In Libya, NATO leaders now acknowledge there is no end in site, and even if Gaddafi is ultimately defeated, what exactly will the NATO-backed rebels have won other than submission to the West? The question of course is what has been achieved in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen that Libya and Syria have to look forward to. And what about Bahrain where the rebel movement has been suppressed with US and Saudi Arabia assistance, and Saudi Arabia where executions have risen to send a message to non-conformists?
The 'Arab Spring' is finding Tunisia in a future of political, economic and social darkness. Unemployment hovering about 20%, tourism sharply down (48% drop in tourist revenues), rising energy and food prices causing continued hardships for most people, the provisional government is looking forward to receiving its share of an estimated pledged $20 billion in G-8 assistance. That aid, however, comes with fiscal, monetary, trade, and foreign investment strings attached, and it is the bait intended to keep Tunisia and Egypt as quasi-colonies of the advanced capitalist countries.
No matter what happens in the October 2011 scheduled elections, Tunisia will already have been thoroughly integrated into the same global system as it was under the regime that the rebels overthrew. Where is the glory in revolution? The US, EU, Japan and China are waiting in the wings to pick up where they left off with the previous government and to reduce Tunisia into a dependency. So much for the Tunisian revolution that was necessary and held so much hope!
Egypt is no different than Tunisia in so far as it too has become a G-8 target for economic integration. The IMF has already extended a $3 billion loan to strengthen the fiscal structure, but the loan comes with numerous austerity strings attached intended to make Egypt a prime candidate for foreign investors. US, EU, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are also pledging billions for Egypt, but all of it is intended to lock Egypt in as a dependency whose policies - everything from investment to foreign affairs - will be in accordance with what the creditors demand. There may very well be substantive changes in Egypt's foreign policy, especially regarding Israel and Palestinians; there may very well be substantive changes that result in greater national sovereignty, but what are the chances with the G-8 holding all the cards and Egypt's only leverage is its indignant population?
The six-nation Arab-led mediation efforts to 'stabilize Yemen' have run into problems because al-Qaeda remains a force in parts of the country that is divided into tribal factions. More important, Saudi Arabia and the US have been hitting Yemeni rebel targets because they want to make certain that the successor regime is loyal to them and does not deviate in the policies that Saleh was following. Obama has authorized the CIA to continue hitting rebel targets (drone war operations) in the south. The US argues that terrorists are taking advantage of the chaos. The ultimate goal is to make certain that the new regime is as loyal to the US policies as the previous one, and that Yemen is deprived of any sense of sovereignty. With as many internal divisions, the possibility of US-Saudi hegemony is inevitable.
The situation in Libya is one of full-fledged civil war, with NATO-backed rebels trying to overthrow the Gaddafi regime that seems invincible no matter how hard it has been hit. US and EU taxpayers are paying for NATO military intervention intended to deprive the Libyan people from determining their own destiny; yes, in the name of democracy, NATO wants to impose democracy by carrying out air warfare and killing as many people as it takes to deliver freedom to them. The problem is that the NATO-backed rebel movement is in a virtual stalemate. Public opinion in the US and EU was convinced long before NATO strikes against Gaddafi that the regime was 'terrorist', although in reality NATO has been on the side of al-Qaeda terrorists in Libya and fighting against them in Yemen.
Given that there is no end to the NATO-backed rebel movement in Libya after NATO has conducted more than 10,000 sorties from 31 March until 5 June 2011, UK defense secretary William Hague now argues that: “We’re not going to set a deadline.” Germany's secretary of state for defense, Christian Schmidt replied: "I absolutely understand that there is a certain strain in these countries - not least because of the length of the operation - and a hope that the operation will soon end."
China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi expressed concern about NATO bombings, Libya's sovereignty, a concern that Moscow has expressed as well. Yang repeated a call for a ceasefire and going from a military to a political solution in Libya, but the 'crusading trio' (UK, US and France) refuses to accept anything short of a military solution. China and Russia's support of the African Union's diplomatic mediation through third parties like Turkey and Greece has fallen on deaf ears in US, UK and France. Russia and China are concerned that NATO air operations in Libya could turn into ground operations, thus violating the mandate of UN Security Council resolution, or a US congressional declaration of war. The issue before the US as well as UK and France is the lack of money to be conducting wars that are draining resources from the civilian economy.
The situation in Syria is the most difficult and dangerous because it brings into the picture, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Israel, and Turkey, the latter which is an island of political stability in comparison with its neighbors, but for how long if unrest persists in Syria. The Syrian situation resembles that of Libya in so far as it has evolved into a civil war without direct foreign interference but with numerous covert operations in the works for a long time. In many respects, the Syrian economy is a series of fiefdoms linked by family ties and loyalties to the regime.
Assad's minority Alawite sect enjoys control of the economy that has been liberalized since 2006 when the IMF introduced austerity measures, resulting in higher unemployment and lower living standards. Assad's cousin Rami Makhlouf, who has a large stake in the Syrian economy, fears that the current civil war/revolt could throw the country into sectarian strife. Assad's relatives and loyal followers have benefited from Western-style economic liberalization measures that ironically have backfired against the regime the West wants replaced.
Where do we stand in June 2011? Are the people of the Middle East better off now than they were a year ago? It is true that authoritarian rulers had to go, for they were using the country to amass personal wealth and enriching their friends while playing the puppet for powerful foreign governments, especially US and EU. It is true that something more representative of the people had to replace authoritarian rulers, a better quality of political, economic and social life. However, that has not taken place in any of the Arab countries, and it may yet take place, and there may yet be a true Arab Spring for the people.