was no basis in fact for this. The council has, as pointed out, no power base in Libya, having been formed by a mixed bag of Libyan dissidents in August 2011.
Since then, chaos has reigned and, most recently, the Tripoli International Airport was taken by a group of militants using the airport as a bargaining tool to negotiate the release of their leader who had been arrested. The tribes in the south, traditionally loyal and answering to Gadhafi still have not been brought into the political process and pose a threat to the NTC with militias running helter- skelter around Libya. Nor is there a centralized government recognised or appointed by the people, and no real national military force that can enforce diktats by the NTC.
As in Iraq with Hussein, the West gave no thought as to what would happen after the overthrow of Gadhafi consequently the future of the newly minted, fissiparous Libya, if there is such an entity, is an open question mark.
As for Egypt, one awaits anxiously the coming run-off between the Brotherhood candidate, Morsi, and the Mubarak loyalist and military man, Shafiq. Until one or the other is seated, it is difficult to divine what will happen. Both candidates are presenting themselves as centrists, when, in fact, neither one is. I still believe Morsi will prevail because the Islamists showed in the parliamentary elections that they have the widest appeal. Furthermore, as I have written before, with a parliamentary majority of over 60% Islamist, it is difficult to see how one could have functioning government comprised of a Mubarak retread and an Islamist controlled parliament. The Salafists will surely back Morsi and with that support Morsi should win.
If the Islamists do prevail, virtually the entire Maghreb region will be under the influence of the Brotherhood and Salafists. And there will be a dramatic change in the geopolitical complexion of the Middle East
Syria is deja vue. The West once again is agitating for regime change and supporting the protester, who as in Libya, have no coherent programme, just ‘change’. The opposition, as in Libya, is self-appointed, not elected and is fragmented with various groups jockeying for control.
If indeed Assad accedes to the demand that he leaves office and Syria, there is no assurance that violence will abate. The military is a power unto itself and with the distinct possibility that al-Qaeda has infiltrated the opposition, the prospect of even greater bloodshed and instability is ahead.
One thing is almost certain, this time Russia and China will not back the Security Council for military intervention in Syria. Burned in Libya, they will not allow that to happen again. That then will leave the US, France and the UK with the decision to take action outside the UN to intervene. The Syrian military is a force to be reckoned with, unlike the Libyan army, and with Obama as US President it is unlikely the US will intervene. However, the US policy could change come November with a war-hawk Republican administration.
Whatever the outcome in Syria, the Middle East, with the exception of Saudi Arabia, has become more Islamist, anti-Western, and anti-US. Israel and the US will be more isolated in the region and the possibility of a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian problem will be more remote.